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Listening - May 8, 2020

LISTENING

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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

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Guest Comment 2 weeks ago
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Great perspective! Thanks for your vulnerability, Yolande. This is a lot to chew on. Great song choice as always. Really enjoy reading these AWW blogs. AD

Waiting - May 1, 2020

WAITING

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!                     
  3. 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

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Guest Comment 4 weeks ago
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That song tho! And the story behind the song is even more moving. Lincoln Brewster wrote it for his wife who had gotten over a rare form of cancer only to have to go through neck surgery and after getting through that had another major battle that he described was worse that the previous two. Powerful stuff. Learning to wait on God. As the lyrics say "Though I don't understand it I will worship with my pain" Thank you for this. xo
Guest Comment 3 weeks ago
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As I read your blog on the above mentioned. This particular scripture came to mind; Isaiah 40:31 - If we wait on the Lord our strength He will renew. If as believers we can learn only one thing from this pandemic, it is in Him we live, and move, and have our very being, Acts 17:28: We are truly nothing without God! Let us cease the opportunity to use such a time as this to see where we stand with our Creator, and ask ourselves if we are good Stewards. If not, prepare ourselves for the next season.For as you mentioned, God is truly getting us ready for that such season. Thank you so much the timely reminder as we wait in expectation. May God pour back into you what you have given us!Lorna

Anxiety & Trust - April 24, 2020

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.

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Guest Comment 1 month ago
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Wow. Thank you Yelena for your transparency and vulnerability. So many among us suffer from anxiety and are unsure how to reach out for help. May they lean on God's mercy and grace. As a line from the song says: "There's a place where fear has to face the God you know." xo

Living with COVID-19 - April 17, 2020

LIVING WITH COVID-19

Editorial NoteSusi 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.

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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.”

Isaiah 25:6-8

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"

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Guest Comment 1 month ago
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Thank you for sharing this with us Susi, and thank God that you are doing better! xo
Small Group Leader 1 month ago
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Susi, you are such a wonderful example of a godly young woman. May God bless you and your ministry. So thankful that you have recovered. Janet McClung
Guest Comment 1 month ago
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Praise the Lord!May God continue to bless and keep you in perfect standing as you share and encourage us.Stay safe!LTK

The Season of Easter and Social-Distancing - April 10, 2020

The Season of Easter, and Social-Distancing

Editorial Note:  We are thrilled to bring you the following blog which was written and first published on March 16th, 2020 by Melissa Reeve on her blog “Because of a Sticker”.

Published with permission.

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We’re in the middle of March, in the middle of Lent, and in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t think anyone thought that the church as a whole would start giving up church services for Lent. We’ve been told to sit tight for a couple of weeks, and reassess then. We’re about 4 weeks away from Easter. We might be giving that up for Lent as well.

It’s hard to imagine Good Friday and Easter passing by without church services, but it might come to that. I think it’s best to prepare ourselves, in case that happens. It’s one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, and one of the busiest. And we might all be stuck inside our own homes.

I think there are a few very important things to keep in mind this year as Easter approaches. I know it hurts to consider cancelling services that are probably already in the planning stages. Easter comes with special services, special speakers, special music, church potlucks, family dinners etc. But as hard as it is to imagine cancelling, should it become necessary, we need to keep the big picture in mind – two big pictures, really.

First, God is still God regardless of circumstances. History is still history regardless of current circumstances. Who God is, or what He did on the cross, will not change just because we have to cancel services. Even if we have to celebrate at home, we can do that. God hears us individually as well as corporately, and His plan for us does not change based on church attendance. The big picture is that God is ultimately in control of our lives here, and in heaven. For a Christian, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Christ is our hope, our peace, and our joy here on earth, and whenever we do die, we get to experience Him in person. Missing even the most important of church services will never change that.

Second, as long as we live, our commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). How can we best love our neighbours right now? A good way to start is by being sensible during a pandemic. It’s hard to adjust to the idea of loving people by avoiding them, but spreading a potentially deadly virus is not a good way to love your neighbour. Stay home, when possible, for the good of the vulnerable people around you. This virus moves quickly, and the best way to keep hospitals from being overrun, and to keep our families and communities safe, to is keep our distance. It’s everyone’s job to take proactive measures as much as possible.

It’s easy to think that Lent, Good Friday and Easter are necessities of the Christian faith. You know what? They are. But the celebrations and traditions that accompany them are not. Easter is still Easter without a service. During this time in the church calendar, we focus on Christ’s sacrifice which atoned for our sins so that we could be seen as blameless before God. That is incredibly important. Without that, we’re just a group of broken and sinful people with no hope. But God is our hope, and God does not change when our traditions have to change.

Hang onto the big picture, in terms of community health, and eternal hope. Keep being proactive about this public health crisis. Remember that God is with us even when we can’t be with each other. Keep praying, singing praise songs, and reading your Bibles at home, and come out of this with a stronger faith. Set a good example in loving your neighbour enough to stay home. And as I heard in a sermon online this week, the building is not the church: the body of Christ is the church. As much as we’re social-distancing, we’re still not alone. We’re still connected.

By Melissa Reeve

As Melissa has so eloquently stated, and echoed in this beautiful song by Kari Jobe, (we) "I am Not Alone".

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Guest Comment 1 month ago
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Thank you again Melissa for this great reminder that God is our hope and that we are the Church! xo
Small Group Leader 1 month ago
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Thanks, Melissa, for the wise reminder of what Easter should be.Auntie Jan

Starting Again… September 14th, 2018

"Starting Again..."

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.

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Guest Comment 1 year ago
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Yelena, thank you for always being so authentic with your experiences. We certainly learn and grow from the experiences of others (as well as our own). So happy that the blog is back. Thank you. xo

The Collision of God & Sin - March 30, 2018

“The Collision of God & Sin”
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)
 
"The cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. Never associate the idea of martyrdom with the Cross of Christ. It was the supreme triumph, and it shock the very foundations of hell. There is nothing in time or eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable that what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross - He made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God. The Cross was not something that happened to Jesus – He came to die; the Cross was His purpose for coming. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The incarnation of Christ would have no meaning without the Cross. Beware of separating “God was manifested in the flesh…” from “…He made Him…to be sin for us…” (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The purpose of the incarnation was redemption. God came in the flesh to take sin away, not to accomplish something for Himself. The Cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the problems of both.
 
The Cross is not the cross of a man, but the Cross of God, and it can never be fully comprehended through human experience. The Cross is God exhibiting His nature. It is the gate through which any and every individual can enter into oneness with God. But it is not a gate we pass right through; it is one where we abide in the life that is found there. The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much. 
 
The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened. But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God."
 
Devotion taken from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest - Holy Week Edition
 
 
Enjoy this Elevation Worship song, "Resurrecting" that celebrates the fact that Jesus is alive. 
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Guest Comment 2 years ago
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Such powerful truths in both the devotional and the song. Thanks. xo

Trust Issues - February 23, 2018

"TRUST ISSUES"

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

Trust Issues. It’s more than a Drake song, it’s something that many of us experience.

I can’t think of a person walking on this earth (even though I know like, five people), who has not experienced some kind of hurt that resulted in a break in trust. I can think of so many personal examples where I trusted in someone and that trust was broken by an action. It hits us in our core, and it hurts. If this happens to us enough times, it can make us not want to trust anyone (hands up if that’s you).

Lo and behold, a package of trust issues manifests. You will, of course, convince yourself that you are “protecting yourself”, and you are “wiser now than before”, because you refuse to believe that people can do good, can help, can truly and genuinely care without wanting anything in return. Of course, there is an element of guardedness required in life when it comes to trust – you should absolutely not trust in everyone you come across, that’s silly. However, what I’m writing about is when the pendulum swings too far one way, and you won’t trust in anyone at all out of fear.

Fear. How many of us want to admit that trust issues are a result of fear? I sure didn’t; I have told myself the above a million and ten times – I am just smarter now than before (and, I must add, I absolutely am). But my pendulum swung so hard the other way that I wouldn’t let anyone in. I was (and honestly, I still am) scared to meet new people, to let friends fully in, to allow myself to believe in the good of others. How many times have I blocked myself from meaningful and fulfilling relationships because of trust issues? This is important, but I think the bigger question is this: how many times have I blocked myself from a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Christ because of my earthly trust issues?

A recent message at church (link here) really shook me to my core. Do I truly trust God, or am I putting in all of these terms and conditions for my trust?

Why am I acting as though God needs to earn my trust, when He doesn’t need to prove that he’s got my back? How have I allowed myself to put human conditions on God?

I will admit that I don’t always totally trust God, which seems almost blasphemous to say. I love God, believe that He’s good, and believe the Word. However, because of human hurts, and life circumstances I still don’t totally understand, I sometimes doubt that He has my back.

I love the story that many of us know well: Jesus calling Peter to walk on water found in Matthew 14:22-32. We can lose some of the meaning of the story by the sheer amazement of someone actually walking on water. Peter trusts Jesus while walking until he didn’t, until he thought about sinking. (vv. 29-31). When he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink, crying out for Jesus to save him; almost forgetting the fact that he was walking on water before. How often are we “walking on water”, focusing on Jesus, and not our problems, and then we lose sight of that, look at our earthly circumstances, get scared, and begin to sink, forgetting that Jesus was there all along.

That is exactly what happens when we stop trusting in God, and look at our circumstance.  It goes something like this: we stop trusting in God, look at how other imperfect humans have let us down, and lose hope. We forget that God is God; He is different. We cannot measure Him by human standards or through our human experiences.

In order to have a full and lasting relationship with God, we have to take the step toward truly trusting Him. Really. That means not always knowing what’s going to happen, or seeing the full picture.

Because if we knew it all beforehand, it wouldn’t be faith, would it?

By:  Yelena Knight

 Lauren Daigle's Song "Trust in You" is a perfect reminder of how we need to let go and let God.

 

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I think that most of us struggle with trust at some point in our journeys and it's always encouraging to hear how others are working through that aspect of their faith walk. Thank you Yelena. xo

Tree-Sight vs Full Sight - January 19, 2018

 

"Tree-Sight vs Full-Sight”       

 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:24-25 ESV)

The first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, Helen Keller, is quoted to have said that “the only thing worse than having no sight is to have sight but no vision.”

Ouch!

This Helen Keller reference makes me think about the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed at Bethsaida. You know the one: the strange encounter when this man was brought to Jesus to be touched and Jesus took the man outside the village to heal him. Read it in its entirety here (Mark 8:22-26).

Perhaps, like me, you were so hung up on the manner in which the healing occurred, (come on, Jesus spitting on the man’s eyes is definitely bizarre behaviour), that you missed some of the gems of the story. After all, we’ve seen this “spitting thing” before but never quite like this.

On two other occasions, (see Mark 7:33 & John 9:6), we have recorded accounts of Jesus using spit in the performance of a miracle, but this is the only account of a miracle when Jesus did a healing in two touches and the only recorded miracle in all of the four gospels where Jesus asks a question of the person being healed.

Though I am only speculating about the reasons for what I consider to be key elements, some theologians have also noted these points as having illustrative or other importance in our Christian walk. 

Some of you may be interested in delving deeper and can study the significance of factors such as, the fact that this was a private healing, the place the miracle took place, the timing of the miracle and how it is interpreted in the larger story of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  Bethsaida was the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip, and this was Mark’s last recorded miracle of Jesus in Galilee as He headed to the cross. It was also the signal of the end of Jesus’ public ministry; His remaining time was spent in private teaching and discipleship of the Twelve as He prepared them for His death.

Did you also wonder how this blind man knew what trees looked like? Could it be that he wasn’t always blind?

I will say this: I believe that this story is an illustration of spiritual vision, and like the disciples then, how our spiritual sight comes in stages. Like the physically blind man in Mark’s story, whose healing started with a little sight and then became full sight; our spiritual lives are the same. We are people who were in darkness, received partial sight (tree-sight) and our hope is for God to restore us to full sight where we see everything clearly.

This account has also caused me to think about my own life and how sometimes, I tend to have “tree-sight”, when I see things through my own eyes, and not fully, as God would have me see them. It’s in those moments that I need that second touch from God where I can have full sight.  

How about you?

 

 By: Yolande A. Knight - womensministry@arlingtonwoods.ca

 

I'd like to share one of my all-time favourite worship songs that helps to usher me into a time of drawing closer to God as I seek Him for healing by Christy Nockels - "Healing is in Your Hands"

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Guest Comment 2 years ago
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Wow! Tree sight - makes me think of the expression "can't see the forest for the trees"- when people get so bogged down with the details that they miss the vision. Very deep insights and a great perspective on this passage.Thanks Yolande.

Brought out...to be Brought in! - November 24, 2017

"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.

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Guest Comment 2 years ago
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Thank you for being real Yelena.I like that Kristene quote too as it has been my reality on more than a couple occasions. Thank you for always being authentic. xo
Julie Hogeboom 2 years ago
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Thank you Yelena, for sharing from your heart and for your vulnerability. Our life is a journey and we are always learning to trust him for direction, and peace in the unknown and often scary days ahead. JH

Remembering - November 10, 2017

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"Remembering..."

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 (NASB)

Our feature photo this week is a reminder of the “Called Retreat” table that was so lovingly decorated at the front of the church during our retreat weekend. Who can forget that gorgeous bouquet of thirty-something pink roses and those flowing fern branches! The ferns immediately took me back to my childhood and growing up in the Caribbean where I was surrounded by beautiful, lush vegetation all the time. These ferns grew in abundance there, so it was a very fond memory for me, and throughout the entire weekend, my heart was filled with appreciation for that reminder.

November is a month of remembering and leads us into a season of memory-making and memory-recollecting. This weekend, on Remembrance Day, our nation pauses to remember what our veterans have done and continue to do to secure and protect our freedoms.  As people who enjoy these freedoms today, let us show our profound gratitude for the extraordinary sacrifices made by men and women who laid down their lives for their country. And let us remember the horrors and deep cost of war so that we will not be so apt to repeat them in the future.

Because, remembering is more for the future than it is for the past. Forgetting can be costly. It has been said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

As Christians, we understand what it means to remember.  God calls us to remember. Our faith is all about remembering. We can look forward to eternity because we remember God’s grace that saved us in the past, allowing us to spend eternity with Him.

God asks us to remember where we’ve come from; how He reached out with outstretched hands to pull us out of our pits of despair. (Deuteronomy 5:15) Hence the warning  from the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 6:4-8; for if we forget, we are doomed to hell.

Ever wonder why God asks us to remember Him as often as we partake in communion? (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)

Take a close look through your Bible and see the numerous references to remembering. Here are a few examples (Matthew 26:13, Joshua 4:4-7, Exodus 28:9-12, 39:6-7) and look at the number of times the Israelites erected memorials to remind them of God’s goodness and mercy as they journeyed to the Promised Land.

This Remembrance Day, add a few things to your list for remembering…

  • Remember how God saved you from your sins.
  • Remember how God placed you in a loving Church family.
  • Remember how God opened your eyes to recognize sin.
  • Remember how God carried you through your season of pain and suffering.
  • Remember how God provided for you when you didn’t know how you would make it through to the next week/month.
  • Remember how God answered that impossible prayer for you/ a loved one / a friend.
  • Remember how God sent that person over to comfort you during your time of grief / sadness / loneliness.
  • Remember how God healed you / a family member / a friend / a colleague when the doctors had given up.
  • Remember how the gospel came alive to you through the community of your small group.
  • Remember how God…. (fill in the blank)
  • Remember God!

By: Yolande A. Knight - womensministry@arlingtonwoods.ca

 

Let the words of this song from the Passion movement speak to you as you “Remember” featuring Brett Younker & Melodie Malone.

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Guest Comment 2 years ago
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Powerful insights! Remembering definitely helps to build our faith and gives us courage to go forward as we look back and see God's hand in even the tough steps of our journeys. Thanks. xo

Fear Not - October 27, 2017

"Fear Not!"

This year’s retreat theme, “Called”, was based on Isaiah 43:1 and taken from a section of Scripture where God was reassuring His people about His redemptive plan for them. They were going through a period of grave difficulties, including captivity, and God was using these words to bring them comfort. He was building their confidence in His plans for their future, despite what they were going through at that moment.

Did you get the “at that moment” idea? 

What does that mean to you?

How does it resonate with what’s happening in your life today, in your current season?

I invite you to spend some time with the Lord on that thought this week. Sit still with Him and ask Him to reveal what He may be working out in your life “at this moment”.  Don’t rush the process; it could take several sittings to clearly hear God’s voice.

One of the many nuggets that Deborah shared with us over the retreat weekend, was how she came to understand that God was growing her to be more like Him through the wilderness places of her life. Many of us can share similar stories.

 He is ready to do the same in your life, if you let Him.

To the Israelites in the wilderness, He was providing comfort and confidence. He promises to do the same for us in our wilderness. He does have a redemptive plan for your life.   

Do you really believe that God calls you by name? That He knew you before you were born? 

And that He has a plan specifically for you? 

How may your life look differently if you are walking in the knowledge of those truths, if you believe that He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine?

Join us at our November Mugs & Muffins (November 11th, at 9:30 a.m.) as we continue the conversation with a panel of "Called” women who will share their experiences and take-aways from the truly amazing retreat weekend.

 

By: Yolande A. Knight - womensministry@arlingtonwoods.ca

 

Our Chris Tomlin's Christmas Concert ticket winner, and many of you will appreciate this "Fear Not" song that captures the essence of this week's post. Reflect on the lyrics.

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Guest Comment 2 years ago
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It's so easy to feel ill-equipped, unqualified and overly aware of our own deficiencies that we are afraid to step into our calling - whatever that may be. Knowing that God Himself has commissioned us into our calling should help us overcome any fears we may have. Today, thank God for His call on your life! Thanks for this post and thank you AWW for the "Called" Retreat. xo