Worried? Stressed? Feeling Down? 

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

June 30, 2020

When we focus on our worries and problems, they seem so large and Christ seems small, but when we focus on Jesus, we realize how Mighty and Powerful and Loving He is, and we realize that He is in control and is taking care of us.


In our fast-paced, attention-grabbing world, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind, get distracted, and lose sight of our true purpose in life—the worship and love of God (see Matthew 22:37). Yet we are told to run our race with our eyes focused on Christ: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2). How can we resist the allure of the world and keep our focus where it belongs, on Christ?

To focus is to direct one’s attention or concentrate on something. If we are focused on Christ, then He has our attention; we are concentrating on Him and His word; He occupies the forefront of our minds. Such a focus is only fitting, because Jesus “is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). By rights, He should be our focus.

Colossians 3:1–4 contains much that can help us stay focused on Christ: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We are to focus on “things above,” remembering that Christ is seated in the place of glory and power (verse 1). The reason for the command is also given: because we have been raised to new life with Christ. To focus on the things above, we must consciously remove our focus from “earthly things” (verse 2), and the reason is given: we have died to self, and Christ is our very life (verse 3). Helping us stay focused on Christ is the reminder that Jesus is coming again, and when we see Him we will know glory (verse 4).

Hebrews 2 lists some of the things that Christ has done or is doing for us: He shared our humanity (verse 14), He breaks the power of the devil (verse 14), He frees us (verse 15), He is our “merciful and faithful high priest” (verse 17), He suffered for us (verse 18), and He helps those who are tempted in this world (verse 18). Because of all this, Hebrews 3:1, says, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

Here are some practical ways for a born-again believer to stay focused on Christ:

Commit to reading the Bible. It is impossible for a believer to be consistently in the Word without having his attention drawn again and again to Christ: “The Scriptures point to me!” Jesus said (John 5:39, NLT; see also Luke 24:44 and Hebrews 10:7). To focus on the Word of God is to have the Son of God brought more into focus.

Develop your prayer life. If you want to know how to pray, read Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Luke 11:1–13. As you speak to the Lord throughout your day, you will naturally be more focused on Him. Little things, big things—we can come to the Lord with any and all of our cares. The command is to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to always be in an attitude and atmosphere of instant prayer.

Trust the Lord as your only protector: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15). Once we understand the spiritual dangers we face on a daily basis, we will focus more on Christ, our one and only Savior, who alone has the power of deliverance.

Recognize your need and the Lord as the source of all good things: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2, ESV). The world offers various means of obtaining love, joy, and peace, but they are destined to disappoint. The believer understands that love, joy, and peace (and a myriad other fine gifts) are the direct result of their relationship with Christ (see Galatians 5:22–23).

See the world for what it is: a sin-filled place of desperate need. The darker the world is to us, the more clearly the light of Christ will stand out. It’s not hard to focus on a light in a darkened room. “We . . . have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Those who stay focused on Christ will find their perspective on worldly things changing. As Helen Lemmel says in her hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / Look full in His wonderful face, / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.”


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Facing Your Giants - Part 3

June 29, 2020 - The Stone of Prayer

"Call out to me. I will answer you. I will tell you great things you do not know. And unless I do, you wouldn’t be able to find out about them.”

- Jeremiah 33:3 (NIrV)


Today begins week three and we can’t wait to get started. In this session, Max will walk us through what it means to use “The Stone of Prayer” to face our giants.


We all know that prayer is a powerful tool, but how often are our prayers with God more transactional rather than relational? Think about the last time you prayed. Did you spend more time asking God for things rather than listening for God’s counsel? Did you invite God into the mundane activities of your everyday life or is your prayer time an isolated occasion?


In today’s study, Max tells us how David “inquired of the Lord” and sought God’s wisdom–and what goes wrong when David doesn’t!


In order to face our giants, we need to learn to listen to God and incorporate prayer into every aspect of our lives.


Are you ready to face your giants? Listen to Max by clicking here.


Scripture:

And David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.” 1 Samuel 27:1


Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established. Proverbs 15:22



Reflection Questions:

  • Do you feel like you have a constant awareness of God’s presence in your life? If not, how might you cultivate this awareness?
  • What daily activities can become acts of prayer for you?


Prayer:

Gracious God, who gave David wise counsel when he asked, we pray that we would be reminded to seek your wisdom in every circumstance. When we run into difficult decisions, we pray that we would seek your discernment. When we run into temptations, we pray that we would listen to your guidance. When we feel helpless in our circumstances, we pray that we would rest in your comfort. And when everything seems to be going right, we pray that we would remain in your presence. Amen.


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Facing Your Giants - Part 2

June 26, 2020

The Stone of Priority

So eat and drink and do everything else for the glory of God. 

-1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIrV)


"Focus on Giants—You Stumble. Focus on God—Your Giants Tumble" - Max Lucado


We're learning to face our giants with God's help. In this session, Max Lucado will walk us through what it means to use “The Stone of Priority” to face our giants.


We all have the head knowledge that God should be our priority, but in reality, do we put it into practice? When someone compliments us for doing something great – is God the first person we give the credit to? When we face temptations – is God the first person we turn to? I don’t know about you, but I sure could use the reminder of setting my priorities straight!


In today’s study, Max tells us how David was more God-focused than giant-focused and how we, too, can live a God-focused life.


Are you ready to face your giants? 


Click here to listen and learn how.


Scripture:


So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ! Corinthians 10:31


David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lordwill deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”  As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  1 Samuel 17:45-48


Reflection Questions:

• Whom do you turn to when you hear bad news? List three people. Where does God fall on this list?
• What does his position on this list say about your God-focus?
• How can you reorient your vision to see God first in every circumstance?


Prayer:

Gracious God, who deserves all credit, glory, and honor for every battle we face and overcome, we pray that we would live lives that glorify you. When we are faced between choosing to prop ourselves up or to prop you up, we ask that you give us the strength to choose you. When we face daunting circumstances, we ask for the sight to see that you are more powerful than our trials. When we receive blessings, we pray that our first response would be to give you gratitude and thanksgiving for everything we have. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Facing Your Giants - Part 1

June 25, 2020

Remember the wonderful things he has done. Remember his miracles and how he judged our enemies. Remember, you his servants, the children of Israel. Remember, you people of Jacob. Remember, you who are chosen by God.

-1 Chronicles 16:12-13 (NIrV)


Hello friend!


We're going to explore how God empowers us to face the biggest giants in our life – Doubt, Depression, Debt and Death. 


Today we'll learn what it means to use “The Stone of the Past” to face our giants.


Remembrance of the past is a powerful tool that has always made its home close to God’s people.


Do you remember what God told the Israelites to do when He protected their firstborn children during the Passover in Egypt? He told them to have a dinner where they remember God’s faithfulness for generations to come. Remember what Jesus said during the Last Supper? He told his disciples to think of him every time they drink the cup and eat the bread, remembering his sacrifice for the whole world for the forgiveness of sins.


Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past is essential for those of us who need to face our giants of worry, temptation, and difficult circumstances. Max will walk us through how David uses this stone to defeat Goliath and how we, too, can use this tool to stand victorious through God’s power.


Are you ready to face your giants? Click here to watch the video to get started.



Scripture:

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. 

1 Chronicles 16:12


But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.

1 Samuel 17:34-36


Reflection Questions:

• In the past year, what successes has God given you? Throughout your Christian life, what high waters has God walked you through?


• Think about the last month. Which worries that occupied your time never materialized? 


• What story in Scripture can you recall when you need courage to face your giant?



Prayer:

Heavenly Father, who protected David and his sheep from vicious lions and bears and who gave David the gift of remembrance as he defeated Goliath, we ask you to give us the same gift of remembering your faithfulness. When life seems unbearably chaotic, help us remember the times you calmed our storms. When the addictions seem too strong to resist, help us remember the times you helped us overcome temptations. When we are faced with disappointments, help us remember times when you brought hope and joy into our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Please Wait...

June 23, 2020  A Devotional by Jennifer Friesen

For months now, we’ve all been waiting for things to get “back to normal.” It is becoming more and more clear that things may never return to the way they were, but the feeling of waiting persists. We’re drifting through a no-man’s-land, stuck between a loose quarantine and bizarre outings that separate us from each other with invisible walls, 6 feet apart. We’re waiting optimistically for new rules to be announced that will give us back our freedom to hug, sing, and eat together – such ordinary activities, now transformed into precious privileges.


Personally, I’m waiting for when our whole church can gather together freely in person. I’m waiting to find out what school will look like for my kids in September. I’m waiting for the US border to re-open so we can see my sister-in-law, whom we haven’t seen since Christmas. I’m waiting to cancel my trip to Peru this year….and wishing I didn’t have to. Is anyone else exhausted by all this waiting?


You would think that waiting would be restful, but it isn’t. When we can’t reach what we desire, our brains work overtime in frustration and impatience. We makes Plans A, B, and C for the future; we are constantly drawn to ponder the uncertainty of it all, like moths to a flame. Waiting leads inevitably to worrying. But there is a better way!


Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”


To trust in the Lord is what we need to do, but how? It’s not something that comes naturally. If I were to ask my daughter’s Sunday school class how we can increase our trust in Jesus, I’m sure they would say one of two things: read your Bible, and pray. I don’t disagree – these are essential! But I think there is something just as practical that we often forget about when we’re alone: we need to worship.


Worshipping God displaces worry, because it gets the focus off of us and our problems and onto someone much bigger and more important. Focusing on God through song – and on his love, his power, his faithfulness, his joy in creation, his eternal plan of redemption, his sacrifice for us through Jesus Christ – reflecting on all these things will help us to trust him and keep our minds at peace.


It feels weird sometimes to worship at home, alone. We are used to singing and praising God in a group. But we can’t afford to wait until we’re together again to worship. Worship is just as necessary for a healthy spiritual life as reading the Bible and prayer. It re-energizes us with the certainty of God’s presence and goodness. It inspires us and re-directs our thoughts towards God and others. It gives us hope, and it fills our hearts with beautiful music while we wait!


To help you in your personal worship times, I’d like to share with you some of my favourite worship songs. I encourage you to listen to them, and make your own playlist so that the next time you find yourself worrying, you can stop and worship instead! Even if you’re not a singer, just listening to these songs will remind you that God is worthy of our praise, and we can trust him while we wait.  


Click below for Jennifer's worship song list:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7ibBWOm3Dk9u4p0kKes9vH?si=qETcQ_tLTuqTMxMy75eSrA


What would you add that helps you worship? We'd love to know. Please click "Send Comments" below:



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Pray over the Men in Your Life

July 19, 2020

1. Pray for his work.

“Lord, I pray that You would bless __________’s work. That he would be diligent and prosperous. That You would give him wisdom and discernment. God, I pray You would give him strength to walk the opportunities you provide. Thank you, Lord.”

Do you see a person skilled in his work? He will stand in the presence of kings. He will not stand in the presence of the unknown. Proverbs 22:29 CSB


2. Pray for his heart, soul, and mind.

“Father, I praise You for ____________, Your unique creation. Please guard his heart and mind, Jesus. Protect him from temptation and fill him up with the good things he needs. You’ve promised to fill his soul with what he needs and I ask You to do just that.”

For he has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9 CSB


3. Pray for healing from the past.

“God, would You heal the wounds of __________’s heart? You’ve promised healing to those who submit to You. Lord, please smooth the scars of past hurts and brokenness. May Your healing permeate his being, inside and out.”

Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for you are my praise. Jeremiah 17:14 CSB


4. Pray for courage.

“Lord, You are gracious and merciful, yet You are all-powerful and understanding. This world can be a fearful place and I pray that You would give ____________ courage. Lord, infuse his character with courage for daily decisions and the difficult ones as well.”

The fear of the Lord leads to life; one will sleep at night without danger. Proverbs 19:23 CSB


5. Pray for his leadership.

“God, You have provided Your Word and I am so grateful. May Your Word guide ____________. May his leadership skills be empowered by your wisdom. I trust that You will lead in his hand and heart, his work, home, community and church.”

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. James 1:5 CSB


6. Pray for wisdom in finances.

“Lord, money yields the greatest potential to cause problems in a home. Please give _______ wisdom as he seeks to honor You with finances. I praise You for the blessings You’ve provided and I pray that You would help him, help us, to always honor You first.”

Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. Hebrews 13:5 CSB


7. Pray for a heart for the Lord.

“Father, please give ____________ a pure heart for You. May he seek to love You and trust You with everything he has and is. Protect him from opinions intended to sway him from Your Word.”

Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. Ephesians 6:6 CSB


8. Pray for his speech.

“Father, in a day when the world speaks with complete corruption, keep ______________’s words pure before You. I pray that he would use his words just as You would have him to. I praise You for his personality and pray for purposeful conversations in our marriage.”

No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 CSB


9. Pray for his friendships.

“Lord, I pray that You would provide encouraging friendships for _____________. That he would know he is never alone because You are with him, but I ask for others to speak into his life and sharpen him as he sharpens them.”

Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 CSB


10. Pray for him to be a good father, if he has kids.

“God, I thank You that You are the good, good Father. Would you help ____________’s parenting to reflect You? May his children know Your heavenly love personally and experience it through their earthly father.”

Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 CSB


This list of 10 Scripture-based prayers is a perfect place to start exploring how to pray for the men in your life. If you know someone struggling or feeling disconnected with the men in their life, share these powerful prayers with them and use this article to encourage their hearts. If you know someone who longs to strengthen their relationship and build up the man in their life, these prayers would be the perfect tool to do so!


What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments by clicking "Send Comments" below:


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Don't be Afraid. Take Courage. 

Jesus is with Us!

June 17, 2020

"Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Matthew 14:27 (When the disciples saw Him walking on the water.)


"You WILL seek Me & FIND ME, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13


Father God, when I am feeling overwhelmed by this world, may I remember YOUR word: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."


Help me be disciplined to choose to do this. Holy Spirit calm my mind & may I hear Your voice. You are the Prince of Peace and are WITH me at all times. You are in ALL circumstances. You can use bad things for good. You sent Your only Son, Jesus to suffer & die for my sins and open the WAY to bring me life both now & for eternity. In Jesus Name help me seek YOU with all my heart! Amen! 

10 Reasons Bible Reading Should be Non-Negotiable

June 16, 2020

As adults, we wear a lot of hats and have a lot of responsibilities. And sometimes when we’re overwhelmed, our daily Bible reading is the first thing we cut out. It doesn’t feel as urgent as some of the other things, so it is tempting to let it fall by the wayside. It is absolutely imperative that we don’t do this, and today I’m going to share some of reasons that we need time in our Bible. We can’t afford to cut it out in the midst of busyness.


If you are too busy to read the Bible every day, you are busier than Almighty God ever intended any human being should be. -D.L. Moody


1. Give God His due place. Psalm 29:2 calls us to “give unto the Lord the glory due to his name…” He deserves a life of worship, and a small start of that is to spend time in His word, learning more about Him.


2. It takes us from surviving to thriving. I've asked people, "What helps you thrive instead of just surviving?" The overwhelming response was time with the Lord. It really is the “magic” ingredient to more fulfillment and joy in our lives.


3. Gain focus in the midst of distractions. Everything about this world threatens to distract us from the Lord and our Heavenly purpose. Time in God’s word gives us the spiritual focus we need to put that aside, put it behind us, and focus on Him and Him alone. I think of Peter walking on water. He needed to be focused on his Lord and Savior, and our daily Bible reading helps us do that.


Reading God’s word can give us peace in the midst of chaos. Life can be chaotic. With all those hats we’re wearing and little kids running around, sometimes life is just pure chaos. Spending time in prayer and reading the Word gives us peace in the midst of it.


4. We need God’s word to convict, and challenge us. If we are living outside His will, even in “small” ways, His word can help reveal those things to us. It is a constant refining process.


For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12


5. The Bible is true and for our benefit. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We need God’s word in order to be able to carry out His will for our lives. We can’t do it without Him and His instruction.


6. Reading His word helps us hear His voice. Jesus says his sheep will hear his voice. But sometimes we don’t make time to listen. Reading our Bibles and spending daily time with the Lord helps us to be open and in tune to hearing His voice, because we are used to what it will sound like and know what to listen for. He is ready to give us the guidance we need when we seek him.


Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:12-13


7. A closer walk with God. The Christian life is built upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, unlike other relationships where we may stress about how to have a better relationship, there is no secret to getting closer to God. He makes it plain and clear. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” 


8. To defend against Satan’s attacks. We need to put on the full armor of God, and a big part of that is His word. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he responded with the Word. Just as we teach our children to hide God’s word in their hearts, if we hide it in ours, it will come back to us when we need it and help us through life’s trials and temptations.


9. Because it is ALL important. The entirety of Scripture is God-inspired and important. However, some parts of it may not make great sermons. We can’t just rely on what we are getting from others, even preachers and great teachers. We need to go to the source.


10. Because what we’re filled with is what comes out. If you are filled with God’s word in your heart because you are daily making time to spend with him in reading and prayer, then when trials and stressful situations arise, you’ll be ready. His words will come back to challenge, convict, and comfort you as needed. When you are reading God’s word and filled with His spirit, then it is things of the spirit that will flow through you and out of you.


If you’re not convinced, here is an article about the importance of staying in the Word.


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Faith, Grief and COVID-19: A Conversation

June 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated grief in all of our lives. We have lost jobs, financial security, health, community connections, and the opportunity to gather and celebrate significant milestones such as graduations, weddings, births, and anniversaries. In addition, we are reminded daily of the lives lost to the virus.


These losses raise larger questions for us as Christians. How do we understand and process grief as people of faith? How can we support vulnerable and grieving members of our community while practicing physical distancing? Where can we find hope and joy in this season? This short series of films tackles these questions, inviting viewers to engage in a conversation about faith, grief, and COVID-19.


These four videos, created as a resource from Regent College and  a panel of experts, will help us engage in discussion questions, reflection, and prayer. You can download the complete Discussion Guide to follow along with the materials and discussion questions, or download each session’s guide individually using the buttons next to each film.

Click here to access the 5 videos and Discussion Guides:

https://www.sanctuarymentalhealth.org/grief/


If you have any comments or questions, please let us know by clicking below. We'd love to hear from you.


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5 Ways the COVID-19 Pandemic Points Us to the Gospel

June 11, 2020

Remember the Gospel

Like most of you, I’m hunkered down here in my (home), not going outside, distancing myself from people. It’s particularly important for me because I have a compromised immune system, and I am in the high-risk category for this pandemic that has spread across the globe. Here are five ways I’ve been encouraged to reflect upon how this pandemic points us to the gospel.

 

1. It is good to be confronted with the delusion of human independence and self-sufficiency.

It’s only taken a single virus to shut us down. (Cities have) become ghost towns: churches have been shut down, businesses have been shut down, restaurants are closed, families are separated from one another, friends can’t gather anymore. It’s an amazing thing, and it reminds us that we were created to be dependent—dependent on the Creator. 


There is no such thing as human independence or human self-sufficiency. In fact, it reminds me that the progress, the move of grace in our hearts and lives, is not from dependence to independence but from independence to greater dependence on God. The more you grow in grace, the more you understand the wisdom of the word; the more you understand your own heart; the more you understand the folly of this world; the more you run in joyful, submissive dependency on God. 



2. God’s sovereign power and glory shine brighter when we are weak and life seems out of control.

Isn’t it amazing that although things, to us, seem out of control—and in many ways, humanly, are out of control—there is one who sits on the throne of the universe? He is the definition of everything that’s wise, good, true, holy, righteous, and almighty, and he is in careful control of his world. We don’t always comprehend what that means, but there is one who rules the world, who is not afraid at this moment, who is not weak, who is not confused, who has no mystery, and who never experiences surprises. We don’t always know why he does what he does, but we know who he is and we know what he has promised his children. 


3. The greater global pandemic is not COVID-19. It's sin.

As this pandemic has spread from country to country until the entire globe is affected and is shutting down in an attempt to squash its power and its spread, we’re reminded that there is an even greater, darker, more dangerous pandemic. It gets everyone—it gets everyone from birth. It is the deepest, darkest infection. It is the ultimate disease. It’s called sin. It’s more dangerous and more destructive than COVID-19 will ever be. 

But this is what’s amazing: there is a cure. God looked at his world in awesome mercy and love and decided he would not let us die from this disease. He sent his son to live as we could not live, to die an acceptable death, and to rise again—conquering sin and death so that there would be a cure for the ultimate disease. The cure is found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, through his amazing grace. Celebrate grace. Celebrate that something more dangerous and more deadly than this pandemic will ever be has been cured by the power of the grace of Jesus. What a good thing. 

There is a sure promise that there will be a day when all such things will end forever and we will be in a place where there will be no more sickness and no more suffering.



4. Though we are separated from others, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

We are all practicing social distancing now and sadly, we have to be separate from one another on Sundays as well. As I sat with Luella in our little television room and watched our church services online, it was not the same—it’s not the same as meeting with brothers and sisters, hugging them warmly, shaking hands, singing together, hearing the voice of others into our ears, people singing to one another, reminding one another of the grace of the gospel. It’s not the same. And we’re all feeling the remorse of our separation. 

It’s wonderful to remember that no pandemic—that nothing in all of creation—is able to separate us from God and his boundless love. In fact, in these moments God doesn’t separate himself from us. He doesn’t turn his back on us, but he draws near. He draws near to the weak. He draws near to the brokenhearted. He draws near in love and grace, empowering us to face what we could not face without him. Your greatest friend, your deepest lover, your sweetest companion has no distance between him and you. What a beautiful thing that is. 


5. We are not alone.

Scripture reminds us that in these moments we don’t have to shoulder these burdens alone by ourselves. When we are weary and we are distraught, we have a place to go. Jesus welcomes us when we’re weary to come to him and cast our cares on him. He will shoulder our burdens because he really does care for us. In these moments, it’s tempting to doubt God’s goodness, to doubt his wisdom, to doubt his power, to doubt his ability to control. And you see, what’s deadly about that is when you doubt God’s goodness, you quit running to him for help because you don’t tend to go for help to someone you no longer trust. 


Fight the lies of the enemy that would whisper into your ear, Where is your God now? What is he doing now? Why isn’t he here? Why doesn’t he answer? The Bible says, God’s near. He cares. He hears. He answers. Do not run away from him. Run to him. Sure, we’re going to wonder, Why? And maybe those questions won’t be fully answered here and now; but again, we know who God is, we know what he promised us, and we know that this moment points us to how much we need one who is greater than us, who has greater power than us, who has greater control than us, who directs things we can’t direct, who is never weak, who is never tired, and who is never weary. Run to him with your burdens. 


Gratitude Is a Defense

One of the most powerful defenses against fear is gratitude. The more your heart is directed toward gratitude, the more you’re counting your blessings; the less, at those moments, your mind is running to fear and rehearsing the what-ifs. How about intentionally looking around at all the things for which, today, you can give thanks—all the evidences of God’s provision, all the evidences of his care, all the people that love you, all those things that you would take for granted—how about counting your blessings? How about letting praise overwhelm complaint and gratitude silence grumbling? The final promise of the gospel is this: that in this present world, we will face trouble—troubles of various kinds (John 16:33). 


This moment is a physical trouble, a trouble that can infect, weaken, and for some of us, destroy the body. But there is a sure promise that there will be a day when all such things will end forever and we will be in a place where there will be no more sickness and no more suffering. Hope in this promise is not some faint, dreamy wish for those who are embracing some kind of religious delusion. Hope in God’s promise is a confident expectation in a guaranteed result. It’s coming—paradise is coming—and it is yours by grace. 


There will be a time—it’s hard to imagine—where we will look back on this as a brief moment of trouble as we are experiencing a perfect world, perfect bodies, perfect hearts, and perfect relationship with God. Everything will be as it’s supposed to be and function as it was meant to function—in peace and righteousness forever and ever. This scary moment reminds us of the most precious truths of the gospel. Instead of focusing on the what-ifs, how about meditating on those promises of future glory? God bless you as you do that. Stay safe, hunker down, and remember Jesus and the glories of his gospel of grace.


 by Paul Tripp


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Taking a Micah 6:8 approach: 

A CBWC Response to Racial Injustice

June 8, 2020 - by Executive Minister, Rob Ogilvie

I’d like to share with you several voices that I have either read or heard over the last week in response to the death of George Floyd and the crying out for the end to systemic racism in our world.


The first voice is a quote from the Canadian Council of Churches of which the CBWC is a member, and the second voice comes from former US President Jimmy Carter. As followers of Jesus, these are words we are called to affirm.

 

“The events of the past weeks reveal broken relationships. Join us in condemning racism in all its forms and expressions in our communities and in our churches. Join us in committing to name racism and to make personal, institutional, and societal change so that no one experiences fear, hatred, oppression, violence, or marginalization because of the colour of their skin”.  

- Letter from Canadian Council of Churches

                                                            

"Dehumanizing people debases us all; humanity is beautifully and almost infinitely diverse. The bonds of our common humanity must overcome the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices". - Jimmy Carter

 

There is a freedom in being able to point to our neighbours to the south and say, “at least we aren’t like them”, and yet part of the systemic problem of racism is when we make such a claim - thinking we are better than someone else.


A third voice is from one closer to home, and it reminds us that Canadians are not exempt from racism. This week I heard about the heart wrenching dialogue between a former pastor, who is Canadian and was raised in an African country, and a leader from his former church who said to him, “…a janitor or any other odd job you can find, is best for immigrants in this country. Canadians will find it uncomfortable to listen to your accent and different way of thinking in the pulpit no matter how many degrees or anointing you have (pastor’s name). My son, consider finding a school board cleaning job because they have union and that is so good! Then you can do preaching on the side as a hobby.” We as Canadians have much to do to get our own house in order.

 

The fourth voice I have for you today offers us hope by considering some practical steps in building bridges with people different than ourselves. These words come from a Canadian missionary, living and serving in Belize.

 

"I don’t know exactly what steps can be made to solving the racial divide, but I have a humble suggestion. Turn off the news. Turn off social media, turn off the voices telling you what to think. Go to your friend who was raised eating different foods and share them with her. Sit for tea with a friend who has different skin colour and tell stories and ask questions and be open and hearing and kind and inquisitive. Pull into a driveway and make a new friend. You might just find that your new friend who looks nothing like you has a heart for you, has dreams and hopes for your kids and their community and has kindness to share. This has been my experience. Look for it. Intentionally create spaces for connection". - Alicia Dewbury


And finally, Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of Romans 12 challenges us with these words. 

 

1-2” So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you”.


May the lessons of the last couple of weeks allow us to not fit too comfortably into the culture around us. May we keep our attention fixed on God, and may we show the love of Jesus to all He brings across our paths.


Learning and serving with you, for Him!

Rob Ogilvie | CBWC Executive Minister


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Stressed? Feeling Burned Out? 10 Things You Can Do to Fight Back!

June 4, 2020

Here are the ten things you can do to fight back out of whatever hard or dark place you find yourself and get back on track.


1. Tell Someone

Swallow your pride and let someone else into the stress and anxiety you feel. Someone you trust.


Nothing good happens when you’re isolated. When you admit it to others, you finally end up admitting it to yourself.


2. Develop A Circle Around You

Friends who remind us that “Tomorrow the sun will rise” make all the difference.


You need people who believe in you when you’ve stopped believing in yourself.


3. Keep Leaning Into God

The Psalms are filled with pain and isolation and fear and anxiety. At the same time, they run headlong into God, not away from him. Don’t give yourself permission to quit your faith. Read when you don’t feel like reading. Pray when it’s hard. Keep going. Just because you can’t feel God’s love doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.


4. Rest

Read the Gospels. Jesus took naps. Sometimes it’s the most spiritual thing you can do. 70% of discipleship is a good night’s sleep.


You know when things seem bigger and scarier at night before bed? That’s not just because its dark and quiet outside versus sunny and active, it’s because we’re tired.


5. Find Something To Take Your Attention Away From Your Pain

The problem with this COVID moment is that when we slow down our pace, often we only have our pain to focus on.


And pain is selfish, it always demands our attention. Watch a movie. Go for a hike. Refuse to feel sorry for yourself. Not giving up on life helps you get back into life.


6. Don’t Make Any Big Decisions

In this state, often we are tempted to do things that can ruin our lives and the lives of those we love.


Don’t do those things. Do not quit your job. Do not buy a sports car. Do not cheat on your spouse. Do not make any drastic changes or moves right now if you are in a season of stress and anxiety and ‘dark night of the soul’.


7. Grieve Your Losses

Life can be a series of un-grieved losses. It’s hard to know what to do with our losses.


The dreams and plans that aren’t happening right now — grieve them. Admit it sucks — it’s part of healing. In the Bible, why do they take 40 days to grieve the death of Moses? Can’t they just go to the funeral and go back to work after?


There is something about grieving that makes life on the other side more than.


8. Reopen Your Heart

This will end. When you feel cynicism and numbness entering your life – maybe you already have – don’t give up and think “this is the way it is now”. Commit to reopen yourself to encouragement, hope, and the idea of a preferred future.


So many of you have experienced broken trust in relationships or more that have caused you to be hurting. Don’t give up on humanity. There are so many good and trustworthy people. Find them and trust them again.


9. Live Today In A Way That Will Help You Thrive Tomorrow

Think of trying to get in shape. You eat right. Think right. Work out and it produces results months later. Do the things today that produce results that you will only see tomorrow.


Invest in the future by changing up patterns of thought and life starting today. Make sure you are on point in all five areas of life (spiritual, emotional, relational, physical and financial).


Tomorrow will be something to look forward to in this moment of darkness.


10. Believe The Gospel

Jesus went through the pain and agony of a kind of dark night of the soul himself. He was a ‘man of sorrows’, in our place, so that you and I don’t need to experience that reality forever. For seasons of life, sure. But Jesus died and rose again and offers us a new creation of life in the present.


Take it, believe it. And look and work toward the joy he brings through the power of his work (Gal. 5:22-23).


We hope this helps you work through a very difficult season.


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June 4, 2020 by Anonymous

"I love this blog. It is so practical and honest. I am going to save it so I can share it when someone needs it. That someone might even be me on certain days!"

The Beauty of His Presence

June 5, 2020  By: Gwen Smith

Sometimes I don’t feel like going to church.


Yeah, I know. I’m probably not supposed to admit that. But it’s true.


Even still, it’s amazing how my heart shifts once I’ve positioned myself in His presence. It happens when I read the Bible and get with Jesus on my own as well.


I could go to God mad at someone. (Happens.) I could go to God frustrated with my kids. (Happens.) I could go to God wounded by others. (Happens.) Yet, when my gaze turns from my frazzled to my Freedom… from my distance to my Deliverer … from my mountain to my Mountain Maker… from my anger to my Answer, everything changes.


Every. Time.


Grief yields to gratitude.


Distraction yields to direction.


Grumbling yields to grace.


Swirling becomes savoring.


Failures become forgiven.


Broken becomes beautiful.


In the presence of the One who opens holy arms with eternal, enduring love and welcomes wounded warriors to His soul-changing rest, I’m home. I’m helped. I’m healed.


Because God is good, loving and faithful… all the time. (Psalm 100:5)


Psalm 100 calls us to worship God in the sacred sanctuary of the throne room. To worship unbridled. With enthusiasm. With thanksgiving. With joy. With shouts!


In just five short verses, the psalmist invites us to move from where we are to where He is.


In just five short verses we’re invited to remember and celebrate who and Whose we are.


1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.


4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

(Psalm 100)


We are to be people who are all about the praises of the Lord because we are His chosen children, radically redeemed, set apart in the righteousness of Christ by the Master of all Mercy. (Somebody shout!)


We are to be people of gratitude because He is a God of goodness and unsearchable greatness who loves lavish and whose compassion is complete. (Somebody shout!)


We are to be people of joy and gladness because though this world is full of troubles, ours is a powerful Provider who tells us to take heart because He has overcome the world. He has defeated death and will never leave or forsake us. (Somebody shout!)


Don’t look now, but I think we just done-went to church!


Pass the plate.


Gracious Father,

Thank You for this invitation to be transformed in Your presence; heart, mind and soul. I belong with You. I need You. I love You. I worship You.


In Jesus’ name, Amen.



FOR YOUR REFLECTION and RESPONSE


What would that look like for you to move from where you are to where God is today?


Is there pain, disappointment, resentment or unforgiveness in your heart that needs to be yielded to God?



Let us know your thoughts, comments or questions by clicking on "Send Comments". We'd love to hear from you.


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Prayer Changes Things!

June 1, 2020

What is the secret to the revival of the church? To spiritual restoration? How can you renew your own relationship with God? How did the ancient prayer of Daniel move heaven and change a nation?  Here's an interview with Anne Graham Lotz to explain:


Why is prayer such an important activity?


Anne Graham Lotz: Communication with God is vital to a vibrant relationship with him. We will never really know God in an intimate, personal relationship if we don’t talk to him. Half of our communication with God is listening to what he has to say through his Word, which is why reading our Bibles is so important. The other half of communication is talking to him, which is prayer. Prayer is also important because the Bible commands us to pray.


Why is prayer so often neglected?


Anne Graham Lotz: Prayer may be neglected for several reasons. Some of those reasons are doubt that God answers prayer, doubt that prayer really makes any difference, and doubt that God will truly listen to our prayers. Also, prayer is hard work. We may neglect it because we’re too tired, too busy, or too distracted to put into prayer the effort required.


What are the characteristics of an ineffectual prayer?


Anne Graham Lotz: Prayer offered without faith by a person that doesn’t truly believe God exists will not be effective. Sin in our lives that we refuse to confess will also render our prayers ineffective. A husband who dishonors his wife physically or verbally will be ineffective in his prayers.


How is effective prayer born out of a sense of desperation?


Anne Graham Lotz: Desperation compels us to pray with fervent, focused faith—especially when we have no one else to turn to. God honors our faith when we place it in him alone—with no back-up plan, no other recourse, no other way out. He hears and answers our desperate heart cry, because he loves to show himself strong on our behalf.


Why did you turn to the Bible character Daniel as a model for prayer today?


Anne Graham Lotz: Daniel’s prayer moved Heaven and changed not only his nation, Judah/Israel, but also the nation in which he was living at the time: Persia. His prayer is one that worked. God’s people were separated from God and were living in exile. But in answer to Daniel’s prayer, they were restored to God’s place of blessing.


I believe our nation is in deep trouble. We seem to have lost our identity because in many ways we’re separated from God. I believe it’s imperative that God’s people pray as Daniel did, or our nation may unravel morally and spiritually to the point of no return. I believe we desperately need the blessing of God.


What are the elements that make up The Daniel Prayer found in Daniel 9 and that you recommend should be followed today?


Anne Graham Lotz: Daniel prayed under compulsion. His prayer was based on a covenant relationship that he had established earlier with God. He was confident in the character of God whom he knew by years of experience, as well as knowing God as he’s revealed through his Word. He prayed with humble contrition as he confessed the sin of his people as though it were his own. He was very clear in exactly what he was asking God for. And he prayed until his prayer was answered.


What are the differences of praying in public versus praying in private?


Anne Graham Lotz: Both public and private prayers are acceptable. But public prayers take into account other people listening in. Private prayers are spoken to God alone. The difference is the same as the difference between public speaking versus a private conversation. Things we say, or confide, in private to our closest friend are different than what we would share in public.


What do you mean “patterns help us focus our prayers”?


Anne Graham Lotz: God knows that sometimes we lack words to express our feelings, heart-cry, thoughts. And so within the Bible he includes people’s prayers as models to help our own. Daniel 9 is one example. The entire book of Psalms is another. Our Lord’s own prayer in John 17, or the prayer we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer that many people recite every time they go to church are also examples. At the end of The Daniel Prayer, I include prayers that I wrote to help the reader articulate his or her thoughts after reading a particular section of the book.


What should be the ultimate goal of praying?


Anne Graham Lotz: The ultimate goal for me in prayer is to draw near to God…to fall in step with him…to discern his will so that my life might be lived accordingly…to discover what burdens are on his heart that I might take them into my own heart, then pray them back to him.


You say The Daniel Prayer is a battle. How so?


Anne Graham Lotz: Prayer taps into the very power of God. The devil resists serious, focused prayer because he’s defeated by it. And so the devil will try to attack our concentration in prayer; he will try to confuse or contradict the content of our prayers; he will do his best to distract and/or divert us in prayer so that we’re crippled by inconsistency.


Is there anything else you’d like to say?


Anne Graham Lotz: Yes. One of the most effective ways to pray is to ask God to give you a promise from his Word concerning whatever it is you’re praying for. Then hold him to his Word as you pray it back to him. It’s what has been called “reversed thunder.” God keeps his Word, and basing our prayer on his Word gives our prayers strength and confidence because we know we’re asking for something God wants to give us.


Bio: Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, is the president and CEO of AnGeL Ministries, a nonprofit organization that undergirds her efforts to draw people into a life-changing relationship with God through his Word. Anne launched her revival ministry in 2000 and has spoken on seven continents, in more than 20 foreign countries, proclaiming the Word of God in arenas, churches, seminaries, and prisons. She’s the award-winning author of numerous books. She’s also the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force chairman.


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"Life is a Gift"

May 27, 2020 - A devotional by Jennifer Friesen

Gift-giving has never been easy for me. I don’t enjoy shopping and I have trouble making decisions, so purchasing gifts makes me very stressed. Knowing this, my husband and I have a system where we often tell each other exactly what we would like for the next special occasion, sometimes even purchasing it ourselves. “By the way, honey, you got me these concert tickets for my birthday. Thanks!” It saves a lot of time and mental energy.


But the downside is that when you are anticipating something specific, it’s hard not to be disappointed if it doesn’t meet your expectations. What if the “new sweater” he requested is the wrong colour? What if the “book by N.T. Wright” isn’t the one I really wanted to read? Instead of being grateful for the gift, we tend to see all its imperfections and be dissatisfied. This is why return policies exist: because as humans we are so prone to being unhappy with our gifts rather than thankful for them.


In my sermon last Sunday on Ecclesiastes 9, I spoke about how life is a pure gift of grace from God, and that it’s not something we can control for our own gain. There are no returns or exchanges. We have to learn to accept the hard, painful parts of life without complaining. Wouldn’t we rather have the gift of life, even such as it is, than not have it at all?


It is the sinful attitude of entitlement that says we deserve a comfortable, trouble-free, pain-free life. We see this attitude everywhere in our culture: “You deserve it! Treat yourself! If it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it! Cut those difficult people out of your life! You deserve to be perfectly happy!” We are so steeped in this kind of thinking that almost every Christian struggles with being “disappointed with God.” We think we deserve exactly the kind of life that we want and expect, and when God doesn’t provide it, we get angry. 


We have to start calling this what it is: pride and arrogance. Who are we to tell God what he should give us? We are his creation, and he is our Creator, our King, and our Lord. He owns us. He does what he sees fit with us. And fortunately, he is loving and kind, and does everything for our good. Just imagine where we would be if he actually wanted to harm us!


Humility is the key to receiving life as a gift. When we realize who we truly are before God – that we are powerless, not in control of anything, at the mercy of God and circumstances, and so fragile physically – we will be humbled and grateful for what we’ve been given instead of jealous, resentful, and bitter over things we don’t have. If we know we are not entitled to anything, only then we will be able accept his gifts with joy!


Psalm 8:3-9 expresses the attitude we should have towards God: “Who am I to have received so much?”


3“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”


Humility before God always leads us to worship, because God is everything that we are not: all-powerful, all-knowing, unconditionally loving and perfectly good. Why would he entrust the rest of his creation to us? Why would he bless us with a world full of beauty, variety, mystery, joy, and abundance? Why would he choose to listen to our prayers or accept our tainted acts of worship? That’s incredible!


Only in this humble posture before God will we ever find what our hearts desire – true happiness and rest, satisfaction and gratitude for the gift of life.


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"Not Safe, but Good"

May 21, 2020 - A devotional by Jennifer Friesen

I’m a bit of a C.S. Lewis fanatic. I can’t say I’ve read every book he’s written, but I’m getting there! And I go back to the Chronicles of Narnia over and over. The way he wrote about Aslan taught me more about the character of God as a child than I know how to describe.


In his sermon on worship last Sunday, Pastor Brian mentioned Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” He explained how this fear of God is not terror, but a worshipful reverence or respect. He quoted from the first Narnia book, where Susan asks if it’s safe to meet with Aslan (he’s a lion, by the way.) And her friend replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

This then got me thinking about the oft-quoted motto, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Which is nonsense, but it sounds comforting, so we say it. God isn’t safe, and his plans for us when we follow him are not safe or manageable. It’s not going to be a pleasant process to kill off the sin in our lives and dig it up by the roots. God will allow painful things to happen to us so that we can be transformed into new people with pure hearts and desires that align with God’s. We can expect suffering along the way. Jesus was perfect and even he suffered, so if we’re aiming to be like him, it’s just part of the deal. Safety is not.

But, I have come to believe that because God is good, he gives us the least amount of pain he possibly can that will accomplish his purposes. I believe this because Jesus talks about God as a loving Father, and no Father would cause pain to their child without a good reason. Recently I had to literally hold my crying son down so that he could get a couple of vaccinations he had missed. He was terrified and it caused him pain, but I did it to protect him and help him in the future.  

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” (Lamentations 3:32-33) 


In another Chronicles of Narnia book, “The Horse and His Boy,” a couple of friends are racing on horseback to warn the king of Archenland of an impending attack. All of a sudden a lion appears and begins to chase them, and with one giant paw he tears several deep scratches into the girl Aravis’ shoulder. Then, he disappears. 


It’s not until the end of the novel that we discover that the lion was Aslan, and that there was a reason for this fear and pain. Not just one reason, in fact, but two. First, the scratches Aravis received were equal in severity to the whipping inflicted on a slave girl that she had drugged in order to escape from home. Aslan tells her, “You needed to know what it felt like.” But not only that, his chasing of the horses across the desert caused them to run faster, and get the warning to Archenland in time. The fear was necessary, because as one of horses had discovered in that moment, “he had not really been going as fast – not quite as fast – as he could.” Rather than allowing two occasions of pain, Aslan used that one instance to hit two birds with one stone. 


This insight of Lewis’, that God uses our pain for multiple purposes, and allows as little as necessary to align us with his will, is a great encouragement to me. Many people are in pain right now. Many people are suffering from loneliness, anxiety, financial pressure, or poor health. But it helps me to consider that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, it’s never the worst possible thing we can imagine. And God can use that pain for good in multiple ways. He won’t waste a single tear. 


It’s also never as bad as it could be, because there are always bits of beauty and light to compensate. If we focus on those blessings, the pain cannot break us. We are given so much grace in the midst of suffering: the beauty of springtime, the voice of a friend on the phone, an anniversary or a birthday, a hot cup of tea, a friendly nurse. I believe that no matter what pain I may face, God is still in control, and he allows only the smallest amount of pain necessary. He is a good, loving Father – not safe, but good. 


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"No Fear in Death"

May 6, 2020 - A devotional by Jennifer Friesen

Last week our family had a scary experience: Owen fell out of a tree, landing flat on his back. He didn’t knock himself out but was pretty dizzy, and had a very sore neck. After a call to our family doctor to rule out a concussion and ask about the need for an x-ray, we were assured that he would be ok. He probably just got a bit of whiplash. Two days later he was feeling fine.


But what if he hadn’t been fine? What if he had broken his neck? Random accidents kill people every day. 740 children die every day from accidents and injuries alone. As Pastor Brian shared in his sermon last Sunday, life is short and no matter how long someone lives, it will always feel like they are gone too soon. When a child or a young adult dies, it feels particularly unnatural and unfair.


In Acts 20:7-12, the story is told of a young man named Eutychus who fell out a window to his death during a church meeting. No one would have expected that to happen! It must have seemed so completely random and unthinkable. Imagine how his family and friends felt for those first few horrifying minutes. 


The apostle Paul rushed down to the street, and through the power of the Holy Spirit brought the young man back to life. The people rejoiced together over a meal, and went home with a testimony of God’s goodness and healing power that they would never forget. 


God knew what would happen that night. Nothing takes him by surprise, and he can bring good even out of the worst tragedies. Eutychus’ death and resurrection brought joy and comfort to the young church at Troas. Not to mention that the display of God’s power probably did more for the people’s faith than Paul’s words ever could! It was not a random or meaningless event.


My point is that whether we live or die, God is in control and we can trust him. We know that life is fragile, but we need not fear death because 1) there will be a purpose for whatever happens to us, no matter how random or untimely it may seem, and 2) after death we will be with Jesus, and we have been promised a resurrection just like his. 


The song In Christ Alone expresses this perfectly:

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the power of Christ in me;
 From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
 No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
 Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

(by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)


In this time of uncertainty and stress, don’t allow the fear of death to overwhelm you. With Jesus, you can have hope both for this life and the next!



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"Clueless Followers"

April 29, 2020 - A devotional by Jennifer Friesen

In the news these days, there have been a lot of stories about those who are protesting the restrictions and lockdowns around the world. Some churches in the U.S. are continuing to meet in spite of their state’s ban on large groups, claiming their right to religious freedom. School boards and municipal governments and business owners around the world are considering when, where and how to eventually re-open. Disagreements and frustration are plentiful. Even within our own church family, we may have differing opinions about what to do next to keep our ministries going. So now is the perfect time to ask ourselves: How should we respond when our leaders make decisions we don’t like?


The story of the Israelites’ rebellion in the desert has a lot to teach us. In Numbers 14, the Israelites responded to the fearful prospect of entering Canaan in 3 ways:


1) Complaining (Num. 14:1-3) – They fixated on all the negative possibilities, and resented the hardships they had already experienced.


2) Blaming (Num. 14:4) – They wanted to choose a new leader because they held Moses responsible for all their problems.


3) Rebelling (Num. 14:10, 41-44) – They considered stoning Joshua and Caleb! And even after they repented of this, they still didn’t obey Moses’ instructions. 


When Pastor Brian spoke in last Sunday’s sermon about being “clueless,” I immediately thought of the foolishness of those who complain, blame and rebel against their leaders rather than expressing gratitude, giving grace and offering support. Even when we disagree, we should always express our concerns with respect and kindness, recognizing that the burden of leadership is heavy right now and that it’s impossible to please everyone. Sometimes we won’t get what we want. Can we accept that?


Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” 


Our civic, family and spiritual leaders need our prayers right now. They need gratitude, grace and support. But there is an even greater danger than that of foolishly opposing our human leaders. What if we start to direct our complaints, blame and rebellion towards God? Are we angry with God for the circumstances he has allowed? 


Grief, fear, disappointment and even anger are all valid emotions in these difficult days, but we need to express them to God with an attitude of humility and trust. We do not understand why this is happening. We don’t see how it can be part of his good plan. But let us guard our hearts from complaining, blaming and rebelling against God. We made a decision to give our lives to Jesus, committing ourselves to his service in all circumstances. We belong to him, and he has the right to do with us as he sees fit. Where we are right now is where he has put us.


It would be the utmost in cluelessness to think that we know better than God what needs to happen next. If we’re going to be his followers, let’s make sure we are not clueless followers, but wise and humble followers who trust that no matter what, he is in control. Even if our human leaders make mistakes (and they surely will sometimes), that’s ok because we don’t put our hope in other people or organizations anyways. Our hope is in Christ, and by his grace he will help us not to be clueless, but to follow him with confidence and trust.



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"A Time for Pandemics"

May 13, 2020 - A devotional by Jennifer Friesen

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-3


Looking at the world around me today, it seems there is no end to the negative repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are sick, people are dying, people are losing their jobs, people are anxious and angry. Our educational, economic, political and health care systems are reeling. When reading Ecclesiastes 3, it seems like God must have determined that this moment in our global history is the time to die, to uproot, to kill and to tear down. Things seem to be falling apart and many feel abandoned by God.


But things are not always as they seem. The point of Ecclesiastes 3 is that every experience, whether positive or negative, is part of God’s sovereign plan. In spite of how meaningless it all seems, he is working to make “everything beautiful in its time.” (Eccles. 3:11) 


How can I say that the deaths and chaos caused by COVID-19 are part of God’s plan? Let me be clear: I don’t mean to say that God caused them or is pleased with this situation. We know that God weeps with us in our grief, just as Jesus did at Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus came to earth to defeat death and transform it, because it is evil - “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). But his resurrection brought something incredibly good out of the horrible suffering of his crucifixion. And he still brings good out of death today, because he redeems every situation and uses it for good, if we trust him.


In God’s view, the ultimate good is to make people like Christ: self-sacrificing, unconditionally loving, Holy Spirit-empowered people who change the world. We often quote Romans 8:28 to reassure ourselves that God has our good in mind: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But we can’t forget verse 29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” The ultimate good that God is aiming for is that his people become like Christ. Not that we will be healthy, rich and happy, but that we will become holy, free from our addiction to sin.


Let me share with you a story I read recently. An Italian priest, suffering in hospital from COVID-19, was said to have received a ventilator as a gift, paid for by his congregation. But because of the shortage of ventilators, he refused to use it. He passed it on to a younger patient instead. Within a few days, he died.


This story may or may not be true. But it exemplifies exactly the kind of good that I think God would want to bring out of this crisis: the good of exemplary character, shown in actions that put others above ourselves, and that causes people to wonder, “Why would someone do that? How did they find the capacity for such selfless love?” And the answer would spread far and wide: Jesus.  

  

Is our world in “a time for pandemics”? It would seem so. But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a time for love, co-operation, compassion, generosity and worship. Yes, worship, because our Saviour’s love reassures us that no matter what happens in this broken world, he is still with us, and nothing will stop him from working out his plan to save the human race.


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"Grace in our Failures"

April 22, 2020 - A devotional by Jennifer Friesen

In last Sunday's sermon, Brian asked us to consider honestly "how we are doing" in the midst of this.


So I'll go first...I'm not doing so well. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. Is anyone else struggling with feelings of guilt and failure? 


I feel like I'm failing as a teacher, trying to "homeschool" my kids. I'm feel like I'm failing at my work, since I can't do many of the usual things I do as a pastor. I'm feel like I'm failing as a mom and a wife because I'd rather withdraw from my family than spend this extra time with them. And I feel like I'm failing at trusting God, because I'm overwhelmed, sad, and discouraged. I know I'm not actually a failure, but these days my feelings don't listen to logic. 


So where is my hope in the middle of this? It's found in one word: Grace.


An old acronym for grace is "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." Jesus gives us grace for all of our mistakes and weaknesses. He showers us with undeserved gifts, even when we fail. Especially when we fail!


The story of doubting Thomas in John 20:24-29 is a great example of this. (Go read it! I'll wait.)


Thomas failed to believe the good news that Christ was risen. His faith in Jesus' promises didn't hold in a time of fear and stress.


It would have been completely fair for the resurrected Christ only to appear to Mary, and expect the disciples to believe her. Why should he have to appear more than once to be believed?


But then he appeared to some of the other disciples. Again, it would have been completely fair for him to appear to just that small group, and expect Thomas to believe them.


But Jesus returned again, to the same room, just for Thomas! Rather than condemn him, he provided exactly what Thomas said he needed: another chance to see him and touch him. That's grace!


From the story of Thomas, I believe that Jesus, in his grace, will keep on showing up. He will keep showing up for you and for me during this time of isolation, no matter how unworthy we feel. He cares about each one of us individually. He will keep on giving undeserved gifts and meeting our failures with grace, because that's who he is!


When I list all the blessings in my life right now, they far outnumber the challenges. I've been given so many gifts: health, food, shelter, friends and family, employment, the beauty of springtime, etc....and God has given me these things even though I'm a mess. He doesn't wait for me to pull it together, he just gives. He just loves us.


What gifts of grace do you recognize in your life right now? 


Consider this quote from G.K. Chesterton: 


"Here dies another day

During which I have had eyes, ears, hands,

And the great world round me;

And with tomorrow begins another.

Why am I allowed two?"


I hope this reminds you how loved you are by God and how much grace he has given you. If you have a need, ask him to provide. Jesus promised that our Father in heaven would give good gifts to those who ask him (Matt. 7:11). He is gracious and compassionate. His grace is how I'm finding hope in the middle of this.


What about you? How have you seen his grace to you this week? Let me know in the comments!



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