Ralph's Articles

 

I have had the honour recently of visiting a number of great people as they lay dying in hospital surrounded by their loved ones. Never an easy time. And, for most people, visiting those who are dying never does become easy or comfortable. Visiting someone who is dying is often one of those awkward times in life we would rather avoid.

 

Have you given any thought to what happens after you die? Do we just cease to exist? Do we end up in some place living in pain to pay for our mistakes before finally being released? Do we float around as a disembodied spirit waiting for some future apocalyptic event? Or is there really a heaven and a hell as the Bible states there is?

 

And, if heaven and hell are real, and I believe they are, how do we know which one we will go to? And, is there was way to be certain that we go to heaven (wherever and whatever that is) and not into hell because we intuitively know than hell is not a nice place. We live in a time when many are doubting that heaven and hell are real. However, I believe that they are because we have an eye witness who has seen and been to both. His name is Jesus.

 

Jesus’ original home was heaven before He was born on earth that first Christmas. When He died on the cross at the age of thirty-three He descended into hell where He spent three days before being raised back to live. Then, a few weeks later He ascended and returned into heaven. He is an eye witness to the reality and existence of heaven and hell. 

 

So, how do we get into heaven and not into hell. Well, you simply believe in who Jesus is and what He accomplished by His death and resurrection. And, you acknowledge that He is Lord and Saviour asking Him to come into your life and to take control as He guides and directs you into a life pleasing to our heavenly Father. This is called being born again. Only those who are truly born again enter into heaven when they die.

 

And, how do we know if we are truly born again? The Bible tells us in the letter called First John that there are six things that we will see in life when the person is born again. And, if these six things are not there, then that is evidence that the person is not a disciple or follower of Jesus. But, if they are apparent in a person’s life then they have a deep assurance that when they die they will instantly be with the Lord Jesus in this place we call heaven.

 

Not something we often talk about. Thinking about dying is not something we often do. But, death is inevitable for every one of us and we need to give it some thought before it becomes a reality and it is too late to make better and wiser choices. 

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I have had the honour recently of visiting a number of great people as they lay dying in hospital surrounded by their loved ones. Never an easy time. And, for most people, visiting those who are dying never does become easy or comfortable. Visiting someone who is dying is often one of those awkward times in life we would rather avoid.

 

Have you given any thought to what happens after you die? Do we just cease to exist? Do we end up in some place living in pain to pay for our mistakes before finally being released? Do we float around as a disembodied spirit waiting for some future apocalyptic event? Or is there really a heaven and a hell as the Bible states there is?

 

And, if heaven and hell are real, and I believe they are, how do we know which one we will go to? And, is there was way to be certain that we go to heaven (wherever and whatever that is) and not into hell because we intuitively know than hell is not a nice place. We live in a time when many are doubting that heaven and hell are real. However, I believe that they are because we have an eye witness who has seen and been to both. His name is Jesus.

 

Jesus’ original home was heaven before He was born on earth that first Christmas. When He died on the cross at the age of thirty-three He descended into hell where He spent three days before being raised back to live. Then, a few weeks later He ascended and returned into heaven. He is an eye witness to the reality and existence of heaven and hell. 

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So, how do we get into heaven and not into hell. Well, you simply believe in who Jesus is and what He accomplished by His death and resurrection. And, you acknowledge that He is Lord and Saviour asking Him to come into your life and to take control as He guides and directs you into a life pleasing to our heavenly Father. This is called being born again. Only those who are truly born again enter into heaven when they die.

 

And, how do we know if we are truly born again? The Bible tells us in the letter called First John that there are six things that we will see in life when the person is born again. And, if these six things are not there, then that is evidence that the person is not a disciple or follower of Jesus. But, if they are apparent in a person’s life then they have a deep assurance that when they die they will instantly be with the Lord Jesus in this place we call heaven.

 

Not something we often talk about. Thinking about dying is not something we often do. But, death is inevitable for every one of us and we need to give it some thought before it becomes a reality and it is too late to make better and wiser choices. 

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Summer is coming to a close. A new season, a beautiful season, is upon us. And, with the change in seasons we have a change is our activities and our plans. Summer has come to an end and fall has arrived early as the trees outside my office window will attest. 

 

Life is full of “endings” where changes take place and we need to respond to them. The children grow up and move away. A marriage breaks-up. The death of a loved one. A friendship dissolves due to a misunderstanding. Some endings are necessary. Some are regretful. Most are painful.

 

In God’s Kingdom and His Church there are also seasons. And, with the change in seasons, necessary endings. When God is about to do something new - Jesus called it ‘new wine’ - He brings major changes to the Church which is the wineskin. 

 

If the changes don’t take place and the Church does not embrace what God is doing and become a new wineskin then the ‘new thing’ cannot be received. New wine will destroy an old wineskin. And, often, those of us involved in the Church resist any change that comes our way. As a result, we remain the old wineskin and we miss what God is doing next in His Kingdom. As a result, like Radio Shack and the dinosaurs the local church simply dies with a whimper and no one really notices. 

 

So, we are now in a new season and we will need to embrace the changes that God is asking of us so that we don’t miss out on the great adventure ahead. 

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In my area of the province harvest is in full swing. Land has been cultivated, seeds planted, growing season has happened, and now the harvest. A return on the invest of time, effort, and money. 

 

In the Church today God has invested a lot of time, effort, and finances. And now He is looking for a harvest - a return on His investment. And, that “return” and harvest is people who do not know Him getting to know Him on a personal level as a result of the words, lifestyle, attitude, and actions of born again believers.  

 

A born again person - a true Christian - has discovered life, real life. It is only found in Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with the Living God. When we came into this personal relationship with God He could have taken us into eternity and heaven. Then this new found relationship would have seriously and quickly bloomed. But, He chose not to. He left us here on Earth because He has a task for each believer to accomplish. That task is to share the good new that “Jesus saves” with those who do not know Him.

 

Jesus called His followers sheep. And, like healthy sheep, He expects us to be reproducing - sharing His life that is in us with others so they can come to know Him on a personal level as well. 

 

This is the harvest. Born again believers are the workers in the harvest field. God is wanting a return on His investment. 

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We live in a very diverse age today. Where once there was a common belief regarding the basics of the Christian faith; now there are many diverse and differing opinions about many of the basic teachings of the Christian faith.

 

In one way this is good. It means people are taking advantage of this information age we live in. They are reading more, especially with the ease of eBooks. We can research topics just by “Googling” them. They can access teachings on just about any religious subject just by going to YouTube and even receive in-depth knowledge through Ted Talks - not to mention many on-line university classes.

 

But, this access to information has a downside. You simply can’t believe everything you hear or read. Anyone can post their opinion and even sound like an expert. Just because it is on Facebook does not make it true. Even Tweets on Twitter can be somewhat misleading as we see with the current flood of them coming from the president of the United States.

 

It is good to express what we think, feel, and believe. But, what seems to be true needs to be measured against something - absolute truth. And, the Bible is absolute truth because it is the Word of God. Personal opinions are good and valid but not always right. It seems we live in an age where “being sincere” is so important. But, we can be sincerely wrong. So, it is imperative that we have a standard by which to judge what is true and not true.  

 

It appears to me that we need to be reading and listening with discernment. And, this only comes by having a filter through which to test what we are hearing. And that filter is the truth of God’s Word. 

 

Anyways, that’s my opinion. 

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I work in a number of nations teaching God's Word, training leaders, and mentoring young men who are future leaders in their local churches and nations. In every nation lives are being changed as the true message of the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom spreads to new areas. “God has broken through to the … nation, opened them up to life” (Acts 11:18). 

 

Lives are being transformed; young lives. Youth are responding to the Kingdom message of new life found only in Jesus. As they accept the message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and that He is the only door into Heaven they are being totally transformed. “…beginning at the very centre of who they were and working from that centre outwards, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed in Him (Jesus)” (Acts 15:9).

 

It is like living in the Book of Acts in the New Testament. In fact, it is. The Book of Acts is the only book of the 66 in the Bible that does not have an official end or closure … it is 28 chapters long and we are currently continuing to write chapter 29. 

 

God’s life-changing message is the power of God unto salvation; life now, in fact, abundant life... and eternal life - a personal relationship with the Living God now and forever (Romans 6:23 and John 17:3). If you believe in what Jesus accomplished by His death and resurrection you are His disciple and your life is being transformed daily.

 

Now you know - and what you do with this life-changing message determines your current direction in life and your final destination when you die and go into eternity. Certainly something to think about!

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As you read this my holiday journey into the north to kayak and camp is coming to an end. However, my journey with Jesus never ends. 

 

Some believe that you are a Christian because you were born into a church going family. Going to Church does not make you a Christian. Following man-made rules does not put you in good standing with God. Others have come to understand the Christian message with their mind but it has never touched their hearts. They are told they are born again, but they are not.  They are just well informed atheists. Some are taught that as long as you are receiving the sacraments they are believers - simply not biblical and so not true. 

 

You become a believer when you understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, are convicted of your sins, have godly sorrow, repent, and ask forgiveness. Without repentance there is no salvation according to the Bible. 

 

But, encountering the love of God and His forgiveness and becoming a true Christian is just the beginning. It is the start of a journey with Jesus and not a destination. So, it is a journey like my journey to the north. An adventure. Fun. Exciting. Dynamic. Different. Life changing. Ever changing and growing but never ending.

 

An event where you have an encounter with the God who is love and then an experience of His love daily. That’s what it means to be on this journey called Christianity.  

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Canada’s birthday celebrations are now past history. Yes, we are 150 years old. And, it is good to celebrate all that is Canada. But, lest we forget, this nation was once “The Dominion of Canada” and not just the nation of Canada.

 

“Dominion” means “God rules” because much of the founding and foundation of this great nation was the result of Christian missionaries journeying into all the known and even unknown world with their message of salvation through Jesus Christ - the only way into Heaven.

 

But, the word “dominion” was removed from the official name of the nation we call home a number of decades ago. The Christian faith is no longer at the centre of the life of this nation. We are now a mosaic of ethnicities, cultures, and religions. Don’t get me wrong, this is good and as it should be. After all, this is Canada as we know it today.

 

It simply means that we, as born again believers in Jesus, must not assume that everyone believes as we do - not even others who call themselves by the name “Christian.” We must know what the Bible teaches, what we believe, and then “earnestly content for that faith” by living out that faith in the public arena and telling others about Jesus, the Messiah. (Jude 1:3b).

 

Happy Birthday Canada. And, may we always enjoy religious freedom to believe and to worship as we choose. 

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The Christian faith is not a religion. It is a way of life. In fact, it was originally called “The Way” when Christians first began to spread the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. A religion works with rules, regulations, and rituals where we attempt to please God by obeying and fulfilling the rules. Religion is our attempt to please God by doing things. Jesus hates religion and came to destroy it. 

 

Christianity is not a religion although some have turned it into that. The Christian faith is more than a set of rules to follow or even a set of beliefs - it is a way of life.

 

 Being born again means having a personal relationship with the God of creation and His Son whom He sent to die for our sins on the Cross of Calvary. And, this relationship means that we have a different perspective on life - a Kingdom perspective, new values, new priorities, and a new lifestyle. We are not strange, silly, or super spiritual. We are simply building our lives on a different foundation - the fact that Jesus is alive and we have a personal relationship with Him. 

 

Being born again changes everything. And, we who believe invite you to join us in this adventure called being born again and living “The Way.” . 

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There are two questions everyone is asking no matter what nation they live in or their situation in life. Rich or poor, young and old, there are two key questions deep in their gut. The first is, “Who am I?” The second, ‘Why am I here?” So, person and purpose.

 

People look in so many places to find the answers - friends, family, a lodge, education, entertainment, pleasure, prosperity, even the Bible, prayer, and the Church. Some, when they can’t find the answers, turn to sex, alcohol, and drugs. 

 

This is not a new search for meaning and purpose. It is as old as humankind itself. God, who created us, states: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for…”  God designed us in His image and as spirit-beings (God is Spirit - John 4:24) we can only find our personhood and our purpose in Him. Only in a personal relationship with Jesus can we answer these deep questions every person asks.

 

To have a personal relationship with God (see John 17:3) we need to be born again. We are born physically when we enter this world. To enter into a relationship (not a religion) with the living God we need to be born a second time or born again (see John 3:1-8). 

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My children when growing up learned that as believers in Jesus they were to live by what we called The LAF Principle. This principle was the foundation for the way we lived, the way we treated each other in a rather large family, and the way we treated friends, neighbours, and classmates. 

 

We taught our children that Jesus loved them unconditionally. He loved them no matter what they did or said. And, because Jesus loved them unconditionally, they were to love everyone the same way. This was the “L” in LAF.

 

Jesus accepts each of us just as we are. He doesn’t wait until we get things together, stop sinning, and were living an upright, ‘good citizen’ life. And, we taught our children that, like Jesus, they were to accept each and every person just as they are. This is the “A” in LAF.

 

And, just as Jesus forgave each one of us totally and often because we are born again believers and disciples … so we are to forgive all who hurt, harm, and offend us. Forgive instantly and totally. This is, of course, the “F” in LAF.

 

Jesus loves us unconditionally; accepts us just as we are, and forgives us totally. We are to treat all others the same way He treats us. 

 

This is The LAF Principle of life. A good guideline, even today, for all personal relationships. 

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Valentine’s Day is a day to express our love for those who walk beside us as our spouse. However, really, every day should be a day when we express our love to those who are closest to us and who said yes to marrying us often many decades ago.

 

However, human love wears thin and often fails us. But, God’s love never disappoints. He loves us with His whole heart and expressed that love for us in sending His Son to die on the cross for our forgiveness and so we can have a personal relationship with Him. He describes Himself in His Word, the Bible, as love.

 

Here is a Bible description of this God-love that we can experience on a daily basis as born again Christians and disciples of Jesus. “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first,” Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

 

Have you encountered that love? If you are born again you can experience His love daily and walk in it as you give it away. 

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I am on my way to Yaroslavl, Russia to minister to 500 hungry believers in Jesus. These disciples of Jesus want to know more about the supernatural power of God that you receive when you are baptized in the Holy Spirit. This power is to enable a follower of Jesus to witness to the fact that He is alive and still actively touching and changing people’s lives today.

 

The Christian faith is not a religion. Religion is man’s attempt to please God and reach Him on their own merit and good deeds. Christianity believes that God did all that was needed for us to have a relationship with Him when He sent His Son to die for us on the Cross. Religion says we must “do.” The Christian faith says it is all “done.” So, it is not a religion, it is a relationship with the living God. One that is empowered and enabled by God. It is a supernatural life that we are called to live. 

 

So, we walk in supernatural - God power because of this personal relationship with Jesus. And, we can see the sick healed, people delivered from demons, and be born again because we are called to be witnesses to His resurrection and show people that He is alive and still touching lives today. An amazing adventure. 

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I just arrived back from the United States. My boarding pass was marked “TSA PRECHK.” This means that I can go directly through security and customs as I have been pre-approved. No need to take off my jacket or my shoes. Don’t need to take my laptop out of my briefcase. I can simply walk through pre-approved. Good to go!

 

When you arrive at the gates of Heaven seeking entry into the afterlife in paradise - you can be “JESUS PRECHK.” No need to reveal your sins - they are forgiven. No need to rationalize, justify, or even lie about the way you lived and acted. Everything is ‘good to go’ because you are born again. Born again means you are pre-approved. 

 

Jesus said to a religious leader, “Unless you are born again you cannot see or enter into the Kingdom of God.” Being born again means being pre-approved and your boarding pass is stamped “TSA PRECHK.”

 

You have been born into this world - physical birth. But, your sins have caused your spirit-person to be dead and not aware of or in touch with God. So, Jesus states that you need a second birth - you need to be born spiritually. In other words, born a second time - born again. 

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Jesus is amazing. I am currently returning from two weeks in Russia where I have been ministering. As we worshipped and taught, prayed and ministered people were touched by Jesus and healed, delivered, and set free. Religious spirits were cast out and people experienced God’s love, life, and walked in His freedom and experienced liberty.

 

This is biblical Christianity alive and well. Not Churchianity - but true, supernatural Christianity without the hype and traditional routines, rules, and rituals. Powerful and life changing. 

 

I see this happening in many of the nations where I minister. But, it is not limited to overseas countries that are not as well off or well educated as we are in North America. In our own nation great things are happening. I m honoured to be a part of a number of church plants (Toronto, Montreal, and even the small Manitoba town of Hamiota). And, in Southern Manitoba there is a major move of God’s supernatural power in a number of locations. People are being healed, saved, and baptized in the Holy Spirit as regular believers minister to each other. God is no respecter of persons. What He is doing in these places He can do here. We simply need to open our hearts and receive.

 

It is a great time to be alive and part of the Kingdom of God. 

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We are into a new year. And there is hope that 2017 will be different than 2016. But will it? For life to be different this year something will need to change. If you just simply live life and relate to people in 2017 the same way as you did last year then you will have the same result. Nothing will be different. But, really, it is not ‘something’ that needs to change - it is you that needs to change.

 

All real and lasting change is an inside job. It starts in your heart and soul. To change what life looks like and how it treats you - you need to change you. Change happens from the inside out. This is why we make New Year resolutions. But then, they don’t work and by now even some of those have been filed away for another time or season. 

 

Real change comes when we realize that there is a spiritual side to every human being - including you - and then take the time to look deep inside ourselves and discover the real you. This will mean finding time, being still, creating silence… and being honest with yourself. And, of course, you might want to invite God to help you take this deep heart look. After all, He is the One who gives you life and allowed you to enter into this New Year.

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The birth of Jesus that first Christmas morning in the small hamlet of Bethlehem signified a change in the world order. The Wise Men came from today’s Iraq and asked Herod the King of Judea, “Where is He born King…” They went to the palace because that is where future kings are born. Not this time. Jesus was born in a stable with a feeding trough as His bed. 

 

The first to hear of the Good News of a Saviour being born were the shepherds. Again, a new order was being established. Shepherds were outcasts in their world. Their work was the lowest of the lowest jobs. The announcement did not go to the wealthy, the educated, or the elite. 

 

God was establishing a new world order that was focused on the least, the last, and the lost. And, only the humble would seek Him and find Him. So, many today who celebrate Christmas have no real understanding of the massive significance of this epic world-changing event. 

 

They are celebrating a baby born in Bethlehem. We should be celebrating a King who was born in humble surroundings and revealed Himself to those who were the least, the last, and the lost and they knew it. The proud cannot find Jesus nor can they understand the full meaning and significance of His birth. 

 

What are you celebrating this Christmas?

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Do you go to church on Sunday? If you answered yes then you have a misunderstanding of the nature of the church. The church is not the building - it is the people of God. The church consists of those who are born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus who is Head of the Church. The buildings we call “the church” are simply the places where the true church, God’s people, meets. 

 

Church happens whenever and wherever two or three born again believers meet. Jesus promised that He would be present in just such a gathering. So, “church” can happen in the coffee shop, your kitchen, the grocery store … wherever believers come together and focus even for a moment on Jesus. 

 

Gathering at the building on Sunday should encourage and equip us to represent Jesus during all of the regular, daily events of the coming week. Then we leave, go back to where we live, and live in such a way as to be a witness for Jesus letting others know the difference He has made in our lives.

 

We ‘gather’ to be equipped as the church. We ‘scatter’ to live as believers and share Jesus with others by words and our actions. Gathered and scattered. That’s how it is suppose to work.

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Sir Walter Moberly, a non-believer, stated: "If one-tenth of what you believe is true, you ought to be ten times as excited as you are." I agree. As followers of Jesus we live in His love, experience His presence, walk in His power, and deep inside we have hope. 

 

Our hope is based on all that Jesus accomplished on the Cross of Calvary on Good Friday, God’s Friday. His death paid the price for our sins and gives us a deep-seated hope, a knowing that there is more to life than what we see. And, an assurance that all of this life is simply preparation for an “after-life.” This after-life is with God in Heaven and never ends. This is why we live with hope now, here, today.

 

As people with hope we should be excited. We should celebrate every day of life as a gift from Jesus - because it is. We should face each problem knowing that He is with us and so face them with hope knowing that He will guide and direct. We should express this hope in the way that we live daily life - in our attitude, our words, and our actions. We should be seen and even known as people of hope.

 

Our church’s name is New Hope. For many, living with any form of hope will be “new.” Many today in our community live without hope. Some have even given up thinking things will ever get better. They are feeling hopeless. But, we have the message of hope as found only in Jesus. 

 

We have an obligation to share this hope with others so that they too can come to know Jesus and, as a result, begin to experience deep in their heart this hope that we have and should be sharing. 

 

Let’s “live excited” and let the world know there is hope. 

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The day that the Church began one of Jesus’ disciples preached a sermon. God touched the hearts of many people because they believed what Peter spoke about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He shared that Jesus is God in human form who died to save us from our sins.

 

The people responded. They cried out “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) They believed what they heard but believing in Jesus requires more than intellectual assent. Another Bible preacher wrote: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shutter.” And, they are not going to Heaven. So, obviously, there is more needed than mental assent or knowing the facts.

 

Before and after the original sin that separated man from God, man believed in God. The problem as not a lack of belief, but instead, the lack of lordship. To be truly born again and thus assured of eternity in Heaven with Jesus; in other words, restoring us to a right relationship with God , requires both belief and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.

 

Jesus is Lord and not just Saviour. In fact, He cannot be your Saviour unless He is also your Lord.  So, “What shall we do?”

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The Church is a direct extension of the ministry Jesus had while ministering to the people of His day. One day, as He was walking with His followers, He commented, “The things that I do, you shall do also; and great things will you do...” (John 14:12).

That is an amazing statement. We are to continue His ministry and actually do what He did. His followers are to know His peace, walk in His presence , and flow in the same supernatural power that He moved in. Being a disciple of Jesus is more than ‘going to church’ once a week. It is ‘being the Church’ every day as we live normal lives.

We are called to walk in love and give it away in every way possible and in every place we go. We are the extension of the original ministry Jesus had. We are here to complete His one task and the reason He died on the cross and three days later rose from the dead. His task - “seek and save the

lost” (Luke 19:10).

This is the task He was given by our heavenly Father and it is our task as His people today. This is “being the church” in our world today. 

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Jesus does not like religion. His mission while ministering personally on the earth was to destroy religion and rescue people from the grips of this man-made atrocity.

Religion is man’s attempt to reach out to God and please Him by obeying the rules, living a certain way, and finding acceptance through a code of conduct created by a leader. Jesus came to destroy this and free people to live life fully.

In place of religion - man reaching out to God - Jesus offers a relationship with Him and His heavenly Father. This relationship is founded upon what He accomplished for us on the cross of Calvary and not on what we can do. This relationship is based on what He has done and not what we can do.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He made a way where there was no way. And, if we recognize our sinful nature and actual sins, repent with godly sorrow asking His forgiveness, He will forgive us and then help us to live a life pleasing to God. This is called being born again. And, according to Jesus, this is the only way to enter into God’s presence and heaven when we die. 

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I am sitting in Toronto International airport on my way to the nation of Kazakhstan. There I will teach young people the truths of the Bible, how to hear God’s voice, and waling in supernatural power. All basic things for those who call themselves born again Christians.

 

The Church in Kazakhstan, as is true in most former Soviet Union countries, is filled with young people. They are hungry for the real Jesus and have rejected the plastic, religious, powerless Jesus presented by many established churches. They want to follow the one who was raised from the dead and turned the world upside down. And, they will do so no matter the cost to them personally.

 

It is different here, isn’t it? Often we are seeking for what Jesus can do for us instead of what He wants us to accomplish for Him. We have it backwards. He is not here to serve us; we are here to serve Him. And, young people in many nations today are looking for a challenge and an opportunity to make a difference in their world. Here we are often seeking safety, comfort, and security - none of which Jesus offers those who follow Him. But, He does offer us purpose and fulfillment. 

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Many people who call themselves Christians are not actively a part of a local church. They attend when they feel like it or “as the Spirit moves them.” Some are not involved at all and never attend.

However, a true follower of Jesus, called a disciple in the Bible, wants to be connected with others who share the same Christian values and Kingdom perspective on life. A disciple understands that they must be an active part of the body of Christ, the Church.

The Bible states that God places each member in the body - a local church - and that they must be an active member of that local assembly. Just as every member of my physical body must be connected to the main body - so every member (believer) must also be connected to the body.

Biblically there is no such thing as a believer who is not part of a local assembly. If I cut off my finger and leave it in the corner.... my body will be damaged but it will heal and continue. But the finger will die. So it is with believers who are not connected to a Body. They simply spiritually shrivel up and die.

Think about it! 

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School is starting, gardening is winding down, and the evenings and early mornings are feeling like fall. We are in a change of seasons. Well, the Kingdom of God and the Church is also in a season of change. And, although change is often hard work and not always welcomed it is a part of regular every day life.

 

In the Kingdom God is bringing rapid change to His Church. Over the centuries man has altered the original plan for the Church. We have added aspects of church life that are not biblical. We have done things our way. We have lost sight of the mandate of the Church - to go into all the world and make disciples for Jesus. As a result, God has begun to remove things from the Church that are not advantageous to His message going to every person in every nation.

 

These changes will allow the Church to, once again, offer hope to people. And, as a result, the Church will begin to influence the life of the community and impact people with the life-changing power of God. 

 

Everyone is invited to flow with these changes. Many will and some won’t. But, God is moving forward regardless. 

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We have reached those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” as Nat King Cole still sings on the Oldies stations. It is a great time when regular routines and schedules no longer apply as we try to squeeze as much time outside and to ourselves as possible. After all, good outdoor weather is in short supply in our neck of the woods.

In the midst of this “season” I find many who put God ‘on hold.’ They stop attending weekend worship, don’t read their Bible as much, and generally put God on the “summer shelf” to retrieve Him at the end of September when things settle down and basic routines return.

There are a few who take the opportunity of a slower season to dig even deeper into the Word of God - the Bible. They read more and leisurely think through what they read applying it, when possible, to their daily lives. They engage even more with God during the slower summer pace. 

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I am writing this while ministering in the nation of Kazakhstan. The Christian Church is being persecuted here by both other religions, traditional Christian religions, as well as the government. The opposition to the message of Jesus sees that those who become born again and have a personal relationship with the living God - become real Christians - have a new-found freedom and sense of purpose that threatens them. So, they oppose the born again Church.

Being a born again Christian is not about religion, rules, and regulations. It is about having a personal. daily, dynamic, ever-deepening, unique love relationship with God our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, His Son. This relationship brings life and liberty, forgiveness and freedom. Religion and government look at this, are threatened, and so attempt to destroy the born again Church, the true, biblical Church.

This has been the situation since the early Church in Bible times. But, in the midst of this opposition, the Church continues to grow and speed from town to town, nations to nation. And, in Kazakhstan the Church is filled with young people, is alive, and is growing daily. It is a powerful testimony to how Jesus is still changing lives today! 

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Jesus came to destroy religion. Religion is simply people trying to please God. It involves things we must do, rules we must keep, things we should avoid. Live a good life and we are good to go to Heaven when we die. But how good is good enough? Jesus said that if we take this approach then we must be absolutely perfect as His heavenly Father (God) is perfect. No can do. So, religion is a failure.

Jesus came to do away with religion and its rules, regulations, and rituals. He came to make a way to please God and enter into Heaven upon our death. This way is based on what He accomplished on the Cross when He died for our sins. Through His death and resurrection we can be assured of God’s love now and forever and a place in Heaven prepared for us when we die.

When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour we are given the supernatural ability to have a personal relationship with God. Religion has been replaced with relationship. And this personal and daily intimate relationship with God is the way into Heaven. It is called being born again. It’s called being a Christian. 

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The Bible states that we must be born again. This means coming to the point in your life that you acknowledge that you are not living according to God’s Word and His moral standards. In other words, you are a sinner in need of a Saviour.

Acknowledging this before God and asking Him to forgive you brings new life to your inner being - your spirit. Immediately God gives you the supernatural ability to have a personal relationship with Him. You can hear His voice, see what He is doing in His Kingdom, and be touched by His love. You are now a real Christian - born again!

If you have never experienced this encounter with the Living Jesus Christ then you are not a Christian. You may believe the Bible message in your head but it has not changed your heart. You may attend church but this does not make you a Christian. Live a good life? Not good enough. Jesus said you would have to be perfect to get in on your own merits. Only by knowing Jesus personally do you have assurance of going to Heaven when you die.

Thus Jesus said, “You must be born again.” 

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To be a Christian a person needs a personal encounter with God. This encounter is called, in the Bible, being born again. You are born as a person spiritually separated from God because of the sinful nature of the human race. Jesus came and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Believing this good news in our hearts, repenting of sins, and asking Jesus to be Lord and Saviour is how we are born again.

 

This encounter with the Living Jesus leads to consistent life change and experiencing God’s love every day. We live with a Kingdom perspective and new values and morals.

 

There is a second encounter with God called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Here we are empowered as believers to do what Jesus did and thus fulfill His mission as we spread the Gospel around the world with words and deeds; miracles, signs, and wonders. This second encounter that empowers the believer is really not an option. Without it we cannot do as Jesus commanded. Without it we are simply another religion with words and no power to bring life change.

 

Want to know more ... give me a call 306-536-9574 

 

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The early believers were called disciples, not Christians. Today, we would use the word “apprentice” to explain what a disciple is. It is someone (for example, an electrician) who follows a “master” so that they can become like the one whom they follow and do what they do.

 

Jesus said, “the things that I do you will do also...” So, as we follow Him and listen in our heart to His Words (the Bible) we will begin to act and speak more and more like Him. Then others will see Him (His attitude, His character, His love, His actions) in us and want to come to know Him as we know and follow Him.

 

It is essential that those who call themselves “Christians” examine their life and see if they are truly an apprentice and follower of Jesus. Ask yourself: “If you were arrested for being a Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” When people watch you, listen to you, see you interact with others ... do they see a loving, forgiving, and accepting person. Or, do they see a critical, judgmental and self-centred individual?

 

Jesus said, “Follow Me...” When we do, we will draw others to Him. 

 

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I have just come back from ministering in the nations of Turkey and Armenia. Turkey is where tens of thousands now live having fled Syria, the civil war and ISIS. Armenia is the home for many believers from Iran who are escaping prison and torture to live out their faith in freedom. In both nations the Church is alive and powerfully touching many lives with the Gospel of the Kingdom and salvation.

 

I am about to travel to the nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Unknown to many in our nation these former Soviet Union nations are against the Gospel. Those who claim to be born again Christians are persecuted and often jailed. The churches are underground and meet in homes and apartments. Again, in these very Muslim nations, people are being set free from religion and the occult and finding new life in Jesus. The Church is very much alive.

 

In these nations young people are in the majority. They are finding purpose for their lives. They are seeing that the Gospel can change not only lives but their nations. They are sharing Jesus everywhere, in spite of the danger when doing so.

Please pray for them. Thanks. 

 

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People speak boldly about what they believe in deeply. Just ask someone who owns a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. They regularly speak about what they believe in deeply. The have a passion for the bike brand. They stand by it and defend it. They are very public about their passion and even join others who share the same passion. I often pass a group of bikers out riding on my many road trips in our province.

 

Well, I believe deeply in Jesus - who He is, what He accomplished, and what this demands of us today. I believe deeply in His Words as recorded in the Bible. I firmly believe He is God and that there will be a Second Coming when He will judge each and every person for what they believe and how they have lived.

 

I believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. I speak boldly about Him. People speak boldly about what they believe in deeply. I am a believer. I actually believe He rose from the dead and is alive today.

 

So, some view me as a fanatic or a fool. Really I am simply someone who has met Jesus and is deeply in love with Him. 

 

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Many people have an opinion about God and God’s Word, the Bible. They believe what they want to believe. They sincerely believe. They have created a self-made religion that they then live life by. And, they reject anything that challenges their beliefs because they justify their lifestyle by their self-made beliefs.

 

But what if? What if your beliefs are wrong? What if your opinion and thoughts about what to believe and how to live are wrong and thus your life is being built on a faulty foundation? What if the Bible is true and God holds us to His Word as THE standard by which your life will be judged and your future after death determined?

 

Many have written the Bible off as antiquated and useless for life in today’s modern world. Most people have truly never read the Bible or deeply considered the truths contained in it. Again, they have an opinion about the Bible formed without knowing what the Bible is really all about and what it states as truth to build a life on.

 

So, maybe your opinion and your beliefs are wrong! Maybe the Bible contains ‘the way’ to live life. What if...? 

 

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Most of us have gone to church at one time or another. Maybe we go to church on a regular basis because we believe there is a God who loves us. We go to different churches for weddings and funerals. Most people have been to church, right? Wrong!

 

Most people have been to a building that is called a church. But, in reality the true church is simply the people who believe that Jesus is God and that He rose from the dead and is alive and active today. The word “church” biblically means “the called out one” referring to people. not a building.This means that when those who are disciples of Jesus meet together no matter when, where or how many - they are the church. The building is a building - true born again Christians are the church.

 

In other words, you cannot go to church - but you can go to the building where the church worships the resurrected Jesus.

New Hope Christian Church (the people) will soon open their new building. It is not the church. The building will be called New Hope Community Centre. Here New Hope Church will meet on a regularly to worship God. 

 

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There are many today who believe they are “good to go.” That is, that when they die they will be going to heaven. After all, a loving God would not condemn nor send anyone to hell.

This is so ‘not biblical.’ The Bible tells us that God gives us the opportunity to avoid an eternity in hell - He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross of Good Friday so that those who believe could have a personal relationship with Him now and forever; in this life and the next.

 

Those who believe or trust totally in Jesus as the only way into heaven - that His death and resurrection paid the penalty for our sin and made the way where there was no way - will spend eternity in heaven. Those who do not believe in Jesus condemn themselves to a Godless and loveless eternity in hell... not to mention an unfulfilling life here and now.

 

The Bible states: “Whoever believes (trust in) Him is not condemned (to hell), but whoever does not believe is condemned already; because they have not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

How about you? Where do you stand? 

 

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It’s a busy season with a lot of extra added activities that take us away from the main purpose of Christmas. Family events are fun, school concerts are amazing, and gift shopping can certainly be a challenge. I am a last minute shopper so it is even more of an adventure.

 

However, in the midst of all the added activities and events it is good to stop, take a deep breath, and remember what we are really celebrating. We are remembering the entrance of God the Creator into the reality of everyday life as we live it. The Bible states that God became a man and dwelt among us - living as we live and tempted as we are tempted but without sin. As a result we now know what God is like and His thoughts and feelings towards us.

 

Christmas is all about God taking the initiative and joining with us so we could come to know Him. So, during this busy season remember that He is still interested in becoming an integral part of your daily life, stop for a few minutes, and invite Him to become a part of what you are doing. After all, Christmas is all about Him. 

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The Pope was just in Cuba and the United States. Television news channels covered his every move and news anchors analyzed every word that he spoke. The coverage seemed elaborate and endless. It seems that he was welcomed and embraced by everyone, especially his own people, those belonging to his branch of the Christian faith. And, I could not help but think how different it was when Jesus was born.

 

The Bible states, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” However, it goes on to state, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” To believe in His Name means to trust everything Jesus said. It means to put your trust in Him alone for every aspect of life.

 

This is more than knowing that His death on the cross paid the penalty for your sin and thus He offers you forgiveness and eternal life. It is acting upon this fact, asking Him to come into your life, forgive you, and be your Saviour. It means building a daily, personal relationship with Him and trusting Him completely.

 

This is called being born again. 

 

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The Bible contains 66 books collected and published as one. The word Bible comes from the root word in Greek meaning ‘the books.’ However, it is unlike any other book published.

 

When you read a regular book you read it for information or entertainment. When you are finished you understand something you didn’t know before or you have enjoyed a good read. However, you won’t know much about the author. If you read a Bible with the same approach you will certainly be greatly disappointed. The Bible was written so that you could come to know the author better.

 

You read the Bible to get to know the Author - God Himself. Yes, you will learn things. Yes, you will enjoy certain sections of it. But, the goal of reading the Bible is simply to come to know the Author better. The Bible is a record of God’s relationship with the human race from the very beginning. And in this relationship, God continually reveals more and more about Himself. As we read the Bible we come to know Him better and love Him more.

 

The Bible is simply a collection of 66 books in which God reveals His heart for you.

 

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Early this morning while putting my garbage out into the lane for collection I said “good morning” to a young man walking on the other side of the street. A minute later I am standing and talking with him. He approached me. He has returned home because he has been fighting drug and alcohol addiction for years and losing the battle.

 

He is spiritual as we all are in one way or another. He speaks of a ‘Higher Power.’ He talks of Heaven and Hell. He speaks of personal inventories, making amends, forgiving, being forgiven. It all sounds great. I know the program. I have lived the program. But, he does not know God personally and this is the only way to defeat and rise above our issues, problems, circumstances, and addictions. The Higher Power has a name and is a real person - Jesus.

 

Knowing something will not bring freedom and life. Knowing someone will not do it either. Having a personal encounter with the Living God whose Name is Jesus will, however. This is called being born again. Programs, religion, systems, and information will not bring anyone peace of heart and mind. An encounter with the Living God can however. 

 

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An ancient philosopher once stated that an unexamined life is not worth living. And, in today’s face paced world we often don’t take the time to take a close look at life as we are currently living it. Then, along comes the death of a loved one and it is as if we are forced at that point to examine life as it really is.

 

This week I had the honour of officiating at the “celebration of life” for a wonderful Christian. And, as we spoke of her life and her witness for Christ over many decades and the people that she touched and whose lives were better for having known her... It caused me to pause and examine what I believe and, as a result of what I believe, how I live my life. It can be a sobering time.

 

A life coach of mine once said, “There are three things you can do with time - waste it, spend it, and invest it.” As we examine our life it is wise to focus on investing because life is precious and limited. And to invest wisely one needs a personal relationship with the Giver of Life - Jesus

 

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A wealthy young man came to Jesus and asked Him what he must do to have eternal life. He went on, as many of us would, taking about how good, kind, and moral he has been. Jesus responds and tells him what he must do... sell everything he has, give it to the poor, and follow Me. The young man walked away.

 

The underlying message to this true story is that we must trust Jesus. The Bible states that when we give to the poor we are lending to the Lord and He will repay. So, the rich young man was being asked not to trust in his riches but to trust in God, Trust that God would truly, in so many diverse and wonderful ways, repay the young man’s investment in the Kingdom; trust that he would live a meaningful and fulfilled life. And, when life ended, he would be in Heaven with God, his Heavenly Father.

 

What are you trusting in? Your abilities, your skills, your education, your good deeds, your wisdom, your friends, your opinion...? the only way to live a fulfilling and satisfying life now and go to Heaven when you die is to trust Jesus completely! Have you?

 

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Jesus said that we are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Here’s the issue. We often don’t love ourselves and so cannot love our neighbours as He says we should. Often we are critical of who we are. We think we are too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny... and on the list goes. Our Hollywood culture breeds this dislike and discontent with their image of what a perfect man or woman should look like. We never measure up.

 

The only way to love oneself is to experience God’s love for us as found in and through Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly states that God loves each and every one of us. This love was seen in His sending His Son to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. God desires for us to experience this love on a daily basis. This can only happen if you are born again and have a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus.

 

To love yourself you need to first experience God’s unconditional love for you. This happens when we repent and receive His total forgiveness. This is the message of the Christian Church today.

 

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Jesus said that we are to love God with our whole being - heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, Jesus said that this is THE most important commandment of the many He shared in His ministry. This is basic to living life the way God planned it.

 

To love God the Creator and our heavenly Father we need to know Jesus. He states that He came to reveal to us who the Father is. And, that if we come to know Him personally we will then know God.

 

This is a heart event. This is not just head knowledge. This is more than information, it is life transformation. The Bible calls this “knowing Jesus” being born again. We have been born physically and now need to be born spiritually - born a second time, born again.

 

This is not religion. Jesus came to destroy man-made religion. This is a personal encounter and relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is placing our total trust in Him and His message. That’s what ‘believing in’ means - to trust completely.

 

So, what are you trusting in? Many today trust in themselves - their experience, wisdom, opinions. Many have created a god made in their own image who approves of everything they do. But there is only one way to life as it was designed to be lived - His Name is Jesus.

 

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Do you go to church on the weekend? Really that is a trick question. You can’t ‘go to church’ because church is not a building or an event that we attend. The Church is the people of God gathered. True disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ coming together to pray, worship, learn, fellowship, and eat together - this is the church. The building is simply a place to meet and should never be called ‘the church.’ Coming together with other believers is simply ‘an assembly.’ Biblically, God’s people are the Church - His called out ones.

 

Are you part of the Church? To be a member of the Church has nothing to do with having your name on a church role. To belong you must have an encounter with the living God and experience His love found only in Jesus Christ. This is called being “born Again.” This is the only way to become a member. Just as you have been born physically you must also be born a second time coming alive spiritually, entering His Kingdom. The true Church consists only of those who born again. Everyone is welcome!

 

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Today there are many who say that they are Christians but whose lifestyle would say otherwise. These are “Cultural Christians” who, as Paul the apostle wrote, “hold to an outward form of their religion but deny the real power involved.” This power brings life change when one comes to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour - giving their heart and soul to Him. A true Christian has had a powerful encountered with the living God and is being continually changed. They are being transformed and not just informed.

 

Knowing about Jesus and what He taught (information) is not what the Christian faith is all about. That is what religion is all about and the Christian faith is not a religion. It is a relationship with God, our heavenly Father, achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is more than knowing - it is trusting in Jesus totally. Trusting that He is, as He stated, the only way to have a fulfilled and abundant life now and an eternity with God when we die.

 

There are two options open to us - heaven or hell. Hell is the default. Heaven is available only to those who have a personal relationship with Jesus.

 

Don's Articles

 

  

 

I heard an amazing story on the radio this week. People were being interviewed about 'September Resolutions.' The idea is that September feels more like the start of a new year to many than January does. And that certainly resonates for me. I have lived so much of my life in the school and church worlds, both of which make fresh starts in the Fall. 

 

The interviewer asked different people about their 'September resolutions'. Some were pragmatic, and said resolutions really don't work. One guy said he wanted to stop playing on his iPhone in the middle of the night. Another wanted to be a better father, more present to his family. 

 

Then one man stole the show. He said, "I want to keep losing weight." He had lost 43 pounds so far, and he had to lose another 20 - 25. When asked why he began to choke up. "That's the only way I'll be able to donate a kidney to my friend who's dying." 

 

An amazing motivation! And one that echoes the greatest motivation of all. Jesus Christ poured Himself out on a Cross. He gave His all, and laid it all down, to the point of death. He who knew no sin became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) 

 

That man losing weight wants to save someone he loves. Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, continues to know the greatest motivation of all. To seek and to save that which was lost, out of the greatest love of all eternity. A love that led Him to die for your sins and for mine, to lead lost sinners home to our perfect Heavenly Father. 

 

Do you know Him? 

 

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) 

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Last Friday was Inauguration Day in the United States. The 45th president swore that he “will faithfully execute the office of president.” It's a turn of phrase that some might find ominous, but it's the same oath that's been used since the days of George Washington. All presidents have begun their tenure with a vow to be the best president they can be.

 

Christians also have a promise to keep. We too hold an office. 

 

we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making

an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

 

Wherever we go we are a representative of our Lord and our God. And we are ministers of reconciliation, pleading with people to come home to God.

 

Imagine what our world would be like if every Christian saw this as their chief purpose in this world. Imagine what our lives would be like, if this was our all in all.

 

We are not alone in this calling. God, the author and finisher of our faith, will help us every step of the way, if we but trust in Him. 

 

Will we? 

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Manger scenes are peaceful things. They're pleasant to see, and perhaps have a calming effect. An annual rite of passage has returned, and with it customs that bring joy to many.

 

But is there a deeper meaning? Is this merely a ritual to be observed, ignored, loved or perhaps by some even hated? Or is there something more powerful and even life changing being portrayed there?

 

It depends on how we respond to the One at the heart of it all. Angels appeared to Shepherds with news so awe inspiring that they raced from their place of work to encounter that Babe. They were the first of many who would move mountains if need be to see Jesus, people who would find hope and healing, purpose and salvation in Him, then and across two thousand years to this day.

 

This season is an opportunity to turn from ourselves and our self obsessions, our sins our hopes our fears, and encounter The Lord of Creation who came to Bethlehem and who died on a Cross for you and for me.

 

Call on Him, believing, and you can encounter Him too. 

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Christmas concerts are popping up everywhere. One of our local schools chose the theme 'The Bells of Christmas'. This gave us an opportunity to sing a beautiful and haunting carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, by the great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. One verse reads:

 

                  And in despair I bowed my head

                  There is no peace on earth I said

                  For hate is strong, and mocks the song

                  Of peace on earth, good will to men

 

Those words resonate. People from all walks of life and all belief systems can relate to them. So many bow their head in despair, at the madness of a world torn apart by hate, or because of failing health or finances or anything else.

 

Despair is powerful and monstrous, with the ability to tear our lives apart. It is that lie of the devil that assures us that God cannot or will not sweep to our aid in our most desperate hour.

 

Know it is a lie. And know there is help. You do not have to face this alone. 

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To many young people that title is a popular video game series and nothing more. But last week saw Remembrance Day ceremonies across the land, in honour of those who responded to that call of duty. Across the fronts of two world wars and the Korean conflict, and in the legacy of Canada's peace keeping missions, so many served and so many died, to protect rights that we so often take for granted.

 

A soldier once sought out Jesus. This Roman from so long ago knew the great call of duty. It extended to his servant who was paralysed and suffering. The soldier believed that Jesus had the power to save that man, and in a leap of faith that left Jesus marvelling, he simply said,

 

speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.   (Matthew 8:8)

 

Jesus' reply to the soldier is well worthy of our prayerful consideration.

 

Go; let it be done for you as you have believed. (Matthew 8:13)

 

Are we willing to respond to the call to put our unconditional faith and trust in Jesus Christ? If so we too can be healed, mind, body, soul and spirit. 

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The most viciously contentious American election, perhaps ever, has finally reached its end. New lows have been set in politics by a magnitude of hate that makes Bush - Gore 2000 look like a chummy affair. And that one was nasty. The tenor of this year's debates made the ones in 2012 look like a reunion between long lost brothers.

 

If you are exhausted by this spectacle know you are not alone. And if you need some refreshment, as I surely do, here are words that I pray will help you as they have me:

 

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 

These words were written by one who heard a higher calling, and who turned away from paths of hate to follow the Prince of Peace and Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

 

He is Love. And to know Him is to live on higher ground with a firm foundation, now and forevermore.

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Last week we looked at the giant Goliath, and the way he strutted back and forth, mocking Israel for forty days. Which is what bullies do, if we let them. Temptation will bully us the same way, if we let it.

 

But it's not only in temptation that we will face these taunts from the enemy. Try doing something for God. Try sharing your faith with someone, or offer to pray for that sick person up the street. That bullying voice will well up then, and assure us in so many ways that our faith is in vain. We should never let that stop us, just as Israel should not have been frozen in terror by taunts from one man. (1 Samuel 17)

 

Our church family has recently moved into a new building in Oxbow, just south of the tracks. We are at the moment a small band of pilgrims, and we've had our fears to overcome along the way in the face of such a big project. Still we stepped out in faith, trusting God.

 

We gather for worship on Sunday at 5:30 pm, and we would love for you to join us. 

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I love the story of David and Goliath. The end of it gets all the press, but it begins with a powerful caution for any Christian today. The giant Goliath struts back and forth for forty days taunting Israel. Saul, God's anointed king, and the Israelite army are left shaking in their boots, thoroughly and completely intimidated. Until a lowly Shepherd boy comes along. David marvels at what he sees, and asks, 

 

"What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" 1 Samuel 17:26

 

Bullies come in so many shapes and sizes today, and sometimes in no shape or size at all. They can be a voice that says, 'You're going to take that drink again. You're going to look at internet pornography again. The urge is too strong. Just give in.'

 

The Christian has a mighty resource in prayer, and in the truth that, like David, we have a covenant with our Lord and our God. Don't be intimidated. Trust in God, and in His power to see you through.

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My brother was a photographer. Had an amazing eye. We'd be driving along beside some field and he'd yell “Stop!” Soon he was out in the tall grass snapping pics of an old fencepost, which didn't look like anything to me. Then I'd join him in his darkroom, and watch as these amazing shots would develop, a post back lit by the sun, with the grass bowing in the breeze in the foreground.

 

My brother saw the potential in such moments. The apostle Paul saw the potential in us.

 

Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I'm going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.  Galatians 4:19

 

Christians are called to grow in Godliness, until the light of Christ shines through us in a free and unfettered way. Picture your life this way, with God shining through you, with such love and grace, that others are lit up with the very hope of heaven.

 

This begins at the Cross of Christ. And it develops in each soul that has surrendered to Him.

 

Pray that Christ will shine this way in you.  

 

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Well, to be honest . . .

 

An old friend of mine was a lawyer. He always found it amusing when someone on the witness stand trotted out that old chestnut, “Well, to be honest . . .” My friend had to suppress a desire to respond, “As opposed to all the lies you've been telling us so far.”

 

I try not to be cynical when I hear those words. Which is often. Instead I use them as an opportunity to ask myself, 'How honest are you being? How genuine and open are you in this encounter right now? Are you living Christ's love for this person, without reservation?'

 

Christians are called to live genuine and open lives. We are to let our light shine, to confess our sins one to another, and to forgive and ask forgiveness. We should be people who love God with all that we are, and our neighbour as ourselves.

 

How true is this of you? If it isn't (let's be honest) then take it to the Lord in prayer. For it is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that we can live such lives.

 

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A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

 

                                     Psalm 90:4

 

A dear soul passed away this week, a teacher who lived to be 102. Meeting with her family, we discussed the astounding changes she has seen.

 

 She went from horse and buggy days to a time when everyone seems obsessed with the gadgets in their hands. Born just before the start of The Great War, she saw a century of unparalleled cruelty and tumult, where it became possible to tear the world asunder in flashes of light and heat.

 

She knew the answer to the horrors of our modern age, and to tragedy she faced in her own life. For Jesus Christ was her Lord and Saviour. She understood that a thousand years is like a day in His sight. Her redeemer lives, and has prepared a place for her in Heaven forevermore.

 

This bedrock of hope and purpose sustained her across the trials of a hundred years. The same God continues to call weary wanderers home even now, to all who are willing to repent and find salvation in Christ.

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New Hope Christian Church is a community that believes in an intimate, personal and loving God. Our God is real, and our God is love. That is why He came as Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to Himself. While we were still sinners He came, and paid the price we should have paid for our sins.

 

God longs to welcome you home, as He welcomed a young man who wasted his life, and only came home out of desperation. God is willing to meet us there, even if we turn to Him as a last resort. If we will only call out to Him with a broken and humble heart, and invite Jesus Christ into our lives as our Lord, and as our Saviour.

 

We are called to offer this hope to a weary and jaded world, where so many believe that no such thing even exists.

 

We invite you to come and experience this hope for yourself. We meet in a new home for our church family just south of the tracks in Oxbow, every Sunday at 5:30 pm.

 

You are warmly welcome. 

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The All Star Game in Major League Baseball was played last week.

The elite players in the sport gathered in San Diego,California, to perform for all who cared to see. They earned their position on merit, by proving that they have the right stuff,

and by winning the acclaim of the fans by their accomplishments.

 

It left me wondering what it would take to make the All Star team

of our faith. What would make for an All Star Christian? The idea is silly,

of course. We can't earn higher status by being better than others. We grow as a Christian when we love our God with all we are, and love our neighbour as ourself.

 

Merit can never make us a Christian. Quite the opposite. We must reach the place where we realize we are sinners who fall short of God’s glory, and who are saved by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world, out of love, and died to set us free.

 

The only All Star is Jesus Christ. For it is only by His merit that we can inherit eternal life.

 

Do you know Him? 

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For most of my life my philosophy was ‘live and let live.’ You my have heard of it. It’s all the rage. I’ll live life any way I see fit, and you do the same.

 

It sounds compelling. All roads are good. Pick one that feels right. Then get on with living that life you deem acceptable.

 

This philosophy expects nothing of you, and gives nothing back. It’s no wonder I’ve have had so many encounters with people who embrace it but are still unfulfilled. There is an emptiness within. It can start with a sigh that is scarcely felt as pain. I have seen this emptiness grow, a voracious thing, and even turn into despair. A life so empty that all hope seems lost.

 

God saved me from an empty and purposeless existence when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I accepted the unacceptable, a God who calls us to surrender unconditionally to Him. And suddenly a life of purpose, hope and love began. For God is love, and He longs to welcome you home in a joy soaked embrace.

 

Will you call on Him today?

 

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We have quite a menagerie on our little acreage. We just added a couple of pregnant sows to our assortment of goats, chickens and dogs. One of these pigs comes over for cuddles, and lets out the sweetest little oinks when you give her a scratch. The other snaps if you invade her personal space. I give this pig a wide berth. Not my wife. She works with this stubborn sow, as she wants to to be able to handle it when the piglets comes. I've no doubt she'll succeed. She has an amazing gift with animals.

 

Often we avoid people who make us uncomfortable, and focus on those we get along with easily. Christ challenges this path of least resistance approach. He commands us to love our enemies, and to do good to those who hate us. “If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you?”

 

There are risks involved. We might get bit. But it is a powerful way to live out our faith in the world. Be kind to the uncharitable. Don't pay back wrong for wrong. And see what God will do as a result.

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There is a beautiful version of Amazing Grace by the songwriter Chris  Tomlin. It's called Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone). It adds a modern chorus between the verses of the great Christian classic:

 

'My chains are gone, I've been set free

 My God, my Savior has ransomed me

 And like a flood, His mercy rains

 Unending love, amazing grace'

 

We sang those words at our worship service last night. And as we sang an image flashed through my mind. I saw a poor struggling soul, who was weighed down by a sin he has not been able to overcome, an addiction that drags him down over and over again. The temptation rose again, and he was about to give in. But instead he found the grace and courage to stand up and speak to that temptation with these words:

 

'My chains are gone, I've been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me'

 

If we are in Christ we are never alone in our struggles. We must stand on our identity as His servant, and call on His aid for the strength to see us through. 

 

Are your chains gone?  

 

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It's music festival time again. Everyone who takes part gets their chance to shine on stage. And some do. It all depends of course, on what people put into it. The best performances are ones that become instinctive. When people practice to the point where they don't have to think anymore, and the music just flows.

 

The same is true for the Christian life. It is through daily practice that we grow in Godliness, and become instruments that are surrendered to Jesus Christ and His purpose for our lives. Someone who doesn't practice forgiveness will find it hard to live Christ’s call to love our enemy and turn the other cheek when we are wronged on the stage of life. If we give in to temptation routinely then it will be hard to break the cycles of addictive behaviours that conspire to tear us down.

 

Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. It is a life of self denial and discipline that will only happen if we are centered in God. And He is always there to help us if we call on Him.

 

How’s your practice going?

 

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Spring like weather descended this week. Oh winter isn't through, but there was a tantalizing taste of things to come. Wall to wall warmth sent me to my closet to dig out a spring jacket. I kept the winter boots on  though.

I used them to hop through puddles like I did when I was a kid. Then I paused to lift my face to the sun and bask in the breeze.

 

Spring revives the soul. It brings us back to childhood days, when we traded in boots for sneakers and ran like the wind.

 

God longs to revive us as well. He wants to shower us with mercies and blessings. Because He loves us.

 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.”

                             Lamentations 3:22-23

 

God offers us new life that is as real as Spring. He grants forgiveness for all who truly repent and ask Jesus Christ to become their Saviour and Lord. This Amazing Grace is real. So many have experienced it. I have, and so can you.

 

Will you let Him revive you today?

 

 

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We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy will be complete. This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all.  1 John 1: 3-5

 

This is the testimony of a man named John. At the point when John wrote these words he was an old man speaking to early Christians who may have had trouble imagining life once this great apostle was gone.

 

John is saying 'Listen. Jesus is the Light of the World. He came and paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. If we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ then we will live with God forevermore!'

 

John testifies to what He has seen, and what He has heard. And the most exciting truth he's sharing is this – 'You can know Jesus as I know Jesus. Because the Light of the World is shining still.' 

 

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If you want to see what someone is really like, check out their Facebook page. People are surprisingly honest there. They share the things they are passionate about, the things that come right from the heart. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we felt safe to be completely honest on any subject, at home, in our community and in our church?

 

The importance of honesty is also vital in our relationship with God. At one point Jesus asks his disciples what some call 'the Christian Question' - "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15) The way we answer will tell us the most important thing of all – where we are in relation to Him.

 

To put it another way, Jesus asks us who lives and reigns on the throne of our hearts. Who is the one who really calls the shots, who really has the final say in how we live and move and have our being, today and every day?

 

If Christ is truly our Lord, He has bought us at a price, and our lives are not our own.

 

Is that true for you today? 

 

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A friend of mine made a neat point about marriage. “I really think that married people should live together.” It's hard to argue with that logic. But right now my wife and I have to be apart much of the time. She's working out of province for long stretches.

 

We all understand the sense of longing when loved ones are apart. But have you ever stopped to consider this truth when it comes to God?

 

In the parable of the prodigal son Jesus tells us of a man who runs far away from his father who loves him. Only once he loses everything and reaches the end of himself does he turn from his wicked ways and goes home.

 

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

 

God longs to embrace you as well. Will you let Him?

 

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

 

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As a New Year dawns I'm looking down sadly. At my waistline. I've overindulged on the eating front and haven't been exercising. My wife, a paramedic, considers this a bad thing. 

 

We all get this. Don't work at being physically fit and, well, you won't be. The same common sense applies when it comes to our spiritual lives. 

 

“for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 

 

1 Timothy 4:8

 

We don't earn anything from God by a discipline of prayer and Bible reading, and by serving others in Christ's name. But through these things we can know our Heavenly Father better, and so become more fit as His instruments, now and in the life to come. 

 

It is a life He freely offers to all who have cried out to the risen Christ for mercy and pardon, who believe that He has paid the price for all our sins on the Cross of Calvary, and who have made Him Lord and Saviour of their lives. 

 

Will you call on Him today? 

 

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There is a neat tradition in my native Nova Scotia. Every year the province sends a Christmas tree to Boston. The gift, always selected from the largest and choicest of evergreens, is a thank you for the way Boston helped after the Halifax explosion, when two ships collided in Halifax harbour. Thousands were killed and injured in what remains the largest man made explosion before the atomic age. 

 

 

Boston sent emergency personnel and a staggering amount of disaster relief. To this day Nova Scotians remember, and each Christmas their thanksgiving gift is displayed proudly in the Boston Commons.

 

 

Christians have so much to be thankful for. The Babe who came from Heaven to lie in a lowly manger went on to die for the sins of the world, and to provide a place in Heaven for those who make Him the Lord and Saviour of their lives. He came and rescued us from the power of sin and death, and saved us from Hell itself as though we were embers plucked from the flames.

 

Nova Scotians remain thankful for what Boston did for them.

 

How great is your thankfulness to Jesus Christ today? 

 

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I'm not sure why I got to thinking about Shaun as I drove down the highway today. A very sensible and down to earth guy, Shaun is a Christian with a dramatic testimony. His life changed forever when he looked out a window of his home. Standing outside was a dark figure, a demonic presence. Something that radiated pure evil.

 

It shook Shaun to the core. He fled to the throne of grace, and cried out to our Saviour for mercy and help. That was how Shaun gave his life to Christ.

 

I stopped to get gas. As I filled my tank a truck pulled up. Shaun hopped out. I blinked in surprise. Hadn't seen him in a long while. I moved this year, and our paths don't cross very often. “You know,” I said, “I was just thinking about you.”

 

The encounter reminded me of a truth that frightens many. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

 

Perhaps I needed a reminder of that truth today.

 

Do you? 

 

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It was a perfect November morning, clear and mild, as I trotted off to feed the goats. The cry of gulls made me look up. Scores of them flew in formation, against a backdrop of pink salmon scale clouds.  

 

Inspired by the splendour of it all I sang a hymn. 

 

“I joyed when to the house of God

Go up they said to me

Jerusalem within thy gates

My feet shall standing be.”

 

That hymn is based on the Psalms. It speaks of a pilgrim's journey, at a time when Israelites travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate the great festivals of their faith. 

 

No pilgrimage is necessary for those who are in Christ. Every Blood bought, Born Again soul has this assurance – God has made His dwelling place in us, and we are His holy temple. (John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 6:19) 

 

Inspiration struck that morning, and I penned a new verse of an old hymn. 

 

“I joyed when to the throne of grace

I went, my God to see

A Heaven soaked, Disney ain't got nuthin on this space 

That is inside of me.”

 

Has the King of Glory found a home in you? 

 

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Back to school time reminds me of a recurring dream I've often had. It's very common. Many I've talked to have had it. In the dream I wake up and realize I have a final exam to write. Only it’s for a class that I haven't attended all term. 

 

Those who followed Jesus during His earthly pilgrimage called Him different things. Lord, Prophet, Son of God. Another title was a simple one. Rabboni, meaning Rabbi, Teacher. 

 

Those who are in Christ should never forget that He is our Teacher. We should spend time learning from Him daily, through His Word and in prayer. We should remember His teachings when we are put to the test. By harsh words from others, by times of hardship, and when fears rise up in us. Will we respond with forgiveness, with love, with peace? Or will we forget and lash out in anger or frustration, without remembering what our great Teacher has taught us? 

 

If Christ is not our teacher the chances are high that He is not our Lord. 

 

And if He’s not our Lord we’ll have nothing but trouble when it comes to life’s final examination. 

 

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It’s grad week. Our high school sent out invitations with a Dr. Seuss theme, one of my all-time favorite books – Oh, ThePlaces You’ll Go! That book should be required reading for every graduate. It contains so many gems. Including this timeless truth - 

“And when you're alone there's a very good chance

you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants

There are some, down the road between hither and yon, 

that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.”

 

Those scary things can take on many forms, from bills to the burden of responsibility, from failed dreams to the terrible weight of depression, to name but a few. That’s why I love that book so much. Amid a sense of great celebration Dr. Seuss frankly addresses the trials life can bring. 

 

Despair is that lie that assures us that God cannot or will not sweep to our aid in our most desperate hour. Know that God is always there, and is waiting for you to call on Him. 

 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) 

 

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My wife's a rock hound. This morning we went to an amethyst quarry. I watched Georgia sift through a field of stones, discarding most she picked up, and putting some in a pale. 

 

From there we went to a store where she bought a polishing kit, a series of abrasive powders that grind away at the stones in a tumbler for weeks on end. The result is a smooth and shiny product. Something desirable. And something useable. 

 

The Bible calls Christians an odd thing. "And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple." 1 Peter 2:5a

 

The Church is a community of Believers, people who, step by step and day by day, are being smoothed, shaped and polished by the Master's hand. Sometimes the irritant is another person who we see as rough and callous, even insulting. 

 

Then we have to choose. We can walk away angry and indignant. Or we can respond with grace and humility, even with thankfulness for the opportunity to have a little more of the world scraped away from our souls. And so become Living Stones that offer sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

 

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Stained glass windows don’t matter much these days. People seem less and less inclined to enter the buildings that have them. It’s a neat experience to sit in a shaft of sunlight that is filtered through that glass, to soak in the crimson and amber hues as you meditate on the image there. Christ on the Cross perhaps, or the Good Shepherd carrying a lost little lamb back home. 

 

There’s a beautiful window in the coal mining town where I grew up. It shows Christ with his arms outstretched, beckoning. The ground beneath his feet is cut away, allowing us to see miners with their picks and shovels, hacking at a seam of coal. 

 

The caption beneath the image reads, “Come unto me all ye that labour.” 

 

Labour Day is next weekend. A chance to pause and catch our breath before we lunge forward again. Into a new school year, and back to work. Standing above all the demands on our lives, for those who have eyes to see, is our beckoning Saviour. He bids us come and find our rest in Him. To trust, and find hope in His grace and mercy. 

 

Will we?  

 

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I knew a man named Sam. He was Jewish, and had once been a successful businessman. But he fell on hard times. Lost everything. He had scoliosis, and was stooped over when he walked. He lived in chronic pain. 

 

Sam became a Christian shortly before I met him. I was in attendance at a Gospel meeting when Sam went up for prayer. Suddenly he started jumping up and down and screaming. “THANK YOU JESUS!! THANK YOU JESUS!!” 

 

The pain was gone, and he was standing far straighter. He went forth bawling out his tears of praise. 

 

Some time later I saw Sam testify to his healing in a nursing home. Afterwards I struck up a conversation with a well-kempt lady who had watched him with an odd mix of disdain and pity. She had known Sam years before. He truly had a Midas touch, she said. He was once held in awe by members of the business community. 

 

“Now look at him,” she said, as she shook her head in disgust. 

 

Sam found hope, happiness and healing in Christ. But many, sad to say, responded to his joy with open contempt. 

 

What’s your honest response? 

 

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I love baseball. I used to drive down to Boston from the Maritimes and catch games in Fenway Park. I’d sit in the grandstands and soak in the wonder of it all, the crack of the bat, the mad cheers as the outfielder raced away, perhaps to play a carom off the park’s fabled wall, the Green Monster. 

 

They have the best hotdogs in the world too. It’s there that I learned the recipe that has never been duplicated. Here it is:

 

1) Place grilled wiener in bun 

2) Garnish to taste

3) Put Fenway Park around it. 

 

It’s all in the experience see. People will say that all the time when it comes to their passions. It could be a sport, or love, or zip lining. They’ll likely say, “You just have to experience it!”  

The same is true of God. 

 

If anyone dismisses the grace, love and forgiveness you have found in Christ, just ask them what they are passionate about. Chances are they will tell you that the only way to understand their passion is to experience it for yourself. 

 

Agree, and tell them that the same is true of Jesus Christ.  

 

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Our great land just celebrated its birthday. In honour of Canada Day I spent a little time thinking about our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, who challenged a would be nation to “take the dare.” John loved getting into fist fights in wild settings. Like nomination meetings. He’d razz people relentlessly until the fists started flying. If someone hit him with a solid right cross John A. would laugh and shout “GOOD ONE!” 

 

I love stories like that. They remind us that the heroes of history are flesh and blood, full of hopes and dreams, fears and failings too.

 

There is one great exception. If we are in Christ it is the One that we call Lord. He looked to those who would presume to follow Him and said the most radical things. “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” He commanded love be the answer to those who despitefully use you, and who exult in your undoing. And He died to set us free.

 

To call Him Lord is the ultimate dare.

 

Are we willing to take it? 

 

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It's wood tick season. Our dogs come in with loads of them. They're tenacious little varmints. And they love to reopen old wounds. It's easier work see, going at scabs where a predecessor already dined. 

 

Sin is like that. Oh I know, no one likes even hearing the word. We're okay with the fact that we all make mistakes. But being told we are sinners who fall short of the glory of God is a great affront, an insult to our evolved sensibilities. 

 

And yet, like the stubborn little wood tick, we return to the same places and behaviours over and over. We tear off scabs and indulge again in self destructive activities like anger, addictions, self loathing and greed. 

 

Jesus Christ put it this way: “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)

 

Through sin we prey on ourselves, and sadden a God who longs to set us free. Jesus Christ came and died for this purpose. Through the forgiveness and new life He freely offers, the cycle of sin and death is broken, and lives of endless possibility and purpose can begin.

 

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Our household lurched into a desperate crisis this week. Ben, our Great Pyrenees rescue, ran away. Our gentle giant was always a flight risk. He came to live with us when he was found emaciated on a brutal winter night, with his broken leash frozen to his stomach. 

 

This time Ben was spotted at a few farms, as we drove around calling his name and praying for his safe return. Our prayers were answered the next day when a school bus driver found him in a field. A bus drive later he was back in our arms, a bewildered Ben blinking at the shouts of relief. 

 

The experience reminded me of the parable of the Lost Sheep. On seeing that one of his sheep is missing the Shepherd leaves 99 others in open pasture (a dangerous place) to seek out the lost little lamb. Once found the lamb is lifted up into the joy soaked embrace of the Shepherd. 

 

Our Lord seeks weary wanderers still. If we ask for the forgiveness which Jesus Christ alone can give we too can know that joy soaked embrace. We too can come home, and find our rest in Him.

 

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A young piano student opened up his book and sat down on the bench. 

“So how'd you find this piece?” I asked. 

 

He blinked at me. “What?”

 

“This piece. How did you find it?”

 

He had the look of someone staring at a strange and unpredictable animal. He just gawked at me for the longest moment. Then he pointed at the music. 

 

“By opening the book to this page,” he said.

 

Hard to argue with that logic. And it's hard to argue with the apostle Paul when he says this of Christians: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.” 2 Corinthians 3:2 

 

Ever stop to wonder how people find you? If you are in Christ, people should see someone with a song of their salvation, who knows that their Redeemer lives. Someone who loves God and others in such way that their lives shine with the light of the One who set them free from sin and death.

 

Have you been a good book lately? If you have, or if you haven't, the grace of Jesus Christ can transform us into books worth reading. 

 

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I love Tim Horton's. Spent years writing there. I slurped double doubles as I scrawled away, in blatant defiance of the '20 minute time limit while consuming food' sign. The red and yellow roll up the rim cups always call me out of hibernation, and fill me with the hope of Spring. They make a really good chili too. 

 

One day I considered a poster on the wall as I stood in line there. It featured a steaming cup of coffee with this caption - 'Don't Just Rise. Shine.' 

 

In my mind I replaced that cup of coffee with a picture of me, and asked myself a telling question - Do I shine? 

 

How about you? If we are in Christ we should live out these words - 'Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.' (Matthew 5:16) 

Imagine shining in such a way that others praise God because of you. We will never accomplish this by our own strength. But with the grace of Christ we can be vessels who shine for Him. 

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DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4) 

When I was a student minister a youngster in our congregation passed away suddenly. I joined my supervisor in visiting the family. He had known them a long time, and they understandably only wanted to talk to him. Soon they were huddled with him in the dining room, and I was watching from the periphery as the veteran pastor offered comfort to those who mourned. 

Then a teenaged boy slipped away. He went outside and slumped down on the front steps, as he wept bitterly over his sibling who died. With real trepidation I went out and sat down on the steps with him. 

I didn’t know what to say. It felt like I had forgotten the Bible and everything else. I sat there feeling helpless, as the boy cried. Finally I worked up my courage. I put a hand on his shoulder and said the only thing I could think to say. “You know, it’s okay to cry.” 

I felt like a failure as the pastor drove me home, and for a long while after. Then, on my ordination weekend, I met with a youth group, and there was the young fellow I had tried to comfort outside his home. We sat down in a circle and were asked to speak in turn. When it was that teen’s turn he spoke about the difference I made in his life, when I sat with him outside his home. He became deeply emotional and said simple words that have always stayed with me. 


“No one ever gave me permission to cry before.” 

Trust, when you have an opportunity to comfort others. Don’t torture yourself over what you’re going to say, or how you should be. Be yourself. If you don’t know what to say, say that. And be with your struggling brother and sister. Be there for them, and trust that God will give you the words when they are needed. If any are required at all. 

Remember, God works through the humble. Humble yourself, and let God work through you. You might be amazed at the results. 

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SHORT CIRCUITS OF THE SOUL 

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 

There are moments in life that are nothing less than brutal short circuits of the soul. Times when nothing makes any sense, and there is only hurt and tears that burst from the innermost part of our being. And silent screams. The ones we dare not cry aloud, because we might they might make us break in two. 

The brokenness of this world is a reason many reject faith in God. People argue that a loving God would not allow such suffering. And I confess there are times when I don’t see the point of this veil of tears, when I see dear friends shattered by a desperate sorrow, which they have done nothing to deserve. 

So often Christians feel they need to have the answers. But sometimes no answer is the best one. Even Job’s comforters got it right at the beginning of the story. They sat with Job in the midst of his desolation and offered their silent support. After a time they opened their mouths. And that’s when everything fell apart. 

For now we see through a glass darkly. But then we shall see face to face. May the God who shall wipe away every tear from our eyes comfort the afflicted. And may the valley of the shadow of death be a time when we look up and see the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, who came to be this dark world’s light. 

  

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