Pastor John Van Sloten's Blog 2001-2007

John Van Sloten's Blog 2001 - 2007

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The breath of God

June 11, 2007

“His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Ephesians 4:15

This verse really struck me this morning; the idea of the breath of God blowing through me seemed so intimately compelling.

I went for a 55.55 km bike ride today. About half way into the trip I had to stop - the beauty that was enveloping Springbank Rd was overwhelming. The water in the ditch was in full reflective glory. The cows were all standing like statues (Ray Charles sang that lyric to me via the song I was listening to on my ipod). The mid-morning light seemed perfect, and the wind... the wind felt like His breath; so steady and powerful, refreshingly cool, re-creating me.

Yet another ‘heaven on earth’ moment.

(and here are a few other pictures I took earlier in the ride)


World of Warcraft

June 10, 2007

Preaching the gospel through World of Warcraft this morning was interesting. As I spoke, my usual powerpoint (illumining the message) played on the big screen to my right while, on my left, another screen displayed a live connection into Blizzard Entertainment’s virtual, middle earth world. We had one of our gamer church members play out a loosely choreographed demonstration of the game; during the entire sermon!

Twice, as part of my talk, I paused and asked my WoW co-preacher a few questions, “So what kind a character are you Chris?.... where are you at right now?... how did that last battle go for you?” We joked around a bit as he answered those queries. At the end of my second mini-interview I asked, what I meant as a very serious question, “So what’s been your most meaningful experience in the game so far?” He answered...

“Probably the time I earned my epic mount (a tiger like creature that allows him to nagivate the mythical land of Azeroth more effectively)” In response I said, “Well, congratulations on that!” In response to those words many in the congregation laughed, not in a mean spirited way at all, but in a – isn’t that kind of funny that a person would congratulate someone over something like that; a virtual reward/achievement – way. (At least that’s how I read the response... maybe our earlier joking around helped elicit this reaction as well) In response to their laughter I repeated, “No really Chris, congratulations on that!” I felt a bit bad for him. Getting to know him via our sermon research meetings, and having gained a bigger, more appreciative understanding of how WoW players really do take this otherworld life quite seriously, I knew that the achievement really did mean something to Chris. So I felt I had to re-iterate my point so that he’d know that.

Thinking back on that event, I’m wondering, “How can anyone really begin to appreciate and know God’s good, beautiful, and truthful presence in any creational realm (WoW, architecture, science, film, song, whatever...) if they haven’t spent the time living there?” How can we come close to knowing God's heart? And relative to this morning’s goings on, “How can people ever fully understand the points that I’m trying to make in the message, if they’ve not spent enough time inside the topic to love it?”

It’s a bit of conundrum. I’m not sure how to fix it – or if it even needs to be fixed.

Part 1 - the good side of WoW

Part Two - interview with Dan Dykstra



June 04, 2007

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Grandeur of God
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 07 2007 @ 05:38 AM PDT
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared
with toil;
And wears man's smudge and share's man's smell:
the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright

Gerard Manley Hopkins


communal beauty

June 03, 2007

Edward overwhelmed me with his beauty tonight. I had dragged him to a denominational 150th anniversary church service – church twice in one day, he was not impressed! – and half way through the evening, he did the most spontaneous and wonderful thing. I was standing up front with 8 other pastor-types, an ecclesiastical lineup of sorts, waiting for the pastor who was leading the Lord’s Supper to finish his words so that I could help in the distribution of the sacramental elements. Looking to my right and listening intently to this pastor’s words, I didn’t notice the extra body that that had stealthily positioned himself to my immediate left. Turning, there stood Edward; straight, solemn and silent, like some sort of communal lieutenant! He surprised me at first, but then I felt this amazing sense of rightness in his being there...
Why couldn’t he help? The pastor had just mouthed the words, “All who believe are welcome.” Edward responded accordingly. Earlier, in the middle of the sermon, the preacher showed us that Youtube video of an Autistic boy scoring 20 points in a high school basketball game; inspiring. She then made the point that we all needed to step into God’s game, disabled or not. Her entire message was about us getting on with God’s calling on our lives. So there stood Edward, fully expecting to help with the holy dispersal.

And that’s what he did. He kind of pushed me out of the way so that he could fulfill his calling. Everyone was smiling, and he didn’t spill a drop. After handing out the elements, we all stood aside one another again, and the lead pastor passed out the bread and wine to us. He looked my Down Syndrome boy straight in the eye, and said, “The blood of Christ shed for you Edward.” I just about lost it. Afterward several people came up to Edward and congratulated him on his serving efforts.

One commented, “How perfect that Edward would do what he did there.” The man was almost crying.

I was scheduled to do the blessing/benediction at the end the celebration. I had already planned on quoting Abraham Kuyper’s famous words – ‘There’s not one square inch of this creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, “This is mine, this belongs to me!”’ I had no idea that God would so powerfully remind me that that included every square inch of Edward.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

communal beauty
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, June 04 2007 @ 06:52 AM PDT

communal beauty
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, June 04 2007 @ 02:07 PM PDT
Brought tears to my eyes. And just reinforces for me why we do a disservice to the Body when we "exclude" all of the covenant children God has given to us.



June 02, 2007

I wonder what God smells like?

The scent of spring has been robust this past week in Calgary; a full bodied aromarama, an overwhelming whiff of olfactory paradise! At this very moment, every lilac within windshot is reminding me that they’re there.

I just read Lauren Winner’s essay on a book entitled, “Scenting Salvation.” The premise of the book is that we possess the gift of smell so that we can more fully engage God’s creation. “Smells seem particularly well poised to reveal something about God to people. Smells, after all, [are] a bit like God – you know they are there, you sense them, but you can’t see or touch them. When you encounter an odor, you know that that odor has a source, even if the source is far away. Scents, then, point to a God people can’t see...”
Fascinating. An aroma filled world, pungent with God revealing potential. Even the sense of smell itself, in it’s very nature/makeup; it too has so much to teach us about the Creator. I gotta preach on this topic. In fact, I need to do an entire series of messages on the 5 senses; seeing, tasting, feeling, hearing and smelling God! Imagine the doors a fully orbed understanding of the senses might open.


Future identities

May 29, 2007

This morning my eldest son found out that his high school teachers voted him class valedictorian. We were told about his impending honour last Friday, but were asked to keep it a secret until the vice principal could meet with Thom today. This past weekend was filled a few new/strange feelings. First off, I caught myself thinking, “People really see Thomas this way?” Not that I don’t esteem him highly; I do (I almost cried when I heard the news), but I was unaware of these perceptions in others. Secondly, I found it compelling to carry the foreknowledge of his already decided future state...
I knew something really good about him; something that he had yet to fully know himself. I could already see a role/identity/place of honour that he couldn’t even imagine. It was quite cool, looking at him and knowing these things; talking with him and, on the inside, smiling away. It was kind of weird, but knowing what I did, actually allowed me to see more of what others saw in him. This little bit of future knowledge changed my present perceptions in a positive way.

It made me think that God must view us like this all the time; seeing future glory in every single ordinary human being. This perspective changes everything it seems.


some recent pictures

May 27, 2007


Heroes - Global News Calgary

May 24, 2007

What is it about our longing for a superhero to save our day, a life or the whole messed up planet?

related stories:

Super Hero Spirituality



May 22, 2007

"Of all God's gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn." --John Ruskin

I’ve just noticed how the colours in my Rolaid pill are the same as those in the French Lilac I just planted in my front yard.

So strange to find beauty even here. They say Catholic priests wear purple vestments before performing reconciliation (mediating healing to body, stomach and soul). Purple is often used as the colour of lent – the holy time of year when we contemplate the death of Christ (and his resurrection!).

Right now I’m reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic priest and archeologist. You gotta love him just for that. He’s a mystic, who in his book ‘The Divine Milieu,’ spreads his mystical associations across all of creation. He talks about the “God of iron”... adoring God in the kneading of dough and in it’s communal partaking... seeing God in all of his creation. He’s a bit out there at times, but I really love the heart that drives his writings and ideas;

“Lord let your universe be greater still, so that I may hold you and be held by you by a contact at once made ever more intense and ever wider in its extent.” Page 10...
In my first reading of the text, it seems that the book is about learning how to see; how to see God through the material world in particular. The material world that he made and hold together.

Here’s what Teilhard de Chardin says about our first cells;

“Where are the roots of our being? In the first place they plunge back and down into the unfathomable past. How great is the mystery of the first cells which were on day animated by the breath of our souls! How impossible to decipher the welding of successive influences in which we are forever incorporated! In each one of us, through matter, the whole history of the world is in part reflected. And however autonomous our soul, it is indebted to an inheritance worked upon from all sides – before ever it came into being – by the totality of the energies of the earth...” page 22

In some sense then, the colour purple, wherever we find it, came from the same place. God, the creator of all things, is showing his wares via it’s manifestation in a Lenten cloth, a priestly vestment, a beautiful French Lilac or a Rolaid pill; redeeming creation in myriad ways.

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." Alice Walker


God’s not so strange way of affirming things

May 21, 2007

Early Sunday morning I sat in our church’s prayer room telling a friend about my doubts regarding yesterday’s message on ‘The Police’. When asked how I felt about my impending sermon, I responded, “Ok, I guess. When I read if over this morning, I had a few doubts; it seemed pretty basic, nothing all that new or complicated. I hope it works out.”

Earlier in the week I’d had a rather tough discussion with another individual about the validity of our church’s strategy...
Not that I was totally questioning everything afterward(I wasn’t), but I did find myself a little more unsure than usual.

My friend prayed for me; for confidence and that God would speak through my words.

As I headed out to the auditorium I encountered several answers to that prayer. First person I talked with asked, “How do you come up with a message like the one you’re going to preach this morning?” I fumbled through some sort of answer, after which he said, “I’m sure glad this is the topic for this morning. A guy I know, who would never darken the door of a church, called me this week and asked where I go to church. He’s actually planning on coming this morning!”

Then I turned and saw another acquaintance, a reporter from a local TV station, attending with his wife. I was surprised to see him there, without a cameraman. We had a very cool conversation. When I asked, they told me that they weren’t really church goers, but had just decided to check us out. (He covered a story a few years back on the Lord of the Rings) This morning he told me, “We’ll be back.”

A little later in the service (after my talk) another member comes up to me and says, “I just want to tell you how amazing that was...” And for 5 minutes, while the rest of the congregation is singing, he goes on about how relevant New Hope is and has been for his life (he’s relatively new to the faith thing as well), “I’m always talking about it to my non-church going friends.”

After the final blessing I ended up talking with another couple who were visiting from another church. They were quite theologically astute, and had strong ties with the ICS (Institute for Christian Studies). This academic organization has been a distant theological mentor for me re: our church’s vision in recent years; we’ve also done 4 conferences with them over the past two years. We must have stood there talking theology for 30 minutes. The discussion was both stimulating and affirming. (Yeah, I do realize how much of a geek that makes me!)

Driving home from the service it hit me; how that pre-service prayer was so wonderfully answered. So much circumstantial evidence that we’re on the right path.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

God’s not so strange way of affirming things
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22 2007 @ 07:30 AM PDT

God uses His servants to bring His Word to the people. He uses you and me. The Greek man who owned your home is an example. The Police message is another. In our weakness, we are made strong. For it is not in our strength, but God's. The words that come to paper during the week seem basic, not complete, meaningless, inadequate. But God uses those words, your actions, your emotions, your personality, and the people around you to make those words God's message of grace, comfort, empowerment for the people during the week. Those words are God's word. We are His humble servants just trying to make sense of what is going on. And it is truly amazing how we get to be on the front lines of those intersections of life. Trying to make meaning of those points. Trying to make sense of what is happening. I give thanks for your work. I wish I could interact with it more. I hope others will give thanks for you and the ministry of New Hope. For the many people who do their thing behind the scenes guiding and lifting you up. May they be blessed as well.

Take care,
Richard B


The End Product

May 11, 2007

I had a very interesting discussion with our church staff this morning. I asked them a question that was asked of me at a recent conference, “What exactly will a person of faith look like should they fully embrace and live through this ‘seeing God in all of his creation’ worldview?”

Good question. Tough question.

As we tried to answer it, words/concepts like freedom, being real and “knowing God more” came up. All of these are true.

A thought that grabbed me was the idea of a person living a life where they were meeting God in every facet of their existence; in their work, art, music, relationships, sport, whatever. This idea is not new to me. But what was new was the understanding that this kind of life seemed to be – in my estimation – a lot closer to the kind of life that we’ll be living in heaven...
HEAVEN 101; not all clouds, harps and choirs, but instead a fully realized creation, with cities, industry, the arts, all of the products of history and human culture in their perfection - the way they were always meant to be.
And heaven is not some ‘other place’ that we go to, leaving earth behind to explode like some kind of armageddonic supernova, heaven happens here, on earth. Heaven comes down to earth... Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” In the biblical book of Revelation, God’s heavenly city descends onto this planet! In heaven we’ll know God perfectly, and in all things.

So, if this is what heaven is going to be like, then that means all that we’ll do there will be filled with a ‘knowing God more’ kind of meaning. Those epiphany moments where we see God in our world - intermittent as they are right now - will become constant. Everything will be done with a sure knowledge that they are from and for God. Architectural designs, scientific discoveries, transportation plans, health care systems and soccer tournaments will all be akin to worship. All things will be made new, and in all of these things we’ll know God more.

If this is what heaven will be like, then what we’re trying to do – help people see God more in all of life - is a perfect fit for where we’re going.

Seeing God in all of his creation is preparation for the future.

So, back to the initial question then, “What exactly will a person of faith look like should they fully embrace and live through this ‘seeing God in all of his creation’ worldview?”

The answer? They’ll look a lot more like who they are going to be for the rest of eternity.


Preaching The Police

May 09, 2007

Help! I've got 10 days to get my head wrapped around the band, The Police... for a sermon on May 20th. I could use your help if you have any ideas. Why did God create this band? What did he say through their songs/career? Are there any messages in any bottles that we castaways can take away from their artistic pursuits?

How the message turned out (utube excerpt)

"Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If it's something we can't buy
There must be another way..."
Spirits in the Material World, The Police

And I thought this song might 'preach' as well...

"Hole in my life" lyrics


There's a hole
In my life
There's a hole
In my life

Shadow in my heart
Is tearing me apart
Or maybe it's just something
In my stars

There's a hole
In my life
There's a hole
In my life

Be a happy man
I try the best I can
Or maybe I'm just looking
For too much

There's something missing from my life
Cuts me open like a knife
It leaves me vulnerable
I have this disease
I shake like an incurable
God help me please

Oh,there's a hole
In my life
There's a hole
In my life


The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Preaching The Police
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 10:16 AM PDT

Hey John,
Both of those songs were on my list as potentials. As far as songs we are going to play so far I have:

Message In A Bottle
When The World Is Running Down...

I dont really want to try Spirits In the Material World (lots of keyboard and we are doing this as a 3 piece band maybe video or live concert footage would be better) Hole in My Life is a good song too, I'll see if its playable.

There is a concert video at Costco of the Synchronicity tour that might be good to have, only 12.99

I told my take on the song Roxanne, right?


Preaching The Police
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, May 09 2007 @ 01:56 PM PDT

Song list looks great... buy the DVD will you?... if you get the chance.

Having just read most of their lyrics, I'm thinking this sermon will focus on the overall corpus of the band, with a minor emphasis on Sting himself...

more later...


Preaching The Police
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 15 2007 @ 12:04 PM PDT

Personally speaking I do not care much for the Police. I worked a big festival with them one time and Sting was terribly arrogantand thought rather too much of himself and his stardom (this was when Message in a Bottle was in the charts). Stewart Copeland was a great guy, and Andy Summers was a pretty quiet chap. But it is their music you are interested in speaking about and one song I think says a lot and that is "Every Breath You Take". Sting really has no interest in Christianity and so I think that trying to find a sermon from their songs will be like strying suck blood from a stone! This is my personal view John and I hope that it does not discourage you from doing what you need to do.

Preaching The Police
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 15 2007 @ 02:01 PM PDT

Doug, Thanks for the thoughts - no discouragement taken. I just finished Sting's bio and did see the arrogance you cite (my default way of seeing it in others is by noticing it well up in me! :) )

But thank God character flaws don't stop the Spirit from authoring good and truth and beauty through us. I just got back from 2 hours of cycling, listening to a "best of" album... Every breath you take did strike me... I know some have seen it as a 'stalker' kind of song... if you hear it another way, it can point to a pretty big God watching over us.

Hey, if you have any other thoughts, let me know. And thanks very much Doug for helping us build our virtual church (14,000 downloads from our site during the months of Jan - April, 2007... a ton of them from your part of the woods!)


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