Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, Dr. Tweedie. I am delighted to discuss your book "Discovering God's Power in Life's Trials; Walking with the Prophets." What was the inspiration for writing "Discovering God's Power in Life's Trials?"
"We have a television show entitled 'Israel, the Prophetic Connection' now in its seventh season with each season being comprised of thirteen episodes. Season 4 was called 'Walking with the Prophets' and the inspiration for the book of the same name. When we prepare to do a new season, I prayerfully choose the theme and also act as on-camera host and teacher. I sensed that we should do a season on the prophets because each had a unique story: some felt inadequate, some were fearful and each one had to overcome certain things in order to serve God. So, as I prepared the themes and the scripts for thirteen episodes, I began to see myself in some of their stories as most people probably could. When each series is produced, and filming completed in Israel, we return home to do the editing process. This time I decided initially to write a companion Study Guide to go along with the television series, but low and behold as I was telling each prophet's story, I began to identify with their struggles. As a result, the proposed Study Guide became both my story and their stories in the form of a book with each chapter focusing on a particular prophet's life. The same thing applies to the thirteen parallel episodes, starting with Moses. We chose to focus on eleven Old Testament prophets and then finished off with two episodes or chapters, one of each of John the Baptist and the other John the Apostle, who in fact, is the writer of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. That seemed like good coverage."
In your book, you speak of your life-transforming encounter with God at the age of 27. Would you please tell us a bit about this time in your life's journey?
"I was born in Northern Ireland where, at least when I was growing up, you were either born as a Protestant or a Catholic. If you were a Protestant, you were a Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, or Anglican (Church of England). I was born into a Protestant family affiliated with the Presbyterian Church although most of my family didn't attend church. They might have supported the church financially and attended services at Christmas or Easter but were not really church goers. I was encouraged to go to church, at least to Sunday school. I did as a young boy and until I was well into my teens; however, when I was old enough and big enough to realize that there was an inconsistency in my family that I was being sent to Sunday school when they didn't go to church, I basically stopped going. But I would have to say that, having grown up without a father, I looked to God as Father so the combination of going to Sunday school, being taught by the teachers about Jesus and God and praying every night, left dormant seeds of faith that later produced good fruit in my life.
I came to Canada and married at the age of 24. By the age of 27, I was doing quite well; our marriage was fine, we were starting to get some traction and we had our own home. By then, I had started a small electrical construction business, a partnership, but there was still something missing in my life. It was then that God started to water the seeds that had been planted in my young life and I began to encounter Christians who talked to me about the need to make a commitment to Christ. One day, a Pentecostal friend invited me to a mid-week church event where an evangelist was holding a series of services. At the end of the morning presentation, the evangelist gave an invitation and I was compelled to go to the front in response. I do remember the evangelist praying for me, putting his hands on my shoulders and saying 'You need to ask God for forgiveness and you need to ask Christ to come into your life. When you do that, He will.' So I did it and for me it was like a Damascus Road experience. I wasn't just converted, sort of on the spot; I immediately felt the call to ministry and preaching. This started something within me that developed into a three year struggle of trying to determine how I could become a minister when I lacked a high school diploma necessary for university entrance in Canada. It was then that I discovered that, because I was in my later twenties, I could write a mature student's exam that would test the level of my ability to study at the university level. I did so and, to my amazement, passed!
I was able to complete a B.A. in one and a half years, normally a three year degree, because I attended university which had a semester system. This allowed students with a good average to load up on courses. This, in turn, enabled me to do an accelerated B.A. During my final semester, I was actually going to two universities at once, the main university during the day and then to take evening courses at another university three nights a week for three and a half hours each night. This gave me the final two credits I needed for entrance to seminary, the second phase of my training for ministry. In my final semester I was taking the equivalent of eight courses in order to finish. The urgency was that I needed to get into the seminary in September because I had a young family and limited time and resources. I tried to get in being two credits short but was denied. The seminary insisted that I had a completed degree. Then I found a way to accelerate that last semester and finish at the same time. I started university at the age of thirty, earned a B.A. and then pursued a Masters of Divinity degree necessary before ordination. This was a three year program I couldn't shorten and, toward my thirty-fifth birthday, I was ordained.
This part of my journey also showed me how I could trust God for my needs, but not necessarily my wants. A key verse for me was Matthew 6:33: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.' Basically, God was calling me into the ministry and if this was the course that I had to take to get there, to become ordained, then He would somehow provide. He did so, in miraculous ways. I simply stood on the promises of God and believed the Bible to be God's word for all ages. Now, forty years later, I'm still in the same place with my beliefs intact. I actually attended a liberal seminary, the Toronto School of Theology, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, and has seven member colleges, the majority having a liberal emphasis. This meant that I could take the courses I preferred at the college of my choosing as well. I'm pleased to say that, the strong faith I had going in, I retained coming out even though I was exposed to teachings that questioned miracles; since I was experiencing miracles of God's provision, even though my strong faith was challenged every step of the way and I was challenged by the process of study, this served to prepare me for parish ministry."
Did you live in Ireland during the time of the Troubles and if so, what political and spiritual upheaval did you witness?
"Because I immigrated to Canada in 1967, I missed most of it. I was aware of it growing up. There were always tensions between the two communities. I served an apprenticeship in Belfast from 1960 until 1965. The company had two factories and sometimes, as an apprentice, I had to work in both places. This meant walking through Catholic neighborhoods to get from one plant to the other. While I never had any problems as a teenager, a young Protestant, I was mindful of the fact that I could be seen to be in the wrong place; that I didn't belong in that neighborhood, but this was just a part of growing up in Northern Ireland. I left Ireland in 1967. The next year, 1968, marked the beginning of the civil rights marches under Bernadette Devlin. This was a time when Protestants living among Catholics were forced out or burned out while Catholics living among Protestants experienced the same discrimination. It also caused a greater division and segregation of the population, especially in Belfast, and to a lesser extent in other communities where more people from both sides of the religious divide just wanted to live and let live. The situation was aggravated, especially in Belfast, when the IRA entered the picture. This meant that more and more British troops were necessary to maintain a quasi-peace. However, I missed all of that; however, when I would return home for visits, I would be sensitive to tensions in the air. When I talk to my relatives now, they just hope all of this is behind them, that it was such a bad time; today they prefer to live and let live. I think Northern Ireland has come a long, long way from where it was back in the 60's and 70's; things are much, much better and hopefully they can stay that way. Of course you always have certain people that will agitate, but I think most people just want to move forward; we have enough trouble in the world already. The Gospel was always very strong and even though Ian Paisley was seen as an agitator and troublemaker he was still a man who preached the Gospel. I know that in the latter part of his life he even made friends with Mark McGuiness who was a leader in the IRA and that, McGuiness in turn, attended Paisley's funeral. So the Gospel was always strong over there in spite of everything else."
You indicate an organization entitled C4I. For the reading audience, would you please expand upon that?
"C4I is an acronym for Christians for Israel; we're an independent charity with a Canadian branch, C4I Canada, and an American branch, C4I America. C4I means Christians who are concerned about the welfare of the people of Israel. Our ministry is all about charitable works to help poorer people in the land and also to speak out against anti- Semitism here at home. It's very important for people to realize that Israel is the only nation on planet earth that was called into being by God through His call to Abraham, or Abram as he was known until God changed his name. Other nations have evolved through wars and treaties and setting up borders but Israel can claim to have been called into being by God as a special people to reflect Heaven's light in the world. God established the boundaries of Israel and made promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, in succession, that the land of Canaan would be theirs for perpetual generations. These promises are valid today. Jerusalem was to be their eternal capital and that also stands today, so when nations try to dislodge Israel or force Israel to give up land in pursuit of peace it brings consequences, something we see in the ongoing struggle between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Our ministry doesn't differentiate between Arabs and Jews; we help those in need as we're able to do so. It's a little harder to help the Palestinians because of where they live, especially in Gaza where they are governed by Hamas. In any case, we support charities that help Arabs and Jews and don't differentiate between the two."
How do you advise your reading audience to experience the most of both media presentations: your book and also the television series?
"The thing is that one mirrors the other. 'Walking with the Prophets' is a DVD box set so you can watch an episode and then read the corresponding chapter in the book or you could simply watch the whole series then read the book. Readers and viewers can approach the series and the book as they prefer to do so. I do know that each reader or viewer will find himself or herself in each chapter or episode. What they will discover is that we all struggle in different ways just as the prophets and apostles did. The book and the episodes will enable people to identify with each of the prophets."
The mixture of the events and emotions in the lives of Hebrew prophets and Christian apostles will surely speak to the modern day reader. In your epilogue you write of your years serving as a pastor and having the realization that the world is full of wounded people with damaged emotions. How do you see your reader being blessed by the reading of your book?
"I served my congregation as senior pastor for 26 years so that allowed me to go through many stages of people's lives: the birth of their children, the dedication of their children and, in some cases, the marriages of their children. So I saw them over many seasons of their lives. I could look out over my congregation on any given Sunday and see people who had suffered the pain of divorce, the agony of the loss of a spouse or of a child; and in some cases I could see them beginning to heal while healing for others was taking a lot longer. I was their pastor so I was just very sensitive to them personally and what they had gone through. I knew more about them than most other people did. Having counseled them in many different situations in their trials and struggles, I knew what they were still facing. The book comes from this perspective. Every Sunday, there in front of me, sat a congregation of wounded people, some more wounded than others. While some wounds had begun to heal, others had emotional scar tissue; some were still wide open because people were struggling to get past their damaged emotions. I just believed that everybody in my congregation was wounded in one way or another either in childhood, their teenage years and even later in life. The older they were the more trials they had experienced. That's what happened when I started looking at the prophets; I saw that in the different seasons of their lives they faced trials of various kinds. Trials can either be stepping stones or stumbling blocks. I had grown up without a father and that had its own challenges but, at the same time, it bred in me the determination that I would need to succeed at something. If I didn't do it for myself, I wasn't going to accomplish very much because I didn't have anyone there to mentor me. There was no father figure and my uncles weren't good mentors either. Fortunately, I did have that simple faith in God that I had learned in Sunday School.
I believed in God, and when I became a Christian at the age of 27 and began to read the Bible seriously for the very first time, then I began to see God as He is; I began to see Him interacting with His servants, the prophets. I saw their challenges, but I also saw how He helped them to overcome them. The book was written from this perspective. There is healing for damaged emotions but people will heal much more quickly if God is part of the equation."
What advice could you give regarding false prophets of today in contrast with the teachings of the true prophets of yore?
"The best example of how to live is Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a modest lifestyle and never really owned anything. Part of the problem we have today, at least where some television ministries are concerned, is the whole 'name it, claim it' approach to things. The emphasis is on the prize, it's what's in it for you as an individual, but the Gospel I read about is a relationship with God while being mindful of the needs of others. The prize is eternity with Jesus of Nazareth; it's not a multi-million dollar mansion or state of the art jet plane. I don't think God is against people prospering and doing well in life, but we ought to remember who we are, and we ought to remember that there are other people who are less fortunate than we are. We need to be mindful of those that are in need and then live a lifestyle that exemplifies the willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of other people. I think each person, whoever it is, whether it's a television evangelist preaching prosperity, each will have to give an account to God one day. In my own case, I served as a pastor for over 40 years, have a comfortable home in a typical subdivision, have enough and am satisfied; that's the best of all lives. You can live your life with contentment, as the apostle Paul said, and still be mindful of the needs of others. It's not about millions of dollars and mansions and jet planes or all of the trappings of what we would call wealth; the greatest wealth is to walk with God and Walking with the Prophets shows us that, while those prophets didn't have much and, in fact, suffered much, their relationships with God transcended all of their suffering and the things they didn't have; that's the key to joy: to be content in your walk with God."
What would you like your reader to take away from reading "Discovering God's Power in Life's Trials?"
"I would like them to experience intimacy with God as they read, to see that the prophets were really ordinary people like the rest of us. I would like people to know that God still calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and then empowers them to do those things. Hopefully, readers will see that there is healing for damaged emotions and that, if we look to God, He will help us to put one foot in front of the other regardless of what we have faced in our lives. I want people to know that the ultimate goal is to endure, to get past our damaged emotions, so we can win the prize of meeting Jesus at the finish line of our lives. It's inevitable that each of us will stumble here and there; that we will be bruised many times along the way, but this is precisely when we need to get up and look forward. When we do so, we'll see Jesus at the finish line urging us to finish the race so we can spend eternity with Him."
Thank You Dr. Tweedie for your precious time and your insight.
Laure McCourt Lopez
Dr. John Tweedie was born in Northern Ireland but immigrated to Canada in 1967. He was ordained to the Christian ministry in 1980. He has served congregations in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. He is also is the Founding Pastor of New Covenant Christian Fellowship in Brantford, Ontario. In 1997, Dr. Tweedie helped to establish the Canadian branch office of Christians for Israel. He continues to serve as its Chairman. In 2012, C4I America was established with Dr. Tweedie serving as President and CEO. Dr. Tweedie continues to share his love for Israel and the Jewish people through his work on the television program Israel: The Prophetic Connection, and through other documentary series and writings. For more information regarding C4I and to follow further teachings and updates from Dr. John Tweedie, go to www.c4iamerica.com.
"Discovering God's Power In Life's Trials"
by Dr. John Tweedie
Published by C4i
Published March 2015