The Heritage Podcast

A little over a week ago, Heritage launched a new weekly podcast.  The goal of it is to encourage and strengthen our alumni and friends by extending the preaching and teaching ministry of our faculty.

As I have the privilege of preaching at churches around Ontario, the majority of the podcasts will be sermons that I’ve preached at churches or conferences.  We’ll also sprinkle in sermons from other Heritage professors, like Dr. Dave Barker and Dr. Stan Fowler.

From time to time, we’ll add short interviews to give updates on what’s happening at Heritage.

I’m excited about the possibilities of this new initiative; it’s another way we can seek to encourage and equip Christians for life and ministry.

Here’s a link to the first broadcast; it’s a sermon I gave entitled Jailhouse Praise.  I pray it will strengthen your soul and prompt your praise—even when life has you feeling locked up and beaten down.

podcast

P.S.  The intro music for the podcast was written and recorded by several Heritage music students.

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March Update

It’s been a while since we’ve written, so here’s an update on what we’ve been up to over the past weeks.

blossom

Women’s Blossom Conference:  In late February, Linda spoke at conference for women in Pembroke.  In spite of the fact it was cold and white outside, the conference had a spring feel.  Much prayer and planning had gone into the event, and much fruit seemed to blossom from it.

Teaching Preachers:  In early March, I taught a course for pastors entitled, “The preachPersonal Side of Expository Preaching.”  (The course was the first of five courses in a our newly launched Graduate Certificate in Biblical Preaching).  For three days, fifteen pastors from across Ontario focused on taking their preaching to the next level of effectiveness. It was a fantastic three days—tiring to my body but energizing to my soul.  When pastors make progress in their preaching, the whole church benefits!

southernSouthern Exposure: Last weekend, Linda and I made a quick trip to Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  Not only was it nice to get out of the snow for a few days and enjoy a Chipotle’s burrito, I was able to meet with the dean of the seminary and Linda connected with leaders of the women and wives ministry.  We sensed God’s gracious guidance on the whole experience (including the timing of a flat tire—at a time when we were able to get immediate help).   Seeing another quality seminary up close is both educational and inspirational.  God is shaping my vision for the impact Heritage can have in Canada and beyond.

MynamarA quick trip to Myanmar:  Last night we visited Myanmar by traveling to Kitchener.  Linda and I were invited to be part of a national conference for Chin believers (a persecuted Christian group that came from western Myanmar).  After enjoying dinner with them and hearing some of their stories, I spoke to the group; the topic they assigned me was “Understanding the Bible Theologically.” Though language was a barrier (I had an interpreter), they were eager to learn more about understanding the God’s Word.  The whole evening felt like a preview of heaven—when believers from every tribe and tongue will join together to worship the Lord.

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Let Them Eat Cake

Who would pay $300 dollars for a chocolate cake?  Really!  In light of the world’s great IMG_0401needs, who could justify that kind of extravagant spending?

Well, if you had been at Heritage’s on February 12th, I could have introduced you to some people who did just that.  They paid $265 for a chocolate cherry cake;  $600 for a chocolate and whipped cream trifle; $1200 for a chocolate, mocha extravaganza.

It all happened at the conclusion of this year’s Missions Conference. Each winter, Heritage cancels classes for two days so that students, faculty and staff can be challenged with the biblical commission for global evangelism.  This year, Dr. T. V. Thomas was our plenary speaker and representatives from almost 30 mission agencies were our special guests.

After the sessions, seminars and village bazaar (complete with live chickens), we finished up the conference with an international dinner and dessert auction.  The dessert auction was a sweet ending to the conference—the icing on the cake.

Students, faculty and staff brought the home-made (or dorm-made) cakes, most of which were high-calorie works of art. Byron Bright, a Heritage student headed for missionary service in Chad, West Africa, was the auctioneer.  Students pooled their funds in cake-buying coalitions.  Then things got loud and lively as bids were shouted out, victories celebrated and cake consumed.   They had their cake and they ate it too!

By the end of the evening over $6,000 dollars was raised.  All the money will go to help Heritage students involved in short-term missions, including a group of students who will spend the summer serving in Poland.

So who would pay hundreds of dollars for a chocolate cake?  I’ll tell you who:  Heritage students who have personally tasted the goodness of the gospel and want to see it freely given to others around the world.

How sweet it is!

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Preparing for Life

Let’ say you have a 16-year-old daughter who wants to be a nurse and a 15-year-old son Brother sisterwho plans to be an engineer. Both have a heart for God (at least on most days).  Both have done quite well in school (at least in most subjects).  Neither feel called to be pastors or missionaries (at least not at this point).

Why should either consider coming to a Bible School like Heritage?  After all, Heritage doesn’t offer a major in engineering or nursing.

My answer would be that Heritage majors on preparing students for life.

We have a one-year certificate designed with students like these in mind. Our one-year program designed as a holistic discipleship year.  Students take ten top-notch classes (Old Testament survey, New Testament Survey, World View and more).  They connect in Impact Groups for weekly spiritual encouragement and challenge.  They serve together in ministry and enjoy life together as friends.  They can even opt to end the year overseas on a six-week missions trip (This year it’s Poland; next year it’s Indonesia). This one-year program will have a lifetime impact.

Let’s face it; students who head to college or university will face an onslaught of challenges.  Intellectual, moral, spiritual challenges.  It’s crucial that they are ready for whatever life throws their way.  The Hemorrhaging Faith study is a sobering reminder than many of our young people aren’t yet ready.

So whether a student’s long-term goal is engineering, nursing or any other career path, investing one year at Heritage can play a lifetime of dividends.

To learn more about Heritage’s one-year program (or any of our degree programs), click here.

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The Legacy of Elsie Howard

Today in Ottawa there will be a memorial service for Elsie Howard, a woman who touched our lives deeply.  Linda wrote this tribute for Elsie–who would have been 99 on February 24th.

Elsie Howard quietly and gently loved us.

Elsie

Elsie became a grandmother to three children who lived far from their grandparents.   As the Scriptures promise when we leave our “father, mother, sisters, brothers for Jesus sake, Elsie, among others, became our grandmothers and mothers.

Elsie, who’d worked as a dietician, had a culinary flair for food that was healthy and adventurous.  She loved trying new recipes – and new Thai dishes.  Lunches out included nutrition tips and best bargains.   She shared with me that she always sought to prepare a healthy, balanced meal.  Perhaps that’s one secret to her longevity.

The other secret was her attitude.  Often laughing, she looked for the positive:  Our kids were special, all the pastors were wonderful, and the places she lived a blessing.

It was at Elsie’s 90th birthday party that she shared the true secret of her success:  she’d memorized the Love Chapter (I Cor. 13), and had spent her life trying to live it out.  It had reaped a guest list of 30 people, and she only wished she could include everyone!

And so it was that I purchased an embroidery kit with the words of I Corinthians 13, and IMG_0378began to slowly stitch, seeking to let those words live out Elsie’s legacy in me.   I only finished last summer.  Realizing how impossible it was to be perfect, I framed it with old rugged wood to remind of the cross of Jesus who loved perfectly, even to death on the cross.  This now hangs at the foot of our bed, so that nearly every day I think of Elsie.

Do we meet great people in our time?  Yes, and Elsie was one of them.  Born prematurely at 2 pounds nearly 100 years ago, her life was spent fighting life’s odds with love.  She loved the church, she loved the pastors, and she loved her Saviour.   She gave her life to Him again last Sunday morning.  .

Elsie left a legacy for all of us, a reminder that the greatest of these is Love.

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Eyes Wide Open

eyesWhen I was a kid, I was taught to close my eyes during prayer.  The voice of my Sunday school teacher still echoes in my memory: “Alright children.  We’re going to pray.  Everyone bow your heads and close your eyes.”

As a adult, I understand the logic of  “bow your heads and close your eyes.”  Kids are easily distracted; shutting eyes shuts out distractions.

But as we grow up, we need to learn to pray with our eyes wide open.  Jesus told his disciples to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41).  Paul instructed believers to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).

I realize that the being watchful in prayer means more than keeping your physical eyes open.  The Greek word for “watchful” in Colossians 4:2 has the idea of “being alert” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:6).  Watchful praying means having your spiritual eyes open, noticing the opportunities and obstacles around you that call for prayer.

In the context of Colossians 4, we are to be especially watching for gospel opportunities.  After calling Christians to watchful praying, Paul goes on to say, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:3-4).

When Linda and I travel, we often pray for gospel opportunities along the way.  We’ve noticed that God regularly answers our prayer.  We have the chance to witness to a waiter at lunch, to the taxi driver giving us a lift to the airport, or the couple sitting next to us at the airport terminal.

But back at home, we don’t always watch and pray in the same way.  We get busy, task-oriented, preoccupied.  And we miss gospel opportunities.

So while it can still be a good idea to “bow your head and close your eyes” when you pray, remember that God is at work around you and pray with your eyes wide open.

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Marriage on the Rock (not on the rocks)

snow coupleThis weekend, Linda and I will be at Muskoka Bible Centre to lead a Couples Retreat (http://www.muskokabiblecentre.com/).  As we’ve prepared to speak at this conference, we’ve taken a fresh look at what the Bible has to say about marriage.  We’ve also done some personal evaluation of our own marriage—allowing God’s Word to provide both direction and correction.

We are both convinced that the way to have a healthy, holy marriage is to have God’s Word as the plumb line for marriage, God’s Son as the pattern for marriage (the relationship between Christ and the Church) and God’s Spirit as the power for marriage.

In the opening session on Friday night, we plan to look at God’s original intent for marriage from Genesis 1-2.  Since most of you won’t be there, here’s a summary of four foundational truths for a rock-solid marriage that will discover in Genesis 2:24:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

1.    Marriage is designed with a man and woman in mind

God designed marriage as the union of “a man” and “his wife.”  One man.  One woman.  God created the man and woman to be “suitable” for one another (Genesis 2:18) and similar to one another (they both equally share the image of God—Genesis 1:27).  But He also designed us to be different from one another.  It’s helpful to remember that our similarities and our differences are there by God’s design.

2.    Marriage is designed to reorder relationships

God intends marriage to change family relationships:  “a man shall leave his father and mother.”  This “leaving” of father and mother does not negate the command to “honour father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2), but it does reorder relationships.  From now on the closest human relationship a husband and wife are to have is their relationship with one another.  Keep that in mind the next time you have to choose between pleasing your parents and pleasing your spouse.

3.    Marriage is designed to provide a covenant companion for life

The Hebrew word translated “united”  (“…be united to his wife”) has the idea of a close, powerful bond.  The Bible later speaks of this bond as a covenant (Proverbs 2:17; Malachi 2:14). The marriage covenant bond is meant to provide commitment and companionship—stability and sweetness—to a marriage.

4.    Marriage is designed to result in physical intimacy

Becoming one flesh is the physical expression of the marriage covenant.  One man.  One woman. One covenant bond. One flesh.  God intends the fires of sexual passion to burn bright—but always within the fireplace of the marriage union.

So here’s a few questions for all us who are married:  How are you doing when it comes to living out God’s design for marriage?  Which of the four areas above needs special attention right now?  What steps will you take this week?

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