District Assembly 2015 in Belfast

We recently got to participate in our first district assembly ever! It was in Belfast and was for the British Isles North District which includes Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, and the north part of England. Friday evening was a celebration service and the praise band from Millbrook led worship. They did an amazing job and the music was definitely celebratory! Philip MacAllister spoke about what we should celebrate in the church, such as people coming to know God and the freedom we experience in Christ. Hosea and Moses sat with us during the service and they were very well behaved! After enjoying the music, Hosea occupied himself with our iPad, and Moses smiled at everyone around us before falling asleep.
Saturday morning we woke up and joined everyone for a big breakfast. We got to chat with and meet some great people! We were reunited with others in our 365m cohort who are currently serving in Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. We also met some wonderful new friends from other Nazarene churches in our district. We gathered together for worship and then split off into groups to participate in different sessions. I stayed with the boys in the creche while John attended a session on counseling by Ivan Miles.
John was reminded in this session that Jesus was not only a brilliant storyteller but also a wonderful listener. John was also challenged to be an active, attentive, and diligent listener. We drove home to Larne for the afternoon so we could all rest (and so John could watch the rugby match with friends), and then headed back to Belfast for the evening portion. I really wanted to hear Rod Green, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Coordinator for the Eastern Mediterranean Field. I took detailed notes of this because several from church weren’t able to attend. He spoke of Syrian refugees finding peace and Jesus in Lebanon. He spoke of what the Nazarene church is doing to help, and he reminded us that God has committed to us a message of reconciliation. Instead of thinking of all the difficulties of church development in the Middle East, he challenged us to think about all the opportunities. He shared with us that a ministry of reconciliation is vital to sustaining the church, and that the best way to love Christ is to love others.
Sunday morning we worshipped at Millbrook and, besides wonderful music, we heard an encouraging sermon of hope from pastor Ian Wills from Parkhead Church in Glasgow. He shared about walking through times of darkness, despair and hopelessness and how it can be like a shadow hanging over us. He then reminded us of Psalm 57:1 where the writer seeks refuge “in the shadow of [God’s] wing”. He asked us, “Are you going to lament in the shadow of hopelessness? Or are you going to sing in the shadow of God’s wing?” I would like to note that, because of the word ‘shadow’, both of these situations might look like darkness at times. Let’s be encouraged, for we have hope!
Sunday evening I went back to Belfast with a friend and we heard a message on commitment from Jim Ritchie who pastors at Trinity Church in Perth, Scotland. He encouraged us to be committed to passion and to compassion. We should have passion for God and for healing, and for our neighbor. He challenged us to pray and ask God what breaks His heart in our city. Then we must participate in what He shows us and have compassion on His people. In this way, we are committed to faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Monday was a day of fellowship for us. Our group of 365m students had the opportunity to introduce ourselves publicly at Assembly and then we had lunch with them to share encouragement together. We’ve made friends with a family serving in the Republic of Ireland and we spent the afternoon with them and shared dinner together. Hosea enjoys playing with their kids, although he was pretty cranky due to late nights, early mornings, and a messed up routine. He was able to get his wits about him for a hug goodbye 🙂
We even had a new friend stay with us from the Nazarene church in Ardrossan, Scotland. Hosea was very taken with him and loved having a guest in our home!
What a wonderful weekend of encouragement! We thoroughly enjoyed our first Nazarene District Assembly.

Sunday Confessionals

I confess that we went to Belfast City for St. Patrick’s Day this year. Abigail and I have now spent St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin (a few years back), and now Belfast. I think that’s pretty amazing to have spent one in each of the islands capital cities.

I confess that we’ve been going to district assembly this week, and the boys have had several late nights in a row.  They did so well, but both of them hit their limits today, so I stayed home this evening to let them go to bed at a normal time while Abigail went to the assembly. I also confess that we sneaked away from the Saturday afternoon events, put the boys down for a nap, and went to a Rugby watching party.  Rugby is an amazing sport! I don’t fully understand it, but it is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  Plus Ireland won the six nations so that was awesome! The rugby World Cup is this summer, which sounds amazing.  I am very impressed with the way sports can be used to forge deeper relationships.

I confess that I am praying for our partners every chance that I get. I praise God for you partnering with us in ministry.  We are blessed to be able to walk this road with people like you.

I confess the blood of Jesus to be my saving grace.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

I’ve made my confession.  Now go make yours. (Sorry I missed last week. It turns out that weekly blogging isn’t as easy as it seems).

Lenten Devo 13: Our Daily Bread

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of mine and is about the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread”. It fell on Day 25 of this series.**

Reading: James 6:35

In Biblical times, when people shared a meal they would say that they had “broken bread” together. This shows us that the word “bread” was often used simply to refer to any type of food. Knowing how people used and thought about bread gives us a new understanding of this portion of The Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”. We need daily nourishment to sustain our physical bodies, and God calls us to trust that He will provide our literal daily bread.
But we also need spiritual nourishment to sustain us. In John 6, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”
What if, in The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is asking us to pray that Jesus be part of our daily lives? What if we prayed, “Lord, give me Jesus every day!”
As food sustains our physical bodies, a personal relationship with Jesus is what will sustain our spiritual selves.
How can we pray for our daily bread?
What are some ways we can invite Jesus to be part of our lives every day?
Join me in praying for my family, The Carrs, as we serve in the Millbrook community.

Lenten Devo 12: Our Daily Bread

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of John’s and is about the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread”. It fell on Day 24 of this series.**

Reading: Matthew 7:7-8

Give us this day our daily bread

Jesus teaches us to ask God for our daily bread, for something that will divinely and providentially sustain us.  God is our deliverer in this respect, he responds as a joyful Father.

When my wife and I lived in Haiti working with orphaned and abandoned childred, I was responsible for building, and starting a bakery.  For a couple weeks I went to different bakeries in the area and sampled breads, and scouted out prices.  I contracted a guy to finish the building that would serve as a bakery.  The only thing we were missing was bakers.  If there’s a way to put out a classified ad in Haiti I didn’t know about it.   So I was at a loss as to how to find good bakers.  I decided to pray about it, and the very next day, a couple came knocking on my door asking if there were any jobs available.  I asked them if they had any skills and they proceeded to tell me that they had just closed down a bakery in another town, and wanted to know if our kitchen was hiring.  They didn’t know anything about the bakery! God provided bakers for us, and through those bakers He literally provided bread.  The children had fresh bread to eat, and the bakery was able to employ five people.

God provided in a much bigger way than I could have imagined.  Everyday God is providing much more than bread! He has provided something greater than we could ever imagine.  He has provided a personal relationship with himself through His son Jesus Christ who died in our place.

In Matthew 7 V. 7-8  we are told to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Lets be bold in the way that we ask because God loves to show up, and he loves to provide!

Today, lets boldly pray for the work of the DORCAS foundation in Ethiopia

Lenten Devo 11: God’s Will Be Done

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of mine and is about the phrase “Thy will be done on Earth”. It fell on Day 21 of this series.**

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The other night at Home Group we talked about this idea of God’s will and what it might mean for us specifically as people at Millbrook. Often times we think of God’s will as something we need to “figure out” so that, in the distant future, we can “achieve” it. I’ve heard people get down on themselves for working a so-called meaningless job and praying every day for God to make His will known in their lives. I’ve heard people say,

“I know God’s will for my life is to be a missionary/teacher/doctor someday. I’m just waiting for Him to make it happen.”

But we can participate in God’s will every single day.

I’d like to challenge us to re-frame how we think about God’s will for our lives. Read the scripture for today if you haven’t already. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, God’s will for us is to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. These are three things we can do daily! Maybe our job seems mundane, but we can give thanks for having one. We can rejoice because we have family, friends, and people at church who care about us and love us, despite our differences. And we can pray continually, for others, for ourselves, and we can even pray The Lord’s Prayer. Especially the part about God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Join me today in thanking God for all He has done.

Lenten Devo 10: God’s Will

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of John’s and is about the phrase “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. It fell on Day 20 of this series.**

Reading: James 2 V. 15-16

Jesus’ brother James wrote,

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” James 2:15-16.

In other words, If I see someone who is in need and I have the ability to fulfill that need, then it’s my responsibility to do so.  The God we serve is a God of justice, mercy, love, and kindness.  He has a heart for the hurting, the orphaned, and the widow.  There are people in need all around us, and God is calling us to respond to their needs.

When we pray the words, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we should be surrendering to that call of response.  God’s will is beautiful and wonderful and good.

Maybe you know someone who has a deep need for relationship, someone who is living in shame, or despair.  Reach out to your neighbour today.  Reach out to your co-worker today.  Be the person who will listen to them, meet their need. Maybe the Lord is calling you to get involved with foster care, or with Scripture Union.  Listen to the burden that the Lord is placing upon your heart.

If you’re able to look around and see a need, then meet that need.

Join me in coming before God to confess the areas where we need God to take control.

Lenten Devo 9: Thy Kingdom Come

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of mine and is about the phrase “Thy kingdom come”. It fell on Day 18 of this series.**

Reading: Luke 17 v.20-21

My 2 year old is a very curious boy and he likes to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes he asks us practical things like, “What are we having for dinner?” or, “Can I ride my new bike?” But sometimes he asks more difficult ones like, “Why is it windy outside?” or, “Where is God?”

It’s questions like these that make me delight in being a parent. I love that he comes to me to ask about what’s on his mind, and I love even more that he thinks about where God resides. When I answered him, I said, “Oh, He’s everywhere!” But then I thought about it and I started asking myself the same question.

Because God is often referred to as King, Lord, and Prince, it makes sense that He would have a Kingdom. But where? Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is among us. Inside us. In our midst. It involves living with goodness, peace, and joy.

While sometimes I tire of Hosea’s questions, it’s lovely to be challenged in this way by my own child.

How can we live like the kingdom of God is among us? How can we show His great kingdom to our families, friends, and those in our community?

Today let’s pray for our hearts to be open to hear God.

Lenten Devo 8: Thy Kingdom Come

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of John’s and is about the phrase “Thy kingdom come”. It fell on Day 17 of this series.**

Reading: Mark 1:15

What is the kingdom of God? When Jesus wanted to tell people what the kingdom of God was he told them stories.  Stories that gave a window illustration into what the kingdom of God actually was.  I recently read an article about addiction, and it made me wonder if maybe this could have been a parable that Jesus would have used.

There is a simple experiment that is designed to determine which drugs are the most chemically addictive. The experiment goes like this: Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Nearly every time the experiment is run, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

This seems to be pretty conclusive; however on a second take of the experiment we notice that the rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. A professor from Vancouver named Bruce Alexander noticed the same thing, so Professor Alexander built “Rat Park”. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored toys, the best rat food, tunnels to scamper through, and plenty of friends: everything a rat could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, would happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment became addicted.

If I may be so bold, the Kingdom of heaven is like “Rat Park”.  No one is lonely, and people live in loving Christ-like community.  This community is more attractive than the strongest of drugs because this is God’s kingdom.

How can we be about God’s kingdom this week? What can we do to reach out to the lonely and hurting?

Today, please join me in praying for someone in your life that needs God.

Lenten Devo 7: Hallowed Be Your Name

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of mine and is about the phrase “Hallowed be your name”. It fell on Day 15 of this series.**

Reading: Luke 11:1-2

When John and I found out we were expecting our first baby, we had such a fun time choosing a name. We decided we wanted something biblical and unique, but nothing too “out there”. After much discussion, we eventually landed on one. We realized that it was much harder to choose a name than we had thought it would be! We wanted something that had a great story behind it and could be (somewhat) easily pronounced. We didn’t want our child to be embarrassed by it or deemed “too common”. I mean, this was his NAME after all! People would be saying it every day of his life, and he would be stuck with what we chose for him. He only gets this one name for the entirety of his life. A name is a big deal.
I’m sure you’ve heard people at church refer to God, or Jesus, in various ways. Our Healer, Prince of Peace, Alpha & Omega, Lion of Judah, Our Provider, Bread of Life, Everlasting Father, and one of my favorites, Wonderful Counselor. Isn’t it amazing that our God has all these names? There are so many different qualities about him that there isn’t just one name to encompass them all. And for every unique situation that we find ourselves in, there is a specific name of God that we can call out. God, Our Ever Present Help in Trouble.
In The Lord’s Prayer we have “your name” preceded by the word “hallowed”. What does hallowed mean? To honor as Holy. Sacred. Blessed. Consecrated. Sanctified. Revered.
“Hallowed” only appears twice in the Bible (Matthew 6 and Luke 11) and both times it refers to The Lord’s Prayer and the phrase “Hallowed be your name”.
We may think our earthly names are important… but God’s name, it is Hallowed! Praise Him for being more than just an earthly name.

Today let’s pray for our Sunday School teachers.

Lenten Devo 6: Hallowed Be Your Name

**John and I were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is one of John’s and is about the phrase “Hallowed be your name”. It fell on Day 13 of this series.**

Reading: John 17:6

In John 17:6 Jesus prays fervently to God “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”

Jesus is praying these words for us.  He is in the deepest of conversations with God, whose name is holy.  He is specifically praying for those that God gave him, those that call themselves followers of Jesus.  What an absolutely amazing feature that when we become followers of Jesus we are among that number who is being prayed for fervently.

It is shortly after praying these words that Jesus is betrayed by one of his closest friends, Judas.  He is then led away like a lamb for slaughter and ends up exchanging his life for the sins of man.  He does this so that we can call ourselves children of the one true King.

Jesus has prayed for us, and is now praying for us.

Stanley Hauerwas says:

‘Hallowed be your name’,

the name we have learned from Jesus,

is at the heart of what it means to be called to holiness.

To hallow God’s name is to live lives of prayer.

It is to pray that we lead lives that glorify God.

What will you do now that you know Jesus is praying for you? Will you lead a life of prayer? How will you glorify God with your life?

Please pray with us for those in church leadership.