Category Archives: Columns

Diana Peters: Normal Time Is Not Wasted Time

by Diana Peters

Sometimes I begin to panic. Why? I have no idea what I’m going to be when I grow up. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life, what my purpose is.

My remaining years stretch out before me, a blank canvas with the pools of paint on the palette beginning to dry. Life is passing me by. I’m already twenty-seven years old.

You may laugh. I know it seems ridiculous, as I’m still young. But if you think about it, society seems to indicate that a person should know what his or her life is going to look like, especially in regards to career, by the time he or she graduates from grade 12. Tell me, how many of you knew exactly where your life was going when you were 18?

Oh, I thought I knew what some of my future would look like. And I did some of that. And I most definitely had dreams. I still do. But things change.

So here I am, 30 on the horizon, and I sometimes feel like I have nothing to show for it. I’m not in an established career. I am not married with two children and another one on the way. I do not own my own house with enough yard space to have a few cats and a dog. Though I am happy with where I am, I don’t feel like I am truly adult-ing yet.

My thoughts turn to Jesus. What was he doing at my age? We don’t know exactly. Our guess is that He was probably working in carpentry and helping his Mom with raising his younger siblings.

He was still three years away from when He actively started His ministry. If this is so, it means He was a single young adult, living at home, working in His Dad’s (earthly) business.

I don’t think that these years, years that made up the majority of Jesus’ time on earth, were wasted years. He was still doing His Father’s heavenly business.

He was living in the normal day-to-day portion of life, as we all do. He calmly bided His time, a time of purpose and preparation. And when it was time, He was ready. Ready for the glorious and the terrible.

If I put myself in my complete humanness and with no divineness into Jesus’ shoes, I think I would panic even more than I do now, especially knowing I only had six more years and three of those were already mapped out to an extent (not all pleasant). All of a sudden, my panic in my own reality seems unfounded.

I do not know how much time I have left. It might be six years. It might be more. It might be less.

I do not know what my remaining years will look like, what I will all accomplish, what dreams I will fulfill. But here’s what I’m learning as I look to Jesus: I am about my Father’s business in the here and now, the normal.

Every day is a completion of God’s purpose for my life for that day and a preparation for God’s purpose for my life for the coming days.

diana-peters
Diana Peters

And because I know all this I can live trusting in the Lord to guide my path, as He has guided me here. In Him I have peace.

Diana Peters (EFC Steinbach) serves as an administrative assistant in the EMC national office.

Layton Friesen: You Can’t Make This Up

by Layton Friesen

As a minister, I discourage couples from making up their own marriage vows. I don’t think it’s possible to make up your own vows. What you can make up is a promise. There is a world of a difference between a vow and a promise.

I can make up a promise. “I promise to bring you tomatoes tomorrow.” I promise this because I know I have tomatoes, my schedule permits it tomorrow, and I like you enough to give you tomatoes. The whole promise revolves around me, and my ability to know what I have and to give what I have. If tomorrow comes and goes, and I don’t show up, the promise is broken and cancelled. If I still want to come another time, I need to make a whole new promise.

But a vow is not something I make. A vow is something I take. When I take a marriage vow, I am entering a house given by God, and shaped over millennia by nature, tradition, law, Scripture, and Church.

A vow is received, stewarded and bestowed by a community with roots in ancient places and times, back to creation: “The one who made them in the beginning made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4). Marriage is a reckless and bracing adventure because we enter not knowing what we will find, not only in the stranger we wed, but in the shape of marriage itself.

I, Jane, take you, John,

to be my husband,

To have and to hold

From this day forward;

For better, for worse,

For richer, for poorer,

In sickness and in health,

To love and to cherish

For the rest of our lives,

According to God’s holy law.

This is my solemn vow.

A vow is not broken like a promise. The vision embodied in a vow goes far beyond my abilities and maybe even my desires. I will fall short of the vow two minutes after taking it, but a vow is not broken by that. The vow keeps turning me in the right direction; it draws me onward to a destiny I cannot reach on my own steam. A vow is broken not by falling short of it, but by abandoning the covenant all together.

So a vow is a prayer, a cry for help. It is taken not by people impressed with their own abilities who now promise to bring these capacities to marriage. A vow is taken precisely by people who know they are prone to wander—Lord they feel it. God helping me, I will.

In days of yore, a sailor looking out onto a stormy sea and knowing that he must stay on deck and at his duty, but realizing too that he could not (for the waves would wash over the deck and his strength would fail to keep him at his work), would take a rope and tie himself to the mast. That is Eugene Peterson’s picture of taking a vow.

We take a vow because we know we must maintain covenant loyalty to at least this one person in our lives, but we know our own fickleness. The vow reaches out to God and the community and keeps us, even when we cannot keep it.

Of course, each person will bring their unique take on this ancient fellowship. But in our society today, many people think marriage itself is like play dough, something we fashion to suit our whimsy.

Layton Friesen
Layton Friesen

Recently the state has asserted the right to make up marriage according to post-1960’s sexual revolution whims. But we do not get to make up what marriage is; we are only stewards who receive it. If marriage is something we create, it only lasts as long as our attention spans. One small resistance to that is to take a vow.

Book Review: People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue, Preston Sprinkle (Zondervan, 2015). 224 pp. $19. ISBN 9780310519652. Reviewed by Jessica Wichers, BCM chair. 

The Bible is very clear.” When confronted with the hotly debated topic of the Church and homosexuality, evangelicals may be tempted to quote Bible verses and come to hasty conclusions. But do they really know what the Bible says? It’s too important an issue for quick answers.

Preston Sprinkle’s book People to Be Loved is an in-depth biblical analysis of homosexuality, which employs historical context to study scripture passages used to affirm or condemn homosexuality. Sprinkle demonstrates both affirming and non-affirming arguments, making the reader work for the conclusion that marriage was designed to be between a man and a woman.

He then discusses whether same-sex attracted individuals were “born this way” and the factors that contribute. Sprinkle gives stories of people who have gone through the struggles of same-sex attraction. He identifies ways that believers can show love to LGBT individuals, acknowledge their humanity, and make the church a safe place for them to experience the love of Christ. Sprinkle reminds pastors that their pews are filled with more same-sex attracted people than they realize, and they need to choose their words carefully when they teach.

Sprinkle suggests that evangelical believers may need to modify their attitudes about certain things. For instance, same-sex attracted individuals may choose to glorify God by remaining celibate., but the Church tends to overlook unmarried people. An environment that values singles will also be a place where same-sex attracted people may find a chance to thrive.

People to Be Loved is a helpful addition to the conversation about homosexuality and the Church. It is written by a person who upholds marriage to be between a man and a woman (as I do), and I believe the book is a well-balanced exploration of a most urgent and essential topic. It deals thoroughly with what the Bible says about same-sex attraction and marriage in a tone that is engaging, humble, and respectful. It is a recommended read for any believer.

Come Celebrate God’s Work in Nicaragua!

by Ken Zacharias

A total of 33 churches and outreaches—that’s only part of what a half-century of our EMC ministry in Nicaragua has contributed toward! And that’s why the EMC is planning to join the celebration and a learning tour (April 4 to 11, 2017).

EMC Missions began ministry in Nicaragua in 1966 with the efforts of Fred and Doris Friesen. Our sister FIEMN conference, which developed, celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 8, 2017.

Doris Friesen writes, “Can it be that it was 50 years ago that Fred and I did that long trek to Nicaragua, over 5,000 miles by land in our white camper truck, with our two little girls, to a land unknown with only a map and the Holy Spirit as our guide!”

There was “no one at the other end to meet us!” she says. “We were either courageous or fools! But we are never fools when we obey the Lord. And how the Lord blessed us so richly in spite of many difficulties!”

The FIEMN churches and EMC guests will hold a one-day celebration at Camp Maranatha with at least two services and additional prayer services through the night.  As part of the event, the FIEMN and the EMC Board of Missions have approved a special project for Camp Maranatha to help replace 80 bunk beds and 160 mattresses. (This will greatly assist the FIEMN and its retreat ministry.

You are invited to attend this anniversary! It will be inspirational and educational. You will be encouraged in your faith.

The story of the FIEMN is one of planting, political revolution, and growth within one of the poorest countries in Latin America—yet you will hear from believers how Christ has blessed them. 

Lester and Darlene Olfert, former missionaries to Nicaragua, will lead the Learning Tour as it visits FIEMN churches and ministries (April 4-11). You will meet FIEMN committee leaders and pastors, and appreciate the strong faith clearly evident in believers’ lives and in church life.

You will meet Pastor Gerardo Chavarría, FIEMN’s president, and be challenged by his faith story and ministry example. Gerardo pastors the Diriomito congregation. He is one of two Pastoral Supervisors who visits, every three months, the churches for which he is responsible. These churches are located in the mountaineous region east of Managua, Boaco province, where there are bad roads or no roads. No roads means walking or riding a mule. Ever ridden a mule?

Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias

Local pastors, visited in different regions, will share how the Lord has blessed them. You will encounter cultural interests—perhaps the Masaya volcano or a coffee plantation. Do you prefer lava or caffeine?

The trip will cost about $1,800, including flights (more exact pricing will follow). For information on the celebration and tour, please contact Diana Peters (dpeters@emconf.ca) or myself (kzacharias@emconf.ca).

Poetry: A Carpenter’s Son

by Eleanor Lee Gustaw

The wonder of Christmas came one eve,

the glory of love in a virgin conceived.

The gift of His coming, the blessing so true,

that came in a manger for me and for you.

The joy that He brings each day to my soul,

hold riches untold that makes my life whole.

A carpenter’s Son, and yet, He is God,

how can I not thank Him, in joy offer laud!

For He is the Saviour so precious to me,

Who taught in the temple and preached on the sea.

Who died on a cross and in victory rose,

a love so adorning it sets each heart free!

That night was the greatest when Christmas was born,

and God became man yet in man He was God.

For the glory He is shall ever live on

because Jesus is Lord and in Him lives this song.

Layton Friesen: Distracted in Two Directions

by Layton Friesen

Christmas is upon us and with it all the distractions that so quickly encumber and the busyness that so thoroughly wears. That’s a bleak midwinter way of starting off, but here we go a drearily. I have noticed two ways the Devil diverts our attention from the birth of Jesus. The first distraction is familiar to us: all the parties, the decorations, the family kerfluffles, and the ho, ho, ho that gobble our time and drain the bank, leaving little of our lives as gifts for the Saviour.

But the second distraction is trickier simply because it comes more sanctified. It’s the December-long war against distractions, which has now become its own cottage industry. We can spend the entire Christmas season scolding the world about how they are abusing Christmas. We preach sermons against the busyness of Christmas, or against the evils of Santa. We write blogs against the consumerism of Christmas, haranguing shoppers for being in malls. We put on Sunday School musicals in which distracted, annoyed revelers have last-minute conversion experiences and finally realize “the reason for the season.”

We get involved in political campaigns to “save” Christmas, tallying references to Christmas at our public school “holiday concert,” relieved that once again our secularist world has given us something to be angry about. We stage “buy nothing” Christmases and make sure everyone knows.

I don’t think the Devil cares much whether we forget Jesus via the first distraction or the second. He might even prefer the second one since the more holy he can make people feel in their neglect of Jesus the better for him. The devil has always had to rely on the imitation of holiness since naked evil is pretty hard to swallow even for the worst of us.

The point is, whether we forget Jesus because we are so wrapped in tinsel, or because we spend our time condemning people for being wrapped in tinsel, either way we forget Jesus.

Remember the parable about fitting rocks and sand into a jar? He puts the sand in first and now he can’t fit the rocks. Then he starts with the rocks and all the sand fits in fine.

Take some time to read the story of the birth of Jesus. “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Attend church and sing aloud with the carols of the season. Give a gift you can’t afford to a local charity that helps the poor in the name of the homeless Christ. Say a prayer of thanks to God “that those who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:2).

Thank God for not forgetting us in this dark, cold world, for loving us so much as to send his only begotten Son. In short, worship Jesus with your heart, voice, mind, and bank account.

Layton Friesen
Layton Friesen

And then party like it’s AD 1. Cook good food. Surprise your uncle with a gift too late in the season for him to return the favour. Go to the mall and be amazed that all these thousands of harried, tired people are buying expensive gifts for other people! It’s all a vast expensive, convulsion of love that’s good news for the economy. Go carolling at your neighbours in the hope that they invite you in for drinks.

Get the main thing right, and then relax and enjoy the lights.

Charles Koop: C2C and God’s Call

by Charles Koop

The Vision Statement of the EMC specifically states that we want to focus on urban areas for church planting. That’s a bit of a departure from our usual way of doing things. To help us make it happen the Church Planting Task Force has been pursuing a relationship with C2C, and an official agreement has just been made.

C2C is a church planting organization with extensive experience in urban church planting. It has staff in all the major Canadian cities who are available to support EMC church planters. They also work with prospective church planters to help them assess their abilities for church planting and to coach them in growing those abilities.

Another benefit of our association is the annual gatherings organized by C2C. These are a tremendous boost for church planters as they are able to network and learn from each other as well as enjoying the teaching provided. Our agreement with C2C has been in the works for a number of years so we are very excited about arriving at this point.

Along with that development we are also hearing God call us to join his work in a number of communities.

One of these is our growing association with a Chinese group meeting at Fort Garry EMC. Fort Garry is supporting and assisting this young church of approximately 20 believers and another 20 or so seekers. It is really exciting for us to think of having our first Chinese EMC church!

We are also thrilled that God has answered our prayer and brought a church planter couple to Two Hills, Alta. John and Helen Froese, who recently returned from ministry in Bolivia, have committed to a two-year term serving as pastoral couple to this young church group. There are six committed couples at Living Faith Fellowship with a lot of energy to grow this church and be involved in their community.

Another ministry opportunity has developed in Airdrie, Alta., where the Emanuel church family has been leading a Bible study. It has developed to the point that they are prepared to launch this church plant in fall of 2016. There are five committed families in Airdrie, including two leadership couples from Emanuel. This will be a real challenge for Emanuel both financially and in the “loss” of leadership.

There are additional possibilities developing in Winnipeg and communities around Winnipeg so stand by for more to follow.

Charlie Koop
Charles Koop

Seeing new church plants develop like this generates a lot of enthusiasm for us. If it draws you, why not go to c2cnetwork.ca and find out if you’re called to be part of church planting or call me for information specific to the EMC.

We’d also love to have you partner with us financially by contributing to the Church Planting Training and Support Fund through the EMC office; and always, of course, continue to pray that God will grow his church in Canada and the world, and that we can be a part of this.