Why are you standing around?

Years ago, we launched Up Town Church, and these beginnings continue to inform who we are as Street Hope. It was to become a collection of the unlikely with a commitment to become useful within the Kingdom of God.

This week as I read the account of Jesus’ ascension, I pictured a similar unlikely group. As they gazed up into the heavens in theological wonder, God’s message was posed “Why are you standing here looking up…?” They were being challenged to not remain in idle wonder but to get moving! “What are you standing around for? There are things to be done.”

The Ascension stirs us to awe and wonder but it also marks a turning point in the history of God’s activity among people. This unlikely group was being sent to do something. Even if initially the something was to wait in expectation, that in itself is an activity that required discipline and commitment. The angelic message might be best understood “Don’t stand around stuck in your own head but rather be obedient to what you know of God’s will!”

We do not need to know everything. In fact, we will never know everything. But God expects that we will act on what we do know.

In our early days of Up Town, we decided that God had clearly revealed that we were to be kind. We were not an educated or sophisticated bunch but this we did know! We decided to make it our hallmark.

It has been years since those first days but it is wonderful to see that these friends of mine continue in this direction. At our recent House Church meeting we decided to encourage some of the folks we knew were going through tough times. Personalized hand made cards were made for each of the identified individuals with pictures and stickers festooning them. These simple notes of encouragement were received with real joy. It was a pleasure to see how simple and at the same time profound it was.

Often, I am embarrassed by my denomination, and the political Evangelicals cause me to blush, but these humble unlikely friends continue to inspire me by the simplicity of their obedience.

A New Journey: Hop On the Bus

There are some very exciting things percolating at Street Hope Saint John. We are actively pursuing an expanded ministry on a number of fronts.

We are planning a new basic discipleship training program in order to identify and equip people for ministry under our banner. In doing this we are seeking to return to our roots, the organizing principle for Wilson Carlisle, the founder of Church Army (now Threshold here in Canada), was for lay (non-professional/non-ordained) evangelists to share the desperately needed Good News with their fellows. We hope to minimally equip those God might call and give internship opportunity, through our shared ministry. I find this personally exhilarating. It may be a part of the answer to the question of succession. I have wondered what would happen to the ministry when I could no longer do it. The program we are looking at will involve a cohort doing an online course and meeting together to discuss and practise.

We are in an active search for a new ‘home’ for an expanded Street Hope ministry. This has been an exciting journey already. We began with the idea of finding a home for our current ministries and an expanded outreach into the realm of addictions. As we talked and prayed the thinking expanded to the concept of a home which would accomplish these purposes but also have a residential space. Such a space would be a ‘launching pad’ for those who are recovering from addiction, a place to live in supportive Christian community while pursuing, health, education, or re-entering the workforce. This ‘launching pad’ would be a temporary home while men became firmly established in the Kingdom of God and contributing citizens in the community. I hope in weeks ahead to give more details of this, but we have identified a place that would be ideal for this and things are moving apace.

A Roamin Holiday (4)

Last summer we offered a “Roamin’ Holiday” to our friends of the inner-city. This involved a series of day trips around our “Picture Province” for folks who seldom travel more than a few blocks. For several months I have been asked if we were doing it again. I am pleased to tell folks that with God’s help we will be doing it again! This week I will begin the initial planning and begin the necessary fund-raising campaign. Last summer was a fantastic time for folks and we are hoping to build on that this year. I will be adding a “Word from Our Sponsor” to each trip. this time, tailoring the ‘word’ to the context of our trip. I also plan to foster conversations about the ‘word’ and the trip on the bus ride home. I think these additions will add value to this summer ministry.

I ask that the above ‘fronts’ might animate your prayers. The need is great! The fields are white! Let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest. We will also require growing financial support in support of a growing mission. Thank you.

Hop on the bus! All aboard!

Be Like … Jack?

We got into a discussion of names this week. It started with Harry and Megan naming their boy Archie. Folks began questioning the choice. Now I am not a royalist my family was more republican, in nature, but I think people ought to be free to give names that are meaningful to them.

My dad called me ‘Jack’ in fact he called each of my brothers ‘Jack’! He used the moniker when he felt he had a task that one of his male heirs should do. ‘Jack’ take out the garbage. ‘Jack’ mow the lawn. ‘Jack’ meant that one of us needed to jump up and get to work. I think he liked the title because he wasn’t concerned about who got the glory of accomplishing a particular task, so much as that the task be successfully accomplished. Out of a mix of respect and fear, someone (me in my recollections but I’m sure my brothers remember it differently) would ‘hop to it’.

My Heavenly Father has names for us: ‘Beloved’, ‘My child’, saved, redeemed etc., and in scripture he says his own “Hey Jack!” “Love one another as I have loved you” “In everything give thanks” “Walk justly” the list goes on. Out of a mixture of respect and awe we are to respond. Ours is not seek or receive glory but to, strengthened by God himself, accomplish the task set before us.  Seeking credit is attempted theft of God’s rightful glory! Our great biblical examples are: the four folks who lower their friend through the roof, or the people who rush to unbind Lazarus from his grave clothes. We are never given their names. They are God’s ‘Jacks’. A ‘Jack’ is someone who tackles a task and labours happily in obscurity. Humility is the chief attribute of a faithful ‘Jack’.

When I was young, I looked forward to the day I would have a ‘Jack’ of my own. I thought I’d finally got one 37 years ago but within the year I’d be holding his lifeless body. A few years later we had another potential ‘Jack’ but psoriatic arthritis made him ineligible to jump to ‘Jack’-like tasks. I do not feel sorry for myself for over the years many ‘Jacks’ have appeared in my life to help with tasks I could not do, and God has given me the health to do so many of them myself.

My dad is long since gone and I am no longer one of his Jacks, but I remain one for my Heavenly Father. He gives me tasks I am built for. He assigns me to things that bring both challenge and joy. Life as a Jack is the abundant life! I highly recommend it. There is so much to be done and so much can be accomplished if we don’t care that we don’t get the credit.

An old commercial advised us to “Be like Mike” (Michael Jordan) but I advise “Be a Jack”. There is no life like it!



Introduction & Re-introduction


At one of our studies this week we can a couple of newcomers and I made a round of introductions so everyone would know and be known, around the table. Introducing people is a relatively easy social function. When someone encounters, for the first time, someone we know, we simply introduce them to one another. Sometimes we get to introduce someone anew. “Did you know that, Rus worked in the Arctic or Peter is a photographer or Trevor is a long-haul trucker?” After folks acknowledge that they were unaware of these facts whole new conversations grow and relationships deepen.

A great joy in my vocation as an evangelist is that I get to introduce people to Jesus, and I get to introduce them anew!

The post-resurrection biblical encounters with Jesus illustrate this opportunity for me. Mary in the garden, of course, knows Jesus, but her knowledge is limited. When Jesus calls her name and re-introduces himself, she has a fuller knowledge of him. Likewise, the two sojourners on the Emmaus Road knew Jesus. They were despondent because of what they knew of him but as Jesus introduced himself in the breaking of bread, they came to more fully know him. Peter and Thomas and the other disciples knew Jesus but came to know him more fully. Saul certainly thought he knew about Jesus until he was introduced to him on the Damascus Road.

Years ago, Phillip Yancey wrote “The Jesus You Never Knew” in an effort to give us a fuller knowledge of Jesus. The Jesus I know, and love today is considerably different from the Jesus I first came to know. Make no mistake Jesus is unchanging “He is the same yesterday today and tomorrow”, yet my grasp of him grows.

Each new day provides me the chance to meet Jesus afresh. The thing that prevents me is an unwillingness to consider that I do not know it all, or know Jesus completely. I need not, and in fact have not, abandoned my initial understanding of him but I continue to learn of him. This draws me ever deeper in love.

It was this idea of always being on the verge of an encounter with Jesus, this idea of a constant re-introduction, that attracted me to the word threshold. The word liminal which describes this ‘in between’ time when we are on the cusp of a new experience, is best expressed in English as threshold. It is a kind of perpetual introduction. Threshold is the place of encounter and change. It is the place where all evangelism takes place. It describes the space (the only space) where we encounter the Godhead.

Threshold is an exciting place to be. Paul talks about this as “going on from glory to glory.” There is nothing dull about this! I long for Jesus to re-introduce himself to me today, and I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce him to others, for the first time or anew!


Yahweh is Higher than Mine

I got a message from one of my classmates and Commissioning Class yesterday to remind me that 39 years ago we had been commissioned as Evangelist. I remember the service well! That afternoon I had a meeting with the commissioning bishop and was offered a placement in his diocese. I was to go to a remote First Nation’s community and build relationships with the youth. At the service that evening he spoke about what a brave group the Church Army (now Threshold) was to go to such places that others would not. I remember being concerned that my mother would stop the whole service as he described the challenges of such a ministry.

I did not just survive that first posting I thrived. I had been ‘thrown in over my head’ and I had learned to trust God. These were formative times for me. Ever since then I have always felt that I was in over my head, but it became my norm. To this day I grow restive if I begin to feel too secure.

This week I was asked two questions, which cause me to reflect on this calling. Firstly, I was asked, “What would you be if you were not a Threshold Evangelist?”  I have only entertained two other vocations. I thought about being in advertising. Inspired by Darrin, on the television show Bewitched, I wanted to spend my life crafting clever logos and ad campaigns. I’m not sure that outside fantasy television that such a potion really exists. My investigations led me to believe that some sort of ‘artistic’ skill in the visual arts was needed and I am a bust in that department. Secondly, I thought about being a stand-up comic or writing comedy. Though I never actively pursued this I have incorporated it into my ministry in a number of ways. There are many ways to read scripture and wholesome Christianity calls on us to use a variety of them. One way I have learned to read scripture is to look for the inside joke. Many a truth is spoke in jest, and God’s Word is no different. This has led me to a kind of comedic devotional life. I appreciate the wonderful humour of the Lord and in prayer we ‘share laughs’. I realize this is not typical piety, but for me it is a most intimate form of relating with my Father. Of course, it is not the only arrow in my holy quiver, but it is a well used mode of devotion. I have found God a wonderful audience. People can be much more difficult. Everyone is a critic. People can laugh and in the same breath groan and mock, but I feel God’s smile.

In my ministry I have found ways to proclaim the Good News ala Darrin from Bewitched and instead of ‘stand up’ I have developed a kind of ‘kneel up’ devotion. Following God’s way for me, the way of evangelism, has enabled me to incorporate all these God given yearnings into one lifetime.

The other question I was asked was “Why do we study scripture all the time?” The short answer is that we don’t! Scripture is a priority in the ministry of Street Hope but ‘living it out’ is vital. But to elaborate, we study scripture to know who God is, what he is like, and what we are and should be in light of that. A friend recently posted a quote from Adrian Plass, “God is nice, and He likes you!” This is the Good News we find in studying his word.