Monday, December 26, 2011

Keeping the Box in Boxing Day

I am disgusted I tell you. Disgusted! It seems like every where I go, I'm hearing nothing but families planning on getting together to celebrate Christmas on Boxing Day! Apparently, December 25 just isn't enough anymore. Now we need to take the celebration of food, family, and ultimately the birth of Christ himself, and completely annex the 26th as well.
Why don't we remember to keep the Box in Boxing Day?
Sure, maybe values have changed, but aren't we clearly out of line when we feel we have the right to include and omit whatever we want on these ancient traditions? How would you feel if you were a flat screen tv, just sitting in the display window at Best Buy and all you see is people bypassing the stores to spend time with their families? You'd be heart broken! Ever since October you've been blasted with the message that the season is not about materialism and then when the big day finally comes, the masses bail on you once again.
So this is my shout out to all the shoppers maintaining the sacrament of the Day. Thank you for your devotion and for reminding us how foolish we are for thinking we can change the focus.
God bless us, everyone!

Jake Rivers

P.s. Wait, what then are the implications for Easter? These fluffy symbols of mass fertility are making me nervous...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some thoughts on biblical humour

I'm considering giving up making puns about bible names. They always sound funny in my head, but whenever I tell them, they always seem to go down like a lead Zebulun.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Back Pain

My back is killing me.

     I'm almost 4 weeks in visiting the chiropractor and the pain has been increasing steadily since then. I find I have less energy, less motivation, and much more difficulty performing basic tasks. To make matters worse, I'm not even allowed the decency of complaining because the reason my back hurts in the first place is because it's in the process of being corrected.
     Oh sure, It all sounds so clean and precise after the initial assessment, when I'm told of a few minor points of concern, the potential harm of leaving them un-addressed, and the simple process for getting bones in the right place again. Of course now I'm beginning to think that a 6-12 month correcting process never feels long until you hit week 3 and your spine feels like it's made of porcupines.
     Ironically enough though, this experience is illuminating my study in Hebrews and how the author encourages the church to persevere under God's discipline and to accept his correction as a sign of love and adoption. He teaches how all discipline is part of a process and that this process will always involve pain. But it's because of love not hate that we experience what we do in Christ. How else does God show love to our dislocated and wayward hearts if not by placing us lovingly under his discipline? To submit to God's discipline is not to be out in the field taking hit after hit from God's shotgun every time a hint of imperfection arises, like some never ending game of cosmic Duck Hunt. No, like a chiropractor God knows what he's doing.

Plus He's patient enough to give us lasting relief and not the cheap cover up that the World so readily offers.  

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11

It's still true today, we are in good hands.


Jake Rivers

Thursday, November 3, 2011

White-Out Style Conscience Cleansing

"Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering for sin."
- Hebrews 10:18


Weird idea.

    The part I don't like about it is the admitting part. I'm fine with the forgiveness that waves me through the metaphorical airport customs, blind to all the junk in my past. If forgiveness is a "let sleeping dogs lie/don't ask, don't tell" ordeal, then that is fine by me. Frankly, the less said about my screw ups, the better! My ideal Christian life would be one in which every mistake I make is greeted with blank stares and subject changes.
No attention. No detection.

I want a forgiveness that says:

"It never happened."

     But that is impossible. My memory alone is too vivid. I'm stuck with the wretched feeling of dysfunction as I identify myself the factory that mass-produces wickedness. The labour alone of white-out style conscience cleansing wearies me to death. I'm the guy with the roll of paper towels trying to dry off the rocks beneath a raging waterfall. I can't cover it all up. No one can.
     But in Christ, Sin is dealt with at the cross. Christ is not my assassin, hired to creep into my past and snuff the evidence of my screw-ups. He is the willing assassinated Saviour for sinners. To Him belongs a light that brings revelation (not concealment), to all the sin in my life. In fact, this exposure is so great that it reveals atrocities beyond my deepest fears!
     But how tremendous the power of the cross, that the great unveiling of sin becomes the damning sentence for Christ Himself! In his great authority he has laid claim to what once claimed me. And how much greater, that by that same authority He killed my sin (punching it right in its ugly face!), and graphically portraying its repugnance as a further testament to His greater glory. Christian forgiveness is as bloody as it is liberating. And it is good news. No other forgiveness can so thoroughly meat my desperation.

For I need a forgiveness that says:

"It is Finished."

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
- 2 Corinthians 5:21


Jake Rivers

Saturday, September 24, 2011

B-How Testimonial #462

The following story is true. It is one of many.

     Just a few weeks ago, Ash and I had taken our beloved car into the shop to get some work done on a rusted tailpipe. We were just in the process of paying and getting ready to leave with our newly restored Cavi when suddenly, disaster struck. At perhaps the worst moment possible, the key slipped from my fingers. We both watched in horror as it fell through the untimely gap in the parking break. Frantically I attempted to reach through the fatal chasm, but to no avail. A flashlight and a pair of pliers were quickly procured, but only served to shove the obnoxiously flat metal key further beneath the parking break.

     The afternoon sun grew hot. Time wore on. The only other spare key we had required another 45 minute walk back to our apartment. We were losing hope.

     "You guys need a hand?" Came a familiar voice. There, standing like a beacon of hope in the sunlight stood Dr. Barry Howson. Just a few feet away, standing next to his trusty pick-up, here before us was one of the legends of Heritage College and Seminary. The only man to have a triple doctorate in Theology, Mechanics, and Awesome (well, according to rumour). His personal library is limitless. Autobots revere him. Decepticons fear him. B-How had come to save the day. 

     After explaining the situation, and doing my best with the pliers to shove the key to the best possible retrieval point, we let the Doctor do his work. He at first sought out an extendable magnet from his tool box, but when it failed to appear, he rolled up his sleeves and went for it bare-handed. It was a fierce struggle, even for B-How. The moments that crawled by in the hot sun were agonizing. Then, all of a sudden, like the articulation of a difficult theological concept, Barry held up the elusive key! 

"Here you go."

And then, almost before we had a chance to thank him, he was off again in his pick-up, no doubt following his instincts to yet another desperate theo-mechanical crisis. His work here was done. 

Thanks Dr. Howson!


Jake Rivers

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Book By Its Cover: Jake Rivers Satirically Reviews "Love Wins"

     Over the past several months it seems that just about everybody has found time to read, review, and comment on Rob Bell's new book Love Wins. Why is it so popular you may ask? According to common hearsay, Bell is calling into question traditional teachings and understandings about what the Bible actually says about Hell and raises a number of ideas to suggest that maybe what we grew up believing in Sunday School isn't fully accurate. Needless to say this book has created quite the firestorm of debate within the Christian community. Words like "Heretic", "Narrow-Minded" have been thrown around like hand-grenades.

Naturally I want in.

However, I must be brutally honest and confess that I still have not read this book. In fact, apart from the promo video, I haven't got passed the cover. Nevertheless, in the interest of staying relevant with the culture, I intend, in this review, to give my honest, unashamed, critique of this very book cover and what I believe its implications are for the future of evangelicalism.

The Book that Inspired the Legend
     To begin, lets take critical analysis of the title. Maybe I am on the lethargic side, but a title like "Love Wins" isn't going to make anybody want to read more. Let's be honest, the rest of the world has a million and one things on the mind and probably none of them involve going to the religious section in the local bookstore and grabbing what sounds like a cheesy romance novel and hoping to be divinely inspired. THIS IS THE 21st CENTURY BELL! As a pastor, you should know by now that Christianity isn't going to avail anyone if it doesn't sound exciting and popular. Save your boring words for after you get them into church, but until that time you need to use more flare! As most modern Christians could testify, this isn't so hard to do. Here is just a brief list of alternate titles submitted by other "recognized" Christian authors:

Joshua Harris: I Kissed Hell Goodbye
Joel Osteen: Your Best Afterlife Now
AC/DC: Bell's Hells
(And my personal favorite)
Robert Palmer meets Charlie Sheen: Might as Well Face it, I'm Addicted to Love Winning

It's not rocket science Rob. But after going over your title again and again, I just can't help but feel you were so concerned about what you believe, that you forget about the world you are trying to reach. Frankly, I don't think that's the example we see set out for us in scripture.

A Theologically Correct Christian Book Cover
     Number two: the cover illustration. Let's start with the background. It really only took me a few moments into my examination of Rob's book cover for be to seriously begin to question his theological grounding. For countless decades it has seemed second nature for biblically-grounded Christians to depict images of creation (waves, mountain ranges), classical art depictions of Jesus, or at the very least an image of teenagers staying in school. (see example on left) Yet after long minutes of studying, I was unable to detect any of these traditional evidences. Instead there was only this weird, darkness with a bit of red on the side. Upon further analysis, I came to realize that Bell actually has the book title re-printed in italicized grey letters in the background. Now maybe I'm wrong, but I don't recall that type of font displacement appearing anywhere in scripture or even on any of the other Christian books on my shelf. Now I know I'm not dealing with anything explicit here, but I think this is strong evidence that Bell has left the realm of orthodoxy and is wandering into title-page apostasy.

Actually my idea for a better cover would have been a depiction of the devil, sitting in an alleyway outside Bell's church with a cardboard sign that says "homeless". But that may have to wait for the sequel.

     Last of all, I want to take an honest look at what so many people forget about when reviewing the cover.

The back page.

It is here that we find what many would deem the most controversial subject matter and that is the quotations from others who have read and endorsed  the book in question. I'm speaking of course about the Eugene Peterson quotation which (in all appearances) gives a hearty amen to the book's content.

‘It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ…Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.‘”
- Eugene Peterson, Author of The Message

Now what stands out to me, (as I'm sure it does to every astute critic) is that this quotation is entirely without reliable evidence. Why should we so quickly assume that just because it's printed on the back, we should accept it as truth? Eugene Peterson has ACTUALLY read this book? Furthermore, he has ACTUALLY written and submitted this quotation? Really? We have evidence of this? Someone was there, reading over his shoulder, who can attest to this? We have  photographic evidence? Or are we all just to accept it, simply because we've been brought up believing the quotations on the backs of our books are always accurate? 

Is this the kind of arrogance the world needs?

     In summary, while I'm sure this cover may lead to some interesting discussions, it may be that it causes more division than it's worth. I'm not one to judge a book by its cover, though I maintain that as far as covers go, Love Wins certainly doesn't play passively. It's a cover looking to (no pun intended) raise a little Hell. As for impact on the church of tomorrow, I anticipate that there will no doubt be many more controversial covers of this same caliber. But that's never been something new for the church. So next time you're in the bookstore don't be shocked if  there ends up being more to a book than meets the eye. The era we live in calls for discernment in what we choose to read, how we read it, and how we choose to respond. But a need for wisdom is nothing new. It's human nature to assume we're smarter than we really are.  In fact,  it's the fate of every person who ever lived.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Afternoon Naps

You know that feeling you get as soon as you step out the door after you finish work for the day?

Now add to that...

1. A delicious snack
2. A refreshing shower
3. A comfy place to lie down
4. A good book in hand
5. A hug and a kiss from my wife

...And you have my recipe for a perfect afternoon nap!

What's your recipe?


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taste of Toronto

Saturday marked for Ashleigh and I, our third annual date to downtown Toronto. Over the years I've come to love this city more and more and if ever it happened that God called us to ministry here in Ontario, Toronto would certainly be my first choice! One of the great advantages to a day trip in Toronto is there is always something fun going on. For us, our happy surprise was the Taste of the Danforth, a week long celebration of Greek culture and cooking. It was amazing to see such a long stretch of road converted into a crowded carnival! For us however, our culinary destination was an amazing Indian buffet called The New Haandi 2000 for an incredible mid-afternoon lunch! Needless to say, we needed no supper that night!

What's your favourite place to eat in Toronto?


Jake Rivers

Monday, July 25, 2011

And This Little Piggy...

I started my third week at Conestoga Meat Packers today. I seem to have a knack for finding the unusual employment options and this one is certainly no exception. At Conestoga, we kill pigs. Lots of pigs. Over 3000 a day! Then other people cut them into pieces and other people like me package them. Then people like you and me buy and eat. I remember taking my first full tour of the plant and actually seeing for the first time the rows and rows of slaughtered pigs and being surprised that inasmuch as the sight is disgusting, it's the smell that makes the biggest impact. But even that I am sure, as with other things, you get used to eventually. Though there is no denying it does something to a person to witness death on such an extensive scale, even if they are only animals. I don't think I could ever again read about blood or sacrifice, or mass execution without being reminded of what I have now observed.
But on a lighter note, to answer that ever present question, "Can you still eat pork now that you know where it comes from?" The answer is yes. I love pork. And my employee discount will certainly see good use during my time here. To close, I am submitting my list of top pork puns that have come to mind during my shifts.

Monotony: It's a boar-ing job but someone's gotta do it!
Monopoly: I have hotels on Boar-walk and Pork-place!
New Testament: What you Sow you shall Reeeeep!
Old Testament: [File not found]

That's all folks,


Jake Rivers

Friday, July 8, 2011


This weekend will mark the close of my first summer vacation in several years. Not to mention my first summer vacation with my wife! Although fairly humble to some standards, for me, these days of rest have been life-changing. What began as a plan for a week away at the cottage eventually metamorphosized into a seventeen day venture between Orillia, the aforementioned cottage, and our lovely home.

For the past several months I've found my energy levels steadily decreasing from 12 hour days and fluctuating shifts at work. As mentioned in the previous blog, I've been wanting to get out from where I worked for a while now! The real angst came with finding out my current job had scheduled me for two days right in the middle of our time at the cottage, which would have left us with only five days away. I don't know if this really exposes my human weakness or not, but I was so discouraged when I found out. Probably more than I have ever been for a long time. But like many of the seemingly despairing situations in life, all one can do is trust that the Father to know better than we do.

How stunned and amazed did I feel, when an unexpected offer for a new job, mere hours before my "final" shift before the weekend, signify the Lord's grace in this circumstance. A new job and the offer to delay my orientation 2 weeks! Needless to say the Rivers' apartment was quickly transformed into a bouncy, worshipful, hustle and bustle as we proceeded to adjust the rest of our plans for an early morning departure as soon as I finished my final shift that night.

There's no time to adequately surmise the many adventures we had! Suffice to say it was a very restful, very relational, very refining, very worshipful, and very transformational experience! I'm excited to see what other surprises are in store for this summer!


Jake Rivers

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Mechanic, a Pig Farmer, and a Youth Worker Walk Into a Bar...

Right now I'm entering into another entertaining life transition. An employment transition. At present I have three options I am carefully sifting through. They are as follows:

Stay working for Linamar
Pros: simplest solution, maintain friendships with co-workers
Cons: Job sucks, lousy pay, temp status, long hours, and (more than likely) another five months of being promised full time employment *any day now*

Take job at Conestoga Meat Packers
Pros: good pay, quick access to benefits, sweet hours, shorter commute
Cons: job is super gross

Take Child and Youth worker job
Pros: hardcore life skills and experience, opportunity to use my degree, opportunity to step way outside my comfort zone
Cons: 45 minute drive one way, even lousier pay

Yes, the next few days should be very interesting ones indeed!


Jake Rivers

P.S. Here's a shout out to all the babies who came into the world this week, and to the many more all set to arrive over the next few months. God is so good!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prayer and Falsehood

Today I counted three reasons I find prayer very difficult above all other spiritual disciplines. It's partially because I get distracted easily. It's partially because most of the time I am content with life and feel no need to draw near to God. But primarily, I struggle with prayer because there are cavities in my heart that still cling to false notions about God; notions which have yet to undergo the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work.
By God's grace I can say that I am sick of the false life to which these falsehoods seek to subject me. By God's additional grace, I am seeking that over the next 30 days, the Holy Spirit will draw me into a deeper grasp of what is true about God's character. Here are some of the key falsehoods I desire to be freed from over the next month.

Falsehood 1: Men are to be feared and submitted to over God.

Falsehood 2: My standing, worth, and significance before God is based upon the work I do.

Falsehood 3: God's Word cannot be trusted

My prayer, is that above all, Jesus Christ will bring glory to himself by manifesting his power in my life in a way that transcends to even the slightest aspects of how I live the life he ransomed.


Jake Rivers

Monday, May 30, 2011

Children of Iluvatar

"And it came to pass that Iluvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendor of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Iluvatar and were silent."

- Ainulindale: The Music of the Auin
J.R.R. Tolkien

I've come across many passages like this as I've worked my way through some of Tolkien's additional works about Middle-Earth. I finished The Silmarillion a few weeks ago and am now only a few pages away from completing Unfinished Tales (no pun intended). The references to the mythical Iluvatar (the great and holy creator god of Middle-Earth and all that dwells within), are always written with the utmost poetic reverence. Everything from elves, to men, to Istiri, and Valar are resolute in demonstrating the highest, solemn respect towards the One who sits upon the highest throne. It's actually given me a fair amount to think about when I consider how I understand reverence towards the one true God of the Bible. I sometimes think that perhaps in disguising it as "Grace-based communion", I am actually living a lifestyle that proclaims that daily devotion to Christ is less important than work, family, entertainment, business, or however many of the other distractions that pervade my life. Where is that reverence that causes me to regard Christ as King and Lord over the whole earth? What is wrong in my heart when the sacrifice he made to usher me into his presence, in face of his transcendence, has me regarding Him less, and "stuff" more? Who answers to who here anyways?

"But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."
- Habakkuk 2:20


Jake Rivers

Monday, May 23, 2011

Top Ten

For a couple of weeks now I've been trying to scheme ways to maintain discipline in writing and blogging. As was unfortunately typical, the designs never made it off the drawing board. This past week was a pretty eventful one for me. It marked not only the 2 year milestone from when Ash and I started dating (May 22), but also the ten year anniversary of my coming to Christ (May 19).
To be perfectly honest my original aspiration was to let loose with some mind-shattering, literary masterpiece that would elevate me overnight into blogger-of-the-year. Sadly after several hours of attempts over the past few days, all I've gathered is that good writing never finds its origin solely in a desire to produce good writing. To be more to the point, I rarely have difficulty with ideas for things to write about, it's just a matter of overcoming my obnoxious ego to get there.
With that said, here are at least 10 subjects that have had the greatest impact on me over the past 10 years of following Christ. 10 things of which I am committed to continue growing in my understanding.

1. Grace - An offense to pride, and the only firm foundation
2. Humility - If maturity is a feast, humility is your plate
3. The Call to Mission - Created in Jesus Christ to do good works
4. Total Depravity - Sinners need a Saviour
5. The Biblical Narrative - The Word of God stands firm
6. Spiritual Leadership - Passion, vision, towels and basins
7. The Church - Home away from home
8. Death - The final enemy, reduced to an empty tomb
9. The Sovereignty of God - Unshaken through the storms
10. Marriage - The Gospel wrapped around my finger

Happy Long Week-end!


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I often find myself trying to find ways to get away with doing less. Nothing quite criminal, just a few corners here and there. After all, why exert the extra energy if no one is going to notice one way or another? Some may say there's nothing wrong with simplifying the daily tasks of life. (Don't we shame the fool who exerts himself for no return and no profit?) Well, Ockham may have been a pretty sharp philosopher, with his simplifying razor, but I find I have a tendency to cut a bit too deep when it comes to responsibilities at home and at work.

We are all fully familiar with boredom that comes from daily tasks and I know for a fact that life does move through seasons which are less exciting than others. The real battle for me is against that little voice in my head that "warns" me against giving too much of myself. It's that type of hoarding, self-focused mentality that makes even basic tasks a threat to my survival.

"Does it really need to be done right now?"
"Does anyone really care that much about punctuality?"
"Will it make a difference whether you check your work throughly or not?"

I remember this was most devastating while I was in school and how getting the best marks for the least effort took great priority over how much I was actually learning. It was even celebrated when someone could skim a book and whip out a report in a matter of hours and still pull off a passing grade without really learning anything. At the base level however, this manner of living is of a mindset that believes in no greater reward for honest discipline and no access to the strength to see our responsibilities carried out well.

As I was journaling last night about this infectious trend in my life, I was reminded of how, in Christ, we are no longer bound to this minimalist fatality. When I look at myself and am tempted to see frailty, emptiness, dryness, and want, Holy Spirit points me back to the cross and the gift of life that comes from the Father.

"but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:38

These words transform lives. These words make empty people overflow.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011


For the past several weeks (or has it been months now?) Ashleigh and I have been asking a surge of questions as to what our inaugural missionary placement will be. I can remember almost ten years ago, when God first saved me and how it took only a few days before I knew in my soul that I had to Go. No idea where, no idea doing what, no idea with whom. Nevertheless, something in the radical annexation of my soul that bound me into the family of God had likewise bound my will with purpose. If ever there was one content to do nothing and go nowhere, it was me. Now after years of wrestling with my flesh and my fears, the Holy Spirit has proved (obviously) the stronger and I am determined to trust and Go.
Now we're looking at getting on that plane within the next year and still no idea to where it will be. But if there's one overwhelming certainty, it is that the Word of God is the most powerful message ever written and that it is a message that the entire world needs to Hear.

And none more than me.

What a privilege to share in a ministry of reconciliation, while all the while continually being transformed by the very Words I bring!

God is good, all the time!


Jake Rivers