How can we pray for healing?

Is there a pattern to prayer that works? Is there a way that we can be sure God will answer? What if we pray and our prayers are not answered? How do we find faith? How can we believe?

In a sermon both brilliant and comforting,  David Barker reflects on Mark 5: 21-43 where Jesus heals a woman in the crowd who touched the hem of his garment, and later the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. 

Including stories of those praying in our own time—and the mysterious answers or seeming non-answers—David wrestles with some of our most difficult questions about prayer and faith.

Atheists are right: Christianity sounds absurd

By Darren Wilson*

Think about it. Christians believe in a man who lived more than 2,000 years ago in a series of backwater towns in the Middle East, was killed by some religious zealots, magically rose from the dead three days later, after which he floated up into the sky and disappeared, thus becoming the invisible man we now believe in and pin all our hopes on. On top of that, we believe in other unseen beings—angels and demons—who are all around, helping or hindering. Meanwhile, another invisible spirit (the Holy Spirit) is constantly at work behind the scenes around the earth, keeping the whole thing straight and intervening whenever possible.

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When put that way, even I think it sounds crazy. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I’m a former university professor, an author of two books, and I’ve become something of a spokesperson not just for the existence of God through my films but for the idea that this invisible God is alive and well and doing amazing things in our world today. How then can I, as a rational, intelligent human being, actually believe in an invisible man and spirits?

I ask this question because it seems that lately a good number of people have been coming out and saying that no, they don’t believe this nonsense anymore. Former Christians seem to be taking a long hard look at what they once believed, and are finding the courage to step forward and voice their opinion: that they think it’s all nuts. I have a feeling they aren’t alone in their struggles with belief, and the reasons for this crisis of faith are surely varied and compelling. But like everyone, at the end of the day I am only truly responsible for myself, and I wanted to step forward and try to explain why I will continue to believe in an invisible God-man, no matter what.

For a good portion of my life, I lived a kind of Christianity that I have a sneaking suspicion most people do as well. It was built around a set of pre-informed beliefs and its orbit was made up almost exclusively with well-meaning principles—all of which were gleaned from the Bible and were designed to both make my life better and make me into a relatively nice person. Jesus was the centerpiece, of course, but He was more of a benevolent, distant brother figure. God was relatively silent on most things—and always loomed large in my ‘Be good or else!’ mentality. The Holy Spirit was like smoke, a guiding force if you will, but one that was totally unknowable.

This was Christianity, for sure, but it was a neutered one. I simply had to believe the right things, be a good person, and not do too much bad stuff. If I did make mistakes, I had to make sure I said I was sorry, otherwise a kind of logjam of sin would start to build up, which was not good.

When your life revolves around trying to ‘be good,’ there comes a point when it all just feels fake and forced. I mean, if Jesus is real, shouldn’t my life be different? Shouldn’t I have this peace He kept talking about inside me? Should I really have to try this hard to change my behavior? And after a while, when principles are all that generally guide you, it just becomes too much and you wind up doing the Christian thing simply because you think you should and because that’s what you’ve always done.

Darren Wilson on location in Jerusalem

Darren Wilson on location in Jerusalem

But then something happened, and this is where everything changed for me. I experienced God. I am a rational person and not prone to manic episodes, hallucinations, or strange behavior. I’ve never done drugs a day in my life. I don’t ‘feel’ things spiritually, have never been ‘slain in the spirit,’ and I’ve never even spoken in tongues. But while making these films of mine, I experienced the reality and presence of God. I felt Him inside me and around me. My behavior changed, I felt peace for the first time, and my Christian walk was no longer about following principles, but about following a Person. And yes, that Person was invisible.

How do you explain experiencing God to someone who has never experienced Him themselves? It’s a lot like trying to explain love to someone who has never been in love. They can be surrounded by people in love, can see how strange it makes people behave, can understand the concept of love. They can even see the dangers of falling in love with that person over this person, but unless you’ve actually fallen in love with someone, you’ll never be able to understand the feeling it gives you or the certainty that you are, in fact, in love, and that it is very, very real.

So it is no surprise to me that, for example, a pastor who decides to ‘take a year off from God’ comes out the other side as an atheist. Honestly, it would be impossible for me to take even a week off from God, because I have experienced Him firsthand. I know He’s there, I can’t ignore Him. No one who actually experiences God will ever deny His existence. For instance, for my new film, Holy Ghost Reborn, I filmed a ministry in Colorado that provides prayer and teaching almost exclusively to military personnel. Most of the participants go into this 3 day intensive as either atheists or nominal believers at best. All of them—a full 100%—come out of these 3 days believing in Jesus. Why? Because they just experienced Him for themselves. And you can’t deny something that you have actually experienced. My guess is that the vast majority of people who have turned their hearts from God never actually experienced Him in the first place. They may have heard and believed, but the reality of His presence never took root because believing something logically is not the same as experiencing it relationally.

Yes, believing in someone who is invisible seems, on the surface, a little crazy. But just as Billy Graham once pointed out, we believe in the wind not because we can see it, but because we can see the effects of it. We can feel it on our faces, see it whipping through tree branches. I believe in an invisible God not because I can see Him, but because I can see the effect of Him on my life, and on countless lives around the world. I can feel Him inside me, around me, even working through me.

I’m not sure people leaving the faith is an assault on Christianity as much as it is simply showing the danger of building faith on principles instead of relationship. As good and as important as principles are, nothing will ever compare to the vibrant, healthy, Biblical relationship that we were all created for with a God who is more real and more alive than many of us realize.

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*Darren Wilson is the Founder and CEO of WP Films, a media company with the mission to ask questions about God that no one else will. He has traveled the world since 2006 creating various feature-length documentaries, including Finger of God, Furious Love, Father of Lights, Holy Ghost and Holy Ghost Reborn. He has also written several books, including Filming God and Finding God in the Bible. The company now also has an online channel called WP TV.

Journey with Jesus begins as Middle Eastern women visit London

Perhaps you’ve heard of the highly effective Jesus Film, first released in 1979. Those behind the project explain they have always and ever been about one thing: everyone seeing Jesus. Teams visit areas all over the world, sharing the ‘greatest story ever told’ in more than 1,400 languages. They report that more than 490 million people have come to Jesus after watching their films.

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A project team member recently shared a wonderful story that began on a recent Jesus Film mission trip to London. 

While walking through a beautiful rose garden in Hyde Park, this fellow and his team talked and prayed about whom they should approach. Who was waiting to hear the good news?

As they prepared to sit down on the grass, a group of young Middle Eastern women not far away suddenly motioned to them to come and share their park bench. As if that weren’t surprising enough, it turned out the women were visiting from the very country the team had just been talking about ... a country the team ‘reporter’ had never ever met anyone from in England.

God was so clearly guiding and working through all of them. You can read the whole story here … a story which continues months later when the team member visits the Middle Eastern country and re-encounters one of the young woman. God's ways never cease to amaze!

A miracle meeting with Middle-Eastern Muslim women in London — The Jesus Film Project

Anglican Alliance launches Freedom Year, a global focus on anti-slavery initiatives

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The Anglican Alliance, which helps coordinate Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and injustice, has launched Freedom Year, a year-long focus on anti-slavery initiatives.

“Human trafficking is a grave crime against humanity,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reminds us.”It is a form of modern-day slavery and a profound violation of the intrinsic dignity of human beings. This outrage should concern each one of us, because what affects one part of humanity affects us all.

“If we are to combat this evil then we must work together to prevent the crime, support the survivors and prosecute the criminals. The knowledge that churches have of their local communities puts them on the frontline in this campaign.”

It happens abroad we know, and even in many communities close to home. We must pray for change, learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, and take action to end it.

A Freedom Year booklet, available here, contains monthly themes and activities to “help us to take action, and encourage us join the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery, both locally and globally,” the Alliance says.

Welcome to Father David Barker

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Please join us in welcoming interim priest-in-charge the Reverend Canon Dr. David Barker.  He has already been a cherished member of St. George’s for a number of years, serving in the choir and often ‘doing services’ when former priest-in-charge Anne was away.

Fr. David was ordained in 1970 and has served as Assistant Curate at St. Wilfrid’s, Islington (1975); Incumbent in the Parish of Minden (1977); the Parish of Washago (1980); St. Mark’s, Midland (1985); St. Timothy’s, North Toronto (1998); and St. Simon-the-Apostle, Toronto (2007). In 2012 he, with his wife Shirley, retired to West Guilford. He served as interim priest-in-charge of the Parish of Bobcaygeon, Dunsford and Burnt River in 2016 and 2017.

David graduated from the University of Toronto in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts, and in 1975 from Trinity College with a Master of Divinity. In 1995 Seabury-Western Theological Seminary awarded him a Doctor of Ministry (in Preaching) and in 2003 Archbishop Terence Finlay appointed him Canon of St. James’ Cathedral.

We have started a page where you can link to his sermons on YouTube, with his first and second talks already up!

Anne Moore’s final service in the parish packed with people, God stories, wonder, laughter and tears

Sunday proved a heart- and spirit-warming service for the church full of people from St. George’s and St. Margaret’s (and visitors from elsewhere) for Pastor Anne’s final service in the parish.

Anne recounted her own Christian history—from her christening as a child through her conversion as a young woman, her call to ordained ministry while both studying and serving in the Canadian Armed Forces reserves, and on into the fulfilment and wonder she has found helping others grow closer to God. As, she says, she has grown throughout her time of serving God and others.

“It has been a privilege to be with people in both the best and worst of times,” she explained, with tears in her eyes. She then launched into what she believes are the five basic directions in our human journeys. 

The first is inward … as we receive God’s love, His word, and meditate on scripture. 

The second is a reaching outward, as we do our best to share, serve, love and help correct the wrongs in the world around us.

The third direction in our journey is upward. We gather together to gaze upward and praise God, pray, worship and study. As a fourth direction, we look toward God’s people down here on earth: we do what He enables and calls us to do to build communities of loving believers.

Finally, there is the onward journey. Each of us will go forward and onward in different directions, as God leads and directs.

“Since this is my last time to share some good news,” she announced, “I will.” She then quoted both Old and New Testament scriptures on the necessity of using our own voices, inner or outer, to call on the Lord for salvation.

“And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved,” we read in Joel 2:32. Then, in the New Testament we have one of the most famous verses on evangelism in scripture. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 9-10).

Anne then urged all those who had never made a full commitment to Jesus to do so. It basically comes down to ‘sorry, please and thank-you’, she said. She then led those who wanted to share in resurrection life to follow her in prayer with: “I’m sorry for the life I have lived, the sins I have committed. Please, Jesus, come into my heart and life. Thank you!” 

Before communion, several in the congregation shared their own ‘God Sightings’ from the week—an important part of most services. The initiative encourages people to pay more attention to the movements of God in their daily lives, note when they feel His Presence or see Him working, write it down, and then share it with the church family. Testimonies contain tremendous power to encourage and bless others. Eyes of faith can often reveal what is beneath and beyond the reality that we see.

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Several stood to tell of God working in the lives of their families and friends. Organist and choir director Bill Gliddon shared a wonderful story of what happened a few nights before Christmas when he had been working late in his ‘upper room’ in the church.

He heard the church door bell ring, and went down to find the father of the Syrian refugee family living next door, standing there with a plate of warm Syrian delicacies. The Muslim man had noticed a light in the choir room above, knew Bill must be there late, and came to offer some sustenance. (You can read an informative story from the Haliburton Echo about the family here: Welcoming the Wisos: How a small committee brought a community together).

Please pray for the Wiso family as they continue to settle into their new lives in Canada.

Please also pray for Anne as she moves forward and onward, for David Barker, interim priest-in-charge, and for the process of finding a new priest.

Advent Letter

by Anne Moore

Dear Friends,

How time flies! Is it really Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for Christmas, already? There is so much to do at this time of year: decorating and baking (well, not me actually!), visiting and feasting, choosing just the right gifts and wondering what gifts might be received.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, and, generally, numerous flurries of snow(!),  simple questions might pop into our heads: ‘Is this what it’s all about?’ or, ‘Is there something more?’ or even, ‘Have I gotten something wrong here?’ Perhaps, after the food is eaten and the gifts unwrapped, you ask yourself, ‘Is there a gift out there somewhere that would really satisfy me?’ If we are honest with ourselves, that is what we want in life—something that can meet our needs, help us with our problems and decisions, bring comfort, happiness, peace.

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The good news is that there is such a gift. It is custom-made just for you and is given by someone who knows exactly what you need right now. It gives you more than anything money can buy. And it comes from someone special, who knows you and loves you deeply, and who wants only the best for you.

Does that sound like a great gift? Does it sound too good to be true?  I assure you that it is true because I received that gift 39 years ago. God, who created each one of us, who loves each one of us individually, perfectly, and without any conditions attached, sent His only Son, Jesus, to live as an ordinary human being on earth. We celebrate His birth at Christmas.

‘So what?’ some may ask. In the Bible there are four different writers’ interpretations about Jesus’ life. We call those stories the gospels, which translates to, 'good news.’ Matthew and Luke probably heard the stories second-hand; Mark and John told their own stories. They all wrote about what Jesus said and did, what He was like, and how He died. That’s all fairly normal for a biography. What is not normal is they went on to tell how He was alive after He died! The event which Christians call the resurrection changed the world, the course of history, and can also change us if we accept the gift He offers.

Jesus is God’s gift to us. As the Son of God, He can give us freedom from our fears and worries, forgiveness of our past, healing of our bodies, minds, and relationships, and the assurance of God’s unconditional love for us. We can be free, safe, and fully alive like never before. We don’t need to do anything special to receive this Gift from God; we don’t have to be good (God isn’t like Santa); we simply have to accept this Gift. Unwrapping it involves learning about Jesus and learning how to follow Him. We call that ‘church,’ which is hanging out with a bunch of people who are also in various stages of their learning.

As we learn to trust Jesus we will come to the point where we want to give Him a gift—that gift is our lives as obedient followers.

I pray for each of you as you begin, and continue, following our Saviour whose birth we are about to celebrate.

The Resume of Jesus Christ

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Address: Ephesians 1:20
Phone: Romans 10:13
Website: The Bible; Keywords: Christ, Lord, Savior, Redeemer, God-Man, Jesus, son of David

Hello. My name is Jesus Christ. Many call me Lord! I've sent you my resume because I'm seeking the top management position in your heart.  Please consider my accomplishments as set forth below. 

Qualifications 
†  I founded the earth and established the heavens (see Proverbs 3:19).
  I formed man from the dust of the ground (see Genesis 2:7).
  I breathed into man the breath of life (see Genesis 2:7). 
  I redeemed man from the curse of the law (see Galatians 3:13). 
  The blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant come upon your life through me (see Galatians 3:14).

Occupational Background 
  I've only had one employer (see Luke 2:49).     
   I've never been tardy, absent, disobedient, slothful or disrespectful.
  My employer has nothing but rave reviews for me (see Matthew 3:15-17). 

Skills and Work Experience
  Some of my skills and work experience include: empowering the poor to be poor no more, healing the brokenhearted, setting captives free, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and setting at liberty the oppressed (see Luke 4:18).
  I am a wonderful counsellor (see Isaiah 9:6). People who listen to me will live in safety and security and will not fear evil (see Proverbs 1:33). 
  Most importantly, I have the authority, ability and power to cleanse you of your sins (see 1 John 1:7-9). 

Educational Background 
  I encompass the entire breadth and length of knowledge, wisdom and understanding (see Proverbs 2:6). 
   In me are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (see Colossians 2:3). Hidden … yet accessible to the heart which welcomes me in.
  My Word is so powerful; it has been described as being a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (see Psalm 119:105).
  I can even tell you all of the secrets of your heart (see Psalm 44:21). 

Major Accomplishments 
  I was an active participant in the greatest Summit Meeting of all time (see Genesis 1:26).
  I laid down my life so that you may live (see 2 Corinthians 5:15). 
  I defeated the archenemy of God and humanity and made a show of them openly (see Colossians 2:15). 
  I've miraculously fed the poor, healed the sick and raised the dead! 
  There are many more major accomplishments, too many to mention here. You can read them on my website, located at: www dot the BIBLE. You don't need an Internet connection or computer to access my website. 

References 
Believers and followers worldwide will testify to my divine healings, salvation, deliverance, miracles, restoration and supernatural guidance.

In Summary
Now that you've read my resume, I'm confident I'm the only candidate uniquely qualified to fill this vital position in your heart. 
To summarize, I will properly direct your paths (see Proverbs 3:5-6), and lead you into everlasting life (see John 6:47).  When can I start? Time is of the essence (see Hebrews 3:15).

_______________________________________
[original creator of this bit of genius unknown, to us at least]

Thanksgiving: great when it’s easy, an awesome antidote when it’s not

By the Rev. Canon Anne Moore
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The writer of Psalm 34 wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Billy Graham once wrote, “If I were to list all the things for which I’m thankful, I’d never have time to eat my turkey dinner!”

Can you say the same? Sometimes when I am the leader for a ‘quiet day’, I will hand participants a sheet of foolscap and ask them to write down as many thanksgivings that they can think of. The thoughts often start quite quickly but then begin to slow. Then, after more thought, the list becomes easier and easier and longer and longer. And that is the way it ought to be: what a wonderful world God has given us to share.

If you are feeling blue, give thanks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give thanks. If you are on top of the world, give thanks. If you can’t sleep, don’t start worrying about your present situation or worrying that you will be tired in the morning. Instead, give thanks.

At all times and in all places, giving thanks is the way to change our mind-set, and then our behavior.

Billy Graham also said, “We live in a confused and chaotic world, and at times we might be tempted to give in to despair. But God loves us, and only Christ can transform our hearts and turn our despair into hope. Is He the foundation of your life? If not, make this a day of true thanksgiving, as you invite Christ to come into your life and save you.”

If you have done that, you will know true joy. You will hardly be able to stop praising God, especially for sending Jesus to save us by His death on a cross. Please don’t expect that your troubles will suddenly leave, but, with God’s Holy Spirit working through you, you will discover that you have clearer direction and an expanded capacity to deal with them.

Giving thanks for all of you.

Salt and Light: Compelling words from the late Rev John Stott

Pastor, preacher, writer and evangelical leader John Stott always aimed in his teaching and writing to bring people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice. He held hard to the conviction that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure.

The following quote from his book Issues Facing Christians Today perhaps best brings this to Light, with the needed dose of saving salt.

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"Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay. We criticize its violence, dishonesty, immorality, disregard for human life, and materialistic greed.
‘The world is going down the drain,’ we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, ’Where is the light?’ 
Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat; this is what happens when bacteria are left alone to breed. The question to ask is, ’Where is the salt?’
Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked.
The question to ask is, ‘Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?"

When he died in 2011, Billy Graham wrote of his dear friend: "The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Heaven."

A principal framer, with Billy Graham, of the landmark Lausanne Covenant, Stott’s more than 40 books have been translated into over 72 languages and sold in the millions.