Looking back, two thoughts immediately come to mind; how quickly the time has passed and how much things have changed. Lisa is now in Grand Prairie, Alberta where she has been working for the past 8 years. Scott, who returned to Ontario in the fall of 2008, is now one semester away from completing a third post-secondary degree; he will be pursing a career in health care. He and Tiffany were married 5 years ago; they continue to make their home in Hamilton Ontario. Andrea stayed in the South Okanagan and is now working as a nurse and Kelowna General Hospital. She and Jason were married last June; they live an hour north of us in West Kelowna. Janice has now been with Interior Health for almost 10 years and this September marks the beginning of my 13th year as the pastor here at Valley.
Our church has seen a lot of changes over these past 12 years; so many of our friends have moved out of the area or have gone to their home in heaven. The names and faces readily come to mind and there is both a sense of joy in having shared part of the journey together and a realization that such change is inevitable within any church. Through the years, others have joined us and we have together experienced the incredible faithfulness of God. We’ve had some ups and down along the way, but for the most part we have experienced a wonderful spirit as we have served together in the church.
For the past 12 years I have stood before you, faithfully teaching / proclaiming the truth of God’s Word; His Word given to us to show us how to live; His Word which we believe is our rule of life and faith, in which we find a faithful record of all that He has revealed to be true and right and good. We have looked at what the Bible says about being the church, about worship and prayer and Christian service, about what it means to live by faith and to know His amazing grace in our lives.
You have often heard me talk about living as a child of God, reminding us of the truth of 1 John 3:1: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I am, you are, the beloved of the Father! Henri Nouwen writes, ‘Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.’
I continue to remind myself each day that there is a God, that He loves me and we are in a covenant relationship; that He desires to break into and lead my life in ways that are consistent with His best plans for my life. I know that He is still at work, still writing my story and your story. And because of that, I can find, we can find rest and strength and joy in our journey with Him.
Over the years, I have sought to cheer you on in your walk of faith, to spur you on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24) and to build you up in the faith; to bring to you the Word of God and call you to respond to God and His Word and to be a voice calling out to you, this is the way; walk in it (Isaiah 30:21). Because friends, I believe to the core of my being that a life of faith in Jesus Christ is the best possible way for us to journey through our days on earth and it is the only way we’ll ever get to heaven.
I want to continue to encourage you stay faithful, to continue to participate fully in the life of the church, to serve and give and care for one another; to continue to live out the truth of my life verse, 1 Corinthians 15:58: Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
I have been recently reading and reflecting again on the words of Henri Nouwen, who writes: I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death. I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilarating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I have learned.
One day, I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” from the One who has called me on this journey, so for me I need to quietly resolve to continue to walk with Him, to stay faithful to His calling in my life, seeking to be a blessing to those in my sphere of influence.
As we begin a new ministry year together, I want to invite you to join we as we continue to do life together at Valley.