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Tree of LifeWhat does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
Ecclesiastes 1:3-4

I have experienced death many times throughout my life. I have lost friends and family, youthful and elderly. A wise friend recently told me that it doesn’t matter how long someone lives, losing them hurts. Death is the ultimate sign that we live in a broken world. We try to find meaning in it, but the truth is that death wasn’t meant to be.

The Way Things Once Were

 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature... The tree of life was in the midst of the garden…
Genesis 2:7&9

Once upon a time man did not experience the sting of death. We walked with God and experienced a complete and perfect relationship with him. We had access to the Tree of Life which was all we needed to sustain us. “According to Augustine, Adam in his original state of creation was free, but he was nevertheless still dependent upon divine grace. Augustine saw human beings as utterly dependent upon God’s unmerited favor at every stage of their life and being. Though Adam was created immortal, he was not impervious to death, but he had the capacity for bodily immortality.”(Reasons to Believe). Then with a few twisted words our lives headed down a different path. A path away from God.

The Way Things Are Now

By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:19

We made a choice. The choice to take control of our own destiny and to live by our own rules. The problem is that it cuts us off from God. It cut us off from that one reason we were created. Sin enters the story. The path with God leads to life and the path apart from God leads to death. Sickness, suffering, greed entered our hearts calling to us and drawing us away from the love of the Lord.

My grandmother passed away after a 6 year fight with cancer. She was loving, she was caring, she was patient with me. Many of my values that I stand on and make decisions on today are because of her influence on my life. That relationship has been broken. Many try to hang on to it and find ways to maintain it. Relationship is what God designed us for and death painfully severs it. That is why death stings so much when a young child dies and when your grandma dies. She taught me a lot and in one sense lived a good life, yet when she died my heart knew that things were not the way it was meant to be.

The toil of my hands is meaningless if the Lord is not in the work, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” Many men and women have toiled away and done good works, yet Jesus said “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Without God our work is the same as Adam’s.

Photo 2014-05-31, 9 56 57 AM (1)Preparing The Way

John the Baptist said he was the one preparing the way of the Lord, for the one who would make things right again. He called to those who had wandered off the path and prepared hearts to receive the saviour of all mankind, the one who could fix the brokenness of all creation. It is through Jesus Christ that the sting of death and the victory of sin is crushed. No one else has the ability to take on death and win.

In the movie Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade Kazim, the guardian of the Grail, asks Indy “My soul is prepared. How’s yours?” Kazim asks this as they both face certain death. His motives and intentions where perhaps not exactly correct at the moment he asks the question, however it is one we all must face for all of us face death. We must ask which path will we walk, will we walk with God down the path he has designed us for?

Paul calls Christ the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). On the Cross he completed the work and restored what the first Adam lost. “Jesus stretches one hand toward the Garden of Eden, the other toward the eternal Garden. The immortality the first Adam could no longer reach, the Second Adam touched in his place.” (Equip.org). Christ was obedient when Adam was not. “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14 ESV). Christ restores what Adam lost.

The Way Things Will Be

Doom and gloom is not the way it ends for hope is rising. Like the morning sun appearing on the horizon slowly ascending into the sky, offering life to a new day. Christ’s death and resurrection offer new life and a restored hope. A second chance to walk with the Lord in the cool of the day. Paul tells us “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Our hope comes from God and keeping today in perspective with eternity and Christ’s work.

In the song When I Leave the Room by Natalie Grant she sings “You want me to fight but I tell you I’m ready.” When the Lord calls me home I long to be in that place where I know my soul is prepared to walk through the door into eternity. Through Christ death has lost its sting. My relationship to God that was once broken has been restored. We were not designed to be a part from our creator, our heavenly Father. He loved us so much that when the relationship was broken he entered the world and became like us. Christ calls to us “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35). Like the Father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) he welcomes us with open arms. Death no longer is the victor for those who chose to walk the path with Jesus.

 
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

We mourn at the relationship lost, yet have a hope since Christ conquered death and will restore all creation.

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Hope – 2013

Dear Friends and Family,
It’s hard to believe that 2013 is coming to a close, and that the Christmas season is once again upon us. What Joy! 2013 has been a year that can only be described in one word; hope.
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‘…We rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’
Romans 5:3-5

As per our usual christmas tradition below is our 2013 family video:

Have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Too often we get so wrapped up in our own importance we forget that we are not the solution. My knowledge, my strength, my culture, or my will power is not enough for myself let alone anyone else. “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Luke 2:16-17) Christ lived among the sick, he walked beside them, reaching out to them at their level. We can learn a lot from his approach and how he loved his neighbors.

Too often we in the church think we are the solution and forget that Christ is the solution. He is the reason why we do the things we do. We serve not because it earns merit or favor but because he served us first when we didn’t deserve it, when we were sick. We serve not to be cured but because we are cured. God has been reminding me of this over and over again the last few months, from the video above, a buddies sermon, friends, my kids, and through the people I have the privilege of serving at work. Christ came, died, was resurrected, and will return, not for the righteous but for those who are sick. Stop trying to be the cure and start offering the one true cure.

around the hospital Nov 3

Will you offer the one real cure to those around you who are sick?

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Lions’ Park Okotoks after the Sheep River peaked.

Southern Alberta is under water! 100 000 Calgarians displaced, High River is completely evacuated, and Canmore is being washed off the mountain! At work we are participating in a one year program with Alberta Health Services called In Roads which looks at addiction. This week we looked at resiliency which seems timely as Alberta has become, as in all disasters, a case study of this. The way people pull together is amazing and fascinating to watch. Two people who can’t stand each other now stand side by side to protect and save others. In this dark and broken world there are glimpses of light.

Prayer

In times like this people tend to post prayers for the disaster to stop or that prayer is a useless waste of time. Prayer is more than a petition for what we want, and it is more than something meaningless. Yes, we must pray for the miracle that the brokenness will cease, for the darkness to end, and that people will remain safe. Know that God can do those things and on the day of his return it will be once and for all, but also following Christ’s example we are to pray for strength and courage to get through. Pray that despite the horror of the situation the Father’s will may shine through.

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Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
 Matthew 6:9-10
 
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St. Peter’s Anglican Church Okotoks

Reality Check

The more we try to control our environment the more we fight to keep it under control. The Tower of Babel comes to mind and the reality that no matter what we build we are not the creator of all things. We are mere caretakers of this world and are not able to set the rules. We build walls yet are unable to stop the forces at work in our world. We are utterly dependent on God. I am reminded of the dependency on His provision that I felt living overseas. No matter where is the world we are, what we have, or how strong we are our efforts are not enough. The Canadian Armed Forces are on the ground in High River yet the flow of the river can not be stopped or controlled.

Next Steps

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:15-19 ESV

For those not affected by the flood we must rise to lend a hand. In this time of human suffering we must unite together and support our fellow man, despite race, culture, or creed. We must not forget that once the flood waters recede and return to their former paths that there is still work to be done. Lives have been changed on every level, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual. We must support one another because that is the way God has designed us, together with His strength and work we can triumph over the darkness. We must show love!

As the sun sets on this day my prayer is that tomorrow may bring a new found peace, a new found joy, and a new understanding. May our lives be transformed by the creator of the universe, the redeemer of man.

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The Sheep River at sunset

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.
Psalms 69:1-3, 14-16, 29-36 ESV

Spring & Summer

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A good friend reminded me this weekend that if we focus on what we don’t want we will always end up there. If I focus on not being like my dad I will end up being like him or if I focus on the ditch while driving I will end up in the ditch. People do not set goals to not do or be something, they set goals in the direction they want to go.

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“…every organization eventually becomes a direct reflection of its leadership, whether for good or for bad.”
Larry Osborne, Sticky Church, Pg. 123

Knowing what we don’t want is great however one must focus on what is to be achieved. What is the purpose of Christianity and why do we believe what we do?

Impact Taiwan

As our Outreach team at OAC changes and grows so does our e-newsletter. This is a post for a  campaign released today written by Michele and her YWAM experience last summer.

link to newsletter

To Taiwan and Back

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan on a summer mission trip. I enrolled in a performing arts summer discipleship training school with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Lakeside, Montana. The school was made up of fourteen musicians and nine dancers from all over the world; we all had a passion for God and a passion for music and dance. During our time in Montana we had one month to take classes in our field of study, music or dance, and we attended lectures learning about God and how to apply what we learned in the mission field. I was in the dance school, our team prepared by learning six dances that we would teach and perform on our four-week outreach to Taiwan.

The YWAM group reaching out in Taiwan

The YWAM group reaching out in Taiwan

Taiwan is a developed island nation in Asia. It has a population of 23 million people, and only one percent of the population are Christian. The most popular religions are Buddhist, Taoism, and Confucianism. Religion is often a frightening subject as it is associated with a dark spiritual realm. While walking down a busy market street it was common to see garbage cans on fire and shopkeepers tossing fake paper currency into the blaze. We learned that this is a religious practice based on fear and superstition where living family members are passing this money to their ancestors; a tradition that it is up to the living to provide for the dead. In Taiwan we partnered with the local YWAM office in the capital, Taipei. They had planned for our teams to have outdoor concerts at public venues, teach dance workshops at high schools, volunteer at VBS’s, share testimonies at coffee shops, and perform all over the city.

God did amazing things on our trip. During our last week in Taiwan we travelled to a college campus to minster at a weekend camp. We got to teach dance classes, perform, lead worship, and build relationships. During our last worship session we decided to have an altar call. At that altar call nearly two dozen people came forward for prayer. I had got to pray with a young lady who gave her life to Christ. For me this was the best part of the trip.

I am so thankful that God used our team in such amazing ways this summer I continue to hope and pray for the people of Taiwan.

Family and God

My last few entries have all started the same, I want to write but find little time. Writing usually is a time to decompress my thoughts however I have been doing that with the camera recently (pictures are linked to my instagram page). This weekend in Alberta is a long one for Family Day holiday, good times. It all started Friday after work window shopping on Kijiji, never a good idea but always fun, found an awesome deal on a lens I have wanted since I bought my new camera, picked it up Saturday and headed to the park with the girls.

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Something I have wrestled with and have yet to clearly define is the role of family in my spiritual walk. Yes they are important, and yes God gave them to me but scripture puts a different spin on things. There seems to be a tension between earthy family and the Lord. That can be seen throughout scripture, Adam & Eve, Job and wife, Jacob & Esau,  Peter, even with Jesus.

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 
Matthew 12:48-50

Photo 2013-02-17 03.33.36 PMIs Christ denying his earthy family? We also see in Matthew 8 that Peter was married as he has a mother-in-law. You exam Peter’s life as recorded in scripture and it does not appear like he spent a lot of time with his family. Paul also has strong words about marriage and family. The idea of family is typically used to show how we are brought into the family of God, adopted into his family.

I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:26-35

So as I move forward I am truly thankful for the wife and children I have been given for they are true blessings from God, but I am torn by the fact that I seek to please them in the affairs of this world and the Lord’s affairs. Matthew 6:24 comes to mind with as I read Paul’s words “No one can serve two masters”. Have I worked this all out? Not at all, but my prayer is that I can lead my home in the ways of our Lord and that together we will be a reflection of God’s light.

What role does family play in your spiritual walk with the Lord?

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winter fieldFarming is a major analogy in the bible. Seeding, growing, and harvesting. The harvest is what farming is all about. In the Church harvesting is seen as people responding to the Gospel and believing in the work Christ has done for us. In farming the harvest is what brings the food to the table. The harvest for the Church is what brings people to the great feast in heaven.

Where is the harvest?

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38). This idea of harvest has been miss placed and misinterpreted in the Church today. Where was Jesus when he harvested? Where were the disciples? The Bible tells us clearly where the field is that needs to be harvested. We have many promises that working the field will bring a plentiful harvest. “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” (Proverbs 12:11).

Where should we be if we are looking to be a worker in the plentiful harvest?

In the church?

Not all, but a majority of Christians today do not look at the harvest. Is the harvest meant to be an altar call at the end of a church service or some event that you brought a friend to? Today we, pulling the log out of my own eye, tend to be dependent on these alter calls and crusades to reach out dumping the harvest on our pastors and those brave enough to say that evangelism is one of their gifts, but is this what Jesus was meaning?

Seeker sensitive churches come at the expense of discipleship and in an effort to make the Gospel understandable we lose theological understanding. Instead of being driven by our understanding of who God is we become driven to just increase our numbers or serve physical worldly needs.

These are good things, but we have become reliant on the “church” to do all the harvesting instead of the way God has chosen to use us all and send us out into the field. “The  Lord  had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). God calls us into the field, so where is the field?

The Field!

The synagogue is not typically the scene of the harvest. We are called to action, to serve those around us, and as we go to make disciples. Interestingly Matthew 9:37-38 is sandwiched between Jesus being out in public and him sending his disciples out into the area villages. When he is talking about the harvest he is not in a church but in the world. He is where the sick are and he is among them seeking them out (Romans 3.11) and being the great healer. You look at the story of Zacchaeus and see a similar thing. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy…  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1, 2, 10). Christ was there to seek and to save. He does not sit on the sidelines waiting for people to seek him out for he knows that they cannot. And if we call ourselves Christ’s disciples then we must follow him into the field.

We must be willing and able to share the Gospel with the people we meet Monday to Saturday, with the people we spend 40 hours a week with, the parents who we see every practice, the kids we play with at recess. The key is to be open about what you believe. Acknowledge the tragedies of this life, big and small, it all starts with the brokenness we all share.

Where are you?

The church is a great place to grow and can serve as a place to harvest, however the bible clearly calls us to get out into the world around us. We must leave our homes and seek out the sick. “Then Jesus came to them and said,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18, 19). While we are going are we harvesting?

So Abram went, as the  Lord  had told him; and Lot went with him… Genesis 12:4

2012: Where We Were

Every year I put together a video of our year. 2012 went by so fast and it was amazing to see how God provided for us, took care of us, and gave us those extra special gifts that we didn’t really need. May we never forget that these things are mere trinkets and that it is by His grace alone that we receive these worldly and, more importantly, eternal gifts.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 
Philippians 3:7-9
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