WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO DIG INTO THE OLD TESTAMENT!
August 2017, the month I chose to turn to God and run in his direction. Sometime later that month, I found a local Christian store and walked into it ready to conquer the Word of the Almighty! With fresh interest in the Word, I was excited and determined! I walked out of, what would soon be, my new favourite store with a pack of gel highlighters, colourful pens and a plain black journaling Bible.
God must have been cheering me on because he had waited for this moment for 23 years and finally here, I was, approaching his throne with a smile on my face and a fierce fire in my soul.
It has now been almost 3 years since that day, and I have read through the vast majority of the Bible. I must say the Old Testament is truly something special!
I mean, we all love Jesus and he is an extremely important part of how the story ties together, but sometimes we tend to forget why we need Jesus. It is so much easier to embrace the New Testament with all the goodies packed inside just the first 4 books! And it’s amazing to read all the wisdom filled letters from Paul, especially being in prison when he wrote 7 of those letters over the course of 3 years. Amazing!
Before I give you 3 of my favourite reasons why reading the Old Testament is so important, I want to give you a little history. I decided to begin reading the Old Testament from Genesis and work my way through; by the time I got to Deuteronomy, I dropped down to my knees in serious praise. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed to God, feeling so ashamed of every little thing I’d ever done, knowing that through it all he never stopped loving me. I can truly say that was the first day my eyes were actually opened, and I had an understanding heart.
How appreciative I am to have a God who still loves me no matter what! A God who knew we would all need Jesus! A God who did not just leave us hanging out to dry on a cold day, but a God who invited us into his palace to be with him and get to know him personally through Jesus!
We must never take the Old Testament for granted and must educate ourselves through the Old Testament as to why Jesus had to come.
We understand the main points: He died for our sins, he is the way, the truth, the light, but why? Why did Jesus do what he did and why does he claim to love us so much?
So, here are my 3 reasons why reading the Old Testament is so important and why it should NEVER be watered down!
- We need to get rid of our boastful attitudes and humble ourselves before the Lord. Reading the Old Testament is the perfect way to do this. (Ref. Psalm 12:3 NIV)
Reading 3-4 chapters of the Old Testament daily can really transform your heart and your understanding of God’s true love for us. Sin is just as bad now as it was back then, as it will be 1000 years from now.
You might be thinking: “I’m not as bad as the people back in the Old Testament days.”
And I would reply: “Maybe not, but we’re still very sinful.”
For example; people cheat on their taxes, steal items from stores, remove discount tags and attach them to an item in their carts and think nothing about committing those kinds of sins. Lying, whether big or small is sin. There’s talking about others behind their backs and mistreating others because they look or act a certain way that’s different from you. We can be really mean, rude and hurtful and those are all sins in God’s eyes. So, thank God we do NOT have to bring animal sacrifices every time we sin!
- The Old Testament also teaches us on how to pray through every situation - when they didn’t have Jesus as their example.
The Old Testament is filled with real people going through some really hard situations. These folks also did not have Jesus as their guide; they trusted in a very invincible God with mighty powers!
God knows we are going to fail; he is not condemning us for that. He wants us to learn how to fully rely on Him and not on ourselves, our pleasures or our friends. Bear your troubles at the Lord’s feet. He wants to hear from you; He wants to help you!
Nehemiah was a perfect example of a man of prayer not just for himself but for Israel! (Nehemiah 1:3-11)
Would you say you have a healthy prayer life? Would you say you have a vital connection to the Lord? He wants to know your heart not your practiced or repetitive prayers.
As Sheila Walsh puts it, “what would you ask Jesus for if you could see Him? If He was sitting right across from you at your kitchen table, listening, inviting you to ask for anything that was on your heart, what would you ask for?” (Praying Women by Sheila Walsh)
Putting prayer this way could really change your perspective on who you’re actually praying to - an almighty God with might powers!
- The tough books should be read to realize our sins are not far off from theirs, and this is why we need Jesus.
One of the most common sins most people don’t put much thought into is their words. We might not kill people, but there are some serious consequences with the words we use; some words have driven others to suicide. Let’s be real, our tongues are no laughing matter when used at a disadvantage to others! (Ref. Psalm 52:2 NIV)
So, here’s the thing; we might not enjoy reading everything in the Old Testament, but shall I remind you, the Old Testament isn’t meant to make us feel comfortable. The Bible is a book about God and who He is! It’s about God's unfailing love for His people no matter how rebellious they were, and no matter how rebellious we still are!
Time and time again I’ve heard the same reason why people avoid the Old Testament - the violence! It can be uncomfortable to read about all the murderous activities, but it should be read to help everyone understand how much more they needed a Saviour just as we do now.
We see real people chasing after God’s own heart, getting down on their knees and tearing their clothes in true agony, weeping out loud, begging the Lord for help. And then we see people tearing down temples and sacrificing their children to Baal just because they could. So thankfully we have two sides to one large story; two examples we should follow:
- The Old Testament folks should be our leading example of what NOT to do.
- Jesus as our PRIME example of what to do.
If we are always reading just one side of a good story, eventually we start overlooking what’s actually good about it. Sounds a little funny right? But it’s the truth!
All things aside, are YOU in his Word? The Lord is waiting for you to chase after His heart and get to know Him through His Word which He graciously gave to us. The Lord wants to hear from YOU!
Thank you, Father, thank you for your Word!
Thank you for our beloved Saviour Jesus Christ and everything He had to endure to become our Saviour.
I pray over the wonderful women who are reading this article which You guided me to write.
I pray you give each and every one of them renewed excitement in their souls, to open up their Bibles and turn to the Old Testament and start digging into your grace and forever unfailing love and guidance.
Lord, be with each and every one of these women, guide them as they journey back with a grateful heart and open their eyes to new perspectives.
Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do!
In Jesus’ name
By: Sheena Frederick
Photo Credit: All photos used were provided by Sheena.
Below is a photo of Sheena with her first Bible!
Listen to the deep lyrics of one of Cory Asbury's latest songs: "The Father's House".
I wish I could tell you that every time God speaks to me, I clearly hear his voice or that I always get it right when I believe I’ve heard from God. I wish I could tell you that I know when God gives me a word for someone, and that I eagerly relay that message with confidence and conviction. Unfortunately, I can’t; more often than not, I get it wrong.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sensing that God is asking me to listen to him and to tune out the distractions around me – and let me quickly say, there are many! For starters, I’m always working on multiple projects at the same time. Then, I spend too much time on my smartphone, scrolling through Social Media, discovering new playlists, responding to those annoying alerts, etc. I also thrive on staying in touch with people, and I occasionally watch too much Netflix.
As I journal my thoughts each morning, I normally get the process started by writing this question in my journal: “Holy Spirit, what are You saying to me today?” On Saturday, April 18th, here is part of what I believed I heard the Holy Spirit say to me:
“When you hear from God, you will know exactly what to do. So keep listening. Tune in and adjust your frequency to hear from God. Get rid of all the distractions and keep the frequency clear. Adjust your antennas.”
Now, I wish I had edited that entry for grammar and spelling but that was what I captured. A few days later, on April 25th, I received a similar message.
Imagine my reaction when our leader at Nightly Prayer on Tuesday, May 5th, instead of starting with the usual Scripture reading, made this announcement: I believe God wants for us to hear his voice and he is asking us to listen to him.
Wow, God! I thought.
You see, I firmly believe that God is preparing us for a great harvest that is going to come out of this season of global hardship. But, he needs his people to be mature and ready for those whom he will send to us.
The question is not; is God still speaking but rather, are we listening? This is the essence of John 10:3-5, that as we grow closer to God, we will recognize his voice.
As I began delving deeper into this topic, I was led to the parable of the sower that Jesus told and was recorded in Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15 where Jesus says “who has ears, let them hear.” This is one of the few parables that Jesus took the time to explain, which is quite significant, as it removes any doubt as to its meaning - that we need to have prepared hearts to “hear” God clearly. Take some time to read this parable again and get a fresh perspective.
Here are my takeaways from that parable as it pertains to the obstacles that prevent us from clearly hearing God speak:
- A Polluted Heart - We may have too much stuff in our hearts to hear God clearly – these may be self-inflicted, unconfessed sin or they may be relationships that we need to restore. (James 1:21 NLT)
- A Distracted Heart - Hell is determined to keep us from hearing from God so we may need to turn down the world’s volume that keeps us distracted from hearing God’s voice. (Luke 10:39-40 AMP)
- A Neglected Heart - We may need to stop making excuses and start making changes in our life and our worship that helps us to mature in our relationship with God. (Heb 12:1-2 GNT)
Ultimately, God is looking for a Prepared Heart - We can prepare our hearts when we offer true repentance, refocus our priorities, and ask God to bring a revival in our lives. (2 Cor 7:1 MSG)
In this current global crisis, many are calling on God to hear us from heaven and heal our land. I submit that God is listening to us and waiting for us to get our hearts set right and make ourselves truly humble and available (2 Chron 7:14 ESV).
One of the new releases from Elevation Worship - "Available" speaks to this issue.
By: Yolande A. Knight
I can honestly say that I’ve never met someone who enjoys waiting though I’m sure that such a person exists; I’ve just not met them yet. Let me tell you that I am not that person; my patience meter is usually running on empty on any given day. Needless to say, this current perpetual state of waiting has been very difficult for me as it’s been for many of you.
Yet God is asking us to wait! Millions of believers around the world are praying and seeking God for an end to this crisis and no one knows when that time will be.
This reminds me of the Israelites who waited 400 years for deliverance and even then, God took them the long way around, through the desert, to get to the Promised Land. As we have studied their journey and reflected on their response, we have often criticized their grumbling, lack of faith and trust in God. You can read the account in Exodus 13-17.
But how are we measuring up in the face of COVID-19 in 2020?
I’ve read somewhere that in an average lifetime of 80 years, we spend approximately six of those years waiting. Of course, not all at once, but broken down into chunks of time; waiting at traffic lights, in lines at various places for services, waiting on people, waiting for a response to a question, for a baby to arrive, for a call back from our doctor, a job offer, and the like. It all adds up. It begs the question about how our waiting, during this time of COVID-19, will affect that average of six years!
Waiting is not easy, even for the most patient person but it does not have to be unbearable. I have found that waiting is less painful when I shift my focus.
May I share three ways that have consistently helped me to shift focus during extended periods of waiting:
- Refining my worship - Waiting reveals the “thing” that we worship the most. Our worship can be aimed at success, acquisitions, something, or someone other than God. I’ve learned to increase my worship of Jesus while I wait on him and I do so by saturating myself with his Word, being in constant communion with him through prayer, and surrounding myself with uplifting music that glorifies God.
- Recalling God’s unchanging faithfulness in my life - As someone who journals on a regular basis, this has been easy for me to do. During this current time, I have spent hours re-reading journals from several years ago and I have been reminded of and astounded by the many times when God showed up for me in miraculous ways. Will he do it again? Absolutely!
- Preparing for my next season - I recognize that this term “season” is one that we (Christians) frequently use which may cause it to lose its effectiveness. I do believe that, just like God’s natural order has distinctive seasons such as spring, summer, fall, and winter; so too do our lives. I don’t always recognize when I am heading out of a season, but I have come to distinguish when I am being prepared for a next season. I believe that “The Church” is in a time of preparation for its next season.
As I have been reflecting on this time, I discovered this worship song by Lincoln Brewster, "While I Wait" which had me completely undone. I urge you to listen to the lyrics of this song which I believe will encourage you today.
By: Yolande A. Knight
ANXIETY & TRUST
Can I be honest with you? I’m scared. I wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day when I start to feel sick. Being completely transparent here; I’ve been battling anxiety for the past couple years. When I say anxiety, I don’t mean regular, everyday stress, such as traffic, or making it to work on time. I mean a general fear of the world. The best way I’ve been able to explain it to myself is that the world feels unsafe to me. What has gotten me through the daily feeling of dread and quickened breaths is acknowledging that the thoughts are in my head, and the world, out there, is actually safe.
And then coronavirus happened. I woke up, and the world instantly became unsafe. And everything changed! Suddenly, going outside, which always felt scary for me, now had a “real” sense of danger. What makes this more challenging is that I am a Christian. For many, the idea that someone can have anxiety and be a Christian doesn’t add up. Some days, I feel like I’m not “Christian enough” because I’m scared of the big, bad world. I imagine that others who deal with anxiety feel this way as well.
So, what does this look like for me on a daily basis, as someone who loves Jesus? It means a lot of time talking to God and being honest about my fears. It looks like some deep, but faithless prayers throughout my day, asking for calm. In the midst of this current global pandemic, it looks like me scribbling my prayers in a notebook, being real with my thoughts to God.
The thing is, the Bible knew that we would have anxious thoughts and that the world would be unsafe. Some believe that's why the phrase “Fear not” is used 365 times in the Bible – some say, there’s a fear-not command for every day of the year. In fact, Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this world but that he is with us in the midst of those troubles (John 16:33). That we are to trust him, even when it’s not clear that the answer will be what we’re looking for. I believe that for many, coronavirus is revealing what trust in our relationship with God really looks like.
So how do we get through each day with the heightened anxiety that we may all be feeling right now?
As I pondered that question, I was reminded of something that I learned during my time as a competitive figure skater. During training, especially leading up to competition, my sports psychologist and coach would remind me to focus on what I could control. I couldn’t control what the judges would think of me, if the event was running on time, or what the other skaters were doing. As a figure skater, what I could control was my training, my mental state, and my own elements (to a certain extent). Basically, I did my part, and the rest was up to God.
What can we control during this time, and what do we need to let go? For me, I’ve learned that I can’t control how this virus is going to spread. I can’t control the news, or how the government will respond. I can’t control how people practice physical distancing, or how the future is going to unfold. But I can control how I practice physical distancing and stay home. I can control how much of the news I watch or read, how much sleep I get, how I move through my days - by exercising, and eating healthy. I can also control how I support those in my circle during this time - a friend reminded me that for many, this is the hardest thing that most people have had to face in their lifetime. I can also draw on my “training”, on past difficulties that I have gone through which have all equipped me to handle this current challenge. I can lean on my support system of friends, family and my church community. The rest is up to God.
Easier said than done, I know! As a Type A perfectionist with anxiety, I KNOW how hard this is in reality. Right now, each time I think about planning my week, I take a step back and pray first; the uncertainty of this crisis is causing me to put Proverbs 16:9 into action, which talks about how we make our plans but it’s God who actually turns those plans into reality. Maybe this is a lesson I needed to learn a long time ago, maybe you do too. For the first time, I’m taking things one day at a time, and it’s a strange feeling.
Hoping not to sound like one of those annoying Instagram Influencers (who are apparently making many feel that they’re not doing enough), may I encourage you to try to find something you can learn during this period. Personally, I want to accept the lessons God may be imparting to me during this season. I continue to pray for the virus to be stopped in its tracks and for God to keep us all safe. But how he responds, is not up to me, which honestly, is probably a good thing.
By: Yelena Knight
Here is a Casting Crowns song "Oh My Soul" that puts perspective on the worry of our souls.
LIVING WITH COVID-19
Editorial Note: Susi Steier, a thirty-something young lady living in England and a friend to one of our AW young moms, has graciously agreed to share her story of living with COVID-19 on our blog. She first posted this account on her Facebook page on March 25th. She has since recovered from the virus and is doing well.
Published with permission.
Many of you might be wondering what it’s like to be one of the many suspected cases of coronavirus, so I thought I’d share a bit of my experience with you.
I started feeling ill last Saturday, March 21, 2020. First, I was just unusually tired, but towards the evening I got a mild fever. Then I developed the dreaded cough.
I spent the next day in bed with a fever, but by Monday I felt slightly better. Less fever, more fatigue, more coughing. I get out of breath easily, even when I just speak or eat, and I often feel dizzy. My fever has been up and down since the symptoms started, but all in all they have been relatively mild.
I talked to a friend from church yesterday who works with COVID patients in London and he said that the symptoms reach their peak on day 5-7. So, let’s see how the next few days will go.
Something that kept coming to my mind over the last few days was how God repeatedly calls his people to trust him in the face of danger. In the book of Isaiah, we see the Assyrian army coming, they have already taken the Northern Kingdom and now they’re on their way to Jerusalem. How are they supposed to trust in God when the danger is so real and so immediate? Before the pandemic, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated what it might feel like to trust in God rather than in other people. In governments making the right decisions, in doctors who help the critically ill, in researchers who develop a vaccine, in my own body to fight the virus.
God eventually delivers Jerusalem from the Assyrian army. But even this rescue is only temporary because only two chapters later we see hints of the next enemy, Babylon, who will in only a few years’ time destroy Jerusalem and drag the people into exile.
Will our rescue from the coronavirus be just as temporary? When we finally get through this, what will the world look like? What’s the next danger we need to be rescued from?
In Isaiah, God promises his people a rescue that lasts. A rescue from this broken world to a world where there is no more danger, no more coronavirus or unemployment or loneliness. A world where there is no more death.
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.”
This is so much better than any rescue this world has to offer because it means we won’t ever need another rescue. We often think the idea of a new world, or of heaven, is irrelevant for us, but during this time I’m reminded that heaven is exactly what we all need. We’ll finally be safe and perfectly happy. Isn’t this what we’re all longing for?
By: Susi Steier
Absolutely Susi, our ultimate goal is to be with the Father in Heaven - Enjoy Chris Tomlin's "Home"
"Forgiveness: Why it Matters.”
Editorial Note: Forgiveness that most of us are required to give or receive may be of a different nature than the following account. However, the end result of any type of forgiveness is the same. There is healing for the person who is doing the forgiving. God is so gracious to grant that to us.
You are about to get a glimpse into one woman’s personal story about forgiveness - how she came to extend forgiveness to someone who had sexually abused her when she was a child. This is not everyone’s story, yet there may be some of you who have had similar experiences. We encourage you to not suffer in silence or alone; there are resources and support available to you. Please reach out and access them.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14, (NIV)
Forgiveness is a topic that not everyone enjoys talking about. It makes us think. Choices that have been made in life, whether it affects our life directly or not, places us in situations or circumstances where forgiveness needs to be addressed. Maybe we are not ready to look “in the mirror” and see what the reflection is telling us to do or what direction God is telling us to go.
Google gives the definition of forgiveness as “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offence. The offence may not be forgotten yet forgiven.”
I like this definition as it says that forgiveness is intentional (on purpose) and it’s a voluntary process (it’s our choice and it can take a while). Forgiveness can be instantaneous!
As believers, one of God’s amazing gifts to us is His son who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. We talk about that as salvation or forgiveness of sins.
Why does that matter? It brings purpose for us to walk a holy life with and for God. God forgives us of our sin, yet we struggle with sin and the shame that it has brought to our lives. We often find that we need to forgive "ourselves" and the choices we have made in the past, and it becomes a part of the process of working out our salvation.
Jesus’ story is about believing by faith in someone we cannot physically see. When Jesus said in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do...”, this was at the time when He was dying on the cross. Pause and think about that scene for a moment.
When you imagine the scene, is He still on the cross? Or is the cross empty like the ones often displayed in churches?
I try to picture the scene on the day HE was there suffering for our sins. I know that I can’t see it all, but I try. I see the cross as the ultimate display of FORGIVENESS.
When I was growing up, I used to listen to a song that identifies with the topic of forgiveness; I still often think about the lyrics that went like this: “He knew me, yet He loved me”. This song talks about how if it were only for me, Jesus would have still died on the cross because He knew me, yet He loved me. Have you ever wondered that for yourself? Would Jesus have died for just "you alone" on the cross? This question can produce strong feelings and conviction all at the same time.
Forgiveness evokes many questions such as, do we forgive on the basis of feeling and emotion or by choice and being obedient to what God tells us in Scripture. What chapter and verse do we find that?
Forgiveness and why it matters is a question, I believe that many of us have to deal with in our lives. Perhaps you are dealing with someone or something that requires forgiveness - either giving or receiving? What is your story?
Jesus’ story of forgiveness was shared in the Bible for a purpose. Does the forgiveness that is needed in your life hold a purpose?
My story is one of childhood sexual abuse at the ages of 11-13 within a church setting that happened many years ago. I had to deal with this because God brought the situation to a point where the abuser needed to come to a place of accountability. He needed forgiveness. Did I wake up one day and say, “He is forgiven Father.” No, I did not. It was a journey of healing and a testimony of God’s faithfulness because through that journey, I came to realize that the LIFE-GIVER (Jesus) did not abandon me.
God gives us purpose and sometimes that purpose includes forgiving others for the wrong that they have done in our lives. Wrong choices that have affected our lives, caused us pain and suffering. Because of free will, given to us by God, we often make sinful choices. These choices harm us, but we know that our God is bigger than our mistakes and He can turn our situations around and give us new life. He is the life giver and remember He doesn't abandon us!
One of the choices in my life that still has repercussions today and that I continually talk with God about is “keeping secrets”. It was a big part of my life for a long time, a learned behaviour that became a part of my identity. God knew every detail, but I was “keeping this secret” from everyone. Someone made a wrong choice and changed the course of my life. Yes, I have the ability to change how that affects my life now. Through God’s grace, my secret was brought to light. That’s what God is about. Bringing light to the dark areas of life which results in progressive healing in His strength, His love and His hope.
Today, I literally have to remind myself to “change the tape, CD, record, and the “self-talk” that I am “a failure” because of the abuse, I am not a failure, I am a survivor of my past and a daughter of God who saved me, healed me, forgave me and made me a new creation in Him.
What is your story? What has happened in your life that needs forgiveness? Why does it matter? It matters to God, YOU matter to God.
On Saturday, October 13, 2018, I will tell my story and share how God has brought me on this journey of healing and forgiveness. I will share what I believe to be the purpose and why it matters in life. Hope to see you there!
Here are some verses to get you ready for our time together on Saturday:
Mark 11:25-26, (NIV), “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 6:37, (NIV), “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
By: Ruthann Wheaton
Listen to the 2-part story that inspired the Matthew West, "Forgiveness" song.
“I will set out and go back to my father…” Luke 15:18a (NIV)
There is something to be said about distance; something about picking yourself up and leaving something behind, because you no longer want to be held captive by whatever was holding you down. The older I get, the easier I can recognize it! There is often a lot said about walking away from something, and never turning back, but I want to talk about going back to something that maybe you should not have walked away from or walking away from something that you thought was not for you.
It takes a certain amount of humility to return, doesn’t it? Tail between your legs, head down to the ground, total humility. It’s about going back to your mom after being away for a while because you thought the world was better than your family or returning to a marriage you had given up on. It’s going back to a place you maybe shouldn’t have left.
It can be terrifying! It can bring you back down to earth incredibly quickly. Until it becomes a matter of returning to the place that is home; the familiar and nurturing place where you find acceptance in spite of your shortcomings.
How often have you had to return to your faith home? Or are you in a place where you need to return?
I’m not talking about a physical church building, though it could be that too, but the home that is in Christ; returning to the Father.
Does this get you thinking about the story of the prodigal son? If you’re not familiar with that parable, you can find it here. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic or severe, but a return may be the next thing that you need to do in your faith journey. This is something that has been on my own heart lately, as I began to sense a disconnect; a bit of a distance from “home”.
Recently, I returned to a job which I had boldly left months ago. I was onto bigger and better things and was ready to become a full-fledged independent boss lady. Pretty quickly, I realized that this new place, that seemed shiny when I was looking from a distance, really wasn’t for me. Though I always had the option of returning to my original position, I knew that it would take a certain amount of humility, admitting I made a wrong move, and that I missed the place I called my “work home”. I remember how nervous I was to tell my former boss, that I wanted to come back. I was expecting a bit of frustration, even rejection, and was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome back I received.
It was like receiving the prodigal son’s robe, ring and celebration – I received a warm hug, and pure joy that I had returned. I’ve never felt more valued in a work setting before!
Jesus is like this – though better! When we stray, and honestly, we will all have seasons when we are a bit farther away from Him than others; it’s the ebb and flow of a human relationship with a Holy God. But He is waiting for us; arms open, with a warm hug, and our very own robes, rings and celebration. We see this in a series of parables recorded in Luke 15. In each of the illustrations, something is lost, and each time, the owner, representing the Father, searches for it; leaving the other items (99) to search for the one.
It’s so amazing to me when anyone gives me a second chance, but especially when God, the perfect being gives me chance, after chance, after chance. I screw up in countless ways and would have given up on me a long time ago. Thankfully, God never will.
I’m not sure what your story is; maybe you’re in a great place with your faith, where you’re excited to meet God every day. Maybe you’re feeling a bit over it, going through the motions, like you’re trying for no reason because nothing changes (hello, I’ve been there). Maybe you’ve given up all together, and are ready to move to the next place, city, relationship, job, family.... I’m not sure where this message meets you, but I hope it encourages you to return to your home, return to the place that can’t go wrong, even when it feels like there is a better way, a better, shinier home. There isn’t one.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Usually, when we have to return to our faith home, it means leaving behind a bit of mess. Maybe it’s a life of deceit, or a relationship that reduces you, or even habits that will lead to destruction. But take the step, He will meet you, and help you.
It’s never too late, never met with anger and you will not be turned away. You will be received with warmth and acceptance. Ask God for the courage to return and the humility to go back and start again.
By: Yelena & Yolande Knight
Allow these powerful, yet simple lyrics of this song "I Wanna Go Back" by David Dunn to resonate with you.
As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night." (Genesis 8:22, NLT)
I’m an odd duck, always have been. I love winter. I don’t ski or snowshoe and I haven’t been on skates in years, but I love winter.
It came to me as a child.
We’d play outside after school until Dad came home, and then we would play all day on Saturdays. Homework was done after supper when the news was on and we had to be quiet. We played mostly in the front yard so our friends could see us and join in. Since Dad didn’t seem to be bothered when the snow tumbled onto the driveway, we made that our main playground. Sometimes we would even shovel it onto the lower half of the driveway so we could toboggan down our hill and up the other side.
When I went to school, the only time we were allowed to stay inside at recesses or lunch, were times when there was lightning. It didn’t matter how cold it was, you were expected to dress for it.
I can recall the school closing if there was a blinding snowstorm, when we would have to stay home and stay in! Not only were the roads hazardous, but there was a real fear that the street plow operator would not be able to see us with the auger on the plow, if we were on the road walking to school.
Today, at the school where I work, the school hardly ever closes for bad weather. Even when the school buses are cancelled, the school is often open. So, I watch the weather closely and test the snow with my hand every morning when I arrive.
Will we be able to do it today?
In anticipation of having the perfect snow conditions, I would have purchased four bags of large carrots which would be safely stored in the “Breakfast Club” refrigerator. I would have made and left cookie dough in my freezer at home. Then I would wait for the perfect winter day.
The perfect day arrives when there is lots of snow and it all holds together - the day for the Annual Snowman Building Contest!
Once that day is announced through the intercom system, the school erupts with cheers. Student teams are formed and one student is selected to be sent to the office for their team number and a carrot. Over the course of two recesses, and within thirteen categories, the students get to perfect their masterpieces. During the entire process, the principal films each of the teams in action and at the end, I get to go out and judge them.
Judging is difficult because each team has worked so hard. However, we are able to select seventeen winning teams and announce them during the following morning’s announcements.
On the Annual Snowman Building Contest day, there would be no fights, nor any throwing of snowballs. Instead, there is team work, imagination, and lots of fresh air. Teachers are grateful that their duties outside on that day, are fun and easy. It’s a winning day for all.
It makes me think of how our Heavenly Father must smile when He sees us working in teams, using our imaginations, and having fun!
Let’s Pray: Father, thank you for all the wonderful winter memories as a child, and for allowing me to create new memories now that I am grown and can experience the joy of the seasons through the eyes of the children around me. Thank you for the imagination of kids and for the opportunity to participate in activities that help them stretch those imaginations and work together. Help us all to see the wonder in your beautiful creation and the excitement in enjoying the simple things in each season. Amen.
By: Bev Charles
Enjoy this song from Hillsong Worship – "Seasons" - fitting for this post.
Today in the car, I was listening to a seasonal offering on audible.com from their narrators who were sharing their experiences about the holiday season. That got me to thinking about what I would like to share concerning Christmas. I recalled that many years ago, now; I loved to listen to Morningside on CBC radio, especially on Monday mornings when Peter Gzowski and Stuart McLean would share stories on numerous subjects. I remember one story where Stuart reminisced about the Christmas windows at Eaton's and Simpson's, which, every Christmas, were filled with moving mechanical scenes to celebrate the seasons and which were a favourite thing for families wherever they had stores. I believe Stuart grew up in Montreal.
I well remember all of my brothers and my cousins piling into the Queen Street streetcar, in Toronto, with my grandfather for the trip downtown to view these displays and the wonder and delight we took in it, especially as we drew closer to these iconic stores. It was something we always looked forward to.
Stuart went on to describe the intricacies of the mechanics that went into these displays and had even hunted up the folks who worked on putting them together. Then, he went on to talk about the holiday season in terms of the winter solstice. He spoke about how ancient peoples, especially in northern climes, feared the coming of winter and the shorter hours of daylight. He described how pagan peoples feared the dark and believed that the sun might go out. They devised rituals to appease the gods and looked forward to solstice celebrations which they used to convince the gods to bring back the light. At their height, these celebrations centred around December 21st.
I am sure that Stuart was aware of the analogy between the Christian celebration of Christ's birth and the return of the light, and this story has always resonated with me ever since. How clever our church fathers were to make this connection with new converts to Christianity.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the light of the world and that his followers are also to be light in the darkness.
In John 8:12, Jesus tells us, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Matthew 5:14-16 says; “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’
And in Ephesians 5:7-14 it reads; ‘Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”
The celebration of Christmas is a time of renewal of hope and recognition of God's greatest gift to us - the coming of the Saviour of the world and the completion of God's plan for mankind.
Through Jesus’ coming, death on the cross and resurrection, our relationship to God can be restored and indeed, we are assured that God sent the Son to bring light to the world and we need never fear that darkness will overcome it. Indeed we are called to shine the light we have received to others in the world to share the free gift we have been given.
For me that is part of what Christmas is all about.
Like the star that the wise men followed, we can show others the way to the Saviour.
By Lynne Willoughby
Enjoy this song by a local artist, and CHRI announcer, Care Baldwin, “The Light of Christmas”.
"Brought Out…to be Brought In”
“and he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.” Deuteronomy 6:23 (ESV)
I do my best to write from the place where I am; whether that’s a wonderful place full of light, or a bit of a dark place. When I was asked to write for this blog, I admit I was a bit reluctant because I was going through some stuff. You know, “monsters- under-the-bed” kind of stuff.
I liken it to being between a rock and a hard place, which is incredibly challenging. It is even more magnified when everything around you appear to be going fine. Casual inquiries about how things are going for you can be tricky as you force out a “great!”, because really, everything is going great. But on the other hand, you feel confused and uncertain about your next steps. It’s as if your blessings are overwhelming you. I am blessed beyond measure, and can actively remember when I was earnestly praying for the things that I have in my life now. But if there is anything I have learned in the last number of months, it is this: you cannot accurately gauge how a person is doing mentally or know what’s going on in their lives spiritually – good or bad – by how they appear physically.
But those monsters, man, they can be pretty scary! I believe that God is working on me to build my faith as he prepares me for my next “life task”, whatever that may be. I believe that once we finish one part of our mission, God begins prepping us for the next part. I’m in the pit of it right now, being prepared for whatever God wants to throw at me next. I’m not writing this from a place of having the answers, or even from a place of jumping up and down with excitement – I honestly don’t know how this next chapter of my story is going to turn out, or what exactly is going to happen once I no longer feel like I’m drowning in fear and uncertainty, because fear and uncertainty can be crippling.
But, I can tell you this.
God reaches us in those moments of fear, confusion, and uncertainty so we learn to lean on him totally and completely. He doesn’t quit on us like, maybe an old friend quit on you while you were in your pit. And trust me, I know that reading those words “he won’t quit on us” sounds great, but it can be hard to feel in your heart when you’ve been hurt – I’ve been right there. Believing that he has great things in store for us can feel like a joke when the last 15 chapters have been disappointments and hurt.
I love Deuteronomy Chapter 8 – which is titled, in my Bible App, “Remember the Lord Your God”. God was leading the people out of Egypt, into the Promised Land, but not before bringing them through 40 years in the wilderness so that they can learn to lean on him alone.
You see, God brings us OUT so he can bring us IN. Out of the old and into something new.
With the Israelites, he didn’t lie; they ended up where they were supposed to be – where he promised they would be, but he didn’t make it easy – he never said he would.
We have to make the decision to believe His promises, whether everything around looks perfect or even if things look completely opposite to perfect. We have to stop responding based on our emotions and circumstances and trust God, no matter what. Because when God brings us out, he always has a plan and a purpose for taking us into the new thing.
I heard Kristene DiMarco, who sings with Bethel Music, say, “something really beautiful happens when God becomes your only option” and it really resonated with me. It is in her short film “I Needed A Supernatural God”, from the album, “Where the Light Was”, in which she talks about the story behind the album. You can find the comment at the 10:50 mark of the film, though I would encourage you to find the 23:24 minutes to watch it in its entirety.
(Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4OAsxUJx2M)
In reality, living like God is the only thing is hard. That is a challenging way to live - if we are choosing to do it in our own strength. But we must make the choice to live like there isn’t another option, because, is there really?
Live without fear and choose to pursue him totally and completely.
That is precisely what I’ve been challenged to do lately; to let go of fear and waiting for the other shoe to drop, and to trust in God’s promises alone.
I’m sharing with you, probably my favourite worship song right now (okay, maybe even all time because it’s based off my favourite hymn): “It is Well” – Bethel Music & Kristene DiMarco.
By: Yelena Knight
It seems so fitting to add this song by the classic Gaither Music Vocals – “You Brought Us Out”,
and I know that many of you will enjoy this classic Southern Gospel sound.
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." Isaiah 43:1
I brought my black Toyota Camry to a safe distance stop behind the car in front of me. Sitting at the red light, I surveyed my surroundings, as I often do, while waiting for the light to change. The music on the radio accompanied me on my errand running day and my mind was thinking about the 'to do' list laying on the passenger seat beside me.
Looking out the passenger window on my right, I could not help but notice the young 20 something year old woman, seated behind the steering wheel of the "Jeepish" vehicle beside me. There was something about her demeanor that caused me to keep watching her.
She had shoulder length soft brown hair tucked behind her ears and a slender face. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead, looking, as though trying to change the picture unfolding in her life.
Her hands were gripping the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions, except for the moments she released them, one at a time, to wipe away the tears that were cascading down her cheeks.
Immediately, my mind and heart were engaged in her situation - though I did not know what it was. I did not know her name, but I wanted to speak to her!!
The distance that spanned the space from my driver's seat, across the center console, across the passenger seat, the thickness of my passenger side car door and the roadway between my vehicle and her car's driver side door, seemed like an un-navigable gulf. Too far to cross with the uncertainty of the timing of a changing stop light. Reaching over, I turned off the radio, as I simultaneously rolled down the passenger window, trying to "will" her to look my way so I could ask her if there was anything that I could do to help.
She stared straight ahead! Hands gripping the steering wheel. Her crying- containing gasps, even as her chest heaved to try and catch her breath. From where I sat, her sadness and sorrow were palpable. Everything within me wanted to comfort her!
She stared straight ahead - wiping tears - gasping cries!
The light turned green.
Traffic started to move. Her vehicle began to roll forward, as did mine. I debated as to whether I should follow her; to find out if there was something I could do to help. My concern for her affected my own concentration on my driving for a moment, as I watched her drive away and disappear over the crest of the hill.
Putting on my blinker, I signaled left and drove into the parking lot of the dry cleaners. Pulling into an empty spot, I put the car in park and turned off the ignition. For several moments, I sat quietly looking off in the direction in which the young woman had driven.
What was her name? What had happened to cause such pain?
Had she just received news that someone she loved had died or was in an accident and she was on her way to the hospital? Had she just received news that she was ill and trying to process the prognosis? Had she just learned she was pregnant and it was not welcome news for her life situation? Had she just broken up with her boyfriend? Did she just find out her husband was cheating on her? Had she been abused? Had she just lost her job and did not know how she was going to take care of herself? Had she said goodbye to a parent, or a child? Had life become too unbearable and she was contemplating suicide?
What situation was unfolding or news received that could illicit such a deep, guttural sorrow in her body?
I did not know her name. I could not give her comfort but I wanted to! I wanted her to know she did not have to be alone in her pain!
WHO WAS SHE? WHAT WAS HER NAME?
I could not comfort her but what I could do, I did.
"Lord Jesus - take care of her! You who knows her name and brings comfort. Please go to her where she is and meet with her in a tangible way. Help her O GOD!"
I often think of her. The young twenty-something woman in the "Jeepish" vehicle - nameless to me BUT not nameless to the GOD who knows her.
I was reminded about another broken-hearted woman who lived many years ago, in ancient days. She had a friend; a close friend. A friend of authentic caring, influence and love, who had changed her life. That friend was wrongly accused and had been horrifically brutalized and nailed on to a cross in the most humiliating of circumstances, for all to see. Then his body was laid to rest in a rock enclosed grave.
Three days later, in grief and deep trauma, she had gone to visit his grave. When she got there, her heart and mind and body experienced another adage of pain because it appeared to her as though his grave had been robbed. His body was gone.
This was too much pain to bear and she collapsed in gasping sobs. The cascading tears were falling from her eyes when a man walked into her presence.
"Woman, why are you crying" (“what happened to cause this much pain")
"They have taken away my LORD'S body (“my friend's body is gone") and I don't know what they have done with him".
Almost three years ago, I stood at the edge of an opening in the ground and watched as cemetery workers lowered the casket containing my brother's body, into the concrete vault 6 feet below. Then they put a heavy concrete lid on top of the vault and began to cover it with dirt. I stood there till the last scoopful of earth had been put in place, then grasping tightly on to my husband's hand, walked away in silent grief.
How utterly disturbing and devastating an experience it would have been if 3 days later I returned to his gravesite to find the earth dug up, the cement lid of the vault upended, the casket lid opened and my brother's body not there!
But I picture that this is the type of scenario in which this woman found herself.
"Woman, why are you crying. Who are you looking for?"
Weeping, broken-hearted, vulnerable, frantic, shattered, alone, reeling from trauma and loss, she was now in the presence of a man she did not know and he wanted to know what was wrong. She thought he was the gardener, and possibly in desperation to try and get some answers, through anguished tears, she told him her plight.
"Did you take him? Just tell me what you did with him and I will go get him...
Desperate pain - needing answers - gasping cries.
Wait. She knew that voice!!!
Why when he had spoken the first time and called her 'woman', which held no depth of familiarity, and asked her a question, had she not recognized it?
But, when he called her by her name --- oh, that was different!
"Mary" - she was known!
The gardener, or so she had thought, did not ask her name.
It was not a case of "Now, remind me who you are again?"
He KNEW her! He KNEW her name and he called her by her name!
She heard it, and in that moment, something happened!
"Rabboni - Teacher" (she knew her friend!)
"Don't hold on to me because I have not yet gone to my Father in heaven."
I can only imagine the intensity with which she grabbed hold of him - throwing her arms around him, clinging to him! "Could this be true? Could this be real? Are you kidding me? You were dead and my world shattered and now you are standing here!!"
Intensity of joy, disbelief and relief, overwhelming elation mixed with the tears and feelings that physically impact the body in grief.
This was Jesus! Her friend, her LORD - Alive!!
A staggering cacophony of thoughts and emotions.
Such an intense response she had that he told her - "Don't hold on to me".
The kind of intense response that happens when despair does a 360-degree turn.
A running leap into his arms.
It would be that kind of response for me.
It is an exquisite account to me. A demonstration of magnificent love.
Jesus did not have to go back to his gravesite after he was raised from the dead. BUT, there was a woman there that was in deep pain!
Her friend, her LORD, came to where she was - in her pain.
He knew exactly who she was.
He asked her what was wrong, and then...
He called her by her name!
That is ALL He did... And it was profound!!
It changed everything for her! It transformed her world!
October 13th & 14th are two days which have been chosen for us, as women, to get together. Will you come? Will you bring a friend or two or three?
Provision will be made for you!
I am thinking about you and praying for you!
I will be waiting and I will be watching for you!
I will be interested to see how God, the Most High God, who created you and loves you and knows where you are and all your needs, will give to you on those days.
I hope you will come with anticipation!
I hope you will leave full!
Written by Deborah A. Caya Klassen
(August 2017. All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission)
Click here to listen to the track "Take My Life" from Deborah's "Legacy of Hope" CD
Photo Credit: T. Lau
I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)
I have been blessed to call Arlington Woods Church my home church since 1967 when my family moved to Ottawa so my father could start work at Carleton University. Back then, we were meeting at Knoxdale Public School while waiting for the original church building to be built. My mother faithfully brought us kids to Sunday School though people tell me I spent a lot of time hiding behind my mother’s skirts since I was a painfully shy child and still learning English.
I am grateful for many at Arlington Woods Church who befriended my immigrant family and blessed my brother, sister, and me as our Sunday School teachers, mid-week club leaders, and youth group and young adult leaders. In time, my mother, sister, brother, and I all came to faith.
Some of you took a special interest in mentoring a painfully shy teen. You gave me opportunities to serve alongside you in Sunday School, the mid-week kids’ club, and the library. You introduced me to Wesley Acres Camp, where I worked several summers as a cabin leader and flipping burgers at the Raven Snack Shack.
As a new Christian, Dave had joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) while studying at Acadia University. After graduating, Dave moved from small town Nova Scotia to work in high tech, in the big city of Ottawa, where he joined IVCF at Carleton University, where I was studying. Dave and I met while volunteering with IVCF’s International Student Ministry friendship program. You welcomed Dave when he was looking for a new church. In 1987, you celebrated with us as Dave and I got married in the original sanctuary, the present-day fellowship hall. In 1992, you supported Dave and me when we took a giant and crazy leap of faith and moved to Tokyo, Japan for our 3-½ year international adventure.
You welcomed Dave and me back as parents of two young children and walked with us as our family grew to include two more daughters. You were a big help when those two both came seven weeks prematurely. Just as you had blessed my siblings and me growing up, you blessed my children with your leadership and friendship.
As my children grew, you gave me opportunities to serve in kids’ ministry and, in time, allowed them to serve alongside you and me. In recent years, you supported me when my parents had various serious illnesses and encouraged Dave while he was out of work. You gently encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and take on some leadership roles. You warmly welcomed me in your small groups, where I continue to grow. This summer, you celebrated with us as my firstborn was married in our current sanctuary.
As I look back over 50 years, I see God’s faithful hand in blessing my family in various seasons of life through generations of our church family - some who are still here, some who moved, and some who are with the Lord. I can’t help but be filled with gratitude. So, thank you, my Arlington Woods Church family. May God bless you and continue to bless others through you.
By: Christine Villeneuve