How to pray when you don’t know how

A good question, no? How can one possibly pray if you don’t know how to pray?

A traditional Chasidic story speaks glowingly of the prayer of an uneducated Jew who wanted to pray, did not speak Hebrew, but thought Hebrew a necessity for prayers to be heard by God. So he began to recite the only Hebrew he knew: the alphabet. He recited it over and over again, until a rabbi asked what he was doing. The man told the rabbi, "The Holy One, Blessed is He, knows what is in my heart. I will give Him the letters, and He can put the words together."

A Prayer for Every Need, a book by old faithful Norman Vincent Peale, provides wording for prayers for many situations. If you’re one who finds a formula or model helpful, you can download a free copy of that book here.

Charismatics would answer that you pray in your ‘prayer language’, the mysterious gift of praying in tongues many of us have heard of or experienced.

Charisma magazine published an interesting article exploring many aspects of this, Tongues: Is It the Initial Sign of the Holy Spirit's Filling? by John Sherrill.

Personally, I’ve found ‘HELP!’ and ‘Thank-You’ two of the easiest and best.

Seeing, not seeing, and seeing differently: Blindness, physical and spiritual

Do you see what I see? Do I see what you see? The necessity of ‘eyes to see’ looms large in Christianity. While Jesus healed the physically blind, he simultaneously heaped criticism on pharisaic types suffering spiritual blindness. The problem was not they couldn’t see, but that as spiritual teachers, they were sure they could.

How can one possibly perceive the 'Light of the world' without spiritual eyes—without an ability to see beyond the physical? John 9 succinctly reveals these truths, and in likely the most memorable way in scripture.

“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world", Jesus announces to those around him, including a fellow he’d just met who had been blind from birth. What follows may be the strangest of Jesus’ recorded miracles. He “spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the [blind] man's eyes. 'Go,' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam' (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing" (vv. 6-7).

Preaching and reflecting on this on a recent Sunday, our rector Anne wondered how on earth a man born blind—and now with his eyes full of mud—could, as Jesus commanded him, make his way to the pool of Siloam to wash away the mess. We know he did of course, and perhaps some supernaturally endowed spiritual sight helped him to. After cleansing, he gained physical sight as well, sending the hyper-critical Pharisees into religious overload.

Jesus had worked a miracle on the Sabbath, and so violated the Sabbath ‘no work’ laws. But he really tangled up their taut tidiness with his next statement, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind" (John 9: 39). A better summation of Jesus’ ‘doing away with the Law’ may be hard to find.

"What? Are we blind too?" the incredulous Pharisees replied. To which Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9: 40-41).

Anne then illustrated the whole 'how do we see?' concept with a Sherlock Holmes story Conan Doyle may or may not have actually written. But her love of camping, and that it so lights up the topic, make it worth sharing.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of red, they lay down for the night and went to sleep.

Some hours later Holmes woke up, nudged his faithful friend and said, "Watson, I want you to look up at the sky and tell me what you see." Watson said, "I see millions and millions of stars." Sherlock said, "And what does that tell you?"

After a minute or so of pondering Watson said, "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets, and I also observe that Saturn is in the constellation of Leo.

Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day today. What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for about 30 seconds and said, "Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!"

Shout it out! Jesus is alive!

by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

Margaret Sangster Phippen wrote that, in the mid-1950s, her father, British pastor, W.E. Sangster, began to notice some uneasiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg. When he went to the doctor, he found that he had an incurable disease that caused progressive muscular atrophy. His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice fail, and his throat become unable to swallow.

Sangster threw himself into his work in the British home missions, figuring he could still write and would have even more time for prayer. "Let me stay in the struggle, Lord," he pleaded. He wrote articles and books, and helped organize prayer cells throughout England. Gradually Sangster’s legs became useless. His voice went completely. But he could still hold a pen, shakily.

On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In it, he said, "It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!'—but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout."

The worst situation, however, would be that there wasn’t anything to shout about! But there is! Regardless of the weather, regardless of tragedies, both personal and world-wide, regardless of the booming or sinking economy, regardless of anything you can think of, Jesus has overcome the grave.

Jesus is alive!

That truth changes everything. No matter how devastating, overwhelming, frightening, or hopeless our situations might seem, we Christians have hope. Because Jesus is alive, we have access to our heavenly Father, through His Holy Spirit. God has “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” as Peter put it (1 Peter 2:9). John says that Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). That means that we can face the future, whatever it might bring, knowing that we are not traveling there alone, knowing that God will not allow anything to overcome us. In the end we will have victory in heaven.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

May resurrection joy be yours this Easter season.

This song by Jesus Culture gloriously brings Anne's Easter message to musical life

The Birth of 'Time Out'

Kim Ross’s love for God and people has a bubbly, brilliant way of seeping out no matter where she is or what she does. Her husband Doug has pastored the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Haliburton for several years now and the two of them, separately and as a team, have already made huge healthy dents into the life of the community. Here is Kim’s story on just one of those initiatives.

The Heart behind 'Time Out'
by Kim Ross

My heart has always been filled with compassion for those struggling with life circumstances. The conditions and environment which many people are subject to often dictates the outcome for their lives. For various reasons, both men and women are unable to further their education. For example, the lack of finances, resources, family support or an unplanned pregnancy are just a few reasons that may derail the best-laid plans.

My desire is to bring hope back into people’s lives, and with hope, opportunity for change. We can be a hand of love extended to all those who God places in our circle of influence. With guidance, being challenged and given the opportunity, many people will be able to change their circumstances. It would not be realistic to expect everyone to receive higher education when they have already started down the road of life with children, responsibility, life partners and financial instability.

The circumstances in our beautiful Highlands are much more challenging than in the city. We have little industry and limited resources; employment opportunities are minimum wage and seasonal. It is financially impossible for many parents in our county to send their children to university. I believe God has given us an opportunity to introduce hope, friendship and place a desire for change through the “Time Out” program.

I met the first contact while volunteering at the Highlands Community Pregnancy Care Centre. One day, I went into (Director) Julie’s office and told her quickly that I would like to invite this person to a program I'd been thinking of starting. “Time Out” was born. We didn't have money, volunteers or a plan on paper … just a desire and a willingness to step out in faith. The first meeting, October 23 2013, had 14 ladies in attendance. They learned to make pastry and each participant took home a home-made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Our desire is to bring hope, friendship and impart some practical life skills to the women who are attending this program. It is exciting to witness the application of some of the basic skills they have already learned. I believe that eventually the seeds of hope, desire, self-esteem, home businesses and a life-changing introduction to God will be born in the hearts of these amazing women.

I want to thank the wonderful people who have donated financially to the Time Out Program. We supply all materials and send all participants home with finished product and or materials. In December, 18 women assembled and decorated gingerbread houses. The wonderful part of the experience was that a couple of the women sold their gingerbread houses and made a few extra dollars to help with purchasing Christmas gifts.

One of our goals is to guide people through the process of starting a home business. We would like to help them discover their strengths and weaknesses, to teach them practical skills for their home and family. We are planning a number of events throughout the year to enable the women to look for business opportunities, have fun and begin to dream.

For information on the Time Out program please call 705-457-7523 or e-mail timout@live.ca.

Giving thanks as an antidote to pride

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

I am told that Alex Haley, the author of Roots, had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post.

When asked, “Why is that there?” he answered, “Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post and remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”

Perhaps Haley could then let go of his pride, and with a little humility say, “Thank you.”

We often fall into the trap of thinking pretty highly of ourselves: we can do this, we did that. Oh what a good person am I! Aren’t I great? Hopefully, we can correct ourselves immediately, reminding ourselves (and the devil who gives us these sinful ideas) that without God we can’t do anything. 
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:16-18
Before you eat that great, big Thanksgiving turkey or ham, why not ask each person present to say what they are thankful for. Last year I was at a large family gathering (not my family) where all 20 did just that. It was amazing to listen to and I am quite sure very pleasing to God, to whom it was addressed.

May you all have a very happy giving-thanks day.

Strengthening families one dad at a time

Executive Director Jule Goodwin and her volunteers at the Highlands Community Pregnancy Care Centre (HCPCC) have been quietly but tremendously helping in the community for years. Many of us are only aware of their existence with their yearly baby bottle campaigns, or perhaps on a trip to the downstairs loo in the Stedmans building!

The Highlander recently ran the following story, by Lisa Harrison, on a successful new HCPCC program focusing on the importance of healthy male role models for families.


             Julie & Terry Goodwin, NFP grad Gary Jenkins, Doug Ross

             Julie & Terry Goodwin, NFP grad Gary Jenkins, Doug Ross

Gary Jenkins smiles broadly as he holds up his graduation certificate. It’s the first one he’s ever received, and now he’s keen to get many more.

What’s truly unique is his choice of course to achieve it: the Nurturing Father’s Program (NFP) created by Mark Perlman, a Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator. The county’s first 12-week NFP was run by the Highlands Community Pregnancy Care Centre (HCPCC) this spring. Single father Jenkins and four other dads graduated in June.

Jenkins, 26, is by turns quiet and exuberant. He has two sons and would like a bigger role in their lives. “I’m beyond patient now,” says Jenkins. “I do everything different now. My whole life’s kind of changed in a way.”

HCPCC provides pre- and post-delivery support to women faced with an unplanned pregnancy and support for post-abortion trauma. Executive Director Julie Goodwin says clients often wish similar versions of some support programs were available for fathers. Goodwin recently took a webinar featuring the NFP and found it was designed for a wide audience – not only single dads, but also perhaps a teacher who recognizes he’s a role model, or a grandfather raising his grandchild.

NFP topics include discipline without violence, managing anger and resolving conflict, communication and problem-solving, teamwork with spouse/partner, and the joys of fathering. Goodwin proposed the program to the HCPCC board. Director Ron Mahler watched the webinar and recommended purchasing the curriculum. The board approved. The course and materials were free to participants thanks to several community partners.

When the non-profit HCPCC sent out letters requesting support, “I was blown away by the response,” says Goodwin. “It was a tremendous encouragement.”

Mahler and Goodwin’s husband Terry, who has 25 years of social services experience, served as trained facilitators. “For me it was a no-brainer,” says Terry. “The program uses a lot of the same premises that different cognitive behavioural approaches use – anger management, partner assault.”

The group found space at Haliburton’s Full Gospel Lighthouse. Pastor Doug Ross dropped in halfway through the program and stayed on.

“I saw the reaction of the young men as they were just readily receiving all this information, that they could change their lives, they could become better dads, and they were so willing to accept the responsibility,” says Ross.

Jenkins was seven when his father died. Essentially he was raised by his grandfather. “He taught me to be responsible,” says Jenkins. “I guess I was just too young and arrogant. I wasn’t listening, but I never forgot.” Jenkins was recently released from jail after 11 months. He moved away from his old friends and accompanying temptations, settled in the county, took the NFP program and joined a 12-step program.

Ross and the Goodwins talk about the connections that developed among the program facilitators and participants despite age differences.

“Men being men, they don’t talk about this stuff,” says Terry. “This was sort of a safe place, and it took a while to get there where they would talk, but then they would see the other two facilitators [Doug and Ron] had some of the same struggles as they had, so they would relate and open up and talk about it.”

“Take the program,” Jenkins recommends. “It’s very, very worth it, and you’re going to see some changes, very good, big changes in your life and your family’s life. It’s definitely going to make a difference for the kids, and guaranteed that the mothers are going to be ten times better,” he continues. “We do the program, we understand the program … she just sees the change that you are doing [for] you and your children.”

“You’re wise beyond your years, young man,” says Ross. “It took me 40 years to realize that.”

Jenkins says he plans to take the course again. Goodwin and Ross are also planning a monthly get-together to provide continued support and fellowship for the grads.

"Please spread the word to the men you know who are fulfilling this role," says Julie. "Whether a new dad, a teen dad, a grandfather, an uncle, a nurturing father is one who actively provides guidance, love and support to enhance the development and growth of children he cares for."

For more information on this or other HCPCC programs or services – which receive no government funding and rely entirely on donations from the community – please call 705-457-4673.

It’s ALL about Jesus

Years ago, as a bright shiny new Christian, I recall proclaiming “Jesus is the answer!” to an Anglican priest friend, who replied sardonically, “Ah, but what’s the question?”

For some, that simple saying—It’s all about Jesus—seems just that; way too simple. My friend obviously placed himself in that category.

Near the other end of the spectrum are those who find the idea far too difficult to honestly live out. It does seem the more you study—whether theology, biology, astrophysics, theatre, whatever—the more ridiculous the statement seems. But as Christians, we know somewhere deep in our knowers it is capital-T True. That truth lies in the unseen realm, the spirit, the heart—whatever you want to call it—beyond our brain cells.

Anne’s recent Sunday sermon reminded us of the centrality of Jesus, and the accompanying reading from Philippians (Phil. 3:1-11) underscored and shouted it out. There we hear Paul considering everything else in life worthless garbage compared to knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord.

As Anne pointed out, in a small community such as ours, family seems to reign supreme. While family, hard work and faithful service contribute to individual and societal health, all need to be an outworking of the supremacy of Christ. Paul really did give up everything for Jesus, and if we’re to live in the fullness of what God intends, we are to do the same, at least ‘in our hearts’.

The whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, tells his story. The resurrected Christ's conversation with a couple of distressed, doubting disciples on their seven-mile dusty hike from Jerusalem to Emmaus details how even what we now call the Old Testament told time and again of his own birth, death and resurrection.

As they trudge along, Jesus goes step-by-step through the prophecies, yet they still don't get it. Not till they're about to share a meal with him later do their eyes see what their hearts had already perceived:

"When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?' " (Luke 24:30-32)

Eugene Peterson in The Message wonderfully interprets Paul’s words on the absolute centrality and supremacy of Jesus:

"God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Eph. 1:20-23)

As if re-focusing on the Truth weren’t enough reason to return to the all-in-all-ness of Jesus, a recent article in the The Washington Post presented the following as the most-cited reason 20- and 30-somethings decide church isn’t for them: "We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there” (How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool).

Whether these younger people have grown up churched or unchurched, they’ve been advertised to their whole lives. With “highly sensitive BS meters … we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances,” one CNN Belief Blog contributor explains.

She goes on to argue that “church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.”  She and many of her generation find themselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions “precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being ‘cool,’ and we find that refreshingly authentic.”

In other words, they want something the world can never give them: a saviour from shallow meaninglessness to connect them with the deep, intellectually robust spirituality of a Holy Father and Spirit.

Amid the tsunami devastation in northern Japan, a wooden cross stands     where there was once a church          [Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP/Getty Images]

Amid the tsunami devastation in northern Japan, a wooden cross stands     where there was once a church          [Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP/Getty Images]

No shortcuts or quick-fixes, but still: JOY in the journey

Who of us in today’s society doesn't hope for that quick-fix—the seminar, the experience, the program—to instantly solve problems, relieve stress and strain?

God’s ways, as usual, prove different and well, more stable. As obsessed as we are with speed, God knows that deep-rootedness, strength and stability can only happen gradually and with care. Real maturity can never result from a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving. By tests and trials we grow and learn.

Jesus took 30 years to reach the maturity required to enter ministry and ultimately fulfill his reason for being born. Even his overt ministry of several years of teaching and healing, while full of joy and strength, also entailed battles and struggles on a cosmic scale.

Accepting his life into ours, believing the truth of his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, understanding that he now “is at the right hand of God ... interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34)—that forms our initial and often instantaneous catapulting into Kingdom life.

From then on, though, each of us is on an individually-tailored growth program to best enable us to fulfill our own purposes for being born ... which will involve not only our own development, but, as we learn how best to fit into His plans, betterment in our entire spheres of influence.

To quote from Rick Warren’s best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life:

"The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose.” 

So while seminars and seminal experiences of God’s sovereignty often do help promote our moving closer to God’s purposes for our lives, the journey brightens and strengthens best when we keep our focus on Him and His purposes alone. This section from Hebrews in Eugene Peterson’s The Message puts it so well:

"God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn't punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” Heb. 12:9-11)

While Christlikeness is our eventual destination, the journey lasts a lifetime. “And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Cor. 3:18, The Message)

Further, deeper and perhaps most wondrous, we're to find JOY in the journey!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

Painting courtesy of Ineke Hopgood,  a prophetic artist based in Bryon Bay, Australia;   inspired by message "The God of Comfort" by Phil Mason

Painting courtesy of Ineke Hopgood,  a prophetic artist based in Bryon Bay, Australia;   inspired by message "The God of Comfort" by Phil Mason

Being changed to be community and world changers

by Louise Sisson

The Highlands were blessed to have Dr. Steve McEvoy visit area churches and teach on fulfilling the Great Commission. He was brought to Haliburton by Sandy Stevens of Put the Word into Action Ministries , a local charity aiming to strengthen and encourage the Body of Christ.

Steve pastored Shepherd’s Heart Prayer Centre in Truro, Nova Scotia for 13 years and now heads up Steve McEvoy Ministries. He also teaches leadership skills to both government agencies and the business community. His seminars are totally scripture-based, even though he cannot use the Bible as a reference in business settings. If you ever get a chance to attend one of his workshops/seminars, I would encourage you to do so.

St. George’s, Lighthouse Pentecostal and Lakeside Baptist churches partnered with Put the Word into Action for various of the seminars, and members of all local churches were invited and encouraged to attend. Although I had been a Christian for many years, Steve took passage after passage of scripture and opened them up to a whole new dimension. For me, it was a life-changing revelation.

The first seminar held at St. George’s (Standing Close to God) emphasized that Jesus did everything required so we can enjoy a relationship with God. He always stands between us and God so that God does not see us as sinful. When I sin, which I will do, it is my responsibility to stand back up, turn to God and receive the forgiveness He offers. This is a new day in my walk with God. We are worthy!

In the next seminar (Walking by Faith), Steve emphasized the fact that faith was given to us by God and only grows as we grow as Christians. How do we grow in faith? By hearing! How do we hear? Through reading the Word! The development of faith is like a newly-developed muscle; at times it will be uncomfortable. God will sometimes lead us into situations beyond our present place of faith, causing us to turn more intensely into the face of God and forcing our faith to grow. Will we stay where we are or will we allow God to lead us forward? The choice is ours!

The third seminar (Running by God’s Strength) spoke to me in two different ways. Firstly, when God created the earth and all that was in it, He gave immense responsibility to humans—similar to when you give someone a gift, you hand over the accountability for the gift to the recipient. Humanity, through choice, relinquished responsibility to the prince of darkness, and so opened the door and allowed evil to come in. So while we sit waiting on God to do something about the state of the world, God waits for US to take our part and do something about it.

Secondly, as we read in John 17:4, Jesus prayed on the mountain before he went to the cross, saying, “Father, I have finished the work that you sent me to do." FINISHED! COMPLETED! There was a work that was finished before he went to the cross. That work was ‘making disciples’ so that what he started here on earth could continue after he opened the other door allowing redemption for humanity.

Each one of us has been equipped and empowered to work as the Lord’s disciples. I asked myself and the congregation, “Before we walk through that door, have we finished the work that He sent us to do?” I challenged the congregation to help raise up the warriors to fight this battle, starting with our children and young people. Although many of us are seniors, we can put new meaning to the word ‘Gray Power’ if we step out of our comfort zone—in faith!

This is the generation where change can begin. It is time to turn the corner! We are working for the Church of Jesus Christ—not the Anglican Church, the Pentecostal Church, the United Church, the Baptist Church, the Community Church or the Catholic Church—although they may be the buildings we meet in. We have to finish the work Jesus sent us to do!

Simply yielding yields the best Kingdom results

I don’t know about you, but the seeming nonsensical simplicity of the Gospel message kept me from believing it for years. And for those of us ‘in the Kingdom’, the simplicity of capital-L Life can be difficult to grasp as well. God makes no promises it will be easy; we still share the planet with an enemy kingdom, after all.

We were designed to work, and work hard, in our own spheres of influence. Yet the work is not ours, it’s God’s, and only as we yield to Him can we effectively be and do what we were created to be and do. The Apostle Paul’s difficult but joyful adventures, misadventures and Kingdom assignments certainly underline that truth.

Kathie Walters, an international speaker who brings freedom to those who feel they have to ‘qualify’, excels at reminding us of simple Kingdom truths.

Simply Believe 
by Kathie Walters  [excerpted from The Story of The Ring: Simply Believe]

I am not at all into "working for Jesus." He doesn't want us to work for him. He wants us to yield to him, and he will work through us. It's much easier that way, and much more effective.

It's all him. 100%. We get to do the yielding – not the trying. Trying can be very trying. His right hand and His Holy arm have gotten the victory. Religious spirits always make us try and do what only God can do.

He (Jesus) is the one who is going to "present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). He (Jesus) is going to do that. It's his prerogative. Not your prayer partner, not your mom, not your pastor, not your husband or wife. You are his trophy. He is going to present you faultless. He is going to get all the glory because he did all the work.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). 
Chill Out – Take a Break 

There is no striving and trying and working at it in the Spirit realm. Remember, your first calling is to enjoy God, and then out of that you can serve Him as you are led by the Spirit. It's funny, sometimes we will do anything except simply believe. We fast, pray, and so forth. But when it all comes down to it, it's simply trusting Him to do what He said He would do, "casting ALL your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The Sword of the Lord and the Rest of the Lord

Biblical accounts of the moment of Christ’s death on the cross tell of a tearing, from top to bottom, of the curtain in the temple isolating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the synagogue. None but the High Priest could enter that most sacred space, and only once a year on Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement, the holiest on the Jewish calendar) to make amends for the people’s sins. This tremendous curtain-cleaving event signalled an end to the separation of God from humanity. People now had and have access to God Himself.

So we can now, if we choose, freely access the Kingdom of heaven. The caveat of course is that entry is possible only through the door Christ has flung open, the door he himself is (John 4:16; 10:7). As we do, we can find the proverbial ‘rest for our souls’.

Yet even Christians have trouble with the concept, let alone reality, of rest. What, really, does rest mean? How can we rest when so much needs to be done? When the world around us seems to be falling apart?

A recent book and CD set by Kevin Basconi rends all of this wider open to understanding. In The Sword of the Lord and the Rest of the Lord, Kevin recounts what he calls a parabolic vision he had a few years ago. His dramatic encounter, on the Day of Atonement in 2011, resembles Paul’s being transported to the third heaven in its intensity and revelation.

Kevin describes precisely what he saw, felt, heard and sensed, and then proceeds to provide the interpretation the Lord gave him of the experience. He witnesses, with all his senses, encroaching and terrifying darkness beginning to engulf humanity.

He then sees the Lord flashing his sword, with the words “Rest of the Lord” ornately engraved on it. Kevin discovers the levels of meaning behind, within and beyond those words. He hears the Lord admonish: “Be diligent to enter in to my rest,” as he points the sword to the Heavenly Hosts behind him. “When you learn to enter into my rest, you can enter into the REST of the Lord.”

What he learns about ‘end times’ and ‘the rest of the Lord’ from this experience differ considerably from how the Church has traditionally boxed up those concepts. His matter-of-fact presentation, combined with scriptural support, makes what would otherwise seem a flakey outta-this-world incident completely solid and credible.

Kevin learns and shares with us how yes, ‘rest’ can imply just that: resting from works, as in a Sabbath rest. It can also mean the meditative resting prayer we enter into after praying all the necessary prayers. But he also discovers another interesting aspect: ‘the rest of the Lord’s Body’—those saints who have preceded us to heaven. And so much more!

Here is the acronym for REST the Lord gave Kevin after his experience:
R:   Return to me and cease from your works
E:  Expect me to move and work on your behalf
S:  Stop doing things I did not initiate
T:  Trust me to enable you and empower you to fulfill your destiny and your calling"

Holy Chutzpah! Viewing Israel from the inside with the movie 'Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference'

As we approach the most important time of the Christian year—the death and resurrection of our founder/friend Jesus—it may be good time to also honour and celebrate the roots of our Jewish Jesus, as well as his own Jewish brothers and sisters in the land of his birth and elsewhere.

First the bad news: A BBC poll spanning 22 countries suggests people view North Korea and Israel equally negatively. The utterly cool movie Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference (link below) may change some naysayers’ minds … then again, maybe not. Closed minds are just that.

Narrated by New York Times bestselling author and former Harvard lecturer, Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, the film uncovers how despite incredible challenges, Israeli creativity, innovation and chutzpah have triumphed over adversities ranging from geographic to unspeakable.

Israeli-born and American-raised, Dr. Tal taught Harvard’s most popular course ever, 'Positive Psychology', and his international best sellers Being Happy and Happier have been translated into 25 languages.

Hundreds of TV networks and programs have profiled the brilliant, personable PhD and family man, including 60 Minutes and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Tal now consults and lectures around the world to executives in multinational corporations, Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and for the general public. His topics include leadership, education, ethics, happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal-setting, and mindfulness.

You can view a ten-minute version of the movie here: Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference.

Revival: Is simple desperation enough?

So many of us pray for, talk about and hope for revival … but what does the concept mean to you, or for you or your community?

We hear stories from history of the great Welsh revival with Evan Roberts, or the Great Awakening with Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards. Modern-day missionaries tell of amazing moves of God in otherwise miserable places such as, for example, Mozambique.

Obviously a key ingredient is to have a felt need to be revived. If we’re comfortable where we are, who or what needs reviving?

The first time this idea whacked me was while listening to the stories of a friend working with Open Doors with Brother Andrew. In visiting difficult areas of the world, he had been struck by the fact of capital-L Christian Life thriving in areas where Christians live (and often die) under severe persecution.

Kevin Turner has me agonizing again over my—our—comfortable little worlds with a powerful article in this month's Charisma Magazine (see below for link*). An evangelist ministering primarily in regions of the globe where the gospel is restricted, Turner reminds us with first-person authority and passion of the too-prevalent sad fact of lack of Life in the Christian comfort zone.

While he addresses the American Church in particular, his points and questions obviously apply for most western churches.

"How is it that God can visit a mud hut in the middle of Africa yet bypass the comfortable sanctuaries we created for Him in our country? ...  Why are other nations experiencing revival and we aren't? Could it be that calamity clarifies while comfort confuses? Calamity is an excellent teacher. It shows us in an instant what is truly important. Our materialism leaves us content without God.”

Turner sees real life and growth in the churches of devastated areas of the world, and like my friend and many others, identifies desperation as the key to revival.

Certainly it is of critical importance, but who among us would invite calamity even with the promise of a magnificent move of God? We can feel desperate for many reasons, and any one of them can be enough to have us begging God for relief. For the affluent westerner it may well be an anguished cry of: “Is that all there is?”

Still, turning to God in desperation, alone, isn’t enough for genuine growth (a by-product of revival, after all) to happen. After Jesus tells us that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, he says, in what we’ve come to call The Great Commission:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 18-20)

They not only help identify felt needs and so ‘catch the fish’, but help clean them up, train them, and release them—revived—into their own spheres of influence to do the same. Neither comfortable Christians nor simple converts can create or even enable revival, but desperate disciples can and do. So to my mind, the 'equation' might become:
Desperation + Discipleship = Revival

* Why Isn't the American Church Experiencing Revival? by Kevin Turner, in Charisma

Advent 2012: Anne's Christmas Letter

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

Are you ready for Christmas? Tree decorated, cookies baked, presents wrapped?

It is so easy to get distracted among all the preparations for the seasonal festivities that we forget what those preparations were supposed to be for. We become rushed and worried, wondering if we have forgotten anything, and doing some things at the last minute.

We forget that Christmas is a season that starts on December 25th and continues until the 12th day, called Epiphany. There will be lots of time for things we think we have missed.

Because of our busyness, we end up not having the time to adequately prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about, after all? We give presents—not to feed our greed, but in thanksgiving for the greatest present of all time, the gift of Jesus. We share our wealth with others because we know that Jesus was born in the worst possible situation of poverty. We decorate, celebrate, light candles, and feast on special food to remind us of the victory won for us on a special night long ago. We re-read the great story and tell it in song so that it is never forgotten. We gather with other believers to worship God Who created us …Who sent His Son to free us … and Who filled us with His Spirit that we would have the power to share His love.

Are you ready for Christmas? It is never too late to choose to follow the way of the Saviour who was born in a stable and lives forever. May you have a blessed and holy Christmas season.

Dying Man Finds Life in Dying Church

Three years ago, Greg Thomas told his family to start planning his funeral. Diagnosed with stage four cancer, he began taking long walks in the country around his home in Montgomery, Minnesota … alone with his dog and his thoughts.

One day, a sort of spiritual serendipity led him to a little church which had been built in 1868 by Czech settlers, but abandoned for the last 100 years. Thomas would have loved to go inside, but the doors to the old Catholic church were locked tight.

 "I tried it more than once," he says. But the church was always locked. Its foundations were crumbling, the paint peeling, but it was there on the church steps, a man crumbling himself began to pray.

Eventually, Thomas contacted the foundation responsible for the upkeep of the church cemetery, telling them he wanted to repair the church. The foundation called Thomas' offer "a godsend."

Today, as Thomas works, he also prays inside the church.

"There's been a lot of tears shed on these [church] steps, and they've been tears of joy, tears of pain, but tears of blessings too."

Photo: KARE 11 News

Photo: KARE 11 News

Miraculously, as the tiny church's exterior was restored, it seemed Greg's body was being restored as well.

"The old church is newly clothed in white," narrates KARE 11 News' Boyd Huppert in a video report. "And Greg's cancer is now in remission."

"It's what He's done for me," Greg explains, referring to the Lord Jesus, "and this is my way of saying thank you.”

Vincent van Gogh’s unappreciated journey with Christ

No one viewing Vincent Van Gogh's painting Starry Night walks away unmoved.

But how many know about Van Gogh's abiding faith in Christ? Both his father and grandfather were pastors in the Dutch Reformed Church, and apparently many in the family gravitated toward religion or art.

Vincent’s zeal for Jesus grew in his early twenties. Wanting to study theology, he unfortunately failed the seminary entrance exam, so went off to serve as a missionary to coal miners in Belgium instead.

Much evidence exists of his literally pouring out his life in sacrifice and service on behalf of the diseased and destitute. Sadly, and likely a contributing factor to his later psychological problems, even church authorities rejected him for what they thought was his improper dress and excessive zeal.

Read the whole amazing story by Mark Ellis here, including reprints of some of his more overtly Christian-themed paintings.

The Journey of a Lifetime

Who of us in today’s society doesn’t hope for that quick-fix—the seminar, the experience, the program—to instantly solve all problems, relieve stress and strain?

As obsessed as we are with speed, God knows that deep-rootedness, strength and stability can only happen gradually and with care. Real maturity can never result from a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving. By tests and trials we grow and learn.

"God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” (Hebrews 12:9-11, The Message) 
"And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Corinthians 3:18b, The Message)

So while Christ-likeness is our eventual destination, the journey lasts a lifetime.