Friday, December 30, 2005
I wasn’t surprised by the packed out Christmas Eve services but I was very surprised by the almost full house at both campuses on Sunday morning. We enjoyed four awesome, memorable, less than an hour long celebrations. People seem to love traditional services with carols, Christmas story and some great musicians. A highlight for me at our 6:00 p.m. service took place during my presentation of the Christmas symbols. I was happily teaching on the meaning behind Christmas trees, holly, candy canes and the like. My grandchildren, Madeline and Max, were helping me by passing me the symbol I was talking about.
Everything was going according to plan. There was a fireplace, comfy chair, candles, Christmas tree and a baby Jesus in the manger as a setting. Suddenly, little Jordan (2) quietly left his daddy’s side and came up on the platform to join his sister. He had his bottle in hand. Without hesitation Jordan went over to baby Jesus in the straw covered manger and started feeding him with his bottle. It was a Kodak moment—his generosity in sharing his bottle with Jesus was better than anything I could have done.
One of the most memorable Christmas gifts I received, since I wrote about the other ones last week, was this set of lady bugs a friend from our church had made. A friend of Irene’s and Ernie’s had painted two larger rocks to represent papa and nana (our names were written on the belly side) and six little rocks that each represent our six grandchildren. The family of lady bugs sits in my office—our grandkids loved seeing the cute little lady bugs that bore their own names. Thanks a million to Gill McCullloch for creating them and to Irene and Ernie for giving them to me.
Thanks for visiting.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Q. If God were real, why would He let so many bad things happen to people, eg., torture/murder, the boy that was dragged/killed?
This is a great question; one which has been asked since the beginning of time by almost everyone, including Bible characters like Job, Habakkuk, David and James. I have written articles on the subject before and I’ll include them in my answer, but I think the simplest way to understand why God would allow so many bad things to happen is to see Him as a parent.
Why would parents ever let bad things happen to their kids? If we really loved them wouldn’t we keep them locked up safe in the house, or at least follow them around everywhere fixing their problems? Of course, any child who has been brought up by an overprotective parent knows that overprotection leads to immaturity and rebellion. God really has made us to be free and make choices for ourselves—that applies to the bad people as well as the good people. We live in a world that gives evidence of the choices we as humans have made.
Q. If God instilled in us the ability to make choices (for example, not believing in Him), then even if we don’t believe in Him, why doesn’t He still send us to heaven because He is supposed to love us unconditionally?
If I offer you a present (say a new dress) for Christmas and you choose not to take it, should I make you take it, and wear it? After all, if I loved you enough and the dress would look good on you, shouldn’t I force you to wear it even if you didn’t want to? I don’t think so.
Free will is free will. We have the right not to believe in God, but there are always consequences to our choices. If I, for example, do not believe in the government’s power to make laws, I could speed down the wrong side of the freeway at 100 KPH and kill someone. Run a red light or ignore any other caution or warning signs. When apprehended by a police officer I could just say, “Oh I don’t believe in the government or their laws, so they don’t apply to me!” What do you think he would say?
God created the universe to run by certain rules. I have the right to believe in the rule maker and the validity of His rules or not, but consequences will always follow the choices I make.
God made the world to function with Him at the centre, like the axle of a wheel. I can say, “No, I want to be at the centre of my own wheel!” God, because He loves us and values our choices, will say, “Okay, you can be at the centre of your own life, but you must understand that it won’t go the way I want and know is best for you. There will be consequences to your choice.”
A parent who does not allow his or her child to bear the consequences of his own decisions, does not love his child. True love disciplines a child by teaching that both obedience and disobedience have appropriate consequences. Unconditional love, like the father had for the prodigal son, never stops loving. A parent who loves unconditionally will continue to love his child whether he is on skid row, in prison or in a coffin. I can’t imagine how grieved Father God must be when we freely choose to rebel against Him, go our own way and forfeit the good gifts of love, forgiveness and acceptance He wants us to enjoy.
With God at the centre of our lives, every day is like Christmas as He showers us with blessings and rewards us for being obedient.
Friday, December 23, 2005
“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son asks.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old man says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts. “I’ll take care of this.”
She calls Phoenix immediately and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing till I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing.”
The old man hangs up the phone and turns to his wife. “Okay, he says, “They’re coming for Christmas and paying their own fares. Now what do we do next year?”
* * * * *
I hope you're spending the holidays with the people who mean the most to you -- and that you didn't have to trick them into visiting!
Thursday, December 22, 2005
You may recall a few posts ago when I talked about the ten most influential people in my life. Number nine was Walter Mussen.
As I was preparing my sermon that week, I had written Walter's name on a piece of paper and then left for a Tri-Cities pastor’s lunch. I love the pastors in this special group and always enjoy our time together.
That day, I happened to be sitting beside Doug Fortune's father-in-law Ed (Doug pastors Grace Christian Fellowship in Port Coquitlam) who asked me who I was and what church I pastored and I said Northside Foursquare. Ed told me he had gone to our Foursquare Bible College in Los Angeles and had later pioneered the Richmond Foursquare Church. His father had also been a Foursquare pastor.
It just so happens that Ed, who is about 70 years old, is married to the sister of my step-brother’s wife, Karen. Interesting connection there. While we were having an enjoyable conversation, I asked Ed if he knew Walter Mussen. He said of course, and told me that Walter had been a friend and that he knew him very well.
As Ed and I talked, the guy sitting on the other side of me, Kris Baker (who pastors the Coquitlam Christian Centre), joined in and asked if we were talking about Walter Mussen.
When I responded affirmatively, Kris said, “Oh, I have Walter’s library.” He told us that Walter had gone to Abbotsford Pentecostal after returning from his missionary work in his later years and because he had no children, he left his Bibles and books to this young man who was the youth pastor at the church. The Bible in the collection was actually belong to Walter's father which dates back to the mid-1800s.
Kris asked if I would like to have that Bible and without hesitation I said, "I would love to have it." So I walked out of there, after just writing his name down before going to the lunch, telling both of them how Walter had influenced by my life and now I get his bible that is well over a 100 years old.
It was a wonderful gift! Thank you Kris.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
On my way to the church that morning God spoke to me in a very real way. (When I say God spoke, I’m not referring to audible words, but more like when Nehemiah wrote “He put it into my mind.”) My thoughts were off somewhere else, when suddenly I heard the Spirit whisper, “you know that the dinner you and Susan will be having tonight is a fulfillment of a prophecy that you heard 25 years ago.”
I hadn’t thought about that evening in 1980 for many years, but it all came back to me in a second. We’d been invited to a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Banquet out in Langley, BC, by some friends. After dinner, the speaker, Dick Mills, called out my name and asked me to stand up. There I was, a very shy young pastor with a small church, sitting at the back of the large banquet hall.
He began to tell me and Susan, in front of the crowd, what God was about to do. I’m telling this story to encourage those who’ve received prophetic messages in the past, and also to underline the fact that God clearly sees our future. He alone is able to guide us into the days ahead.
Although Dick spoke to me for several minutes and said many very surprising things (he didn’t know me) that only God would have known, there was one which the Holy Spirit reminded me of yesterday. He said that my ministry would expand beyond where I expected it to and that I would have an influence on some very powerful and successful people. When I heard theose prophetic words in 1980, although the day of their fulfillment seemed years away, I sensed they were true. When something of great significance happened to Susan and I a couple of months after that occasion, exactly as we had been told it would, I knew that we’d experienced a divine encounter.
I told our friends my little story last night of how God had not only seen my future, but theirs also and all of us saw again how awesome our God is. We had a very happy Christmas celebration together.
Just a note about prophetic words. Sometimes we hear something either from the Holy Spirit or from someone with a gift of prophecy. My recommendation is that we do two or three things:
Don’t believe everything you hear, no matter who it comes from. Ask God to reveal whether it is accurate or not. When you feel it’s time, talk to someone you trust, and ask if they would comment on the prophetic word.
Don’t let a prophetic word direct your life. Use it as an encouragement of confirmation, but ask God to speak to you about the matter directly. We serve a speaking God and He will talk to you as well as another person.
I put prophetic words in a “seed file.” Let them sit for a while and see if they take root. For example the prophecy from Dick Mills sat in my file for 25 years. Little roots began to grow shortly after I heard it, but I’ve only begun to see the fruit of it over the past 10 or 20 years.
It's an awesome experience as some of you may know. If you don't think you've ever heard God speaking to you, I encourage you to take the time to hear His voice.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Last week, among my various appointments, there were three, who although they differed in many ways, were all struggling with grief.
My first appointment was with a man who has separated from his wife. We talked about what caused the break up and how he might be able to reunite with his family. I spoke to him about forgiveness and working that through. That’s a very difficult process for him. The flesh, the anger, and the compound hurt on both sides. Pressing us in the right direction is the Holy Spirit, who wants us to enjoy a successful and fulfilling marriage.
A twenty-something woman came to me because she is depressed and suffering from loneliness. She's alone and wishes she was somebody else. This emotionally vulnerable Christmas season does not help her situation. I spent some time talking with her and trying to encourage her. Essentially, she is grieving over the loss of who she wanted to be and feels like she isn't.
I met with a very intelligent, wonderful woman who has just lost her job and she is going through the mourning and grief associated with such a loss. She has already read my book Good Mourning. It wasn’t her fault that she lost her job. They offered her a transfer and she couldn’t do it. She would have had to move her whole family and that wasn't possible. Even though it was her decision, she is still grieving.
One of the most difficult appointments I had was with a pastor who has left his church through difficult circumstances. For him, the grief is extremely difficult because he feels like he has just lost his whole family. He didn’t do anything wrong, and is heartbroken. I tried to help him but ultimately, it is something he will need to work through on his own.
Grief is an inner tearing of the soul that we experience in a time of great loss. The process of grief recovery and good mourning is necessary, and more often than not a solitary experience, to help us walk through a season of grief toward healing.
Through the season of death and loss, the dark lonely nights seem to last forever, but ultimately morning always follows the night. A morning sunrise breaks through bleakness and spreads rays of hope over the desperate hours of grief and sadness. God’s promise is that joy will come in the morning!
Joy is the deep settled satisfaction with life that flows out of a restored soul. When loss unsettles our life journey and grief rips through our soul, God’s intention is that joy will come in our mourning.
So whether your struggles are as a result of some great loss in your life, a goal not achieved, or simply the overwhelming holiday season, I encourage you to be anchored to our transcendent God. Then your faith will see what is invisible to human sight. It will help you look past the grey clouds and help connect your hand to the outstretched hand of your loving Father.
If you would like to order my book, Good Mourning, or would like to meet with me, please call the church at 604-942-7711 or 604-484-8907.
May your joy be full,
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Today, at all three church services, I will be sharing my Christmas message. As I read the familiar story about Jesus’ birth and the wise men who came from Persia, I thought about the three different reactions of people in Jerusalem at the time.
- The reaction of King Herod, the great builder and ruler who suffered from insecurity, fear hatred and hostility. He was so afraid of another ruler taking his place that he plotted to kill the little baby.
- The scribes and Pharisees were different. Even though the scriptures that foretold the birth of the Messiah were being clearly fulfilled, they were so engrossed in their rituals and religious discussions, they missed the significance of God coming as a baby in Bethlehem.
- The magi from Persia traveled a thousand miles to see the new baby. When they saw him, the important and educated men fell at His feet in worship.
Which reaction describes the way you feel about Jesus?
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
So I talked about honouring and remembering those that had gone before us. That caused me to start thinking about all the people in history who have influenced my life. My top ten are:
- The first is Jesus, of course, because He is the creator and Col 1:16-18 says He literally holds all things together. Jesus is the one who influenced me more than any other person and He has influenced the world more than any other person.
- Abraham. He set the pace for followers of God. He is the father of our faith, he’s called “father” by Muslims. He’s the father of the Jews as well as the father of Christians, so he got my #2 vote.
- I just watched a movie this week about Queen Esther telling the story how she literally saved the Jewish race from annihilation in 465 BC. If it weren’t for her we wouldn’t have Jesus and we wouldn’t have any Jews in our world today. We wouldn’t have any Christians either. So Esther is #3 on my list.
- The Apostle Paul who took Christianity to the West (Europe) from Asia and opened the doors up to the gospel for my ancestors is #4.
- Emperor Constantine. In about 312 AD Constantine Christianized Rome. He saw a vision of a cross when he was fighting a war for emperorship. In the vision the words came “in this sign you will conquer.” He went as a Christian and did conquer. He is the guy that introduced Christmas. He took the pagan holidays and changed them. Winter Solstice became Christmas. He is the one that took the worship of the god of Ishtar and changed it to Easter, a celebration of Christ's resurrection. He built churches and introduced the reading of the Bible. He had Bibles printed by hand, and sent them to 50 influencial churches. He’s also the one who introduced Sunday worship and consequently he's had a huge influence on the world.
- Johann Gutenberg was a businessman, not a preacher or priest. First printed the Bible on his printing press in 1466 and made the Bible accessible to average people.
- Martin Luther in 1517. He stood against the established Roman church and brought reformation. He brought salvation by faith, the priesthood of the believer and established the Scriptures as the foundation to all of life. So very important in our Protestant history.
- Aimee Semple McPherson. She brought the Foursquare Gospel to Canada in 1928. She was an evangelist who introduced salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit, and healing. Aimee was always interdenominational and international in who she spoke to. She was the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church all across Canada. She established LIFE Bible College and one of the first graduates is the ninth person on my list.
- Walter Mussen graduated from LIFE (1930). He was my family’s pastor right from the time I was born. My mom was saved in 1933 under his ministry and my father in 1943. They were married in 1943 and my whole family grew up under his ministry. He is the one who gave me a love for the Word of God and for missions. His father was a missionary in China and Walter became a missionary in Japan later in his life (1964).
- My dad and mom. My parents nourished all of their six children to know God, to put Jesus first, to give generously, to work hard and to faithfully serve the church. So they became my top 10 people. So they were #10 of the men and women who have most influenced my life.
It wasn't easy to narrow down this list because a lot of people have influenced me over the years. If you have a few minutes, why not think of your own top ten. Think also about whose list you might be on. Hopefully you have had a good influence on your children, grandchildren and others who lives you have touched.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
In fact, the Saturday before (December 3) was Victoria's 3rd birthday party. She is our second youngest grandchild. There were about 10 kids at there, all sitting around the table at this beautiful Princess Party. When I saw them, I thought, "Wow, it is only a few years away before they will all be a part of our youth group."
Now, I realize these kids are currently only 2-5 years old, so I'm thinking a little ahead, but it so wonderful to know they will grow up together all their lives, they will be best friends forever and it was just a wonderful picture of these very tight friends. The moms and dads have known each other before the kids were even born so that was a really neat thing.
As I watched them, I thought of that song by Michael W. Smith entitled Friends:
"Friends are friends forever, if the Lord is the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never, cause the welcome will not end
Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands I know
That a lifetime's not too long... to live as friends."
And speaking of kids, after church the next day, Blossom's (my very good friend who passed away this past summer) husband Gerry came up to me and said he had a gift for me. Then handed me an envelope. When I opened it up, a whole bunch of pictures fell out. They were ten years old and from when Blossom had taught a pre-school class at our church.
The kids had drawn pictures showing how I had influenced their lives. Amazingly, those little artists are now 14-15 years old and still attend church. I was so touched by the pictures. This one is by Genaya Grasby entitled "Pastor Barry Looking at Me." I would have to say it was one of the greatest gifts I've received this year. Check out the Tri-Cities News (December 18 column) in the paper or next week on our church webpage to learn more about the gifts that meant the most to me in 2005.
Next post, I hope to talk a little about my sermon on Sunday. I want to share with you the 10 people who have influenced my life. Hope you'll drop by.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
As a denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel actively seeks to honor the memory of its founder, Aimee Semple McPherson. The Foursquare Church strives to fulfill the mission of Sister McPherson by preaching the Gospel around the world. Further, the Foursquare Church promulgates openly the facts of Sister McPherson's extraordinary life and ministry. However, though open to factual biographical representations of its founder, the Foursquare Church does not support many of the productions that are billed as historical or biographical fiction and that seek to sensationalize various aspects of her life.
The new Richard Rossi release, Aimee Semple McPherson, seems to emphasize and focus on the more controversial areas of Sister McPherson's life, to the extent that the remarkable and miraculous are overshadowed. Additionally, the film includes many of the same inaccuracies and innuendoes that have predominated writings about Sister McPherson's life both preceding and following her death. Because of those things and because the title can lead people to think that the work is truly biographical, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is NOT endorsing the movie.
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If you would like to know more about the founder the Foursquare Gospel, please contact our church to order CD of a sermon I preached on this subject.
Thanks, also, to those who took the time to watch It's A New Day this week and for your feedback.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I have a friend who has a Ph.D. and teaches at a university and so I asked her why we planted daffodils and tulips in the fall. Why couldn't we just plant them in the spring? She said they have to go through 9 weeks of freezing cold, black weather because that cold, darkness and wet stimulates their growth. If they didn’t go through that winter time, then they would just be little weak flowers in the spring. So, the long stretch through that bleak season made them better.
I found that to be a wonderful lesson for me because it fits so well with Psalm 23 where David says we go into the valley of the shadow of death and that’s where we receive anointing and that’s where we receive the comfort that God wants to give us.
So I was happy to plant them in the garden to begin this process in the valley of the shadow of death that would lead them to a new springtime. As I did that, I prayed for people I know and all who read this blog that as you go through the valley and that there would be an Easter time, a time resurrection, when beautiful new life would burst forth as a testimony to God’s grace.
Now, around the daffodils and the tulips, there is a brown papery shell and very often I used to scrape that off and throw it away. When I asked my friend about it, she said, not to do this because that shell actually nourishes the plants. It is a starch that turns into sugar and gives the boost that the plants need for nourishment.
Again I could see how this fit into our lives. Sometimes the rough edges in our life that we don’t like are what really gives us the nourishment and boost to succeed. So I kept that shell on them, and I kind of rejoiced as I put the flowers in the garden knowing that they would be well nourished for a long, cold winter sleep so that they will be beautiful in the spring time. I’ll give you a full report in March when the flowers come up out of the ground.
After we did the daffodils and tulips, we put up our Christmas lights. We have a 3 storey house and the top rung of lights had become disconnected. I had put a staple right through the wire last year so the lights didn’t work. I didn’t want to go up the ladder and fix them as I don’t like heights like that. It was beautiful day and Susan encouraged me, so up I went. She stood at the bottom of the ladder and promised she would catch me if I fell (talk about faith). I rewired the broken string and got all of our lights working. Once that was done, we put more lights around the plants and the trees so it looks really nice.
As darkness settled, Susan and I sat backed and enjoyed the fruits of our labour. Later, as I worked on my sermon, I used the day's experience to share with the church. It's not easy going through the valley, but God is with you, comforting you. And I pray that soon your cup will overflow and goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Personally, I don't mind snow. It is light and fluffy here and turns our little hill above the city into a majestic wonderland, especially with the glimmering holiday lights.
So, in celebration, I'm posting an online link to make your own snowflakes. If you live in a country that never gets snow, here is your chance to create some. Grab a cup of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and your favourite cookies and start a snowflake making party.
You can visit the gallery first, or start designing. It's easy. Place the scissors over the edge of the paper until the red dot in the centre turns green, then start cutting. Preview your cuts to see how it looks.
If the snow is falling where you live, why not go out and have some fun with your family and friends. God wants us to not only work hard but to have one day of rest each week. And today is that day!
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Every year we have to raise our budget. This year we have to up it by about 10%. It is always a faith step and although we have always brought in enough to cover our budget – thank God for that – we still step out in faith each time. This year will really stretch our trust in God for two or three reasons.
One is that we desire to give away about 50% of all that comes in to support our outreach ministries (three areas). Right now we giving away about 40%. Learning to give is difficult because throughout all our lives, in and out of school, we’ve learned that if we have $100 and we give away $10 we have $90 left. Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He also says that if we give, it will be given unto us. I believe that and I preach sermons on that, but I have trouble integrating that into my life sometimes. I naturally tend toward the human side that says, if I give it away than I don’t have it any more. So we have this dichotomy between the kingdom world and our physical world.
This year has really been a year of working through this for me. I have always given. I have always tithed but I am learning to stretch myself beyond what I personally feel comfortable with. It is a difficult transition in my own life and we are also going through that in the church. That is part of the reason I wrote the book, The Secret to Happiness. It is my own personal journey into believing that what Jesus said (it is more blessed to give than to receive) really is true.
I met a lady in Davao whose father was a lawyer and her mom was a teacher. With four children to raise, her mom quit working. Even so, they were fairly well off until her dad left the family and went to Manila. He didn’t support them in any way so they became very poor. For several years they lived in extreme poverty.
When she was 16 she moved to live with her dad in Manila and all of a sudden she was brought into prosperity. Suddenly she had modern and stylish clothes, a car and friends that wanted things from her since her tuition was paid for and she had the funds to go to the mall and do things. She lived successfully. But she found, in her own personal life, that when she was successful she had pulled away from God. Success had moved her away from dependence on Him. It was around that time that she became an evangelical Christian becoming born again.
She married a pastor and they began pastoring a church in the mountains where they literally do not have enough money to live. They have a couple of children and they chose to live in poverty as pastors because she felt that poverty gave her the dependence on God that He wanted from her. She would get up at 4:00 in the morning and go down to the wet market where she would buy 5 kilos of fish, come back to the little town they lived in, sell the fish and make a few pesos in order to get enough food for the day. Every day, was a step of faith.
Ever since then, this woman has not only lived on the edge of poverty, never having any money, but she and her husband spend their time helping the poor. She is the one who took me to the orphanage I mentioned in an earlier blog about the two boys being brought in from the streets after sniffing glue. Another boy there, had his face hacked up by his father. She’s dedicated herself to helping those orphans.
She’s also dedicated herself to helping the poorest of the poor pastors; the pastors who literally have nothing. And they are building a pastoral centre totally by faith because they have no money. They have now put up about 8 of the concrete pillars and are just living by faith, day by day.
I have learned a lot from this woman and her husband, as well as from other pastors in the Philippines who give everything away. Whatever they have, they give away. We just have so much in America so I am really trying to sort this thing through about money and learning to be a giver as God says. And so that is kind of where we are right now as a church.
As I go down that pathway, I want to lead the church down that pathway as well so that we become known as a giving church. I want to be like the church in Philippi that Paul wrote about in II Cor. 8 and 9 that gave out of their poverty and they begged for the privilege of participating in the kingdom. That is the kind of church I want to pastor. And I am moving the church in that direction.
We are also being stretched due to our commitment to Pacific Life Bible College (between $250,000 and $500,000 over the next 3 years), the addition to our Coquitlam campus (approximately $1 million), upgrades to both campuses ($100,000) and the radio broadcasts which we hope to start next year ($300,000). We also need to start preparing for our new building which will cost about $6 million. So for us to give away money to the bible college and missions is really stretching our faith and that is a good thing for us. So this upcoming year will be a very difficult year, but a year we will be drawing very close to God.
And just so you don't think Northside will be the only church stepping out in faith, let me tell you about a meeting I attended recently.
All the lower mainland Foursquare pastors met at the Kingsway Foursquare church to discuss two major topics, one of which was the bible college. As the campaign chairperson I shared the vision and the goals and we asked the pastors to set the pace for their churches. We are asking every church to participate for a couple of reasons. One is, we really want to grow in Foursquare and we see growth as part of our mandate under God. So, if we really want to grow then we have got to prepare leaders. And if we want to prepare leaders, then we’ve got to invest in our bible college. This is the first time we, together, have been on a unified mission. Normally, we are building churches and doing our separate ministries but this time we are all working together to build the Bible College to prepare for 5 years down the road when we produce new leaders. We have a whole new crop of great leaders in our Bible College.
Secondly, besides doing that, we really believe that this giving, sacrificially to the Bible College when none of us has extra money, is going to release a flow of God’s grace in our own churches. So I have offered to give every church enough of my Secret to Happiness books to give free to everyone in their church and that is one of my contributions towards the Bible College. We are going to teach giving, not only in our own local churches, but all the Foursquare churches across Canada and pray that it releases God’s grace in the future. Our people will become a giving church. Not just Northside, but all the Foursquare churches will be known as giving churches.
Isn't that an exciting vision?
It is hard for me to share the extreme joy I feel when I visit the Philippines and I am able to give to these people who have so little. I wish everyone could experience that. For now, you will just have to trust what the Bible says. Truly, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
May you be blessed a dozen times, or more, this coming week.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Have you finished all your Christmas shopping? Is the tree up and trimmed with twinkling lights and special ornaments?
I love this time of year and the family traditions we share. Is there something special you and your family do to help celebrate the season? If so, I'd like to hear from you. Drop me a line.
So, as you know, I tapped three segments presenting my "Life Purpose" for It's A New Day several weeks ago. They will air Monday, December 5 to Wednesday 7, 2005.
I hope you will watch the show and let me know what you think.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
We had lunch then registered at the Bagobo House where I began preparing for our first meeting with the pastors. My series covered the numbers 1 – 7. One Lord, one body—on the unity of the church, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant. Two worlds—the visible world we live in and the invisible Kingdom of God. Three dimensions—the importance of keeping balance between our up with God, in with ourselves and our out with others. Foursquare Gospel—a rediscovery of our roots. Five senses—our pathway to intimacy with God. Six ways to pray from the Lord’s Prayer and seven gifts to be used for God’s glory.
I love the worship of the Davao Foursquare Church. This is my fifth visit to this one thousand member church who are holding their fiftieth anniversary in 2006. Again, our church gave money to help the pastors with food costs; some of the ladies prepared three meals a day for the few hundred pastors.
Their ministry to the slums is a key factor in the church’s success. By feeding and teaching some two hundred and fifty children, the parents often come, become believers and are helped spiritually as well as physically. On the Friday, I went with a few workers for a tour of the slums and to meet some of the kids the church cares for. I love the openness and hospitality that even the poorest of the poor show. They often live on only a few dollars a month, subsisting on a handful of rice, and maybe a small fish each day. There is no welfare so anyone who does not work, doesn’t eat. A mom may spend a few cents at the market at 4:00 a.m. buying a couple kilos of fish and resell it to her neighbours for a small profit.
On Saturday, November 12, after the Conference was over. Pastors Hermani and Mila Resueno, of Strength in the Valley Foundation Centre, picked me up for a tour of their ministry in Panabo City. Along the way, we stopped at a few Foursquare churches, some pastured by students in their third and fourth year at Bible school. We went to see the progress of their ministry centre which is just getting off the ground. Mila’s prayer is that this will be a resource centre for many of the poorest pastors. They will be able to receive help with food, clothes, books and encouragement to subsidize their small works. Several of the pastors serve the tribal Filipinos many hours from town. They are only accessible by jeepney and motorcycle; then horseback and a three hour walk. It’s surprising how little of our Canadian dollars can do so much to help the ministry of men and women who live on $20 a month.
We then went to an orphanage that Mila and Hermani help subsidize through their work. Boys are taken off the streets where they live by begging; are given food, housing and loving godly care. I held one little boy whose face had been hacked up by his drunken father, along with his two twin brothers. The mother is insane.
Two young boys had been picked up by police while we were there. They’d been sniffing glue and were filthy when they arrived. It was so touching to see them gobble up their fish and rice—likely the first meal they’d had in days. We then drove back to my hostel. (Only one flat tire on the way which was amazing since there was absolutely no tread on Hermani’s cracked and worn tires—he took the flat one in to get it revulcanized. How I wish I could have bought him four new tires, but by this time, I’d given away all my money.)
Back in Davao that evening, the church staff and I enjoyed a sumptuous Chinese dinner. I intended to pay, but they graciously covered my meal.
Sunday a.m., I was up at 4:00 a.m. to prepare for the 6:00 a.m. service. It always surprises me, not just to see birds flying through the sanctuary’s unglazed windows, but also to see the hundreds of people who show up so early in the morning ready to enthusiastically dance and sing to the Lord.
After that, and a 9:00 a.m. service, I headed home. Although I was scheduled to stay until Tuesday, Susan needed me, so I changed my ticket to Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Because of the sixteen hour time change, I arrived home about the same time I left! I was thoroughly exhausted and thoroughly exhilarated from my fifteen days away. But always wonderful to be greeted by my beautiful wife!
Okay, I'll admit it. It's nice to sleep in my own bed, too! We are so blessed here, aren't we?
I'm looking forward to sharing some of my experiences with you over the next few weeks. Hope you'll keep dropping by.
Monday, November 07, 2005
On Friday, I returned to Manila from Ilo Ilo in transit to China. I got to my hotel early enough to meet up with Val and Sally Chavez (President of the Foursquare Gospel Church of the Philippines) and a few other pastors and family. We enjoyed a sumptuous Chinese dinner together, before I returned to my hotel.
On the walk back I heard music coming from a large Roman Catholic church, so I went in for a visit. I was surprised to see about three hundred people on their knees praying while a woman and man sang beautiful classical hymns from the piano. I was enveloped in the presence of the worship as we sang all the verses of “Come Holy Spirit, we need you”. I lingered for about an hour before walking the two blocks back to my hotel, and enjoyed a peace-filled sleep.
On Saturday, November 5, I awoke about 5:30 a.m., excited about my trip that day to China. I had never been to a Communist country before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My Chinese visa was issued on the expectation that I would not preach or teach Christianity.
After a six hour flight, I arrived at the airport and met my friends. The fog was so thick it took several more hours to reach our final destination. We visited for awhile and then I went to bed. The couple was so gracious they gave me their bed. They slept in one bed with their three children in the second bedroom.
The next morning (Sunday), it was about 6:30 a.m. when I got up to join the family for a wonderful Chinese breakfast. After a social time, my host and I set off for an interesting day. It was only now that I could see the city, because of the thick fog the night before. My first observation was the multitude of bicycles—as many as cars. They seem misplaced in the modern city. Most look very old and worn (apparently their appearance discourages thievery).
In Communist China, the government owns all the land but if you’re well off you can purchase an apartment (walk up six floors) for about $40 million CDN. The average unskilled worker would earn about $300 CDN a month, while some labourers only earn less than $100. Even at that he will often live in a makeshift hovel and send money to his parents or wife and children on a distant farm.
When the Communists first defeated the Nationalist Party in 1945, they had promises of equality for all. The initial idealistic leaders did well at living like the common people. They offered free university education for anyone who could keep up their grades, and free medical, so other people bought into the socialistic system.
By the time the second generation of leaders came along, power was beginning to corrupt them. Now medical is offered by the company for the one who works (not spouse) and fifty percent for children. Only about one percent can attend university. Very often the educated leave China as soon as they can for higher wages elsewhere.
Apartments are provided as part of the responsibility of employers. They also are obligated to give a small pension to those who retire. This has been a generation who were only allowed to have one child. (Abortion on demand has helped the city dwellers have one son usually.) Although in the country-side couples often exceed the one child limit, in the city it is controlled. This has led to a new generation of “little emperors”—boys who have been spoiled by two parents and often four grandparents. Their attitude often reflects their indulgent lack of parental discipline.
China is the fourth largest nation in land, so the temperature ranges from very cold winters in the north, to warm, rainy winters in the south. Where I was, there is a constant brown haze from the blowing soil and smog. Rules on the road are minimal.
We began our Sunday adventure by attending a large government approved worship service. The government is proud of their “freedom of religion” policy. By that they mean you are free to choose your own religion, but because you are free, no one is allowed to try to convert you to theirs. Surprisingly, children under sixteen are not allowed to go to church. (They are thought to be too young to make an informed decision and of course because they are free to later make up their own minds, parents are not allowed to teach them about Jesus.)
As we arrived at the very attractive church building (the land is owned by the Communist government and the pastor is paid by the government) I was surprised by three things:
- The handicapped and blind who were begging at the entrance reminded me of the Gate Beautiful in Acts.
- Of course there are no children’s programs because children are not allowed to go. The predominant age of the two thousand congregants was in their twenty’s.
- By ten to nine every seat was full and people were standing in the aisles and outside to hear from loud speakers.
I assumed the service had started at 9:00 a.m. when we started singing the traditional hymns, but I soon found out that the first half hour was congregational hymn practice. The actual service began at 9:30. Then we were able to sing the same hymns with gusto.
I loved the service. Although I didn’t understand the sermon, I truly felt the presence of God. After it was over I asked my host why the other Christians met in underground churches across the nation (estimated at well over one hundred million believers). His answer surprised me. Although this was a seemingly healthy church, it was the only government approved church for several million people. No wonder it was full!
After the service we traveled by car for several hours to visit three more groups of friends. I wish I could describe our afternoon and evening, (which included an amazing feast) but wisdom cautions me. To put it bluntly in summary, the church, although suffering persecution and constant surveillance, is alive and well in China. We arrived back at the apartment at around 10:00 p.m. It had been a full and satisfying day.
Today, I made my way by bus and plane back to Manila and right now I'm headed for bed.
Thanks for stopping by.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Wow! What an inspiration to worship with these enthusiastic pastors and leaders. It seems that the more people suffer, the closer they are to God.
We watched a great DVD which covered an informal tour of several of the surrounding island churches. The team traveled for two weeks by homemade catamarans, motorcycles, trucks and foot to reach some of the remote villages. These pastors (which are here at the Conference) live on $300 to $500 pesos a month—that’s $6 to $10 CDN. No wonder they are thrilled to receive our bags of collected hotel shampoos and soaps! The service was long (about four hours) but inspiring.
By midnight I hit the pillow and asked for a wake up call for 8:30. I woke up at what I thought was 6:00 showered, dressed and went to the lobby for a cup of Nescafe (only instant here), but all was in darkness. I asked the sleeping clerk when the café opened—that’s when I realized it was only 4:30 a.m. Somehow I’d got the time changes confused.
At least I had a good length of time to prepare for my day. Breakfast was fish, lumpio, rice, eggs and fresh papaya. Delicious!
I loved our two morning sessions. Every morning and evening I give the pastors a ten question quiz (very obscure questions) on what I said the previous session. Then I give out dozens of Cadbury chocolate bars and my books as gifts. I’m amazed how well they remember the answers.
For example, I told a story the day before about a runner from Tanzania in the 1990 Mexico City Olympics. One question was, “What was his name?” The answer, which some remembered, was John Akwara. We also shipped a box of used Christian books a couple of months ago. Nora gives away the books as prizes for various things and they are tickled to receive a free book.
Our church paid for Life Purpose books as well as workbooks for every registered pastor. They are so grateful. We also supplied the money (amazingly our Sunday School children raised $1500) for food for the pastors. (I’ll upload pictures later.) They are fed three good balanced meals a day for about 50¢ each. Keep in mind that the average salary of a worker (store clerk, hotel maid, doorman or other unskilled worker) is 175 pesos a day (that’s about $3.50 CDN). No wonder one spouse often works in another country to send money home for the family. Even so, almost all (except for the poorest 25%) parents send their children to three or four years of college after they graduate from grade 10.
Tonight I continue teaching Life Purpose. To end the last morning session, where I spoke about how God loves to give each of us free gifts, I surprised the pastors by pulling out a couple of hundred small chocolate bars (like we give to trick or treaters on Halloween). I threw them to the crowd and they went wild trying to catch one.
After a crazy couple of minutes, where everyone was laughing and shouting, I stopped the groups and said, “Now, remember God gives us gifts so that we can give them away.” With that the pastors knew what was coming. “Now give your chocolate bar you’ve been given to someone else.” They did it with great joy and laughter!
I’m headed back to Manila tomorrow afternoon to meet with President Val and Sally Chavez—then off to China. I wish I could write more about my China visit, but cannot, so I’ll pick up the story next week when I return to Manila and off to Davao.
Images from the Philippines:
Isn't she cute?
What a sweet, sweet sound
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Somewhere along the way, I missed Halloween. (I am usually watching our six grandchildren dress up and ask the neighbours for candy, so they can share it with Nana and me.) Our plane arrived at 5:30 a.m. on November 1 in Manila. (The Philippines are 16 hours ahead of us in Vancouver.)
My next plane to Ilo Ilo did not leave until 2:00 p.m. so I headed for a hotel to catch up on some much needed sleep. By 7:00 a.m. a taxi had taken me through the streets on the drizzly, smoggy day and I laid my head on a soft pillow to rest. But within an hour there was a friendly knock on my door. Some pastors I knew were there to greet me and take care of me for the few hours I had in Manila. Filipinos are so people-oriented that they can’t conceive of a person being left alone in a strange city.
Together we rented a car and driver for about $30 for the day, and set off for some visiting. We ended our few hours with a delicious Chinese meal then I had to run to the airport to catch my plane. I left a couple of boxes of gifts at the hotel for my return.
I arrived in Ilo Ilo by 4:30 p.m., the sun was shining on this beautiful city (the fourth largest in the 84 million populated nation—the size of British Columbia). Ilo Ilo, which is named “long neck” for the piece of land it is situated on, is an attractive university town. There are 14 graduate schools here in this city of 200,000. And, by the way, four stop lights in the entire place!
I was greeted by the ever smiling Joemarie Sulmaca. I’ve known Joemarie and Nora and their three boys for several years and count him among my dearest friends. He not only pastors a great church, he serves as District Supervisor of this area and regularly conducts evangelistic rallys, has planted some 40 churches in 14 years, but now serves as Vice-President of the 1,600 Foursquare Churches here. I often lecture him on over-working, but he doesn’t listen. He’s having too much fun!
Joemarie’s latest passion is planting house churches in the poor barangay (grouping of households with an overseer and council). He has one pastor for each three churches.
In the Bible School here, where we are meeting for our Conference, every student who graduates will be required to plant a church. Most are single and about 19 – 21 years old (men and women). The way they start house churches is by feeding the poor children. One bag of rice (20 kg) costs about $20.00 CAN and will feed twenty-five families. Remember that even in Manila the average nurse, teacher or policeman will exist on $20 - $60 CAN a month and eat a bowl of rice (maybe some beans or fish) a day. Of course there are a few who do well and live lives as prosperously as we do.
Our Conference is going great! Even though it’s easy to feel the pain and depression of the society (some barangays have one or two suicides a week) the evangelistic churches are alive and well. I wish I could express the joy in their singing, on paper. I often just stand among them as they worship, listen and feel the palpable presence of God’s Spirit. The Filipinos love to sing and dance.
After I finished the first service, speaking on Finding Our Purpose, I headed for bed around 11:00 p.m. and slept well.
Up at 6:00 for a breakfast of fish laden scrambled eggs, rice, corned beef, fried fish and fresh fruit, I prepared for my first two sessions this morning. The pastors listened with enthusiasm even though they’ve slept (200 of them) on a concrete floor in the Bible College. (Our church provided them money for food and two or three women cook and feed everyone.)
After lunch Joemarie and I had to talk business so we headed out for barbecued chicken and rice (no utensils—we eat with our fingers). In a moment we go together to the airport to pick up Pastor Val Chavez, the President of the Foursquare Gospel Church of the Philippines. Val and Sally are very dear friends of mine and I always look forward to our time together.
It’s a beautiful, sunny day (about 80 degrees F), and I’m looking forward to our afternoon. Tonight Pastor Val will speak at the Conference.
We're expecting great things! Pray for us.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Anyway, thanks for the question, anonymous blogger!
You are right; there is a verse in the book of Leviticus that forbids cutting or tattooing your body. Leviticus 19:28 says, “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourself: I am the Lord.”
According to what I’ve read of customs from 3,500 years ago, pagan religions were represented by certain tattoos (perhaps like we may tattoo a cross or “Jesus loves me” on our bodies today). Having a pagan god or symbol tattooed on a person’s body would violate the prohibition of worshiping pagan gods, icons or images (Exodus 20:4 – the second of the ten commandments).
Your friend is right that many of the Old Testament laws concerning health laws, personal cleanliness, eating, etc., are not necessary today because of our modern conveniences such as refrigeration and health care. Most of the Old Testament laws had to do with spiritual, social, psychological or physical well being; and are as valid as ever. Others were pictures fulfilled when Jesus came to earth, died and was resurrected. Biblically, I still believe we should adhere to commands such as Leviticus 20:28.
In light of this scripture and your own tattoos, here’s what I would counsel you:
- Don’t get any further tattooing done on your body;
- If you have satanic, occult, pornographic or profane tattoos, you may want to have them removed because of your Christian testimony. We should reflect Christ in our body, conversation and behaviour.
- You may want to consider your tattoos part of your testimony. “This is who I was – now I am a new creation. This is my old body, one day I’ll get a new one.”
- The way you treated your body as a non-believer is forgiven, every bit as much as any of your past words, thoughts or behaviour. There is nothing in your past that has not been washed clean by Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and life (if you have confessed and turned from that former behaviour).
- Lastly, read I Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 and you will see that we each stand before God and not before the judgements and opinions of others. If you feel in your conscience that the tattoos are wrong, then you have to decide what to do. If someone else does, but you do not, then you are not obligated to please them. The exception might be if your tattoos are offensive and get in the way of someone’s faith (for example, if I were married or had children and they were embarrassed or offended, I’d do anything to please them).
Well, hopefully these several thoughts will help you make a wise decision. Pray and ask God for wisdom. He promises to give it to you (James 1:5), but don’t do what I recommend without thinking it through for yourself.
Blessings to you. I love your submissive and soft heart.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
I don't think we ever get to the place where an encouraging word or a 'thank you' does not lift us and inspire us. Just yesterday, for example, one of our dear ladies gave our leadership group a beautiful cake which said to all of us "we appreciate you." What a joy!
Thank you church for your overflow of grace and kindness. You're the best. I've sent you a card which you can view by clicking here.
So, instead of being serious this morning, I thought I'd share some fun stuff. But first, a hint to solving yesterday's puzzle. Some books are not single words. Does that help? I suppose I should make up a legend like they do for personality tests...
Okay, if you can only find 5 or less you might want to join Wee College where they learn all the books of the Bible. If you can only find 6-10 maybe one of our Kids Church kids could mentor you. And if you locate 11-15, you're not only a Bible scholar, you're probably under the age of 50!
Susan subscribes to Mikey's Funnies and she got this in her mailbox the other day:
John was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking place.
Looking up toward heaven, he said, "Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life and give up beer."
Just then a parking place miraculously appeared!
John looked up again and said, "Never mind. I found one!"
Hope you laughed.
Have a restful Sunday. I'm leaving this evening for the Philippines and China.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Every September, I have my new students at Pacific Life Bible College do this little puzzle. There are 15 names of bible books in the next paragraph. You have 3 minutes to circle all of them.
* * * *
Once remarks were made about hidden books of the Bible. It was a lulu, kept some people actually looking so hard for the facts and studying for the revelation, they were in a jam, especially since the books were not capitalized. But the truth finally struck numbers of readers. To others it was a real job. We want it to be a most fascinating few moments for you. Yes, there will be some that are easy to spot. Others may require judges to determine. We must also admit it usually takes a minute to find one, and there will be loud lamentations when you see how simple it is. One little lady says she brews a coffee while she puzzles her brains.
* * * *
Okay, how'd you do?
L'érudition de la française langue est dur! [I hope this means that learning French is hard!]
Friday, October 28, 2005
Susan and I felt at home as soon as we entered the building. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we are of the same church family or because of the warm Atlantic personality, but we knew we were loved immediately. I loved the way Pastor Reid and their gifted worship team led the service. We would easily adapt to this as our home church if we lived in Dartmouth. I sensed it would be the same in any of our Maritime churches.
I used my Life Journey story about Psalm 23 when I spoke to the group. There’s always a good number of people who can identify with David’s description of his life experiences in the “valley of the shadow of death.” I love the blessings that flow from the valleys of our lives. There are seven that the psalmist mentions:
· The presence of God (you are with me)
· God disciples me (his rod comforts me)
· God communicates with me (his staff comforts me)
· He nourishes me spiritually (the table God prepares)
· I am anointed for my destiny (He anoints my head with oil)
· I am satisfied (my cup is filled)
· People around me receive benefit (my cup runs over)
Of course, all of these blessing from the valley are available only to those who are receptive.
After church, we were whisked off to a sumptuous lunch at the home of a couple of church elders (John and Sue). By 1:30, Susan and I and Jim and Carol Rogers were on the road again, headed to Moncton, New Brunswick. Our destination was a retreat centre in Alma. It poured throughout the four hour ride, but even in the rain, the countryside was awesome. I couldn’t help but stop along the way to snap some pictures.
Alma was a treat. They have a small house-church who meet in the quaint seaside community. Forrest and Jean serve as the pastors. We, of course, were fed again in their home (another few pounds of irresistible cuisine). After dinner the group met with Susan, Jim, Carol and me for an intimate worship service. I taught on the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and us to pray. I was delighted by not only the love and unity of the group (they call themselves The Healing Waters Foursquare Church) but also by the sense of purpose they feel. Their heart is to serve the larger community and the world is easy to identify.
A quick look in Forrest’s and Jean’s garage gives away their love for missions. The group has already prepared three hundred Christmas boxes to send to Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse project. In every box for young girls, for example, they’ve sewn and prayed over a home-made skirt. Much of the contents of the three hundred boxes has been hand-made with love and prayer.
In addition to the Operation Christmas Child boxes, there is a mountain of clothes and other gifts ready to send off to a mission in Honduras. And when they pray for Foursquare families in India there are tears in their eyes.
After the service, we were whisked off to a beautiful four room Inn, which is owned by Peter and Barb, who are part of the group. It overlooks the Bay of Fundy which has the peculiarly famous fifty foot tide. Every twelve hours (at about an inch a minute) the tide rises and falls on schedule. As a matter of fact they have a tide clock which is as accurate as any clock.
After a good sleep and a wonderful breakfast, we left for Moncton, where we booked into our hotel (the Chateau Moncton) located on the Chocolate River (it flows with chocolate coloured water).
Susan and I picked up a PT Cruiser from Avis to take us to PEI, while Jim and Carol spent the day in St. John on church business. Our day trip to see Charlottetown and Anne of Green Gables cottage was a sensuous pleasure. The autumn coloured trees, the myriad of white steepled churches (mostly Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Baptist and United) the Tim Hortons, (sometimes three in a mile) and the picturesque Victorian farm houses were unforgettable.
Finally we arrived at our destination---the Anne of Green Gables tourist town. Although it was very cold and windy, and the whole display was locked up for winter, we jumped the fence and toured it anyway. Susan was thrilled to see the familiar sights from her childhood reading.
After a stop at Tim Hortons for chili, we headed back to the Chateau Moncton for a good night’s rest. In the morning, before boarding our plane, we picked up some lobsters for Tom and Jeremy (our sons-in-law).
We rushed to beat the incoming storm Wilma, which was blowing into Moncton fresh from Florida. It’s always good to be headed home again. Before I was even home, I had started working on my sermon because Sunday was fast approaching. It’s going to be a busy time as I prepare to leave for the Philippines and China in a few days.
While back east, I picked up a pack of CD’s and a book to learn French in a few hours—that will be my 2006 personal project (and perhaps some more attempts at self denial when it comes to delicious food!).
Bénédictions mon ami,
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Here are some webcams for you to see what is happening:
We are now headed home.
P.S. We are thankful we will not witness the effects of Wilma which forecasters believe will not hit the Atlantic Provinces as previously thought. After the storm we experienced in Barcelona and on the ship, we were not looking forward to any more incredible displays of nature.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The sky is overcast and a light rain greeted us this morning but nothing compared to the rain BC has been experiencing.
Our home church is in our thoughts and prayers this morning. We miss seeing each of you. Oh, and thanks, Rick, for letting us know the buildings are still standing. Guess I'm not really needed. Actually, that's a principle I often share. If I've done my job right, the church should run well with or without me. Because it's not about me, it's about doing God's work.
Okay, end of mini sermon. Have a blessed Sunday.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Today we are taking a paddlewheel cruise throughout the Halifax Harbour. It was at the close of World War I that a munitions ship errantly steered off course into another ship and blew up. The explosion was as destructive as any bomb up to Hiroshima. Houses, lands and people, on both sides of the Harbor, were blasted and devastated by the force. Hundreds of people lost their lives and evidence of the tragedy still remains.
Our Pastor's Conference has been phenomenal. There's an intangible, but fragrant flavor, to the Foursquare family that has been evident throughout this week. The Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada began out of a revival sparked by the ministry of our founder Aimee Semple McPherson in 1928. Anna Britton was chosen as our first leader and sent young, zealous evangelistic pastor's across the nation.
It was often because of dramatic physical healings that churches sprung up from Vancouver to Halifax. Over the years that followed, sometimes due more to enthusiasm than business acumen, many of those churches; did not survive. Some became part of the PAOC denomination.
Today we have churches in almost every province including the Yukon. So, once every two years we get together for a Pastor's Conference, and in the other years, for a General Convention. (BTW, I have made a CD on the Foursquare Gospel Church--who we are and what we believe. Please contact me if you wish to purchase a copy.)
This year in Halifax, we are enjoying a Pastor's and Leader's Conference which has several purposes with a priority of relationship. I spoke with a guest at this conference just yesterday. He is a retired pastor in a well respected Canadian Evangelistic Denomination whose son and grandson have become Foursquare Pastors. As a Non-Pentecostal, he had some concerns when his two protégées declared themselves to be Pentecostals. After sitting through two meetings and chatting with a variety of other pastors from across the nation, he said to me, "Now I understand what my son means when he says he's found more than a denomination--he's found a family." He loved the godly, enthusiastic relational, doctrinally sound culture that his son and grandson had found!
The theme of our Pastor's Conference has been Taking Care of Business. That business, of course, all falls under the covering of the kingdom of God, but includes the spectrum of financial reports, the process of transition from the presidency of Tim Peterson to whomever is chosen in 2007, the capital campaign of our National Bible College PLBC to "spiritual" business.
I have served as the plenary speaker and my four presentations have focussed on my life verse, Exodus 18:20, where old Jethro counselled his son-in-law-Moses to prioritize three areas of Ministry:
- Teach the Word
- Teach the Way
- Teach the Walk
In addition to the Plenary Sessions, which included a pivotal message from our President, we have covered a variety of subjects:
1. Connecting with Foursquare Missions in 140 nations
2. Foursquare Care
3. Reproducing Churches
4. Lifeline form Pacific Life Bible College
5. Tweens and Teens
All will be available soon on CD from the Foursquare Canada web page.
To me, the relationships have been the highlight of our conference. I've met my brothers and sisters from across the country. There's nothing I enjoy more than listing to the gripping accounts of what God is doing from Vancouver Island to St. John New Brunswick. I've been fascinated by the stories I've heard and the lunches, coffee breaks and dinners together have been key places to share our passions and interests; as well as to care for each other and practice the healing power of hearty laughter.
Tomorrow, Susan and I will be in Dartmouth and have the honor of speaking at the Foursquare Church pastored by Reid and Bonnie Stairs and then we head to Alma, New Brunswick (a picturesque retreat centre) to meet with Forrest MacArthur's house church in the evening.
I'm so looking forward to meeting several more real Maritimers. I'll write more later about our experiences.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
This was a really important sermon today. We were in Chapter 6 of the Red Thread and I was speaking about the crucifixion. I especially wanted to be in the right zone when I spoke about the cross because it is the core of everything we believe.
My three core points were: Giving that begins at the cross has a great reward, Thanksgiving that begins at the cross moves us into God's presence, and Forgiveness that begins at the cross releases God's grace.
At the end of my sermon, I shared with my congregation a story that came from a service I subscribe to. I loved it:
"A missionary took a film about Jesus to the jungles of East Asia. Not only had these people never heard of Jesus, they'd never even seen a motion picture. Hard to imagine in this day and age, eh?
The people sat quietly and watched as this good man Jesus healed the sick and was adored by children. But when he was being beating by jeering soldiers, the people became upset. They began to shout at the cruel men on the screen, demanding that this outrage stop.
When the movie continued to play, the people tried to stop the missionary who was running the projector. Quickly, he stopped the movie and explained that the story wasn't over yet. Everyone sat down and the film resumed.
However, once the scene about Christ's crucifixion was before them, the people began to weep and wail. It became so loud that once again the movie had to be stopped. The missionary spent a great deal of time explaining that the story wasn't over and tried to calm them. Eventually, they sat down again and the film continued.
Then came the resurrection. Pandemonium broke out this time. Each of them were so excited that a party erupted. The people were dancing and slapping each other on the back. Christ is risen!
Each of these men, women and children accepted Christ as their saviour and will live eternally. Truly, the cross is the pathway to the throne."
If you would like to order a copy of my full sermon, please call the church office (604-942-7711). The cost is $3.00 plus shipping.
This evening, Susan and I will be leaving for the Pastor's Conference in Halifax. We will make a quick stop in Winnipeg where I will tape three shows presenting my Life Purpose program. I am not certain when these will air, but I will post the dates and times as soon as I know them.
My week has been a bit of a rush. I tried to limit some of my appointments, but it seems that when I go to work I am always booked up with people. Thus I spent my evenings preparing for the coming week. I already mentioned I'm not a morning person, but I also just realized, I'm not an evening person either. I think my peak time is about 15 minutes in the afternoon!
Still, I had lots to do each night because I am doing the three television interviews plus 5 sermons in Halifax for the pastors -- which I count very important. In addition to all of this, I had to prepare 20 sermons for the Philippines and create a little notebook/study guide to give to the pastors. It’s about 40 pages. I also had the covers printed. Now, the printer did me a favour and put a rush on my order for these covers which came back on Wednesday. Unfortunately, they were the wrong size – they were 11 x 17 instead of 8-1/2 x 11. So I called the printer and advised a mistake had been made. So they rushed again and finally they arrived on Friday afternoon at 5:00 pm but still the wrong size. We will make do. We’ll reprint the insides and make it fit the covers which are very nice.
I was also putting together some bible study guides for The Red Thread and those covers as well.
Oh, and on Wednesday I finally got my passport back. They put a rush on it. Of course, I’m a suspect now because I lost my passport earlier this year when it went through the wash. So technically, I didn’t lose it, but I had to get a new passport and because I have received two new ones this year, I can only get a passport for a year at a time. This is the reason it took longer to get approved because now I am a criminal suspect. Once we got the passports, we were able to take them to get our China Visas which will be ready next week. I don't recommend going through all of this, by the way.
Our team got back from Costa Rica on Friday and I talked with Pastor Gord on Saturday and he said it was the most successful trip they had ever had. They put up a building for the mission station there where they do some teachings. And the people had the floor boards and some framing up before our group arrived. While there, they put on the roof, the walls, stuccoed it, built the inside wall, and put in a bathroom. They almost built this entire building in one week, plus putting on services, kids crusades, and meetings in schools. They did an phenomenal job and Gord will be sharing some of this with our church next Sunday.
Yesterday morning we had a prayer breakfast for the city councillors, mayors, MLAs, and MPs and I was in charge of that. We invited all the politicians, the school boards, the fire chiefs, and the police chiefs to prayer. We had a really good attendance, and all the pastors (about 15 of them) prayed for the politicians. They loved it. Then we had breakfast together at the Executive Inn. I thoroughly enjoyed myself . . . even if I did have to be up early again.
And come to think of it, I had to be up really early on Friday too. This week I didn’t get a chance to study my lesson material for the class I teach at Pacific Life Bible College, so I had to study for a couple of hours before I had to be there (8:00 am).
But I digress . . . back to Saturday. After the prayer breakfast, I had a wedding in the afternoon. The bride attends our church and the Bible school. It was amazing because here’s a wedding in October when it always rains (or any other month for that matter here in BC). At school on Friday morning she asked me if I would please pray that the sun shines on Saturday. She somehow thought I had more faith, but I didn’t have any faith it would be sunny.
So I said, “Well, if it rains, we’ll just have the wedding inside.”
The bride and groom had planned this wedding on the balcony at the golf course, for some reason. Of course it is beautiful with the trees changing colour but the forecast was for storms.
Yet, the sun broke out, the sky was vivid blue and clear, and the trees just glistened. She got married out on the patio and it was beautiful. You can thank her for the lovely day you enjoyed as I am sure God rewarded her for her faith. (And no, that is not my piece of cake. I learned my lesson on the cruise.)
As most of you know, I am embarking on a radio program scheduled for some test markets in the new year. Last week I completed two programs and will be taking them with me this week as I will be meeting the people involved in this area of ministry. At the point, it looks like the programs will air in Toronto and possibly Winnipeg, but my friend tells me that won't stop BCers from listening. Apparently you can listen to radio on your computer. I'll keep you posted.
Please pray for Susan and I while we are away this week. Thanks!
Thursday, October 13, 2005
First off, how are humans like a can of peas? The answer, in the very near future, will be we both have barcodes which will reveal everything inside of us.
That’s the idea behind the VeriChip, a rice sized microchip which can be implanted under your skin. The VeriChip ID has recently been approved by the US FDA for medical use in humans. Theoretically if a person is unable to speak, doctors can scan and quickly be linked to a data base with critical information—the person’s identity, blood type, allergies and medical history.
If you think this is a strange far-off Star Wars concept, think again. Already thousands of microchips have been implanted in pets and livestock for identification. If your implanted dog is lost it can be easily scanned to determine where he belongs. In cattle, it is used to track things like mad-cow disease.
Members of the drug cartel in South America reportedly get implanted with similar scans because they are subject to kidnapping. In Mexico the attorney general and his top aides have been chipped for security reasons. In Spain, at the Baja Beach Club, patrons can get a micro-chip with their financial information implanted. They can pay for drinks with a simple swipe of the arm.
Of course, that’s one of the many fears that opponents to the VeriChip are talking about. The two likely next steps to the human barcode are our financial records and mandatory implementation. The idea makes some sense. It’s easy to see how the implanted chip could replace our driver’s license, ID cards, passports and even credit cards.
It’s also very conceivable that like passports and driver’s licenses, they could be almost mandatory. Of course, you don’t have to have a driver’s license, but getting around is difficult without one. And try crossing any border these days without a passport (or being on a vacation and have your passport stolen . . . but we won't go there right now).
Other objectives are: adverse tissue reaction, electrical hazards, migration of the implanted transponder and of course, privacy issues. Theoretically somebody could easily walk by you with a reader device hidden in his backpack and have instant access to whatever records you have stored in your implant.
For those of us who have read the Bible, the use of imbedded microchips comes as no surprise. It is frightening how closely the Revelation of John describes the implantation and use of these amazing devices. The prophetic book written by the Apostle John almost two thousand years ago describes a world leader called the Anti-Christ who develops a global tracking and record keeping system. Ultimately, anyone who does not implant this device will not be allowed to travel, buy or sell.
Although the VeriChip is not what the Bible calls the “mark of the Beast”, it is undoubtedly a forerunner. It could take years of experimentation before the actual system will be put in place. It is good to be wary of any microchip implants. Although it is an ingenious system and will have many benefits for the modern consumer and merchandiser, its upside will one day be outweighed by a malevolent world ruler who will be determined to hold the world’s population under his control. The Bible does tell us clearly that we will know and be loudly warned before that day comes.
Meanwhile think carefully before you agree to having a barcode planted under your skin. Ask questions. What is the upside? What are the dangers?
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