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Sweet Revenge

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

They knew it was coming. Nothing could stop us. A couple of months ago, George and his cronies at LivingStones Christian Fellowship had blessed us big time out of the blue with a huge barbeque supper in the park and a LivingStones worship team for our service, so soon it would be payback time, and they knew it.group shot

Sunday, October 18th. That was the date set for Operation Bless Back. Me and my people at FireLight were motivated for this. Oh, how we were motivated. We planned it for months – a full-service buffet breakfast complete with coffee pourers, an elite worship team to give their musicians a rest, AND USHERS. Ushers. That was Joel’s idea. Nice touch.

So when the day arrived, we were prepared. Alarm clocks were ringing at 7 am in lots of FireLight households that morning. The sun hadn’t yet found its way over the eastern horizon when we packed the car in silence, mentally rehearsing our roles in the operation. The streets were deserted as we rolled toward the Church building. Perfect.fancy fruit

When we arrived at the building, we rendezvoused with our other FireLight operatives and sprung into action. Sausages sizzled, hash browns browned, musicians tuned, ushers…um, ushed.

When the LivingStones arrived, the many-faceted genius of Operation Bless Back converged into one glorious triumph of blessing. Shock. Smiles. Second helpings. Yes, more coffee, please. Worshiping the Lord together. Ushering. It was beautiful. Mission accomplished. LivingStones was blessed back big time!buffet 2

Many thanks to all who risked their comfort to be part of this operation. It was a great success due to your valiant efforts.

This kind of revenge is sweet. So sweet.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

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What on earth are we doing?

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment
"What on earth are you doing?"

"What on earth are you doing?"

Sometimes we can have a strange idea of what it means to be “saved”. In the minds of some, the idea of salvation in Jesus Christ is reduced to a simple business transaction – much like purchasing a holiday travel package – that books us passage to an eternal holiday destination that isn’t unseasonably hot. Of course, with this way of thinking about salvation, the only thing to do after getting your ticket to heaven is to wait.

This boiling down of salvation in Jesus Christ to a prayer and a congratulatory slap on the back misses the mark badly, giving the mistaken impression that, once saved, the believer simply needs to find a comfortable seat and wait for the celestial flight, or at least the Captain’s return. Of course, doing puzzles, wandering around and napping are encouraged to help pass the time until Sweet By and By Airlines calls your name.

Napping. Sadly, it’s what many of us as believers in Jesus are doing with our spiritual lives here on earth. This is especially tragic because being sanctified couch potatoes is so much less than our God has in mind for us who are rescued from the Dominion of Darkness and brought into the Kingdom of the Son He loves. Paul says it best in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While Paul makes it clear that good works don’t save you, he makes is equally clear that saved people do good works. And not just any good works – good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Divine purpose on this earth!

This begs the question, “What on earth are we doing?” The Lord’s divine purposes for us here are varied – staged on a heart level, a community level, a city level, a national level, or even a global level. They may seem small, like conquering a bad habit, or big, like evangelizing a nation. Whatever they are, they are there, and the Lord wants us to know about His plans for us, and He wants to help us fulfill them, if we dare to say yes to the rest of what it means to be saved.

Here at West End Christian Community, that is, FireLight Christian Fellowship and LivingStones Christian Fellowship, what on earth are we doing? What divine purpose are we fulfilling together, which God prepared in advance for us to do? The answer: we are each building a Church, a local congregation that is one of many connected parts of the Body of Christ . Of course, it’s Jesus’ Church and He is ultimately doing the building, but we can’t get away from the fact that He has us working for Him. We need to read His blueprints, we need to build with His materials, and we need to work together, as He commanded us. No cutting corners. No spiritual chipboard. No selfishness. But even though it can be hard work, building the Lord’s Church is one of the greatest privileges that we can be given, and one of the most important divine purposes that we can fulfill here on earth, for two reasons: first, the Church is a visible manifestation of the advance of God’s Kingdom here on earth, and second, because the Church – God’s people in meaningful fellowship – will not pass away, but will last into eternity.

So if you’re wondering what on earth you’re doing (or to translate from Yoda-ese, what you’re doing on earth), first take heart that you weren’t saved to merely wait to go to heaven. God has set divine purpose in you – a new life of adventure in Him on this earth, at the heart level and beyond. And even if some of those purposes are a bit fuzzy right now, there’s at least one that is crystal clear, and that we share – we have been called to build His Church together.

So I hope to see you on Sunday. Overalls are fine.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

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good for us

October 15, 2009 Leave a comment

prayer skyOver the last while something has been beginning to dawn on me, and I thought I’d share it with you. Ready? Here it is: I think prayer is good for us.

Honestly, our family of fellowships has not been stellar in the area of prayer. It seems we don’t have the time, or the inclination – or both – to actually practice the obvious truism mentioned in the previous paragraph. But lately, it seems like our God is saying, “It’s time to pray.”

A year ago, in October and November, we felt this so strongly that we cancelled house groups for two months and just gathered together to pray. We asked the congregations if they would be willing to do this because we felt that the Lord was inviting us to come together in His presence to learn how to pray. So we did that, and it was wonderful. We came away from that time of focussed prayer with a radiant sense of the presence of God, and a clearer sense of what prayer is.

Then we had to figure out what to do next, after we put our house groups back in place. The decision was to establish a weekly House of Prayer on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm, where we could continue to gather in the Lord’s presence and bring our thoughts, feelings and requests to Him. It was decided that each of the leaders would take turns hosting the House of Prayer. At first I had no idea how I could make time on a Tuesday evening to do this. Pastors can be busy, you know. So I settled the issue that Karen and I could only come on the evenings I was leading.

Then something happened. The Lord would not let go of my heart regarding the House of Prayer. When I felt too overwhelmed and busy to go out to pray on a Tuesday, James 5:13 – “Is any of you in trouble? He should pray” – kept on trumpeting in my mind. So we would go and pray, and feel great afterwards. Or when I just felt like having “me” time and kicking back on a Tuesday night, I felt the Lord say, “OK, so what are you planning on doing that will be better than praying?” I thought, “um, watch TV.” Considering that watching TV for a believer in Jesus can be like picking through a garbage dump looking for food, I sensed immediately that it wasn’t a good answer. So we went to pray, and felt great afterward.

I began to detect a pattern.

Then the answers started coming. With all this praying, we naturally had asked the Lord for some things, coming to Him with whatever was on our minds and asking Him to help us by working things out like only He knows how. At first it seemed like we were doing all the talking, but in time, it became clear to us that He was right there, with answers! First it was the Church finances. Our giving was behind our needs by about $6,600 in August. So we prayed. By the end of September, it was worse – $7,900 in the hole. Albeit confused, we prayed more. Then on the first Sunday in October, in one offering the entire deficit for the year was wiped out, and we were ahead of budget. Just like that! Then there was Krishna, our friend with cancer. He needed an operation to remove the tumor in his colon. So we prayed for healing. He had the operation, and then began the healing process. First, the operation took half the time they thought. The tumor was localized and the bleeding was strangely minimal. Then Krishna’s stay in the hospital took half the time they thought. His body was healing like crazy! Even the hole for the drainage tube healed over so fast that they had trouble finding it the day after the tube was taken out. Now Krishna is home and nearly fully recovered. Needless to say, the Church has been rejoicing. Add to this all the other prayers that have been answered in mysterious, powerful, and even hilarious ways, and my intuitive grasp of the obvious leads me to conclude that PRAYER IS GOOD FOR US.

Not like medicine is good for us. Prayer, the way God wants us to see it, is not Buckleyesque. It is relational, comforting and beautiful. It’s not a duty. It’s a gift. We get to bring our worries and cares to the only One who can actually do anything about it. More mind-blowing is that He listens. Even more mind-blowing is that He answers.

So when the Bible says in Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”, it is not laying a spiritual chore on us so much as letting us in on a profound privilege.

So that’s what the Lord has been teaching me. Prayer is good for us. That’s why the Lord wants us to pray.

So, what are you doing Tuesday night?

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

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Turkey Day? I don’t think so.

October 1, 2009 Leave a comment

madameblueberry

Ah, fall! I always love this time of year. For some reason it’s a time portal for me – most of my most vivid memories from childhood are from this season – the smell of fresh grass in my face as my brother tackles me in one-on-one football, school starting (yes, I loved school!), volleyball season, crunching leaves underfoot in the park, going door to door with a Batman costume stretched over my parka… And Thanksgiving!

As a kid I loved Thanksgiving because it was a special family time, and because it seemed like the one day where eating more at once than any other time in the year was possible. After the pumpkin pie shovelling contest, my grandmother would offer us ice bags to put on our stomachs, and we would lie prone and slightly panicky on couches hoping that our guts would not go on strike.

Like many things, as I have gotten older (and hopefully wiser), Thanksgiving has taken on a deeper meaning than merely food, family and digestive feats of strength. When I became a follower of Jesus, the spiritual background of Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter came into sharp relief, bringing new, deeper perspectives into the significance of these holidays, and consequently new memories that are part of my spiritual growing up years.

The world – and especially the humanistic social engineers that have some kind of strangle hold on the public school system – doesn’t know what to do with Thanksgiving. Being grateful is an undeniably desirable human quality, but Thanksgiving ultimately means giving thanks to – gasp – GOD – for His love, His provision and His blessings. This being unthinkable, someone somewhere decided that Thanksgiving must go the way of Christmas, which means that sleighs, presents and elves must at all costs drown out mangers, shepherds and…Jesus. So there has been a characteristically misguided push to refocus Thanksgiving, re-branding it TURKEY DAY. I would have considered this day aptly named if it was a day recognizing the achievements of the humanistic social engineers who thought of it, but unfortunately, the intent was to make the day all about turkeys and pumpkin pie and cousins and ice bags, sacrificing its most important element on the altar of political correctness – THANKFULNESS – just because the gratitude may go God’s way.

Thankfulness to God is not just a nice idea or a commendable practice – it is essential to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. To lead healthy lives, we need to know and live out of the truth about God – that He is good and He loves us. The Enemy targeted that foundational truth from the beginning, and he has been robbing people – even Christians! – from the joy of this truth ever since. Ingratitude is not only a false foundation for life. It is a poisonous perspective that increasingly affects its unfortunate hosts as well as those around them. In Romans 1:21 Paul aptly encapsulates the plight of those who refuse to acknowledge God in gratitude: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Living a life of ingratitude to God is far from the reality of His love and blessings, but the self-imposed darkness of this point of view becomes a real prison nonetheless.

The bitterness of the fate of the ungrateful is even more poignant when we realize that the way out of the prison is so simple. When we acknowledge the truth – that God is there, and that God is good, our eyes are opened to the reality of His blessings in our lives, even through the challenges that life will inevitably bring. And when we acknowledge that God is there, and God is good, we see the reality of Jesus, His Son, and the magnitude of His love for us as He laid down His life to save us from the road to hell that we were on. Loved! Saved! Thanksgiving flows naturally from there, and joy follows. Indeed, the anonymous vegetable child in “Madame Blueberry” was right when she sang, “A thankful heart is a happy heart”.

So during this season of Thanksgiving, as you anticipate cousins and turkey and pumpkin pie, I encourage you to establish yourself in the truth – that God is there and God is good – and allow the Lord to open your eyes to His blessings that are all around, even in the challenges. The result will be thanksgiving to cheer your heart, and joy to cheer the hearts of others.

So Happy Thanksgiving!

May the Lord bless you,

Rob  (weccwinnipeg.ca)