Friday, December 8, 2017

Peer review in an internet age

For decades, and even centuries, knowledge and information were considered trustworthy through a process called peer review.

A scientist would push through research and development and come to a conclusion.  That conclusion was then forwarded to others knowledgeable in the field.  These reviewers would then consider the findings and pronounce their judgment.  Whole journals would then be called upon to publish these findings for the larger community. 

If your findings could not be substantiated – or, heaven forbid, some reviewers just didn’t like you – your work was dead in the water (which would not be great if you were talking about propulsion of a sea-faring craft!!).

With the internet, we are placed in a whole new world.

Peer review can quite literally happen on your Facebook or LinkedIn page.  Verification might end up being rather scanty and scary, but you could claim victory if enough of your comments were favourable. 

So, my question is, how do we differentiate various opinions?  Are new quality review channels arising?  Or are the old channels still applicable?  Are these tried and tested channels able to accommodate a strong internet presence and quick response rates?

Christmas Banquet Prayer

I was asked to give a grace for the Christmas Banquet at one of our local senior’s residences.  This is what I wrote and spoke.

God, our Father:  the father of every good and perfect gift,

We thank you:

For the gift of friends and family who encourage and support us.

For the gift of food that nourishes our bodies

For the gift of willing and loving helpers who care for us

For the gift of Christmas, the baby born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Approaches to Evangelism

My denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, has navigated the desire for nations to come to Christ for years.  Since 1887, various approaches have been tried.

We were on the cutting edge of making sure that national churches were true to themselves.  They needed to be able to finance themselves, to have their own leaders and to even seek to grow themselves outside of themselves (mission was particularly the aim).

In striving to do missions we wanted to take the evangel (good news) everywhere.  That meant adapting to various cultures and languages.

We have done well. 

And now that concern is back at home with us.  For many years the Western church has evangelized with strong logic, winsome language and personal virtue.  With the influx of new cultures to our shores, we are confronted with those who seek spiritual dominion, emotional freedom and being unchained from shame and dishonor. 

This approach scares those who have lived in an ordered world.  We are not ready for evangelism that is filled with healing and emotion and deliverances. 

These two approaches highlight a current Canadian denominational conundrum.  Are we willing to live under the big tent which allows both the Western and the Majority world to live together? 

Getting personal – does the Westerner mind a brother being slain in the Spirit, who is standing next to him?   Can a woman of faith in the Spirit live with a man of order, both of whom dispute the others’ managerial styles? 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cremation thoughts

I was asked by a friend on Facebook – “What are your thoughts about cremation?”  Here is the thread!

Ron Baker

Ron Baker First, my own personal experience includes cremation. When Jill donated her body to the University for anatomy students to study, the remains were cremated. Her remains are currently in a columbarium here in Kindersley. I will be buried there with her (which means I will be cremated).

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Second, I do not find in Scripture a convincing argument for what we call a traditional burial – but there are strong indicators that this was a prevalent form of burial. There are bones that are transported at a later date/time. Funeral fires are mentioned (this may or may not be cremation). There is certainly a tradition of burial in a tomb or a special place (which would indicate a traditional burial). We also hear of the stench of the grave (again, traditional burial). Meanwhile, people are burned in buildings – what happens to their remains?

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Third, the culture can and should influence our methods of burial. My pastoral friends who do not condone cremation have a good point. In our culture (Western) we consider bodies to be throw aways! We lack a sense of the sanctity of life. In the final burial of the body they are both honoring the body in death as in life and they will make sure that someone is with the body or has care for the body right to the final accompaniment of that body to the final resting place (and remaining until the burial has been completed). This can signal strongly the sanctity of life in death.

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Fourth, I do not think that God condemns us for either choosing a traditional burial or cremation. I do think that we can make a statement about life with our burial. Feel free to be a rebel and choose a cause to represent in your burial. If you don’t the people around you will. In my daily readings I just finished the burial of Jehoram – a not great king! Here is the reading I was looking at (NLT): "Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery."

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Oh, and I have a book I’m currently working on about a funeral director called THE DIE RECTOR. I’ll touch on some of these thoughts in the book – more from a story line than a systematic theology approach.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


For a few weeks I have reflected on the pall used at funerals.

In my church tradition, there never was a pall place over a coffin.  You got to see the full glory of the coffin, or its paucity.  I have never been one to really notice – especially since in a short while the coffin will be covered in dirt and no one will care.

But often someone does care.  Greedy funeral homes will want you to buy an expensive casket – your loved one deserves it.  Families will look for a sturdy and air tight coffin.   Some will want the impression the loved one carried during their life reflected in their coffin.

Until you arrive in a church where the coffin is draped in a pall prior to the service and during the service. 

The pall is “a fine cloth” “often velvet for spreading over the coffin.”

In many ways this makes us all equal in death.  The pall is the property of the church where the loved is memorialized and the funeral service takes place.  Regardless of who you are, your coffin will appear the same as the previous coffin, and the same as at the next funeral.

Not a bad symbol of unity, regardless of how diverse a congregation may be.

Friday, December 1, 2017

What is legacy?

I’m involved in two funerals this week.

We say that you can’t take anything with you when you die – there are no U-Hauls behind the hearse.  Most of us do want to leave something behind of ourselves.  Something of lasting value.  Something that will be remembered.

But can we?

Our earthly legacy is only as good as its promoters.

I remember one man telling me that eternal life for him was his children.  What happens when they all die out – or are wiped out in a tragedy?  What about the pyramids?  One bomb could level that in seconds.  How about great ideas that you patent or inventions you make?  Archives can be lost and inventions bested.

In the end, true legacy must rest in eternity.  A beacon that points to eternity, from your life, reaps reward.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Ernal factor

Saturday I will officiate a funeral for Ernal.

Some of you will be unable to pronounce that name properly.  Start with the word “eternal”.  Now just “ernal”.  And you’ve got it!

Maybe eternal was nit a far stretch for Ernal.  He was 99 years old. 

My Grandfather used to proclaim that he would live to be 100 or die in the attempt.

Ernal died in the attempt.  And as you often hear of those of advanced years – “none too soon.”

There is, at 99 years of age, a true sense of a better place.  Better eyesight, better health, better acuity of mind, better natural light (all flowing from God).  Just better!

So, I’d better get moving – on my sermon, on arrangements, and most importantly, on enjoying God here and now with a great future expectation!

Monday, November 27, 2017

A triple entendre

I’m at church when one of my favourite children runs up to me.

“My dad is going to buy a seeder!” he triumphantly proclaims.

“Oh”, I reply, “is that a cedar tree, or a seater to sit on.”

The young man bumps his forehead with his hand.  His face is totally contorted in disbelief. 

I start to see the light! 

The best jokes are ones you don’t even know you have made!!!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Small churches do not equal small ministry

I was reading a thank you article to those who pastor small churches.  I have been a part of a rural church for almost two decades.  We are more than a handful but less than a football stadium of people.

In the midst of the content was an unsettling insinuation.

Small churches require a sacrifice.  You always want to be getting way bigger than you currently are. 

I say small churches are good to work with.  You can always start another small church if you start growing. 

I’d like to turn the thought on its head.  Small and rural churches require next to no sacrifice.  People can love God and love people – probably easier in a small church.

I guess I need to write a blog about large churches and the sacrifice it takes to be part of the leadership of that church!!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Choosing real estate

I’m one who chooses real estate based on price, location and feel.  Sometimes the wrong style of floor plan or the paint on the walls will lead to a negative vibe (now I sound like I’m from the 60’s).

My brother used to have just one approach – location, location, location.

So, I’m reading about Solomon’s temple – built on Mount Moriah where David met the Lord.

Sounds innocent enough – until you get the rest of the story.

David had caused a census to be taken.  God didn’t like the idea (showed that David didn’t trust God).  God exacts a punishment on Israel – the worst of which was the death of some of the citizenry.  God sends an angel (messenger) to fulfil the punishment. 

The operation is done swiftly – the messenger approaches Jerusalem (the capital) – God stops the killing / David repents of his sin.  He offers a sacrifice to God at the threshing floor of Arunnah (where God stops the killing) – which he buys from the owner.

And this is where the story gets interesting.  This is the piece of real estate on which the temple is built.  Not for the scenery.  Not for the proximity to the halls of power.  Not for entertainment value.  Not even for the closeness to resources.

This is the place of repentance.  The place where wrong was to be punished.  The place of deep sorrow.  And great joy.  All wrapped in one.

Location, location, location.

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