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
For the past several weeks I have been making Song of Songs a major focus of my devotional life and as part of that focus, I have just finished listening to a wonderful 12-part teaching series by Mike Bickle (of International House of Prayer) on the Song of Songs.
Although this is not my first time devoting a season of my life to the Song, this time around I found it so motivating that I wanted to encourage you all to consider giving some time to contemplating the message of the Song (which really is the message of the First Commandment, in poetic form).
Because the Song of Songs is poetry, and because it is set in a culture very different from ours, some parts of it may seem strange to us. For this reason a guide may be helpful. I have been greatly helped by Mike Bickle’s teaching on the song – as well as his testimony of how God overcame his reluctance and taught him to love the Song. So, for any who would appreciate some help, here is a link to the final teaching in the series, to give you a taste and get you started.
I debated whether to share this with you all, because I don’t want to just promote my own agenda. But I don’t think it is just my agenda. Teaching the Bride to love the Bridegroom is central to God’s purposes in the Last Days. Nor is this at odds with focusing on the Great Commission. Rather, it’s the fuel for carrying out that commission without burning out.
Often we pray in a task-oriented or results-oriented mode. We pray for this need or that need. There is nothing wrong with this – Jesus told us to bring our requests to the Father – but the highest goal of our life, and what Jesus is returning for, is to be a Bride that is fully in love with Him, so that whatever we do is fuelled by our love for Him which in turn is fuelled by His love for us.
Increasingly, this is the mandate that the Lord is bringing to the forefront of my attention – to go deeper in knowledge of His love, and then to let everything else I do be motivated, shaped and fuelled by that love. Although I fall far short of this, it is my vision and my heart’s desire, and I believe it is also the call of God, the reason He created us and the reason Jesus came to earth – that He would have a people who know the fulness of His love.
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.
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.
The historic Ottawa neighbourhood of Vanier, where Marion and I make our home with our daughter Bethany, has a reputation as a dark place. Over the past forty or so years, Vanier has been written off by many as a depressed area, the abode of undesireables and unfortunates, the home of crime, prostitution and drug addiction. And so, when Marion and I moved to Vanier a little over five years ago, we got some raised eyebrows. When I tell people at work that I live in Vanier, they often look a bit shocked, as if to say “Who in their right mind would live there?”.
Most caricatures contain at least some truth, and it is true enough that Vanier has had its share of problems. Yet Vanier also has many wonderful features, not least of which is its rich diversity of languages and cultures – French, English, Inuit, Portuguese, and many others. Our neighbours, for the most part, are ordinary folk who have the usual desires shared by people everywhere, and want to live peaceable lives in a safe community.
Still, it would be naive to deny the existence of darkness in Vanier. As I walk through the streets on my way to work, there are places where evil is almost palpable. Yet the truth is that there is darkness everywhere. It’s just a little more obvious in some places than in others. The pain and despair that are hard to ignore in some corners of Vanier are simply a reflection of the brokenness of our human condition. A thick blanket of darkness covers the earth. This darkness takes many forms. Murder, poverty, corruption, war, pollution, illness, abortion, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, prostitution, drug addiction, marriage and family breakdown, racism, genocide, persecution of religious minorities – the list goes on.
The common reaction to places that seem darker than most is to avoid them. But Jesus had a different approach. The world was also a dark place two thousand years ago. Into this dark world Jesus came, and in the midst of this dark world Jesus calls his people to live as bright shining lights that herald the coming dawn.
Over the past few months I’ve been blogging about my vision for a House of Prayer in Vanier. That vision is now one step closer to becoming a reality. Marion and I have met a wonderful praying couple who have opened their home as a birthing place for this new venture. We are less than two weeks away from our first potluck meal and sharing time. This gathering is open to anyone who wants to be part of birthing a House of Prayer in Vanier, or just wants to hear more and learn what it’s all about. I am excited about the opportunity to be part of seeing God knit together people from various backgrounds into a community of praying friends who want to be a reflection of His light here in this part of the world He loves.
It’s been said that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. Jesus calls his people to be like a city of light set on a hilltop, shining brightly for the world to see. That is our dream for the Vanier House of Prayer. If you want to know more, and you’re in the area, come and find out what it’s all about. If you can’t come, please pray for us. God bless you.
Date : Saturday January 26, 2013
Time : 7:00 pm
Bring : Food or drink to share. We will start with a potluck meal.
Place : 200 Levis Avenue, Vanier (Ottawa), Ontario
Hosts : Matthew and Simone Hadwen
RSVP : Please reply to this post if you are planning to come – especially if you haven’t already spoken to me about this.
I am not a big fan of New Years Resolutions. I haven’t made one in several years, that I can recall.
It’s not that I don’t like making commitments. It’s just that I prefer to let the Lord lead me into new seasons in his timing, and in my life, those new seasons don’t always correspond with the beginning of a new calendar year.
This year, however, many things are changing as the new year begins. I am re-entering the world of Information Technology contract consulting after a nine-month hiatus. Marion and I are also at the beginning of a new venture in our neighbourhood, as we take our first tentative steps towards the development of a community House of Prayer in the heart of Vanier. In addition, I have taken on a role as a worship leader on a once per month basis in a small church that is being planted here in Vanier.
Marion and I have always been good with money and we have never had problems limiting our expenses, but for the past few years we have had a fair bit of discretionary income. The new consulting contract, while a blessing, does not pay as well as the ones I have had for the past several years, with the result that our discretionary income will be somewhat reduced. And so, for the first time in several years, I have made a budget.
Along a similar vein, as I have considered the new ministry involvements that are starting up shortly, I have realized that they will require me to be more intentional about my use of time. So, for the first time in several years, I have found it necessary to create a weekly timetable, allocating specific chunks of my days and weeks to Bible study, prayer, worship, exercise, work, rest and recreation.
This may not seem particularly noteworthy or exciting. In fact, to some of you it may sound downright boring. But as I was considering all this, I realized that there is something else going on which is more profound. During the closing days of 2012, Marion and I followed several of the sessions of the year-end OneThing conference at International House of Prayer. For me, a key insight came as I listened to Misty Edwards speak about what it means to bear the easy yoke of Jesus. She made the simple observation that although it may be an easy yoke, it is a yoke nonetheless, and a yoke is a form of discipline. To bear a yoke means that I do not belong to myself. I am the bondservant of the One who gave his life for me.
As I listened to her words, I realized that the Lord was calling me to a more disciplined, more focussed life. For the past several years, although I have not stopped praying, giving, worshipping or serving, I have in a sense been waiting for a new assignment from the Lord. I had been thinking of this assignment largely in terms of an identifiable ministry role. During the OneThing conference, the Lord made it clear what my assignment is. Until He returns, my assignment is to love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to live my life for his pleasure.
I already knew this, of course; the Spirit has been working this understanding into me for many years. Yet somehow, the pieces fell into place more clearly and decisively as I listened to Misty Edwards a couple of days ago. Maybe her words had such impact because for the past thirteen years, she has given her life as an intercessory missionary, serving in a place of relative obscurity.
Whatever the reason, I now know in a way I did not know before that I have only one assignment. It is to live for his pleasure, to live before His eyes. There will be other secondary assignments, of course, flowing from that primary one. But the secondary assignments should never become my identity, should never be allowed to take over the primary place in my heart. All that matters is loving Jesus and living for his smile. For me, the budgeting of time and money is an expression of what that assignment currently requires.
As I was finishing this post, I received a phone call with the news that a friend from our church had died suddenly while on vacation with his wife. He was in his middle years, and full of vitality.
Such news is always sobering. Whenever someone dies, it reminds me that my life is not my own, and I can’t put off serving the Lord until tomorrow. It seems like yesterday that I turned fifty, and yet my sixtieth birthday is only a few months off. I want to live the years that remain to me with my eyes locked in on Jesus. And by God’s grace, that is what I will do.
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.
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.
At a bare minimum, a House of Prayer needs a prayer room. Ideally, the prayer room would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This would depend partly on the size of the team that God gives us, but the space itself needs to be one that lends itself to 24/7 accessibility. It should also be a space that is accessible to Vanier’s neediest residents. This probably means a space on or near Montreal Road.
The Village, a four year old Mennonite church located in Vanier, is exploring the possibility of buying a currently-vacant building on Montreal Road, and its pastor Stefan Cherry has expressed an interest in sharing space with an eventual Vanier House of Prayer. This is a possibility that will be explored further as our team develops.
Eventually, as God opens doors, I envision that the House of Prayer could occupy an entire house, which would provide space for a prayer room as well as the development of other dimensions of the HoP vision, such as community, hospitality and refuge.
Although a suitable physical prayer space is important, the most important single ingredient in a House of Prayer is a team of praying people who love Jesus and are looking for the coming of His righteous rule on the earth. Jill Weber, director of Greater Ontario House of Prayer in Hamilton, says that their House of Prayer has met in a wide variety of rented and borrowed spaces in its ten year history. Although a suitable space is important, God has met this need for GOHOP in a variety of ways.
During the years that the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness after their escape from Egypt, the Bible describes them as meeting with God in a Tent of Meeting – a mobile structure (Exodus 33:7-11). Our God is not limited to a single place or time. Jesus said that He would be with His people wherever two or three of them were gathered together (Matthew 18:20). If the Lord wants us to establish a House of Prayer in Vanier, He will provide everything we need, including a meeting space, and whenever we gather to seek Him, He promises that His tangible, manifest presence will be in the midst of us.