Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at…
Source: One Day in Your Courts
Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at…
Source: One Day in Your Courts
I recently heard the inspiring story of a boy named Sagan and his friends, a group of former slumdogs in India whose lives were changed forever when they were rescued from desperate poverty through child sponsorship in Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope program.
Bridge of Hope not only fed and clothed Sagan and his friends, but also taught them the love and power of God. With the simplicity of a child they believed what they were taught and put it into practice. The amazing results are portrayed in this brief but powerful video. God answered their simple prayers of faith, and a dying boy was raised back to life and health. The impact was astounding. (Please don’t skip over the video – you won’t regret the 5 minutes it takes to watch).
The love of Jesus is stronger than the power of death.
Many Westerners probably think of the current war in Iraq as an unfortunate but far away conflict that has nothing to do with us, and no effect on our lives apart from higher oil and gas prices.
The reality is that ISIS, the group behind the conflict, is far more than just a band of terrorists. This is a highly-religious Islamic jihadist army whose goal is to establish an Islamic Caliphate (empire) in the Middle East, in the conviction that this is a key step in preparing the way for the return of the Mahdi, the Islamic saviour.
In response to a recent ISIS recruitment video, now apparently no longer available, Joel Richardson writes in his blog
What modern Christian movement or expression matches the zeal and commitment of this Satanic movement? Its going to take a prayer and missions movement unlike anything we have seen to date. Its going to take a return to the early Church theology of the cross and martyrdom. Its going to take a genuine Global Jesus Revolution.
In the West, most Christians are dulled and lulled by the comforts and cares of every day life. I understand this very well – I battle with it myself on a daily basis. We have grown used to a domesticated, Westernized, comfortable, compromised Christianity – a far cry from the gospel of Jesus. Our hearts cry out for intimacy with Jesus, but we can only have genuine intimacy with Him if we understand who He really is, and the true nature of His Kingdom and the battle in which we are engaged. The only way to fight is to keep our eyes on Him. When we speak of seeing the Lord’s House of Prayer established, we are not just crying out for personal intimacy with Jesus (though that is undoubtedly very important). We are crying out for His return as openly-acknowledged King.
Thirteen friends filled our living room last night. That may not seem like a huge number, but we have a small living room. They spilled over into the hallway and the dining room.
Since the start of the year, Marion and I have set aside Thursday evenings to worship Jesus and pray for our neighbourhood and city,
There have been a couple of occasions when Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the angels were our only companions. God has used those times to test and shape our hearts by reminding us Who we are doing this for. One of Jesus’ complaints about the Pharisees (religious leaders of his day whom he considered to be hypocrites) was that everything they did was done for people to see. They wanted to be noticed. They craved recognition, approval, attention. The times when no-one else is present have trained the eyes of my heart to focus on Jesus, and seek to bring Him pleasure simply because He is worthy.
That’s a process that is not yet complete. But Father in his kindness and mercy also gives us times with friends to encourage us. Last night was one of those times. Our house was full of friends new and old.
Some were from our wonderful church family at All Nations Ottawa. Some were from The Village, a little church in our neighbourhood of Vanier where Marion and I served for several months last year. Some were from Love Ottawa. Some were brothers and sisters from other parts of Ottawa with a vision to see local houses of prayer birthed across our city.
They came to worship and pray with us. They also came to hear from Jill and Kirk Weber of Greater Ontario House of Prayer in Hamilton, who brought much encouragement by sharing stories and insights from their journey as pioneers in the contemporary Canadian prayer movement. The presence of the Lord was sweet and our hearts were refreshed.
I don’t know where all this is going. I am learning to simply take one step at a time as Marion and I seek to obey Jesus. For now, we will simply keep doing what we are doing, until He shows us new steps of faith. But two truths were lodged in my heart last night.
One of these truths is that, in the Psalmist’s words, for me, it is good to be near God. I don’t know any other way to live anymore. Loving Jesus has become my identity, and being a man of prayer isn’t just something I do, it’s who I am and who I am becoming.
The second of these truths is that seeking the Lord is not meant to be a solitary occupation. Although we need to keep our eyes on Jesus when no-one is around, and although both Marion and I place high value on times of solitude when we can be alone with the One who knows us better than anyone else, we have also learned that truly God sets the lonely in families. We were made to give and receive love. We were made to share life with others.
Living in community is part of the heart and soul of a genuine life with Jesus. Learning to love others strips away our fear, our pride, our self-preoccupation. It teaches us to cultivate genuine humility and gratitude. While we do need the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we also need the encouragement of fellow travellers who are seeking to walk the same road of faith, hope and loving obedience.
Last night I received a fresh dose of both kinds of encouragement. For that, I am grateful.
We had a wonderful time together as the House of Prayer gathered on Thursday evening. We sang love songs to Jesus and asked Him to increase our desire for Him. We also prayed for the people of God, for the Bride to have her love and desire for the Bridegroom greatly increased. And we prayed for those not yet saved and for those caught in various forms of sin and bondage. that they would have eyes opened to see the glory and goodness of God and they would find desire for Him rising up in their hearts.
Over the past few weeks we have settled into a simple pattern of Harp and Bowl worship and prayer that works for us. On a typical Thursday evening we will have one devotional and two intercessory cycles, organized loosely around a common theme. We begin our first Harp and Bowl cycle shortly after 7 pm by reading a few verses of Scripture to focus our thoughts, and we usually have a time of conversational sharing after concluding our third prayer cycle. Our aim is to wrap up by 9 pm, although this past Thursday evening we spilled over a little bit.
Numbers have varied greatly. This past Thursday evening our living room was full. Some nights there have been as few as three of us (Marion and I being two of those three). The Lord has settled it in our hearts that we are doing this for Him, not for the acclaim of people, so we are going to worship and pray on Thursday evenings no matter who shows up, as long as the Lord gives us strength and grace.
Anyone with a desire to grow in love for Jesus and to present the needs of others before His throne is welcome to join us as we pray for the people of God, for the city where we live, and for the world that Jesus died for. Thursdays, 7:00 pm, in our living room in Vanier.
Marion and I would like to thank all those who have been praying for us over the past few weeks. God has been at work in our lives in many ways.
Sometimes to really hear clearly from the Lord, we need to take some time to step back from our commitments and just be quiet with Him. As Marion and I took time to do this, we realized that the Lord was telling us to lay some things down because they were getting in the way of our primary calling.
As Marion and I have repented of letting secondary things take too big a place in our lives, and laid down other commitments in order to refocus on loving God first, we have received fresh vision for the House of Prayer that He wants us to birth here in Vanier. The Holy Spirit has been showing us a very simple, flexible model that is suited to our capacities and our situation.
Starting in January, we will host weekly meetings for worship and prayer in our home. We will spend a good chunk of our time simply loving God with our songs of worship, drawing near to Jesus and sitting at His feet. The worship style will be simple, acoustic and meditative. We will also pray for our community, using faith-filled Scriptural prayers, following a simple pattern in which we pray week by week through a cycle of four overall themes. We believe that as we lift up Jesus in our worship and our prayers, the Light of the World will become more and more visible and evident in this neighbourhood that we call home and that Jesus died to save.
In addition to the weekly prayer and worship gatherings, we will conduct prayer walks on an occasional basis (probably monthly) once spring comes and the weather improves.
As we considered what would happen when there are too many people to fit into our living room, we sensed the Lord saying that this would be the sign to launch another prayer cell. So, for us, the House of Prayer that we are called to birth will not be housed in a particular building, but in the hearts and lives of the people of God scattered throughout the city. Though it may start in Vanier, it need not be limited to Vanier. New prayer cells can be birthed anywhere that there are people with a vision to do so. Our hope and desire is that these prayer cells would stay linked to each other in a flexible network that would come together for larger gatherings as the Lord grants space and grace.
Although this prayer network is obviously an expression of the Body of Christ, it is not a substitute for the local church. We do not see ourselves as starting a new church in the usual sense of that word. Rather, we want to serve, partner with and bless the existing churches in the community. One of our main prayer themes will be to pray for God’s blessing on the churches and pastors in our community.
If this vision finds an echo in your heart, consider this post your invitation to come and join us in worship and prayer. If you can’t come every week, come when you can. We’ll be here as long as the Lord grants us health, strength and grace to worship and seek Him.
Date Thursday January 9, 2014
Time 7:00 pm
Place 283 Ste Cecile, Vanier, Ontario
Over the past couple of years, in response to the call of God to plant a local House of Prayer, I have set my heart and will to pray for Vanier, the historic Ottawa neighbourhood where Marion and I have made our home for the past six years.
Staying motivated in prayer can be a challenge at times. The enemy doesn’t want us to pray, so he is adept at finding ways of convincing us that we are wasting our time. Thankfully, the Lord is more than ready to encourage us when we get weak and weary. It is always energizing to draw near to Him in worship and seek Him in his word. Sometimes, though, we need signs of the coming harvest to keep our hope bright.
I received one of the Lord’s signs last Saturday morning while I was out prayer walking in Richelieu Park. Marion and I had gathered with a small but vibrant group of praying friends for the fourth and final outing in Vanier House of Prayer‘s Summer 2013 series of prayer walks. I had sent everyone out to walk and pray on their own for a few minutes, after which we were going to reconvene and pray together.
I was walking along a pathway through the woods. I met a young boy who enthusiastically told me what a nice day it was, and how much he liked walking in the woods. I loved his innocent enthusiasm and spoke God’s blessing over him. He went on his way and I continued walking and praying.
Soon the path opened up onto a wide grassy area, and I came upon a middle-aged man and a young woman (I had the impression that they might be a father and daughter) lying on a blanket talking. I apologized for disturbing them and the man said “You didn’t disturb us. Actually, I wanted to ask you a question”. He then seemed a bit embarrassed at having been this open, and instead of asking his question, he said he wanted to borrow my cell phone. When he had made his call, I flashed a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit. I didn’t have long, because I was supposed to be meeting the other prayer walkers shortly, but I was sure he had wanted something more than just the use of my phone.
Lord, what do I do now?
Why don’t you ask how you can pray for them?
Brilliant idea, Lord! Thanks!
So that’s what I did. I told them I needed to be on my way because I was meeting some people who were here in the park to pray for Vanier, and I asked how we could pray for them.
The man looked at me and said, “Actually, I need forgiveness”.
This blew me away. How many people do you meet who are so open about their need for forgiveness? It was quite amazing.
I knew this was an important moment. I talked to them about Jesus. I said that forgiveness was easy – that Jesus had come to earth to make a way for us to be forgiven. The young woman then spoke up and said “Yes, but not everyone believes in Jesus”. I allowed that this was true, but affirmed that Jesus is alive and would hear their prayers. They both nodded as if this was what they had needed to hear. I then spoke a quick prayer over them and went to rejoin my friends.
What a revelation! There are people right here – right in my neighbourhood – who are hungry for the good news that God loves them and has sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for their sins.
I left the park that day feeling greatly encouraged. God had sent this man and his daughter the encouragement they needed, but he had also sent me the encouragement I needed. I knew again that our ministry of intercession was worth the effort.
Over the years I have had many conversations with colleagues at work about their goals in life.
I remember one man in particular who made it quite clear what he wanted. His goal was to build up a nice financial nest egg so that he could retire, relax, and enjoy life. As he saw it, the good life is “life on the beach”, or “life at the cottage”, or some other form of permanent vacation, and the purpose of work is to build up enough wealth so that we can spend the rest of our days doing exactly as we please, with no-one to answer to but ourselves.
More recently I had a conversation with another colleague. In addition to working as an IT consultant, she and her husband own and operate a small farm where they raise goats, beef cattle and horses. Marion and I like buying meat from her because we know it’s not laced with antibiotics and hormones. This colleague told me recently that she had considered giving up farming but she couldn’t do it, because she doesn’t want to live without a purpose. For her, farming is a way of life that embodies purposeful and therefore satisfying activity. She enjoys finding cost-effective and inventive ways of meeting the challenge of raising animals organically. Her dream isn’t “life on the beach”, it’s “life on the farm”. She does want to have sufficient freedom to be able to take a vacation with her husband every now and then (a challenge for many farmers) but she can’t stand living without a purpose.
Life on the beach – or on the farm? A permanent vacation – or a life of purposeful activity? Serving yourself, or serving others? Which would you choose?
I’d pick life on the farm any day.
Let me be clear. I love vacations. I know I need rest. It was great to go to Florida for a week last year, and Marion and I loved our holiday at a cottage on Drummond Island with children and grandchildren the year before. I thoroughly enjoy weekends with their (somewhat) more relaxed pace. But I can’t stand the thought of living without any purpose but to satisfy my own desires. That kind of life would kill me. The beach is great for a break from the farm, but give me the farm over the beach for a satisfying life that’s well-lived.
No, I’m not considering another career change, nor a change of location. I am now thoroughly and happily transplanted from my former life in rural Russell Township to my current life in inner-city Vanier, and I have no regrets about the change. Although I do have a small garden, I have no plans to take up farming. I know that I am exactly where God wants me to be.
But like my farming colleague, I don’t want to live without a purpose. And like her, I see myself as a type of farmer. I’m not raising hay, grain, goats and cattle. I’m tending people’s hearts. The farm isn’t mine, it’s God’s. But I am one of his sharecroppers. Other servants have planted the seed of His saving, lifegiving truth in many hearts, and my job is to tend and nurture the seeds that have sprouted into young, growing plants.
On God’s farm there are lots of jobs to be done. Some people do more planting than anything else. These are the ones who love telling complete strangers – everyone they can find – about Jesus. Others spend more of their time fertilizing and watering the crops. These are the ones who love to help others understand the word of God and how it applies to their life. Some people spend most of their time feeding and looking after the other workers. That’s just as important. There are other jobs as well. Like on most farms, everyone does a bit of everything at times, but some people specialize more in some areas than in others.
In my years of working on God’s farm I’ve planted seeds, and I’ve also watered and fertilized them. But what I love to do most is to make sure that the young plants can see the Son. That, to me, is what the ministry of worship and prayer is all about. Plants don’t grow if they can’t see the light. Believers need to be able to see the Son so that they can become like Him. God has an enemy who is constantly planting weeds in the midst of His good crops. Sometimes those weeds threaten to choke the life out of the crops that God’s servants have planted. Sometimes the weeds seem to get so thick that it’s hard to see the Son. When that happens, the ministry of worship and prayer has a wonderful way of clearing spaces in the undergrowth so that we can see the light of His face. In fact, the more we worship, the more the weeds seem to just disappear, and the crops of God’s planting begin to flourish and thrive and reproduce. It’s amazing.
All workers need rest. I’m glad that on God’s farm there are refreshing streams and green pastures where his servants can be renewed and restored. But I’m so glad that God has made me for fruitful labour in his fields.
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.
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.
I am delighted to announce that our good friends at Love Ottawa have stepped out in faith to sponsor a summer project in Vanier. Starting in just a few weeks’ time, two Christian university students will conduct a Neighbourhood Study, seeking to gain insight into the makeup of Vanier and the needs that exist here, with a view to developing strategies for community transformation.
While Richard and Kerry were casting vision for a Neighbourhood Study, the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about prayer walking. We are planning prayer walks in Vanier on four Saturday mornings throughout the summer. The dates and times are :
Saturday May 11, 10 am
Saturday June 8, 10 am
Saturday July 6, 10 am
Saturday August 10, 10 am
We will prayer walk in teams, the number of teams depending on the number of participants. We will gather in the parking lot of St Margarets Anglican Church (also the current meeting place of The Village Mennonite Church) at the corner of Hannah and Montreal Road, across from Scotiabank. The various prayer walking teams will come together again after about 30-45 minutes to share our impressions and pray briefly together.
More details to follow. For now, please be sure to put these dates on your calendar, and please pass the news on to anyone you know who has a heart for Vanier and loves to pray. Although we hope that a good number of Vanier residents will become involved, you don’t have to live in Vanier to be involved in these prayer walks.
Hoping to see you at the first prayer walk!