Monthly Archives: March 2013

Becoming a child who trusts our Father

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Last time we discovered that we grow really well when we obey Jesus and walk in his ways. Sometimes this journey is difficult. However, it is absolutely necessary for us to grow to maturity. The best thing is that we are never alone on this journey.  Others watch us.  It is a witness to the world that we are a “real Christian” when we show our faith by our actions.  One of the deepest ways to grow in holiness is learning to trust God.  Sometimes when we were children, we didn’t learn ‘basic trust’ through our families and friendships. However, we can re-learn this important relational aspect that is the foundation of nearly all our relationships.

Do you know who you are?  Or do you need to please others to feel a sense of identity, belonging or sense of worth? Sometimes we wrongly learn to ‘hedge our bets’ and try to please other people around us. This is very visible if you haven’t had the certainty of love and the dependable nature of a stable parent or guardian.  We may build walls around our hearts. We may not learn the basic trust that someone will catch us if we fall or love comfort us in difficult times.  Instead of the stability of knowing faithfulness and steady, dependable, unconditional love, life can be fragile.  Therefore, many turn into people-pleasers to try to earn acceptance.

It is a good thing to bless others – but we don’t need to always strive to please others as if our identity depends upon our performance. I was like this for many years. I understood myself within a variety of different roles: daughter, friend, sister, student, artist and through my volunteer and paid work. I truly did not understand that I there was no need to please God and his servants in order to get into heaven.  Well… I knew in my head that Jesus gave himself for me. Salvation was costly for Jesus but free to me. Yet in my heart, I wanted more assurance and I strove for acceptance.  I acted only as a servant and not as a daughter. I did not feel comfortable just being with Jesus.  I had to always DO something.

It has taken me time, counselling and lots of love from mature Christians to overcome.  I had much soul searching before the Lord so I could understand this foundational truth: Even if I never picked up another kitchen utensil, musical instrument, paint brush or the like, Jesus would still love me in the same wonderful way.  The Father would still accept me as a daughter and the Holy Spirit would not leave me if I would take a rest.  So I did, and limited myself to specific ministries so that I would do only what I was supposed to do at that time.  I kept burning out for God, when He didn’t ask me to do this. Yet God had something much better for me – to transform my heart to trust Him.  He began to re-work my image of a loving Father.

Most of us have imperfect fathers.  My father wasn’t shy and he showed his love for me. However, he teased me mercilessly. I always took this the wrong way and felt intense shame. He didn’t know how to bless anyone (after all, he wasn’t a Christian).  When I grew up, I attended a week-long school at Singing Waters ministries in Orangeville, Ontario.  It was about the Heart of God the Father.  During that week, a very gentle Christian man was able to ‘stand in’ for my father while we prayed.  I was able to forgive him for his teasing and the ways that he had hurt me. I received further healing through a father’s love at another conference two years later. Another special man blessed me in a way that could only come from a loving father to a daughter. In time, I was able to see my own father through Jesus’ eyes.  It was only then that I could understand. My dad is a loving and generous man. He needs Jesus’ healing as much as I have. So with God’s help, I was able to love honour my dad in such a way that he can now see Jesus in me.

I learned to trust God about my dad, and in the process, I became a witness to him. I had healing in my life concerning other relationships, as I learned to wait on God.  At the core of this healing, was a new foundation of trust and security.  When our basic trust is held by the Faithful One who does not change, we become more steady. We are no longer easily shaken.  King David and other Psalm writers declare their trust in the Lord many times – despite very difficult circumstances.  They take refuge in God (Ps 91:2). They trust God when they are afraid (Ps 56:3). They encourage others to put their trust in God instead of chariots, princes and ways of the world. In time, this trust grows and becomes unshakeable.  God is trustworthy. He shows His faithfulness in our lives in countless ways.  Sometimes He has us wait (seemingly forever!) but He doesn’t seem bothered by our impatience. One of my seminary professors used to say that many people get impatient at the microwave and say, “Hurry up!”  Yet, the Holy Spirit offers us a different way. He promises us that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).”  That hope implies that we must wait. We must trust Him so we can be allowed to grow – in good times, and in circumstances where we are forced to depend on God.

God doesn’t let us down, although at the time we don’t always see his presence in our lives at that moment.  Then we look back.  Do you remember the “Footprints” poem?  It is then that we see He’s been there all along.  In our last article we looked at obedience, this time it’s about trust.  The two truths go hand in hand, as is shown in Psalm 84:11-12 and by the hymn “Trust and Obey:” “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.  Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey…”

Next time we’ll share on growing through Prayer.

Yours in Christ,
Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann is an Ottawa based media person.  She works for Newcap Radio, and graduated from Algonquin College (radio broadcasting), Tyndale Seminary and University of Toronto.   She attends St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.

Becoming Holy: Choices, Obedience and Integrity

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Last time we discovered that we grow really well when we are mentored or discipled by someone who holds us accountable in our faith. My priest, Father John often reminds us that his faith is not entirely his own. Our parish helps him grow, and we are encouraged by him (individually and corporately). We grow in relationship.  Mentorship can be done by peers or by someone more experienced than ourselves. Sometimes this accountability can be a form of tough love, but it is absolutely necessary for us to grow spiritually mature.  Our spiritual journey is also deepened by obedience.  This means we must obey God’s principles shown throughout the Bible. Obedience is outwardly shown as integrity and holiness.  It’s a reflection of our faith and obedience to God.

Mission trips are like pressure cookers of faith experience.  Long days, culture shock, and human frailty often show what we’re really like inside.  What is really visible in those moments?  Is it something that points to Jesus or our own weaknesses?  I have been told by the Anglican mission agency SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) that sometimes we are the only Bible that others see. This means that our actions much match our faith. Integrity includes honesty but goes much deeper. Integrity is a special fruit of our character as Christians. It develops over time. Some of this is based on the  baptismal promise to “persevere in resisting evil and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.”  Good character develops as a foundation for choosing to walk in his holy ways.   When we answer “I will with God’s help”, we acknowledge that we can only live the Christian life in His power, not our own.  When we do this, it frees us, since without God’s help we’d burn out. OK, I get it.  We can’t become holy by our own power. So how DO we become holy?

When our faith in Jesus comes alive for the first time, He makes us holy because he died for us.  God the Father looks at us and sees us through His Son.  Yet there is a process in becoming more holy in our habits and our actions.  This is a process and most of us have a lot of bad habits to overcome.  This process is called sanctification, or becoming holy.  Some biblical teaching on holy living is simple and straight forward. If you are married, stay faithful to your husband or wife.  We are to love and honour them in a way that blesses them. Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives as much as Jesus does the church. Wives are to love their spouses and understand that their husband wants to protect them from harm, or at best, he should. If you are single, it means you stay celibate until you are married.  When we come to faith, sometimes we don’t know the details of how to live a holy life and it takes time to work this out in our lives.  The Holy Spirit often speaks to friends about areas of weakness in their lives in a gentle corrective way at just the right time.  Sometimes over zealous Christian leaders have mistakenly beaten the Holy Spirit to the ‘punch’ and approached these friends over their poor choices. Mentors and leaders have to be gentle in holding us accountable, since this is the Holy Spirit’s job. It is God who makes us holy, not our church leaders, although they can be used to encourage us to obey God.

The Bible and the Holy Spirit also teach us to act with integrity in other areas: in our work lives, in friendships, and in daily living. God is our source for godly living (2 Peter 1:1-11) and He will help you live out the holiness that you are given through salvation in Jesus Christ.   This means you do not do this in your own strength.  The Apostle Paul tells is in Phil. 2:12-13 “To continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Part of becoming more holy, is to make good and godly choices.  Quite often we wonder, “OK, I’d like to please God and become more holy. How do I know what is His will for me?”  God often leaves simple choices to us, especially if we do not distract others in their faith walk (for example, not drinking in front of an alcoholic and causing him to be tempted). This freedom grows as we become stronger in our faith. It often becomes easier to make good choices because of this strength. However, this freedom gives us more responsibility not to stumble others in their faith because of cultural differences. Paul encourages us to “not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God… (1 Cor. 10:23) and John reminds us that “whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (1 John 2:10).

Cultural differences include worship styles.  When I was in Pakistan, I learned their cultural experience of prayer. When people pray, their shoes must come off, because where they are praying is holy ground.  Women wear shawls over their heads during services, and especially in prayer.  I grew used to this, although it was difficult pulling my boots on and off.  One of the associate pastors in Lahore joked with me, “Sister Ann, you are powerful with your shoes off, but when you have them on again, you are weak!”  I thought this was incredibly funny at the time, because he was helping me put my shoes back on yet again.  But what they saw when I had my shoes off was a “holy lady” who knew how to pray.  Culturally I was connected with them. I showed by my willingness to enter their culture that I loved them.  This was a godly choice, and it blessed them.  It was the same motivation that caused me to dress African-style when I was in Kenya and Sierra Leone.

So you see that our choices can affect others for good or ill, and cause us to grow or stop growing. I pray that in our choice to follow our Lord, we may become aware of WHEN we are given direction to walk in His way.  If we continue to walk in His ways, He grows our trust in Him.  I will speak on growing that trust next time.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann is an Ottawa based media person.  She attended Tyndale Seminary and graduated in 1999.  She attends St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario

Growing through Relationships: Mentorship and Spiritual Friendship

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I’ve been on a journey and learned that we grow when we allow God’s grace to work in our lives.

Last time we discovered that we grow well when we minister to and encourage each other – in fellowship or koinonia. We are created to be in relationship. Another form of relationship that blesses us is mentorship.

Mentorship means to have someone help you intentionally grow deeper in your faith. When you are a new Christian, it helps to have someone to ‘disciple’ you.  A disciple is a person who has wants to be more than a church-goer.  Like Jesus’ disciples, we choose to follow Jesus. As we grow on that journey, we can do great things for God. This process takes time and willingness to learn.  Jesus said to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” (Matt. 11:29)  Although Jesus is Lord, he was also a mentor to his disciples. He taught them the way of service and love. He does the same for us through the Holy Spirit, and through the relationships we have with our mentors.

A mentor can be someone who is like a spiritual mother or father (not just a godparent). This person actually is what a godparent could be.  That person intentionally comes alongside you and in a loving relationship encourages your walk with Jesus. They don’t just take you to church. Time together can include Bible Study sessions, prayer and pastoral care. Other times a mentor can seem quite harsh in their admonishment, but that is only when we really need that discipline. I had a mentor like that – she was an Australian lady named Jan and she would always tell me to “pick up your socks, mate!” She wasn’t talking about my actual socks!

Other biblical examples of mentors include the Apostle Paul, who was a mentor to Timothy.  Paul encourages younger Christians to be imitators of him (1 Co. 4:16) and to be imitators of God (Eph. 5: 1-2). One of the things that a mentor does is to encourage you.  Paul talks about encouragement as being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Rom 12: 3-8).  My former pastor Dale always said that ‘encouragement is the oxygen of life.’ This is true of all relationships, including marriage. My husband Tony and I believe so strongly in this that we included the promise of encouragement in our wedding vows. We pledged, “to love, honour and encourage.”

A mentor is often a person who is ahead of us on the journey and lends hand in guiding us forward.  Peer-relationships can also help you grow, and are encouraged at Tyndale seminary (where I graduated in 1999).  I took a course called Foundations of Christian Spirituality, which taught about ways to grow in God.  This included the experience of spiritual friendship – which is to have someone as a dedicated listener and prayer partner with you for a season.

A spiritual friend should be the same gender you are. They can be older or younger, more experienced or on your own level of faith and growth.  The important thing is that you must be very honest with them, and they must be allowed to tell you the truth without you getting annoyed.  When it was time to choose my spiritual friend, we had one female and one male left over in our class. I was the leftover female.  This meant that I had to have a spiritual friend from outside the class.  I chose my friend Claudia, and we shared the devotional book Space for God at least once a week.

Near the end of our course, Claudia remained faithful with me. She also benefited from our deepened friendship.  It turned out that Jan (our Australian friend) was dying of cancer. Jan and I used to be close but when she got really sick I saw her less due to my school and work schedule.  I also didn’t know how to comfort her and procrastinated in going to see her.   When Claudia told me that Jan wouldn’t make it through the week, I grimaced and said “I’d like to see her on the weekend.”  Claudia then gave me a metaphorical push and said, “Jan won’t be alive by the weekend.  You need to go NOW.  I will go WITH you.”

Thanks to Claudia’s push, I was with Jan the day before she died.  We spent a few hours with her, I fed her ginger ale and was just “with” her. I didn’t expect her to talk, but she knew I was there.  While we were there, others came to visit.  This included a chaplain and an emotionally weak friend, who cried all over Jan.  Jan responded and tried to minister to her.  I knew this was exhausting for Jan, but it was very important for this other friend to see Jan almost as she was before she became ill.  I held my feelings in, and didn’t expect Jan to do that for me.  I felt guilty that I hadn’t been to see her for so long.

Somehow I ended up singing Jan’s favourite worship song, “Faithful One” to her.  I closed my eyes and sang my heart out.  I was later told that during the song, the Holy Spirit fell on Jan in such a way that she looked like the Jan she was before she was sick. At that time she shone with love for Jesus, and pride in me for singing to her.  When I opened my eyes, I saw Jan as the way she had been. I thanked her for being such a faithful friend, and that was her gift to me.

The chaplain asked Jan if she’d like me to sing that song at her funeral, and she said yes.  It was at this time that Claudia came back into the room to support me, and take me home. This is what a spiritual friend does – like Jan, in her faithfulness, from telling me to ‘pick up your socks, mate’ when she was well. Jan also forgave me for not being there when she was sick.  Claudia also was a great spiritual friend.  She gave tough love when I needed it, and was supportive when I finally did what was right.

Spiritual friendship and mentorship are both intentional relationships. This means setting a certain time aside, saying to each other: “how is your soul, really?” It means going through your spiritual walk with the Lord together and being HONEST with each other.  God will still bless us through our regular friends, but there isn’t as much opportunity in those friendships.

However, they have potential.  My priest reminds us of this every time he mentions in his blessing, “May you know the Love of God in every friendship.”  Next time I will share with you another way to grow in God… meanwhile I pray that a mentor will be available to you when you need one for whatever spiritual season YOU are in …

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

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Laurie-Ann Copple is an Ottawa-based media person.  She has been on mission trips to Northern Ireland, Kenya, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.  She attends St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.

Growing through relationships: Communion of Saints

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I’ve been on a journey and learned that we grow when we allow God’s grace to work in our lives.

We allow Him to take away the ‘speed bumps’ that get in the way (such as restlessness, unforgiveness and bitterness).  Speed bumps harm our relationships with other people as well as with God. We are created to be in relationship. We grow best through being blessed, encouraged and loved by others and when we share that love with others.

Some people call that fellowship, but what exactly is fellowship?  It is more than small talk and asking a polite ‘how are you?’ during coffee time on Sunday.  Fellowship is time spent in caring friendship and journeying in your faith with each other.  It includes sharing daily struggles and encouraging each other in love.  The Bible has many examples of how we can minister to each other – the phrase ‘one another’ is repeated the New Testament many times.  I found this statement in the Snodgrass Ephesians commentary: “we cannot be mature Christians by ourselves, for we cannot give ourselves everything we need for a life of faith.  Christ has chosen to grace others so they contribute to us and us to them.  Grace comes from God but it is conveyed through horizontal channels” [Snodgrass, Ephesians commentary, p. 221] My priest, Father John Bridges has said many times that his faith is not entirely his own.  He is validated in his faith partly by us, the community that loves Jesus with him.

One of my former pastors, Dale, had a lot of practical sayings about church.  Dale shared his hopes and dreams for our congregation in a way that I’ll always remember.  He said that the church is meant to be a prayer army, a family and a hospital. This triple role was also confirmed to me in seminary counseling class. I learned there that the church is seen as ecclesia (a place to worship), therapia (a place of healing) and koinonia, (communion of saints).  When we greet each other during Sunday services with the peace of the Lord, we aren’t just giving hugs and handshakes, although I love these.  We are extending love to each other in the Lord’s name. Each time we do this, I feel incredibly blessed.  We do this because we have just been forgiven by God for whatever sins we’re given to Him. This is also a time to extend that same love and forgiveness to each other, even if it is just for a minute.  It’s worship, healing and family at the same time.

Perhaps a good way to understand Christian fellowship is to ponder the term “communion of saints” – a term that I’ve come to love.  I studied at the University of Toronto. While I was in my first year, I took “Basic Christian Beliefs” at St Michael’s College.  I became fascinated in New Testament word studies.  One of the Greek terms I studied was parousia, (the return of Jesus), another metanoia, (which means changing your mind/attitude). However, the most interesting one to me was koinonia, which means communion of saints, or fellowship

Although there are many different aspects to church, the one that means the most to me is communion of saints.

It’s more than a line in the Nicean and Apostle’s Creeds!  It’s that special bond between Christians that is more than friendship, and deeper than family ties.  It’s the sense of deep connection that you have with someone that you have shared and prayed with.  When the Holy Spirit fills you both while in prayer together, he knits your spirits and hearts together.  This often happens during the healing prayer time that we have in the Sunday services and it is an intimate bond. This is a safe place to be when this bond is strengthened by friendship and inspired compassion.  It’s this aspect of church that can make it a hospital and place of healing, because healing happens within relationships.

Of course, we should all know by now that there is no such thing as the “Perfect Church.” We’re all at different stages of spiritual growth and emotional maturity. However, we do see glimpses of how the church should be, for example: during the Alpha Holy Spirit weekend, or the Cursillo weekend, and in small group sharing and prayer time. I love getting to know the guests as an Alpha Course leader. Through Alpha, I have gained really amazing friends. One gentle participant said that he was able to share deep things with us that he never could have with his long-time secular friends.  This isn’t because it’s a secret – sharing thing, but rather the sense of trust in each other that is very intimate.

Years ago, “May” was part of one of our Alpha courses.  She loved the course, but she didn’t like going to church, except the occasional evensong, (an afternoon service).  She didn’t have any fire of course, although she appreciated the company of other people at Alpha.  I wondered how she could even survive in her faith completely on her own.  Nicky Gumbel tells a story of a young man who used to be very much on fire in his faith. However after he decided to not go to church anymore, he lost his enthusiasm.  So he went to see an older, wise man to ask him why he lost his joy.  The older man didn’t say a word, but instead spoke through action.  Since they were in the UK, and it gets cold and damp in the winter – so the old man had a coal fireplace. All the coals were hot and glowing red.  The man took a coal from the fireplace with a pair of tongs and set it down on the hearth.  At first the coal was red, but very soon it faded and became grey and then black.  The older man then looked at the younger one, and then took the lonely piece of coal and put it back into the fire, where very soon it grew red-hot again.  He showed the young man without a single word- why he lost his enthusiasm.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25)  The Apostle Paul encourages us as well that we are a body (in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20).  We NEED each other.  “Communion of Saints” is also mentioned in the Nicene Creed that we recite each week, so this again confirms how central Christian relationships are to our growing faith.

And so my friends, I want you to have the same blessing that Father John often gives us – that you may see the face of Jesus in those you meet, and may you know his love in the friendships you have.  I would also like to add that I’m grateful for the prayers of all my Christian friends during my time in radio broadcasting school.  Since I was the only Christian, I have come to value the communion of saints even more.  We have something special in God and each other.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann Copple is an Ottawa based media person.  She graduated from radio broadcasting at Algonquin College and attends St. Paul’s in Kanata, ON.

Allowing God’s grace to overcome speedbumps


I have found great blessings while writing my Ways to Grow in God series.  The concept was originally prepared in Kenya as a talk on Christian Maturity for a SOMA mission.  A year later, the Holy Spirit led me to expand this talk into a whole series. This was further honed in Pakistan and taught as a Lenten series at St Paul’s Kanata.  We had five to six people at the time, and ended with ‘soaking prayer.’  Since I’m an Alpha coach, I’ve watched Nicky Gumbel’s Alpha videos many times.  During the Holy Spirit weekend, Nicky talks about our being hard crusty sponges until the Holy Spirit fills us with His living water.  This inspired me to take a sponge with me to teach about soaking prayer when I’m on mission trips. When I did this in Pakistan, word of this act spread and gave me opportunities to talk about soaking prayer as a way to cultivate the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The sponge is used as a symbol of how much we need to be hydrated with both physical water and spiritual, living water.  If a sponge is dry and ‘crusty,’ it can’t be used and can even damage countertops if you attempt to use it for cleaning.  But after a sponge is softened by water, it becomes useful.  We are like that sponge.

If we allow ourselves to soak in the presence of God, He fills us with life, peace and His deep love. There is nothing quite like the sense of God’s presence. When we are in His presence, we begin to reflect His glory and we are slowly ‘transformed’ into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18).

This practice involves laying aside your concerns of the moment by writing them down, then praying with someone else. Then turn on some soft worship music; Ruth Fazal works for me.  You sit quietly and let the music wash over you as you focus on Jesus.  You may even sense a little picture in your mind, remember a special scripture or generally sense the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7)

However, sometimes there can be ‘speed-bumps’ in allowing the grace of God to work through you. Barriers that slow God’s work include striving to do the will and work of God in your own power.  Just as when you first came to faith in Jesus Christ by grace, coming to maturity is by God’s grace!  We have to allow it to change us.    We are God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10).  He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:12), and He makes us holy as He is holy (Lev. 19:2), but we have to be actively willing and not get in the way.   We have to trust God and allow Him to change us.

Restlessness is a speed-bump on the road to receiving God’s grace. I couldn’t quiet myself to ‘be still and know that He is God’ (Ps 46:10).  I was frenetic inside and out. Finally, a seminary professor advised me to turn the radio off rather than playing lively worship music in the car. This way I could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit within the silence.  Sometimes we crowd out worries by filling all our time with endless activity.  Often we’d even fill our devotional time with lively praise music to drown out the concerns that are hidden in our hearts.  Praise music is excellent for other times. However, sometimes silence is needed and the music is a distraction.

Silence became rest for the heart and it was good to help me ponder, drive, and listen.  It was in the silence that I learned the meaning of “In repentance and rest is your salvation, and in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) So the “super-striver” in me began to let go.

A speed bump that can even stop spiritual growth is un-forgiveness and bitterness. The Apostle Paul warns us not to develop a root of bitterness in our hearts. This defiles us – and those who are around us. (Heb. 12:15).  If you are deeply hurt by a past sin against you, forgiveness is essential, because it helps you let go of the pain and give it to Him. We must forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us. Until that time, hearts are frozen.   When you are able to forgive, it means that God has given you the strength to overcome your daily challenges.  It also  means that you can leave God to deal with the offender in His time and way.

Forgiveness is often a process, but as my priest Father John Bridges often tells our congregation, our faith is a journey.  You are not alone on this journey, for the Lord has promised never to abandon you.

Laurie-Ann Copple is a media person who is based in Ottawa.  She attends St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.

Slow down and let God’s love fill you

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During my mission travels, I am often asked about how people can grow in their faith – especially in Africa, where Christianity is noted as being “a mile wide and an inch thick.”  We are called to ‘grow roots’ like a healthy tree by a stream so we prosper (Psalm 1:3).  This means we are called to go deep so that we cannot be uprooted easily.  I will be exploring many different ways to grow during upcoming posts.

One thing that I found is that it takes TIME to grow in faith.  When I first became a Christian, I was almost TOO excited – that is in the eyes of the church people around me. Often I was advised by wise church leaders to “be still, and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10).  This is good advice because it taught me to wait on Him when my natural desire is to ‘jump in with both feet.’  Even in Kenya, there is an expression called ‘pole, pole’, which means slowly, slowly – and in our fast paced society around us it can be hard to slow down to hear God’s still small voice speaking to you in your heart.  My Tyndale Seminary professor David Sherbino used to remind me that it’s hard “to hear God in an adrenaline rush.”

Why does it take time to grow in God?  Well, think of it this way – in my church I am a server- crucifer. I bear the processional cross at the beginning and end of the service.  When I do that, I am acting as an image-bearer. That image represents Jesus.  That image is also inside of you – you’ve been marked as Christ’s own, with the sign of the cross, and in time He conforms you to be more and more like Him (2 Cor. 3:18).   We are a part of God’s family and as we all grow in faith, often we see glimpses of Jesus’ love and character in others.  It’s not just that people are nice, it’s that they remind you of Jesus.

Spiritual growth is like growing fruit. Nicky Gumbel tells many stories in the Alpha Course. One story involves Nicky’s impatience about pears growing on a newly planted tree. Nicky would check the tree’s growth so often that his friends teased him.  Finally a friend taped a granny smith apple to the pear tree.  Nicky responded to this joke by saying, “I may stupid, but even I know that granny smith apples do not grow on pear trees.”  Nicky emphasized that it takes time to grow fruit, and it also takes time to grow in faith.  So I encourage you with Church Father John Chrysostom’s proverb about patience. He says that to be patient, is to ‘have a wide and big soul!’

Why do we need to grow in God?  We need to grow to become familiar with, and grounded in truth. That way we won’t be deceived by lies.  When we become mature, also we get more discerning, loving and willing to bless each other in ministry (Eph. 4:13-16).

Now finally to one of the ways to grow in God:  We grow through God’s LOVE.  Earlier I mentioned about being like a deep-rooted tree by a stream. Now you can imagine yourself like a plant.  Any plant needs good nourishing soil.  A heart full of forgiveness is like good faith-soil inside you. When we are rooted in God’s love, we grow deeper into God (like tree roots) and also wider in our reach towards others (like the plant growing up towards the sun).    God’s love is like the sunshine we need to grow even in hard times.  I pray that as you read this article, you may experience the love of God in your heart. It’s like water to the soul and sunshine to the heart.

St. Paul gives us a special prayer in Ephesians 3: 16 – 19 for us to meditate on: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp who wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”

This article was published in Anglicans for Renewal in Fall 2011