Troubled world

“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


How was your week? Was it going well until you read the news headlines that pointed out the many troubles of this world? Were you worried about the cat and mouse game played by two superpowers playing, “intercepting aircraft”? Did a leader’s threats to economically punish an already economical unstable country cause you to wonder, “Will we be next”? Did you have to speak to your child or grandchild about being rude to their friends only to read, that some world leaders thrive on this behaviour? It is very possible that this week you had wondered, “could the world get any worse?”.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 16, we can find the conversation Jesus had with his disciple concerning the future. He knew that within a few days he would be arrested and crucified and wanted to forewarn and prepare them for that event. He told them things would get worse and so, be prepared. Those listening could not help but wonder, “how could it get worse”? They were already living in troubled times under Roman occupation. There were groups trying to overthrow or disrupt the Romans who retaliated in a brutal fashion and no Jew was exempt from their wrath. All knew of the areas in the region where you could walk roads lined with their countrymen hanging from crosses. They were heavily taxed, and economic relief was only a dream. People worked long days without getting ahead and if they dared venture out at night, there were bandits waiting to beat and rob them. As the disciples listened to Jesus suggesting it will get even worse, it must have been difficult to imagine as they already thought life was as bad as it could get.

Many woke today feeling that the world is rapidly spinning out of control and we are helpless to do anything about it but try to survive. It is easy to give up, hide and fear the world we live in. But Jesus said He came not to condemn us or judge us but give us life to the full. He said He can make it better no matter what is happening around us. When he told his disciples about the troubling changes He also offered them hope. The hope that He will keep His promises, including sending a comforter to help us overcome the anxiety and anger associated with the ugliness of the world. The hope that Jesus offers us peace when we gather on Sunday mornings and sing songs that praise Him and when we sit broken hearted by the bedside of an ill relative. He encourages us to accept His offer and to share that hope with others by telling them about our story with Jesus.


The Apostle Paul tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippian 4:6-7.


Jesus ended His conversation that night in prayer. He prayed for the events about to unfold in His life. He prayed for the future of the disciples and He prayed for us, those who will believe without seeing. He clearly sent a message that there is power and comfort in prayer and when we are facing our troubles, we should settle ourselves in prayer.

Despite the trouble people encountered during Jesus’ life, they still found comfort in worshipping God and participating in temple life. That is where our comfort lies, gathering together to worship God, being in fellowship with other believers, taking time to acknowledge God each day and spending time in prayer for each other. Don’t let the troubles of this world rule you but let the Saviour of the world comfort you.

Fig Leaf

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so, they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” Genesis 3:7


Our problem with self-esteem began in the garden immediately following Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the fruit contrary to God’s instructions. Prior to this incident Genesis 2:25 tells us that “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame”. However, as soon as they sinned they were overcome by their insecurities and dressed in fig leaves thinking they could hide their disgrace behind these leaves.

Today, we live in a world where image is pushed as being important. Not only is people’s physical appearance valued but so is worth to the world. It is suggested we must drive the correct car, live in the proper neighbourhood, have a prestigious job, have a trophy wife or husband, and possess all the entertainment toys necessary to show the world we are happy. The pursuit of the world’s image destroys communities, families, and individuals. People struggle to be satisfied with what they have because they are made to feel they deserve more. As such, mental health, financial, and health problems are on the rise.  People try to face the world with a fig leave on in the hope of hiding their secrets. They try to hide that they are constantly angry, have an addiction, are jealous of other’s lifestyles, or maybe have a problem with pornography. They put on an image they think is protected by that fig leaf and play a game where they pretend to be someone else even knowing that their secrets may be destroying their families, their relationships with others, and their mental health.

God helped Adam and Eve with their fig leaf issue and clothed them, protecting them before sending them into the world (Genesis 3:21). He did not give us clothing as an adornment to feed our human vanity and frivolity. He dressed us out of love because he knew our vanities and insecurities would overtake us. He dressed us in protective clothing to remind us that He knows all about us and wants to be there for us. He gave us access to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so we could talk with them about our fig leaf issues. And, God also gave us each other and reminded us that we should take our insecurities to one another, so we can defeat its negative hold on us. There is great healing value in speaking with someone else who can help you remove your fig leaf so the real you can face the world.

Adam did not spend time in the garden lifting rocks and logs so as to impress Eve with his muscular body and Eve did not think about enhancing her image with high heels, tight leggings or makeup. They were created to be content about who they were to themselves, to others and to God. God blessed us with individual personalities, characteristics, gifts and talents so that we can contribute to the world around us and be a blessing to others. Set aside your fig leaf and be whom God created you to be. “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you” (1 Peter 5:6-11 Message translation)

Just Pray

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;”    Isaiah 55:6


We are drawn towards God because, when He created us He implanted His characteristics in us. Although the sin in the garden destroyed our perfect relationship with Him, it did not remove God from our minds. Since the beginning of recorded time humanity has prayed to God. There are at least 650 recorded prayers in the Bible. People spoke to God about their circumstances, their relationships, and their desires. The content of many of those prayers are somewhat similar but all share a common feature; humanity seeking assurance from God that He is there listening to them.

We all know that when we want a relationship with someone, whether for casual friendship or something deeper, we must find a way to acknowledge them. Prayer is an important part of our relationship with God. It has been the primary way we acknowledge God. People struggle with prayer because of their expectations. They treat God as a magic genie to whom they go to with their wishes. They become discouraged because they don’t seem to get the answers they were looking for. Many pray but few listen.

In the 1944 classical movie “To have and have not”, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall are the main characters who are going through their own life struggles but at the same time developing a relationship with each other. Both are trying to act cool and indifferent towards each other while at the same time they want a relationship. In one scene Lauren, for no reason, kisses tough guy Humphrey and he pretends to be shocked and asks why she did that. As she leaves the room she says to him “You know, you don’t have to act with me. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow.” She was telling him to let their relationship fall out naturally and don’t try any gimmick or anything else to impress me. Just be present and from time to time acknowledge me.

We should want more than what Bogart and Bacall seeking of each other. We should want a deep, ongoing connection to the God of the universe so that we can get back to how it was when He created us. We pray based on how God designed us to communicate. We don’t have to pretend with Him, and we don’t have to try to do or say anything special to try to impress Him – we just have to open our lips and talk.

Heart of Wisdom

 

Psalm 90 is about time, and more importantly, it is about what we need to do with our time. In the Psalm, we are reminded of God’s eternal existence and our seemingly insignificant blip on His timeline. No time management course will change reality. In verse 2 it states, “Before the mountains were born, or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God”. The descriptive names of God used throughout Psalm 90 include the concepts of God being eternal, almighty, and great. The writer describes man’s existence to grass growing in the desert. The early reader of this Psalm knew that in one day, from dawn to dusk, grass could bloom, grow and wither. The message is clear that our time, in relation to God’s time, is short; seventy or maybe 80 years at most and unfortunately, many spend those years worrying about the next day.

We can’t control time because we don’t really know how much time we have left. We are in control of nothing and we need to ask God to teach us how to use time wisely. God is in control of time, and so we need to ask Him to teach us how to properly apply the time that we have so as to gain an understanding of His wisdom. The wisdom that He has chosen to share with us through His word. The wisdom revealed to us when we study the knowledge that is found in the bible. We know that before we were born, before Adam and Eve fell, and before the earth was formed, God was and so was the Word. And, the wisdom of the Word is: when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s plan will be realized, and we will share days eternal with God Almighty.

In Luke 12 Jesus tells the parable of the foolish rich man who put a plan into action to gain more wealth for his future. The man tears down what he already has built, so he can rebuild to get more. Jesus reminds us in this story that the problem with trying to plan our time that it is not ours to plan. When we tear down the barns we already own, to follow a plan focused on building some legacy to God, we forget we do this on gifted time.


The problem with thinking that we can control time is, we get into a habit of thinking we will always have more. 


We do not use our days wisely because “we think we have tomorrow”. We’d rather watch a ball game than read our bible or pray because “we think we’ll do those things tomorrow”. We don’t spend time with our family because “we think we have tomorrow”. We try to remain part of the world and enjoy it as long as we can because “we think we can join God’s world tomorrow”. We put off giving all to Christ today because “we think we can keep some control now and give the rest tomorrow”. Some put off repenting and accepting the Lord today because “they think they will have more tomorrows to change”.

James 4:14 says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”.

Before time is up, look up and ask God “teach me O God to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom”.

Walking daily with God

When we chose to be a follower of Jesus we did so because God woke us to His presence. When Jesus invited the Apostles and others to follow Him, most had already known about God. They went to the temple, heard scripture, read and participated in the religious ceremonies. They, however, did not know Jesus or what he was going to share.


When each was chosen Jesus did not say “Look into my eye, look deeper … when I snap my finger you will understand, have faith and wisdom”.
No! He said: “follow me” and they did.


For three years many walked with Jesus daily, listened to Him talk about God, heard Him read scripture and explain it, watched Him perform miracles, and saw how he interacted with all parts of society, including the disenfranchised and the sinner. The daily life of Jesus’ initial followers involved a lot of listening, watching and doing and that has not changed for present-day followers.

Just because we made a declaration that Jesus will be our Lord and we want to follow Him, does not mean our lives will be different. Just like the apostles, we need to learn what Jesus said and apply it to our own lives. We need to learn to live a similar life to the apostles and the early church and those we can recognize as true followers. We need to incorporate Jesus’ teaching into our daily life.

The prophet Micah made a very simple statement about God’s behavioural expectation to the Kings of Israel and the King of Judah. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8b NIV). The people of his time were living terrible lives, ignoring God and making choices that took them further and further away from God. Despite being familiar with God’s expectations, even before Micah arrived on the scene, they had become self-focused, and the rulers were evil and cruel to their own people. They chose not to live with God daily. Micah warned them they would be punished and in fact, he was around to see and record the destruction of Judah and Israel. Micah promised that they would be saved if they changed their ways because God does not abandon us.


How may we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?
Consider adopting these tips:

  1. Read your Bible daily. Do not be content to skim through a chapter merely to satisfy your conscience. Hide the Word of God in your heart. It comforts, guides, corrects, encourages – all we need is there.
  2. Learn the secret of prayer. Prayer is communicating. Every prayer that you pray will be answered. Sometimes that answer may be “Yes” and sometimes “No”, and sometimes it is “Wait”, but nevertheless it will be answered.
  3. Rely constantly on the Holy Spirit. We know that the Holy Spirit prays for us (Romans 8), and what a comfort that should be to the weakest of us. Stand aside and let Him take over all the choices and decisions of your life.
  4. Attend church regularly. The visible church is Christ’s organization upon the earth. Christians need one another, we need to gather together to worship God and nothing can take the place of church attendance.
  5. Be a witnessing Christian. We witness in two ways: by life and by word – and the two, where possible, should go hand in hand.
  6. Let love be the ruling principle of your life. Jesus said to those who followed Him, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). The greatest demonstration of the fact that we are Christians is that we love one another.
  7. Be an obedient Christian. Let Christ have first place in all the choices of your life.
  8. Learn how to meet temptation. Temptation is not sin. It is yielding that is sin. Let Christ through the Holy Spirit do the fighting for you.
  9. Be a wholesome Christian. Our lives and appearance should commend the Gospel and make it attractive to others.
  10. Live above your circumstances. Don’t let your circumstances get you down. Learn to live graciously within them, realizing the Lord Himself is with you.

Why did God create us?

Why did God create us? This is a question that many have been discussing for centuries and you may have even asked it yourself. We have heard God created us for His glory, to have people to love, to demonstrate His greatness, and so on. These are all certainly true, but have you thought God may have also created us for fellowship.


“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NASB). 


In Greek, the word “fellowship” is koinonia. It is also translated as “communion.” God wants to have an intimate communion, a close fellowship with us. Remember the garden of Adam and Eve and when they sinned? Who hid themselves? Adam and Eve. Who went looking for who? It was God looking for them. After the expulsion from the garden, after the flood, and at the time of the Exodus, God says to the people, “And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” Again, who is seeking to dwell with who? It is God seeking man. John 1:1, 14 shares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word “dwelt” is the Greek skano-o and it also means to tabernacle, to tent, to dwell among. Again, it is the Lord who is seeking us, who is dwelling among us. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), and this signifies that the Lord is in us and with us.

This simply tells us that God is a God of fellowship, that He desires to have people to be with and to love. God is love (1 John 4:8), and the nature of love is to give (John 3:16). God desires that we have an intimate relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus.

Do you have that intimacy with Jesus? Do you spend time with Him talking to Him? Do you seek the relationship and fellowship with God that He desires and has shown throughout history, especially on the cross?

Seek Jesus. Have fellowship with Him. It is what God wants.

Live NOW!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16


“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12



Do you remember being in the kitchen when your mother baked a cake? You watched as she carefully added the ingredients into a bowl and then stirred them with a whisk, or electric mixer, or depending on your age, a wooden spoon. She may let you grease the pan or ensure the oven was on, and you were eager to do so because you wanted to help get that cake in the oven as soon as possible. When the cake was baking the smell would waft throughout the house playing with your senses teasing and creating anticipation of what is to come.

God offers something wonderful for those who choose to be true disciples of Christ. A true disciple is one who believes in Jesus teachings and seeks to learn more about them and apply them to their life. They want to know Jesus through a relationship with Him and they desire to tell others about Him. The reward for those true disciples is adoption into God’s family and eternity with Him. There will be a time when God will bring about the new heaven and new earth. Until then, His children eagerly anticipate the return of Jesus but not without tasting and experiencing some of the good He has to offer. Jesus spoke of a time to come when all of creation would be reconciled to God and brought back to the state God intended. However, He also said we can experience a taste of the Kingdom to come now. We are offered the joys of a relationship with Jesus and the power and wisdom to live out every day with hope on this sometimes, troublesome planet. He says we can be changed and experience fruit from our relationship which comes in the form of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

While the cake was baking you were often given the chance to taste something good while waiting for something even better. There were the spoons or beaters to lick for those who choose to stay beside their mother, listen and learn from her instruction and help prepare the cake. God offers something now while we await eternity and He wants you to have and recognize His grace and blessings daily while you wait for eternity’s call.

Walk to the Cross – Holy Week devotionals

All four Gospels provide accounts of the activities that occurred during the week leading up to crucifixion, death and resurrection. The daily devotionals below try to capture the week based on scripture and traditional understanding of events. Some events may not have occurred on the date we identify but every event noted occurred during the final week. Please don’t let the date distract you from the purpose of this walk with Jesus.

May we boldly say that these devotionals may be worth sharing with family and friends. They offer some insight into the final week of Jesus’s earthly ministry.

Walk to the cross – HOLY WEEK

Back to the garden

“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23


Do you sometimes think about our expulsion from the garden and wonder if we got off lighter than we should have? We had it all but that apparently was not enough, and we ended up breaking the first ever “Do Not Touch” rule. This act of disobedience resulted in God removing us from the garden but, He did not remove us from existence. He did not erase us from the earth nor did he add an obedience upgrade to our nature. We remain version 1.0 created in His image. In spite of His disappointment, He showed love and still wants to bring us back to the place where we will have all we need for all of eternity.

God had given Adam the garden rules, including the one about avoiding the tree of knowledge. Adam shared his knowledge with Eve but didn’t seem to emphasize God’s direction well enough. That fateful day probably started out like any other. Adam and Eve went for a stroll, and Adam, like all the men that followed him, probably didn’t take the time to ask directions to where they were going.  Before they knew it they were looking up at the tree they were told to avoid. Had they intentionally been drawn to this place because the fruit was good for food and looked appealing to the eye? No matter their initial reason for going towards the tree, they found themselves looking at it and, they were not alone. Satan was lurking about ready to take advantage of the situation?

That walk had eternal consequences including the introduction of the blame game. Satan tempted Eve to eat, and as she reached up to take the forbidden fruit, Adam stood by saying nothing. After she took the initial bite, Adam also took one and all hell literally broke loose. Making mistakes and pointing fingers started in the garden and flourishes today. When caught Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed Satan but God knew they were both at fault. God knew temptation to be a human shortfall, but He did not abandon us. Even as he was chastising us at the garden gate, He revealed His plan to reconcile our relationship with Him. He spoke of a future heir that would correct the wrongs. He handled the situation as the loving Father we know Him to be.

The garden was a taste of what God had in store for us in eternity. At the garden God showed that disobedience must be addressed, blame is irrelevant and that only by His grace will we have another chance. He also pointed out that no matter what path we take or how disobedient we become, He will meet us wherever we end up and will offer reconciliation. In His Word, we learn that the One who spoke the universe into existence wants to speak with us. He freely offers eternity and allows us to accept or reject it.

In the garden God did not hide his intent or expectations; He told Adam, “disobey and you will die”. He tells us that if we choose other than Him, we will be separated from Him for all eternity. God wants us to recognize that we all have sinned. He wants us to accept responsibility for our actions and to ask Him to forgive us for our transgressions. He also wants us to recognize and believe that He sent and allowed the blameless one, Jesus, to die so that we could get back on the path to heaven.

God reveals the truth, helps us understand that truth, and while we have breath in our lungs, He longs for us to accept that truth. As Easter approaches and you look toward the tree where God’s reconciliation hung, have you reached up and accepted the real source of life eternal? Have you accepted God’s truth, Jesus? If not, ask God now and you will receive it. Do you know someone who has not accepted the truth? Pray now for their salvation and seek them out to share God’s intent for their life.

Back to the Basics – Part IV

Pray the gift of a blessing



As we enter the month when the life, crucifixion, resurrection, assertion and promise of Jesus’ return is celebrated we can pray that our families find the true meaning of Easter. This month use this simple guide to pray blessings over someone who does not know Jesus as Lord. Trust God to reveal Himself to them.

Here is a link for: PRAYER TIPS PART IV for you to consider.