Have you ever had someone say to you “where were you? I texted you and left you a voice message and you did not get back to me”. Do their question and attitude cause you to feel a little bothered? Or, have you ever gotten frustrated when you tried to get a hold of someone and didn’t get an immediate response? Our technology, combined with an immediate gratification consumer expectation has resulted in an expectation of immediate responses, an expectation we know is unreasonable but some expect it.
God encourages communication with Him anytime, day or night. He does not limit our airtime with Him nor does He restrict our conversation to a numbers of words. He says He is available whenever and for whatever reason. Many believe this about God but have adopted an odd approach to prayer. They often behave like the caller who becomes frustrated when they do not get the immediate response they desired. Often they call and talk, but rarely listen and if they are honest with themselves, will admit they don’t talk to God as often as He desires. God understands why we offer spontaneous, spur of the moment prayers, and He does hear and respond but often we miss His interaction because we have moved on and left it with Him. Prayer is a form of worship and God would like us to worship Him with more intimate conversations. He actually wants to convey to us His response to our prayers. He doesn’t want us always calling and not waiting to see if He picks up and, although He allows us to leave messages, He’d like it if we listened for his reply.
James writes “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3a). He is talking about our attitude regarding prayer and could even be suggesting many don’t take time to talk or listen. Maybe all our prayers are one-sided and we talk without even acknowledging who we are talking to. It is appropriate to schedule time to pray so we can be uninterrupted and able to give God our full attention. James’ complete statement at verse 4:3 is “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). This may suggest our reason for calling on God may not be to glorify Him but to satisfy our own desires. Spontaneous prayers may sound needy at times and God understands, but He wants intimate prayer time with Him to be different. We go to God in prayer because He is the Lord Almighty who created and oversees the universe and also loves us and finds our time with Him to be precious. He wants to tell us that we are on His mind and that He has specific things He wants to say and personally give us.
In the days of the landline and even pre-answering machine, we knew when those we loved or cared about where available to talk on the phone. We may have even scheduled a weekly call because we wanted to ensure our time together would be uninterrupted and more cherished. God would be pleased if He could have a similar arrangement with us because He wants those uninterrupted, warm talks with us. He wants to hear us, and more importantly, He wants to talk to us.
If you are not in the habit of spending some time alone with God, you must consider making a change in that area. We know the benefits of giving and receiving someone’s undivided attention and with a few changes to our prayer practices, we can experience something special. We can continue with the short prayers or cries to God we offer in response to our daily life encounters, but it is important to make time for deeper conversations and to listen to Him. God sought us first and when His grace caused us to seek Him, He let it be known that our relationship would grow through meaningfully interactions where we both talked and both listened. Let your prayers also be your worship and be intentional about it.
When military leaders attend staff meetings and are given orders, the one certainty clear to them is, that they are not asked to interpret or modify their orders. Their education, training, and experience allows them to share with confidence and that is basically what they are required to do. It is accepted that not every leader will have access to the depth and complexity of the operation at hand yet, that does not prevent them from sharing the orders they have been given. If necessary, they may need to seek clarity for things they do not understand before leaving the Orders Group meeting. Their duty is pass on the orders as if they were their own.
Christ followers have been given instructions to share Jesus’ truth; such as God’s promises for humanity leads to salvation from the consequences of sin. Jesus’ truth shed light on those promises and He offered hope that God’s plan offers eternal community with Him. We are called to believe and accept Jesus’ teachings. It is very possible to share what Jesus said even if we don’t understand the depth or complexity of God’s plan. Most followers understand the hope of eternity with God but many have not sought clarity about the hope that sustains us while we wait for Jesus to return. We must study His truths so we can put them into practice and experience the hope fulfilled by living a life focused on God.
If you have been on the receiving end of military orders you may have known a leader who seemed to lack certainty about their role. Some have passed on their orders and it has been obvious to the listener that the leader may not be in agreement with them. For whatever reason they discredited their orders by their tone, sarcastic comments, or reluctance to share information necessary to get the troops believing in the mission. This action both compromises and jeopardizes the mission. Some followers of Jesus have offered a poor witness to their faith and have not followed Gospel guidance. Those watching or listening notice the follower’s good news is not reflected in their behaviour or attitude. The truth becomes more acceptable if we share it as if we are living it.
Jesus told His disciples that “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12). We have hope but must live as if we believe it. If we express hopelessness every time we face adversity are we not discrediting Jesus’ truth about being able to shoulder our burden to offer us peace? What message do we send if seek gratification from wealth and worldly things and then try to excuse our absence from church because we don’t like the music, or setting, or because we had something else to do? Are we suggesting that hope is linked to our actions, not God’s?
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 ). We pass on Jesus’ orders by expressing our hope through words and actions. We are called to share the truth; to offer hope. “Hope for the future, that we will be redeemed. Hope for the present, that we are not alone, but are loved and have purpose. Hope even over the past, that our failures are not greater than God’s power to transform.” (Suzanne Benner).
Job’s response to the unexpected death of his children and the destruction of his wealth could have been anger and despondency. Yet, he fell to the ground in a posture of worship and stated “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1: 21). This did not signify he agreed with what had happened but it does show that, regardless of how the world seemed to be treating him, Job chose God. Friends later gathered to console him but were anything but encouragers or supporters. As they talked, Job at one point cried out “where is my hope – who can see any hope for me” (Job 17:5). We know that he was not giving up but just wanted to understand why life was playing out the way it was.
Many of us have been in a similar situation where we have wondered why life seems to be treating us so poorly; why the world seem to be behaving so badly. If you follow world news headlines you may have found yourself confused and even angry at the words being spoken by world leaders. Hedonism, immorality and even demands for individual rights taking precedence over societal harmony, offers uncertainty not only for us but for future generations. It can make you angry, despondent, confused or even fearful and some may say those responses are expected. However, we had foreknowledge of the world’s destructive nature as well as God’s restorative plan. Jesus is on the throne and will remain there and at the time chosen, will finally rid the world of wickedness. We must be prepared to be the beacon of hope of those around us.
Should we be concerned about increasing immorality growing around us, it is everywhere, in schools, and entertainment and in politics? Yes we should be and where appropriate, we should stand for righteousness and instruct our children to think biblically about the sin they will most certainly encounter. But if we’re constantly outraged, disgusted, discouraged, or panicked, then we haven’t come to grips with the Bible’s grim description of the world, and we aren’t fully trusting in our coming, conquering, and reigning king.
The future of hope to those who call Jesus Lord and Savior is the consummation of our salvation at death or when God brings present the world affairs to an end. However, we have a purpose while on this earth which includes being the hope to our circle of family and friends. We need to help them see beyond the ugliness that is all around us. We do this by being the image of God that we are created to be.
Job, despite his confusion, stood firm in his belief that God was in control. Although he wanted to understand why he was experiencing such misery, his hope did rest with God and His promises. He declared, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (Job 19:25). This motivational statement is what should keep our eyes focused on heaven and our hearts on the mission He has entrusted to us. I was reminded this week, that some of us need to get on our knees and repent for our feeling of hopelessness. God in His wisdom and grace and according to His will, allowed the events of Job’s life to play out as it did just as He is allowing the world to do the same. We don’t give in or give up. We look in and look up to be able to inspire and encourage hope in others.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man (person) who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man (person) who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
I recently watched some television episodes of a home repair program and noted a pattern amongst a few home owners. They sought the help of a celebrity trade person to fix a problem with their newly purchased home and often, when explaining their purchasing experience, they blamed someone else for their decision. They would mention some of the steps they took to validate their potential purchase, including having a home inspection. However I noted that the desire to own a particular home blinded some people to the possibility of problems. During the program they mentioned they thought the crack running along the foundation or the wires dangling from the ceiling were suspicious. They had observed the large puddle on the basement floor and instead of seeking an explanation, they accepted the words “don’t worry”. To their untrained eye they noted faults that caused them apprehension and yet ignored the obvious. It was as if their desire to have that home overrode their common sense and all they wanted was the approval of the inspector to validate their decision instead of the details about potential problems.
Do you know someone who has shared their life struggles with you and during your conversations some solutions seemed obvious? You may have realized the individual was not really looking for advice on how to correct their situation, but was wanting your validation of their actions or behaviour. You may have even shared some scripture that would assist them in their decision making, but they wanted to ignore those especially if they did corroborate their choices. Sadly, we know that some want to blame others when life comes crashing down on them instead of looking at themselves to see if they have contributed to their troubles.
On the home repair program it was obvious that some families had made their purchases using the best advice available but were swindled or mislead. Instead of pointing fingers, they took time to acknowledge their errors and then sought the best assistance to move forward. Sometimes things happen in our life that we know we were not the cause. In those times, and in times where our contribution is obvious, we need to know what we are made of; how our house is built. Are Christ’s words our foundation? Have we sought to listen and follow His words?
When the unexpected or difficult occur, even if we contributed to it, do you have something to fall back on? Do you have God’s words that offer hope? Have you built your life on Jesus’ words and sought to follow them? Do you go to God in prayer asking Him to settle your mind so you can look at the issues, yourself, and your relationship with Him? Do you have a friend who will lovingly listen and offer you wisdom?
Jesus analogy of the wise person building a house on a strong foundation and us building our life on the Word seems to point out the obvious to even the untrained follower of Christ. If your life has no foundational truths you will struggle to survive. Take some time to read and reflect on these verses and then ask yourself are you are prepared to face life.
Blessings to you
MCF Prayer Coordinator
Every person who chooses to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces signs a document stating that while they remain in the military they adhere to the conditions and expectations of service. This document is validated with the member taking an oath declaring: “I, __________, do swear (solemnly declare) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law. SO HELP ME GOD (delete if declaration)”
It is not a vow to be taken lightly because, in military service, people will lose their lives. The military’s commitment to helping their members keep their oath is the pledge to provide training and resources. The success of each soldier, sailor or airperson is based on their willingness to almost deny their former mindset, commit to possible hardships, train hard, utilize their resources, and follow their leaders.
Many readers of this newsletter have made a decision to follow Christ and become His disciples. They spoke some words to declare their hope and faith in Jesus and went about learning how a disciple responds to this call. Many understand the cost of allegiance to Christ has both eternal and day-to-day consequences. Jesus shares in scripture that rewards of discipleship will be great but the journey could be difficult to navigate; difficult especially without the willingness to rely on His teachings and resources. Jesus knew that many would suffer in their struggle to accept His calling. Some would even lay down their cross and become bystanders content to watch others stay on mission with Him. Serving in the military without faith in the mission does not validate the oath taken. Not all recruits make good members of the military family; some even quit without actually resigning. They think they can serve in the military and behave as bystanders serving under their terms. However the oath is not meant for bystanders but calls to those willing to sacrifice.
Sadly today we live in a world of compromised loyalty and “bystander Christianity”. Bystander Christians are those who want to be numbered among the flock, but seem to care less about following the Shepherd. They want the forgiveness Christ’s cross offers, but never intend to carry their own cross. They want warm, fuzzy moments on Sunday mornings but offer no commitment to Jesus the remainder of the week. They want the crown without the cross (thoughts from Pastor John Raulerson sermon).
Jesus knew many would think they could become Disciples on their terms but He clearly shows us we must come to Him on His terms. He alone is the Way. Disciples worship God, read scripture, fellowship with other believers, and pray. We want to assist you on your walk with Jesus and starting the first week of July we will begin a 9 week prayer adventure aimed at helping us stay closer to God, to ourselves and to each other. FACEBOOK will be our primary tool to relay each week’s prayer guide, however other electronic forums will also be used.
We challenge you to become committed disciples and join us on a journey to validate our faith and hope in Christ.
There is no universal way to say good bye to someone. Cultural, gender, familiarity and even seasons influence our good byes. We have some preparatory gestures to set the stage for departures. As a man I have hinted to my visiting guest that it was time to say goodbye by unbuttoning my pants and plopping down on the sofa. I have noticed women begin to re-tidy the kitchen suggesting she wants the house back in order and everyone should leave. Whether we enjoy the company of the person leaving or not we do try to make the act as polite as possible always suggesting we expect to see that person later.
When Jesus sat with His disciples and ate their last Passover meal together it was obvious to an observer that He was saying goodbye to them. Yet, they did not seem to pick up on it, or probably did not want to. He had dropped hints before that evening but his friends, family and followers seemed to ignore Him. They loved Him and wanted no part of His conversation that suggested He would be gone from their presence for a long time. He told them He would suffer and be murdered but it was difficult for them to accept, after all He was healthy, young and affected the lives of those who watched Him perform miracles or listened to Him speak. He was a good man who was funny, gifted and loved by many. But, because He choose to say goodbye to His earthly ministry that night, we never have to say goodbye to anyone without the possibility of seeing them again.
On Monday I gathered with others to remember the life of a believer who had succumbed to cancer. We sang songs, heard some great stories and were reminded that Bob was in heaven. Although we said goodbye to his earthly vessel, many present knew that separation was not permanent. Bob was a good man who was funny, gifted and loved by many. However Bob, like others gathered to say goodbye, believed they would meet again not because of who he was, but because of who He believed. Bob’s hope and belief rested in Jesus’ truths and promises and so believers saying goodbye knew they would see Bob again.
Earlier in the day, while looking at FACEBOOK, I had seen a notice about a colleague who had suddenly passed away on Sunday. I had last seen him in 1998 and although we had exchanged email and messages, we acted as if we would see each other soon. My friend was a good man who was funny, gifted and loved by many however I admit I do not know what he believed. A couple of times as I listened to stories of Bob’s faith, I could not help but think about my friend and what his farewell gathering would be like. I could not help but feel guilty of not taking my goodbyes seriously. I realized some people whom I’ve said goodbye to recently, I may never see again.
Are there people you know whose goodbye could be for all of eternity? Are there people you can love-on and be used by God as His messenger of truth? All of us can answer yes to both those questions and so we must do something to take away the sting of goodbye. Every goodbye doesn’t have to be offered as if it was going to be the last. Before followers of Christ we see God’s glory they are called to participate in the adoption processes helping people understand what God has in store for them as His children. Between the goodbyes we offer our friends, we can talk with God about how we can share His truth with those who do not know Him as Lord. We can make the effort to be the shoulder to cry on, the ear to listen, or even the hand to help up. We can ask to be a voice that shares His story.
Heavenly Father, we praise You for the joy of life, the emotional and physical experiences You grant us and the people You place around us. We know we have been given only a short time on this earth and are grateful for whatever time we have, however impress on us that You created us to be in eternal relationship with You and others. Help us share Your truth by our witness and our words so that our earthly goodbyes are truly only temporary events and that our friendships can last forever. We do need You to help us love others as You desire, with unselfish words and actions that may reveal Your heart to those we encounter. Thank you for our life and help us share its eternal purpose with all those we encounter. Amen
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:10
I was surprised to hear some statistics regarding the number of homeless individuals who, even after receiving assistance, end up living back on the street. The statistics were linked to people who had belonged to a program designed to help them back on their feet. The clients were offered a life that mimicked that of the world around them including their own small apartment, meals, employment training and even treatment or help for medical or social problems. They did live alone but ate all their meals in a communal setting. Once they were able, the clients moved into their own apartment located elsewhere in the city. Staff did follow up with former clients to see how they were faring. They would find some outside their facility talking with those who continued to live there or at food kitchens where the homeless hung out. They were surprised at the number who were back living on the streets only months after leaving the program. When asked what happened the usual response from the client was, “its terrible being alone all the time”. It would seem that even though they had a home, a job and some material possessions, they missed relationships with others and so they went back to the street to feel part of a community.
God created humanity to be in relationship with Him and with others. He made Eve because He noted that it was not good for Adam to be alone. Jesus taught that God’s intent for His human creation was for them to unconditionally love Him and one another and that could only happen if we sought fellowship with Him and each other. Without a connection to other people we cannot experience life as God desires; we need to be with others. When Solomon wrote the words in Ecclesiastes 4:10 he was sharing how awful it was for someone not to have a friend. How awful it is not to have someone visit on holidays, phone or text, or share a cup of coffee and chat. He was saying how awful it is that so many people in our cities are surrounded by others but stare out their windows day after day wondering why their family does not call them, why the neighbours never say hi, or why they go to sleep every evening feeling so lonely. When someone experiences loneliness it can be overwhelming and yet it could be alleviated with just a few kind words.
ACTION: Do you think there is something we could do to make someone feel alive? Do you have family, friends, and neighbours who would jump for joy at being invited for a cup of coffee? There are seniors living in nursing homes, prisoners locked up, and hospitals filled with lonely people who would love to have a small group visit them. Are we too busy to listen someone into existence?
PRAYER: Gracious Father, we come before you to humbly ask that you comfort those who are experiencing moments of loneliness. We ask that you be their shelter in the midst of the storm, that you walk beside them every step of the way. We know many feel so alone, they cry out for attention, in desperation, looking for some sort of acknowledgement from a single soul. Lord, touch our hearts so we can offer some kindness that may bring lasting benefits to these men, women and children. Amen
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection leads us to thoughts of forgiveness of sin but we should keep in mind that it brought victory over circumstances that can bind us. That first Easter also brought about reconciliation and restored our possibility of having a harmonious relationship and eternity with God.
Our relationship was broken when Adam and Eve decided to live outside God’s guidance. Since that day the powers of evil have contributed to negative habits and behaviours of humanity that are less than admirable. The choice to live as we desire is a gift from God but He intended for us to include Him in our life. When Adam and Eve allowed temptation to focus on self it prevented them from having the relationship God intended for humanity. God did not give up on His creation and set about mending the relationship. Jesus took human form to help us better understand and connect to Him. His earthly ministry reminded us of God’s expectations for all to love Him with our complete being and to love those around us. Jesus taught that a mended relationship was not only possibly but desired by God. The reconciliation became real when Jesus allowed Himself to be taken to the cross to die. When He arose three days later He not only sent the message that God was in control of the universe and that evil did not control the destiny of humanity, but that God desire us and wants us to desire Him.
Anyone who has planted a garden knows that care is required to keep it healthy. Weeds that once owned the garden area, want to reclaim it and only our desire and effort can keep that garden area new. If we wish for the garden to keep its new purpose, we must maintain it by constant weeding, cultivating, and watering. Jesus promised His believers that we would become new creations because He was going to dwell in us. He was going to help us keep our relationship with Him strong. When we believe we realize that Jesus is in His Father, and we are in Him, and He is in us. We must maintain and cultivate our new lives by seeking to overcome self defeating behaviours that bind us. We must always be doing something to improve our connection to God. We should remember our new life is much more powerful that the evil around us and that it exits because we are in relationship with God.
Easter’s message is about forgiveness of sin however we must not forget it also brought about victory over conditions that bind us. Reconciliation with God can bring hope to those who struggle to break free from the chains of mental health issues, addiction, shame, guilt. They don’t need to be forgiven for these afflictions but released from them and Jesus’ victory at the cross offers this. They need to hear how Christ in them will create a new being from which good will flow and changes occur.
With God’s grace the truth of Jesus message can be heard and understood. Jesus’ truth is about new life and freedom. Will you take some time to think what that means to you and then pray asking how you can share the message of reconciliation with someone else. When you look at the cross this Easter, remember it symbolizes the sacrifice and suffering Jesus went through to bring you a new life. Will you remember those who need to be freed and invite them to hear the Easter story?
When Jesus told His disciples that He would be taken prisoner, suffer at the hand of religious leaders, and be killed, Peter exclaimed: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matt 16:22). Scripture says Peter rebuked Jesus; the original Greek translates that Peter admonished or even forbid Jesus. However “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matt 16:23). Jesus was pointing out a stumbling block that infects followers; many focus on things that concern humanity or themselves instead of that which concerns God.
Followers lose their way when their expectation of discipleship differs from Jesus’; when they anticipate earthly rewards in place of that associated with living a holy life. A life not based on conservative legalism, pious expectations or restrictive customs missing but one that allow us to experience the goodness of life God has for us. The reward of one following Christ is the blessing of happiness; the inward joy, peace of mind, contentment with life, love of all people, and hope of eternity.  However, there is a cost to following Jesus.
The disciples’ friend, leader, and messiah had been crucified. When they gathered behind locked doors, uncertain as to what was going to happen next, did they recall Jesus saying whomever wants to follow Him must deny themselves and take up their cross? Did they wonder if they were to go into the streets to be martyred? Were there concerns at the time about their future expectations and desires? When Jesus visited them shortly after His resurrection He pointed them back to God. He placed them on ministry to spread His truths to the world and lined them up with God’s concerns. He knew that with faith and the Holy Spirit, they would find the answers to His expectations for followers.
Followers must continue to ask what it takes to be a follower. However they must not avoid the questions regarding denying one’s self and the cross they must take up? The first step to following Jesus is accepting Him as saviour. Then we must seek out His teachings with the aim of following and sharing them. As followers engage in scripture reading and study, prayer, and Christian fellowship, answers to what is expected of them will become clear. As a follower’s life is transformed, holy living will be modelled. Answers to denying one’s self will be revealed as will a symbolic or literal cross and God’s blessings will help them bear those expectations.
Jesus told His followers that they will not walk alone and will be given a role model, guide, and encourager while as they seek to do God’s will. He also suggested that the journey will not be easy but it can be rewarding both in heaven and on earth. Discipleship is not a series of objectives to be achieved but a life that displays constant worship and love for God. Ask to be a follower. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your escort. Pray for a mentor or guide to share your walk with, so to keep you pointed in the right direction. Acknowledge and be thankful for the rewards of discipleship.