Get involved 2019

When Jesus was establishing the Church, He had a conversation with Peter, see Matthew 16:15-18NIV.

In other words, Jesus was saying “On you, my authoritative believer, and my inspired proclaimer of the gospel, I will build my church.” Do you realize the triumphant authority of this promise? It says our missions are not ultimately dependent on human initiative or human wisdom or human perseverance. It is ultimately dependent on the power and wisdom and faithfulness of the risen and living Christ to keep this promise. This, however, does not excuse us from contributing or being part of a church family or a ministry. After all, Jesus told us to share the gospel. We are designed to be in community and are called to join God’s mission to take His Word to the world. However, our mindset can damage the ministry that God has prepared for us and so we must be mindful of our relationship and commitment to Christ.

Our buildings or web presences are not the church that Jesus built, they are meeting places where the church family chooses to meet.  It is a home where tears are shed, laughter is heard, prayers are said, and God is praised. It is the place where mature and new Christians alike gather to worship and grow in their relationship with God. Just like the Military Christian Fellowship, it is the jumping off point for us to take the Gospel to our community.

Pray for yourself and your present ministry setting. Ask God to give you the wisdom, courage and desire to be engaged. Join us and pray for our military family using the issues highlighted in this month’s Shield as your guide. Help us reach the lost in our military family. But, ensure you are committed to Jesus, not just on the occasional Sunday but every day. We need our ministries to be places where we can grow and to encourage others but more importantly, we need Jesus and we need to tell others what Jesus means to this world.

Use the Shield February 2019 edition for specific individuals and issues to bring before God.  You can also download the Shield to pray through the month of February.

Blessings
Anton Topilnyckyj

40 Days of Prayer 2019

Prayer is not only the cornerstoneof the MCF, but it is the foundation and wall that supports us. We believe strongly in prayer because our Lord and Saviour modelled it and taught us that before we seek to do anything in God’s name, we should talk with Him.

We know our ministry’s mission to take Jesus’ truth into our military community is ordained by God. We can boldly say this because we have recognized His presence time and time again over the past year affirming, we are doing His will. As we move forward in 2019, we invite you to join us on our quest to bring the Gospel to our military family. One way you can do this is by joining with us in 40 days of prayer and fasting. Starting 13 January and ending at our Annual General Meeting 16 February 2019.

Provided for you are daily suggested thoughts and scripture. You can download them for daily access.  They will also be posted on our FACEBOOK page each morning during these 40 days. You may note that the verses and thoughts take on the tone of personal revival. This is no accident. We want you to have a blessed life and ask that you consider your relationship with God.  We want you to clean out your closet and talk with God about past sins, arrogances and mindsets so He can use you to bless others. We want you to recognize that being a disciple of God requires sacrifice, repentance and gratitude on your part. Our Saviour loves us and will forgive us for all our transgressions, past and future, so we encourage you to talk with Him.

Join our MCF team as we seek to impact our serving and retired military members and their families.  Please indicate subject is “40 days of prayer 2019”

Choose – don’t excuse

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” Romans 7:5.

Many people offer excuses for their poor behaviour to the point they want others to believe it is someone else’s fault that they act as they do. Adam and Eve consciously choose to take the forbidden fruit but when confronted Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. It is true that it is our nature to sin, but it should not be our excuse. Paul shares that we are rescued by Jesus from the death caused by the sin we can’t seem to avoid doing. Jesus can help us overcome our nature and bring eternal life to our seemingly hopeless and helpless situation.

We should be careful not to get tricked by the fact sin is in our nature suggesting we can’t help but sin. We know we can have victory over sin with the help of God. We can pray for help in overcoming sin, but we must include some sort of action on our part. I recently read that it is OK to pray and ask God to help us lose weight. However, we should not be surprised if He does not answer because we are unwilling to exercise or diet. Just the same, He will answer our prayer to gain victory over sin if we make the effort to recognize what offends Him and then strive not to offend while seeking forgiveness when we do.  It may seem inevitable that we will sin, but it should not be our excuse to do so. Seek God’s heart and then seek His help.

Let’s pray: Holy God. It is my desire to live a life pleasing to you, but I admit I seem not to be able to do so; forgive me for my transgression. Jesus. Thank you for the hope of the cross that has allowed my sins to be cleansed. Holy Spirit, prompt me before I fall and continue to guide me on that path that leads to righteousness. Amen.

Blessings

Anton Topilnyckyj
Prayer Coordinator

REMEMBER

I recently read an article about a British group that produce white poppies that they insist should be worn in lieu of red poppies. They suggest their white poppy embodies a greater morality as it represents remembrance of all victims of war, a commitment to peace, and a challenge to attempts to glamorize or celebrate war. Their objective seems legitimate as no one really wants war but why should their agenda trample on the memories of those who stood up to evil. Why do they think their freedom to express their belief is more important than those who fought for that freedom? November 11this not about romanticizing or encouraging carnage. It is about recognizing that sacrifice is necessary in a world ruled by the evil one who seeks nothing more than to see conflict, destruction, and suffering. When we left the garden, the possibility of world peace was left behind, and we entered a world where we must choose what is worth dying for.

The evening before Jesus died, He turned an everyday family activity into one of remembrance. He used bread and wine to symbolically speak about His upcoming sacrifice that we now know was necessary to free us from Satan’s grip. Jesus wasn’t advocating that we glorify crucifixion, but He wanted us to remember that sacrifice was necessary for freedom. Jesus’ sacrifice was ugly, brutal and violent. However, with the breaking of the bread and the spilling of the wine, Jesus wanted us to remember that sacrifice is often painful and sometimes necessary to experience good. War is ugly, brutal and violent and we are not called to venerate any of those realities. We remember those who willingly stood before the enemies of this world so that we can gather on Sunday morning and worship the one who made the ultimate sacrifice; a sacrifice that impacts our time on this earth as well as our time in eternity.

All countries who have engaged in war have regrets regardless of whether they were aggressors or not. There is a cost to waging war that goes deeper than financial implications. Thankfully there are many who will not allow evil to rule this world and willingly sacrifice to prevent it from happening. This month we remember not because we want to glamourize war, but because we know many have died or suffered in pursuit of our freedom, and we are thankful they stood for us.

I Watch and Pray.

“Be still and know I am God” Psalm 46:10

I’m a people watcher. Not in the creepy way where I hide around corners and stare at people or watch them through their windows. Whenever I’m travelling or waiting in an area frequented by a lot of people I watch the people. A friend taught me that this could be a great time to pray for others and suggested I take a few moments to look at the people around me and ask God to reveal something to pray about; so, I watch and pray. This past week I have been in NYC where there are millions of people to look at. Without meaning to stereotype anyone, I noticed subway riders (locals) give off the impression they are not very happy people. Many seem to have frowns on their face as they sit listening to their headsets or stare directly ahead. No one talks with one another let alone make eye contact. I thought how many could use the advice given by the wikiHow web site entitled, “How to have a pleasant facial expression” or listen to the old wife’s tale that suggests it takes more muscles to smile than frown and so they could have a workout as they rode the trains. I however sensed there was something deeper happening here.

Whether we accept it or not the draw of the world wears us down. It tugs and pulls at even the most hardened Christian creating a battle between priorities and responsibilities. Isn’t it any wonder our natural facial pose resembles a frown.  In this fast-paced world where we need apps to get our fast food or coffee even quicker, we have been accustomed to minimal effort and involvement and are driven by self satisfaction. This leads to even less engagements with others and a deeper frown. It takes many away from God and not as close as He desires. I noticed people’s demeanour was different when they left the subway to go to somewhere that pleased them, such as Times Square or Central Park or a store. As they engaged in something that gave them gratification, they were able to put at least half a smile on their face, for a short while. Because they were pleased, their nature, or at least their appearance changed.

Sometimes Christ followers behave like those subway riders. They walk around with worry and a sour expression on their face all week, then lighten up when they get their Sunday morning Jesus fix. Then, they leave church thinking they can survive the world. They choose not to have a relationship with Jesus during the week and can offer reasons or excuses because, they will be back next Sunday, or maybe the Sunday after that.  They believe Sunday morning is the short cut to Jesus. But there are no short cuts to a relationship with Jesus that offers hope and joy.We must choose to take some time every day to read some of God’s word, pray and reflect. We need to slow down and think about God. This feeds us and gives us energy, so we can be stronger as we face every day life. It settles us down and allows God to speak into our lives.

We need to take time everyday to be still and focus our minds and hearts on the Lord. We need to enter His presence daily and trust Him for great things. Just like smiling, it takes effort and it is well worth it. Don’t go a day without connecting with God.

Give it all

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” Deuteronomy 6:5


While in the military I was required to take an advanced electronics course. I did have a mathematical background and found several of the formulas difficult to understand. I was not alone in my struggles but unlike some, I chose not to attend tutorials that would help my understanding. Instead I decided to rely on a technique I employed in high school, memorization. I believed that if I committed the formulas to memory I’d be OK. The first few quizzes went well as all I had to do was memorize a few formulas and correctly plug them into the questions being asked. Test preparation was initially easy, but as we dug deep into the course and more theories and formulas were introduced, preparation became more difficult; in fact, it had become hard. I knew where to apply the formulas, I just didn’t understand them. So, to make sure I had all bases covered during testing, I found myself having to memorize every formula we ever discussed in class. Although I survived the course, I had made it more painful and difficult than was necessary because I had not been willing to give it my all at the onset.

When asked by someone what they must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied with a variation of the statements found in Deuteronomy 6. Moses was reminding the people of Israel about the necessity to give all to God. Jesus did the same with these words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself”. Jesus was saying to inherit eternal life with the Father, you must give Him all of your life. This expectation can be viewed as both easy and hard. Easy, if we are willing to turn over every aspect of our life to Him as soon as we become aware of God’s desire. Hard, because our nature, which is often in conflict with God, pushes us to be in control. When we give it all, we then enter life with the mindset that God is in control and that being yoked with Jesus means we have His power and strength alongside us as we face life. When we keep parts to ourselves, often our finances, our marriage, or even our expectations for our children, life and it’s challenges can become hard.

I wanted to pass the electronics course but from the onset I displayed a behaviour that suggested I was not fully committed.  I was not willing to give it my all and did not put in the time and effort needed to understand the material. Because of my choice to learn my way I found myself having to put a lot more time and energy into preparing for the final exam and that was hard. When we enter a relationship with Jesus unwilling to fully commit, we will find life harder than it should be. We compound an already difficult situation by adding stress and worry. Giving it all to God does not mean our problems will go away. But, it does mean that when we are faced with a dilemma we can face it with God’s strength and hope.

This weekend as you celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, will you take some time to reflect on what it means to give it all to God? As you express your gratitude to Him for the blessings in your life, will you also reflect on your challenges? Will you ask yourself how can they play out differently if you give them over to Jesus? Will you trust Him to give you strength and hope as together you face your challenges?Take a few seconds to talk with God maybe sharing these words, “I give it all to you, help me give it all to you”.

Giving it all requires a change of mindset which places trust in God for everything. Life with Jesus can be so different when you trust that He wants to help us live life to the full (John 10:10).

Desperate for God

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”   Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

Years ago, I found myself becoming an advocate for prayer. I defended, promoted and encouraged others to pray. I chose this path not because I felt I possessed some new wisdom that needed to be shared. I noticed as I prayeda change was coming over me. Before I truly understood the value of prayer I found I was desperate for God and sensed prayer was the gateway to Him. I wasn’t hoping to acquire His presence in my life because I already believed that God was always with me and the that Holy Spirit accompanied me everywhere I went. I knew He already existed in my life and this desperate need for Him flowed from already having a relationship with Him, but I wanted more.

God didn’t need my endorsement of prayer. His Word contains the names and stories of many who were affected because they spoke and listened to Him. God knew prayer would strengthen the bond between Him and His creation and He had been waiting for meand is waiting for you, to realize this. As my Father, He wanted to listen to me and as His child, He wanted me to listen for Him. I use todo a lot of talking to God but very little listening. I somehow developed a one-sided relationship where I offered Him ideas on how He could help me. I had been praying hoping to get Him to align withmy thinking. I also felt, that in return, I needed to show Him my gratitude by engaging in activities I felt would please Him; activities that unfortunately I felt He’d buy into because I thought they were needed. God has prepared good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) and these activities were good and in my eyes were God ordained. But as I was growing desperate, I began to wonder if I was doing things that made me feel good and passing it off as God’s work.

What’s the difference? Sometimes we engage in conversation about our choices under the guise of seeking guidance when in fact, we don’t want to hear what is being said. We really want that person listening to us to corroborate our choice. Many do this with God. Many think they have accepted God’s call to join Him but often feel ineffective and don’t know why. Is it because we sometimes pick and choosewhere we want to serve and then talk to God as it were His idea? Or maybe we even put off any service until we feel we are ready, again, telling God that when we get our act together, we’ll join Him.

Followers of Christ are called to take the Gospel to the world. We can do this as missionaries on foreign soils, as pastors or priests, as Sunday school teachers or members or praise teams. Many forget that ALL are called. Even those with families and friends and workcolleagues can be on mission with God and can bring the light of truth as they venture into the world every day. I accepted the call but forgot it was His mission I was on and not the other way around, God being on mission with me. I prayed so I’d have the strengthforgetting my strength would come from my relationship with God who would invite and empower me to do His will.

Are you desperate for more of God? Do you talk toHim about His mission to bring the truth to the world? Do you try to listen and respond? This month’s prayer Shield could help stimulate your relationship with God. As you speak to Him about His people, His mission, and His love for the military, enter this conversation trusting He is just as concerned about your relationship with Him as He is with those who don’t know Him.Enter believing He wants a Father/child relationship for both of you and that prayer is a catalyst to a strong bond. Focus on God as He focuses on you and become desperate for more. Pray seeking God’s will for our military family, not just your desires for them, and then listen to what He is telling you.

Know your weakness

 “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you”. James 4:7b – 8 a. NIV

C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, returned to his faith while listening to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, talk about his faith. Both had been in the military and witnessed some horrible conditions and saw friends die. There is no doubt their military experiences gave them insight into both the ugliness and the beauty of humanity. Both felt society’s corruption was being brought about by those seeking power, yet both had hope and faith in God’s purpose for humanity.

At the onset of the early church, Jesus’ brother James became a leader who was respected for the advice he offered and the wisdom he possessed. He sent letters to the growing Christian communities outside Jerusalem, giving spiritual advice and guidance. James had witnessed the miracles of Jesus, including the casting out of demons. He knew how Satan could deceive and destroy a person, and so he offered believers the truth recorded in James 4, the need to resist Satan by pursuing God. Since his conversation with Eve, Satan has actively been at work doing what he does best, trying to deceive and destroy.  He is real and is out to destroy us and our faith and our relationship with God.

Lewis’s other famous book, The Screwtape Letters, was said to have been inspired by his reaction to a 1940 speech made by Adolf Hitler. He thought about how good people, with a love for life, could be tempted by the promises of a deceiver. His book shares thoughts on the psychology of temptation through fictional accounts of conversations between a senior demon and a trainee. It shares how demons exploit the weaknesses in people so as to get them to make poor, destructive choices. It also correctly identifies the weakness of Satan. He can only tempt us and can’t impose his will on us. Satan is not omnipresent nor can read our minds. He is a created being with limitations and he can be resisted. However, he and his minions know our weakness through observation and they exploit them. Our behaviour, body language and even conversations help them develop their strategy to use our weakness against us.

James tells us to resist Satan and seek God. Our pastors, priests and Sunday school teachers have advised us to memorize and meditate on God’s Word, so we can use them as weapons of resistance. Maybe part of our resistance plan also requires us to conduct a self-examination of our weaknesses. It can help us recognize how they often lead us to do or say something we know we should not.

Do you have a desire to spend alone time with Jesus in prayer or by reading the Word but, as soon as you try to settle down, your mind wanders or you can’t get physically comfortable? Have you ever noticed that many temptations seem to just come out of nowhere? Everything is going well, and suddenly you’re faced with an incredibly tough temptation to sin. That’s because Satan is an opportunist. He knows our strengths and weaknesses and knows exactly where to hit us and the kind of evil suggestions that will tempt us most.  Do you think a weakness of yours is being exploited? For example, are you driven by perfection such that you pursue it at all costs including working late every night, missing out on family, leisure, or time with God?

The evil one has observed what drives us and exploits it. We must be on guard and have a response to fight. We all have a weakness and should become aware of it so that we can respond to attempts of exploitation and temptation. Satan knows our strengths and weaknesses; do you know yours? Resist the devil and he will flee.

Spiritual Journey

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

The passenger in a car will often see the road differently from the driver. They turn their head to examine whatever catches their eye whereas the driver should only dart their head side-to-side, but focusing on what is ahead. After several months of being unable to drive my car, this weekend I was behind the wheel. When I came to my first intersection I quickly realized I had to adjust my mindset from passenger to driver. I was not attentive to the car coming from my right and had to brake quickly. After that little wake-up call, I did better as I became the driver engaged in what I was doing.

Driving can be compared to a spiritual journey. As the driver on this journey we can influence our forward movement, as a passenger we can become distracted by what is all around us and not really contribute to reaching our destination. Although we must be mindful of what is behind us, we should not let that stop us from reaching our destination.  We are not in a race, but our efforts should be leading us to God. We do need to stop from time to time to refresh ourselves, see where we are, and engage those we encounter. While on our spiritual journey we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit as our guide. While on our journey we need protection from what is ahead of us and assistance to resist what is behind. Our windshield and rear-view mirror acts as our protection. Using them as an analogy for the Holy Spirit, we can see the role He plays as we seek God. Our windshield protects us from stones, bugs and whatever else is flying towards us all the while allowing us to see large obstacles far enough in advance to allow us to avoid them. When we accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit becomes our protector and guards us as we move towards the Kingdom. He warns us of the obstacles that can take us off the path; obstacles that exist to help us grow in confidence and learn to address and avoid in the future. Part of the driving experience requires the proper use of the rear-view mirror. It is purposely smaller so as not to distract us from our forward movement. It does alert us to possible dangers, such as potential rear end collisions. However, we must not focus too much on our rear-view mirror as we drive forward and similarity, we must not focus on our past mistakes or sins as we grow in relationship with God. We are all sinners and when we ask, God forgives and then forgets our sins.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us resist revisiting the forgiven past, so we can move towards God. Satan loves to remind us of our past failures and will use them to stop us. However, it is good to remember that when we look in the rear-view mirror we see a small image that moves further and further away. As we draw nearer to God, our past sins should be moving further and further away from our thoughts and should not distract us.

We need to stop behaving like passengers staring at the world moving past us and get behind the wheel to take control. We must be willing to face the world with Jesus’ truths which means leaving the comfort of the passenger seat, so we can drive to what God is placing before us. We have the Spirit of Truth who sees to our future and helps us overcome our past, so our minds can focus on our journey with God.

Anytime, anywhere.

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” Acts 17:27

Have you ever prepared yourself to spend time with God and found that within minutes of settling down your mind turned to other things? You have your favourite chair, a Bible, high-lighter, a special pen and notebook, and you even have a cup of something hot to sip on. You feel you’ve done all you thought necessary to prepare yourself for some alone time with God, then you begin and your mind wanders. You start to think about things you have to do, or you become restless as your comfy chair is no longer comfortable. This confuses and possibly frustrates you. You know it is important to be with God, but you can’t seem to do it. During small group you’ve heard friends share how God has affected their lives or how they’ve heard from Him and you say to yourself, “I don’t know if God ever talked with me like He does with them”, or, “if He does, I don’t know if I hear Him”.  We compare ourselves to others who seem to be having an amazing life of prayer and might even begin to wonder if we are praying the right way. We can feel very lonely when we sense we are missing out on this prayer bond with God.

Slowing down and remaining focused is difficult for many yet, people can do it. Who has, or who knows someone who has binge-watched something on Netflix? Even after watching a series for several hours, the choice to hit CONTINUE when asked, “do you still want to continue watching a certain series” is easy. So why do people find prayer hard? Maybe we need to focus less on doing prayer correctly? Maybe some of us need to exam the self-imposed rules we have established to pray and get rid of some. Rules such as: must get up at 5:00 AM; always have a bible and paper handy or always ensure isolation from others. Be assured, God does not speak to us because of the routines we follow to set aside quiet time (Luke 11: 37-52). He listens and connects when we are receptive to Him. He’d prefer we connect with Him more often than we do and in the places we frequent every day such as our workplaces, classrooms, grocery stores, or even our homes. He is everywhere showing off His wonder and glory and He wants us to recognize Him and praise Him and bring Him to the attention of others. He wants us seeking Him during our waking hours and to respond when we recognize His presence. He loves it when we acknowledge Him and offer prayers of gratitude throughout the day. He knows that when we learn to walk with Him daily it will also teach us to sit with Him.

Don’t misunderstand this message. God loves the alone time with us but if it’s a struggle, we must rethink why and how we are doing it. It is important to set aside intentional time to be with God and for many, this takes determined practice to get into this habit. It’s important to engage in other spiritual practices and use aides or electronic tools designed to help us connect with God. We shouldn’t abandon the routines we have set in place to connect with God, but if we recognize they are ineffective, we should rethink how we seek to connect with God. We should try to connect more than just once a day or once a week. God is omnipresent (everywhere) and available to us 24/7 and if we can recognize and acknowledge this truth we can connect with Him in ways we had not imagined.

Our preference would be for God to show Himself every time we prayed so we could see Him, hear Him, and understand what He is telling us. It would make praying easier. However, that is not exactly how it works. Paul told us, about God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature would be clearly seen, understood, so that people would be without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NIV. He is near us, but many are not in the habit of looking for Him throughout the day. Seek Him everywhere you go, acknowledge what He does, and remember what you have seen. Start doing this and you will find your time with God changing and you will even be able to get back to spending that focused alone time with Him.

(Idea for message borrowed from Pastor Koch of Ransom Church South Dakota)