Pray For The Mission

I can’t do it on my own.

As I consider all that I ought to be as a follower of Jesus, I confess to feeling massively inadequate. Part of me wonders, however, if that is the way it is supposed to be.  My awareness of my inadequacy drives me to God in a way that my feelings of self-sufficiency can never do.

Solomon got this, and wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6).

As we attempt to chart a course for ourselves we are sometimes urged by others to “Follow our heart”, or we’re told to “Go with our gut instinct”. The Bible urges us otherwise. “Trust in the Lord…lean not on your own understanding.” The apostle Paul, after exhorting the Christians in Colossae on many levels, similarly implores them: “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2).

I can’t be who I ought to be; I can’t do what I ought to do without help. And the way in which we gain Divine assistance is through prayer.

On March 7, at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered a message (audio below) on prayer based on Colossians 4:2-5. We spent some time examining the character of prayer, in terms of how we engage God. We also spent some time attempting to answer the question: What sort of things should we be praying for?

My interest was not to identify things we shouldn’t be praying for. My interest was to highlight the things that Paul prayed for, and the things Jesus prayed for. I note how frequently their prayers focused on God’s kingdom and His eternal purposes. I note that their prayers were focused on the mission.

John Piper offers a helpful analogy between the Christian mission and a wartime mission to help us understand why we often experience frustration with “unanswered prayer”.

Christ is our Field Commander and He has furnished each of us with personal transmitters that are coded to the frequency of the General’s Headquarters. Thanks to the Field Commander, the General is as close as our transmitter. Everything we need, as it relates to the mission and our responsibility within the mission, is accessible to us.

However, the reason we find ourselves often frustrated while using the personal transmitter, the reason why we have experienced so much “unanswered prayer” is because we have taken prayer—our wartime walkie-talkie—and we have attempted to turn it into a civilian intercom.

Instead of focusing our prayers on the mission, we have used the transmitter to try and make our life more comfortable.

Again, I’m not prepared to say, “Don’t pray for this, and don’t pray for that“. I do, however, feel compelled to point out that the primary purpose of prayer is to help the mission of Christ to advance.

The mission is huge. Amazingly, God wants us to be a part of what makes the mission go forward. But since we can’t do that on our own, we ought to “devote (ourselves) to prayer.”

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Top 10 Things I Will Miss Not Living In Canada

It’s now official. We move to Nassau, Bahamas on June 3, and I will be inducted as the minister of St. Andrew’s Kirk on June 6. Thinking a lot about what we’re leaving behind, here are the 10 things I’ll miss the most:

 

10. My hockey cards

Yes, I know—I’m not six years old anymore, but collecting hockey cards is not something I ever outgrew. I fondly remember my father buying me cards after each of my hockey games. I blame eBay for taking my borderline obsession to the next level. My Gretzky, Lemieux, Sittler, etc, rookie cards will have a new home in a Royal Bank safety deposit box.

 

9. Tim Horton’s coffee

I’m not a sophisticated guy. Starbucks just doesn’t do it for me. I actually crave Tim Horton’s coffee. And how cool is it that my favourite coffee is named after a former Toronto Maple Leafs player?

 

8. Miss Vickies Potato Chips

This 5 star potato chip has its origins in Alliston, Ontario (very close to my first pastoral charge). Pepsi eventually figured out what I already knew, and bought Miss Vickies. Dear Pepsi: How about selling these chips wherever you sell your pop! Multiple Miss Vickies bags will be a prerequisite gift for any Canadian friend seeking to stay at chez MacPhails.

 

7. St. Louis B&G chicken wings

What will I do without the ‘Monday Special’? I can picture it now: I’m sitting down to a freshly prepared conch salad, but all I can think about is……chicken wings!

 

6.  Attending Alistair Begg’s Pastors Conference

Yes, I do realize that this conference is in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Only a four and a half hour drive away, I have journeyed to this conference for 8 straight years. Unless there is a seat sale on a flight from Nassau to Cleveland, it appears that I’m looking to conferences in Orlando or Atlanta in order to charge my spiritual batteries.

 

5. Playing Facebook Scrabble

Someone explain this to me. When I’m in the Bahamas, and I attempt to access facebook Scrabble, the application tells me that I’m in a “invalid country”. Thankfully, the $5 I spent on the Scrabble app for my iPhone appears to be a decent workaround.

 

4. Attending Toronto Maple Leafs & Toronto Blue Jays games

I realize that it has been a while since the Leafs and Jays have had competitive teams, but I can’t stop cheering for them. Thank you Duncan Macgregor for furnishing me with so many opportunities to watch my favourite clubs. I know this is something Anya will miss also. And if you are wondering if I plan to come back for the Stanley Cup parade…you bet! I’ll be at Front & Bay St, painted blue & white!

 

3. My cottage

Also known as the ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, our cottage has been the perfect getaway spot for Allie and I. Many outlines for my Sunday messages were born here as I sat by the fireplace in the winter, and by the lake in the summer, with my note pad and my Bible. I’ll also miss those lazy days when my biggest project was completing a 1,000 piece LOST puzzle.

 

2. Playing hockey

I realize that the days of competitive hockey have passed me by. I’m 37 years old. But for 32 of those years I played hockey. I’ve circled May 13 in my calendar as possibly the last game of ice hockey I ever get to play. Those who know me well get that this is a huge sacrifice for me. I do, however, look forward to joining the Nassau Ball Hockey League in October and taking a run at the Stanley Conch (real name of the championship!).

 

1. Friends & Family

This is the runaway winner within this Top 10. Allie and I have shed many tears anticipating saying good-bye to those we love. One of the great things about Nassau though, is that many people want to visit there. I suspect that many of our friends and family will want to visit. I hope they do. We need them to. Friends: Come often. And bring some Canada with you!

Preaching In Paradise – Part 2

I have never lived more than a 3 hour drive from where I was born.

Niagara Falls. St. Catharines. London. Thornhill. Toronto. Beeton. Toronto……and now, Nassau, Bahamas.

Just yesterday I announced to the people of St. Giles Kingsway and The Well that I had accepted a call to another congregation. Beginning in June, I will be the Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas. This charge also includes having oversight with the Presbyterian Church in Abaco—an island I have yet to visit.

We did not come by this decision easily. Allie and I have been wrestling with God, and one another, on this. Through many tears we have sought to be responsive to the call of God. From those who heard our news yesterday, a few described it as “a bombshell”. We recognize that this move isn’t simply a big change for us, but we also realize that our transition profoundly affects the lives of those closest to us. And we humbly recognize the affect this move will have on the people of St. Giles Kingsway and The Well.

For those who might be curious about how this thoroughly Canadian preacher came to accept this call to Nassau, the following details may be of interest to you.

The MacPhails are not strangers to the Bahamas. While I had been to Nassau a couple of times in my youth, I hadn’t returned to the Bahamas until 5 years ago when a friend from my Ridley College years invited Allie and I down for a visit to Freeport, Grand Bahama. Through a variety of circumstances, I became connected to the Presbyterian Church in Freeport and had the opportunity to do some pulpit supply there in 2007 and 2009. In my latter visit, a few members from St. Andrew’s Kirk in Nassau flew over, having heard that the Canadian filling the pulpit in Freeport might be a suitable person to fill their pulpit vacancy.

I was asked by one of the visitors from Nassau why I would want to leave my current charge. I immediately responded, “I’m not sure that I do want to leave!”

My 8 years of ministering in Toronto have been good years.  New ministry initiatives have been born. Lives have been impacted and transformed by the Gospel. I was in no hurry to transition out. But I was curious about this inquiry. I didn’t want to dismiss it, in case it was from God, and so I submitted my profile late in 2009 for their inspection.

I was told that there were over 40 applicants, and so I began to imagine that a transition to Nassau might be unlikely. Not long after that, I was informed that I made a short list of 4 candidates and that I needed to schedule a flight to Nassau in late January for a series of interviews.

In early February, I was informed that the Search Committee, and the Session—independently of one another—had unanimously identified me as the preferred candidate. Our sense was that this might indeed be God ordained, and so I accepted an invitation to “preach for a call” on Sunday March 14, 2010. On the Saturday evening, I was asked by the interim moderator what I needed the congregational vote to be in order for me to say yes to the call. I responded by saying that I needed it to be very close to unanimous in order to have confidence that this was indeed “a God thing”.

When the congregation voted unanimously on Sunday to call me, I felt compelled (in the best sense of the word) to say yes. Allie and I believe this is from God, and so we go with eager and willing hearts. We are also experiencing an acute sense of grief with this decision. Our transition requires that we move away from people we love dearly. Our transition ends the pastoral relationship I have with the members here.  My sincere hope, however, is that our friendships will carry on.

We have been treated so well by the people of St. Giles Kingsway. We are so grateful.

As our future trajectory began to come into clearer focus, Allie emailed me this verse:

You will not leave in haste or go in flight;

for the Lord will go before you,

the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 52:12)

We depend upon that, and we rejoice in that!

Turf War

Turf war: a colloquial term for a contention between two or more parties resulting in confrontation. It is a common problem in larger organizations when two divisions fight for access to resources or capital or over control of operations. 

In a turf war against God, I’m going to lose. And yet, I must concede that I sometimes engage God in a battle “over control of operations”—I resist God taking control of certain aspects of my life.

I think many followers of Jesus are tempted to compartmentalize their faith. We think about God’s will when we’re praying, when we’re reading our Bible, and when we’re at church. We struggle, however, to think about God and His priorities when we’re at work, when we’re running errands, and when we’re watching television.

When the apostle Paul writes to the Colossians, he communicates to them in very specific ways how God wants access to every area of our life. Check out Colossians 3:18-4:1 and we see how our relationship with God impacts our marriage, how we parent, and how we get on in the work place.

The text has some cultural clothing on it, and so we have to be careful not to get distracted from Paul’s primary point: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

By every appearance, following Jesus was never meant to be just a Sunday thing. Following Jesus is for every aspect of our life. This begs the question: Are there areas of your life where you might be consciously, or subconsciously, trying to shut God out?

If the answer is “Yes”, and if you are a follower of Jesus, you need to know that this is a turf war that you’re not going to win. But let’s not think of yielding to Christ as something that is negative. Submitting to Christ is not something we should begrudge or resist. Surrendering every aspect of our life to Christ will ultimately be liberating and, more importantly, it will be supremely honouring to God.

If you are interested in wading through this challenging, but massively practical, text I invite you to have a listen to the message below, “Everything For The Lord” — delivered at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well on February 28, 2010.

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