One Word - The 2017 Edition

It has been awhile since I posted, going back to school at 46 doesn't allow a lot of free time. However, I wanted to kick the New Year off the way I have the past few years.

In 2013 I became a Compassion blogger. I was drawn to the idea for 2 reasons. One, I love Compassion and have sponsored a few children over the years. Two was the challenge they put out encouraging people to seek the Lord for a word for the new year instead of making a new years resolution. I enjoyed the idea and have asked God for a new word each year since.

In 2013 I felt that word was PRAYER. In 2014 the word and pray I did.  Lots.  Things happened (concussions) which forced me to my knees in prayer before the Lord.  In fact I think I only survived that year due to prayer!

In 2014 that word was TRUST. Looking back over that year, I saw areas both personally and professionally where I had to learn to trust God more than ever.  I also saw God open amazing doors as I learned to trust Him more.

In 2015 I felt that the word He had for me was PEACE. A lot happened that year and my peace was challenged greatly at times.  Yet through all of the ups and downs, I felt the peace that passes all understanding!  (Phillipians 4:7)

In 2016 I felt the word the Lord spoke was BEGINNINGS. It was definitely a year of new beginnings. My daughter moved to Germany and my wife and I went back to school. We moved to Winnipeg and are now training to become Salvation Army Officers. Of course beginning mean endings as well and we had a few of those, from the loss of family to the moving away from our home town of 12 years. Yet God was and is good and sustained us through it all.

I never know how the word will be applied, what circumstances will arise, but when I reflect on the year that passed, I always see God has been true to His word.

Now we are on the cusp of 2017 and I have been praying for days asking the Lord what He is speaking to me for this year.

The word is COMFORT.

Two Scriptures come to mind. The first is in John 14:18. In the NIV it says, "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." Most translations use the word orphans but the KJV uses the word comfortless.  The second is 2 Corinthians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort."

I have been a spiritual orphan but then I found Christ. I have lost one of my earthly parents, and Christ comforted me through that time. Many think of loss and comfort together. Yet I look at this word for the year and my thoughts drift to words written by Samuel Bringle. In his book Guest of the Soul he wrote, "When He comes, He arouses and quickens our dull minds, He opens wide the closed eyes and sealed ears of our soul, and we see and hear things that were hidden from us. He brings our inner life into harmony with the mind of God as revealed in the Bible." That to me is comfort!

I want that kind of comfort! I don't know what 2017 holds but I know God is in control. He has sustained me for 46 earthly years and sustained me in the faith for 33! I know whatever happens, He is the God of all comfort. I just want to lean into Him.

I am excited to see how this word applies to the coming year.

So what is God speaking to you for the New Year?


Is God Good?

I have often heard the question asked, "Is God Good?"

When I answer in the affirmative, the follow up tends to be, "well then why does He allow suffering?" Or even, "Then how can He send people to Hell?"

It would seem that everyone wants to experience His grace, mercy and love but no one wants to hear His truth!  We want the good and none of the bad. The Bible clearly says the God is love (1 John 4:8), but it also says that He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).

So if God is good, then how come He punishes those who refuse to repent? I appreciate this quote from Salvation Army officer,  Samuel Brengle (1860-1936): In his book Love Slaves he writes that "Fire will not only bake our food, but it will burn us. Water will not only quench our thirst and refresh us, but if we trifle with it, it will drown us."

God is good, but He is not to be trifled with. He has given us the freedom to choose eternal life in Heaven or Hell, to follow or reject Him. We can accept His wisdom and submit to His will, and live in true joy and peace, or, we can reject His offer of life in Christ, and pay the eternal consequences. Holding  us accountable for our sins does not negate His goodness.

God is good, loving, compassionate and slow to anger, but He is also holy and righteous. We can't continue on a path that breaks His laws and not expect to be disciplined anymore than we can continually break man's laws and not expect punishment. I can choose to obey the law of the land and enjoy the privileges of being a citizen in good standing, or violate those laws and reap the consequences...the choice is mine but being punished in the courts is not the fault of the ones who set the law in place, it is the fault of the lawbreaker.

Is God good? Absolutely.

Is He fair? Undoubtedly.

The question isn't really is God good but Who will I follow and obey, my own idea of truth or His?

For me, Psalm 84:10 says it best, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."


This Changed Everything

This Changed Everything is a new DVD that comes out this October. I received a advance copy from my friend John Armstrong, author of Your Church is too Small and president of the Act3 Network.

The three-part documentary looks at the rich history of the Reformation, examining its good parts while also asking the tough questions about what went wrong in the aftermath. Could division have been avoided? Is the fractured and divided church of today beyond hope for reunification? Jesus spoke about unity, does it still apply today?

Hosted by actor David Suchet, church historians across the religious spectrum share deep insights and ask those tough questions about unity and the future of the Christian church.

As a history buff I fell in love with this DVD. The transitions through this period of time were smooth and lead the viewers deeper into the past then the average believer may have gone before. I learned things I never knew and found myself wondering and asking some of the same questions that the historians address.

Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and beyond are examined in a fresh light. We in the church today hold the reformation in such high regard. Have we ever counted the cost? With all of the good that came from this transformative period of history, we cannot ignore the problems it wrought as well.

Is there still hope for unity in the body of Christ? I believe there is.

I recommend this DVD to every student of church history, to every Pastor and leader in the body of Christ and to every Christian who truly believes that we should love one another!



I love me some A.W. Tozer. He is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have the majority of the books he wrote during his lifetime. I also have many of the ones released after his death. These latter ones are culled from his sermons and magazine articles.

So when I saw that Moody Publishers were putting out a "new" book by A.W. Tozer I immediately requested a review copy.

I started digging into the book as soon as it came.

Culture is a collection of reflections by Tozer on the nature of the church, counting the costs of following Jesus Christ and the hope of Heaven. It is everything I expect from a Tozer book. There are hard-hitting, uncomfortable truths that make the reader sit back, pause, reflect and pray.

Sadly, it has all been said before. This was not a "new" collection of thoughts but parts taken from previous books that all centered around the main theme. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and any fan of Tozer will as well. It is just not "fresh" words but leftovers put together to make a new meal.

Having said that, as today's believers seem to focus on our place in culture more and more, this is a book that is a must read. At times prophetic, it is also a call back to the Truth. A Truth we all need to rediscover in times like these.


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.


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!


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."


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


One Word - The Tradition Continues

Back in 2009 Compassion began challenging people to seek the Lord for a word for the new year instead of making a new years resolution. This challenge has been sent out to their bloggers every year since.  I enjoyed the idea so much that in 2013 I joined the ranks of Compassion bloggers who write about their one word.  I have asked God for a new word each year since.

In 2013 I felt that word was PRAYER and pray I did.  Lots.  Things happened (concussions) which forced me to my knees in prayer before the Lord.  In fact I think I only survived that year due to prayer!

In 2014 that word was TRUST. Looking back over that year, I saw areas both personally and professionally where I had to learn to trust God more than ever.  I also saw God open amazing doors as I learned to trust Him more.

In 2015 I felt that the word He had for me was PEACE. A lot happened this past year and my peace was challenged greatly at times.  Yet through all of the ups and downs, I felt the peace that passes all understanding!  (Phillipians 4:7)

As we approached the new year I asked the Lord for a word for 2016.  That word is BEGINNINGS. 

I was drawn to this passage in Isaiah:

"Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:19)

As I read and reflect on that passage of Scripture I can't help but get a bit excited. I also get a bit nervous.  Beginnings can signify change.  Change is not always easy or comfortable. However, I believe the Lord is speaking this word for a reason. I don't know what 2016 holds but I know Who holds 2016!  I can makle plans but God can take things in any number of directions. I am usually suprised by how significant the word becomes by the end of each year.

My ultimate goal is to know Him and His will more. 

I am excited to see how this word applies to the coming year.

So what is God speaking to you for the New Year?