Saturday, March 31, 2007

Wee College Graduation

Today was one of my favorite days in our church life--Wee College Grad. Our daughter Kristy began the program several years ago and now we have a waiting list to get in each year. She can only take 20 children 4 years old, 20 5 year olds and 20 6 year olds so every semester is able to graduate 20 and make room for more.

This is not a play school, but a well-oiled college where the kids learn well over a hundred memory verses as well as all the sections and books of the Bible.
Much of their learning is through songs so the verses stick deep in their souls for a life time.

And that's exactly what the Bible tells us to do. Teach the Scriptures diligently (like shooting arrows at them) to our children. Thank God for our many gifted teachers and may God's grace and power rest upon our precious children!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The way it's supposed to work

This evening I met with Joslynn, our new 12 Step leader. The story of our 12 step groups and the hundreds who have been healed through the steps would be a worthy book to write, but because the stories are confidential, I can't tell them. But I can write about this one.

Debbie Prokosh was trained by our late Pastor Carol Smith to lead our 12 Step Ministry. Having walked the path herself, Debbie has been an enthusiastic leader for about 10 years. Because of other life commitments Debbie had to pass on the Baton. And that's the beauty of this story. I have taught our church leaders for years that one of their primary responsibilities is to make themselves promotable by discipling someone alongside of them to do what they do. (sometimes better) Carol did that, and when she died the church mourned but the ministry did not skip a beat.

And that's exactly what Debbie did. When she resigned we didn't have to find and train another leader or close the ministry down because Debbie had already trained 2 women, Joslynn and Norma, to pass the baton to. The ministry will keep moving on and Debbie is released to do even greater things. I love it! Blessings on all of our 12 Step workers and participants!

A happy Story

I love a good story. Almost every day someone I haven't met before comes into my office to talk. Today I sat with a lovely East Indian lady and I asked her to tell me how she became a believer.

Jasmine told me that she came to Canada with her husband and both of them were followers of an Eastern religeon who worshipped 24 gods. One Sunday morning she came into the TV room and caught her husband watching a Christian show. It was an Oral Roberts Special. She told him that these TV Evangelists were fakes and only wanted their money so he'd better turn it off.

He refused and so she walked out of the room in a huff. As the program was ending Oral said that anyone who wanted to be healed simply had to receive, and through his prayer God would heal them. Jasmine had been very ill for a long time, but it seemed too simple to believe. Because she was in so much pain she did it. She placed her hand on her body and prayed along with Oral. And she was instantly healed! She could hardly believe what happened, and he wasn't even asking for money.

The very next week she turned him on again and his prayer was that God would supply the needs of anyone who prayed with him. Jasmine had being trying to get into a course for a job change for months and was told it would take more than a year more of waiting. But in faith she prayed to a God she didn't even know. The next day the school called her and told her there was room for her if she acted quickly. She enrolled that day and started working soon after! All of this happened before Jasmine was even a Christian, but because of her answered prayers, she and her husband soon believed in Jesus as their saviour.

My Pastor friends

Every month the Pastors of our Tri-City Churches get together for social interaction and to pray together. There about 65 churches in Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam and Port Moody and we all work together in the understanding that we are really one church. Today was my turn to host the pastors in our Coquitlam Campus. We bring our own lunch and then the host pastor shares his or her story. I love telling the story of how God has allowed us to partner with him in our community, and I think it was encouraging to some of my friends who are going through dark valleys. God bless the Tri-Cities Church.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another Baby is born

I'm not talking about a real kicking and crying baby-- It's too late for human babies to be produced by this old guy. Rather I'm talking about my newest book Walking with the King. This week the presses are running madly and by Thursday, I'll pick up my baby from the printer. I still find it exciting to flip the pages of a freshly produced book with my name on it. Counting the children's books, this is number 16.

Walking with the King is about the 3 year journey that Jesus' 12 disciples took beside him as they traversed the 90 miles between Tyre and the Southern towns of Judea. We get to listen in beside him as he told stories, taught life lessons, encountered demonized victims, healed blind men and lepers, and shocked his weary disciples when he walked toward them on the waters of Galilee. ( I can hardly wait until our International Copnvention in Israel, in July, when Susan and I will get to walk on the same dusty paths!)

This 2nd book in the Kingdom series will help teach us how to live life in the Kingdom of God. Compared to our upside-down world, Kingdom values are mind blowing. They are well summarized in one of Jesus' teachings "You can't live until you die!" The disciples who walked in Jesus' big footsteps didn't even get it until after he rose from the dead, I'm working now on the 3rd book of the Trilogy, called Sitting with the King. That one will be about sitting beside him on his throne and actually practising using our Kingdom tools. It'll be a blast!

Light and Darkness clash

Tomorrow I'll be speaking about the time recorded in Genesis chapter 3 when Adam and Eve met the Prince of Darkness for the first time. They had been given their job descriptions to cultivate the Garden, protect it from outside intrusion, and subdue the animals (all with the ultimate purpose of learning how to rule so they could reign besidwe King Jesus in eternity) but now they were ready for the introduction of opposition. The truth is we only grow through opposition.

I heard a cute story from Merelyn Webber when Susan and I were with her and Garry in Calgary last week-end. In the fall she brought her gold fish inside from the outdoor pool because of the impending freezing weather. She put them all in a large tank together, but one of the fish was especially agressive and mean to the others. To discipline the badly behaving fish, Merelyn removed him from his friends and placed him in a small glass bowl of water all by himself. Then she butted the small bowl up to the other tank so the fish could see what fun he was missing. He seemed sad, but Merelyn persisted until she felt that he had learned his lesson. After a good amount of time by himself, she put the little goldfish back in with the others. He behaved perfectly from that moment on! Lesson learned! Now that's what I call taking authority over the fish of the sea!

So Adam and Eve met Nachash (formerly known as the angel called Lucifer, the Enlightened one) They were strolling hand in hand through the center of the Garden of Eden, just looking at the very beautiful Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, when a very bright and shiney angel slipped in beside them. "What are you looking at kids?" he sweetly asked.

"We were just looking at this delicious tree that God planted in the middle of the garden."

"Have you tried the fruit yet? It's sumptuous!".... We'll pick up the story tomorrow morning. It is one of the most life changing scenes in all of history.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Susan and I have just returned from a very exhilarating trip to Alberta. Leaving our church in Terry's capable hands (he and Gord and a strong team of young adults left on Sunday for Costa Rica) we left on Saturday for Airdrie, just north of Calgary.

On Saturday evening we ate dinner with Pastor Barry (Barry is a far too popular name in the FGCC) and Audrey Marsten. Barry has just been appointed as Unit Supervisor of our Alberta churches. He has an awesome pastor's heart.
On Sunday morning he allowed me to preach in his delightful church, and we also layed hands on him, appointing and anointing him for his new work. We loved the WaterBrook church. It reminds me a lot of Northside-very warm and gracious people.

After church we took Youth pastor Brad and his fiancée Yvonne to lunch. They are a very sharp young couple. The future of the Foursquare church in Canada looks bright

That evening Susan and I drove to Calgary to the home of Pastors Garry and Merelyn Webber. They prepared a sumptuous dinner for is and we had a refreshing visit.

This morning we drove up to Red Deer to have brunch with Pastor John and Carol Klooster from Millet. It is so good for is to get to know the pastors and see them in their own unique neighborhoods. I'm very proud of our family of Churches and our fellow leaders

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cultivate & Guard

1942 Dad in his B24 Liberator Bomber

(Dad and Mom (Agnes) 1965)

My dad died this past week. The timing could not have been better. Although dad was 89 years of age, he was in surprisingly great shape. Never having drunk alcohol or smoked, being a tireless worker (still chopping and hauling trees into his late eighties) and being a heath conscious eater. Dad was surprised when his doctor told him that cancer had thoroughly invaded his vital organs. By January dad knew that he wouldn’t last more than a few weeks. Each of us 8 kids, our spouses, children and grandchildren had time to visit him, tell him we loved him and say good-bye. Dad used our visits wisely too. I wrote a book last year, called “Dying Well” in which I recommend that we all say what is necessary to say before it’s too late. Saying “I’m sorry” for anything that may linger as a blockage in our relationship; “I forgive you” to clean out the other side of damage incurred; “Thank you” for all that has been lovingly given to make our life and death more fulfilling, “I love you” of course; and most important “I trust in God”. The assurance that a dying person knows that he’s in right standing before God is the best gift he can give to those he leaves behind. In each of our conversations with dad he remembered little things that he’d forgotten to apologize for. “I know I hurt your feelings when you were 15 and I said that I didn’t have time to help you on that school project—I’m so sorry son.” He also told each of us how much he loved us, how thankful he was to have been our father, and how proud he was of each of our achievements. We had the privilege of praying together during those last visits. My dad died well. The one regret that he had was that he was going to be buried in the winter. Dad loved God’s creation. Every insect, bird, animal or flower was a reflection of the love and beauty of God. In January, as he lay in the hospital and looked outside, he saw the dark cold drizzly rain and lamented. “It’s going to be a very dreary site where my body is laid to rest. I only wish that I could have lived until the flowers started to blossom.” He made it to his birthday on February 19. That was a milestone—but on March 9, he looked out his bedroom window in Abbotsford and saw the pinkish hew of the cherry blossoms and the first budding of crocuses and daffodils. It’s Thursday today as we lay his body in the graveyard. The flowers are popping out of their shells. An early spring is upon us—just in time. Just before dad died this week, he spoke to my mom, who was caring for him right up to the end. It was hard for him to speak, but he looked at her very tired face (she was wearing a pretty gold blouse, because she didn’t want him to see her in dark colours) and said, “Honey, you look so beautiful.” Then he managed, “Thank you so much for being such a wonderful wife and for caring for me up to the very end. I love you.” And with a final whisper, dad said, “I’m going to heaven now. Good-bye,” and he died. My dad died well. It was such an honour to give his eulogy at the service on today.

(Dad & Mom (Audrey) 1995)
My siblings, Susan and myself at funeral service.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jenn, Sam and Katie

Susan and I have just arrived home from a very encouraging trip to Courtney and Powell River. After Sunday church we headed for the Horseshoe Bay Ferry. The rain was beating down on us, but we were excited to get away and visit some very dear friends on the Island. We braved the storm all the way up the Island Highway and finally arrived at the very beautiful Crown Isle resort, where we spent the night.

Monday morning I returned to the Northgate Foursquare Church in Courtney to finish teaching through the Old Testament with the very bright-eyed students of the Masters Commission. At our lunch break, Susan and I had a delightful lunchtime visit with Ken and Eunice Gaglardi who serve their son Scott as pastors of the church he leads. It is so encouraging to have seasoned elders like the Gaglardis undergirding the ministries of younger Pastors.

After I finished covering up to Malachi with the young leaders, Susan and I met Fred and Janet Farren for dinner. We both sat fascinated with the colorful stories that our dear friends shared with us . As retired pastors (Fred was formerly an ordained Catholic priest), having served as pioneer pastors and unit leaders in the Atlantic region, Fred and Janet have experienced about everything a pastor comes up against. Through it all they have not been wearied or hardened; rather they both are among the most gracious soft-hearted pastors I've ever met.

On Tuesday morning, we sailed aross the Strait to Powell River to visit with our lovable friends Sam and Katie Alescio who have both worked with us at our church. Katie's sister Jenn Wright is the pastor of the church they now serve. Over lunch we got to know Jenn a bit better. She is terrific! Like her sisters Katie and Tina (who will be working with us at the National Office) Jenn is a gifted leader. She actually reminds me a lot of what I've read about our denomination's founder Aimee Semple McPherson. Thanks guys for a very refreshing and encouraging visit!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Until we meet again Dad

February 19, 1918 – March 10, 2007

Dad has been an imitable model as a man, Christian, husband, father, grandfather, friend and business man. He has positively influenced many thousands, yet he remained quiet and humble throughout his 89 years of life.

Ten words that describe him are gracious, gentle, encouraging, intelligent, kind, teacher, solid, peaceful, selfless and winsome.

Dad loved God faithfully; loved his wife romantically; loved his family proudly; loved work diligently; loved nature passionately. He has left a strong legacy for us who have known and loved him, which will be remembered and treasured for generations to come.

“Thank you Lord for your generosity in giving this great man to show us the right way to love and live”.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Something's not right

I can't think of another time when God said that something that He had done was not good, but that's exactly what he said after he'd created Adam and then given him his assignment of cultivating and keeping the garden of Eden. "It is not good that man should be alone." God knew that for Adam to be successful and to fail in his work, he needed help.

And that's when He fashioned Eve from Adam's rib. God used the part of man's body that protected his most valuable and vulnerable organs from which to build a partner in ministry. He used the same word that David used to describe the Holy Spirit, our helper. On this Sunday I'll be talking about the importance of women in the life of every man. We would not be who we are and could not do what we do without women. Men and women both are made in the image of God. It takes a biblically balanced view of both sexes to understand God.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cultivate and keep

Probably the question that I am asked more than any other is "What is my purpose in life?"
Especially after I say that we are all going to be asked by God "Did you do what I told you to do?"
We're given a couple of very strong clues as to what our purpose is in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. Genesis 1:26 and 27 says that Adam and Eve were both given an assignment to practise rulership. That hinted at the fact that we are in training for ultimate rulership.

Then in the next chapter of Genesis, Moses wrote that Adam's specific assignment was to cultivate the garden and to keep it (or protect; build a hedge around it) Cultivation has to do with his being fruitful, or accomplishing his assigned work. The assignment each of us are given has to do with our basic gift that was wired into each of us when we were conceived. It will relate to our family, our work and our ministry. Keeping (or protecting) has to do with our vigilant care and protection of that assignment from the invasive schemes of the enemy. I'll talk more about that in my message tomorrow.

Maureen turns 40?

One of my favourite people in this big world of 6 billion people is Maureen Reid. She is the lay-pastor who leads all the Art ministries in Northside church. Whether it's directing the choir, hosting an Art show, overseeing and producing a skit or a full scale drama, Maureen does what she's so gifted to do with cool grace. She also happens to be (along with Susan) one of my very favorite singers.

As I said at her suprise party, Maureen reminds me of John the Baptist. It was said of him that "when his disciple heard John speak, that they followed Jesus." (Most of us preachers would do well to emulate John's preaching motives.) As for Maureen, when we hear her sing on Sunday mornings, people tend to follow Jesus. There's no greater compliment.

Several of us were asked to roast Maureen, but couldn't think of any weaknesses we could kid her about. I think she may just be one of those angels the author of Hebrews wrote about that lives quietly among us to point us to God. I cried as I heard her and Greg's daughter eulogize her mom. There is no greater honor than for a daughter to desire to be exactly like her mom. (And Jessica is acheiving her aspirations!) Happy Birthday Maureen. We do love you and we really believe that you are only 40!

Hope for tomorrow

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is found in the book of Judges. It says that the new generation, after Joshua died, did not know the Lord. Joshua had been one of the greatest Bible heroes, but for whatever reason he did not teach his followers to pass on the Faith of our Fathers. A new generation grew up in relative peace, but with no knowledge of God. It isn't hard to guess how quickly they fell off the path into very dire circumstances.

I feel at my new age that one of my highest privileges is to pass on what I've learned to the new kids on the block. The older I get the more I am cognisant of the reality of the brevity of life. That's why I took more than half of my week to teach this bright group of young adults about how to grow a healthy church. These 8 men and women are all in their last year(s) of Pacific Life Bible College, and most of them are already serving as Children's or Youth pastors in their local churches. We had a fun time Monday through Friday leatrning why some churches continue growing while most others have put a lid on growth. I pray for continued enthusiasm and wisdom as each of them passionately pursue God's best intentions.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Today (Wednesday - February 28) is Susan’s and my 38th wedding anniversary. We were attending a friends’ wedding last week-end and were reminiscing with the others who were at our table about our own weddings.
Susan and I were married in February of 1969 largely because from the time she was a pre-teen, Susan had had her wedding thoroughly planned. She’d always imagined that her bridesmaids would be wearing red velvet dresses and come down the aisle of our church with white fur muffs on. She had the flowers chosen, the decorations preset, certain love songs to be sung on cue—all she needed was a guy to stand in the groom’s spot. Thankfully, that was me!

We first met in church. (That’s a great place to meet your prospective spouse.) She was a very mature 14 year old and I was a slowly budding 19 year old. A year later we had our first date. (I was so nervous that I had written a note listing several things that we could talk about—thankfully Susan was a good talker and I was a good listener!) A year after that we were engaged, and the following year we were married. Even though we were young, we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together--so why wait?

Here we are, 38 years, two children and six grandchildren later, and even more delighted than ever with the choice we both made. People have asked me, “What is the secret to a long and happy marriage!”

One day I’ll write a book about that important subject, but I can summarize it in the same three words we use to describe our church motto—knowing, growing and sowing.

In the church, the secret of success is our knowing God, growing in maturity by doing what we were created to do (like an apple tree that grows apples, a sheep who produces wool and a cow that makes milk, a successful person fulfills the purpose he was created by God to fulfill) and finally sowing, or giving away what we produce.

In marriage it’s very similar. It begins by getting to really know one another. It’s not about me—rather, it’s about the one I married. Who is she? What are her needs? What is her purpose? What fulfills her? The answers come to the man or woman who sincerely listens to their spouse.

Secondly, a healthy marriage continues by growing together. Don’t wish away your days by longing for the past or the future. Enjoy who you and she are today. We are constantly changing. A young married couple with no money, but with lots of hopes and dreams is a very different person than the 35 year old with a young family, too much work to do and a demanding mortgage.

The challenges of each phase of life are what press us out of our comfort zone into growth and maturity. Enjoy each decade for what it brings.

And finally¸ sow generously. True fulfillment comes through giving. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Give love, time and encouragement (whatever the moment calls for) generously. Don’t stop giving sacrificially to your wife—but expand your giving beyond your own family as you age. As the Psalmist wrote, “True happiness will follow a cup (life) that is not only full, but runs over to add to the fullness of others around him.”

Three little magic words – know, grow and sow will add wonder and happiness to our marriage relationships.