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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The Heart of the Preacher: Book Launch

heart of preacher

Today is a joyful day for us.  It’s the official book launch day for the book that I (Rick) wrote entitled The Heart of the Preacher.   (The best price right now is from Christian Book Distributors, but you can also order from Amazon)

The book deals with some of the personal, internal challenges that test the hearts of preachers and teachers.  Challenges like dealing with ambition, comparision, insignificance, laziness, boasting, and a sense of failure.  The book concludes with ten habits of the heart that can strengthen us to face these tests well.

I’m praying God will use the book to stretch and strengthen the hearts of those who have the joyful responsibility of preaching and teaching God’s Word.

Here’s a sample chapter on dealing with ambition.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

ambitionThe Test of Ambition

One of my favorite preacher jokes would be a lot funnier if it weren’t so convicting.

A pastor and his wife were driving home after the morning service. “Do you know what Mrs. Peterson told me today? She said I was one of the great expositors of our time.” His wife remained quiet, eyes straight ahead. After a few moments of silence, he continued, “I wonder how many great expositors there are in our day?” Without a pause, she answered: “I don’t know. But there’s one less than you think.”

Most of us aren’t likely to be named one of the great expositors of our time. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t appreciate being nominated. Like the pastor in the joke, we can have our own secret exposition ambitions. Some days we daydream of greatness. Even if we can’t be a legend in our own time, we can at least be a legend in our own minds. Even if we aren’t one of the great expositors of our day, there will be days when our hearts are tested by the pull of ambition.

Ambition Suspicion

Ambition is defined as the strong desire to achieve something. This is a tricky topic for us as preachers, as ambition can be godly or fleshly. Strong ambition can drive us to improve, but it can also drive us crazy.

Godly ambition can fuel a passion to proclaim Christ to people who have yet to hear the gospel. This worked for the apostle Paul: “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Romans 15:20). But where godly ambition motivates us to preach the message, fleshly ambition messes with our motives. We end up preaching for the wrong reasons.

Godly ambition turns fleshly when it becomes selfish ambition—something the Bible repeatedly condemns: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3). God knows that when ambition turns selfish, ministry turns sour: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).

A challenge we face as preachers comes in discerning whether our ambition is God-honoring or self-promoting. Honest, accurate assessment is complicated by our vulnerability to self-deception in matters of the heart. We tend to assume the best about ourselves and overlook the worst.

Chasing Ambition

chaseEver hear the name Salmon P. Chase? You may be familiar with Chase bank, a financial institution that bears his name. His story is woven into historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestseller Team of Rivals.

Chase ran unsuccessfully against Abraham Lincoln in the Republican primary of 1860. Still, Lincoln selected Chase as his Secretary of the Treasury, considering him the best man for the job. Unfortunately, Chase continued to believe he was the best man for Lincoln’s job. He remained ambitious to replace Lincoln even while serving in his cabinet, undercutting him to prop up his chances of replacing him.

While this kind of maneuvering is rather common in political circles, two aspects of Chase’s ambition caught my attention in a way that hit closer to home. First, Chase was a churchgoing, Bible-believing, morally upright man. He read Scripture and prayed daily. He faithfully attended an evangelical church. In many ways, he qualified as one of the “good guys.”

Second, Chase somehow remained clueless about his own selfish ambition. In his journals and letters, he repeatedly casts his actions in noble, virtuous terms. He was convinced that he sought the good of the nation while he ardently pursued his own selfish ends. Sadly, he could never seem to smell the foul odor of his own selfish ambition, but everyone else could.

As Goodwin notes, “Chase could not separate his own ambition from the cause he championed. The most calculating decisions designed to forward his political career were justified by the advancement of the cause.”[1] Or in the words of historian Stephen Mazlish, “Chase could join his passion for personal advancement to the demands of his religious convictions. … ‘Fame’s proud temple’ could be his and he need feel no guilt in its pursuit.”[2]

Chase’s life serves as a cautionary tale for preachers: selfish ambition can infect the heart of those who show signs of genuine spiritual life. We can remain in the dark about the dark side of our own ambition. It’s dangerously easy to convince ourselves we are pursuing Christ’s glory while advancing our own selfish ends.

Redeeming Ambition

So what should a preacher do to guard against selfish ambition? Some might argue the safest course of action involves the total abolition of ambition. But Paul shows us a better way.

From candid comments recorded in his letters, we get the sense that Paul was naturally ambitious. As a young man, he desired to excel. He understood his personal trajectory as headed upward toward prominence. As he wrote to the Galatians, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14). Like Salmon Chase, Paul blended his personal ambition with his spiritual commitments. He sought to make a difference for his cause and make a name for himself.

Being captured and captivated by Christ brought a radical change to Paul’s life, including a change to his ambitions. Paul didn’t discard his desire to make a difference. Neither did he lose his drive or tireless work ethic (1 Corinthians 15:9–10—“I worked harder than all of them”). Instead, he lost his need to promote himself or impress other people. His selfish ambition took a big hit.

We see the change in Paul’s ambition when the Christians in Corinth put him in an awkward situation. The believers in the church in Corinth had a nasty tendency to rank ministers and promote their favorite (1 Corinthians 1:12). While some preferred Paul, others were big fans of Apollos (a capable, captivating preacher, Acts 18:24–28) or Peter (the recognized leader of the apostles).

Paul could have easily felt threatened and insecure. Fleshly ambition could have driven him toward self-promotion or ministerial competition. But Paul would have none of it. His response to the Corinthians reveals how Christ had supernaturally reoriented his natural ambition. In 1 Corinthians 4:1–5, Paul highlights four truths that, if we hold on to them, will keep us from drifting toward selfish ambition.

We are servants and stewards—not celebrities. “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (4:1). Paul saw himself as a servant of Christ and a steward of his message; he encouraged others to view him that way as well. He fought against the tendency to turn ministers into celebrities. To combat fleshly ambition, I must consciously adopt the identity of a servant and steward, resisting the dark desire to be seen as a semi-celebrity.

We must test our own hearts, but not fully trust our own tests. “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted” (4:4). Paul understood that self-examination was essential for a minister. We should test the motives of our hearts and seek to live with a clear conscience. But, like Paul, we must remember our own assessment isn’t foolproof. Our self-appraisals may not be fully accurate. We may fail to detect the odor of selfish ambition that others can smell, so we need to make a habit of listening to others’ evaluations of our actions.

Christ will evaluate our motives and not just our actions. “It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (4:4b–5a). Paul envisioned a day when Christ would evaluate the hidden purposes of his heart. He knew that Christ knew his motives. He might be able to fool others, or even fool himself; however, he could never fool the Lord Jesus. This truth sobers me and moves me to intentionally invite the Lord to search my heart and know my thoughts (Psalm 139:23). I don’t want to be painfully surprised on judgment day.

God will commend us for faithful ministry. “Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (4:5b). We should be sobered by the thought of Christ doing an audit of our ministry motives. However, we don’t have to be terrified. Paul makes it clear that God’s desire is to find something in us to commend! In his eyes, faithfulness is success: “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (4:2). As we seek to faithfully serve Christ and regularly bring our hearts into the light of his presence, we can anticipate his commendation on the final day.

This side of heaven, we will always need God’s supervision over our ambition. Our motives will become mixed at times. We will need to regularly allow God’s Spirit to redeem and reorder our ambition as preachers. Still, we can serve with a sense of anticipation and joy. The Lord Jesus redeemed Paul’s natural ambition, and he can do the same in us.

[1] Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), 109.

[2] Stephen Mazlish, quoted in Goodwin, Team of Rivals, 109.

 

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Praise and Prayer Update October 4, 2019

It’s been quite a week at Heritage.   As I wrote in my last post, on Tuesday the school paid the final installment of its mortgage and became debt-free.  We’ve been rejoicing all week.

hpl 1On Thursday, we hosted our annual Heritage Preaching Lectures.  This year we had the privilege of having Dr. Winfred Neely from Moody Bible Institute as our guest presenter.  Dr. Neely spoke on preaching that moves hearts and minds.

As Dr. Neely was speaking, Linda was leading a parallel track for women who wanted to learn more about ministry service and leadership.  Almost 50 women gathered for a day of biblical instruction, encouragement, and friendship.

While it’s already been a full week of ministry, we’re not done yet.  Here are a few requests for this weekend.

On Saturday morning, I (Rick) speak at a Men’s Breakfast in Kitchener.  Please pray that my message will help men take steps of faith towards the Lord Jesus.

WomenOn Saturday, Linda teams up with Dr. Terri Stovall from Southwestern Seminary in Texas) to offer a course in the Graduate Certificate for Women in Ministry.  Please pray that the women who attend will be strengthened to serve Christ in their local churches.

Sunday morning, I (Rick) will be preaching at Calvary Gospel Church in Beamsville.  Pray for strength of soul, body, and voice as I preach on the important subject of prayer.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us and with us.

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