Becoming Assured

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

Do you have a rising concern within, about the downward moral spiral of our nation, province and region?  I do!  Do you long to see the Holy Spirit of God sweeping across entire families with a spirit of repentance, turning them to Christ?  I sure do!  I believe that the Lord wants to put in motion another great awakening where people cry out to Him for mercy and to experience life-transformation in the process.  It will happen as we enter in to the call of His heart in the verse above.  He wants us to become a people who seek Him continually.  “Without Him we can do nothing!”  We desperately need Him all the time, every day.

So my invite is to humble yourself before Him, asking Him what He is grieved with in your life and then surrender that up to Him. Friends, let’s turn from our wicked way, so we become assured that He hears our desperate cries for mercy and will respond.

Pastor Ken Lehman

June Prayer

 

June Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you are a good, good Father who is for us no matter our circumstance.  There are many among us who are parenting alone so would you show us how to best care for them and encourage them.  Would you send mature people to provide respite, support and friendship to them. Please give them financial stability and job security.  Show them what grace looks like if they are dealing with the other parent so that You are glorified in everything. Protect the children from any negative effects of their situation.  Show them that you will bring restoration because You have compassion for them. This is what the LORD says: “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place…” (Jeremiah 30:18 NIV).  Draw each one near to You so that they know You alone are their source of strength, joy and peace.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

 

If We’re Honest

OK, so recently I have been listening to my ever favorite radio station SHINE FM, and came across a new song by Francesca Battestelli: If We’re Honest. This is an amazing song! It speaks of being at the edge of something exciting yet terrifying. Of being honest with oneself – really seeing: becoming aware of choices we make in our lives. Francesca includes words like brokenness, love, healing, and mercy. If we’re honest, these words are powerful. And provocative.

I am making my way through an excellent course by Brene Brown which focuses on 2 of her most recent books: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. Daring Greatly encourages the reader to embrace vulnerability (defined as NOT weakness but a path to courage and connection) and imperfection. It challenges us to live wholeheartedly – allowing ourselves to be seen and heard, and having the courage to show up – as ourselves. The material covered in Rising Strong acknowledges that if we dare greatly enough, often enough, we WILL fall. The book is about getting back up.

If we’re honest, if I’m honest, I cower from these times and places. I fear these times of emotional nakedness – I sense unfathomable risk. But – Brene defines WHOLEHEARTEDNESS as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think – no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking – yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging. How does one digest the words wholehearted and worthiness – in the same sentence no less! Is she mad? Am I mad? But at the same time, these notions hold the possibility of something else that is within reach for us. What would my life look like if I lived wholeheartedly? Can I honestly say I am enough? Even at the end of a really jagged day? Clearly, Brene says YES!

It is here I must insert the notion of calm. Other words that appear alongside calm in the dictionary are: serene, tranquil, relaxed, and unruffled. I can appreciate that once a person comes to a place of surety – firm belief – in their worthiness and thus live wholeheartedly, they exude calm. But, can a person have this serenity along the way?

Bill Gaultier says yes. He is the author of Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke. Bill challenges that Jesus is with us 24/7, and that He is calm, therefore we can be calm with Him. In the book, Bill quotes Dallas Willard as asking during one of their frequent lunches, ‘If you could only use one word to describe Jesus, what would it be?’ Bill replied, ‘love, compassion, holy, Lord, teacher, healer.’ Dallas said, ‘Relaxed’. Think about it. If we’re honest, a teacher, healer or Lord who is NOT relaxed would be alarming and at many levels, disconcerting. Following them would be a combination of egg shell walking, other shoe drop waiting and exhaustion. Jesus, our CALM Saviour. With and within us. Even when facing terrifying possibilities and sentences with emotional exposure type words in them!

In Mark Buchanan’s excellent Foreward in the book Crafting a Rule of Life, he states of building spiritual robustness, ‘It is a long obedience in the same direction. It is forged in the daily and tempered in the ordinary. It is a slow and steady and deliberate gathering of the years. It is a combination of keen attentiveness – to God, to self, to others, to life – and holy indifference to trifles, to insults, to useless distractions. It is planned, not in some goose-stepping mechanical way, but in the sense that it builds on a resolve to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you, and to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.’ Not in some goose-stepping mechanical way … in other words, with intent and with calm.

I cannot, though, simply say these words and believe them without a WAY to move past the things within myself that derail my authentically owning them. There must be a process. Brene calls it cultivating courage, compassion and connection. Mark Buchanan refers to it as a long journey of keen attentiveness to God, self, others and life. Plus a holy indifference to trifles, insults and useless distractions. Bill Gaultier challenges us to be calm alongside our relaxed Savior. Francesca speaks of sharing our brokenness with others, allowing love to heal with mercy waiting.

So, can we confidently step forward into ourselves and our best lives? If we’re honest, it is a thrilling possibility worth the risk.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard but the best thing we could ever do
Ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Francesca Battistelli – If We’re Honest

Talking with the Lord (prayer) helps us lighten our burdens and experience peace during troubling times while learning to trust that we are his children and he will provide for us.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, says that the physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.  That’s family.  We are encouraged to do life together at CrossRoads in small groups because we are a large family. We can offer each other the gift of listening then take what we hear to God in prayer.  In community-in family-the highs and lows of life can be shared with others and carried by many.  Now is the time to share our burdens with our family-our community- so that we can all take them to God in prayer …together.  Praying for each other is one way we care for one another.  The Lord asks us to come to him with our prayers, in a quiet place with simple words. He knows what is in our hearts so coming to him in prayer isn’t complicated, it’s just us showing him that we know he is in control.  Join us as we lift up our family and their needs during these really hard financial times.

 

Heavenly Father- Jehovah Jireh,

Thank you for being the God Who Provides. Thank you that you care about your people and their needs.  Thank you for the church family at CrossRoads.  Forgive us when we forget to pray for each other. Show us how to care for one another. We are in a time of economic strain as a community.  There are those among us who are overwhelmed with financial burdens, who need to find employment and provide for their families.  Lord open doors of opportunity for the people of Red Deer and show them where to find meaningful work.  Provide projects for local business owners and protect the jobs of their employees.  Let no family be without food or home as they try to pay their bills each month.   Bring your people out of debt and financial ruin so that they may glorify you and your great deeds.  Make us aware of the needs of those around us and show us how to care for each other as a family.   Your Word tells us to call on you in our day of trouble and you will supply all of our needs. Lord we are dependent on you, lead us in the way we should go. Help us to lean on You during these difficult times so that we would learn to lean on you all the time.

In Jesus Name, Amen

tooniesIt’s that time again to highlight a ministry area and the budget.  This is the biggest ‘ministry’ that we will be highlighting as it takes up 50% of the overall budget.  If you haven’t figured it out yet I am talking about the staff.  If you’ve been reading along you know that we have highlighted many ministry areas already and covered a few of the paid positions as well but there are many more people who play a vital role in the day to day operations of CrossRoads Church and I hope to give you a behind the scenes look at some of them.  The staff here cover a wide variety of roles such as Administrative Support, Reception, Human Resources, Event Coordinator, Facility Team, Communications Team as well as the Pastoral Team.  There are 44 people on staff.  There is a 50/50 split between hourly and salaried staff as well…so 22 are hourly and 22 are salaried.   Since I like details,  I broke that down into categories and discovered that 11 of those staff are in an administrative support role, 3 are in communications, 11 are on our facility team, 2 in the human resource department and 1 receptionist.

This is a very hardworking group of people who work many hours in order to make sure everything runs accordingly..and they often serve and give their time in those areas as well.   For example the administrative support staff put in 320.5 hours between the 11 of them.  These hours include more than booking appointments, fielding phone calls, paper work or managing a calendar.  Many of these people are actively involved in the ministry they are supporting and work throughout the week to build service teams, lead those teams and build relationships in their ministries.   Whether it’s organizing a baptism service, leading the Welcome Teams, mentoring Sunday leaders in CrossRoads Kids and Pre-K, leading Jr. High or Sr. High student small groups, typing out countless chord charts and mentoring musicians, keeping tabs on the many short term mission groups sent out, delegating to a prayer team, tracking the numerous amount of volunteers that serve in our Family ministries, preparing curriculum for Sunday, and sharing their heart for the ministry they serve through writing on the blog…this group of people put their heart into the work they do during the week.  That’s a list fit for Paul but I wanted to give you the broadest sense of what goes on from the role of an administrative support role so when you see one of these people make sure to ask them what’s going on in their ministry world and if there is a place for you to serve with them.

The Facility group puts in a combined 332.5 hours a week between all their staff.  These people not only make sure the nuts and bolts of the building are functioning they also clean up after us during the week, help set up and take down events, host the facility during the week, monitor our impact on the environment and coordinate the many internal and external room and event bookings that happen during the week.  They also work together with the rest of the staff to make sure that the facility is being used to it’s maximum capacity.  They are our first resource with anything related to the building and grounds. They can also be the first face a new person the Red Deer or CrossRoads meets when they are booking a wedding, funeral or community event.  You may not recognize these staff members as most are working hard during the week when most of us aren’t here, but if you see one of them you could tell them how thankful you are that they keep our church in good working order because they work hard to steward what God has given to us and they all do it with huge hearts.

The last few groups, communications, human resources and reception make up 195.5 hours together.  A lot of these staff are again behind the scenes on a daily basis.  Our Publications Designer and Communications Tech stretch their creative hearts on a daily basis in order to give us an up to date web page that is user friendly, keeps us current on social media with accounts on Twitter, FaceBook and WordPress blogs for everyone, families and missions, they create event pages with user friendly registrations so we can engage in activities, they create many different posters, web banners, postcard invitations and booklets that are used internally by ministries.  They also create a monthly newsletter called The Crossing which is an in-house publication created uniquely for everyone who walks through the doors. The Technical Director and team work during the week to make sure that everything we hear and see during a Sunday service is enjoyable.  This group leads a large group of servers that volunteer their time on Sunday to record and transmit the service so we can engage in worship by seeing the words, read along with scripture during the sermon, or livestream from just about anywhere.  Our receptionist embraces the role she has and takes it seriously. She knows that most of the people that contact her have never stepped into our church and possibly don’t know Jesus personally.   She is the first voice many people hear when they call in and answers hundreds of questions, directs traffic on the phone and email to the appropriate ministries, and has prayed for and with many many people.

When you connect through any of these avenues remember the people behind the scenes that created them and thank God that He has given us such gifted people.

The Human Resource group includes the Human Resource Director and the Accounts Manager.  They work together but have very different roles and responsibilities.  These two are definitely behind the scenes during the week but internally they are very involved with the day to day functioning of the organization.  This includes making sure we adhere to Canada Revenue laws, any paperwork and educating staff that go along with that, orienting new staff to CrossRoads, tracking finances of the different ministries and working with a budget committee and the Board.

A lot of these roles may not seem as important as the Ministry Leaders and we may overlook some of them from time to time because we don’t see them in action… but I hope you can get an idea of just how valuable each one of these staff members are and why such a large portion of the budget is used on them.  We are blessed to have a staff with such depth of gifting and hearts to serve where God has placed them.

Luke-Gospel for Outsiders

Unlocking the Bible, by David Pawson, states the Gospels are the nearest things we have to a biography of Jesus covering His life, death and resurrection. There are four Gospel books in the New Testament each with its own unique focus as God wanted to give us a number of different angles in order for us to grasp the full picture.

Each Gospel writer wanted to convey a particular insight about Jesus and so organized his material accordingly. He wanted to do more than just convey remembered words and deeds of Jesus – he also wanted to give a context in which the life of Jesus could be understood. His viewpoint is not necessarily unique to his Gospel: there is overlap between the writers, but it is clear that each writer has a primary insight.

MARK wrote the first and shortest Gospel, seeing Jesus as the Son of Man.

LUKE wrote the second Gospel and saw Jesus as the Saviour of the world.

MATTHEW wrote the third Gospel, depicting Jesus as the King of the Jews.

JOHN wrote the fourth Gospel, with Jesus as the Son of God.

We need to also consider the each Gospel from the point of view of the reader. Each writer has a particular audience in mind and is concerned to convey his message about Jesus to them.

MATTHEW is concerned for the new believers and his book is arranged in order that we will know how to live as disciples.

JOHN is written for older believers, to encourage them to hold on to their faith in Jesus and also to counteract heresies about John the Baptist and Jesus himself.

On the other hand Mark and Luke were written primarily for unbelievers.

MARK is concerned to excite his readers with news about Jesus so that they might have faith in Him.

LUKE, as the only Gentile author in the Bible, is concerned that fellow Gentiles might know about Christ.

Luke-Gospel for OutsidersIn our next series – Luke – Gospel for Outsiders we will be looking at the Gospel message from an outsider’s point of view and the inclusion into the Gospel message.

Eugene Peterson in the Message Bible says, “Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of the New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common labourers: sheepherders; the radically different: Samaritans; the poor. He will not countenance religion as a private club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on like with no hope of gaining entrance (and who hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.”

Although Luke’s Gospel focuses on the outcast of society, it isn’t ultimately about the women, or any other groups of people who were held in low esteem, but rather it’s about Jesus and the joy of knowing Him.

 

 

In the fall of 2014, CrossRoads Church Celebrate Recovery group hosted a networking meeting for other groups in Western Canada to attend. One of Celebrate Recovery’s Canadian Directors ( Deb ) from southern Ontario attended to speak in several sessions.  (It was our pleasure to host all those that attended, and we hope to do it again soon ).   Shortly thereafter, Lois, the CrossRoads Celebrate Recovery ministry leader received an inquiry as to whether she and her husband, Dwight, would be willing to join Deb in introducing the Celebrate Recovery program to Cambodia. Dwight and Lois were indeed willing and that trip took place in the spring of 2015, presenting training sessions to approximately 60 church leaders and local NGO staff over 2 sets of training sessions.

In the fall of 2015, CrossRoads Celebrate  Recovery was again requested by Celebrate Recovery Canada and the Cambodian NGO that hosted the event, to return for follow-up training for previous attendees, and to introduce the program to a new group of church leaders.  Shown here, preparing to depart Vancouver, is our team, Dwight, Lois and Bobbi, all from CrossRoads CR, along with Kellea from Forward Church CR, in Ontario.

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What practical purpose will Celebrate Recovery serve in Cambodia you may ask. Cambodia is a small country that was rocked by a civil war and genocide in the 1970’s.  The internal death toll was 5 – 10 times that of what we hear happening in war zones today.  This has resulted in a form of post traumatic stress with emotional consequences that have affected 2 subsequent generations. There are many, many ways in which the gentle process of the Celebrate Recovery program can bless the Cambodian people.

From feedback we’ve received, our first trip in 2015 has already resulted in 400 people being touched by Celebrate Recovery, offering healing for emotional scarring and beginning to change lives.

3 After a grueling itinerary separating us from Alberta by 14 time zones, we reached our destination in February 2016. Here is Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia as the sun sets. It looks very modern, from a distance, but don’t let that fool you. There is an abundance of poverty living between new buildings under construction. Some buildings we were told, are stuck in mid construction, because builders ran out of money.  Around the city there is an abundance of new industrial complexes being built, much of it for lease.  We guessed they were being built on speculation.  From what we were told wealthy individuals from other Asian countries own many of the businesses in Cambodia. The Cambodian people themselves are still recovering from the genocide that destroyed their families, their culture, their economy and their country between 1975 and 1979.

Our host NGO in Cambodia was “Prison Fellowship Cambodia” (PFC).   They work from small and very modest facilities accomplishing great things.  These are great people, working hard to care for 800 children of prisoners (inmates) around their country.  (They could use more support).  They also provide additional food to prisons to supplement the meager rations supplied to inmates by the Institutions.  In so doing they have earned the trust of the Institutions and are allowed to offer vocational training to prisoners to equip them with a skill of some sort when they are released. Possession or selling of drugs there can net a person a 20-25 year sentence. Conditions are not very comfortable in Cambodian prisons. Children of prisoners,  if very young, may serve time inside a prison with their mothers.  Those children fortunate enough to be cared for by others on the outside, are usually considered ‘bad luck’ and may be ostracized in their community.   Prison Fellowship Cambodia offers counsel and support to tiny Christian churches around the country to locate, care for and monitor these at-risk children.

Donations that were raised in Canada and the U.S prior to this trip helped pay for Cambodian church pastors and leaders to travel to these sessions.  Bus fare, accommodation and meals for the attendees – all are paid by our team’s personal contributions and donations from caring people.  Otherwise those Cambodian church leaders outside the capital could never afford to attend.

The average wage in the country is $2 a day …. some make more, some less.  But you can imagine that on that wage,  it’s hard to get around much when they pay the same price for gasoline that we do !!

We spent much of the day prior to each of our training sessions preparing the facilities, planning and adjusting our agenda as needed, to be applicable, and then reviewing our individual lessons.  The room offered pretty tight quarters but we managed.2

The training sessions were 2 days each.  That’s 2 days of sessions, breaks, more sessions, lunch, breakout practice sessions, all being interpreted back and forth between English and Khmai. You get the idea !! 🙂

The day following the training sessions was usually a debriefing time to evaluate the involvement and response from the attendees.  PFC will continue to connect with and encourage the attendees in our absence.

Bobbi and Kellea did a great job, especially considering it was their first time ever doing this type of outreach, and then having to do it through interpreters, which adds to the complexity of the event.

Although Dwight, Lois and Kellea had been before, we wanted to take Bobbi to the Killing Fields memorial so she could more fully comprehend what this country has suffered through.  ( likely none of us can come close to comprehending it … but we try ).

This is only 1 of 200 to 300 ‘killing’ locations where Pol Pot and his regime exterminated anyone they thought a threat.  Those with education, professionals, doctors, lawyers, etc.  If you wore eye glasses, you probably didn’t live long.   Infants beaten against a tree.  Adults killed in many horrific, but ‘inexpensive’ ways. 😦

Pits served as mass graves and were approx 15 feet deep … though they are mostly silted in with shifting sand now.

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10,000 people died in this one place alone.  Men, women, children … even a large number of the rebel soldiers were not immune from accusation and subsequent death.  (1.5 – 3.0 million in all at various places around the country).

Ok, enough sad stuff … on to better thoughts and memories.

These boys were playing in some ponds out behind the Killing Fields memorial.  They were covered up to their necks in mud in one pond.  Boys will be boys … anywhere, I guess ! 🙂

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Then, they rinsed off and were working with some kind of fish net or some such where you see them here.

Our Tuk Tuk ( pronounced ‘Took Took’ ) is a carriage pulled by a motorcycle.  It is reliable and inexpensive transportation.  Even on a hot day ( 34 C, in this cooler season ), the breeze blowing by cooled us. This day, our driver had his son at work with him. We were 3 hours at the Killing Fields memorial and he waited that entire time for us.  We dropped the little fellow off at home on the way back into town, though. “Mom” came to meet him at the end of their lane/alley.

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Traffic in Phnom Penh can be challenging.  But the locals seem to maneuver it with ease (and patience).  We ran into rush hour on the way back … with a bit of a traffic jam at one intersection. “Motos” squeezed past our Tuk Tuk, and we, in turn, squeezed past vehicles.  We got a lot of exhaust in our faces that time …. !! Eventually we wormed our way through into less congested areas.

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Our 2nd training location was a 5-6 hour drive from the capital. February is nearing the end of the dry season. Things didn’t look very lush in the country side, and won’t until the rains come later. This is a sample of the countryside on our way there.

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Our new training location is to be at a Bible School which happens to be directed by a North Korean Minister, who is teaching Cambodian youth. Former graduates come back to teach pre-school and young grades. It is a nice place with lots of potential, though it is not quite finished yet. There is likely a shortage of funds to finish it.

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Since the weather is nice, the windows were mostly just bars to keep out looters. It didn’t always work as we heard that small children would be used by thieves to squeeze through the bars.

There was no air conditioning here, so we welcomed any breeze that blew through.  Lois is doing this session with help from our main interpreter, Phanna  ( pronounced “Panna” ).

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We had 6 of the school’s seniors join us for the training.  They were preparing to become pastors or ministry leaders around the country.  Lois said that one of the young female students did a perfect job when she had opportunity to practice what she had learned about facilitating a ladies group.

At the end of the 2nd day … Certificate time…

 

and group photos.

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Certificates for training sessions are very significant to small church leaders, and are prized.

Following our 2nd training session Dwight said that the best part of the trip for him was… getting to spend some individual time with 2 of our training participants.

The first young man picked me up on his moto and we went to his house. This young pastor serves a small church of around 30 people, and works as an English teacher part time and holds a 3rd job to support his family.  His oldest son is in grade 1 or 2, the younger two sons will go to school when he is able to save enough to also send them to a good school.

He then took me to the far side of his small city to visit another attendee of the CR training, a Pastor-mentor of his who lived on a little acreage.  These 2 pastors are planning on using the CR material together in a joint effort in their community.  I got to ask about their lives, the local area, their ministries, and simply enjoy their fellowship.  One 24 inch fluorescent tube lit the main room.  So this is how it appeared as we visited while darkness fell.  What a sweet family ! 🙂

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The people we met and worked with in Cambodia are incredible. They love their country and want to serve their people. Please lift them up in your prayers. They need God’s wisdom, protection, and provision.

And finally … we were in transit on our way home. We could hardly wait to get to our own routines, our own beds, AND cooler temperatures.

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Thank you again for the blessing of your prayers and assistance in making this happen.

Please keep in mind that several future trips are needed to continue equipping key Cambodian ministry leaders in the Celebrate Recovery program. Our goal is that soon they will be self sufficient in the ongoing training of their churches. If you are interested in assisting (prayer and/or finances) with this very worthwhile outreach, please feel welcome to contact the CrossRoads Celebrate Recovery leadership.

by Laurie Skog

We serve such an awesome God.  He has everything in hand before we can even think about it.

After a chemo session on January 7th, the oncology team was concerned about the neuropathy (tingling and numbness) in my fingers and toes. The blood pressure issues had resolved themselves, thank you Lord, but the neuropathy continued to creep further into my hands and my feet. There were three treatments left and a decision had to be made as to whether I would continue (possibly causing permanent damage to nerves in fingers and toes) or to stop and go on to radiation. The day after the chemo, the Lord showed me Miriam’s song: Exodus 15:1 and 21:

“I will sing to the Lord,for He is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.”

It seemed clear to me that we needed to stop the chemo as it had done its job.

The next Tuesday, Don and I met with the oncology nurse practitioner and told her that we were convinced that we should stop the chemo treatments. As I sat there I felt I should turn my hands (palms up) in front of me. As she told me that it was ultimately my decision, my hands turned hot and bright red – red meaning stop. She agreed to support my decision and we would continue on with the radiation.  How the Lord, absolutely, showed Don and me that this was the right decision by turning my hands red at exactly the right moment in the conversation, was awesome indeed.

I was given a few weeks to recover, however the neuropathy was still with me and exercises and warm Epson salt soaks were supposed to relieve the symptoms. February 8th I started the radiation. The staff in that department is an awesome group. The treatments were only about ten minutes long and were not painful in any way. High above me there was an opening like a cross with an ‘eye’ peering down at me. It just gave me such a sense of calm making me realize how our Lord watches over us at all times. The staff told me that my skin would be feeling like it was sun burned and that I needed to lather it with a special cream several times a day. They also warned me that once finished, the treatments it would continue to ‘cook’ me more – just as a microwave oven continues to cook food even after the power has been switched off.

My last treatment was March 1st and there are some spots which are still ‘cooking’, but they should be finished soon. The neuropathy and shingle pain are still with me. There are days when things are better and then there are those days that are not so good. Writing and hitting the right keys on the keyboard are sometimes difficult, but I am grateful that I am on the road to recovery and things are more normal.

Thank you Lord Jesus for this adventure that has increased my faith in You so much. My prayer is that my story will encourage others to seek the Lord with all their heart and grow deeper in their faith in Him.

I would also thank everyone who has helped, encouraged and prayed for me over the last year. You have been my army of warriors. You have been and still are the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank you.

“God is always up to something great.” Pastor Dan

Jonah is the story of a man who knew God, chose to ignore God, ran away from God making others suffer from his disobedience yet all the while God was merciful, faithful and just to see his plan fulfilled using this stubborn man.  After four weeks of digging through Jonah I have a better understanding and appreciation for this “Reluctant Missionary”.  I took a few key things away from this series.  One was a similarity between myself and Jonah, second the characteristics of God that were revealed and lastly the place of  prayer and fellowship with God.

What I learned about Jonah:

  • He was resentful towards the love God had for those Jonah felt didn’t deserve it.
  • He was disobedient and felt he knew better than God how to deal with Nineveh
  • He enjoyed his comfort zone and grumbled at being pushed out of it
  • He blatantly ran away from God’s call and his sin directly impacted those close to him
  • It took a major crisis…a disgusting whale belly experience…to prompt him to pray and acknowledge the sovereignty of God
  • Although he believed in God he did not regularly fellowship with him

What I learned about God:

  • He loves everyone…even those who are evil right now…because he made us all
  • When he calls you and me it is specific, clear and personal.
  • He will see his plans fulfilled, no matter how long it takes us to join him.
  • He will get our attention.
  • He hears our prayers.
  • He is slow to anger, compassionate, abounding in love for everyone.
  • He is a God of second chances.
  • He doesn’t hold grudges.
  • What he has done once he will do again.
  • His fierce mercy knows no boundaries.

What I learned about myself:

  • I am prone to run from his call.
  • I have belief but struggle with fellowship with God.
  • I have disagreed with God over people.
  • I like my comfort zone and tend to grumble when God wants to push me out of it.
  • I can be unaware of how my sin effects those closet to me.
  • It has taken a major crisis to force me to submit and pray…and when the crisis passes I go back to my old habits.
  • I do not always rejoice over what God rejoices over.

This series showed me how relentless God is in seeing his plans fulfilled.  It showed me that even someone with a hard, disobedient heart like Jonah can still be used by God.  God’s faithfulness, mercy and gentle correction were evident to me throughout this series.  Fellowship with God allows me to see and experience his heart, which keeps me on track with his plan…which is ultimately the place I want to be.  Jonah didn’t seem to be a man of prayer at first but throughout the story he revealed that when all else had failed him and he was at the end of himself,  prayer was the tool he hadn’t lost.  Prayer is always a part of us, always accessible and a direct line to God’s heart.  It is an obedient, submissive act that re-aligns us to his will.  Prayer didn’t get Jonah out of the work God had intended for him and it didn’t change his heart right away towards Nineveh but it did put him back in the right place with God.   I know this series was about being missional but without prayer and fellowship I will not be in a place to understand God’s heart for everyone.  The elements of a Christian life are intertwined and we can’t compartmentalize them.  We need prayer, fellowship with God and daily reading of the Word to prepare our hearts to be used by him…but if we miss the mark like Jonah did thank goodness we serve a God of second chances who is always up to something great!

Some questions for reflection I took away from the Reluctant Missionary:

  • Have I heard a specific call from God?  Where is my ‘Nineveh’?
  • Where in my circumstances have I run away from God?
  • Can I recall the Word of God in times of distress?  If not…why?
  • God is always up to something great…does my behaviour show this in a struggle?
  • Is my prayer life like Jonah’s…sporadic only in times of struggle?
  • How does my life exhibit an understanding of the significance of God’s personal and individual love?
  • Will I allow God to work in me so I can ‘go work out there’?

What did God say to you during Jonah?  As you reflect on where you are with God what is he asking you to be obedient about?  What will you do about it?

If you missed this series you can listen to it here  or watch it here.

Lament 3

Lament is not a word we hear often any more. Certainly not in the secular world, but sadly not even in the Evangelical Christian world either.

David Guretzki, PhD, states that “Evangelical Christians have in many respects, forgotten how to lament. We have increasingly practiced a “harmful silence” (Michael Card). From youth, we are told to “be quiet”; mourning and lamenting, in our culture, is almost shunned, to the point of being embarrassed when someone really does lament.”

Yet in the bible there is a very different message! The Psalms are full of lament, both personal and corporate. They are sad songs written from the heart of the psalmist. Whether is it that he is ill, has suffered injustice; feels his own guilt, or the agony felt on behalf of another, they express the inner pain he senses. There is a lot of self-pity in these psalms, but the feelings are presented to God, and healing is found.

The needy person must take action and summon Jesus into their situation. Lament was intended to be verbal, not an ‘in your head’ kind of quiet action, but rather ‘out loud’.

Many people are surprised to discover that, with 57 lament psalms, this category is larger than any other type of psalms.

They all have the same form and would have been used in both personal and corporate worship. They each have five parts:

  1. A cry to God
  2. A complaint about what is wrong
  3. A confession of trust that God will deliver
  4. A petition calling on God to intervene
  5. A promise to praise God when deliverance comes

A definition of a biblical lament, especially in the Psalms, is a verbal complaint or cry of destitution to God in light of His promises to be a merciful God to His people. Therefore Biblical lament is almost always coupled with hope and praise.

As we journey through the uncertainties of life with the loss of jobs, the economic downturn, hopelessness in so many people around us and even within ourselves, this 4 week mini-series will shed some light on how God wants us to be secure in Him no matter what is happening around us.

Let’s courageously bring ‘Biblical Lament’ back into our culture and our personal lives, not only in word, but in -out loud – action!

–Wilma Vander Leek
Assistant to the Senior Pastor

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