Thursday, 20 October 2016

Youth and the Future

I listened in on our Alpha Youth Champions Webinar today. At left, in a screenshot of the call, is Tim Teakle, Youth Associate in Ontario, but who has been acting in rather a national capacity for the last while as Alpha Canada has been searching for a National Youth Director.

Speaking of that, however, below is Alpha's brand new National Director for Youth, Tim Gonzales.
The focus of the call was the encouragement and empowerment of students in high- and junior high schools to share Alpha with their friends in their schools, and to invite their friends into a conversation about life, faith and God.
It is already happening in a number of schools across the country and our hope and prayer is that it will happen in many more. If I may say so, much of the impetus for the formation of this concept of a network of Youth Champions came from the passion of Alberta's own Youth Associate, Amy Croy, and her own heart to see students empowered to run Alpha in their schools.

One statistic mentioned this morning that I found encouraging is that 75 young people have now signed up as wanting to participate in running Alpha in their schools for their friends.

There is so much hope for this generation of young people. Please pray for them as they come to a faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and as they may find it more and more difficult to profess that faith publicly as time goes on.



Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Is There Any Hope?

Alpha in Prisons
In a word, "Yes."

One of my memories is of running Alpha for about three years at the Fort Saskatchewan (Alberta) jail and seeing wonderful results and lives changed among the inmates there. Did you know that statistically, as I understand it, among prisons in Canada, the average re-offending rate for released inmates is between 70 and 75%?

However, the re-offending rate for those who have attended Alpha in prison and come to a genuine faith in Christ is about 8% (eight percent)! Isn’t that amazing? My friends and colleagues John and Roxana Kreklo are doing a great job of communicating this to prison officials across Canada. For the good of our country, pray that they, and we, make headway and inroads in this area.

Friends, the solution to a great number of our society's problems is right in front of us, but do you think anything will be done about it? Do you think those with the power and position to act will do so?

Aside from some kind of divine intervention, probably not, I'm afraid. But divine intervention is what we're all about, so the least we can do is pray. Please do.



Monday, 17 October 2016

DtP, Where the 't' is a Cross

Disturbing the Peace
Disturbing the Peace is one of the coolest names I can think of for a youth gathering. It has been held for the past 14 years in Grande Prairie, this year at Grande Prairie Alliance (GPA), but it attracts young people from churches all across the Peace Region, from Fort St John and Dawson Creek in BC to Peace River in Alberta.
I was up there this past weekend, not so much in an official capacity, but because two of my grandchildren were attending. They have recently found their way back to church and are attending GP Alliance. My granddaughter, 13, was baptised there a couple of weeks ago.
Having said that, there was an Alpha presence - Ben Woodman from our Youth Alpha Film Series was there, along with Dan Roe, who is involved in its production. It was good to see them both again so soon after our Alpha staff retreat and hear of their adventures in getting to Grande Prairie. Apparently their plane from Vancouver was rerouted due to weather concerns from it's original transfer point (Calgary or Edmonton, I don't remember which) to Regina. They then missed their connecting flight to GP and had to take a later one, so Ben missed his first of five scheduled sessions. However, we caught his last one on Sunday morning and he had us alternatively in tears and stitches. Ben is a great speaker, a great lover of young people and a great ambassador for Alpha and for Jesus.
Friday, before we left home, I had sent an email to April Fogle who is running Alpha with the youth from St Joseph's Catholic Church in Grande Prairie, just wanting to introduce myself. Quelle surprise, then, when, although I didn't hear back from her by email, she was introduced onstage as one of the workers who had helped put this year's DtP together. I could see, then, why she might have been a bit too busy to answer my email, so I introduced myself to her there.
Also encouraging was to find out that GPA's Youth Pastor, Caleb Barkman, is coordinating Alpha for youth in two local high schools (even though they have not, as yet, registered.;>)
I am so encouraged at what I hear is going on among the youth of this province and this nation through Alpha. Kids are discovering God and coming to faith in amazing numbers. I believe I have mentioned before that in 2015, 6000 teens from inside and outside the church came to faith in Christ in Canada alone through Alpha.
Please keep these young people in your prayers as they grow up in a world in which it is seemingly more and more difficult to profess a public faith in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

How Did We Get Here?

How did we get to the point where everything seems to have been turned upside down, in so short a time? I can remember a time when a person running for political office would include, in their campaign pamphlet, a picture of them and their family coming down the steps of a church on a Sunday morning. Nowadays, a Christian faith seems to be anathema to great majority of the voting public.

Holding an opinion in areas of sexuality and morality that most Canadians held not that long ago now earns one the accusation of, "hater."

Now the reality of "assisted dying" is with us. I will not deign to judge the pain or agony, physical or emotional, of one who feels this to be the only option, but what I do fear is the retraction of the right of conscience for physicians who feel they cannot participate. Watch for it.

Just as I'm sure as I can be that that same right of conscience will disappear for any religious leaders who feel  they must take a stand on the position of marriage. Watch for this too. That right of conscience, seemingly guaranteed in our constitution, is already being erased in the area of gender identity.

But here, with tongue somewhat in cheek, is what illustrates my thoughts on the forces that may have brought about his upheaval so quickly:

I post this, really, only as a bit of a joke; to give you this rather amusing (in my opinion) illustration that may or may not be far off the truth.

In truth, I feel I must not dwell so much on what is happening in worldly society and concentrate on whatever small role I might play in contributing to God's Kingdom work while I am still here on earth.

So... #tryalpha



Monday, 10 October 2016

A PC Presentation

No, it's not PC as in, "politically correct." Rather, it refers to the Presbyterian Church.

I was invited to give a presentation on Alpha to members of the Edmonton-Lakeland Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Canada (PCC),at Callingwood Road Presbyterian Church in Edmonton.

It was a 3-hour presentation, plus lunch, so it went from 10 to 2.

I included a section explaining what Alpha is, why it's particularly effective for evangelizing in today's culture, and a session (see pic) on Alpha's model of prayer ministry.

I must admit that I may be overly sensitive in one particular area of Alpha, and that is the subject of being filled with the Holy Spirit and receiving the gift of tongues; especially among mainline denominations.

In fact, whether in my own Alpha small groups or speaking with some pastors who may not, or whose denominations may not, agree with Alpha's position on speaking in tongues, I always give them an, "out," so to speak. I tell them that this is an area in which not all Christians agree, are free not to, and that if they are uncomfortable with it, just let it go. I do say not to leave it out, because trying to avoid speaking about the gift of tongues is like not telling your kids about the facts of life and hoping they won't hear about them anywhere else.

So I gave that little disclaimer before my talk, I showed a short video by Alpha Canada's own Jason Ballard on prayer training, then ran the entire episode form the Alpha's Youth Film Series on being filled with the Holy Spirit, including receiving the gift of tongues. I was a bit surprised when, at the end of it, one guest asked, "What could possibly be controversial about that?"

We closed out the session by following Alpha's model of inviting the Holy Spirit to come, then finally praying for one another in groups of three or four at our tables.

I'm afraid I haven't yet been in touch with my host for the day,  Pastor Rodger McEachern for feedback on the day, because the very next day I was off to Loon Lake BC for the Alpha Canada staff retreat. 

That will be the subject of another post.



Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The World Should Be Astonished

I was at an event the other night when the teaching was on Acts 3 - 4; the healing of the lame man at the temple gate. This verse stuck out to me.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.(Acts 4:13)
This should be true today about Christians. People should be astonished at the effect Jesus has on our lives.
Jesus also said: will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
What I find interesting is that where Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16 - 20) is a command - "Go!", his statement from Acts, above, is merely a statement of reality: "You will be my witnesses."

The question is will we be good witnesses or bad.
Will we be effective or ineffective?
Will we draw people toward him or push them away?
The world out there is watching.
The world is waiting to hear.
How do we reach them?




Monday, 5 September 2016

Allow Me to Rant

"...wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie..." (2 Thessalonians 2: 10b - 11)
I believe a great delusion has fallen on our culture, and it has happened so quickly that it can only be supernatural in nature. What used to be known as good is now called evil.  Mere disagreement is now called hate. "Tolerance" once correctly defined as allowing others, and respecting the rights of others, to believe differently, has come to mean absolute acceptance of all thoughts and behaviours as completely valid. The only thing now considered wrong is disagreement with those who think that all things are acceptable.

And it has happened with amazing rapidity - within a few years even.

At the same time, a veil seems to have fallen over people's eyes to prevent them from seeing the truth. Facebook is filled with people posting warm and fuzzy quotes; quotes that in the end are nothing but words on a screen. They may make some feel better or encouraged for a short time, but beyond that, what good do they do? No sooner has one read or posted one inspirational saying than another one appears. It seems to me they are like a drug. One is never enough

Why do people not see the one thing that will really help - a genuine relationship with God - the God who is as real as the keyboard upon which they type.

Even the world of Alpha has changed. Years ago it was not unusual to see large Alpha's of 60, 100 people or more. These can still be found, but more and more we are seeing Alpha run in small home groups or in coffee shops or in pubs, of 5, 10, or 20 guests. Perhaps we are returning to the model of the early church where small groups of believers met in homes or catacombs, hiding from those who held the power and would silence them but who, over the course of two or three centuries, changed the world.

But whether in large groups or small, Alpha introduces people seeking the truth to the one who is the Truth; the One who changes lives and changes them for the better; the Saviour of the world and the Saviour of the individual - Jesus.

Knowing God - there is nothing better. #TryAlpha