Is everything distorted?

“I will go before thee, and make crooked places straight” Isaiah 45:2a (NKJV)

Have you ever looked through a window after it has been splashed by rain or even some kind of dirty water? What you see as you look through the window is a twisted distorted form. You know what you are looking at isn’t distorted; it is the wet window that is responsible for the distortion.

Fear twists and distorts. Fear can grip us, choke all faith out of our hearts. Fear has a way of tying our stomachs up in knots, paralyzing our thinking, inducing panic.

The individual who is fearful, afraid, angry, depressed or lives in any negative state whatsoever doesn’t understand that he or she is looking at the world through something that distorts the world around them. They are looking at the world through their distorted nature that began in the garden and has been shaped by centuries of experiences that didn’t put the love of others first. Sadly, many are captive to negative states and can’t see what we are supposed to see. They do not see God’s creation as He intended it to be. They don’t see others as God created us to be. They don’t see themselves as they were designed to be.

God did not create us to walk around with a distorted view of His creation. Christmas reminded those who believe, Jesus brought news of the possibility of hope, love, joy and peace so that we don’t see the world through fallen eyes.

We are reminded that without the grace of God we are completely unable to choose by ourselves to follow Him.

We are reminded that we can’t refrain from sin or accept the gift of salvation without God’s grace.

We are reminded that the truth and the light are words associated with a divine intelligence that created us and loves us; the truth and light say: “He will go before us and make the crooked places straight” (Isaiah 45:2).

Because of our relationship with God we don’t need to fear anything. This is not positive thinking as our hope is not putting away negative thoughts. Instead, our confidence and hope rest in the power of God Almighty.

Sadly, many see the world with a corrupted vision that is responding to a world view or even their expectations. They look at the world and believe it is as it is supposed to be and, as long as they can’t separate themselves from that thought, they will never be able to realize the purpose of their existence. Some can’t see the world as God intended, despite the desire in their heart to connect with God. Maybe they are trying too hard with their efforts, possibly thinking that if they do certain activities, the distorted view of the life around them will be removed.

However, only God can open up eyes to His world. He invites us to believe that He is with us and is part of our daily life. He invites us to acknowledge His existence throughout the day, not just in morning prayer or evening prayer but everywhere we go and in everything we do. When we can believe He is in the world, we will begin to see the world around us through His eyes.

Here is a challenge for you this week – throughout your day stop and have a short conversation with God saying, “thank you for loving me and being with me today.”  When you begin to acknowledge and look for Jesus’ presence during your day, He will remove the distortion. His truth will go before you to help you reconcile what you see. He will break your heart for your community and change you to become a new, changed person who wants to share Jesus’ truth and promises. Seek, acknowledge and give thanks.

Change is POSSIBLE!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Do you want to be the kind of a man or woman who doesn’t cause themselves or others pain and who doesn’t create problems for themselves or others? Do you want to be that new creation promised to those who believe Jesus’ truths are the way to a changed life?

Change is possible. However, there is good news and bad news.

The good news, you can start over and become the man or woman God created you to be. The bad news,  something is required of you. This is bad news because many would prefer to pay someone a lot of money to fix them emotionally, physically and even spiritually. However, this quick fix often does not work out. They fall back into their old patterns because they did not address the PERSON inside them, sabotaging their efforts to become the PERSON they want to be.

People spend a lifetime developing behavioural patterns that have become their nature, their automatic responses to the life they face each day. Sometimes these responses are unkind and hurtful to others or even self-destructive. Too often, people don’t realize what is happening. There is a force within them with no compassion, love, or concern about where its response will take the person. It interferes with the person’s desire to be the person they want to be.  This nature is influenced by the philosophies, the politics, the wealth, and the selfishness of the materialistic world. If that nature has become negative where anger, fear, jealousy, and so on are the factors that prompt choices, we can’t become a new creation.

We can’t become new unless we realize those negative choices are not acceptable. We can stop our negative responses only if we recognize the need to change the old ways. What happens when someone makes you mad? What happens when someone says something to you in a tone that sets your emotion rolling.  What happens when you are alone, and you have a thought that starts to tear you down? It suggests you are not good enough; you need to address this task right now or, it’s better to stay in bed and forget about your problems. These responses are destructive, and may God have mercy on anyone who gets in your path when these responses boil over.

Starting a new life begins when we recognize we have developed behavioural patterns that caused us to do things we did not want to do. Creating a new life begins when we realize we are tired of being afraid, tired of being angry, and tired of being dependent on substances to get us through our day. The new creation begins when we stop wishing we would change while engaging in the patterns that ensure they will not change.

Starting a new life begins when we recognize the need to call on God’s great wisdom to face things, we never dreamed of facing.

Do you want to be the man or woman whose moral values are not compromised when you enter the world around you? We are invited to call on the one who created us to be something very different from who we are today; who said it was good when He created us and created us to live in harmony with who we are, who others are, and who He is.

Change is possible, but we need to recognize what sabotages our efforts to be men or women God designed us to be and then stop them. Put away the old and accept the new.

More is possible

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
John 10:10b NASB

Do you remember the circumstance surrounding your decision to become a follower of Christ? Someone may have shared scripture (probably John 3:16) and talked about eternal damnation versus eternal joy. They may have spoken about your sinful nature and God’s redemptive character. You may have then been guided to say a prayer inviting Jesus to be part of your life. Was there a sense of awe, excitement, or peace? Was there an expectation that life would be different? Did you wonder what the next steps would be?

During your new life as a follower of Christ, have you experienced a sense of completeness, where you have felt God’s presence? It may have materialized as a wonderful feeling that made you sense contentment and love. It pushed everything around you away except for the assurance God loves you. Sadly, this experience doesn’t seem to last long for many, making them wonder if we are only allowed to feel God’s glory in bits and bytes. Some people, while trying to recreate that alive feeling, forget what God offers and fall into the trap of trying to evoke God’s presence by acts and words. They replace God’s invite to believe, with the idea God wants us to behave. They develop routines and practices trying to become righteous thinking that is what will validate their ticket to heaven. However, in trying to make God come to them, they become tired and confused as if they were continually treading water.

Jesus invites us to stand above the water
so we can see the world through His eyes.

When we get tired or our burdens seem too heavy, He offers to take up our load. He didn’t say do this or do that, and life will get better. He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Not only did Jesus come to save us from eternal separation from God, but, He also came so we could have a full life, a life where we could live each day knowing we are loved and blessed by the Creator of the universe.

Sadly, too many followers only stop occasionally to be refreshed and renewed while on their journey. They forget to daily ask God to fill them with His presence and end up living two unfulfilled lives where one foot is in the kingdom on Sundays and one foot in the world all other times.  

The secularization of our thinking causes many to question God’s truths and promise. Instead of accepting and believing, they challenge God’s motivation. I advocate reading and studying scripture, and I also support meditating and praying about what God is saying to us in scripture and life. Instead of worrying about what you must do to please God, accept that He is pleased, and that is why He choose you to follow Him. Then focus on how He seeks to please you. He wants to fill you with His presence. He wants you to have the joy, the peace He offers. He wants you to know that your relationship with Him is crucial and that everything else flows from it.

Will you talk with God about your relationship with Him?
There are no exercises, exams or Ten Step programs to help with this relationship, only direct communication. Talk with God in your own words and tell Him what you desire in your relationship. Talk about those moments where all felt right with God and ask Him for more of that connection.
Do you think you can take some time each day to reflect on what it means to be in God’s presence?
Can you find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed and talk with God about wanting more of Him, about needing help with your faith?

When you seek to understand your relationship with Jesus Nicole, you will be transformed, your faith will grow, and you will sense more of Him.

Finding ways to connect with God

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,

“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them,

“When you pray, say ….” Luke 11:1-2

When I want to express myself to God through prayer, I at times struggle to say what I feel. I become focused on the idea that my words are inadequate and feel guilty of babbling. This is far from reality because when we pray and struggle with our words, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Prayer is a worship practice we want to partake in and so, like Jesus’ disciples, we look for help.
A few years ago, I attended a Christmas Eve service where we read from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). I noted this book contained prayers written many years ago but the book does express my feelings and thoughts towards God. Since that service, I began to read and follow the morning and evening prayer cycle found in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). I have used it, as well as other sources, as prayer guides. I continue to pray as the spirit leads, however, praying another’s words can be both humbling and satisfying.

Why would we read someone else prayers to worship God?

We have no issues worshipping God by singing songs we did not compose and so why could we not pray words written by another. We can trust that the Holy Spirit inspired the song, prayer and scripture writers and so those words can hold meaning to us and God. I attended a prayer service where a sign language specialist was interpreting the spoken work for someone in the congregation. Although I couldn’t  understand the meaning behind the gestures, I found myself staring. I noted that not only did the individual use hand gestures and body language to share what was being said, but her face was also full of expression making the words come alive. At one point, when a prayer was being read, I plugged my ears and just watched her face and body language. Incredibly I could recognize a range of emotions and could recognize the humanity behind the words being signed. She helped the hearing-impaired person fully understand the love and worship attached to the words by the way she was experiencing them through her interpretations.

I do not suggest or even advocate the idea that the only way you can pray is by using another’s words. The Book of Common Prayer is an aid to prayer just as are Psalms and scripture. I do want to share that we can consider praying using the words of our forefathers and mothers. Their prayers were spoken to God about needs, sorrows, struggles, lamentations, reverence, praise and worship, aspects of our prayer desires today.

Jesus offered His disciples words to consider using when praying. Saying another’s prayer can come across as empty. We have all attended services where people raced through prayers or scripture readings. They seem to have lost the love attached to these words and were just going through the motion of worship. No church is exempt from this type of worshipper and only the Holy Spirit can help them find a way to worship. Praying as we were taught in Sunday school is great. Praying spontaneously in response to the world around us is pleasing to God. Offering prayer for others is God’s gift to us. When we are in a relationship, we want to say the words to express our feelings. We need to find ways to connect with God and if that means offering prayers that were written by others, then maybe we could consider doing that to enhance our prayer practices.

Caught in the hustle and bustle…Don’t forget to pray

We always seem to get caught up in the hustle and bustle associated with our desire to spread good cheer during the Christmas season.
It is good to remember that our Father in heaven is waiting to hear what is on our hearts. The following tips and scripture (NASB translation) can be useful during this time to remind us why and how we can pray.

Pray Believing: Trust God to answer your prayers: “And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all” (Matthew 21:22).

Pray Constantly: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Pray for all things: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Pray Persistently– keep on praying: “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not become discouraged, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect any person. Now there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect any person, yet because this widow is bothering me, I will give her justice; otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge said; now, will God not bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day and night, and will He delay long for them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).

Pray with Humility: “And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. So, do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:5-8).

Pray in God’s Will: “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

Pray with Action: Do your part to act on your prayers: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).

Pray with Purity: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Proverbs, 15:8).

Good News

“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people,” Luke 2:10.

Christmas is a beautiful time of year. All of us (believer and non-believer) are brought face to face with God’s plan for our redemption. A King was born into this world to save the world from itself.
A king who eventually will witness every knee bow and tongue confess that He is Lord.

Christmas is about a Saviour. Our world doesn’t know. They think that Christmas is about gifts under a tree and a spirit of good cheer, with Christmas dinner and family around the table. But as good as all that may be, it isn’t nearly as good as the Real Christmas. The Real Christmas message is this: God has sent a Saviour for you. To save you and I from our sins and help us in this life, lift our burden and ease our fears. This Saviour is Christ the Lord — God himself!

The pandemic absorbs the world, and many are fearful. But fear’s hold has been broken in those of us who believe the angel’s words: “Fear not … for a Saviour is born to you — Christ the Lord!”

This December, will you take time to look around you and watch Christmas being discussed and shared. Will you not get all wound up on how people greet each other? Will you pray daily that more people will welcome Jesus into their lives. Pray the Holy Spirit moves amongst our family and friends drawing them closer to an understanding of God, so they recognize and understand why Christians celebrate this season. Don’t be a Grinch by telling people what they should be doing this season but be a spreader of glad tiding and good cheer so that people may see joy in Christmas by your actions, behaviours and words.

Through eyes of love

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”
 John 16:33

There is something special about the way many grandparents view the world, especially where grandchildren are involved.  They ignore faults and overlook shortfalls. They see something in them that many may miss. These grandparents see the world differently, not because they are naïve, but because they see these things in them with a grandparent’s love. We must view the world around us with loving eyes; otherwise, we can miss reaching out to those who need Jesus.

Have you asked God to assist you to see our world differently? The world where our family, friends, neighbours, and even strangers, we pass daily on the street live.  All of humanity is created in God’s image. But, since the first created humans started to explore God’s goodness, the evil one proudly sought to distort God’s purpose for us, and our image became corrupted. In God’s world, He wants us to leave judgement to Him and have us focus on telling our world what He has done for us. He created this world to sustain us and allows us to live in it, but He does not want to treat His creation as our realm, stepping over each other to get what we desire at the expense of another.

Satan’s forces have played havoc with this world since the garden. In 2020 we have centuries of experience passed on from generation to generation that causes us to see the world through selfish eyes. We need God’s help to see the world as He does. God does want us to look at each other with the greeting card Valentine’s Day, emotional, passionate type of love, but mostly with love based on honour and respect. If we desire to see the world as He does, we need to ask. When we ask God, He will change our prayers. We will find ourselves praying in partnership with the Holy Spirit. We will see that when we talk with God about our role in His world, He will make His purpose for our lives clearer. Nicole, next time you pray, ask God to let you see the world with “grandparent” eyes.

May God allow and help us to change.

Am I my Brother’s Keeper?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  

Genesis 4:9.

It is almost impossible not to turn on the TV or read a new paper and not hear about famous siblings. We have the “celebrity” Kardashian-Jenner sisters, Hockey had the Staal brothers, figure skating had Torvill and Dean, wrestling brought us the Hart family, and the music world introduced us to Donny and Marie Osmond – too old, how about the Jonas brothers. These siblings were often in the news because of the good things they did together, but sometimes we heard about them because of what they did to each other.

Genesis records the story of the first children born out of a human relationship. Sadly, Cane and Abel are recognized not by the fact they were the first children mentioned in the bible, but their notoriety is linked to being part of the first family tragedy. Sibling rivalry is one way in which the evil one attempts to destroy families and has played on his success since the day these brothers were together. Cain, the firstborn child, murdered his brother Abel, the second-born child and sibling jealousy has continued to this day.

Some of us have grown up in the shadow of another sibling and spent what seemed like a lifetime being compared to them and even told to be “more like them”. Whenever we are compared against one another, the evil one will use this as an opportunity to stir something up. Have you seen a family tragedy play out? It is a heartbreaking thing to watch as not only are the feuding siblings affected, so is the rest of the family. Brothers and sisters not talking to each other for years because of something probably long forgotten and not even severe enough to have been considered can deprive many relatives of a loving family relationship.

Maybe it is time we change that situation. Satan can not be allowed to have victory over families because he was defeated at the cross. We, the children of God, can claim victory over him. Today we ask that you pray for a broken sibling relationship that you know about, whether it is in your own family or is happening to a friend or colleague. Consider conflict in both biological and spiritual relationships. Ask the Holy Spirit to intervene in the lives of those in conflict and ask that He bring them together as God intended.  Lastly, thank God for your own brother or sister, and if you are an only child, thank God for the wonderful sibling relationships you know about.  Ask Him to bless and protect these relationships.

We Remember

At the 11th hour, on the 11 Day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice was signed that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World War I, bringing about peace that had not been felt for several years. Today Armistice Day is no longer about celebrating peace, but it is about remembering those who died in the conflict. On 11 November we use the name Remembrance Day and mark it with ceremonies to remember the Canadian men and women who have lost their lives in war in defence of our freedom. Since confederation approximately 111, 000 Canadian soldiers have died in wars and  many more injured. The sacrifices were not in vain and the rights they fought for are outlined in our 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedom. Because of their willingness to stand against oppression we have the freedom to pray whenever we want, read scripture, gather to worship, and tell others about Jesus. These freedoms allow us to enjoy and share the blessings God has given us.

However, since the beginning, there has been an enemy trying to destroy our freedom and the might of all the armies on the earth can never conquer it. Scripture tells us “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6: 12. Only the sacrifice of Jesus could free us from the grip of Satan’s influence over our mindset.  Jesus died to liberate everyone from the worldly or ego-based mindset that separates us from God and that affects our faith in his power and authority over the physical, emotional and financial negativity of life.

On Remembrance Day the bugle call draws people together to reflect on war sacrifices. Bugles had been part of military life and were used to signal daily events that occurred in a soldier’s life – they sounded when it was time to get up, go to bed, time to eat and so on. They were also used in battle to signal movement. Trumpets are symbols of strength in the bible and they are sounded when something significant is about to happen. The book of Revelation reminds us that Christ will return to the earth and bring about peace. We will know that He comes at the sound of the trumpet. Revelations Chapter 8-11 speaks about the 7 Trumpets that will announce the end of time. The first six trumpets are used to serve as a wakeup call to the sinners on Earth and a call to repentance. Each trumpet blast brings with it a plague of a more disastrous nature than the one before it. The seventh trumpet does not bring a plague with it. Rather, it is sounded so that glory is given to God and His kingdom is announced.

On 11 November we remember the sacrifices of those men and women who went to war so that we could have the freedoms we have today. However, their sacrifices are in vain if we do not accept the freedoms given to us by Jesus’ sacrifice. The freedom to make choices that affect our lives, the lives of our families and our community and the freedom of choice that affects our eternity. The freedoms earned by our military can be taken away from us by our government or a foreign aggressor, but the freedom Jesus gave us over sin can never be taken from us.

When you hear the bugle call this Remembrance Day, remember our fallen soldiers and the battle they fought for us. But also remember Jesus’ sacrifice grants us the freedom to choose victory over the oppressive and destructive nature of sin, freedom from falling to temptation and making poor choices that destroy families, marriages, and communities. Jesus’ sacrifice freed us for hopelessness and offered joy and peace of mind. Let’s honour the sacrifices of our military by accepting the gift of Jesus.

See the Need

The book of Acts shares a story of Peter and John’s encounter with a beggar. It reads,” One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So, the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:1-6)

Have you ever watched people approach a street beggar? Many will move to the opposite side of the sidewalk or, if they are unable to do so, will either lower their head and look at the ground or fiddle with their phone or something else to suggest they are too busy to notice someone seeking help. Have you ever wondered what the panhandler’s thoughts are when they witness this avoidance tactic? Most homeless people and street beggars are not naive about their situation. Many acknowledge that they contributed to their current situation, and none will ever say their dream was to live on the street and beg for assistance. Regardless of how they got there, their position is demoralizing and humiliating and watching people look away makes them feel like pariahs in their communities.

In the name of Jesus, Peter gave the lame man the ability to walk. He could feel like a member of society, like a human being. He could go home, face his neighbours and participate in his upkeep. Peter and John remind us that the needy are created in the image of God and are deserving of our love and respect. Peter and John stopped, looked at the individual, and talked with him. They were able to bring Jesus to another by merely acknowledging his existence. How do we respond in similar situations? How do we react or interact with someone we know who is struggling with PTSD, anxiety or depression? They often hide themselves as they try to deal with their issue alone, but how do we treat them when they venture into the community? Those who are homeless, use food banks or suffer from invisible illnesses and desire our acknowledgement, not judgment or contempt.

God created us to live in relationship with one another, but many don’t because they can’t get past outer appearances. On our street corners are visible reminders of people in need, but many are blinded to them because they choose to look the other way. Jesus taught us that we must interact with those whom society overlooks or looks down upon. Followers should decide whether they should emulate Jesus’ behaviour or look the other way. Can we offer more than silver and gold to those around us? Can we do something about those needing food and shelter? Can we help those with family troubles, invisible illnesses, or lack of hope? Can we look at and face someone who had been marginalized by society and see their need?

People need Jesus regardless of their status in society. It is easy to look at the misery in the world and ask, “why does God allow this to happen.” However, do you wonder if God asks the question, “why are we letting things happen around us when we can help?” Do you have the desire to face someone in need and say, “look at me,” and listen to them into existence?   The reality is that it is difficult and somewhat unnatural to interact with those in need, and that is why we have the Holy Spirit. He encourages and guides us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Start your day by asking God how you can bring some hope to those around you and be prepared to meet and interact with those who need Jesus.