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A Year of Hope

You Will Get Through This!

Recently, my wife, Helene, returned from shopping with a story we can all relate to—whichever side of the fence we’re on.

She was waiting in line to pay, behind an older gentleman. The cashier told the man to pull his mask up, apparently for a second time. He complained he has trouble because he wears glasses. I get that!

The cashier pointed out she was wearing glasses too. The man just grumbled more. As he left, the cashier said to him, “Have a good day!” The older gent just grumbled more saying, “I haven’t had a good day in a long time, the time of good days is long past.”

What a sorry lament, but one many feel after two long years of COVID and restrictions. After he left, the worker just shook herself and said she was sick and tired of grumpy customers. Helene responded to her and said the following:

  • Don’t let grumpy people bother you, we’ve still got lots of things to be thankful for!
  • There are those who are thankful you do a good job.

And finally:

  • We will get through this!

The cashier responded heartily with, “YES—WE—WILL!” She brightened up and thanked Helene and said, “You have an awesome weekend!”

This woman appreciated the encouragement and reminder we will get through this. It gave her hope. Whether COVID-related or any problem we have in life, we need hope that we’ll get through.

If you have hope you will:

  • Have staying power.
  • Resist the temptation to quit.
  • Continue to search for a strategy to get through your problem.
  • Survive and thrive!

However, the absence of hope can lead to emotional surrender and a slow death emotionally.

Recently Bell Canada had its yearly ‘Let’s Talk’ promotion encouraging open discussion about mental health. We’re all aware of the increase in opioid deaths. Many are experiencing depression and we Christians aren’t immune. Christian leaders are struggling too, and many are leaving ministry altogether. Hopelessness has made a home in our society.

We need to go back to God’s Word which says, “There is Hope!” Consider Romans 5:3-5 (NLT):

3“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.

4And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

5And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Verse three is one of those ‘fun’ verses that tell us we can ‘rejoice’ in our problems, trials, and tribulations. I’m not very good at rejoicing when I have problems. I feel them. I can get stressed out and even lose sleep over them. But I pray about them too!

The question before us then is, “How can we rejoice in our problems?” We can if we have hope for a positive outcome! That’s the key! Hope is the key! However, if we can’t see a positive outcome:

  • We will be empty of hope.
  • We will feel it’s going to end badly.
  • We may feel trapped in our situation. Stuck in a mire of emotional stress.
  • We may wish to just walk away, quit, and end it. People walk away from jobs, ministries, marriages, all because they don’t see a way out of their stress.

Hope sees light at the end of the tunnel and knows it’s not the next train coming your way! Romans 5:3-5 illustrates that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It progresses from our troubles and suffering, moves onward until finally saying our hope will not be disappointed—because we know God’s transcending love!

There is something profoundly simple about God’s message of hope in Romans. It’s profound if we ask one simple question. The question is, “Why?” Why did the Lord tell us this? The answer is simple too. The Lord told us this because He knew there would be times when we would not have hope! He knew there would be times when we would question:

  • Will it work?
  • Will everything turn out alright?
  • Will it ever end?
  • Will God come through for me? Remember you are not so unique that God expects you to struggle on your own. You need Him. And you need others too!
  • Will God come through for me, or am I too sinful or have I failed too often?

The Lord knew there would be times we’d wonder, “Do I have eternal life or does this problem have eternal life?” Have hope! No trial enjoys eternal life!

God knew we would have times when we would not feel hope. Therefore, He told us, He told you and He told me . . . “if you put your hope in him you will not be disappointed!” He knew there would be times we’d need to remember this! Take hope in God!

God knows there will be times when:

  • You are sick, so He said He’d heal you.
  • You’d feel all alone, so He said He’d never leave you.
  • You’d feel unloved or rejected, but remember, nothing will separate you from His love.
  • You’d feel great anxiety, but He extends His supernatural peace for you.
  • You’d feel things are so messed up, but He said, “all things work together for good . . .”
  • You’d feel so broken, but He is near the broken-hearted” (Psalm 34:18).
  • You’d feel overwhelming sadness, but He said He would turn your mourning into dancing!
  • You’d feel you’ve blown it and sinned too much, but He said:
    • He loves you…always.
    • He will forgive you…again.
    • He will help you overcome this…too.

The Lord knew you’d have those times when it felt hopeless. Anticipating those times, He gave exceeding great and precious promises for you to take hope in! You will get through this, so take hope!


Peter Barbour lives in Aylmer, Ontario, Canada. He and his wife Helene, have pastored the Aylmer Full Gospel Church since 1981, and prior to that, planted a church in Simcoe, Ontario. He is an ordained member of the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada.

He has two married, adult children—who are wonderful, and seven amazing grandchildren.

He enjoys family, reading, walking, and travelling.

Categories
A Year of Hope

From Sorrow to Hope

Last Sunday we returned to a full capacity worship service at our ACOP church in Dryden. The excitement was palpable. After many long months of adapted worship services, navigating mandates as a community, and dealing with the range of emotionally-charged and political issues related to the pandemic, it was wonderful to gather together in greater numbers for corporate worship of our Lord.

As Pentecostals, we are particularly adept at joyful praise. We welcome the moving of the Spirit, and pray for spiritual renewal and refreshing as we join together each Lord’s Day.

Yet the last two years can serve us well by reminding us that our Christian hope is grounded not in our circumstances nor the latest spiritual mountaintop experience.

Neither is our hope measured by our attendance, our livestream audience, or other marketing success metrics. Our hope, as it has always been, is founded in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And that Easter hope–the hope of God breaking through with his healing love, resurrection power, and redemptive grace–is a hope that first arrived in the difficult dread and sorrow of Good Friday.

Our hope as Christians is not about ignoring suffering or difficulty, sadness or sorrow. Our hope is present and alive, even as we are honest about the tragedy of our lives (or the shared communal grief of the last two years).

Lamentations 3:20-24 (ESV) demonstrates that ‘movement of resurrection’ from sorrow to hope:

20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations describes a faithful believer in God who is also suffering with a mental health challenge, likely depression.

The text does not say to ignore, placate or ‘think positively’ out of depression or anxiety. Rather, Scripture calls us to bring our lament before God. We need to make space for healthy lamenting in our lives individually and in our worship services corporately.

Biblical spirituality is not a self-help strategy, but a summons to acknowledge our brokenness before God: to ‘preach to ourselves’ about the faithfulness of God. We recall God’s mercy, his steadfast, covenantal love toward us. But such hope resonates more deeply when we also acknowledge the depth of our need of God.

As we remember what is true, our soul shifts from being ‘bowed down’ in vs. 20 to gazing upward in worship once again in vs. 24. This sort of shift isn’t always easy. It requires hearing and remembering the goodness of God. It requires recalling and being remembered (put back together) by the true story of the Gospel: that night has passed and the day lies before us. That winter has ended and spring has come. That Aslan is on the move. That the death of Good Friday is finally over, and the joy and life of Easter Sunday has dawned.

We need the community of saints to speak and recall and sing and write and paint and dance and herald this hope to a weary and war-torn world. We need Christians in every sphere and sector of society–in the church, the academy, the marketplace, and the home–who can embody such a hope. Who can embody it even as they struggle. Who can say, “Yes, I’m suffering just like you. Yes, there are moments where I truly struggle. But listen: I also know that God is faithful. And my hope is not in vague optimism, but in the assurance of Christ’s resurrection, the Father’s faithful character, and the indwelling comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.”

And may this also be: that for the many of us who are weary with the mantle of church leadership, that we too would hear that resurrection summons. Like Mary, who finds herself weeping in the garden of God’s new creation, may we also hear the voice of the Gardener who knows and speaks our names: summoning us to new life–to the hope we have in the One who is making all things new and will wipe every tear from our eyes.


Nikolas Amodeo lives with his wife, Sarah, and their four boys in Dryden, Ontario. 

Nik has served as the lead pastor of Dryden Full Gospel Church since 2012.  He holds a bachelor of biblical studies from Eston College and a master of arts in theological studies from Regent College.

Nik is an ordained minister of the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada and is passionate about teaching the Bible and spiritual formation.

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A Year of Hope

Under The Shadow

You know the feeling…

You’ve walked through a few of those dark days—full of uncertainty and the inability to “shake it off.” It’s a struggle when you feel the hardness of your own heart. Feelings of desperation, ugliness, anger, sadness, loss, and sorrow…

None of us is immune.

And you’ve probably had a few of them. When the sorrow overtakes and you can’t seem to get out of bed—or, you don’t dare to pray because you don’t know what you’ll say.

Then Jesus led his disciples to an orchard called “The Oil Press.” He told them, “Sit here while I go and pray nearby.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. However, an intense feeling of great sorrow plunged his soul into agony. And he said to them, “My heart is overwhelmed and crushed with grief. It feels as though I’m dying. Stay here and watch with me.” Then he walked a short distance away, and overcome with grief, he threw himself facedown on the ground and prayed…

Matthew 26:36-39a TPT

Dread…

Our beautiful Saviour, crushed with grief, overwhelmed in a garden.

A place of beauty, a valley with a river—do you think He noticed His surroundings?

It was the same garden that David wept in when he left Jerusalem during Absolom’s rebellion. If there was any person in the Bible that knew how to articulate his feelings, with expressions that still resonate today—it was King David.

“When you abide under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High. He’s the hope that holds me and the stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence.”

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.””

Psamls 91:1-2 TPT & NKJV

Perhaps, we make the mistake of associating shadows with depression—rather than with God!

Under the shadow of Shaddai—the Hebrew root word for “God the Almighty” (no power greater) or “God of the Mountain” (no place safer). In Him you are hidden, or you “endure through the night.” You can make it!

When it comes to shadows—elementary science teaches us that shadows are created when we block or get in front of the light source. Shadows are not reflections, but they do suggest a “nearness” to light…

You are invited to dwell, and dwelling in His shadow removes the anxiety of your own shadow. Once you dwell you find that He’s the hope that holds you, your confidence, your stronghold, fortress, refuge, and shelter. Could God be any clearer—He wants you under His protection!

“Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence.”

Charles Spurgeon

Like all things “God” in this life—He flips the meaning. He does want us to live under a shadow—His.

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A Year of Hope

Cowboy Boots

I have noticed that these days many are putting their hope and trust in governments or those that would like to change the government. Also, some have placed their hope in their finances and suddenly the world markets are shaking.

I would suggest that unless your hope is in the unchanging, unshakable, King of Kings and Lord of Lords—Jesus Christ you will not have peace, and anxiety will reign in your life.

Many years ago, serving as a missionary in Latin America, I learned an invaluable lesson involving passports and visas, cowboy boots, and how to overcome anxiety and replace it with HOPE!

Let me tell you a little about how passports and visas affect your living in another country. I understood that you needed a passport to allow you to visit most other counties. Even though in the 1980’s we could still visit the United States without a passport.

Growing up in Canada I never realized that in just about all other countries—you must carry identification papers with you at all times.

So when we decided to live in Guatemala it was a whole different world. In the 1970’s we had already gone through a very long process to get “green cards” allowing us to live and work in the United States. The Latin American processes were something quite different.

Arriving in Guatemala in January 1980 we were given permission to be in the country for ninety days. Obtaining a visa to stay in the country for more time was not an easy task. The officials didn’t hand visas out freely. It seemed that the rules and regulations changed continually and always involved a mountain of paperwork.

The first thing that we had against us was that we were Canadians!

Let me explain, our rejection as Canadians had to do with Belize. Originally known as “British Honduras”—a British Crown colony claimed after negotiations with Guatemala. The Guatemalans felt that the British had not fulfilled their part of the bargain and they had stolen the land from Guatemala.

Our problem was the Guatemalans lumped the British and Canadians together as one. Someone from the United States would get a visa good for five years—Canadians were lucky to get one for six months.

For years as the time to renew our visas neared, I would struggle with fear and anxiety. “What if they don’t give me another visa?”

I remember the day that I got my first visa extension, I was so relieved and happy! As I walked back to my car, I saw a pair of cowboy boots in a shop window—to celebrate I went in and bought them. They were good boots and a symbol of God’s faithfulness!

I don’t know how many years I struggled with my visa anxiety until one day it all changed. I was standing in line at the immigration office, once again with my hands full of papers. I was ready to submit my request when the Lord spoke to me…

He planted these words deep in me, “Doug you will have a visa to live in this country as long as I want you here—not as long as they want you here!” Those words set me free, it all changed. I still had to do paperwork, but the anxiety was gone.

A while later due to a situation in the church, we began to receive threatening phone calls. The most interesting call was from someone who was supposedly on my side. He said that he worked high up in the government and was just calling to warn me…

He recounted that my name had come up before some immensely powerful government officials. Supposedly they had decided that when my visa became due—it wouldn’t be renewed.

Understanding that this was a spiritual battle—that all these threats were coming from the enemy—the only way we could win was by prayer and taking spiritual authority over the enemy.

Remembering that the Lord had told me: “You will have a visa to live in this country as long as I want you here—not as long as they want you here!” I just said, “Well Lord, you’re in charge of the visa department.”

Interestingly, the next time I went to renew our visas it was one of the easiest experiences and our visas were extended for a much longer time than usual. Once again, the enemy was revealed as a liar!

Time to slip on those cowboy boots.

I have discovered that as I place my hope in my Lord Jesus Christ the future is great, anxiety goes, and He gets all the glory!


In 1969 after graduating from the Full Gospel Bible Institute in Eston, Saskatchewan, Doug traveled as a Child Evangelist before becoming the Youth pastor at the Zion Apostolic Church in Winnipeg—where he met and married Donna Elmwood.

Doug was ordained as an ACOP minister of the Gospel in 1971. Doug and Donna then pastored in Melfort Saskatchewan and Pharr Texas.

In 1978 they were commissioned as missionaries to Latin America and after studying Spanish moved to Guatemala. They spent over 16 years in Central America before moving back to Canada.

Back in Canada, they served for ten years as the Senior Pastors of North Edmonton Christian Fellowship. Doug and Donna now reside in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The above article is an excerpt from Doug’s life story being published as “Adventures Experiencing God’s Faithfulness.”

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A Year of Hope

Five Opportunities

After the initial shock of the pandemic in 2020, and its disruption to church life, leadership generally pivoted to find the bright side in the new reality. We talked about things like ‘refining’, extending our reach to the lost in new ways, creating a hunger for community, etc.

We are closing in on two years of this reality and now the future is murkier than ever. Pastors and staff are tired, congregations are tired, and we find any momentum we build quickly being cut off at the knees again and again. There comes a point when we start to lose hope that any plan, program, or attempt on our part can truly make a difference. When we lose hope we also lose energy, vision, and purpose.

So what opportunities for our churches can we see in this pandemic that can reinvigorate our hope.

A DEEPENING OF FAITH

While it’s true, as Jesus predicted, that seasons of drought cause many to wither it is also true that the same drought causes others to press in and go deeper.

In a PEW poll taken a year into the pandemic, 13% of Canadian respondents said their faith had strengthened in the pandemic. This low number confirmed my observation. The pandemic has not necessarily brought about a spiritual awakening but is has propelled many of our believers into a stronger personal faith.

There has been, in this season, a remanent of believers who have revived the disciplines for going deep. Believers have learned the value of private worship, reflective prayer, seeking out the spoken word, and of personally pressing in. I think leaders will find a greater spiritual depth in many of the believers and a greater sense of connection to Christ.

This gives a lot of hope for your church.

A spiritually mature congregation gives lots of opportunity to identify new leaders for outreach, ministry opportunities, and governance.

This has been a crucial season for understanding and maturing the depth of faith that lies in our church members. You will have been surprised by some who did not pull through but, equally, encouraged by those who have flourished. Suddenly you see the potential of the congregation in a different light.

Pause: How have your members weathered the storm and strengthened their ‘walk with Christ’? How could you capitalize on the new potential leaders and spiritually mature believers who are appearing?

A STRENGTHENING OF FAMILY

This long season has exposed deep fractures in families and this has been heightened over this past year with families being divided over vaccines. In a poll, by Today.com 14% of respondents have cut off a friendship or family member over the vaccine. In another poll, by Leger (Canada) the divisions over the vaccine are on par with other social issues such as gay rights or gun control.

We have all heard, or personally experienced, some heartbreaking stories of families that have fractured over who is vaccinated or not, and the expectations around this. From a pastoral perspective, this is very discouraging as it even affects some of our core families and our church community.

The pandemic, due to the confined living, has also brought to the surface some big family issues. Many families have had to face and deal with core relational, mental health, and historical issues that have otherwise been buried beneath busyness or avoidance. Counsellors have never been busier.

Yet on the positive side, the pandemic has actually strengthened more families than it has broken!

In a pew research poll held during the pandemic 37% of Canadians said their family relationships were stronger while only 5% said it was weaker.

I am personally thankful, due to the pandemic, that I am closer with my children than ever before (partly because they can’t move out due to the pandemic). I know this is something many others have also experienced. Some of the best times in the pandemic were watching services together, playing games—staying connected.

There has been a reset in the thinking for many individuals regarding the importance and priority of family. This is a fantastic opportunity as family has historically been the building block of the church community.

Pause: How could your church leverage this rediscovery of the family unit in your present and future planning? i.e Does your church offer any kind of professional, semi-professional, group counselling, or inner healing program? How could online services be built towards family or cluster watching and participation?

A FRESH HUNGER FOR GOD TO INTERVENE

When we get frustrated and our human efforts produce limited results it births a hunger in us for God to intervene. Judges is a record of the cyclic pattern of the nation going through desperate times, then the righteous calling on God, and then His intervention with deliverance through some very dubious characters.

Desperate times create a longing within us for God that never happens in good times.

We are by nature apprehensive about God intervening because we know that we will lose a certain degree of control. Yet when our desperation with the present circumstances outweighs our apprehension about letting go, we are in the right place to genuinely ask God to move.

I have watched a lot of different church services over the last number of months (something I rarely did as a pastor) and I can unequivocally say that we are in desperate need of God’s intervention.

Our preaching is good but lacks a sharpness that pierces hearts, we sing well but often fail to experience the manifest presence of God that radically changes situations, and we are not seeing the lost come and follow Christ in any significant or meaningful way.

I fear that we expend too much of our frustration with these present circumstances on complaints, in-fighting, or commentary and not enough on converting the frustration into corporate prayer. If all the frustration of the believers was put into a desperate cry for a move of God then 2022 would turn out to be a remarkable year for the kingdom.

Pause: At this strategic time of the year how are you doing at mobilizing your congregation to seek God and call on the only one who can make a difference in the long term? A little ‘Tim Bit’… online prayer meetings, if done right, are surprisingly effective and enjoyable even for the less tech-inclined members.

AN ACCEPTANCE OF CHANGE

One commentator said that the pandemic is the biggest change the church has undergone in 500 years. They were comparing the pandemic to the Reformation.

To be honest, this statement is a bit of a stretch (ok… it’s a huge stretch). What we fail to realize, however, is that a seismic shift in the western church actually started at least 70 years ago. The more significant shift is not the pandemic but the undercurrent cultural changes that have been going on for a long time.

Just think about some of the changes that have happened in the last 70 years…the uncoupling of the church from state, the secularization of education, the growth of multiculturalism because of massive migration, democratization, industrial revolution to the science and mass production, revolution to the digital revolution…and the list goes on. Society has been in a massive flux for many years and it is only accelerating. For an interesting recent article on the state of the church in Canada click here.

Local churches historically, however, are institutions that change slowly. Even simple things like a change to the facility, a new hire, or changing the time of the services have often moved at a snail’s pace. The decision-making process was strangling us. We couldn’t react to the change happening around us let alone anticipate and prepare for it.

The pandemic has helped our congregants accept, more than ever before, that change is normative AND needed if we are going to flourish. Just think of how many service time changes you have made in the last two years and how few, if any, were bothered!

I find it is often the leaders (pastors, boards, etc) who are now more hesitant to introduce change. We are conditioned and comfortable with being cautious, avoiding risk, and particularly avoiding upsetting people. Too many leaders are trying to get things back to the way they were—rather than seeking to seize the opportunities in front.

Avoiding risk is now the most risky thing you can do! The new reality will be people leaving your church because you are not taking enough risk, and displaying enough leadership, to meet the new challenges.

Pause: What, as a leader, are your biggest fears regarding introducing change into your church? How ‘risk adverse’ is your church is and is it a healthy or unhealthy amount?

DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT: A LARGER REACH

I think the comment regarding the ‘500 year seismic shift’ was specifically about the digital world and its implications for communication and engagement between the church and the world in general.

For the last few months, I have been helping a business through the process of moving from a ‘brick and mortar’ store to a hybrid e-commerce + physical store model. It has been an eye-opener. The tools and methods that are available for an organization to grow itself digitally are remarkable.

The business world has recognized that the digital universe is core to the new reality and hopefully the pandemic has forced churches to start to think in the same way.

A digital church is way more than an online service. It is a way of rethinking church. It forces us to think through questions such as ‘who is an attendee?’, ‘what do we expect of our believers?’, ‘what staffing do we really need?’, and ‘what makes an effective sermon?’.

Honestly, the reality of engaging the congregation and world digitally makes you rethink everything (maybe that commentator was right after all—this is a ‘once in every 500 years’ type change).

I think it’s really important to state here that it is not a choice whether you will be a digital church or not. People already go on GOOGLE to look you up before visiting; they read others’ reviews about you; they look at your photos to work out your church’s demographic and culture, they listen to you preach and decide whether you are engaging enough in the first 3 minutes of your sermon. This is the brutal reality.

Like it or not your church has already gone digital…it is simply a question of whether you have a great digital presence and strategy or a poor one.

If we hope things will go back to being 90% orientated around the physical building and 10% digital then we are going to greatly limit the future of our ministry. If we embrace this new universal reality, invest in it and hire for it, and use it as a catalyst for change; then we will seize the day.


Guest Blogger—Paul Mahon

Bible smuggler, pastor, evangelist, and College president…

But, you’ll know Paul best as Lead Pastor at Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship. He and his family served the community of Burnaby for 16 years.

Currently, he is the president of Recalibrate Ministries—a ministry that helps churches committed to growing through conversions and making disciples. He believes that any local church can be a powerhouse that reaches the lost.

Paul enjoys people, seeing those around him reach their full potential. He possesses strong communication skills and a keen sense of humour. 

Join us at ACOP 101 Revive | Recalibrate | Recommission, where Paul will be one of our Guest Speakers!