God’s Protection

Read
Isaiah 43:1-5
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Verse 2 (NIV)

Reflect
The year 2020 will be one all of us remember as a year we would rather not have again, because of dealing with the COVID19 virus.

I am so content in knowing that God understands the struggles of his people. Through Isaiah, God assured Israel of his power and presence as they were oppressed in exile. God reminded them of his power in the past, and God pointed to his promised presence now and for the future. The Red Sea had not swept over them as they left Egypt (Exodus 14), and in Babylon a fiery furnace would not burn Daniel’s friends (Daniel 3). God promised, “You are mine,” and “I will be with you always.”

The comfort in this passage, that God never let’s go as we face all kinds of dangers and struggles, is for God’s people both as a group and even for us as individuals. Nothing can destroy the people whom God has called, so we need not be afraid.

This year also brought our family some additional issues to deal with: heart surgery early in the year for me; the adoption process for our youngest son has been a series of problems and confusion, but in the end will be accomplished; our foster son was in the CCU at Sick Children’s hospital with Kawasaki Disease; my younger brother had heart surgery and a few weeks later was in a very serious car accident that kept him in hospital for weeks. I am not sure I want any more difficult issues to handle this year. But God did not allow us to be swept away, or burned, or even to lose hope.

We are blessed to know that almighty God personally promises to be our shield of protection as we navigate the harsh struggles of living in a fallen and broken world.

Pray
Almighty God and Loving Father, help me to trust you when life feels overwhelming and I am pummeled with problems. Thank you that I am precious to you and that your love is eternal. Amen.

Dying To Live

Read
Matthew 16:21-28
“Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Verse 25 (NIV)

Reflect
Early in my days as a house builder I recall an accident that happened to my boss. A sheet of plywood was picked up by the wind, came flying directly toward us and we ducked. Unfortunately, my boss was six foot, four inches tall and he caught the edge of the sheet right on the head. It peeled his scalp back a good three inches. Two weeks later there was an infection that needed to be rooted out. In order to pull the skin back to clean the infection, they had to loosen the skin around the infected area and literally pull it all together. Believe it or not, they used two buttons so they would not tear the skin. The result: he got a free face lift and the wrinkles that were in his forehead were gone. Behold – A New Man.

The life of Christian discipleship aims to follow that pattern of removing toxic things from our lives every day. To surrender to Jesus is to “die to live,” giving over to him our sin, our wounds, and all our baggage so that he may refill us with new life through the Holy Spirit. It’s much more complex than an infection that was cleaned out, and the results are literally life changing.

The seeming paradox of finding our lives by losing them is a bit hard to grasp. This doesn’t come ­naturally to us. But when we take time to reflect on this call to change, we will see that dying to live is a journey of joy, gratitude, and grace.

I sometimes imagine what a Sunday service would look like if everyone prayed before coming to the church service, “Lord, please show me anew how to die for you.” I pictured communities in which the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, and more – could grow in abundance as toxins were cleaned out. That’s the fruit of a community that is dying to live.

Pray
Jesus, thank you for inviting me into full life with you. Help me to see what you need to clean out as I live with you. Amen.

Safe at Home! 

Read 

Psalm 91. Verse 1 – Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 

Reflect 

At a meeting of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank I spoke with a well-seasoned aid worker who told me the following story:  I met a refugee and asked her a number of questions through an interpreter. One question was “What is your favorite text in the Bible?” Without any hesitation she said, “Psalm 91.” When I asked why, she shared that she had been moving every six to nine months for her physical safety, but in her spirit she was safe in the Lord. 

I will never forget that story of faith and trust. That being said, the tension we face in life is that even though we may “dwell in the shelter of the Most High” and “rest in the shadow of the Almighty,” we have to deal with troubles and daily struggles.  For some people they even have to face deadly diseases and terrorizing attacks. The psalmist understood that this world is filled with uncertainties—and yet there is a place of safety. We can go up against giants like Covid19 and have to flee for our lives from dangerous enemies, and still we can be in a safe place with the Almighty. 

The question each of us has to ask ourselves is this: “What is our dwelling place? What is our shelter or safety net?” If it is our money, family, home, or work, or even government safeguards, they will all crumble. The enemy has come to kill, steal, and destroy. But the one place of safety in the universe from which no one can snatch us is “in the shelter of the Most High.” Our risen and ascended Lord has promised, “My sheep listen to my voice … and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and … no one will ever snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). In Christ we will always be at home, safe and secure.

Pray 

Lord Jesus, we praise you for the security and peace we have in you, regardless of what we experience in life. Amen. 

Lord of All

Read
Luke 8:22-25. Verse 25 – “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement, they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Reflect

Luke records four different kinds of miracles Jesus did in chapter eight. First, he calmed a storm. Jesus knew when he crossed the lake with his disciples that they would encounter stormy winds and waves. So why would he send them out into danger? He wanted to test how strong their faith was. But the disciples woke Jesus to complain. Their faith was still young and inexperienced.

Second, he cast out demons. Though the boat crossed the sea safely, another problem was waiting — a man possessed by many demons. Because the demons made the man so powerful and destructive, no one could help him or even restrain him. He was restrained by chains and kept under guard. But the demons were no match for Jesus. He freed the man of those demons and sent them into a herd of pigs.

Third, Jesus cured a woman who had been ill for 12 years. She believed she could be healed if she just touched Jesus’ cloak, and she was! During his ministry Jesus healed many others — people who were blind, mute, paralyzed, lepers, and more.

Fourth, Jesus raised a dead girl back to life. She had been sick and had died, but Jesus took her by the hand and brought her to life again.

Jesus is Lord over all things. Physical calamity, demonic powers, illness, and even death itself cannot snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). With Jesus for us, nothing can be against us (Romans 8:31). Jesus is Lord – Jesus is our Lord! Halleluiah!

Pray

Lord Jesus, thank you for always being with us. Help us to have faith that you can overcome any threat to us. In your name we pray. Amen!

Certainty in Uncertain Times

Read
John 1:29 John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Reflect
In lots of places around the world countries are reopening and exploring how far and fast re-opening can take place safely.  I am sure that “fear of the future and fear of the unknown” would be a clear number one fear with all the questions about the future on our minds these days as we face the threat of the coronavirus.

Two thousand years ago, the apostle John was also feeling uncertainty and anxiety about the future. In a vision God gave him, he saw a scroll with the future recorded on it. But it was rolled up and sealed. The uncertainty of the future reduced John to fearful tears. He said, “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” (Revelation 5:4).

But when John finally wiped away his tears, he saw a Lamb which appeared to have been sacrificed but was alive and standing near the throne of God in heaven. And as the Lamb picked up the scroll, all of heaven broke into a joyful song with lyrics that went like this: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

That sacrificial Lamb next to God’s throne was Jesus, whom the Bible calls “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). At the cross, Jesus took your place and died for all of your sins. It’s a great comfort to know that the one who holds the future in his hands is the God who loves you so much he suffered and died and rose again for you!

But it gets better. The Lamb opened the scroll. He revealed the future. And it is good news! Life will not be easy. But through it all, the Lamb will be with you. Whatever comes, he will give you strength and comfort to get through it. And when death comes, he will share his victory over death with you and bring you to a life free of all danger and uncertainty forever in heaven. That is the assurance of our loving God, sealed by the blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Prayer
Lamb of God, comfort me in these uncertain times by reminding me that my future is in your loving hands. Amen

God is My Rock

Read
Psalm 18: 1-5; 16-19; 30-31 Verses 30-31 – As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? 

Reflect
Mwanza, Tanzania is the city where my family & I lived and worked during our two-year volunteer mission stint. The city is also known as Rock City with granite outcroppings stretched across the southern shores of Lake Victoria. When you observe how some of these massive boulders sit precariously atop one another you can’t help but see the creative hand of God in the formations. 

When the psalmist prays, “God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge,” we aren’t using an image of a small polished rock that we can put in our pocket. We are also not thinking of the rock as cold, hard, and unfeeling. 

When I pray, thinking of God as my rock I think of characteristics like strength, protection, shelter and unmovable. I find myself thinking of the safety of hiding in the cleft of the rock.  No matter what storms may come, how much our world is turning upside down there is nothing that can move that rock in whom I put my trust. This is why, no matter the reason, we can hide ourselves in the cleft of our protector, our God—our Rock—and he will provide shelter for us. He will keep us safe from the storm. 

Pray
O God, our Rock, we turn to you and give you praise because you are strong and powerful. We hide ourselves in you and thank you for surrounding and protecting us. In your perfect name. Amen. 

Are You Afraid?

Read 
Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Vs. 1 (NIV)

Reflect
Have you ever been afraid? I remember looking at my young family while we were touring the countryside in Holland. We were on our way to Tanzania. We had no real idea of what we were headed for in Tanzania and this was a volunteer position. Suddenly I was terrified of the future on the inside, wondering what I had gotten us into. 

Fear is a fact of life, even for believers, and being afraid is a part of most people’s lives. Even David, who wrote Psalm 27, is described elsewhere in the Bible as being “very much afraid” (1 Samuel 21:12). 

Lots of children seem to have a fear of the dark. Parents are afraid about the future of their children. Many people are afraid of death. I am not afraid of death, but I certainly can think of manner of death and there are lots of those I do not want to experience. Fear does creep into our lives from time to time. 

I do not think we can eradicate fear from our lives, but I do believe we can keep fear in its proper perspective. The only way to keep our fears at bay is to turn to God and to remember that God is the stronghold of our lives. One way to accomplish that is to have God’s word tucked away in our hearts.  Like these words from Hebrews 13:6: “We say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” We can also reread and repeat the words of Psalm 27: “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” When we ask for God’s help and look to his Word, we can trust that the Lord will be our stronghold. 

 Pray
Lord, there are many things in life that create fear in our hearts. Help us to turn to you and to trust in you when fear creeps in and steals our joy. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.  

Do Not Fear

Read
Isaiah 43:1-2
(NIV)

But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Reflect
The simple words of our devotional title are easy to say, but really, they can at times be very hard to follow. There are lots of fears in our world: fear of public speaking, fear of failure, fear of change or of dying. There are more simple fears as well: fear of heights or closed in places or spiders and all sorts of bugs or snakes. Truth be told snakes give me the creeps.

The world can be a scary place and I believe all of us have some kind of fear and those fears are something that we must face.

The Bible tells us, “Do not be afraid.” Again and again we read stories of God coming to his people with comforting and empowering words such as, “do not be afraid. I am with you. I will not forsake you. You are my child.” In the account of Jesus’ resurrection, both the angel at the tomb and Jesus, as the women raced to tell the disciples, begin their conversation with, “Do not be afraid …”

The women’s fear was very real. What they were encountering was a supernatural event. Jesus settles their fear by speaking to them, so they recognize his voice and his words, “Do not be afraid.” The power of the resurrection assures us that the Lord cares for his people and is with them no matter what the situation maybe.

Jesus death, resurrection and ascension assures us that he is always with us through his Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20).  We can have freedom from fear because we are never, ever alone. In God’s presence and strength, we can face whatever comes our way.

Pray
Lord, you are always with us. Remind us of your power and fill us with your courage to face our fears, knowing we are never alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Remember Who is on Your Team

Read
Luke 4:1-2 NIV  
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 

Reflect 
Have you ever run up against an opponent that was just too strong, too big, too much for you to handle? His nickname was Little John and he was anything but little. He played for the opposing high school football team and he was playing directly opposite me. At the end of that game I was exhausted and entirely defeated. I am not sure I was successful in even one play of that game. But not all was lost. My battle on the football field ended in victory because I did not play the game alone. A good team effort gave our team the victory. 

It certainly seems like Jesus was overmatched in his battle against the devil. For one thing, he was in the wilderness – a place where he was isolated and all alone. Nobody was coming to his aid. He was on his own and he was on Satan’s turf. And while he was out there, he was fasting. Physically, he was drained. 

You know how that feels, don’t you – to be spiritually overmatched? You feel like you are on your own and the devil keeps on coming. He tempts you with doubt: “If God really loves us, why did he let this virus happen and kill so many?”  He must not really mean what he says in his Word, “For God so loved the world …”  Sometimes it feels as if the devil and evil are winning the battle. Lord help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). 

Like my battle that day, which I just could not win and like the battle the world is facing against a virus, we are not alone. There is a world-wide team hard at work. Additionally, believers also have Jesus on their team. The one who faced the full onslaught of the devil and his schemes and was totally victorious. He stands with us in every battle including this battle against COVID-19.  

Remember Jesus! He went to battle for you. He crushed the devil and defeated all our enemies. Do not let fear and uncertainty push you down to defeat.  He gives you the weapons to defeat the devil in your daily life. As Paul declares to the Ephesian church, “Put on the whole armour of God…… and having done all, to stand.”  (Eph. 6:13). We may be in a difficult battle, but we know we will win the war against evil. 

Pray
Dear Jesus, thank you for defeating Satan for me. Thank you for equipping me with your Word that I might stand in the midst of trial, temptation and difficulty. Amen. 

Prepare

This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
 make straight paths for him.'”
– Matthew 3:3-6 (NIV)

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Reflect
God gave John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord’s first coming by preaching that people should “make straight paths for him.”

Prior to the late 90s the roads in Mwanza, Tanzania, even in the city, were all dirt or gravel. There was no asphalt to be found. Then one day in 1990 the road from the airport and coming into town was being paved. Asphalt eventually covered the road all the way to the Catholic Cathedral in the city. Shortly afterwards I learned that the Pope was coming to Mwanza. The city was preparing for the coming of the Pope.

Prepare is still an important message for us today. We prepare ourselves for Christ’s reign in our hearts and for seeing him at his second coming by believing his Word. We focus each and every day on Christ and are filled with the peace that he paid for our sins. God gave John the role in the first century. From the time that Jesus died and rose again he has called his followers to be the ones to prepare the way for his second and final coming when he comes to rule and reign forever more.

When people came out to hear John’s message, they were moved to confess their sins and they were baptized. The baptisms that John performed were “for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). The Bible says, “Be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Christians can look back on their baptisms and be assured that God has washed away their sins. If you have not been baptised it is a great milestone in your Christian life and a reminder of God’s promise to forgive you and bring you into His family.

Pray
Lord God, thank you for giving us your Son. Preserve us as loved ones of your family and help us prepare our hearts every day for you to live there and bless us. Amen.