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.”

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?
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.


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.” 

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!”

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

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.”

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.
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.”

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.
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.
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?
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.