Love Is Service

Read
1 John 3:11-24
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with ­actions and in truth. Verse 18 (NIV)

Reflect
“Put your money where your mouth is.” I have heard that phrase a number of times in my life. It probably means I stick my nose into places it should not be.  The meaning behind the phrase is that if we believe in something or if we believe something is wrong, we should not just talk or complain about it; we should take action to support the cause or to fix the problem.

This is what the apostle John teaches about love. Love is not some idealistic concept to sit around and talk about but is shown to be real by our actions.

Love can get messy. Love sees the hurt and the brokenness in our world and takes action. Love goes out and serves ­others.

the cross, Jesus took action to show the greatest love of all, he gave up his life for us. And he also instructed his followers to go out and demonstrate sacrificial love for others. The resurrection of Jesus empowers believers with the joy and freedom to live by his love.

God’s love fills us with a desire for honesty, integrity, humility, justice, and respect for all people. Jesus’ resurrection power frees us to go out and share the burdens of people who are suffering, to spend time with people who are lonely, and to seek justice for those who are persecuted and oppressed.

As you celebrate freedom in Christ through the resurrection, let God show you where you can serve and show his love today.

Pray
Lord Jesus, fill us with your love, justice, mercy, and compassion. Give us eyes to see the world as you see it and give us the courage to serve others in your amazing love. Amen.

In The Grasp Of His Love

Read
Romans 8:31-39
(nothing in all creation) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Verse 39 (NIV)

Reflect
While in Tanzania I was witness to a trial held by a neighbourhood group that had the authority to bring guilty people to trial in the nearby city. Using “switch sticks” on people’s bare backs and the bottoms of their feet, they were beaten until the desired answer was given. When I walked away from that event, I said to myself; “I would confess to almost anything to have that beating stop.” My pastor friend who was there and had been falsely accused of theft told me he had already felt the pain of the switch. Then he said nothing would ever make him tell a lie and disgrace Jesus.

In this passage Paul was naming some of the hardships he had faced and then he declares to his own soul, and to ours, “No, not persecution. No, not famine. No, not that, or that, or that, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why? Because God’s love is unshakeable, and God gives us the strength not only to face but also to conquer the enemy’s attacks. How? Through the finished work of Christ’s victorious death and resurrection.

Paul says neither the present nor the future will threaten our confidence in God’s loving grip on us. When my mother was given the news, she had only two weeks to live, she did not shed a tear. She knew that at the end of this life there was a glorious new beginning that would last through eternity. No, not even death could separate her from the love of God, rather death would usher her into the presence of the Saviour she loved.

Is there anything in your life that feels too overwhelming to handle? The power of the living, loving God guarantees a strong grip on you as you face your hardship head-on. Never give up.

Pray
Lord, we are weak, but you are strong. When the troubles of life pummel us, help us to find comfort in your love that never lets go. Help us to keep looking to you. In Jesus, Amen.

“To the Praise of His Glory”

Read 
Ephesians 1:11-14
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.  (NIV) 

Reflect 
As a teenager I was a little less than the perfect child. I did have a very small encounter with the police while in high school. When my dad found out, he made it very clear that I would never again drag the family name through the mud. It was stated in no uncertain terms that all the children in the family would hold to good Christian values and principles “or else.” 

While studying in Bible College this phrase that Paul uses in Ephesians 1 really caught my attention; “to the praise of His glory.” To understand that glory is due to God alone and to hear Paul say that we, the redeemed of the Lord, are intended to be to the praise of His glory certainly helps us to know we are valued by God.  

It is completely the work of God through Jesus Christ that affords us the opportunity to have salvation and the hope of an eternity with Jesus. At the same time scripture is clear that there is an expectation to walk in the way of Jesus and to be like him. As a matter of fact, we are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  

As much as we try, we cannot match the holiness of God in our own lives. So how do we possibly meet God’s standard and be “to the praise of His glory.” God’s love is so all encompassing that His grace, His amazing grace covers us. Can you imagine that our sin is forgiven from the past, in the present and even into the future? If we walk in humility and an attitude of repentance, we walk in his grace and we are “to the praise of His Glory.”  

Pray 
God in heaven, let nothing stand between us in praising and worshiping you in your grace and glory. We ask this through the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

New Every Morning

Read 
Lamentations 3:19-26
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Verses 22-23 (NIV) 

Reflect
I don’t know about you, but I never thought that I would find the beauty of the words found in verses 22-23 in a book called Lamentations. But the very fact that they are there tells me that our God is anywhere and everywhere we find ourselves. 

Lamentations is a collection of desperate cries from the bottom of a pit. The author laments the suffering of God’s people during their time of captivity, which left them trapped in misery for years. But in the middle of the book, a glimmering light shines through the darkness, as the mournful writer looks up and proclaims hope in the God of love and compassion. We witness the transition from a downcast, bitter soul (in verse 20) to an upright, resolute warrior refusing to be overcome by the troubles of life (verse 22). 

The confident cry is that God will ultimately save his people. 

I went to visit a dear saint in the hospital. He told me there was no cure and he was looking at just days left to live. He asked me to read the scripture that was behind the writing of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness, ” Lord, unto me! 

Most of us know that problems don’t disappear overnight, yet we can testify that God’s mercies are new every morning. We can all find God’s blessings in big and small ways each day if we make a point of looking for them. Great is God’s faithfulness. 

Pray 
Lord, when life is dark and there is little light to see, help me to see your compassion poured out on me. Shine the light of your love on us each day so that we can see your blessings. Amen. 

 

 

Called by Name

Reading 
Mark 10:46-52 
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”   So, they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.   The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (NIV) 

Reflect 
On occasion I can feel like I am just another follower of Jesus. Who really knows me? Who cares about me, apart from those that depend on me and those who love me? The Gospel of Mark tells of many other healings by Jesus without ever giving them a name. They were just a man in a crowd or just a woman with an illness for years 

In our text today Mark takes the time to name this blind man, Bartimaeus. We are told his name and we are told that Bartimaeus followed Jesus after being healed, and this event happens only a short time before Jesus goes to Jerusalem to die on the cross. 

Jesus told Bartimaeus that his faith had healed him. Bartimaeus believed not in himself but in Jesus’ power to heal. When he heard that Jesus was near, he called out “Jesus, Son of David,” a royal title. And when Bartimaeus went to Jesus, we read that he threw his cloak aside. Bartimaeus was willing to toss aside perhaps the only thing he owned in order to seek Jesus. And when Jesus asked what he wanted, he simply said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 

No matter who we are, we can approach Jesus with the same kind of simple faith. We can trust that Jesus will heal us and save us by his power alone, and we can follow him. We can know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus knows us and knows us by name (John 10:3). Like Bartimaeus we are important to Jesus, regardless of our position in life. 

Pray 
Jesus, help us trust in your power to heal. Give us faith like Bartimaeus. Help us to know and understand that Jesus knows us intimately and loves us. Amen. 

The Vine

Read
John 15:1-17
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  Verse 5 (NIV) 

Reflect 
Growing up in Niagara I was exposed to working the grape vineyards from a pretty early age. I remember most the day that my dad took me to “sucker” the grape vines. It was in the spring and we walked up and down the rows of grape vines and to my astonishment we chopped off every green shoot that was growing up from the base of the vine. In my mind this new growth was green and fresh while the vines that had been tied to the wires and kept in rows seemed old and brittle. 

I asked my dad at the end of the evening, “Why did we cut off all the good growth and leave all the old growth?”  Dad explained, “The new growth that we cut off are called suckers. They are new and fresh. They look so much better than the old vines, but it is really just a trick. The new growth will take all the food meant for the vine. Then when it is time for the grapes to begin to grow there will be no food left and the grapes will be small and of a very poor quality.” 

That lesson did not have much spiritual impact on me until I studied this passage in Bible College. My dad’s words came racing back to me and I saw the beauty of what I was taught. There are so many things in life that look good, even beneficial, but if they distract me from staying strongly connected to Jesus, they are just suckers. There are even spiritual distractions in our lives these days. Even if they promise spiritual benefits if they distract me from my connection to Jesus, they are suckers. 

If we want to be about God’s business, if we want to be producing fruit to our greatest potential then we must focus on Jesus, we must know his word and the prompting of his Spirit. Apart from him you can do NOTHING! 

Pray 
Lord Jesus, keep me strongly connected to you and your Holy Spirit. Make me free to bear much fruit. Amen. 

Reflecting God’s Goodness

Read 
Psalm 145
My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.  Verse 21 (NIV) 

Reflect 
In Psalm 145 David calls us to take the time to look back on our lives and reflect on the goodness of our God. We are encouraged to praise God for his greatness, his compassion, and his faithfulness, and to thank God for his many gifts throughout our lives. In the words of an old hymn, we are urged to, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” Our youngest child at home has no language, but he has music in his heart, and it comes out all the time. One of his favourite songs of late is “Count Your Blessings.” 

Of course, it’s possible that you don’t feel like praising God. Maybe you look back on this year and feel you were not blessed at all. Perhaps you feel like the person who said to me, “There is nothing to be thankful for in 2020, especially with this COVID 19 virus going on.” Then I think of my little guy who cannot talk, cannot walk, cannot do so many things that kids his age do and I hear him sing and laugh and I need to be thankful for so much. 

If you feel down and out, read Psalm 145 again. Take some time by yourself to reflect on every part of this psalm. Look back on this past year and trace the hand of God who provides you with everything you need, despite the negative things that have happened in our world. 

In spite of everything that happens in our lives, God never leaves us. Most important, he gave us the greatest gift imaginable, the gift of his only Son, the Lord Jesus. 

That is the key. As Paul states in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Be assured today that the giving God is always with you. 

Pray 
Lord, we praise you for your goodness and faithfulness. Help us to count our blessings and to be assured of your love. In Jesus, Amen. 

How God Became Man

Read 
Philippians 2:6-11
Being in very nature God … [Jesus] made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant …  Verses 6-7 (NIV) 

Reflect 
Unfortunately the summer Olympics have been postponed, maybe they will even be cancelled, due to the COVID 19 virus. I enjoy watching the events and the competition. People sit glued to their television sets as athletes compete for gold. Some of the athletes who do not win show their disappointment publicly. More than one athlete has left for their home country immediately after their event, upset and angry. Understandably so! They train, dreaming of gold and anything less is hard to take. Besides, it’s in our nature to want to outdo the other person. It goes against the grain to sit on the bench, to play second fiddle, or to be relegated to the back seat. 

But that’s what the Lord Jesus chose to do when he “made himself nothing.” Paul says that Jesus, “who, being in very nature God … made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” That’s what makes the coming of the Saviour the most amazing event in all history. The Lord of heaven and earth, who was from all eternity, made himself nothing. The eternal Son of God took on the nature of a servant. From the unknown but surely unmatched glories of heaven he stooped to be born in a stable.  

I encourage you to read these verses several times today. I still remember, like it was yesterday, when these verses became more than just words or just the account of Jesus coming. These verses sunk in so deeply that I was moved to tears to understand the sacrifice Jesus made.  Spend some time to thank Jesus for his willingness to become nothing so that we might be saved and become somebody – a child of God! 

Pray 
Lord Jesus, thank you for your willingness to leave the glories of heaven for us. Thank you for becoming a servant so that we might be saved. Amen. 

Lavished with Love

Read 
1 John 3:1-3
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  (NIV) 

Reflect 
Have you ever had love lavished on you – even for a few moments? I am not sure I even know what lavished looks or feels like. One thing is for certain if love has been lavished on me it was not for a long time. Not because of anyone else’s actions, but because I am who I am, and I would be objecting or trying to figure out what someone wanted from me. 

But the Father has lavished his love on us. The word lavish presents a picture of extravagant abundance. Being lavish borders on being wasteful. God’s love is even more than what a wonderful mother showers on her infant. God’s love and care are supplied to us all the time. God’s love is a constant bombardment of affection and care. We may be as oblivious as an infant to the presence of his love, but God still continues to pour his love into our lives. 

God’s love flows into us deeply and redefines who we are at the very core of our soul. When we open our hearts to God’s love, we are transformed by it. We are remade, regenerated into children of God. Some of us need to trust and open our hearts completely to the love of the Father. 

It is God who makes us his children, not us. We cannot earn that status. It is a gift of God’s great love. Because we are sinners, we don’t understand God’s love for us at first. We don’t even know we need him until we realize we are stuck in sin and cannot save ourselves. We become God’s children when we receive Jesus as our Saviour (John 1:12). 

Not one of us is worthy of God’s love. We cannot earn it. God just loves us. We would not be God’s children if he were not already deeply in love with us. How amazing is that! 

Pray 
Father God, grant us the ability to grasp how wide and deep and high and long is your love for us, expressed in all that Jesus has done for us, that we may be your children. In his name, Amen. 

Unless the Lord Builds the House

Read
Psalm 127
Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Verse 1 (NIV)

Reflect
As a young man in the house building industry, I used to think to myself that I did a pretty good job building the house. Once I became a believer this verse and this Psalm had a special place in my heart. My life, whether as a carpenter or any other career, would be empty without Jesus at the centre of my life.

That is the point of Psalm 127, unless the Lord is the one directing our lives there is little purpose to life. This doesn’t mean we sit back and expect God to do all the work. Rather, as we begin to plan around a new normal and re-opening in this pandemic, we need to include the Lord in our plans. We need to ask ourselves, “What would I like to accomplish in this new normal? And how will I go about it?” Unless we plan with God, we will fail utterly. We need a higher goal than making a living, or getting ahead, or planning for retirement. We need to plan with God’s purpose in mind. As the writer of Proverbs states, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV).

God has a plan for us. We are called to be kingdom builders in this pandemic recovery, each of us in our own way and in our own place. The question for all of us is: How will we use our gifts, our talents, our resources, our dreams to be a part of God’s building program?

The recovery to this pandemic should include the heart, mind, and soul of God’s people. Pray that God will give many of us opportunity to be difference makers and kingdom shapers in our community, in our neighbourhood, and in our culture. To God be the Glory!

Pray 
Thank you, Lord, for inviting us to help in building your kingdom. Show us your plan and help us to build with you. Amen.