Praise and Prayer Update (November 15, 2019)

heritage snow

Winter arrived this past week as snow now covers our campus.  While it’s been cold outside, the spiritual temperature inside remains warm and inviting.  I continue to be encouraged at the way the Lord is working in the lives of our students, staff, and faculty.

Here are three specific requests I would ask you to join me in praying about this week.

  1.  Several of our Heritage staff and faculty (including Linda Reed) are in Oakville this week for the Gospel Coalition Canada Women’s Conference.  Pray that the women who attend would be spiritually strengthened.  Also, pray that those looking for further biblical and ministry training might stop by Heritage table and explore some of the programs and courses we offer.
  2. On Saturday, Linda teaches and leads an all-day course at Heritage in our Graduate Certificate for Women in Ministry.  Please pray for stamina for Linda as she teaches.  Also, pray for spiritual impact in the lives of the women taking this course.
  3. Next Monday and Tuesday, Heritage is hosting a Student Sampler for 27 High School students considering coming to Heritage.  Pray that God would guide these young men and women (and their parents) as they gain a better sense of the courses and community life at Heritage.
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Better Men (Part 1)

“Men behaving badly”.  Sadly, that sentence could be the tagline for many stories that make the news in our day.  From physical abuse to dismissive attitudes, many women have been deeply wounded and damaged by men behaving badly.  And many men have become confused about what they are to be and do as men.  Last year, I had a group of young men at Heritage College ask me to meet with them to help them gain a biblical understanding of what a godly man looks like. 

I’ve written down some of the material I presented to these young men in an article entitled, “Better Men”.  Over the next four weeks, I’ll post sections of this article.  I’m grateful for the strong desire on the part of so many young men at Heritage to grow into “men behaving godly.”

______________________________________

better manAt the 2018 Grammy Awards, the country group Little Big Town won an award for their song, Better Man.[1]   The song, written by Taylor Swift, tells the story of a woman who literally ran away from a toxic relationship with a volatile, self-centered man.  But even after she leaves, she finds herself missing him, wishing things had turned out differently.  The catchy tag line, repeated multiple times, captures her sadness: “And I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man.”

One of the reasons Better Man received so much attention and airplay has to do with its timeless and timely theme.  It’s timeless as it speaks to a situation women have lived through or are currently living in.  How many women have found themselves disappointed in marriage and disillusioned by a husband who they wish would grow up and become a better man, a man who does more than serve himself?  It seems that, almost daily, we hear another media report of some well-known, (formerly) highly respected man caught behaving badly towards women.

One thing is clear:  our world desperately needs better men.

But just what does a better man look like?  At this point, things get cloudy.  That’s because western society is no longer clear on what we mean by a “man.”  In a day when gender is seen as a personal choice, it’s daunting to define manhood in a meaningful way.

rhodes

Cecil Rhodes

There was a day when describing what it means to be a better man was not controversial in Western culture.  When South African businessman, Cecil Rhodes established a fund in 1904 to bring male students from the United States, United Kingdom or Germany to study at Oxford, he had a clear vision of the kind of student he wanted to scholarship:  men who demonstrated “qualities of manhood, truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for, and protection of, the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship. . . moral force of character and instincts.”  As he put it, these would be the best men for the world’s fight.[2]

In our cultural moment, Rhodes’ words read like sepia-toned, antiquated relics from another era.  They ascribe qualities to manhood that are certainly not unique to males.  Women often excel men when it comes to courage, devotion to duty, protection of the weak (think “mother bear”) and the rest of the virtues on Rhodes’ list.

All this makes it challenging to define manhood in a way that is not simply a reflection of current societal sensibilities—past or present.  In contemporary Western culture, where the notion of gender has become increasingly fluid and flexible, some advocate abandoning all attempts to identify what is uniquely male.

As a result, many men—even in the Church—find themselves confused about what it means to be a man. If their nine-year-old son asked, “Dad, what does it mean to be a man and not a woman?”[3], many men would struggle to give a biblically-based answer.

The difficulty many Christian men face in articulating what it means to be a man is partly due to the common humanity men and women share.  God created both men and women in His image (Genesis 1:27-28).  Not surprisingly, we have much in common; in fact, we are more similar than dissimilar.  Further, the New Testament calls both men and women to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Colossians 3:10) and to evidence the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Christ-like character and Spirit-empowered characteristics are not exclusively male or female.

venn

similar but not identical

If you picture manhood and womanhood as two circles in a Venn diagram, the Scriptures teach there will be a substantial overlap.  At the same time, from a biblical perspective, the two circles will not be completely superimposed on top of each other.  Scripture indicates God intentionally made men and women similar but not identical.  Biologically and physiologically, this is difficult to miss:  men and women differ in muscle mass, bone mass, body fat, cardiovascular function, blood pressure rates and a host of other ways.  But the differences are more than physiological.  The Bible teaches God meant something specific when he made a man and meant something specific when He created a woman. As men and women, we reflect something specific about His image.

So how are we, as men, to discover what God meant us to be as men?  What does it mean to be a man and not a woman?

To answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning.  We need to carefully look at the creation account, discovering clues regarding God’s original intent for men and women.  Then, we need to examine the rest of Scripture to see how later writers of inspired Scripture understand and interpret the Genesis account.

While the findings of the social sciences should not be ignored, we must give prior consideration and primary weight to God’s Word.  He, as Creator, is the only one who can truly tell us what He made us to be—as human beings, as men and women.  He holds the patent on humanity.

GenesisAs you read through the opening chapters of Genesis, you won’t find a one-sentence definition of what it means to be a man or a woman.  However, you will discover clues and pointers brought out by the emphasis of the narrative.  Clues, by their very nature, are subject to being misinterpreted.  That’s why we must look to the rest of Scripture for how biblical authors interpret these clues.  Since all Scripture is inspired by God, we can expect it to speak with a consistent voice.

By examining the clues in Genesis and listening to how New Testament writers interpret these clues, we can begin to formulate a biblical vision for men and women. Our focus in this article is on men, so let me highlight three key insights that will enable us to cut through the cultural confusion and get a clearer view of God’s intention for manhood.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

[1] See Billboard, “Watch Little Big Town Perform ‘Better Man’ at 2018 Grammys”, accessed November 2, 2019, https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/grammys/8096725/grammys-2018-little-big-town-better-man

[2] Robert Rotberg.  The Founder:  Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power, (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1990), 665.

[3] See Desiring God, “Ask Pastor John, March 16, 2018”,  accessed Oct 9, 2019, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/sex-abuse-allegations-and-the-egalitarian-myth/.

 

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Praise Update (November 8, 2019)

prayerIt’s a joy to be able to report how the Lord answered the requests I asked you to pray about last Friday and this past Tuesday.

Our President’s Cabinet had a very beneficial prayer and planning day.  We sensed the Lord’s leading as we clarified four major, strategic goals for the coming two/three years.  These faith goals will be the focus of our prayers and efforts going forward.

Our Residence Assistance had a refreshing break on their retreat last weekend.  These men and women carry a full load of classes as they serve the students in the residence halls.  I was delighted they could have time away for rest and renewal.

hopeI also experienced God’s strengthening grace as I preached last Sunday at Hope Church Mississauga.  What a vibrant church!  You can listen to my sermon (God’s Strength in Our Struggle) here.

The Local Outreach week at Heritage was a fruitful time of instruction and implementation.  I joined a group of students who were doing door-to-door outreach.  The students had numerous opportunities to pray for people and share the hope of the gospel.  We saw God open hearts as we presented the good news about Jesus.

Join me in giving thanks to God for answering prayer.  Please continue to pray for spiritual protection and progress for the ministry of Heritage College and Seminary.

 

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Prayer Update (November 6, 2019)

outreach chapel

Local Outreach Chapel

I have a special prayer request to send out today.  This week at Heritage is Local Outreach Week.  In addition to focusing all our chapel sessions on the topic of sharing the good news of the gospel, our students have the opportunity to . . .

  • attend a pizza & prayer night
  • take in additional workshops on evangelism,
  • do door-to-door outreach in our neighbourhood,
  • volunteer at a Christian drop-in centre,
  • teach ESL classes on campus and in a local library,
  • send notes of encouragement to political leaders,
  • rake leaves as an act of kindness for neighbours
  • prepare and hand out food & warm-weather gear,
  • share the gospel message through street evangelism.

Please ask the Lord to grow in our students, faculty and staff a greater heart for the gospel and a greater concern for those who need to know Christ in a life-changing way.

Pray that our students would have compassion and confidence as they share the message of Christ in neighbourhoods and on the streets.

Pray that the Lord would bring His salvation to those in the village of Hespeler and the city of Cambridge.

Pray that Heritage would equip men and women to live out and give out the gospel message of Christ in Canada and around the world.

Thank you for praying for and with us.

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Praise and Prayer Update (November 1, 2019)

Linda and I have been on the road quite a bit in recent days.  We’ve been to Minneapolis to present at an academic conference (Society for Professors of Christian Education) and to Montreal for a meeting of Christian Higher Education Canada.  This week, it’s been great to be back home with the students, staff, and faculty at Heritage.

Rick in chapelI continue to be encouraged by the spiritual vitality I see in the Heritage community.  I wish all of you could be at one of our chapel services or sit through one of our classes.  God is at work shaping hearts and lives at Heritage.  Thank you for praying for us.

Here are several prayer requests for this weekend.

President’s Cabinet Prayer and Planning Day.   Today (Friday), I will meet with our executive leadership team for a day of prayer and planning.  We will be prayerfully considering the expanded assignment we sense God is giving the school.  What faith goals should we set for the New Year?  How can we deal with the opportunities and challenges we face?  Please pray for God’s Spirit to guide us and empower us for His agenda.

Resident Assistant Retreat.   Our team of RAs (Resident Assistants) is heading off for a weekend retreat.  These stellar students serve as peer leaders in the residence halls.  Several of them have been feeling under the weather this week.  Please pray for physical health and a refreshing retreat for these faithful servants.

Sunday Ministry.  This Sunday, I (Rick) am preaching at Hope Church Mississauga.  I’ll be speaking from Romans 7-8 about God’s Strength in our Spiritual Struggle.  I would ask you to pray for the Spirit’s enablement as I preach.  Pray that this message would be used by God to help believers grow stronger in Christ.

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Praise and Prayer Update October 25, 2019

I’m writing this post while sitting in a Starbucks in Ottawa.  This particular Starbucks has a unique place in my (Rick) heart.  And it’s not because I love the coffee (I actually don’t drink coffee).  It’s because of the location–453 Bank Street, Ottawa.

Old Met

Old Met Building

This Starbucks is on the property that once was the home of the Metropolitan Bible Church (The Met).  In March of 1998, our family moved from California to Canada so I could serve as the pastor of The Met.  When we arrived, The Met was located here on Bank Street. I loved preaching in The Met’s sanctuary (built in the 1930’s) with its dark wood pews and wrap-around balcony.  I have many memories of seeing God work in powerful ways–bringing people to faith in Christ and helping others grow up in Christ. 

new met 1

New Met Building

In time, we outgrew the facility here on Bank Street and built the “new Met” about 10 kilometers away (near the Ottawa airport).

As I sit in this Starbucks that was once The Met, my heart is full of gratitude to God for the privilege of pastoring such a vibrant church–a church that loves the Word of God and loves the world for God.

While I have a deep and special place in my heart for The Met, my heart has been stretched to care for many other churches across Canada.  I long to see spiritual vibrancy in all the congregations across our land.  I’m at Heritage to help raise up godly leaders for these churches.

This morning I was in Montreal for a gathering of presidents from other Canadian Bible Colleges, Seminaries and Christian Universities.  All of us share a calling to serve Christ’s church by equipping men and women to serve Christ, His Church, and His mission.

Tonight, as I sit in this Starbucks and reflect, I am also praying.  Praying that God’s Spirit would bring revival to the Church in Canada.  And I’m praying that schools like Heritage will play a vital part in training godly pastors for these churches.  I long to see more churches like the Metropolitan Bible Church in the cities and villages across our land.

Would you join me in this prayer for Christ’s Church in Canada?  Also, would you pray that Heritage might be used by God to support, strengthen and stretch the Church in Canada and around the world?

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Thank Full

viaIt’s not every day that you move into the home of a stranger.  Seven years ago, this fall, Melody and her husband, Sandy, offered us their home as we moved to Cambridge to serve at Heritage.  I (Linda) had met Melody on the Via Rail train heading to Ottawa.  While I often speak to strangers about Jesus, it was Melody who years later “showed hospitality to strangers” (Heb 13:2), offering us the use of their newly renovated Stratford home.   How does one adequately say adequate “thanks”?

On Thanksgiving weekend, seven years ago, Rick publicly resigned from the Metropolitan Bible Church.  That afternoon, we experienced Quebecois hospitality with friends (and with tears).

Our step of faith towards Heritage after two sets of sevens at the Met (fourteen years) was tentative but trusting.  God’s call to Rick at Mt. Hermon and the sense of changing circumstances moved us forward.  By faith, we put our home up for sale, seven years ago

stratford

A scene from Stratford, Ontario

this week.  We bid on the very home we now live in and struggled when our Ottawa home did not sell quickly.  In the final hours in late November, God sent along our first and only buyer.  It was then Stratford became our transition place, a beautiful context for reading goodbye letters near a warm fireplace.

God is faithful:  our home sits across from a beautiful forest.  As we look over our years at Heritage, we’ve found new roles, enjoyed Christian higher education, and watched our children transition to kingdom servants.  Most recently, the debt demolition and recent gift of ten million dollars to build a new seminary building, along with freedom from cancer have made these years “exceedingly abundantly beyond all we could ask or imagine. . .” (Eph 3:20).

To Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever” (Eph 3:20-21). Being “in Christ” is also taking on new meaning.  With Him dwelling within,  we have new freedom (Rom 6:1-11), great power for ministry (Acts 1:8), and the ability to be thankful in all circumstances (I Thes 5:18), even in the more challenging times.

Thanksgiving this year is a time for reflection over seven great years.  We’ve been personally blessed and would love seven more here at Heritage (or more).  And thank-you, Sandy and Melody, for “showing kindness to strangers.”  We’re truly thank full.

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