I wrote to you previously about the refining of silver and how it relates to those we serve who "may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials" so that their faith "may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV).

It is this honour and glory about which I now wish to write to you! I've been thinking about reflection. Now "reflection" is a "throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing."1 Yet, as far as I can gather, this is as it relates to inanimate objects. I am not an inanimate object, and what I want to reflect is not light, heat nor sound. Rather, I am a person made in the image of God, in order to live in relationship with Him forever and according to His will for me. I am a sinner who falls short of the glory of God...all the time! But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ and His sacrifice so that I can "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:10).

In the wake of a recent "sea change" in the Government of Canada, there has been a considerable amount of attention given to the matter of the continuance of the Office of Religious Freedom (ORF). As it happens, the Canadian ORF represents an issue that has risen in various shapes and forms within a number of countries genuinely and fashionably wrestling with the concept of religious freedom as one of the foundational rights of all human rights. "Human rights," those inalienable tenets upon which many societies purport to base their constitutional laws and other societal principles.

Once again, it is my pleasure to have invited my Executive Assistant, Jo (Joanne) Phillips, to share some inspired thoughts with you. I am always amazed at the way the Lord brings gifted people together to share their gifts with each other. I know you'll be blessed by Jo's comments, as expressed through her heart and passion for the "persecuted."
~ Doug J. McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

The Bible is full of teachings on suffering and persecution. This fact has become more and more illuminated in my heart in recent times which have led to my work for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada. It is as if the Lord has been taking a highlighter pen to my Bible as I read, emphasizing these teachings on persecution that have always been there in the many passages familiar to me. But I have somehow failed to notice their full significance as a living reality in my life and the world around me. I am so grateful that the "words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times" (Psalm 12:6  ESV). I can rely on them to sustain and strengthen me, as well as my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ.

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear...." ~ 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)

Have you ever suddenly found yourself confronted with an opportunity to bear witness for Christ, or the need to "speak into" someone's circumstance with life-changing words of faith and comfort, but seemingly having nothing of value to say? Just the other day, I had such an experience as a tug on my sleeve in a grocery store gave way to an unexpected encounter with a very dear old friend who is a follower of Jesus.

As one who is generally not short on words, I quickly engaged with the perfunctory "How are you?" but then sensed that I should simply "listen" to what was on his heart.

"Greetings, Friend. In keeping with the traditions of the recent celebratory season, and all of our plans for the New Year, I have invited our new Executive Assistant, Jo (Joanne) Phillips to share some thoughts with you. I know the following message will touch your mind and heart for the sake of God’s Kingdom." ~ Doug McKenzie, CEO for VOM Canada

May I take this timely opportunity to wish you a very Happy New Year during this first month of 2016? I have never been a lover of the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, perhaps due to a history of my own failings! Yet when I come across passages in the Bible, like the "Parable of the Talents," they remind me to reassess how I’m doing in this ‘life on earth’ business. I was given the blessing of life and health, and so many other good things, but also the responsibility of carrying out God’s plans for me that were put together before the world was even made! How am I using those figurative but, none the less, conceptually real talents to bear fruit in the Kingdom of God? Have I buried them? Have I taken risks and invested them with prayerful consideration and diligence?

It was as if the proverbial "Star of Bethlehem" had literally crashed into planet earth announcing so poignantly that, despite the innocence of His infancy, everything had forever changed. The understated, yet profoundly ceremonious, arrival of the baby Jesus brought to all of humankind His salvation and judgement wrapped in a swaddling cloth of clemency. Haunted, even then, by ancient prophecies that had for centuries foretold of His lineage, His coming, and His plight on behalf of humanity, Jesus was the "Word" that would divide households, shatter all other Messianic myths, destroy and rebuild temples, while compassionately -- yet determinately -- wielding a two-edged sword yielding true spiritual discernment.