Parish NEWS

SIZZLIN' SUMMER SERVICE 10! 
Where: Head Lake Park
When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, August 6
Bring a lawn chair or blanket.  Donations will go to the Haliburton 4Cs heating fund. 
For more information please call Harry Morgan (705-457-1891).

The Church in Haliburton Praise Service on May 24th was such a success that the next one is being planned for Wednesday, September 27th. Please hold the date!

St. George's Compassion Canada child, three-year-old Yafreisy Delgado De La Rosa, lives in Los Montacitos in  the Dominican Republic with her father. A photo of Yafreisy is posted on the bulletin board. If you would like to write to Yafreisy, please contact Kathy Burk at 705-457-2357. Please keep this family in your prayers. 

Bring in your dead AA batteries and help save a life!  Students at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, joining with the Zinc Saves Lives campaign, want to help you super-recycle your batteries.  More than 450,000 children die every year from complications associated with zinc deficiency. A tiny AA battery contains enough zinc to save the lives of six malnourished children. Your recycling will reduce the amount of electronic waste going to landfills and save lives. You may bring your double-A batteries to the Source and Home Hardware in Haliburton, or place them in the yellow container on the table in the St. George’s church hall. For more information on the campaign, please click here.

Open to all seniors: The VON SMART exercise program helps with balance, strength and flexibility Classes held in Haliburton at Echo Hills 1 p.m.Thursdays; in Minden in the Hyland Crest auditorium 11 a.m. Wednesdays.

The Pregnancy Care & Family Support Centre needs additional volunteers as they move forward in their newly-expanded space,. The centre would not be able to operate effectively without the dedicated service of volunteer staff. They require an 8-hour-per-month commitment and provide comprehensive training.  To begin the application process or to find out more, please call Executive Director Julie at 705-457-4673. As Julie says, "If you have a passion for life, let's talk."

GOD SIGHTINGS!

God is at work in all of our lives and in our community. We just need to pay more attention. Here's the challenge: look for God at work, in your home, out in the community. When you see God's work or feel God's presence, write it down. Think on these amazing things and when you feel ready, try to share with your church family. Anne will offer an opportunity at the end of the service to share. We are God's witnesses and have an opportunity to help one another grow in our faith and draw closer to our Lord.

A revelation on the word ‘mass’ (whether you use it or not): we’re all to be missionaries

By Bill Gliddon, St. George’s Church organist and choirmaster

Do you know the origins of the word ‘mass’, as in the service celebrating the Eucharist, or Holy Communion?

The mass is the central worship service of mainline Christianity, and the word used in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions, and quite often in the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

It derives from the very early days of Christian worship, when the priest ended the service by declaring, in Latin, “Ite, missa, est”, which, when translated into English, basically means: “Go, you are sent out”. So in a real sense, ‘mass’ means ‘mission’.

At the conclusion of a worship service in which we pray, hear God’s word, sing praises and receive the ‘life-giving sacrament’ ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper, we are sent back out into the everyday world to be ‘missionaries’!

The Way family heading back to Zimbabwe!

This is exciting news from Jeff and Carole Way, missionaries to Zimbabwe who recently returned to Canada due to difficulties fullfilling visa requirements. You can read our earlier stories here: Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe and Update on the Way family and their mission in Zimbabwe.

Special report by Jeff and Carole Way

Here’s the plan

We are aiming to be back at Eden Children’s Village by January 2018. We had been living there over the past two years on temporary visas; to live there long term the government requires that we bring US$100k in assets with us. Our plan over the next six months is to raise these funds (in the form of a truck (that we desperately need there anyway), plus our regular monthly living expenses.

Why we are going back

Zimbabwe has just been declared the poorest country in Africa (it was one of the richest in 2000!) and this is having an impact on Eden as more and more children are abandoned by parents who are unable to care for them.  The need for more homes is urgent. Eden really needs Jeff’s help to build them. As a licensed practical nurse, Carole plays a vital role at the medical clinic, especially helping with baby delivery. More and more people arrive daily at the clinic looking for medical attention. Eden is desperate for Carole to return.

Not only is the need great, we just can't wait to get back! The goal to serve at Eden hasn't changed: God has called us to be there, so we will do everything we can to return. God is so much bigger than the many issues plaguing Zimbabwe and we are trusting that He will work on our behalf to get us back there, where we will work on your behalf to serve the poorest of the poor, the abandoned and orphaned children. If the situation is too dangerous for us to return in January we will pursue a partnership with Eden and other orphanages outside of Zimbabwe until it is safe to return.

Get a glimpse of daily life in the bush

Have you wondered what life must be like in rural Africa? We’d like to show you! We want you to feel connected to us and our life in Africa so we’re going to tell you some true stories, African style.  Every other day over the next few months we’ll be offering one-minute snapshots of real-life living in the poorest country in the world.

You can check out our first installment, A Noseful of Goat, on our brand new blog on our brand new website: zimbabways.org

Be part of changing the lives of the poorest of the poor in Zimbabwe

Over the next few weeks we’d love to invite you to join with us as we make our way back to Zimbabwe. Perhaps you have heard the African proverb, 'If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.' We want to walk far with YOU. We want to share this experience with our friends in North America.

  • Sign up to get our one-minute snapshot stories in your inbox here.
  • To find out what Lia and Naomi think about going back, click here.
  • To get more information about our fundraising goals and how you can help, click here.

The Ecumenism of Beauty

Ecumenism. Does the idea of another well-intentioned interfaith event or mostly-ignored theological commission on the topic excite, annoy, or put you to sleep? Does the very concept seem improbable? Whatever you think or believe about ecumenism, we can’t ignore the fact Jesus wanted this, prayed for this, for all of us who call ourselves believers.  Eugene Peterson's The Message puts it well:

ecumenism of beauty.jpg

The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
—John 17:21-23

A new book on the topic, The Ecumenism of Beauty (edited by revered art historian Timothy Verdon), presents it from an entirely more broachable and beautiful angle: the arts. Published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther attaching those 95 reformational theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, the book brings together artists and thinkers from Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant traditions. With accessible writing and gorgeous full-colour images, it does do some wrestling with the historic tension between art as icon or idol. Mostly it simply shows how art, like genuine faith, entails an encounter, not an intellectual discussion or argument.

The book’s contributors—artists, scholars, and clergy—share the belief that beauty and art can bridge differences, unite people in 'shared admiration’ and possibly become an instrument of communion among separated Christians. They will also take part in a symposium organized to commemorate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary later this year, with sessions to be held in  Paris, Strasburg, Florence, New Haven (CT), and Orleans (MA).

True worship as true hope

A few months ago, I sent out a query to many of you regarding worship. As I wrote then, it's a word we Christians bandy about, and too often without much thought or—God forbid—much heart. Could that be the problem, I wondered? Just what do we, you, mean by it anyway?

The post I hoped you would click on and consider was What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘worship’? And so many of you did!

One reply, from a brilliant friend and dentist who for years has gone way beyond the call of duty with her many charitable and yes, worshipful activities, is worth sharing more widely. Her concern and passion over the fact so many of us ‘bandy about’ the word without even beginning to grasp, let alone practice it, is palpable.

My brother, my sister in Christ, our true Hope in your area of the world: WORSHIP

By Karla Iyonmahan, DDS

It is a word that should bring to mind a kind of lifestyle, a way we go about handling our affairs, our relationships with people and with Him. Without question it must be undefiled, pure, and give glory, honour and reverence to our most merciful, adoring (of us) God.

You know, the God who went out of His way to sacrifice living in His heavenly realm, to enter ours, in order to set us (‘the captives’) free. The One who, no matter what, keeps us as ‘the apple of His eye’.  The One who has stated, repeatedly, in His Love Letter to us, that He will provide for us, will never leave us stranded, never forsake us.

If it is still not clear, He is the same One Who stated that He will deliver us in times of trouble, because we have set our love on Him. (Psalms 91: 14, 15). You DO remember Him now, right?

So there is no reason to be callous. No reason to not give Him your whole-hearted worship; a humbleness, a grateful, ‘bowing down in the heart’ kind of unwavering adoration that exhibits your utter amazement and awe for all that He has done, and for the Love He held for you even when your back was turned toward His outstretched hands.

One should never attempt to simply ‘bandy about’ when it comes to the worship of a God that has given literally everything, including Himself, to YOU.  

Is there an ounce of pure worship in you?

Jesus sings

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

“When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26)

Jesus was a singer. During that very first Lord’s Supper, or the Passover meal we now commemorate as Holy Communion, there would have been songs. We know that those 150 psalms printed in our prayer books were originally sung. Some are even called ‘songs of ascent’, sung as people walked up to Jerusalem for the festivals.

It is hard work walking in dust, sand, rocks and heat, so the concentration required to sing together got people’s minds off the discomfort and effort of the walk. Perhaps they sang in a chant-like form they could march to, to keep them going and not lag behind. We used to do that in the army:  anything to get our minds off the pain!

What Jesus sang that night were most likely the Hallel psalms (Ps. 115-118). In the ritual of the Passover meal, these four Psalms are normally sung as the fourth and final cup was being filled. They are songs of praise, thanksgiving and expressions of trust and make a fitting conclusion to the Passover celebration. They also would be a fitting preparation for what we call the Passion that Jesus was about to endure. [As Rabbi Loren Jacobs, senior rabbi and founder ofthe  Messianic Congregation Shema Yisrael explains, the Hallel Psalms focus on God’s saving power—Ed.]

Among the words:

“The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.  There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: ‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’ I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

The words must have comforted Jesus as he knew the cross lay just ahead. The final Hallel Psalm (Ps. 118) contains these meaningful words:

“Open to me the gates of righteousness that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”

Jesus was about to enter gates only the righteous could enter. We thank him that he has become our salvation—the chief cornerstone, the building block for all time and all people.

In the years following Jesus’ death, those words must have also been a comfort to the disciples when they sang the same songs, remembering singing them with Jesus but also now knowing what a comfort they must have been for Jesus that night. And how appropriate. Perhaps they sang them to themselves as they prepared for their own horrible martyrdoms.

Singing is now an essential part of Christian worship. James wrote: “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.” Singing is spontaneous for those who are cheerful; and Christians, in spite of their circumstances, are to be cheerful people! Even John in his vision of heaven recorded in the Book of Revelation sees the saints, the martyrs, constantly singing praises to God before the throne.

Of course we don’t know what the tunes would have been for these songs. But it was important for early Christian writers to record the words. Scholars have listed various of these early Christian songs from scripture, although they would not really be recognizable to us as songs. One example given is from 2 Timothy 2:11-13:

 “The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” That doesn’t sound like a song to me!

Or how about Philippians 2:5-11:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Or 1 Timothy 3:16: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

I see these as more like a creed, a statement of belief. If we compare these Scripture passages to the words of some of our songs, we come up short. Much as I detest the tunes of some of our old standard hymns and their old-fashioned language, they taught good, solid theology. I love modern Christian music. I listen to it a lot. I came to faith in Jesus because of the singing of what some people like to call ‘happy clappy’ music.

If our music is to proclaim God’s glory and be of benefit to unbelieving listeners, we must be careful what we choose to sing in our worship. We also need to make sure the music does not distract from the message conveyed. This isn’t the easiest thing to do. If you want to have a conflict in the church, just try changing the music!

The question needing to be asked regularly is: “Why are we singing?” Many times the answers may be: ‘because it is so pleasing to me’, ‘because I like the tune, it reminds me of…’, ‘the words are meaningful to me.’ Underlying those answers but difficult to articulate may be the idea that the music gives me a particular emotion. However, these are all wrong answers because each puts ourselves at the centre. In effect,  it’s all about me, my tastes, my life.

So let’s try again. Why are we singing? Why did Jesus sing? What did he sing? The Psalms are songs given to King David and others, had stood the test of time, recognized all the emotions humans have, but lifted up God in praise, proclaimed God’s laws, and always had God as the focus.

As Paul wrote to his friends in Colossae:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:16, 17)

We know what psalms are. While we can’t be certain what Paul meant by hymns, they may well be expressions of praise written by early Christians. Spiritual songs are probably more about testimony. They would have expressed in song what God has done for us.

An example may be in the Book of Revelation where the redeemed gather in heaven before the throne of God.

They sing a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood, you ransomed for God, saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’” (Rev. 5: 9-14)

Spiritual songs bursting forth from Spirit-filled, joy-filled believers: what beautiful praise of God. Are we doing the same?

Jesus was a singer. Those who know him will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. As the psalmist wrote: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day.” (Psalm 96:1,2)

All other religion and philosophy founders lie dead ... but Jesus is alive!

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

Easter is almost upon us and we begin to ponder that great mystery: when Jesus’ followers arrived at the tomb on that first Easter morning, they found that the stone had been rolled away. They couldn’t understand and looked for logical answers. Then two angels appeared, asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” This scene at the empty tomb expresses the uniqueness of Christianity among other religions. Jesus Christ is the only living, risen Saviour.

A conversation between a Christian missionary and a Muslim teacher illustrates the point. The Muslim wanted to impress the missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam. So he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty grave.”

To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference. Mohammed is dead and in his coffin. And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Jesus is risen, and all power in Heaven and on earth is given to Him! He is alive forevermore!”

Yes, the empty tomb testifies of a risen Saviour. It assures us of our own salvation if we reach out to Him. I invite you to join in worship during Holy Week to prepare for the greatest event in the world, and on Easter, the Day of Resurrection, to celebrate with joy.

A little Muslim boy + a friend’s invitation to church + a Christmas box = a new Christian family

“I just had to meet these people who gave him this box,” Mary said. “And I had to find out who would send a box full of gifts from another continent and not know where it is going to show love to people they would never meet. This kind of love does not exist in Islam. I knew these must be God’s people.” —Mary Mutumba

Clinton Mutumba didn’t like it when his Koran instructors at the nearby mosque caned his legs when he mispronounced the Arabic words.  So one day he announced to his mother Mary he no longer wanted to go.

“Where will you go?” she asked him.

“I want to go to church,” he told her. “The Lord will tell me where.”

Mary recounts being surprised by his response, but agreed to let him go.

Shortly afterwards, one of Clinton’s friends was told by his pastor to invite a friend to a special event at their church. So he invited his buddy Clinton who of course said yes, figuring that had to be God telling him where to go.

Clinton stands at the gates of the church where he received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox

Clinton stands at the gates of the church where he received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox

When he got there, he received a free gift-filled shoebox from Operation Christmas Child, a present that had traveled by sea all the way from the United States to Kenya—a fact he would later learn and tell his mother.

A Journey from Islam to Christ

When single mom Mary and her son Clinton moved to the town they now live in, all the people in the neighbourhood were Muslim. Hoping for a community that would help her, they became Muslim too. It turned out to be different than she’d expected.

After the shoebox distribution, mother and son attended their separate places of worship for months. Clinton began weekly classes of The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson discipleship program designed by Samaritan’s Purse for shoebox recipients. The Jesus he learned about there wasn’t just the prophet Muslims call ‘Isa”, the one he’d been taught about by the imam and in the Koran. Each week he’d return home and tell his mother what he’d learned during class, and each week she became more curious. 

“Who are these people who didn’t even know him who gave him a gift and are taking time to teach him?”  she wondered. More important, she became curious about the Jesus who compelled them to do this.

First Clinton, then his mother, came to know and trust Jesus as God’s Son, and their Lord and Saviour.

“I decided since that time that I would serve the Lord,” Mary said. “That love I received, I want to express that same love to other people.”

(Clinton’s story appeared originally here)

The lambs of God: paschal and Paschal

Easter Sunday is, of course, the pivotal and most triumphant day in the calendar of the Christian Church. Interestingly however, no trace of an Easter celebration as we know it exists in the New Testament.

The celebration of Easter actually began with the early Jewish Christians who continued to celebrate the Passover, regarding Christ as the true Paschal Lamb. The original and prophetic sacrificial lamb had been the one eaten by Hebrew families their last night in captivity in Egypt.

An examination of rabbinic evidence from those days suggests that the paschal lamb, which had to be a perfect specimen, was arranged in the form of a cross before roasting. One spit went through the lower parts up to the head, and another across the back, to which the legs were attached. Furthermore, none of the bones were to be broken.

Sound familiar? To see the remarkable resonance here, compare the reading in Exodus 12:46b (“Do not break any of the bones”) with that from John 19:31-33:

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

For early Christians then, the Passover event naturally passed over into a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

You can read an excellent related story by Rabbi Evan Moffic here: How Lent started with Passover.

Primate's World Relief and Development Fund’s emergency response to famine in South Sudan

There are growing signs of hunger in South Sudan, the world’s newest country to gain independence. On February 20, the United Nations declared a state of famine in the north central part of the country. More than 40% of the population – 4.9 million people – are unsure where their next meal will come from. These already-shocking numbers may increase to 5.5 million if nothing is done to improve access to food.

In 2016, to respond to the needs of South Sudanese fleeing violence, PWRDF began working with the Sudanese Development and Relief Agency of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan. Through a grant to the ACT Alliance, PWRDF was able to improve conditions at overstrained refugee camps in Uganda. In addition, PWRDF partners continue to attend to the South Sudanese in Kenya and Egypt.

In the months to come, PWRDF will increase its support for the people of South Sudan, both inside the country and for those fleeing to Uganda. PWRDF is accepting donations for South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees and will continue to update Anglicans across Canada on the tragedy of this situation, as well as our response and impact.  Thank you for your prayers and support.

Donations can be made in the following ways

On-line please go to Emergency Response.

By credit card
For credit card donations contact: Jennifer Brown, 416-924-9192 ext. 355; 1-866-308-7973. Please do not send your credit card number by email or fax.

By snail mail
Please make cheques payable to:
PWRDF Emergency Response: South Sudan, and send to:
The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund
The Anglican Church of Canada, 80 Hayden Street
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 3G2

Anglicans in Canada are praying, acting and giving to those affected by this crisis. Please watch for updates on PWRDF’s response to the situation here (it takes a few moments for the information to load). Thank you for supporting PWRDF’s continuing relief to the people of South Sudan.

PWRDF Humanitarian Response Coordinator Naba Gurung can be contacted at ngurung@pwrdf.org or 416-924-9192 ext. 321.

Angst or peace: it's your choice

Based on a sermon by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

“We live in a culture where snipers live behind laptops and smart phones. Fewer people are interested in debate and more are looking for enemies to eviscerate. Some have become unhinged and others are on the ledge.”

Anne quoted these words from a blogger (whose name she hadn’t taken note of) in a recent sermon. Do you feel you are among the ‘unhinged’? She confessed to the same feelings she sees affecting so many others these days: anxiety, despair, anger, fear, disgust, frustration, embarrassment, hostility, and panic. Perhaps angst best sums it up.

Upsetting and unsettling information bombards us from all directions, and as Christians we know we really can't, really shouldn’t, simply turn off the news. We need to be aware of what’s going on firstly, to pray, but also to be able to engage others in conversation.  

While we can never understand ‘what in the world is going on’ or how to fix it, we must refuse to be bent out of our Christian shape by it. None of the mess is of God, who is still in control and who alone has the solutions. Earthly governments can only put band-aids on people’s problems, Anne reminded the congregation. But the gospel can bring healing to souls.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.... Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” (Psalm 146:3,5)

“We want and need hope here,” she made clear after reading the above scripture. “Hope is not dreaming or a vague aspiration. It’s not simply wanting things to turn out well while remaining uncertain whether they actually will. Hope is the absolute certainty we have that God is good and that God’s promises are true.”

Further, we can use the hope we cultivate in ourselves to help the troubled around us. “The despair, anxiety and fear we see in people around us is the very opportunity we have to share the hope and good news of Jesus with them.”

The Almighty will accomplish His purposes, no matter the political leaders and disasters cramming our newscasts. We see in scripture how God has been able to use some exceptionally evil rulers such as Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar and Nero to fulfill His will. He has worked out His purposes under every condition imaginable, from Egypt through Babylon and onto Rome and beyond. We must keep the hope, and cultivate peace.

“We don’t need to pray for peace, we have it,” she concluded. “It is in us. We have that peace but must use it and share it.” 

Seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter: 3b)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘worship’?

Worship: Is it the service you go to Sundays, the music played and sung in Sunday ‘worship services’, the Christian music you may listen to at home or in your car? The kind of thing David did in Old Testament times alone with God and his harp? What you make an effort to do as part of those ‘quiet times’ you aim to have regularly with the Lord? All of the above?

Using words to describe spiritual concepts may be the thorniest use of them possible. But then as a Christian writer, I recall how God of course inspired all the words in our Bible, including the pivotal ‘in the beginning was the Word’ (John 1:1). So He clearly places high value on wrapping up the concepts He wants us to learn and digest in small-w words ... including to describe his own Son, the Word incarnate. 

With the word ‘worship’, however, we the church—individually and corporately—toss it about so lightly it may be time to mull over the meaning lying beneath and within more carefully.

In the context of considering Christian music as ‘worship’, British songwriter and, yes, ‘worship leader’ Matt Redman gives a great illustrated sermon. 

Back in the 1990s, Redman and his church in England were gaining acclaim as they moved into the vanguard of this concept of modern worship: excellence of craft combined with the best of sound systems, projectors, lights, the whole production. But his preaching pastor had begun noticing a flatness creeping in. While everyone went through the motions and to outward appearances all seemed 'fine', the heart connection had loosened and slipped away.

So the pastor did a radical thing.

“He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season,” explains Redman. “His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

The pastor challenged the congregation to be participants in worship, not consumers: to engage with God for themselves, from the heart, with their own voices. When the first few awkward gatherings passed, the church eventually launched into a whole new season of authentic adoration and praise.  

Redman’s now-famous song “The Heart of Worship” describes what happened: 

boy with hands in air to dawn.jpg

When the music fades,
All is stripped away.
And I simply come;
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth,
That will bless Your heart.

. . . .

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

“After a while, the worship band and the sound system reappeared, but now it was different,” Redman explains in his book The Unquenchable Worshipper. “The songs of our hearts had caught up with the songs of our lips.”  

You can hear Matt Redman singing The Heart of Worship by clicking here:  Matt Redman - The Heart Of Worship (Lyrics and Chords)

Miracles from Heaven: extraordinary true story now a movie

The remarkable true story of a young girl’s faith, hope and healing, this movie may well be the first faith-based film finding critical acclaim and a mainstream audience beyond church-goers.

Little Annabel Beam had not been well for most of her early years. At five, doctors finally diagnosed her with two rare life-threatening digestive disorders.* 

“She would pretty much live on the sofa, with a heating pad on her stomach,” her mother Christy explains. As Annabel’s health continued to deteriorate, she lived with chronic pain and spent far too much time in hospitals. The darkest moment came one day as Christy sat by her nine-year-old daughter's hospital bed. The little girl turned to her mother and said, “Mommy I just want to die. And I want to go to heaven and live with Jesus where there's no more pain.”

actual movie poster.jpg

Annabel had stopped fighting, and Christy felt she had nothing left to give.

“However much my faith had been tested and I'd questioned Him,” she says, “at that point I just turned it over to God.”

They needed a miracle. One week later, on December 30, 2011, they got one.

While the majorly crazy miracle of Annabel's healing drives the story, the everyday miracles—and the stellar performances and direction revealing them—transports viewers raptly along to the faith-affirming conclusion of death bringing capital-L Life. Perhaps especially if you, like Christy, find your faith wavers in the dark gorges of our journeys.

Master’s Book Store in Haliburton carries both the movie and book, as does Amazon and other retailers.  
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*pseudo-obstruction motility disorder and antral hypomotility disorder

Jesus rescues Christians AND Muslims: an astonishing tale from the Middle East straight from the book of Acts

Little did the Bibles for Mideast organization know of all the coming connected miracles when they published a story on the Arabian Sea baptism of 24 new believers early last October (you can read that here).  

The fact 24 Muslims had converted to Christianity at the risk of their and their families’ lives alone attests to a miracle-working God. As the baptismal service ended, the new converts and workers—50 in all—boarded a bus to return to their house church for worship and communion. 

A small convoy of militants suddenly appeared behind them and opened fire. All they knew to do was pray to the Lord for protection as they sped away, the gunmen in hot pursuit.

When a massive dust storm formed behind them, they now feared being trapped in the dark, churning grime and becoming easy prey for their pursuers. 

Then, just as suddenly, Jesus materialized in the storm clouds and dust.

“He appeared as a mighty and wonderful man showing his protecting and lovely hands towards us with a sweet smile,’ exulted newly-baptized Rizwan. “Jesus saved us! He himself blocked the road of militants in the form of a dust storm.”

The gunfire slowed and stopped, enabling the bus to drive safely back to the church.

Two months later, the same mission organization released a story of how an Arab woman from a prominent Muslim family (her father a top religious authority in the region) found herself near death after being bitten by a highly poisonous Saharan snake. While her sharp-shooting brother Haroon (not his real name) managed to kill the viper, it nearly killed her (that story in full here).

Hajira (not her real name) spent the next four days near death in a coma. In a few minutes of wakefulness, she heard doctors discussing the renal failure and increasing fibrinolysis certain to take her life. Losing hope, she turned to the wall, weeping, and tried to prepare herself for death.  She fell asleep hoping to never wake up.

As she slept, an angel appeared before her. “Call on Jesus, the son of the Most High, who was crucified for you, died and rose from the dead.”

“Prophet Jesus, the son of Mary?” she asked with irritation. “He was not crucified; and he was not greater than my prophet.”

“You are wrong,” the angel replied.  “Jesus is the Lord of the prophets. He is the true saviour. He can heal you from all sickness and save you from sin and death. Call on him with your heart and mouth.”

The angel disappeared. She awoke to see her brother Haroon standing beside her. “Were you dreaming?” he inquired. “I heard you say something about the prophet Jesus.”

She dreaded his anger as she told him about the angel and what he’d said. To her amazement, Haroon then related his own experience in a dust storm several months earlier. Yes, THAT dust storm!

He’d received information at dawn one morning that a Christian group planned a baptismal service in the Arabian Sea that day. Alerting his wing of 18 armed militants, the gang rushed to the seashore. Planning to kill everyone in the sea during the service, they aimed to terrify the world into realizing death awaited any Christians attempting to evangelize in their region.

But the service had already ended when they arrived.  Seeing a bus leaving the scene, they opened fire and the chase began. As they fired away, he explained that within seconds a giant dust storm formed directly in front of their vehicles. Unable to see or move forward, they climbed from their cars and kept shooting into the dust.

To their astonishment, the angry face of Jesus appeared in the swirling sand, eyes ablaze. “Why are you persecuting me?” his voice thundered. “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.” Jesus’ voice literally blew the fighters over and sent their guns flying.  Haroon explained they somehow managed to get themselves back on their feet, but couldn’t utter a word. 

[Note the similarities to the story from Acts 26:14, where Jesus appears to murderous Saul—equally intent on killing Christians and eventually to be the Apostle Paul—with the same plea and the same results.]

Jesus' voice thundered again. “I came to the world not to destroy anyone, but to save you. Go in peace.” He then vanished, the dust storm disappearing with him.

Haroon tried to explain the dreadful fear, yet abundant peace, they all felt simultaneously—nothing like anything he or they had ever known.

When their voices returned, all but two of the men praised and thanked God. The two argued it couldn’t have been from God, and all left the place confounded.

Haroon shared the story with their father, who warned him not to tell others. His own band of militants, however, laid down their arms. "This all happened a few days before you were bitten!" he shared with Hajira. Overwhelmed and overjoyed, brother and sister joined hands in prayer. 

“Lord Jesus, if you are the true saviour, show us the way,” prayed Haroon. “Jesus, if you are the true saviour, forgive our sins. Jesus, if you are the true saviour, heal both our physical and mental sickness. Jesus, if you are the true saviour, send someone to us for further guidance. Amen”.

The siblings wept in joy and gratitude. A couple of hours later, Hajira still at his sister’s side, two strangers arrived in her room unexpectedly. While neither had seen them before, the elder man addressed each by name. 

“The Lord Jesus heard your prayers which you both prayed together,” he began. “The angel who visited you appeared before me also, and asked me to visit you, guide you to salvation, and pray for you. So I left my house at once to come see you.”

He introduced himself as Pastor Paul of the Bibles for Mideast organization, and then explained to them who Jesus is, and why he was crucified and died. 

Hajira and Haroom repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as Lord and saviour. As Pastor Paul put his hands on Hajira’s head and prayed for her deliverance and healing, tremendous power flowed through her body. She rose, completely healed.

Hospital tests proved her healing, and doctors could not help but acknowledge a miracle had happened. Neither could the siblings’ family, who soon all came to Christ. They now ask our prayers for protection and strength to survive the persecution sure to come.
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You can visit Bibles for Mideast here and read more remarkable stories of rescue and salvation. They work secretly in highly restrictive areas, evangelizing, distributing bibles (free of charge), and establishing house churches. Many on their teams have converted from Islam.

With sympathy for and solidarity with Quebec City Muslims

By Fred Hiltz

In a Québec CIty mosque full of devout muslims gathered for prayer Sunday evening, their chanting was shattered by the crack of gunfire, leaving six people dead, scores of others injured, a neighbourhood traumatized, and a nation horrified.

My heart, indeed the hearts of all people of good will, goes out to all Muslims across Canada as they struggle with this terrible attack. We hold in our prayers those who have died, for their families and for their imams who care for them in their grief. We also pray for those who have been injured and for those tending them. We remember too the police, and all others whose daily work is to "serve and protect".

At moments like this, people of faith must stand together in solidarity for those values common to our respective religious traditions: the adoration of God, the respect we owe one another as fellow human beings, and the care with which we tend the earth, our common home.

In the Readings for Sunday past we heard the call of the prophet Micah – "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God?” (6:6-8).  We also heard Jesus teaching in the Beatitudes, that we are called to be merciful, to hunger and thirst for right relations with one another, to do what makes for peace among all.

These are the values that make us children of God, friends in faith, and citizens of the world. Please join me in praying for the people of Ste-Foye and especially for our Muslim friends in this very difficult time.

Fred Hiltz is the Archbishop and Primate of The Anglican Church of Canada.

Update on the Way family and their mission in Zimbabwe

After spending the last eight months living and working at Eden Children’s Village in Zimbabwe, Jeff and Carole Way remain as convinced as ever of their call to serve God among the orphans and villagers there. They have been doing tremendous work serving, building, re-building (when fires destroyed several buildings), teaching, and simply being powerful Christian witnesses. Carole, now trained as a midwife, assists at the birth of many babies in the area. Their two young daughters live and go to the school with the locals.

Early this year, the family returned to Canada as part of their continuing attempts to satisfy the Zimbabwean authorities’ demands for acquiring long-term visas. The only one available is a Business Investor Visa, so on their last stay in Zimbabwe and with the help of their  Dutch and Shona partners, they worked hard and successfully to have their business licensed and approved by the various government authorities. 
 
They now need to prove they have US$100,000 in assets.  That amount can be in funds or goods for their business and home and are their own—not a fee to be given to the Zimbabwean government.  

Can you help by providing any of the following? Needs range from large vehicles to office, shop and home supplies. Once these are collected, an American charity has pledged to send a shipping container for them. When they reach their goal, the Ways will apply for the visa from here and, once granted , will return to Eden Children's Village

Pickup truck; dump truck; tractor; backhoe; ATV/four-wheeler, six-wheeler
Gas-powered cement mixer, gas-powered compactor, gas-powered cement saw, gas-powered cement floor finisher, table saw, mitre saw
Chisels, hand saws, hammers, socket sets, pouches, screwdrivers, cordless tools, angle grinders, scaffolding, ladders, trowels, wheel barrows, tool boxes, auger drill bits, wood lathe and chisels, spoke shaves, wood planes, metric tape measures, levels, squares, mallets, air nailers and nails, plumbing tools, shovels, picks, rebar bender, pipe bender, hydraulic jacks, chain, wrenches, vises, woodworking vises, carving chisels, sand paper, chain saw, drill bits, router bits, paint brushes
Welder and equipment
Generator
Office furniture: chairs, computer, printer, white board and markers, filing cabinet, 
Propane fridge, stove, freezer
Solar-power equipment, solar hot water heater
Sofas, dining room set, bed frames, dressers, rugs, desks, curtain material, duvets, blankets.

You can read our original story on the Way family here: Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe.

A life filled with Life and song: that’s our Bill!

This year, Bill Gliddon marks his 55th anniversary as St. George’s celebrated organist. But anyone who knows Bill knows there’s far more to the man than organ playing.

Composer, teacher, radio show host, all-round good guy, Bill has played and continues to play a significant role in many lives and community events in the area. What’s not to love?

Born and raised in Haliburton, he became the assistant organist at Haliburton United Church when only 12. After graduating from the University of Toronto specializing in musical composition, he taught music in Haliburton County schools for 35 years.

Over the years, Bill has provided music for literally all of the churches in the Haliburton Highlands. In addition to preparing and hosting his weekly radio show, he’s involved in many concerts and stage productions. In the summertime, he tends a large vegetable garden on his property, giving most of the produce away.

Last year, the Reverend Colin R. Johnson (Archbishop of Toronto) officially recognized him as someone “whose light shines, whose works glorify” in awarding him membership in the Order of the Diocese of Toronto. The Order recognizes and honours those laypersons who have given outstanding service over a significant period of time in volunteer ministry.

“There are, I guess, three things in my life that I love so much, and they’ve motivated me and inspired me,” he recently told the Haliburton Echo.

“My Christian faith is the big thing, and my love of music and my love of this community—this community where I was born, grew up and love. If the Lord has afforded me to live here and bring happiness and joy through music, that’s my dream come true.” 

And that’s our Bill.

[You can read an excellent profile of Bill Gliddon by The Echo's Chad Ingram here.]

A revolution in New Year’s resolutions

Few of us would disagree with the idea of New Year’s resolutions. They do seem to work for some people, sometimes. Did you make any? Break any yet?

Perhaps it’s the perfect time to remember that, for many of us, a major reason we decided to become Christian, to accept the help and spirit invasion of Jesus, was because we knew we couldn’t do it on our own.

Nowhere in the New Testament do we find admonishments to  'strive and make every effort’ to start and keep an exercise or eating program, begin a stringent daily Bible reading series, or whatever. We are told over and over, however, to ‘strive’ and ‘make every effort’ to be faithful followers of Jesus.  As we accept Christ and the realization we cannot do much of anything worthwhile on our own, he provides all the help we need to persevere, discipline ourselves, and so vastly increase the likelihood of successful resolutions.

As Mark Galli explains so well in Christianity Today:

“It also has to do with what enables people to do the very thing they fail to do when they strive to do it: freedom. You cannot enjoy freedom when you feel you have to do such-and-such to be good. That's not freedom but oppression. Only when you realize that you do not have to do or be anything can you know freedom, and only when you know freedom can you really choose the good.”

Paul in a number of his letters does seem to advise many personal resolutions for better, stronger lives. We’re to "put on the new self" (Col. 3:10), "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 13:14), "put on the whole armour of God" (Eph. 6:11), put on "the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14), "put on … compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Col. 3:12), and above all, to "put on love" (Col. 3:14). Sounds like an awful lot of effort, no?

Galli helps mitigate that by comparing it to how a store clerk gets us to try on something or other in the store.

“Why not try on the blue one?” he or she suggests, taking it off the rack and holding it open for you to slip your arms into. You button it up and have a look in the mirror. You’ve put it on, but really the clerk has put it on you.

“Work out your salvation,” says Paul, and in the next breath, adds, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12–13).

The Clerk approaches us daily. "Why don't you put on love," he says. "Here, let me get it for you. Just hold out your arms."

To read Mark Galli's entire article, please click here.

Christmas trees, presents, stockings, Santa Claus: the traditions of Christmas sanctified

How on earth did a decorated evergreen became a universal symbol of the Christmas season? Does it really have anything to do with Christ, his birth, the real 'reason for the season'? What about the presents, the stockings, Santa Claus himself?

The evergreen tree had long been an ancient symbol of life in the midst of winter. Romans decorated their houses with evergreen branches during the New Year, and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe cut evergreen trees and planted them in boxes inside their homes in wintertime.

Since the practices were rooted in pagan celebrations or even emperor worship, many early Christians were hostile to them. The second-century theologian Tertullian condemned Christians who celebrated the winter festivals or decorated their homes with laurel boughs (to honour the emperor) with these fiery words:

"Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green. If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple."

By the early Middle Ages, the legend had grown that when Christ was born in the dead of winter, every tree throughout the world miraculously shook off its ice and snow and produced new shoots of green. Meanwhile, Christian missionaries preaching to Germanic and Slavic people were taking a more lenient approach to cultural practices—such as evergreen trees as winter decorations. 

These missionaries believed that the Incarnation proclaimed Christ's lordship over those natural symbols previously used for the worship of pagan gods. Not only individual human beings, but cultures, symbols, and traditions could be converted. That of course relates to the actual timing of Christmas as well—a 'take-over' of the pagan celebrations of saturnalia and the winter solstice.

As with all ‘traditions’, the idea of the Christmas tree evolved through the centuries and by the time of the Renaissance we can find clear records of trees being used as an actual symbol of Christmas.

As for the presents under the tree, of course they remind us of the gifts brought to baby Jesus by the magi. But what about the stockings full of gifts, and Santa Claus himself?

Most agree both traditions grew from stories about St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey) who as a youngster had received a huge inheritance at the death of his parents.  Throughout his ministry, Bishop Nicholas selflessly poured out his life and fortune as he served the people in and around his home.

One famous story has him hearing about the misfortunes of a local businessman, recently pillaged by pirates and unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marrying age. In those days, a young woman without a dowry had few options for survival; many were forced into slavery or prostitution.

The father prayed ceaselessly, and young Bishop Nicholas eventually heard of his plight. In the middle of one night, the bishop secretly slipped a sack of gold into the merchant’s house. Legend has it he dropped it into a stocking hung by the fire to dry. The gift provided the needed funds to save the virtue of the oldest daughter, and two more gifts for the two other sisters followed. Anticipating that third gift of gold, the father waited at night until he was able to finally apprehend the bishop. When he tried to thank him, the humble minister deflected the praise. "No, all thanks go to God, not to me." 

"I need to let everybody know you did this!" the man exclaimed.

"No, you must promise me that not until I'm dead will you let anyone know how you received the gold." This compassionate bishop believed literally Jesus’ injunction that when we give, we should do so in secret, sacrificially, in Christ’s name, not our own.

When honour and reverence for St. Nicholas spread to Holland, he became Sint Nicolaas, which as Christmas traditions morphed, eventually contracted to Sinterklaas. From him of course we get our beloved Santa Claus. 

A challenge for your Christmas letter

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

For a while I used to receive Christmas letters from various friends; sometimes I sent my own news. I am sure you have received some of these and, possibly, written some before e-mails and high postage costs. Basically they are good news—bragging of all that the children have been doing, trips you have taken, the year’s activities and achievements. I hear that that is what Facebook is about: putting your best face forward.

Rarely do I read a letter that describes a family’s witness, or outreach, or ministries—even when I know they are involved in them. Is that being politically correct?

“Oh, the letter goes to all my friends so I don’t include my church involvement. I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.” But aren’t we supposed to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world? How can we create a thirst for Jesus among our friends ifIf we have accepted Christ as Lord; if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to live through us and transform us into the likeness of Jesus, why are we reluctant to let others know? Maybe if we reminded ourselves that God receives all our out-going mail, we might edit the boastful bits and add the ‘loving the less fortunate’ bits, or ‘how God helped me this year’ bits.

If Jesus wrote a Christmas letter to us, it might sound like this:

“Beloved, I pray this season finds you well. I just want to share some of the highlights from this year. Thanks to many of your brothers and sisters, thousands of people have come to faith in me. Please pray for those who have gone astray, that they might find their way back. Many of your brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have lost their lives because they chose to follow me. Rest assured, they will be with me in Paradise. Many more of your siblings have reached out to those who are poor, homeless, hungry, sick and in prison. I am sure next year will be equally busy.
With all my love,
Your Saviour and Lord, 
Jesus”
(This idea comes from Faith Writers Magazine)

I wonder if it’s time that Christmas letters from us got some attention for Him, along with our other, personal, good news. I wonder if that could be another way of sharing the real meaning of Christ’s birth on earth.

May you have a blessed Christmas season.