From Harvard to Heritage

One of the important stops on our journey to Heritage College and Seminary took place at Harvard. Several years back, our family visited Harvard University while we were in Boston. I’d never been to the campus before and didn’t expect to be so impacted by something I saw.

Here’s the story of “The Writing on the Wall”

Coming to serve at Heritage is the fulfillment of a long-term calling, but making the decision to come took months of prayer, conversation and counsel. In 
the midst of the deliberations, our family spent a weekend in Boston for our daughter’s graduation. After walking through the historic downtown, we took the train over to Harvard.

Established in 1636 by Puritan leaders, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. I had never visited Harvard before and wanted to visit its historic grounds. As we came to the main entrance on Massachusetts Avenue, we paused to read a large plaque embedded on the red brick walls at the main gate. The plaque contains the words of the school’s founding fathers; it gives their original mission for Harvard:

After God had carried us safe to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our Iivelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the Civil Government: One of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.wall

Reading these words left me feeling stunned, perhaps a bit like Belshazzar felt when he saw the writing appear on his palace walls (Daniel 5:5-6). I was struck by the foresight of the Puritan leaders who founded Harvard. They realized
the necessity of establishing a “Pastors’ College” to ensure the churches would have a continual supply of equipped pastors and leaders. They understood the mortality of their present leaders. They felt the urgency of developing future leaders. They dreaded the thought of leaving the churches in the hands of ill- equipped ministers “when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

I have not been able to get the “writing on the wall” out of my mind. I have a similar sense of urgency for training future spiritual leaders. Cancer has reminded me of my own mortality. I know the day is coming when I (and our “present ministers”) will lie in the dust. I dread what will happen to our churches, and the overall mission of reaching a lost world, if we fail to equip men and women to provide spiritual leadership in the coming years.

Several years ago, while I was still pastoring at the Met, I heard a sobering projection. Some denominational leaders estimate that within fifteen years, the number of qualified pastoral candidates will be dwarfed by the number of churches looking for pastoral leadership.

There is a growing need for godly, equipped spiritual leaders. And that’s just to maintain the churches we presently have. It doesn’t take into account the great need for church planting in Canada. According to Impact Canada, no single city or province in Canada has a greater percentage of churched people than a decade ago. When it comes to planting to new churches in Canada, we are not even keeping pace with the population growth.

Add to that the need for missionaries to take the gospel to the least-reached places in our world. The Joshua Project estimates that there are still almost 4,000 unreached people groups in our world. To put it another way, over 40% of the world’s population is virtually unreached.

Harvard is no longer focused on fulfilling the vision of its founders. Its mission has changed over the years. But the need for schools to carry on the vision of raising up qualified spiritual leaders for the Church and global missions is as pressing now as it has ever been.

At Heritage we have a clear vision and understanding of our mission: “Heritage College and Seminary exists to glorify God by partnering with churches in providing a biblically-based education, equipping people for life and ministry in the church and in the world.”

Our mission is not just posted on our walls, it’s written on our hearts.

This mission of training servants for Christ’s church was also written deeply on the heart of a man who impacted his entire country through his preaching and by starting a “Pastors’ College.” I’ll tell you some of his story in the next chapter.

IMG_0571This post is from the new booklet Heritage has recently produced entitled, A Priceless Heritage: A Personal Story, A Valuable School. The booklet tells some of the story of God’s leading us to serve at Heritage. It also explains Heritage’s valuable mission of training spiritual leaders to serve Christ’s church and His mission. If you’d like a copy of the booklet, you can request a copy by emailing my assistant Deanne Antoine (dantoine@heritage-theo.edu).

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Preaching Advice from the “Prince of Preachers”

When Wayne Gretzky talks about hockey, it’s a good idea to listen. When Colin Powell, writes about leadership, pay attention. And when Charles Spurgeon teaches on preaching, take notes.

I’m gearing up for another year of training preachers at Heritage. I have the joy of teaching Homiletics at the school, training those who will teach and preach in the years to come. My desire is to help them learn to preach “from the Scriptures to the heart.” So as part of my preparation, I’ve been spending time learning from a master preacher: Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon, who is often called “the prince of preachers”, was the pastor at the spurgeon 1Metropolitan Tabernacle in London from for almost forty years (1853 – 1892). Thousands came each week to listen as he skillfully and passionately preached God’s Word.

Not only was he a powerful preacher, Spurgeon was also a great teacher of preachers. He started a Pastors’ College to train other gospel ministers. What he taught his students over a century ago is still material I want to pass along to my students.

Here is some of Spurgeon’s advice to preachers as recorded in Tom Nettle’s new biography on Spurgeon (Living By Revealed Truth).

On Preaching as a High Calling
“Men of zeal and ability, if you love Jesus, make the ministry your aim; train your minds to it; exercise your soul toward it; and may God the Holy Spirit call you to it, that you also may preach the Word of reconciliation to the dying thousands.”

On Preaching after studying and soaking up Scripture:
“I always find that I can preach best when I can manage to lie a-soak in my text. I like to get a text and know its meaning and bearings, and so on; and then, after I have bathed in it, I delight to lie down in it and let it soak into me.”

“He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit.”

On Preaching the “Big Idea” of a passage of Scripture:
“. . . start a sermon with a great idea and from that moment the discourse forms itself without much labour to the preacher, for truth naturally consolidates and crystallizes itself around the main subject like sweet crystals around a string hung up in syrup”

On Preaching without a heavy reliance on notes:
“…the memory loves to be trusted, and the more fully it is relied upon the more does it respond to our confidence.”

On Preaching for long-lasting impact:
“I believe that the best, surest, and most permanent way to fill a place of worship is to preach the gospel, and to preach it in a natural, simple, interesting, earnest way.”

I’d ask you to pray for your pastor as he has the privilege and responsibility of preaching God’s Word. Please pray for me as I regularly preach God’s Word and seek to train students at Heritage to become faithful, earnest and courageous preachers.

 

 

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A Year with Jeremiah

This year I’ve been doing something new in my devotional reading.  I’m spending the whole year in the book of Jeremiah. Since there are 52 chapters in the book, I’m focusing attention on one chapter a week (it’s chapter 31 this week).

This has been a way more encouraging study than I expected.  Since Jeremiah is known asmichelangelo prophet Jeremiah the “weeping prophet,” I wasn’t exactly expecting all smiles and sunshine.  However, I was anticipating learning from a man who showed as much courage and tenacity as almost anyone in Scripture.

Jeremiah not only served God faithfully for over forty years, he lived through the darkest days of Israel’s history.  He was in Jerusalem during the horrific siege, capture and decimation of city by the Babylonian armies.  On top of all this, his own countrymen treated him worse than the Babylonians:  they resisted, ridiculed, attacked and imprisoned him.

Jeremiah’s life and his writings are impacting me powerfully.  I’m coming to know God in a deeper way.  I’m learning lessons about ministry faithfulness in difficult times.

I’ll pass along some of what God is teaching me through Jeremiah in this blog.  Occasionally, I’ll post an insight from Jeremiah’s book that has been especially challenging or comforting.

Jeremiah’s book begins with the story of his calling to ministry.  While the specifics are unique to him, there are elements of his calling that echo into our stories.  For example, Jeremiah is a testimony to the truth that God’s plans for our lives are put into play before we are born.  He sovereignly positions and prepares us to fit in to His larger purposes.  He did that for Jeremiah.  He does that for us as well.

At the national conference for the Associated Gospel Churches (AGC) this past June, I spoke about the lessons we can learn from Jeremiah’s calling.  Here’s the outline of the message that brings out the main ideas:

God’s call to ministry shows the sovereignty of His control (verses 1-8)

  • Over our family of origin
  • Over our genetic make up
  • Over our time and place in history
  • Over our inadequacies and inexperience

God’s call to ministry requires faithfulness to His Word (verses 9-16)

  • faithfulness involves an accurate understanding of God’s Word
  • faithfulness involves a courageous communication of God’s Word

God’s call to ministry includes a promise of His support (verses 17-19)

You can listen the sermon below.  Watch for future posts that come out of my “Year with Jeremiah.”

If you sense God may be calling you to vocational ministry, get in touch with us at Heritage!

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There and Back Again

Our past few months have been filled with planes, trains and automobiles.

In May we were in Scotland to see our son Michael, who’s studying in Edinburgh this year.  Along with celebrating his birthday, highlights of the trip were hiking up Arthur’sedinburgh-king-author
Seat (a hill outside Edinburgh) and a train ride to the Isle of Skye in the Scottish highlands.  In late June we headed to the southern United States, I did some teaching at a training program for international pastors at Dallas Seminary; Linda attended the Gospel Coalition’s National Women’s Conference in Orlando.

It was a grand adventure.  But after going “there” we’re glad to be “back again.”  Back to our home in the Shire of Cambridge.there and back

We are now preparing for the Fall and the upcoming school year at Heritage.  Linda has officially started in a new position at the school.  She’s been asked to head up the new Heritage Centre for Women in Ministry.  She’ll be working with women students at Heritage, hosting occasional gatherings for pastors’ wives and helping run graduate courses designed for women.  The first course (Women in Leadership with Dr. Bev Hislop) will run this fall.  You can get more info on the course here or by emailing Linda at lreed@heritage-theo.edu.

I’m gearing up for teaching preaching this fall and we are both preparing for speaking opportunities in the coming months (you can see our speaking schedule here).

We’re eager to see the students return at the end of August.  Our mission as a school is to train men and women for life and ministry.  (If you know of someone who could benefit from a Heritage education, please help us connect with them; it’s not too late to enroll for the Fall Semester.)

After taking some time off this summer, Linda and I hope to resume more regular postings on our blog.  We’ll use this space to write about lessons God is teaching us, thoughts we have on life and ministry and updates on opportunities at Heritage.

In a real sense, all of us who follow Jesus are on a grand adventure.  We walk by faith, trusting God to keep our feet on the path and to use our lives to lead others in His way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His Sovereignty Rules Over All

A recent visit to Ottawa raised the question: “Had I been writing any blog posts?”   I haven’t written for a long time, sensing this was Rick’s role as President.  I have been writing class papers for courses at Heritage:  Moral Theology, Post Exilic Prophets and Theology of Gender.    They’ve been amazing, and have kept me busy.

Teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) has also kept me busy.  This week, our ESL topic was “fate.” We discussed: “Does life just happen…or is there someone or something  that controls everything?”  It made me think of a Summer Sovereignty:

Seven years ago this summer, our family was headed to Syracuse (from Ottawa).  That morning, in my devotional time, I’d shot up a prayer: “Lord, I’d love to see Zac and Mel’s baby.”  Zac and Mel were also headed to Syracuse with their new baby, just eight days old.  Little Ellie’s parents were starting a new church ministry, and we all wanted to meet her.  Knowing we were both on the same highway at nearly the same time, I’d prayed we’d somehow meet.

We were both to leave between 8 and 10 a.m.   Just before leaving, my husband thought that perhaps a rental car was more reliable — an hour later, we headed to a rental agency.  Completing the paperwork, we “stopped by the church for a minute.”  A senior was there – and “could we let him in?”  This set off the security alarms; a much greater delay.

Breakfast had been scanty, so a stop at Tim Horton’s was requested. Bathrooms and vending machines beckoned, and our daughter stood for ages waiting for a bagel (the first of which had fallen to the floor).  Frustration for everyone!

My faithful husband safely drove the speed limit.  Arriving at the Thousand Islands Border Crossborder crossing (one of the 10 most used between the US and Canada), eight crowded lanes of traffic were waved either right or left of the building.  At the white line to move ahead to the customs agent, my husband rolled down his window, only to hear our names called.   There, by the sovereignty of Almighty God was Zac and Mel, parallel with us; a lane away.  Due to an unexpected visitor, we had arrived at the very same moment to the very same place.

I marvel at a God who was answering prayer in each delay.  Every detail was His timing – a rental car, an alarm, a bagel toasted twice, the speed limit obeyed, in order to put us exactly where we needed to be on time! His time!

Could it be that sometimes when we pray, we are frustrated with His delay? Not today, or tomorrow, it seems.   Only in the end to realize that we have received all that we asked for and exactly on time.  Let’s pray — believing in the sovereignty of God as we enjoy the summertime!

“His sovereignty rules over all.”  Psalm 103: 19

For a beautiful musical reminder of this truth, listen to Chris Tomlin’s song:  Sovereign

 

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Graduation Day–Jump for Joy

Jump for JOy

Last Saturday, April 26th, was a joyful day on the Heritage campus.  Amidst much pomp, circumstance and celebration, we conferred diplomas and degrees on our college and seminary graduates.

I wish I could introduce you to these men and women who are now freshly-minted Heritage alumni.  We’ve enjoyed getting to know them — many of them have a deep desire to use their training to serve the Lord Jesus wherever He leads  them.

Here’s a quick glimpse of three of this year’s grads:

Amanda Spruit is a young woman we met while serving at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.  Having finished her studies at Heritage, she’s now off to language school this summer in Sherbrooke, Quebec.  Amanda has already served in Africa, but hopes to return this fall to join a team that will be serving Jesus in Chad, West Africa.

Van Kung Thiahlun made history on Saturday for his people group.  I was told that Van is the first Christian from the Chin people group (a persecuted minority in Myanmar) to get a seminary degree in Canada.  Many members from the Chin church that Van pastors were decked out in their colourfully woven jackets to celebrate graduation and to mark this historic event.  We recently had an opportunity to visit this church, have Chin soup, and enjoy their ardent worship.

Mark Hartnett received his Master in Divinity last Saturday and will be getting married this coming Saturday.   Mark and his bride, Ashley, have already been called to serve a church in Kolkata, India.

The Graduation Celebration was a joyful culmination to a stellar year at Heritage.  Linda and I will miss seeing many of these grads on campus. It’s bittersweet to see them go, but we are excited to see how God will use their lives to build His Church here in Canada and around the world.

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Easter Evening

sunsetThe first Easter wasn’t a happy day for Jesus’ first disciples.  At least it wasn’t for the men who followed Jesus.

It’s true they had heard Mary say she had seen the risen Lord.  It’s true Peter and John had inspected Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  But as the disciples gathered on that first Easter evening, their mood was fearful not festive:   “On the evening of that first day of the week . . .the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. . . ” (John 20:19).

Even though Jesus had risen early that morning, there were no handshakes and high-fives that evening.    No celebrations.  No party mood.

It all changed when Jesus appeared to them:   “On the evening of that first day of the week. . . Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20).

On the first Easter, joy didn’t rise until after sundown.  Joy came in the evening when it finally dawned on the disciples that Jesus was truly alive again.

Easter isn’t automatically a cause for joy just because it’s true.  Easter becomes a cause for joy when the truth of the resurrection is believed.  Joy comes to us when the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection becomes part of our personal reality—when we believe in the resurrected Christ (John 20:30-31).

So here’s a question each of us can ask:  “Has the reality that the Son has risen really dawned on me?”

 

 

 

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