Category Archives: Brokenness and Wholeness

The wedding feast

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Last Saturday my oldest son, Joe, married the love of his life, Carmen. For me this was cause for great joy.

I was delighted for Joe. He looked so thrilled as he waited for Carmen to walk down the aisle. He has married a good woman and he will be an excellent husband and father. He has waited a long time for this day, and his patience has been rewarded.

I have enjoyed getting to know Carmen and it was most satisfying to be able to welcome her into our family. She spoke her wedding vows with thoughtfulness and conviction. It was good to meet Carmen’s parents and her brothers, who evidently care so much about her.

I was so pleased for Marion. She and Joe have always had a special bond, and it was good to see the love and pride in her eyes as she watched her son get married and as she shared a special dance with him during the party that followed.

It was lots of fun to have Simeon, Heather and their girls staying in our home for the week leading up to the wedding. I loved playing with the girls, reading them stories, going to the park with them, watching “shows” with them, and talking with Sophie about the big picture of Jesus in our living room. Bethany and her boyfriend Dunovan also spent hours playing with the girls, much to their delight. I see the makings of a favourite aunt and uncle there (though there may be some competition for the title).

On the wedding day I was thrilled to see my two beautiful little granddaughters walking down the aisle in their pretty dresses, Sophie bearing the wedding rings, and Alivia carrying rose petals. Heather, despite feeling miserable due to a nasty cold, was a great sport and made sure the girls were up for their special role.

I was blessed to see again how many truly good friends Joe and Carmen have. Joe and his team worked long and hard to pull off a wedding on a farm under less than ideal circumstances (pouring rain). After having planned and hoped for an outdoor wedding, they adjusted admirably to the wet weather, spending several hours on the wedding day itself shovelling and raking crushed rock so that the rest of us would be dry (relatively speaking) inside the wedding tent. Others spent hours preparing and serving food. Carmen’s friends added to the joy of the day with their gifts of music, service and presence. Special mention goes to Caleb and Julie; Jon; Dave; Margaret, Maggie and Katrina; Nick and Alex; Patrick and Sarah.

At the reception, Joe’s brother Simeon, the best man, spoke with affection and pride of his respect for his big brother. Their younger brother, Reuben, took extra good care of Grandma and Grandpa with the help of his ever-supportive wife Jess, making sure that they were comfortable. Marion and I were so grateful for the help and support of Earl and Debbie Davidson who so generously made their house and property available. It was wonderful to reconnect with them as well as with other good friends from our Russell and City Church days.

All in all, my cup was full. My oldest son was seeing a dream of his heart fulfilled, my wife was happy, and my children and grandchildren were laughing together, serving each other and enjoying each other’s company in the presence of much-loved friends.

Yet during a week filled with such great joy, there were some troubling notes. In Barrhaven, an OC Transpo bus collided with a train, and several people were killed. In Washington DC, a number of people were shot by an assailant at the Navy Yard. In Nairobi, Kenya, Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a mall, targetting non-Muslims and killing over sixty. On a more personal level, our good friend Lynne is facing chemotherapy in the wake of cancer surgery.

How can we make sense of all this? How do you enjoy a wedding and a family celebration in the face of such pain?

These are really questions of life and death. Why is there suffering? Why is there grief? Why is there death? Why is there evil? What is God’s answer?

Though these questions are not easy for our hearts, the Bible does have clear answers. I find it so helpful to be reminded that Jesus, who has suffered for us and with us, is the real Bridegroom, and the Marriage of the Lamb is the real Wedding Feast. He is alive, He lives and reigns now in the heavens, and soon he will return to claim his bride and rule openly as King. The joy of Joe and Carmen’s wedding points forward to the far greater joy of that great day when every tear will be wiped away.

During his earthly ministry He did many miracles to encourage our hearts, and similar miracles are still happening today. To cite just one example, my good friend Gola Tiruneh has seen many works of great power as he reaches out to Muslims in Indonesia with the good news that Jesus is Lord. These are signs of His Kingdom that is coming, and they are wonderful indeed. It is good to have reminders that ultimately the darkness will be defeated, and the Bridegroom will be acknowledged by all as King.

But in the meantime, even when the Holy Spirit is poured out and people are saved, healed and delivered, even when hearts are healed and relationships are restored, even when we enjoy wonderful times of celebration with family and friends, this does not mean that there will be no more trouble. Jesus told us that until His return He would always be near, but He also said that his followers should be prepared for sorrows as well as joys, and warned us not to be dismayed by the one or distracted by the other, but to stay alert and fix our hope on His coming Kingdom.

I am very happy for Joe and Carmen, and wish them many years of happiness and much growth in love. I’m similarly happy when any of my children – or anyone else that I love and care about – finds true joy in life. But my heart’s desire for my children, and for all those God has called me to serve and love and pray for, is that they would fix their eyes on Jesus, the crucified and risen One who is coming to reign. He is the one who can anchor our hearts so that we are not dismayed by the troubles that are part of living in a dying world. The good news is that He has a plan to restore the earth and bring everlasting joy to those who have put their hope in Him. Every wedding, rightly understood, points forward to that glorious day when the Messiah will claim His bride and the earth will be restored.

I want to end this post with a link to a beautiful song by Matt Gilman that expresses the cry in our hearts for that day when the Bride will marry the Lamb. Blessings.

 

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Protected

I was riding my bike along the Rideau River cycle path, pedaling through familiar parkland, on the last leg of my half-hour ride home from work.  The river was on my right, partly obscured by a narrow strip of wooded land. A strip of open parkland was on my left. There was the usual after-work traffic along the cycle path, but nothing to suggest that an accident was about to happen. Everything seemed perfectly normal.

I had two meetings that evening – both quite important. I was enjoying the ride, but I wanted to get home, get showered and changed, and prepare for the evening.

Then it happened. As is often the case with accidents, there was little warning. My attention was focussed on an oncoming cyclist on the other side of the pathway, and I was adjusting my position accordingly. There were also some pedestrians on or near the path, and I was conscious of needing to avoid them as well. Consequently, I wasn’t looking to my right, or I might have noticed some movement in the bushes by the river. Suddenly a mid-size dog bounded out of the bushes onto the path directly in front of me. The next thing I remember, I was on the ground, screaming in pain. I had gone down hard. All the major joints on my right side – shoulder, elbow, hip and knee – were throbbing.

After half a minute or so, I managed to get up, and found to my relief that I could still move my shoulder. This was my first concern, as four years previously I had dislocated a shoulder in a similar accident.  I was a little dazed, and had painful scrapes and road rash all along my right side, but had no serious injuries. Several people stopped to make sure I was all right. I thanked them all and told them I would be OK.

I checked out my bike and found that it was basically intact. So, after waiting a few minutes for the pain to subside to a tolerable level, I got back on the bike and rode the short distance home – a wounded warrior seeking comfort and shelter. I have never been more happy to reach the safety and familiarity of my own back yard.

After I had showered and washed my wounds, Marion bandaged the worst one and put ointment on the others. But it wasn’t until she asked me “Is your head OK?” that I realized something remarkable. My head did not hurt at all. It was totally fine. I did have a few seconds of very mild lightheadedness, but absolutely no pain and no symptoms of concussion. Then we both realized that I ought to take a look at my helmet. I took a look at it, and saw two cracks on the right side – a little one and a big one.

When I thought about the cracks in my helmet, I realized that I had been protected from what could have been very serious harm. A bruised hip and shoulder, and scrapes along the elbow and knee, are really no big deal. Today, four days later, I am well on the way to recovery from all these minor wounds. But if I had landed hard on the pavement without a helmet, who knows what the outcome would have been?

Paul the apostle wrote many letters of advice and instruction to young churches full of new Christians living in a hostile world. He knew he needed to give them plenty of hope and encouragement. He told these new believers that they were like stars in a dark night sky. He told them that in the midst of the darkness of a corrupt and dying world, they were children of the day who could look forward to the glorious new world that God had promised. He also said that in the midst of the struggles of living in a culture that was mostly hostile to their faith and values, they could equip themselves by putting on faith and love like a breastplate, and the hope of salvation like a helmet. In this way their hearts and minds would be protected.

Marion rightly reminds me that I need to wear my bike helmet every time I go out on my bike. I confess that in the past, on occasion I have not worn it when I was going for only a short ride on a hot day in the neighbourhood. On those muggy July days, a helmet is hot and sweaty, and sometimes you don’t want to wear it. But since my recent accident, my helmet has proved its value to me, and I will wear it every time I ride my bike. There was no way I could have predicted my accident of a few days ago. I could need my helmet at any moment.

In my email inbox I receive daily bulletins detailing some of the struggles of Christ-followers in lands where being a Christian makes you a public enemy. When your home could be burned, your pastor could be jailed, your daughter could be raped or forced into a marriage she does not want simply because you and your family are Christians, you need a hope that circumstances can’t destroy. You can’t wait until persecution hits to secure yourself with this hope. The hope of salvation has to be your daily companion, because you could need it at any moment.

Sometimes, we don’t feel like turning off the TV or the laptop or the tablet or the smartphone to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Sometimes we’d rather entertain ourselves than feed our spirits with worship. Christians in Canada have it pretty easy and our need for the hope of salvation may not seem all that pressing. But what are you going to do when your mother dies, or your father gets laid off, or your best friend is on drugs, or your marriage is falling apart, or your employer goes bankrupt, or you are facing sexual temptation, or someone in your life needs hope and you have none to give? What would you give for an intimate knowledge of God when disaster comes? If you have no real life with God – if your “faith, hope and love account” is bankrupt – what will you do when your next door neighbour or your friend at work or school is hungry for answers? What will you have to feed them if your cupboard is bare? And what will you do when persecution comes to Canada? What will you do when Jesus returns? How will you answer him?

I could take my helmet with me and strap it onto the back of my bike, and say that I have my helmet so I’m OK, but it wouldn’t do me any good. You may say you believe the Bible is the Word of God, but if you don’t read it, it does you no good. As for me, I can truthfully say that I know the Word of God quite well. But if I don’t pay attention to the Word I know, it doesn’t do me a bit of good. I can say that I know Jesus, but if I don’t listen to Him, what good is it? I know lots of worship songs, but if I don’t take time to worship the Lord with my whole being, what good are the songs?

The only way that I know of to put on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet is to do it every day. Every day I need to turn to Jesus, renew my mind with His word, turn away from distractions and pour out my heart to Him in worship. Daily I need to be quiet with Him and listen to what He wants to say to me. This is how my hope stays fresh and bright and alive. Even two or three days without setting time aside to give my full attention to Jesus, and I can tell the difference.

I can’t afford to ride my bike without a helmet. It’s foolish. My helmet is my protection. I know that now, and I will never ride without it again.

In just the same way, I can’t afford to travel the pathways of life without wearing the helmet of the hope of salvation. I need to anchor myself in Jesus every day. He is ready to protect me, empower me and fill me with hope so that I’m ready for every circumstance – but it’s up to me to put on my helmet.

 

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Neighbourhood Worship Nights

As Marion and I have sought to listen to the Holy Spirit, we sense that the time has come to open our home every second Tuesday for an evening of worship.

Our living room is not all that large, and we anticipate that eventually the Lord will move us to another space, but for now we are starting with what is available to us, and trusting that Father will draw those He wants to add to this worshipping community. We are also trusting that as we are faithful, He will provide a larger and more public space at the right time.

Some may say, “There are so many hurting people in Vanier. Couldn’t you do something more practical? Why waste time worshipping Jesus when people have so many needs?”

It is precisely because people are so broken and needy that we need to worship Jesus. When Jesus was in the Temple just a few days prior to his crucifixion, the blind and lame came to him in the Temple and he healed them. This was a profoundly prophetic act. Under the Covenant of Moses, a priest who was blind or lame could not draw near to the holy God to offer sacrifices because of his imperfection. When Jesus healed the blind and the lame in the Temple, he was declaring that from now on, because of the price He paid, everyone is qualified. The only requirements are faith and love towards Him. Everyone is qualified to draw near, everyone is qualified to offer sacrifices of praise, everyone is qualified to come into His presence and be changed by His glory, everyone is qualified to be an agent of transformation in the lives of others.

True worship is about drawing near to the Father, coming in to the Holy Place to see His glory and feel the power of His love, and pouring out our love to Him in return. Far from being an escape from reality, as we worship our eyes are unveiled so that we can catch a glimpse of things as they really are – as they will be when the City of God comes down from heaven to on earth and every tear is wiped away. Jesus shed his blood so that we could have an advance taste of the unspeakably glorious joy of being in the Father’s presence without fear.

In this present age, we cannot fully appreciate the glory of fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but we do get a foretaste of the glories to come. As we encounter the Holy Spirit and see the glory of the Lord, we are changed as the love of God is poured into our hearts. This is what Jesus referred to when He spoke about the true worshippers who worship in Spirit and in truth.

Intimacy with God truly is the wellspring of transformation. Drawing near to God has a huge impact on our ability to love others. As our hearts are softened and humbled we receive grace to see others through God’s eyes and to love them as He does.

Our desire is simple. We want to provide an atmosphere in which it is easy for hurting, needy people to draw near to God. David prayed, One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek … to behold the beauty of the Lord. By His death on the cross Jesus has made it possible for this desire to be fulfilled. From time spent in the presence of the Lord, I believe much transforming grace and power will flow into our lives and the lives of others.

The musical style of these worship evenings will be simple and unsophisticated. We are not superstars, just people who want to love Jesus with our simple songs of love.

So listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and if He is prompting you to come, then come and join us. If you’re not sure, come and see, taste what it is like and then decide.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Where : 283 Ste Cecile, Vanier

When: 7:00 pm, Tuesday June 25, 2013 (and every 2nd Tuesday)

What : Worship, prayer, simple teaching focussing on intimacy with Jesus.

If you have questions, leave a comment.

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Tragedy in Boston

By now almost everyone has heard of the terrible tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon yesterday, in which two bombs killed three people and injured many others. Among the dead was an eight-year-old boy who had been waiting for his father to finish the race.

Words fail to describe the horror of such a scene. One of the more common responses to tragedies such as this is anguish. Many ask, How could anyone do this?

Most of us are deeply disturbed by such acts and can never imagine ourselves doing something so terrible. But what we don’t usually see is that left to ourselves, while we may not be given to evil, all of us are given to preserving our own life. While we could not imagine ourselves doing such a terrible act of violence, our decision to live for ourselves – our primary commitment to preserving our own life – means that in the face of darkness fear takes over, and the best we can do is to try to protect ourselves and those we love. This is how evil wins.

I have been reading through the gospels lately, and I have been struck all over again by some of the radical things Jesus said. He called his followers to be willing to die for him, and he wasn’t talking about terrorism – or Crusades either. He was talking about radical, sacrificial obedience to the way of the cross. He was talking about being willing to suffer for the sake of love.

This seems strange to most of us. It’s certainly contrary to our normal human desire to preserve our own life. I mean, who really wants to suffer and die?

The apostle Paul had been a terrorist before he met the risen Christ. He had made it his business to seek out, terrorize and persecute Jews who had come to believe that Yeshua (Jesus) was risen from the dead and was Israel’s Messiah. Like today’s Islamic terrorists, or the medieval Crusaders, he was completely sincere – he believed he was doing the will of God. Yet even in his sincerity, he was a violent and wicked man – as he himself later admitted after his life was turned around when the risen Jesus encountered him. For the rest of his life he would serve the One whose people he had hitherto persecuted. The same thing has happened to some of today’s Islamic terrorists, notably Walid Shoebat and others.

This morning I was reading some of Paul’s words and they really got my attention.  He says that he always carried the death of Jesus in his body. This seems like a strange and even morbid thing to say. But then he goes on to say that because he carried the death of Jesus in his body, he was able to manifest the life of the risen Jesus in his life.

Consider for a moment. Even if you don’t get killed by a terrorist, you are going to die anyway. You can’t avoid it. But Jesus didn’t even try to avoid his death. In fact, he freely embraced it for the sake of others, and now He is alive forever, the first of many who have entrusted their lives to Him and who will share His glory when he returns to rule the earth openly. Could this be what it means to carry his death in my body – to embrace the fact that I am going to die one way or another, and to crucify my own ambitions, hopes and fears so that Jesus can live his life in and through me?

If I am truly given to Jesus, if I have died to my own goals and ambitions, I believe it is possible to face horror unafraid. Not only unafraid, but able to give life to others without becoming bitter, hardened or discouraged – because it is his life I am giving, not my own. This is the testimony of the first apostles and many of those who have followed him since then.

Have I already attained this? Far from it. But that’s how I want to respond to this tragedy. For me, while sobering, it is a salutary reminder that I am a broken man who needs – and has found – a Saviour, that my life now belongs to Him, and that the life that is truly life is found only in living as a servant, friend and lover of the One who gave his life for me.

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Playing to an audience of One

All of us play to an audience.

This tendency to play to an audience – to do the things that we know will win us approval, applause and appreciation – starts very early in life. In fact, I am pretty sure it is innate. People manifest this tendency in different ways, but everyone does it.

Anyone who is a parent or grandparent knows what I am talking about. When my daughter Bethany was a preschooler, she concluded that she might be able to get out of potential punishments by fluttering her eyelashes. She overplayed her hand, though, at the age of four, by telling me her strategy. “You can’t punish me – I’m too cute”. When I finished laughing, I disciplined her nonetheless, even though it was hard to keep a straight face. And a generation later, the pattern continues. Bethany’s adorable nieces – my beautiful granddaughters Sophie and Alivia – are adept at the same game, and play their audience masterfully, although thankfully their parents have the wisdom to know when to play along, and when to burst the bubble.

Playing to an audience can be cute in a four-year-old. But this seemingly innocent game doesn’t stop when little Joey or Janie heads off to school. The audience keeps changing throughout life, and the strategies we use to impress people or win their approval may become more clever and subtle – but at bottom it’s really the same game, in many different forms. Make ’em think I’m smart, or cute, or sexy, or strong, or good, or otherwise impressive. Make ’em like me. Make ’em treat me well.

One of the remarkable things about Jesus is how free he was from this all-pervasive game, this compulsion to please people and win their favour. That’s because he was playing to a different audience. He did only what he saw his Father doing, and lived only for his Father’s pleasure.

Because of that, he could love even those who abused him and rejected him. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, he knew exactly what he was doing, and he had no illusions about the outcome of his ride. He knew that he was fulfilling prophecy. He knew that he was God’s chosen one, destined to suffer for the sins of his people and the whole world. He knew that the leaders of Israel were even then plotting to destroy him, and that most of those who hailed him as King would turn away from him just a few days later. He knew that even Peter, his right-hand man, would crumble under the pressure of fear and deny knowing him. He knew that he was headed for a cross. He had warned his disciples about this months before. When he sweated drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, waiting for one of his friends to betray him, wishing this cup of agony might pass from him, it was for their sake and ours that he stayed faithful. When he went into the heavenly sanctuary as Lamb and High Priest, he went for them – and for you and me. When he stands before the Father’s throne and intercedes for the souls of men and women, he’s doing it for those who denied him, rejected him and betrayed him. He’s doing it for us.

Jesus is the only one who can lay my heart bare with one deft stroke of the sword of his Word. He is able at one and the same time to wound me, comfort me and speak life and hope to me. He has exposed the twisted motives of my heart too many times to count, and untangled the tangled mess of my hopes, fears and desires so that I know which way I should walk. He does this because He loves me. Having given his life for me, he continues to plead for me, woo me, call me to himself, beautify me and prepare me until my transformation is complete, until I am clothed in glory together with all those who have responded to his call, and we enter in to the wedding feast as the glorious Bride that he had in mind from the beginning.

Jesus is able to finish what he started. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We can count on him precisely because he doesn’t care about pleasing us. He loves me and you, but he’s not compelled to win our favour by doing what we want. He lives only to please his Father. He can’t be corrupted. He has stood the test and been found faithful. Jesus doesn’t stand before me to win my approval. He stands before his Father’s throne as the heavenly intercessor for me, and all those for whom he paid so high a price. And so, because we have a Passover Lamb and High Priest who cannot be swayed, one who is faithful through and through, one who is completely incorruptible – so unlike our fallen human leaders – because of this, we can be completely sure that he will always deal with us in truth, mercy and righteous, holy love.

There are many things about Jesus that move my heart and make me want to weep with gratitude. Today, I am thankful that – so unlike mine – Jesus’ heart is consistent; that, so unlike mine, his eyes are always locked in on his Father’s face; that, so unlike me, he is unswayed by the many voices that clamor at him to change. He hears every prayer and is sensitive to every cry; his heart is tender towards everyone who calls out to him; but he lives his life and walks his course for an audience of One. Not only that, but he has promised to make me like him. In fact, that’s the only basis on which he will receive me. Salvation is completely free – Jesus paid the ultimate price for my forgiveness – but there is a catch. I have to agree to one thing. I no longer belong to myself but him. That means he gets to do what he wants with my life. That means letting Jesus make me over again, from the inside out. I, too, have to learn to play to an audience of One.

Jesus, you said that if my eyes are good and my gaze is unswervingly locked in on you alone, then my whole being will be full of light. That really is what I want, Lord. I want my life to shine like a city set on a hill for all to see. Do for me what I can’t do for myself. Make me like you. Teach me to play to an audience of One.

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Coldest Night of the Year

I remember when I first heard about Jericho Road Ministries from its founder, my friend Ray Desmarais. A compassionate man with a big heart for the hurting and homeless, Ray wanted to do something practical to help. Over the years, his relentless drive and passion led to the birthing of a ministry that has demonstrated the love of Jesus to hundreds of broken people in Ottawa’s core. While appreciating the need for shelters such as Shepherds of Good Hope and the Ottawa Mission, Jericho Road has chosen to offer smaller-scale, discipleship-based group homes with the aim of helping mentally ill or addicted men and women get off the street and learn practical life skills in an atmosphere of structured Christian community.

For several years my wife Marion and I were among the regular performers at a weekly coffee house offered by Jericho Road. We loved it! At the time, we lived in the rural community of Russell, and the coffee house gave us an opportunity to serve and rub shoulders with people that we wouldn’t normally have any contact with. Now that we live in the historic neighbourhood of Vanier, so close to downtown, I have a whole new appreciation for the work done by ministries such as Jericho Road.

I no longer sing at the Jericho Road coffee house, as there are now plenty of musicians to fill the roster, but on February 23, I’ll be joining a team led by my good friend Keith Brown in a walk in support of this great ministry, along with dozens of other Ottawans. The event is known as The Coldest Night of the Year, and takes place in cities across the nation in support of various charities that serve the hurting and homeless. In Ottawa, your donations will go to support Jericho Road. I’d be grateful if you would consider supporting me with a donation.

If you would like to donate, or would consider joining the walk yourself, you can do so by going to my personal home page. All donations are tax-deductible.

God bless you.

 

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My friend Jim

I bumped into Jim (not his real name) a few weeks ago when I was riding my bike through Vanier. I consider Jim a friend, but I had lost touch with him and hadn’t talked with him in a couple of years, so I was delighted to see him again. He was waiting for the bus, and we chatted for a few minutes until his bus came.

My encounter with Jim was an answer to prayer. Jim doesn’t have a phone, he doesn’t use the Internet, and I didn’t know where he was living, so I had no way of getting in touch with him. I hadn’t even been thinking about Jim, but I had been asking the Lord for insight into a vision that had been stirring in my heart for some time now, and I realized in hindsight that seeing Jim at the bus stop was part of God’s answer to my question.

You see, Marion and I have been sensing for a while now that God is calling us to birth a House of Prayer in Vanier.

This raises many questions. Why a House of Prayer? Why Vanier? And, why on earth would God choose us for a task like this? Aren’t there other people out there – people who are better qualified, more gifted, more capable, younger and more energetic – people who could do a better job?

When I think about how to answer these questions, Jim comes to mind. My encounter with him at the bus stop was no accident. I had been seeking God for insight as to what a House of Prayer would look like, and God showed me Jim.

Jim is a wonderful, warm, generous, simple, kind, loveable man. He is also an addict who has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison. Although Jesus has changed his life in major ways, Jim has spent so many years in prison that he finds it a challenge to manage life on the outside. He has done some things and made some choices that have harmed himself and others, but he has a sincere love for Jesus, and I consider him a brother and a friend.

In some ways Jim is his own worst enemy. Because of some of the things he has experienced, Jim has a hard time remembering that Jesus loves him. As a result, he has a hard time staying clean. He also has a hard time staying out of jail.

Some would be quick to say that Jim’s problems are the result of his own poor choices. At one level that is very true, and Jim wouldn’t deny it. But Jim has also had a lot of strikes against him. What’s more, I’ve heard him cry out to God for deliverance. Even though he sometimes continues to make poor choices, deep down Jim has a genuine desire to get clean and stay clean, to get free and stay free. He just has a hard time walking it out.

Jim needs a House of Prayer. He needs a safe place where he can come and spend as much time as he wants in the presence of the Lord. He has found that in the presence of the Lord there is healing for his soul.

It is written that when Jesus entered Jerusalem just prior to the Passover, the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. This was not only an act of compassion, but a powerful prophetic statement. A blind or lame man could not serve as a priest according to the law of Moses, because his imperfection disqualified him from coming through the veil into the presence of the Lord to offer the sacred bread. By healing the blind and the lame in the temple, Jesus was saying that from now on, because of his blood that was about to be shed on the cross, the way was open for broken, disqualified people to come into the presence of the Lord, to be forgiven, cleansed, healed, restored, equipped, and qualified to serve him as priests – people who can carry the presence and blessing of God to others.

Jim is not the only broken, disqualified person who lives in Vanier. I live here too. Like Jim, I have many defects. Like Jim, my life has been changed because Jesus has come into my world and made a way for me to come into the Father’s house. Like Jim, I belong to Jesus and he is my identity and my destiny. Like Jim, I still have a long way to go.

Why a House of Prayer in Vanier? There are at least two people in Vanier who need one.  Jim does.  So do I.

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Refined by fire

Yesterday Marion and I took some time to visit old friends.

It’s been over twenty years since we first got to know Brian and Lynn. Their life was not easy then, and it’s still not easy. They have been through more troubles than most people, and they are still dealing with numerous challenges. But through it all, they have grown stronger, their faith is better established, they have grown in understanding of God’s ways, they are governed by the peace and joy that come from the Holy Spirit. In the midst of ongoing tests in health, finances and family relationships, their lives manifest the goodness of God. I am full of confidence that they will come forth as pure gold on the day of the Lord, and that they will be among those who shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43).

As I was reflecting on this visit, I was reminded of these words of the Apostle Peter, written long ago to Christians suffering persecution.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV84

I am so thankful for those whose lives remind me of the faithfulness and goodness of God.

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My life as an addict

I admit it.  I am an addict.

I just can’t get enough of HGP. No matter how often I get a taste of it, I always want more.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Hard Rock after work on a Friday for drinks with a group of my consultant friends, and I only had two beers. That’s one more than I usually have, but it’s still not much as some people’s Friday night drinking goes. Judging by the stories that were going around the office after the weekend, it would seem that some of my friends kept the bartender busy for quite a few hours that evening. I didn’t stay around to watch, but I’m guessing it was only fun if you were hammered too.

I’m also guessing that some of my friends may find it a little weird that I stopped at two. I mean, the booze was free – our consulting firm paid for everything – so why not indulge?

Why not, indeed? I suppose if all I had to look forward to was a life of no real purpose and gradually-diminished capacities, followed by old age, sickness, and a possibly miserable death, I’d get hammered sometimes too. But as it is, getting drunk has no real appeal. I can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, but I don’t need to go crazy, because I’ve got better things available to me.

HGP has given me a life of purpose and promise. I am headed for a glorious future, a new age when HGP will fill the earth, the enemies of HGP will be forever banished, and all HGP lovers will be able to have all they want. True, along the way there will be some pain, but that’s a small thing when you are destined for something so incredibly awesome.

But that’s not all.  In the meantime, I can enjoy HGP as often as I want, have a completely clean ride, and wake up without a hangover every time. With HGP, I can still function normally, but colours are brighter, pain is diminished, pleasure is enhanced, and I am happier, more loving, more hopeful, more peaceful. I don’t get sick as often, and I get better faster. And though at this point my body can’t stand the amount of pure, unadulterated HGP that it will be able to handle in the Age to Come, even the amount that I can handle now is wonderful.

Unlike many addictive substances, HGP doesn’t make people violent – it actually makes them more peaceful, happier and productive. In spite of that fact, most Islamic and Communist governments have made HGP illegal.  That’s because once people get addicted to HGP, the government just can’t control them anymore. Even so, in some of those countries, more and more people are getting hooked on HGP. Amazingly, once people are truly hooked on HGP nothing can get them to break the habit – not even prison or the threat of death. It is without a doubt the most powerful addiction known to man.

I have to admit that I do know people who have tried HGP and haven’t found it satisfying. That’s because they only took a small taste – they didn’t really give it a chance. Sadly, what some of these people don’t seem to realize is that with HGP, you can’t sit on the fence. To really appreciate HGP you have to give up your old habits and make HGP a regular part of your life. If you don’t become an HGP lover, you will eventually become an HGP hater. You either become an addict or you eventually become completely allergic and can’t stand HGP at all. It’s completely your choice, but the future for HGP haters isn’t pretty, so you don’t really want to go that route.

On a more positive note, have I told you that HGP is completely free? Truly, it won’t cost you a penny. You can have a lifetime supply for free. It’s all been paid for by JC. If you want to have some, just talk to anyone in JC’s family and they’ll be glad to hook you up. You do need to know, though, that once you truly develop a taste for HGP, you will become part of JC’s family too, and your life will never be the same again. A lot of things that seemed really important to you won’t be all that important anymore, and some of your friends will think you’re a bit weird – that is, until they try HGP too. Once they’ve given HGP a shot, they’ll wonder why they didn’t try it sooner. It really is the greatest thing in the world – it’s what makes life worth living.

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What my Jewish brother taught me

Some of my best friends are Jewish.

To start with, there’s Jesus. You know, the one they crucified so that you and I could be born anew into resurrection life.  He’s my friend. He’s Jewish.

Oh, and then there’s Paul. You know, the one who told Gentiles (non-Jews) about Jesus, and wrote all those letters explaining what Jesus had done that was so important, and what it means to belong to Him.  I’ve never met Paul, but I have read what he wrote about Jesus — quite a few times in fact — and I’ve learned a lot from him. His writings are one of the reasons I believe in Jesus. I think that makes Paul my friend, even if not in the usual way. By the way, he’s Jewish too.

But Jesus and Paul aren’t my only Jewish friends. Let me tell you about Jean-Claude, who has been a friend and mentor to me for over two decades.

When I first met Jean-Claude, I didn’t know he was Jewish. Neither did he. I thought of him as a gentle French-Canadian pastor with a gift for building bridges between people of different languages and cultures, and an uncanny ability to see into people’s souls – well, mine anyway. I often found myself telling him things that I probably wouldn’t have said to anyone else, and he always seemed to understand.

A few years ago, Jean-Claude learned through genealogical research that several of his ancestors on both his father’s and his mother’s side were Jewish. They had hidden their Jewish identity to avoid being persecuted by the Gentile church. History shows that this was not an unfounded fear. So, they lived as Jews at home, observing Shabbat in secret every week, hiding their Jewish identity behind a Catholic exterior as they attended Mass every Sunday.

I was in high school (where I had several Jewish friends) when Fiddler on the Roof  had its first run on Broadway. Although the story is fictional, it is based on events that were repeated many times over, throughout many centuries, in “Christian” Europe. When I first saw the film version, I remember being deeply ashamed of the hateful actions of the Tsarist soldiers towards the Jews of their village – actions they justified by labelling the Jews as Christ-killers.

When Jean-Claude first told me of his Jewish roots, he seemed unsure what response to expect from me. I didn’t call him a Christ-killer. I gave him a hug and told him how delighted I was to discover that I had a Jewish brother.

It is true that the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus, and conspired to have him killed. But that does not make me – a Gentile – innocent of his death. I am as guilty as they, and like them I am declared innocent through His sacrifice, not because of my own righteousness. As a Gentile believer, I live only because He shed his blood and rose again for me, as does every believing Jew. And I cannot overlook the fact that while a majority of the Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah, there were also many in Israel who received his message with joy. Most of the first generation of apostles were Jewish. They took the gospel to many Gentile nations, often at great cost. Without their testimony, none of us who believe in Jesus today would ever had heard his name.

True, Jesus prophesied great wrath and distress against Jerusalem because of her rejection of her Messiah.  But he spoke these words more in sorrow than in anger, weeping over this city which he so dearly loved. And even in his warnings of wrath and desolation, there was also a promise that one day Jerusalem would again welcome him and bless his name.

And what about Paul, the Jewish apostle whose main ministry was to the Gentiles? What did he have to say about his own people, Israel? On the one hand, he called his people enemies of the gospel because of their rejection of Jesus. On the other hand, he yearned for their salvation, called them beloved by God and affirmed that they had not been rejected by him. And he looked for a time – a time for which my Messianic Jewish friends still yearn, and for which they labour – when all Israel would be saved.

There are many issues regarding Israel that are beyond the scope of this post. My only goal here is to stir up love and prayer in the hearts of Gentile believers towards the people of Israel, from whom our Messiah, the Son of David, was born. Christians may legitimately differ on many things, but when it comes to love, we are not given any option.

It is true that Israel is not innocent. Nor is any people group on the face of the earth. But it’s not up to me to judge Israel. I am deeply grateful for the people of Israel, through whom the blessing of the gospel has come to all nations of the earth. As a Gentile believer in Jesus, I am instructed by Paul, my Jewish brother, not to be arrogant over Israel’s failure, but to walk in humility and love towards this suffering, hardened, blinded people until that glorious and long-awaited day comes when their eyes are opened and they receive the mercy of God.

It is my belief that this day is fast approaching, though it will not come without turmoil and suffering. So I will continue to pray for my Jewish brothers and sisters who love Jesus as I do, and believe with them for the day when the rest of their long-suffering people receive their Messiah.

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