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)

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.

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.

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett launch new faith-based television network: LIGHT TV

romamarkdowney

Acclaimed actress Roma Downey and her husband, producer Mark Burnett, have launched a new free broadcast network featuring family-friendly programming including movies, series and short form content.

"This is the beginning of our new, multi-platform faith and family network, where the demand is greater than ever for family-friendly entertainment," Downey explained.

"As we have already seen from the success of 'The Bible' series and our 20 million social followers, this audience is looking for inspiring and uplifting programming that they can watch in a trusted and safe environment on any platform."

Burnett added that the new network aims to become the "ideal platform to reach the enormously under-served family audience."

Downey starred in the popular 'Touched by an Angel' TV series (and appeared in many other shows and movies); Burnett, also President of MGM Television and Digital, has produced several hit TV shows. Together the power couple have created many well-received feature films and television series.

As their website states. “LIGHT TV is your destination for positive, wholesome entertainment. There is something good on.” Visit them at LIGHTtv.

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.

Syrian woman had dream for six nights of men coming with Good News; on the seventh day they arrived

By Mark Ellis, Godreports

Syrian refugee woman and child from Aleppo, Syria at a makeshift tent camp in Turkey ( Christian Aid Mission )

Syrian refugee woman and child from Aleppo, Syria at a makeshift tent camp in Turkey (Christian Aid Mission)

As the Syrian civil war continues after a failed cease-fire, many Muslims are encountering God, including a mother with confounding dreams that left her in a state of anticipation.

“The woman dreamt repeatedly of a man who told her that three people would come and bring her good news,” according to a ministry director for Christian Aid Mission (CAM).

“She continued to have this dream for six nights in a row,” the director told CAM. “On the seventh day, one of our teams was doing home visits and decided to visit a new house.”

The three men approached her door, not knowing that God had already prepared the way. The woman’s eyes widened when she opened to see the three, and she quickly ushered them inside.

“When they opened their Bible, she instantly fell to her knees,” the director told CAM.

As her husband and children walked in, she could not contain herself. “These are the people that the man in my dream told me to meet!” she told them excitedly.

The followers of Jesus spoke to her about His saving death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Then they prayed with the family.

“They all put their faith in Him,” the ministry leader recounted. The entire household was saved!

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”  (Acts 16:30-31)

“We have continued to disciple them since then, and they are like sponges – eager to learn and know everything they can,” the ministry director said.

The beginnings of answers for a yearning young woman

Dynamic young Sonya Flatman has been an important part of the St. George’s community since a toddler. She just spent a life-changing summer at Circle Square Ranch in Arden, Ontario and shares her experiences with us here. Sonya went into a four-week Leadership in Training program to become closer to God, she explains, not knowing exactly how that might happen.  We can all learn from her longings for more, and her discoveries on the myriad ways God moves and speaks.

By Sonya Flatman

Staff members at the ranch are amazing people, and so connected to God. I wanted what they had; I was jealous of how holy they were and how they seemed to always have Jesus with them.

Two weeks into the Leadership in Training program, I finally felt I came close to Jesus. I would go on walks after worship and would feel as though God was at my right, Jesus at my left, and the Holy Spirit all around me. Now feeling confident in my relationship with Jesus, I decided to begin praying about what God wanted me to be after I graduate from high school. 

A few days into praying about my future career, I felt God abandon me. I would pray for the Holy Spirit to be around me and comfort me, and I would feel nothing.

My frustration increased since around the time I felt Jesus leave me, some awesome stuff started happening at the ranch. Friends of mine began speaking in tongues, and miracles of healing were occurring. All of these wonders made me even more frustrated.  I felt annoyed that God was healing and talking to people in a secret language, and yet I couldn’t even feel His presence.  

One night at worship, the frustration built in me so intensely that, after everyone left, I burst into tears. I cried out to Jesus, asking why he had abandoned me. I’m not a big crier, and haven’t balled that hard in three years, so it was an emotional night. Before going to bed, I opened my Bible and asked God in a sassy voice, “If You don’t talk to me through my soul, well, please talk to me through Your Word!”

I then opened to the title page of Zechariah, and over the next few days, read through the entire book. Two verses really stood out to me: 

Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:  Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.’ (Zechariah 1:3-4, NLT)

 I realized that I had to cut out all of the wrongness in my life and turn completely to Jesus. I prayed forgiveness for all the grudges I had held, and deleted music from my phone that I didn’t believe was good, among other things. I started reading my Bible a lot more, trying to find verses that stood out to me, and hoping that God would speak to me more through His Word.

After about a week, I was searching for a verse for one of my campers, when God hit me with the right hook.  John 5:39 popped right off the page: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” I sort of laughed when I read the verse, feeling that God was giving back the sass I’d given Him just a week ago. I realized I’d been reading the Bible religiously, yet not praying about what I read.

I continued to read, but not as much, and began to pray more often. During the last week of camp, at worship on Wednesday night, I got down on my knees and prayed , asking God to reveal Himself to me. I saw visions in my head, but wasn’t sure if they were from Jesus or my own imagination. I prayed, but received no answer.

The next night, on my knees again, I asked God if the images were from Him.  I said I knew He wouldn’t answer until the right time, but I prayed anyway. A phrase came into my head: “I am preparing you for something great.” Shocked, I asked God to repeat the phrase if it was truly from Him. It thumped in my chest, and I knew it was from Jesus.

For the second time that summer, I wept … but now with tears of pure joy. I had never felt such peace and happiness in my life. I now knew the wonder of God, and the joy I felt could only come from Jesus. I decided right then that I wanted to give my whole life to Christ, and walk in his footsteps.

God hasn’t yet answered my prayer about what He wants me to do after high school, but I know that whatever happens is meant to happen, and that I am meant to jump at any opportunity that comes because God wants me to be there. I no longer have fear of my future, because I know that God will prepare me.

Circle Square Ranches operate across Canada, and are part of the Canadian InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s camping ministry.

                                                                                          Sonya, front row left, with her whole LEADERSHIP in TRAINING GROUP

                                                                                          Sonya, front row left, with her whole LEADERSHIP in TRAINING GROUP

What does it mean to be transfigured?

How can we ever figure out what it is to be transfigured? Transform, metamorphose, convert—all those words, considered synonyms and heady enough, somehow don’t go far or high enough. “Her face was transfigured by the sight of the triple rainbow” may come close.

Possibly the only way to understand the word is to climb the mountain with Jesus for a prayer meeting [Luke 9:28-36; Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10].

[The following is based on a sermon by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore]

Have you ever, as a child, been outside on a warm summer night and caught sight of fireflies, or lightening bugs? You run to their flashings, and then perhaps think, “I’m going to catch them and put them in a bottle!”  Freeze the moment and make it last. But does it?

The movie Chariots of Fire tells the mostly true story of two British athletes at the 1920 Paris Olympics. Harold Abrahams struggles with himself as well as other runners, but wins in the 100-yard dash. Eric Liddell, a devout Christian, refuses to run on Sunday so switches to the 440, and wins gold.

After the games are over, the movie shows the athletes returning to London, and then rushing off excitedly at the station.  All except Harold Abrahams, who keeps to himself. His girlfriend waits for him, the crowds thin out, and when the station finally empties, Harold slowly emerges. He has achieved what he set out to do: he has been to the summit. Down from the giddy heights, he must face reality. Nothing will ever compare to that mountain-top moment, now unfrozen and never to be recaptured. *

Peter, James and John all got their own mountain top experience with Jesus in what we recall and celebrate as Transfiguration Sunday. Jesus took the men up the mountain to pray with him. While they fought off sleep, Jesus prayed.

 “The appearance of his face changed. His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in shining glory. Jesus and the two of them talked together. They spoke about his coming death,” which would happen soon on a wooden cross outside of Jerusalem. 

The tired disciples suddenly woke up to the brilliant sight.  Peter blurted out, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters. One will be for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

The tired disciples suddenly woke up to the brilliant sight.  Peter blurted out, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters. One will be for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

As often seemed the case with Peter, the Bible tells us, “he didn't really know what he was saying.” All Peter knew is that he wanted to capture the moment, make time stand still, stay and have it all right there forever. None of this nonsense about suffering, rejection and death!

A cloud then descended and surrounded them, terrifying the three followers. The Voice and words heard at Jesus’ baptism thundered out again, "This is my Son, and I have chosen him. Listen to him."

On the way down, Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until he had risen from the dead. As usual, they had no idea what he meant. But they did keep it to themselves until after the resurrection, when so many of Jesus’ teachings finally began making some sense.

Just after they came down from the mountain, their behaviour reverts back to normal and we read later in Luke 9:46 about an argument. “The disciples began to argue about which one of them would be the most important person.” The disciples have seen the glory of the Lord but they didn’t allow his glory to transform them. Eventually it will.

After Jesus death and resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter wrote to his friends as a changed and strengthened man. He explained how he had been an eyewitness to Jesus’ majesty.

“We told you about the time our Lord Jesus Christ came with power. But we didn't make up stories when we told you about it. With our own eyes we saw him in all his majesty. God the Father gave him honour and glory. The voice of the Majestic Glory came to him. It said, ‘This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him.’ We ourselves heard the voice that came from heaven. We were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Unless our search for God produces a new person, there is no reason to continue searching. Commitment to Christ is commitment to the CHOSEN Son of God and his mission on earth, not to a memorial where people can glory in what they have experienced; not the three tents. Commitment to Jesus is not commitment to a sacred place with its sacred memories, but commitment to a mission.

Visions and holy moments in God’s glorious presence are not the essence of religion, or the goal, or the norm. Walking to the cross after Jesus is. God said “Listen to him.” We listen in order to believe, to commit, to learn and to follow.

Prayer:   Ever-living, ever-loving God, grant us grace to worship you as you are rather than as we would have you to be. Give us the courage to see you as you would appear to us, rather than as we would like you to look. Guide us into the depths of your mystery. Help us to scale the heights of your glory. In all things, help us to love you as our God, our Guide, and our Saviour.  Amen.     (William Willimon)
* Chariots of Fire illustration thanks to N.T. Wright