Remember the Good Moments

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Who Am I?  Part 15

Two weeks ago I made brief comments about how God provided for our needs, even if the situation was less than ideal.  One thing is for sure, God did take us out of a bad situation and He did provide a new setting where we could be a family and be active in ministry.  (You can read about the last chapter of my life story by clicking here.)

Unfortunately, it did not last a long time.  From the time I was interviewed until the time I left for Prince Edward Island driving another U-Haul truck was just less than two years.  On the one hand, I could say that it was a good thing, as moving to PEI ultimately led me to discover and join Pioneer Bible Translators.  On the other hand, I can look back with regret and consider this church experience as the next one of my great failures.

And yet, even as I say that, I know that neither statement is completely true nor completely false.  As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  I do know that at the one year mark there was a Board meeting to decide if they would keep me on as the minister for another year.  The vote was “yes”, but it was not a majority vote.  Nine months later, I decided that this was not the place for me to stay.  So what really happened?

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The history of the church is a bit fuzzy now for me after all these years.  I can tell you that this church was built in the mid 1800s and was the first church of our movement to be built this far west in Canada (Manitoba was considered “Pioneer Country” at that time).  The stone work and the wood crafting was phenomenal, and it had an overarching balcony over the main sanctuary that allowed for a capacity of over 250 people.  It was considered a grand church in its day.

There had been some great preachers there over the years, but as is the case for most small towns, the number of attending members continued to decline over time.  By the time I came for my interview, the church had an average attendance of 25 people.  It was rather sad to see such a grand hall be so empty looking, not just during the week, but even on a Sunday morning.

When I was interviewed by the Search Committee, I expressed my desire to come and be a Preacher / Church Growth Evangelist.  It was very evident that the members of the committee were quite excited about this prospect.  They recommended me to the church at large, I preached on Sunday, and then flew back to Alberta to await their decision.  It came back within a few days – they voted unanimously to hire me.

And so in December of 1990, we arrived and stayed in one member’s house while they did the finishing touches to remodel the suite that took up most of the church balcony.  One month later, our second son Glen was born and we moved soon after that into the suite.  There is no doubt in my mind that Glen’s birth and then living as a foursome in the small but quaint balcony suite were the most positive aspects of life for us at that time.

It didn’t take long though to see that the energies I was attempting to pour into revitalizing the church were meeting some opposition within the small group.  Of the few families that were left, there was one “clan” still there who had some powerful people, at least in terms of their opinions.  I came to realize the truth of a saying that one of our Bible College teachers used to say, “The young are out to change the world; the old are out to change the young.”

Interestingly enough, it was the middle-aged clan members who showed resistance to trying new ideas and welcoming new people as I worked at growing the church.  In fact, the hand full of old singles ladies and I got along very well.  I recall with great fondness how I would hold my mid-week Bible studies, working our way from Genesis to Revelation, and it was the same 4 or 5 old ladies who would come out and catch my vision and passion for teaching God’s Word.

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I believe it was when I moved the piano to the side and introduced some choruses while playing my guitar that was the beginning of the end for me there.  The “power players” resigned from helping with worship, and the older people were not able to lead or assist.  And so I was left alone in that ministry.  Jill saw the end coming, and hung on with me for a number of months more.  It ended up that she moved with the kids first to PEI while I stayed to end my 2-year commitment to them.

In between the beginning and the end though, I do remember the family moments we had there.  And there were some young couples that we really bonded to while there.  And certainly our “Old Ladies Bible Study” held precious moments, and I still use some of those materials today.  I haven’t mentioned about the outreach I had with a friend in town for a year to young people at a  Christian drop-in center.  Some of those young people gave their lives to Christ.  How precious is that?

And so I have a choice.  I can remember this 2-year experience as one of my great failures, where not only did the church not grow, but a few years later had to close its doors.  Or I can remember the special intimate times I had with family, and with dear old saints, and with brand new young Christians.  So you tell me, what really happened there?  I may not have built up the church building in that town, but I do believe I helped build the Kingdom of God in the hearts of those people who mattered most to me.  That is what I will remember most.

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God’s Lessons in Pain & Forgiveness

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Who Am I?  Part 13

Undoubtedly, 1989 was a year that held great blessings as well as times of great difficulties.  You can see this even by just reading the titles of the last two articles in this seriesWho Am I?.  I reflected on the idea of me being like a prodigal son, (one who tries to walk independently from his Father with disastrous results), and then shared the joy I had of being a new father.

It is certainly by God’s grace that I was able to be there at Eric’s birth, considering that I had been so ill that I was mostly on bed rest for the three months before my son’s birth.  And wouldn’t you know it, I got a job shortly after his birth and within three weeks I put my back out and was on bed rest for another three months.

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Now when I say I hurt my back, that is an understatement.  I’m pretty sure now that the three-month illness must have weakened many of my muscles.  Then, the job I got was to work alongside young offenders and juveniles in trouble to show them how to get work and integrate well into the regular world.  So one day we were to sweep gravel off a pavement and that required us to stoop low and get our brooms under a bunch of parked cars.

The work that day was definitely a “back-breaking” job.  That evening I was extremely stiff and sore.  I went to bed early, but woke up as I tried to turn over.  To this day, I can still “feel” the muscles in my lower left back tear apart and immobilize me in pain.  To be honest, I don’t know how Jill got me out of bed and helped me get to a doctor.  Immediately I was referred to a special physiotherapist clinic which worked with me as an outpatient for three months until I could fully walk and move again without further damaging my back muscles.

As you can possibly imagine, I was on the edge of real serious depression, seeing as half of 1989 I spent on my back in bed.  But I must say that God was gracious to allow me to be well on the day that Eric was born, and having a little baby boy in my life was the ray of sunshine and joy that pulled me through the first half of that year.

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During the summer and early fall, I found that landing a job was quite difficult and believe it or not, I tried to earn a salary going around and selling dictionaries.  It was a good thing that my physiotherapist was able to fix me pretty well, because walking around from store to store and house to house with a 20 pound dictionary all day is no easy task.  (Okay, maybe it was only 15 pounds.)

What I really wanted to do was to be involved in Christian ministry again.  Somehow I had lost my focus on my lifelong dream to be a missionary.  Part of that I think is that I felt I needed to find a job at home to help take care of my family of three now.  And we wanted Jill to be able to stay at home with Eric as long as possible.

After sending out many copies of my resume, a day came when we were invited to a church in western Canada to interview with the elders for a Youth & Associate Pastor position.  The interview went well and we were invited to serve in that church.  I was excited that once again I would be able to engage in full-time Christian work.  Little did I know that just one year later, I would be asked to leave and that I would experience a deep wounding of my soul that would last for years.

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When I started working at the church, I threw myself into the work: leading the Youth Group, training teachers and leaders, doing home visitation and small group ministries, and starting a Children’s Church program.  I felt like this was what I had trained for, and I worked hard.  And yet at the same time, I also worked at being home for Jill and our newborn son as much as I could.

So it came as quite a shock when I was called into a special elders meeting and asked to resign from the church.  Quite literally, they pulled out their black notebook and recited back to me all the things that I had done wrong in the year I had been with them.  Ouch!!  They actually kept a record of my “wrongs”?  (That doesn’t sound like 1 Corinthians 13 does it?)

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Now, without going into the details, I’ve thought a lot over the years about the things I was told that night.  Was there some truth in what they accused me of?  Yes, there probably were times that I came across as arrogant.  And I’m sure there were some people who I had offended for some reason.  And there were other points on their list that had a kernel of truth in them.  But could the elders have handled this better?  Most assuredly.

But the damage was done.  And so we moved away from there.  It hurt terribly for a long time, but even this wounding was used by God I believe to make me more into the person that God wanted me to be.  Whether it was this experience, or maybe it is just because I’m older now, but I believe I try harder in my ministry work to be more sensitive to and to listen better to those whom God has called me to serve.

It’s not easy to be humbled or hurt.  Whether we feel we deserve it or not, there is always some lesson or truth that God is trying to teach us out of every situation.  It’s been over 20 years since that incident, and I have forgiven those whom I believe had not treated me fairly.  But then the Bible tells us that we are to forgive and let God handle justice if need be in His own way and in His own time.  I pray that I will never forget that lesson.

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Walk Worthy of Christ (Phil. 1:27-30)

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Being a Christian in Papua New Guinea

Philippians 1:27-30  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

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In chapter one of Philippians, it is quite clear to us and to those to whom Paul wrote this letter that he was truly suffering for the Lord.  He was put in prison, simply because he preached the Good News about Jesus.  He never knew from day to day whether he might live one more day or be executed for his faith.

There were others who were trying to get the attention of people.  In so doing, they were stirring up trouble, and doing it deliberately to try to cause grief for Paul because of their envy over the fame and success that Paul had when he had been free and preached Christ.  But from every perspective, Paul believed that all these things were happening to ultimately bring people to Christ, and that Christ would in the end be glorified.

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What a tremendous example Paul set for the Christians of the first century.  He also wrote down very clearly how he expected Christians to live and work out their faith in the real world.  It was too early for him to know if he in fact would be released from his jail, or executed.  And so he hoped to come see the Philippians in person, but if not, he had the highest expectation that he would hear good reports about their unity of their faith.

There are two Greek phrases here in verse 27 which show us just how seriously Paul viewed how Christians’ ought to behalf themselves.  First of all, he tells the Philippian believers to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  This carries the idea of “acting like a good citizen”.  We know that part of the Good News is to announce the rule of God in heaven and on earth, so as good citizens of Heaven, our behavior is to matched the very nature of God himself.

The second idea is that believers should stand firm, shoulder to shoulder, and wrestle with and fight against those who would stand as enemies opposed to the truthfulness and internal unity of the message of Christ as it is contained in the Bible.  Paul promises that those who will make this stand will also experience suffering for the sake of the Gospel, just as Paul often had, and still did in their time, as he sat in that dinghy, dirty, awful dungeon.

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One of the most difficult things that I have had to do in my life was to go to our village in Papua New Guinea where we were actively involved in a Bible translation project and tell them our family would probably not be returning to the village.  Our son had just been diagnosed with cancer and was in the Brisbane hospital.  Jill and our other son were down there too.  And now I was coming to close out our house in the village.

Nine years later, our son is doing okay, and Jill and I are still involved in Bible translation projects.  But we have not been able to return once to the village in PNG.  At the time we ministered there, the only church in the area was the Catholic church.  They tried to hold meaningful services, but the message of salvation was not preached, and for the most part, the Bible truths were shrouded in mystery.

I have agonized like Paul in some ways over these years.  I have wanted at times to be able to go back there and administer the Words of Truth to the people.  I had thought many times, “Where would the people be at spiritually if our family had been allowed to return there?”  But as I have gotten reports from some men of the villages, it would seem that God has another plan in mind, and now is in motion.

Praise God!  There has been an evangelistic breakthrough in the past two years.  People are giving their lives to the Lord, many are being baptized, and small churches have sprung up in almost all of the main villages.  Understandably, some strong opposition has arisen from those that have remained in the Catholic church.  The test of this revival, I think, is going to be how the new Christians will respond to this opposition.

And this is how the message in this passage of Philippians can speak to this moment.  I hear how this new group of believers are uniting together to stand firm in what they believe.  What I hope to hear is that they will “conduct themselves in a worthy manner”.  They will need to live like Kingdom citizens here and now, and love their Catholic friends and neighbors.

Like I said, it is difficult to be separated by distance and circumstances from the people that we ministered to for five years.  But like Paul, I pray for them as God reminds me, and I yearn to hear of good reports of what God is doing among them, and that they are living for God.  Won’t you pray with me for them as well.  And may God be glorified among them.

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I Was a Prodigal Son

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Who Am I?  Part 11

The book of Proverbs in the Bible is exactly what it says it is, a book of many short pithy, or proverbial saying that provide a quick insight into life.  They are meant to help those who read these proverbs, to guide the reader into making good decisions in life, not bad ones.  Many of these sayings are only one verse long, but when they are put in poignant poetic form, they can have quite a punch to them.  Consider this one from Proverbs 14:12,

There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.

Many of the proverbs are couched in a contrastive nature, such as the rich vs. the poor, the diligent vs. the lazy, and the wise vs. the fool.  This verse above carries extra weight with me, seeing as I played out the part of the fool back in 1988.  In the last article about my personal journey in life, “A Pivotal Year”, I talked about how devastated Jill and I were at the loss of our first pregnancy.  Read that here.

We were able to carry on that year in our ministry effort of planting a new church.  But some of the joy of living and the hope and faith of seeing God bless everything we were doing began to wane in light of this tragedy.  (In some ways, we had even allowed the idea to take root in our hearts that God had “caused” this great loss.  I would say more correctly that God allowed it to happen, as we do live in a broken world, but God is not the author of death and despair.)

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By the early months of 1988, it seemed fairly clear that our church plant efforts were not going to be overly successful.  It certainly did not help to have the sexual scandal of Jimmy Swagart break out in Louisiana just six hours drive from where we were living.  Imagine what happened often when I would knock on doors in the neighborhood and say, “Hi, my name is Norm and we are starting a new church nearby.”  And people would say, “Oh, and I suppose you are just in it for the money too, right?”

The second major concern for Jill and me was more personal and more critical.  In July of ’88, Jill was able to become pregnant again, which was wonderful news for both of us.  But then we began to wonder and worry if something might go wrong with this pregnancy, just like our first one.  If that happened, not only would that be emotionally and spiritually devastating again, but we probably would not be able to afford the financial crisis of continual monitoring of the pregnancy or another loss of a child.

With both of these heavy responsibilities on our shoulders, we made the decision together that we should stop the church planting ministry and we should return to Canada to be able to covered by the universal Canadian Health Program.  We had to then pack up everything again, load it all up in a U-Haul and head back to Canada.  We had barely been in the States for one year.

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Now here is the place where we needed clear guidance as to where we should go from Texas.  Jill and I spread out a map of Canada and looked at our options.  I had heard many stories of the big booming economy that was just happening then in Ontario, so I said to Jill, “We are heading to Toronto.  We will have the best chance of getting a job there.”

It was quite a sight to see us pulling a large U-Haul, our station wagon full of stuff up to the windows, plus our two dogs, and even Jill’s mother (who came down to help) squished into the back seat.  Out trailer hitch was only about 2 inches off the ground.  And on the first day, going through downtown Dallas, right where President Kennedy was shot, we broke our muffler and I was under the car tying it up with wire.

We did make it to Ontario.  Jill went on to Prince Edward Island with her mom, the dogs, and all our belongings while I tried to find us a job.  And yes, within a very short time, I was hired as a security guard at the Canadian Tire head office building.  And when Jill joined me, being about 4 months pregnant now, she was hired by the same Security company as a secretary.

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This all sounds wonderful doesn’t it.  Except if you had been with us during the six months that we were in Toronto, you would say otherwise.  We lived in less than a shoebox (we stepped over the bed to enter the kitchen to to heat our shoebox by lighting the stove which was later condemned as hazardous).  And during the frigid New Years weekend, we lost hot water.

The worst part was that I got sick, starting with a cold, which went to bronchitis, which went to pneumonia.  Then I was given a drug which I was allergic to (didn’t know at the time) and I developed severe abdominal problems with colitis like symptoms.  I actually thought I was dying, and said more than once to Jill, “You’d be better off without me!”  (Boy was I delirious.)

Needless to say, my folks back in Alberta told us to come out to Calgary before Toronto killed me.  I slept on a mattress in the back of our station wagon in this delirium while my 6 month pregnant wife drove, pulling another U-Haul through one of the worst white-out blizzards of that winter.  We even had to sleep one night in the broken down vehicle while up on a hoist in the mechanic garage in the middle of western Ontario while the roads were blockaded by the RCMP.  Whew….

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So what does all this have to do with Proverbs 14:12 above?  Well, did you notice a few paragraphs above that I was the one to decide to go to Ontario, where the economic fields were greener.  But you know what?  I never remember praying, and asking God where He thought we should go.  Hmmm….  Seems to me there was a direct connection between following the wisdom of man, and experiencing disastrous consequences.  So what should we have done?  Look at another wise saying in Proverbs 3:5-6,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

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1987 – A Pivotal Year

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Who Am I?  Part 10

For those who have been following me in this series which gives a rough outline of my major life events, we come now to a pivotal year for both Jill and me.  It was 1987, we had been married for three years, and both of us had completed our studies for our vocations.  Jill received her Nursing Diploma, and I had finished my Master of Divinity Degree.  You can read about these things here.

After a number of years of education, some short-term mission experiences, some practicum work for Jill and some minor ministry experiences for me, we felt like we were ready to go out and make a difference in the world.  While still in school, Jill attended a hospital recruitment meeting and things fell into place, and the next thing you know we were packing a U-Haul to head to Texas.  In addition to this, Jill announced with excitement, “WE’RE PREGNANT!”

Now I must admit that I was more stunned than excited at this announcement.  But as the weeks and months crept along, I began to really warm up to the idea of being a father.  There were a few little snags in our paper work to cross into the States, which caused us to delay and stay with my folks for over a month.  So by the time we finally started out with our U-Haul, there was definitely 2 1/2 people ready for the adventure that lie ahead.

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We arrived in Port Arthur, Texas where Jill would work at a charity hospital (which the recruiter had promoted as a great place to work just off of the Gulf of Mexico).  He neglected to tell us that most of the bay area around Port Arthur was filled with oil refineries which blocked the view of the Gulf and blackened the port and town area around them.

But we were young, and it was an adventure in many ways for us.  And one of the first adventures for us was to find a church to fellowship with.  Having just graduated from a Christian and Missionary Alliance seminary, we looked for one of these in the area, but the closest C&MA church was 50 miles away in Baytown.  This wasn’t too bad, as it gave us time to talk and be together on the drive to and from Baytown each Sunday.

As a result of these visits we made regularly to this church, something very interesting happened.  I was approached one day by the pastor of the Baytown church and asked if I would be interested in helping to start a new church in Beaumont, the large city next to Port Arthur.  I accepted the offer as I saw this as a way to serve God.

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The excitement of this new ministry opportunity was almost immediately crushed as Jill and I experienced the most bitter of all events, the death of our child.  Jill was 29 weeks pregnant in October of 1987.  There was no warning and no indication of anything wrong.  One day our baby was alive and kicking hard, and then the next day there was no movement.

We couldn’t believe anything bad had happened, until finally after waiting anxiously for a doctor’s report, they informed us that the child had in fact died in the womb.  Because Jill was so far along, it was necessary to have her induced to deliver our daughter.  When it was over, we held our little Deborah in our arms.  She was over a foot long and almost looked like she was sleeping, except that she wasn’t breathing.

The doctors have never to this day explained to us what happened.  It was an inter-uterine death, but no cause could be found.  That day in October was the blackest day of our entire lives, and it continued to cast a shadow and have a negative effect upon us for many years after.  One wise person said to us, “The intensity of the pain will never really go away, just the frequency of it.”

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There is no doubt that we were in pain because of this event.  For many days there was a sense of emptiness in our apartment.  Jill took a few days off to recover physically.  The hospital and the doctors were so gracious to cancel our medical bills, so we were not hurt financially.  But the emotional and spiritual impact of this tragedy was very huge.

The church people in Baytown were so good to us.  Some of them visited us, or sent us flowers and cards.  The pastor visited us quite a few times.  And with his support and encouragement, we still went ahead and tried to lay down the foundation for a new church plant in Beaumont.  I think us moving from our apartment in Port Arthur to Beaumont was good for us.  But even after a year of hard work, this church plant also did not get birthed and it was closed down when we came back to Canada.

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Of all the different aspects of this major life crisis for us, there is one memory that stands out the most.  Jill and I had gone to the cemetery where we had buried Deborah.  We knelt down by the unmarked cross and held hands and gently cried together.  Then we sang a song together to reaffirm our faith and hope in God.

But while we were there, another woman came and knelt down by her child’s little cross.  Then she broke out into wailing and threw herself on to the ground and wept in great torment at the loss of her child.  Jill and I quietly left that woman to her grief, but we could leave the cemetery with the song still in our heart.  The song says:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

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A Pervasive Prayer Strategy

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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A Pervasive Prayer Strategy

Becoming a house of prayer is far more than adding a prayer meeting to an already hectic church calendar. It is a church in which prayer has become pervasive in all aspects of church life. Leaders and members of the congregation cannot imagine prayer not being a part of everything they do.

This will not happen automatically. It must be an intentional decision made first by leaders and then carried out systematically in the life of the church. There can be a basic church-wide accountability system in which, for every proposal made or program initiated, the question is asked, “Where is prayer in this?”

The local congregation that begins to move toward becoming a house of prayer is changing more than methods and techniques. It is honoring the Lord by turning to Him first and by depending upon His power and might released through prayer. There is a spiritual dynamic that is unleashed within the body that cannot happen in any other way than through God’s people bringing everything to the Lord in prayer.

–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 44, How to Build a House of Prayer by David Butts). Click on the title for more information about this resource.

Lamb of God, teach my congregation to become a house of prayer and pour out Your power in our midst. Show us how to infuse every aspect of the life of our church with world-changing intercession! Fill our leaders to overflowing with wisdom and discernment as they focus upon prayer and the ministry of the Word.

May we stop our strategic planning to win the lost through our own programs and committees and instead become dependent upon the leading of Your Spirit. We long to do nothing apart from You as You build us into a true and faithful house of prayer for all nations!

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This devotional thought prompted a number of my own thoughts about my own prayer life.   And there are  some things happening right now that show me how timely this devotion is.  Which really shouldn’t be very surprising.  I have found time and time again, that the voice of God is not some loud and dramatic event, but rather He is found in the quiet things, the times when circumstances and a portion of His Word seem to come together at just the right time.

No, for me, I have seen that what many people would write off as being simply “coincidental”, is in fact a sure sign that God’s hand is in our affairs.  As they say, “It’s all in the timing”.  God is never early, nor is He ever late, He is always right on time for getting accomplished what He wants done.  The question is whether or not we have our spiritual antennas up so that our eyes truly see and our ears truly hear what God is telling us to do.

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For me, I have been feeling a desire within my soul to become more of a man of prayer.  For too long I have had my eyes fixed upon myself and my health issues, and the more I did this, the smaller, the weaker and the more defeated I felt.  Then God used some people in my life to prompt me to start this blog.  At first it began as a means to tell my story to others, which has been fun and therapeutic to my soul.  But it wasn’t long before it became something else.

As I would begin to think about what to write, God would impress upon me the need to write stories that would be of great encouragement to others, to be a real blessing to people who needed a boost for the day.  And so I began to pray more about this each day, and throughout each day.  And I find now that there are days that I don’t know what to write about, but God shows me something and I just know He has someone in mind that is needing to hear this story.

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The next thing the Lord has done to open me up to deeper praying is He led me to discover an online prayer group called Great Commission Ministries.  Actually, one of my FB friends added me to the group, and then I found out what the group was all about.  And I quickly saw that this group of Christians is really serious about praying “in all seasons for all things”.

And so I find myself every day being in a prayerful attitude both about what I can write to encourage another person, and I carry in my heart the needs of those whom I have read about on GCM’s Facebook page.  I had no idea four months ago when I started asking God, “How can I make prayer more of a daily reality and priority?” that He would open these two doors of ministry that I can do right from my living room armchair.

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As I am beginning to discover, prayer is not an activity that we mark down as a scheduled event in our day timer.  Now don’t misunderstand me, there is a great need to set aside group prayer time on a regular basis.  But prayer needs to become the air we breathe, shaping every thought that our mind thinks, and an attitude that prompts us to speak with our Father in every situation we encounter.

So how about you my friend, is it time for you too to pursue a lifestyle of pervasive prayer?  I pray that you will, and I really mean that.  May God bless you as you walk in faith with Him.  Amen.

Why Pray? Why Read? Why Go?

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Read Hebrews 10:1

The Law is a shadow of the good things to come.   The Law which required sacrifices to be made day after day, year after year, could not make the people spiritually perfect in God’s sight.  So why do it?  Same questions today?  Why pray…why read the Bible…why go to church?

Can praying more prayers, reading or even memorizing more Bible verses, or going to church every week get us into any better position with God?  Yes and no.  These activities can bring us into a deeper more intimate relationship with God.  But these practices, or rituals, cannot in and of themselves, gain us any more credit with God.

So why do them?  Because just like the sacrifices, they in turn speak about the relationship we will have one day when we are forever with Him in heaven.  We pray now to God, even though we do not see Him.  We read His Word, which gives us spiritual light and life here, but there we will see the Living Word and be energized by His presence forever.  We attend a church to be encouraged by fellow believers, and become part of a small community of faith.  But in heaven we will belong to a community of believers whose number cannot be counted, from every nation and tribe and language on earth.

So when we pray, we connect with God.  When we read Scripture, we are illuminated by God.  And when we go to church, we share a worship experience of God.  But these are fleeting moments of great experiences with God.  Like the sacrifices of old, they point to a bigger picture, a bigger reality, that goes beyond this world of space and time, and helps us to see we are even now part of an eternity which will include walking and talking and living together with an Almighty God.  Wow!

“What I practice here in part, I will experience forever in full when I see Him face to face.”                   (A paraphrase for 1 Corinthians 13:12.)


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