1000 x 1000

Below is a short video Linda and I recently recorded about an initiative we are excited about.  Please take a minute (actually 2 minutes and 31 seconds) to watch it.  We are convinced 1000 x 1000 could make a BIG difference in Heritage’s ministry of training men and women to serve Christ and His Church–right here in Canada and around the world.

 

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Getting Ready

We love summer but we are excited for fall. Our team at Heritage has spent the summer getting ready for the coming school year that begins soon.

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Construction on Student Learning Centre

Our student leaders arrive on campus on August 27th for a week of training. New students move into the on-campus apartments on Labour Day (Sept. 4). Classes begin on September 7th.

We prayed that God would send us a good number of men and women to train for His service. He’s answered our prayers. Enrollment has been strong for both the college and seminary.

Over the past few months, our team has been busy making some important upgrades to

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Construction on one room in the new recording suite

the campus. We’ve added a new recording studio for the music program. We’ve also built a new Student Learning Centre, a place for individual tutoring and small group instruction. Both projects were made possible by some generous donations from friends of Heritage. We’ll write more about these new additions to the campus in the coming weeks.

Last year, I (Rick) posted some praise and prayer requests each Friday. My hope is to do the same again this year. Without God’s favour, nothing we do will have eternal impact. So I would ask you to pray with us for the following:

  1. Final preparations on the part of our faculty and staff for the coming year.
  2. Finishing the building projects (recording suite; student learning centre, roofing of the Heritage Community Centre).
  3. New students preparing to come to Heritage—ask the Lord to give them eagerness to learn and courage to take a new step in life.

(Next week, Linda and I will be posting about an important initiative we’d like to let you know about. It’s called 1000 x 1000.)

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Summer 2017

No doubt you’ve noticed our silence on the blog; it’s been a summer of travel, weddings, interviews, and quiet at home.

The summer began with a road trip to conduct interviews and to meet Presidents and IMG_1688leaders at other institutions of Christian higher education all across the eastern U.S. and Canada. We started in Kentucky for Norm Millar’s graduation from Southern Seminary. Norm, who is the chairman of the Heritage board, received his Doctor in Ministry from Southern. We continued from there to visit many solidly Biblical institutions – Midwestern Seminary, Southwestern Seminary, Dallas Seminary, and New Orleans Baptist Seminary. From there, we drove north to be part of a College and Seminary Presidents’ gathering in the mountains of North Carolina at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. All of these relationships have enriched our understanding of Bible centered training. In summary, schools that are holding strong on biblical principles are doing well.

We were home for less than a week before we left for two family weddings on the West Coast. Both of our nieces (one from each side) were married within 8 days of each other, both to godly young men who lead worship and assist with children’s ministry. We were so blessed to be part of the preparations, the party, and the post wedding celebrations.

mbcBack to Canada, we headed to Muskoka Bible Centre where Rick and Dr. Michael Haykin were the teachers for the first week in July. Dr. Haykin focused on the Reformers, this being the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Rick’s messages focused on centrality of the Word of God and how we can engage with Scripture in life-changing ways. If you’d like to hear either of their messages, they are available from Muskoka Bible Centre.

Now gladly home, Linda has been finalizing her doctoral research and Rick has begun to prepare for a new school year. Enrollment for both the college and seminary is looking very strong for the Fall, for which we are grateful to God. Would you pray with us for a great year of training men and women to know, love and serve Christ? We have “a wide door for effective service open to us” (1 Cor 16:9).

chairIn the next few weeks, we’ll post further updates will on some exciting developments at Heritage. But for now, we trust that you are walking closely with Christ and enjoying the sweet, short Canadian summer with friends and family. Psalms 37 and 62 remind us to rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. We hope we’re all resting – in more ways than one!

 

 

 

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Bilingual Preaching

hello bonjour

To be truly effective, preachers have to become bilingual—fluent in two languages. I say that even though I only speak English.

What are the two essential languages a preacher must speak? Not English and French (even in Canada). Not Greek and Hebrew (though learning to read both is a great help to any preacher). The two languages a preacher must speak fluently are grace and truth.

Jesus spoke both. The opening chapter in John’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Word, the One who communicated the Father’s heart. John tells us Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). His words and actions were both gracious and truthful.

But while Jesus was equally fluent in the vocabulary of grace and truth, most of us are not. We typically have either grace or truth as our mother tongue.

Preachers whose native language is grace convey warm-hearted compassion through their words, tone and gestures. No matter what passage they are preaching, their words come accented with grace. In a pastoral way, they speak hope into broken hearts.

On the other hand, preachers whose first language is truth excel in emphasizing God’s revealed will. No matter what passage they are preaching, they explain God’s righteous standards and expose our failure to reach it. Like biblical prophets, they fearlessly call people to turn away from sin and turn back to God.

The problem is that most of us are not bilingual when it comes to communicating both grace and truth. We speak one without an accent; the other is somewhat foreign to us. As a result we fail to communicate the fullness of God’s Word.

Those who gravitate towards grace (I’m in this group) tend to unintentionally under-emphasize God’s holy demands. Over time, our listeners can become complacent and self-satisfied. On the other hand, those strong in trumpeting truth, can leave people feeling chastened and defeated. Without a regular reminder of God’s gracious provision, our hearers will try to muscle up in their own strength or will be tempted to give up when their strength fails.

grace truthHow does a preacher who is strong in one of the two essential languages learn to preach well in the other? While I’m still learning to speak fluently and forcefully in both grace and truth, here are some things that I’ve found helpful.

First, commit yourself to taking your tone from the passage itself. Look for words that indicate the author’s emotional emphasis and then follow his lead. If the passage has a pastoral feel, let that come out in your sermon. If it shakes people up with prophetic fervour, let your sermon do the same. Being faithful expositors means we not only convey the message of the text, we also convey it’s mood.

Second, listen to preachers who excel in the language you are trying to learn. I have found several expositors who effectively convey a strong prophetic edge in their sermons without giving up on grace. While I can’t clone them, I’ve tried to learn from them.

Third, remember that learning a second language takes practice and causes discomfort. You will feel conspicuous and awkward at times. You will be tempted to revert to what comes most naturally to you. But push on to become homiletically bilingual. Prayerfully rely on Christ to help you be Christ-like in preaching with both grace and truth. Like all who learn a second language, you’ll be glad you did.

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Prayer Update May 12, 2017

Graduation marked the end of our school year at Heritage, but the school’s ministry continues to move forward. Spring and summer term classes have already started. Our faculty and staff have gathered to assess the previous year and plan for the coming one. Our admissions team is busy reviewing applications of students who have applied to attend Heritage in the Fall.

I would ask you to join me in praying for three timely requests:apply

We are anticipating a strong incoming class of students for the Fall. Pray for the students who have already been accepted and are making plans to start courses in September. Ask the Lord would direct additional students to consider coming to Heritage to be equipped for life and ministry. (It’s not too late to apply.)

crossNext Tuesday, I will be giving a devotional message on the cross to a gathering of pastors in Oakville. Please ask the Lord to enable me to serve these ministry leaders by reminding them to keep “boasting in the cross” (Galatians 6:14).

Pray for Linda and me as we travel in the coming weeks, visiting a number of seminaries in the States and attending a conference for seminary presidents and wives. Pray for safety as we travel and divine appointments with leaders from others schools.

Thank you for your faithful prayers for Heritage and for us.

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The Preacher and Soul Care (Part 3)

 

soul careIn the two previous posts, I made the case that looking after the health of our souls is not a luxury, but a necessity, for all who preach and teach God’s Word.  This is true whether we preach to an entire congregation, teach a Sunday school class or lead a small group.

Soul care for a preacher or teacher involves making personal commitments to cultivating a healthy devotional life and personal holiness Here’s a third commitment I’ve found important.

I will preach the Gospel to myself every day–especially Sundays.

preach gospel to selfNo matter how committed we are to walking in humility and holiness, we will stumble at times. It’s impossible to walk through this fallen world and not dirty our feet and muddy our souls. Our sense of God will become obscured at times. We will lose the relish for spiritual things.

And yet, Sunday still comes as scheduled. It comes whether or not our sermons are ready. And it comes whether or not our souls are ready.

If I had to choose, I’d much rather step up to preach with my sermon unfinished than my soul unprepared. One of the worst burdens preachers can carry is the weight of standing to preach when we can’t honestly sing, “It is well with my soul.” Preaching with a sullied soul leaves you feeling like a poseur, not a preacher.

That’s why as preachers we must not only preach the gospel to others; we must begin by preaching the gospel to our own souls. On Sundays when our souls are clouded over by grief or guilt, we must preach the gospel to ourselves before we preach it to others. We don’t presume upon God’s mercy and grace, but we still preach it to our own hearts.

As preachers, we are right in seeing personal holiness as a prerequisite for faithful and fruitful proclamation of God’s Word. We must constantly heed Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). If we are to be “useful to the Master” we must be cleansed (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

But the subtle danger for us as preachers is that we forget our usefulness is still based on God’s grace. Jerry Bridges is right when he reminds us that on our worst days we are not beyond the reach of God’s grace and on our best days we are not beyond the need for God’s grace. Preaching the gospel to ourselves helps us remember God’s grace.

So when our sense of God is obscured by foolish or sinful choices, we must come back to the cross, claiming the gift of forgiveness Christ procured for us through His death and resurrection. When we are tempted to feel our sins and failures render us unworthy and unusable to God, we remind ourselves that we are forgiven not because of the depth of our sorrows but because of the death of God’s Son (Ephesians 1:7). We don’t earn our way back into God’s good graces. We come boldly, by faith through grace, to find grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Preachers need to preach the gospel. Starting with ourselves. Especially on Sundays.

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Drawing a Circle

We had a wonderful graduation celebration last Saturday morning.  The night before, we had a meaningful time of consecration at our graduation banquet.

Gypsy SmithAt the banquet, I told the students the story of Rodney Smith. Rodney was born into a family of gypsies in 1860.  His mother died when he was just a boy and his father had a tough time holding the family together. Without formal education, Rodney grew up headed for trouble; he frequently got on the wrong side of the authorities.

But at the age of 16, Rodney trusted Christ as Saviour and began preaching the gospel—something he would do for the rest of this life.  For over 60 years, he traveled the world, preaching at evangelistic events.  He preached to paupers and presidents (include Franklin Roosevelt).  He preached to students at Harvard. Thousands came to know Christ through the preaching of “Gypsy” Smith.

Linda is the one who told me the story of Gypsy Smith.  The part of his story that impacted her the most had to do with a “circle.”

It’s reported that when Gypsy Smith came to a new town to preach the gospel, he sometimes stopped on the outskirts and drew a circle in the dirt. Then he would step inside the circle and ask the Lord to begin a revival in that town—beginning with the man in the circle.  I’ve also read that when asked by someone how to be used by God, Gypsy Smith replied:  “Find a piece of chalk and find an empty room. Go into that room and shut the door. Draw a circle on the floor with that chalk, kneel down in that circle, and ask God to start revival right there.”

At our graduation banquet, we gave every student a chalkboard and a piece of chalk. Each student laid his or her chalkboard on the ground, drew a circle and stepped inside it. Then we had a time of prayer, asking the Lord to work in the cities and churches where they would serve. We asked God to do a great work—starting with the students standing in the circle.

Heritage College and Seminary is dedicated to training up men and women with the same passion for the gospel that was seen in Gypsy Smith. My heart rejoices when I think of what God will do through these consecrated and committed graduates.

Would you join me in praying for our recent graduates?  Pray that each one would be consecrated to Christ and useful in His service.  Pray for those of us who teach and train them for ministry–that we may be fully consecrated to Christ Jesus and useful to His purposes.

I’d also challenge you to join me and our 2017 graduates by stepping inside the circle and asking God to do a great work—beginning with you!

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