Thursday, December 18, 2014

When a Carpenter is Called to Raise a King

by contributing writer, Heidi Eastman

When a Carpenter is Called to Raise a King

I was hurt, betrayed and angry.  Mary, my betrothed, was pregnant and it was not my child.  And then she made an elaborate story about an angel and she said that the child growing inside her was the Son of the Most High God.  It was insulting.  As angry as I was, I didn't want to bring more shame upon her and I decided to end things quietly.  But then an angel came to me and confirmed everything Mary had said.

I was terrified!

How does a man treat the woman carrying the Son of God?  I'm just a carpenter.  I couldn't afford to give her everything she deserved.  All I could do was provide a dry house (most of the year), and work hard to provide for her basic needs.  I still cannot fathom why God would tell me to marry her.  But He did, and I obeyed.

I did everything I could to make Mary comfortable and she never complained or asked for anything.  In the midst of morning sickness, sleepless nights, and being the center of gossip, Mary never forgot how blessed she was.  She never forgot how special her child was.

As Mary's stomach stretched, it started becoming real to me.  I was responsible for raising the Son of God.  Wouldn't a rabbi or a scholar of the Torah be a better option?  How would I ensure he learned everything he needed?  I did my best to hide my worries from Mary.  She had enough to deal with without adding a frantic husband to the mix.

Mary was getting more uncomfortable every day, when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and I had to travel to Bethlehem.  I was taking her away from her mother, and any woman she knew that could help her deliver a baby.  I was taking her on a dangerous road, with risks of attack - both human and animal - and robbery.  Not to mention that the stress of the trip could cause her to go into labour at any time.

Yet we went.  And I spent the entire trip in prayer.  I prayed that Mary would be okay.  I prayed that I could be the father this child needed.  I prayed that we would have a bed to sleep in.  I prayed that what we were doing was indeed God's will.

We finally arrived in Bethlehem.  I completed the census and we looked for a place to stay.  Mary was becoming more and more uncomfortable.  She tried so hard not to complain, but a woman in labour does not easily remain quiet.

So many people had come for the census that there were no vacancies anywhere!  Finally an innkeeper offered us his stable for the night.  A stable is far from what I imagined but it was dry and Mary could rest.

Jesus was born that night.  Mary had told me about childbirth on our journey in anticipation of us not finding a midwife.  I had never seen a child born before.  It was long, messy, loud and disgusting, yet somehow beautiful.

I had been expecting a King.  Yet I held a tiny, fragile, helpless infant.  A baby who interrupted our sleep and demanded to be fed and changed.  A simple, beautiful, perfect baby boy.  He was not a king.  He was not born with a crown on his head.  The only miracle was that of birth.  He was completely human.  Yet I knew, when I looked at him, that he really was the son of the Most High God.  And I was given the honour of being a part of his life.

I still do not know how to raise a king.  I will honour his mother.  I will pray for wisdom, and I will teach him what I know.  I will raise the creator of the universe as a carpenter.

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute. You can find her over at her own blog, My Sister Told Me To Start A Blog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WARNING: The Holidays Without Faith in Christ can be Dangerous to your Health

The Christmas season is a favourite time of year for many people but for some it's far from pleasant and my heart goes out to those who are suffering through it.

My friend works in retail and the impatience that typically comes with the Christmas season has already begun.  Something as simple as a closed till can quickly unravel a customer's entire day; in fact, she experienced two people who were so upset they threw down their merchandise and stormed out of the store, swearing loudly.

Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth.  Jesus came into the world to save us and help us through the difficult times in life.  He is the reason for the season; however, if we forget Jesus, the materialism, busyness and time spent with family can turn into more of a problem than a joyful celebration.

Jesus is the reason for the seasonJesus came to give us peace and joy and it is available to all who have a relationship with Him.  But many don't include a relationship with Jesus in their holidays festivities and that peace and joy is passing them by.

Jesus was born in a stable to bring peace and joy to all mankind but this "best gift ever" is only available to those who will accept it and open their hearts to Jesus.  If someone gives you a gift but you don't take it or open it, you don't get to enjoy it or use it.   So how do we receive and open this Christmas gift of Salvation from God?  

Receiving starts with us acknowledging that we are sinners and that our sin separates us from having a relationship with God.  Jesus was born as a baby so that he could grow into a man who defeated sin by dying on the cross.  Jesus was God come down to earth as a human, remaining pure from sin as he grew into a man so that when he died on the cross he was qualified to be our substitute.   This might make more sense if I get Canadian and use hockey to explain: If the goalie gets a penalty he does not serve the penalty in the box because he is the goalie.  Another team member sits in the box and serves the penalty for the goalie while the goalie stays in the net.  Someone had to pay the price of our sin so that we could be reunited with God and that is what Jesus did on the cross - he sat in the penalty box for us and served our penalty.  He served our time so that if we repent and commit to live a godly life we no longer need to be punished.  God wipes our slate clean and forgives us all our wrong.   We can then begin a relationship with the God who created the universe.   Besides asking for and receiving forgiveness for our sin we also begin a relationship with God by humbly giving God ultimate control of our lives.  Basically we yield ourselves completely to God and let Him be the boss.   Once God has control of our lives He can lead us in the right direction, in the ways that bring us peace, joy and freedom.   Our Christmas can be transformed into a good season.

Even those who have a relationship with Jesus can miss the peace and joy if they get caught up in the rushing and trials and excessive busyness of Christmas.  Sometimes we do not actually give Jesus all areas of our life but desperately clutch at control.  We don't leave our concerns in His capable hands but ruminate in them, and our peace is quickly stolen away.  Without trust in God, worry is free to grow unchecked and becomes a force to be reckoned with.  Faith is like an umbrella to protect us from the rain of worry.

The continuous drip of worry has stolen so much joy from my life.  I am not sure why I have been so reluctant to replace worry with faith.  Maybe I did not notice how much worrying I actually do. About 3 months ago I prayed and asked God to heal the emotional part of me.  It has been such a revealing journey since then.  God has been showing me all the messed up things that happen in my brain and one of the main things is the actual extent of my worrying.  I think on average I worry probably once every three minutes!  My mind is so full of fear and concern!  I can't fully enjoy life because I.m continually pouring out toxic thoughts that poison my outlook on everything.  I need AAA for worriers so I can stand up and say "Hi, my name is Kristen Webb and I have a problem with worry" and then get help for my addiction.  Good thing our church offers an emotional 12 Step program and I am in it right now!  It has pointed me in the right direction to find healing and freedom.

The prescription for healing is to take all your worries to God and drop them (actually let go) into God's capable hands.   When you are tempted to take the worry back trust God to handle the issues! Peacefully look to God for the solutions to all the problems in your life.   I discovered that all my planning and scheming was not a really good solution to my troubles.  Instead I give God that responsibility and confidently listen to His voice for the answers and then simply obey Him and do what He suggests.  This faith we put in God enables us to let go of the worry and fear and replace it with peace and a confident expectation in His solutions.

The Bible says that God gives us beauty for ashes which may sound way too good to be true but that is exactly what God has done for me.  As I give Him the ashes of my worry and fear He replaces them with the beauty of faith followed by peace.  I needed to learn to trust God with my life because now, even before the answer gets to me, I can still have peace and joy while I wait :)  This is a truly amazing way to live and more fun than when my mind was overrun with concern because I was tightly holding onto the control of my life.

What are some ways you can let go and let God this Christmas season? 

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith

Samson - Sermon Video

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Adding Your Voice To Sunday Mornings - Why We Read The Scriptures Aloud

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophesy, and blessed are those who hear and keep what is written in it..." Revelation 1:3a

Why We Read The Scriptures Aloud - Hanover Missionary Church
As we carry on in our chronological journey through the scriptures there has been an ongoing invitation to participate in the story through Life Groups, discussion questions, and personal challenges.  One more way of bringing the narrative to life is by sharing the Sunday morning reading of scripture among various voices in the pews.

"I see it as a new liturgy," Pastor Jason said from the pulpit on November 23, 2014.  And while Hanover Missionary Church is not traditionally a liturgical church, there is something powerful to be said for actively participating in a service and not just being a consumer. 

The beauty of the liturgical tradition is that it carries a lot of back and forth and calls for active participation.  "Literally translated 'liturgy' is 'the work of the people'," Pastor Jason shared.  "In our context we have to be careful that everything isn't driven from the front - that you become inactive participants in something that is largely being performed...and you are simply there as an observer.  We don't want that.  We want you to be active participants and so, as you read the scriptures and as I share from my insight, from my perspective, from my readings, from my prayer, hopefully our messages jointly - our lips jointly - will be filled with messages from the Lord for each other.  There is power in the good news.  There is power in the scriptures and, as we share the Word of God together, there's transformation that comes as it takes root in our hearts."

Understanding the reasoning behind why we do things the way we do is just one more step in the journey towards becoming a strong family in Christ - a community actively pursuing God together.  And perhaps, through understanding, you will find yourself raising your hand to add your own voice to a Sunday morning service at HMC, making your experience richer, and the Word that much more powerful.

Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she's trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Giants Have Fur {Lessons In Conquest}

by contributing writer Kristen Webb

Philippians 4:6-7 - do not be anxious

On October 12 our pastor spoke on Lessons in Conquest from Joshua 10-12.  (You can listen to it here or watch it here.) It so related to my life!  I have had an particular issue that I have been struggling with for 10 years.  It is a bizarre thing to struggle with and I just never seemed to find victory over it... 

Joshua had to face Giants but the giants I face have fur.  I am addicted to selling and buying horses.

I am not sure why it gives me such a rush but I love doing it.  It started because I have a very limited budget and very high expectations of what I want in a horse.   Now, looking back, I can see why I struggled so long without victory.  Basically, even though I prayed about it, I never really believed God could answer.   My prayers were more of a fierce desperate wishing followed by worry and scheming.   I still felt like it was a huge long shot that I would ever find the horse I was looking for.   Joshua acted in faith, listened to God's voice, lived in partnership with God, and prayed with imagination. I did the complete opposite.

I was not kidding when I said this was a long road of mistakes. The first horse I bought was pretty but very stubborn so I sold him and tried to get another horse that was closer to my wishlist.  But each horse I would get, after a little while, I would think that if I sold them I could trade up for something better. I did this in a frenzied fashion. I would look on kijiji and find something that was amazing that I just had to have.  However I had to sell the horse I had first.  I would list my horse and then wait - not very patiently - for it to sell.   I would worry that the horse I had seen and wanted and really believed was the only horse for me would sell before my horse sold.  
I am ashamed to say I did this roughly 10 times in 8 years.  (My husband was really grateful that I did not treat my men like my horses!)  

I liked the rush of buying a new horse but then I would crash in depression when I would inevitably realize the horse I thought was perfect was far from it.  Part of the problem was my expectations were completely unrealistic for the amount of money I had to work with.  The expectations themselves were not based in reality but on my girlish dreams and further amplified by my perfectionist personality.  I was not very logical when I was looking at a horse and in my desperate desire to finally find one that worked I would overlook serious problems.

The horse I bought last year was the worst mistake of them all. She was more money than any of the others and she was only a one-year-old. She had a problem with bucking when you got on - like you were in a rodeo. I need a safe horse because I have already fallen on my head too many times and I can't fall off again. This horse was my worst nightmare and the people I bought it from would not take it back.   In the end I had to pretty much give it away.

At this point I recognized that I had a problem. I really wanted to stop the cycle and just find a horse that was safe and that I could keep for a long time. I prayed about this and for the first time I really gave it to God and stopped worrying and stressing about it. God did not have much to work with because I had no money left for my next horse as I had lost it all on the nightmare.  God, being all powerful and all knowing, was not stressed by my request for a horse.  In fact I think He was very relieved that I was finally giving it to Him.  He started working on pulling the strings to bring me the right horse for me despite of myself.  

There was a horse that I was boarding for someone who wanted their horse to be shipped out to her in BC at the end of summer.  She was an older white mare and did not catch my attention because I'm usually drawn to the flashy, crazy horses.   The owner decided that she was too old to ship such a long distance and decided to give her away to someone here.   She asked me to try her out and then put an ad on kijijito  find her a new home.   I tried her out and she was seriously the best horse I had ever ridden!  To think she had been in my backyard all summer!   She was so safe and obedient that I could ride her with my daughter (who has Downs Syndrome) as well.  I was enjoying riding when I was on her and it was peaceful and soothing.
I had some reservations however because she was older and not the prettiest horse I have ever seen and usually buying young and pretty is high on my priority list.   But I asked God what He wanted me to do.  He impressed upon me that safety and having a horse I can trust were the most important things.   It was vain of me to only want good-looking horses that others would admire.  Who cares if others think the horse that just bucked you off is good-looking!   This time I was trying to live in partnership with God in regards to my horse search instead of going off on my own schemes. 

Fear of getting the wrong horse again was at first overwhelming but as I wrestled with what horse to get I just keep praying and asking God to help.  I did find that He eventually gave me freedom to act without fear right around the same time I finally got a hold of the idea that God administers all the resources of the land.  Finding me a great horse was not a hard task for Him.   Even helping me accept that what I originally wanted in a horse was not the best choice was not a hard task for Him either!

So instead of living in fear and making a hasty decision I trusted God to meet my needs and bring me a safe sane horse.  It was pretty cool that He arranged for the horse that I was considering to not be available to anyone else until I made up my mind.  I did not have to make a fast decision because no one else even knew she was available for free yet!   

I rode the older white mare many times and she was excellent every time.   She did not even spook at deer or partridges flying up in her face.   I prayed that God would help me look past her age and outward appearance and He totally answered.  She put on weight and looked much better and I started to really like her one blue eye.  

God pointed out that her age is what makes her so reliable and perfect for me - I am no spring chicken either!  

By the time I decided to keep her it was a "no brainer" because God had made it very clear to me that she was the one.  I am still in awe about how He found me a free horse that was better than all the other ones I bought and sold throughout the years.  Not only was the horse free but I did not even have to pay for transportation because she was already at my farm!  The little amount I got for the nightmare horse was just enough to get the vet out to look after my new horse's teeth and shots.     

I have had her for 3 months now and I like her more every time I ride her.  I am so thankful to God for ending my horse search and freeing me from my trading addiction.  I do sometimes feel the same old urge to upgrade and get a better horse but then I apologize to God and thank Him for the great horse I do have.  I ask Him to continue to help me be content with the horse He gave me and not be such a picky perfectionist.   

By the way, I called my new horse Eden and she is going to be part of my life for long time. 

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Navigation Tools

by contributing writer Brian Austin

A recent trip to the Bay of Fundy brought something home to me rather forcefully. Navigation tools are far advanced from the time Samuel Champlain established a settlement at present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605. In many parts of the Bay, narrow channels can be easily crossed at high tide in 10 minutes with a small motor boat or even a row boat. Most of the people who regularly make those crossings have all the navigation tools available. Some of the more seasoned ones can read patterns in the waves and currents as easily as most of us read print. But every year a few of them get caught when a fog bank comes in quickly. Every year a few get caught in a sudden storm. Most make it through somehow. But a few don’t.

Present day print resources provide outstanding tools for navigating life. Very few people who attend our churches and use our libraries will not own a Bible or at least have one in their home. How many of them are making the crossing, but their GPS is sitting on a shelf at home? It’s usually easy, quick and comfortable. They’ve done this before and had no problem. Yet life has a way of bringing fog-banks and storms. Our churches are full of people who don’t read their Bibles. Their GPS is sitting on a shelf somewhere and not turned on. They have all the right tools, but they’re not using them.

Virtually everyone coming through our doors has access to the Bible and many Bible Literacy tools. It’s a Spiritual GPS with the maps and charts astonishingly accurate and up-to-date. Probably 2/3rds or more of those people rarely if ever use those tools. I can’t fill that gap. Our pastors can’t fill that gap. But together, just maybe, we can stimulate enough interest that people will begin to read the Bible for themselves. Together, just maybe, we can bring enough balance to the bits and pieces they know that they will begin to hunger and thirst for a deeper grasp.

Maybe what we need as a church – maybe what the people listening to the preaching and using our library need is a storm – not enough to shipwreck us, just enough to remind us that the tools so readily available have no value for us unless we actually use them.

Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it's Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Joshua Week 6

book of Joshua sermon series
Joshua gives one final exhortation to the Israelites at the end of his book.  In 24:14-15 he calls the Israelites to choose ‘this day’ God or gods they will serve.  Then he takes a stand and says, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” 

Reflect on the God or gods that was/were worshiped in your home growing up (ie. Jesus Christ, money, success, material possessions, status…).  What did you see in your family that helped you?  What didn’t help?  What about your household today?  What God or gods do your children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbours see you worshipping?  Do you need to make a change today to be more fully devoted to serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

Looking Forward To The 'Not Yet' While Being Thankful For The Now - Sermon Video

Friday, October 17, 2014

Joshua Week 5

Read the summary of the allotment of land to Israel in Joshua 18:1-7.   Notice that the tribe of Judah anchors Israel’s settlement in the south while the tribes of Ephriam and Manassah (house of Joseph) will be the first to receive allotment in the north.  Both tribes are favoured.  Why?  Could it have something to do with the ancestors that bear their names (Read Genesis 37 to see Joseph and Judah in the same setting along with their brothers)? 

Have you ever been treated with favoritism or been passed over because someone else was favoured?  How does/did that affect you?  What advantages and disadvantages are there for those who are favoured?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seeing God's Hand In Everyday Things

by contributing writer Kristen Webb

potluck & praise
On the evening of Sunday, October 5 I attended the Potluck & Praise night at the church. While we were eating we were encouraged to discuss a question asking whether we have noticed God's hand in our lives.

God's hand in my lifeGod's hand prints are all over my life. In fact the very food I had been blissfully eating at the potluck portion of the evening was an answer to prayer! I am allergic to wheat and few other things like eggs, almonds and lima beans. I don't feel too bad about having to avoid lima beans but the wheat is really hard to miss out on. I was not looking forward to the potluck as I imagined it would be a lot of dishes that looked fantastic and made my mouth water that I could not eat. It is torture to walk by yummy things that people have prepared and not put them on my plate. So before I went to the potluck I prayed and asked God to help me with willpower so that I would behave. When I got there I discovered there were other people who are also gluten-free and they had brought yummy food! It is not half as hard to pass up gluten-laden dishes when there is lots of tasty stuff I can eat. Thank you God for enabling me to not only stay gluten-free but gluten-free and still happy because that is a big deal!

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Joshua Week 4

Joshua sermon series, discussion questions
Read Joshua 10:12-15

Notice God's power over the sun. 

Now read about the Amorite god of the sun in this Wikipedia article (only the 2nd paragraph). 

Notice how Utu is depicted as emerging from a mountain, traveling across the earth, and then returning to a mountain hole (cave). He carries weapons, doles out justice, stands with one foot on a mountain, and he decides the fate of the dead.

Keeping the above themes/words in mind, read Joshua 10:16-28. What do you notice? What similarities are there between the Amorite kings and Utu? (Hint: caves, death, 'one foot'...). What does this story reveal about Israel's God when compared to one of the gods of the Amorites?

Discernment For Busy People - Sermon Video

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Read Any Good Books Lately?

By contributing writer Brian Austin

As church librarian, I have the privilege of managing a treasure of almost measureless value. I love books. The eyesight issue that has created a personal struggle for the last number of years has not diminished that love at all, although it has reduced my personal reading drastically. The HMC Resource Centre has been a personal work of love and ministry for more than 31 years now. I suspect the time is coming soon when it would be healthier for the church and Resource Centre if I stepped aside and someone else gave leadership, but I count it a privilege and an honour to still be deeply involved. 

I take delight in watching toddlers love for books. It is a rough love and torn pages are part of it. But the simple joy they find even before they can read – not caring what page they open to or even if the book is right side up – just caught up in something full of wonder. . . 

 I want so much to have our teens reading – though a part of me cringes when a new book gets carried in a backpack for a week. Signed out once it shows more wear than a book stamped 20 times that our seniors have been reading. Still, from my perspective, finding another book that will grip that teen is one of the places real ministry happens. 

 A lot of main-stream teen fiction is scary stuff. Some of it is brilliantly written, way beyond my skill as a writer. But if the message is dangerous, and it often is, the very brilliance gets a hold on a young mind and draws them back for more. It thrills me when I find wonderful teen fiction with biblical truth woven into the story. When I get that into a teen’s hands and they come back for more – then a prematurely worn out book is an excellent investment from my perspective. 

I don’t know how to compete with TV and iPads and computers. Kids are growing up with so much technology and according to some research, with increasingly short attention spans. I can get all uptight about that, or I can remind myself that the greatest teacher of all time used sound-bytes 2000 years ago. I don’t think any of Jesus’ parables take five minutes to tell. I wonder if there is a message there for us authors. As a librarian I can focus on what I can do something about – searching for and buying the best children’s and teen books I can find, and encouraging the kids who do love to read, getting to know their interests a bit and pointing them to books that fit. 

For me there is another huge, almost impossible hurdle to overcome. An ever increasing percentage of the people who use our library have never read the Bible for themselves. If they come regularly to our church they have heard preaching that is always Bible based, but at best that gives them snippets of the Bible’s message, not the whole of it. The best intentioned preacher joining forces with the best intentioned authors cannot fill that void. As a church librarian with a treasury of rich, theologically and doctrinally sound resources available, I cannot fill that void. Reading about the Bible’s message, no matter how beautifully done, is not and cannot be the same as actually reading the Bible for itself. 

If I can ever summon the nerve to do it, people will come into our church some Sunday morning to find the library door locked, a big poster of an open Bible, and the question in huge block letters: “Have you read any good books lately?” Maybe I’ll picture an e-reader on the poster as well, a nod to people younger and more technologically connected than me. It will be a reminder to me as much as to anyone else, because with eyesight issues, my Bible reading has also suffered. 

Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it's Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Choosing Discomfort: Communion Is Not Just A Pretty Ritual

by contributing writer Heidi Eastman

Church is sometimes too comfortable.  We have cushy seats and we sit with the people we know and like. Even communion is comfortable, with the pretty silver trays filled with pieces of tortilla (with a gluten free option) and tiny thimbles of grape juice.  We partake while listening to beautiful, reflective music and often leave the service without a second thought about the meaning of the ritual we just participated in.   

Jesus' death was messy and dirty and chaotic.  Communion is clean and organized and quiet.  The two are worlds apart. The bread is the body, the wine (or juice) is the blood but how can we connect bread and juice with the brutal death Jesus suffered?

I will never fully understand (nor do I want to) the agony Jesus faced while dying on the cross but occasionally, I try to focus on the brutal reality. The reality that Jesus was beaten violently, forced to carry the instrument that was going to be used to kill him, nailed upon a cross - completely naked, for everyone to mock and spit at -  waiting for death to come.  Every single breath would have been agony as the open cuts from his beating would scrape over the cross.  And if breathing hurt, can you imagine the pain of projecting his voice so people around could hear him?  Yet he chose to seek forgiveness for those crucifying him, to assure a man dying alongside him that he would be with him in heaven, and to make sure his mother was taken care of.  The physical pain would be indescribable, but the emotional pain?  The pain of being killed by those you love unconditionally, because one of your closest friends betrayed you?  That pain is unfathomable!

So the next time the silver tray comes your way, try choosing discomfort.  Next time you take the bread, actually think about Jesus' body.  Think about what He suffered for you.  When you take the wine, actually think about His blood, poured out willingly and without complaint.  The only reason we have the privilege of partaking in the beautiful tradition of communion is because of the ugly, violent and messy way our Saviour died. 

Will you approach this Sunday with a little more thought and reverence? Will you set aside the worries of your week to really focus on what Jesus' sacrifice means? Will you choose discomfort?

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hearing & Following God's Ridiculous Requests

by contributing writer Kristen Webb

Has God ever asked you to do something you thought was a bit odd, strange or just plain illogical?  

Did you have the courage to do it or did you chicken out?  

When God asked you did you get angry or excited? 

Over the last three years I have been going through a long period of God asking me to do some frustrating things.  In the past I would get angry or fearful or I'd bitterly say, "another character-developing opportunity" when God asked me to go through difficult situations.  Because of my attitude these situations where extra unpleasant and though I did develop character I also developed doubt and bitterness. Over the last three years I have embraced a new attitude: one of faith, knowing God loves me.  I was eagerly waiting to see what cool things Jesus would do to sustain me in the midst of the chaos - to make good come out of bad. 

My three year journey began with a very unfortunate incident.  I was walking across the road and I was struck by a truck.  (Do not, under any circumstances, try to take on a truck on foot - it does not go well!)  I was jaywalking and he failed to look or stop before he turned out in front of me.  I broke my leg at the femur - like right in half so it was dangling at a strange angle when I tried to lift it up.  I also re-injured a concussion that I had gotten a year previously from being tossed off a horse head first when it fell in a hole at a gallop.  This accident was not God's fault - it was human error - and for the last three years God has been making good come out of it.

I have learned so many things!  For instance, how to hear God even in demanding situations.  Just like the sermon last week about how to learn good discernment: God has been teaching me to listen carefully, be alert, surrender and trust God for victory.  Because of the leg and the concussion I have had to be very still for very long periods of time.  It is amazing how much easier it is to hear God when you are still and quiet.  I am a very goal oriented person and I like to get stuff done - I do not like to rest.  However God has taught me to rest and actually enjoy it and benefit from it.

With my concussion I have progressed to only needing quiet rest about 4 times a day for around an hour a time.  Right after the accident I pretty much rested 24/7.  If I do not rest I get headaches of epic proportions that makes any kind of any activity debilitating.   Reading quietly or watching TV or even talking on the phone with my eyes closed does not count as rest.   I must make like a mushroom, and spend lots of time in a dark, quiet bed doing nothing.  At the start this was very frustrating and boring, but I got better at it. (And if resting were an Olympic sport I would so get gold!)  

I discovered that the quiet worked really well for listening to God and if I surrendered to Him, He would give me peace and joy.  Because I did not have my brain cluttered with all my busy plans I found I could be alert to hear God's voice and hear Him better than ever before.  He has been very clear that He wants to me to keep resting as much as I need to and give my list of things I need to get done to Him.  I have learned to trust Him for victory over my anxious heart and He has calmed me down so much.  It is very hard to get anything done when you need to rest as often and as long as I do.   However, I have seen God do supernatural things to my heart and to my schedule and He has come through. 

Now when I have to go rest I feel safe and peaceful instead of frustrated and driven.   You might say my life is a bit ridiculous when it is interrupted with sleep so often throughout the day.

God asks me to rest and that seems to be a counter-intuitive request if your goal is getting stuff done.  But I have discovered that for me obeying God means resting and He gives me such a joy and relief in that.  He has shown me that all the down time has been a wonderful opportunity to pray and to meditate on His Word.  These two acts have totally changed my life in so many good ways.  God's Word is so awesome and following it is the path to true contentment and satisfaction.  I do sometimes still feel frustrated and wish I had more time to get things done but when I run to God He tells me to be patient and do what He asks.  This works so much better than trying to do what the world says you must do to be considered successful.

We sing a song at church called The Rock Won't Move and it really describes my journey through the last three years.

The Rock Won't Move

When the ground beneath my feet gives way
And I hear the sound of crashing waves
And all my world is washing out to sea
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

The rock won't move and His word is strong
The rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The rock won't move and His word is strong
The rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The rock of our salvation

My hope is in the promise of Your blood
My support within the raging flood
Even in the tempest I can sing
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
The rock won't move the rock won't move
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest in His unchanging grace
The rock won't move the rock won't move
CCLI Song # 7005719

Just like the Israelite's laid rocks from the middle of the river to remember what God had done for them, I want to keep blogging what God has done for me.  I want to remember so my faith can be strengthened.

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Joshua Week 3

Joshua 9 describes a Gibeonite plot to stop the Israelites from destroying them in their Promised Land conquest.  Read the text Joshua 9:1-18 What’s going on between the Gibeonites and Israel’s leaders?  Joshua sermon series, discussion questions
What were the Gibeonites thinking?  

What were Joshua and Israel’s leaders thinking?  

What were the Israelites thinking about their leader’s decisions?

Why didn’t Israel consult with God?  

Read Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and Deuteronomy 20:10-15 to shed light on the complexity of the decision-making.  Have you ever struggled to make a decision when you didn’t know all the facts?  What role does time have on making good or bad decisions?  What role does inquiring of God have on the decisions you make?

Seriously! Peace

by contributing writer  Kristen Webb

Peace, something we all long for and something that sometimes feels like an elusive emotion...

On September 14, Pastor Jason implied that there is a way to access internal peace and rest regardless of the circumstances. That sounds a might bit unrealistic given my circumstances lately. I have been trying recently to give my problems to God and to trust Him with them but it is not so easy

For instance, take the problem of wasps entering my home. Since late summer I have had wasps coming into my house at a rate of about 5 a day. I first see them in my dining room hanging out at the ceiling or in the big window. I do not like wasps or any kind of stinging insect. They are not aggressive (which is good) but still creepy.

I like to be in control of my environment. Some might even say I am obsessive about certain things. (My husband certainly will admit I am.) My brain got a hold of this wasp crisis and it was off and running, trying to figure out how to fix it and what the worse case scenario might look like. 

I imagined hundreds of wasps descending into my house, biting me and my children repeatedly and us all dying. I also imagined never being able to find where they were coming in and thus never being able to stop them. For some reason these thoughts would whip me into an internal frenzy of fear. That fear then urged me to do whatever it took to fix this problem and not rest until it was over. 

I had prayed and asked God to help me but I was not trusting Him enough to let go of the anxiety and fear. I basically wanted Him to fix the problem the way I had figured out to fix it. I wanted Him to show me where they were getting in and then extract the entire nest so that the wasps would be gone.

So I proceeded with my plan of attack, still scared and overwhelmed and not feeling very restful or peaceful. I watched the dining room like a hawk for days at a time trying to catch a wasp entering. There were some knot holes in the ceiling and some gaps around the trim. I could never see the blasted things making their entrance so I put duct tape over all the knot holes to see if that helped. 

I still had wasps showing up. I would get the ladder from the shop and frantically kill each one that appeared with great fear of getting stung.

I was sharing my dilemma with my sister in law and hubby one day at lunch. I needed to explain to my sister in law why I was spending time out of our visit hauling out the ladder and never looking at her when she talked but instead focusing on the trim in the ceiling. She was very support of of my plans to kill all wasps but my husband felt I was being rude to her. He pointed out that they had not bit me yet and were just coming in because of the cold weather which makes them sleepy. They were on deaths door anyway. He suggested I kill them when I see them and not be so panicked. I freaked at him and said my fears were justified and I would not rest until I found where these wasps are coming in. I see now that He was trying to help but because I was over reacting, his comments just made me more anxious.

So I had it out with God. I told Him that He had promised to answer my prayers. Where was He and why was I so upset? Maybe the promise of peace was only to folks who do not have OCD and insects storming their home. 

When I rant with God I try to also journal and write down what He says back. Prayer is a two way conversation. This is very helpful because after all God is the creator of the universe and is all knowing, which come in handy when problem solving. So when I listened this time, God said that He promised to answer when we ask without doubt. Doubt can block us from answers. (James 1:6-8) So my fear and anxiety was blocking an answer. Also He gently pointed out that when I ask for help I should not put Him in a box and demand He answer me in only my certain predetermined way. That was nervy of me and I should repent. Well I must say I responded much better to God than I did to my husband. I wonder why that is?

I repented and then asked for help with the wasps and I trusted God to fix it somehow. Trust is so freeing. It's like a buy one get one free. You buy into trust and you get peace and rest just as an added bonus. I guess in the future, I need to be watching out for anxiety and fear because if I have them I know automatically I am not really trusting God and that I have doubt.

This relates back to that sermon where Pastor Jason pointed out that if we are not in step with God we will not have that internal peace and rest. We need to look for God and what He is doing instead of telling Him how to do his job! We need to ask God what to do and step out and actually do it, letting go of the fear and worry. So I gave the wasps and my obsession about finding their home and eradicating them to God. When I listened to God He said that I needed to calm down and just kill any wasps that came in and not worry about them. So that is what I did. God gave me the strength to stop obsessing and be OK that the odd wasp would enter my house a few times a day. God helped me get over my fear of wasps and to not mind sharing my space with them so much. I decided to let go of my need to find where they were entering and it is such a better way to live.

Even though I did not see the answer right away, and wasps were still paying me frequent visits, I still had peace and rest - what a precious gift! Eventually they stopped coming in as often and now they only come occasionally every few days. I just calmly smack them with the fly swatter - I am really getting good with that thing! - and proceed on with my day. I am so glad I did not rip out the ceiling to try to find their nest or hire an expensive bug killer guy. Pastor Jason was right. You can have internal peace and rest regardless of the circumstances - even if you are a women with some emotional hang ups!

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Joshua sermon series, discussion questions
In Joshua 5:2-3, God called for all Israelite men to be circumcised.  The result was that God “rolled away” the reproach of Egypt (Joshua 5:9).  In the New Testament, God “rolled away” something else.  Read Luke 24:1-3 to find out what it is.  In both texts, sacrifice precedes the lifting of the curse (or “rolling away”).  What needs to be rolled away in your life?  What might God be asking you to sacrifice? 

This question may be a little personal to share in the comments below but we'd still love to hear your thoughts regarding the Joshua series. What is God teaching you through the sermons? How is the story of Joshua making an impact on your life?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcoming Fall with a Parking Lot Carnival!

Every year we like to welcome the Fall with a special kick-off Sunday. In the past we've done different things  (all involving food, of course)  but this year we decided to go for something completely new and fresh.

A Carnival!

The sun beamed down surprisingly hot as we got everything set up after church on the afternoon of September 7 but we had a big crew of willing and able adults and children who banded together and made it happen.

With two inflatable bouncy houses - one a castle and one a skid loader - homemade carnival games provided by the crew at New Tribes Mission and the young adults group, an abundance of treats, pie and BBQ, the evening was a huge success and a whole lot of fun, culminating in a lovely time of outdoor worship!

One of our goals over the past year has been to create opportunity to build the HMC community and this certainly fit that bill! There were (sticky) smiles all around the parking lot - some of our neighbors even wandered over to see what was going on. 

The carnival team was tired but pleased and already there is talk about possibly doing it again some time!

We'd love to hear what your favorite part was! Would you like to see something like this happen again for Welcome Back Sunday? Would you do anything differently? 

Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she's trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

Friday, September 12, 2014

JOSHUA - Fall Sermon Series

On Sunday we begin a new sermon series, delving into the exciting pages of the book of Joshua. Then on Monday, (September 15 at 7:00 pm) for those who want to dig in farther, we are introducing an Adult Life Group that will unpack Sunday's scripture passage a little bit more.

Joshua sermon seriesWe are hoping to offer a discussion question each week to help you get a bit deeper into the scripture and we'd love if you felt comfortable enough to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Check back each Friday during the series for a new question.

In Joshua 2:1 the spies are sent from Shittim.  Events of being in Shittim in the past would have haunted the Israelites.  Read Numbers 25:1-3.  Notice the Israelites are standing in the same place again.  Is it significant that the spies went to the home of a prostitute?  How is the outcome different in Joshua 2 than it was in Numbers 25?  

What about you? Has God ever returned you to a situation from your past? Was your outcome different the second time around? What did He teach you and how did you grow through revisiting that situation? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Carol Remembers

*Carol has been attending HMC her entire life. The following are some of her memories, shared in her own words through an internal publication celebrating the 100 year anniversary of our church in 2001.

I remember an upside down view of underneath the pews. While my parents concentrated on the Bible lesson, I leaned over the pew searching for legs that I recognized. Occasionally I'd disappear altogether, crawl under the pews and pop up somewhere else. (I've heard that sometimes I'd be found sitting motionless on the lap of Mrs. Purdy Sr. who would be brushing my hair into ringlets.)

I remember tiring Sunday School teachers with my perplexing questions and being rebuked by those who couldn't hear the sermon for my giggling. I remember once being carried out of an evening service, limbs flailing in protest.

I remember that my parents allowed me to doodle during the sermons. I appeared to be remarkably attentive but I was actually trying to capture the earnest expression on the pastor's face.

It seems as if I didn't pay attention at all when in fact I have a vivid recollection of the Hanover Missionary Church as it has been since the last 1960's. I was born into this church, the second daughter of vitally active church members, Harold and Muriel, and a frequent source of embarrassment to them.

Our family life revolved around church activity. I took for granted that my father was frequently at board meetings or building meetings. Time and time again I saw my mom preparing or washing up communion trays, planning a Sundy School or Junior Church lesson, or organizing Keys to Life material. Our home was opened to a host of guest musicians, speakers, and missionaries. We knew everyone and everyone knew us.

I remember turning to individuals within our church family for support during a difficult period when my parents and I were not communicating well. My mother implored another adult to spend time with me and the adult agreed and guardedly approached me to ask what I would like to do that weekend. Imagine her surprise and relief when I replied, "I'd like to learn how to knit!" We spent the weekend sitting on the beach knitting.

I should have been a maturing Christian by the time I was a teen but I wasn't. I was accustomed to altar calls and urgent pleas to "make a decision". The truths of scripture and doctrinal statements that I could recite with ease had failed to penetrate my heart.

About this time the pastor started reading the Bible in new translations and began leading the congregation in singing less hymns and more choruses...these changes made a profound difference to me. I was no longer distracted by religious terminology and poetic Elizabethan language and was challenged and convicted by the gospel message. I became a Christian. On a hike with the youth I spontaneously asked Pastor Bill to baptize me and he did.

Evidently, I'm quite attached to architecture and resistant to change because I was intently upset when the Chapel was first subdivided. I liked to stand in the quiet chapel and visualize what once had been. Construction workers were rededicating my memories. (More than) twenty years later, I concede that the church building needs to be used the best way possible. I am thrilled with the...nursery and young children's facility.

I have learned that the people are the church. I am thankful that my children want(ed) to go to Sunday School because of the terrific teachers who (took) a sincere interest in their well-being. I will always remember that I've met some of my dearest friends in our church.

Our church today exists because of God working through many dedicated Christians. Perhaps because of my small stature or spiritual immaturity I have a unique vantage points to those former pillars of the church - both seen and unseen - and I shall always look up to them.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Let Us Feast!

Before the sermon last Sunday, Pastor Jason asked the congregation to complete a brief survey to determine if there was any interest in beginning a monthly congregational meal.

The following questions were asked:

       1. Would you be interested in eating monthly with other HMCer's?

       2. What scenario would be best for you?
    • Wednesday supper at 6pm before Family Ties
    • Sunday supper at 5 or 6pm before a time of Praise and Worship
    • Sunday evening dessert, after a time of Praise and worship
       3. Which would you prefer: potluck or food provided for a small fee/donation?

In all, 159 surveys were completed and 112 said that yes, they would like to share meals together with the most checks going to a Sunday evening potluck meal before a time of Praise and Worship. A good group of people also indicated that they would be willing to help with a recurring event like this which is an amazing blessing.

We want to thank everyone for their response to these questions and we are excited for what this means as we continue to move forward and build up the community of HMC.

Planning for the fall is well underway and we will keep you posted as to what this will look like.

If you did not get a chance to contribute to the survey your opinion is always welcome. Use the comment form below and share your thoughts - we would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another Version of an HMC Bond Fire

On July 27, the Hallberg's generously hosted our fifth Bond Fire of the season and people began trickling in just as the rain started.  

Some time was spent with the horses but as more people arrived the rains began to fall heavier. 

Refuge was found in Tor's shop but when God's light show got underway 31 people headed into the house and cozied up around the fireplace, visiting and making s'mores.

It was not quite the bonfire people may have envisioned on their way there but it was a great time with old and new friends.  Just another version of an HMC Bond Fire!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Website Got A Makeover!

If you've visited our website in the last few days you will have noticed a major change. Gone is the vibrant rainbow of colours and the busy buttons in exchange for a more simple, streamlined look.  It still requires some little tweaks here and there but overall things seem to be functioning well.

The goal of our website is to communicate well all that is going on in the world of HMC - a one-stop-learn-all, if you will.

So far, we've had very little feedback in regards to what people actually want from our website so we're putting the question to you...

What do you use our website for?  

Does the website meet your needs?

Are there things we should add/take away?

Please use the comment link below to share your suggestions and we will do our best to make our website a helpful tool for anyone connected to the Hanover Missionary Church. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Come Sit By The Bond Fire

The first Bond Fire of the season came on the heels of a torrential downpour. Between vicious cracks of thunder the Rusnak's regrettably posted a cancellation notice only to glance out the window ten minutes later to see the sun peaking through. Everything was soaked but one look at the daughter who'd spent her afternoon   labouring over a sign and the cancellation was rescinded with a 'you might get wet but I dare you to come!' announcement post.

Dry wood was pulled from the bottom of the pile behind the barn and a fire was going when the first guests arrived.  People slowly trickled in and in the end there was a grand total of 21 in attendance (with enough snacks for 50!) but the smaller group offered a great opportunity to meet some people newly connected to the congregation and though everyone got wet feet, hearts were light and the company was great!

The evening ended with an impromptu fireworks show and sparklers for the children.

Our second week was met with sunshine and many more people ventured out to enjoy the night together in the LaPrise's backyard.  There was swimming in the river, a fascinating minnow-catching demonstration, and more food than the picnic table could contain.

We are looking forward to many more evenings together this summer. People have willingly opened their yards and homes and we are excited about the sense of community this recurring event is building. 

Will you join us this Sunday night? We'd love to see you there!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Ice Cream Social

Guest post by Michelle McLaughlin

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good
A table was laid out with sundae dishes and a variety of sundae toppings to choose from.  Paper ice cream cones dangled from the ceiling.  Pots of fresh mint from Joan McCutcheon’s garden decorated the centre of the tables.  The room buzzed with ladies gathered together enjoying make-your-own ice cream sundaes and waiting to listen to the words Ruth Shelley had to share.

This event was reminiscent for me of one year earlier when a group of ladies had gathered in this same space enjoying our first Ladies Social event which involved strawberries, hats and listening to a dear lady share her story with us.  I remember the excitement I felt when I had first saw the poster advertising the Ladies Strawberry Social.  The idea of an evening of just ladies met a need in my life that I hadn’t quite realized I needed.  Seeing the roomful of ladies that attended that first event confirmed in my mind what a blessing the evening was going to be.   And so, one year and 10 events later, we joined together again to share a sweet ice cream treat, chat, laugh and listen to what God wanted to share with us. 

Ruth began by relating stories of her association of ice cream with the gathering of her family on Sunday evenings while she grew up.  It later became part of a tradition with her seven children.  She referenced how memories are made and relationships are built over the sharing of such a delicious treat.  The media even uses it in movies and tv shows as a source of comfort in times of trouble.  She then wisely led us into God’s word to Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the LORD is good.  Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!”   She shared with us how she has tasted God’s goodness when she turned to Him and His word in the midst of problems she has faced in her life.  She encouraged us all to seek the Lord when we need comfort. 

I went this June evening expecting to enjoy a sweet treat and the company of lovely ladies.   I was reminded that while it is good to enjoy the pleasures life offers us of sweet fellowship, eating decadently now and then and even an evening away from the usual routine, there is nothing that compares with the sweetness of the Lord when we lean on Him.

HMC Ladies Socials

Friday, June 27, 2014

Heather Remembers

*Heather has been attending HMC her entire life. The following are some of her memories, shared through an internal publication celebrating the 100 year anniversary of our church in 2001.

Hanover Missionary Church - Flashback FridayI remember how my little legs stuck to the highly varnished pews in the first sanctuary of this church while I listened to Pastor Bill Lehman preach.  I remember Mom piling sixteen children into the car (in the era before mini vans and seatbelt laws) to drive us to Vacation Bible School during Pastor Wideman's bus ministry. I remember writing elaborate notes to my friends while Pastor Illman begged the congregation not to leave without getting it right with God. I remember riding my horse to the outdoor evangelistic services in (what used to be) the Zellers parking lot. I remember the kissing tree - a favourite meeting spot behind the church - and I remember the high notes I never hit in the last solo I ever sang while Pastor Bill Smith led this church. I could tell you about the slightly misguided Halloween party I helped to host as youth group president while my father (dressed as a woman) greeted everyone with his shotgun at the entrance of our you'd like to hear more about that...

If this church merely represented a lot of fond memories, it would hold a huge place in my heart.

But more than anything else, the Hanover Missionary Church has been a place for me to meet with God. My parents carried me to the altar and dedicated me to God as an infant in this church. I was taught God's word and memorized a lot of scripture through the encouragement of Vacation Bible School, Keys to Life, Missionary Cadets and great Sunday School teachers. I chose to be baptized as a young girl in this church. When I made wrong choices or felt the blows of crushing defeat in my spiritual life I sought God's forgiveness and listened for His voice at the altar in this church. When I was angry with God over circumstances beyond my control, He touched me, taught me to submit and spoke in miraculous ways in this church.

It's strange how you can feel like the church is such a huge part of you and yet realize that you are such a small part of the church.

I've seen people I love walk through the doors of this church (and) reject the truth of God's word or take offence over inconsequential things and leave. I've watched others that almost literally crawled into church as the ultimate act of humility or defeat be lifted up by the Spirit of God. It's miraculous this church, the body of believers - so human, so fallible and yet so saved by Grace and loved by God. I feel so fortunate that the Hanover Missionary Church has been part of my life because God seems pleased to meet me here.