Pastor John Van Sloten's Blog 2001-2007

John Van Sloten's Blog 2001 - 2007

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clapton promo

Mar 24, 2007

Tuesday morning a reporter from the Herald calls and asks if I'd be willing to write an editorial/article for Easter. "Could you write a bit of a contemporary take on the story John?," he asked. I told him I could and would and then asked if he could promo this Sunday's service on Eric Clapton. He wrote a good piece in this morning's paper... I love the headline, "Pastor tries to Channel Clapton"

I'm sure that will get me into trouble with someone.

How it turned out


preaching and life

Mar 19, 2007

Last night in bed, I turned to my wife and said, "This is exactly what I am made for!" I was referring to the preaching event that had played out earlier that day.

There are just some Sundays where it all comes together, where the focus of the message is so precise, where the words seem to develop a life of their own, where God seems to be so tangibly and powerfully in the room. This was that kind of Sunday, and it made me feel so alive; my existence mattered, God mattered, Africa mattered (the topic of the talk). Everything was so real, so beautiful.

I'm reading a book about writing by Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird). In it she cites a poem by Wendell Barry; one that he wrote for his wife, one that she read as descriptive of a personification of writing, one that I read as descriptive of what preaching means to me. It's beautiful...
"Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart

Suddenly you flare in my sight
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of a thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade

and once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before."



Mar 17, 2007

Pride was on the agenda this week. I woke up Tuesday having had a vivid dream convicting me of my problem with pride. A friend emailed me later that day saying he had a dream where he was "counselling me regarding my self righteousness." An editor at the Herald then emailed me and gave me the go ahead to write a piece on disgraced former media baron Conrad Black (re:pride)... yeah.... can't really miss that one!!

Here's the editorial from today's paper...
"There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people… ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Pride (defn) - a blend of narcissism and conceit, an inordinate self centredness, an unhealthy self absorption, and a disproportionate self esteem; the self filled with self.

Back in my college days, Conrad Black was it; a natural, the consummate self made man, incredibly confident, exceedingly independent, and remarkably articulate. He was the one that all of my business classmates wanted to emulate. Watching him proudly scale those ’10 Toronto Street’ steps, we’d dream, “If only one day…”

And now, facing a different set of steps, a Chicago court room looms; the legitimacy of all of Lord Black’s innate, God given, good business gifts now hangs in the balance.

How does this happen to a person? So much human potential now seemingly gone awry. All this amazing deal making acumen now up for judgment.

Nobody ever sets out to fall into this kind of trap do they? Why in the world didn’t he see this coming?

Pride. It deceives, lurking in our blind spots, cloaking the shadow side of our humanity.

It begins with a few, seemingly small, self inflating behaviours; we over-congratulate ourselves, we gloat and preen a little bit too much, we increasingly self define by comparison with others (other’s who are more fallible than us, of course!), we purchase another newspaper chain - whatever.

We think we’re striving for a rightful, healthy and balanced sense of self, but instead we end up getting big heads.

An inordinately false sense of autonomy starts to grow, putting us in a place where we lose our sensitivity to the corrective influence of others. We stop listening.

Once that occurs, we’re really in trouble.

We increasingly lose sight of our own mortal fallibilities. We get to a place where, psychologist Dr. Lewis Smedes says, “we cannot… tell where our light ends and our shadow begins.” Our consciences become dulled, boundary lines are greyed, and we end up losing our bearings. We start to believe our own press clippings.

The self, now overly filled with self, cannot help but act in selfish ways. Blinded by pride we begin to step on others, we look down our noses at them and we belittle, taking away their rightful sense of self. As the proud person becomes increasingly inhumane, others are being more and more de-humanized.

Pride, ironically, destroying in two directions.

Martha Stewart’s insider trading rips off a whole bunch of outsider investors and she ends up taking a huge hit on her stock. Former Worldcom CEO Bernie Ebbers steals from shareholders and ends up imprisoned. Enron’s Kenneth Lay plays a shell game with people’s pensions and ends up sadly losing his very life.

It’s all so very tragic.

And don’t think for a minute that pride is only a problem of the rich and powerful. Sadly, it’s a phenomenon that’s at work in each and every one of us.

Take this simple pride litmus test.

How do you react to the following statement? “If you think that you are not conceited then you are very conceited indeed!” (C. S. Lewis)

Well? Is your nose out of joint? Are you offended? Do you vehemently disagree, or do you disdainfully brush it aside? That’s your pride at work.

Or try this test out. As you watch the Conrad Black trial play out over the upcoming weeks, monitor your responses to his pride.

How are you going to react? Will the accused’s hubris tick you off? Will there be a part of you that thinks, “Who does this guy think he is anyways? So *censored*y and arrogant. I sure hope he gets his.” Deep inside of your psyche, will there be a voice whispering, “Boy, am I glad I’m not like him”?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, that, again, is your pride speaking; using the potential demise of another human being to build yourself up, judging another just for the superiority of it all, filling you with just a little bit more of yourself.

Pride; it’s a wickedly deceptive and deadly little sin.

Perhaps we could all use a little humble discretion as we engage the prideful follies of others.

After all, there but for the grace of God go all of us.

“Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.”
(from the Apostle Paul, a man fully acquainted with his pride, in his letter to the Romans, chapter 2, )



Mar 16, 2007

Sat by the Bow for a while, watching the river thaw, praying for our city to spring to life again.


13 degrees C

Mar 12, 2007


Neil Young

Mar 10, 2007

It was the holiest of moments… in the strangest of places. Late on a Thursday night, a group of six sermon researchers/congregation members – three exegeting Eric Clapton’s life story and three probing Neil Young’s prophetic ponderences – were wrapping up their dialogue. The meeting itself was wonderful; everyone sharing bits and pieces of what they’d discovered, all of us trying to collectively discern God’s truth in the lives and work of these artists. Several times throughout the night there were these focal moments where things seemed to really connect; Clapton’s life being analogous of all of the potential of a divine image bearing human being, while at the same time being such a terrible mess – the struggle of being both a superstar and a junkie, Young’s ‘voice and gift of sight’ indeed having many God given prophetic parallels...
A couple of times we just stopped the talking and played a Clapton/Young song. First was Clapton’s, ‘Just like a prisoner,” a song that he says contains the most beautiful thing he’s ever performed; a two minute guitar solo that he felt he could have played into eternity. Next was Young’s, “Heart of Gold”… We weren’t sure if the lyrics were a human’s cry for God, or God’s cry for us. And then lastly, we played, “When God made me,” a song Neil wrote in the week preceding his surgery for an aneurism – a life and death moment.

We had just finished talking about how prophets were able to see God’s view of things in all sorts of situations; circumstances of injustice, those pregnantly poignant moments in everyday life, or whatever… talking about how Neil seemed to really possess this kind of God given gift… and then we played the song.

It was holy. And as the song was playing I found myself thinking, “Look at this church, look at what we’re doing here, it’s beautiful… and it’s so much fun… so alive!” Every person in the room was stoked about the worshipful nature of our discussion and this song was almost like a doxology. It was hymnic; and totally faith based… it’s core assumption in it’s questioning was the fact that God made me.

Download the song and feel what we felt.

Here are the lyrics…

Was he thinkin' about my country
Or the color of my skin?
Was he thinkin' 'bout my religion
And the way I worshipped him?
Did he create just me in his image
Or every living thing?

When God made me
When God made me

Was he planning only for believers
Or for those who just have faith?
Did he envision all the wars
That were fought in his name?
Did he say there was only one way
To be close to him?

When God made me
When God made me

Did he give me the gift of love
To say who I could choose?

When God made me
When God made me

When God made me
When God made me

Did he give me the gift of voice
So some could silence me?
Did he give me the gift of vision
Not knowing what I might see?
Did he give me the gift of compassion
To help my fellow man?

When God made me
When God made me

When God made me
When God made me



Mar 07, 2007

I’ve been wondering about a lot of things lately.

How can an idea be the most meaningful thing in a person’s life while also being its greatest source of consternation? How can a concept be so completely life changing, illumining, and God revealing in one moment, and then, at another time, seem so grey and confusing? How can the same thought evoke two seemingly opposite responses, “This is the greatest God thought conceivable!...” and, “This is heresy…”?

It seems like the more deeply we dive into the vision of this church, the sharper the internal conflict becomes. And yet I cannot stop heading in this direction.
Last Monday I spoke at another conference in Toronto...
preachers, theology professors, and a rep from Calvin Seminary were in attendance. For some this idea was wholly enlightening, exciting, life changing. For others it had the opposite effect; concern, doubt, fear.

So many people have left New Hope Church over the past two years, and so many new faces have also made the scene. Talking about our church’s new direction with a church leader yesterday, I found myself, once again exchanging an all too familiar glance. A look that communicated, “I’m in this to the very end… I’m convinced we’re onto something good… I sure hope we can make it…”

And the more we talk about it, the more true it becomes. Every time we dialogue about this stuff – in a meeting, class, whatever – it becomes more real. Increasingly, as I read my bible, I find scriptural support for this new kind of worldview. The more I look for God’s hand in his creation, the more I see.

At times this gig seems totally out of control. At other times, it’s like He’s leading it all the way, holding it very steadily, taking it exactly where it needs to go.

All I can do is hang on and trust.

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

Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 07 2007 @ 10:39 AM PST
Hang in there... or allow God to hang out. Which is it? Allow God to make His decision in your life... or you make the decision.

Good stuff John. Keep going with it. I appreciate it... while some may not. And what you are doing isn't going to work every situation. I appreciate and accept that. And applaude your ability to step out and do it. And I'm glad Calvin Seminary is listening... and hopefully they are understanding.

Take care.

Richard B

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 08 2007 @ 04:14 PM PST
John, your comments remind me of one of my favourite works - chaordic. Totally out of control and totally in His control.

1. The behavior of any self-governing organism, organization, or system which harmoniously blends the characteristics of order and chaos.
2. Patterned in a way dominated by neither chaos nor order.
3. Characteristic of the fundamental organizing principles of evolution and nature

Is it any wonder that when mere mortals wrestle with with how we think God is revealing Himself, there might be times when we are completely baffled/awed and at times completely at peace. My dyslexic picture of this is we're like a flea on the hair of the tail of a doG.


Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 09 2007 @ 09:24 PM PST

What do you think would happen to this church if something happened and tomorrow you had to leave Calgary? Would the vision remain? What would change?

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 09 2007 @ 11:39 PM PST
Just read your conundrum.

I don't understand your confusion. It seems by your speech that you are enlightened, but from the feeling I get from your text you appear confused. .... Jesus brings our life to be what it is meant to be. There is a catch however... we give our life to god. It is a very high price to pay... your life. Is it worth it ? Yes... The sorrows, uncertainties, confusions etc. etc. become non-existant. It makes life, living, and fellowship an indesrcibable pleasure.

Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 10 2007 @ 03:14 PM PST
good question... Just this week I talked with a friend who was considering a change about this very issue.

I'd love to say that the vision is so well established in this church that my leaving wouldn't change a thing. I'm not sure we're there yet. I do know that we're in a much better place than we were two years ago. We're teaching the vision at every turn nowadays; study groups, classes, Sundays... hopefully two years from now we'll be in an even stronger position (with me still here!).


Preaching Clapton

Feb 28, 2007

Ok, I need some help. I'm preaching Eric Clapton in three weeks and I'm trying to answer the following questions. Why did God create an artist like this? What has God said/and is he saying through Clapton's life and work?

Once again, I'm believing Eric belongs to God and that God has him here for a reason. Eric said it himself in one interview, "I believe I've got some reason to be here otherwise, I... otherwise it doesn't make sense. I ask myself that question a lot. Why me? In the end, um, the closest I can come to is I might have something left to do which is of use to somebody else. And I don't mean on a global scale. I'm talking about maybe one other person can benefit from my existence that makes it worth God keeping me alive."

Any thoughts on why you think he's around?


Preaching Clapton
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 28 2007 @ 08:17 PM PST

why not?
why is anyone here?
do we honestly have a purpose, or are we just to accept our irrelevence?
or fight it? Like Clapton did.
but thats just one girls opinion

Preaching Clapton
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 05 2007 @ 10:46 AM PST
because if he wasn't here, sally would still be standing, it wouldn't be wonderful tonight, there would be tears in heaven and we wouldn't be any further up the road.

but that's just one girls thoughts.


Crowsnest retreat

Feb 28, 2007

Spent the weekend at a friend's cabin in the Crowsnest Pass. A wonderful break.



Feb 16, 2007


february snow

Feb 14, 2007

Drove out to Cochrane for a meeting this afternoon. Just had to stop and take a few pics from the ditch.



Feb 12, 2007

This afternoon I got a call from my son's doctor's office. They got the results from a recent blood test and the receptionist says, "The doctor is concerned. Can you come in to see him tomorrow at 1:00 pm.?"

It's probably nothing right? But logic doesn't keep me from running scenarios. "What if it is something serious? I have been really feeling the need to spend more time with Edward lately, could this be why? Since day two of his life (when a huge heart problem suddenly "went away" - according to his cardiologist), I've always worried that Edward was living on borrowed time.

Aren't we all?...
When Fran got home from work we talked for an hour about whether we could ever handle losing a child.

Ever since my cousin tragically lost his son both Fran and I have asked ourselves the question.

Tonight we took Eddy to a Valentines party for Down Syndrome kids. It all seemed so very important now. There I ("coincidentally") met up with a dad who lost his daughter recently. We had a pretty serious talk.

I'm a little more worried now.


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