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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Dr JI Packer & Richard Baxter

Click to read the Light Magazine article about two of God’s essential workers.

We hear a lot about essential workers and essential services in these COVID-19 times.  At 7 pm each night, many of us have been cheering for them, as we bang on our pots and pans.  The late Dr. JI Packer, God’s essential worker, helps us rediscover Richard Baxter’s essential writings, not just for mortal life but more importantly for eternal life.  What might it be like to cheer for God’s essential workers, including our theologians, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries?[1]  Both Baxter and Packer knew from personal experience that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to us.  Both faced sickness and possible death early in life, but fixed their gaze on Jesus Christ in those difficult times.  Packer, who did his Oxford doctorate on Baxter, helped us rediscover Baxter’s brilliant emphasis, derived from Rupertus Meledenius: “In Essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; and in all things charity.”  

Many believe that J.I. Packer, born in 1926 and passed on July 17th 2020, will be remembered as the principal theologian of the 21st Century.  Packer and Baxter each had the same puritan passion for knowing truth, seeing it as our first duty.[2] Both represent the best of Puritanism without being ‘puritanical’.[3]  Baxter in the 17th century commented: “I never discover a Truth in my studies, but it is as sweet to my mind as a feast to my body…I spend my time, and strength and spirits in almost nothing but studying after Truth.”[4]  Many people nowadays dismiss theology as non-essential ivory-tower speculation. We live in an anti-rationalist culture that worships one’s feelings and denies any objective truth.  Both men believed that the mind actually mattered, that reason and thinking were gifts from God that helped us discern truth.  Their love for truth gave them a respect for the arts, sciences, history[5], as well as theology.[6]  In Baxter’s day, theology was seen as the Queen of the sciences.[7] 

For both men, knowing God with our head and heart was essential.[8] It is not enough to just know about God academically.  Baxter held that “he is the best scholar who hath the readiest passage from the ear to the brain, but he is the best Christian who hath the readiest passage from the brain to the heart.”   Dr J.I. Packer also warned against “hardness of heart and cynicism of the head.”  Being heavenly-minded for Baxter and Packer was the key to making the most lasting impact on planet Earth. 

Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals, Dr Packer is best known remembered for his most popular book Knowing God.  In reading Dr Packer’s doctoral thesis, I discovered that Packer’s Knowing God classic is an unpacking of the wisdom of Richard Baxter. 

Jesus prayed in John 17:21 that we would be one as the Father and Son are one that the world may believe.  While Baxter and Packer were both ordained Anglican clergy, they had a deep love for the wider body of Christ.  That is part of the reason that Packer has served since 1979 at Regent College, a interdenominational college. Baxter called himself ‘a mere Christian’, expressing the truth that God’s people go beyond the bounds of any one denomination.[9]  Both showed us that unity in the Essentials of the Gospel is essential to reach the world for Christ, such as the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.  Are we willing to repent over our division and arguments over non-essentials?  We can all agree to the full deity and humanity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his death for our sins, his physically rising from the grave.  By contrast, the precise way that we baptize, celebrate communion, organize our church leadership, or sing worship songs are not essentials worth splitting over.  Both men knew that not every Christian congregation has to be exactly the same, as sameness crushes creativity and spiritual intimacy.

After the heart-rending English civil war of 1647, Baxter felt called to be a peacemaker. [10] All his writings sought to promote “in all things, charity (love).”   As Packer put it, Baxter “meddled much with Controversies…to end them.” It was Baxter’s respect for truth that kept him from ‘undignified wrangling’.[11]  Even though he was often banned from preaching and forced out of town, Baxter stayed gracious and Christ-centered.  Both Packer and Baxter were deeply charitable and humble in times of great controversy.[12] While neither liked controversy, both had the courage to take a stand for gospel truth when waves of conflict occurred. Even when recently needing to say no to false teachers, Packer spoke the truth in love.  He never became vindictive and negative. At age 93, he is finishing well, staying focused on the goodness of the gospel essentials.

Our prayer is that in this COVID-19 pandemic, that we like these brave Christian men, Baxter and Packer, might rediscover what is essential, how to celebrate diversity, and the urgency of charitable love in all circumstances.

Rev.  Dr. Ed and Janice Hird

Co-author, Blue Sky novel

-published in the June 2020 Light Magazine

-Readers are invited to read the first two Academia.edu articles of the JI Packer & Richard Baxter Trilogy:

1) Analyzing the Global Impact of Dr. J.I. Packer

2) An Evaluation of Richard & Margaret Baxter’s Lasting Contribution in 17th Century England


[1] The Gospel and church are deemed in our COVID culture as a nonessential service, unlike pot stores.

Peace Arch News April 23rd 2020, Tom Zillich, A33 “…now would be the worst time to curtail people’s access to those substances which have helped them deal with their anxiety.”

[2] JI Packer, The Restoration and Redemption of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter, Oxford Doctoral Thesis 1954 (Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, 2002), 96,  Packer commented regarding Baxter, “To the end of his life, he could never understand how his fellow Christians could love truth do little and seek it so half-heartedly.”

[3] Packer, Thesis, 95 (Baxter)…was anima naturaliter Puritana, the incarnation of Puritanism at its purest.”; Thesis, 98 Packer “…a Puritan thoroughbred…Baxter was the most consistent Puritan of them all.”

[4] Packer, Thesis, 95.

[5] Thesis, 68 Baxter “History is a very profitable study, if it be used for the right ends, and be rightly chosen. It is a very great help to understand the Scriptures, and to know the former and present state of the church; and to see the wonderful works of Providence, that otherwise would be lost to us.” XI:213

[6] Thesis, 95 (Baxter) “…to take all arts and sciences for his province so that he might himself construct the hierarchy of truth and show, according to the Puritan blueprint, how all this comes from God and leads to God.”

[7] Thesis,64 Packer: “Fundamental to all Puritan thought was the seventeenth-century version of the Medieval doctrine that all knowledge is a unity and all sciences, physical and moral, form a hierarchy at the head of which stands theology.”

[8] Packer, Thesis, 86,  ‘Baxter never tired of reminding his readers that “Heaven-work and Heart-work are the chiefest parts of Christian duty”; “true religion…consists in heaven-work and heart-work, in the love of God and man…” Cure of Christian Divisions (1670) 209, 408, et al.

[9] The title of CS Lewis’ best-selling book Mere Christianity is taken directly from Richard Baxter.  

[10] Thesis, 96.

[11] Thesis, 97 Packer: “He was exact in definition and accurate in usage; and his respect for truth and sense of responsibility for it kept him from undignified wrangling.”

[12] “What a gracious man”, I (Ed) thought as Dr J.I. Packer spoke.   In the midst of a raging North Carolina snowstorm, he was giving a morning devotion at the Anglican Mission Winter Conference on John 21, in which he identified with Simon Peter’s growing through failure.   The first time we ever spent time with Dr Packer was in 1979 in a student residence on the University of BC campus where we literally chased noises in the heating system.  Dr Packer came across so humbly and natural, despite his worldwide reputation. 

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Spring Romance

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Ed and Janice Hird photo

April showers bring May flowers.  Spring is a time when many romances begin, including my romance with my wife Janice.  I am so grateful to have been married to Janice for forty-three years.  She is the love of my life and the joy of my heart.

When I was a teenager, I held the unoriginal view that marriage was just a piece of paper, a merely human sociological invention. Since coming to faith in 1972, I have been fascinated by the meaning of marriage.  Reading Matthew 19: 6 (What God has joined together…), I was shocked to discover that God invented marriage.  I remember sharing with my future wife on our first date in 1975 about my fascination with the theology of marriage.  She found me somewhat overwhelming, and told me that she wasn’t ready to commit as she had just broken up with her fiancée.

While completing my Masters, I wrote an essay on the meaning of marriage, with a strong emphasis on the ‘one flesh’ covenant.   I concluded the essay by writing our own marriage ceremony and inviting my professor Bill Adams to our wedding.  Fortunately he liked the wedding and gave me a good mark.  Thirty-six years later, Janice and I are co-leading Strengthening Marriage workshops and Strengthening Relationship groups.   I graduated on May 26th 2013 with a Doctor of Ministry, focusing on ‘Strengthening Marriages.’

Part of my North Shore ministry involves visiting extended care facilities where often one spouse has Alzheimer‘s disease and the other doesn’t.  I have been so impressed by the love of one North Shore wife for her Alzheimer-afflicted husband who was a former university professor.   Her covenantal love and honour for her husband is deeply rooted in his unshakable humanity, being made in God’s image.

Ted and Lorna3A wedding is a celebration of a couple coming to the point where they are truly willing to become one flesh in body, mind and spirit.  Marriage is far more than just a contract or a prenuptial agreement. Marriage is a covenant of faith and trust between a man and woman, a covenant grounded for Christians in their shared commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.  At the heart of the concept of covenant is unconditional commitment.  The hyper-individualism of our consumer culture is the acid rain of covenant love.  The busyness and stress of our culture tends to swallow our best intentions even in marriage.

James Olthius, author of I Pledge You My Troth, teaches that marriage is troth, as in ‘I pledge you my troth’.  This term, troth, as in betrothal, is an Old English term for truth, faithfulness, loyalty and honesty.  At the heart of marriage troth is our pledge ‘to have and to hold from this day forward, for better,  for worse, for richer , for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

At the heart of spring romance for me is that assurance that my wife will stand with me through thick and thin, through good times and bad.  Janice has my back and I have hers.  My prayer for marriages is that God may give us back our first love for each other.  May our covenant commitment be like precious gold.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Does the Truth Really Set Us Free?

 By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Many people around us have given up on a search for truth.  It just seems too costly, too frustrating, too ethereal.  Many fear that the truth, if we can ever find it, will trap us with rules and regulations, turning us into slaves.  Many years ago, the world’s most famous human being said: ‘You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.’  A radical claim indeed.

The Roman governor Pontius Pilate replied to this claim by cynically saying: ‘What is truth?’  He was probably so used as a politician to lying and being lied to, that truth had become a meaningless commodity.  All of us crave for politicians that will tell us the truth and stop lying to us.  It is so easy to dismiss such yearnings as naïve fantasies.  Yet if no one can be trusted in our society, then the foundations of our democratic culture are indeed fragile.

True democracy is based on the gift of freedom, and the gift of freedom comes from the knowledge of truth.  “You shall know the truth” means that truth is attainable, truth is knowledge, truth matters.  “The truth shall set you free” means that truth is not abstract and irrelevant, but powerful and liberating.  Truth changes everything.  Lies kill everything.

The ‘Big Book’ in Alcoholics Anonymous says that anyone can get well if they are willing to be totally honest and truthful with themselves, God, and others.  I deeply admire the radical honesty and vulnerability of AA folk.  They have a lot to teach many people in church.  One of my relatives, who is a professional counsellor, has a poster at his office that says:  ‘The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable’.  The truth really does hurt, but when the truth is spoken in love rather than in judgement, there is amazing healing that can take place.

Jesus said;  ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life’.  He claimed to embody the essence of truth and meaning in his very person.  To Pontius Pilate, he provocatively said: ‘Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.  Many people want to patronize Jesus and say nice things about him.  But how many of us really want to listen deeply to him and let his words impact the core of our personalities?

The problem with the truth is that it is most often deeply inconvenient, morally inconvenient, socially inconvenient, financially inconvenient, politically inconvenient.  I remember how Mark Twain once said that it is not the parts of the Bible which he doesn’t understand that trouble him, but rather the parts that he does understand.  The truth will set us free, if we are willing to pay the price.  But the cost can be very high indeed.  The gift of democracy has been won again and again because many of our ancestors laid down their lives so that we might be free.

All dictators hate the truth.  Mussolini did, Hitler did, and Stalin did.  But the truly great leaders love truth, because they know that only the truth sets people free.  Only the truth brings growth.  Only the truth brings life, abundant and overflowing.  As Canadians, we need to rediscover our forebears’ passionate commitment to truth and freedom.  Democracy cannot survive without it.  Families cannot survive without it.

Our society desperately needs a fresh infusion of the Spirit of Truth to stir up our consciences, soften our hearts, and enlighten our minds.  As the Good Book puts it, our hearts are deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  We have an amazing ability to fool ourselves and hurt ourselves, yet the Spirit of Truth promises to lead us into all truth.  My prayer for those reading this article is that Jesus the Truth may give to each of us a renewed hunger for truth, truth lived, truth felt, truth embraced.  May each of us know the truth in a deep intimate way, and may the truth radically set each of us free.  May each of us be able to say like Martin Luther King: ‘Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the North Shore News/Deep Cove Crier

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

“I’m afraid there’s been an accident…”

12bdf6ff-3021-4e73-bccd-bc919398d1a0-7068-0000031133e7b4d9Sandy Brown and her family have just moved to Spokane, Washington where her husband, Scott, is pastoring a new church. With a fresh start, Sandy is determined to devote more time to her four children. But, within weeks of settling in their new life, the Brown family is plunged into turmoil.

Sandy receives shocking news that her children aren’t safe, which brings back haunting memories of the trauma she experienced as a girl. Then, the unthinkable happens…

A brutal attack puts Sandy on the brink of losing everything she’s loved. Her faith in God and the family she cherishes are pushed to the ultimate limit.

Is healing possible when so many loved ones are hurt? Are miracles really possible through the power of prayer? Can life return to the way it was before?

Blue Sky reveals how a mother’s most basic instinct isn’t for survival… but for family.

If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca