Unto the Fold

Once, when I was a child, around 8 or 9, my Mother brought me with her when visiting a sick member of our church. The sick friend, we’ll call her Patty, was dying of cancer, although at the time I didn’t know what that meant. I knew Cancer was bad, because it sounded a lot like “cancel” and whenever my plans were cancelled, I wasn’t happy. I always heard the word “Cancer” in my head with a capital “C” at the front, because I knew it was capital “B” Bad. I
remember worrying on the ride over- was it safe to visit? If I touched Patty, would I get Cancer too? If Patty ate the food my Mom prepared, would my Mom get cancer too?

I was too young to understand that Patty’s prognosis wasn’t good. Even though I knew that Cancer was serious, I figured that we were all christians, and that God wouldn’t let Patty die. Otherwise what was the point of believing?

I remember entering the room Patty was in. She sat at her desk, in trousers and a blouse, and when I was introduced she offered to shake my hand. Not wanting to be rude, I shook it, all the while wondering if this was the moment I’d remember as the start of my own Cancer. Mom put the food she had brought in the fridge before we left, telling Patty that we’d pray for her.
As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t develop Cancer from shaking Patty’s hand. Neither did her ingestion of my mother’s food cause Mom to be sick. But while I walked away from Patty as healthy as I’d ever been, I had learned an important lesson about community, and the importance of congregation.

It’s hard to postulate what-ifs, but I often think of how different Patty’s might’ve been had she not been a part of the church. Would she still have had family to comfort her? Would her husband, a devout believer himself, have stood by her without his faith? What would her last months have been like had she been forced to cook and care for herself? The congregation of God is a beautiful thing to see in action but for all we know, Patty would’ve been just as loved and cared for had she not been a christian. But what we can know is that if she hadn’t believed, I wouldn’t have met her. I wouldn’t have shook her hand. My mother wouldn’t have spent hours cooking for a woman she barely knew. Without the church, and without god, the love that only my mother and I could bring into Patty’s last months would never have reached her. Love your church family. Cherish your congregation. Invest yourself into your church and it will be returned to you 10 fold.

Sanctuary

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

There comes a time in the life of every man, woman and child, a time when the path forward is unclear; the road behind fraught with misery and sorrow; the ground where they stand shifting and unstable. There comes a time when the pressures of the world seem so great as to break the back of the strongest person; when evil surrounds and tears at our souls, and the light of our God seems distant, so far away.

Its times like these when the House of the Lord serves its true purpose. “Come to me,” he says, “come to me and I will give you rest.” Where can we go to find this promised rest? Where can we go when the shadows are nipping at our heels and this bleak world has us by the throat? The church is an extension of the Lord, his physical footprint in a barren world.

The Sanctuary of our Lord is just as physical as it is spiritual. In a spiritual desert, the church serves as a bastion against the forces aimed against us. The walls of a church are those of a fortress; it’s tenants warriors armed to the teeth and willing to fight. The church invites all who are willing to listen, and through the church the Lord delivers the gift of faith, the gift of protection, and the gift of peace.

Remember the church, in your darkest hour. Remember the servants of the Lord, remember the words of love and kindness that light your way home. Come back to your family, come back to your faith. We are waiting to welcome you with open arms.

All who seek the comfort of the Lord will be accepted, none who seek the gift of faith will be refused. Peace is within your grasp, all that’s left is to reach out and embrace it. How foolish it would be to stay away- let not fear nor pride stand between you and the oasis of the lord. The Lord is waiting, calling, saying “Come to me; I am here; I am here; I am here.”

Guiding Your Family to the Church

One of the most frequently asked questions from new believers goes something like this: “I want to share my faith with my family, but they refuse to come to church. How can I bring the light of the Lord to the people I love?” This is an excellent question, and one of the toughest to answer! Faith is a gift, and not everyone wants, or is able to accept it. Still, there are a techniques we can use when wanting to draw our loved ones into the fold. Here’s just a few:

1) Live God’s truth. As any christian will tell you, the best way to witness is to be the best witness. Examine your life. Is the light of God shining through your actions? Are there areas that could use improvement? Trick question- as fallible sinners we are always trying to improve our lives and bring them into closer alignment with God’s chosen path. Thankfully, God doesn’t demand perfection, and neither do our loved ones. If they see you working towards a goal- becoming a more charitable person, living a healthier life, interacting
exclusively in kindness and love- what a glorious opportunity to share the gospel! Don’t back up your testimony with actions, back up your actions with testimony.

2) Ask- don’t demand- for their church attendance. Show them the joy and peace that being embraced by the fold brings. If you make attendance a chore, then that’s how it will stay. Let yourself be drawn into the community of god before trying to drag someone in, and instead of hauling them through the door with ropes of guilt and shame, let them be drawn through the laughter of the people and the love they show. Find a community you love, and then share that love with the people you love.

3) Understand that faith is a gift, a gift only given by God. The greatest tragedy of our world is that not everyone is able to let the love of God into their heart. This does not mean stop trying, stop witnessing, or in anyway give up. No, instead redouble your efforts. Make every interaction a beacon in a dark world, and understand that after being surrounded by darkness, the light often burns the eyes.

Talk with your pastor about outreach programs, Let your life be the greatest ministry it can be. Never forget to express yourself with love, and redirect all praise to God.

Edmonton Oil and the Lord

In 2013, Rush Limbaugh famously said on his radio show “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming … You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something that he can’t create.” This was in response to John Kerry’s belief that climate change was “a challenge to our responsibilities as the guardians–safe guarders of God’s creation.”

Edmonton is no stranger to the battle for the environment. Our city is tightly interwoven with the oil industry, and as the 2014 recession showed, their pain is our pain. As the global demand for oil goes down, how can we stay true to who we are without excising a vital part of our identity and our economy? As the demand for cleaner energy surges in response to the growing threat of global warming, do we choose to follow the words of Rush Limbaugh and let
our faith blind us to the realities of science? Is there no other option than to turn a blind eye to rising tide of evidence supporting the theory of manmade climate change?

We believe that the answer instead lies in aligning our faith with science. The word of our Lord has never demanded our blindness- would not the Lord have us revel in the natural wonder he has created for us? Did he not give us eyes to see his grandeur in the mountains? Ears to hear his voice through the music of birds and bees? Skin to feel his touch in the flow of a stream or the gentle caress of the wind? We cannot be deaf to the destruction of his creation.

Instead, we must become what God intended- guardians and care takers of his beautiful creation. Our challenge becomes reconciling our personal and social dependency on oil with the divine directive to protect. Christians across the world need to take up the cause of environmentalism, and insist upon cleaner energy. How can we be a shining light to the world if there is too much smog to see? How can people hear the word of God if they cannot breath the air around them? Oil is not the enemy. Edmonton is not the enemy. Our beloved city is at a crossroads- whether to double down on our oil dependence, or to find a better, more Godly solution. By working with the oil industry, and leading the way through the light of Christ, we can make our city a beacon for the world to follow.

Addiction and God

Can the Lord help with Addiction?

I’ve lived an extremely blessed life; I have money to eat, and a roof over my head, and a body that is fairly compliant with what I need to do. More people than you’d believe can’t say the same. But something that keeps me up at night, the terrifying thought that haunts my dreams, is that one day I’ll find myself battling a chemical addiction. I’ve been too close to too many people who have had their lives destroyed by drugs and alcohol for it to not frighten me, and Christians need to change how we talk about it.

Ever since the 80s, with Reagan’s “war on drugs”, the prevailing conversation surrounding drugs has been one of personal failing, that an addiction is a personal flaw, a sign that there is something deeply wrong with the person in question. We’ve been taught that addiction is a choice, because using drugs is a choice; we’ve been taught to see the suffering of people battling addiction as their just punishment from god, a divine retribution for past mistakes.

I ask you this: Is this the God you know? Does the God we love and worship shrug his shoulders and say “Well, they decided to take drugs, and this is what they get?” Of course not, and neither should we. It’s time we start talking about addiction as the disease it is, not a personal failing, not a character flaw. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye and instead extend a hand of friendship and kindness to those fighting a battle we can’t see or understand.

I had a friend go to rehab once. When he came out, I tried to reach out to him, but quickly realized he was avoiding me. When I finally cornered him at a cafe, I asked him why he hadn’t wanted to see me and he said something I’ll never forget- “I didn’t want to see you because I thought you’d treat me like a sinner.” I went home, and I got on my knees, and I wept for God’s forgiveness. Who was I to multiply my friend’s suffering? Who was I to pass judgement? That is
not my job. As Christians, this is not our calling. Through my actions and  speech, my friends had come to believe that my faith would cause me to shun him, and so before I could do so he tried to shun me instead. We need to find within ourselves the power to change the conversation around addiction. We have to find a way to love our struggling brothers and sisters, because that’s what God does.