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EASTER: IS IT FOR REAL? WHO IS JOE BOOT? DEPRESSION: ON A PILL AND A PRAYER
What is Discipleship Training
In depth training to energize your faith and help you discover the freedom and courage to live dangerously for God. 4 unique modules that together equal 100 hours of discipleship training. Taken separately, each module is designed to equip you from Godâ€™s Word in one of the key areas that define a man: MODULE 1: Biblical Manhood MODULE 2: Sexual Purity MODULE 3: Husbanding MODULE 4: Fathering One on One leadership coaching from experienced and wise men of God. Peer mentoring with other men on the same journey as you are. A smaller more focused event - limited to approximately 50 participants with small groups of up to only 8 - participants build meaningful relationships with each other and with the Promise Keepers Canada leaders.
Do you have a desire to grow deeper in your faith? Do you want to learn more about the key areas of a manâ€™s life? en ring M Me nt o an M ve No to Lea Behind n ing Me Equipp n! tor Me to Men
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march – april, 2009
on the cover 14
Easter: Is it for real?
Addressing our culture’s disdain for the resurrection story Publisher: Brian Koldyk Managing Editor: Doug Koop Pulse Editor: Robert White
features 18 Defending the faith How to face hard questions
advertising account executives: WILLIAM LEIGHTON: email@example.com DARRELL FRIESEN: firstname.lastname@example.org JIM HICKS: email@example.com Unless otherwise indicated, neither ChristianWeek nor Promise Keepers Canada guarantee, warrant, or endorse any product, program, or service advertised.
22 Dealing with doubt Faith in God used to be no-brainer. Now? 24 Profile: Joe Boot “I don't separate the evangelist from the apologist”
editorial advisory board RON HANNAH: Promise Keepers Canada KIRK GILES: Promise Keepers Canada JEFF STEARNS: Promise Keepers Canada PHIL WAGLER: Kingsfield SANDRA REIMER: Reimer Reason Communications DOUG KOOP: ChristianWeek
26 On a pill and a prayer Depression and the Canadian male
promise keepers canada
5 PK Podium
God changes lives
6 Help Wanted
Curious events. Interesting people. Good ideas.
Caught in the middle
29 Out of My Depth
One good read recommends another.
I apologize for my faith
32 Money Matters When markets are volatile 34 What Women Want Rough patches on the road to romance
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30 Power Play
Cover: Copyright © 2005-2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission. Illustration by Luke Flowers (LukeFlowers.com).
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SEVEN is a Christian magazine for Canadian men that exists to help men lead more fulfilling lives and leave enduring legacies. The name reflects the seven promises that form the basis of the Promise Keepers organization, which works with churches to minister to men across Canada. one – A Promise Keeper is committed to honouring Jesus Christ through worship, prayer,
and obedience to God's word in the power of the Holy Spirit. two – A Promise Keeper is committed to pursuing vital relationships with a few other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises. three – A Promise Keeper is committed to practising spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.
four – A Promise Keeper is committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection, and biblical values.
six – A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.
five – A Promise Keeper is committed to supporting the mission of the church by honouring and praying for his pastor, and by actively giving his time and resources.
seven – A Promise Keeper is committed to influencing his world, being obedient to the Great Commandment (see Mark 12:30-31) and the Great Commission (see Matt 28:19-20).
seven – issue five march-april 2009 page 3
PROMISE KEEPERS CANADA PRESENTS
HELPING TO BUILD MEN OF INTEGRITY
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God changes lives for the better Amazing things begin to happen when a person receives Jesus Christ as Lord by Ron Hannah
As I begin to write this article for SEVEN, I am reminded of the sudden fact that this will be my final article. After 11 years with Promise Keepers in Canada, I will be retiring at the end of March. So, what does one say in their final commentary? Certainly I can express what a joy it has been to serve God in His ministry to men in Canada. It’s been awesome to witness the amazing transformations as the Holy Spirit has ministered in so many men’s lives over the years. I could write about the wives and family members of men, people who have written or phoned to share the joy they have experienced because of the changed man God placed in their lives. Or I could share about the number of fathers who rebuilt relationships with theirs sons— or sons with their fathers—as the Lord opened previously locked and sealed doors that harboured old baggage and negative experiences. All of these would make very interesting reading and demonstrate how much our God loves and cares about each man willing to come to Him and ask for his love, forgiveness and guidance. But, alas, I have too little space to properly tell the stories and the amazing grace that comes with each one of them. Instead, I will attempt to answer some penetrating questions that are on the minds of many people, both Christian and non-Christian. Those questions are: So what does it mean to have/live a transformed life? Will other people know or see it? How? The answers to these questions ultimately define what it means to begin the Christian walk. Now, let me give you my best answers to these questions based on what I have seen and experienced in my own life and during my time at Promise Keepers Canada. Amazing things begin to happen once a person receives Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour, asks God to change his life by the power of the Holy Spirit
and willingly renounces the devil and all his works and ways. The old self begins to disappear and the new self begins to grow and blossom. Okay, but how do we “know” the change is taking place? Scripture is very clear in defining “the fruits” of the new Spirit versus the fruits that were from the old human nature (Galatians 5:19-26). The new person begins to understand love in the eyes of God as opposed to the desires of man and acts accordingly (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). He starts to experience a joy in their life that was mostly absent or counterfeit before. There is a peace that passes all human understanding. He becomes more patient with others. He has a kinder, gentler heart and display self-control in areas that previously would reveal reactive anger or a violent nature. Does this happen all at once? No, but there is constant progress and a genuine repentant heart when they slip. That is what I have learned and experienced over the years about transformation. Many have claimed to have new lives; many have gone out of their way to claim to be Christian; many have even left their jobs and become pastors, missionaries or workers in Christian ministries; still others march, hold vigils for moral and ethical issues; and finally some may even try to force their newfound faith on others. None of these—on their own—mean anything. In the end, Scripture tells us, “you will know them by their fruit!” Don’t claim them. Live them and show by example what a transformed life is.
Ron Hannah is President of Promise Keepers Canada until the end of March. His passion is to serve God and challenge men to be followers of Jesus Christ. Before joining Promise Keepers in 1998 Ron was a Vice President at Duracell Inc. He and his wife Joei reside in Burlington, Ontario, while his two sons, daughter-in-laws and four grandchildren live in Winnipeg, Manitoba. seven – issue five march-april 2009 page 5
Help wanted Out of the closet. Stuck in the middle. Cheating friend.
by Rod Wilson My brother in-law has just come out of the closet and wants to bring his boyfriend over to our house for Christmas. He can do what he wants with his life but I feel uneasy about exposing our 13 year-old and 5 year-old kids to his choice. How can I explain that without upsetting him and my wife’s family? Healthy families learn to have “doors” that keep the participants protected from the outside world and “windows” that allow family members to see what is going on in the broader culture. The relationship between these metaphorical doors and windows will often depend on the age of children, as parents need to decide what they would like their children to know and understand at various developmental levels. When it comes to moral and ethical issues, like homosexuality, all parents need to determine whether this lifestyle fits their own values and convictions and whether they want to communicate positive or negative messages to their children. In this case it is clear that you both want to affirm that your brother-in-law can make his own choices. But you do not want those choices put in front of your children in a way that they will not understand. If your brother-in-law has any understanding of the broader cultural and religious issues around homosexuality, he will know that bringing his boyfriend will create tension for you and your family so a conversation ahead of time seems in order. While you may wish it otherwise, it is also likely that while you may wish it otherwise, your 13-year-old will have had some exposure to this lifestyle already and so this event may provide an opportunity for helpful conversation around ethics and morality. Your five-year-old, who probably has not been tainted by the sexual obsession of the culture, may not frame this situation in a problematic way at all. One of the reasons that parenting is so challenging is because we want our children to think through all moral and ethical issues wisely. This desire forces us to interact with the call to righteous living, outlined in the Bible, and invites us to understand the culture, represented in a Christmas visit. seven – issue five march–april 2009 page 6
Friends of ours have just separated. They both want our attention and our sympathy. We feel caught in the middle and it is now straining our marriage. How do I get out of this mess? When friends separate their extended relationships can get very confusing. Instead of being together with both the husband and wife you can feel the pressure to divide your time, energy and loyalty. This is not easy and there is no simple way to extract yourself from the mess. Be aware that your primary responsibility is to “love your neighbour.” Both of your friends need your love more than your loyalty. Sometimes your love will mean that you listen to and express support and sadness, while at others it will mean being direct and honest. Ideally, loving your neighbour should not be dependent on their marital status and needs to be given freely without conditions or expectations. Resist the huge temptation to take sides. When marriages dissolve it always involves two stories. Often friends, communities, families and churches act as if there is only one story. But that is never the case. Your connection with the husband or the wife requires that you listen to each story story— all the while being aware that there is another one. It is not your task to decide who has the right or appropriate story, but to be understanding toward both of your friends. If both you and your spouse adopt this approach you will not have marital conflict about the other marriage. Finally, be realistic about how these circumstances usually unfold. When couples separate they often develop new friends, change churches, move to a new area and begin a new life. Separation in the marriage gets generalized beyond that relationship and influences all of life. This may be the season of “attention and sympathy” but it will pass eventually and the crisis of the moment will lessen.
I think my friend is cheating on his wife but I am not sure. I’m afraid of mentioning it to either of them. What should I do? True friends want us to flourish, grow and develop in virtuous ways. If we are married they are concerned that our commitment to our spouse other is strong and they want to do all that they can to protect that covenant relationship. While there is connection and communication with superficial friends, true friends recognize that there are times when you have to cut through fear and anxiety and speak truth because it is only truth that will bring freedom. So when we have a sense that a friend is cheating on his wife, we need to recognize that this is the arena of friendship. And while fear of mentioning it is a natural human response, the higher call to helping others live virtuously needs to transcend the fear. Prayerfully consider your own leanings to sin and frailty so your confrontation is not arrogant. Select a setting where your friend is comfortable and one where he cannot easily wiggle out of the conversation. Admit that you may be wrong or misreading the situation, but that you have some questions. Questions are a better good place to start, because they both put the responsibility on the other person and also prevent you from formulating a water tight case before you have heard the facts. Focus on what you have seen or heard rather than innuendo or surmise so he will have to deal with what has happened rather than what you think has happened. Be prepared not just to find out if there is a problem, but also be ready to provide some suggestions as to who he might talk to or where he might go to deal with his infidelity. Rod Wilson is president of Regent College in Vancouver, where he also serves as professor of Counselling and Psychology. He is the author of How Do I Help a Hurting Friend: Practical Help for Leaders and Laypeople (BakerBooks, 2006).
Could you use some help? Don’t shy away from asking. Send your questions to email@example.com.
Curiousities. Personalities. Ideas. Information. by Robert White PULSE Editor
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR TURNS 20 Three years after he started a men’s Bible study, Patrick Morley took his experiences from that group and wrote The Man in the Mirror—a book destined to be one of the most influential texts in the men’s ministry movement. This year, three million copies later, The Man in the Mirror celebrates a low-key 20th anniversary. “We made a [celebration] out of the 20th anniversary of the Bible study that started in 1986. We pinpoint that as the beginning of our work,” says Morley. A 38-year-old businessman at the time, Morley only felt led to start the study, not lead it—until he couldn’t find anyone else to lead it. Now, except for days when he’s traveling, Morley teaches a group of about 150 men in Winter Park, Florida (podcast through www.maninthemirror.org). Both the book and the Bible study led to the start of the Man in the Mirror ministry in 1991, around the time the secular and Christian men’s movements both took off. According to Morley, “while the secular men’s movement, like a shooting star, streaked across the sky and disappeared, the Christian men’s movement survived. “Because we have an answer for Tuesday: walking with Christ. The [secular men’s movement] included going into the woods, painting themselves up, playing tom toms, talking to trees and giving existential cries. But on Monday men would return to real life. By Tuesday the weekend was a distant memory and they’d be back to their existential pain,” says Morley. “Nobody was more surprised than me when the book came out,” he says, still amazed at the book’s continuing
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impact. “I still receive correspondence each week from men who are now reading it for the first time. “The most frequent comments I get are: ‘I feel like you’ve been reading my mail’ or ‘you’ve been eavesdropping on my conversations.’ What it reveals is that men think they’re the only one going through what they’re going through when actually we’re all going through a common experience,” says Morley. Except for some of the illustrations, which he’d update to make more current, Morley says he wouldn’t change anything else if writing The Man in the Mirror today.
INTENSITY In building a successful career as a professional photographer, I think I just “photograph harder” than most people. Intensity is the difference between “taking pictures” and “making photographs.” It’s a combination of passion, skills, aptitude, experience and perhaps, calling. That final word, “calling,” is important. I’ve observed a surprising number of people who have missed their calling—or have failed even to recognize or explore what their calling actually is. —Photographer Jim Mathis in CBMC’s Monday Manna
FAITH UNDER FIRE EARNS ARGO AWARD Toronto Argonauts quarterback Kerry Joseph got benched and was at the centre of a personnel storm last year. How did he endure it? By focussing on how God could still use him, he says. Others noticed his unshakeable integrity
and nominated Joseph for the Athletes in Action Gord Barwell Award that was presented at the AIA Grey Cup breakfast last November. Barwell, a Saskatchewan Roughrider receiver, helped start AIA’s ministry in the Canadian Football League. Every year team chaplains send in their nominations for the award given to the player who shows exemplary Christian conduct on and off the field. Past recipients include Anthony Calvillo, Milt Stegall, Danny Barrett and Mike “Pinball” Clemons. “I felt he was a great witness in how he dealt with so much adversity,” says Argos chaplain Dave Hudson, who nominated Joseph. “He never complained through the quarterback controversy and some negative press. He took everything in stride. “Though it was rarely reported, he often shared with the press how his faith in God kept him strong and how he trusted God in all things,” says Hudson, who also talked about how Joseph handled his benching. “He showed his true character, going out of his way to encourage his replacement on the field and in the press.” Along with taking part in weekly Bible studies and pre-game chapels, Joseph shared his faith at the “In the Pocket with Kerry Joseph” and Argo Faith Day events. He also spoke to students at Toronto-area high schools and the football teams at York University and the University of Toronto. Joseph was surprised to win the Barwell Award, saying it was an honour to be “mentioned with a great class of guys like Milt Stegall who won it last year. I have a lot of respect for him. “This was a tough year for me—my Christian faith was really tested. You know everybody is looking at you, putting the spotlight on the things you do looking to see your character not only in the good times but in the tough times,” says Joseph. “It really means a lot to me to get a lot of respect from my peers.”
HUMILITY Humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself as a person....True humility allows you to be confident in your abilities and yet focus on others and their needs. —Robert A. Rohm, Personality Insights, Inc.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE ECONOMIC MELTDOWN The world markets are in an economic tailspin, with some countries more affected than others. People are getting laid off. Men can’t find jobs. People are taking pay reductions. Budgets are getting slashed. Home values have plummeted. Investments have gone up in smoke. And that’s just in my family.
We’re all asking the same question: “How can I survive the current crisis?” Maybe you’ve lost your job—or fear it. Maybe you’ve watched your investments or paycheque shrink. Perhaps your business is way off. Or maybe you’re “okay,” but still worry how it’s all going to play out. I’m the survivor of an economic meltdown. When the American Congress passed the Tax Reform Act of 1986, liquidity vanished, car dealers closed, the Savings and Loan industry was liquidated, many insurance companies failed, and business people like me had trouble making ends meet. Every day for the seven years, I didn’t know if I’d be forced into bankruptcy.
It’s a long story, but I was able to avoid bankruptcy. Here are some survival strategies that worked for me then, and can work for you now. Get out of debt. You can’t borrow your way out of a problem you borrowed your way into. It takes more energy to earn a living and service debt than to just earn a living. My strategy for overcoming debt was simple. I made “getting out of debt” my overarching goal. Remain accessible. Many people in financial straits dodge calls, don’t return calls, don’t do what they promise, and miss deadlines. This creates a fantastic opportunity for you to distinguish yourself and get some mercy. Don’t wait for creditors to call you—call them, and if they do call—
not living within your means. Frankly, denial is a much stronger force than most people understand. Denial means that you actually believe a story that you’ve made up—a lie. We live in unexampled times. The world’s best and brightest are trying to fix this, but human ingenuity alone probably won’t be enough. [We need] to humbly ask God for His wisdom, mercy and intervention. In any event, you should go ahead and do that now. —Patrick Morley is the author of 16 books including The Man in the Mirror and most recently How to Survive the Economic Meltdown. Reprinted with permission.
SELF-SATISFIED A survey of American high school students by The Josephson Institute revealed students have low ethical standards for themselves: 93 per cent surveyed say they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character. These ethically satisfied students included 64 per cent who have cheated on a test in the last year, 30 per cent who have stolen from a store and 83 per cent who have lied to a parent about something significant. —www.integrityresource.org
pick up the phone. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in touch with friends. One of your biggest tendencies in a meltdown is to withdraw—to go it alone and not want others to know your struggles. You simply can’t do that and survive. Live “within” your means. People either live “above,” “at,” “within,” or “below” their means. If you’ve been living “above” or “at” your means, it’s time for a change. The first step is to get out of denial that you’re
LYING AT WORK “PART OF THE FABRIC” A British survey found eight out of 10 office workers lie for their bosses every day and more than half have taken flak for a boss’s mistake. The results, reported in the January 5 issue of The Globe and Mail, suggest lying is now part of the corporate fabric, says Lisette Howlett, managing director of HireScores.com, the British recruitment tracker that commissioned the survey. Fears over job security mean employees may be more ready to cover for the boss
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despite what their moral compass tells them. Protecting their boss’s job may, by default, safeguard theirs. “We’ve this institutionalized dishonesty, which is interesting considering how much energy we spend promoting honesty and openness and transparency in the office,” says Howlett in The Globe and Mail.
Lying has its snags warn Randy Cohen, who writes the New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” column, and Nan DeMars, author of You Want Me to Do What? When, Where and How to Draw the Line. Cohen says small lies can snowball and hurt your reputation. Tread carefully and know what to say if you’d rather avoid lies. If your boss asks you to fib or cover something up, repeat in more frank terms what he’s really asking you to do, says De Mars. “You’re telling them you know exactly what they’re asking you to do,” she says. “I like to say there are many, many ways to say no, but there’s only one reason to give: ‘Because I may have to be held accountable.’”
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DeMars conducted a similar survey of 1,200 U.S. employees and found, out of the 35 per cent of respondents who said they were asked to lie at work, less than half actually did. Reaction was mixed on The Globe and Mail’s reader forum. One post said honesty may be the best policy but it’s hard to find a company where everyone’s 100 per cent honest. Another said job security was real reason for lying: “the fact the boss asked you to lie is evidence the boss is prepared to act unethically...what’s to stop him from acting unethically in getting rid of you?” Two posts upheld workplace ethics. “When I became a manager I told my staff I wouldn’t lie to them, and I haven’t. When accidents or mistakes happen, I take responsibility for the actions of my team,” wrote one person. The final word goes to the person who posted: “A man, who’d answered the phone, was asked by his manager to say ‘He’s not here.’ The man responded, ‘You tell him yourself sir.’ The manager was outraged until his subordinate answered: ‘Sir if I could lie for you I could lie to you.’ That employee became the most trusted staff member in the organization.” —The Globe and Mail
LIAR, LIAR “Historically, when the employment market tightens, falsifications, elaborations and expansions tend to increase,” says Peter Levine, a professional background checker, in a Wall Street Journal article about resumés. Adversity brings out the worst in people. In the reality of a tough job market it’s not uncommon for desperation to set in. It’s tempting to embellish accomplishments, hoping this will make their application more attractive, and give them an edge. Kroll Inc., the investigative arm of Marsh & McLennan
Cos., suggests about 20 per cent of job seekers and employees facing background checks exaggerate their educational backgrounds. —www.integrityresource.org.
Jealousy defined: when someone else has more of your idol than you do. —www.integrityresource.org
REACTING WELL TO CONTROVERSY Your daughter wants to read the Twilight series—Stephenie Myer’s four-volume saga about a girl in love with a vampire. A coworker who read The Secret suggests you read it. You see yet another Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins attack against Christianity.
You know there will soon be another shot in the battle of worldviews— a book, movie or television show either purposely attacking Christian teaching or subtly challenging Christian points of view. The usual reactions use a number of strategies: passing around pamphlets, brochures or e-mails urging a ban or boycott; recommending Christians read the book or see the movie; or shrugging our shoulders, avoiding contact with the offending ideas. But there are ways to engage what seems an ever more hostile culture in a meaningful way.
First, become well-stocked with as much information about the issue as possible. For some this means either reading the book or seeing the movie. Others won’t, turning to other resources instead. For Patricia Paddey and her family, “it came down to a question of dollars and sense. We didn’t want to give our money for a film whose strategy is to create a market so that even more virulently anti-Christian movies can be made.” You can find information in through publications such as SEVEN, ChristianWeek, Christianity Today, Touchstone Magazine; websites like www.christianity.ca, www.lifesite.net and the television show Listen Up. Don’t forget to check local Christian publications, televisions or radio shows. Whatever the issue an internet search will usually turn up resources—just be sure they’re found on reputable websites. The idea is to find out exactly what the issue is. Hitchens, Dawkins and the rest of the militant atheists deliberately attack Christianity. Authors like Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass), J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter series) or Myers create works from their own world views which may clash with a Christian worldview. Writers like Rhonda Byrne (The Secret) or Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth) explore spirituality but neglect organized religion and orthodox Christianity. A good supply of information will help you engage with culture. It can create understanding about what people who aren’t Christians believe, and shed light on why the two cultures are in conflict. In the end, Christians need learn how to think critically. As Toronto Sun columnist
Marianne Meed Ward, writes: “As the philosopher John Milton said, you can’t ban bad ideas; they’ll find a way in. Better to arm people with the ability to think, discern, assess and decide for themselves.” Life continually involves problem-solving. Creativity is the key to figuring out how to get from point A to point B when you have never done it before. Without creativity, you run the risk of becoming obsolete in our rapidly changing marketplace that seems intent on continually reinventing itself. —Pastor and author Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) in CBMC’s Monday Manna.
CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE EVANGELIST I spent much of my high school years telling my fellow classmates exactly what their eternal destiny was—and it wasn’t heaven. My early zeal came from an early salvation experience. I was one of those statistics cited at Sunday school conferences: if you lead a child to Jesus by time they’re 12, they’ll most likely stay the spiritual course, living a long and full Christian life. Attending a church with the world “Salvation” smack dab in the middle of its denominational title could have been another cause, where Sunday night sermons urged us to “keep on being saved and get others saved.” A final influence was the sense of an early “call” to full-time pastoral ministry—which, for a variety of reasons and situations, ended up as a career as a full-time Christian journalist. No matter the reason, I spent much of my spare time in school preaching to my fellow students about where they’d probably spend eternity. Not that it made much difference. In the small southwestern Ontario town where I spent my teen years
the main interests were, in no particular order, playing hockey, hanging out, partying, driving to the nearest city to hang out and planning on getting out of the town as quickly as possible after graduating. You might think my continual “sharing” would have resulted in scores of “conversions.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I can think of maybe two students who may have “converted.” Years later, one of them made contact to let me know he was living a lifestyle far outside the boundaries of God. I’ve never heard from the other. In university and the workplace, I added more ammo to my salvation salvos. I learned the Four Spiritual Laws, the “Roman Road” (the verses in Romans that charted the path to salvation), the “Bridge” illustration (Jesus death on the cross as the bridge between the chasm of our sin and God’s grace) and Evangelism Explosion. I had all the answers. When one method failed, I quickly moved to the next, and the next, ad infinitum. I ended up with as much success as I had in high school—probably even less. It’s taken almost 30 years, but I think I’ve finally learned the key to effective evangelism: God gave me two ears and one mouth, so I should listen twice as much as I talk. That’s my newest method: to listen for the question before giving the answer. I still remember everything I’ve learned. I can still draw a bridge illustration on a coffee shop napkin quicker than you can say “double-double.” But instead of whipping out the ballpoint at the first hint of spiritual interest, I wait—with a tongue scarred from where I keep biting it. Now, excuse me, I have to meet a friend for coffee. —Robert White
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SOCCER STAR TURNS DOWN MILLIONS Apparently, professional sport is more than just a business. At least it can be when top athletes play for more than just money and fame. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite is one of the most talented, successful soccer players of his generation. Those familiar with the sport know him simply as Kaka. At 26, he has already won the Italian championship, Champions’ League and World Cup. In 2007 he was named World Footballer of the Year. He also happens to be an activist against poverty and a missionary for Christian values. Kaka’s principles were put to the test when Manchester City—the richest sports team in the world—offered almost $200 million for his services in January. They also dangled an annual salary of more than $26 million in front of him, hoping to pry him from AC Milan. They needn’t have tried. Ever since he recovered an accident in 2001 that nearly ended his career, Kaka has been open and forthright about his Christian faith. He has never passed up an opportunity to express his love for God and celebrated Milan’s Champions’ League triumph in 2007 with a t-shirt that read, “I belong to Jesus.” He did the same after winning the World Cup in 2002 and the Scudetto in 2004. He has also served as an Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations’ World Food Programme. Upon retiring from soccer, he plans to enter the ministry in his native Brazil. So what did he do when he was put to the test—when a staggering fortune was within his grasp? He said thanks, but no thanks. Already content with his home and his lifestyle, he thought it inappropriate to grab a fistful of money while much of the world wrestled with economic turbulence. Manchester City were baffled. After all, they had taken Kaka to the top of
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the soccer mountain and offered glory and riches beyond comprehension. But they completely missed the point. Kaka could not be bought. Not by anyone; not at any price. His principles were not for sale. Sure, he had always talked the talk—professing his faith at every opportunity. But the temptation before him offered a chance to walk the walk. He didn’t disappoint. –Jerrad Peters
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Prophecy. Power. Courage.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON? 10 PROPHETIC CLUES YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO IGNORE By David Jeremiah Pastor and prophecy teacher David Jeremiah looks at headlines from throughout the world and sees troubles all around. However, he believes disaster can often be avoided “when signs are recognized and appropriate warnings are issued.” Consider this book such a warning. Jeremiah highlights 10 key prophetic images from the Bible and applies them to 21st century realities. He includes chapters on Israel, crude oil, Islamic terrorism, the rapture, a new axis of evil and armaments at Armageddon. Jeremiah filters the data through his bedrock belief in the ability of the Bible to help people “put together pieces of the jigsaw puzzle” and make sense of our times. His final chapter resonates with the assurance of the return of the King. “Be encouraged! Be anticipating! We are secure; we belong to Christ.”
POWER OF A MAN: USING YOUR INFLUENCE AS A MAN OF CHARACTER By Rick Johnson Many men grow up with no clear understanding of their role as a man. “So what is a man?” asks Rick Johnson. And “what exactly is a good man? What character traits, roles and actions distinguish a man who is a good man from one who isn’t so good? To take it one step further, what makes a great man?” Power of a Man is Johnson’s response to those basic questions. “Men, young and old, need straight answers
to hard questions about what a man is and how he acts,” he writes. His wide-ranging discussion embraces many expressions of authentic masculinity—Braveheart, The Godfather, Gladiator and more. “A man’s role is to do what he’s supposed to do, not just what he wants to do,” he concludes. “Taking bad circumstances and turning them into good ones is what a man does.”
mention the resurrection) can get old, the fact remains: it’s easy for Christian believers to become passé about the greatest story ever told. Enter Ottawa resident David Kitz, whose novel re-telling of the old, old story will capture imaginations afresh. He takes readers on a fast paced ride through Christ’s Passion Week and leads readers to the very foot of the cross.
UNLEASHING COURAGEOUS FAITH: THE HIDDEN POWER OF A MAN’S SOUL
THE LOVE DARE By Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick
By Paul Coughlin Author Paul Coughlin laments the “slouching spine” of North American masculinity as “a form of cowardice we mistake for gentleness.” However, he insists, the potential for great courage is present in every man. Like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz who needed to find his heart, many men need to discover the courageous and animating spirit of thumos. While that Greek word has no direct English equivalent, it describes a full-orbed understanding of courage that embraces the mind as well as the heart. It’s an unsentimental approach to life that melds the gentler verges with the tougher, forging “a more muscular, manly form of love.”
THE SOLDIER, THE TERRORIST & THE DONKEY KING By David Kitz As fantastic as the story of Easter may be, familiarity can bleach it of its power. While it’s hard to imagine how a thrilling tale of betrayal, rigged trials and gruesome crucifixion (not to
In the movie Fireproof, Kirk Cameron stars as a firefighter with a deeply troubled marriage. Out of respect for his father, the lead character reluctantly agrees to go through a “Love Dare” journal before filing for divorce. It proves to be a very demanding process and he is often tempted to bail. But his 40-day commitment pays dividends and the couple’s relationship becomes more stable. Viewers asked for more; positive response to the movie has created demand for the journal. Now The Love Dare journal is available for any couple willing to take a 40-day challenge to understand and practice unconditional love. Each day comes with a new dare designed to foster intimacy and solidify commitment. It’s catching on: this little marriage-builder journal sold more than 1.5 million copies in four months, four months of tough economic times. “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional,” insist the authors. “The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” Go ahead. Take the dare.
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Easter: Is it for real? Incredibly, the resurrection story is credible
Copyright ÂŠ 2005-2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission. Illustration by Luke Flowers (LukeFlowers.com).
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by David S. Daniels “Could you come over and explain the real meaning of Easter to our boys? I don’t want them to think that Easter is only about the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs.” Though expressing no open commitment to Christianity, this young couple instinctively knew that the story of Jesus dying and rising again was at the heart of Easter, that it was something important for their young boys to know. Christians, at least in the evangelical branch in which I was raised, tend to make a great deal of fuss over Christmas, while observing Good Friday and Easter with relatively little fanfare. And yet, Easter presents our greatest annual opportunity to talk about the heart of Christianity. It is at Easter that we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who gave Himself for our sins. A couple of years ago I was discussing Judaism and Christianity with an orthodox rabbi. He challenged me by asking: “Prior to his crucifixion and alleged resurrection, why would a first century Jew have believed that Jesus was the Messiah?” In calling the resurrection “alleged,” my rabbi friend was stating he did not believe it to be true. However, though I doubt he meant to do so, his comment underscored the importance of the resurrection as the crucial, watershed issue in establishing the credibility of Christianity. Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have Given its vital importance, could you comfortably defend the resurrection of Jesus? Would you be able to provide reasons for believing Jesus rose from the dead? Let’s look at several common lines of evidence for believing in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament Scriptures clearly predicted the death and resurrection. One of my favorite stories about Old Testament predictions of Jesus comes
from the conversion story of a secular Jewish man who came to faith in Jesus and currently pastors a Canadian evangelical congregation. After hearing a Christian read a portion of Scripture, he responded by saying, “That is talking about your Jesus.” Imagine his shock when he learned that the text being read was Isaiah 53! It was the crucial event leading to his ultimate salvation. Jesus really died. It may seem strange to raise this as evidence, but many refute the resurrection by claiming that Jesus never really died. These skeptics contend that Jesus fainted, swooned or passed out on the cross. When he was removed to the coolness of the tomb, he revived and walked out quite alive. The Scriptures are clear about Jesus truly dying (Mk. 15:37; Lk. 23:46). Dr. Alexander Metherell, a former research scientist at the University of California, after carefully researching the details around Christ’s crucifixion on a Roman cross, concurs with the biblical record. His research concluded that “There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead.” As to any theory that Jesus merely swooned, Metherell says, “...it’s impossible. It’s a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact” (quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998). The empty tomb—Where is his body? The Scriptures record that Jesus was taken from the cross and buried in a nearby tomb that, at the request of the Jewish religious leaders, was sealed with the official seal of Rome and guarded by Roman soldiers. Despite these extraordinary precautions, three days later the tomb lay open and empty. Dave Branon quotes Paul Althus in saying that “The resurrection proclamation could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness
“Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have.”
continues on page 16
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of the tomb had not been established as a fact” (Did Christ Really Rise from the Dead?, RBC Ministries, 1991, 2002). To this day, no one has ever produced the body of Jesus. Jesus appeared to many people in different places. No one actually witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. No person was there when Jesus came to life in that tomb. However, there is plenty of evidence supporting the resurrection, including his many appearances. No fewer than nine post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are recorded in Scripture (Jn. 20:11-18; Mt. 28: 9-10; Lk. 24:13-43; Jn. 20:26-31; 21:1-25; Mt. 28:16-20; Acts 1:9-12). Sometimes it was one person, other times a handful, but on one occasion the Apostle Paul tells of Jesus appearing to a group of more than 500 individuals (1 Co 15:6). Some detractors argue that the biblical accounts are nothing more than the development of legends. However, Paul reports multiple post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in his letter to the believers in ancient Corinth. Scholars accept that he wrote this letter around 55 A.D., just 20 years or so after the event. Many of those named were still alive at the time he wrote. Furthermore, scholars—both conservative and liberal—acknowledge that what Paul wrote was actually an early Christian creed, a statement of accepted beliefs recited by believers in their corporate worship times (1 Co 15:3-8). This pokes a serious hole in the legend-development theory. Others have explained the appearances away as simply hallucinations. But the sheer number of people reporting appearances, and the numerous times and places where they occurred, drain any credibility from this theory. The circumstantial evidence is too great to ignore. As Christians we are committed to the truthfulness of Scripture. It is God’s Word; we believe what it says. But not everyone shares our commitment to the veracity of Scripture. So is there anything else to which we can appeal? There are several matters demanding plausible alternative explanations if we are to deny the resurrection of Jesus.
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Here are just a few. The radical change in behavior of the disciples must be explained. On the night of his arrest, the disciples deserted Jesus, afraid and defeated. A few weeks later they are found on the streets of Jerusalem, boldly declaring that Jesus is alive and that salvation can be found only through him. All of them would give their lives in this cause. Would they have done so if they knew it was all a sham? The conversion of hardened skeptics is significant. How are we to understand the conversion of Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul? This determined Pharisee was intent on destroying the newly forming faith community (Acts 8:1-3; 22:1-21). However, Jesus miraculously confronted him on the road to Damascus, bringing him to faith and repentance. The majority of our New Testament books came from his pen. He is just one of thousands of Jesusopposers who became devout Christians. The worldwide existence of the Christian church cannot be ignored. Less than two months after the crucifixion more than 3,000 Jewish people were baptized, professing faith in the living Christ. At great personal cost, these men and women turned away from centuries of religious tradition and culture to follow Jesus as Messiah and Savior. During the early days of this fledgling community of Jesus-followers, the renowned
Pharisee, Gamaliel, warned his peers to be careful how they responded to this new movement. Referring to previously failed messianic movements, he said: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose and activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39). As we say, the rest is history. The power of a transformed life As valuable as apologetics is, I believe our best defense for the reality of the resurrection is the testimony of a transformed life. The Bible says “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Just as Jerusalem’s citizens marveled at the bold witness of the early Christians, our culture also takes note of those who live authentic lives. When our faith truly informs our lives—our marriages, our family relationships, our work ethic, our interests, our goals in life—the surrounding community takes note that something powerful is at work in our lives. This was surely true in ancient Thessalonica, for Paul wrote to them: “...your faith in God has become known everywhere...we do not need to say anything about it...they tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Th. 1:8-10). Be informed about the reasons for believing in the resurrection, but also be transformed by that resurrection power residing in you through God’s Holy Spirit. David S. Daniels, a freelance writer and book reviewer, leads the ministry of The Toronto Jewish Mission.
The Garden Tomb.
ry ’s Calva f Gordon place o e th a— Garden e (Golgoth th r a ll) is ne e the sku st outsid cated ju lo ld o f Tomb o s ll ting wa the exis . m le Jerusa
Can it b e true? Conside r and de cide.
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Defending the faith in a climate of disbelief Helping men answer hard questions about Christian convictions
Talk about jumping off the deep end. Six weeks after I was baptized, my pastor asked me to teach the adult Sunday school class. We were a small church, and he had no one else he thought he could ask. But guess what book of the Bible he asked me to teach. One of the gospels? No. Something practical like James? No. Ezekiel. Sure, I had a lesson plan and a study guide, but I was way out of my depth. Here I was, a baby Christian, still feeding on
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spiritual milk, trying to “teach” on some of the most challenging passages in Scripture. I was in no position to offer any insight into the Word, because I had little or no insight to offer. I wasn’t ready. That was 24 years ago. Since then, I’ve moved on to more solid spiritual food. And I think I’m better prepared to articulate and defend biblical truth now than I was then. But there are many men who’ve been
Christians maybe even longer than me and they’re still not able to take seriously 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart 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” (NIV). Paul Chamberlain, associate professor of ethics and Christian apologetics at ACTS Seminaries in Langley, B.C., meets these men every time he leads workshops in
by Frank Stirk with Kevin Trick churches on equipping the followers of Jesus to better explain and defend their faith in Christ. “They recognize they need to be better equipped,” he says. “When questions get asked, it’s nice to have something to say. Maybe they’ve read a book on the subject, but they don’t know what’s a good book and what’s not a good book.” But what’s more important to Chamberlain is the fact these men were concerned enough to actually come out to his sessions. “They’re gung-ho. They want to hear something,” he says. “They want to get really practical—‘When my kid comes and asks me this question, what’s the best that I can say?’ I really do feel for them, because they’re committed to their faith, committed to the Lord and to the Bible, but some questions can be fairly tough.” If you’re one of those men, if you’re resolved to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” then read on. What follows are four frequently asked questions, four brief answers that should at least help point you in the right direction, and some recommended resources for further study. Is God real for you, or just a psychological “crutch”? Look around you. Then ask yourself, where did all this come from? Can it really all be the result of some great cosmic accident? We look at a painting and know it took an artist to create it. Our planet is infinitely more complex than any work of art, so it must be that it required an Artist to create it. The fact we don’t know and can’t know how or why or when God did it doesn’t change that. And just as a creator is always superior to what he has created, so too is the Creator God superior to the universe He created. That means He is Spirit (beyond all things physical), He is eternal (beyond time) and He is all-powerful (beyond the forces of
nature). “In addition, the fine-tuning of the universe’s conditions for life suggests this Cause is also intelligent,” says Hendrik van der Breggen, assistant professor of philosophy at Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba. But what’s even more amazing is that not only did God create everything, He also entered into His creation. First He sent Jesus to save us from our sins, and then to all who believe that Jesus is Lord, He sent the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us. God is with us. That’s what really makes Him real. “I have come to understand that even the decisions I make on my own have the mark of God on them as His Spirit leads me,” says Tom Blackaby, director of international ministries with Blackaby Ministries International and co-author (with his father, Henry Blackaby) of The Man God Uses. “Even when I choose not to ask for His guidance, He is guiding me through the desires He has placed in my heart. “God is not a ‘crutch’ I lean on, but more like the food I eat. I can live a while without it, but in the end I realize how necessary it is for life.”
People of different faiths —or no faith at all—try to handle the reality of evil in different ways.
If God is love, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Even Christians whose job it is to help us frame a solid response struggle with this one. “I can set out what I think are pretty good arguments for why evil exists, but it’s difficult sometimes to be satisfied with that,” says van der Breggen. “It’s then that I don’t lean on my own understanding, but I trust in God. But even then my trust is wobbly sometimes.” People of different faiths—or no faith at all—try to handle the reality of evil in different ways. They deny God exists. Or they deny suffering exists. Or they say God is far away and doesn’t care. Or they say God invented evil to achieve some greater good. Here’s what we believe. continues on page 20
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The Bible says God is good and created a perfect world. He made us in His image. So just as God is free to do what He wants, so are we. We are free to either obey God or turn away from Him. When we turn away, we fall into sin. So it’s our sin, our wrong choices, our rebellion against God, that creates evil and suffering. Instead of trying to explain (or explain away) God, we shouldn’t hesitate to confess that God’s ways are higher and better than our ways. “A good, all-powerful God could have some good reason for at least allowing a certain amount of evil to be in the world,” says Chamberlain. “If we’re finite and God is infinite, it’s entirely conceivable that He might have reasons that we know nothing about.” “There are times when I wish He would just make me obey Him, but then it would be control, not love,” says Blackaby. “God is love, and He prefers love in return, not pre-programmed beings.” Have I lived—or am I living—a “good” life? At the end of Saving Private Ryan, Private James Ryan stands before the grave of Captain John W. Miller, the man who died saving his life some 40 years earlier. He recalls Miller’s final words: “Earn this. Earn it.” Ryan turns to his wife and pleads, “Tell me I’m a good man.” Everyone wants to hear before they die that they lived a “good” life, that they’ll leave behind something of lasting significance and value. A lot of people see living the good life as nothing more than going for the gusto. Live like there’s no tomorrow. The best of everything—homes, cars, sex, booze, drugs. But Jesus calls us to do just the opposite, to give away our lives in loving God and doing His will and in loving one another. The good life is lived in relationship, in community, in putting other’s first. “The reason I enjoy my little RV,” says Chamberlain, “is because I get to take the
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family out and enjoy something together that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. If you took the family away, the RV would be meaningless. In fact, I wouldn’t even own it. That, to me, is the good life.” Above all, the good life means living for the truth of God’s Word, which means living for Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” When Jesus was on Earth living the perfect life, He went around doing good. He exemplified for us the only truly “good” life.
proof—the gospel accounts, the historical documents and the archeological evidence— that these claims are true. “What you and I are very fortunate to know,” says Chamberlain, “is this person called Jesus, who came into this world and actually claimed to be God. He came for all people. So let’s open up these records, these books, that tell us about who Jesus is, because everybody can know Him.”
How can we claim knowledge of the one true God when lots of other people believe just as strongly that their god is supreme? “Other religions have some truths, but not at their core,” says van der Breggen. “For example, Muslims are correct when they say that there is one God and that people should be wholly submitted to God. But they’re not right to say that Jesus isn’t God.” All other religions are basically man’s attempt to reach God. Christianity alone rests on God choosing to come to us. “God revealed through Christ exactly what His terms are: salvation by grace through faith,” says Blackaby. “It is always our choice to accept His terms for salvation, but choosing any way that leaves Christ out is unacceptable to God.” What Christ did was destroy forever the wall of sin that separated us from God. Because He is holy, God hates our sin. Because He is just, He demands we be punished for our sins. Our sin condemns us to death. But because He loves us, God gave us an escape hatch by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die in our place. What makes the Christian faith real and true is that Jesus also rose from the dead. No mortal man could do that, and so it must be true that no man can come to the Father except through faith in Christ. No other belief system can make such claims, and no other belief system can provide the
Frank Stirk is a freelance writer based in North Vancouver, B.C. He is the B.C. regional correspondent for ChristianWeek. Kevin Trick is the pastor of men’s ministry at Centre Street Church in Calgary, Alberta.
A FEW RECOMMENDED RESOURCES • But Don’t All Religions Lead to God? (2002), by Michael Green. Paul Chamberlain says: “I really recommend all dads read it and then pass it on to as many young people as they know. Green makes you really feel excited to be a Christian.”
Other titles include: • Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College Students (Think Books, 2004)
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• Ask Me Anything 2 (Think Books, 2008), by J. Budziszewski. • The Good Life (Tyndale House, 2005) by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett. • The Faith (Zondervan, 2008), by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett. • The Christian in Today’s Culture (Tyndale House, 2001), by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. • Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Crossway, 1994), by William Lane Craig. • What’s So Great About Christianity (Regnery, 2007), by Dinesh D’Souza. • Building Belief: Building Faith from the Ground Up (Baker Books, 2006), by Chad Meister. • Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Zondervan, 1992), by Ronald H. Nash.
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When “jesus is the answer” won’t satisfy your doubts “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief!”
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by James Strong Faith in God was a no-brainer for me. I didn’t even have to try. My parents were strong Christians who read me Bible stories from as far back as I can remember and I went to Sunday school every week. When I got older, I went to Bible camp and youth group and weekend youth rallies. The simple phrase “Jesus is the answer” told me pretty much all I needed to know. It told me where the stars came from, explained what was in my heart and covered everything in between. And then one day, I started to doubt. It really was that sudden. One day it all made sense–the next, it all started to crumble. I was in Bible college when it happened. My professors taught me some big ideas that started a chain reaction of questions and doubts that seemed to go on forever. How do we reconcile Jesus’ love with all the violence in the Old Testament? What does it really mean to call the Bible “God’s word?” If God is loving and powerful, why doesn’t he stop terrible things from happening to people? Do I believe in God because he’s actually real, or because it’s simply what I’ve been taught? I knew I wasn’t the first person to ask big questions, but they were all brand new to me. Now, I didn’t go looking for doubt. I wasn’t rebelling against my Christian heritage or against my parents. And my troubles weren’t sparked by some great tragedy like the tragic death of a sibling, or a friend who suddenly discovers she has cancer. Doubt just happened. All of a sudden, “Jesus is the answer” didn’t explain everything anymore. The questions I had were too big for such an easy answer. Looking back, I can see how my childhood faith is set up to protect against doubts like mine. If Jesus really is the answer, from the stars in the sky to the feelings in my heart, then I wouldn’t need to go looking for any other explanations. Everything would be fine if I just kept giving the right answer. But I started to see that the
answer wasn’t always as simple or as obvious as I had thought. Maybe my faith had been a no-brainer because I had no brain, and now that I was starting to learn something, my simple answer wasn’t going to work anymore. I loved Bible college. I loved being on my own, away from home, free to start making decisions for myself. Dorm was full of pranksters, jokers and guys who listened to cool music. There were more Christian girls around than I had ever seen in one place before, and I wanted to marry them all. (In a week, I narrowed it down to one. We did get married, though it took us seven years to get there.) But my biggest thrills were in the classroom. I loved learning. I loved reading new books, listening to lectures, trying to understand new things. Often I stayed up late, talking with friends about what we heard in class, feeling inspired and sometimes a little bit scared. Learning felt dangerous, but I wanted as much as I could get. But I really felt like I was losing my faith, and I didn’t know how to talk about it. I remember visiting my family at Christmas and scowling for the entire two weeks I was home because I was sure they could never understand what I was going through. I felt lost. If the simple answer didn’t work for me anymore, then maybe I was too far gone. My story doesn’t end there. But the fact is, I don’t have a tidy way to wrap things up. The questions I had 15 years ago are the same questions I have now, and I still don’t have easy answers for any of them. Mostly, my questions just raise more questions. And yet, like the man in the crowd in Mark 9, who asks Jesus to heal his son, I too say to Jesus, “I do believe.” I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my doubts: I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. I’ve found others who wrestle every day with doubt, yet still believe with all their heart—men and women whose faith is not simple or easy but is very
real. I have discovered that the Body of Christ is diverse and complex enough to have room for doubters like me. In Christ’s body, I might be just an uptight bundle of nerves somewhere deep inside the brain, but just because I’m not the hard-working heart doesn’t mean I don’t have a place. I still love to learn, still love to read and think, even when it unsettles me. I have some pretty big questions, questions that go a long ways back, questions that still don’t have satisfying answers. And I still doubt. But I don’t worry about it like I used to. Doubt is a companion to my faith because when I really know something for certain—like that the sky is blue— I don’t really need faith. But when I have my doubts, when the questions don’t have easy, no-brainer answers, only then do I really need faith. Doubt isn’t the enemy of my faith. Doubt is a sign that I need to have faith. So “I do believe,” I really do, even while I doubt. And at the same time I pray: “Help me overcome my unbelief!”
James Strong is a freelance writer from Winnipeg. He lives with his wife, two children and two housemates.
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boot treads hard Path features
Joe Boot is in the thick of things, working to make Christianity relevant and credible to the committed and the curious by Joe Couto
Down through the years, Christian apologists—people who make their living defending Christian faith and doctrine— have left an undeniable mark on modern Christianity. G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Charles Colson, Josh McDowell and Ravi Zacharias are just some of the better-know modern-day apologists who have challenged and engaged an increasingly secular society in defense of the faith. Add Joe Boot to that list. For the British-born Reverend Joseph Boot, being called “Canada’s Ravi Zacharias” is unavoidable. After all, Boot spent seven years with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries before choosing Canada as his primary mission field as both an apologist and evangelist. Already an accomplished author—his books How Then Shall We Answer? and Why I Still Believe are emerging as new classics in the field of apologetics—Boot also pastors Westminster Chapel in downtown Toronto, which seeks believers and those who are simply curious about Christianity. He’s also an emerging media star, whose quick wit and ability to talk plainly on complex moral and ethical questions make him a favourite on media talk shows. Yet despite his rising Christian star status, 34-year-old Joe Boot says he remains simply someone called out of his comfort zone in England to a land he never thought much about. “I was at a conference in Colorado with Ravi Zacharias and he asked to re-launch his Canadian office,” says Boot. “My wife was pregnant with our first child and was looking forward to living in England near her parents, and I had been with Ravi two years in Europe. We didn’t think this is where God was calling us.” But the Boots became convinced God was indeed calling them to Canada. Over five years, Boot built an office and team for
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Zacharias’ global ministry here. He credits the experience with allowing him to get to know Canada and its people. Boot says he left Zacharias’ ministry because, “We saw the condition of the church in Canada and felt called to Canada. The most effective way was to lead a church in the city [Toronto] as my primary task.” Evangelist and apologist Joe Boot does not believe he needs to choose to be an evangelist or an apologist, arguing that an evangelist should also be an apologist.“ An apologist (from the Greek word from “apo” meaning “on behalf of” and “logos” meaning the “word” or totality of knowledge and expression on a topic) in a New Testament context provides a rational justification of the Gospel and the Christian life,” he says. “It is misunderstood that (the apologist) only cares about an unbeliever. Early apologists like Augustine and Justin Martyr were also concerned about heretical ideas within the church.” Boot felt called at the age of 15 to be an evangelist when it became apparent to him that the students of his generation as well as young people today had a whole slew of questions about faith. He read Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis and other notable Christian apologists and decided to marry their intellectual arguments with practical teaching for a new generation. “It was a slow realization rather than a career plan,” notes Boot. “Other people gave me that label (an apologist) and I accepted it. But I don’t separate the apologist from the evangelist.” As an apologist, he regularly faces tough audiences who keep asking the same questions: If God is good, why is there so much evil and suffering? Hasn’t modern science and Evolution disproved the Bible? What kind of god exists? (Not, he emphasizes, does God exist?) Isn’t the Bible misogynistic? Irrelevant
and unreliable? Homophobic and sexist? Aren’t all religions basically the same? Isn’t truth subjective? In answer to such questions, Boot tries to use the same technique Jesus often used—he asks the questioner questions in return. “I try and get them to understand the assumptions or presuppositions they use,” he says. For example, a person who asks about Jesus’ resurrection isn’t really all that interested in the “if it really happened” as much as they are in the “so what?” or what it means to them, he explains. Contemporary culture To stimulate critical Christian thinking, Boot is preparing for the official launch of his Ezra Institute For Contemporary Christianity in the fall of 2009. He says that the Institute in Toronto will build on his belief that, “culture is public manifestation of religion or faith externalized” and that Christians need to reclaim their place in Canadian culture. The extent to how the church has failed to engage our culture is seen in a cultural change that is has made Canadian society humanist in outlook and based on a kind of neo-paganism, says Boot. He argues that Christians need to recover their faith’s history and see the fruits of Christianity, particularly during revival periods during the 18th and 19th centuries (commonly known as The Great Awakening). The abolition of the slave trade and child labour, and the establishment of great hospitals and schools (such as Cambridge, Yale, Oxford and Canada’s own McGill University) are all results of the impact of Christianity on our culture, argues Boot. But Boot believes that the church in Canada today is now ghettoized and largely excluded from education, politics, law and medicine. “We’ve become concerned with our own private experience—not law, education, etc,” he says. “That’s why we have fundamentalism and the ‘Left Behind’ escapism rather than ‘He shall have dominion from sea to sea.’ But the
church’s mission is out there.” The passion to see a vibrant church is the reason why Boot launched Westminster Chapel on the ashes of a dying Baptist church in downtown Toronto. His vision, he says, is to build a church with a “Kingdom mission to engage with every aspect of life” and a place for the “committed and the curious.” Westminster Chapel is located in a “recovered” church building and affiliated with both the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada and the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec—the
first such partnership between these two denominations in 80 years. Boot is convinced that he and other young Christian leaders are at the forefront of a new generation that is responsible for ensuring Christianity is taken seriously by our politicians, media, judges, academics, educators and ordinary Canadians. He’s also praying that Canadian churches will target “the committed and the curious” in proclaiming Jesus Christ. If it takes being confronted by an audience of more than 700 students at Ottawa’s Carleton University (many of
them clearly wanting to “rip my head off”) or having to be escorted by armed guards in and out of an Islamic university in Pakistan where he feared that, “people were ready to start a riot,” then so be it. In such times, Boot says he has to, “hold on to grace of God.” It is, he argues, the way of the apologist and the evangelist.
Joe Couto is a freelance writer from Toronto, Ontario.
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On a pill and a prayer
Depression and the Canadian male by Doug Koop
Even cowboys get the blues sometimes. And firefighters. And middle managers. Factory workers, executives, truck drivers and pastors all get down in the dumps. In fact, feelings of melancholy and apathy are a reality for men in every trade and profession, occupation and calling. And for many of them, this is more than an ordinary session of sadness. Much more. While most men would rather not talk about such feelings, this condition is very real and surprisingly widespread. In fact, depression has become so prevalent that it’s known as “the common cold of psychological disorders.” The good news is that it’s usually treatable. You do not need to live in a prolonged state of disinterest and discouragement. So how can a man recognize what is happening and take the right steps to put things in order? Grant Mullen is a mental health physician whose specialty includes depression, especially as Christians experience it. “The most important thing men need to know about depression is that it’s a very common medical condition—not a sign of personal or spiritual weakness,” he says. “Men think they should simply ‘pull up their socks’ and ‘tough it out.’ While we don’t say that about diabetes, we do about mood disorders. This is what keeps men out of treatment. They think they should be manly enough to overcome their sadness. They don’t see it as a medical problem.” How is depression different from “mere” discouragement? “Discouragement is transient, with an obvious cause, and the person is still able to enjoy other activities. It resolves with time and supportive counseling,” writes Mullen in Emotionally Free, a book he wrote primarily for Christians. Depression, on the other hand, “is usually very prolonged, with unrelenting symptoms. It is often, though not always, characterized by sadness. There is general hopelessness and a lack of ability to control or steer thoughts. This is a much more disabling condition than discouragement.” And just how common is this disabling
condition? Six percent of the work force in North America is depressed at any time (men and women). And this indicates only the serious cases. People experiencing milder symptoms—the walking wounded— rarely get reported. Men in particular are reluctant to admit they have a problem, to go for help and to stick with the treatment, observes Mullen. If women are more likely to go for help, “men tend to lose themselves in manly activities like drinking, sports, television and tinkering.” So how do men typically act when they experience symptoms of depression? According to Mullen, the number one expression is denial. “They put on a mask and pretend they’re fine. It’s that way with most emotional issues. Men have tremendous difficulty admitting there’s a problem outside their control.” This is particularly true among Christians who’ve been taught to “take every thought captive.” They tend to feel guilty and ashamed. “Not being able to control thoughts is shameful for many Christians,” says Mullen. “They don’t want to admit they have a problem and need help from someone else. Mental health issues are soft, can’t be tested, so they’re not manly disorders. There’s a real stigma. There are many social and cultural factors saying men shouldn’t ask for help. It’s no wonder they have trouble with the idea of taking treatment for a condition they consider a sign of personal weakness.” Mullen also encounters resistance from Christians against the idea of taking medications for mood disorders. “I like to think of depression as a physical condition that causes difficulty with thought control or ‘blurred’ thinking, much like disorders of sight cause blurred vision,” explains Mullen. “Depression should not be over-spiritualized any more than vision problems. For those of you who need glasses to read, how well does the Bible speak to you if you try to read it without your glasses? The Bible is silent if you can’t see the words. Is this because you are spiritually dead? continues on page 32
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ARE YOU DEPRESSED? Depression has a very wide variety of symptoms and each individual shows a different pattern. Generally speaking, these people usually have been sad for prolonged periods without obvious cause. The onset of depressive symptoms is usually very slow and insidious so a person doesn’t realize that they are slowly sliding into depression. They just gradually adjust to an everworsening mood and assume that they are reacting normally to life’s circumstances. At least five of the following symptoms need to be present every day for at least two weeks when there is no other personal situation (like grief) or medical condition (like drugs or low thyroid) that may be causing the symptoms. You may be suffering from Depression if the following symptoms apply to you:
• You have persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” moods. • You suffer from feelings of hopelessness, pessimism and low self-esteem. • You feel guilty and worthless. • You have lost interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed, including sex. • Your sleep patterns are disrupted. You have insomnia, wake early in the morning, or have been oversleeping. • Your eating habits have changed. You have a loss of appetite or have started overeating. You’ve noticed a weight loss or weight gain. • You seem to have decreased energy, feelings of fatigue, a “slowed down” feeling, or agitation that you can’t control. • Simple tasks seem harder and you’ve started procrastinating. • You’ve had constant feelings of “life isn’t worth living like this,” thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
• You feel restless, irritable, bad tempered, never relaxed or content. • You’ve had difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions. Your mind is hindered by a persistent, uncontrollable cluttering of down, sad, negative thoughts that you can’t keep out. • You have had persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain. • You suffer from continuous anxiety that can’t be turned off. You worry uncontrollably about small things (such as your physical health). • You are having difficulty making small talk and have started to isolate yourself socially or have withdrawn from your peers. • Your family has a history of members with depression, alcoholism or nervous breakdowns. — from www.drgrantmullen.com
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Out of my depth
I apologize for my faith How pathetic is that? by Mark Buchanan It’s a curious accident of language and history that the act of speaking on behalf of the Christian faith is labeled apologetics. Of course, the word has a noble pedigree, stemming from Greek law, harking back to Greek philosophy, firmly rooted in biblical witness: when the Apostle Paul “defended the gospel,” he literally apologized for it. The two major works of Justin Martyr, a second-century Christian theologian, are called The First Apology and The Second Apology. It had a different ring back then. It evoked the noble combat of the law court, where first a prosecutor toted out a kategoria–a hard-hitting argument against–and then the defense lawyer rebutted with an apologia–a vigorous argument for. To apologize was a form of counter-attack. In fact, if we practiced in the 21st century what the word meant in the first century, our apologetics would come across as pompous, heavy-handed, and aggressive. Today, when Christians defend their faith, they usually practice something milder, gentler, subtler—closer to, well, a modernday apology: “I’m sorry I believe this….” Is there a middle ground? I think so. The principal apologia Paul had in mind was a life that embodies what we profess. Use words, yes. But the primary validation of those words is a life made new. That’s clear in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. There, Paul several times mentions his own and others’ defense—apologia—for the gospel. Or he uses a closely related word, contending—to fight together—for the gospel. He never spells out what he means, not quite. Has he boned up on the latest book by Ravi Zacharias? Is he still using More than
a Carpenter? Does he systematically, blowfor-blow, take on his critics and opponents? Paul was certainly capable of such apologetics, and we have several examples of his cleaning up the floor this way in the book of Acts. But Paul had a quick mind, a lawyerly bent, a golden tongue. He was theologically trained and usually spoiling for a fight. He relished, so to speak, hand-to-hand combat, whereas most of us avoid it at all costs. When the guys at work or the golf course or the hockey change room start spouting about the brilliance of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, or running down Christians, or cussing to make the devil blush—most of us either clam up, or blow up. We stew in silence or become sarcastic
“Most people aren’t argued into the faith. They’re wooed.”
and belligerent. But rarely are we eloquent. Paul commends to the Philippians the attitude of Jesus. I think Paul was well aware that most Christians lacked the set of gifts and temperament that God had mixed and fused in him, so his call for others to apologize for the gospel takes more the form of instructing us how we live, not what we say. Thus, in Philippians 2, after commending the humble servanthood of Jesus as our model, he says: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become pure and blameless, children of God without fault, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16; my emphasis). Don’t complain. Don’t argue. (So he tells
us what not to say). Be pure. Live as God’s child, without fault. Shine your light. In that way, Paul says, we “hold out the word of life.” Maybe we’re to “hold forth” that word as well. But holding forth carries little conviction if the other things lack. And if the other things abound, that will often be all the apology that’s needed. Most people aren’t argued into the faith. They’re wooed. They’re drawn by love, joy, hope. They’re pulled to the light. Some combination of several Christfollowers’ winsomeness and the Holy Spirit’s promptings land them up in the kingdom. In time, a good dose of apologetics will help them stay there, and press in. But few arrive by that trail. In The Brothers Karamazov–Feodor Dostoevsky’s greatest novel–two of the brothers stand on opposite sides of the Christian faith. Alexei, or Alyosha, is a novice monk, deeply devout. Vanya, or Ivan, is a rationalist, fiercely atheistic. Ivan is brilliant, Alyosha simple. Ivan presses his attack against Alyosha’s faith with a venom that would, I think, embarrass Christopher Hitchens. His kategoria, his prosecution, is devastating. Alyosha’s apologia? Humility, forgiveness, love. The Philippians 2 lifestyle. I think it was Philip Yancey who, comparing the two fictional characters, summed it up like this: Ivan’s arguments are hard to refute. Alyosha’s life is hard to forget. And in the end, it’s his life you want to emulate. So come to think of it, I apologize for my faith. Mark Buchanan is an author and pastor living on Vancouver Island. He is the author of five bestselling books and numerous articles.
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Great games. Great toys. Great gadgets. Reviews by Sandy McMurray
ICEDOZER ICE SCRAPER www.innovationfactory.com If you just spent another winter making do with a wimpy two-dollar windshield ice scraper, pay attention. You’re losing the war with ice. You need reinforcements. You need an IceDozer. The IceDozer has three attack surfaces to scrape away different types of ice buildup. The FrostPeeler(TM) Blade quickly peels away annoying morning frost. The forwardfacing IceBreaker(TM) Teeth provide a cracking force (like the prow of a ship) to plow through thicker ice. Last, but not least, the Tenderizer(TM) Teeth safely break up really thick ice then rip apart the broken debris. Tenderizing is not just for tough meat. The ergonomic PowerGrip(TM) design, modeled after a carpenter’s wood plane, uses the natural strength and motion of the upper body (instead of the wrists) to attack the ice. This two-fisted approach amplifies the natural strength and motion of the upper body, so you can clear your windshield and get inside the car sooner. Now if only you had a better heater in your car. Also available is the IceDozer Plus, which features a small, detachable scraper and brush multi-tool for clearing ice from mirrors and windshield wipers.
GO FLY A KITE www.canadiankitecompany.com When the snow and ice are finally gone, how will you celebrate? In most of Canada, March and April provide the perfect windy weather
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for kite flying. A kite in the sky is a joyful sight and a sure sign of spring. Kites have come a long way since the cheap plastic and wooden dowel versions most people flew as kids. New stunt and sport kites give the flyer enough control to perform entertaining tricks and dives. Larger team kites use multiple lines so groups of people can fly one kite together. The Great Canadian Kite Company is one of many online retailers that offer a large selection of kites. Choose from kids’ kites, stunt and sport kites, trick kites and even traction kites big enough to pull a sled or skate board. You can pay as little as $20 for a simple starter kite or pay hundreds of dollars for a traction kite and board. Now all you need is a sunny day and a good stiff breeze.
PORTABLE DEEP FRYER www.colemancanada.ca Have you ever hiked five or 10 miles into the woods and then been overcome by a hankering for french fries? (Yes, who hasn’t?) The Coleman FryWell portable deep fryer is the perfect solution. The FryWell is built to handle up to two pounds of chicken wings (or other food—use your imagination). The adjustable cooking control provides up to 6,000 BTU, but a safety shutoff prevents overheating. The vented cooking lid has a viewing window so you can see your Snickers bars bubbling in the oil. Cool-touch carry handles are integrated into fryer base for easy transport. The FryWell portable deep fryer is probably more practical for patio or picnic use than for hiking, but you could use it to turn fresh lake trout into English style fish and chips. And that’s kind of the point.
WORLD OF GOO www.worldofgoo.com Grab a mouse or Wii controller and enter the World of Goo—a charming video game world filled with fun and challenging puzzles. The object of each level is deceptively simple: transport a group of “goo balls” to the level exit. The catch is that the goo balls themselves are used to build the structure needed to exit the level, and there are many traps and obstacles in the way. Each level has hints and tips left by the mysterious Sign Painter, who helps you find your way to the end of the game. World of Goo is fun for the whole family. Very small children can play the simplest levels, and older kids, teens and adults will be drawn in by the puzzles. World of Goo is almost as fun to watch as it is to play. Download a free demo version of the game for Mac or PC from worldofgoo.com. If you like the game (you will!) you can buy the full version for just $20. Nintendo Wii owners can get World of Goo for just $15 through the Wii-ware online store.
POGO INSTANT CAMERA AND PRINTER www.thenewinstant.com Back before digital, Polaroid instant cameras provided a handy way to Get That Photo Now. Polaroid pictures were quick, convenient and fun. Unfortunately, when digital cameras arrived, Polaroid was left in the dust by smaller, lighter cameras that provided instant gratification without any film. Now the best-known name in instant cameras is back with a slick new device that combines digital
photography with instant printing. The PoGo instant digital camera has a built-in printer capable of producing borderless 2”x3” sticky-backed pictures in less than 60 seconds. Inkless printing embeds colour into the paper—no ink cartridges or ribbons needed. Images can be instantly printed and saved on a memory card to transfer to your computer later. Welcome back, Polaroid.
8 TRACKS MUSIC SHARING www.8tracks.com If you’re old enough to remember mixed tapes, you might be slightly confused by the name 8 Tracks. This web service is not related to 8 track tapes. Rather, it’s a new way to share digital music. Here’s how it works: you go to8tracks.com, upload some tunes and then create a “mix” with music by various artists. Your mixes are associated with your user name, so people can listen to your tunes and share their mixes with you. Your personal page on 8tracks.com includes your mixes and the mix “feeds” from the people you like. The site has several restrictions to prevent users from violating copyright law— for example, each mix can only contain two songs by a given artist—but the basic idea works, and it’s a fun and easy way to share music for free.
ROVIO MOBILE WEBCAM www.meetrovio.com Rovio looks like a toy but it’s a serious gadget—a mobile web camera with built-in wireless. With Rovio, you can see, speak and hear from anywhere in the world as if you were in the room. Like the Mars rover, Rovio is designed for remote control—very remote control. Use your computer to send Rovio from one room to another, taking photos or sending live video to your computer over the Internet. When you’re away from home, you can use Rovio to say hello to your family and see them via the live video camera. If no one is home, you can use Rovio as a simple security system or a home monitor. For example, you could use Rovio to check on your pets from work. Rovio requires a high-speed Internet connection, a Wi-Fi wireless network and a USB port.
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www.librarything.com Speaking of sharing, you might also be interested in LibraryThing—a web site where people list and share their books and book reviews. It’s like joining the world’s biggest book club. Catalogue your books quickly using information from Amazon and hundreds of libraries including the U.S. Library of Congress. Find people with similar taste in books and discover new books to read. Serious bookworms can follow news from publishers and authors and sign up to receive early review copies of new books.
Sandy McMurray writes about gadgets, food and other fun stuff at FunSpot.ca
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money matters When markets are volatile, remember long-term goals Fluctuations of little concern to investors who keep long-range focus by Paul Emerton To ensure maximum benefits for your retirement years, consider your RRSP an investment, not a savings account. By investing in stocks and equity-based mutual funds—funds that invest in companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and stock markets in other countries—you’ll build a much larger retirement nest egg. Stock markets can be volatile, however, and if sudden changes in their value cause you sleepless nights, here’s how to enjoy less concern and more returns. It’s a long journey. From your 20s to your 50s, building your RRSP is like travelling to a distant destination. With that analogy, sudden drops in stock market values become traffic jams and detours. They slow you down somewhat, but make less impact in the long run than you think. Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. Protect against RRSP losses due to market volatility through diversification— investing in a variety of market sectors and countries. This spreads the risk and reduces the impact if one sector suffers major losses. Profit from volatility. Instead of making annual lump-sum contributions to your RRSP, invest an equal amount to purchase
stock or mutual fund units each month. This strategy, called dollar-cost averaging, ensures that you purchase more shares when the price is low and fewer shares when the price rises. The average amount you pay per share or unit will almost always be lower through dollar-cost averaging. Ask your financial advisor for details. A simple rule for sleeping better. Two suitable investments for your RRSP are stocks and government-backed bonds, and both should be included in your RRSP portfolio. Bonds backed by Canada’s federal and provincial governments are among the most secure investments available. The security of bonds balances the volatility of stocks and mutual funds. This security becomes more important as you grow closer to retirement. The easiest way to adjust the balance between growth and security is to match the percentage of your RRSP that is in guaranteed investments with your age. At age 25, 25 per cent or less of your RRSP can be in bonds. By age 50, generally half of your plan should be in these guaranteed investments, rising to 65 per cent at normal retirement age.
To protect against changes in interest rates, use a laddered strategy: Place 20 per cent of your guaranteed investments to mature in one year, another 20 per cent to guaranteed maturing in two years, and so on until the last 20 per cent matures in five years. Each year, “roll over” maturing investments to new ones paying the new interest rate. If interest rates are higher, one-fifth of your investments enjoy better growth. If interest rates have dropped, four-fifths of your investments keep earning the original higher rate. Stock markets sometimes overreact to changing conditions and steep drops in prices are eventually followed by periods of recovery and growth. These fluctuations in the market should be of little concern to RRSP investors who remain focused on their long-term destination. To prepare your RRSP for detours and traffic jams, talk to a professional financial advisor about these and other investment strategies.
In order to make a proper medical diagnosis for his patients, Mullen distinguishes between symptoms caused by chemical imbalance, by wounds of the past or by attacks of Satan. “Depression is happening when you can’t shut your mind off,” he explains. “Loss of thought control tells you it’s a medical problem. That’s the basic criteria I use. People with clear thought control may need a counselor, not medication.” Mullen acknowledges that spiritual warfare or conflict is also very real for depressed Christians, an issue he deals with at length in Emotionally Free. “The loss of concentration and the cluttering of negative thoughts make a person particularly vulnerable to occult influences,” he writes. He advises people who are living with a depressed person to become fully informed. “The more people understand
the condition, the easier it is to deal with it. Understanding it as a medical condition rather than personal problem helps attitudes.” It’s also important for family members and friends to encourage sufferers to stay in treatment. Many drop out too early. And, says Mullen, it’s helpful to go with the person to the medical appointments. “Spouses are very valuable for insight and encouragement.” The bottom line is that the prospects for recovery are really quite good. And the sooner you treat the symptoms, the quicker the recovery. Diagnose early. Don’t wait until you crash. Assess yourself. Then find a doctor. The best treatment will likely be a combination of medications and counseling.
Paul Emerton is a Certified Financial Planner and Senior Training Specialist with FaithLife Financial.
On a pill and a prayer continued from page 26 Has the Bible lost its power in this circumstance? Are you under spiritual attack because you can’t see the page of Scripture? “Not at all,” he says. “You just have to put your glasses back on. It’s just common sense.” Mullen, a 53-year-old from Grimsby, Ontario, is fully attune to spiritual realities and the possibilities for personal failure. “One of the reasons why the church misunderstands depression is that it has so many spiritual symptoms. Depression wipes out a person’s devotional life. It interferes with concentration. They stop reading, praying and worshiping. They cut back on social activity. When church people see this, they presume a spiritual problem. But it may well be a condition to be treated, not an attitude to be condemned.” He maintains that the church should be a place of healing and recovery, rather than of condemnation, shame and denial.
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Doug Koop is editoral director for ChristianWeek and managing editor of SEVEN.
SHAPE UP by Todd Llewys Nutrition: Stick With It So, spring is looming and you’re looking far better than you did a month or two ago. What now, you ask? Well, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s to say that by now—about two months into the nutrition regimen you set out for yourself first thing in the New Year— the commitment to eating a different way is working. Instead of snacking on bags of Frito Lays, you’re now snacking (if you do it all these days) on a handful or two of baked Lays, or baked Crispers. Or, maybe some carrots and low-fat dip—or whole wheat toast with a low-fat cream cheese. To put a finer point on the issue of your improved nutritional habits, now is not the time to backslide. After all, it’s all too easy to congratulate yourself, and treat yourself to an old favourite to celebrate taking five pounds from around your middle. Even though you’ve established a new habit, it doesn’t take much to fall back into old eating patterns. What becomes a treat o celebrate progress can then slide back into your eating pattern twice or three times a week. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. If you start going to the gym twice a week instead of three times, and have fat, salt and cholesterol-laden snacks more than once a week, you’ll gain back that five pounds in no time flat. The key here is to remember how good you’ve started to feel, and what your overall goal is. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, then you’re just one-quarter of the way
there. If a change in eating habits is working, then commit to stick with it. The only way to do that is to focus on how good you’re starting to feel and look. Do not give in to destructive eating habits! Mental Side: Prevent Boredom One of the main reasons fitness regimens peter out over time is that guys become bored. Why? Because they do the same thing time after time—warm up on the exercise bike, do the treadmill, then the elliptical cross-trainer. After a few months, the routine becomes stale, and after taking 10 pounds off, the body plateaus and you don’t lose any more weight. Now that it’s warming up outside, it’s time to change things up. Go for a brisk walk (with the wife, kids, dog or all of ‘em), or to get ready for the beach, go for a swim at the local pool. As the weather improves, consider going for a run or taking a bike ride. Then, go to the gym and maybe try the stepper and rowing machine instead of doing the treadmill and elliptical trainer. Here’s the good news: mixing things up will not only keep things fresh from a mental standpoint, but physically as well. By crosstraining, your body will be challenged in a variety of different areas. When that happens, it’s difficult for the “plateau effect” to occur. The result will be a further reduction in weight and muscle tone throughout your body. This kind of thinking should extend into the summer to reinforce good training habits. While at the lake, go for a hike, a
swim or throw the football around on the beach with the kids. If you have a mountain bike, involve the whole family in checking out trails in and around the city. When it comes to fitness, variety (along with regular activity) is the key to getting—and staying— in shape. Fitness: Seek Advice From the Best If you’ve been out of shape for awhile and want to be more fit, one of the best ways to do that safely is to consult a personal trainer. This doesn’t mean you have to sign up for regular, back-breaking sessions that leave you sore all over. It just means spending, say, an hour, having them do an overall assessment of your physical fitness. Without question, the time and money spent will be well worth it. Why? Because the trainer will be able to quickly pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. Aside from learning that your aerobic capacity is likely less than it should be, you’re also likely to learn that you need to work on your flexibility. This is a common area for guys to fall short in, for a variety of reasons, from simply neglecting stretching to having old injuries combine to limit flexibility over time. Or, you may learn that you need to improve your core (torso) strength to combat lower back problems. Whatever the case, an assessment gives you an honest snapshot of your fitness. A personal trainer is totally objective and the tests they’ll put you through will give you a true—if unflattering—picture of where your body is at. He or she will also give you a customized fitness plan that will help you address your weak spots. As sobering as the results might be, you now know what you have to work on. Again, with guys, it’s often flexibility, so don’t be surprised if this area is really lacking. It’s important to view things positively. This creates an opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength—providing you put in the time and effort to make it happen. Todd Llewys is a Winnipeg-based sports writer and fitness enthusiast.
seven – issue five march-april 2009 page 33
What women want
Rough patches on the road to romance It isn’t always the man’s fault by Sheila Wray Gregoire A pastor I know recently delivered probably the Worst Gift Ever: he bought his wife a digital bathroom scale. She had been mentioning wanting one for weeks, yet when she opened the gift, a stony silence followed. This man is not alone in the Romance Hall of Shame. One of the most popular Christmas videos circulating online this year was a four minute vignette aptly titled “The Doghouse,” depicting the mythical dungeon for husbands who come bearing the wrong gift: a dual bag vacuum, a moustache-waxer, a gym membership. The only way out was to purchase a diamond. But even a shiny rock wouldn’t satisfy me! If my husband spent that much money on something frivolous without talking to me first, I’d be livid. For many men, buying the right gift is indeed a daunting challenge. While we women demean you men as being hopeless at romance, I have the sneaking suspicion we’re often the ones at fault. Recently I was booked for a weeklong speaking tour and was rather distracted the night before I left. So we didn’t—you know. When I did finally return home it was midnight. So we didn’t—you know. The next night I knew Keith was hoping for something, but I was tired and grumpy. The night after that, though, I threw myself into it and a good time was enjoyed by all. The following day he brought me flowers. I smiled through clenched teeth. I assumed they were Sex Flowers. Keith was probably just feeling deliriously close to me, but I inferred a much more nefarious motive. “She made love to me, so she needs to be rewarded! I will buy flowers now, but withhold affection when she doesn’t
perform, to blackmail her into it!” For the next week I grimaced every time I eyed those pink blooms. It wasn’t one of my finest moments. Here my husband was trying to woo me, and instead I zapped him. Attempting romance can be dangerous indeed. If you fail to try, she accuses you of being insensitive and selfish. If you try but do it wrong, then she assumes you only care about one thing. But just because we women make romance difficult doesn’t mean you should abandon the project altogether. Romance, after all, is the image God uses to describe how He loves us. He pursues us, and when you pursue your wife, you mirror Him. Romance is also crucial simply because she’s hardwired to need it. I’m going to generalize here for a moment, but most men’s greatest need is for sex. For women, our greatest need from our husbands is for affection, which we experience through your romantic overtures. Without affection, we find it very hard to feel close to you or to want to make love to you. Romance may be tough, but just remember that the hard thing to do is often the right thing to do. And you can do it! Romance isn’t a magical gene that only some chosen few possess; it is a carefully honed practice of watching, noticing and caring that any man can perfect with enough effort. So how do you accomplish it? The first task is to become a student of your wife. What does she like? What relaxes her? What excites her? Speak her language and value what she values. One of the things she probably values is important dates, like anniversaries and birthdays. Don’t forget them, and don’t forget at least
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a small token of your affection. But here’s the even harder part: be romantic not only when you’re feeling close to her. Reach out when you see that she’s exhausted, tired or at the end of her rope. Send her love notes when she is low. Call her from work just to say, “I love you.” Send her an email to say you’re thinking about her and praying for her. Just as God pursues us even when we reject Him, pursue your wife even if she appears to rebuff you. And do it without expectations. One of the most romantic things a man can do is to cuddle with his wife, give her a long kiss, and then roll over and go to sleep—even if it kills him. Do this, and you show her you value her, and not just what she can do for you. Maybe next time she won’t let you turn away! The road to romance is paved with good intentions but strewn with the scattered bodies of men who have bought digital scales, sex flowers or washing machines. It doesn’t need to be that way. Become a scholar of your wife, and you might just find that she begins to speak your language of romance back.
Sheila is the author of several marriage books, including Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood. You can find her speaking at marriage conferences around the country, or at www.SheilaWrayGregoire.com.
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seven – issue five march–april 2009 page 34
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