“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)
It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that I have finished my degree. Even typing that statement feels surreal. I will be honest with you, and say that it’s terrifying to leave my safe bubble of university life to go out and be a “real adult” in the “real world”. I woke up this morning to go to work, wishing that I could be getting ready for school instead. While I classify myself as someone who thinks 10 steps ahead, I was finding myself wanting to take a couple steps back.
Graduating is scary. In the weeks since I finished my degree, I realized that school had become my safety net. Having been studying for several years, I felt comfortable going to class, working on assignments, remaining in a contained and safe “school bubble”. While my classes were challenging; school felt like a big cozy blanket. On the other hand, graduating feels like a cold winter morning when I am snuggled up under my duvet and my mom comes into my room, ripping the covers off while telling me that I need to get up and get going.
I believe that God does that sometimes; removes our comforts and pushes us into the cold world where people are waiting on us to do something because He knows that we are ready. We’ve learned enough and we are sufficiently equipped to launch. God constantly wants us to grow in order to further His Kingdom. But growing often means leaving things behind; graduating from our different “comfort zones”. A lot of the time, we want to wait until things are safe and perfect before we remove the covers. A lot of times, God does things before we feel ready. We must trust that He knows best, that His timing is best and believe that He will always walk with us.
God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. (Psalm 18:30, NLT)
I urge you to look at areas of your life and see if there are things from which you need to graduate. Maybe it’s a group of friends who bring you down instead of encouraging you. Maybe it’s a bad habit that keeps hanging on and preventing you from being all that God has called you to be – gossip, an unhealthy lifestyle, too much time on social media, excessive shopping?
Is God calling you to “graduate” into a leadership role in your church or community instead of hiding behind bad habits or behind the scenes?
God has a plan for each one of us and the “covers” we cling to may well be standing in the way of God’s plan and the future He has in store for you. What covers may God want to remove from you, and from what comfort zones do you sense you need to graduate?
When I graduated Junior High, my mom gave me a gift-book containing the story to a song, along with the CD, that is still a "go-to" song I listen to when I feel like crawling back under the covers. It's a song that many of you may know but I'd like to share it with you today in the context of this message.
I hope you dance!
By: Yelena Knight
“FATHERS & DAUGHTERS"
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV)
We are thrilled to honour the fathers in our church family with this special blog featuring answers to a series of questions we posed to one of our dad’s. As a father of a daughter (and two sons), two daughters-in-law and four granddaughters, Neil understands the father-daughter bond. Here he shares some of his insights and experiences.
Where did you get your parenting ideas from?
How unaware was I of the amazing experiences or the huge responsibility that awaited me as I held our first child for the first time! Born to Pat and me, on November 16,1983 was a beautiful and healthy baby girl, we named Noriko. Pat and I were both dentists trained at university to pursue this career however we received no formal training to be parents.
My parents were both second generation Japanese-Canadians, and raised us with a goal of providing lots of opportunities to succeed. My dad worked hard to support us and was involved in our sports activities by coaching or just being there. He was loyal to his family, didn’t verbally teach us but we learned from his example. My mom, well, she was always there meeting all our needs by her actions in a gentle way. That experience in my family was the basis of the idea that one day I wanted to get a job, get married and be a father.
Pat and I both became Christians while at dental school. For me that was in 1976 and from that moment on I became very aware that God had a plan for my life which initially confirmed I was to be a dentist. I was so relieved that I began to turn to Him for guidance on other areas of life like getting married, where to live, where to go to church, when to have kids. When Noriko came, I had already experienced a dental situation where I was afraid. I was desperate and turned to God and He was there for me. I was also involved as a leader in our church’s youth group and was becoming aware of the responsibility parents have in providing an environment where God is first. I was burdened by the desire to see our kids come to faith as I believed that a sincere faith in God would be their best chance of navigating through life successfully and making good choices.
How did you see your role as dad influence them in that regard?
Somehow, I knew that to be Noriko’s dad, I would need all the help I could get. I realized that I had to be intentional in my role as a father and found books, tapes and, courses on raising children. As well, we hung out with other families who shared our concerns. As I grew as a Christian, the Bible became central in my life and verses such as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (quoted above) and Proverbs 22:6 (NET) “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it. “had huge impacts.
I knew that if our children were to see the importance of faith, my faith had to be sincere and I had to share with them how much I needed God. I couldn’t rely on the church to do it all. I recall reading something that said something along the line of, “what you learn in the first six years of life lays a deep foundation” and I recognized that our impact, as parents was definite.
We began to have nightly devotions, we supported our kids in all their activities and with Noriko, I started to have “daddy-daughter dates”. During our family times, we talked about their behaviour, their attitudes and related them to pleasing God. Teaching about forgiveness as a life time activity was important. It was while doing this that I realized I couldn’t teach what I didn’t do myself. Hey, I wasn’t a perfect parent and at times, I had to say I was sorry and ask for their forgiveness, sometimes to a 3-year-old.
The reality is that there is a freedom in knowing what’s the right thing to do, even if it is difficult to do. There is an even greater freedom when you do it! Another reality is that your kids will eventually see what you really believe is important. It begins when they see how we are spending our time. Are we spending enough time with them?
I became very intentional about being organized so I could be home to participate in our kids’ activities and to just be there. I even sacrificed some of my own activities. Something significant happened as a result: I learned more about our kids as I observed how they responded to the situations that arose in their activities. For example, I witnessed their discovery of fairness, their fulfilment of doing something they didn’t think they could, their disappointments, giving up, selfishness, selflessness, etc.
How do you think the “father-daughter” relationship affect the daughter as she walks into adulthood?
May I share my story to help answer this question?
When Pat was pregnant with our first child, deep down I really wanted a girl and God blessed us with Noriko. She became special for many reasons as we watched her blossom. She loved being a little girl; so, dresses, dolls and, playing house were parts of her world of imagination. At the same time, she was right in the middle of a ball hockey game. She loved being the big sister to her two brothers who would do anything with her. As she grew older, she traded in her ballet costume for hockey equipment getting tired of just watching her brothers. She always had friends but her family was important. We shared special “father-daughter dates.” Somehow, I was aware when Noriko was a child that I was the first man to take her seriously and that my attention to her would someday influence who her choice of the second man would be. How I responded to situations was therefore influenced by that awareness.
Case in point: Piano practice at age 8. It was a daily struggle to encourage, push and yet know when to stop and not exasperate Noriko. I certainly didn’t have all the answers. So much seemed to depend on her mood, her state of fatigue, what else was on her mind etc. She seemed to think she was right when sometimes she wasn’t and when I corrected her she often disagreed.
As she got older she did start to grow up. At 14 she wrote me this note: “I want you to know that I am trying to accept the fact you won’t always be there for me because of baseball. I love you in spite of everything. Love Noriko ps. Please don’t coach summer baseball. HaHa”
Noriko reflected on the value of life including the people in her life; this she expressed well on Hallmark cards and I always looked forward to Father’s Day. On Father’s Day in the year she was to be married she wrote: “You were the best daddy in the world, a great friend and now tied for # 1 in important men in her life.”
I do believe how we treat our daughters influences the kind of person they look for in a husband. They want to be loved and cared for unconditionally and, to be in a secure relationship. This fact is mentioned often in some of those parenting books I used to read and those that dealt with the importance of the father–daughter relationship. As well, a healthy marriage influences the security of our daughters as they begin their own adult lives.
At some point, we have all messed up as parents. What do you say to parents who are struggling in their relationships; is there hope?
I want to emphasize that there is hope, no matter how badly we have messed up. We all have weaknesses which also show up while we parent. This lets everyone down; therefore, the challenges in parenting will give us opportunities to see something about ourselves.
To begin, harmonious relationships within a family are one of God’s richest blessings. Think about that statement. How strongly you believe that will influence how you respond to your situation. I have read this to be true from those older than me, believed it and desired it especially when we faced our challenges.
Secondly, believe God knows the situation so, cast that care upon Him because He cares about you and is waiting with open arms. (1 Peter 5:7) Acknowledge that you are helpless and need help, His help. This is a good place to start because you are also acknowledging responsibility in the relationship and that you are in part responsible for it’s present condition.
God has a plan for you as He did for me. Apologize and ask for forgiveness without expectation. This is unconditional love. Be on a journey of asking God to reveal how He wants to change you. Our personal growth gives us teaching opportunities to share how we need God to help us be better parents. Then, commit more time to your relationship so you can get to know your kids better. I understand that depending on the age and situation this can be easier or more difficult. Finally turn to a friend who shares your concern, to trusted and godly parents within your church family, or otherwise, or turn to your pastor.
Finally consider this: you are giving your daughter a process for dealing with struggles that she will face both now and in the future and perhaps even the confidence to enter one. I’d say that is a gift; don’t you?
By: Neil Fukumoto
“TAKING IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER…AT LAST”
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. (Philippians 4:6 AMP)
My first blog ever… the need to write down what was in my head and my heart came to me during one of my many sleepless nights.
As I write this, I am on a doctor’s highly-recommended sick leave for anxiety attacks and depression. It was God’s gentle nudge for me to give Him control of my life. I trusted God, or so I thought. Yet I’ve always felt that I had to be the strong person and hold everything together, or die trying. Why couldn’t I let someone else take control? Why couldn’t I let God take control? He hinted at it often enough.
I lay in bed during the night trying to count my blessings, a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) action to help me sleep. Instead I found myself counting the many “hats” I had been wearing, upwards of 17. These didn’t just include the obvious - wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, but also the causes, volunteer jobs, and worries I had taken up over the years through my inability to say no or my reluctance to hand things over to God.
Sometime ago, I recall listening to a television preacher whose motto was, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Wanting to “help” God, I took on all the causes that came my way, extra tasks at work, charity work, filling in where there were no volunteers, etc. I was always rushing in and saying, “It’s okay God, I’ll handle this. You go do what You need to do.” What audacity! What blasphemy!
In addition to all those duties, I was dealing with my husband’s illness and unemployment, a wedding, the illnesses and stresses in our family, cancer diagnosis of two friends, and the death of a close relative. It seemed to be one incident after another with the weight getting progressively heavier with each addition. Until, I couldn’t breathe and ended up in the emergency room.
It was at the bottom of this pile of “hats” that I had gotten lost. Though I knew that in my head, I had difficulty transferring it to my heart. My identity was tied to what I was doing for others at the neglect of what I needed to do for myself. I kept identifying myself by what I thought I was doing as a “good” Christian instead of being secure in God and allowing Him to lead my steps.
It was through the weight of all these “hats” on my shoulders that God forced me to bow my head. I had to become weak in order for God to build up my strength in Him and not myself. I had to acknowledge that I was not the one to fix the world. So, while I thought I was giving God my all; I was emptying myself in “activities” and losing myself in the process.
I have spent much of my time-off reading the Bible and sitting in prayer. I am learning to relinquish control to the only One who can handle it all and to truly know that He is in control, and I’m not. I am understanding that I can help when He wants me to, but I can’t take on the world.
I have taken to heart these words from the Casting Crowns song, “Just be Held”.
“Hold it all together... Everybody needs you strong ...But life hits you out of nowhere ... And barely leaves you holding on...And when you're tired of fighting... Chained by your control... There's freedom in surrender... Lay it down and let it go ... I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held”
What an incredible God!
I can just stop doing what I was doing and just be. Now, I realize that the best way for me to serve God is to let go, stop, allow His peace to come over me and be served for a change. I am learning to allow God to direct me where He wants me. He has forced me to rest so I can give Him my best when or where He calls me to serve. It was in giving up all my activities that finally made clear to me that my main tasks right now are to pray, ask for forgiveness, and let Him heal and love me.
By: Bev Charles
“MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS"
For this week’s post, we asked some of our mothers and daughters to finish a simple sentiment: “I value my mom/(in-law) or daughter/(in-law) because _____.” We are thrilled to share these beautifully expressed sentiments with you.
We are also featuring a glimpse into a mother-daughter relationship from Pastor Lynda.
First, here’s what some of our moms and daughters had to say:
"I value my daughter-in-law (Leslie) because she has such a zest for life, puts God first and has an attitude of gratitude.” ~ Bev C
“I value my daughter-in-law (Jen) because she’s an incredible mom and her children are loving, brave and independent. She has taught them to love the world and to learn and explore.” ~ Bev C
"I value (love) my mother-in-law (Bev) because she has the biggest heart and is always thinking of others". ~ Leslie C
“I value my mom because of her selflessness, generosity and supportive nature. I truly admire her unwavering faith in the good of all people.” ~ Jen C
Bev, Leslie & Jen
“I value my daughters because - well I looked up the definition of what it means to value a person and synonyms of value. There is so much I could say why I value my daughters… I value how they have always, from a young age, shown no partiality to people around them, they have always been caring and there for their friends. They have stood for what they believe in and have grown into caring, giving, beautiful young ladies. God has blessed me with two wonderful daughters.” ~ Carol W
"I value my mom because she selflessly cares for my sister and myself as well is a person who is always available for advice even for the little things like finding Oxo in the grocery store." ~ Amanda W
Carol & Amanda
“I value my daughter because she is continuously determined to strive to be the best person she can be.” ~ Lisa J
“I value my mom because her strength with mental illness and everyday living is tremendous! She is the most loving person, always giving unknown people a chance. She inspires me to continue on with my own life journeys no matter the struggle!” ~ Sheena T
Lisa & Sheena
“I value my daughter because - Pamela is caring, conscientious and thoughtful and she is raising two lovely 'grand'children.” ~ Myrna S
“I value my mother because she is caring and attentive to all of her children. She is especially interested in each of her grandchildren, near and far. She is available when anyone needs her.” ~ Pam S
Myrna & Pam
“I value my daughters-in-law because they are truly a gift from God, not blood related but so very special to me in such a way that I can talk freely to them about anything and everything ... they have helped me cultivate the most amazing bond that I have with my 5 grandchildren. I love them dearly.” ~ Sue B
“I value my mother- in-law because she always promotes, models and values love and acceptance. There are ways that we are so similar and ways that we are so different and she goes out of her way to show her love in both aspects. I feel so blessed to have such an incredible role model and support in Sue. 🌸❤️🌸” ~ Emily B
“I value my mother-in-law because she is the true definition of a mother, she is always there to give advice, love, support, encouragement, strength, kindness, and warmth to myself, and to her entire family.” ~ Vanessa B
Sue, Emily & Vanessa
“I value my daughter because of her authentic inner beauty, her honesty, strength of character, perseverance, support and passion for living a whole and healthy life. Every day, I thank God for gifting her to me.” ~ Yolande K
“I value my mom because she’s always there for me. Whether it’s a listening ear, for a movie night, or for just a hug in silence when I’m sad, my mom is always there. I’m so blessed to have my mommy – she’s truly amazing! ~ Yelena K
Yolande & Yelena
“WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE A DAUGHTER”
All I ever wanted as a child was to be a wife and mother. The birth of our first son brought more joy and satisfaction to me than I ever thought possible. I felt my life was complete but it wasn’t long after that I knew I wanted another child. I really believed that no child should have to be an only child as I had been. I was certain that our second baby would be a girl; my mother even began knitting in pink. Nine months passed quickly with joyful anticipation. Surprise, surprise—our second son was born.
Several years went by and I dreamed of a little girl but thought it was never to be. November 30th arrived very early at the Sinclair household. By 5 a.m., for the first time I was witnessing birth from very close quarters. The joy and astonishment of our daughter’s arrival still leaves me in awe.
So, what did it mean to have a daughter?
It meant a closet full of tiny dresses. Very quickly it meant someone to giggle with over cute kittens and cuter babies, cute bugs, and soon cute boys.
Our daughter wanted to wear my clothes, use my makeup, she ruined my nylons and shared in my baths and wanted to marry my husband, and live forever with her big brothers!
Having a daughter meant trying to master French braids (which I never did manage to do with any level of proficiency), and pony tails, and big bows on frilly dresses.
At 8 years of age that daughter began going out on “dates” with her father. She wore all her best clothes, dad ordered flowers, made “reservations” and held car doors and off they’d go to a fancy restaurant where Dad had told the staff the circumstances so they would make a great fuss over the “young lady”. We hoped that Dad was setting a high standard for the young men yet to come.
As a teen, she agonized over what to wear on a date and begged for my approval and then changed her mind because if mom liked it then it must be all wrong!
Our daughter begged to be taught how to use the sewing machine. She wanted to be taught how to cook. Poor pity me who tried to teach her how to put in a zipper, make cream sauce or boil a potato.
By the time she became a teenager, our daughter wanted very little to do with mom or dad; we had become old fashioned and out-of-date. Family outings were only tolerated and very little enjoyment was ever admitted unless the outing involved shopping and money being spent on her.
She wanted to go to school in England and Europe and hardly looked back once she boarded the airplane. However, she called home often and talked for hours with an openness not seen since Junior High. She even asked me to come to Europe and travel with her for Spring Break. On that trip, one experience showed me just how much she needed mom as she chose to sleep in a single bed with me, though her own bed was a mere foot away, when we spent time in a particularly seedy budget hotel in Paris. It didn’t completely stop her from wanting her own space and regularly going off on her own, but it was reassuring to be needed.
Years went by and our daughter married and moved to Seattle. In the beginning, there were constant phone calls asking how to make cream sauce and how to cook potatoes. “Do I remove those pointy things? (Where was she when I was trying to show her these things?) How do I thread the sewing machine? How do I know if I have chicken pox? What should I wear to the party? What do I say to the landlord? What do I say to my boss?”
The years are going by. Our daughter is an amazing homemaker and wonderful cook. I regularly call to ask her for recipes. She can do more with potatoes than I ever dreamed. Her many sauces and dressings leave me salivating. She has managed to teach her children to navigate the kitchen with more expertise than I ever thought possible. Her 12-year-old son, our grandson, is even a whiz in the kitchen. She gives me advice on what I should wear. She is a great source of suggestions for home decorating. She is so organized! I wish I could be like her. I cherish her advice on so many things and it was our daughter who came from Seattle and sat with me as we watched my own mother dying and cried with me as I got the call that my mom had gone.
My dream of motherhood has been fulfilled. It has had many challenges but also delights beyond measure. I praise the Lord for granting me my childish longing. All of our children are the joy of our lives. Their spouses and children are wonderful miracles that we have been granted. We thank the Lord continually for placing all these amazing people in our lives.
By: Lynda Sinclair
“MY LIFE A TAPESTRY?”
"I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God." (Colossians 2:2 - MSG)
"For you fashioned my inmost being, knit me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13 - Complete Jewish Bible 2016)
I recently had the privilege of looking at a piece of art, painted by my 12-year old grandson, Ethan, who is gifted with this talent. To my untrained eyes, it is simply a painting of trees and if I had painted it, I would have used brown for the tree trunks; after all, tree trunks are brown. Instead, Ethan painted the trunks using a blend of blues, whites and reds resulting in a pinkish look which in fact, looks more like the real thing. (He takes art classes and watches videos of Bob Ross; an American painter and host of art shows on TV and Netflix.)
The colour of the trees stands out making them pop, but there is so much more; the depth of this painting is revealed when a light is shone on it. The trees appear to emerge and the light reveals a forest behind and you see layers of darkness. One can see into the depths of the picture and recognize more than the trees at the front. It is both beautiful and captivating!
I love colourful trees with their branches and leaves but I'm drawn to the depth of the forest behind. So much happens there and it got me thinking of my life, of life in general. As I walk into the forest behind the trees, I see recent places I've been; places where my trust has wavered and worry and fear took hold. I should have known better but that is easy to say when looking back. Not so easy when lost in the gloom!
A few steps deeper and I face angry thoughts that became words flung carelessly about. I should have held my tongue until I had control. Farther in the shadows, I find the cage of depression. It took a long time to stop rattling and clanging its door. And yet it still will try to snare me.
Farther and farther I travel and meet the years of living on my own, not knowing Christ. I call these the “dark years". And then to childhood and saying goodbye to my Mum, my mainstay; the one who would have helped me navigate the twisting roads of life. In all our lives, we have dark places; places where we suffered, places we lived in pain of every kind, places that rip us apart if we let our thoughts go there even for a minute.
"If I say,"Let darkness surround me, let the light around me be night," even darkness like this is not too dark for you; rather, night is as clear as day, darkness and light are the same." (Psalm 139:11-12 - Complete Jewish Bible)
What to us is dark and shameful, to God is redeemed and covered with his love. When we look at a painting or tapestry, we see a marvelous blend of colours, light and dark. The dark shades of our past create depth upon which God shines all his brilliance and light, bringing forward his work in us. So, as I look at my grandson's painting, I see depth and growth in the shadows and brilliant life in the foreground. This is what my life is!
I'm not exempt from making more shadows, but I'm assured the shadow will be the highlight behind more light.
And this is what our life is; an exquisite work of art, painted, molded, sculpted by the Master's hand. "…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).
You walked beside me every day
Along each step I took
In darkness and in light you went
And never me forsook
Through dark and dreary times
When I didn't know my way
When I was lost and couldn't cry
Beside me you did stay
The time had come
For me to know
The saver of my soul
My heart began to stir within
My eyes began to see
My mind opened to the possibility
That you had been with me
The times of loneliness
The times of fear and dread
They try to mess my thoughts
And make me think I'm dead
But you, O Lord, have said “NO MORE!"
"Within the shadows of your life my glorious light now shows.
And whatever comes to pass, you'll never be alone."
"And all the dark and shadows do is highlight all your growth!"
By Jennifer Greene
Hillsong’s song “Tapestry” perfectly captures the message of this blog.
Reflect on these powerful lyrics.
At our Mugs & Muffins Saturdays, women are encouraged to share the stories behind their mugs with the group of women where they sit. Each grouping of women select the name of one mug story-teller to be placed in a draw for a prize.
Here are their stories:
APRIL'S WINNER - Charlane MacKenzie
"The prize really belongs to my friend, Shirley Bolduc, who insisted that no matter how boring my mug story actually was, I would make up a good story if my name was drawn. That tells you something about how well we know each other. Now that I think about it, we've been friends since 1990, encouraging each other to take courses and attend Bible studies. One evening, when we were meeting at a home Bible Study, we had sneaked into the kitchen to chat and another member caught us in the kitchen and commented that we must be friends outside of Bible Study and probably didn't see each other often. We broke into laughter because we actually worked together five days a week (which is how we had first become friends) and had just come from work!
This is just a "Second Cup" travel mug that a friend of mine pressed into service for his mother when we took her out for weekly drives. She is now 93 years old and a water or tea drinker, but back then, she "needed" an hourly coffee fix. Now that she doesn't need it, I have reacquired this travel mug. It reminds me of her. " - Charlane MacKenzie
“THE MOST POWERFUL PRAYER!”
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Father forgive them…
the most powerful prayer on earth
… life-changing words
… maybe words that you are not yet able to say
But words that will change your life.
These words have changed my life.
But they don't deserve it...
…and I don't want to.
I don't deserve it....
…and I can’t.
Forgiveness doesn't make sense –
Until you realize it’s not a choice, but a command.
Until you understand that it’s an act of love and not an act of justice.
Until you realize that you are hurting yourself.
Until you realize you are robbing yourself of freedom.
Many years ago, I spent several months praying a version of those words for a hurt we were going through. The pain of betrayal, loss of trust and friendship ran deep. We had never felt so low and alone. Learning to forgive was like agonizingly peeling away layers of an onion. Over months and years, the onion became smaller and the lessening of the pain was evident. Time brought healing. Each time a memory rose to the surface was another opportunity to forgive. Slowly the onion vanished.
The pain is now gone and forgiveness is complete. Today, I can look the offenders in their eyes without getting tense and hot. I am thankful that God intervened to make all things good.
How about you?
Have you ever been betrayed, injured, insulted, or taken advantage of?
Perhaps you have been robbed of a purchased possession.
Or maybe it was a stolen possession that cannot easily be replaced, such as your reputation, sexuality, time, health, children, or family.
Any of these offences can fill our minds and hearts with legitimate anger and hatred toward the offender, and even at God for allowing it to happen. Perhaps the offences were the results of our own mistakes that we are not willing or think we can forgive. By holding onto our anger and hatred, we become captive to the bitter feelings and eventually repress them. We bury them in the caves of our minds.
These caves become chained shut and keep us in bondage.
As painful as our past may be, it cannot be changed. What has happened has happened; the facts cannot be changed. Our attitudes, however; can be changed from anger and hatred to forgiveness.
Jesus’ way is for us to turn our caves over to God so that we can receive freedom. God has promised to deal with those who have hurt us; it's not our responsibility.
And God says, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back …" (Deuteronomy 32:35, Hebrews 10:30 NLT)
Our responsibility is to pray the most powerful prayer on earth - "Father, forgive them…" Luke 23:34
If we choose not to forgive those who have hurt us, we put ourselves under their control and we hinder God’s ability to heal us and set us free. So, we must forgive others and ourselves for our past mistakes and allow God to clean, heal, and restore the barricaded caves in our minds. Allowing God to pay our debts is one of the greatest benefits of Christianity, because when we do, real healing takes place.
A stolen possession that can cause deep wounds is our reputation and it can be very hard to keep quiet when we are criticized or falsely accused. But that's exactly what Jesus did when his reputation was stolen and when he was falsely accused by the chief priests, scribes, and elders. Jesus kept quiet.
Isaiah 53:7 (NIV) states "He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; Like a lamb that was led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before it's shearers, so he did not open his mouth."
Not only did Jesus command forgiveness; he also demonstrated it when he prayed, "Father, forgive them…"
Jesus knew that forgiveness frees, and he wants us to be free from the bondage of un-forgiveness.
As Peter Horrobin states in his book, "The Most Powerful Prayer on Earth", "Jesus may have been crucified on the strength of the false accusations of his accusers, but three days later it was God himself vindicated him!"
“And the only way for us to deal with those who try to steal our reputation is to forgive them, keep on doing what is right, act with humility and integrity, and trust God with the outcome.”
If we choose not to forgive others, we risk not being forgiven by God. In Matthew 6:15 (NIV) Jesus said, " But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." In other words - if we do not forgive those who have hurt us, then our Father in heaven will not forgive us! Yikes!
Forgiveness of sin is the greatest possible blessing that God makes available to his children; but if we are not willing to forgive others, we miss out on God's best for our lives.
On this Good Friday and this time of the year when we purposefully engage in spring cleaning, may I encourage you to take the opportunity to also do some soul cleansing. Think of the forgiveness Jesus extends to us daily. Forgive, let go, release past relationships, forgive yourself of disappointments, and move on in love.
Letting go makes room for what is yet to come.
May you be able to experience the joy of true forgiveness this Easter.
By: Julie Hogeboom
“HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!”
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13, NIV)
Are there times where you want God to do something for you that actually goes against His character?
The Jewish people wanted to be saved, but they wanted to be saved from a King who would overthrow Rome. They wanted to be freed from Gentile oppression - by force, as told in their history. They didn’t want a King who would tell them to live in peace and unity with the Gentiles. But that’s what they got, a meek King who wanted peace, love, and freedom - for all. Jews and Gentiles.
Is there someone you know who you think deserves God's wrath? Maybe they've persecuted you, or maybe it's their lifestyle that frustrates you. I know I feel that way sometimes. I’ll think to myself: “Why is that person succeeding at school; all they do is party, sleep around, and gossip?” And then Jesus steps in and shows me that I’m no different than that crowd who welcomed Him with palm branches one day and then turned on Him the next.
We often want God to be something He’s not, to do something we think is best. We want God to make us the best at ‘x’ instead of asking Him how we can serve and be humble. We want Trump out instead of asking God why he’s in. We want God to end slavery but we are doing nothing to pursue justice.
Jesus is in control and He has all authority. Instead of asking Him to align His heart to ours, we need to be aligning our hearts with His.
The people who loved and welcomed Jesus with palm branches yelling “Blessed is He!” were the same ones who later betrayed him, beat him, and yelled “Crucify Him.”
Before you get too quick to judge those people, look within. Like them we’re the ones who welcome Him into our hearts but also reject Him daily. As I write these words, all I can sing is “Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” (How Deep the Father’s Love For Us) Amen!
Jesus did not come to save the righteous by grace. He came to save the sinners; to save those who deny Him – you and me. “Jesus answered, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” (Luke 5:31-32)
Where in your life do you deny Jesus during the week and then worship Him on Sunday? Do you get drunk on Saturday night and come to church hungover in the morning? Do you lie to your boss on Monday, the day after worshiping Jesus? Do you gossip with your co-workers and then later try to tell them about how much Jesus loves them and those you were gossiping about?
We all sin, day in and day out, but there is hope. There is a Saviour riding in on a donkey, who knows full well that we will deny Him. The ones He came to save were the very ones who killed Him, and yet He came anyway! He came to prepare our hearts, to forgive our sins, and to set us free. Jesus sees through our empty praise, but still wants to transform our hearts. He wants us to be able to sing and shout His praise authentically.
Every day, we are faced with questions like “should I stand up for Jesus and not conform, or should I say this little lie to get me out of trouble?” In those moments, we need to start denying ourselves and start choosing Jesus, praying for our hearts to align with His. When we do, He will answer our prayers and we will start becoming more and more like Him.
Scripture tells us that after Jesus’ triumphal entry, as He was heading to Jerusalem and foresaw its impending misery and the blindness of the people, that He wept. "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’" (Luke 19:41-42) I imagine Him weeping over our misery today; for hardened hearts, and for those who are suffering, and those who will reject Him.
Do we, like Jesus, have compassion and tears for others who are suffering?
Allow this Palm Sunday reminder to cause you to move with Jesus toward the needs of others, whatever the cost. We need to deny ourselves the comforts and securities of easy living, and step into the areas of brokenness, suffering, and pain in people’s lives. And we need to not only cry for them but to join with them and act on those needs.
Don’t let this just be something else you read; decide to act it out. How and where are you denying yourself by entering into the pain and suffering of others? Do you truly believe that in the long run this will lead to joy and life in Jesus?
By: Christine Desgroseilliers
Listen to the full song “How Deep the Father’s Love” written by Stuart Townend in this poignant arrangement by WorshipMob.
AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (Romans 14:7 ESV)
Our world today is becoming more and more divisive. With the election south of the border, Brexit in Britain, and all the anxieties about refugees and terrorists, you can't help but feel that there is something seriously going wrong in our world.
Fear causes a "fortress mentality" and can result in negative thinking – “we need to look after ourselves and not others”, “they are stealing what we have”, “keep them out”, “let them look after themselves - we aren't responsible for their troubles”, “they can't have our jobs”, “America first”. It's becoming an “I'm ok and they can look after themselves” kind of world. Along with all this comes some very mean- spirited talk and vilification for those who don't share our views or are just different. “Lock her up” and “He's not my president” are just two such examples.
Now, I don't particularly want to talk about politics, but I do think that observing how people behave should cause us all to review our own actions and make sure not to forget Jesus' lessons to us and his commandments. As ambassadors for Christ, we are called to a higher standard of behaviour.
Three thoughts come to mind.
First of all, where do we put our trust? Why are we afraid? Are we being deceived? How do we stay grounded in Christ while the whole world seems to be going crazy?
In Psalm 20:7 the Bible tells us, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
In March of 1998, I had the privilege of going on a mission trip to Haiti with a group from Arlington Woods Church. I well remember that after we arrived in Port-au-Prince I was terrified, not only after hearing the instructions from the missionary who met us, but from the extreme poverty evident in the sights on the streets. My fears were not lessened when we got to the hotel and I looked at the very strange food, to my North American palate, that was being served. Our journey the next day to the northern interior town of Dessalines merely added to my disorientation and multiplied my discomfort. Although I had traveled a bit, I had never been in a third world country and the culture shock was immediate and frightening. I had a very negative reaction and was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and poverty that was everywhere. Though I had done my homework beforehand, I was essentially unprepared for the situation we found ourselves in. It did not take me long to realize that I needed to put my faith in action, so I prayed harder and depended more on God to take control of the situation and help me to adjust my reactions. I thought long and hard about my surroundings as I prayed, and was somewhat surprised at how well this worked. By the third day, I was much more comfortable and had adjusted to our new reality. I have never forgotten the experience.
Depending entirely on God completely changed my perspective. The spiritual battle we live in became real for me in a new way and has since caused me to try to maintain that attitude. Two weeks later on our return to Canada, I had a whole different reaction to events at home. We arrived just after the shootings at Columbine; the spiritual battle was then much clearer to see.
Bad things do happen to good people, but that is when the rubber meets the road. That is when God can tangibly come alongside us and hold us up. Our reactions can show others that we are different and truly have something they want.
Second, we are to show God's love to others at all times. We are called to make a difference and to be our brother's keeper. This means we need to be looking for opportunities to share what we have been given, and to give a cup of cold water to those who need it.
Mark 12: 30-31 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
We are called to be channels of Christ's love in our world. We must be salt and light so that others will be drawn to Jesus through our example. Jesus expects it. This is part of our job here on earth.
Finally, rejoice! You are a child of the King. Be full of thanksgiving. Never be consumed by what you think you see or hear around you. Remember, Jesus is Lord.
James 5: 13-16 tells us, “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come & pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, & the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other & pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power & produces wonderful results.”
By: Lynne Willoughby
Enjoy this beautiful rendition of “Hold us Together” by Matt Maher performed on the “Glory Revealed Tour” and featuring Mac Powell from Third Day, Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North, and more.
“THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS 31 WOMAN”
'Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised'. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)
I love that picture of the Proverbs 31 Woman. However, the P31 woman also is married, cooks a lot, sews and has big arm muscles. I'm sure these are all tremendous assets in an agrarian society.
My question is this...how did the P31 woman become the standard-bearer of what a Christian woman should be? We have books, sermons and a P31 ministry. Why isn't there a Song Of Songs 6 ministry (Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing...)? It doesn't seem any less arbitrary than praising a woman who spins flax.
We need to be very cautious about over emphasizing individual parts of Scripture, and here's why...
- All Scripture is God-breathed. That is foundational to our faith, yet most women I know just roll their eyes when you mention 'P31', because of the way it has been elevated.
- Homemaking is a real gift. If you've met someone with this gift, it is VERY obvious. Many of us are homemakers, but not all of us have the gift. To expect otherwise is to reduce the value of the gift.
- We are PART of the body of Christ. If we already had all the gifts, we wouldn't need each other.
Here's my idea...the next time someone tries to pigeon hole you into a stereotype of a Christian woman, tell them that you are a “2 Corinthians 5 Woman” - Christ's ambassador, or an “ Isaiah 61 Woman” - anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, or find a verse that speaks especially to you.
The Proverbs 31 woman is 'honoured for all that her hands have done', which is a good thing. Even better will be the 'well done, good and faithful servant' that we receive from the Lord.
In case you are unfamiliar with this theoretical woman, or need a recap, read it here.
I do not believe that it was ever God’s intent for us, as women, to try to fit the mold of the so-called “Proverbs 31 Woman”. I submit that this model woman came about as a result of the western church's and culture's attempts at establishing rules around what it perceived as the ideal Christian woman. In Jewish culture, men actually memorize Proverbs 31 as a song of praise to the women in their lives; it is not an expectation that they become one. In our culture, women believe that if they are not measuring up to this standard, they are somehow a failure.
Rather than focusing on Jesus, who is our standard, the modern church adapted Proverbs 31 into a set of rules and turned it into a religious checklist.
Understanding Scripture is largely about culture and context and the interpretation of Proverbs 31 as commonly held by many is not universal. For starters, most scholars believe that the Proverbs 31 Woman is not a real woman. In fact, some scholars have suggested that the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is a combination of the commendable qualities of several different women. (Read about that here) Still others believe that she is the epitome of wisdom. (Read about that view here) It is worth noting that throughout the book of Proverbs, wisdom is referred to as “she” and Proverbs 31 is seen as the culmination of all the wisdom that its main writer, King Solomon, was passing on to his son.
Have you considered that if this was truly God’s standard for women, He probably would have ensured that Mary (Jesus’s mother) was clearly identified as such. Or He would have chosen a few “Proverbs 31 Women” to be in Jesus’ lineage rather than pagan Ruth or Rahab, the harlot. I’m just saying…
The Bottom line: both men and women can apply the wisdom listed in Proverbs 31 to our daily lives. For instance, we can be earnestly:
- Seeking God first such as waking up early and beginning our day with God.
- Loving others, being kind, truthful and loyal.
- Working diligently as unto God.
- Seeking ways to enrich our lives and growing in God’s Word rather than remaining stagnant.
- Not giving up when we encounter difficulties and learning to trust God to direct our paths.
- Seizing opportunities that are before us rather than waiting for perfection.
- Having respect for ourselves in the way we behave, dress, and conduct ourselves as image-bearers of God.
In the end, we can have the assurance that God loves each one of us exactly as we are; that He rejoices over us with singing and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more.
Rest in the assurance that no matter how you see yourself, God sees you as His Beloved Daughter and He knows your name. Enjoy these stories of women experiencing redemption shared through Francesca Battistelli’s song, He Knows My Name.
By Bethany Breault & Yolande Knight
“THE REBEKAH PRINCIPLE”
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)
I would venture to say that the average Christian may not have given much thought to the extent of Rebekah’s generosity as described for us in the story of how she was chosen to be Isaac’s wife. I would further submit that Rebekah demonstrates a generosity that is lacking in our society today.
The servant, whom Jacob sent out to find a wife for Isaac, lays out a fleece for the woman who would become Isaac’s wife. (In Christian language, a fleece is asking God for a concrete sign that something is His will.) This fleece represented a huge prayer request and though we do not use fleeces today, the significance of this request should not be overlooked. It called for a woman who would offer water to the ten camels that made up the servant’s entourage. (Genesis 24:10, 14) On the surface, that seems like a small request especially to those of us who have never had to give water to a camel, let alone ten.
So let me break it down in a way that may resonate with you.
The fact that the servant’s prayer was answered exactly as he prayed is where many of us focus our attention. Here’s what we miss when we do that – we miss the magnitude of Rebekah’s generosity. After offering the servant a drink, Rebekah proceeded to provide water for all his camels. (Genesis 24:16-21) A conservative estimate of the amount of water a camel would drink at the end of a day is about 20 gallons. Rebekah offered water to all ten camels which would have totalled 200 gallons. Assuming that she carried a five gallon water jar, it meant that she would have made 40 trips back and forth to gather that much water. Further assuming that it took her about three minutes per trip, this small act of kindness would have taken at least two hours to complete. Two hours of Rebekah's time that was not part of her plan for that day.
How does Rebekah’s story strike you now?
Rebekah’s attitude stands in stark contrast to the attitudes so prevalent in society today; a society that seeks to do the least amount of work necessary for the most reward. These days, we call that "working smart". Our society is sorely lacking in its ability to go the extra mile for others.
I believe that we can learn how to be generous with a willing spirit, as described in 2 Corinthians 9:7, from Rebekah. Her story shows us how to be faithful with what we have (Luke 16:10), to give with a mindset of multiplication in eternity (Matthew 6:19-20), and to understand that the smallest act of generosity makes a difference. (Matthew 10:42)
Giving generously is not only about our finances; it is also about giving our time, our talents, and our attention to people, encouraging and spurring them on. People who give with a willing spirit and who are not focused on a return are blessed beyond measure. (2 Corinthians 9:8) Generosity of that kind is not a give-to-get system because we cannot become legalistic about giving since ultimately, when we give, we give to the Lord. (Matthew 25:40)
Can I challenge you to be intentional about doing something generous every day this coming week? Share a smile, a kind or encouraging word with someone. Show love to someone who is difficult to love or use your talents and treasures to bless someone else. Funny how when you do, you end up as the one who feels more blessed; funny how that works!
Rebekah’s generosity was not only rewarded immediately and materially in the jewelry she received from the servant (Genesis 24:22); she also ended up in the lineage of our Lord. How’s that for an eternal reward?
Let all that we do be for the Cause of Christ as Kari Jobe so beautifully expresses in her new song.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Our church undoubtedly has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the power of prayer. As such, it provides multiple opportunities for corporate prayer including on Sunday mornings before services, Tuesday nights and Thursday mornings. This week’s post of Jean Gordon's story with the article that impacted her speaks directly to that topic. The acronym P-U-S-H is widely used in both the Christian and secular circles to mean different things. This post obviously takes a Christian perspective and at the end of the article, we are including a link to an old Gospel spiritual of the same title by gospel artist, Dottie Peoples for your enjoyment.
The Editorial Team
Someone shared a story with me as I was at a crossroads in my life many years ago and recently it became very real to me when our family received a phone call out of the blue. The woman at the other end of the phone said that she may be related to our family and that was something we never thought we would have ever experienced. You see 60 years ago my sister had given up a baby for adoption and though the adoption was “closed”, the family had never given up trying to find her and for 40 years we prayed that she would find us. And find us, she did!
So P-U-S-H became real to me again.
I’d like to pass on this story to you in hopes that you would be as encouraged by it as I’ve been.
A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man that He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day after day.
For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
Since the man was showing discouragement, the adversary (Satan) decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into his weary mind; "You have been pushing against the rock for a long time and it hasn't moved." Thus he gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. Satan said, "Why kill yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving minimum effort; and that will be good enough.
That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord.
"Lord," he said, "I have labored long and hard in Your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?
The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push, and now you come to Me with your strength spent, thinking that you failed. But, is that really so?
Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown; your hands are callused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.
"True, you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push, to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. That you have done. Now I, my friend, will move the rock."
At times, when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants when actually what God wants is just simple, obedience and faith in Him.
By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still God who moves the mountains.
When everything seems to go wrong ....Just P.U.S.H !
When your job gets you down...Just P.U.S.H !
When people don't react the way you think they should....Just P.U.S.H !
When your money is "gone" and the bills are due... Just P.U.S.H !
When people don't understand you...Just P.U.S.H !
P = Pray U = Until S = Something H = Happens
But, I trust in you, Oh Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands. (Psalm 31:14-15a NIV)
By: Jean Gordon