Tag Archives: mercy

Nuggets of Hope 12 – Cancelled


Many things have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel plans, meetings, projects, school, parties, shows – you name it.  Most of these cancellations are unwelcome, although some people are discovering a hidden blessing in the enforced slower pace of life.

For believers in Jesus, something else has been cancelled, and the cancellation has nothing to do with COVID-19.

Our record of sin has been cancelled. Our punishment has been cancelled. Our penalty – eternal separation from God in the lake of fire – has been cancelled.

The Apostle Paul summed it up with these memorable words (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

If you’ve been a lifelong Christian, it may be hard to think of yourself as a potential object of God’s wrath. But the Scriptures are very clear about this. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Had Jesus not gone to the cross for us, we would stand before God guilty and condemned.

If you are inclined to doubt this, consider one simple question. Do you want your own way? If you answered honestly, you have just admitted to being innately in rebellion against God. We humans like to think of ourselves as innocent and just. It’s other people who are perverse, not us. We’re very good at convincing ourselves of this. We far prefer this to facing our own guilt. Of course, if you’ve been learning to surrender to the work of grace, then you’ve been crucifying that rebellious, devious old nature – but you can only do that because Jesus – the perfect Lamb of God – went to the cross, wiped your slate clean, and secured for you a record of Not Guilty.

Let’s not waste the precious and wonderful gift of freedom that Jesus won for us. Let’s treasure it. If you have put your hope in Jesus, the wonderful, glorious truth is that you are not condemned. You could have been, should have been, but you weren’t, because Jesus took your condemnation for you. You don’t have to be afraid of COVID-19. You don’t have to be afraid to die. Your sentence was cancelled. You are free – free to live a new life for the glory of God.

Even if I don’t succumb to COVID-19, the reality is that I don’t know how long I have left in this life. When I consider what Jesus has done for me, I don’t want to waste the years I have left. My record of sin has been cancelled, and so has my ticket to the Lake of Fire. By the mercy of God, I’m going to miss that party.

Instead, I have an invitation to a much better, more glorious party – the wedding banquet of the Lamb and his Bride, a celebration of God’s glory, beauty and goodness that will never end. But I don’t want to get there, and find that I’m ashamed to go in because I’m not dressed for the occasion. I want to be dressed in the pure white garments of those who have been transformed by the love of Jesus.

That choice is open to anyone who wants it. If you’ve never given Jesus central place in your life, the COVID-19 pandemic is a great opportunity to take stock of where you’re really headed, turn to Jesus, turn in your cancelled ticket to hell and accept your free ticket to glory.

If you’ve already done that, this pandemic is also a great time to re-set your course and decide again that you want to be wholeheartedly for Jesus, so that when you get to the celebration you’ll have no need to be ashamed, and you can walk in and enjoy the party.


Nuggets of Hope 10 – Forgiven

In my home growing up, forgiveness was not something we ever talked about. I am very thankful for many things about my childhood, but giving and receiving forgiveness was not something we did well. When we had a conflict, we never talked about it afterwards. There would be a blowup, then the parties to the conflict would ignore each other for a while, and then eventually everyone behaved as if nothing had happened. But no-one ever acknowledged any wrongdoing or asked anyone to forgive them. It just wasn’t done. As a result, the residue of the conflict often persisted, and we all got very good at justifying our own position and finding fault with others.

It was only after being introduced to Jesus – as a real, living Lord, not just a figure from the Bible stories I learned in Sunday school – that I learned how to give and receive forgiveness. In the process of being trained in prayer ministry Marion and I were schooled in the implications of Jesus’ words on forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15),

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.

We were trained in the practice of confession, repentance and forgiveness, based on the instruction of James, the brother of Jesus, who advised his hearers to confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. We not only learned to forgive, we learned to repent, and to request and receive forgiveness – from others and from God. This saved our marriage and became a foundation stone for our life together. We haven’t always practiced it perfectly – it took me quite a while to learn not to be too hard on myself or my children – but over the years we have learned not just to forgive, but to forgive quickly and extend grace to others quickly – even when they have wronged us, and even when they don’t ask.

So what has all this got to do with COVID-19?  Am I saying that your personal sins are being punished by this crisis? No, the connection between sin and this pandemic is not nearly as linear as that. But there is a connection. The earth is groaning because of the wickedness of its inhabitants, and God is shaking the nations as he warned he would do, preparing us for the return of Jesus and the restoration of all things. At the same time, Satan is raging, seeking to discourage and destroy the people of God. This is a time to search our hearts and lives. Because of the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain for us, we can be completely set free from the guilt and penalty of our sin, but we do have to ask for that forgiveness. When we humble ourselves and pray, we receive assurance from God that we are forgiven, accepted, that there is no barrier between us and Him. We stand clothed in the purity and righteousness of Jesus. From that platform of assurance and confidence we can then ask Him for mercy on our nation and the nations of the earth.

I am writing this on the morning of Saturday March 28. In a little while a National Day of Prayer and Fasting will begin here in Canada. If you are able, and can get a connection, I invite you to join us by clicking on the link. If you haven’t already registered you may be able to do so. If you can’t join online, pray where you are. Let’s humble ourselves before the Lord, receive the assurance that we are forgiven and washed clean by His blood, and ask Him to intervene in this crisis.

God bless you.



It’s cold out there

Coldest Night Logo (Snowflake) Color - PNGIt’s cold out there. 

The past week, temperatures in Ottawa have been below -20°C all week long. Earlier in the week they dipped below -30°C.

Yesterday I took a break from work and went out for a walk at noon. While outside, I took off my mitts to use my phone for a very brief conversation. In less than a minute, my fingers felt almost numb. It took a long time for them to get warm again. In this weather, when I walk home from the bus at the end of the day (about a ten minute walk, quite pleasant under most circumstances) my nose and cheeks are very cold by the time I arrive home. 

Imagine how hard this cold weather must be on people who are homeless.

I seldom use this blog for fund raising purposes, but today I am making an exception. When I head out on the streets on February 22 as part of the Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds for Jericho Road Christian Ministries, I’m asking for your support. You can support me here. If you can’t give money, I would appreciate your prayers. Jericho Road serves broken people who would otherwise be homeless due to mental illness or addictions. Broken people matter to Jesus. They were made in God’s image and their lives are precious in His sight. He died so that they could be fully restored.

Some say that those who live on the streets do so by choice. In one sense, that may be so. For some, life on the streets may the result of a string of foolish or misguided choices. Even so, those who find themselves living on the streets usually do so because they feel they have no other remaining options. When I leave my warm house to walk to the bus to go to work on a cold winter day, I am glad I am not homeless, and my heart is moved with compassion for the men and women who feel they have no other option but to live on the streets.

Some say that in Ottawa, no-one has to live on the streets because there are places where homeless people can go for shelter. I have been in those shelters. It is true that they provide a place to sleep, and I am glad they are there, but they are not home.

Jericho Road is one ministry that offers another path for men dealing with addictions or mental illness, men who would otherwise be on the street or condemned to living at a shelter. Jericho offers a genuinely homelike atmosphere with structured living, responsibilities, medication if needed, counselling, Bible study and prayer. It’s a ministry that I am glad to support. The son of a good friend of mine was set free from years of drug addiction as a result of this wonderful ministry, and today is helping others get free. 

For a number of years, Marion and I were regulars at the weekly Jericho Road coffeehouse, where we led worship once a month, and hung out with men and women from the street who came in for a warm meal, a safe place, music and conversation. This was a challenging environment in which to lead worship, but I loved it. I remember one evening when I was sitting with a friend from the street who was admiring my leather-bound Bible. It had been a gift from valued friends. I knew the Lord was telling me to give it to him. I will never know the impact the Bible had on his life, but giving it had an impact on me. It was one of many choices that God used to soften my heart and make me more available for His purposes.

All of us make many choices daily. I want to make choices that prepare my heart to bear fruit for God. If He is moving you to support me in this walk, I’d be grateful for your support. But even if this particular endeavour is not something God is calling you to support, I want to urge you to consider your daily choices. It’s easy to condemn others for the choices they have made. But it’s far more productive to consider our own choices. Mercy, or judgment? Faith and love, or pride and fear? The presence of the Lord, or independence? Darkness, or light? 

Yes, it’s cold out there. The world is a cold, dark place, and getting colder and darker as the end of the age draws near. Even as signs of the Kingdom are increasing around the earth, and miracles, signs and wonders are being released in many places in great power, darkness is also increasing. But the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it and never will. I want my heart and my life to be a reflection of the warmth, light, love and glory of God’s Kingdom that is coming on the earth.

That’s why I am walking on February 22. If you want to walk with me, you can join my team here. I’d be glad of your company.

God bless you.



Blurry vision

I am now officially an old guy.

Proof #1 : Now that the youngest of my offspring has attained the ripe old age of twenty, I no longer have any teenage children. Instead, I have grandchildren. They are lots of fun, but their seemingly boundless energy also proves to me that I am no longer young.

Proof #2 : I have gray hair – what’s left of it, anyway – although my three-year-old granddaughter Sophie, while riding on my shoulders recently, patted my bald pate and loudly proclaimed “Gwampa, you don’t got hair – you got a head!”

Proof #3 : I also have glasses – not only the reading glasses that I began using a few years ago, but progressives, with a lens that has zones for short-range, medium-range and long-range vision, with no abrupt line between them.

Progressives are great, but they also have their limitations. The part of the lens devoted to close-up vision is quite small, and this can be annoying. Because of this, I have kept an old pair of half-glasses, which were originally intended for reading and computer work. I got them before my progressives, and I still prefer them if I want to look really closely at something – but that’s all they’re good for.  If I want to see long-range, they are no good to me at all.  I have to look over top of them.  If I do wear them while looking at something farther away, they make everything go very blurry. This can be quite dangerous when going up or down stairs.

A lot of Christians are like that. We are so focussed on what is right in front of us that our perception of the big picture is blurry at best.

This is a bit like going through life staring through a magnifying glass at the next immediate problem or obstacle. You may see that problem or obstacle very clearly, but you don’t see the big picture, so you end up stumbling over something you didn’t see, and falling flat on your face.

We need both short-range and long-range vision. If either one is missing, we end up in trouble.

Jesus chastised the religious leaders of his time because they had no sense of the big picture. Driven by fear of offending God, they had become so fixated on rules and regulations for staying pure that they totally missed the big things – the things that mattered most to God – justice and mercy and faith.

Others among God’s people – the ordinary folk, who weren’t so religious – were also blinded by short-term thinking. The details of their personal lives and concerns – the heavy struggle for daily bread and daily hope – had blinded them, too, to God’s big picture and their place in it.

To all of them, Jesus held out a golden opportunity to start again – to start fresh. He showed them God’s heart of mercy. lavishing healing and forgiveness on many who were undeserving but needy. He told them of the Father’s love, and invited them to a banquet that was coming soon, when the Son of Man would return in glory to banish evil and restore all things. Sadly, most of them were so busy staring at their current obsession that everything else was completely blurry to them. He warned them that unless they put down their magnifying glass and opened their eyes to the big picture of God’s purpose, the little world they had built for themselves would be torn apart and they would be left with nothing.

Some humbled themselves, heeded his words, and received new life. Most rejected their Messiah, missing their opportunity for mercy and a fresh start. The results were exactly as Jesus had forecast. Within forty years their people and their nation had been torn apart.

We are currently living in a world in increasing turmoil, even if the worst of it has not yet reached our doorstep. My own conviction is that we are rapidly heading towards the final crisis of history. The enemy is raging against the people of God and his rage is increasing. At the same time, the gospel is spreading even where the darkness is at its darkest. I recently read the account of a young man from an Islamic nation who heard about Jesus through an Arabic-language Internet ministry. He went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and all his dreams were filled with thoughts of Jesus. When he told his relatives of these visions, he was hospitalized and subjected to electric shock therapy to rid him of alleged mental illness. Eventually he was released, and has now found a church and some Arabic-speaking Christians who can answer his questions. Praise God that he has discovered mercy and hope through Jesus, and that he didn’t give up during the times of testing.

This young man has found life, but he had to pay a price. His story is one of many – some far more dramatic – that confirm my belief that the end of the age is drawing near.

Meanwhile, I am currently looking for work. This is my most pressing short-range issue at the moment. I can’t ignore it, and I shouldn’t. But I don’t want to become obsessed with this immediate concern. I do need to deal with it, but it’s one small blip in a much bigger picture. I am living for eternity, and I don’t want to lose my reward by losing sight of God’s purpose for me.

Each of you has your own immediate concerns – a house, a job, a child, a parent, a health concern – and they are valid and legitimate. But those immediate concerns need to be kept in perspective. Don’t let short-term thinking lead to blurry vision that robs you of your reward. Put down your spiritual magnifying glass, step back from your immediate concerns, and look at the big picture. Jesus is Lord! He is coming for his Bride! You get to be a part of that. He knows what you are concerned about right now – but he has something bigger for you to be part of. Don’t miss it!


Caring for ex-offenders

This morning Marion and I were privileged to be part of a seminar on caring for ex-offenders, sponsored by a coalition of ministries in the National Capital Region.

For several months now – ever since becoming part of the All Nations church family – we have been waiting for an assignment.  We are loving the relationships in our life group and the bracing atmosphere of a church family that is hungry for the manifest presence of God.  We are also being challenged and stretched by some excellent teaching from our elders and visiting apostolic ministers, complemented by another body of equally probing online teaching coming out of International House of Prayer.  All this is good – we have been receiving much, for which we are grateful – but we are not satisfied just to receive, so we have been waiting for the Lord to show us where he wants us to use our gifts and the lessons we have learned and are still learning.  Since this morning’s seminar, I have been wondering whether we may have found our fit.  It’s too soon to say yet, but I am sensing that God may be preparing us for something.

Working with ex-offenders wouldn’t be an entirely new thing for either of us.  During my years at Queen’s, I served as a volunteer in the chaplaincy program at Collins Bay Penitentiary.  Marion and I were at Queen’s together for several years, and she sometimes came with me to the prison chapel.  I also wrote a Master’s thesis on prison ministry at that time.  That was over thirty years ago, but over the past few years I’ve had a couple of other involvements with men who have been on the wrong side of the law.  In our house church in Russell, Marion and I worked for a time with a young man who had been in the Regional Detention Centre several times for drug-related offences, and was trying to decide whether he was serious about following Jesus and getting off drugs.  More recently, we’ve done some prayer ministry and some informal mentoring with an older man who has spent most of his adult life in prison, gave his life to Jesus while in prison, and is now learning – with some ups and downs – to live as a free man on the outside.

I’m not afraid of, or repulsed by, ex-offenders because I really do believe that fundamentally, every one of these guys is just like me.  Like them, I am an ex-offender.  True, I have never committed any criminal offence according to the laws of Canada, and I have never spent any time in jail except as a chaplaincy volunteer.  Even so, like them, I have rebelled against a holy and righteous God who desires only my good.  Like them – and you – and every son of Adam and daughter of Eve – I deserved God’s wrath, not his mercy.  I have been a recipient of His  mercy, for which I am very grateful, but what I deserved was his wrath.  This is not a popular truth, but it is true nonetheless.  The Scriptures are very clear on this point.  This is why the Son of God spent much of his time with people whom society rejected as ungodly, unclean sinners – because they, at least, recognized their need for mercy.

I am like the ex-offender in another way as well.  I have a tendency to deceive myself and others, and to hide from the light.  True, in my case this tendency has been largely eradicated by years of living as a disciple of Jesus, but I’m not naive enough to think that I no longer need help.  I still need all the help I can get, and I am committed to continuing to walk in the light so that my heart can be fully restored and I can learn to live as a free son of God.  This is exactly what my ex-offending brothers and sisters also need.

I’m convinced that if damaged human hearts are to be restored, voluntary, intentional accountability in a mentoring or discipleship relationship is essential.  This conviction was reinforced by my past attempts at working with ex-offenders.  Because I believe this so strongly, the aspect of this morning’s seminar that especially “clicked” for me was the presentation on mentoring an ex-offender.  This approach is designed for ex-offenders who want to become part of a local church after being released from prison.  Marion and I have worked with discipling relationships for years, and also done a lot of personal prayer ministry – a form of Biblically-based, Spirit-led therapy that assists people to move towards healthier patterns in their emotions, their thought life and their relationships.  We know the power of intentional mentoring to change lives, including our own.  Ex-offenders are no different.  Their problems may be a little more deeply-rooted, but they are basically the same as anyone else’s problems.  They are the problems of the human heart.  They are not problems that are too big for Jesus to solve.  He has been restoring damaged human hearts for years.  What it takes is a willingness to walk in the light, which is impossible outside of committed covenant relationships, because none of us can see our own heart clearly without the help of others.  The Apostle James teaches that we are to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another in order to be healed.  I find this simple remedy to be powerfully effective.

Does this mean that I am soft on crime, or inclined to excuse ex-offenders because “they couldn’t help it”?  Not at all.  It is true enough that many offenders have been the victims of childhood sexual or physical abuse, or other wrongs perpetrated by others, but they have also been perpetrators of wrongs that are just as serious.  This is simply the outworking of the truth expressed in God’s word.  The sins of the fathers are visited on the children, generation after generation, until the cycle is broken by the redemptive power of the blood of Jesus and the word of God.  No matter how badly our hearts have been wounded by the sins of others, we are always responsible for our own actions and their consequences.  Until we accept responsibility we can never be set free. This is one of the key lessons that can only be learned as we walk in the light with others.  However, since our God delights in showing mercy, as disciples of Jesus we should be looking for opportunities to restore the one who has fallen.

Did I say that I wasn’t sure yet about getting involved in this ex-offender ministry?  Hmmm – it seems I may have talked myself into something.  But before I get ahead of myself, I’d better talk to my wife – and Ben, who encouraged Marion and me to attend this seminar – and a couple of our elders.  Lord, thank you for your amazing mercy and goodness.  If this ministry with ex-offenders is something you want Marion and me to be involved in, would you make it clear?  We only want to walk where You lead.


God still believes in you

Recently I talked with a friend who is struggling in some key areas.  He and his wife have both been down a difficult road in life, and their marriage is not in great shape.

When my friend told me what was going on,  I felt very inadequate.  I wanted to help him, but the problems seemed so huge.  So I did the only thing I know to do when I don’t have an answer – I went to the One who knows every heart.   During a time of worship, I took some time to quiet my own thoughts, laid the whole situation before God, and sought to listen to the inner voice of the Spirit.  Suddenly I realized that there was something He wanted me to say to my friend.  It was simply this : “God still believes in you”.

I don’t know if my words encouraged my friend (although I believe they did), but I know they encouraged me.  If God believes in me, then maybe I can make a difference despite my inadequacies.  If God believes in me, then I can see beyond the pressures, fears and concerns of the moment, and look for the golden thread of His purpose and calling in my life.  If God believes in me, then my effort to follow Jesus and do the right thing is worth it.

I’ve messed up more times than I can remember.  I stopped keeping track a long time ago … about the same time that I finally got hold of the truth that Jesus loves me, that I don’t need to be perfect to earn His acceptance, that His mercy is for people like me.

When I realize God still believes in me, then I can believe in myself and find the courage to try again.  I can also believe in those around me, and honour and encourage them, even though they too have their faults.  If I need mercy, so do they !

God still believes in you.  Do you believe it ?  It’s true !  And it’s the best news there is.  He doesn’t make bad investments – he only invests in pure gold.   That’s what you are destined to become as you let Him continue to work in your life – pure gold.