Patiently Waiting

Read

Psalm 130 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope. Verse 5 (NIV)

Reflect
Do any of us remember when we had to wait for snail mail to arrive? When we were in Tanzania our only communication with family and friends back in Canada was by snail mail. Now when I write an email to friends in Tanzania, I expect a response in a very short period of time. It seems that our ability or tolerance to wait is ever diminishing. In our fast-paced world, waiting is treated as an irritating inconvenience.

As a child, I could hardly wait to open Christmas or birthday presents. As a high school student, I waited with anxious anticipation to see if I made the school football team. As an adult I waited anxiously to see if I passed the carpentry licensing exam. Even while working for our denomination in international ministry I had to learn to wait for travel documents and visas and usually with timelines pressing.

When the psalmist writes that his “whole being waits,” perhaps you – like me – can relate to that feeling. He wanders back and forth between calling out to God and reminding himself of the goodness and faithfulness of God. His heart and soul long for a sign from God, a flicker of light while hanging out in the depths of darkness.

Fear creeps into our waiting when there’s a possibility of bad news – and that can make the situation feel unbearable. As the psalmist keeps his eyes fixed on God, so we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith and the source of hope for this life and forever. There is no outcome that God will not help us handle.

Pray
Dear Lord, we cautiously pray for patience as we deal with irritating little things and major, life altering, fearful things. Thank you for your infinite mercy. Infuse us with unshakable hope in your Word. 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. 

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. 

Compassion, Humility & Healing – Part 2

Read 
2 Kings 5:7-19
“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”  Verse 15 (NIV) 

Reflect
I am amazed at video evidence that so many people are not willing to wear facemasks during the pandemic. Health experts say it is simple and one of the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus. Yet there are so many excuses as to why people will not wear them. By and large that is all they are, excuses.

Naaman is on a journey to seek healing from leprosy. He first goes to the king of Israel, but that king is not the source of healing. Elisha hears about this visitor from a foreign land and invites the king to send Naaman to him.

Naaman arrives at the house of Elisha, expecting to get a royal welcome and healing from the prophet himself. But instead a servant comes out and tells him to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman’s expectations almost derail his hope filled journeyMilitary leaders are not given to take orders, especially from the servant of a prophet!

In this critical moment, however, Naaman’s own servants redirect his thinking. These unnamed servants respectfully challenge Naaman not to turn away from an “ordinary task” when he would have willingly done a much more difficult thing. Naaman wisely listens to these servants, humbles himself, and dips into the Jordan River.

Naaman obeys, somewhat haltingly, and he is healed. A journey that began with an unnamed servant girl from Israel ends with Naaman testifying that there is no God in the whole world except the God of Israel. Naaman’s unnamed servants are ordinary people whom God uses for his extraordinary purposes. Because of their words, a follower of God is given new life in the waters of the Jordan.

Pray 
Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for the healing that comes when we humble ourselves before you. Thank you for the community of faith that can encourage us on our journey to you. Amen. 

Compassion, Humility & Healing – Part 1

Read
2Kings 5:1-6
“If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Verse 3 (NIV)

Reflect
Kindness and compassion sometimes appear in the most unlikely places or unlikely people. One of our special needs people suffers from fairly regular occasions of discomfort and pain that cause him lots of distress. From time to time when I check on him, I will ask him how he is feeling. Each time he struggles to get in a position that he can look at me and says: “Louis, I am happy.” Talk about melting your heart. I am trying to show compassion and he is telling me that he is not just “OK”, but he is happy. 

If anyone had an excuse not to be used by God, the servant girl of Naaman did. She had been captured by the enemy. She had been taken from her family, her people, and her land. She was a stranger and a foreigner, and now she was a slave in the household of Naaman.

If anyone had an excuse not to be compassionate or kind, this servant girl did. Many people in her circumstances might have taken great joy at the suffering of their master. Naaman was afflicted with leprosy, a deforming disease that separated people from their community and eventually caused great suffering and death. And yet. this slave girl was moved to be a servant of the living God. When suffering entered into her household, she wanted to see that suffering relieved and her master healed.

In our passage, the phrase “If only …” is the phrase that turns the story from one of hopelessness to a great God storyWhen we read this story carefully, we see that it is a story of compassion and hope. This unnamed servant girl’s careful cry to her master’s wife starts Naaman on a journey that will eventually lead him to Elisha and an encounter with the living God. An unnamed servant girl has a heart of compassion and kindness,that leads to a life that is changed by the power and heart of God.

Pray
God of healing and hope, there is so much suffering in our world, in our neighborhoods, and perhaps even in our families. Lord make us instruments of your compassion, healing, and hope. Amen.

His Mission, Our Mission

Read 
Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23 
“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart.” Verse 19 (NIV) 

Reflect 
The title of this devotional should be creating some memory cells to be firing in some of your minds. For many years this was the vision statement of our denomination: His Mission, Our Mission. It was a call to be like Jesus and to serve like Jesus in the task of bringing the Good News to our world. 

This parable is very well known. Jesus tells the story of a farmer spreading seed – good seed at the time of planting. The good seed falls on a variety of soils: fertile soil, rocky soil, pathway soil and weedy soil. 

Though Jesus explains this parable to his disciples, we still wonder about many things. What exactly does it look like when the seed falls on good soil and produces a crop, “yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown”? We really want to know if we are the good soil, producing the bountiful harvest Jesus describes. Are we good enough to produce 100-fold or just 30fold?  

Throughout his ministry Jesus gives many clues on what a life that produces a significant harvest might look like, but we can also consider the mission Jesus claims in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” 

What we need to concern ourselves with is not how large the harvest is but rather that we are called to be like Jesus; his mission is our mission. And the Holy Spirit has been given to us, so we are called to go out and do the same. 

Pray 
Jesus, thank you for your Word! Thank you for your Spirit! I pray that my life will produce an abundant harvest for you, and that I may serve in your name. Amen. 

Settling for Less

Read
Numbers 32:1-27
“We will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place.”Verse 17 (NIV) 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.Hebrews 12:1-2a (NIV) 

Reflect 
Being raised in an immigrant family, I was taught that you do not ever purchase the highest price for an item. Or maybe it was just that as Dutch people we are inherently cheap. In any case I still to this day settle for the purchase of something that is mid-range in price. That practice has sometimes come back to bite with products that just don’t do the job I expected them to do. 

The promised land was just across the Jordan River, but the land on the near side of the river looked good for grazing. So, the tribes of Reuben and Gad petitioned Moses to let them settle in that area. In doing so, they faced the temptation of settling for what looked good rather than launching forward to grab hold of what God had promised – The Promised Land. When Moses challenged them, the tribes of Reuben and Gad agreed to go with the others across the Jordan to conquer the land. 

Settling down and being fulfilled merely with the things around us is so tempting. The more we have, the easier it is to focus solely on this life. Rather than keeping our eyes on the promises of God, we tend to see the things around us and be satisfied with them. The danger is that we end up settling for much less. 

The Christian faith is to be marked by a holy discontent with earthly treasures and that is easy to do when things are difficult. But as Christians, we need to long for Christ and his kingdom even when things are good, because we know Jesus is the greatest treasure. We are a blessed people living in a blessed land, therefor let’s remember to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus to obtain the ultimate prize – eternal life with Jesus. 

Pray 
Father, help me not to love earthly treasures more than you. We worship you for giving us the gift of your Son (John 3:16). In Jesus’ name, 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!

Taste and See

Read
Psalm 34:8. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Reflect

I am not one to experiment with new foods. So, it took my wife to convince me to try mangos. This was in Tanzania where mangos were plentiful and peaches, one of my favourite fruits did not grow. “Try it, you’ll like it,” was the advice I was given. Turns out I love mangos.

Try it you’ll like it; that’s what David is urging us to do. He is inviting us to experience what he has discovered: the goodness of God’s salvation. David is celebrating that God has rescued him from his fears and troubles.

Psalm 34 is a song of gratitude we can all sing when God brings us out of a “close call” situation. But David’s joy is only a foretaste of the complete and future redemption God will bring to all who trust in him, to all whom God will redeem through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

God promises great blessings to his people. God will deliver, guard, supply, listen, and redeem all who trust in his power to save. God himself also gives us the ability to believe and trust in him. And in response we seek to honor him in all things, speak truthfully, seek peace and justice, and humbly serve our God.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” This psalm is an invitation to take God at his word, to trust in the Lord and experience his goodness firsthand, to know God personally, realizing that he loves us more than we can imagine. The invitation is ours to receive, but it is also ours to give. What opportunities has God given us to share his invitation with others? Whom would God ask us to include in his rescue and deliverance?

Pray

Jesus, you are the bread of life, you are living water and your salvation is sweet like honey. Thank you for your invitation to “Taste & See!” 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