Thinking Out Loud

November 23, 2013

Toronto, Canada: A Tale of Two Mayors

Toronto_At_Night-TorontoRegular readers who know that this blog is based not far from Toronto, Canada may have wondered why I haven’t weighed in on all the controversy surrounding the city’s mayor, Rob Ford. What is there to say? We’ve watched the man’s reputation unravel moment by moment — mostly at his own hand — at the same time that vast numbers of people have said they would vote for him again, were an election held tomorrow.

The aspect that I find most distressing is that, in a city of more than 3 million, this was the best specimen they could come up with. Surely high school student council elections produce candidates with more apparent character and consistency. What the mayor is doing in seedy neighborhoods at all hours of the morning is anyone’s guess — allegations have to proven, after all  — but shouldn’t the mayor of a large city spend his evenings at a symphony concert, or the opera or a charity ball?

But it wasn’t always this way. Enter William Holmes Howland, the city’s 25th mayor. To be completely fair, his time in office was not without its own issues, as Wikipedia notes:

During Howland’s first term he had much controversy. He was removed as mayor after personal finance problems made him transfer his assets to his wife. After that he didn’t have the property qualifications to be mayor. Another election was called and he went back to the nomination meeting after he had transferred his assets back to himself. There were no other candidates so he was again confirmed as mayor.

Many problems arose when he came back as Mayor. Senior officials were arrested for misuse of funds after a coal-supply scandal broke out and a street railway strike that was backed by Howland had the militia brought in after three days of rioting. His attempt to restrict liquor licences was also defeated by council.

However, the article also states,

…He was interested in improving the living conditions of the slum areas of the city… He turned to municipal politics to try to help the city with problems like drunkenness, slum conditions, filthy streets and to clean up the foul water supply… One good achievement was the appointment of an Inspector to the police department to fight vice and prostitution…

William Holmes HowlandAnd then there’s the real reason I lift him up a study in contrasts, as the Dictionary of Canadian Biography chronicles his spiritual life:

…Howland made evangelical philanthropy his main work in life, so much so, in fact, that his business interests suffered considerably. He was the founder and first president of the Toronto Willard Tract Depository (an evangelical publishing company) in 1877 and of the International Christian Workers Association; a founder of the Prisoners’ Aid Association (an advocacy and penal reform group); superintendent of the Central Prison Mission School; chairman of the Ontario branch of the Dominion Alliance (a temperance association); and a worker in the Prison Gate Mission and Haven (a home for unwed mothers), in the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for women, in the Hillcrest Convalescent Hospital, and in the Toronto branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association. He was a noted Sunday-school teacher and frequent church speaker. His weekends and many evenings were devoted to bringing religious and temporal relief to the poor of St John’s Ward, for years the heart of poverty and vice in Toronto. Emphasizing prevention, he was the founding chairman of a training-school for delinquent boys, the Mimico Boys’ Industrial School (established in 1887 and later named Victoria Industrial School)…

…He distanced himself more and more from the Church of England and, with Blake, Henry O’Brien, Casimir Stanislaus Gzowski, and other like-minded evangelicals, founded in 1884 the Toronto Mission Union. This nondenominational inner-city mission was designed to reach the poor through programs of social assistance, medical services, relief aid, and mission work. The successful effort grew and became a church in its own right, at which point Howland combined forces with the Congregational minister John Salmon and a Canadian-born Presbyterian, the Reverend Albert Benjamin Simpson of New York City, to form the first Canadian chapter of the Christian Alliance. Howland was the founding president in 1889 of the chapter. The alliance subsequently became a major evangelical church in Canada and changed its name to the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Wikipedia adds:

He was involved in many causes like the Toronto General Hospital, the Toronto Bible Training School,  the Christian Missionary Union, the Mimico Industrial School for Boys…

So his legacy includes what we now call The Christian and Missionary Alliance, which today, like the Salvation Army is both a Christian denomination and a mission; and what is now Tyndale University College and Seminary.

In the world of politics, character counts. While II Timothy 2:4 reminds Christ-followers that we belong to another kingdom — that we shouldn’t allow civic affairs to entangle us — there is obviously much that a person of faith can contribute to municipal (and state and federal) politics, and certainly even the most rabid secularist would agree that some moral compass ought to guide the leader of Canada’s largest city.

December 5, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Not only these, but there was a link list on Saturday as well. *UPDATE* 8:00 PM — Yes, I know about the PSY parody. We might run it here Friday. Click to watch Farmer Style. *END UPDATE*

Religiously Confusing Sign

  • The lynx is not alone this time: We end today with some book covers which appeared here in a 2008 post dealing with whether or not Fluffy and Fido will be in heaven. These are real books that were available for purchase when the post was written. First we took the Chuck Colson position that argues against animals in the afterlife. Then, four months later, in August, 2008; I was persuaded by the Randy Alcorn position which argues for furry friends, though not resurrected ones. Trust me, you could split a church over this topic…

Animals in the Afterlife

November 7, 2011

A. W. Tozer: A Third Kind of Love

I wrote this on the weekend for Christianity 201, but it’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to and I want its words to echo here as well, though this isn’t the first time he’s been mentioned here.   The late  A. W. Tozer is a very deep author — the kind I was talking about two weeks ago when I redefined ‘rich text‘ — who should be on your must-read list.  (A few other posts at C201 on or about him can be located here.)  I hope you find the analogy here as worthy of your thoughts as I did.

In three different contexts this week, I was confronted by the writings of A. W. Tozer.  One of these, earlier this week, concerned a piece he wrote that was titled, “Three Kinds of Love.”  At first, I thought this would be an explanation of the difference between phileos, eros and agape love.  But it turned out to be something quite different; he writes about the love we have for God. 

Rather than just run the excerpt today, I’m going to try to paraphrase what Tozer wrote…

He begins by saying that traditionally, religious writers talk about two kinds of love for God:

  • The love that springs out of gratitude for God:  “I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications,” and “We love him, because he first loved us.”  Ps. 116:1 and I John 4:19, italics added.  This is a very basic, elementary kind of love that actually has selfish overtones: It’s a love that is driven by benefits we receive
  • The love of the admiration of excellence: A higher level of love where the selfishness factor is reduced, and is replaced by a consideration of God’s glorious being; his power, knowledge and might become the driving factor; we love him because of all that he is.

But then, Tozer takes it to another level and introduces the analogy of a mother of what we would today call a special-needs child, in this case one who is considerably developmentally challenged.  This was a rather progressive example in Tozer’s day — we would approach this metaphor differently now — and I use it with apology to those of you whose nuclear or extended families are touched by the reality of a special needs child or several.

He says that, “The child excites no gratitude in her breast, for all the benefits have flowed the other way; the helpless infant has been nothing but a burden from the time it was born.”  This is a child that won’t be helping set the table, won’t be taking out the garbage.

At the second level, “Neither can the mother find in such a child any excellence to admire, for there is none.”  This is a child whose artwork won’t be adorning the refrigerator door; whose report cards won’t be shown off to the aunts and uncles.

Yet she loves the child with a great intensity.  Her life and the life of her child are more intertwined than they were before she gave birth.  They are bonded emotionally.  It is what he calls “the union achieved by hearts; more beautiful than anything that can be experienced by flesh and blood.”

There is no element of because.

It’s not, “I love because;” because there is no because. It’s simply, “I love.”

This is the third kind of love, what he calls a supranatural love.

For the last 48 hours, I’ve been trying to process how the story of the mother relates to our love for God.  Tozer notes that we all have things to be thankful to God for; just as we all have moments where we are overcome by the excellence of magnificence, the great majesty of God. 

But I’m trying to find in my own heart the parallel to the third type of love, something that is not the product of logic, or enumeration of God’s attributes, or any other because.   

Tozer says,

If this all seems to mystical, too unreal, we offer no proof and make no effort to defend our position. This can be understood only by those who have experienced it.  In the rank and file of today’s Christians it will be rejected or shrugged off as preposterous.  So be it.  Some however, will read and will recognize an accurate description of the sunlit peaks where they have been for at least brief periods and to which they long often to return.

And such will need no proof.

these thoughts based on Three Degrees of Love as it appears on pp. 147-150 of the 1955 Christian Publications edition of The Root of Righteousness.

September 25, 2011

Lord of My Possessions, Friendships, Comforts, Reputation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:02 pm

Last week Trevin Wax posted a poem/prayer by A. W. Tozer.  The name may be unfamiliar to you, but Tozer was a major figure in the Christian  & Missionary Alliance movement and church denomination.  (Like the Salvation Army, the C&MA was/is both a mission and a church.) Gospel Light Publishing has recently released a series, “Never Before Published,” containing some of Tozer’s commentary/study on books of the Bible that several people I know have begun reading.

Here’s a Tozer quotation from my Christianity 201 blog, followed by the poem, followed by another quotation…


Satan’s first attack on the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us, he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living…

…The God of the Pharisee was not a God easy to live with, so his religion became grim and hard and loveless…

…The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service on of unspeakable pleausre…

…How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with. He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is…

from the The Best of Tozer, Baker 1978 edition, pp. 120-122


O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions.
Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me
if only Thou art glorified in my life.

Be Thou exalted over my friendships.
I am determined that Thou shalt be above all,
though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth.

Be Thou exalted above my comforts.
Though it mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses
I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee.

Be Thou exalted over my reputation.
Make me ambitious to please Thee
even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream.

Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor,
above my ambitions,
above my likes and dislikes,
above my family,
my health and even my life itself.

Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase,
let me sink that Thou mayest rise above.

- A.W. Tozer


Found this at the blog The Narrow Path where it appeared under the title, Our Life in Christ.

Certainly not all of the mystery of the Godhead can be known by man–but just as certainly, all that men can know of God in this life is revealed in Jesus Christ! When the Apostle Paul said with yearning, “That I may know Him,” he was not speaking of intellectual knowledge. Paul was speaking of the reality of an experience of knowing God personally and consciously, spirit touching spirit and heart touching heart. We know that people spend a lot of time talking about a deeper Christian life–but few seem to want to know and love God for Himself. The precious fact is that God is the deeper life! Jesus Christ Himself is the deeper life. And as I plunge on into the knowledge of the triune God, my heart moves on into the blessedness of His fellowship. This means that there is less of me and more of God–thus my spiritual life deepens and I am strengthened in the knowledge of His will.

–A.W. Tozer

August 29, 2010

Sunday Seriousness

This morning we visited the Pentecostal church in our community.  The week before it was a Catholic church.   Two weeks ago we attended the Christian Reformed Church.

We know people in all these churches.   I could walk up and down each aisle and probably get about half the names right in most of our area churches, including the much larger Baptist church.    Part of it is that through my vocation, I get to interact with the larger Body of Christ.   So I feel that these people are family; I never really feel like a visitor.

But this morning I realized that in truth, these people are extended family.   Each particular congregation has its own personality, and the people with whom I feel most comfortable, the people who perhaps I most identify with, the people who I really want to spend a lot of time with; all those people are at another church, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.

The local Alliance church represents family as well, but nuclear family, not extended.   True brothers and sisters about whom I have written before, “We are invested in their lives, and they are invested in ours.”   A place where — as one person defined home: “when you go there they have to take you in.”   (More on that here.)(And here.)

Except for one or two people.

Maybe your family is like this.   A sibling or a parent with whom you just don’t see eye-to-eye and probably never will.   They kinda ruin it for you.  You go away but then you come back.   Maybe you’ve been abused physically or emotionally; but it’s home and damn it (your words, not mine!) you’re going to keep staking your claim.

Some people either don’t realize the damage they’re doing to other people, or they do realize it, and they revel in it.

Which is why we find ourselves in forced exile again.   It hurts my wife too much to go back; it hurts me too much to be away.   (An actual role reversal of how it’s been at previous times; they manage to get to us equally in different ways at different times.)

I met Mark several years ago.   He attended a similar church briefly and thought it would be the ideal spiritual environment for his two teenage sons.   He got involved himself in a midweek program, and, being a guy who has so much to give any local assembly, decided after a couple of weeks  to help stack the chairs when the meeting had ended.

“No, no;” someone quickly grabbed his arm; “That’s not how we do this.   We have an after-school program here and for insurance reasons we can only stack the chairs four chairs high.”

A little nuance  that had been lost on Mark.   But then they added, “Why don’t you just leave this job to someone else.”

Ouch.   A little over-the-top isn’t it?

Mark thought so.   He was a sensitive guy and that was a totally insensitive remark from someone in a respected leadership position.   He started to rethink the whole thing and decided to keep shopping for a church home.   He found one where the leadership team was a little less — for lack of a better term — anal; and where he could use his various gifts and desire to serve.

End of story, right?   Everybody wins, right?

Not exactly.   The new church didn’t have the same youth program for his teenage sons, and while nobody is blaming anybody, the lack of such a program may have contributed to where the boys are right now, which is not a very good place.

The similarities between Mark’s story and our story are huge.   Same kind of people.   Same pathetic mentality.

…I think it was Andy Stanley who said that “nobody has ever been hurt by a church; rather it’s people in the church who hurt people.”

Andy is right.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Can’t wait to see where we go to church next week.

August 29, 2009

Reblogging The Best of September 2008

Even though the traffic was lighter back then, this one obviously resonated with a few readers:

Getting into Classic Authors

This week my kids and I are “binge reading” a number of devotionals from a collection by A. W. Tozer, one of the pioneers in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination. His final pastorate was at the Avenue Road* Church in Toronto, Canada, which continues to this day as Bayview Glen Alliance. Tozer is one of a number of classic reads, in a list that includes D. L. Moody, George Whitfield, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, E. M. Bounds and others.

What is it that’s different about reading classic authors like these?

Language
– Right away you notice that they speak with a different voice, and having studied the Philosophy of Language, I know that our use of words shapes our understanding. There is also a greater economy of words on some points, but there is laborious repetition on others, so that we don’t miss something profound. Clearly, the did understand some concepts somewhat differently than many of do today; and the “spin” on some Bible passages is distinctive by our standards.

Intensity – These classic writers endure because they were passionate about living the Christian life to the nth degree. There is an urgency about their writings that is sorely lacking in some modern Christian literature. Were they preaching to the choir, or were they voices crying in the wilderness? Probably both, and with the same message for both.

Response – They wrote in response to the issues of their day, some of which are unknown to us now, but some of which are strikingly similar to the issues of our day. There was a concern for a general apostasy, a watering-down of the gospel and of Christian ethics. Is this just preacher rhetoric, or are things truly deteriorating with each successive generation? Or do Bible teachers and preachers just get so “set apart” that they start to view both the church and the world less charitably?

Wisdom – These books represent the cultivation of much wisdom in an era that wasn’t full of the distractions of our era. While we will inevitably turn back to our modern writers; there is much to be gained from seeing how scripture was interpreted in a previous century. They did their homework so to speak, and interacted with others who were on the same path of study; and some of them were simply a few hundred years “closer to the story” than we are today.

============

What classic authors do you enjoy?

What about material that pre-dates this, what we call “early Christian writings?”

Why did I not mention Charles Spurgeon?

*Gotta love the redundancy of the name, “Avenue Road.” Still exists, running parallel to Toronto’s main drag, Yonge Street. (Pronounced “young street.”)

This next post is about blogging itself and my initial realization as to what it meant to be part of the blogging community.

A Great Big Blog Hug

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and suffer with those who suffer.

Blogging introduces you to a worldwide collective of people you will probably never meet in this life. Nonetheless, the online connection means that you can be a source of encouragement to many, many people. The right words, fitly spoken at the right time, can really make a difference in a person’s life. That’s why I like this picture. The words are coming off the page to bring comfort. Everybody needs a bit of that now and then. The best things that are happening in the blogosphere aren’t always happening on the blogs themselves, but in the meta. When you get to follow-up with someone who has a particular interest. Or try to offer some direct, offline advice to someone who might appreciate a bit of a challenge. Or know of a third-party resource that could be of great help. Or just to say, “I really don’t have a clue about your whole situation, but I want you to know someone is reading your blog who really cares.” Or offer to pray for them. To actually pray for them.

Words communicate. People are listening. You can have a part in what they hear.

Finally… it turns out there’s enough stuff from September to do two installments in this series, so that’s what we’ll do.   Here’s one more to cap off today though, because I’d hate for anyone to miss out on this excellent resource.

Delving into Prayer with Philip Yancey


Thirteen years ago, when we changed from being a ‘behind the scenes’ promoter of Christian books and music, to being a front line retailer with our own stores, our first bona fide bestseller was the book The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. Although I was familiar with his writing from Campus Life magazine and the NIV Student Bible, this was the first book by him I had ever read, and with my recommendation, the book remained our number one bestseller for more than two years. I still have the ISBN memorized!

So when the curriculum DVD for that book was released, I was a little disappointed. It was Philip, who is very softspoken, sitting in a dark studio, speaking in a low tones. The clips were short, too; as this kind of product is intended to be led by a small group chairperson, with the DVD serving as a supplement. Later on, Zondervan would produce some excellent DVD material for author John Ortberg (who is now linked on our blogroll on the right side of your screen under ‘sermons’) which were filmed on location. I made a mental note that the quality of these things was improving.

This weekend I watched all of the DVD material that goes with Philip’s book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? There are six weeks in the DVD study, with each one having at least three film clips, all of which were filmed in various parts of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The scenery certainly draws you in to the discussion of the topic, and Philip seems much more relaxed in front of the camera, and much more himself in the context of his favorite hobby, mountain climbing. (Do you have an altimeter on your wristwatch?) If you’re going to use visual media, it’s important that it look good, and this does.

I felt that the last session sometimes seemed to start to stray a little from the core discussion; but otherwise, this is an excellent lead-in to some good discussion; and since all Christians (and not a few non-Christians) pray at various times and in various ways, this is certainly going to bring out a lot of comments from your small group; many of which will be subjective and some more objective. Frankly, I would love to have some context to share this series with a group of people. (The church I attend has a policy that all small groups cover the same material; so there is no room for electives.) I think it would be an interesting process to explore something so basic to our Christian lives, yet reflects so differently in each of us, including the complexity of dealing with unanswered prayer, which is discussed in the fourth session.

You don’t need a DVD player in the home to run a good small group, but good resources like this are available, and are increasingly being released at lower cost.* Conversely, you don’t need to have read the book to use the DVD and the participant’s guide, but the book is probably one of the best and most thorough treatments on this subject. With small group season about to kick off; I give the book and DVD a five star rating.

~Paul Wilkinson

* Prayer DVD U.S. SRP is only $24.99 Each session begins with someone placing an envelope into a mail box, but when it comes to the one called “prayer problems” that deals with unanswered prayer, the letter becomes a thick package! Ain’t that the truth.

May 24, 2009

Our Visit To The Hare Krishna Temple

Yes, today we went to a Hare Krishna Temple.   No, it wasn’t an accident and there were actually two reasons why we wanted to take off our shoes — which is required — and visit.HK Temple Toronto 1

Reason number one had to do with the event, Doors Open Toronto, where this year about 160 normally off-limits buildings open their doors to the general public for formal or self-guided tours.   This is the tenth year for DOTO, as it’s now known, and our visit two years ago included a number of visits to houses of worship belonging to sects and faiths with which we were decidedly unfamiliar.

Reason number two had to do with the temple itself.   The one in Toronto is actually the former Avenue Road Church — yes, we get lots of jokes out of the redundancy of the street name “Avenue Road” — an Alliance Church where years previously, Charles Templeton preached.

We joined a guided tour already in progress where this connection was being explained.   I later explained to the tour guide — who pointed out that four years after a fire destroyed much of the building, Templeton became a rather outspoken agnostic — that it was Templeton’s unfinished mission that inspired a young American evangelist to pick up the ball and run with it; that young man being Billy Graham.   She wasn’t aware of that part of the story, which some of you know if you’ve read Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith (Zondervan).

HK Temple Toronto 2As we snacked over cauliflower deep fried in chick pea flour, she said she would include that bit of trivia in her next tour.    Actually, the tour information was long on establishing the history and architecture of the building and rather light on beliefs and doctrines.    I almost got the impression that they were trying to downplay their doctrine to establish more of a common bond between themselves and members of the public taking the tour.  Even our last stop, the bookstore and restaurant area, was described as “the former Sunday School part of the building.” Perhaps the DOTO organizers insited on, or strongly suggested that emphasis.

But in fairness, as with the tours we did two years ago, I was impressed with how normal and “nice” our tour guide seemed.   She could be your next door neighbour, or someone who works at the office cubicle next to you.   Not some zealot for a fringe religion. (And she did, when asked, discuss their beliefs by way of comparison with Hinduism which is polytheistic, whereas their faith is monotheistic.)

As with our previous visits to other places, I put on my sandals and considered how positive, warm and inviting it all seemed and wondered how our churches appear by comparison to people like them.    I also wondered how many people touring Doors Open Toronto this weekend would find the visit causing them to want to know more about this faith, or consider attending their Sunday night service.   And so it seems fit to ask questions similar to those the other blog post ended with:  (a) Are you open to visiting houses of worship of other faiths?  (b) What would people who had never previously set foot in a Christian Church think of your house of worship as you guided them through and told them what the different rooms are used for?

Pictured:  The front of the former Avenue Road Christian and Missionary Alliance Church as it now appears as a Hare Krishna Temple.


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