Tag Archives: vision

Home Sweet Home

Twenty-one years ago I was in my mid forties and in the midst of a career change. I had been working as a pastor and church planter for over fifteen years and then had spent a year at business college. I was starting a new line of work in information technology while also attempting to plant a church. In May 1997 my family and I moved to a rural neighbourhood north of the village of Russell, south-east of Ottawa.

Ten years later, the ministry which was our original reason for moving to Russell had been destroyed, and Marion and I knew it was time to move on. Out of this painful ending, a new chapter was beginning.  We moved to Vanier, a historic neighbourhood in the heart of Ottawa.  The past eleven years have been full of blessing, with many new relationships and involvements, offering ample opportunity to enjoy God’s manifold goodness, serve others, and grow in love.

Still, despite the painful ending of our ministry in Russell, leaving was not easy for us. We had come to love the neighbourhood, the community life, and the family of God in the Russell area. Our four children had formed deep and strong connections there. Our three sons grew to adulthood during our Russell years, and our daughter grew from a little girl to a teenager. For her especially, Russell still feels like home.

Even so, Marion and I had never entertained any thoughts of moving back. Our life was in Ottawa now – or so we thought. When Bethany and Dunovan chose Russell United Church as the location for their wedding in 2015, I was glad to visit, but it very much felt like going back to a place we used to live. When Reuben and Jess bought a house in Russell in 2016, I was happy for them, but it didn’t really cause me to re-evaluate where Marion and I should be living. We had formed new networks, we were settled in new routines, we had become engaged in various productive and mostly satisfying pursuits.  We expected to stay in our little house in Vanier for the foreseeable future.

However, as I have learned many times by now, there is actually no such thing as the “foreseeable future”. Life is full of unexpected turns. When we think we have it all figured out, God has a chuckle at our expense.

And so it was, in the course of time, on a Sunday morning early in February, that our daughter had a dream, and told it to her mother.

Yesterday, Marion and I reached an agreement to purchase a house on Stanley Crescent, just around the corner from where we used to live. Today, Marion and I had photos taken to list our house in Vanier for sale. It will be on the market by Friday of this week, forty days after Bethany shared her dream with Marion.

Are we crazy? Maybe. But then, isn’t everyone who seeks to follow God’s leading a little crazy in the eyes of the world? I’d rather be a little crazy than live without vision.  Vision from God is like manna to my spirit and my soul. It gives fresh energy to these weary, ageing bones. And so, when Holy Spirit begins to show me fresh vision, I want to embrace what He is showing me, even if it disrupts my comfortable, settled routines.

I don’t know all the reasons for this move, but I do know that the Spirit has been speaking to me about a new season, with new priorities. I want to pursue those new priorities with all my heart. To me, that’s the only way to live. He’s also been speaking to me about redemption, restoration, and completion of things that had been abandoned and left unfinished – not so much in institutional ministry as in relationships. After all, it is relationships that are intended by God to be eternal. When all else fails, love remains.

New vision? New beginnings? Bring it on!




House of Prayer : Where do we go from here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother,



Resident aliens

When my son Simeon moved to the United States a few years ago, I was a bit surprised to learn that according to the United States Government, he was an alien. Even after getting his Green Card, which allows him to work in the USA, the correct term for his new status was not Permanent Resident or Landed Immigrant (terms that I was familiar with from Canada). According to Uncle Sam, even though Simeon has now lived and worked in the USA for several years, owns a house, has a bank account and pays taxes there, he is still an alien, and he will continue to be an alien until the day that he swears allegiance to the United States of America and becomes a United States citizen.

When we hear the word alien, for many of us the first thought that comes to mind may be of creatures from outer space.  But according to TheFreeDictionary.com, the word alien can also mean a person from another and very different family, people, or place. That’s an excellent description of what it is like to be a Christian in a hostile world. We are aliens. We belong to a different family, people and place than the children of the world. We have a different king, a different government, a different identity, a different value system and a different hope. Paul wrote that our citizenship is in heaven. We are citizens of a kingdom that will totally replace the current world system when Jesus returns to restore the earth and reign openly as king. In the meantime, we are strangers and aliens in the world system, living by the values of a kingdom that most people don’t see yet. One day the whole world will see this kingdom because it will be fully manifested on the earth. With the eyes of faith, friends of Jesus see it now, even though dimly, and we seek to live by its light.

The first Christians lived in a culture that was openly hostile to their faith, and some of them suffered greatly for it. The Apostle Peter was so aware of this that he wrote an entire letter to strengthen and encourage these embattled believers. He didn’t tell them to try hard to fit in and accommodate themselves to the culture they were in (which seems to be the strategy of much of the North American evangelical church these days). And significantly, he also didn’t tell them that their assignment was to take over the power structures and change the culture by force. The Zealots had tried that in Israel, and Jesus completely repudiated their approach, as Peter no doubt well remembered. Instead, Peter told them to be different, to live lives that were in stark contrast with the values of the world around them.

These were his words :

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

Basically, he was warning Christ followers not to adopt the standards, values, goals or desires of the people of this age, because this would dilute their witness and had the potential to destroy their relationship with him.

My personal circumstances have given me plenty of cause to think about these things in recent weeks. For fifteen years now, I have made my living as an IT sub-contractor. Some people think that consultants make a lot of money, but that’s not always the case. Marion and I home-schooled for most of those years, so my income was the only income for the family. As a fairly junior programmer, in my first few years my income was barely enough to meet our expenses. It was always enough, but there was never a lot extra. Gradually this began to change, and in the past few years our life became somewhat more comfortable. In an earlier phase of our life together, Marion and I had lived below the poverty line as church planters for years, and our personal tastes are quite simple, so we can quite easily be content on a limited income. However, I had been given a promise several years ago that the Lord intended to prosper us both financially and spiritually so that Marion and I could be a financial and spiritual blessing to many, and this had been repeated a couple of years ago by a prophetic minister who knew nothing of our circumstances, goals or visions, but told me that I would be a storehouse like Joseph.

With these promises in mind, when my last contract came to an end almost nine months ago, I was full of confidence in the Lord’s provision. Interruptions in work are commonplace for people in my line of work, but we had a financial buffer that was more than adequate for three months. My longest layoff ever had lasted three and a half months, so I was confident that I would soon have work again. Not only that, I had numerous indications that with my fifteen years of experience, my knowledge and skills were in demand and my prospects looked quite good. There were several possibilities on the horizon. I had been journalling and seeking the Lord, and had asked him whether He wanted me to continue in the IT field or step out into ministry on a faith basis. I sensed that He was saying I should expect to stay in the IT field for a few years longer. So, based on everything that I sensed God had been showing me, and the prophetic words I had received about being a storehouse, I confidently expected that my layoff from work would be brief, and that my new contract would be financially lucrative, providing additional seed for the storehouse that the Lord had spoken of. I even had sufficient confidence to turn down a couple of contracts in the early stages of what proved to be a nine-month waiting period, because I sensed that the Lord had assured me he had something better for me.

Since then I have gone after fifteen different contract opportunities, some of them very attractive, financially and in other ways. I was well qualified for many of them. I had so many near misses that I can no longer write them off as coincidences or “the luck of the draw” (not that I really believe in these concepts anyway : for one who belongs to Jesus, nothing happens purely by chance). The Word of God tells us that it is God who promotes one and brings down another. These matters are in his hands. I can only conclude that the Lord was making me wait for a reason.

Along the way, I did a lot of journalling, bike riding and prayer walking. I prayed alone and with Marion. I fasted. I worshipped. I wrote songs. I studied the Word and listened to many excellent Bible teachings which have had a profound impact on my relationship with God. I read through the Book of Psalms over and over again. I knew that God was doing something new in my life, preparing Marion and me for a new season. I found the extra time with God extremely beneficial, even though I found the waiting (without a defined end date in sight) to be a significant trial to my faith. In my times of seeking the Lord, I cried out to God; I argued with Him; I asked Him questions; I humbled myself and surrendered time and again. Many times I would ask him the same questions over and over again. “Have I been hearing you correctly? Is there anything I am missing? Is there anything else you want to say to me? When will the provision come?” And as I journalled and prayed, over and over again I received the Lord’s assurance that His provision would come at the right time, and that when it came, it would be just right.

In the end, I took a contract that was financially less lucrative than any of the other fifteen that I had pursued or been offered at one time or another over the past nine months. I am now going to be compensated at a level lower than I have been at for seven years. Some of my colleagues tell me they have not had a contract at these rates since the late 1990s. In fact, many of them would refuse to work for these rates, and some have implied that I should not take this contract because I am selling out. Yet, I have the Lord’s assurance that this is His blessing and provision for me. Along the way I have seen promises broken and colleagues blessed with positions that I can legitimately say I should have had. When I have prayed about this, the Lord has reminded me that these people don’t have the blessing of a relationship with Him, so I now have an opportunity to pray for them to see God’s goodness in their circumstances and turn to Him. I also will have the opportunity to work in an environment where I have worked before, with at least two people (a manager and a team leader) who are potentially open to the gospel but have not yet received the Lord. This too is an answer to prayer, but I can only be a blessing to them if my own heart is in a place of gratitude and contentment. So the Lord has given me an exquisitely designed test. No-one is able to design more elegant tests than the Holy Spirit.

Suffice it to say, this has been a time of humbling for me. I realize now, with the 20-20 vision that hindsight sometimes affords, that when the Lord told me the provision was going to be just right, he wasn’t primarily thinking of finances. Marion and I know how to budget, and the financial provision will be more than enough. It always is. And since finances are not my primary goal anyway, it really doesn’t matter. We’ll have less excess to give away – at least from employment income – but that’s up to God, not me. If He wants me to be a storehouse, he’s not limited to employment as a way of getting me there. Joseph didn’t get raised up to be the second most powerful man in Egypt through his own efforts. It was entirely through God’s grace and mercy. But he did have to go through a significant period of humbling, and he had to be faithful. In the end it was his faithfulness, integrity, and spiritual perceptiveness that drew the attention of the king.

This chain of events has served to remind me that as a Christ follower I live by a different value system than the world around me. I knew this of course, but when you work for years with the children of this world, it can affect you without you even realizing it. The nine-month layoff provided sufficient time for the gestation of a new ministry vision. It allowed me the opportunity to take my hands off some things that I had looked to for security, which the Lord told me to sell to provide for our needs while waiting for work. It provided a time for me to refocus and get my eyes onto Jesus again. I didn’t think I had taken my eyes off of him, but I have seen that I had become more dull and compromised than I had realized, and the Lord wanted to sharpen me, humble me, make me tremble again in His presence. There are things He wants me to do in the years to come, and to fulfil his purposes for the remainder of my earthly journey, I need to be a sharp instrument in His hands.

Like my son, who is a Canadian citizen living in the United States, people who belong to Jesus are citizens of a different kingdom. We are in a war with our own fallen nature, the world system and the Prince of Darkness, and that war will continue until the Lord Jesus returns to claim his Bride and rule the earth openly.

In the meantime His people look for his kingdom as from a distance, and live by its light in the shadows of a mostly dark world. That’s what it means to be a city on a hill. We are called to be different, not motivated by earthly power or the world’s approval but motivated by the smile of Jesus, the crucified one, our lover, our friend and our king, who is coming to reign.

The experiences of the past nine months have shown me again that I am an alien and a stranger in this age. I am looking for a heavenly kingdom that is coming to earth, and I belong to a king who is a passionate lover of my soul, and who will tolerate no rivals for my affections. A financial loss – which He is well able to replace – is a small price to pay to have my vision refocussed, my heart reawakened and my priorities clarified again. Thank you Jesus.


House of Prayer : Why Vanier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


House of Prayer : One thing I seek

When Jesus was asked which of all God’s commandments was first in importance, he answered without any hesitation.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 10:28-30)

It may seem difficult at first glance to love a being that we cannot see. Yet this was not God’s original intent. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked with God (Genesis 3:8), and in the New Jerusalem, the redeemed will see His face (Revelation 22:4). Lovers of God through the generations have found that to those who seek him, he discloses enough of himself to keep us hungering for more. King David, Israel’s Psalmist, was fascinated with the beauty of the Lord, and declared,

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

When Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two (Mark 15:37-38). This signifies that because Jesus has paid the price for our sins, we can approach the presence of the Holy One without shame and without fear. Yet those who belong to God often encounter many distractions and many impediments to prayer. And so the first and foremost goal of a House of Prayer is to encourage Gods people to come into His presence, by providing a place and an atmosphere that encourages prayer. The God of the Bible is a God who draws near to His people. He promises that if we draw near to Him with a sincere heart, He will draw near to us (James 4:8,Hebrews 10:19-22).

When we draw near to God, it is natural for us to present our requests to Him (Philippians 4:6, Matthew 7:7). We petition him for his favour and intervention in specific situations, not only for ourselves but for the needs of our community, our leaders, and the nations (1 Timothy 2:1-4). The Bible strongly encourages us to do all these things. Most of all Jesus instructed us to petition God for the coming of His Kingdom on earth as in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Yet even when our requests are godly ones, there is something more important than bringing requests to God. First and foremost, in the House of Prayer we come to love him with our songs of worship and our prayers of adoration and thanks and praise. (Hebrews 13:15, 1 Peter 2:5) These are expressions of the love of our hearts, and we find that as we focus our loving attention on God, he changes our perspective on everything else in our lives, and gives us eyes of faith, so that the rest of our prayers are filled with faith and the confident expectation of an answer.


Why a House of Prayer?

As Marion and I started to explore the teaching and worship emanating from International House of Prayer, we soon realized that we had a lot to learn.

Since then we have learned that Houses of Prayer of different shapes and sizes have begun springing up all over the world over the past twenty years. Some are tiny, some have grown quite large. Some have developed a distinctive way of praying (often known as harp and bowl worship, based on Revelation 5:8) and consciously undertake to offer worship and prayer 24/7 in the spirit of the Tabernacle of David. Others incorporate a variety of forms of prayer, sometimes with music and sometimes not. In some houses of prayer, a variety of artistic forms are encouraged as expressions of prayer. Some function as houses of hospitality or retreat centres, but still incorporate a prayer room. Many houses of prayer have begun to incorporate an emphasis on works of compassion and social justice in addition to prayer.

Despite all this diversity of expression, the world-wide prayer movement that has been burgeoning over the past couple of decades is based on a number of shared values and convictions.  While the values and convictions listed below may not be shared by all Houses of Prayer, they are common to most.

Why a House of Prayer? Here are some foundational Scriptural reasons.

First and foremost, the prayer movement springs from a a conviction that Jesus is returning for a praying church (Luke 18:6-8) that is passionately in love with her bridegroom (Song of Songs 5:8) and longs for his return (Revelation 22:17). The bridegroom looks on persevering prayer from his church as a sign of faith (Luke 18:8).

Another foundational conviction of the prayer movement is that wherever we are placed on the earth, it is never an accident (Acts 17:26-27). God has determined our dwelling place, and we are commanded to petition God for blessing on the city and nation where God has placed us (Jeremiah 29:7), pray for its leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and seek its good as humble servants. Praying for our city and doing works of justice and compassion in our city are consistent with Jesus’ command that his followers should be as visible as a shining city on a hilltop. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Many in the world-wide prayer movement place a special priority on prayer for Israel, in the conviction that Israel still holds a central place in God’s plan to redeem and restore the earth, and that God calls his people to cry out to him day and night for the salvation of Israel and the peace of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 62:6-7Romans 11:25-27Psalm 122:6)

The prophet Isaiah, as quoted by Jesus, referred to the Temple as God’s house and stated that it was to be a house of prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7 , Mark 11:17) Since the people of God are described as being his temple (Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:5), these words of Jesus can be taken on two levels. They clearly refer to his desire that the whole church would be a people of prayer, but many in the prayer movement have come to believe that there is also, in every generation until Jesus returns, a calling upon God’s people to establish special places that are consecrated for the purpose of prayer in each city and town.

Many in the prayer movement see the spread of houses of prayer across the earth as a sign that Jesus is preparing his bride for his return. One of the purposes of the prayer movement is to call the whole church to rise up into a lifestyle of purity, holiness and wholehearted devotion to God. (Ephesians 5:25-27, 1 Peter 1:14-16)

Jesus has called his people to love one another as a sign of his life in us. Many houses of prayer place an emphasis on developing a vibrant Christian community that demonstrates love for one another and for those in need. (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:18, Hebrews 13:15-16)

Paul commended Philemon for his ministry of refreshing and encouraging the hearts of other believers (Philemon 1:7) and knew he himself could always find a hospitable welcome in Philemon’s house (Philemon 1:22). The values of hospitality and encouragement to other believers are an important part of the ethos of a house of prayer.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons for establishing a House of Prayer in any community, but it is a starting place. These are some of the values that are in our hearts as Marion and I consider this mandate.


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.


What kind of Canada?

I am writing this on the eve of Canada Day.  Prince William and his bride Kate have just completed the first day of their highly-anticipated  visit to our land.  Here in the nation’s capital, the Canada Day crowds are expected to be much larger than usual.   Many people are eagerly looking forward to getting a glimpse of the newly married royal couple. In part, I believe, that’s because William and Kate represent the hope of a new beginning for the royal family which has seen such turmoil ever since Charles and Diana’s marriage began to come apart.

Tomorrow’s Canada Day festivities will be a chance for Canadians to show our affection not just for the royal couple, but also for our country.  Our Prime Minister has taken to sometimes ending speeches with the words “God bless Canada”.  Just as most Canadians seem to genuinely wish this young couple well and want their marriage to work out, so most also genuinely want our nation of Canada to be a happy, successful, blessed land.

Though many may think of God’s blessing as something akin to good luck — you either have it or you don’t, but you can’t do much about it — the Bible does not support this view.   The blessing or favour of God is sovereign — that is, we can’t control it, we can only receive it as a gift — but it is not random or arbitrary.  God’s word makes it very clear that the choices we make, as individuals and as a nation, have everything to do with the extent to which we experience the blessing of God.

Several weeks ago, a team of young runners set out on the One Nation Run, a cross-Canada campaign to raise awareness and funds towards the elimination of child poverty in Canada.  By all accounts, the run is going well.  The runners are encouraged, support is growing, and donations are coming in.

Like any physical exercise, running is exhilarating, but it’s also hard work, requiring a considerable amount of self-discipline.  Why do they make the effort? They are inspired by a vision of  a more just and compassionate society.  These young runners are devoting their time and energy to promoting a Biblical value – they are speaking up for the weakest and most vulnerable in our land.  They are depending on God for their strength, and I believe their righteous cause attracts his favour.

In total contrast to this purposeful and selfless activity stands the chaotic and senseless behaviour of the violent, alcohol-fuelled mob that torched vehicles and looted businesses in the streets of Vancouver a few weeks ago after the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.  These events prompted much agonizing and soul-searching, everyone wondering aloud what makes people behave in such a destructive, senseless manner.  I mean, aren’t Canadians basically good, decent people?  Other nations might be perverse, greedy and selfish – but not us.  Canadians are good – right?

In the aftermath of the riots, I found myself disturbed by the many expressions of anger and even hatred towards the rioters.  The parents of  Nathan Kotylak, the young water polo player who was suspended from the national team for his part in the riots, found it necessary to leave their home and shut down their business temporarily as a result of the many threatening and abusive messages they received.  This was in spite of the fact that their son publicly confessed his part in the mob activity and openly acknowledged how wrong his actions had been.

Why were people so angry with the rioters?  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying the rioters’ behaviour was right — far from it.  I’m just saying that most Canadians are living under the illusion that we are basically good people and that Canada is basically a good country, populated by good, decent people like us.  The riots totally violate this illusion, so to reinforce our false image of ourselves as a good nation populated by good people, we portray the rioters as perverse exceptions to the essential goodness of the Canadian (or Vancouverite) character.

The Bible paints a very different picture of human nature.  It’s not a popular view these days, even among Christians – but the Bible clearly portrays human nature as thoroughly corrupted by sin, and says that until we are born again and our hearts are restored, we are not capable of being good.  We can only consistently produce the fruit of righteous behaviour by the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, the instruction of the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Vancouver riots shouldn’t surprise us.  They are the inevitable outworking of a society that has – for the most part – turned its back on God.  Conscience has to be shaped, and in the absence of a relationship with Jesus, one’s conscience will inevitably reflect a mixture of truth and falsehood.   I have atheist friends who maintain that they can be good without God.  I maintain that whatever goodness and idealism they display comes mostly from being raised in a culture that is based on Biblical values, whether they realize it or not.  To take just one example, whereas those raised in a Biblical value system place a high priority on truthfulness,  there are belief systems (including Islam, although it’s not politically correct to say so) in which deception is seen as acceptable and even admirable.  My point is that the farther our culture gets from God, the more it seems natural to us to do and approve those things that the Bible calls evil.  But since we still have some sense of right and wrong, and we don’t want to think of ourselves as unrighteous, we are quick to condemn those – like the Vancouver rioters – who do things that even our weakened consciences can recognize as evil.

On the stones of the Peace Tower three verses of Scripture are inscribed.  One of the verses, Proverbs 29:18, declares: where there is no vision, the people perish.  Another translation puts it like this: where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.   The rioters on the streets of Vancouver found it relatively easy to cast off restraint because they are the products of a society that has chosen to ignore the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  By contrast, the runners in One Nation Run – as well as all others who have chosen to live as disciples of Jesus – have a vision and a revelation to live by.  Because Jesus has opened their eyes and brought them from death to life, they have the power to resist evil and let His light shine through their lives (Philippians 2:14-16, Matthew 5:13-16)

So, what kind of country do we want to live in?  Do we want to be part of a nation that has cast off all restraint, where everyone does as he sees fit?  Many would say this is freedom, but the Bible declares that in fact it is bondage.   Or, do we want to live as citizens of a different Kingdom – the heavenly Kingdom that is coming to earth – in which Jesus rules and his Spirit instructs our hearts in His ways?

I know what kind of country I want to live in, and which Kingdom I want to belong to.  Do you?


Happy Campers?

Parc des Laurentides, Gros Morne National Park, Bon Echo Park, Sydenham Summer Camp, Lac Philippe, Fitzroy Harbour, Algonquin Park, Frontenac Park, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Cabot Beach, Prince Edward Island National Park – over the years Marion and I have camped in a lot of different places.  We started before we had children, and went camping at least once each summer for most of the years that we had a young family.  We never established a fixed tradition of going to the same campground year after year, as some families do – our lives were too unpredictable for that – but we do have many good memories of camping together.

To be completely honest, we weren’t always happy campers.  Our camping trips – wonderful as they were – were not all sweetness and light.  Like most families, we had our times of stress and conflict.  In addition to the normal family dynamics, my dear wife – who did not grow up in a camping family – found some of the physical aspects of camping with our children quite challenging.  On a couple of occasions, much to her relief, I went canoe tripping with my boys and some other fathers and sons from our church, leaving the girls at home.  Still, trouper that she is, she rose to the occasion time and again, and looking back she remembers our family camping trips as very special times in the life of our family – as do I.

Recently, however, camping trips have become less frequent.  For a variety of reasons, Marion and I have not been camping for several years.  One factor that has dampened our enthusiasm is that we both find sleeping on the ground less and less appealing.  Marion in particular finds that her bones no longer appreciate being laid to rest in a tent, even with the benefit of an air mattress.  As I have contemplated this fact, I have been faced with three possible options.

Option one would be to convince my beloved wife to suck it up, ignore her aches and pains, and continue camping in the way that we had always done.  Had I attempted to convince her of this, I almost certainly would have been unsuccessful.   Even if I could have convinced her to go tent camping with me again against her better judgment, we both would have been miserable.  Genius that I am, it didn’t take me long to realize that this option was a non-starter.

Option two would be to quit camping altogether.  We almost went that route by default, but then we began to realize that we would miss camping, and that if we stopped altogether, we’d be robbing ourselves of some wonderful opportunities to spend time with our children and grandchildren, to explore the beautiful land in which God has placed us, and to follow the cloud of His glory where He leads us.

This left us with option three – finding ways of making camping something Marion could look forward to again.  And so, after our last camping trip in 2004, I asked Marion what she thought about the idea of getting a small camping trailer.  (Although this may sound very noble of me, in truth I wasn’t thinking only of her.  I do care about Marion’s well-being of course, but I also care about my own.  Whoever said “a happy wife is a happy life” was a wise man.)  In the last couple of years, changing circumstances have opened up new possibilities, and Marion and I are now on the cusp of what feels to us like a major life decision.  We are about to order a camping trailer, for delivery next spring.  We are doing this because we want to continue building memories with our children and grandchildren.

As Marion and I have talked with each of our children over the past few weeks about summer holiday options, I have found their comments quite perceptive, and I have realized again the power of family memories.  Looking back on shared experiences provides us with a sense of identity and belonging.  Adventures, times of crisis and near-disasters have a special power to unite us.  They give us stories to tell, reasons to laugh together, and opportunities to see the faithfulness of God.  As one of my friends puts it, today’s crises are tomorrow’s jokes.

But while shared memories are a crucial ingredient in the glue that holds a family together, what I most want to impart to my children is shared vision.  Not that I expect any of them to walk out my specific life vision or live their lives exactly as I have lived mine.  We are differently gifted and differently called – so Marion and I expect to see a wonderful diversity in the specific life visions of each of our children, and each of their life partners and their children.  But I want to be one of those who lives his life looking forward, not looking back.  I want to be like Abraham, who went out to a new land, not knowing where he was going, because his sights were set on the city whose architect and builder is God – and I want to pass on this approach to life to my children, their life partners and their children.  This is the shared vision of which I speak – a vision of the glory of the God who continues to call us to look forward, not back, waiting expectantly for the promised restoration of all things as His glory fills the new heaven and earth.

I once heard Graham Cooke say that God is not a happy camper.  He wasn’t saying that God is miserable!  He was saying that God is not content to simply pitch his tent in the place where we last experienced His presence.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was not and is not a God who can be captured in memories of past encounters, repeated over and over again.  He is not content to revisit the same experiences, repeat the same lessons, and go back over the same ground with the same people year after year.  He is a God who leads us forward.  Although we look back with gratitude and awe on His past works, He is a God of the living, not of the dead – a God of the future, not of the past.  His ways are as fresh, new and unpredictable as His goodness is consistent and His love is reliable.

I can only speak for myself, but for me camping is not about repeating the same memories over and over again.  Little children love security and routine, but young men crave adventure.  Although God loves children, He also calls us to grow up.  And so, for me camping is not just about childhood memories – valuable as they are –  but about staying fresh and flexible and open to new adventures with God.  I don’t want to live a stationary, predictable life.  Repeating the same experiences year after year may bring a kind of security, but it’s also boring and unworthy of the glory of God who always leads us forward.  I want to keep following the cloud of God’s glory; I want to keep breaking fresh ground.  My eyes are fixed on what lies ahead.  Where I have been is important, but where I am going is far more important.  Every day is a new opportunity to seek God’s glory.  And that, to me, is what it means to be a happy camper.


Excited about church again

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I am eagerly looking forward to worshipping and fellowshipping with my new church family at All Nations church.  I’m excited about introducing All Nations to Simeon and Heather who are visiting from Minnesota.  I get just as excited about the two life groups in which Marion and I currently participate.  I am loving the new friendships that are forming, and I am eager for the new assignments that I know the Lord is preparing for me.

Some of you may find it odd that I would find church this stimulating.  Isn’t church supposed to be dull?  Well, no.  It ought to be wonderfully satisfying – but believe me, that hasn’t always been my experience.  In fact, I haven’t been this excited about church in a long time.

As a young man, my hunger for the living God was kindled in the early 1970s, during the era of the Jesus people revival.  In this atmosphere of spiritual ferment, drawn by the possibility of a transformed life, I began to seek the Kingdom of God.  At first I had little understanding and some very questionable mentors, so mine was a long and convoluted journey with many detours, but God was faithful and eventually I became a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.

However, my next twenty-five years in the church were mostly disappointing.  At first, I was attempting to serve God without really knowing him.  My involvement in a liberal denomination with very fuzzy theology did little to clarify my understanding.  Despite these handicaps, eventually I was led to a true relationship with Christ.  My personal life began to change, but the church still mostly frustrated me.  If anything, my frustration increased as my understanding grew.  Marion and I did have wonderfully refreshing experiences at camps and prayer ministry schools, but I was hungry for a church that more faithfully reflected Biblical Christianity in its everyday life.

About fifteen years ago, after many years of struggle punctuated by just enough bright spots to keep us moving forward, Marion and I were introduced to a wonderful family of churches and ministries known as DOVE Christian Fellowship International (DCFI).  Over several years, we came to see the DOVE network as our spiritual home.  For almost the first time in our lives we weren’t just reading in books about the wonderful things happening in moves of God in other times and places.  We actually saw the values of the Kingdom of God being embodied with integrity, humility and grace by leaders who really cared about us and were committed to seeing us succeed.  Our whole understanding of church was taken to a new level, and we ourselves were changed in deep and lasting ways.  We were hooked, and knew this was what we wanted.

Thinking that understanding a vision meant being prepared to implement it, we attempted to plant a DOVE church in a village south-east of Ottawa, but we ourselves still had much to learn about walking in Kingdom Christianity, and we did not succeed in gathering a leadership team that understood or shared our vision.  We had fought to establish this vision but had found that we could not do so without committed partners who understood our hearts and shared our burden.

Eventually we laid down this attempt and moved back to Ottawa, where we had several good and fruitful years serving as small group overseers and intercessors in a denominational church.  The lessons that we had learned during our DOVE years served us in good stead during these years, but even though Marion and I sought to be faithful and made many good relationships, I knew I was in a foreign land in terms of church culture.  I gave my best and sought to flourish in the place where God had planted me, but it didn’t feel like home.  I had been exposed to a church culture that had given me a taste of Kingdom life, and I would never again be content with anything less.

Little did we know that the Lord had been preparing us for something new, and everything was about to change.  A few months ago, at a Paul Baloche worship concert, the message of one song in particular really caught my attention.  I found that this song was on my heart over the next few weeks.   Every time I picked up my guitar, I found that I wanted to play this song.  Looking back, I can see that God was using this song to speak a message of hope over my life at this pivotal time.

Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You, we turn to You
Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You, we long for You

Since then, Marion and I have been in another season of transition on several fronts.  We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we know something is changing, and we feel a sense of anticipation for the things that lie ahead.  I love my new church family and hope is stirring again that we  will have an opportunity to play our part in seeing God’s Kingdom established in our city.  I don’t know what our particular assignment is going to be, but it doesn’t matter.   We are full of gratitude at this door that God has opened for us.  It’s so good to be excited about church again, and to know that God has a place for us as part of a Biblical community of brothers and sisters, working with a servant leadership team that understands our hearts and wants to empower each member to fulfill his or her God-given calling.  We are experiencing the refreshing that the Scriptures speak of, and are looking forward to the day when all things are restored.