Tag Archives: transformation

Truthful lips and a truthful heart

Recently I witnessed an interaction that I found quite disturbing.

An adult caregiver was speaking to a young child. The caregiver had said something that was incorrect, and was acknowledging this to the child. But instead of simply saying “Sorry, honey, I was wrong”, the adult said “I lied”.

This is one of the sayings that has crept into contemporary speech from television. “I lied” is a truthful statement if you have actually intentionally deceived another person. But if you have simply made a mistake, saying you lied is actually confusing the issue. Mistakes are simply part of being human. Lies are something else entirely. When we lie to someone, we have intentionally deceived them.  Telling a child that you lied to them when you only made a mistake is deeply confusing because young children innately want to be able to trust the adults in their lives.

Most people of my generation were taught by parents, school and church that it was important to tell the truth. This basic moral principle comes from the Ten Commandments, and although it is far less widely understood or accepted in contemporary society than it once was, it is still a foundation stone of our culture. Cheating on exams, lying in court, being unfaithful to a spouse – these are all still widely understood to be wrong. But God’s word tells us that it’s not just the outward action that matters. In fact, what matters even more than the outward action is the intent of the heart. So, you can unintentionally mislead someone (like the adult caregiver in my example above) and you haven’t lied. You simply made a mistake, which you may deeply regret, but your intent was not to harm. Lies are something else entirely. They are expressions of a deceptive intent, and they are incompatible with the character of God who cannot lie.

When I was growing up, I remember distinctly a day when my mother spoke to me about my father. I was probably about ten or eleven years old at the time. This incident stood out to me. What she told me – with considerable emotion – was that my father was a man who would always tell the truth. His word could be relied upon. Deception was simply not part of his character.

I don’t remember what prompted her to make this assertion, but I do remember that her words made a deep impression on me. It was clear to me that she was completely confident that my Dad would never lie to her, that he was a man of integrity who could always be relied upon to speak and act truthfully.

I am very grateful for this example. Although my parents weren’t especially devout, this core principle of Biblical values was imprinted in my heart and mind by the way they lived.  I learned early on that being a truthful person is of great importance.

Despite this example, I can’t claim that I have never lied. I remember several occasions when fear of consequences prompted me to say something untruthful. But I knew immediately that my untruthfulness was wrong, I was deeply ashamed of it, and once I learned to take my sins to Jesus for cleansing, I knew what to do about it.

When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then later confessed his sin after being confronted by the prophet Nathan, he uttered these memorable words, expressing his awareness of the character that is pleasing to a holy God:

You delight in truth in the inward being

He then went on to plead with the Lord for cleansing.

Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Like David, if we say we love God, one of the things that we need to fervently ask Him to impart to us is a truthful heart. This was the essence of David’s prayer in Psalm 51. He was asking God to change his heart and make him into a man of truth. He knew the character of God and he knew that his own heart had been exposed as unclean. He desired cleanness in his innermost being. David knew that truthful speech and truthful behaviour arise from a truthful heart. He knew that only God could transform his heart and make him into a man of truth.

What about you? What about me?


A walk in the park

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.


Coldest Night of the Year

I remember when I first heard about Jericho Road Ministries from its founder, my friend Ray Desmarais. A compassionate man with a big heart for the hurting and homeless, Ray wanted to do something practical to help. Over the years, his relentless drive and passion led to the birthing of a ministry that has demonstrated the love of Jesus to hundreds of broken people in Ottawa’s core. While appreciating the need for shelters such as Shepherds of Good Hope and the Ottawa Mission, Jericho Road has chosen to offer smaller-scale, discipleship-based group homes with the aim of helping mentally ill or addicted men and women get off the street and learn practical life skills in an atmosphere of structured Christian community.

For several years my wife Marion and I were among the regular performers at a weekly coffee house offered by Jericho Road. We loved it! At the time, we lived in the rural community of Russell, and the coffee house gave us an opportunity to serve and rub shoulders with people that we wouldn’t normally have any contact with. Now that we live in the historic neighbourhood of Vanier, so close to downtown, I have a whole new appreciation for the work done by ministries such as Jericho Road.

I no longer sing at the Jericho Road coffee house, as there are now plenty of musicians to fill the roster, but on February 23, I’ll be joining a team led by my good friend Keith Brown in a walk in support of this great ministry, along with dozens of other Ottawans. The event is known as The Coldest Night of the Year, and takes place in cities across the nation in support of various charities that serve the hurting and homeless. In Ottawa, your donations will go to support Jericho Road. I’d be grateful if you would consider supporting me with a donation.

If you would like to donate, or would consider joining the walk yourself, you can do so by going to my personal home page. All donations are tax-deductible.

God bless you.



Cleaning up garbage with Jesus

This morning I had the privilege of picking up garbage in our neighbourhood park and some of the surrounding streets here in Vanier, the historic part of Ottawa where Marion and I make our home with our daughter Bethany. I was volunteering as part of a city-wide effort to get citizens involved in cleaning up parks and neighbourhoods.

Cleaning up garbage may not seem like a very enjoyable task. However, I actually did enjoy the work. It was a beautiful morning and the work was not difficult. I easily filled a garbage bag with cigarette butts, pop cans, coffee cups and other debris.

It wasn’t only the beautiful fall morning that lifted my spirits, although that certainly helped. I was listening to the voice of the Spirit as I worked, and it dawned on me that cleaning up other people’s garbage is an apt metaphor for what Jesus did for us on the cross. He took our filth – it didn’t belong to him, but he took it upon himself. He took it upon himself so that we wouldn’t have to carry it any more.

Not everyone cares about their filth. Some people make very little effort to get themselves cleaned up. This is true of some of the more run-down properties in our neighbourhood. People just seem to get used to living with a mess and to them it’s normal. Some of these people probably care very little if someone else cleans up their garbage. They may not even notice. In the same way, lots of people are so used to living in spiritual and relational darkness that they think it’s normal, and they may not even want to change. For lots of people, broken relationships, anger, unforgiveness, mistrust, immorality, selfishness and pain are just the way life is. Although Jesus paid a high price to clean up their garbage, they don’t really care. They’d rather live with their mess so they can at least live under the illusion that they are free to do as they please.

But others did appreciate the cleanup effort. I was thanked by several people this morning. A young mother in the park seemed pleased that I smiled at her cute six-month-old baby. She thanked me for cleaning up the park. Later, on my way back home after finishing my cleanup work, I was thanked by a man on the front step of the Inuit housing co-op where I had picked up all the cigarette butts an hour earlier. He seemed really surprised that someone would do that. I told him it was no big deal and he apologetically explained that there is a coffee can on the step that people are supposed to use for their cigarette butts, but some people don’t bother and just leave them in the street.

This, too, is a parable of spiritual awareness. Although many people seem completely unaware of what Jesus has done for them in taking their filth onto himself, others are genuinely humbled and grateful when they recognize his undeserved gift to them. The Holy Spirit prompted me throughout the morning to pray blessing on the homes and people that I was serving by cleaning up their garbage. I prayed that those who don’t already know God’s love would have their hearts awakened and their eyes opened. I prayed that they would see their need for a spiritual cleansing. I prayed that (like the ones who thanked me for cleaning up their garbage) the folks in our neighbourhood would have a revelation of the amazing gift that Jesus has offered them. I prayed that they would find gratitude arising in their hearts as they realize that Jesus has cleaned up their filth and taken their sentence of death onto himself so that they could go free.

Some people say that prayer by itself is of little value – that only when it is accompanied by action does prayer become practical. I agree that when we pray, we also need to be willing to be part of the answer to our prayers.

But consider.

Jesus only spent three years in public ministry. He preached to thousands of people, healed many, fed several thousand, entered Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful King but was rejected by her leaders, gave his life on the cross for the redemption of all, rose from the dead and appeared to more than five hundred people – and still he was left with only a hundred and twenty followers praying in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. That was his public ministry. Though it was laced with spiritual power, the results were relatively small. Only a hundred and twenty people were willing to call him Lord after three years.

Faced with this relatively meager result, what conclusion did Jesus draw? What did he do?

He prayed for his people. Faced with a world that needed saving, He did not conclude that he had failed. Instead, he poured out power on the hundred and twenty who were praying and waiting for him in Jerusalem, and set himself the task of praying for them and all that would believe because of their message. He has been faithful to his ministry of prayer for the last two thousand years.

Not everything that was done in Jesus’ name those two thousand years has been glorious. There have been episodes that were downright shameful, when you would be hard pressed to recognize that the church belonged to Jesus at all. And yet – and yet – because Jesus has faithfully prayed for his people, even in the deepest darkness there have always been witnesses to his truth, grace and mercy. And amazingly, the true life of God has erupted over and over again, sometimes at the most unexpected times and places, in the midst of the greatest barrenness and seeming despair. Why? Because Jesus was praying, and the Holy Spirit was stirring in the hearts of His people. The times when the church has glistened with hope and shone with His life and power have been the times when the church had its face turned towards Jesus in prayer and adoration.

Today, despite world-wide upheavals and trouble in many places, despite poverty and sickness and suffering, despite compromise in much of the church, despite decay in society, the good news of Jesus is spreading like never before. Leaders of the major missions agencies estimate that by the year 2020 (2025 at the latest), every people group on the face of the earth will have a witness of the gospel of the Kingdom in their own language. This is unprecedented, and is one of the Scriptural signs that His return is near.

And what has Jesus been doing these last two thousand years? It is written that He has been praying. For two thousand years he has been praying for his bride, waiting for her to come to maturity so that she will be ready for the great wedding feast to come.

I had a great time cleaning up garbage with Jesus this morning. Although the physical cleanup was of some value, far more important is the cleansing of people’s hearts that was the subject of my prayers this morning. And though the results of those prayers were not immediately visible to me, I am confident that not a word was wasted. Jesus heard every one. He has stored them up in the heavens, and they are awaiting their answer. Many in Vanier will come to the light, as will many in every nation. Many will recognize that they don’t have to live in their own filth any more. Instead they can live in the freedom of God’s children, they can know the joy that the Holy Spirit gives, they can live with clean hearts and bright spirits as sons of the resurrection and heirs of the Kingdom that is coming on the earth when Jesus returns.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.




Fail Brittania (from Dan Juster)

I don’t often reblog other people’s writings but I though this one, despite its somber conclusions, was worth re-posting.

Fail Brittania – by Dan Juster

My own conclusion is that this is one more indication that the Last Days are near. Not a reason to give up the task of cultural renewal, certainly. Until the Lord returns every generation of believers must bear witness. But ultimately, our hope is in his return to restore all things.


My friend Jim

I bumped into Jim (not his real name) a few weeks ago when I was riding my bike through Vanier. I consider Jim a friend, but I had lost touch with him and hadn’t talked with him in a couple of years, so I was delighted to see him again. He was waiting for the bus, and we chatted for a few minutes until his bus came.

My encounter with Jim was an answer to prayer. Jim doesn’t have a phone, he doesn’t use the Internet, and I didn’t know where he was living, so I had no way of getting in touch with him. I hadn’t even been thinking about Jim, but I had been asking the Lord for insight into a vision that had been stirring in my heart for some time now, and I realized in hindsight that seeing Jim at the bus stop was part of God’s answer to my question.

You see, Marion and I have been sensing for a while now that God is calling us to birth a House of Prayer in Vanier.

This raises many questions. Why a House of Prayer? Why Vanier? And, why on earth would God choose us for a task like this? Aren’t there other people out there – people who are better qualified, more gifted, more capable, younger and more energetic – people who could do a better job?

When I think about how to answer these questions, Jim comes to mind. My encounter with him at the bus stop was no accident. I had been seeking God for insight as to what a House of Prayer would look like, and God showed me Jim.

Jim is a wonderful, warm, generous, simple, kind, loveable man. He is also an addict who has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison. Although Jesus has changed his life in major ways, Jim has spent so many years in prison that he finds it a challenge to manage life on the outside. He has done some things and made some choices that have harmed himself and others, but he has a sincere love for Jesus, and I consider him a brother and a friend.

In some ways Jim is his own worst enemy. Because of some of the things he has experienced, Jim has a hard time remembering that Jesus loves him. As a result, he has a hard time staying clean. He also has a hard time staying out of jail.

Some would be quick to say that Jim’s problems are the result of his own poor choices. At one level that is very true, and Jim wouldn’t deny it. But Jim has also had a lot of strikes against him. What’s more, I’ve heard him cry out to God for deliverance. Even though he sometimes continues to make poor choices, deep down Jim has a genuine desire to get clean and stay clean, to get free and stay free. He just has a hard time walking it out.

Jim needs a House of Prayer. He needs a safe place where he can come and spend as much time as he wants in the presence of the Lord. He has found that in the presence of the Lord there is healing for his soul.

It is written that when Jesus entered Jerusalem just prior to the Passover, the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. This was not only an act of compassion, but a powerful prophetic statement. A blind or lame man could not serve as a priest according to the law of Moses, because his imperfection disqualified him from coming through the veil into the presence of the Lord to offer the sacred bread. By healing the blind and the lame in the temple, Jesus was saying that from now on, because of his blood that was about to be shed on the cross, the way was open for broken, disqualified people to come into the presence of the Lord, to be forgiven, cleansed, healed, restored, equipped, and qualified to serve him as priests – people who can carry the presence and blessing of God to others.

Jim is not the only broken, disqualified person who lives in Vanier. I live here too. Like Jim, I have many defects. Like Jim, my life has been changed because Jesus has come into my world and made a way for me to come into the Father’s house. Like Jim, I belong to Jesus and he is my identity and my destiny. Like Jim, I still have a long way to go.

Why a House of Prayer in Vanier? There are at least two people in Vanier who need one.  Jim does.  So do I.


Of whom the world is not worthy

Asia Bibi is a forty year old mother of two. She has been in prison in Pakistan since 2009.  Her only crime was telling her coworkers about Jesus. For this she was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death. Although she remains alive up til now, one of her jailers recently tried to strangle her, and an Islamic cleric has offered a reward of $8000 to anyone who kills her. Her husband and two daughters miss her terribly. She is allowed to see them once per week for an hour. In a recent interview, Asia Bibi stated that she spends her time fasting and praying and has forgiven her accusers.

In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister of Minorities and the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet, was assassinated.  Prior to his assassination, he had been working for a softening of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which mandate the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.  The Taliban claimed responsibility for his death, stating that it was his punishment for blasphemy.

Youcef Nadarkhani is a thirty four year old father of two.  He is the leader of a network of house churches in Iran.  He was imprisoned in 2006, released for a time because of international pressure, and then imprisoned again in 2009. Raised a Muslim, originally he was charged with apostasy for renouncing Islam. As Iran’s constitution officially guarantees freedom of religion, and does not support a sentence of death for conversion, the charges against him were later changed to rape and extortion – allegations that both he and his church members strenuously deny.

On several occasions Pastor Nadarkhani has been offered release if he will recant his conversion to Christianity, or declare that Muhammad was a prophet sent by God.  He has consistently refused to make any such confession. Reportedly, Iranian government officials, who want Iran to be a monolithic Islamic republic, are quite concerned about the spread of Christianity in their country through the house church movement.

Kim Sung Min, a former propaganda officer for the North Korean Army, is now fighting for the freedom and faith of his home country. According to the Voice of the Martyrs, “once a diehard socialist, Mr. Kim became disillusioned when he saw the lack of freedom and opportunity in North Korea while serving in the military. After defecting, being arrested and escaping again, Mr. Kim began spreading a new message of hope and liberty”.  He is now part of a team that broadcasts messages of freedom in Christ into North Korea.

Recently, Al-Shabaab, an Islamic terrorist group based in Somalia, sent a letter to Christian missionary groups operating out of Kenya that were working among Somali refugees.   The letter warned missionaries to stop infecting Somalis with what it termed “the cancer of Christianity” and threatened to attack and kill them.

These are just a few of thousands of cases of Christians who have been imprisoned or otherwise persecuted for their faith.  While some of this persecution is at the hands of radical Hindus in India, or Communist governments in North Korea, Vietnam and China, by far the majority of cases of persecution are at the hands of Islamic governments or mobs. But all persecution, whether at the hands of radical Hindus, Communists, or Islamists, can be taken as a sign that the oppressors fear the spread of the gospel because it represents a power that they cannot control.

Satan is the source of the rage that fuels these attacks. He hates the spread of the gospel in totalitarian regimes because it is a sign of his impending doom. He knows that the Lord will not return until the gospel of the Kingdom has been proclaimed to every people group on earth, and the Bride of Christ is prepared for her husband.

In 2003, two Chinese house church leaders were asked what the church would be like without persecution.  They responded that it wouldn’t grow. They said they saw persecution as a gift from God to the church, to bring about the purification of our faith. So, ironically, the very persecution that Satan incites in his rage and fury is turned by God into an instrument to bring Jesus’ bride to glory.  This has been happening for a long time.  During the days of the Roman Empire (AD 197), Tertullian famously wrote in his work Apologeticus “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. But even though these periodic storms of hostility against believers are nothing new, we can expect them to become more frequent and more intense as Jesus’ return draws near.

This is not the kind of talk that tends to make Western Christians comfortable.  We like our freedom, our prosperity, and the relative peace and safety of Western societies. While it is undoubtedly true that freedom, prosperity and peace are great blessings, they can also tend to make us forget our dependency on God.

There is a wonderful chapter in the letter to the Hebrews that recounts stories of some of the martyrs and heroes of faith among the people of Israel. Towards the end of the chapter, the author describes these heroes as people of whom the world was not worthy. I feel the same way when I read stories about believers who are suffering torture, imprisonment and separation from their families for the sake of the gospel. What especially moves me is the testimony of the love that Jesus frequently deposits in the hearts of these suffering ones towards their captors. It makes me want to pray for them.  And when I pray, although I do ask God for their deliverance, I ask Him even more passionately to grant them a revelation of His glorious presence with them in their suffering. We are told in the book of Daniel that when the three young men were in the fiery furnace in ancient Babylon, the king saw a fourth man with them. I believe the fourth man was Jesus who had revealed himself at their time of need. We are told in the book of Acts that when Stephen was being stoned, he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, ready to receive him. My prayer is that those who suffer for their faith in our times will have a similar experience, and that if they have to die, their blood will be the seed of the church as Tertullian prophesied long ago.

We are sometimes tempted to feel helpless, hopeless and fearful when we hear stories of persecution. The best antidote for such gloomy feelings is prayer. All of us who believe in Jesus can pray for our brothers and sisters in prison. We can also write simple letters of encouragement to them. Such letters and prayers may seem like weak tools, but that is because we do not think the way God thinks. Words of encouragement are powerful. Prayers are even more powerful. They have power not only to bless others but also to change us. If you want to know more about what you can do to stand with persecuted believers world-wide, the following links would be a great place to start.  God bless you.

Voice of the Martyrs Canada

Open Doors Canada

International Christian Concern


Lighting up the neighbourhood

This year I went all-out on Christmas lights.   Well, all-out for me, anyway.  Back in November I took advantage of Home Depot’s special offer on new Christmas lights for customers who bring in their old lights for recycling, and bought several strings of new energy-efficient LED lights.  Our house is now brightly lit up for Christmas, both outside and inside.

So what?  No big deal.   Lots of people buy Christmas lights.

Still, for me, this was a significant departure.  I have always been a minimalist as far as outdoor Christmas lights were concerned.  Conservation and environmental preservation were important values to me.  We only ever had one small string of lights outdoors, and they weren’t very visible from the street.

This year, encouraged by the fact that our old lights would be responsibly recycled and that the new LED lights would be more energy-efficient as well as brighter, I broke with my minimalist past. Now we have two much longer strings of lights in the front yard, and another two along the fence in our back yard.  The new lights have really made a difference.  Our house looks much brighter and more attractive from the street.  Even the ones in the back, as well as being nice to look at from our kitchen window,  are visible from many of the neighbouring homes, and also from the street behind us.

Marion and I live in Vanier – a part of Ottawa that has been known as the home of crack houses and brothels.  This is an unfortunate caricature.  Although Vanier is not completely free of problems (and probably never will be on this side of Jesus’ return),  it is in many ways a  delightful place to live.  Crack houses and brothels still exist, but their numbers are greatly reduced.  More and more people are fixing up their homes, cleaning up their parks, planting flowers in the summer and flooding skating rinks in the winter, walking the neighbourhood to keep an eye on problem properties, holding community parties and in various ways choosing to love the place they call home.

All of this is wonderful, and to a great extent it is an answer to prayer. But as a believer in Jesus, I am hungry to see community transformation taken to a whole new level. Vanier has been known as a dark place, and Marion and I want it to be a place where the Light of Christ shines brightly as more and more people recognize Jesus as their Lord.

So, I decided to buy more lights.

At first I didn’t quite know why I was doing this.  But gradually it dawned on my that my out-of-character decision to splurge on Christmas lights was a prophetic statement about what Marion and I want to see happen in our home and on our block. We want our home to be a lighthouse – a place where it’s easy to get connected with the goodness of God. We want our block, and the blocks around us, to be full of the glory of Christ as more and more people get to know that God is good and that they can trust Jesus to be the Lord of their lives. Lighting up our home for Christmas was a way of declaring all this – to ourselves, to the Lord, and to our neighbours – anyone with eyes to see.



Prayer walking through Vanier

Our pastor has called our church to a season of special prayer.   This in itself is an answer to prayer, as a group of intercessors at City Church has been crying out to God for over a year for an increased desire for prayer to be birthed in the congregation.  So we have been holding a series of weekly congregational prayer gatherings at City Church during the month of September, and we have sensed the Spirit of God at work as we have prayed.

Last Wednesday evening, those who gathered for prayer were led out into the streets of Vanier to pray for the community in which our church is placed.  Vanier is a community with many challenges.  A hundred years ago it was a suburb – a quiet village on the outskirts of Ottawa, a desireable place to build a life and raise a family.  More recently Vanier experienced gradual decline over several decades, as its abundance of cheap rental properties became a haven for drug pushers and prostitutes.  But during the past few years a new resolve has arisen among the citizens of Vanier, spearheaded by a coalition of community groups, that it is time to turn things around.

Although only a small minority of the members of City Church actually live in Vanier, as a congregation we feel we have a responsibility to seek the good of the community in which our church building is located and in which we gather for worship each week.   So City Church has participated in various ways in the emerging movement for the restoration of Vanier.  Our prayer walk was one expression of our desire to see Vanier reclaimed and restored.   It was also an expression of our conviction that our city – any city – can only find its true identity and destiny to the extent that Jesus is acknowledged as rightful Lord and King.

We stopped and prayed at several strategic points : a strip club, a little park across the road from a couple of rental properties that have a reputation as drug houses and are frequented by prostitutes, a new housing development, and an Islamic school.  As we prayed in each of these places, God was giving us His heart for the people we were praying for, and showing us glimpses of what He desires to do in each place.

In the past, prayer walkers from our church had tried to be non-obtrusive and stay anonymous, but the group that went out last Wednesday was big enough that anyone on the street would know something was going on.  We got some interesting reactions!  At the strip club we got a number of curious, wondering glances, but nothing more.   At the Islamic school we attracted the attention of some (white, clearly non-Islamic) neighbours who were offended that Christians would pray for Muslims.  The irony here is that I have prayed for many Muslims and none of them had any objection to being prayed for by a Christian – on the contrary they were usually grateful.  We desire to see our Muslim neighbours blessed by the knowledge of the One who truly embodies the principle of Islam (submission to God) – our Messiah Jesus.

At the park, across the road from the drug houses, we met up with a small group of Vanier residents, members of the Vanier Beautification Committee, who have been walking the neighbourhood weekly for over a year, keeping an eye on problem properties.  This was something we hadn’t expected, and it was a source of great encouragement to both groups.  After we had prayed, some of the folks from the Vanier Beautification Committee had tears in their eyes.  I was deeply moved myself, as were many in our group.

Prayer is powerful!  I fully expect that we will be prayer walking through our community again.  It is time for the church to arise and reclaim the land for God’s purposes.


Affecting genetics through prayer?

A recent National Post article reports on groundbreaking research at McGill University.   The research seems to show that physical and emotional abuse in childhood can alter the genetic code of a child.  The same team has previously done other research supporting the idea that life experience can affect and alter the genes that we inherit from our parents.

While this underscores the depth of the devastation that can be caused by abuse, it also gives us concrete evidence in support of a biblical belief system.  If genes are affected by life experience, we have a clue as to how a very important spiritual principle operates on  human biology.  We see patterns of sin becoming part of a family’s inheritance – the sins of the fathers literally being visited upon the children in their genetic code.

Although this is significant, I’m far more intrigued by the positive implications of this research.  If there is an interplay between our life experience and our genes, it ought to work on both the positive and the negative side of the ledger. The insights provided by this study help us to envisage a mechanism whereby the grace of God can affect our concrete life experience.   We don’t need scientific proof that the prayer of faith is powerfully effective – generations of praying believers have known it to be so – but I find it exciting when science provides supporting evidence of how the realm of emotions and relationships affects the systems that govern our physical health.   If negative experiences can affect our genetic makeup, setting us up for misery and suffering, why can’t an atmosphere of faith, hope and love affect our genetic makeup as well, setting us up for vibrant wellbeing?

Of course, faith doesn’t depend on scientific proofs – but in a scientifically-oriented age, this research supports the faith perspective that our genetic code is not our predetermined fate; it is just what we start life with.  The article cited above mentions other research by the same team supporting the idea that positive experiences can also affect our genetic code.  Believers in Jesus know that His redeeming power affects every area of life, and that we are children of destiny, not fate.  As we respond in faith to the call of God, it is possible that even our genetic code – once thought by science to be a sort of predetermined fate – can be transformed.   This may offer new insight into how prayers of generational healing and blessing might operate on a physical level.

History records that during the Healing Rooms ministry of John G. Lake, the US Government declared the city of Spokane, Washington to be the healthiest city in the nation.   The Acts of the Apostles similarly report that during an early period of vibrant faith, when more and more people in Jerusalem were turning to the Lord, crowds gathered in the city as people from all the surrounding towns brought their sick, and all of them were healed.

Can it be so where you and I live?  I see no reason why not.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?