Living in a Construction Zone

under constructionToday in chapel, I continued the series we are doing called Unfinished Business.  We are focusing on areas of our lives as believers where we are still “under construction”.

I preached a message from Philippians 1:3-6 on God’s promise to finish the good work he has started in us. The sermon was meant to be an encouragement to students who are feeling discouraged that the remodelling of their souls is going much slower than hoped.

I closed by reading an article written by Christian musician, Rich Mullins. Both Linda and I (and our kids) love Rich’s music—it’s honest, creative and thoughtful. Rich also was a writer and this piece was originally printed in Release Magazine back in 1993. I still find it moves me each time I read it. Hope you do as well:

rich picMy new apartment is in the attic of Jim and Megan’s house. It’s a big old, one-roomer with a mind of its own… Its walls are loosely vertical and the whole thing is about two weeks away from being much more than a lot of potential. Right now it is resistant to change—openly hostile to my ideas of what it ought to be. But slowly, surely…I am, with the help of some friends, a hammer, a saw, some nails and a wrecking bar, enlightening it, changing its self-concept, convincing it that it is not merely an ugly, old attic—it is a great space that I would like to inhabit and be on friendly terms with—a space full of promise and beauty and order and life.

Sometimes… late at night when I look over the piles of dust and dry wall and knee-deep debris that remain during this reconstructive effort, I am strangely moved by the place and I proclaim the Gospel to it softly. I say, “I know how it hurts to be torn up. I am often choked on the litter left by my own remodelling. I know what it’s like to settle…into the despair of believing that you are wasted space….I know the pain of wanting to be changed and yet being distrustful of changes, of wanting to be worked on, but being suspicious of the intentions of the Worker.

But here is some good news: He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. However messy it may be now, however confusing and scary it appears, however endless the task may seem, we will some day be glorious, beautiful, alive! There is much tearing out to do—a lot to give up. No thin coat of new paint will do. It’s not good enough to cover up imperfection; it must be corrected. Art, beauty, function—these things take time. They make take ‘til the day of Christ Jesus.”

But we are not wasted space, we are temples of a Being greater than ourselves, temples being built to be inhabited and brought to life. Though we many not understand the process our rebuilder does. We are His workmanship and the place where He lives.

Little attic, do not despair! I’m being made by a Master Carpenter. I’m learning a little about building too.

You can read the full text of Attics and Temples here.

 

 

 

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Prayer Update March 17, 2017

Last week I asked you to pray for Linda as she led a course in our Grad Certificate for Women in Ministry program.  God answered by giving her strength (she had been sick all week) and by using the course to equip students to write Bible study curriculum for their churches and ministries.  I also asked you to pray for me as I traveled with a Heritage musical team to preach in London (Ontario, not England!).  Again, the Lord was gracious in empowering our service (you can listen to my sermon here).  Finally, I asked you to pray for Pastor Daniel Winter, a good friend and Heritage Board member.  Daniel is recovering from a serious illness but still needs our prayer.

Here are several other requests for the coming week:

ESL 21.  Each Friday Linda heads to our local Hespeler library to lead an ESL class (English as a Second Language) for new Canadians.  She and her team help those who come learn English and experience the love and light of Christ.  Please pray that each person who comes would be touched by God’s love for them.

2.  Next Thursday, Heritage hosts this year’s Ministry Leadership Day.  This one-day conference is attended by pastors and ministry leaders from across Ontario.  Pray for our speaker, Tim Challies, as he speaks on theology, productivity and technology.  Ask the Lord to encourage and equip each one who attends.

Hesp3.  The first-year students at Heritage are involved in a creative outreach opportunity right now.  As part of our Love Hespeler initiative, they have been placed in teams and given some money ($50) to help a family they’ve gotten to know over the course of the school year. Each team of students has turned in a proposal for how they will best use the money to bless a family in Jesus’ name.  Pray this act of kindness will draw people in our community to Christ.

Thanks for praying!

 

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Do Christians believe Jesus is the only way to God or are their other ways?

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Jesus is respected and revered by people of various faiths around the world.  Many would agree that He is a way to God for some people.  But is Jesus the only way to God for all people?

Bible-believing Christians do believe Jesus is the only way to God.  We hold this conviction even though we know it goes against the strong current of religious pluralism in Canada.  We hold this view, though we have genuine respect for friends from other faiths and religious traditions.

Why do we hold a view that some would see as intolerant or outdated?  Only for one reason:  Jesus Himself claimed to be the only way to God.  In John 14:6 we read, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  The apostle Peter echoed this claim in Acts 4:12:  “Salvation is found in one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  These statements lead us to believe that only through trusting in Jesus as Saviour can we come into a personal, saving relationship with God.

The belief that Jesus is the only way to God would be unbelievable if He hadn’t done the impossible; His miracles and resurrection from the dead give credibility to His claim.

As followers of Jesus, we seek to follow His example and show love and respect for all people.  And as believers in Jesus, we also seek to believe His words—even His claim to be the only way to God.

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Prayer Update March 10, 2017

Since I wrote my last Prayer Update (Feb 24), Linda and I have done a good bit of traveling. We were in Ottawa to join our daughter on “The Coldest Night of the Year” walk (a fundraiser for a downtown ministry drop-in centre). I also had the privilege of speaking to a group of pastors in Ottawa to talk about the ministry of Heritage. Next we drove to Lancaster, PA to visit our oldest son, Ryan and his wife Jenny. On the way home, we stopped in Niagara Falls where I spoke at a mission conference for Grace Gospel Church.

  1. bibleThis weekend, Linda is overseeing a course on writing Bible Study Curriculum. The course is part of the Graduate Certificate for Women in Ministry and is taught by Dr. Phyllis Bennett. Please pray for the dozen students who are learning to write Bible study materials for their churches and ministries. Pray also for strength for Linda; she was ill with a fever and cough most of the week and still needs to regain strength.
  1. On Sunday, I am scheduled to preach at Stoney Creek Baptist Church in London, Ontario. I’ll be joined by a musical team from Heritage who will lead the worship in song. Please pray for a fruitful time of ministry.
  1. danielI’d also ask you to join me in praying for Pastor Daniel Winter, one of our Heritage Board members, and a dear friend in ministry. Daniel was recently in the hospital with a serious illness. He’s home now but still needs our prayers as he recovers.

Thank you for standing with us by kneeling in prayer!

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Student Centre Remodeled!

A week ago today, we had the grand opening for the newly remodeled Student Centre (affectionately called “the H”).  Unless you had seen the way things used to look, you won’t fully appreciate the upgrade. But I think you’ll get a glimpse of how beautiful it looks in the pictures below.  We thank God for the generous support of many people who helped make this a reality.

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Dedication Service on Tuesday, Feb 21

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Ribbon Cutting

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Students enjoying a place to study and converse

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The Coffee Shop (called The Bean)

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We are grateful to God for this wonderful space!

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Prayer Update February 24, 2017

My heart is full of gratitude to God for all that He did last week in answer to our prayers.

coffee-maker

Our specialty coffee maker!

On Tuesday, we celebrated the grand opening of the newly remodeled Student Centre.  The specialty coffees and comfortable atmosphere has already made the Student Centre a very popular place on campus.  I’ll post some more pictures of the Student Centre in the coming days.

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Bryan Chapell

On Wednesday morning, Dr. Bryan Chapell was on campus to teach a course for our Graduate Certificate of Biblical Preaching.  Bryan is one of the leading voices in training Christ-centered, expository preachers.  Over twenty pastors were better equipped through this course.

On Thursday morning, we hosted our first breakfast for Community Leaders.  The mayor of Cambridge and several city councillors joined with business leaders to hear what Heritage students are doing to serve the local community through our Love Hespeler Initiative.  Our students served the breakfast and gave tours of the campus. It was the first time many of these guests had been on campus.  We are praying God will continue to help us be a light for Christ in the wider community.

Please join me in giving praise to God for His good work in and through the school.

readingAs far as prayer requests for the coming week, I’d ask you to pray for our students as they are on Reading Week   Pray that students would be refreshed by the break as well as catch up on their studies.

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Andreas Kostenberger

 

We do offer several modular (one-week) courses during reading week. One of the courses will be taught by Dr. Andreas Kostenberger, a guest professor from Southeastern Theological Seminary). He will be teaching a course on the Pastoral epistles. Andreas is a top biblical scholar in North America and we are delighted to welcome him to Heritage. Please pray that these modular classes will be effective training students in God’s Word.

Thank you for being part of our prayer team!  God is answering our prayers.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Preacher and Soul Care (part 2)

As I indicated in my last post, preachers need to take good care of their primary “instrument”–their own souls.  And doing soul care takes making some commitments.  I highlighted one of these commitments in the previous post (“I will cultivate a devotional life bigger than my sermon preparation).  Here are two more:

I will seek to avoid whatever sullies my soul

Nothing blunts a preacher’s effectiveness like sin. Not fatigue, failure, sickness or suffering. Sin, in any of its overt or covert manifestations, interrupts fellowship with God and hinders the flow of the Spirit’s power through us. What’s more, as Sam Storms observes, sin desensitizes us like “spiritual Novocain, numbing one’s heart to the horror of self-centeredness and rebellion again God” (Packer, 96).

No wonder John Owen warned Christians, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”

muddy-feetAs preachers we must keep sensitive hearts towards God, allowing His Spirit to quickly alert us when we are being tempted to sin or have given way to it. I’ve found this means being vigilant not only to the more overt manifestations of sin, but also to the more covert compromises that sully my soul.

Susanna Wesley—John Wesley’s mother—wisely taught her children to see sin as anything that caused them to fall short of the glory of God: “If you would judge of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of pleasure, then take this simple rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God and take off the relish of spiritual things—that to you is sin.”

Remembering Susannah’s words has led me to stop reading a best-selling novel because, in order to keep reading, I was having to silence my conscience. At other times, I’ve opted to forgo watching a movie that is critically or popularly acclaimed knowing that it would mess with my mind or sully my soul. It has meant pulling away from watching my favourite NFL team because I sensed I was becoming too absorbed with their success or failure. I remember a Sunday evening communion service when, as the elements were being passed, I was rehearsing the plays that cost my team the game. Football was obscuring my sense of God and taking the relish off spiritual things. Today, I find I can watch my favourite team play and it no longer has the same hold on my heart.

My point in all this is not to impose personal standards on others. Legalism is both unbiblical and unproductive (Colossians 2:20-23). My point is pastors must prioritize the maintenance of our spiritual lives in practical, personalized ways.

Some will hear this and chafe. Won’t this make us spiritual Luddites, awkwardly out of step with those we are trying to walk alongside of in ministry? Won’t we miss out on some of the good things in life?

Perhaps. But I would counter with a question: How important is it for you to have your instrument (your soul) in top spiritual condition? How important is it that your congregation hear the message of the gospel sung as clearly and beautifully as your soul can sing it?

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

No 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 will still come as scheduled. Sunday 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 a preacher can carry is standing to preach knowing he can’t honestly sing, “It is well with my soul.” Preaching with a sullied soul leaves you feeling like a poseur not a preacher.

preach-gospelThat’s why as preachers we must not only preach the gospel to others, but 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 (see his book, The Disciplines of 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.

In Conclusion. . .

Back in my university days, I didn’t grasp why my vocal teacher was so insistent on protecting her vocal chords. Now I get it—not as a singer but as a preacher.  As you only get one set of vocal chords, you only get one soul. Personal soul care is not a luxury but a necessity for any of us who desire to stay in top form so we can give out the beautiful music of God’s Word.

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