No Fishing ?

Have you ever been asked, “What are you giving up for Lent?”? This year I am advocating that we ‘take up’ a Lenten practise. In fact I am encouraging one particular and seemingly long forgotten practise, that goes back to the very formation of our Faith Movement.

Jesus initial call to discipleship was a call follow after Him and be made “fishers of men”. Now we might have preferred that Jesus called us to be better humans or holy people, but his primitive call is to ‘fish’! Please do not hear what I am not saying, Jesus is keenly interested in  making us better and holier people but the first call is to ‘fish’. Our Christ-like character is developed somewhere between those two markers, birth and death. Finally, we are raised incorruptible and that work will be completed as we are made like Him. Our battle against: sin, the flesh and the devil, will be swallowed up in Christ’s final victory. So this sanctifying work of God in our lives is bounded by the limits of our time on this earth.

Fishing on the other hand allows us to partner in an activity affecting eternity.

When the disciples respond to this call to follow and be made fishers they have little idea of what that means, and they surrender to Jesus Lordship and vocation for their lives. It becomes clear from this initial encounter that following will necessarily involve fishing.

I do not intend to ‘lay a guilt trip’ on anyone or prescribe how you ought to fish, but I do want to encourage you in the knowledge that God is taking all you’re your experiences good and bad to ‘make you a fisher’. You have opportunity in your circle to live a life of following before your friends and neighbours that a religious professional never will. God has prepared a particular pool for you. He has given you a particular story, of failure and success, of suffering and joy, glorious and messy! All the elements are in place!

Cast your mind back. Think about the individual who influenced your journey to God or your return to God. That person had a particular place in your life and when the time and circumstances were right they were used to ‘fish’ you. We were all once fish but following means fishing! God has a plan for us to be useful for eternity through the ancient spiritual practice of  being ‘made a fisher.’

I joked recently that the things we do in Lent are actually things we ought to do all the time. Here is a Lenten practice I encourage us to add to our repertoire. Let us follow in such a way that Christ makes us fishers with eternal purpose and impact.

Tomorrow we are hosting our St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast. Three of the guys of Threshold House will be sharing their stories. They will be fishing!

Some of the guys have expressed a passion for smoking meat and making jerky. We have the idea of purchasing some equipment for this and selling it at a variety of venues. This will allow the guys to make some money and raise some funds for Threshold House at the same time.

We will be interviewing a new applicant to Threshold House this week and we are praying for discernment about this.

Two of our guys have had several interviews for prospective jobs and we are praying that they will find meaningful employment in a spot where they can ‘fish’.

We had to purchase a new washer and dryer. This was not an expected expense but a very necessary one. Please pray for our finances. We trust God will supply!

Thank you.

Not Struggling? Not Following!

Sometimes I surprise myself. When I am teaching or preaching or sharing I occasionally say something that makes me think “That’s pretty good!” In moments like that I know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to my soul.

I had just such a happening this week as I was reviewing Romans chapters seven and eight. I think that chapter seven, where Paul describes the battle within, describes an everyday occurrence. Our carnal (fleshly) nature leaves us in a struggle. We know what is right and good. We agree that that is the thing we ought to do or pursue, yet we often lose the struggle and wind up doing the very thing we do not want to do. Whether this is speaking harshly to my children, eating too much of the wrong thing, dealing with addiction of some kind or a myriad of other human tussles, so often we do the very thing we do not want to do. Into this terrible human dilemma steps God’s one true answer. Paul ask the question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” and then answers “Jesus Christ.”

Chapter seven feels very familiar but the Good News is that there is another chapter to be written. We are a people of hope because our story has another chapter to be written.

Chapter eight begins with a definitive declaration, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul moves on to describe both the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, and Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity as interceding for us. I imagine an old fashion tag team wrestling (wrassling) match, in which our protagonist is battered and beaten but reaches out and tags in a partner. This partner leaps over the ropes and soon dispatches the antagonist and snatches victory from the very verge of defeat!

If chapter seven describes our life of struggle then chapter eight offers us the recipe to be more than conquerors. We simply admit our inherent weakness and ‘tag in’ the power of God! If the former chapter’s experience is normative for all humans then chapter eight can be normative for all Christ followers.  A few obstacles keep us from this though. We can settle for losing our battle and excuse ourselves. We settle for justification, that is being saved from the penalty of sin and so never experience the transformation promised in sanctification, that is being saved more and more from the power of sin in our life. This settling is not the following that Christ calls us to! We can also battle our chapter seven struggle in our own paltry strength and live lives of continuous loss. We wait patiently for Heaven and the glorification, that is being finally saved from the very presence of sin, that that moment provides.

If we long to be “more than conquerors” then we must be engaged in the battle. Denial or deferment do not cut it! If we are not fighting then we are not following. I have different struggles today than decades ago, but I have them. I live in the nexus between chapters seven and eight and my daily decisions make all the difference. “If God be for me who can stand against me?”

This week K. one of our residents, shared his testimony at church. The entire Threshold gang showed up to support him. He was very nervous but did a marvellous job! After he was done his buddies stood and cheered for him, the whole congregation joined in. It was beautiful!

On March 18 we are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and three of our guys will get to walk in the example of K. as they share their stories.

Mondays some of guys help cook and serve a meal at the Salvation Army.

Tuesday some guys pick up boxes of surplus pizzas from the local Little Caesar and these are directed toward the hungry of the city.

Saturday they help with an East Side Community dinner served at the local Anglican Church.

Two of our guys have found meaningful employment and others are actively looking.

Please keep Threshold House in your prayers.

Deja Vu (all over again)

I was feeling nostalgic this week. I was ‘looking back’ at my time caring for Up Town Church. We had planted a café style church peopled by a wonderful collection of neighbourhood characters. We came to describe ourselves (at our best) as: “An honest accepting community of broken people, who were experiencing the Father’s love, finding wholeness in Christ Jesus, and performing acts of kindness in the power of the Holy Spirit.” I would not have traded that church for the biggest mega church in Christendom. I felt that it could not get better than Up Town! I did not envy anyone their religious gig! There is a saying “All good things must come to an end.” And after over a decade of enjoyment Up Town ceased to be. I have grieved the loss of that wonderful experience and I came to believe such would never again be mine.

This week as I was revelling in the exciting growth of community at Threshold House it dawned on me, “This was that same kind of community.” It is quite different in many respects, but it seems to me that God is developing us as: An honest accepting community of broken people, who are experiencing the Father’s love, finding wholeness in Christ Jesus, and performing acts of kindness in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a ‘deja vu’ moment for me. Here I was finding the very kind of community I had given up seeking.

God knows my heart and is giving me the desire of my heart. God birthed this desire in me long ago when I got a taste for this variety of community and now by God’s hand this  God-given desire is coming to fruition. I am amazed! I am gob smacked!

I don’t mean to idealize either the Up Town Community or the Threshold House Community, both are exceedingly messy! They are very raw and real. Our ‘brokenness’ leaves us messy indeed. We deal with real life issues. We apply, imperfectly, new skills to old besetting problems. Yet there is beauty in the raw honest reliance on God. For us there is no hope aside from that of God’s love, healing and empowering.

As admitted ‘broken people’ we are given access to speak into the lives of other broken people, sharing the hope we are discovering. As a community we reach out helping with food based ministries in the Uptown of Saint John and in our neighbourhood of Saint John East. C.H. Spurgeon talked about evangelism as “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” I believe Mr. Spurgeon would be pleased with the ministry in deed and in word of our ‘band of the broken.’

Being Like Bacon

We had a long talk about commitment this week. Jesus in a letter to the Church of Laodacea laments that they are ‘lukewarm’ not hot or cold. Their commitment to Jesus’ lordship had flagged.

Commitment makes all the difference in any relationship. I often tell guys about three frogs sitting on a log. One makes up his mind to jump off. How many frogs are on the log? Three! Deciding without decisively committing to that decision, accomplishes nothing!

I recall the story of a French tightrope walker Blondin walking over Niagara Falls Gorge. As the crowds gathered he asked if they thought he could take someone across in a wheelbarrow. They enthusiastically yelled back “Yes! We believe you can do it!” He then asked for volunteers and the throng went silent. They believed but were unwilling to commit. I believe that, too often’ the Church is like Blondin’s crowd. We may energetically affirm our belief but we do not commit. I have been asked how it is that I have persevered with first the Church Army and now with Threshold Ministries, for so many years. How is it that, recently, we pushed through all the obstacles to open Threshold House. My answer is I want to be committed like bacon. Bacon is in ‘whole hog’ with no caveats or hesitations. That is commitment. The hen may lay eggs, but the bacon demonstrates true commitment!

There are many attempts at softer and easier ways of following but Jesus’ invitation is to come and die and in dying come to experience full abundant living. I want that life of surrender, or at least most of the time I want that life.

This Season of Lent is a time for me to reflect on the state of my surrender, a time to re-examine my commitment, a time to realign my priorities with His. This can be a painful experience. I do not die easily! But just as I look to Easter as the light after a dark reflective season of Lent, so I see past my self-denial to the resurrected, full, and abundant life. This is not a joy for the faint of heart. It is not a delight to the lukewarm. It is ‘well done’ life of the committed.

I want to be like bacon. How about you?


This coming week will see Threshold House full until we do more renovations or install bunk beds. We will have seven residents and one staff member. Earlier this week were considering expanding our mandate to include some folks who had not yet been through a treatment program. As we prayed about this God answered by filling our beds who those who fit our earlier criteria, so we had our answer!

These past two weeks, we have been looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans. Our goal is to see these guys grow in faith and Romans has much to say to us on this subject. Last week in our ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ we looked at chapter 7, which speaks to our inability to help ourselves. I am reminded of an old collect that says to God “As much as without thee we are not able to please thee.” This tells us that apart from God we cannot be successful in living the life God intends for us. In this seventh chapter Paul says that he knows what is the good and right thing, and he wholeheartedly agrees that it is good, and then he goes on to admit that he does not do this ‘right thing’ but rather chooses the wrong time and time again. This is a description of the life lived ‘under self-rule’.

I invited the guys to imagine themselves as shareholders in a business that continually made poor decisions squandering resources and losing money without ever meeting its goals. They agreed the manager should be fired and competent management engaged. Then I said that the poor manager in our analogy is them. They had managed to squander opportunity and fail to lead the successful lives for which they were designed. Romans seven asks the pertinent question, “Who can rescue me from this body of death?” and the answers “Jesus Christ Our Lord.” The word Lord clearly can substitute for ‘manager’. Choice number one is to fire our incompetent, unhealthy manager.

Choice number two then is to engage Jesus as our new manager and Lord. This is a choice to exercise faith and belief. To illustrate this, I drew my best stick-figure-like chair. As we looked at it we saw it had four legs, a seat, and a back. We agreed that it represented the concept of a chair. We believe in the concept of ‘a chair’. Then I pulled out a physical chair. We were no longer dealing with a concept but something much more substantial. We came to the place where we agreed that this indeed was a chair, with four legs, a seat, and a back. We still were a bit short of true trust and faith. Finally, I sat in the chair, and it held me! We talked about times that we may have encountered a chair that looked flimsy. One of the guys recalled a plastic lawn chair. We talked about how we might sit very gingerly in that chair but eventually relax into it as we experienced it supporting our weight.

This is what it is to trust Jesus! He invites us to come to Him and find rest. God invites us to ‘taste and see’ and so we may sit very gingerly. We grow in trust over time until God proves entirely faithful. He is the manager we need. We dare not trust ourselves. Our best thinking got us into the worst pickles!

To say I am happy to have these gentlemen living in the community of Threshold House is a tremendous understatement. I am over the moon! We will be quite diverse crowd, but we can find a sense of unity in our purposes, both individual and corporate to grow in faith and usefulness.

This morning was a busy time. Our local foodbank is very helpful to us, and we got a call to come pick up a large load of groceries before the predicted ice storm. Pastor Andrew dropped by with the third installment of  his study on Colossians. The guys love Andrew! We had a time of prayer and then I had to run out and purchase two more dressers and pillows for our new residents. So it is not until midafternoon that I can get to my Friday morning blog.

The Potter’s Wheel Turns

We welcomed a new resident this week. Frank is an artist, he creates out of clay. Jeremiah tells us that God is that kind of artist as well. God is imagined as a potter, and we are his clay vessels. He moulds a us and forms us.

I have been fascinated with formation for years. I recall a time during my formation during my years Training at the Church Army. We were in a Bible Study led by Ernie, our Training Officer. He asked us what kind of ministry we wanted down the road. I glibly answered, “I want your job.” Answering glibly was very much my immature self’s style. Instead of being upset, he seemed really pleased that God might be calling me that way.

Seven years later I did take his job. By then he was no longer Training Officer but had become Field Secretary (Personnel Officer). It was not for another fourteen years that I had an opportunity to step into the training role as a teacher of Evangelism Studies, and a number of more years before I was named Director of Formation for Taylor College.

I was tasked with overseeing the formation of ‘missionaries for the twenty first century.’ Those were halcyon days. I felt like I was finally doing what I was designed to do. Not long after, the supply of students dried up. A Director of Formation without any one to ‘form’ is a sad being. But through the dark days that followed and the myriad of questions came a fresh understanding. Formation does not require formal classes and curriculum. If I had truly been fashioned by God for this purpose I only had to apply myself to the opportunities God brought me.

Threshold House provides a brilliant opportunity to be involved in God’s transformative work in the lives of men. I get to be a bit like Frank and be involved in formation. The men I get to work with are being transformed. Lives that were once ruined are becoming brilliant and useful. Sometimes this process is painful and painfully slow but sometimes it is otherwise. Last Friday I met T. for the first time. Steve had invited him to our drop in. He came but was not open to any ‘God talk’ after a few hours of fun and wholesome fellowship with a group of Christians, he eagerly listen to my “Word from Our Sponsor.” On Sunday he went to church and his heart was strangely warmed. I saw him again last night and he was changing before our eyes! He is going to detox this week. An anonymous Christian has provided the funds necessary for him to go to a long term treatment centre. He is excited about coming to live with us at Threshold House after treatment. Last night he asked me for a Bible which I was overjoyed to give him. He asked where he should start to read and I pointed him to the Gospels where he can encounter the ’Life Changing Saviour’.

Witnessing T.’s transformation and the more subtle discipleship of the guys of Threshold warms my old heart and keeps me getting up and going.

We started our ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ last night. I gave out journals to everyone with loads of room to write about each decision. I do this in the hope that participants do not see this as an eight week course to get through but the formation of new healthy habits and choices. It is ours to chose Jesus and his way over and over again not merely once. This repetitive practice forms character in us, the character of Christ, and it is that character that will set us on a good and useful path.

It is amusing to look back over the years and identify the fingerprints of the Potter all over my story. The potter’s wheel turns my tragedies and disappointments into the stuff dreams are made of. Too often I lose perspective and let my passing troubles loom big but God invites me to remember that I have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the Heavenlies. From that lofty perspective I can see what my time bound myopia misses, and I discover anew God is faithful!

Peek-a-boo Delight!

I was playing a lovely game of peek-a-boo. I can not remember laughing so hard, in ever so long. What brought joy to my heart was the sheer delight that my grandson was taking from it all. His was a silly delight. In a few months he will realize that he does not really disappear and reappear. The practicalities of physics will rob him of this rapturous joy, oh but now, he revels, and peals of laughter fill his and my ears.

How do I possibly get such joy? Many long years ago I learned the lessons of congruity and incongruity, nevertheless my joy is as this wee boy! I wondered in that moment is this the joy that God experiences? In his omniscience he cannot be surprised but delights in measure with the delight of his children. My thoughts are certainly not his thoughts, and my best thoughts resemble the logic of peek-a-boo, but I suppose Our Father, takes delight in my every discovery of him and his creation.

My ‘wisdom’ will never impress him but my audacious belief and foolishness might bring him great joy, and in the process I will like a child find delight in being the object of my Father’s attentive love. If small discoveries and tiny obediences can bring him joy, then it lies to me to be enjoyed and to enjoy!

After our I post our morning Bible Study on line we have some wonderful discussions. Questions are asked. Some of them I have sorted out for myself years ago but it is a wondrous delight to see ‘the light go on’ for one of our guys as they discover a new truth or deeper aspect of God. This last Friday we added a new element, we started a new study series on Colossians led by Pastor Andrew Porter. He is a gifted student of scripture and Bible teacher. Together we learned and relearned the ‘upside down’ nature of Christ and that the lowly wield power in the Kingdom. It is as we become child-like before our Father, that we are lifted up, as on his knee, to a position of kingdom influence and service.

All who gather around our study table are far from influential in worldly terms, but it is our goal to both delight God, our Father, and to be useful in his Kingdom. We take baby steps and our efforts might seem laughable to the heavenly host, but I sense we have the capacity to bring God joy and perhaps even deep belly laughs of happiness.

This week will be interviewing another applicant for residency. Our newest guy is fitting in well though like all who went before him, there were some ‘growing pains’. He is almost through Phase 1 of his residency and looks forward to finding a meaningful job so he can be useful and generous.

Another resident came to us in his 60’s and the one thing he said was that he was not willing to go back to school. God spoke into his life and now he spends his day in a classroom working toward his GED.

For your prayers:

Saturday we are holding our Breakfast and a Message. I will be speaking at this one on the topic “Hope in the Seemingly Hopeless.”

Thursdays starting in February we will be hosting a study of “Life’s Healing Choices” This will be for 9 weeks. I am looking at doing a study of “Ordering Your Private World” when this one is completed.

We host a NA meeting each Sunday night. Guys go to Celebrate Recovery at the Salvation Army on Mondays and at King’s Church Tuesdays. We try and have a Friday open social evening each week (though I admit we are sometimes a bit spotty with this one.)

Guys have been working on their testimonies and we are looking for venues at which the could share them.

God is good! We praise him for all he is doing in the lives of all of us at Threshold House.

We continue to pray for more residents.

Thank you.

God’s Goodness in God’s Timing

Yesterday I asked some of the guys of Threshold House to write something for me about their personal experience of Threshold House. I have been working with a creative team to produce a ‘brochure’ for Threshold House. The goal is to have a tool to introduce Threshold House to potential new residents and their workers, as well as to potential donors and churches. The young woman who will write the content of ‘tool’ asked me several questions and requested these testimonials. I collected these stories this morning and I have been so pleased as I transcribed them and sent them on. Two have only been with us for a bit over a month and the other since this last Fall, but the impact that they identify over that time is wonderful! They speak of the lifelong friends they have made and of their ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.

One of our distinctives is our goal that during their stay with us, residents would move into ministry. Wednesday night a couple of guys took twenty pizzas which had been donated by Little Caesars, to a warming shelter in St. Stephen. Today they take another batch of pizza to those ‘storm stayed’ at a Westside Warming Shelter. They have plans to help serve a meal and mingle with guests at a meal in Waterloo Village. None of this is compulsory! It is a demonstration of changed hearts!

Usually the guys do their ‘check in’ much before I arrive at 9 but on Friday they wait for me to join in and tell them how I am doing. The vulnerable sharing is humbling to be a part of it is a great privilege. After we checked in we went to the chapel for a study on the Beatitudes and a time of prayer. Guys prayed for each other and our varying ailments and needs and for our day.

There were times over the last few years when I wondered whether these days would ever come, but come they have! The ‘vision’ is no longer just ink stains on paper, but God is writing it on our hearts. His ways are truly higher than our ways!

I received a package of books in preparation for our upcoming study of “Life’s Healing Choices.” In the package was a journalling tool which I had seen before. Many of the guys of Threshold House have experienced the benefits of journalling and so I am looking forward to seeing people blessed with this tool.

Please continue to pray for

  • our daily activities and outreaches
  • our Life’s Healing Choices study beginning February 2nd
  • our Breakfast & a Message of Hope (I am speaking) January 28th
  • A new series of Friday Studies on Colossians led by my friend Pastor Andrew Porter
  • God’s continued provision to meet all our needs

The Blessing of Longsuffering

I have often joked with my kids about ‘Great Uncle Floyd’ the almost great inventor. His problem was that he would stop just before he succeeded. For instance, he invented a refreshing lemon beverage “6 UP”. He developed a cleaning solution “Formula 408.” He invented a card game “51 Pick Up” and  started a company “2 M”.

Years ago, pilots would nudge up to 767 miles per hour. Things would begin to shake and rattle, and they would ease up. 768 miles per hour is how fast you must go to break through that barrier. Suddenly the pilot is out pacing sound itself and the ‘sailing’ has become smooth!

Like my mythical Great Uncle, too often we stop short. One of the great gifts of God is ‘longsuffering.’ This kind of Godly perseverance pays off if we do not weary in well doing.

Like Floyd I brim with ideas and as things begin to shake and rattle around me I get fearful. I ‘pull up’ when I should push through. Opposition is natural when we are doing something! Like a toothless lion Satan roars and rages and I too easily quake.

I am so glad for Christian friends who encourage when the devil discourages, folks who support me during risky times. The World, the Flesh and the Devil say “Stop!” but God says “though you walk through the valley of shadow… I will be with you!” We come to the barrier to have God take us through the barrier.

There were those who thought Columbus would sail off the edge of the world. There were those who feared breaking the sound barrier. Yet in each case whole new planes of existence opened as they persisted through.

It is this longsuffering persistence, the gift of hope given by the Barrier Smashing God, who did not let the splendor of Heaven keep Him from the cross and tomb, that I pray for!

I believe God has given a vision for a sober-living community of faith, in which men will become equipped to help others find that same transformative hope for their lives. There are many moments when things become shaky. Moments of difficulty and challenge. Interpersonal challenges present difficulties and finances become daunting, but we hold on to the unshakable truth that God is Good!

This week we will welcome a new resident. He comes just as one fellow has decided to leave. We pray that God will bless both.

On Saturday January 28th  we will be hosting another “Breakfast & a Message of Hope!” I will be speaking on the subject “Hope in the Seemingly Hopeless.”

On Thursday February 2 we begin a series of 9 Thursdays on “Life’s Healing Choices”. Fittingly we will look at Romans chapter 7 on Ground Hog Day as we explore the “Endless Loop of Hurt.” We will then spend a week on each of the chapters of the book “Life’s Healing Choices.”

The guys are working on their testimonies, and we will be looking for opportunities for them to share in the days ahead.

Today one of the guys thought I was a bit ‘down’  and took special care to take me aside and share a word of encouragement. It is such a blessing to see those who have received, so freely giving!

A Look Back: A Look Ahead

This past year saw the vision for Threshold House take flight. After a slow and halting start plagued by renovations setbacks and Covid 19 this fall prayers saw answers and things started coming together. Now as we stand on the threshold of a new year we have four new resident with four or five applications in process.

We have added two new staff members. Steve came to us all the way from British Columbia. He has a wealth of experience in the ‘world of recovery’ which includes his own discovery of recovery through Christ. He has brought knowledge and enthusiasm to the ministry. He works daily with the men of Threshold House providing programing, oversight, and counsel. Jeff came to us this fall and is now the Night Proctor. He is excited about taking further education with a view to full-time ministry in the future. The addition of these positions increases our financial commitment. Threshold Ministries has agreed to assist us as we grow Threshold House solidify its financial standing.

Threshold Ministries is looking to import a discipleship/evangelism training program and we look forward to this becoming a regular component for Threshold House residents. We see this as an exciting opportunity to advance our vision of equipping a releasing those who have discovered hope to be ‘givers of hope.’ Steve and a former resident a graduate of Threshold House are taking the current program ‘Envoy’.

Christmas Eve the residents hosted eleven visitors who were lonely or struggling. It was a wonderful opportunity to further develop the outreach ministry of the house. We had planned a Threshold House family Christmas dinner and though I was sick and could not make it the guys cooked a wonderful meal and celebrated together.

The year ends on a melancholy note. Yesterday would have been my son’s wedding anniversary. Instead, it marked three months since her death. I was personally reminded of how sad this ‘festive’ season can be for many. God has been good though. It has been wonderful to see an outpouring of love and support for our hurting son. Years ago, with the death of our first boy we learned that life is not fair. It is not right to bury our children. It seems much more natural that they bury us! It is painful to watch helplessly as wave after wave of grief crashes over our son. We do not, though, mourn like those who have no hope! We look forward to death losing its sting more and more over the new year and years to come until finally at the Return of Christ, death will be swallowed up in Victory, and things put right once and for all.

We cross the threshold of 2023 with a lot of hope. I look forward to penning some wonderful news of what God is doing at Threshold House and in the lives and ministries of our residents. I wish you all a blessed and hope filled year.