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Nuggets of Hope 29 – Living Flame of Love

We live in troubled times. As if the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t present enough of a challenge, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has placed a spotlight on the reality of white privilege and the pain of the black community. Meanwhile, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head. A Montreal synagogue was recently torched, and fully 20% of Britons surveyed blame a Jewish conspiracy for COVID-19. And this is only a partial list.

In the midst of all this turmoil comes the Biblical feast of Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew), celebrated by Christians today and by Jews three days earlier. Originally a harvest festival, Shavuot was one of three festivals (the others being Tabernacles and Passover) for which Jews were expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The Book of Acts records that after Jesus had ascended into heaven ten days earlier, the community of about 120 disciples had gathered and were holding an extended prayer meeting. Meanwhile the city was filling up with Jewish pilgrims who had come from various places in the Roman empire to celebrate Shavuot. On the feast day, as the apostles were praying – probably on a rooftop terrace – the Holy Spirit was poured out in power, a crowd gathered because they heard God being praised and proclaimed in their various languages, the apostle Simon Peter preached a bold and powerful message, and three thousand Jews turned from their sins on that day, received Jesus as Messiah, and joined the community of His followers. While a nucleus stayed in Jerusalem, many of the pilgrims would have eventually returned to their homes, taking the new faith with them.

The new community of disciples was marked by several powerful features. They were full of joy by the power of the Holy Spirit. They stood in awe of God’s power and holiness. They lived together, shared their goods, walked in humility, loved their enemies and prayed for those who opposed them. Miracles of healing were common. Before long, persecution began to flare up as the new faith was a challenge to the established order.  Yet many were drawn to the new faith because of the undeniable sense that God was with these lovers of Jesus.

Two millennia have passed since those early days. The new movement, which began as a persecuted minority among Jews, soon spread to Gentiles as well and after a couple of generations had rejected its Jewish origins as it began to penetrate Roman society. Within three centuries, the church had become an established institution, supported by the state. Its history is a mixture of good and evil. The list of wrongs perpetrated in the name of Christ is too long for this blog. Yet many of the best features of our Western society are also directly attributed by secular historians to the influence of Christianity. By God’s grace, the same Holy Spirit who fell on the eagerly waiting fellowship on that first Pentecost has continued to bring repentance and renewal, and the number of those who truly love Jesus and His ways, and seek to follow Him in sincerity, has continued to grow.

In these troubled times, when many things are being shaken and stripped away, I believe it’s time for God’s people to return to basics – to our first love. The Holy Spirit was given to empower His people to proclaim the good news. He has given us many gifts of power. But His first assignment – His very nature – is to draw our attention to Jesus himself. I’m very grateful for the gifts of the Spirit. But I am even more grateful that He gives us the power to grow in love for Jesus and His ways. He is the living flame of God’s love, poured into our hearts. Whatever good we do – whether preaching the gospel, giving to the poor or caring for the sick – it counts for nothing with God unless it springs from love. But consistent love for God and His ways – which Jesus called the first commandment – is the one thing we are incapable of without the power of the Spirit. I can’t even love my own wife consistently without His help. We need the Holy Spirit.

In these times of growing turmoil and trouble, it’s increasingly evident that no-one has a solution to the challenges we are facing. There is only one leader capable of bringing peace, justice and healing to the earth – King Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, who will bring in His Kingdom when He returns. But He has given His people a deposit on our inheritance – the blessed Holy Spirit. In the chaos of our times – in the midst of adversity, when everything within us is crying out to God to change our circumstances – the Spirit empowers us to love and choose the Lamb and His ways. He is coming for a people who have learned to persevere and grow in love. In the end, that is how we will be evaluated.

Come, Holy Spirit.

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Nuggets of Hope 8 – Adopted

The children in this photo are orphans. They live in a group home in East Asia, run by people who love Jesus and love children. In this group home they are cared for by volunteer house parents. Having lost their family of birth, they have found a home in a new family where they are chosen and wanted.

This is a picture of one part of the Biblical meaning of adoption. It’s a picture of children who, instead of being rejected and discarded, are loved and highly valued.

The other part of the Biblical picture of adoption speaks of inheritance. Paul says (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV)

But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons,
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son,
and if a son, then an heir through God.

The reason for the gender-specific language here is that in that culture, it was sons who inherited. Daughters married into their husband’s inheritance. Paul uses the terminology of adoption as sons to underline the fact that as believers, we have come into a great inheritance. This is true for every believer, male or female – just as every believer is also Jesus’ bride. Whether you are God’s daughter or God’s son, you have an inheritance in Him.

There’s a third dimension of being adopted that is even more powerful. We can come to God as His beloved sons and daughters, and we can cry out to him as our Father, and he will listen.

Abba is not just the name of a famous Swedish pop band from the 1970s. It is the Hebrew word for Daddy or Papa. It conveys both tenderness and respect. This is the word that Jesus used when praying to His Father. He opened up for us a relationship of intimacy with our Father. Even though we deserve death and hell, we have been grafted into the family, given an inheritance, and given a relationship with a Father who loves us.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s easy to feel despairing, helpless and alone. In the face of these temptations, I want to remind you of these three powerful truths. If you have put your hope in Jesus, you are not alone. You are your Father’s son or daughter. You are chosen and loved by Him, and you have an eternal inheritance that nothing can take away from you. You are his forever, and you share all His glorious riches. We will receive the full inheritance in the Age to Come, but even now we have His Spirit in our hearts, giving us access to a foretaste of His blessings. So, in the midst of this crisis, we can pray, live and act with courage, boldness, confidence and hope – hope for the present and for the future.

God bless you.

 

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Raise a Yuletide glass?

Christmas is coming, and with it the inevitable holiday parties where food and drink of all sorts will be offered.

I love eating and drinking! Food and drink are among the chief pleasures of this life. Our capacity to enjoy food and drink is a wonderful blessing from our generous Creator. But, like all good things, these blessings can be abused.

In this short reflection, I want to consider the topic of alcohol use. My frame of reference in this post is that of a Christian believer. If you call yourself a Christian, I’m hoping this post will prompt some sober reflection on how we ought to look at this issue.

I grew up in a Dutch immigrant family. In my family growing up, it was considered normal to drink wine at celebrations. Alcohol was offered to adults, but drunkenness was frowned upon. Since surrendering my life to Christ at the age of thirty-four, I’ve given quite a bit of thought to this matter. As a new believer in the late 1980s, I soon learned that many of my new evangelical Christian friends saw alcohol use as totally off-limits for any genuine Christian. So I had some thinking to do. This post is the fruit of those reflections.

I have friends – brothers and sisters in Christ – who are recovering alcoholics, or who are married to recovering alcoholics. For them, alcohol is dangerous. It’s a no-go zone.

I have other friends – brothers and sisters in Christ – who have never touched a drop of alcohol, and who believe and teach that no Christian should ever do so. This conviction stems from their awareness of the potentially destructive power of alcohol.

I have yet other friends – brothers and sisters in Christ – who believe that moderate alcohol use adds to their enjoyment of social gatherings and does no harm.

My friends in the third group would probably see this as a matter of Christian liberty of conscience, much as the apostle Paul did in regard to the matter of clean and unclean foods (Romans 14), which was a divisive issue in the first century community of believers. His position was that as a believer you are free in Christ to follow your conscience in these matters.

But he also said something else, and to me this is the crux of the matter. None of us lives for ourselves alone.

Having given this matter careful consideration, I don’t see any Scriptural basis for forbidding alcohol use. It’s clear to me that wine was a common part of life in the Hebrew scriptures, in the Jewish community from which the first church sprang, and in the New Testament world in general. The use of wine was considered to be normal. I’ve heard the arguments that the wine used in the Bible was alcohol free, but I don’t think this conviction holds water.

Drunkenness, however, was and is absolutely forbidden for followers of Jesus. To live a life that’s led by the Holy Spirit, we need to keep ourselves free from other influences. This means that for a disciple, alcohol use needs to be restrained and moderate. And when in doubt, we need to follow the most important and simple rule of all. Are we walking in love? In other words – is our conduct helping others live well, or does it have the potential to cause harm to another? Is what we are doing aiding or hindering in our primary calling – to display the goodness of Jesus to a needy world?

So, to my friends who exercise their liberty to enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in moderation, I have a question for you to consider. When you make the decision that it’s OK for you to enjoy a glass of your favourite brew or vintage, can you honestly say that you honour God as the Creator of all good things? If so, good on you. But if you drink to excess, and lose control of your ability to govern your own behaviour, how is this glorifying to God? And even if you’re very careful to stay sober, do you choose to draw attention to your exercise of your liberty, maybe by posting a pic online, or mocking those whose conscience won’t let them join you? If you do, whose good are you thinking of? Is this in any way doing good to your brother or sister? Or is it potentially causing division in the Body of Jesus, and doing harm to someone who can’t handle alcohol at all, and might be influenced by your choice?

And to my friends who never touch a drop of alcohol, I have a question for you to consider as well. Are you mature enough to see your abstinence as a personal choice, an expression of your own obedience to God? If so, good on you. Or are you using it as a measuring stick by which you assess who’s “in” and who’s “out” of God’s favour, presence and Kingdom? If so, be careful. It’s not up to you and me to exclude people that God doesn’t exclude. From what I can tell by my reading of the gospels, Jesus ate food and drank wine with some people that were counted as “unclean” by the religious rule-makers of the day. Their salvation was more important to him than someone else’s external rules about who was in and who was out.

I was trying to think of a good way to end this, but I can’t really find a better way than by quoting, once again, from the words of Paul. Love does no harm to a neighbor (brother, sister). Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. When you get right down to it, it’s not about us. When we think it is, we get messed up. When we keep our focus on giving delight to God and loving those around us, we do well.

Happy Holidays! And may your celebrations make Jesus smile.

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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 20, I’ll be joining a team led by Jericho Road director Hope Versluis 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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Every nation, tribe, people and language

The Book of Revelation is punctuated by a series of powerful images of the heavenly world and the Age to Come. In one of my favourite episodes from this amazing hope-filled book, the apostle John is given a preview of the Throne Room of the Great King after the Great Tribulation. He sees a crowd of worshippers from every nation, tribe, people and language, giving praise to the Lamb who has redeemed them.

Last night Marion and I, along with about a hundred other worshippers, were given a small but rich and delightful foretaste of this wonderful heavenly reality. We were treated to a cross-cultural worship experience at Eglise le Sentier, a French-language Baptist church in Gatineau.

The evening was sponsored by CASE2, a diverse team of Christian musicians from the Ottawa/Gatineau area. Of the nine musicians who comprise this group, four are active participants in All Nations Ottawa, our home church. We had attended a previous concert by CASE2 – a fund-raiser for a 2011 mission trip to Burundi – so we knew we were in for a treat.

The performance was energetic and passionate. The band was clearly well-rehearsed but their musical presentation was spontaneous and fresh. The songs – all original – represented a variety of musical styles. The lyrics were strong, addressing a wide range of human experience and always leading the worshippers to Jesus.

As the child of immigrant parents, having grown up with three languages, I understand and appreciate cultural diversity. I also find myself increasingly aware of the wide variety of languages, cultures and theological flavours represented within the Body of Christ, not only world-wide, but in the National Capital region. Last night’s concert was a microcosm of some of this richness. The nine current members of CASE2 are active participants in a variety of churches in Ottawa/Gatineau, ranging from Evangelical Baptist to non-denominational charismatic. Two of the nine are French-Canadians while seven are immigrants to this country – six from Africa and one from Belgium. They represent at least three continents and several native languages.

None of the musicians have English as a first language, yet they had intentionally crafted a bilingual repertoire, with some songs in English and some in French. Even the testimonies and song introductions were presented in both languages.

Several of the musicians had contributed songs to the repertoire, and many of the songs were prefaced with a brief comment by the composer. This gave the band members an opportunity to tell their story. They spoke of how faith in Jesus had changed their lives, and gave strong encouragement to those present to trust the Lord and walk closely with Him. Several of the musicians have had the experience of being refugees from a war-torn nation. At least one has been a missionary in a foreign continent and has been shot at by terrorists. Many of them have lost a great deal, but every one of them testifies that in Christ they have found even greater riches.

Towards the end of the evening I found myself reflecting on what I was experiencing. My faith was being encouraged by new friends from a wide variety of backgrounds. They had bridged several cultural divides – the divide between French- and English-speaking Canadians, the divide between evangelicals and charismatics, the divide between African immigrants and white North Americans.  They were not only singing songs, they were sharing their life experience. The audience, too, was diverse. It was probably about half white and half African. English-speakers were definitely in the minority, but Marion and I were far from the only ones, and not for a moment did we feel unwelcome on “the other side”. And that is as it should be. After all, we were among friends – we were among God’s people. But it has not always been that way among those who name Jesus Christ as Lord.

This experience has left me grateful for the many excellent friends that God has given me. I have been blessed with friends from many nations, tribes and languages – friends who have known what it is like to suffer great injustice, yet who live a life of gratitude without a trace of bitterness – friends who are true servants, who encourage my faith, who challenge me by their testimony, who enrich the Body of Christ by sharing their gifts and their love so freely. I will be sharing eternity with these friends. God has called us to live and work in partnership as one family. I am grateful that He is giving me an opportunity to get to know, love and appreciate some of them on this side of eternity.

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Thirteen

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.

 

 

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Fresh vision for the House of Prayer

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.

Our first calling is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That is the heartbeat of the House of Prayer that Jesus is so passionate about.

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.

Re-Launch Details
Date      Thursday January 9, 2014
Time      7:00 pm
Place     283 Ste Cecile, Vanier, Ontario

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House of Prayer : Unity of all believers

The unity of all believers is a topic that is so fundamental to my understanding of the gospel that I almost forget to mention it, because I assume that all Christians share this conviction. Sadly, such is still not always the case. Although less prevalent than a couple of generations ago, there are still places where conflict prevails between professing Christians of differing stripes.

This must surely break the heart of Jesus, who prayed for the unity of his followers and set them an example of mutual servanthood. This was the cry of his heart to his Father the night before his death on the cross : that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

It’s noteworthy that Jesus saw the source of this unity in  the relationship between the Father and the Son. When our eyes are fixed on a Lord who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing and took on the nature of a servant, pride evaporates and we begin to find a new  desire stirring in our hearts to love and serve our brothers and sisters who love Jesus as we do, even if they see some things a bit differently than we do.

The contemporary prayer movement aims to bring Christians together in every city, town and village to pray for the advance of the good news of Jesus and for blessing on our neighbours, and to look for ways to serve them in love.

Local Houses of Prayer are most effective when they see themselves as servants and partners to the local churches that already exist in a given community. As primary vision-carrier for a House of Prayer in Vanier, it is my desire and aim to build a relationship of trust and goodwill with every Christian leader in Vanier, and it is my hope that as the House of Prayer is built by the Lord, it will be a blessing and a source of encouragement to every Christian community in our part of the city.

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House of Prayer : Where do we go from here?

So where do we go from here? How do we move forward with this vision of a House of Prayer in the heart of Vanier?

As one of my friends and readers has pointed out to me, talk is cheap. It’s easy to have discussions in social media about concepts, We may even think we are engaging as we “like” someone’s blog or Facebook posts, or “follow” someone’s Twitter feeds. But this kind of engagement costs us almost nothing. Unless this talk translates into some form of concrete action, it means very little. While social media discussions may be useful in stimulating our thinking, the time spent on such discussions can also become a substitute for prayer and face-to-face encounter with God and with in-the-flesh brothers and sisters – the kind of encounter that actually changes us.

If you have been reading this blog, and are sensing that God may be nudging you about getting involved with an eventual House of Prayer in Vanier, here are some next steps that we might take together.

1 – Further exploration of vision – while building initial community
The first step has two parts. I would propose that we do both of them concurrently.

Part One- weekly meetings To begin building community among those who are drawn by the vision of a House of Prayer, I’d propose that we begin weekly prayer meetings in January 2013, with a monthly potluck meal. The meetings would certainly need to include prayer and worship, since this is at the core of what a House of Prayer is and does, but they would also need to include a component of discussion and sharing around vision, so that people have a chance to ask questions and give their input.

If you like this idea, and would like to participate, please let me know.

Part Two – ongoing dialogue To continue clarifying vision, I’d suggest that as well as using the weekly meetings as a platfom, we intentionally use social media (this blog, podcasts, an eventual Facebook page) to continue developing our shared understanding of what a House of Prayer in Vanier would look like. I very much want this to be a collaborative process. I recognize that the mantle of primary vision-carrier for a House of Prayer in Vanier rests with me, but I also recognize that within the broad parameters of vision that I have already laid out, many nuances are possible, and many of you will have contributions to make as we move forward to discern what it is that we are called to do together.

2 – Visits to other Houses of Prayer
As we are discerning vision, it will be very useful to visit other Houses of Prayer to see how they do things. Marion and I have made a list of Houses of Prayer that we would like to visit, and we intend to begin doing this on weekends in 2013 (making at most probably two such visits per month, probably more realistic to think in terms of one per month). Any of you who are interested in coming along on any of these visits would be more than welcome.

3 – Developing a team
As we go through the process of building community and clarifying vision, I am hoping that each of you who read this blog will be asking yourselves “What about me? Is this vision for me? Where do I fit in?”.

Our long-term goal is to develop a 24/7 House of Prayer. But that doesn’t mean that to be part of the team, you have to commit to praying 24/7!  Of course no-one can do that anyway. That’s why we need a team.

The launch point at which we can legitimately begin to call ourselves a House of Prayer is when we have at least one weekly prayer watch. This would also be a good litmus test for an “entry level” involvement in the House of Prayer. If you can commit to one weekly prayer watch, you can think of yourself as part of the House of Prayer team. Beyond that, different levels of involvement will be appropriate for different people.

So, if you find that God is grabbing your heart with the vision of a House of Prayer and you want to be part of it – your involvement is welcome. At this early stage, when things are very simple, small and fluid, all that’s required is an email or message letting me know that you’re on board. As we go down the road, we will probably come up with some sort of verbal covenant to which we will ask people to recommit on an annual basis. This will provide everyone with a checkpoint or gateway – it will function as both an “entry point” and an “exit point”.

We will probably aim to have an initial time of covenant making by September 2013. Up until then you can be involved without any long-term commitment. When we make our initial covenant, you will need to decide whether you are called to be a part of the House of Prayer. Of course, guests are always welcome, so if you’re not sure, it doesn’t mean you have to go away – but members of the family will have a voice and a share in the family’s decisions that guests do not yet have.

4 – Setting up governing structure
Eventually, a leadership and governing structure will need to be established. I hope to work towards an initial form of this in 2013.

Also, in a nation in which Christian groups still qualify as charities, and where tax incentives are available for those who give financial support to said charities, there are benefits to obtaining charitable status.  This is likewise a goal that I will pursue in 2013.

5 – Comments
As always, your comments and feedback are more than welcome. Please let me know what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you as you consider these things. If you leave your thoughts as a comment, others will be able to benefit as well.

Your brother,

Peter

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House of Prayer : Why Vanier

Over the past year, I have had the privilege of meeting a number of other people whose hearts have longed to see a House of Prayer launched in Ottawa. Many of these precious people have been deeply touched by the power, beauty and intimacy of the harp and bowl worship and prayer modelled by International House of Prayer in Kansas City, and have been dreaming of a large IHOP-style House of Prayer in Ottawa.

When I first sensed the Lord nudging me about being involved in a House of Prayer in Ottawa, I too immediately thought of something like IHOP. I was both excited and intimidated by the prospect. I love the worship and prayer that comes from the IHOP Global Prayer Room, but was daunted by the prospect of coming up with enough trained musicians for 24/7 harp and bowl worship and prayer.

It didn’t take me long to realize that among my new friends with a vision for a House of Prayer in Ottawa, no-one had an answer to this dilemma. Everyone wanted to see an IHOP-style House of Prayer in Ottawa, but no-one knew how to get there.

My first clue that God might have something different in mind – at least for Marion and me – came when one of the elders of our church loaned us a wonderful book titled The Grace Outpouring, which describes the genesis of Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat centre and House of Prayer in Wales that has given rise to a number of other local Houses of Prayer in Great Britain.

I found this story powerfully motivating and encouraging because it made the idea of starting a House of Prayer seem attainable for a middle-aged couple like Marion and me. The couple whose story is featured in this wonderful book were in their mid-fifties when the Lord called them to this work. Like Marion and me, they felt disqualified on several counts, but the call wouldn’t go away,

I began to wonder whether a smaller local house of prayer might be what God had in mind for Marion and me. Then, one summer day as I was riding my bike through Vanier after having read The Grace Outpouring, I “saw” in my spirit a small local HoP based in a house in Vanier. Talks with Richard and Terry Long of Together Canada, as well as Stefan and Pascale Cherry of The Village, helped to confirm and clarify my growing sense that the ministry to which the Lord was calling us would be in our own community. Further confirmation came after reading Red Moon Rising, which describes a movement of local, small-scale 24-7 Houses of Prayer. Many details are still unclear, but our desire is to see a local HoP that would incorporate elements of worship, prayer, hospitality, refuge and service.

When the Lord Jesus commissioned the apostles just before ascending into heaven, he told them to begin in Jerusalem, where they were currently located, before spreading out to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). For most of us, our mission field begins where we live. For Marion and me, this seems to be the way God is leading us. We have sensed for some time that He wanted us in Vanier for a reason. That reason is now becoming clearer.

Vanier, like any city, town or village, is a place God loves, full of people with needs, people for whom Jesus died. It is also the community where He has placed us. What better place to birth a house of prayer, a lighthouse for our city and its people?

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