Tag Archives: blessings

The power of blessing

My beloved wife celebrated her 60th birthday a few days ago.

I’m not always the best at planning ahead for such events, but I have learned over the years that special days are important to Marion, and I have also learned that I do a better job at honouring her on such occasions if I give some thought to it in advance.  So, about a month before her birthday I began thinking about what I could do that would bless her, and I had an inspiration. I remembered that when I turned 50, Marion had compiled a book containing words of encouragement, appreciation and blessing from various people in my life. I realized that she could benefit from some encouragement (can’t we all?) so I decided to do something similar for her 60th birthday. I contacted a number of our mutual friends by email and Facebook and asked them to email me with messages communicating something that they appreciated about Marion or some statement of how her life had been a blessing to them.

I found this experience to be a very powerful one. It was a great benefit to my own relationship with God to read the messages that came into my inbox through the month of July.

I learned (or re-learned) several valuable lessons from this experience, and thought they would be worth sharing with others.

Firstly, I was reminded that our words really do matter. They have powerful impact on how others perceive themselves. We are told in Proverbs 18:21 that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. As I read the words of gratitude that so many friends sent to bless Marion, I found myself appreciating our friends and family all over again, and thanking God for putting such wonderful people in our lives. Since I gave her the book on her birthday, Marion has been enjoying it as well. Even when we know that Jesus loves us and gave His life for us, it is a great encouragement to hear from other people how our simple words and actions of love – many of them long forgotten by us – have impacted their lives.

Secondly, I was amazed at the kindness of God. Many of our friends expressed gratitude for things Marion had said or done that she does not remember at all. I know this is because she has set her heart on loving God, and when you do that, kindness and encouragement flow out to those who are receptive. This to me is a powerful motivation to keep walking in the Spirit. As we set our hearts on following the way of love, others are blessed. It is so simple, but we do need to choose daily to walk this path.

Thirdly, I realized again how thankful I am for the wife God has given me. She brings me good, and not harm, all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:12). It is good to be reminded of reasons to be grateful. So, for all of you who took the time to send words of blessing on my wife’s birthday, thank you so much. You encouraged her, but you also encouraged me. Well done.

I’ve uploaded the completed Blessing Book for anyone who is interested in seeing the finished product.


Until the day dawns

This morning our church family at All Nations was stirred by a first-hand account of what can only be called a miracle.  Steve Wilkins, who gives leadership to our elders’ team, told an amazing tale of how a series of medical tests were overturned by one final test.  The original series of tests had indicated a serious genetic problem with the baby in Sarah’s womb, and the geneticists had fully expected this final test to confirm their conclusion that Sarah would give birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome.  Praise God, these expectations were completely overturned.  Steve related the amazement of the doctors, who told them “We don’t understand how this could have happened, but our latest test shows your baby to be completely free of any genetic disorders.”

Those who know the power of Jesus understand that this was not just an accident, but a restorative miracle from the hand of a loving and powerful God.  Those who belong to Jesus know that God is for us and not against us.  We know that when Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, he made a way for those who trust Him to be fully reconciled to God.  The debt of sin is completely cancelled, and the fear of death is destroyed because we are looking forward not to a terrifying judgment, but to a glorious resurrection.  Healing miracles like the one that Steve related this morning are wonderful encouragements to our faith, showing us the mercy and kindness of God, and pointing us to the life of the age to come.

They are not, however, a reason to believe that we will sail through this present life with no obstacles, hardships or trials.  Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign of the resurrection to come, but that resurrection has not happened yet.  As a down payment or deposit on our inheritance, He has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us, and so the powers of the age to come are at work now, giving us much cause for joy and celebration.  Still, in this age, we remain subject to death, suffering and pain, and this will continue to be true until Jesus returns.  The reality is that we are all going to die.  I am going to die. You are going to die.  The baby in Sarah Wilkins’ womb will one day die.  Even people who are raised to life in this age, like Lazarus in the Bible, will one day die again.  Even Jesus said as much: “In this world you will have trouble“.  But then he added, “Take heart – I have overcome the world“.

When I read the New Testament, I find in the words of Jesus and the experience and teaching of the apostles both encouragements and warnings.  My Bible tells me that until the day dawns and the Lord returns, I can expect both blessing and trouble.  The trouble comes partly from living in a fallen world that has not yet been restored, and partly from direct opposition to the gospel. Christians haven’t been used to much direct opposition in Canada, but it is becoming more common, and that shouldn’t really surprise us.  Jesus told his disciples to expect it, and warned them that opposition would grow more intense as His return draws near.  As that Day approaches I believe that His people can expect both increasing upheavals and increasing glory.

Does this mean that I am going to be passive about pursuing the blessings of God?  Not at all.  I am determined to live with an expectant heart, believing that God is on my side, and knowing that as His son I am eligible to receive every blessing that He promises to those who belong to Jesus.  But more than his blessings I want to pursue the one who gave His life for me, knowing that as a disciple of Jesus my life is not my own.  In that knowledge is great freedom, but it comes at a price.  As Jesus’ disciple I must be willing to go through everything He went through, should the occasion call for it.

I believe in healings; I believe in miracles; I believe that God prospers and provides for His people.  Ultimately, though, my hope is not in any of these things, but in a crucified Messiah who is coming again to establish His Kingdom openly on the earth.  According to His word I am looking for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  My true desire is to be conformed to the image of Christ.  Because I look forward to the age to come, to which the Scriptures consistently testify, I believe that no work of righteousness is ever wasted.  Every deed motivated by faith will be rewarded and fulfilled at the renewal of all things.  I want to be a positive influence in the world I live in, sharing the life of Jesus with those who are hungry for an enduring and substantial hope.  Many of the people of this age – even people of goodwill, who are trying to make a difference – hope only for an improved version of the world as they know it.  Their hope is limited to making this world a better place.  It is good to do works of justice and mercy while we are in this life, but in the final analysis I am not banking on my own ability – or the ability of you and me together – to build a better world with our own hands.  No, I have placed my hope in a coming age in which Jesus will reign openly as King, all death, pain and suffering will be destroyed, and all things will be restored.  This is the true apostolic gospel, and on this gospel I take my stand.   Until the day dawns, this hope will be the anchor for my soul.


Reflections from Minnesota – Day 6

I played racquetball at the Bethany gym twice this week – this morning with Joe, and a couple of days ago in a round-robin with Joe and Simeon.  For both Joe and myself, this was our first time playing since Joe broke his ankle in December.  It was good to get back into action.  The physical exertion is very satisfying.   For me, it is one expression of loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  It’s also a good way to connect with my son.

After racquetball I did some Bible study and had a good discussion with Simeon about some of what I was reading.  I find it incredibly satisfying to be able to learn from my children, especially when they share with me what they’ve been learning about the plans and purposes of God.  This is a great blessing.

One of the things we discussed was the clear evidence from the words of Jesus that God’s people should expect to go through a time of intense trouble and persecution before the Lord returns.   In fact, persecution has been part of the experience of Christians in many nations of the world throughout the last 100 years, as the message of freedom through the cross has come into increasing conflict with political ideologies and Islamic and Hindu fundamentalism.   No-one in their right mind looks forward to suffering, but it does have the benefit of revealing the true condition of our hearts.  It’s easy to say we trust God when things are relatively easy – but the proof that our faith is real is how we do when we are going through painful trials.

Will my granddaughter see the painful trials that are predicted for the last days?  My children?  My wife and I?  Although not even Jesus knows the Father’s timetable in detail (and our choices will influence the timetable to an extent), I have reason to believe that the birth pangs that precede the great Day of the Lord will intensify during my lifetime and that of my children.  Lord, unveil our eyes and prepare our hearts so that we can stand.

Supper tonight was great.  Usually Heather and Simeon eat at the Bethany cafeteria because meals are included with their rent for ministry interns at BHOP, but this week they’ve been cooking and eating at home with us.  Tonight we had chicken pot pie and Simeon was in his glory.  He loves Heather’s cooking.  So many good things come from sharing meals together – laughter, conversation, good food.  Afterwards Sophie had her bath in the sink – to the delight of several proud spectators.  It is good to enjoy these everyday pleasures.  There’s an important balance here – enjoy God’s blessings while we can without apology, but be ready for tests when they come without shrinking.


Reflections from Minnesota – Day 1

Today was our first full day in Minnesota.   We arrived at about 5:30 pm local time yesterday – bleary-eyed, stiff and tired, but very thankful to have arrived safely.  The drive was long but in its own way a good bonding time.  I’m really glad that we took the Northern Route again (crossing into the USA at Sault Ste Marie – not Sarnia or Detroit).  Quieter, less traffic, and far more interesting than driving on freeways the whole way.  And we avoid Chicago!

We discovered a great little country diner along US Route 2 in Upper Michigan when we made this trip last year, and visited it again this year for breakfast after a night of driving.  Good coffee, great hash browns, tasty bacon and sausage, home made bread, even home-made strawberry jam!   Can’t beat it.  I think it will become a family tradition, since it seems likely we’ll be making this trip again.

Church this morning was powerful.  The worship was deep and intimate, hunger for God was evident, the message was probing and challenging.  Lately I have been sensing a real stirring of desire for God to do a fresh work in me – I felt it again today.  I want to see revival!  I love many things about my home church, but sometimes it seems to me that we have gotten to a point where we take God’s mercy for granted.  Sometimes we are so casual about God.  This morning was anything but casual.  Yes, God is kind, but He is also holy.  Yes, He draws us into His presence and is full of mercy, but He is also far above us.  This morning I was stirred up again to seek God with all my heart, and to live for His Kingdom.  I want to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Sophie was dedicated to the Lord today!  Afterwards we had a great brunch, courtesy of the Youngdale family (Heather’s parents, who live next door, and their children – 5 of the 8 still live with them).  Marion and I are so grateful that our son married a woman who comes from a godly family.   They are also a very hospitable family – very gracious and welcoming.

It is great to see Simeon serving the Lord with his gift of music, and growing both in technical skills and in faith as he serves at Bethany House of Prayer.   Although we don’t get to see Simeon, Heather and Sophie as often as we would like, we know they are where  God has called them to be, and it is exciting to see how God is stretching their faith as they face and meet new challenges.   Marion and I will have to find ways of grandparenting that suit the situation.  Probably we’ll find a place somewhere in Upper Michigan or Northern Ontario where we can have an annual Hartgerink family camping reunion.

It was a privilege to hold and pray for my granddaughter today.  It is good to see Marion holding and cuddling Sophie, and Bethany and Joe getting to know their niece – a new experience for them.  It is wonderful to see Sophie surrounded by the circle of love as her Youngdale aunts and uncles, and Grandma and Grandpa, take turns taking care of her.

It is also a great joy to be able to do things for my children.  My parents were incredibly kind to Marion and me when our children were small, and now we have the awesome privilege of blessing our son and daughter-in-law, and their children, in whatever ways God opens up to us.   We are so blessed.  Thank you, God – you are good.