Archive for January, 2012

h1

Calvary in India

January 24, 2012

This month we sent Richard, Ryan, Rod and Jordan to India. I thought I would cut and paste Pastor Richard’s report into my blog. Also, see the comments from Ryan on my last blog post where he shares about India. They will be sharing in person during a Sunday service soon.

Enjoy!

Journey: Rod, Ryan, Jordan and I departed from Vancouver International on Friday evening, 6 January, and after 2 long/exhausting layovers in London and New Delhi, we arrived in Bhubaneswar (BBI) on Sunday evening, 8 January. We were driven another 2 hours to our hotel near the conference centre in the coastal town of Puri.

The Conference: The next day, the delegates arrived in the morning. Many had to travel for days to get there. We still managed to squeeze in 3 sessions on that 1st day with Rod and I teaching from Revelation and Ryan doing Apologetics. An occasion for a laugh happened when we found out that we were advertised as doing Revelation and Acts. (We called it “apologet-acts”).

The teaching sessions lasted from morning, afternoon and early evening, Monday (9 January – some adjustments on Monday due to the late start) to Thursday (12 January) with one last session on Friday (13 January). We closed with a Service of Communion with me presiding together with 2 of the Indian leaders, and Rod and Ryan serving. Jordan did the music with a local pastor. He would usually open each session with song and the delegates – some couldn’t read English – joined in enthusiastically! We left Puri for BBI in the mid-afternoon.

The Delegates: There was considerable inter-action between us and the delegates1 throughout. Many have been recorded via video. We were very touched listening to their stories of ministry, which persist in spite of persecution and harassment from the Hindu extremists.2 We met some pastors who were physically threatened, one of whom was arrested and confined, and he believed his captors were going to return and kill him. But, he escaped with injury. These people are still serving and growing churches, some having several church plants under their wing. It is obvious that persecution has strengthened the church though it is very, very under-equipped. Delegates came from a variety of backgrounds: some are Bible school teachers, students, some pastors (senior and junior) and several are tribal pastors who can barely write in their own language. They had varying degrees of knowledge of English. 2 other highlights – when we distributed: 1) the Bibles that Bruce and Gillian donated – the delegates were thrilled and one publicly said she had been waiting 3 years for a study Bible. Dr Susanto was overjoyed as well, saying these Bibles are rare to get hold of. Bibles in the Orrya language were also given to the non-English-speaking delegates. 2) The guitar strings that Greg and Lorna donated as many churches have guitars in the worship teams.

Tushar: Our contact man throughout was Tushar Bedera, whose wife, Kalpana, runs the Dreamhome. He made our stay comfortable and we were taken to-and-fro by hired car. Tushar made all the arrangements for us and would translate some while the other translation load was also done by pastors Pani and Susanto. His story and work were a great inspiration for the team as we had hours together – travelling and visiting.

1 There were about 80 delegates in all.

2 The group RSS has been persecuting the Christians. This is the same group that assassinated Gandhi.

Dreamhome: On Saturday, 14 January, we visited the Dreamhome in Cuttack (about 1 ½ hours away) and spent the day with the girls3 – who sang, danced and played soccer with/for us. The Dreamhome had its 2nd anniversary in January 2012 and I’m impressed with everything I saw while we there. Last year when I was there I was already impressed with what the girls were receiving but now it is even more obvious that not only are they being well taken care of but they are healthy and whole. It is also obvious that good relations exist between Tushar/Kalpana and the neighbours, which is very important if the home is to be a light in this place and further work is going to happen. One of the highlights of that visit for me was also to be driven to a church building in a remote area not far from the Dreamhome. Here, 15-20 years ago, Tushar and others came and taught the villagers simple reading and writing skills. Today, one of those who were blessed by this ministry became a pastor and this method of evangelism is definitely worth repeating. We visited this pastor’s home and saw the church building. It gathers about 100 people for Service on Sundays.

The girls were delighted to receive the gift packages that Calvary donated and they shared and played. I saw many of the clothes and toys that we brought last year. We decided against directly giving the other gift packages to the villagers. I felt it wiser for Tushar to do the distribution later as a means of further building relationship with the people as well as to avoid the perception of outsiders being seen as gift bearers.

On Sunday, Rod, Ryan and Jordan visited several churches in BBI. Rod and Ryan spoke at them while Jordan did some worship in the morning. I couldn’t go as I had to wait for a church leader who had to travel a long distance to come and collect a projector that Phil Allinger had asked us to deliver. (Phil as well as his dad know/knew PC Varghese over many years and have been supporting his work). A useful contact was made but I am unable to commit to work with him at this time. He has ministries in 10 Indian states as well as in Nepal, Thailand and Burma; and knows at least 3 people I am in contact with.

Departure: I departed on the morning of Monday 16 January and Jordan a few hours later. Rod and Ryan stayed on for a few more days leaving on Thursday 19 January with Ryan going to other parts of India for work-related matters and Rod for home.4 Before, I departed, we dug into our pockets to help pastor Matthews whose 1 month-old son had contracted pneumonia but who couldn’t afford the medicines. Yes, the needs in India are many but here was one case, we couldn’t walk away from.

Conclusion 1: The trip was a profound experience for all of us. We value the friendships made and the conversations we had were very insightful and mind-blowing. We don’t come across these in North America. Obviously, the church though under-funded and stretched, is thriving but at great personal cost. A different dimension of evangelism and discipleship is going on here. Persecution and challenge are making the people aware of what their priorities should be. While we were very blessed, each one of the team contributed to the work we had and each was a blessing in turn: Jordan led with inspiration and anointing. The sessions were able to lift off because of his ministry. This is no small thing when one considers language and the possibility of nuances being lost-in-translation. Rod taught in the afternoons and presided over the discussion times. They loved him and he had to occasionally rein the people in as discussions could be quite impassioned. Ryan gave the folks an important tool in his sessions and his ministry was greatly valued as there was great insight into a very practical area that they come across almost everyday.5

Conclusion 2: Before I left I asked Tushar to enquire further about a few things that deserve attention: 1) The possibility of aiding the evangelistic work of their pastors by repeating what they did in the village near the Dreamhome – teaching them to read their language. The expenses per project are expected to be about US $500. He has 4 pastors in mind for this. 2) The possibility of drilling 2 bore holes for water, which is what we did in the Dreamhome, and which enables Tushar/Kalpana to share water with our neighbours in summer – the very hot season when some water wells run dry. Apart from humanitarian considerations, this is a sure evangelistic booster.

I didn’t commit Calvary to these but they are worth considering and I’ll ask Tushar to send me some quotes.

Richard Ang

19 January 2012

Advertisements
h1

Part of our mission-serving the world

January 15, 2012

We exist at Calvary to glorify God by making disciples who love God, love people, and serve the world.

I want to write about serving the world. God has served us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus humbled himself and took on the role of a servant (Philippians 2, John 13). He put our needs above his own, giving his life for ours on the cross.

As we have been served by Christ so we are to serve our world- reflecting the love and character of our God. The purpose of this blog post is to point out the ways in which we are fulfilling this aspect of our mission.

How are we serving the world?

1. We are serving Roy Stibb’s elementary school. We have partnered with their cloths for kids drive and have raised several thousands dollars for their school. Other opportunities to serve the school are on the horizon. For example, we’ve been asked to help redesign a space in their lobby where hyper-active students and parents can relax. Their dream is to have a fish tank in this area and they’ve asked if any of our church members would be willing to up keep the tank for them.

2. We participated again in the Cold, Wet Weather Mat Program. We have been housing the homeless this month in our church. Many of our volunteers have been providing food and friendship for the homeless.

When the homeless are sheltered in this manner the ability of shelter workers to get them off the street is three times as likely. When a homeless person no longer has to worry about food or shelter they have more brain space to think about changing their life. Sometimes they decide to deal with their addiction.

A group from Toronto recently did an independent survey of homelessness in the lower mainland and they found that homelessness had most dramatically decreased in our area when compared to any other area. One of the main factors that contributed to this, according to them, was the unique involvement of local churches.

We’re a part of that. We’ve been a part of homeless people getting off the street, finding freedom from addiction and getting their lives back. Rob Theissen, who runs Hope for Freedom, says that around 9 out of 10 men who come to recovery with them accept Christ as savior and Lord. He’s been tracking that stat for 14 years.

3. We have been supporting an Orphanage in India. In the future we may have the privilege of supporting the building of a school in the same area. We also sent some of our men to run a conference to encourage and bless a group of 80 indigenous pastors and church planters. Let’s help plant more churches in India and rescue more children from poverty and dire circumstances- can I get an amen.

4. People within our church support Joel and ALison Wagler as they work with inner-city youth downtown. Others support Mindy and Lyle working in Cambodia. Still others support Derek Hill as he works on university campuses. They are all an extension of us at Calvary.

5. Freedom session. Many people from the community and other churches are attending freedom session. Together we are discovering the power of God to release us from our addictions, wounds and paralyzing fears. It’s remarkable to witness. God is doing great things. Families, marriages and lives are being restored. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing multiple, mini and major miracles over the past year and a half.

6. We gather as God’s people on Sunday. Than we scatter as God’s people throughout the rest of the week. Much of the significant ministry and service that takes place happens between sundays. Many of our church members are serving one another and our community in countless ways, expressing the love of Jesus through their actions and endeavors. You are faithful- you’re reward is in heaven.

Our mission is the great commission. Part of that includes serving the world. Let’s not stop. Let’s believe God for bigger things. More influence, more opportunities to bless others, more people coming to know Jesus. I believe God for more. How about you?

God Bless

and

God Bless

h1

A New Year and an Old mission

January 6, 2012

Why do we exist as a church?

That’s a good question. The answer is multi-layered.

To glorify God.

To worship God.

To love one another and our world.

We tried to simplify the answer to that question at Calvary by simply quoting Jesus’ words.

“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20 NIV).

Our mission is the great commission. To make disciples who love God, love others and serve the world. That’s why we exist. To join God in His Mission in our world. To give God as much glory, by doing as much good by his grace as is supernaturally possible in our city and world.

God doesn’t need us but he allows us to be a part of what He is doing, like a mother who allows her children to ‘help’ her bake, or a dad who lets his son ‘help’ build a tree fort. There are lots of mistakes along the way (bent nails and cracked eggs) but we have the pleasure and purpose that comes from being involved in our heavenly Father’s business.

We realize discipleship is a journey that takes place in community. The words of Martin Luther are important for us.

“This life is therefore, not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being, but becoming, not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not gleam in glory, but all is being purified” (In Defence of All the Articles. 1521).

Discipleship is a process. How are we doing?

Again, different people would answer that question in different ways. In the next several blog posts I’ll mention how different aspects of our vision are coming to fruition. In this post I want to point you towards at least one encouraging sign that our mission is being fulfilled because our God is faithful.

Part of the great commission involves baptizing people. This past year we baptized 25 people. Is it about the numbers? No and yes. Numbers represent people and people matter. In fact, people matter more than numbers.

25 people following Jesus into the waters of baptism is a big deal. A good number of those people were new Christians that have only been following Jesus for a couple years or less. I’m asking the Lord for over 30 baptisms this next year. My prayer is that many of those baptisms would be people who are new Christians.

In my experience there is nothing like seeing people come to Jesus and realize for the first time God’s great love for them. Discovering that they are welcomed into the family of God not because of how good they are but because of how good God is. Celebrating the fact that they are saved not by their good works but by the unmerited favor of God displayed in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for our sins.

Last year I had a conversation with a couple from the church about their son who was far from God. They were gravely concerned about Him. The Lord grabbed a hold of the son’s heart this past summer. His life is changing. The parents are thrilled and I am once again inspired by God’s grace.

Life change is slow and gradual but it is inevitable when the Spirit of God is living within us.

I used to be that son as well. Far from God. Discouraged, disillusioned and difficult. God snatched me from the fire, gave me a new heart to love Him and a new power to live on. I’m a different person now. Sometimes discouraged, sometimes disillusioned and sometimes difficult- but always loved by God and always trusting that He is transforming me into a new person.

Some of you desperately desire that your friends or family members would experience the grace of God. Let’s pray and witness towards that end this year.

Seeing people’s lives change is a beautiful thing. If people’s lives aren’t changing- what, in fact, are we doing…

I’m confident that the best is yet to come at Calvary. God is not finished with us. The tomb is empty, Jesus has risen, the Gospel is true and the Kingdom of God will continue to advance as Jesus builds His church. I’m thankful for the privilege of being a part of God’s redemptive plans in a fallen world.

To quote Chris Tomlin, “Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”. Do you believe that?

I do.

God Bless

And

Go Bless

h1

The Reliability of Scripture- the conclusion of the matter.

January 1, 2012

Brandon- Well, what about the fact that the New Testament authors are biased? I don’t trust people who are biased. They display a consistent tendency to lean towards facts that are favorable to the person or outcome that they are biased in favor of. Their bias colors, or distorts the events they are reporting on. I’m certain this happened with the New Testament writers. They loved Jesus and that distorts the portrait of Him in the Gospels they wrote.

Chris- I don’t think biases always lead to distortions.

Brandon- Why not?

Chris- Because bias don’t always lead to distortions.

Brandon- How do you figure?

Chris- Well, I would dispute the premise that ‘because the Gospels were written by Christians they are therefore unreliable’. Are the accounts of the Holocaust unreliable because Jews wrote many of them with an agenda? Isn’t it the fact that in many cases, these Jewish authors were far more meticulous in recording accurately what took place precisely because it was their agenda to explain to the world what really happened? This example alone shows that a bias, or a commitment, doesn’t automatically invalidate the accuracy of the work. In fact, it can strengthen it. Perhaps, it is because the disciples loved Jesus so much that they were so careful to preserve exactly what he did and taught.

Brandon- You make a good point. Now that I think about it all historians have a bias and that doesn’t automatically invalidate their work. It gives reason to be cautious but not overly skeptical.

Chris- Agreed. When it comes to investigating the reliability of Scripture, I think recognizing our bias is more important anyways.

Brandon- How so?

Chris- Imagine I was a judge presiding over a class action suit where bunches of people were suing a hospital for malpractice. A couple of patients died tragically in the same month on the operating table. It looks like the attending surgeons may have made mistakes; resulting in the fatalities. The grieved families are suing the hospital for millions.

Brandon- I’m not sure where this is going.

Chris- Wait for it. Let’s say I’m also on the board of Trustee’s for the Hospital.

Brandon- Would that happen?

Chris- I doesn’t matter because here is the point- I wouldn’t be able to judge that case because I have a vested interest in the Hospital. I would be biased. I couldn’t approach the evidence from a position of neutrality.

Brandon- Okay. I’m not sure the analogy is perfect but…wait, doesn’t this analogy work against your first point?

Chris- Not really. My first point was that bias’ don’t necessarily eliminate accurate reportage of events- in fact it can contribute to accuracy. My second point is bias’ can distort how we approach certain events, books or sacred literature.

Brandon- Aren’t you trying to have it both ways?

Chris- No, I’m trying to be faithful to reality. Sometimes bias’ distort sometimes they lead to more accurate reporting. There is no good reason to assume the disciples were biased towards Jesus and distorted their portrait of him. But there is every reason to suppose our biases make us uncomfortable with the Jesus we discover in the pages of the New Testament.

But Let me finish the point of my hospital analogy- it’s the same with the issue of the reliability of the New Testament. It’s not like studying whether or not Nero lit Rome on fire and fiddled while it burned. If the portrait of Jesus is in the New Testament is reliable I have to take him seriously. I might be compelled to change my life. That is problematic for most of us. We like being in charge of our own lives even if it makes us miserable.

We don’t want a God who meddles. Perhaps, we’re not opposed to his (or her) existence but we just want ‘it’ to leave us alone. We don’t want a God who sends prophets or messiahs or whatever…

Brandon- Hmm. I guess you’ve hit on the problem with any kind of Jesus research. You can’t read the New Testament documents from a neutral position like the judge in your fictional court case.

Chris- Right. When approaching the New Testament you come across a remarkable figure that towers above the pages of all other secular and religious history. His character, teaching, power and authority are unmatched and irreproachable. Even the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte recognized this inescapable fact. He wrote:

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself have founded great empires, but on what did those creations of our genius rest? Upon force. But Jesus founded his on love. This very day millions would die for him….Jesus Christ by some mysterious influence, even through the lapse of eighteen centuries, so draws the hearts of men towards him that thousands at a word would rush through fire and flood for him, not counting their lives dear to themselves”.

All rivals fall dramatically short in Jesus’ presence because here stands divinity in the flesh. If Jesus is not God we should collapse reverently at the feet of nameless men; in undivided devotion to those unlearned authors who created this visage because their literary genius has yet to be paralleled in the writings of mankind. A good man and a moral teacher do not confront us in these ancient texts- such small minded labels are far to puny to contain this thundering Jesus whose words echo through the corridors of history with unmatched power and force – continually comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Once we establish that the New Testament is reliable, we are confronted by a choice- a decision spelt out for us famously by C.S Lewis years ago:

“ You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

You asked me if my faith rests in this book. It doesn’t. My faith is securely anchored to the Christ who died, rose again and is alive today.