Happy New Year… For many of us each new year begins with resolutions. We consider the past year, the ups and downs, and look forward to a new year and all the possibilities. This often means making new year’s resolutions; Here’s a list of the top ten: Lose weight and eat healthier, lifestyle improvements, better financial decisions, quit smoking, do more exciting things, spend more time with family and friends, exercise, learn something new, do something good for others, and find the love of my life… The statistics tell us that about 41% make resolutions and 42% don’t. Only 9% feel like they were very successful at keeping their resolution, 48% have some success and 42% of people making resolutions fail.
This got me thinking about New Years and what God thinks about resolutions. Are there resolutions that God would validate? For sure the resolutions about better life and health choices are reasonable. Spending more time with family and friends and doing good to others is suitable. This led me to think about the Bible and New Year’s Resolutions. Setting goals is biblical for one’s life and family etc, many churches and businesses do the same. One of the first places to start when considering a New Year’s Resolution is simple – ask God what He thinks and whether our plans are in line with his. In other words, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Prov 16:3). The Bible tells us that we are to carefully plan and then commit to completing what we choose to do so that we succeed; in Luke 14:28-31 Jesus reminds us that if you want to build a tower, make sure that you plan appropriately. Appropriate planning involves getting good advice from other - Proverbs 16:20 tells us, “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” Or how about Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Over all the years of making New Year’s Resolutions, I have succeeded and come up short of my goals which is quite normal; however, all those experiences drew me closer to God and taught me some valuable life lessons.
This morning I would like us to consider some resolutions or goals for Courts of Praise. The Bible often speaks of new beginnings and starting afresh with God. Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Jesus gave a new commandment to love one another. Isaiah tells us to forget the former things and do not dwell on the past for God is doing a new thing. The Psalms of full of singing praise and new songs to God - “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3). We live under a New Covenant and one day will experience a new heaven and earth. WOW!
There is something inspiring and encouraging as we think about our Mighty God and his desire for us to experience the fullness of his life every day. This is the wonderful state of the Christian who follows strong after God – He loves to bring us fresh grace moment by moment.
One of the requirements of being a licensed Foursquare Pastor is being reviewed annually. This past year was no different, except that I felt like something new was happening. I would like to take some time this morning and unpackage that for us.
Something new or fresh is being emphasized in Foursquare Canada. At our last Unit Retreat, hosted here at Courts of Praise, Steve Falkiner highlighted the Vision of Foursquare Canada – “Our vision is for an expanding network of healthy Foursquare churches; served by pastors who lead by example; filled with believers who are actively growing and sharing their faith.” Our Unit Supervisor, Johanne Spencer, spoke of new initiatives for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The main point stressed was that of growing healthy churches. I would like to break this down for us in more detail.
Firstly, in my annual review the top three priorities are to love God and listen to his voice, draw near to him in devotion and thirdly, the winning of souls is the primary focus of ministry. I must say that loving God devotionally is something I do regularly. One of the challenges facing the church today is that of un-growth. In other words, a lack of growth, negative growth or transference growth. This equates to a lack of growth associated with evangelism or new believers. Both Steve and Johanne exhorted us to become far more intentional in this area of development. Foursquare Canada is bringing forth a new and fresh priorities in the arena of evangelism and missions. We are now hosting evangelism and missions training nationally and bringing these opportunities into our Units and local churches. The Canadian Foursquare Missions (CFM) Committee exists to serve our Foursquare family through the promotion and coordination of Foursquare missions’ efforts within our national churches; Lana Davidson is the CFM national leader.
Another point that was clearly brought forth at our Unit Retreat by Steve Falkiner was that of church health. It was pointed out that church growth is pointless if we are not growing healthy disciples of Jesus. Steve spoke to four topics related to church health.
1. Firstly, leadership must be developed in all church ministries. This includes both the spiritual and the practical aspects of church life. There must be a healthy open decision-making process between church leadership. As well, the emotional health of the pastors and leaders must be maintained.
2. Ministry was his second point. He made it clear that there must be a strong outreach component; evangelism and missions are to be prominent. The idea of shared ministry was mentioned with opportunities for spiritual gift based ministry.
3. Discipleship needs to be approached intentionally, biblically, and relationally. Growing as followers of Jesus involves accountability, prayer, godly stewardship and generosity.
4. The last point Steve mentioned was the gathering of the church – the ekklesia. Growing healthy churches have engaging, impactful preaching which is both instructional and inspirational. The worship of God is genuine and glorifying and leads into his presence. Churches are to be a loving multi-ethnic community open to new people with a faith-filled and uplifting atmosphere.
This year has great potential for us as the Body of Christ at Courts of Praise. There is a growing sense within our Unit and Pastors that God is doing something new. As a Unit, we have several initiatives that we are pursuing in prayer and action. There was a sense of anticipation as to the plans and purposes of God for his church.
1. Foursquare National Convention “Context” is in Ottawa Ontario on May 16-18, 2017. “Context” is the theme of this year’s convention - doing ministry in the Canadian context. The Canadian Foursquare Church is multi-cultural and is very different from coast to coast. The climate, the vast land mass between churches, rural and farming communities as well as urban villages and cities; all this comes into play as we seek to influence Canada for Christ through our obedience to The Great Commission.
2. Missions Initiative - Our Unit of Saskatchewan and Manitoba Churches has three exciting Missions Initiatives to develop.
Our Unit of Foursquare Churches is partnering with FMI (Foursquare Missions International) to develop a relationship through CFM (Canada Foursquare Missions) to support and work with Brandon & Marcie Brazee, missionaries to Germany. (www.facebook.com/goingdeutsch) This partnership will enable us in the future, to lead teams to Germany and to receive teams from Germany, to our local churches in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
We welcome Pastor Norman and Fanny Doromal as they make their home in Saskatoon and Courts of Praise. They are sent from FMI as Missionaries to Sask/Manitoba and Canada and have a two-year commitment as this time. As well, they are coming along side Courts of Praise and serving with their gifts and talents as needed. They have already brought great encouragement to our church and unit. We are grateful to God for his faithfulness.
Mission Trip for Pastors and Leaders – March 6th-14th Costa Rica Team Leader: Former Canadian Foursquare Missionary John Overholt. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org John and Debbie have established 8 churches in Guanacaste Costa Rica.
3. Regional Development - Investments in Church Planting/Evangelism. We have a regional budget for church planting let’s use it! How many churches do we need in our cities? Many!
New Churches and Outreach Initiatives:
- North Battleford a new-chartered church in North Battleford under Pastor Lee and Candace Nordell.
- Battleford an outreach in Battleford with Pastor Jan and Lois Cooke.
- Oxbow an outreach under Pastor Marcello Rufon in Winnipeg.
New Unit Initiative
“Ladies Retreat”: Our Sask/Man Unit is investing $1,000 toward empowering a Unit Ladies Retreat led by Judy Giese. Save the Date - June 9th-11.
4. Regional Development Unit Prayer Initiative. Every year we have a National Foursquare Prayer and Fasting (January 9-15th 2017) which is a great time of God’s deliverances and break through as we join in a concentrated prayer effort with all our churches from coast to coast. This year we have a “Regional Prayer Gathering” – Saskatoon Jan 13-14 and Manitoba Feb 10-11. These two-day prayer gatherings are to pray for regional expansion, Joshua 1:3-9, Acts 1:8. We are experiencing growth, outreach, change and unity in our Unit by and through His grace. His Church is being strengthened and established. God is giving us territory for His Glory!
Paul encourages us to intercede “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
Paul exhorts us “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
God is doing great things in our lives and church and the world around us. The potential for his kingdom to break out in our midst is swelling, the desire to see new believers come to Christ is growing – hope is increasing as we draw near to God and see his answer to prayers.
This week let’s join in prayer AND fasting in three specific areas.
Come and join us Friday Jan 13th at 7:00 PM and Saturday Jan 14th at 9:30 AM for a prayer gathering with other Foursquare members from Saskatchewan. This will be a great and impactful time for our churches and Unit.