"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.”
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
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"
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 - email@example.com
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.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” (Is 43:1b)
If you’re anything like me, you may have gone for a long time believing that being “called” by God was reserved for special people. Perhaps you felt that you didn’t measure up and worthy to be called.
Friends, I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth! God calls every one of us, in our ordinariness, brokenness, and in spite of our messed-up lives. Look through the pages of your Bible and see that, with few exceptions, the people who were used by God were ordinary, common folks.
What does it mean to be called by God?
It doesn’t mean that we are better than other people and it doesn’t mean that we suddenly have a life free from obstacles. In fact, the opposite may be true. James 1:2- says to “consider it pure joy when you endure trials of many kinds” and John tells us that in this world, we would have trials (John 16:33). You see, once we become Christ-followers, it’s like we become walking targets for the enemy.
Most of Jesus’ disciples were ordinary fishermen (John 21:1-3) who endured much hardship in their lives; some even died in their service to God. The Bible is clear in showing us that being called by God has to do with serving Him and loving others, and not a safe and trouble-free life. It’s about becoming humble and allowing God to use us wherever He has placed us.
We need to stop looking at the idea of being “called” as a special assignment, or about specifically being in ministry or sent out on a mission field. Your call may be to be the best mom or wife right in your own home. I believe called has more to do with the small, simple things we do that adds value to another person’s life and less about the grand and public displays, huge gestures or dramatic things. It’s less about self and more about others; the idea of laying down your life for your sisters.
Don’t know what God has called you to do?
Wonder why you’re not fulfilling your purpose?
Could it be that you are not ready? If we look at one example in Scripture, we’ll see that sometimes it takes a long time and it may require a lot of growth. Joseph’s story, found in Genesis 37 through Chapter 50, is a great place to start and begins when Joseph was seventeen. We meet Joseph as an arrogant teenager who knew in his heart that God had a big plan for his life but, we also see that Joseph was not ready to step into that purpose. He needed to go through some seasons of pruning to become ready for his assignment from God. Over time and through a series of trials and troubles, Joseph was humbled and his character developed into the man who found pleasure in serving God through saving many lives. (Genesis 50:20)
We will be dedicating our next few blog posts to exploring this topic of “called” as we prepare for our upcoming Fall Retreat. I trust that you will follow along and uncover what God has called you to do and the work He has prepared for you.
Aren’t you just a tad interested to find out?
I hope that your journey won’t be as long and painful as Joseph’s. When you do recognize your calling, you’ll see how truly exhilarating and fulfilling the journey of life becomes.
Dare to be all that God has called you to be and depend on His guidance and direction! Don’t settle for anything less! You were made to shine!
By: Yolande A. Knight - firstname.lastname@example.org
“FATHERS & DAUGHTERS"
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV)
We are thrilled to honour the fathers in our church family with this special blog featuring answers to a series of questions we posed to one of our dad’s. As a father of a daughter (and two sons), two daughters-in-law and four granddaughters, Neil understands the father-daughter bond. Here he shares some of his insights and experiences.
Where did you get your parenting ideas from?
How unaware was I of the amazing experiences or the huge responsibility that awaited me as I held our first child for the first time! Born to Pat and me, on November 16,1983 was a beautiful and healthy baby girl, we named Noriko. Pat and I were both dentists trained at university to pursue this career however we received no formal training to be parents.
My parents were both second generation Japanese-Canadians, and raised us with a goal of providing lots of opportunities to succeed. My dad worked hard to support us and was involved in our sports activities by coaching or just being there. He was loyal to his family, didn’t verbally teach us but we learned from his example. My mom, well, she was always there meeting all our needs by her actions in a gentle way. That experience in my family was the basis of the idea that one day I wanted to get a job, get married and be a father.
Pat and I both became Christians while at dental school. For me that was in 1976 and from that moment on I became very aware that God had a plan for my life which initially confirmed I was to be a dentist. I was so relieved that I began to turn to Him for guidance on other areas of life like getting married, where to live, where to go to church, when to have kids. When Noriko came, I had already experienced a dental situation where I was afraid. I was desperate and turned to God and He was there for me. I was also involved as a leader in our church’s youth group and was becoming aware of the responsibility parents have in providing an environment where God is first. I was burdened by the desire to see our kids come to faith as I believed that a sincere faith in God would be their best chance of navigating through life successfully and making good choices.
How did you see your role as dad influence them in that regard?
Somehow, I knew that to be Noriko’s dad, I would need all the help I could get. I realized that I had to be intentional in my role as a father and found books, tapes and, courses on raising children. As well, we hung out with other families who shared our concerns. As I grew as a Christian, the Bible became central in my life and verses such as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (quoted above) and Proverbs 22:6 (NET) “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it. “had huge impacts.
I knew that if our children were to see the importance of faith, my faith had to be sincere and I had to share with them how much I needed God. I couldn’t rely on the church to do it all. I recall reading something that said something along the line of, “what you learn in the first six years of life lays a deep foundation” and I recognized that our impact, as parents was definite.
We began to have nightly devotions, we supported our kids in all their activities and with Noriko, I started to have “daddy-daughter dates”. During our family times, we talked about their behaviour, their attitudes and related them to pleasing God. Teaching about forgiveness as a life time activity was important. It was while doing this that I realized I couldn’t teach what I didn’t do myself. Hey, I wasn’t a perfect parent and at times, I had to say I was sorry and ask for their forgiveness, sometimes to a 3-year-old.
The reality is that there is a freedom in knowing what’s the right thing to do, even if it is difficult to do. There is an even greater freedom when you do it! Another reality is that your kids will eventually see what you really believe is important. It begins when they see how we are spending our time. Are we spending enough time with them?
I became very intentional about being organized so I could be home to participate in our kids’ activities and to just be there. I even sacrificed some of my own activities. Something significant happened as a result: I learned more about our kids as I observed how they responded to the situations that arose in their activities. For example, I witnessed their discovery of fairness, their fulfilment of doing something they didn’t think they could, their disappointments, giving up, selfishness, selflessness, etc.
How do you think the “father-daughter” relationship affect the daughter as she walks into adulthood?
May I share my story to help answer this question?
When Pat was pregnant with our first child, deep down I really wanted a girl and God blessed us with Noriko. She became special for many reasons as we watched her blossom. She loved being a little girl; so, dresses, dolls and, playing house were parts of her world of imagination. At the same time, she was right in the middle of a ball hockey game. She loved being the big sister to her two brothers who would do anything with her. As she grew older, she traded in her ballet costume for hockey equipment getting tired of just watching her brothers. She always had friends but her family was important. We shared special “father-daughter dates.” Somehow, I was aware when Noriko was a child that I was the first man to take her seriously and that my attention to her would someday influence who her choice of the second man would be. How I responded to situations was therefore influenced by that awareness.
Case in point: Piano practice at age 8. It was a daily struggle to encourage, push and yet know when to stop and not exasperate Noriko. I certainly didn’t have all the answers. So much seemed to depend on her mood, her state of fatigue, what else was on her mind etc. She seemed to think she was right when sometimes she wasn’t and when I corrected her she often disagreed.
As she got older she did start to grow up. At 14 she wrote me this note: “I want you to know that I am trying to accept the fact you won’t always be there for me because of baseball. I love you in spite of everything. Love Noriko ps. Please don’t coach summer baseball. HaHa”
Noriko reflected on the value of life including the people in her life; this she expressed well on Hallmark cards and I always looked forward to Father’s Day. On Father’s Day in the year she was to be married she wrote: “You were the best daddy in the world, a great friend and now tied for # 1 in important men in her life.”
I do believe how we treat our daughters influences the kind of person they look for in a husband. They want to be loved and cared for unconditionally and, to be in a secure relationship. This fact is mentioned often in some of those parenting books I used to read and those that dealt with the importance of the father–daughter relationship. As well, a healthy marriage influences the security of our daughters as they begin their own adult lives.
At some point, we have all messed up as parents. What do you say to parents who are struggling in their relationships; is there hope?
I want to emphasize that there is hope, no matter how badly we have messed up. We all have weaknesses which also show up while we parent. This lets everyone down; therefore, the challenges in parenting will give us opportunities to see something about ourselves.
To begin, harmonious relationships within a family are one of God’s richest blessings. Think about that statement. How strongly you believe that will influence how you respond to your situation. I have read this to be true from those older than me, believed it and desired it especially when we faced our challenges.
Secondly, believe God knows the situation so, cast that care upon Him because He cares about you and is waiting with open arms. (1 Peter 5:7) Acknowledge that you are helpless and need help, His help. This is a good place to start because you are also acknowledging responsibility in the relationship and that you are in part responsible for it’s present condition.
God has a plan for you as He did for me. Apologize and ask for forgiveness without expectation. This is unconditional love. Be on a journey of asking God to reveal how He wants to change you. Our personal growth gives us teaching opportunities to share how we need God to help us be better parents. Then, commit more time to your relationship so you can get to know your kids better. I understand that depending on the age and situation this can be easier or more difficult. Finally turn to a friend who shares your concern, to trusted and godly parents within your church family, or otherwise, or turn to your pastor.
Finally consider this: you are giving your daughter a process for dealing with struggles that she will face both now and in the future and perhaps even the confidence to enter one. I’d say that is a gift; don’t you?
By: Neil Fukumoto
“THE MOST POWERFUL PRAYER!”
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Father forgive them…
the most powerful prayer on earth
… life-changing words
… maybe words that you are not yet able to say
But words that will change your life.
These words have changed my life.
But they don't deserve it...
…and I don't want to.
I don't deserve it....
…and I can’t.
Forgiveness doesn't make sense –
Until you realize it’s not a choice, but a command.
Until you understand that it’s an act of love and not an act of justice.
Until you realize that you are hurting yourself.
Until you realize you are robbing yourself of freedom.
Many years ago, I spent several months praying a version of those words for a hurt we were going through. The pain of betrayal, loss of trust and friendship ran deep. We had never felt so low and alone. Learning to forgive was like agonizingly peeling away layers of an onion. Over months and years, the onion became smaller and the lessening of the pain was evident. Time brought healing. Each time a memory rose to the surface was another opportunity to forgive. Slowly the onion vanished.
The pain is now gone and forgiveness is complete. Today, I can look the offenders in their eyes without getting tense and hot. I am thankful that God intervened to make all things good.
How about you?
Have you ever been betrayed, injured, insulted, or taken advantage of?
Perhaps you have been robbed of a purchased possession.
Or maybe it was a stolen possession that cannot easily be replaced, such as your reputation, sexuality, time, health, children, or family.
Any of these offences can fill our minds and hearts with legitimate anger and hatred toward the offender, and even at God for allowing it to happen. Perhaps the offences were the results of our own mistakes that we are not willing or think we can forgive. By holding onto our anger and hatred, we become captive to the bitter feelings and eventually repress them. We bury them in the caves of our minds.
These caves become chained shut and keep us in bondage.
As painful as our past may be, it cannot be changed. What has happened has happened; the facts cannot be changed. Our attitudes, however; can be changed from anger and hatred to forgiveness.
Jesus’ way is for us to turn our caves over to God so that we can receive freedom. God has promised to deal with those who have hurt us; it's not our responsibility.
And God says, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back …" (Deuteronomy 32:35, Hebrews 10:30 NLT)
Our responsibility is to pray the most powerful prayer on earth - "Father, forgive them…" Luke 23:34
If we choose not to forgive those who have hurt us, we put ourselves under their control and we hinder God’s ability to heal us and set us free. So, we must forgive others and ourselves for our past mistakes and allow God to clean, heal, and restore the barricaded caves in our minds. Allowing God to pay our debts is one of the greatest benefits of Christianity, because when we do, real healing takes place.
A stolen possession that can cause deep wounds is our reputation and it can be very hard to keep quiet when we are criticized or falsely accused. But that's exactly what Jesus did when his reputation was stolen and when he was falsely accused by the chief priests, scribes, and elders. Jesus kept quiet.
Isaiah 53:7 (NIV) states "He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; Like a lamb that was led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before it's shearers, so he did not open his mouth."
Not only did Jesus command forgiveness; he also demonstrated it when he prayed, "Father, forgive them…"
Jesus knew that forgiveness frees, and he wants us to be free from the bondage of un-forgiveness.
As Peter Horrobin states in his book, "The Most Powerful Prayer on Earth", "Jesus may have been crucified on the strength of the false accusations of his accusers, but three days later it was God himself vindicated him!"
“And the only way for us to deal with those who try to steal our reputation is to forgive them, keep on doing what is right, act with humility and integrity, and trust God with the outcome.”
If we choose not to forgive others, we risk not being forgiven by God. In Matthew 6:15 (NIV) Jesus said, " But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." In other words - if we do not forgive those who have hurt us, then our Father in heaven will not forgive us! Yikes!
Forgiveness of sin is the greatest possible blessing that God makes available to his children; but if we are not willing to forgive others, we miss out on God's best for our lives.
On this Good Friday and this time of the year when we purposefully engage in spring cleaning, may I encourage you to take the opportunity to also do some soul cleansing. Think of the forgiveness Jesus extends to us daily. Forgive, let go, release past relationships, forgive yourself of disappointments, and move on in love.
Letting go makes room for what is yet to come.
May you be able to experience the joy of true forgiveness this Easter.
By: Julie Hogeboom
“HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!”
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13, NIV)
Are there times where you want God to do something for you that actually goes against His character?
The Jewish people wanted to be saved, but they wanted to be saved from a King who would overthrow Rome. They wanted to be freed from Gentile oppression - by force, as told in their history. They didn’t want a King who would tell them to live in peace and unity with the Gentiles. But that’s what they got, a meek King who wanted peace, love, and freedom - for all. Jews and Gentiles.
Is there someone you know who you think deserves God's wrath? Maybe they've persecuted you, or maybe it's their lifestyle that frustrates you. I know I feel that way sometimes. I’ll think to myself: “Why is that person succeeding at school; all they do is party, sleep around, and gossip?” And then Jesus steps in and shows me that I’m no different than that crowd who welcomed Him with palm branches one day and then turned on Him the next.
We often want God to be something He’s not, to do something we think is best. We want God to make us the best at ‘x’ instead of asking Him how we can serve and be humble. We want Trump out instead of asking God why he’s in. We want God to end slavery but we are doing nothing to pursue justice.
Jesus is in control and He has all authority. Instead of asking Him to align His heart to ours, we need to be aligning our hearts with His.
The people who loved and welcomed Jesus with palm branches yelling “Blessed is He!” were the same ones who later betrayed him, beat him, and yelled “Crucify Him.”
Before you get too quick to judge those people, look within. Like them we’re the ones who welcome Him into our hearts but also reject Him daily. As I write these words, all I can sing is “Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” (How Deep the Father’s Love For Us) Amen!
Jesus did not come to save the righteous by grace. He came to save the sinners; to save those who deny Him – you and me. “Jesus answered, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” (Luke 5:31-32)
Where in your life do you deny Jesus during the week and then worship Him on Sunday? Do you get drunk on Saturday night and come to church hungover in the morning? Do you lie to your boss on Monday, the day after worshiping Jesus? Do you gossip with your co-workers and then later try to tell them about how much Jesus loves them and those you were gossiping about?
We all sin, day in and day out, but there is hope. There is a Saviour riding in on a donkey, who knows full well that we will deny Him. The ones He came to save were the very ones who killed Him, and yet He came anyway! He came to prepare our hearts, to forgive our sins, and to set us free. Jesus sees through our empty praise, but still wants to transform our hearts. He wants us to be able to sing and shout His praise authentically.
Every day, we are faced with questions like “should I stand up for Jesus and not conform, or should I say this little lie to get me out of trouble?” In those moments, we need to start denying ourselves and start choosing Jesus, praying for our hearts to align with His. When we do, He will answer our prayers and we will start becoming more and more like Him.
Scripture tells us that after Jesus’ triumphal entry, as He was heading to Jerusalem and foresaw its impending misery and the blindness of the people, that He wept. "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’" (Luke 19:41-42) I imagine Him weeping over our misery today; for hardened hearts, and for those who are suffering, and those who will reject Him.
Do we, like Jesus, have compassion and tears for others who are suffering?
Allow this Palm Sunday reminder to cause you to move with Jesus toward the needs of others, whatever the cost. We need to deny ourselves the comforts and securities of easy living, and step into the areas of brokenness, suffering, and pain in people’s lives. And we need to not only cry for them but to join with them and act on those needs.
Don’t let this just be something else you read; decide to act it out. How and where are you denying yourself by entering into the pain and suffering of others? Do you truly believe that in the long run this will lead to joy and life in Jesus?
By: Christine Desgroseilliers
Listen to the full song “How Deep the Father’s Love” written by Stuart Townend in this poignant arrangement by WorshipMob.
“THE REBEKAH PRINCIPLE”
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV)
I would venture to say that the average Christian may not have given much thought to the extent of Rebekah’s generosity as described for us in the story of how she was chosen to be Isaac’s wife. I would further submit that Rebekah demonstrates a generosity that is lacking in our society today.
The servant, whom Jacob sent out to find a wife for Isaac, lays out a fleece for the woman who would become Isaac’s wife. (In Christian language, a fleece is asking God for a concrete sign that something is His will.) This fleece represented a huge prayer request and though we do not use fleeces today, the significance of this request should not be overlooked. It called for a woman who would offer water to the ten camels that made up the servant’s entourage. (Genesis 24:10, 14) On the surface, that seems like a small request especially to those of us who have never had to give water to a camel, let alone ten.
So let me break it down in a way that may resonate with you.
The fact that the servant’s prayer was answered exactly as he prayed is where many of us focus our attention. Here’s what we miss when we do that – we miss the magnitude of Rebekah’s generosity. After offering the servant a drink, Rebekah proceeded to provide water for all his camels. (Genesis 24:16-21) A conservative estimate of the amount of water a camel would drink at the end of a day is about 20 gallons. Rebekah offered water to all ten camels which would have totalled 200 gallons. Assuming that she carried a five gallon water jar, it meant that she would have made 40 trips back and forth to gather that much water. Further assuming that it took her about three minutes per trip, this small act of kindness would have taken at least two hours to complete. Two hours of Rebekah's time that was not part of her plan for that day.
How does Rebekah’s story strike you now?
Rebekah’s attitude stands in stark contrast to the attitudes so prevalent in society today; a society that seeks to do the least amount of work necessary for the most reward. These days, we call that "working smart". Our society is sorely lacking in its ability to go the extra mile for others.
I believe that we can learn how to be generous with a willing spirit, as described in 2 Corinthians 9:7, from Rebekah. Her story shows us how to be faithful with what we have (Luke 16:10), to give with a mindset of multiplication in eternity (Matthew 6:19-20), and to understand that the smallest act of generosity makes a difference. (Matthew 10:42)
Giving generously is not only about our finances; it is also about giving our time, our talents, and our attention to people, encouraging and spurring them on. People who give with a willing spirit and who are not focused on a return are blessed beyond measure. (2 Corinthians 9:8) Generosity of that kind is not a give-to-get system because we cannot become legalistic about giving since ultimately, when we give, we give to the Lord. (Matthew 25:40)
Can I challenge you to be intentional about doing something generous every day this coming week? Share a smile, a kind or encouraging word with someone. Show love to someone who is difficult to love or use your talents and treasures to bless someone else. Funny how when you do, you end up as the one who feels more blessed; funny how that works!
Rebekah’s generosity was not only rewarded immediately and materially in the jewelry she received from the servant (Genesis 24:22); she also ended up in the lineage of our Lord. How’s that for an eternal reward?
Let all that we do be for the Cause of Christ as Kari Jobe so beautifully expresses in her new song.
Yolande Knight – email@example.com
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19a ESV)
A New Year… new beginnings….a chance to start fresh….a new calendar…new agenda….new goals & resolutions….new hopes!
Is that the sense you get with the beginning of a New Year? Do you see the New Year as another opportunity to get it right?
As a community of Christians, we know in our heads that God gives us that opportunity every day because His Word tells us so. Lamentations 3:22-23 says that "His steadfast love never fails and His mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.” But in our hearts, it is often difficult to translate that head knowledge into a heart transformation. After all, we have so many things that veil our ability to see the “new thing”.
I want to challenge you to let this be the year that you begin the process of transforming your heart. Let this be the year that you turn the page and truly begin a new chapter in your life. Determine to stop re-reading and rehearsing the pain of yesterday and step into the “new” that God has prepared for you.
Stepping into the new takes effort and perseverance but the end results are so worthwhile. Before we get to verses 22 and 23 of Lamentations 3, the writer was remembering his “affliction and gall”; his soul was “bowed down”. He was not in a very good place. Here is what it says in the NIV – Lamentations 3:19-20 “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”
Pay attention to the breakthrough that occurs when he makes this observation in verse 21- “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…”
It’s as if the writer had a “But wait…” moment that caused him to cast his eyes on something else. It’s like seeing the same picture but through different lenses – through the lens of hope. (Ref: Romans 8:24-25)
Don’t ever doubt that God doesn’t understand life gets tough at times but He wants us to know that it doesn’t have to end that way; there are new mercies every morning.
And He made sure that He provided us with sufficient proof of that. The Bible is filled with people who turned the page and took hold of a “new thing” in their otherwise troubled lives.
Here are a few of the women who didn’t start out great but whose lives ended up having significant impact:
- Ruth lost her family, moved to a land where she was considered an outsider, but was brave enough to take up the challenge to start over and encourage someone else in the process. Read Ruth’s story in the four short chapters of the Book in her name (Ruth 1-4).
- Esther was a beautiful young woman who “auditioned” to be queen, married a foreigner against her religious beliefs but had the courage to act on behalf of her people risking her life in the process. The Book of Esther is also a short book and is a fascinating read (Esther 1-10).
- Another Old Testament woman worth reading about is Rahab, the prostitute. Mentioned as such throughout all her references in the Bible, Rahab had the fortitude to hide the spies, facilitating their escape and securing her family’s safety at a later date. She may not have started out in a very promising way but she ended up in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) and is referenced in the “Hall of Fame of Faith” chapter Hebrews 11: 31. Read her story in Joshua 2-6.
- Mary Magdalene is a New Testament woman who had a troubled beginning, was freed from demonic spirits (Luke 8:2) , had such a dramatic change in her life that she was one of the women named to be at Jesus’ side ministering to Him as He was dying for our sins (Matthew 27:55-57 & John 19:25), and the one to whom He first revealed Himself upon His resurrection (John 20:11-14).
I believe that God was very purposeful when He allowed all these stories in the Bible of real people like you and me so that we can more easily relate to them. It is clear that He wants to use us in our areas of brokenness to help others who may be similarly broken. He desires for us to use those tough seasons in our lives as our training to share the lessons we learned from them with others. This is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 that we are comforted so that (don’t miss those two little words) we can comfort others. We cannot allow a “bad” chapter (or two) in our lives to define the entire book which is our life. Let’s not allow a negative experience to become a life sentence.
That’s why I say, if a season has let you go; you need to let go of it and turn the page.
Embrace the new that God is calling you to experience. It is not easy – it wasn’t for those in Old Testament time – Isaiah 43:19 says, “Do you not see it?” This suggests that this “new thing” was not immediately obvious to the people.
How can you turn the page in your own life?
Surrender your heart and renew your mind. (Job 11:13-20, Ephesians 4:23-24) Then step out in faith and do something.
Start somewhere; your new page may involve helping someone else turn their page. Ask God to show you.
I’m convinced that you are one page away from some new things happening! Do you not see it?
A couple years ago, Mercy Me released a CD, “Welcome to the New”; I think this is a fitting way to introduce 2017. Enjoy.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org
“A CALL TO WORSHIP”
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)
Peter, remember him - the disciple who denied Jesus three times? He says to us that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood,…God's special possession... called" to DECLARE God’s praises!
Worship! That’s what Peter is talking about.
Worship is perhaps the “thing” that is closest to my heart as a “Jesus-girl”. I didn’t come up with that description of myself; it is how some of my non-Christian friends refer to me.
When I asked them what they mean by that, I was told that all I do is “worship” Jesus (in their minds anyway). And that was not them being kind; at least I didn’t get that impression. However, I wish that their portrayal of me was completely accurate because I know that I frequently fall short and that, in fact; it is what we were created to do. We were made to worship.
What does that really mean and where does it say so in the Bible?
Much like a designer has a specific purpose in mind for any tool that he / she designs, so too did God when He created us. It is often possible to use the tool for other purposes though it's never quite as effective as for its intended application. I submit that the same is true for us; our lives are the most rewarding when we are living in daily worship to our Creator.
Woven throughout the Scriptures, we are told repeatedly that we were created for worship. I absolutely love it when we can find Jesus speaking directly on a topic right in the pages of our Bibles as in this case about worship. It’s even more fascinating that Jesus made His primary statement about worship in the conversation He had with the woman at the well. Do you remember that interaction?
It is Jesus’ longest recorded conversation with anyone and it’s with this female outcast! Imagine that! For that reason alone, it renders this as one of my all-time favourite passages though I’m amazed that the exchange is only found in the Gospel of John. And that is one reason why I have definitely come to appreciate John’s comprehension of worship and his deep revelation of the Magnificence of Jesus Christ!
Here’s part of the exchange from John 4:20-24 (NIV):
"Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” "Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (emphasis added)
I love that! True worshipers! Are you a true worshiper? I’m not talking about lifting or clapping hands during a worship service... though that’s good & the Bible actually tells us to do that.
But worshiping in the spirit and in truth! I’m talking about the heart; the overflow of which infuses everything you do!
Here's an interesting fact: the New Testament says very little about corporate worship. Sure there is mention of the believers gathering together on many occasions (1 Corinthians 14:23), and of the early church attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes (Acts 2:46). In fact, Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not neglect meeting together. That does not amount to a lot. Even so, within the narrative of these gatherings, there is not much said about worship – well, not the way we may think about worship. When we see “worship” in the Gospels, it predominantly refers to people who would bow down before Jesus. Admittedly, the Book of Revelation mentions worship multiple times – 21 to be exact, and those mentions have to do with what was revealed to John as taking place in Heaven with the elders and the angels bowing down before God.
Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament talks about worship as a “heart-thing” and I believe that is significant. In several instances, he mentions worshiping in the spirit and in truth which is the same language that Jesus used to the woman (see e.g. Romans 1:9, Philippians 3:3). In fact, in Romans 12:1-2 Paul urges us as Christians to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God which is our “true and proper worship”.
Back to the John 4 account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman: the crucial sentence is found in verse 23 which says that “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…”
Jesus is telling this woman (and us) that worship is not about an event or a venue; that it’s not about being in the Temple or at a specific place but it is an inward thing, not outward! Notice too how this woman was fixated on a place for worship and Jesus is redirecting her thinking, not once a week at the temple, but every day.
Is Jesus redirecting your thinking about worship today?
Here’s what one of our modern-day theologians, A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), had to say about worship way before the advent of lights, and worship teams, and elaborate music. Don't get me wrong; I love a great worship service experience as long as we understand that it's more than all the trappings, more than the "show".
“To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Could it be that “in the spirit” has to do with what the Holy Spirit is doing in us as we surrender ourselves in worship and “in truth” is referring to our right view of God?
“Worship,” Tozer explained, “is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship
At Christmas time more than any other time, it is crucial that we have the right view of God and of this season because culture has so much to say in deep contrast to the truth.
Can I urge you to revisit the Christmas story this year with fresh eyes, “Experiencing the Miracle of Christmas” (our church's Advent message series) as a “Jesus-girl” and allowing it to renew your heart for worship?
Would you be willing to share your experience and expressions of worship in a comment below?
For me, music is a natural way of entering into worship as it helps usher me into a reverential time with God. As such, I’d like to share this fairly new worship song that I believe does a great job of setting our hearts right as we enter-in and anticipate what God has in store for each of us. Enjoy the acoustic version (that is without the lights, stage and arrangement) of “Here as in Heaven” by Elevation Worship. Perhaps you can allow it to play while you re-read this post.
Yolande Knight – email@example.com
"FINDING FREEDOM IN FORGIVENESS"
Many of us have experienced pain so great as the result of another person’s actions that forgiveness is not an option. Or is it?
This post is not intended to minimize that pain – any hurt, mistreatment, abuse, loss, betrayal, or any of the myriads of horrific experiences you may have had is respectfully acknowledged. If you are deeply affected by the hurt inflicted by another person, I urge you to seek professional help.
It is possible that the offender is no longer alive and you may not have thought about forgiveness or it’s not feasible.
Perhaps the person you need to forgive may be yourself.
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
Within the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples (and us) to pray, He says:
…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12)
Ouch! As we have forgiven?
How are we to forgive that which seems unforgivable?
Jesus showed us. On His worst possible day, the day He was crucified, Jesus chose to forgive His enemies who were crucifying Him…in the midst of His pain.
Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals in its day with the specific intention of humiliating and shaming them.
Jesus was not a criminal; He was innocent. Think about that!
It may be impossible for us to fully comprehend the humiliation that Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross; naked, bruised, bloodied, and beaten beyond recognition in the cruelest and most degrading form of punishment ever while Heaven looked away! No movie, no matter how graphic, may ever truly capture the intensity of that punishment yet in the midst of that suffering, Jesus did the unthinkable. He forgave!
We may be tempted to say that Jesus was God and therefore had the capacity to forgive but we also know that He came to earth as man to model what it means to be a Christian living in a sinful world. I believe that we are most like Jesus when are forgiving someone.
Forgiving someone is not easy or simple but it is necessary. Scripture tells us so:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
Renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian, Lewis B. Smedes said it this way: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
How do we forgive?
First, we pray for those who have hurt us – Multiple times in Scripture we are instructed to pray for those who have offended us. See for instance Luke 6:28, & Matthew 5:43. These instructions were given in a culture that believed and practised “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” so it is not an unreasonable standard for us today.
Even if we don’t feel like forgiving the other person, we must do so. As you do, here’s what you notice – the more you keep praying for the people who have hurt you; the less judgmental are your prayers and then you notice that your heart begins to soften. In short, your prayers for others may not change them but they definitely change you.
Secondly, we forgive as we have been forgiven. Colossians 3:13 says that we ought to make allowances for each other’s faults. None of us is perfect meaning, we all make mistakes and require the forgiveness of others.
You may have grounds to be upset and even legal grounds for retribution but you always have Biblical grounds for forgiveness.
If you choose to forgive, it will not change the past but it can change the future.
We are one month away from Christmas (I know!), a time when families get together to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. I cannot help but think that someone reading this post may have a family member whom they need to forgive. After all, family is often the ones who hurt us the most deeply.
Would you be willing to ask God to guide you in that direction?
Forgiveness does not necessarily reinstate a relationship to its former status; it may not even be the wise thing to do. Speak to a trusted friend and seek professional help about that aspect but the forgiveness can take place in your heart right now.
The story behind Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” may bring tears to your eyes; you may already know this story but allow it to inspire you afresh as you think about who God is asking you to forgive today.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org