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. 

Rich Man / Poor Man

Read 
Luke 16: 19-31
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”Verses 19-21 (NIV) 

Reflect 
I think because my parents knew the hardship of coming to Canada with two kids and only two suitcases, they also knew the hardships of those who just did not have enough. Although I do not remember my family being generous in a monetary way, they were always there with food, clothing, and the labour of their hands (and our hands as well). One thing was certain, there was never any negative or bad talk about poor people around our house. It was not allowed. 

Jesus and the prophets of God who brought God’s Word to the people, had sympathy for the poor and often rebuked rich people who were selfish and did nothing for the poor. In this parable, the poor man Lazarus, who died, was carried by angels to Abraham’s side in heaven, and the rich man was sent to hell, where he was in torment. 

The rich man had lived for his own pleasure and had ignored the message of Moses and the Prophets. Lazarus had no comfort in life, but in death he received the blessings of life with God in heaven. 

I have read that this parable was a comfort to many slaves in the American South in the 1800s. One of their spiritual songs speaks of God as the “Rock of my soul” in “the bosom of Abraham” – an expression referring to “Abraham’s side.” Where could those slaves find justice when their children were ripped from their arms and sold down the river, when the earthly powers and people were stacked against them? But the Lord saw their plight and he will bring justice to their oppressors. 

In this parable, the rich man’s sin was not that he was rich; it was that he refused to care for a person in need. His stony heart ignored the call to share food with the hungry and to provide shelter and clothing for people in need (Isaiah 58:7). There are still many who look for kindness and justice and search in vain to find it. As followers of Jesus we are called to be that kind word, that hand up and the voice of justice and peace. 

Pray 
Lord, instill in us your heart of compassion, and lead us to do some good with the earthly treasures you have given us. In the name of the Jesus who has compassion on us, Amen. 

But Not Them

Read 
Matthew 13:10-17 
“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” Verse 11 (NIV) 

Reflect 
I remember well spending extra evenings at language school trying to figure out some of our lessons. Naomi caught on right away, but Kiswahili was going to take some time to sink into my brain. When we got to Nygezi, Tanzania, where we would work and live, the constant exposure to the language finally made the lessons from school understandableEven though I became quite comfortable conversing in Kiswahili, I realized in a short time that I would not be able to preach in Kiswahili because Biblical terminology  (things like sin, righteousness, grace, redemption, etc.) was not part of everyday conversational speech and the flow of a sermon was completely different than having a conversation. 

Our verse for today is stated in a slightly different way in the gospel of Mark. In Mark 4:11, Jesus states, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables.” 

Jesus called his disciples, and they followed along with him as their teacher. They were willing to spend time with him and learn from him constantly. In fact, they spent all their time with him, and eventually they learned and began to understand his purposes. They knew what it meant to live continuously in his presence. 

To those who are willing to live fully in his kingdom, Jesus gives the secrets of the kingdom. But all who are not willing to turn to Jesus, and to ask and learn why he has come, will stand at the edge of the kingdom, unable to understand the nuances, the mysteries, the fulness of love that flows from the Father in heaven. 

Do you need to press further in? Do you need to spend more time listening to the whispers that Jesus speaks to your heart? He wants us to turn to him and be forgiven, and to have life to the full! This is the only condition for life in his kingdom. 

Pray 
Lord Jesus, help me to press into you and immerse myself in the full life of your kingdom. In your name, Amen.

Inheritance

Read 
Proverbs 13:20-22 (NIV)
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.  Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things.  A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. 

Reflect 
I have not had any personal experience, but I have been told of families that are torn apart relationally because of arguments over an inheritance that was left behind with no will or any kind of instruction.  

Inheritance issues can be controversial, but, in the Bible, inheritance is also a great example of a good gift because it’s given by grace – not earned – a windfall received from God, who loves us. Psalm 136 celebrates the way God gave the promised land to Israel “as an inheritance.” Again, and again the refrain echoes, “His love endures forever.” As history shows, Israel had done nothing to earn that inheritance. God was creating a new nation that would bless all nations by providing a Saviour. 

The tribe of Levi was different.  They did not receive land as their inheritance. They served in the ceremonial worship of God as priests and teachers and temple workers. And because of this intimate relationship with God, it was said, “The Lord is their inheritance”.
(Deuteronomy 10:9) 

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). And 1 Peter 1:4 describes salvation as “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” Like Israel we did not earn this inheritance, nor do we deserve this inheritance. We have this heavenly treasure all by grace, through faith.  Thanks be to Jesus for all we have. 

Pray 
Thank you Father for the inheritance that we have in your Son Jesus Christ. Amen!