Part of Something Bigger

One of the passions of youth – when they surface from their phones or tablets – is that they want to put
their energy into something world changing, meaningful, significant, bigger than they are. Actually, most
of us are familiar with that feeling.
Missionsfest 2018 was another reminder how we are part of something bigger. Hundreds of
organizations set up booths to share what God is doing in his world to remind us of who he is.
Workshops, films and keynote speakers stimulated the faithful to stretch a little further in sharing the
God who transforms and reconciles his creation. It was good to see some of you there volunteering or
exploring all that your eyes and ears could take in.
Jesus is the Lord of the Nations and he is meeting people in every country on this planet as he fulfills his
promise to have men and women from every tribe and tongue and nation gathering around his throne
one day.
On the Saturday morning of Missionsfest representatives of the agencies and churches of the Fellowship
Pacific (100 churches of which we are part of – 500 across Canada) gathered over breakfast and break
out sessions to increase understanding of how greater synergy could be developed between groups. We
are part of something bigger and more amazing every year.
The Fellowship is designed to leverage the collective strengths of its churches and agencies to make a
God honoring impact and to make disciple-makers who make disciple-makers. Baptist Housing (Owner
of Shannon Oaks and Clarendon Court) – an arm of the Fellowship’s ministry to seniors – helped host the
event.
Here are some brief highlights of what your brothers and sisters in Christ are involved in.
W.I.N.G.S (Women in Need Gaining Strength) – opened its third home, started work on a townhome
complex for single moms recovering from trauma, and expanded its ministry of counseling to men who
are attempting to overcome abusive and negative patterns in their marriages. Any men or women from
Faith are now welcomed to access the program at a reasonable cost. Sometimes our personal challenges
are part of something bigger than we are and we need to reach out for help.
CAMP QWANOES – this camp of ours (for 25 years) situated on Vancouver Island took in more kids than
ever this year. They trained 150 youth in their counselor training program. Any youth aged 15-18 can get
special life changing training from highly challenging and competent trainers. The camp is hoping to
build a new dining room which will seat up to 850 youth. For any family at Faith – or a friend of a family
at Faith – there are special scholarships available for those who can’t afford the camp costs. This is an
opportunity to invite some of the unreached community kids to attend for somethings they might hear
no where else.
DID YOU REALLY THINK THAT ALL THE ‘BIGGER THAN US GOD THINGS’ HAPPEN INSIDE OUR FOUR
WALLS?
(more wow ministries tomorrow)

Open Doors lead to Open Hearts

Do you remember the first few people who welcomed you at Faith? How about at your first work place or your school? Sometimes that welcome has a lasting impact on us.

There is nothing like feeling welcomed. When I enter someone else’s place it makes all the difference if the welcome is warm. When I enter another church it changes everything if there is a warm welcome or not. When others come to Faith I expect them to get a warm welcome from all of us who consider this home.

The firstcomers at our small group love to welcome those who come later and there is a genuine joy expressed at being welcomed into a group. When a refugee family spent the afternoon eating and sharing with us there was a sense of inclusion at having an open door and an open table being offered. I notice even at the youth group that the welcome once you’re in the door makes all the difference.

Rick Warren, in his book Better Together (p. 48), has gathered several verses in different versions which give us the importance of hospitality for the Christian who is following Jesus.

“Open your homes to each other without complaining.” I Peter 4:9 (TEV) Also, Isaiah 58:6-9; Luke 14:12-14.

Warren adds, “For some, hospitality is as natural as breathing. For others, the practice must be acquired. For all, the gift must be nurtured.”

He declares the difference between entertaining and showing hospitality. “Entertaining declares, ‘This is mine – these rooms, these adornments. Look, please, and admire.’ Hospitality whispers, ‘What is mine is yours’ (Acts 2:44).

As followers of Jesus the neighbourhood in which he has placed us is our open door to reach out and demonstrate hospitality. Filling our schedules with activities, not chosen purposefully to connect with others, will short-circuit our chances to open our hearts and open our doors.

You can’t show hospitality to everyone but you can show welcome to a few.

The same happens when we gather for services, banquet or events. You can’t invest a significant welcome for everyone but you can with those around you. Keep looking and reaching out.

What did you feel like when you entered a place of worship and no one welcomed you? So, who have you welcomed into fellowship lately? How can you use your hospitality in the weeks to come?

Why does God Choose the Foolish?

Growing up in today’s world, where you might get a participation ribbon for showing up and a hero’s reputation for doing anything thoughtful, it isn’t hard to start feeling like you are someone special – a cut above the average. Being somewhat, half-decently good as a prep for your eulogy seems to get you a pass by the judgement seat and straight on in to heaven – or so it seems to many of the tearful at our funerals.

The apostle Paul has a way of diminishing any pride we might have in who we are. In I Corinthians 1:25-31 he says “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one many boast before him. It is because of Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The message seems clear. God chooses people who can’t possibly live up to what he has designed for them so that it’s clear to others that the only way they can do it is because of Jesus. Sometimes, those of us in the church have forgotten that it’s only because of Jesus that we can live up to the life God sets out for us.

Brennan Manning, in his book, The Importance of Being Foolish (p. 21), says “As the sincere Christian opens himself to the life proposed by Jesus a life of constant prayer and total unselfishness, a life of buoyant, creative goodness and a purity of heart that goes beyond chastity to affect every facet of our personality – his sense of awe and wonder can quickly sour into cynicism and pessimism. The suspicion grows that the gospel ethic is impractical, impossible, and therefore irrelevant. The words are nice, but who pays them any mind? After all, I can’t be asked to do all that! I can’t survive in the jungle out there if I take Jesus’s revelation seriously. I can’t be always giving. There must be a limit. But Christ sets no limit.”

So, what do we do with this? How can we thrive in the jungle, flourish in the storms, grow through the impossibilities? How are you doing it?

We’d be foolish to keep trying to do it on our own.

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?

Our Big Picture Thinking

Apologist Ravi Zacharias lays it out clearly in his book The Grand Weaver (p. 42) “What the brain is to the body, the mind is to the soul.”

Zacharias notes that what we call faith is “a thing of the mind. If you do not believe that God is in control and has formed you for a purpose, then you will flounder on the high seas of purposelessness, drowning in the currents and drifting further into nothingness.”

He further cites Essayist F. W. Boreham who declares that “faith is actually the mainspring of the universe, the sheet anchor of civilization. It lies at the heart of all negotiations and worldwide relations. All sound finance builds on it. When people clutch their money, thinking they have concrete reality, they are, in fact, clutching to faith. Money, in that sense, has no value without trust. It is all worthless paper without the promises and pledges of other people and systems. The entire financial structure depends on credit, trust, confidence, belief, and faith.”

Losing faith means the potential loss of hope and love. God’s Word has been given to us as a gift to build faith, hope and love in a world which has lost direction and control. It is food for our minds so that our soul gets clear truth in a world which hasn’t quite grasped it.

How is your mind grasping this thought? Does this make sense to you? Do you see the centrality of how we function from a core of faith?

The problem for many of us is that our faith is misplaced. We place our faith in the money Zacharias speaks of, or we place our faith in other people, an accomplishment, a reputation, a dream, or even in our own might, wisdom and intuitiveness. These will all fail us ultimately, but they will give us the illusion of exercising our mind for some kind of god-designed purpose.

How can you live so that you are operating by faith in Jesus and not in some other object? How will you continue to live that way in what you’re facing? May God grant you the discernment you need in this journey.

Is it really real?

I have a pastor friend who loves to scour the dregs of Value Village to see if perhaps a treasure has slipped through unnoticed for a bargain. He once found an old coin which he was convinced would gain him a small fortune. He paid the $42 price tag and then tried to pawn it. It was valued at exactly what he paid for it. It wasn’t the authentic treasure he hoped it would be.

Sometimes, our faith takes on an authenticity which stands out like a gold nugget. Sometimes, it has the polish of a clump of mud or a lump of coal.

One of the criticisms from outsiders is that the church is filled with hypocrites. Someone said they like to respond by saying, “glad you noticed, come join us, there’ always room for one more.” That’s probably not going to win the day for you.

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount he seems highly concerned about our authenticity as his followers. It is clear he hates hypocrisy. He woos his followers toward a simple faith void of pretense in their words, actions, thoughts, and desires.

American preacher, Chuck Swindoll, in his book, Simple Faith (p. 6), states “Our Lord wants His true followers to be distinct, unlike the majority who follow the herd. In solving conflicts, doing business, and responding to difficulties, Jesus’ people are not to maintain the same attitudes or choose the same priorities of the majority. And for sure, we are not to emulate pharisaism. When Jesus teaches, “Dont be like them,” He really means it. Hypocrisy, He hates … authenticity, He loves.”

Perhaps one of the greatest encouragements we can give to each other is to be authentic in our joys and in our sorrows. Two sisters visited us at the church yesterday. One had been undergoing a long bout with cancer and was declared cancer free – her tears were plentiful. The other sister is waiting to face a significant surgery of her own – her tears are also real. Both had come to know Jesus deeply in their suffering and both had a deep, authentic faith which sparked our sense of awe.

Have you shared your story with others in the church family? Not so people focus on you, but so that others can see who God is as he shapes us and makes us more like Jesus. The road is often challenging and we need to see some authentic pilgrims on it as we try to walk it together. Who can you share your story with today?

Working It All Out

Why do you get out of bed in the morning? If you work, or have worked in the past, why spend your
energy and time putting out effort to accomplish anything? Who is going to remember what you did day
after day, week after week, year after year?
What a way to get depressed at the start of a year – Wondering if there is any purpose to what I do. All
of us want to accomplish something. Sometimes we’re successful and sometimes we aren’t. But what
does our effort matter? Won’t it all eventually fade away as others take our place, as the new way of
doing things replaces the old way, as another generation focusing on the possibilities of the future set
aside the past like yesterday’s trash?
Oh, reality. How harsh and how hopeful.
Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Church in New York, writes something significant in his book
Every Good Endeavor (p. 29): He says, “Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any
difference, and all good endeavors, even the best will come to naught. Unless there is God. If the God of
the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, even the simplest ones,
pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises. “In
the Lord, your labor is not in vain,” writes Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse
58.”
Keller says that as believers who want our work to matter we need to answer three questions: “Why do
you want to work? (That is, why do we need to work in order to lead a fulfilled life?) Why is it so hard to
work? (That is, why is it so often fruitless, pointless, and difficult?) How can we overcome the difficulties
and find satisfaction in our work through the gospel?”
Some of you will be looking to answer these questions from your past experience, some from your
current challenges and some from what is still ahead. You were designed to accomplish something
significant for God’s glory. If your heart is still beating the work isn’t done yet. Have you figured it out
and are you doing it. Take some time to share this with another pilgrim on the road with you.

He sets the lonely in families

Have you ever experienced loneliness – Deep, heart-throttling dread which squeezes all the joy, hope and sense of being loved out of you? Or perhaps, just a sense of wondering whether you belong – if anyone notices you or cares about you more than the ‘like’ you can give to their smiley ‘post.’

The Vancouver Foundation report this past year concluded that the loneliest people in Vancouver are aged 18-34. The generation that populates Facebook and Skype – who multiply friendships on-line – they are lonely. The claim from this group is that they have trouble making ‘real’ friends because of lack of time; family obligations; distance; finances; stress.

Most feel they don’t know their neighbours well enough to connect and at least half feel they will have moved elsewhere within five years so there’s no point in building relationships that aren’t going to last anyway. In the past 5 years attendance in churches has dropped by 50% among the younger generation. Is there a correlation?

David’s note in Psalm 68 seems significant when he says “Sing to God, sing praise ot his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the LORD – and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.”

This may be a reflection on what happened to David’s own great-grandmother Ruth who was welcomed into God’s family by Boaz.

From the first chapters of scripture we read that “it is not good for man to be alone.” People were made for relationship with God and with other people. J. Oswald Saunders in his book “Facing Loneliness” cites two historical figures with insight on our issue. “Blaise Pascal, the noted French scientist, held that in every heart there exists a God-shaped vacuum. Centuries before him, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, put his finger on the root cause of loneliness: “God created man for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Him.”

Know any lonely people? There’s a family waiting. Perhaps a creative invitation would help. Looking forward to how God will build community through you this year.

Are you living the right story ?

We live in a world of stories. We love to hear stories and tell stories. Our stories
fill out our sense of identity, purpose, need and hope. My son Richard was home
from Rwanda a month ago and he and his sisters and I were sitting around our
living room sharing stories. It got a little weepy at one point. My young
granddaughter Kylie stopped at the door for a moment, left and returned with an
armload of stuffed sheep. She quietly went to each person and dropped a sheep
into their arms then she left. We all hugged our sheep and kept telling stories but
that sensitive act of Kylie is a story worth telling.
The Christmas story is a story of God stepping into our weepy human story with
a lamb and weaving our story into his bigger story. The challenge for most
people is that there are so many different versions of Christmas stories that it
can be confusing. Getting the right story is important because that story will
define our sense of identity, purpose, need and hope.
The main Christmas story most of our children hear is that they are at the center
of the story. By being good and doing good they can get what they want. If they
get what they want they will be happier, with-it, smarter, comfortable, loved. All
their hopes and dreams will be satisfied.
Christmas in the first story is about what we give and what we get. When we get
older it’s about dressing up and getting out, eating, putting a smile on our face
and staying busy shopping – but it’s still about giving and getting. There’s a
popular commercial that boldly says “I want that.” That’s the first story.
The alternate Christmas story of the Bible is the one we quickly refer to at this
time of year and then put back on the shelf until next year. In this story God is at
the center and it is all about him – his love, his gift, his action, his sacrifice. The
story is plain and simple, nothing to attract Hollywood to make a film about it.
It’s about a sin-broken world wrestling with overwhelming issues, people making
self-destructive choices, desperate for a Saviour, hoping against hope to make it
through another day. It’s about the Creator stepping off his throne as our king
and being humiliated to becoming a baby in a refugee family. When we grow up
with this story we realize that the tag line changes from “I want that” to “He
wants this.”
Why is the right Christmas story so important when it comes to our identity,
purpose, need and hope?
Perhaps during 2018 we can focus more intentionally on exposing our hearts to
the right story.