What Do You Have? 

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Acts 3:1-10 
vs. 6 – Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
 

Reflect:
At many off ramps around the GTA, we can on occasion see people holding signs asking for food or money. Though we may wonder if they are truthful about their situation, we all know what happens when we come across them. At least for me, I usually avoid making eye contact. I avoid seeing them. How about you?
 
In today’s story we see the apostles Peter and John going together to the temple to pray. This picture of devotion and community is in total contrast to the situation of the beggar.  He was, “being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful” and left to beg for his daily bread from the people going into the temple courts.
 
Peter & John did not avoid making eye contact. Our passage says that Peter looked straight at the man who was lame and even asked him to look at him and John. Expecting some coins of silver or gold, the man looked up.
 
Peter’s next words would have been discouraging to a person begging: “Silver or gold I do not have. . .” But then came words of healing “in the name of Jesus Christ,” and, beyond his wildest dreams, the man was able to walk and jump for joy. So, he followed along with the apostles, praising God in the temple courts. Now that is Beautiful!
 
I have so often dreamed of having the kind of faith that would allow me to speak these words to people in need. At the same time, I need to consider more often what I do have to offer and to give despite the authenticity of the need. Can I trust God to deal with the heart of a person in need and at the same time be the kind of Jesus follower who is generous?
 
Pray:
Heavenly Father, may our eyes be directed by your heart for others. May we be people who welcome and show your love to everyone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Passover 

Authored by Mary Lucas

Read: 1 Peter 1:18-21
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” 

Reflect:
In the book of Exodus, the story of the first Passover is told.  God told Moses how to save the Israelite children. He said each Israelite father should get a lamb. The lamb must have nothing wrong with it. The Israelites killed the lambs and put the lambs’ blood on the sides and tops of their door frames. On that same night when God passed through Egypt, he would strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, but the destructive plague would pass over the houses with blood on their doors. If there was no blood on the door the oldest child would die.

I envision a young Israelite boy, the eldest, at that time saying to his father, “Can we kill the lamb now?!”
“Not yet,” the father said, “I am tired from making bricks all day”.
A little while later he asks again, “Can we kill the lamb now?!”
“Not yet, it is almost supper.” 
Still later, “Can we kill the lamb now, papa?!”
“Why are you so concerned with killing the lamb, son?” his father asked. 
The boy replied, “I don’t get it, but all I know is if the lamb dies, then I get to live!”

Many, many years later, at another Passover festival, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.  (Mark 14).  It was during this time that Jesus Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed.  Jesus, sinless, is the new Passover Lamb. By His blood, the new and everlasting covenant is made. By His sacrifice, a new Exodus takes place — freedom from the slavery of sin and the hope of entry into the promised land of heaven.  We may not get it fully, but just know that “because the lamb died, then you and I get to live!”

Pray:
Thank you, God for giving Your son, Jesus Christ, in my place, to die the death that I deserved, so that I could live. Your great love is overwhelming.  When I realize the magnitude of what that cost you, how can I not in turn give my whole life to you as an offering of praise and thanksgiving. 

Not Just Another Face 

Authored by Lou Geense

Read:
Luke 13:10-17 
vs.12 – When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”

Reflect:
I remember well speaking at the Anglican Church in Mwanza, Tanzania. The structure of the church was built in such a way that you could feel like you were speaking to two congregations, yet they could not see each other. That morning I was speaking to the English congregation, mostly a white crowd. Part was through the message she walked in looking very dishevelled. It was fairly evident that she was a street person. Unfortunately, she was gone before the service was over.
 
I wondered how many times she had dawned the doors of the church building, and I wondered if anyone ever spoke to her. She was much like the woman in our text today. Everyone probably knew the woman as the bent-over woman. She came to worship at the synagogue regularly. But she was recognized by her condition, not her identity as a child of God or even by her name.
 
Her neighbours most likely saw her through eyes of pity. The religious leaders saw her as an example of someone who was not right with God and deserved her plight. It is not stated, however I believe she came to the synagogue every Sabbath, crippled with pain, bent over in shame. She was thirsty for being known as a person, a person who longed for God and for the living water of healing from God. Yet no one paid attention or really saw her. For eighteen years the religious leaders failed to pray with her on the six days when they had every opportunity to anoint her with oil and pray for God’s healing. They were more focused on keeping their religious rules than seeing the need to bring a daughter of Israel before the mercy seat of God.
 
But Jesus saw her. She was not just another face in the crowd or the bend over woman. When he called her forward, she might have thought he meant someone else. But Jesus was speaking to her, and I imagine she slowly shuffled toward him, who saw her as a prisoner in need of being set free from her burden. How do we see people? Do we see people that are burdened and distressed? Do we bring them to Jesus for healing? In what ways can you offer comfort and prayer for someone like that today? We have the right and privilege of praying for and believing that Jesus is willing to bring healing to all their needs.
 
Pray:
Jesus, so often we work hard to keep up appearances, and we sidestep opportunities for compassion. Forgive me and help me to see people as they are and to show mercy to people in need. In your name, Amen.

On His Shoulders

Authored by Martha Dodd
 
Read: Luke 15:4-6, John 10:7, 11, 27-28
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” 
 
“So, Jesus again said to them…I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
                                             

Reflect: 
Another memento I brought home from my trip to Bethlehem was a beautiful olive wood carving depicting one of my favourite stories told by Jesus.  It’s a parable about a lost sheep and a shepherd. The shepherd ‘went after’ the lost sheep, and when he found it, he put it on his shoulders and carried it home.  I imagine there may have been other strategies the shepherd could have employed to get the sheep back to safety; and yet, he chose to lift it up and lay it across his shoulders.  The shepherd didn’t scold or seem angry with the sheep for getting lost; in fact, he joyfully put the sheep on his shoulders.  I wonder if one of the reasons for carrying the sheep in this way was so that when the head of the sheep was next to the head of the shepherd, the shepherd could speak to the sheep and it would hear and became familiar with the loving voice of the shepherd.  And when they arrived home, there was a celebration; the straying sheep had been found!  
 
As we journey towards Good Friday, we remember that Jesus, our good shepherd, carried the cross on his shoulders (John 19:17) and laid down his life for us.  And it was on the cross that Jesus shouldered something else – the weight of our sin.  Isaiah, writing almost 800 years before the crucifixion, prophesied:
  
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.    (Isaiah 53:5-6)
 
And some 30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection, Peter reflected, “He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’  For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25)
 
Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame for the joy awaiting him (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy in gaining for us rescue and redemption, freedom from condemnation, forgiveness for sin, peace with God and eternal life.
 
Prayer:
Thank you, Jesus, my friend, my Saviour, my good Shepherd, the Overseer of my soul, and my Lord for shouldering my sin in your body on the cross.  Thank you that You continue to shepherd and go ahead of me. (John 10:4) Teach me to draw near and become increasingly familiar with and obedient to Your voice.    
 
And the Lord who loves me says in Revelation 7:17:
 
“For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
   And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Seeing Clearly 

Authored by Lou Geense

Seeing Clearly
 

Read: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
Vs. 18- We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
 
Reflect:
The resilience of the people I know in Tanzania is really amazing and inspiring. When difficulty comes to people already living in difficult situations you would think that people would just give up. Add to that reality that the possibilities of moving ahead in life are bleak, surely people would just collapse and give up. My friend Hassan works in Mwanza and Kigoma – a good distance apart. He works with farmers in both communities trying to get contracts for their crops. He tries to sell to the government and to out of country sources. After spending two weeks with him, carefully setting out a plan for Canadian Foodgrains Bank we prayed together for success of acceptance. Within weeks we heard the answer: NO!
 
I was frustrated and disheartened. Hassan simply picked up his computer and said, “Surely the Lord has something in store for us.” And he began to search and work away. He inspires me when I think of him. Not because he is so resilient but because his trust and belief that Jesus is on his side and cares for the same poor farmers that he does.
 
Hassan does not look at the struggle that stares him in the face rather he stares into the face of Jesus and sees hope and possibility. Hassan has travelled to many places in the world. He has seen wealth and extravagance and when he sees it, he simply looks past the riches into the face of Jesus and his calling to serve his people.
 
In John 9 we see the story of a man born blind. Jesus spat in the dirt, made mud and placed it on the man’s eyes. Then Jesus said go wash yourself in the pool.  The man did not question Jesus – he just did as he was told. Life is all about perspective and what we focus on. We can sit around with mud on our eyes, or we can wash it off and see the light of Jesus. Paul says the problems we see are temporary, but the hope we have in Jesus—though unseen—is eternal.
 
How do you see the world? Is it just this awful place plagued by Covid 19 restricting us from what we want to do OR is it a time to see opportunity to do ministry, to serve the people we call family, friends, community?
 
Pray:
Lord give me eyes to see with my heart. May focus always be on you and not the circumstances around me. Help me to see you more clearly and to stand in the power of your glory. Amen.

Watch Your Walk 

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Proverbs 25:1-7
Vs. 6-7 –    Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say . . . “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you.
 

Reflect:
If you were overly confident about yourself a good read of Proverbs 25 would help to reset your attitude. Jesus was an observer of people’s attitudes & actions, knowing that attitude comes from what is deep in the heart.  At a dinner ­hosted at a Pharisee’s house, Jesus noticed how the guests were picking places of honour closest to their host.
 
Jesus told the clamouring guests a parable about humility that echoes the proverb in our reading today. He stated, “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Proverbs 16:18 also affirms this: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
 
A wise person understands Jesus’ words as he applied Solomon’s wisdom. A wise person realizes that God’s Word has sufficient guidelines to help us keep our walk
in wise ways. This includes not thinking too highly of ourselves. Trumpeting one’s accomplishments gives little honour to those to whom the credit is actually due. The political forum is often a good example being overly confident.
 
Proverbs proclaims wisdom. It is all about grace. It is all about what God accomplishes in us, through us—and, often, despite us. So, let’s believe and live by God’s grace!
 
Pray:
Our heavenly Father make us instruments of your grace and help us to understand that we are your instruments and not the decision makers. Help us Lord to walk circumspectly and in your grace. Amen.

Prayer

Authored by Mary Lucas
 
Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
 

Reflect:
Sometimes when we pray God gives us exactly what we ask for.  Sometimes he gives us what we ask for, but we have to wait a while to see that prayer answered.  Sometimes he does not seem to answer our prayers at all.  The Bible tells us that God hears our prayers (for example, 1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer”) so why doesn’t he give us what we ask for? Why do our prayers seem to go unanswered sometimes?  I once heard a saying that stuck with me.  It goes like this:
 
When the request is not right, God says “No”.
When the timing is not right, God says “Slow”.
When you are not right, God says “Grow”.
But when the request is right and the timing is right and you are right, God says “Go”.
 
Let us see what the bible says about each one of these phrases.
 
When God says “no”, I try to remember that it is because he has a better “yes” in store.  “We know that
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  If God is good and His plans are for my good, then I can trust Him that he says “no” for a reason and that He has something better in store.  It is good to remember Isaiah 55:8-9 as well: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
 
When God says “slow” remember that God has perfect timing, never early, never late.  A man named Lazarus was very sick and Jesus got word about this.  Much to his disciples’ astonishment, instead of rushing right away to his friend Lazarus, he leaves two days later.  By then Lazarus was dead and decaying for four days in a tomb. His sisters Mary and Martha had prayed and when Jesus came, they said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus then raised that dead body from the grave.  Perhaps he delayed because he wanted to increase the faith of His disciples who after His death would be the ones taking the message of Christ to the world. The disciples knew Jesus had the power to heal people — but to raise a 4-day old corpse? That is taking faith to a whole new level!
 
When God says “grow” it may be that there is some characteristic in us that He wants to develop.  We may pray for a difficult situation to resolve or a trial to end but Romans 5 talks about what suffering and trials does to us.  “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Perhaps God does not answer because His plan is for us to develop characteristics that are desirable for a follower of Jesus…. patience, steadfastness, compassion, etc.
 
God does say “go” sometimes.  The answer we often say in response to these answered prayers is “God is good!” The other half of that expression is “God is good…. all the time. All the time…. God is good”.  God is good because that is His character.  He is good all the time…. when the answer is no, when the answer is slow, when the answer is grow and when the answer is go.  When God does not answer the way, you want or is slow to answer, trust that He is good, that God loves you and that He desires what is best for you, more than we could ever ask or imagine!

Humility

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Philippians 2:1-4
vs 3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
 

Reflect:
I wonder how many times I read these verses and just let them pass? I do that because to study them and look closely at the message causes me some amount of struggle. In all honesty how often do we value others more than ourselves? I believe I am more in the habit of comparing people to me and then judging what they could do better to look at life the way I do! Maybe it is not just like that for you, but I believe most of us see ourselves in a positive light and we tend to evaluate others based on our own set of values.
 
Any quick read of Philippians show that Paul has a fairly high view of the Philippian church. But, like any church, it was not perfect. No church is. As we read along in Philippians, we see hints and whispers that Paul knows there are a few unhealthy things about this congregation. There are some cracks in their unity, some struggles with pride.
 
In Philippians 2, Paul begins to address this. And he is very straightforward. “If you are even remotely Christian,” Paul says, in effect, “then make me even more joyful by embracing ­humility.”
 
Many theologians teach that humility is the core Christian virtue, the characteristic that makes us most like Jesus. Humility helps us realize that even though we all have gifts and talents to do many things, that does not make us better than others. Instead, we try to see life as a level playing field on which each person does her or his part. And at the end of the day, we pay more attention to others than to ourselves. Let someone else compliment you for your work while you focus on building up others.
 
We are all a part of the body and we each play a part. Each of us needs to be thankful for the next person. This is, as Paul explains next (in verses 5-8), the pattern established by Jesus—so this is the pattern to follow.
 
Pray:
Lord Jesus, grant us by your Holy Spirit a greater portion of your humility. Help us to serve hand in hand with those in my community for the sake of the gospel. In your name we pray. Amen.

Enough Light For The Next Step

Authored by Martha Dodd

Read: Psalm 119:105,130; Psalm 18:28
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  The unfolding of your words gives light.
You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.     

Reflect: 
On a trip to Israel several years ago, I was given a replica of an oil lamp used in Bible times.  I was surprised at how small it was; it fit in the palm of my hand.   Made of clay, the lamp was crafted to hold a small amount of olive oil in its reservoir.  Once, I tried a little experiment.  I poured oil into the reservoir, soaked the wick, lit the flame, and turned off all the lights to see just how much light the lamp would shed.  The immediate area around me was illuminated, and there was enough light for a few steps.  And when I took those few steps, the area that had previously been obscured by darkness, could be seen with greater clarity.  

CandleSometimes in my own life, I have wanted more light, clearer evidence, greater reassurance, fewer obstacles, or maybe even a “sign” before I’ve been willing to step out in faith. I have wanted to know how long before “this” will change, or when “that” will happen.  I have wanted a flood light on my path! 
  
Jesus, the Light of the World, promised that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12) – the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

How then, does God turn our darkness into light?  What does the psalmist mean when he says that the unfolding of God’s word brings light? 
 
One of the ways the Holy Spirit accomplishes this in our lives is as we meditate on God’s word.  Jen Wilkin says: “The Scriptures have a plain meaning the Spirit illuminates, but they also yield deeper and deeper levels of understanding when we make them our repeated object of thought.  Put another way, rumination begets illumination.  The Holy Spirit responds to the diligent employment of the mind by giving insight, wisdom and understanding.”*
 
Rather than being an end in itself, meditating on God’s word yields good fruit – the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the fruit of faithful living, as we take our next step in trust and dependence on the One who began a good work in us, and who will bring that good work to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6) 
 
Prayer:
Lord, thank you that You are the Light of the World.  And in relationship with You, You have said that I am the light of the world. (Matthew 6:14-16) Help me not to hide that light; enable me to take my next step in faith so Your light in me will shine before others, they will see Your good works, and give You glory.   And as I live by the Spirit, teach me today what it means to keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
 
*Jen Wilkin – “When We Set Our Minds on things Above” Christianity Today March ‘21

True Power

Authored by Lou Geense

Read: Philippians 2:5-11  
vs. 5-6 – In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.
 
Reflect: 
John Dalberg-Acton, an  English Catholic historian, in the mid 1800s wrote these words: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you followed politics in the US in the last year or so you could clearly see the grab for power on display. Power can be dangerous. History has shown that those who love power and seek after it can do tremendous harm in the world. Power and its pursuit have corrupted many leaders in all spheres of life, causing them to seek selfish gain at the expense of others.
 
The All Mighty God holds we serve has the ultimate power to do anything in this world and beyond. God could bring absolute destruction on a rebellious world. But the Lord Almighty is also the God of compassion and love. He chose instead to offer redemption and reconciliation to the world. Jesus, the Son of God, in the ultimate act of servanthood, chose to humble himself and take on mortal, human flesh.
 
Jesus came into this world, and he could have quickly claimed kingship overall. But instead, he chose the posture and status of a servant, submitting to the suffering of persecution and death on a cross so that people could live once again in the full love of God. Rather than seeking favour with rulers and power-brokers, Jesus sought out people who were poor, disadvantaged, outcast, and otherwise forgotten. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ defined ultimate power and modelled for us the loving posture of humility and service that true power displays.
 
He is the All Powerful and Loving Saviour of the world. Is he your Saviour? With a humble heart and humble spirit, you can bow your knee to Him, know his forgiveness and his overwhelming love.
 
Pray:
You are all powerful and mighty and your mercy is great. Thank you, Lord, for your love, forgiveness and grace. Amen.