Monday, 30 March 2015

We Will Never Have To

I heard Ravi Zacharias say something that I thought was quite profound:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." Jesus spoke these words so that we would never have to.
This Passion week, ponder what Christ has done for us and be grateful. Then think of how we can communicate this greatest of all news to those who have not yet heard.

#Runalpha

Blessings,

John

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Greatest of These is Love

There was a Dial deodorant soap commercial when I was younger. Their slogan was, "Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?"

Well, that's my slogan now; "Aren't you glad you know the Lord? Don't you wish everybody did?"

I'm thinking about three things;
  1. Love,
  2. Evangelization 
  3. Alpha.
In that order. Because that's the order of their priority.

1a) The greatest of these is love. First the love of God for us. Before we knew Him, He loved us. He so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whoever came to believe in him would not perish but have eternal life, and while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That is the greatest love.

1b)Next, our love for God. When we realize His love for us, then what He did in expressing that love - sending His son to die, and when He fills us with His Holy Spirit, we realize the true depth of this love and we want to repay that love by serving and glorifying Him.

1c)Then our love for others, and as a result, the second thing;

2. Evangelization. If we love others, then we want to communicate this wonderful gift of God's love to them. We serve and glorify God by telling others; by introducing others to that first wonderful love and telling them about the beautiful relationship with God that is available to them.

Which leads to the third thing:

3. Alpha. Alpha is the best way I've ever found to accomplish that second thing; telling others. It is the simplest thing. All one has to do is invite. All one has to say is, "Would you like to come to an Alpha course with me?" It is so simple I'm amazed how difficult it is to get people to do it.

Jesus told his followers two things: he told us to go into all the world and make disciples, and he told us we would be his witnesses. The first was an order, the second was a statement of fact. In other words, he did not tell us to be his witness, he just told us we would be. What that means is, however we live our lives, the world is watching, so we can be good witnesses or we can be bad.

But the first was an order. We are to make disciples. Imagine if your earthly employer gave you a project and you didn't do it. You would be fired, or at least disciplined. Imagine then standing before Jesus and saying about the project he has given you, "I didn't do it." What do you think will be his attitude? 

So find an Alpha course, or start one, and invite someone to it. Those things Jesus said? You'll have them both covered.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Front Page News

Nelson LaPerle, a non-practising Catholic, is happy he attended the recent Alpha program at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park.
So begins this article from The Western Catholic Reporter, dated January 20, 2014.

So, why am I just getting around to mentioning it now? Well, the issue in which it appeared as a front page story was part of a stack of material that John Kuran, Faith Permeation Coordinator for the Holy Family Catholic School Board, Peace River, brought in with him to our recent meeting (mentioned in my previous post.) I expect it will be part of his, "ammunition" when he approaches the powers that be in his circle of influence to make Alpha an important tool in evangelizing the Peace Region of Alberta.

Praying for his (and His) success.

Blessings,

John

Monday, 23 March 2015

More Alberta Travels

This is a picture of St Paul's, a small country church on Goodwin Road, visible from Hwy 43 between Debolt and the Smoky River Valley on the way to Grande Prairie. I'm not sure I've ever noticed it before, even though it is plainly visible from the highway. I learned about it from the Rev. Rose Howell at St Anne's Anglican in Valleyview, as it is part of her charge. The church is not in use at the moment, because it has no running water, just a 25 meter walk to an outhouse, and is heated by an old wood-burning stove.

But I thought I'd check it out anyway. There was a fresh 10 cm of snow on the ground, and the only tracks in the snow (before mine) were animal tracks. I was unable to get past the foyer, but took a couple of pictures through a window. The pews are all in place, and here is one picture that turned out (others didn't as there was too much reflection in the window glass). Note the ancient pump organ  in the bottom left. Once again, I find myself thinking of the people who built and once worshipped in small country churches like these, in contrast to others I visit with sanctuaries seating over 1000 and sound systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Quite a contrast. But as I've said before, we Christians today stand on the shoulders of those who came before and exercised their faith modestly in places like these.

Having said all that, let me report on my trip to Grande Prairie and the Peace Country.

I had a number of interesting, encouraging and productive visits. I connected with churches who are currently running Alpha's, some who are new to it, a couple who have in the past, are not right now, but who intend to later in the year, and some "cold calls" to churches where I found some interest.

One of my most encouraging meeting was with Sister Louise of the Diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan, and John Kuran of the Holy Family Catholic School Board in Peace River. They are both very excited to get Alpha going at both the parish and the school level, so we'll see what God will work out there.

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Does God Answer Prayer? Are You Kidding?

A rhetorical question of course. Does He make things work together according to His will? Rhetorical again. Of course He does!

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Grande Prairie and the Peace Country. I fired off a letter last week to both new and experienced Alpha churches in those areas and enroute, offering to pay a visit and chat about Alpha. One of them was to a teacher in a First Nations school where she was running the Youth Film Series for her junior high kids. Here initial reply was, "Yes!!!!!!!!!," with a promise to fill in details with a longer reply later.

It turns out that my e-mail may have been one of those wonderful, "God coincidences," (coincidence #8970). She really felt the need for a conversation. Her community was really hurting and she was finding things really challenging. Three of her kids, just in grade 7, had lost family members to suicide since Christmas! She needed help.

This was last week, before my trip to the Youth conference in Calgary, so imagine my completely pleasant surprise when she came up to my Alpha booth and introduced herself there in Calgary (#8971). She had spoken to the principal of her school and pleaded for permission to attend this conference. In fact, both she and her principal came. I was so blessed and encouraged to see her there. I have had a real heart for our First Nations people since I ran Alpha in the Fort Saskatchewan jail and saw the challenges they have had, both in the environments of their growing up and in the difficulties they face upon release.

I introduced her to both Amy Croy, our wonderful Alpha for Youth coach in Alberta and to Ben Woodman, co-star, if you like, of the Youth Film Series itself. Ben is the centre of attention wherever he goes, with hoards of kids wanting selfies and conversatiions with him. (You can find both Ben and Jason Ballard, his other half on the Film Series here, as part of our Alpha team.)

I thank this young teacher and I thank God for her, for her heart for her kids and her willingness to step out of her comfort zone to help them. She said, in her original note, that she felt so inadequate to present the course, but it would be even more awful not to. Bless her heart! We parted with prayer and the idea that Amy herself would go to the school and help with their Alpha, which was tonight (Tuesday)

Please pray for her and for these kids. I realize I have given few specific details, but God knows who she is and He knows them.

Blessings,

John (composed at 8:30 PM, March 10, 2015)

Update, 11:00 PM, March 10, 2015 (Coincidence #8972)

I began this post sitting in a McDonald's, on my laptop. (Just to clarify, I composed it on my laptop, seated at a table - I wasn't sitting on my laptop.) I was waiting for my wife who was attending a church board meeting, scheduled to be over at 9. At about 8:40 I fired off e-mails to both Amy and this young teacher asking if Amy was there at their Alpha tonight and how it went. She replied that she and Amy were in Edmonton having a coffee together and debriefing regarding the Alpha, which Amy did indeed attend. I answered, asking where. She replied. They were a couple of blocks away from where I was, at a Starbucks. I hopped in my car and was there before they had received their order.

We chatted for a bit, then I got a text from my wife to come and pick her up. When I did, I asked if she would like to come and meet Amy and the teacher, so we did, and shared a bit of conversation and prayer time there in Starbucks, until closing time at 10.

She has given me permission to share this, so that is why I included the picture above, of her, the school principal, Ben, Amy, Me (with the cross growing out of my head). We heard tonight what a blessing we have been to her, and that, plus her love for her school kids, has been an amazing blessing to me.

How did their Alpha go? Apparently, chaotic, but well in the end, but they still need prayer.

So please don't stop.

Blessings again,

John

PS: She showed the picture to her kids and, mistaking me for Jason Ballard, they said, "He looks way older."



Sunday, 8 March 2015

My New "Life Verse"

"...I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." (Acts 20:24)
I was at a CWYC training conference in Calgary this past Friday and Saturday. Being a youth conference, the focus was on Amy Croy, my Alpha for Youth coach for Alberta, and Ben Woodman, one half of the starring Youth Film Series team (along with Jason Ballard). I was the token old guy.

There were many highlights, but one was one of the speakers who quoted the above verse as his "life verse." I thought it was perfect for where I am right now. I've had a pretty good life, and I can realistically admit that most of it is over. But my desire is that whatever is left, I live for God and His glory.

How that will look, I don't quite know. I am happy to carry on doing what I'm doing for Alpha, for as long as God or my National Director will have me. After that, who knows? But my prayer and strong desire is be a net benefit in service to God's kingdom for as long as I'm on this earth.

LORD willing, I will.

Blessings,

John