Suffering -a week of reflections

When in the middle of a trial it is easy to ask. “Why me?” We are tempted to look
at others and assume they have no troubles. A struggling friend said “others in the
church have perfect lives and can’t understand mine”. Being privileged to “pastor”
many I can attest that suffering is pretty universal. It may be a bad report from a
doctor, a horrific accident, a broken relationship or a natural disaster. Today we
read of a terrible tragedy in Toronto – so random, so unexpected, so undeserved.
There are amazing healings, reconciliations, rescues from seemingly impossible
situations like the Thai boys rescue but not all stories have happy endings.
How are we to respond to this? Within the last week I have heard the following:
a. A woman whose only son died from a fentanyl overdose hung herself because
her grief and shame was too much.
b. A young man in the midst of addiction lashed out and cursed God.
c. Another mother said that she respected Jesus but He had lost his power due to
the attacks of Satan and the sins of men so was impotent to answer her prayers.
d. In 2 Corinthians 1 we read how our sufferings can help us understand and
encourage others who suffer because we can also share the comfort we have
received.
e. I read in “Muslim Connect” that since suffering is universal there is the
opportunity for sharing “suffering overlap” which builds bonds and reduces
isolation.
f). These responses are not new, Asaph in Psalm 73 felt the same until he saw his
sufferings from God’s perspective then everything changed.
Heaven is coming. Let us be ready. And we do not mourn as those who have no
hope. Picture from Pinterest “First Day in Heaven” (Kerolos Safwat)

Eastside Celebration was a resounding success with over 260 attendees including
MLA George Chow and MP Harjit Sajjan. We had singers representing Korea,
Egypt, Nagaland, First Nations, Canada (assorted) and Nigeria. Over a dozen
organizations and businesses contributed to the door prizes and refreshments.

Catherine is in the midst of the Child Care’s summer program. They are featuring
community heroes and have interesting and informative themes each week.

We were scheduled to go to our organizations conference in Poland in August then
spend a few days of holiday in Turkey but my family doctor suggested that I stay
closer to home so we will chose exotic locales like Merritt, Kamloops and the
Okanagan in September for our holiday. 
The family from Iraq, currently in Jordan, are on a long wait list before they can
come to Canada. Conditions in the Middle East are challenging so it is a difficult
situation especially with three young children.
We sure do appreciate your support.

 

In Christ
Mark and Catherine

Values: FAITH -PART ONE

In Faith’s family we have three key values which we use as a grid to mark the kind of community we would like to see. Today, I asked a newcomer over coffee what he observed about his experience so far at the church. He said, “I’ve been to a lot of churches and it’s different here. It feels like a community. People don’t rush away and they don’t rush by you when the service is done.”

Yesterday, in our prayer time before the service, another new comer said, “this is the friendliest church I’ve ever been to. You walk into the prayer room and everyone stands up to hug you.”

I’m not sure if our values are the reason why our community networks with each other, but God seems to be doing something special among us for which we are grateful. Our leadership has something to do with it, our prayer base has something to do with it, but our members are the ones making a difference.

We say three things about the value of FAITH in our expression of church. We say that FAITH means that, in our ministries and individual lives: we will lean toward

  • Prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking for the sake of the gospel;
  • Body and soul-stretching outreach initiatives
  • Open-handed and open-hearted efforts of generosity and hospitality

FAITH is our confident trust that God is with us as we live out his truth in our contemporary world. We lean toward prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, meaning that we come before God with a bold confidence to seek his wisdom and his way for divine appointments and significant conversations as we look for bridges in sharing who Jesus is and what he has done in giving his life for us. We share personally on how God has worked in our own life and we share candidly on what he has done in our world.

We haven’t mastered prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking, individually or as a community. but we are trying to lean in that direction.

When Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, was chasing down Christians on his way to Damascus, he met Jesus in a dynamic encounter. He was changed because two people took risks for the sake of the gospel. First, Ananias was prompted by Jesus to place his hands on him and restore Saul’s sight. Ananias responded, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he had done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13)

The risk was real but Jesus told Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Twice, Ananias is told “go” just as Jesus tells us to “go” in his great commission. Sometimes a person’s outward persona or reputation holds us back from taking risks. It doesn’t feel safe to share and it seems obvious that this person wouldn’t be interested anyway.

Saul tried to join the disciples in Damascus by preaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. This confused everyone who thought they knew who he was and this led to death threats from his former allies. Saul escaped to Jerusalem and again tried to join the disciples there “but they were afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas too him and brought him to the apostles…”

Two people showed their faith by taking risks with Saul and this has made all the difference for all of us who read our Bibles and see what Saul (who became the Apostle Paul) wrote for us who live outside the Jewish world.

How has God helped you lean toward prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking as you share the gospel? How have you witnessed evidences of this in your faith community?

What do disciple-makers look like?

The reality of vanishing disciples means that we need disciple-makers who know how to make disciple-makers. How do we know that we’ve got a disciple-maker? Their regular commitment to reading and applying the word of God, their involvement in a small group for accountability and encouragement, and their consistent participation in the life of their local church might be foundational things to think about. What else might we look for? See if this resonates with your understanding and let us know.

 

Disappearing disciples?

When you think of disappearing disciples your mind might fixate on what happened in the garden of Gethsemane when the close followers of Jesus hustled away as Jesus was arrested and taken to trial. In our country of Canada, with new progressive liberalism steamrolling traditional Christian values through legislation and funding directives it almost appears that our leaders assume that current disciples are ready to fade into the night as well.

Perhaps it is time to re-emphasize why Jesus called us to make disciples of Christ from all nations. I met with a denominational leader today who told me that most churches don’t have a strong focus or plan for discipleship. Jesus’ directive to go make disciples has fallen on deaf ears.

One of the reasons I hear as to why we don’t make disciples is that we don’t have enough disciple makers. A disciple maker is one who invests their life into another who is younger in faith and experience.  Those who are disciple often grow into leaders who can disciple others. John Maxwell claims that “Leaders develop daily, not in a day.”

Liz Selzer, in her book 3G Mentoring, explains what it takes to develop an effective mentoring relationship. She says “an effective mentor is a good listener, authentic, trustworthy, wise ( has something to offer), understands the power of a good question over a good piece of information, is skilled in giving feedback, committed, insightful, inspiring, has a tolerance for mistakes, shows flexibility and patience, is discerning, is able to set boundaries, has a learning attitude, and has learned from his or her own successes and failures.”

Okay, before you write yourself off as no longer available, a disciple is a learner who is willing to grow and who is willing to help others grow.

This is not the time to disappear along with the others who have written themselves off. Our culture is not the environment in which followers of Jesus are going to naturally birth and thrive. It takes intentionality from those who have already understood who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he has called us to do.

We are promised the Holy Spirit to be with us in the middle of our significant conversations and we have the Word of God to inform our hearts and minds. Now is the time to prepare and share.

Peter pushes us to try discipling those who haven’t even accepted Jesus yet. He says (I Peter 3:15-16) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks ou to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Set apart Christ as Lord in your own heart and you’ll have one less disciple disappearing into the landscape around us. Who have you got in your social circle who you might start a significant conversation with as you try to make disciples for Jesus?

 

Would Anyone Notice Us If We Left?

Have you ever had that secret fear that if you stepped away from everyone you knew that no one would really miss you? No one at work, school, family or church.

Who in our neighbourhood would notice if our church stopped meeting? Do people notice us because of what we provide for them or because of who we are?

Two years ago, the New Hope Community Services Society (Refugee Houses) which we started moved their main center to Surrey; this week, the Foodbank let us know they were transferring their FoodHub Depot from our facility to the South Van Neighourhood House. These two ministries of ours were key outreach points in helping us to establish our current reputation as a vital community partner and community builder. What happens now?

What if we redevelop our facility and disappear visibly from the community for two years? Would we be missed? Would we be anticipated when we came back?

Our mission is to make disciples of Christ from all nations. Our practice is to love God and to love our neighbour. Depending on programs and events which we create doesn’t make disciple makers who make disciple makers.

Perhaps it’s time to get back to basics – small home groups, practicing friendship, mentoring plus sharing our faith with our neighbours through hospitality and community service.

A year ago, we were asked, along with other flourishing churches, how we engaged with our neighbourhood. The initial results were published in the January / February edition of Faith Today by Joel Thiessen. He writes: “Without exception, the congregations we identified as flourishing appear to have done their homework on the community where they are situated. They say they know who lives in their community. They know facts about family status, stage of life, socioeconomic status, ethnicity and more. From this information churches identify what possible needs, points of convergence and opportunities exist. Churches garnered this information by speaking with local community association and organization leaders, reading city demographic reports and interacting with neighbours in various social settings around the church property.”

It seems clear that neighbours would notice us if we noticed them first. They would engage with us if we first engaged with them. Perhaps it is time to try something new in our neck of the woods. Anyone out there willing to risk new ideas on reaching our neighbours?

Disciples of All Nations? Really ?

Someone has challenged me that they don’t think churches are making disciples anymore. In fact, they don’t think most people calling themselves Christians are really followers of Jesus. They believe there are a lot of deceived people inhabiting churches feeling secure and comfortable without reason.

Real disciples, they say, are making new disciples. They are sharing their life story with others around them; they are studying the word of God as daily soul food; they are praying actively for others by name to be saved; they are engaged in meeting the needs of others around them; they are generous and hospitable and active in using their gifts for the building up of the body of Christ.

Do you know anyone like this? Is this the role of every believer individually or is the role of the church collectively?

Regardless of your response, how are you involved in helping to make disciple makers who make disciple makers? We’re not talking about people who you lead to say a prayer and then live their lives without real transformation. How do you make disciples whose lives start becoming more like Jesus and then share that transformation so others are transformed?

I’m told young adults are leaving the institutional church in droves because the older generations aren’t investing in their spiritual care and development – in other words, they aren’t being discipled.

Is my friend right in saying we don’t make disciples anymore? What can we do about it?