EFCC Prayer Summit

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For the next couple of days, the EFCC Home Office will be joining the EFCC leaders for the annual prayer summit. We invite you to pray for us as we consecrate our leadership and our decisions for the year ahead. This is bound to be a good time of celebration, fellowship and camaraderie, as we focus on God, Scripture and worship.

This means however that the office will be closed until Friday morning. Any comments that you make may not get approved until next week. We appreciate your patience!

Wait, But I Thought…

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“The Land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.” (Leviticus 25:23-24)

This is one of those obscure passages that we skip over without much thought. However, as I was reading this the other day, it struck me once again how deeply the assumptions of our culture influence what I think “the Bible says”! Take the above passage for instance: it is a great reminder that God mandated a system of redemption into the very fabric of Jewish existence, including redemption of land (and slaves, but we won’t go into that!). The Year of Jubilee was a practical way for God to return the land to its original stewards every 50 years (if it had been sold to alleviate debt).

Now I say “steward” intentionally, because God makes it very clear that the Jews did not own the land – He did. Their families were “aliens”, “tenants” who just had permission to use it as stewards (to support their survival). And here is my confession: I always assumed that private property was the system mandated by God (in the Bible) and “pagan” peoples like First Nations folks in Canada were the only folks who believed that no human had the right to actually claim ownership over a piece of land indefinitely. Somewhere along the line, I took John Locke’s theory of “natural rights”, (famously trumpeted by our American cousins as the inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness) as biblically-mandated truths. In fact, Locke first declared that all peoples had a right to the “pursuit of property” (that is how closely notions of private property and happiness were linked), but “pursuit of happiness” became the motto of our cousins to the south, many of whom earnestly believe that their country was founded on so-called Christian principles, and that these are the key Christian principles. In fact, Locke and other philosophers whose ideas were used to build and justify the constitution of the United States of America were deists who would have great difficulty in signing our EFCC 10 Articles of Faith.

Now this is not to pick on the Americans (after all, beating them in hockey is quite sufficient!). We could pick apart similar claims that “Canada was originally a Christian nation, based on Christian principles”. Certainly some Christian principles were foundational in the founding of both North American nations – but many secular notions were as well. And this is my point: I have a tendency to assume that those secular notions are biblical – when in fact they may even run counter to God’s truth. Hence, my sense of ownership of my land, my stuff – and my accompanying attachment to it (and anger at losing it) create serious loyalty issues for me. God tells me in I Peter that I am an alien – not a citizen of this world and here in Leviticus He reminds me that He owns the land not us. Yet I still have some vague sense that I am justified to cling to this world (and my “private property” in particular) and that this is somehow a God-ordained right.

This all makes me wonder how many other axioms that I vehemently defend as biblically-mandated truths are really cultural values that I have absorbed by osmosis. This is why the Word is still powerful – it subversively challenges those wrong beliefs that plague my heart and mind. Perhaps the Word still has much more to undo and redo in my mind before I get to glory…

Seeing “in a glass darkly” with you,

Bill

Conference Intros: Part 2

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randyHere is Part 2 in our line-up of engaging speakers for EFCC Conference 2010 (click here to see Part 1).

Randy Friesen was the director of Youth Mission International (YMI) from 1989 to 2002. Through YMI Randy gave leadership to the development and growth of mission programs for teens, college-age and early career participants. From 2002 to 2004 Randy was the Director of Short Term Ministries for MBMS International, which included YMI and other intergenerational mission programs such as Disciple Making International (DMI) and Global Action Partners (GAP). Since 2004 Randy has served as the General Director of MBMS International, the global mission agency of the Mennonite Brethren churches of North America. When not travelling to mission projects around the world, Randy speaks to audiences across North America calling this generation to a life of risk and sacrifice in an eternal direction.

Randy has a BA in International Politics, a Masters in Theology from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and a DTH in Missiology from the University of South Africa.

Randy and his wife Marjorie live in Abbotsford, BC with their two children Joshua and Olivia.

Witnesses – of What?

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witness

When the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?” “The Father sets those dates,” he replied, “and they are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:6-8)

I love the transparent honesty that the gospel writers and Luke (in Acts) employ to portray the disciples/apostles! This Acts 1 passage is one of our standard Great Commission mandates. Yet I believe it reveals far more about human nature and the radical character of our witness than we might realize. First, human nature: the apostles still did not get it! After three years of Jesus’ teaching – and an extra 40 days of intensive post resurrection leadership training – the apostles are still wondering when Jesus will overthrow the Romans and restore a political kingdom to the Jews. At the end of the day, we humans are still mostly impressed by power, aren’t we?

Jesus’ response challenges me. I think it reveals the type of witnesses we are called to be. Jesus submits himself to the Father. The Father sets dates, and Jesus states that He doesn’t need to know them. Furthermore, He informs His disciples that they don’t need to know them either. Their role is to just submit themselves to the call of being witnesses everywhere, at all times. Bearing witness in this context is explained in Philippians 2: Jesus chose to submit Himself to the Father in absolutely astonishing ways, rather than trumpet himself as the omnipotent Christ who will triumph over sickness, annihilate evildoers and overturn human pride and kingdoms. All three of these, and many more things besides, Jesus does and will do. However, the Jesus we are called to bear witness of is the One who submitted His will to the Father and who reconciles hopeless, undeserving sinners to a just and Holy God.

In some ways this is hard to fathom – and far less exciting than a martial arts hero who will kick “Satanic butt” with flair. Yet it seems my call to be a witness involves my submission to the Father and the Holy Spirit, who will lead me to proclaim the good news concerning the humble King. Yes, the Spirit will work in power, but the gospel we share is far more concerned about spiritual power and kingdoms than political power and kingdoms.

This summer the EFCC conference (July 21-24 at Sun Peaks near Kamloops, BC) will celebrate 25 years of kingdom advance and plateau, in the EFCC. The theme will reiterate this challenge for us to be witnesses of this Christ. Our them is “REGENERATE: Plant. Water. Grow.” I long for the day when we have the passion again to return to the basics that will trigger a spiritual power in our movement in Canada and around the world that will change lives for eternity!

So pray with us as we approach EFCC Conference this summer and plan to join us! We are all witnesses after all. Is our witness shallow hype? Or is it something more spiritually substantive?

Your fellow witness,

Bill

EFCC Conference 2010: Regenerate

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conferenceinvite

Please plan to attend EFCC Conference 2010! This year our theme is Regenerate: Plant. Water. Grow.

We are really excited about this Conference. For starters it will be held in the picturesque Sun Peaks Resort. This gives opportunities for bike-riding, hiking, swimming or just enjoying the scenery.

We are planning some excellent plenary sessions and seminar topics. But we’re also leaving lots of time open for connecting and sharing with other leaders and members of the EFCC community.

We hope you will take advantage of what we’re offering at EFCC Conference 2010. We’re looking forward to seeing you all there!

Registration is now open!

Finally, you can download a high-quality print of this invite by clicking here. Share it with your church family. Everyone who attends will be blessed, and will be a blessing!