Tag Archives: intimacy

Nuggets of Hope 2 – Friends with Jesus

The photo in this blog is of Dan, my best friend throughout high school and college years. It was taken in 1976 when Marion and I got married. I lost touch with Dan for years but then he re-appeared in my life in 1991 and we remained close until he went to be with the Lord eight years ago.

I am very thankful for his lifelong friendship, and remember him with gratitude. But as thankful as I am for Dan, I’m even more thankful for Jesus.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on friendship. Let’s take a quick look at some amazing words that Jesus spoke to his closest followers about this important topic. In John 15:13-15, Jesus’ best friend John tells us that Jesus spoke these powerful words about how He saw his relationship with them.

Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends
if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you servants,
for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all that I have heard from my Father
I have made known to you.

This tells us three things about what Jesus is like and what it means to be his friend.

First, he lays down his life for his friends. Greater love has no-one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  That’s exactly what Jesus did. He spoke these words to his friends just before heading out to the Garden of Gethesemane to be betrayed, mocked, tortured and hung on a cross. He gave his life for them and for us, so that we could stand before God with confidence, unafraid and unashamed.

Second, one mark of being Jesus’ friend is that you obey His teachings. You are my friends if you do what I command you. Jesus’ words have unique power – they are the words of life – and He is worthy to be obeyed. He’s our friend, but He’s also our Lord. David, the shepherd boy who became King of Israel, wrote that the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him – those who stand in awe of Him and treasure His counsel.

Third, although He is worthy to be obeyed, Jesus doesn’t treat us as slaves or underlings. He treats us as partners. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. In the full knowledge that they would all fail him badly, Jesus called these weak men his friends, and told them that he wanted to share with them every secret that He had learned from His Father.

I am so thankful that I can talk to Jesus. I am also very thankful that He talks to me. I am thankful that He is not ashamed of my weakness and my need. I can’t count the number of times He has instructed my heart and given me a fresh perspective that I badly needed. He corrects, guides and encourages those who want to be His friends.

I encourage you today to spend time talking with Him and listening to His words. Take a look at any one of the four Gospels. They are a rich treasure of heavenly insight and shine a bright light on the character and purposes of this amazing Man. You won’t be disappointed.


One thing remains

Marion and I were married in 1976. Our wedding – which we planned ourselves – was full of prophetic themes although I barely understood them at the time.

Like many church weddings, our wedding featured these well-known verses from 1 Corinthians 13:8-13.

Love never fails …
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

As a young man, I thought I knew so much. I realize now that I understood almost nothing of the ways of God. But I did know that I wanted to follow Jesus, and I knew that his way was a way of love.

Within a few years, Marion and I were raising children while seeking to pastor a flock. Although I loved my children dearly, I was a very imperfect Dad and an equally imperfect husband. I was a broken man seeking to teach others the ways of wholeness. This paradox brought many pressures into my life. But in the midst of all these pressures, I was learning to seek the Lord.

In April 1987 I surrendered my life to Jesus and Marion and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Joe was five years old at the time. It was a fresh start for us. We were learning to live life with Jesus instead of following him from a distance.

One thing was established in our marriage from those early years of walking with Jesus. Marion and I always prayed for our children. We so wanted them to know that Jesus was alive and that His promises were real. We wanted them to learn and walk in the ways of God’s love.

Fast forward twenty-eight years to April 2015. Marion and I had lived in seven different houses in those twenty-eight years. We had served in a wide range of different types of churches, and had experimented with many different aspects of ministry, business and teaching. We had learned to know Jesus as our Beloved and our friend. Despite our very imperfect parenting, somehow our children had done well. Our family had grown up, our three sons were married and were making their way in life, and our baby girl – now almost 23 years old – was looking forward to her wedding day.

Then the unthinkable happened. Our daughter-in-law Carmen, who had brought so much joy into our son Joe’s life, and had blessed us with a beautiful granddaughter, visited the emergency room of a local hospital because she wasn’t feeling well. Little did she know that her small intestine had become pinched and was dying. She became the victim of a misdiagnosis that cost her her small intestine and almost cost her her life. You can read her story here. Suddenly, this young, healthy, happy couple with the three month old baby entered a nightmare scenario that threatened to consume them.

In the midst of all this, we were also trying to prepare for a wedding.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

We cried out to God; we were humbled; we were overwhelmed with gratitude as hundreds of people rallied to provide practical help and pray for Joe and Carmen; our own family was knit more closely together; we saw the best and the worst of Canada’s medical system; we saw the Body of Christ at work.

Today, ten weeks later, many prayers have been answered, though some still await their fulfillment. After two critical surgeries, Carmen has been back home for a month, and is doing well. Bethany and Dunovan are married and enjoying their honeymoon.

The wedding was wonderful. Simeon and Heather and their girls were able to join us from Kansas City. We had some great family times. I got to walk my daughter down the aisle, and speak words of blessing over her and her new husband. Joe, Carmen and Maddie were able to be with us and join the celebration.

We are very grateful, but also more aware than ever of our own weakness and our dependency on the Mighty One.

Our life in this age continues. Simeon and Heather are back home with their girls, and Reuben and Jess are in France. Joe and Carmen are at the cottage with Maddie, Bethany and Dunovan are honeymooning in Nova Scotia. I am back at work, and serving in the House of Prayer. But even as I enjoy each day, my children are never far from my thoughts, and most of my thoughts towards them are prayers. I am more deeply aware than ever before that our lives are in the hands of a merciful God. I am looking for a City that is to come, and I long for the day of the King’s appearing.

When you set out to raise a family, you truly have no idea what life will bring your way.

Many things were important to me when I was a young Dad all those years ago. There were so many things that I wanted to teach my children, so many things I wanted for them.

Of all those hopes, dreams and visions, some have changed, some never came about, but as the song says, One thing remains. This one thing will remain for all eternity. Without it, I have nothing of any lasting value. With it, I have everything I need.

Jesus loves me, this I know.



The Bride and the Wedding to come

I have had a series of dreams over the past several weeks about the Bride of Christ and the wedding feast that is coming. This past week I had two such dreams, on separate nights, that were very similar. As I reflect on these dreams I am convinced that they contain significant messages, not just for me but for the people of God. In this blog I want to relate the core details of the two most recent dreams. 

The main character in the dreams was a young woman who was looking forward to her wedding. She was also a student who was trying to complete her studies. Her immediate challenges were filling her sights so that she couldn’t really focus on the joy of the wedding to come.  She was discontent and in distress because her circumstances were not perfect. She had goals that she was afraid she would not be able to achieve.

I knew that this young woman represented the Bride of Christ. She had a glorious future. She was destined to wear a crown of glory. But all that seemed very far off, and at the moment, her immediate problems were dominating her life. The crown she was wearing at the moment was not a crown of glory and beauty but a crown of fear and worry.

It’s as if she were saying “God, how do you expect me to get ready for our wedding when I have all these problems? Can’t you just fix the problems for me now, and make everything right? Then I can get ready for the wedding.” But what she didn’t realize was that the trials and tests and hardships were not a mistake and they were not an accident. They were planned by God as part of her maturing process. They were part of the beauty preparations that the King had provided for her. How she responded to the testing would determine the level of beauty and glory that would be formed in her.

One of our elders spoke to our church last week about the process of Christ being formed in us. Christ’s beauty is formed in us is as we respond to him in love and faith in the midst of testing and hardship.

Then the scene shifted and now it was the day of her wedding. She had come through the tests as pure gold, and she was radiant. She was dressed in white and was wearing a beautiful golden crown that was studded with gems. In the dream she was approaching a throne, in her wedding dress, and Jesus was on the throne. She laid her crown at His feet and knelt before Him. He placed it back on her head and raised her up to stand at his side. Her heart towards Him was to worship and adore Him, and His heart towards her was to raise her up to stand beside Him as his partner.

One day we will stand before Him in white and we will be wearing a crown of love and devotion and glory and honour and we will lay that crown at His feet and crown Him with it. But as we lay those crowns at His feet He will give them right back to us, and take our hand and invite us to stand beside Him.

We’ll say to Him “Jesus, you are so worthy. The glory belongs to You alone”. And we’ll bow down and lay our crowns at His feet.

And He will take our hand and raise us up again, and He will say to us, “My bride, you are so beautiful to Me. I want you to share My glory”.

That’s where we are going.


Neighbourhood Worship Nights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where : 283 Ste Cecile, Vanier

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

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

If you have questions, leave a comment.


New Years Resolutions

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.


House of Prayer : Personal History

My first model for a House of Prayer was the L’Arche network of communities built around Jean Vanier’s vision of simplicity, community, service and prayer. I was introduced to Jean Vanier’s work in 1972, when I was 19 years old. I was full of youthful idealism, but my understanding of the things of God was very fuzzy. I loved what I saw in L’Arche but didn’t really know what to do about it.

Fast forward 15 years to 1987. Having been a United Church minister for ten years, I finally surrendered my will to Jesus and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. At this point, genuine intimacy with God became something I desired with increasing intensity. At times I had breakthrough into real intimacy in worship, and my soul cried out for more. But despite my hunger for authentic encounter with God, for the most part my prayer life was driven more by a sense of duty and a desire to see things change in my ministry, work and family than by a genuine response of love to a God who desired an intimate relationship with me.

Fast forward another 20 years to 2007. My desire and experience of intimacy with Jesus had been gradually increasing. Over the years I had been growing in my understanding of the power and centrality of intercessory prayer in seeing hearts healed and lives changed.

2007 was a year of transition for Marion and me on several levels. The house church that we had been leading in Russell, a small community south-east of Ottawa, had come to an end. We moved back into the city, to be involved in a church in the historic neighbourhood of Vanier, just east of downtown Ottawa, and bought a house there.

Our son Simeon and his wife Heather lived not far away, but within a few months they told us the Lord was leading them to move to Minnesota, which is Heather’s home state. Marion and I were sad to see them go, but their move proved to be the stepping stone to some major spiritual growth that would highlight the centrality of prayer in our lives. During 2008 and the first part of 2009, Simeon served as a prayer intern in Bethany House of Prayer (BHOP) on the campus of Bethany College of Missions in Bloomington, Minnesota. BHOP was modelled on International House of Prayer in Kansas City. BHOP proved to be somewhat short-lived due to differences of vision, but during its brief life it had a powerful impact on me. On two separate visits to Simeon and Heather, I attended prayer watches and was drawn by the intimacy of the worship and the authenticity and intensity of the prayer. I had been to lots of prayer meetings but I had never really experienced anything like this.

During our 2009 visit, our own church was in a time of transition and I was using the time away to get some perspective on things back home. Marion and I were responsible for overseeing small groups and desired to promote a relational vision of church. I remember going for a walk and asking the Lord what I should do to advance this mandate. His answer surprised me. I distinctly heard His voice in my spirit telling me to join our church’s intercessory team!

From that time on, I have known with a certainty that I am called to be an intercessor. I began to follow teachings and worship from International House of Prayer and was deeply moved by the intimacy of the worship, and impressed with the depth, scope and quality of the Bible teaching. In May 2011 Marion and I visited IHOP for a weekend and again found ourselves powerfully drawn by the worship, the teaching and the atmosphere of prayer. It wasn’t just a momentary spiritual high like what you sometimes get from going to a conference. There was no hype. The devotion to the Lord and the sense of his immediate presence were deep and authentic.The teaching was sound, and deeply anchored in a strong view of the word of God.

Marion and I had many conversations about this. We loved what we saw at IHOP but we didn’t sense that we were to move to Kansas City. And from what we were coming to understand about the world-wide prayer movement, we realized that every community needed a House of Prayer.

Then on Canada Day 2011 I woke up with an awareness that somehow the Holy Spirit was prodding me about being involved in seeing a House of Prayer birthed in Ottawa. Since then the prodding has not gone away. After following more conferences online, seeking counsel on several occasions from Richard Long who has become a good friend, and an eight-month unplanned hiatus in my technical consulting practice during which I have spent a lot of time reading Scripture, listening to teachings, reading books on prayer, journalling, reflecting and praying, Marion and I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the Lord is prompting us to be involved in seeing a local House of Prayer birthed in our community of Vanier.


God’s hands

It has now been two months since my most recent IT consulting contract came to an end.  Since then, I have been on an enforced vacation.

Well, of course it hasn’t all been vacation. There have been days that were almost entirely filled with activity related to my life as an IT professional – reading, emails, phone conversations, resume tweaking, setting up my new laptop to run Oracle. But those were brief bursts of activity in a time that has for the most part been very quiet and restful.

You’d think I ought to be worried about the lack of work. The reality is, for the most part I have been remarkably free from worry. In large measure this is because Marion and I have been down this road before. I’ve had several interruptions in work since I started doing IT contract work more than 13 years ago, and the Lord has never left us high and dry. So when He whispers into my spirit that I don’t need to worry, I can draw on a fund of experience to remind me that He is faithful.

That’s a good thing, but it’s not the only thing that the Lord has been speaking to me about these past few weeks.

Marion, Bethany and I returned from Minnesota a little over three weeks ago. Especially since then, I’ve sensed the Lord’s restraining hand, keeping me from becoming too active in chasing work or creating projects for myself. Yes, I’ve set goals and worked at them. In fact, I’ve completed a number of items on a to-do list that included the yard, the house, the cottage and the trailer. But the item on my to-do list that the Lord seems to keep highlighting, especially in the last couple of weeks, is the imperative of using this time to dig deeper in my relationship with Him.

A couple of weeks ago, Marion and I spent the better part of four days following a conference on the free IHOP-KC web stream. We were both fully convinced that we had been directed by the Spirit to set aside this block of time. It soon became apparent why this was so important. We were both deeply impacted by the worship and the powerful teaching. God was getting our attention. For me, I realize the time since then has been different. It is as if I were a little child again, and my Father had picked me up, gently but firmly, and set me down in a protected place, free from distractions, where I could focus on getting to know some aspects of His plans, His purposes and His nature that I needed to see in a fresh, more focussed way.

Last night at our life group meeting, Marion described how sometimes, when dealing with a three-year-old who is easily distracted or just not listening, you need to take her aside, cup her face in your hands, put her face right up against yours, and speak gently but firmly to be sure that you have her attention. I have the sense that this is how God has been dealing with me the past while. This time off work feels like the provision of God – a time set aside for me to refresh some old things and look at some things from a perspective that I hadn’t really considered before.

The Bible tells us that for those who have been actively resisting God, falling into his hands is a fearful thing. God is capable of being quite terrifying. John’s Revelation calls Jesus the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and he’s not a toothless, stuffed toy sort of lion. Like Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales, he’s a bit unpredictable and can be wild at times. But to those who have willingly placed themselves in His huge hands, His touch is amazingly kind and gentle.

Kindness is always Father’s preferred way of dealing with us. It’s how he treats everyone who is willingly responsive to Him. Yet even in the gentleness He is also very authoritative.  I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father, and my Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of Holiness, are so much bigger than I am. It brings deep peace to my soul every time He sovereignly reminds me of both His power and His mercy.

Although I don’t have a contract offer yet, in my spirit I sense that this quiet episode will soon be over, and that before long I will be back at work again. I want to retain the fruit that has come from this time that the Lord set apart for me. I am so glad that he has picked me up, set me down in a quiet place, and directed me to set aside distractions and seek His face. Lord, give me the grace to be faithful and to respond to you with my whole heart and life, in a way that is worthy of You and that causes my life to shine with more of Your glory.



Give me oil in my lamp

One of the delights of life for Marion and me is our weekly Skype chat with Simeon, Heather and Sophie.  We love talking with our children, but our almost-two-year-old granddaughter is a special treasure.

Two of the things I enjoy most about Sophie are her zest for life and her zany sense of humour.  Both are seen in this photo, taken last August while Simeon and Heather were in Ottawa for a wedding.  It shows Sophie going into gales of laughter over a silly game with a water bottle.

Last Sunday, while we were Skyping with Simeon, he pointed the webcam towards Heather and Sophie who were playing a game on the living room floor.  The game consisted of Sophie lying on her back on the floor, Heather putting her foot on Sophie’s tummy, and Sophie screaming with laughter and begging her mother to do it again and again.  This went on for several minutes and I soon found myself laughing along with them.  It was impossible not to be infected with the crazy laughter virus.

As I was watching Sophie delight in her mother’s playful touch, I realized that I was seeing a demonstration of a key aspect of how God relates to those who belong to Him.  I was seeing a picture of God’s delight in his beloved children, and their delight in Him.  Even though as heirs of Adam’s rebellion we are fully deserving of God’s wrath and rejection, those who have put their trust in Jesus receive grace and mercy instead of judgment.  Instead of being rejected we are treated as His beloved children and heirs of His Kingdom.  Like the son who messed up his life, came to his senses and returned home, we receive a royal welcome when we turn to God in humility.  Our Father is delighted when we humble ourselves and receive His offer of mercy and acceptance.  He’s so pleased that he invites us into His house and throws a party for us.

Sadly, some of those who belong to Jesus seem to go through life convinced that God is not very happy with this deal – that he barely tolerates us, like some unwilling stepfather who has had a family of unwanted children foisted on him against his better judgment, treating us as his children in a legal sense, but interacting with us as little as possible except to pounce like a hawk on our misdeeds.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God is no disinterested, distant pseudo-Dad.  Rather, he delights in us as a treasured possession, rejoices over our fumbling efforts to walk with him and talk to Him, patiently feeds us and cares for us, frequently overlooks our childish weaknesses, and loves to see us grow up into maturity so that we can come into our inheritance.

Watching Simeon and Heather play with their daughter, it is easy to see how much they care for her.  They don’t have to pretend – their love is absolutely genuine, and she knows it.  Although they do sometimes have to correct her, she is completely secure in their affection.

Jesus told a parable about ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom to appear so the wedding festivities could begin.  Five of the ten prepared themselves in advance by buying extra oil for their lamps; the other five did not.  They had to wait a long time for the bridegroom’s appearing, and in the end only the ones who had provided extra oil for themselves were able to go in to the wedding banquet.

This is a sobering message that points to a crucial reality.  A life of sustained intimacy with God — represented by the virgins who had provided extra oil for themselves — has the power to keep us going for the long haul, even when things get dark, so that in the end we inherit the Kingdom.  But like the five virgins who ran out of oil and missed the wedding banquet, none of us can buy the result of someone else’s life of intimacy.  We all need to cultivate an intimate relationship with Him for ourselves.  The wonderfully good news is that if we make the choice to set our hearts on Him, Jesus delights in us and welcomes every attempt we make to cultivate an intimate life of worship, prayer and loving obedience.  If we try to succeed as disciples by relying on our own strength and ability to do the works of the Kingdom, and do not take the time to delight in the seeming foolishness of just loving God, we will undoubtedly fail.  On the other hand, if we pay attention to what He longs to give us, and take time to cultivate a life of intimate prayer, love and worship based on His delight in us, He will faithfully draw us close, sustain us through the dark times, and bring us into His wedding banquet.

I remember being overcome by the joy of the Lord on several occasions during the early years of the outpouring that began in 1994.  The Holy Spirit overcame my reservations and ushered me into an experience of refreshing unlike anything I had ever known before.  Those times of resting in the assurance of Father’s love had a powerful impact on my emotional life, providing an experiential knowledge of Father’s affection for me as His beloved son.  At moments when we are tempted to get discouraged, it’s good to remember the moments when the Holy One has showered His kindness and goodness on us.   Like Heather playing with Sophie, He delights in our joy in Him, and does not tire of showing us His goodness.  Yes, there is a time to get up off the floor, stop playing games, and get on with what we usually think of as “normal life”.  But it’s important to return frequently to the place of refreshing with God, whatever form that refreshing takes, so that our lamps do not run dry, and our life of service is characterized by the joy, vitality and assurance which are the fruit of intimacy with Him.   In the words of the old gospel song,

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
Keep me burning til the break of day

The Bridegroom is coming for those who have set their hearts on him, and our inheritance is waiting.


Naked and unashamed

This post has been a long time coming.  My apologies to those who have noted that my posts have been less frequent of late.  There were many things I could have written about, but there’s a difference between picking a topic and having the right one bubble up from within.  I knew that there was a post coming, and I needed to wait until it emerged into the light of day.  Here’s hoping you find this one worth the wait.

If you read my posts Changes and Sabbatical, you’ll know that Marion and I have been in a season of transition as far as church is concerned.  After four good years at City Church, Marion and I have sensed God redirecting us to All Nations Church.  It has been a good process, but it hasn’t been an easy one.

Don’t get me wrong.  We love our new church.  In many ways it has been like coming home.  Most churches use the language of family, but few embody the reality.  This one does. They genuinely love the Lord and each other, and are committed to exerting a transforming influence on their world in a variety of ways. The values of the Kingdom are understood and practiced here – team leadership, Biblical community, participatory worship, recognition that each member has a ministry, operation of the gifts of the Spirit, relational evangelism, disciple-making, personal intimacy with God and concern for social justice.  What more could we ask for?

Still, I have found the transition to be a challenge in ways I had not fully anticipated.  I knew this was because God was doing something in my life, and I had been journalling about it, but wasn’t ready to put any of my thoughts into a blog because I knew that they were still too raw and only half-processed.

Marion and I had realized, of course, that we would miss friends from City Church that we had come to treasure.  We understood that it would take time to build new relationships.  But apart from these normal, unavoidable aspects of being in transition, something else was bothering me as well.  Yesterday, after several weeks of waiting, journalling, praying and reflecting, my eyes were opened and I was able to see more clearly.

I find that God gets my attention in a wide variety of ways.  Scripture is the grid through which I process and interpret what I take in, but every experience in life has the potential to be revelatory.  I had an unexpected opportunity this weekend to spend part of a day at the cottage.  Sitting on the deck with my coffee, I spent hours devouring Wally Lamb’s profoundly moving novel The Hour I First Believed.  Lamb is a master at portraying human brokenness.  His books are deeply insightful, sometimes disturbing, and also at times very funny.  Although he does not shy away from probing human pain in its myriad of forms, Lamb’s books are also compassionate and full of hope.  Not a Christian writer in the narrow or obvious sense of that word, his characters nonetheless wrestle with profoundly spiritual issues as they journey from brokenness to wholeness, and discover who they really are as they turn to God.  As I read Wally Lamb’s book I was helped to understand my own journey more clearly.  I saw clearly what up to that point I had only glimpsed dimly – how God has been using this season of transition to expose my heart so that He could mold it and shape it for His purposes.

Part of the reason we felt directed to check out All Nations was because we were hungry to find our fit in a community with values similar to those we had come to treasure — a community in which our experience and gifts would be valued, and we could make a contribution without always having to contend for a vision of church and Kingdom that few around us understood.  Yet we realized that we couldn’t just arrive in a new family — unknown, uninvited — and define a role for ourselves.  That’s not how it works.  No matter how strongly we believe that God has reassigned us, and no matter what roles we may have been prepared for by our past experiences and involvements, in this wonderful new fellowship into which God has placed us we are unknown, untested, untried.  We have no role, no job description, no function and no track record.  To people who are used to serving in various forms of ministry, this feels very odd.  Marion, I think, is finding this easier to accept than I am, but both of us have sensed a restlessness.  We want something to do — something to sink our teeth into.  Not just anything — the right thing.

But God, as always, knows better than I what is good for me, and what will best serve His purposes.  In this process of readjustment I am being reminded of a lesson that I first learned years ago.  I am learning once again that God often won’t give me what I am longing for —  even if it is a very good thing — until I surrender it to Him.  That’s because He has something even better in mind.

Coming into a community with a defined identity and a defined role is easier, no doubt.  That way, we are seen as significant right from the get-go.  People accept us because they know why we are there.  But coming into a community with no identity and no role requires more of us.  It requires a willingness to be known not for what we can do, but for who we are.  It’s not wrong to be known and valued for what I can do, but true community is only possible when I am willing to be known for who I am – who I really am, without the masks we often like to wear.  If you can accept me and value me just as I am, then I know I am truly home.

In the Biblical creation account, we are told that when God first created man and woman, the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.  This speaks of sexual intimacy, of course, but also of emotional and spiritual intimacy.  They did not need to cover themselves because they had nothing to hide, nothing to prove, nothing to defend.

The thing is, He already knows me anyway.  He knows who I am, where I’ve come from, what I am made for, what I can do and what I can become.  The kind of community I really need – the kind of community everyone needs – is a community marked by the freedom that Jesus won for us all on the cross.  If his sacrifice means anything, it means that we are free to love one another because we have been loved by Him.  The kind of community I really need is one where I have no need to pretend and no need to be ashamed, where I am accepted and forgiven with all my scars because of the blood that was shed for each one of us, where I am known and valued for the image of God in me and for the potential Christ has placed within me to reflect His glory, where my brothers and sisters understand my weaknesses as well as my giftedness and call me forth to become all that I can be, and where I do the same for them.

And so, I have laid down — at least for now — the desire to have a role, to have a place, to have a ministry.  These things are all good in their own way, but I’m laying them down for something better.  I am realizing that all I really want is to be a Dad.  Fathers have nothing to prove because they know who they are.  Fathers can reflect the character of the Father because they have known the One who is from the beginning.  Fathers who are secure in their identity in Christ provide stability for younger believers so that they can more easily reach their potential.  (Moms are important too, of course – but Marion’s a lot better at that than I am).  Anything else that God opens up for me will be a bonus.

Lord, thank you that you know better than I do what is good for me, what will bring glory to You, what will represent the character of Jesus, what will bring true freedom to me and those around me.  I am deeply grateful — more than words can say — for Your grace, mercy and kindness.


In God’s image : made for intimacy

With this post I’m returning to the theme of our creation in God’s image.   As we’ve already seen, our creation in God’s image is a rich truth with many facets.  Each of these facets is of value in helping us to understand God’s purpose for our lives.   I want to close off this theme with a couple more posts before I turn to another basic principle of Christian faith and living.

HINT : If you want to see all the posts on this topic in sequence, click on the Category Basic Principles.

When God made the first man, we are told that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ( Genesis 2:7 ).   The first thing Adam saw was the face of God, and the first thing he felt was the breath of God in his nostrils.  The Hebrew word for spirit is the same as the word for breath.   So the creation account gives us a clear picture : from the beginning, it was God’s intent that humans would have deep, intimate fellowship with Him ~ spirit to spirit communication.   We were designed to delight ourselves in God.

When God made the first woman, we are told that He made her from the man’s rib while the man was in a deep sleep, and brought her to him.  The man immediately recognized the close bond they were intended to share.  We are also told that they were both naked, and felt no shame.  Again, this is a clear statement that man and woman were  made to delight in both physical and spiritual intimacy in a life-long one-flesh marriage bond.   The bliss of sexual union is God’s idea; properly understood, it is both physical and spiritual; and it’s an expression of His goodness!  The intimacy of marriage is so central to God’s purposes that it’s used over and over again in Scripture as an analogy for the intimate, devoted relationship that God desires to have with His people.

We were made with the capacity for intimacy – that is a crucial part of what it means to be made in God’s image.   It’s no accident that intimacy with God came first, followed by intimacy between man and woman.   And just as true intimacy between man and woman flows from intimacy with God, so sin destroys intimacy, tainting all relationships with mistrust, suspicion, selfishness, shame, and regret.  This is why we sometimes think of sexual desire as unclean.  It is part of Satan’s deception to take something that was originally good and turn it into the cause of so much pain.

But the wonderful news is that in Christ, the image of God in us can be restored in all its aspects.  As we allow the reality of God’s forgiving love to penetrate and restore our hearts, we can rediscover both the delight of true intimacy with Father and the delight of true intimacy in the one-flesh relationship of marriage.  Although Jesus tells us that after the resurrection people will no longer marry, I can only assume that the spiritual intimacy that is created in a true one-flesh marriage bond endures to eternity. And as for intimacy with God, we are told that in the new heaven and earth, when all things have been restored, His servants will see Him face to face (Revelation 22:1-5).  Shame, fear and regret will be gone forever.

To think about :

  • What gets in the way of true intimacy?
  • What fosters true intimacy?