Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Supper Reservations (John 6)

[Here's another older piece that you may find enjoyable. It's based upon a collection of notes from a sermon on John 6, which my pastor preached in the Fall of 2009. In this passage of scripture, Jesus has just miraculously fed over 5000 people, yet is faced with mass rejection because of the claims he makes about himself. The aim of these words is to contrast the worldviews of the Crowds, the Christ, the Disciples and the Reader. I hope you are blessed by them and are given a renewed appreciation for the glorious (to the point of offensive), Word of God.]

Am I here for bread?
It's kind of what you said,
Back by the lake if you recall, mister.
I must have missed your mastery of mystery pastry and scales!
(My pleasure!) On these scales, we'll measure your frail claims.

I really am hungry by the way...
Perhaps as we discourse,
a snack, pre-main course?
Just enough to keep me going!
(Heaven forbid your ministry slowing,
Over something so minor)
You want me as a loyal diner, right?
With devotion finer than even you could deserve!

Your awkward silence tells me you aren't going to serve...

Guess you weren't worth my time
I had my reservations,
Not in your revelation
You can keep your heavenly nation,
I was only here for salvation from my starvation

Everlasting bread!
He said I've been fasting when I should be feasting. 
Like the yeast, his kingdom's increasing, 
So fast I'm just not seeing!

He talks about his flesh and blood,
He talks of how he's meshed with God,
He looks to me as blessed and sought!
But my life's a mess, in case you forgot.

Conviction strikes like the cavalry's coming!
His summoning to Calvary is something he's already knowing!

They will mix him with bitter herbs,
Though this teacher spoke with the better words 

Throw the unleavened in the oven, after it's been flattened!
After three days this Christ is risen! 

Not like your stuffed-crust piety!
It's just 'cause you want a pie to eat, you're even talking to me!
While you are sitting, sniveling, 
You're forgetting you need delivering!

It's not just a one time delivery to save you from the Egyptians!
Are my words encrypted?
Or are your hearts decrepit?

Will you desert me too?
Before dessert is even served,
Will you choke on what you think you deserve?
This was never a joke,
Not these words I spoke!
This is my crescendo!
It's truth because I said so!

Master, to whom else could we go?
Fast or no fast, you have the words of life!
Though their offense cuts like a serrated knife!
Slice by slice, sometimes you aren't nice,
But we confess that you are right!

You water down nothing,
When my understanding's crumbling!
And I haven't yet seen you lifted on high!
It's hard to confess when my throat is dry...

My God save me from my treacherous cravings!
I need an extension on Grace Amazing
Even as my lips are talking,
My feet are pulled to begin walking

I am unknowing, my flesh unwilling!
I sometimes can't think past my stomach's filling
Yours was the blood, that is yours for the spilling

Christ, my flesh is unready for the walk and the fight
I rarely hunger for righteousness, like a true child of light
Have mercy and save me from my own apatite!


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bride of Christ

One of the great advantages to living in another country is the ability to gain a comparative look at how the church functions in a different culture. It's one of the reasons why cross cultural missions is so essential to the life and growth of the Church Universal. Sometimes an outsider is able to identify dangers that the home culture may be blind to. In a similar way, being part of a church here in Brasil has opened our eyes to areas that our own culture is weaker in (i.e. hospitality). As a major purpose of our mission to Brasil is evaluating our future ministry endeavors, it made sense to compile a short, comparative description of ministry strengths and weaknesses in here in Brasil and our home country of Canada. While in no way scholarly, the accounts are the sum of our first-hand observations, as well as the input given from those who have spent most of their lives in Brasil. (If you are of the more academic inclination, I will happily look into finding some accurate sources on the subject at your request.)

[Note: Jesus loves his Church and his followers are expected to do likewise. My reflections are written to be diagnostic, not demeaning. The implication throughout should be, "how can I best serve the church to meet this need?"] 

What is the future of the Brazilian Church?
Brasil is a country with an exceptionally high percentage of Christians. Churches are everywhere and seem to maintain a lot of reverence, even among non-Christians. One missionary told us that the Evangelical representation is around 20% of the population! However, it is a relatively shallow faith. While growth is common, the Brazilian church is very inward focused, with little concern for seeing the gospel reach other nations. (Brazilian in general has been described as mono-cultural) Brazilians don't mind signing up to be missionaries, provided they are able to do so within their own country. This is especially tragic considering how many professing Christians there are and how financially wealthy many of the churches are. Nevertheless, their passion is incredibly strong! Like any living organism, if the Brazilian church does not learn how to reproduce by planting churches globally, it may eventually grow cold, self-obsessed, and fade into history.

Summary: Brazilian church is passionate, extensive, and powerful, but the drive to use that influence to bring the Gospel to unreached nations is frail. The Church needs to be discipled to use the means given them to serve beyond themselves. The potential to see the nations reached through the faithfulness of the Brazilian church is great.

In contrast, ministry in Canada is a completely different world. Like Europe, Christianity is almost a thing of the past. In many circles, professing to be a Christian can be tantamount to admitting mental deficiency, (if not outright ideological terrorism). In many ways, Christianity has been dying in Canada and the church is abandoning it's mission. On a cultural note, the societal changes in our home country have expanded the demographic to include people groups and subcultures from around the whole world. This means there is a breakdown of cultural barriers already embedded into the Canadian conscious, a strategic advantage for ministry done in Canada. Although, the percentage of Christians seems far less in Canada then Brasil, the churches in Canada that do exist, are much more engaged in the practice of planting churches and sending missionaries to other nations.

Summary: Canada is riding the wave of change and the Church must remain firm in her theology and flexible in her methodology. Faithful preaching can (and is) seeing a ripple effect of influence across the globe. To be a faithful Christian in Canada demands an active love for people, locally and globally, but with a deep knowledge of scripture, lest the message be dismissed as irrelevant jargon.

If you have any further comments about how to pray for and strengthen the church in either of these countries, I'd love to hear them! Also, if you are from (or have spent considerable time within) another country, I'd love to hear your description of what God is doing there as well.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,"
- Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

How can we best love and serve God's people?


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spiritual Fruit-Flies

[The following is taken from a reflection I wrote in the summer of 2009. The grace of God is as real today as it was then. Enjoy!]

It all started when I finally got around to cleaning the kitchen...

The tension between the fruit flies and myself over who had dominion over my kitchen was reaching the boiling point. It had happened a few times this summer, where we had let the kitchen go a week or so without cleaning and then the annoying little bugs would start to show up. Usually the method of retaliation just called for an hour of cleaning and then the fruit flies would (I assume) die of scurvy soon after. Lately however, the consequences of uncleanliness were becoming more severe. The days got hotter, the kitchen stayed dirtier longer, and the fruit flies began distributing war propaganda amongst their own kind. This called for more drastic means of subjugation. Why clean the mess when you can simply trap the fruit flies in a container with a piece of fruit, toss the whole thing in the freezer and watch them drop...like flies?

Well, sending 'em to the cooler was fun, but obviously the solution was a thorough and sustained cleaning. Actually, I love cleaning kitchens. I find there's something therapeutic, maybe even spiritual about it. It was during this long clean yesterday afternoon, listening to MC Hammer and scrubbin' away that I started to see the first parallels to the Christian experience. You can probably guess what I'm thinking. Before Christ, life is a mess and then when the Holy Spirit convicts us, we are driven to pursue that ongoing redeeming process, which some call progressive sanctification; the idea that we are not perfect but that we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit to be at work in us until we die, and then we shall be like our savior (1 John 3:2)! It's a great truth, one of my favorites!

But here's where I want to camp out for a bit before moving on, because I think there is another half to this truth, that doesn't get its fair share of air time. We as Christians love talking about progressive sanctification predominantly when we got our hands in the sink. When we have screwed up our courage, accepted conviction, (forwent lunch in my case), and got into the fray, we can talk about perfection in progress, cause we're seeing it and touching it as we speak. We step out in faith to take on a challenge and God is right there providing for our needs as we go. What a good day to be a Christian!

The reality is though, our perceptions of progression and perfection are often drastically different from those of the God we serve.

An hour later, I went back into the kitchen for a long anticipated supper in my clean kitchen. I had chicken ready to be grilled and taters, cheese, and veggies in abundance! When I stepped into the kitchen and turned on the lights I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the population of fruit flies that had contentedly been spread out in the apartment had amassed on the grill I was intending to use, doubtless hungry for whatever in the kitchen still had a trace of food smell on it.

It was in that moment that the realization and frustration prodded my mind that if I had let the mess remain, I wouldn't have had half as many flies in my way. Spread out they were bothersome, but when they descended like a cloud in the one area I wanted to make food, it reached the point of aggravation! There was nothing left that I could clean to make them go away. The ambition and the fervor of that afternoon was gone and I know that too many people know exactly what that feels like.

This is inevitable to all who seek to follow Christ, for as we strain for godliness and freedom from the entanglement of sin, there always comes that moment where we expect specific results and instead we get slapped up with a reminder of how far we still have to go. And I know a lot of people who are probably in a place like that right now in their spiritual walk. They've hit the ground running and they've stepped out in faith, and everyone's on board and life is being transformed, you turn a corner and suddenly,


We're in over our heads. My prayers aren't "working". Evil has taken the upper hand and I'm slipping.

And can I'll be honest with you, I wouldn't have even bothered with the first half of this post, if it wasn't for this part right here. Cause you probably don't need to hear that from me. You don't really need to be encouraged about progressive sanctification when you are seeing that transformation take place before your eyes. What I'm concerned for in my own life and in the lives of my fellow brothers and sisters is the tendency we have to loose faith and to withdraw when the situation gets bleak, as if somehow God were ashamed of us and needed some space.

What a sick thought...

Remember when he saved you? Was it cause you were outstandingly clean or moral? Or was it in the moments of your greatest depravity that he dared called you lovable? And I'm not writing this to deny that we do have a responsibility to pursue Christ or to spell out how this valley and hill experience works, but my heart is aching for those of us who are entertaining the thought that maybe we somehow disqualified God's progressive sanctification.

And I know that this kind of issue is difficult to address on a wide scale so I'm not going to try, but my confidence is that Jesus Christ is our savior today as much as he has ever been. And I will encourage us to take greater stock in his word that he will never leave nor forsake us. We're going to make it!

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

And for the record, dinner last night (eventually) was incredible and with a small piece of peach, I was able to kill 75 fruit flies with one strike from my sandal! (I even took a picture on my phone!) Well, that's it for today's analogy. If you've been able to keep up, I thank you kindly!

Shalom until next time!

Jake Rivers
August 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Free Inside!

Something wonderful happened to me the other day. It was kind of moment you never quite see coming, but when it does, you wonder if you could ever forget it.

Brown is Chocolate, Red is...Power?
OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. Let's go back to Monday when I selected a new cereal at our local Brazilian supermarket. Now generally, I try to play it modest when it comes to hyper-sweet, kid's cereal. Heck, for a few years I was putting down bran cereal like it was my job! But to this day, I remain quite partial to the occasional "Start your day with a sugar rush!".

Living in Brasil has meant learning to adjust to a whole new world of brands and flavors. Typical Brazilians do not commonly eat cereal, which leads to a pretty lean selection, for a steeper price. Thus, I was quite pleased to discover a rising assortment of the "Sugar flake" variety, which, in agreement with corporate opinion, are not just good, but are indeed, "Grrrrrrrrreat! In fact, it appears Brasil is a few brands ahead of the Canadian market when it comes to these pseudo-corn confections.

Seriously, I can hear a Top Ten list forming
in my head, just looking at that bear...
This time around, I decided to forgo the beloved steroid-stricken tiger for for something new...In this case, what appears to be the answer to the riddle of what you'd get if you crossed an animated polar bear with Jay Leno.

Anyways, the real adventure came as I popped the box open yesterday morning and was met with a tsunami of nostalgia.

A "Free-Inside" Hot Wheels! (The kind that drives when you pull it back)

I know, right? Totally awesome! In one moment, I was transported right back to those moments of sweet vindication that make childhood worthwhile. [Now, I have to admit, the car was contained in a separate package from the cereal, which defeats the whole purpose of searching through the cereal to get the prize, but in that moment, it was nothing but pure thrill!]

Then came the cold dose of reality:

"I have no use for a Hot Wheels car! What am I going to do with this thing? I have enough clutter in my apartment back home...Oh well, I suppose I can always just give it away to some kid here in Brasil..."

But after I finished my hummingbird-worthy breakfast, I came upon a new discovery...This little guy comes with "Do-It-Yourself" stickers! You know what that means!

"Ashleigh! Cancel my appointments for the next five minutes, I have a ride to pimp!"

Let me tell you, man. I stuck those stickers. With precision enough to make an artist weep, I placed those 17 minute bad boys like a boss. Soon I was holding up my finished creation for the world to behold. She was a beauty. She was perfect. She was...mine?

Oh crud...

It wasn't just those black and orange stickers that found themselves attached to my little car. Like a sentimental fool, I'd gone and instilled value in something I was planning to just give away.


Well, I suppose I have a tough decision ahead of me...So, at this point, I'd like to put the question out there,

Q1: What would you do in my situation?

Q2: Have you ever found yourself outrageously attached to something ridiculously silly? If so, what is it?

Let me know your thoughts,


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Women and Missions

Mary Slessor, 19th-18th Century
missionary to Africa.
For this week's Wednesday night conversational ESL class I have the privilege of opening up the discussion on "Women and Missions". As I slowly wandered my way through the familiar stack of missions text books that form the lion's share of our portable library here in Brasil, I found myself perpetually struck with a growing realization.

I love this topic.

Why, you may ask? Take a look.

1. Controversial Reasons: There's a lot of room for debate here, whether it's explaining why women comprise TWO-THIRDS of today's missionary force, or why women comprise 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in deep poverty. Not to mention the classic debate of where the lines (if any?) are drawn for women in church ministry. And when I say GOOD debate, I'm not give any praise to the H8ers* and the Trollers* who talk big and do nothing. I mean the debate that actually gets people thinking in a way that leads to action (James 3). Maybe at some point in the future I'll actually post more on my convictions regarding this one, but for now I'm glad that people are talking about it, because (let's be honest), it's something we need to be talking about both in the church and in the world!

*I've never used these terms publicly before. Please correct me before I make a n00b of myself.

2. Personal Reasons: I married a woman. She is a missionary. I love her.

3. Encouraging Reasons: This is huge. I am amazed and filled with joy, reading about the accounts of women, who, for centuries, embarked into the unknown, faced sickness, death, disease, loneliness, ridicule, and more for the sake of the gospel. What a powerful testimony through the ages!

I want to go even further on a limb here in regards to the many single women today who feel the call of God to serve him in missions. You ladies do not receive the respect and encouragement you deserve. I cannot know what it may be the Holy Spirit leads you through or what sacrifices you may need to make to run the race set before you. But I do know that you are part of a powerful legacy. And you have the very real assurance of Christ that HE will be WITH you to the very end. Be encouraged sisters, His grace is amazing.


Jake Rivers

Friday, November 2, 2012

Star Wars Re-casted!

With the recent corporate shift of Lucasfilm into the Disney Empire, many of my fellow fans have resurfaced their old (and generally impossible) aspirations for the future of Star Wars. Not to be outdone, I felt it only fair to contribute my outlandish speculations on what would happen if the original Star Wars trilogy was re-filmed and re-cast today? 

Here are the actors and actresses that come most readily to mind:

Luke Skywalker: Rupert Grint
Sure, he's a nerdy ginger, but let's be honest, we actually really liked him for it in Harry Potter. He could easily pass for the hopeful farm-kid with big dreams, who actually feels heroic when the need arises.

Princess Leia: Ellen Paige 
Strong, intelligent, elegant. Ellen's got it all. There's nothing lifeless about this one. Yet she doesn't loose her cool at the drop of a hat. You need that if you're gonna tell off Han Solo in the midst of his swagger. Speaking of which...

Han Solo: Nathan Fillion,   Hugh Jackman   Robert Downy Jr.

Let's get one thing straight. Harrison Ford IS Han Solo. Period. What we're talking about is who could do justice to the character if presented in a different light. Fillion is perfect. However, the Eternal Laws of Parody require that the Firefly lead stick with his Serenity and leave the Falcon alone. Hugh has the scruff and the smile, but he's just too...jacked! Downy Jr. delivers the class and the charisma. Plus it'd be fun to see him as the "street smart" know-it-all for a change.

Chewbacca: Will Ferrell 
Hear me out, please. Let's start with the essentials. Chewie is freakishly tall: Check. He makes weird noises: Check. Also, let's remember that you need to be a top notch physical actor to pull off the speechless role. Any fans of Ferrell's early SNL career will affirm that he is in fact, a genius when it comes to physical comedy. ....OK, I didn't want to say it, but he's also VERY comfortable running around without clothes! There, it's out! Next character please?

C-3PO: Jim Parsons
You need to ask?

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Pierce Brosnan 

You heard right. His life as a man of action is all in the past. Now He's the old warrior with a twinkle in the eye and the spunk to get the job done right. "These aren't the droids you're looking for..."

Moff Tarkin: Daniel Craig
Speaking of Bond...Does it not add a chilling depth to this character? He's willing to go to any lengths to destroy his enemies...And he's the bad guy! Gives me the creeps!

Lando Calrissian: Will Smith
Really, why not? This the story all about how, I came to be the Baron Administrator of a place called Cloud City! "My, oh my, what have we here...?"

Mon Mothma: Judi Dench
Once again, back to the Bond franchise. She's a leader, we respect her, and if you need to hear the news that many Bothans have died, who else would you want to break it to you?

Emperor Palpatine: Ralph Fiennes
 To be honest, this is more of a test just to see how much evil one actor can personify. Voldemort, Hades...etc. Secondly, I want to see Mace Windu send a Patronus saying: PALPATINE HAS TAKEN OVER THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC!!!

Darth Vader: Lawrence Makoare
Don't be afraid, the voice is still Mr. Jones, but that intimidating giant in dark armor can't go to just anybody. You probably don't remember the name, but you remember the presence in Lord of the Rings. AKA: Lurtz, Gothmog, and... THEFREAKINGWITCHKINGOFANGMAR!!! YOU DON'T KNOW THE POWER OF THE DARKSIDE!!!

Well, that's as far as I got for know. I'd love to hear some of your ideas for any of these or other beloved Star Wars characters. Until then,

May the force be with you!

Jake Rivers

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Bible IS a Science Textbook!

     Archaeologists were astonished last month to unearth the remains of what appears to be a first century "classroom" in a cave not far from Jerusalem. Despite its small size, the cave was spacious enough for one adult "teacher" and twelve adolescent "students". In addition to a wealth of early Christian symbols adorning the walls, explorers were amazed to discover a collection of chemicals, minerals, plant and animal samples, some fragmented Greek parchments, and curiously enough, a stack of twelve identical copies of the Jewish Old Testament. Archaeologists are already celebrating the find as not only a rare picture into first century scientific education, but explicit proof that the Bible actually was intended to be read as a science textbook.
     "It really is an astounding find!" The Senior Archaeologist reported. "It's bound to turn both the religious and scientific worlds on their heads."
     This statement became even more true than expected when further investigation of the classroom revealed detailed instruction for how to make animals talk, how to create matter out of nothing, and the theoretical framework for how to survive in the belly of a great fish for up to 72 hours. 
     "As a scientist, I follow the evidence, no matter where it leads." One science professor remarked after reviewing the findings. "As a man of science, one frequently has to abandon theories when they are shown to be false. It's been the way of science for millions of--I mean thousands of years! In science, it doesn't matter how many alterations have been made. What matters is whatever we believe today, we know will always be correct!"
    The find has not been without its share of controversy. Certain activist groups are outraged at the notion that they be expected to give the Bible more credence now that it is affirmed as scientific fact, and have now taken up the mantra that "Science is Intolerant" and have even gone so far as to decry Mathematical Physics as being a "fundamentalist agenda".
     Not to be outdone, the evangelical community rejoiced at the findings calling it a miracle [scientific discovery] from God.  "Our country just doesn't value church the way it used to." One local pastor commented. "We've had to abandon our study of Finding Answers in the Book of Genesis for the more simplified study Finding the Book of Genesis. People just seem to fall asleep now in church, so I'm grateful I can now do science lectures which are bound to keep people at the edge of their pews for hours!" 
     Other Christian groups lament their loss of status as a "Faith Based Organization" and are now assimilated into "Scientific Associations". The marketing departments however, have already acquired the rights to slogans such as "Just Have Science", and "Science Moves Mountains!".
     Indeed, it seems the ramifications of this find could be endless. Formerly unknown historical figures will soon be integrated into the history books, such as the recently discovered Gentile scientist, "Bildad Nye the Science Goy". The archaeological team intends to continue their excavation and will be posting their discoveries regularly. There seems little doubt among professionals that, like The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Gospel of Judas, and Hillsong United's four power chords, the discovery of The Jerusalem Science Classroom, will most certainly continue to impact the world, for generations. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ethics Case Study #1

Dan belongs to a religious sect that has a long history of practicing astrology. According to his religious convictions, he is persuaded that his unborn child will display homosexual tendencies. His religion does not condone homosexuality, but he still desires to raise the child. However, his common-law partner Sue, a non-practicing Catholic, has determined she wants to take no chances and is seeking to acquire an abortion. Canadian Law prevents Dan from making the final decision. When first questioned about her decision, Sue insisted that she was operating within her rights and that for her, it fell into the same category as terminating a fetus that would be born handicapped. "There's no way I could feel comfortable being forced to care for a child like that" she told her doctor. Sue explained that if her doctor refused her an abortion due to her reasoning, she would turn to other methods, even suggesting Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as a means of assuring her a less controversial approach. "My doctor encouraged me to abort when I was sixteen when FAS was discovered." Sue was overheard saying, "I hope it doesn't come to that, but I can't make this decision based on what makes people happy." What is the most ethical outcome for this scenario?

I've always had a deep fascination with ethics. Not the least of which is exploring how personal values dictate opinions. In the fictitious case study above, a number of controversial issues are presented. This is done so, not to create adversity, but to explore the assumptions that go into the formulating of our conclusions. How does the prioritizing of issues dictate the expression of our worldview?

For example,
Priority 1: Woman's rights - Sue must not be made to do anything against her will.
P2: Religion - Faith groups must not be forced to abide by societal restrictions
P3: etc....

What's your priority list? Again, the purpose of this post is not provide an arena for explicit slander, it is an opportunity to examine how conclusions are formed. Feel free to even include why you put certain priorities where you do. Have fun and keep it clean!

Jake Rivers

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Motion in Poetry

With all the intensity of the past few days culminating in the epic crossing from Canada into the USA, it's been hard to articulate just how amazing this adventure has been so far. Thus, I have opted to convey my words in the form of a poem to convey the sweeping magnitude that is my emotion. Here is the essence of yesterdays adventure. Due to time constraints, I have opted for haiku.

Cross border at 4,
Stealing train station Wi-Fi
Eat big hamburger.

But seriously we're love traveling and we especially love being in the US. And now for several days of intensive training before the grand departure for Brazil on Saturday!

Until next time,

Jake Rivers

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The One About the Car

Since finishing my final shift at work last Saturday, Ash and I have been assimilated into a whirlwind tour of Ontario, saying our hellos and goodbyes to various friends and family members before our impending departure for Brazil. We ate 'merican appetizers in Port Huron, enjoyed multiple packing and unpackings during a brief stopover in Cambridge, raced through the Brazilian embassy in Toronto, took advantage of much family generosity in Orillia, went backpack hunting on Sudbury, and spent a weekend enlightening ourselves to the deeper meanings of "campfire odor" on the banks of Blind River.The good news is at each stop both Ash and I were very blessed for the good times we were able to enjoy. The bad news is that not all these stops were in geographical order, resulting in much back and forth venturing and much coin given to the gas vendors. But can I really complain about travel woes, knowing I am about to depart for halfway around the world, yet am spared from the plethora of anxieties aspiring missionaries faced in previous millenniums? Nevermore!

No, I have no complaints to give regarding travel. Only heartache. And that not even for the vessel we take, but for the one we leave behind. [Sigh], I worry for my poor car!

As one could likely conclude from an hour's observation of our beautiful '97 Chevy Cavalier, (or a 15 second conversation with me), I know basically nothing about cars. Reciting the make and model actually comprises a frightening percentage of my total auto-knowledge. See, the best thing about a used car is that they come considerably cheaper. Even better when they come free from a family member, already aptly christened "The Sanctification-mobile". If you remember ATOM from the movie REAL STEEL, you'll respect that the triangulation of "Outdated", "Punching bag", and "Unstoppable" still amounts to a winning combination. In like manner, the Car demonstrates an unbiased aptitude for both new and reoccurring problems, yet always with a stiff determination to pass all mandatory tests, get us there safely, and remain [reasonably] road worthy. 

I've heard before of the special bond one often forms with the "First Car", so I suppose it's not so strange that it has taken on a sort of "Pet" status for Ash and myself. Perhaps this is why I have taken to describing its ailments in far more "organic" terminology. So if you hear me describe how our car is in a coma, stiff jointed, flatulent, or (as it currently is) down with a nasty cough and reoccurring bladder problems, you know where the mindset's coming from.

With our 3 month departure so imminent, the future for the dear Chevi remains clouded. Our deep hope is that enough will be leftover in the bank to pay for the needed repairs so that we'll have wheels to come home to in January. Yet we know whatever happens, we'll be in good hands. We were 4 months away from getting married, penniless, carless, and clueless, when God provided this wonderful vehicle for us. We prayed for a used car to last us a year and it has lasted us over two. Whatever happens to us in Brazil and whatever we might come home to, (to drastically paraphrase Hebrews 12:1-2) we'll keep "looking to where we wanna go."


Jake Rivers

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fantasy Literature (Top Ten Reasons Why It's Awesome)

This week's epic read!
     I love Fantasy Literature. If it came down to it, I'd probably claim it as my favorite genre. I mean seriously, who doesn't get even a little bit geeked out at the thought of epic quests, ethereal locations, and mysterious characters? OK, probably lots of people, but for those of us who do, you know what I'm talking about!

Top Ten Reasons Why Fantasy Literature Is Awesome:

10: Just Like Real Life
Good vs. Evil, "ordinary" people doing extraordinary things, and accepting deals from sketchy figures in back alleys is always a bad idea. 

9: No Loose Ends
If you meet someone, find something, or go somewhere, it will somehow inevitably apply latter in the story. (Or sequel at the very least)

8: Problems Solved In Cool Ways
Break it, smash it, burn it, melt it, stab him, poison it, aim for the weak points, rebuild it, rescue her, kiss her, etc. (Not a single piece of paper work to be submitted!)

7. Nothing Like Real Life
Peasants become royalty on a regular basis, magic items cure any disease, and evil villains are obligated to exclusively wear sinister apparel. 

6: Talking Animals
"I'm a talking wolf," said the Talking Wolf...

5: Legacies. 
Recent surveys indicated 99% of fantasy characters had parents who fought for something worth dying for. (sure we miss them, but they always leave behind such cool stuff for us!)

4: Magic
(Duh, it's magic!)

3: Currency
Gold is somehow both ten times as easy to find and ten times as valuable as it is in real life!

2: Non-Lethal Death-Traps
Only in the fantasy world can you fall for the most obvious of the enemies tricks, but then still manufacture a technicality and win the day. I really don't know who looks dumber really...

1: Irony
The people who love fantasy lit would be the first to snuff it if they ever got into that world. Actually, they'd never even make it to the dragon's den. If you can't do stairs, don't try mountains. (Maybe that's why people like me love learning all the facts about made up worlds; our usefulness is limited to walking-encyclopedia/peon.)

(If I've missed anything in this list please let me know)

Until next time, keep your sword at the ready and lay off the poison apples!


Sir Jake of Rivers

Saturday, April 14, 2012


A reflection on Matthew 22:1-21
     [And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.For many are called, but few are chosen."]

   In once sense it appears as though Christ was simply rebuking the religious leaders for their rejection of salvation. (And that it is, make no mistake!) But Jesus is going deeper than that here. His choice of wording is exposing something far deeper and infinitely more glorious. We know this because every time Jesus veers suddenly away (in word or action) from what would be expected, he is doing so to reveal more of the immensity and splendor of God. 

     "For many are called! But few _________!" 


     This should be obvious! He just went into length describing the failed response of those invited to the banquet! What does being chosen have to do with ANYTHING in this parable? The king invites, the guests refuse. Point of the story: Don't be a decliner! 

But this is so much more powerful than anyone was anticipating.

     This parable is not a shout out to the power of man's choice, or the importance of making the right decision. This is instead a monumental, awe-inspiring, pride-humbling, dominating demonstration of the width and breadth of God's merciful grace. We who believe in Christ are those who have been both called, (and even more gloriously) chosen. We are not called (one point for God) and choosing (one point for us). No, our very lives are invaded with the unacceptable offer that the Holy Spirit must re-create us to receive. That what it means to come to be born again. This is what underlies the parable. 

     Getting into the kingdom is impossible without both the calling and choosing of our sovereign Lord. If there was only calling, even if God were to speak audibly from heaven to each individual, there would be not a single believing soul in all the history of the world. If you are a true Christian, its because you were called and chosen and these two words are fatal to sinful hearts. These words are a war declaration and a announcement of victory. For this is what it means to be saved from sin. Our deepest hearts fight to the death against the invasion of grace. (And die they do, on a cross, with Christ.) The old way of living is dead, never to resurrect. Reinstated in its place is not an overturned, disorganized rebellion, abandoned to make it on our own once the evil dictator of sin has been assassinated. Christ does not dispose of the tyrant and leave the oppressed soul to live as it wishes. No, when the conquest is complete, he takes the crown, he sits in the throne and says unto the scattered remnant of the sinner's heart, "Behold, I make all things new!" The soul of darkness becomes the dominion of light. For from eternity past Christ has ordained that this territory, this province, this city, this village, this house, this heart will be his

And no one can stop this warrior-king. 

Many are called. The message of the king will certainly shake the corners of the earth. Many will hear, many will cover their ears. Many will scoff. But a precious, beloved few will be rescued. 

     He will come for you, little sheep.Though as frail as frail gets, he will come and deliver you. This great shepherd spoke these very words, "I have other sheep, not of this (i.e. Israel) sheepfold. I must bring them also," (John 10:16) Who can stay the hand of God? Who can bring any charge against God's elect? If God himself justifies, who is it that condemns? (Romans 8:33-34) For all the power and might of hell, flesh, the world, the devil, or even our own sin will never be sufficient to blot out the word written next to our names in the lambs book of life.



Jake Rivers