Friday, 10 March 2017

My Latest Challenge

I enjoy challenges. Usually I enjoy them more after I've seen a positive outcome than I do leading up to facing them. But I'm always amazed at how God orchestrates things. I must say I have not often been disappointed during my time in this Alpha ministry. There have been times I have been very nervous about some upcoming event or task, and spent much agonizing time in prayer, but when I look back I'm amazed at how well things worked out. I think it must be because it was God's will that they work out the way they did. It could have been a major event, an appointment with a church leader or just walking up to a church door making a cold call.

One thing that comes to mind is an idea I took from one of Jan Karon's Mitford books; that is, In any situation, if I don't know specifically what to pray, I can merely pray, "Thy will be done." It's the prayer that always works.

Another thing is that I sometimes seem to wake up in the middle of the night, greatly worried over something, and pleading to God in prayer, but everything seems better in the light of the next day. I wonder if that is the basis of the saying, "It's always darkest just before the dawn." Or, as the Bible puts it;
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)
So... the challenge noted in the title above...

I just committed this week to run a training session for an Alpha in Mandarin. First time ever. I have some time - it's not until June - but that, hopefully, will give me time to think it through, get it straight in my mind and line up the resources I will need. Anita, the course administrator, has promised to provide an interpreter and Alpha does indeed have training videos subtitled in simplified Chinese characters, which Mandarin-speaking people understand. I will obviously use them, but I think the group, as do any who have never run Alpha before, will appreciate a personal presence for clarification and additional insight. I also have a couple of local Chinese Alpha coaches I can draw on for help.

So perhaps you'll join me in praying, in this and in all other challenges, "Thy will be done."

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Conversations on a Monday

I spoke with Pastor Paul Vallee of Living Stones church in Red Deer. I met with him earlier this year as Living Stones was about to begin their first regular Alpha in some time (they have run Alpha’s Youth Film Series a number of times). After that meeting, I made myself a reminder to call after their Alpha weekend to see how it went. I must say that my conversation with Pastor Paul made my day. They had 13 people pray to receive Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit. They saw two previously completely unchurched families arrive for church on Sunday morning and left impressed and loving it.

I also carried on an email conversation with City Centre Church, here in Edmonton. They are running Alpha in Prive Ultralounge next door to their office. Their Sunday morning services are held in a Landmark Cinema in Downtown Edmonton. Judging by the Lounge’s website I’d say, at the very least, it’s an interesting venue for an Alpha. Last night was their first night and they had 18 new people out to it.

I received an email from a church who has a long-ago history with Alpha, but now with a brand new team and staff in place, is interested in reviving it. I will call him today (Tuesday) and arrange to get together for coffee.

Finally (I shouldn’t say finally, because even though I’ve only posted about four items here, my day, even at home in my office, seems to fill up with any number of things to which to attend), but finally for this post, I fired off an email to Jocelyne, the Youth Coordinator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan, with a sales pitch about why she should consider Alpha for the young people of her diocese. I first met Jocelyne when I dropped in unannounced to the Chancery office in Grande Prairie and caught the whole staff on their coffee break in the basement. She replied this morning, saying how she knows Alpha is a wonderful tool and she may use it next year. That may sound like a put-off, but I believe her. She is fairly new to her position, with lots to do, so I have made a note to call her later on in the year.  

That was my Monday, usually one of the slower days of my week.

Blessings,

John

Friday, 3 March 2017

Psalm 124. What If?

Here is a devotional thought I shared with the Alpha Canada Regional Director team on our most recent  conference call. I am so blessed to be part of a praying team.

Psalm 124
If the Lord had not been on our side — let Israel say — if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.  Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I’m thinking of prayer. Why do we pray? If God knows what we want, why do we ask Him? If He knows what he is going to do, why do we ask Him. The question that occurred to me is, “What if?” What if the Lord had not been on our side? What if we hadn’t prayed?

We’ve all seen answers to prayer. We’ve all seen God’s provision and we’ve all praised Him and shared our praises with one another regarding His faithfulness. But I wonder if we’ve taken these answers to our prayers for granted – as ordinary – as to be expected? Frankly I don’t think that’s all bad. Obviously we shouldn’t take God for granted in a presumptuous way, but I think we can see it as being confident in His faithfulness. Rather than arrogantly expecting God to grant us our will, the way we expect Him to answer our prayers, let us make it a matter of trust and faith that He will answer our prayers because they are in accordance with His will.

Psalm 37:4 tells us:Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Make sure the desires of our hearts come from Him.

What would have happened if we hadn’t prayed? Best not to know. Best not to make that test. St Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. So we continue to lift up all things, great and small. Not only is nothing impossible for God – nothing is too big for him to grant, but also nothing is too small for Him to bother with. We can pray for all the small everyday things – we can pray for each meeting or phone call, we can pray for safety in our travels, we can pray for the salvation of our friends and families, we can pray for donor support.

If we can’t think of anything else we can simply pray, “Thy will be done…” As Father Tim says in Jan Karon’s Mitford books, “It’s the prayer that never fails.”


So we don’t stop praying. We pray always. We pray every day. We’re ready at all times to lift up any circumstance or situation in prayer.

Blessings,

John