This week during our church’s Wednesday Bible Study we were challenged to think about who we might invite to consider God and his Kingdom. It reminded me of the workshop “Gentle Persuasion” that I was a part of leading back in the ‘90s. It was “The Decade of Evangelism” which always seemed odd to me because the Great Commission had not been previously revoked. It seemed akin to Ford declaring “The Decade of Making Cars.” Nevertheless, we wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity and created several evangelism programs for that era. The most successful was “Gentle Persuasion.” During the decade hundreds of weekend workshops were held from coast to coast to coast, all across Canada. I was involved in so many that my young daughter lamented to me “Everyone I know has a full-time dad. How come I have a half-time Dad?” I was away too much!
We would end the workshop with a challenge in the form of a prayer.
“Lord, lay some soul upon my heart,
And love that soul through me,
That I may seek to do my part.
To bring that soul to Thee.”
We asked each participant to take a copy of this prayer and add it to their daily prayer life, and to do so with the expectation that Go would answer.
The so called “Decade of Evangelism” is long past but the call upon the Church (you and me and all followers of Jesus) to “make disciples” remains in force until Jesus triumphant Return. I still recommend this prayer that expects God to answer and provide an opportunity to participate with Him in effectively sharing the Good News of love and hope.
Here in New Brunswick, we are under strict covid restrictions. My ‘in person studies’ have returned to remote only. My plans to visit churches and parachurch groups have been thwarted again. Yet we know God is faithful!
I had a really nice chat with a reporter for ‘Faith Today’ magazine and I hope to see an article about Threshold House, in an upcoming issue. Renovations continue as we work to transform an institutional building into a home setting for our residents. One of the wonderful things we have done is get a Smart TV and get the guys hooked up with RightNow Media which offers hundreds of Bible studies by some world class teachers. I highly recommend RightNow to churches and groups. We access it through my local church’s subscription.
Epiphany triggers some powerful memories for me. It was on the Day of Epiphany in 1967 that a bishop placed his hands on my head, at the behest of my local church, and set me apart for ministry. I have often looked back to that moment when life and ministry were challenging, and I would find encouragement to continue. In the darkest moments I would recall his irrevocable call on my life and that remembrance would ‘light the way.’
I remember another Epiphany, which I decided to spend in the Arctic. January 6th in Aklavik was among the shortest of days. It was then that I came to first realize my body’s need for light. While I went North to be an encouragement I found myself battling sadness in that dark. Even gloomy Toronto in January was a welcome relief upon my return. Today I take regular doses of vitamin D and type before a special lamp to fend off the effects of a dark winter. Through this experience I have developed a deep appreciation for light.
In the season of Epiphany, we celebrate that ‘Light’ has broken into a dark world. It is a ‘Light’ to lighten the gentiles! The ‘Light’ has a name. His name is Jesus!
I am as sensitive as a canary in a coal mine, to light deprivation, but I cannot imagine the spiritual consequences of living apart from the Light. This dark world needs the Light of the World.
I am reminded that Jesus says to his followers “You are the of the World.” Because we have the Light of Christ within us we are now to bear that Light to the world. “Let your light so shine before people that … they may glorify My father in Heaven.”
We have an opportunity in a world full of rage, darkness, and discouragement, to bear light. We have the opportunity to shine as the stars which stand out all the brighter because of the dark background.
So rather than bemoaning the darkness and its curse, I can decide to seize the opportunity rather than feel a victim of the dark.
We have a stark choice between partnering with the darkness or obediently shining for Jesus. The great news of the Gospel is that Light has come, and darkness can never conquer it!
These are some of my Epiphany thoughts.
This week we returned to in person Bible Study for the first time in over two years. With the opening of Threshold House, we wanted to make these studies an anchor in the discipleship/fellowship routine. The challenge was that after so many months of online studies we had grown a wide listenership. I did not want to abandon these folks or this ministry opportunity, so we simply record a 10–12-minute study talk with our in person gathering. After I say goodbye to the online people we continue in discussion and prayer in person. It has only been a week, but this seems to work well for all of us. I had so missed these interactions and the wonderful insights and questions of real people!
This week ended with a look at Jesus teaching about prayer. The question arose because he was sharing his life with his disciples. Jesus did not broach the topic through a sermon series, but the question popped up because his disciples saw him praying and wanted to know about it. Community life provided the opportunity and down through the ages we are blessed because of that! This reminded me that it is important that I share life with our Threshold House folks and live in a way that stirs such holy curiosity.
Jesus picked up the opportunity and taught the model for prayer. I have often been approached by people, telling me they had problems with prayer. Further inquiry often reveals that the problem they have is that they do not pray! This is couched in phrases like “I find prayer hard.” Or “I have difficulty finding time to pray.” These are not obstacles to prayer but are rather excuses. I feel like saying “You do not have a prayer problem! You have an obedience problem” Not having an easy facility with prayer ought to be a subject of prayer not an excuse. If I do not know when to fit prayer into my life, it is a tremendous opportunity to ask God. James tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask.
I may not be like David and have the tongue of a ready writer. I may not be a wordsmith like Shakespeare but that does not stop me from having conversations with my family. Eloquence is only eloquence because it is rare. God does not demand that of us.
After each study we spend time in prayer. We have begun to ask our online participants to share requests for which we can pray. The prayers that ascend are not lofty or profound. Our homely prayers are honest pleas that try to express our hearts desires. They are expressed in humble and ordinary words, and we feel the Lord’s delight in them. Through them we include the Trinity in our little community and our community swells from three to one that fills the universe. That is a very cool company!