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“The Hijacking of the Bereans”

Posted on Jul 06 2015 by Gary Mason

By Jonathan Bounds

If only the Bereans could see the future, I’m sure they’d be thrilled. Few cities in early church history enjoy the enviable reputation of this first century group of believers. Their brief cameo in the book of Acts, consisting of but six verses, has for centuries made their name synonymous with nobility of mind and depth of character. With the exception of the fact that they were perhaps included in Paul’s boasting in the churches of Macedonia in his second letter to the Corinthians, the only direct reference to them in Scripture is found in the 17th chapter of Acts.  The verse that has won them such renown in modern Christianity is found in verse 11, where Luke writes,

“Now these were more noble- minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”  Acts 17:11 (NASB)

Here’s where we run into the crux of the problem; It would seem that their reputation has been somewhat hijacked. In our modern age, what comes to mind when the name Berean is mentioned is the idea of never truly committing to a truth before you have examined it for yourself, always maintaining a “healthy” skepticism when it comes to any sermon, book, or other medium of revelation. While we all agree that it is absolutely necessary to let the Scripture be our final authority, not allowing ourselves to be tossed around by “every wind and wave of doctrine”, it is quite possible that many have found themselves taking the concept all the way to the ditch on the other side of the road.

If you were to do a quick internet search of the term “Bereans”, you would doubtless find it attached to another hijacked word; “discernment”. While discernment is a thoroughly Biblical concept, the foreign concept when looking into Scripture is the idea of “discernment ministries” existing solely to expose false doctrines and those that would disseminate such teachings.  Sure, we would all affirm that discernment is a vital tool in every believer’s life, as attested to in many places all over the New Testament.  However, this brand of ministry has often found itself outside the Biblical description of “discerning of Spirits”, and “discerning between good and evil”, and has turned into a veritable witch hunt. What seems to be contrary to Scripture is the idea that a person in the Body of Christ would be able to claim that the core of their gifting and mission is to ferret out the false teachers, the charlatans, and the cults. Any student of the Scripture would agree that in these last days, it will be imperative for believers and especially leaders to be able to expose and refute the multitude of false teachings and errant doctrines that we were warned would be rampant in our time, but the idea that this is independent of the discerning, preaching, and manifestation of the truth of the gospel is likely an error in its own right.

We all have probably encountered that individual, in person or online, who feels it is their responsibility to expose the frauds. In my personal experience, it is impossible for this person to keep an open heart to the things of God for very long when engaged in this type of “ministry” alone. When one’s ministry is defined by identifying and exposing wrong doctrine, cults, and the like, it is a virtually inevitable result that this person will arrive at the point where they no longer “rejoice in the truth” as described in 1 Corinthians 13, but rather begin to “rejoice in unrighteousness”, as their very ministry depends on it. It is also nearly unavoidable that they would continue such a ministry for any sustained period of time without succumbing to the trappings of pride and spiritual arrogance. In my time years ago as an assistant manager of a Christian bookstore, I would occasionally encounter customers that upon entering the store, would usually make a beeline for the “cults” section, which in moderation could be very helpful, always looking to expand their substantial library of resources with the latest exposé of the modern “doctrines of demons”. Such a person begins to flip through the latest Christian best-sellers, not looking for edification or revelation, but rather with a hope that they will find error, and with such an attitude, it is usually a foregone conclusion that they will find something to satisfy their hunger. Far too often, the modern self-identifying Berean rarely listens to a sermon eager to draw closer to Christ, but rather places themselves in the seat of the critic, examining the speaker’s every point, watching for error, their Bible now used as a legal text with which to refute the errant and expose the unlearned.  This, however, was not the picture we see of the Bereans in Acts 17.

It is important to note that Luke does not write simply that the Bereans were noble-minded, but rather that they were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica. To properly understand this statement, we must look at the city that they were being placed in contrast to. Earlier in Acts 17, we are told that while in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul followed his usual pattern of first visiting the synagogue and preaching the gospel to the Jews before going to the Gentiles of the city. The trouble with the Thessalonian synagogue was that while many Jews and God-fearing Greeks believed and were saved, the leaders of the synagogue became jealous and violently opposed the apostles and their message, going so far as to form a mob and drag some of the prominent believers of the city in front of the city authorities, accusing them of the grave crime of treason. When some ministers expound on the verse speaking of the Bereans as being more noble-minded, the implication that we’re often led to is that the Bereans are somehow being compared to a group of naive simpletons who blindly accepted whatever they heard without having the spiritual maturity or intellectual integrity to fact-check it for themselves. Upon reading it in its context, we find that Luke’s account presents a different contrast altogether. The Bereans are being compared to a group of people that were closed and hardened to this new message being presented to them, and jealous at the followers it was attracting. They weren’t willing to allow for the possibility that the message being proclaimed was a fulfillment of the very Scripture that they claimed to hold so dear, and resisted the notion that Jesus Christ Himself was at the very heart of their beloved law and prophets. Once again in verse 11, we see Luke state that the proof of the Bereans’ noble minds was not that they received the word with skepticism, but rather with “great eagerness”.  He does not imply that they examined the Scriptures hoping to disprove the apostles, but rather, that they did so daily in order to “see that these things were so.” It seems that they received this new message with an open heart and were excited to find that the Christ the apostles preached was the Messiah they had read and heard about all their lives; the very same Messiah whose presence in the Scripture now must have virtually jumped off the page at them as they examined the sacred writings with fresh eyes and open hearts.

It is without dispute that any form of revelation that is preached, prophesied, or written, must always be judged and measured by the Scripture, especially in these days where “itching ears” and false teachers are so prevalent. I too get suspicious when I hear of “new revelation” that exists independent of the authority of Scripture. What we can’t afford to lose in this state of alertness is the need for eager hearts that see the Scripture as the living and active Word of God, the truest source of edification for every believer, a revealer of Jesus, and not merely a weapon to dispel a supposed opponent. We should be open to the idea that this very living Word of God will likely confront some of our long-held traditions or belief-systems on occasion; and if it is indeed of God, we would be the better for it. Believers who seek to grow in righteous discernment must remember that we are taught not only to discern error, but even more importantly, to discern truth, remembering Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers admonishing us that while we must examine everything carefully and abstain from every form of evil, at the end of the day, we must hold fast to what is good. Come to think of it, we may owe the Bereans an apology.

Jonathan BoundsJonathan Bounds is the pastor of The Word Church in both Loon Lake, Saskatchewan and in Lloydminster, Alberta.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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April 2015 Video Message from David McGrew

Posted on Apr 11 2015 by Gary Mason

April 2015 video greeting from David McGrew.

David McGrew is pastor of Keystone Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia and the National President of CFCM.

Find out more about him by clicking here.

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Profits of Joy

Posted on Mar 30 2015 by Gary Mason

We all have them.

We want them to change. To grow. Be different.

Sometimes, we just simply want them to leave.

You know who I’m talking about…your heart sinks just a little, almost imperceptibly,  when you see the person in church Sunday morning. When his number comes up on call display, or her email arrives in the inbox you find yourself becoming apprehensive as your heart rate increases. Thoughts like, “What’s wrong now?” or “what are we going to disagree on now?” flood the mind. “Is this the one where they list all the reasons why they’re justified in leaving.”

It’s their calls you let through to voicemail even though time and place permit the conversation but you prefer to first listen to the message hoping to harvest hints of their purpose.

I’m thinking of the ones you have imaginary “corrective” conversations with in your mind trying to rehearse what you’ll say to them. What they’ll say to you in response and then in turn, your reply. They’re the ones with you when your head hits the pillow and then again in the morning before it’s lifted. You know the people you bring with you into the shower, in your thoughts, as you get ready to start the day.

Sometimes they give you a momentary reprieve but you’ve learned that quiet seasons bring little relief as the clouds are simply refuelling to once again rain on your parade.

A few years back (but closer than I care to admit) I was in the middle of my own mental malaise and thinking to myself it would be easier and I would be a lot happier if they just submitted themselves and obeyed like the Word tells them. “Don’t they know I have to give an account for how I watched over their souls?”

Obviously I was thinking about Hebrews 13:17 so I opened my bible for a fresh review expecting to receive some clarity and justification for my personal heaviness. You know you’re in trouble when you read for review and not revelation. I wanted them to change, submit and obey or in other words, do their part so I could find some joy in being their pastor.

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

(Hebrews 13:17 NKJV)

What I read though, thankfully being from a different perspective, changed my life. I’m grateful for those times when I’m reading the same words but the Holy Spirit reveals yet another layer exposing a greater depth of truth.

The words “Let them do so with joy” leaped off of the page. Who was them? Well, that was me. Ok, leadership is to serve with joy. Then I realized something else. The profit that God seeks in the people on a significant level is dependant upon my heart being filled with joy. My joy produces their profit. Here’s the truth I took away…no joy in the leader is an unprofitable investment for the people. Ouch.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to maintain our joy because an absence of it creates an infertile environment. Without it there’s little excitement, expectation and momentum in you and soon the people. We won’t see the desired growth in our people until we change how we see them.

In many of Paul’s epistles within the first few verses (often by v.3) he says something like “I thank God whenever I think of you” or “ I do not cease to give thanks for you.” The litmus test as to whether we’re beat and just going through the joyless motions is whether or not we’re truly thankful for the people. The moment we first think of them.

Does our heart leap with joy in their presence possessing a confident expectation that God is at work in them finishing the work He’s started? I’m convinced that the more time I spend in simple gratitude and thanksgiving for the people that attend the church (even those who’ve left) the healthier my relationships are with them. Our joy and thankfulness build the necessary trust and respect needed for people to risk investing their hearts and lives with you. Trust me their guards are up if they sense you want them to make the commitment of “marriage’ without first experiencing the joys of courtship. Nobody wants to spend their life with a grouch.

Verily, verily I say unto you (I’ve always wanted to say that) it’s vital we see our joy being independent of the people and how they receive and respond to us. Meaning, just like we teach our people that their joy is independent of their circumstances we too must play by the same rule. If I’m truly in faith for the people then I’m looking at not what is seen but was is unseen. My faith and confidence and therein my joy is not based on their current mindsets and attitudes but on the completed work of Christ. For the joy set before us let us endure the moment because we see through to the other side and the great reward and resource that our people truly are.

I’m a newbie grand father.

When my grandkids come to visit all I do is laugh. When I’m alone with them and no one’s looking (sometimes when they are) I just sit and giggle at everything they do. This is in spite of the fact that when they come it costs me money, the house is in disarray, I get less sleep, I’m constantly cleaning up after them, they don’t always do what their told, need to be disciplined, the aroma from their diapers…the list goes on.

None of that matters.

They’re mine and I will gladly put up with all of it for the joys of spending time watching over them, praying for them, and dreaming about who they’ll become. I realize that all the other stuff just comes with the package and it really is nobody’s fault.

I’m joyfully investing in them now because I know there’s a day coming when I’ll realize the profit.

Craig Byers is pastor of Chilliwack Keystone Church in Chilliwack, BC and the CFCM District Director for British Columbia.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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Be found doing something…

Posted on Mar 25 2015 by Gary Mason

Matthew 4:17-19: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Here’s an interesting thought, Jesus never called lazy people who were not doing anything. He did not say, “Well, I see you don’t have anything better to do today, so I’ll just call you to follow Me.”  Matthew was sitting at the seat of customs doing his job.  He was busy.  Peter and Andrew were casting their nets out there into the sea. And Jesus was saying in verse 19: “Follow Me and I will teach you how to catch men” (my paraphrase).

Sometimes people are sitting waiting for Jesus to call them and doing nothing in the meantime.  Perhaps He is waiting for us to begin doing something so that He can direct us into His purpose for our lives.  It’s easier to direct someone already in motion than it is to get them up and moving when they are sitting doing nothing.

Let’s make a decision to do something. Witnessing on the street, praying with others, ushering in church, volunteering at the local hospital, it could be anything.  But let’s be found doing something for The Kingdom when Jesus comes to invite us into our life’s purpose.

Gary Mason is pastor of Medicine Hat Family Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta and the CFCM Southern Alberta Area Director.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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A message from David McGrew, President CFCM

Posted on Mar 17 2015 by Gary Mason

March 2015 video greeting from David McGrew.

David McGrew is pastor of Keystone Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia and a CFCM National Director.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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HIS-Story… part 2

Posted on Mar 08 2015 by Gary Mason

The redemptive thread that runs through scripture is not an idea or philosophy.  It is a person – Jesus – the central person who reveals the clear purpose of our lives.  To avoid the dead ended thinking of linear timelines and story-lines we must discover the redemptive thread that runs through HIS-Story.  It is a thread which runs through the entire story of the Bible and is revealed in all the little stories.  It is a thread which pulls the story-lines together to form a story-circle.  It is the life giving nature of the Bible which reveals every story interacting with every other story thus giving life to the whole.  It is the circulation of His redemptive blood through HIS-Story.  It is what makes cohesive sense of Hebrews 12 when it declares that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.  When we are found “in Christ” we find ourselves surrounded with the stories of others who discovered themselves in HIS-Story.  These testimonies speak, comfort, and encourage us in our story.

We, in this generation, are bound together by His redemptive purpose.  It is what connects us and flows through us as His body on the earth.  To miss this is to miss our assignment and our cause in this life time.  To miss this is to miss HIS-Story and as a result our story.

To see God as Redeemer is to see something of His nature that would otherwise be missed.  Before He created anything He knew us.  He knew His plan for us, He knew we would fall away, and He knew it would cost Him His life’s blood … yet He still created us! Oh the depth of His redemptive love!  It is one thing for God to benevolently create, it is another for God to sacrificially redeem.  It is more amazing than creation because it declares how God’s great love can redeem what sin and evil has destroyed.  To view our lives in simplistic, logical, linear timelines can leave us hopeless and helpless.  It can leave us out of touch with His massive sacrificial heart.  And yet our lives are a mixture of missed opportunities, undeveloped potential, and broken relationships.

Enter the One who sits above the circle of the earth.  The One that timelines cannot bind or contain.  The One who comes into our lives not bound by time or circumstance and approaches our situations from every possible, conceivable angle.

Isaiah 40:21-22, Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

Isaiah 57:15, For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Jesus is the One, Who before time began, chose to come.  To enter our world, experience our pain, our temptation, and our limitations.  He emptied Himself to enter our world not only to make a way but to declare His love and commitment to a world lost in time and bound in circumstances.  He now sits at the right hand of the Father and invites us to sit with Him in heavenly places.

God views our lives from His eternal perspective which is far above and encircles the story of our lives.  He spoke the end from the beginning.  Therefore, what He has originally intended for our lives, through His redemptive work on the cross, is bringing us full circle.  He is tying up the loose ends, the lost opportunities of our lives, and bringing His resurrection power to bear.  He has seated us with Him, in Christ, to view, redeem, and restore the significance and dignity of our lives.  It is a redemptive dignity that flows from His heart to restore ours.

Therefore, this is how the Lord views our lives and those in our care.  There is nothing of the past or the future that is out of His redemptive reach.  It is amazing to me how understanding our past from God’s perspective can unlock our future. It is a wonderful work that the Lord is doing in our lives and we can never underestimate the impact we have on others.  Often the way we look at our lives is too linear and we fail to appreciate the redemptive work God is doing in us and others in our lifetime.  God can and does work all things together for the good and this happens as God en-circles our lives with His love and grace and starts unfolding our story-circle.  It is a cycling work of His grace that continues to work all things together for the good and grow us into His image … removing the bad and growing the good … all for His glory!!!

Gregg Galan is the Pastor of New and Living Way in Edmonton, Alberta.  New and Living Way is a vibrant community committed to helping families.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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HIS-Story… part 1

Posted on Mar 04 2015 by Gary Mason

Recently, I have been teaching a series entitled HIS-Story.  It has been our goal to gain a fresh perspective of scripture but more importantly a new intimacy with God.  Psalm 139:16 declares that within His book was written the story of our lives.  God is calling us to find ourselves within the pages of His book.  He has written the story of our lives and welcomes us to discover the mystery of its unfolding.

There are many reasons we Christians read our Bibles.  We can read scripture for it’s knowledge but it could leave us puffed up.  We could explore it for its wisdom and it could leave us vain.  We could study it for its principles and it laws and it leave us legalistic.  These are all amazing and sad possibilities given it is the book we all love.  We are vulnerable to miss the point of scripture if we miss the person of scripture – Jesus.  The Bible is about Him, HIS-Story.

Woven into the fabric of scripture is Christ Himself.  He is the inspiration and “the” character of the book.  It is Jesus whom the Holy Spirit reveals and the Father affirms in every story and throughout every point of Biblical history.  When Christ is seen and glorified through the pages of His book we gain fresh perspective and we access the intimacy God offers.

I used to teach the story of Jesus, within the stories of the Bible, in a linear timeline.  Beginning with the overarching theme of the entire Bible and then teaching all the little stories within the bigger story.  Within the grand story of the Bible and in all the little stories we could discover our own story within HIS-Story.  This was effective but something was missing.

Over the years of teaching, my heart has yearned to participate with the work of the Holy Spirit in making His message clear and compelling.  I have often found myself frustrated and dead ended in being able to communicate the compelling truth of the gospel.  God really can work all things together for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  However, what can make sense of the missed opportunities, undeveloped potential, and brokenness found along the timeline of our lives?

In a book entitled Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, we gain a valuable insight.  Here is a quote, “… the Bible was written in a narrative arc that ends where it began.  In other words, biblical logic defies logic.  The Bible was written in a circle.”  This key is known as “ring composition” where chapters of the story are not connected sequentially but synoptically.  This is contrary to the Western logical mindset of linear, sequential progression.  Biblical logic defies logic, in other words, the gospel – HIS-Story – defies what sin, death, and the devil can do to a human story-line.  In fact, what the gospel does is en-circle our lives of broken timelines, missed opportunities, and undeveloped potential. How does God turn the story of our lives from a dead ended story-line into His never-ending story-circle ?

If the Bible really was written in a circle … “declaring the end from the beginning” … and Jesus is the central character of the story, then finding ourselves in HIS-Story is to find ourselves “in Him.”  The entirety of creation revolves around Him for everything was created for Him and by Him.  However, the Bible not only declares God as Creator but also Redeemer.  In fact, the creator aspect of God is very sequential and unfolds logically but the redeemer aspect of God defies logic.  It is one thing for God to benevolently create all things good, it is another to sacrificially redeem what sin has broken and lost.  How does God redeem an unwanted pregnancy, an abused past, or horrific tragedy?  Redemption defies creational logic and yet this is exactly what His death and resurrection declare.  Nothing dead needs to stay dead, nothing lost needs to stay lost.

To find our story, and redeem our story, within HIS-Story we must be found in Him – “in Christ.”  A place that defies sin and death, and places us in the centre of His redemptive heart in Christ.  It places all things within His redemptive reach to restore and renew.  However, the redemptive power of the resurrection cannot be experienced without a death.  Death to self, to sin, to old ways of thinking, and anything else that blocks His life from cycling through us.  To be found in Him is to die to our ways and efforts of making sense of our lives and surrender to the fact that our life is not our own but has been bought with a price.  It is the price of redemption, His own blood, the thread that runs (woven) through the pages of HIS-Story …

Check back next week for Part 2

Gregg Galan is the Pastor of New and Living Way in Edmonton, Alberta.  New and Living Way is a vibrant community committed to helping families.

Find out more about them by clicking here.

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Understanding the times

Posted on Jan 09 2015 by Gary Mason

I believe this year has Endless Possibilities to all of us.  ”And Issachar, men who had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do…”  ~ 1 Chronicles 12:32

Many of us have good intentions to change and know we have to make changes.  But good intentions need to be followed through for possibilities to happen.  It is a true saying that the road to hell is paved with people with good intentions.  The question we ourselves need to answer is, do we rest, sit back, and take it easy?  Do we remain the same? Or do we intentionally plan to move ahead by doing more?  What is God saying to us? It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

We have everything to gain with God and nothing to lose when intentionally in faith we move ahead.  Do we understand the times we live in and what is God saying now?

Norbert Lava
Central Ontario District Director
Find out more about them by clicking here.

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Renew and Press On

Posted on Jan 07 2015 by Gary Mason

Well here we are preparing for the first Sunday services of 2015.  We give thanks to the Lord that He is good and His mercies are new every morning.

The Bible tells us that there is nothing new under the sun and yet lots of old things can be renewed as we pray.  Love is not new to us but we can renew our love and love more than ever before.  Faith is not new to us but we can renew our faith to believe for greater and greater things.

When we pray for this new year may it be to see a year of renewal as we give thanks to the Lord for where we have come from and be stirred to press on to all that is before us.  May each day of this new year unfold like a blooming flower for you and your family as you behold His beauty and glory.

Kevin Mattatall
Maritimes District Director
Find out more about Kevin by clicking here.

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Thoughts for 2015

Posted on Jan 02 2015 by David McGrew

 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.  26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.  28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  29 for our God is a consuming fire. 
— Hebrews 12:25-29 (ESV) —

Dear Friends and Co-workers,

I spent a bit of the day in prayer yesterday with some of our church folk and had some thoughts I wanted to share with you.

Most of us would enter a new year with some sense of the future, and typically we would frame it in the best possible light. This year, without any diminishment of the Grace of God and all the wonderful things we can expect from him, I had an entirely different sense of how we should view 2015.

Hebrews 12:25-29, amongst other passages, was hammered home into my heart. I carry an awareness that we all need to do our own internal audits, making adjustments and battening hatches as required. This year will carry aspects of God shaking the life’s structures we’ve relied upon so that which will remain will be only that which is founded on His unshakeable Kingdom.

We as leaders must firstly be adjusted and equipped for the winds of God as they begin to blow. If OUR walk with the Lord is polluted by dreams and assumptions of our own making, great will be the harm we allow into Christ’s body.

Now, more than ever, we need to lead the souls we’ve been entrusted with into a greater, purer, more personal and authentic relationship with the Lord Jesus than we have ever corporately achieved. This may mean a changing of emphasis away from life, ourselves and church to make room for Jesus to reveal Himself directly to our members. Like the groom’s friend Paul talked about, giving Him room by stepping back from the intimate joining of Spirits He continually works in each individuals life.

I’m not implying these things are unfamiliar to us or that the world as we know it will end in one given year. I am saying that these very familiar words will on some level show their reality to each of us, this year, in a new and unexpected way. We must equip- with all that entails- those around us, to stand.

Let us be grateful for a Kingdom that cannot he shaken. Let us do all we can in every life to ensure that on that stormy day when the rains come and the winds blow that the houses we have built stand the storms and the shakings that are eventually and surely coming our way.

With great love and hope,

David

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