7/15/16

5 Books That Changed My Life

I love to read.

I love to curl up with a good book and will stay up late into the night if I find a real page-turner.

Over the years I have read more books than I can count.

Five of those books changed or impacted my life in significant ways.

Those books are:

1. Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


This book was handed to me when I was 15 years old. I had talked to one of the Deacons in my church and told him of the call I felt to missions. He gave me this book and I devoured it in a little over a day. I read this book every year for the next 12 years!  I learned so much...the biggest lesson being what Hudson Taylor's secret was. That secret changed my life and set me on the course to where I am today.

2. The Pursuit of God


In 1994, while attending a YWAM DTS in Lindale, TX, I chose this classic for a book report for school.  I had never heard of A.W. Tozer but was intrigued by the title.What I discovered in these pages challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. This old school Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor wrote a book that rocked me to my core. All these years later I am still pursuing God and this book played a part in that decision.

3. What's So Amazing About Grace



I received this book as a gift while living on the mission field in Croatia back in the late 90's. As I read this book I was greatly disturbed. In fact I tossed the book aside and counted it as rubbish. I could not agree with Yancey's conclusions. I vehemently disagreed in some places. Then in a bored moment I went back to the book and got a little further before tossing it aside. No clue why I did not just toss the book out but on the 3rd read I finished the book and wrestled with its themes. I now count it as one of my all time favorites and have seen, received and attempted to show grace in ways I never did before thanks to this book!

4. Classic Christianity


I came across this simple little book shortly after the Yancey one mentioned above. I was frustrated and then intrigued by it's simple message of Identity in Christ. I read it with excitement, prayed through its pages and have recommended it to many over the years. I can only say that the Biblical truth found in the pages of this book can change your life!

5. Spiritual Rhythms


I picked up this book while in the midst of a spiritual low point. Talk about timely. What Mark Buchanan wrote in this book was nothing short of life altering. I never looked at my faith through the lens of seasons before and yet it resonated with me so completely that it formed the underpinning of many of my sermons over the next year. I soon discovered spring time again and still refer to this book when talking to others in the winter of their faith.

So there you have it. Five books that changed my life. If you have never read these titles I mentioned you should grab them, set aside some time and dive in!

Have you been significantly impacted by a book you've read? Feel free to share.

6/17/16

Finishing Well

Twelve years. It has been 12 years since my family moved back to the Bulkley Valley in northern British Columbia. My wife and I were married here 21 years ago. Both of our children (18 and 6) were born here. We love our community.

Now we are leaving.

This September, we will be moving to Winnipeg for the next two years. My wife and I will be training to become Salvation Army officers. It is a new adventure and we are excited to see what God has in store for us next.

Over the next 2 months we will be planning, packing and then departing. All this has gotten me to thinking about how I will finish here in the Valley. It would be easy to “check out” and leave the work to the next man/woman. However, I look at work as I do life. We should always strive to do our best. It has been said that the Christian life is like a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. I want to finish as well as I started.

In 2 Tim. 4:7, Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I want to finish well in the Bulkley Valley just like I want to finish well in life. I want to honor God with my life, my conduct, my work and my relationships with others. Jesus told a story in Matthew about a servant who pleased his master greatly.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21)

When I leave this world for good and stand before our Heavenly Father, I long to hear those words. It starts now. I need to choose each day to walk with Him, to honor Him, and to strive to finish each day well.

I want to leave the Valley encouraging you to make that make that choice as well.

Finish Well!

5/19/16

Finding God in the Hard Times


I missed Finding God in the Hard Times the first time it came out in print. Previously published in 2005 under the title Blessed Be Your Name, this book by Matt and Beth Redman is an encouragement to praise God despite the circumstances. 

Using the Matt Redman song, Blessed be Your Name, as a lead in, the couple look at life and all it's hardships. They don't shy away from sharing their own story and they address serious issues of pain, suffering and death. Throughout the book there is a sense of hope in the God who sees! 

Each chapter ends with reflections questions and the book closes with an effective study guide for use in small groups.

Having personally dealt with a lot of hard issues this year, I found this book to be inspiring and encouraging. It actually arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time. I devoured the book in just a couple days. I finsihed with a renewed sense of God's love and care in the midst of hardship.

I would encourage everyone to have a copy of this book on their shelf!

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."

4/24/16

We Pray For You

"We pray for you often!"

With those words, spoken by a gentleman in the congregation near the tail end of my sermon, tears began streaming down my face. I choked up and my voice cracked as I finished off my sermon and closed in prayer.

My message this Sunday had been on the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22).  I was drawing my message to a close and had just shared Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus calls us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as our self.  As I spoke briefly on that passage and it's meaning, I mentioned the sense of community within our fellowship and how touched I was by some of our street entrenched congregants who reached out with compassion when they heard of the recent passing of my dad.

It was then that one of the men, a homeless individual, spoke up. His words brought those aforementioned tears.

"Rick every day we all gather behind the library. We join in a circle and pray. We pray for you often during those times."

I cried.

I was humbled.

As my daughter said shortly after, "This is the side of homelessness people don't see."  It is true. Many will reach out and help but just as many will pass by, silently judging those on the street for their addictions. I have heard to many people say, "They brought it on themselves, the should just get a job, etc."

Today I heard their heart....and I wept.

Unashamedly.

Loving our neighbor has never been more concretely demonstrated to me than today.

2/10/16

What Can the Church Be?

It is easy to see the negative. Ask some people how they view the church, and you will hear words like “hypocrites or unloving.” I choose to see the positive. When a church is operating at its best, it can be many things, such as:

A School – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” At its best a church is a wonderful place to learn about God and to have the Word of God explained. We grow in our knowledge of the King of Kings and out of that teaching, training, discipleship, and correction, we can move forward in sharing His love with others.

A Hospital – Mark 2:16-17 says, “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” At its best a church is a place of healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a place we can go for prayer when we are sick, for hope when we are emotionally overwhelmed, and to find the salvation that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

A Family – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” At is best a church is a perfect family. A family that loves one another, encourages, supports and prays for one another.

I have experienced the school, the hospital and the family.  This is the church at its best.

2/5/16

Baby Steps


Here in Canada, the CBC has a radio program called Under the Influence with host Terry O’Reilly.


It mostly has to do with advertising. On Feb. 4, 2016 they aired this story:
One day in Afghanistan, a small troop of American soldiers found themselves involved in an exchange of gunfire with a small group of Afghans.
The skirmish goes on for days.

It's a gun battle with no end, as each side just keeps firing shots in the other's direction.

The other group isn't associated with the Taliban, so the Americans aren't sure why they are being fired upon.

Finally, the American Lieutenant in charge has an idea.

He says, why don't we just ask them?

So the Lieutenant signals a ceasefire.

When the shooting stopped, he slowly walked over to the Afghans and asked, "Why are you firing at us?"

They tell him it's because the Americans are not paying rent for the land they're on.

The Lieutenant says, "Oh, OK, so we'll pay rent."

The Afghans say that's fine, but we have to warn you that another group will start shooting at you.

When the Lieutenant asks why, the Afghans tell him that the other group believes they own they land.

Then the Lieutenant asked this one simple question:

Is there a place we can move to where we won't have to pay rent?

The Afghans point to a place just 180 metres away.

So the American squad picked up their equipment, moved 600 feet to the left - and the shooting stopped.

That was all it took.

It was the smallest move that resulted in a surprisingly big gain.
As I listened to that story I thought about the story of Nicodemus in the book of John.

Nicodemus appears three times in the Gospel of John.

He first visits Jesus one night to discuss his teachings.[John 3:1–21]

Nicodemus didn't approach Jesus for all to see. He was curious but he was also a member of the Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin legislated all aspects of Jewish religious and political life within the parameters laid down by Biblical and Rabbinic tradition.

Nicodemus came at night to try to figure out who this Jesus was. He took baby steps towards Christ.

The second time Nicodemus is mentioned, he reminds his colleagues in the Sanhedrin that the law requires that a person be heard before being judged.[John 7:50–51]

Nicodemus must have liked what he heard because he puts himself at great risk to defend Jesus here. He is even accused of being one of his followers.

Finally, Nicodemus appears after the Crucifixion to provide the customary embalming spices, and assists Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the body of Jesus for burial.[John 19:39–42]

We have here a man who met Jesus at night, defended him publicly and then helped to bury Him after the crucifixion.

From baby steps to a follower of Jesus Christ!

We all are moving through life. We are either moving closer to Christ or further away.  The steps we take maybe small at first but when we discover who Jesus is, our lives will never be the same.

1/23/16

The Call

What are the different ways in which God calls us?

Before we get the call, we have to know His voice.  I am reminded of 1st Samuel 3. Samuel did not yet know the Lord, the word of the Lord not yet being revealed to Him. (vs 7) Three times the Lord called to Samuel and each time he went to Eli the priest whom he ministered to the Lord under. The first two times, Eli said he did not call him. Then Eli realized the Lord was calling Samuel and taught Samuel how to respond. Samuel had to learn how to hear the voice of the Lord.

Later in John 10:27 Jesus says that His sheep listen to His voice, He knows us and we follow Him.  I believe that as new believers we need to be discipled, taught to hear his voice and that as we lean in to Him, talk wioth Him, pray to Him, read His Word...we will begin to hear Him when He calls.

One way the Lord calls us is through prayer. I remember numerous times in our life when my wife and I spent time in prayer and the Lord spoke specifically to us, calling us to new pathds we had not thought of ourself.  One time, while living in Croatia, my wife and I were praying about taking an outreach team to Macedonia and then staying there ourselves when the team departed. I came home one day and my wife was crying. She said the Lord spoke to her some specific things in prayer about our next steps. I wanted to see the list she had made but she said if it was from God, He would speak it to me as well.  5 days later, as I was prayer planning an evening event in another town, I felt the Lord calling me to grab a pen and He clearly spoke some "next step" things to me.  When I got home a couple days later our list matched exactly.

I also believe the Lord calls us through His Word. My call to Salvation came through His Word. I saw the Scriptures and how clearly it says that I had sinned and Jesus made a way for me to be connected to the Heavenly Father via His death on the cross. I eagerly responded to that call. Later, I felt the Lord calling me to missions via the Great Commission. I spent 4 years in missions ministry as a result of that call.

Finally I belive the Lord confirms His call through the consulting of others. Two specific times in my life, in the above story of our future in Croatia and later when we prayed about a move that brought us to Canada, we consulted a pastor and another spiritual leader, asking them to pray with us and for us and to see if what we felt the Lord speaking was also witnessed in their spirit. Samuel went to Eli when he heard the call and I believe we also need to seek the wisdom of others when we feel God calling.

In summary, I believe God calls us through prayer, His Word and the wisdom of our spiritual leaders.