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Were you there?

June 18, 2013 Leave a comment

I was there.

“There” is a One Heart Planning Committee meeting, months before the actual event. One Heart is the name of a city-wide Church service that we have annually in Winnipeg, where a surprising number of local Churches put aside their “localness” to flex their muscles as the Body of Christ in the city – One Lord, One Church, One Harvest. It’s a great time, and for the last number of years the One Heart service has been held at the MTS Centre, where we have seen upwards of 14,000 followers of Jesus get together for one great big Church service.

I was there when the bad news came.

In the latter part of 2012, we were trying our best to nail down a date in January with the MTS Centre for the 2013 One Heart service. But the NHL lockout was making it difficult to confirm anything, as the arena needed to be available for hockey games the moment the players and management could agree on something. So time was dragging on, and we were in lockout limbo, not knowing what to do. After seeing yet another date fall through, we sat around the One Heart planning committee table, nonplussed.

I was there when the stunning news came.

Right in the midst of our angst, a call came. It was from the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Football Club. The brand new Investors’ Group Field stadium was (finally) almost ready for use, and they were wondering if the city Churches wanted to have their OneHeartCityChurch service there on May 26th, for free. I don’t know what the football equivalent is for something coming out of left field, but it was that! Apparently, the Bombers organization wanted to have a test run of the facility before they had a “real” event there, and they were wondering if the city Churches would help them out in this endeavour. We all agreed around the table that this was an overwhelming, even crazy idea that none of us would have cooked up ourselves, so we concluded that this must be the Lord, and we decided to do it.

I was there when the challenges came.

The first challenge was one that was somewhat familiar. At the MTS Centre, “free” use of the facility meant a cost of $40,000 to us. At the Investors’ Group Field, everything was bigger, even “free”. Try $80,000. The truth is, the magnitude of the event – from the budget to the sound needs to the parking to the stage to the ushers (500) – was off the charts for us. We had no grid for this. It felt many times that we had no courage for this either. But it was happening no matter what, so we plunged in and kept swimming. And meeting. And eating KFC (we met on Tuesdays). And wondering how this could ever come together. To top it off, all this was happening in a context of questions about whether the facility itself would be ready by May 26th, as contractors worked madly to finish the job. Bells and whistles didn’t concern us so much as toilets. We prayed a lot.

I was there on May 26th.

I was there when the doors opened, allowing a record16,000 worshipers of Jesus to be the first ones to enjoy the use of the Investors’ Group Field.

I was there, listening to “Bless the Lord O My Soul (10,000 Reasons) reverberate around the stadium – thousands of people singing loud, heartfelt praises to the Lord. At that moment it was crystal clear to me why we were there.

I was there when over 240 people accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and when people generously gave a record amount toward programs to help young people in the inner city of Winnipeg. So at the One Heart 2013 city Church service, the Church in Winnipeg conducted itself in fine fashion, glorifying the Lord and reaching out to the lost.

Were you there? If you weren’t, you missed a miracle. But there’ll be more to come.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

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Living Letters

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

God is accused of lots of things, but one of the most ironic is the charge that He is not paying attention. We often say, “Why doesn’t God hear me? Why doesn’t God speak to me?” The truth is that God hears and speaks to us regularly. It’s us who often aren’t listening – we tend to stick our fingers in our spiritual ears and belt out a hearty, wilful rendition of Yankee Doodle while the Lord tries to get OUR attention.

This past week, the Lord spoke to our family of Churches in an interesting way. We believe that for the last while, He has been trying to get our attention about His mission for us – His Church – in this world. It’s all about our role as ambassadors for Christ – ministers and messengers of reconciliation between God and people. We have preached about evangelism, we have taught about hospitality and reaching out to others, we have done activities to practice sharing our faith… All with OK results. Not great, but OK. Then the Lord sent us a letter.

More than one letter, actually. Eleven, to be exact. Francine, one of our members, happened to come in contact with a group called Missionaries to Canada. It was a team of young people from Indonesia and South Korea who were living out a call from the Lord to come to Canada and share Jesus with Canadians! You might think, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that our gig? Isn’t Canada the one that sends missionaries to those countries?” The answer is a sad, “We used to.” Now we’re too enlightened to do that. And this “enlightenment” has caused our nation to become a spiritual shadow of its former self. The Lord knows the trouble that Canada is in, and He has answered our nation’s need for Jesus by sending Christians from other nations to bring the light of the gospel into the enlightened darkness that we have wrought, and to encourage Canadian Christians to pick up the torch again and reach out to the lost all around us. He is sending living letters to Canada.

As a result of this initial contact with the Missionaries to Canada, this team of international missionaries visited us for a week. They stayed in our homes. They ate with us. They provided presentations and equipping for us. They sang. They taught. They served. They testified about what Jesus had done in their lives. And they spoke to us in English, a language that many of them had only begun studying four months ago. Far from home, way out of their comfort zone, into a frigid zone, in our homes, in our Church, around the table, these young people became living letters to us. The Lord sent them and spoke through them about His heart for the lost, and His desire to see us doing Jesus’ work on the earth, with an eloquence and an effect that easily outdid any best-selling book or cool video on the subject.

The week we spent with the Missionaries to Canada was profoundly impacting. That’s because the Lord sent them and spoke to us through them. Sending living letters is just one of the myriad of ways that God uses to get through to us. I’m glad He doesn’t give up trying.

Are you feeling like God isn’t paying attention to you these days? Maybe He is already sending you a living letter. He does that.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Shining Our Light…

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

For Christians, it’s hard to know what to do with Halloween. This isn’t surprising, because historically and essentially, this day is a celebration of lawlessness,Halloween kids darkness, fear and death – a lineup of values that don’t harmonize particularly well with our faith. And even though we vainly try to water Halloween down into a benign kids’ romp by conjuring up images of jolly witches, cute jack-o-lanterns, friendly zombies and toothless vampires, its true nature tends to seep through the veneer of denial, with a vengeance. In fact, recent advances in technology have actually ramped up the fear factor with incredibly gruesome rubber masks (complete with spurting blood pumps) and microelectronics capable of convincingly animating skeletal mannequins, even giving them pithy Halloween things to say. So no matter how much denial is applied to the holiday, Freddie continues to roam, eggs continue to fly, windows continue to be smashed, and trick or treaters continue to be mugged.

As the Church, our choices can be limited regarding how to respond to Halloween. We can hide in our houses, we can hide in our Church buildings, or we can sort of try to make it only about candy for the kids.

Or we can push back.Zachary hot chocolate

This year, we had an event called “Shining Our Light on Halloween Night”. Basically, we took all the things that Halloween is about – lawlessness, darkness, fear and death – and did the opposite. So Halloween night on Hampton Street saw unmasked friendly people at a table set up in front of our Church building offering free hot chocolate to shivering ghouls and princesses, and their shivering parents. Right next door to the hot chocolate was a cheery fire for weary trick or treaters to rest by. And right next door to the cheery fire were cheery folks from our Church gathering a large crowd with their whirling fire baton performances. I was one of the people handing out hot chocolate, and I had a nice conversation with over a hundred people from our community.Angel group

But that wasn’t all. Into the morass of devils, skeletons and ghouls roaming the streets, a legion of angels (or people from our Church dressed as angels) jumped. They pounded the pavement on our block, bringing movie gift bags to each household. In each gift bag was popcorn, drinks, licorice… everything to go along with a movie, which we provided in the form of a Jesus Film DVD, complete with a documentary on Olympic athletes giving testimony about their faith in Jesus. As the legion of angels approached a house, one angel took the gift bag to the door, greeted the speechless person, gave them the gift bag and declared along with the entire legion, “YOU’VE BEEN TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL”. That shout echoed through the neighbourhood for two hours.George angel

Our neighbours were shocked. It seems that this had never happened before. Some laughed. Some took pictures. The shock quickly turned to gratitude, and the angelic host that bore gifts to the people our street came back from their errand filled with joy.

There were people we met for the first time on that Saturday night whom we saw in Church on Sunday morning, and our hope is that many of the households took a look at the movie that was in the gift packs they received.

So as believers in Jesus, we aren’t faced with options about what to do with Halloween that only make us cringe or give us a queasy conscience. We had a great time bringing a different spirit to our neighbourhood on that night, and reaching out Jess angelinto our community with the love of Jesus.

Even on a night like that? Especially on a night like that!

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

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