Was Jesus promoting fraud?
On first reading that seems to be the case in the parable of the Dishonest Manager, Luke 16:1-9.
Jesus seems to be condoning the actions of a manager who uses the master’s resources to ensure that he’ll have friends after he is no longer in the master’s employ; people who will come up to him in a later chapter of life, ever so thankful for what he did for them earlier…. even if it was with someone else’s resources.
Fraud – with a heavenly sanction?
Well, not quite.
Here’s the real read – there’s a manager, who uses someone else’s resources.  With those resources he blessed others.  And those who are blessed are eternally grateful.  And, when they happen to meet the manager later, they’ll say so.
Those are the parts of the parable that need to be followed through.
Quick translation – we are the managers, charged with caring for God’s resources in this life.  The secular way to consider these resources is “this is my stuff.”  With heavenly eyes we realize that everything we’ve got is really only a gift entrusted to us to manage.  And, unlike the master in the parable, our Master in Heaven is DELIGHTED when we use his holy resources to better the lot of people who struggle and suffer in this life, rather than hoard it.  And finally, just imagine the scene in heaven when we’ll meet people who have been blessed by God’s stuff that we’ve freely given away…..
…, say, people struggling in Haiti right now.  Or some of those from among the masses still trying to recover from previous disasters in South Asia, people with whom Hans & Henni have been working through CRWRC.  Imagine the gleam in their heavenly eye, and perhaps a tear welling up in ours, as they say, “because of you I was able to have safe drinking water…. because you gave my child got food to eat….. because you gave, my mother got her life-saving med’s.”  And you could share a heavenly hug.
Calvin CRC will hold a special offering for CRWRC’s Haiti work on Jan 31.  Plan to be a wise manager. (
Some of you are supporters of Lifewater Canada ( – they’ve been in Haiti for about 20 years providing safe drinking water.  My brother is there right now, providing strategic support as they reposition to better serve in light of the recent disaster.
Tonight Hope For Haiti and  Canada For Haiti go on the air.

Take your pick.  Perhaps one of these.  Perhaps one of a multitude of other effective, careful agencies doing life-saving work.

May God, the Owner of All, find us all shrewd managers with his wealth.
And not just for the short term.  (It says something that all news anchors, except for one I believe, have already left Haiti and gone on to the next “big” story).  But for the long haul.


This past week I was privileged to spend some time in silent prayer retreat at Stillpoint House of Prayer, in Burnstown.

If you’re ever looking for a safe, supportive Christian place to get away – for an afternoon, overnight, or more; with or without spiritual direction; in a setting of peace and quiet – S.H.O.P. is it. Check it out at

Aside from being right on the banks of the beautiful Madawaska River, one of the real benefits of this rural location, down in a valley is…….

NO cell phone coverage


NO internet access

So, given that there is a SILENCE rule enforced in the house, the only one you can make contact with, at all, is


And, judging from the sharing that goes on at chapel time (yes, we’re allowed to talk then – even encouraged) most people do. The Lord, in his gracious mercy, truly responds to the promise given through the prophet:

“When you seek me, you will find me, when you search for me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13)

When believers retreat in order to meet the Lord in still and quiet they are following a deep biblical pattern, one that Jesus himself practiced. As I read through the gospels this past week at S.H.O.P, two things struck me:

a. How incredibly demanding Christ’s ministry was. Scarcely a moment to himself. Certainly no summer frolicking at the cottage! Those in need were forever seeking him out and banging on his door. And he ALWAYS responded when they came!

b. How, in the midst of all that frenetic activity, Jesus carved out intentional time to pray – alone. Even before the most difficult part of his assignment on earth, he took time aside in Gethsemane to pray – alone. If he found it necessary and helpful, why should it be any less so for us, his apprentices?

All that said, though, I firmly believe that private retreat is NOT meant to be the sole way for encountering the power and presence of God. Actually, neither do the people at Stillpoint – they’ve also built evening group chapel into the daily rhythm. And neither does James Smith, philosphy prof at Calvin College. In his book, “Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation” he reaches to the Internet world and pulls out the image of WiFi “hotspots.” You know – the little sign at the coffee shop that says, “WiFi here” and allows you to pull in an internet signal and bang away on your laptop while sipping their latte’s and eating their oh-so-decadent oatmeal raisin cookie the size of a frizbee. Go to the next store, and you lose the signal. Got to be in the right location to get connected to the Web.

Smith suggests that while we all as good Reformed folk profess that our Triune God extends his presence to every square inch of Creation, there are places and times when we can “connect” with more intensity to God than others. They are, we could say, spiritual “hot spots.”

He’s following the lead of our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, who have maintained this for years.

And they get it from hints in Scripture. Like the Psalmist, who finds the glory and beauty of the Lord in mind-blowing ways when he steps into the sanctuary of the Temple (eg Psalm 27). It seems to be a physical “hot spot” – sacred space.

Or the words of Jesus in Matthew 18. After pounding away at the disciples’ stubborn independent and selfish streaks, with teachings on the importance of protecting and including the little ones in the faith community, of seeking the one who wanders, and the importance of restoring the sinner to the fold – after all that Jesus says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Remember, he’s speaking to a crowd that was raised on the Scribal teaching that it took 10 circumcised Jewish men to be gathered in one community before a Synagogue could be established and God could be worshipped there.

Jesus takes the synagogue rule and changes it. It doesn’t matter who is in the group, or what the number count is. That people come together in unity and community – wherever that happens in the name of Jesus, His Presence will be there, through the Spirit. That’s his holy, sure and special promise. And THAT, we could venture, makes such gatherings spiritual “hot spots.” Where the power and presence of the Lord is experienced in greater intensity than otherwise might be the case in day-to-day living.

Could that be why one of Satan’s biggest tools is to try and bring division within the Body of Christ? It diminishes the power of such “hot spots” and heightens his devilish chances of “success.”

By the way – I think the odds for the devil’s success are pretty good in North America right now, given how incredibly independently-minded most of us are. Less groups gathering = less spiritual “hot spots” = easier for his evil to spread.

Spiritual hotspots – when believers gather at sanctified times and places in the name of Jesus. Which includes the gatherings for worship. The unknown author of Hebrews pushes the same button in 10:25 — “Don’t neglect getting together!!” he says. IGNATIUS wrote, “When you frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith.” (reflecting on Hebrews 10:25)

Whatever you think of the writings of such “old, dead guys” (as one person put it to me recently), I think he may be on to something.


So –

Sunday’s coming.

All across the city, spiritual hot spots will come alive as believers gather in worship.

Will you be there?

What do you think?

God-Incidences: Do We Notice Them?

Greetings to all.
The second week of the Study Leave is almost done.
And you dear people almost were left without a pastor….. well, sort of.

A couple of days ago we took a lunch walk on a little nature trail across the road from the motel.  In a nature preserve, that backs on a lagoon.  The sign posted by the entrance suggested it best to keep small children nearby, and NO dogs on the trail.  In we went – and as we came around a corner by the lagoon, gulp = there we were, face to face with Rippy the ‘gator.  No more than about 10-15 feet away.  His tail laying in the lagoon.  His very big snout some 2′ from the path.  Just watchin’ for whatever would stroll by.  Which, after a good look at this fascinating critter the likes of which we’ve never seen in Algonquin Park, we decided  we wouldn’t do.  Better to deal with it in a biblical fashion….. like the wise men….. and we went home by a different way.  Sorry, Rippy.  You’ll need to find lunch elsewhere.

Actually, it was a rather amazing thing to see.
AS amazing as standing on the beach on the other side of our motel, watching the waves just before supper time, and suddenly – lo and behold! – there about 100 metres off shore was a Right Whale, surrounded by a pod of bottlenose dolphins.  It is the most rare of all whales – only about 400 left.  Apparently they swim down from the North Atlantic to have their babies here.  We called the Hot Line to report it – which sets in motion a flurry of activity, coordinated by the Navy, to protect the beast.  Later, at the local interpretive center, we discovered that this was the first sighting of the season.  How cool is that!!

Well, as cool as when we happened upon a group from the local “Marine Mammal Rescue Center” at the side of the highway, preparing to release a huge truck load of sea turtles – loggerheads and greens.  So, we got out to have a look, and I actually got to help carry some into the lagoon.  They ranged in size from 20 to about 100 lbs.  Marvelous creatures.

Which was as wonderful as taking  a short hike around a little trail, and just happening to peek through some Red Mangrove roots to find myself face to face with a Yellow-Crowned night heron.  A new bird species for us.  Too close to use binoculars.  Saw every detail of him while he stared at us with his bright red eyes.  Neither party moved for quite a while.  Lovely!!

The alligator, the whale, the turtle, the heron – in each case we just “happened” to be “lucky enough” to be at the right place at exactly the right moment.

SO – how to deal with such events?
Chalk it all up to sheer dumb luck, or coincidence?
OR – take them as little gifts from God to a couple of his children – ones that help us celebrate His glory, together with Psalm 19?

I’ll take the latter approach.
Thanking God that he moved us to be in those right places, looking in the right directions, at the right moments.
And through these little gifts, being reminded that the Triune God continues to be at work at all times all around the world.

I encourage you to be on the watch for little gifts of grace and joy moments in your life –
– be on the watch, and give thanks for them.
Have you seen such in your life?
Did you remember to give thanks for them?

When you notice them, remember that these little grace moments are part of our lives being lived within the embrace of the Saviour, and within the sweeping scope of His restoring work in Creation — moving all things along that Salvation timeline of
Creation —- Fall —- Redemption  —- Final consumation at His return.

Yes, these little grace moments remind us that we’re part of that Grand Narrative.
A narrative where our Triune God is the major player – and He in grace invites us along to share in the mission.

Thank you, Lord!


How wonderful it was to begin the new year with Holy Baptism.
There was Alexandra Skylar deRidder – small, vulnerable, able only to receive and not to give or offer a single thing.  Surrounded by brothers and sisters from all sorts of different backgrounds and ages who pledged to support and encourage and protect and guide her in life and faith along with her parents.
What a HUGE advantage this young sister in Christ has as she begins life.
And what an encouragement to Craig and Amy, her dad and mom.
Not only do they have the love of the Lord, and the guiding presence of Christ’s Spirit with and in them, they’ve got the assurance of a whole church family that they’ll have all the help they need in daycare on Sundays, in church school classes, in youth clubs, and teen ministry…….
‘Cause we all made that baptismal vow before the face of God.
We did it as the hands and feet and mouth and eyes and ears of the Body of the Christ who said, “Let the children come to me.”
We are the ones who will model that to Alexandra……. and to the dozens of other little ones who gathered around her as she was baptised.
May we never let any of them down!

And – in  case you might be wondering – this is a very real part of what it means to be a Church that REACHES IN, as part of her apprenticeship to Jesus Christ.

Calvin CRC – Apprenticing with Jesus by….. Bowing Down, Reaching Up, Reaching Out, and Reaching In.


In this festive time of the year, when many of us are spending time with immediate and extended family, we’ve been taking some time to consider the Family of Christ –  which is the Church.
And we at Calvin Church are privileged to be part of that family!
We are one household within the Global Family of Jesus.

(BTW, you can find previous reflections on this topic at under the “consider with me” TAB)

There are certain characteristics that help us understand who we are as part of that family.
They’re on the front of our weekly bulletin.
As a family we BOW DOWN.
As a family we REACH UP.
As a family we REACH OUT.

What does it mean to REACH OUT as the family of Christ?

For a start – it’s about sharing the wealth.
We’re fabulously rich in being able to enjoy the divine grace gift of a relationship with the Son of God, and through him with the Father in Heaven, and through them both to be blessed with the day-by-day presence of the Holy Spirit.

However – it is not a wealth that is meant only for our luxury.
It’s given to us to share.
If we’re relieved by the amazing grace news that our sins are forgiven, and our welcome into God’s arms is assured through the cross of Christ – if WE treasure that gospel news, and find our lives enriched by it, don’t we think that others would, too?
Jesus certainly does – hence the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19…. “Go into all the world and make disciples…..”
Reaching out as the family of Jesus is NOT optional.  The head of the household requires it.
Reach out with the gospel of Christ.

And reach out a hand and heart and wallet with other riches that the Lord has placed into our laps, too!
I’m so grateful for the consistent generosity of the family here at Calvin Church!
Like I wrote a few weeks ago, it always amazes me that as a congregation you consistently give away almost 30% of the income stream of this congregation –
– in the front door and right out the back again –
to support Kingdom ministry somewhere on the globe.
Others notice, too, and are grateful.
Over the last weeks we’ve received letters of  gratitude from Ottawa Innercity Ministries, First Place Pregnancy Centre, CRWRC, and others.
Each one saying, “Thank you!”

Finally – we REACH OUT to welcome in the stranger (Matthew 25:35)
Ottawa is a very mobile city. And in many ways a lonely one.
People move here, leaving family and friends in other communities.
Some of them are drawn by the Holy Spirit to worship at Calvin.
And I believe that Jesus watches carefully to see how we steward that opportunity to give a welcome in his name.
Not just by means of a smile at the door – but a real welcome.
Welcome them into your homes.
Include them in your parties and gatherings.
Show a real interest in what’s going on in their lives.
Pray for them.
We can’t all offer a welcome to all people who come – but if each of us would welcome a few, the task presented by the Lord would be accomplished – NO PROBLEM.
So – a year-end thought……
… have you expanded your relationship boundaries this past year?
…..which new person/family have you welcomed into your life in 2009?
—are you praying for the Lord to do the same in 2010?

Oh yes……..
……pssst —
has the Lord put into your mind the name of someone that perhaps ought to be invited to your New Year’s Eve gathering?
someone who might otherwise be left alone?


Recently we’ve been considering the most significant biblical image for the Church –

– the FAMILY.

(you can find previous reflections on this topic at under the “consider with me” TAB)

We in the Church are the Family of Jesus.
You could say, actually, that here at Calvin Church we are one household within the Global Family of God in Christ.
And we have certain characteristics that we think help us understand who we are as part of that family.
They’re on the front of our weekly bulletin.
As a family we BOW DOWN.
And, as a family we REACH UP.

If you wonder what that is all about head down to the Day Care area after a worship service and watch a child’s reaction to their parent’s arrival.  A smile comes across their face and hands eagerly reach up to embrace mommy or daddy.  They want to be held.  They want to be close.  Together.
I can’t help but think of Psalm 131 – a child snuggling close and safe with their parent.  “That’s how I feel with you, Lord” says the Psalmist.
That’s our sacred privilege – a gift to us through the Elder Brother.

We get to REACH UP and be held.
We get to REACH UP and receive divine help.


We get to REACH UP, along with century after century of believers who have gathered in churches and homes, and stood before altars, and knelt in prayer chambers to
Reach up to declare “glory and power and blessing and honor” be to you Lord.
In that way we reach up our hearts along with the saints and angels who worship 24/7 in heaven.  We’re part of the great, timeless chain of worship of believers from all times and places.
What an amazing, amazing opportunity and privilege.
Let’s not take the call to worship lightly.
Let’s not overlook it.
Let’s treasure it.
Let’s make the most of it.

See you Sunday!!!!!!!!!


Last week we began to consider about the most significant biblical image for the Church.
Which is, by the way, the FAMILY.
Yes, there are lots of others.  Very good ones.
Like Bride, Vineyard, Flock, Kingdom, Temple, Body, the New Israel, etc.

However, the biggest New Testament image of the Church, however, is……
God is our Father through faith in Jesus, and through receiving the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:26; 4:6, 7).
> Jesus is our elder brother (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10-18).
> “Brother and sister” is the most common word for Christians in the letters of the New Testament.
> Baptism is the symbol of our adoption into the family of the triune God (Matthew 28:19).
> Jesus himself said that those who live their lives in the will of the Father in Heaven are his brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50).

We in the Church are the Family of Jesus.
You could say, actually, that here at Calvin Church
we are one household within the Global Family of God in Christ.

And we have certain characteristics that we think help us understand who we are as part of that family.
They’re on the front of our weekly bulletin.
As a family we BOW DOWN.
That’s the first characteristic.  (The others will come in future weeks).

We bow down – that is, as individuals and as a collective family, we submit our lives to One who is the Head, the authority, of our family.
His word is final.
His desire is our action.
When he commands we obey.

And we’re OK with that.
Yes, it’s true that often when a family member  here on earth dominates the family and becomes the final and decisive authority figure, there is abuse of that power.  Other family members get hurt.  And their lives are crimped in unhealthy ways.

However, that’s not so with Jesus as HEAD of God’s family.
For He, whom we happily serve, has first stooped low for us.
Go check in Bethlehem’s manger to see the evidence.
His lowly sacrifice and service for us paved the way for us to fully surrender every part of our Church Family’s life to him.

And we’d better get used to that.
And understand that clearly.
Christ’s family is about serving, not being served.
It is about giving, not getting or grabbing.
It is about obedience, not independence.

If we don’t understand that very fundamental posture –
– lived out to Jesus, and then also reflected in how we interact with others in the family –
then everything else in Family Life won’t make sense.
It’ll just seem like strange, pie-in-the-sky spiritual nonsense.

We Bow Down as a Church Family
together with the shepherds and the wise men.
before the Infant King of Bethlehem.

As as we bow, we take our wallets, our sexuality, our political views, our jobs and present them as gifts to him.  He owns them.  And tells us what to do with them.


Which, is, quite frankly, the hard part.
Most of us in Christ’s Family have a pretty good idea about what the Head Of The Family wants in these various areas.  The problem is not there, in our understanding.
The challenge is in our obedience.
In the doing of what he says.

(as a reminder, though, if you wonder about some of what He may be asking, click on this link……)

So, when you drive round the city and see – somewhere – a nativity scene, or view one on a card that you get in the mail,
take special note of the shepherds who left their sheep, and the wise men who risked all to cross many miles in order to bow before the infant king.
then pause
wherever you are
and ….

Bow down
Before Jesus.
Our Saviour and Brother.
And prepare to enter 2010 with renewed surrender and devotion to Him.


The Church – what is it?
What is that entity for which Jesus came?

The bible has a variety of different images that it uses to describe the Church:
New Israel

The most pervasive NT image of the Church, however, is……

God is our Father through faith in Jesus, and through receiving the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:26; 4:6, 7).
Jesus is our elder brother (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10-18).
“Brother and sister” is the most common word for Christians in the letters of the New Testament.
Baptism is the symbol of our adoption into the family of the triune God (Matthew 28:19).
Jesus himself said that those who live their lives in the will of the Father in Heaven are his brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50).

We in the Church are the Family of Jesus.
We are NOT, first of all, an institution or organization or agency.
We are NOT first of all about programs or structure or product or goal
We are a FAMILY.

And so we live together as a family – all the stuff of life from birth to life, the joys, the disappointments, the marking of time from singing “happy birthday” to sharing New Year’s Eve.

As a family we celebrate our diversity:  that God has created no two members of this family alike.
We can experience a stimulating variation in personalities, stages of life, gifts, interests…..

As a family we care about relationships, relationships, relationships.
With our Heavenly Father and Elder Brother, through the Spirit
With our brothers and sisters.
Relationships come first.
Programs?  Ya, ya.  They’re there.  But only to enable & serve life and ministry.

As family we are committed to each other in a covenant bond.
It’s a bond that is hard to walk away from.
And safe to come home to.

As a family we head off in different directions throughout the week, serving and learning and living in various corners of the National Capital Region.  But even through the week we make sure to keep in touch as best we can.
And we make sure to schedule time to be together for support, for  comfort, for nourishment, for hanging out with each other, for play, for rest, for training, for mentoring, for celebration of major life moments.

We are the family of  our Elder Brother and Lord, Jesus Christ.
You could say, actually, that we are one household within the Global Family of God in Christ.

And just like the Gehrels clan is made up of a variety of households that all share certain similarities, but also have unique elements, so with the Global Family of God in Christ.
Different households share certain similarities, but also have unique elements.
So, at the householf of faith called “Calvin Church” we have a few things in particular that help to shape who we are.  Things that happen to be rather important to us.
But to go down that road is too much for one posting.
Stay tuned to future PKNotes.
But, in the meantime, ask yourself:
– what might you list as some defining characteristics of the Calvin family?
– some that we share with other church families?
– some that are peculiar to us?

Whose Story Is It, Anyway?

The Christian faith – what is it?
What are we celebrating at Christmas, anyway?

One concern I have with talk about “Jesus as MY Saviour” (like what we’ll do Sunday AM) is that I can easily begin to have the whole faith thing begin to revolve around ME — my life, my hopes and dreams and disappointments, my thoughts and feelings, etc.

I’m concerned about that because, at the core of it all, the Christian faith is not about that.
It’s not really about me.
Not really.
Not first of all, anyway.

It’s about God.
It  is the mysterious and wonderful True Story of
– God creating a universe, and this world within it, and humanity as stewards of that world.
– God not allowing humanity and Evil’s rebellion to have the last and destructive word over Creation after the tragedy of the Fall
– God entering the human scene through His Son whose birth, life, death, and resurrection ushered in the beginning of a New Order…. a salvation order
– God moving history towards the day when Christ will return and  Creation will be made completely NEW (us included!!!!) and it will fully and finally take on the shape that He had so divinely and perfectly dreamed and planned and made it to be in the first place.
(ie…. Creation / Fall / Redemption / Consumation)

It is God’s story – and, wonder of wonders, we’re invited into it!
More than that, we are drawn into it.
And, as followers of the Saviour, we discover that God’s Story affects every area of our lives –
– individually and corporately.

We begin to live as God designed us to be.
in the Spirit’s power,
already now
as New Creation beings.  (check out 2 Corinthians 5.17)
even though that is not yet there in fullness.

So we seek to work as God perfectly designed us to work.
We love as God would have perfectly and divinely designed us to love.
We play in holy ways.
We rest in divinely planned and blessed fashion.

We, apprentices of the Jesus who is at the centre of God’s Story,
work and love and play and rest and do all the other stuff of life
seeking to make creation a little more of a theatre
that declares the glory and praise of God,
and that enjoys fellowship with him.

Go into that living – to serve and love the Lord of the STORY!
And remember – He goes with you.
Until the end of time.

On Relationships

Recently, while trying to practice the stuff we considered last week, namely taking time to stop and reflect and pray in God’s presence, I got to meditating on God as the Divine Lover for whom relationships were, are, and will be extremely important.

In summary, the deal is this:
God takes relationships very seriously.
He values them.
He lives in them.
And calls us to value them, and live in them, too.

Consider, if you will:
– within the mystery of the Trinity what do we see?  The three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit living with perfect unity of love, of purpose, of work, of power, of care, of communion.  It is the ideal and most holy of relationships, in a mysterious and wonderful way.
– In Genesis 1:26 we read of God creating our first parents, and inviting them into the wonder of creation stewardship.  There it is – amazing!! God and humanity in living, working relationship.  Dare we say it?  Partners in the task of Creation stewarding.
– Then there is the gracious act of the incarnation (John 1:14 where, as Peterson paraphrases it, “God became human and moved into the neighborhood”).  Into a work marred by sin and the curse, God takes the initiative to restore the broken God-human relationship by crossing the great divide himself.  He comes to us!!
– Still more…… going to John 17, and the great High Priestly prayer that Jesus uttered to the Father just before going to the cross.  What do you think is on his holy heart as he prepares to suffer and die for the world?  Well, we read about:
– gratitude for the unity between Father and Son (relationship)
– intercession for unity among believers (more relationship)
– After the resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and….. calls them to go into the world and build relationships with people everywhere (check out Matthew 28:16-20)
– Finally, going right to the very end of Scripture, relationship renewed is at the very heart of the grand vision of Revelation 21:  the New Heaven and New Earth, where God will dwell with us, and we – together – with Him!

Do you see?
God takes relationships very seriously.
He values them.
He lives in them.
And calls us to value them, and live in them, too.

there’s the challenge for us in our uber-busy urban lives.
‘Cause relationships take time and lots of effort.
And they are risky – no guarantees provided on how they’ll turn out.


So, maybe,
just maybe,
they need to be high up on our “TO-DO” lists, also, eh?

With family.
With our next door neighbour.
And with that new person that you noticed at church last week, but didn’t quite get around to talking to……. yet.