Prayer Calendar: A Christmas Desire

, ,

The word “Christmas” used to make me shudder. Years ago, I worked as a toy department manager. Christmas shoppers were probably the crankiest people I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t blame them. They were often searching for something elusive and had been to 16 stores already. They were tired, frustrated and about to spend far more money than they desired. I get it! I’d be cranky too!

Over the years, the great gift of Jesus has become the primary thought for me at Christmas. It is amazing how quickly the joy of the season returns when this is the focus. This Christmas season, let’s pray for the hope and joy of Jesus to touch our lives and the lives of those around us.

The frantic search by shoppers could be a metaphor for explaining a misplaced spiritual hunger. Someone once said:

“The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God”.

The sentiment is that we all long for God but tend to settle for cheap substitutes. C.S. Lewis put it this way in The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Is that what we do? Like a Christmas shopper frantically searching for the perfect gift but not finding it right away, we settle. We grumpily find a cheap alternative to the full abundant life that we could have in Christ. Our desires are not strong enough, so we don’t go deep enough into relationship for the fullness of Jesus life to be truly ours. If we are honest, I suspect we can all identify.

What about our friends and neighbours? They are also on a journey of desire. They have a deep-rooted longing that could lead them to Jesus. Yet they might not even be shopping in the right store. Many of them have run from store to store, browsing and buying but not being satisfied, and they are on the verge of giving up hope.

We know hope! We know joy! His name is Jesus and He came to be with us!
His desire is to be with all of us so that all can know hope and joy.

May our prayers grow from this.

Click here to download the latest Prayer Calendar!

Pulse Podcast 022: Priesthood of All Believers

Welcome to episode 22. We have been talking around these kinds of ideas for a while, the concept of congregationalism, of listening more carefully to each other and outsiders. But in this, we give this concept its biblical name: the Priesthood of All Believers.

Here is the preview version:

And here is the audio version:

Prayer Calendar: When the Formula Doesn’t Add Up

, ,

We like formulas. They make life understandable. “A + B + C = D” helps simplify our world. It is orderly and predictable. It is sad however, when we turn prayer into a formulaic exercise. We all do it from time to time, often with good intentions. We have a problem (A) and we add prayer (B) and we appeal for the power of God (C), and then we expect a specific result (D).

We all want prayer to be far more than that. We know prayer is about relationship and conversation. However, I find myself at times defaulting to the formula. You may as well.

As we grow in our prayer lives, is there a way to leave the formulas behind?

Recently I heard someone quote “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. They quoted it as a formula that applied to Canada, today. I will be the first to say we need humble prayers of confession. However, I believe it is a mistake to feel God is obligated to heal Canada if we pray those prayers.

He may, and that would be great, but He may not. This passage is a promise to the Hebrew people, not a current day formula to follow. Yet we sub in the pieces: our country’s current state (A) + humble confession (B) + God’s power (C) = healed Canada (D). This is not an isolated example.

How can we move past these kinds of formulaic prayer?

Let us limit our thoughts to just two basic reminders:

First, we should recognize that not all formulas are bad. This sounds contradictory. However, let me give you two examples: The Lord’s Prayer and the ACTS acrostic (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Both could be considered formulas and if there is no intention in them can turn into ruts; yet they can move us well beyond the A+B+C=D formula.

When we take time to consider what Jesus modelled for us and pray in a similar way, or when we broaden prayer beyond a mere “shopping list” to include declarations of God’s greatness and our thanks, as well as acts of confession, it can expand our prayer life. The key might be our intentionality to broaden prayer.

Second, we could spend more time in conversational prayer. Prayer at its core is a conversation. I know that I really take this for granted at times. I have the opportunity, at any time, on any day, to chat with God almighty. Instead, I often don’t converse because I focus on “my list”. Conversation is a two-way street. Prayer is no different. We share and we listen.

I suspect for us, listening is far harder, yet it could be very beneficial. An interviewer asked Mother Teresa what she said to God in prayer. She responded, “I mostly listen.” That led the interviewer to ask, “When you listen, what does God say?” She answered, “He mostly listens too”.

Could listening move us past the formula?

Do I feel so at home in God’s presence that I am comfortable when both God and I are listening?

How about you?

Pulse Podcast 021: Priesthood of all Believers

, ,

We’ve often heard, and often said the term “priesthood of all believers,” but have we stopped to contemplate what it means? What kind of an audit could we give ourselves for this? And how well would we do on it?

Join us as we give some fresh thought to this subject for the EFCC family.

Here is the preview/teaser version, which you can show at church or with your small group, etc.:

And here it is in audio-only format:

The Pulse: Reaching Beyond our Borders

, ,

As a young college student, with a heart to share the Gospel and make a difference in the world, I believed I was “called” to serve the Lord as a missionary. For me, that meant leaving the country and culture I was used to, learning a different language, and going to some unreached corner of the world to share the Good News about Jesus. At the time, I was part of another denomination, one that had all kinds of cultural trappings, including our own language and even a cookbook!

I couldn’t imagine going out to plant that denomination’s churches in some primitive tribal location. And so, like many passionate prospective missionaries of that time, I applied to a non-denominational mission to pursue my missionary career. A career, by the way, that continued in conjunction with my 40 years of pastoral work here in Canada! It is a great organisation, and continues to do great work around the world.

Now I find myself the Director of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM) — the international ministry arm of the EFCC. Not everyone knows that this is part of the EFCC, and it makes sense to explain why this is so.

In a Christianity Today article called “Missions, Denominations and Honest Questions”, author Ed Stetzer points out that denominations are a tool and not the goal. Our primary goal is not to plant Evangelical Free Churches in the places where we serve. Our goal is to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel, and to see new believers enfolded into new or existing churches where they can be lovingly nurtured and discipled to become obedient followers of Christ.

The task of the church is defined by The Great Commission — to go into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ. Each local church has a responsibility to fulfill that task, but no single local church could accomplish this. One of the core reasons our churches have associated is to partner, to share resources and encourage each other in this. And together we can accomplish far more than the total of what we can accomplish if we continue to work independently.

Not only is the EFCC’s Statement of Faith a compelling, comparatively simple expression of what unites us, our ethos endorses collaboration. Our commitment to inclusivity of all those who share the Hope that is ours in Christ allows us to partner with other like-minded ministries. We can build bridges because of our doctrinal position where others cannot. We can bring people together to impact communities and nations in ways that are unique and creative.

The EFCCM is not a mission committed to any one specialised form of ministry. We are a generalist kind of mission, committed ultimately to seeing the Gospel work dynamically in lives and seeing local churches being born and being strengthened to further the work the Christ began. This gives us freedom to be creative in our approaches to sharing the Gospel as we seek to serve with cultural sensitivity.

We can encourage each local church in Canada to be a Great Commission Church. We can encourage every member and adherent of our churches to be Great Commission Christians. And we can help churches and individuals find way to give practical expression to that commitment.

Ed Stetzer raises an important question that must always be before us: “Is our denomination being a good steward as a tool for the mission?” By God’s grace, we want to come together as one body across our nation, united around our ethos, and empowered to carry out the Great Commandment and Great Commission of our Lord.