What’s it All About?

The messages I get often start with Why or Where. Why is God letting this happen to me? Where is God right now and why isn’t he answering my prayers? Why am I here?

Rick Warren, in his book Better Together (p. 12), says “the purpose of your time on earth is not primarily about acquiring possessions, attaining status, achieving success, or even experiencing happiness. Those are secondary issues. Life is all about love and developing relationships – with God, and with other people. You may succeed in many areas, but if you fail to learn how to love God and love others, you’ll have missed the reason God created you and placed you on this planet. Learning to love is life’s most important lesson. Jesus called it the “great commandment” (Matthew 22:38). Nothing else comes close in importance.”

If you’re like me, it’s easy to nod my head in agreement but then I meet real people in real life.

For example, K. is the mom whose son is an aggressive autistic wreaking havoc in the community. K. has a husband dying from a brain tumour and acting out against her. K. has a daughter who gave her a three-week-old child to look after since the daughter didn’t want to leave her life of drugs and prostitution. Now K. has kidney cancer and lives in serious pain. Her messages to me express how overwhelming life is. Her trust and faith in God were ejected long ago. How do I love in this situation?

  1. came by for prayer again today. One son is an alcoholic and one a drug addict. She converted to Christianity from another religion and is seeing huge transformation in her own life and choices. She battles and fights for her boys but is drained of energy. She can’t keep a job because she is always chasing to intervene in her son’s latest escapade. The things she loves disappear again and she knows who took them. Yet today, she declares that God knows who needs those things most and she releases them without animosity toward her son. Still, she is in desperate need. How do I love in this situation?
  2. is a young professional who was lonely. She prided herself on her purity until she met an older man who overwhelmed her with compassion and care. She quickly fell prey to his sexual advances and found herself involved in things she never imagined doing. When that relationship ended, within a week, she was into another relationship with a younger man who repeated the same activities with her. She feels trapped because of her loneliness, guilt because of her faith, helplessness to make meaningful choices. How do I love in this situation?
  3. is an older refugee who longs for connections. He had significant status in his home country before he had to run for his life and come to Canada a year ago. He is learning English and loves to talk but no one seems to have time for him. He is constantly sending out invitations to come and share food at his home. He would love to still make a difference in his home country through a politician here but needs help accessing his representative so he can share his story. How do I love in this situation?

Every person we meet has a different story and love needs to be applied uniquely to their situation. We need wisdom and compassion and grace greater than we can imagine.

Who are the significant people in your community who need practical demonstrations of love? What can you do for even one of them?

What Should I Ask For?

The Lord’s Prayer is a great template for us as we begin to grow in our intentional communication with God. We see him as our Father, someone to be honored in his place of authority as we submit ourselves to his designs for our life and our world. We express our trust in his protection and provision. We anchor our hope in his commitment to bring glory to his name.

As we turn the focus of our intercessions onto the others around us we look at how Paul prays for believers. He seems to focus constantly on the importance of a rich personal relationship with a Sovereign Savior who will never let anything get in the way of his love. He constantly focuses us away from the challenging outward experiences we endure and refocuses us on the Lord who walks with us through those hardships. This is the only way to find peace in the world we live in.

It’s who we are in secret, when no one else is watching, which counts – How thankful, how thoughtful, how gracious, how generous, how peaceful. Our time in prayer is what mirrors our internal reality as we walk back into our circumstances. It’s who we are in secret, but it is also who we are in community as we join in corporate prayer. The balance of public and private prayers are essential to growing as a disciple of Christ.

Author Tim Keller, in his book Prayer (p. 25), says “When your prayer life finally begins to flourish, the effects can be remarkable. You may be filled with self-pity, and be justifying resentment and anger. Then you sit down to pray and the reorientation that comes before God’s face reveals the pettiness of your feelings in an instant. All your self-justifying excuses fall to the ground in pieces. Or you may be filled with anxiety, and during prayer you come to wonder what you were so worried about. You laugh at yourself and thank God for who he is and what he’s done. It can be that dramatic. It is the bracing clarity of a new perspective. Eventually, this can be the normal experience, but that is never how the prayer life starts. In the beginning the feeling of poverty and absence usually dominates, but the best guides for this phase urge us not to turn back but rather to endure and pray in a disciplined way, until … we get through duty to delight.”

Finding creative ways to pray with each other can encourage this intimacy of communion with Our Father in heaven. Try popcorn prayers – short sentence prayers where others can pop in – focus on who God is, on what you’re thankful for, on specific intercessions for others.

What do the following verses say to you in their context?

John 14:13, 14 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

John 16: 23, 24 “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Now, what will you ask for in Jesus’ name?

More impact ministries

When Jesus told us to go make disciples he had, as our Creator, already equipped us with a creative mind and a hunger for relationship. In our Fellowship there are numerous creative expressions of outreach.

We already looked at the role WINGS (supporting women) and CAMP QWANOES (children and youth) play in strengthening the ministry of Christ in our community. In addition to these vital works there is outreach to First Nations, Seniors, Refugees, Migrant Workers, and students.

ARCH ministries is a newer effort to equip lower income residents of the east side, especially First Nations members, to form healthy community. An after school program includes tutoring and snacks. Students from Trinity Western University partner with New Beginnings church for a youth drop in on Fridays. There is a focus on healing and mentoring in the outreach work with 50% of the staff coming from a First Nations identity.

NEW HOPE COMMUNITY SERVICES SOCIETY was founded by Faith and El Redentor churches and has been housing refugees and vulnerable new immigrants since 2004. Over 500 refugees from 60 different countries have been assisted in their transition to Canada. Safe affordable housing is currently being provided through an apartment building in Surrey. 3000 refugees per year come to this part of Canada. Volunteers gave 6000 hours in providing relationships, community meals, sponsorships, tutoring, and general hospitality.

BAPTIST HOUSING operates the nearby Senior residences of Shannon Oaks and Clarendon Court. They have 17 senior living communities through BC, featuring three levels of care to over 2100 residents supported by 1100 team members. With chaplains and volunteers there is an effort to care for the physical, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of those who shelter with them. Each month we lead a hymn sing at Shannon Oaks as part of our ongoing partnership.

MIGRANT ministries reaches out to the 3000 workers who come to BC, mainly from Latin American countries like Mexico. Soccer games, barbeques and social gatherings have been created to provide an opportunity for the gospel to be shared. The events are held in Spanish so volunteers who want to join with the transformational ministry should be fluent in Spanish.

With this breadth of creative outreach we trust there will be continued impact for the kingdom of God in the Fellowship Pacific Region.

How is your creative outreach finding its expression? We would love to hear about it.

 

Can Different Generations Really Come Together as One?

It’s no secret that while building up a church family with multi-generations is the dream of most congregations that this is more challenging than it seems. Different generations have different soul language with the music they respond to; they have different heart language in what they feel committed to with their time and resources; they have different body language in terms of how they build relationship and share their lives.

Sociologists might label the four key generations as Builders, Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials. Each has been shaped by different backgrounds, different times, different perceptions of their culture and different experiences of faith. Perceptions , actions and reactions to what is happening will vary. How do you build unity in the middle of so much chronological diversity?

Loving your different generation neighbor often involves first building a relationship – taking an interest to show you care by listening, asking insightful questions, praying for and supporting in practical ways. Our seniors would love to have someone sit with them over tea and ask them to share their experiences. There needs to be verbal expressions of respect for their experience and wisdom. They can make great mentors.

Liz Selzer, in her book 3D Mentoring (p. 122) says “People need to see each other as competent, authentic, able to create meaningful connections, accountable, and dependable. “ They need to find their voices in three ways: by building a learning culture where everyone’s strengths are celebrated and appreciated; give opportunities for all to participate in a way where it is safe to take risks and fail; establish a forum where everyone’s voice gets heard and encourage everyone’s contribution.

This kind of culture happens one on one as we intentionally sit with each other and listen to each other. There is a God story in the life I am facing and preparing myself to hear it and appreciate it changes my whole attitude toward what God has done and what He is still doing.

Which generation can you expand your heart toward? How will you do that?

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?

 

Have You Really Left Home?

This is an incredibly challenging time and place to find a new home – especially if you’re young. Spaces and dollars are few for many of you. It takes a reorientation of your expectations to find your roots and to dig them down so that you hold on and grow where you are.

This day is often focused on encouraging people to stretch themselves and their dollars to reach out and demonstrate your affection for others in your world. Dinners, cards, flowers and calls are intentionally shared. Those in marriages are encouraged to push their expressions of intimacy even deeper. It is sometimes easy to give something other than yourself to accomplish your duty.

Donald Harvey has written a book called “Love Decisions” focusing on a dad’s talk with his daughter about the potential for love and her preparation for it. The first question he brings up is “Have you really left home?”

His biblical focus is on Genesis 2:24 where we are told that a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife so they become one flesh. A person who is ready for lasting relationship both detaches and then attaches. Some who have been already married haven’t really effectively detached from their birth families and they find themselves constantly torn between two loyalties.

The issue isn’t only about moving your body out of a shared space with your birth family. It is about making the primary motivation for your mental and emotional decisions based on a foundation other than your parents. Of course, family will always be important and have some degree of influence on many of our decisions but it is the degree of that decision making which shows whether you have left home or not.

Preserving a healthy family relationship, while developing other positive relationships, is an important part of developing some level of independence. You don’t have to rebel or move far away to establish this readiness.

Here’s what Harvey (p. 18) tells us. “When you have truly left home, you will demonstrate independence versus dependence – you will act versus react. And your decisions will have more to say about you than about other people. The bottom line will always be, “This is what I think is the best thing for me to do,” and you will act accordingly. If, instead, your behavior is a reaction to others, then maybe (you guessed it) you still haven’t left and there’s still some work to do before you’re ready to make any real lovedecisions.

“Leaving home is not as simple as it sounds. It isn’t just a by-product of age. Nor is it always indicated by a change in address. It’s a process – one that requires many steps and encounters many interferences. Still, it is not only an accomplishable goal but one that must be attained before you are ready to make any significant lovedecisons. Assess yourself and your relationships. Have you made the break from home and dependence to self-sufficiency and independence? Are you somewhere “in process”? Or are you still clearly tied to your parents?

Developing a faith that is your own is an essential part of this readiness for intimacy. If your heart has learned to love God and to be loved by him then it is tuned to understand how love works in the human realm.

Don’t You Love It?

On the verge of Valentine’s Day the flowers are filling the shops and cards and chocolates are finding their way into grocery bags. Does giving a special gift one or two days a year make up for everything else we do or don’t do the rest of the year?

Okay, I don’t live your life and I don’t know what you deal with. Gifts may not be your love language.

At Faith we’re talking a lot about Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages.” A short workshop with our Daycare staff left them wanting more. A few of our couples, staff and friends have been able to connect a little better when they found out the hidden secrets that a hug, a note, an act of service, a gift, or a little bit of time could make in someone else’s life.

The image we are given is of something called a love tank. Imagine a water tank for something concrete to get hold of this. When we speak our love language to another or when they speak our love language to us we are filled up. When others act or speak in conflict with our love language it is like a puncture wound in that tank which then drains us. Healing can take time so taking care from the start of a relationship is important. We’re not all as together and strong and resilient as we look on the outside.

We’ve been calling the whole family at Faith to think a little more intentionally about the relationships in their social circle. A love language is a channel through which you communicate your love for another and through which you receive love to maximum impact. Chapman lists the five mentioned earlier.

The key to effective communication with love languages is to discern what another person’s love language is and to speak to them in the way that they best appreciate. In order to discern watch how they attempt to show you they care and try responding in kind.

Several of us discovered to our great surprise that some of our quiet leaders had the love language of touch. More than anything, a hug upon greeting meant the world to them. Others of our leaders could last a week when a card with encouraging words was put into their hand – or a two minute phone call of appreciation was shared.

A few long for others to stop for a few moments and spend some quality time just being with us in our space. They could get gifts, notes, calls and all kinds of good deeds sent their way but it wouldn’t have the same impact.

Acts of service are key ways that some of our volunteers show they love. Faithfully completing the tasks behind the scenes is their way of communicating as clearly as they can. You’ll see some of these big hearts in hospitality or other hidden ministries.

But for some – gifts are what it’s all about. Valentine’s Day or any day is a good day to give a gift and to get a gift. Watch who is giving you the gift when they have no real reason to do so. That person may be giving you a hint.

Do you know your love language? Maybe you’re fluent in all five or maybe you’re working hard to learn another one to communicate with someone you know. If you don’t know someone’s love language check it out on line and start making a difference right where you are.

Start where you are

The great British author (Oxford and Cambridge professor), C.S. Lewis once said that “you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

C.S. Lewis started his professional career as an atheist. He ended his life as a follower of Jesus. He was actually raised as an Anglican and embraced atheism in his teens. Few people remember why he returned to a true faith in 1929. One man made the difference. The man was George Macdonald – a writer of fantasy. C.S. Lewis was fascinated by the “quality of cheerfulness” which convinced him that righteousness was not a dull thing.

C.S. Lewis absorbed all he could learn from his spiritual teacher and then started producing classics which young believers still thrive on. Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, The Allegory of Love and The Discarded Image take people into deep thought on the Christian Faith.

Lewis is better known by some of us for his Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and the Great Divorce. Others served to probe deeply into our human soul and to free our minds to consider the truths of our relationship with God.

My focus today is on the importance of mentoring. I was approached after our Sunday service by one of our new believers who rightly said, “Isn’t there someone I can meet with regularly to grow spiritually? I don’t want to just keep all my learning to Sundays. I want to ask questions and understand and expand what I know.”

Perhaps there are others, like C.S. Lewis, waiting for a friend, mentor, teacher, to come alongside them and show them the great things of God in creative and gracious ways. I encourage you to consider passing on what you know to someone younger in the faith. The ideal is that you are learning from someone more mature in the faith while at the same time you are passing on what you know to someone younger in the faith. This vital intergenerational sharing of the good news brings vitality to the body of Christ.

C.S. Lewis was wounded fighting the Germans in 1918. He married Joy Gresham (a converted American) while she was facing the challenges of cancer. He died on the same day as President John F. Kennedy. Not much of this is remembered. It is his writings from a place of deep faith which set him apart. And it is his forgotten mentor which wooed him into the deep faith that made a difference for so many others.

What keeps you from stepping into the role of learning or teaching? Who can you look to in the body of Christ as someone you can connect with?

Blessed Bubble-Wrapped Believers

I still can’t find the verse. You know, the one that says believers will be bubble-wrapped and protected
from having a hard time in this world.
I did find what Jesus said in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because
great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before
you.”
Francis Chan reminds us in a short video clip that we don’ t have to worry about what we need to say
when we’re called before those who oppose us because, as Jesus told us in Luke 12:11-12, the Holy
Spirit inside us will tell us at that time what we are to say.
Today, I received an email from one of our university students who had a pro-choice professor
expressing his views on gender fluidity and sexuality. He supported the Prime Minister’s cut of summer
grants to churches who will not support abortion or transgenderism. He mocked Trinity Western’s
contract encouraging students to stay sexually pure. This student spoke up in class and was amazed that
the professor listened. She said “This is my firsthand experience that God can and does proclaim His
truth through timid spokespeople when the time is right! Still, it’s so easy to just keep quiet… please
pray for faith, courage and love to testify to those around me, and also that I can act out my faith.”
If you know how to pray there are people who need you. If you are in the front lines facing the insults
and the bubble-wrap free zone then you need prayer warriors around you. The strength of our faith
comes not only in our quiet times alone but in our vibrant interdependence as members of one body –
one family – one church.
I’ll finish today with Peter’s encouragement to believers facing challenges in his day. “Who is going to
harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do
not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you 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. It is better, if it God’s will, to
suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
I guess we’ll save the bubble-wrap for Christmas presents.