“PUT OUT INTO DEEP WATER”
We had our 2008 Canadian Disiciples’ Conference this past Friday and Saturday, September 19 & 20, at the ‘Upper Canada Camp’, near Orangeville, Ontario, based on the theme “Put out into deep water.” Our prayer topic for this conference was that all attendants might be personally challenged through Jesus’ words, “Put out into deep water,” to go into the deeper spiritual world; deeper in their relationship to the living God, in their trust and obedience to him, in their service to him, and deeper in the word of God as servants of God. We prayed that we might all have a prayer for Canada in our hearts. It is election time, but instead of having political hopes and expectations in our minds we should have a deep prayer that God’s hand might lead this country to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The countryside on the drive to the conference site was very beautiful with many ranches and rolling hills. Many coworkers arrived a little late, for a number of reasons, so we started a little late. We began with a praise and worship time led by North York ministry. Shepherdess Sylvia Foisy (Montreal) presided for the evening program. She gave a short testimony. She shared how God has been teaching her about herself, about his grace and about how to serve others. Shepherdess Jennifer Stumpf (Waterloo) was the opening prayer servant. Shepherdess Dana Brinkerhoff (Ottawa) gave the opening message on Psalm 1:1-6. If we want to go into deep water spiritually we must go deep into the word of God. We naturally find delight in certain things in this world, but we must be sure to nurture a delight in the word of God. As servants of God we need to delight in God’s word to gain strength and power. If we do we will prosper in life and in God’s work. After the opening part of the program we broke up into groups for group Bible study. (See program for names of group leaders)
After group Bible study we gathered again for the main evening program. Shepherdess Sylvia continued as presider. The prayer servants were The Montreal ‘transformer’ team shepherds sang a special song, “Give me your Eyes.” It is a prayer that God may give us eyes to see past the outward façade of the people around us. Then shepherd David Jumeau gave the main message based on Luke 5:1-11. In his message we learned that, after giving the people the word of God they most urgently needed for their souls, Jesus asked Simon Peter to put out into deep water, not simply to restore him from his failed fishing that night, but as an invitation into the deeper world of divine power and faith through obedience to his words. Jesus wants us to go from the comfortable but superficial world into the challenging but deep spiritual world. For younger students it can mean to get into the word of God through daily bread and testimony writing while going through busy school studies. For S. David it is to enter the deep waters of writing message each week. There are many things to obey in God’s word, so where do we start? We can start with Deuteronomy 6:5, to love God will all our hearts, mind and strength. When we have Peter`s willingness to go into deep water because Jesus says so, we will find out what he wants us to challenge personally in our own lives. When Peter obeyed Jesus’ word he realized it was the living God before him and he discovered himself as a fearful, unbelieving and selfish sinner. But Jesus promised Peter, “From now on you will catch men.” And indeed, Peter became the foundation of the Christian church. Can we become great men and women of God? Yes, when we obey Jesus commands simply by faith. May God use us and make Canada a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
After the main message we had two representative testimonies by Shepherd Ernest Chan (Montreal) and Shepherd Philip Wong (Montreal). After their testimonies everyone began writing testimonies and enjoyed a few snacks. In the main meeting place was a mezzanine area where there were tables and chairs for the meals. It turned out to be a perfect place for testimony writing. I thought that we would have to ‘encourage’ everyone to write their testimonies, but in fact, everyone sat down and earnestly wrote their testimonies. We even had to send people away at 1am, not because they were socializing but because they were still there writing testimonies.
The sleeping accommodations were 2 cabins with 25 beds each, like barracks, one for each gender. We also had one pastor’s cabin and a cabin for the two mothers with their children. Saturday morning we had breakfast at 8am. But everyone was up much earlier, so we were able to start our program 15 min. early. This was the first conference I attended where the day started early because everyone was there ahead of time. We broke up into groups again for testimony sharing. Then we had a praise and worship session before the special lectures. The prayer servants were The main lecture was given by Missionary Samuel Gideon Lee (Ottawa) entitled, “Put out into deep water through deep Bible meditation.” This lecture was given in the main hall. We also had a second stream lecture for attendants who did not yet have much faith in the Bible as the word of God. In a smaller room provided, Shepherd Andrew Christopher (Montreal) gave this lecture entitled, “The reliability of the Bible.” Through the main lecture we learned the importance for a servant of God to grow in his or her ability to dig out the word of God and serve others through a message for example. He gave an overview of the benefits of testimony writing in developing one’s ability to understand, interpret and find application from the word of God. Weekly testimony writing requires commitment but is necessary to go deeper in the word of God and mature as servants of God who are capable of preparing heart-moving messages after several years.
Shepherd Kuba Gyda served the morning program as presider. After the lectures we had 5 selected one-word testimony sharers. (See program for testimony sharers.) The prayer servants were: Shepherd Joshua Brinkerhoff (Ottawa) and Shepherd Luis Perdomo (North York). Through the testimony sharers we could see that God used this conference to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and challenge to be fishers of men by faith. Then we had the closing message by Shepherd Ray Grondin (London) entitled, “Remain in Jesus.” From John 15:1-8. Shepherd Ray’s message helped us understand how to go into the spiritual world deeply. It is not by getting fishing equipment and heading off for the great lakes, but by remaining in Jesus. In Jesus we can find the deep deep spiritual world and experience the power of the living God.
Through this conference I personally was challenged to go into the deeper waters in my relationship with Jesus and in being a real influence in this world as a fisher of men. For quite some time I have almost forsaken my calling to serve students through preaching on the campus and through 1:1 Bible study. It seemed so much easier to serve my family and personal needs by putting them first and serving God’s work as second priority. But as a result I could not but live a very superficial life, with no meaningful fellowship with the living God, no life in my soul, and no good influence upon others, not even my family members. But Jesus wants to take me to a deep life in all these things. I can only pretend to have real life in me and to carry out meaningful work apart from Jesus, while living a superficial shallow life. But I pray to simply believe and obey Jesus’ direction to go into deep water and let down my nets. He blessed Peter’s life and he is the source of blessing for my life, as he was when I obeyed him simply in the past. May God use me newly as a source of blessing for young Canadian campus students. May God bless our Canadian ministries to serve God as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
One word : Go into deep water and let down your nets.
Shepherd John Giesbrecht