Serving In Vain, Not!

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

We are in the season of Epiphany. As I had mentioned, Epiphany is the season in the liturgical church year that focusses on the life and teachings of Jesus. Especially during the time of Epiphany, I find myself thinking about how I would have reacted to Jesus and his teachings if I was among the crowds that he encountered.

Although the Bible passage for this week’s devotion comes from Isaiah, coul Christ have said these words, too? Have you said these words? Let’s top up our coffees and get started…

Readings for Jan. 19, 2020; Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42a

“I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.” Isaiah 49:4

Have you ever worked at something where you received no appreciation; where you felt in the end that it may have been a lot of time wasted? Perhaps it was for your employer, or your children or your spouse, or even your church? Although you may have been fulfilling your godly callings, there just didn’t seem to be any fruits of your labour, or even worse you received ridicule and hatred. Have you ever felt like that? In such situations it so easy to say, “Why do I bother? It’s all a waste of time. I’m labouring in vain!”

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Well, you’re not alone. Isaiah said the very same thing. He knew he was called by God but he too felt at times that his service and proclamation of the Lord went seemingly unnoticed. Or if it was noticed by others, he received hostility in return. He knew how discouraging people’s actions could be towards his efforts of being God’s prophet. Yet, he didn’t let himself get caught up in how he felt. He did not equate people’s responses to the success of his efforts. On the contrary, despite what he physically experienced or felt, he trusted in the Lord to be the ultimate one to see his deeds and rejoice in them. He knew “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” (Psalm 118:8) It is better to seek the Lord’s approval and walk in his ways, than to rely on human approval.

In fact, is this not exactly what Jesus experienced too, especially over the last day of his earthly life. Over those last few hours, Jesus experienced the ultimate rejection by humankind and yet his purpose and actions lead to the ultimate success story on humankind’s behalf. Therefore, as we serve in all the God-given callings of our life- child, parent, spouse/partner, employer/employee, teammate, church member, etc.- may we remember that our work does not go unnoticed. Our God sees all you do in the name of Jesus, and he says over and over again, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

Prayer: Dear Lord, so often it feels like I serve you in vain. Help me to be faithful in all I do and not get discouraged. Help me to always put my hope in you and know without a doubt that my reward comes from you alone. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Jesus’ Baptism -What a Marvel!

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This coming week marks the start of the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the period in the church year sandwiched between the Christmas and Lent seasons. The season of Epiphany focusses on the Ministry of Jesus. It begins with Jesus’ baptism. Let’s top up our coffees and begin our journey through Epiphany…

Readings for Jan. 12, 2020: The Baptism of our Lord

Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 3:13-17

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”     Matthew 3:16-17

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What an awesome moment it would have been, watching a dove shine light upon this seemingly ordinary man, and then a booming voice come out of nowhere acknowledging him as his son. What an awesome moment! I wonder if the people standing around, waiting their turn to be baptized and listening to John preaching, really took in all that was happening before them. Were they attentive to the events that were occurring or were they busy fussing with their sandals, or trying to sooth the baby fussing in the heat of the day, or thinking about what to make for supper, or wiping the dust of their children’s robes as the little ones poked and prodded at each other while growing ever more impatient for their turn in the water? Were the people attentive enough to realize that they experienced face-to-face our God in his fullness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, together in person.

Well, I believe it would be our first reaction, my first reaction, to say, “Of course they did! How could you miss it? They’d have to be deaf and blind not to see this wondrously glorious and holy event that took place.” Yet, unfortunately, isn’t that just what humankind is: deaf and blind to God? We can have the most awesome blessing bestowed upon us and we walk unknowingly passed it. Even more alarming is the fact that we too are given the promise of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, of the forgiveness of sins through Christ who bore the punishment of our sins, and of life eternal with God the Father, who has created us and calls us his own, through Christ’s work of redemption, and who is watching over us, each and every moment of every day. Yet, are we blind and deaf to him in our life and all he has accomplished for our life eternal? Do we get so caught up in the here and now, the to-do list and the wants or ‘have to’s, the pain and trials of our lives that we are ignorant to God in his fullness in our life this day? This moment?

In your baptism, God in his fullness descended upon you- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to make you a new creation, redeemed from sin, death and the power of the devil, and alive in the Holy Spirit who keeps you in the one true faith. Marvel at his presence. Marvel at his grace. Marvel at his love. Marvel at his faithfulness. John may have baptized for the forgiveness of sins, but Jesus’ baptism is one of total cleansing and adoption, once and for all. Be amazed! Be always in awe and thankful of this awesome moment! And may you hear our Father say to you, as he sees you covered in the robe of Christ, “You are my child, whom I love, and with you I am well pleased.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me for not being aware of all your blessings around and for me. Thank you for your love and mercy, grace and faithfulness, through Jesus – my Lord and Saviour. Open the eyes of my heart so that I can see you and cling to you always. In you I rejoice! You are an awesome God! In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Resolution’s Success 100% Guaranteed

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This week we enter a new year! Good bye 2019. Hello 2020!

Have you made any new year resolutions yet? Before you do, let’s top up our coffees and look at the data surrounding the success of resolutions.

Readings for Jan. 5: 2nd Sunday after Christmas

1 Kings 3:4-15; Psalm 119:97-104; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 2:40-52

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” . . .

[Solomon replied,] “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, I will give you a wise and discerning heart… so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you wealth and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. (1 Kings 3:5…13)

New Years

It’s a new year. For many people, with a new year comes new resolutions. These resolutions are simply commitments to a better you. For many it’s a commitment to better health through better eating habits or increased physical activity, or a commitment to quitting or cutting back on a habit that is harmful to your health. It can be a commitment to a personal goal set with work or a hobby. Although a resolution is made with great determination and hope, I am not sure how many New Year resolutions are achieved. Over time, the commitment peters out until we don’t really think about it anymore, until the next December 31st. I know my past resolutions never saw fruition, not even one. How about yourself? How has your resolution success rate been?

This resolution failure rate clearly shows that each of us are plagued with the same flaw… sin. We know what we need to do for the thing we love the most – ourselves- but we can’t even follow through with these tasks. It’s like St. Paul said, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18b-19)

Therefore, how about making a paradigm shift in your thinking. Instead of focussing on yourself this new year, and a new you, physically speaking, how about focussing on a desire and attribute that God desires for you, like any of the fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 or a spiritual gift as given in 1 Corinthians 12 or putting on more often any of the pieces of armour of God as stated in Ephesians 6:10-18. Once you’ve decided and prayed about which godly task you wish to grow in, ask God to give you the strength. Go to God as if you are responding to the same question he posed to Solomon. Then, just like Solomon’s request was pleasing to God, so will your request be pleasing to God.  With these types of requests, God always answers a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, he will not only give you the power and strength to grow in him and accomplish your task, he will also bless you with your earthly desires in ways you never dreamed of. Did you know that Solomon became the wisest man that ever lived?

So this new year, do not set yourself up for failure. Do not depend upon yourself to change, but seek the Lord and he will transform you from the inside out. 100% guaranteed.  In Christ, there is a 100% success rate and 100% satisfaction. You can count on it!

Prayer: Dear Lord, I have made so many self-improvement resolutions in the past without much success. I clearly see my weak and sinful nature. Please forgive me my sins and self-centredness. Help me grow in you. Lord I lay my life in your hands, and ask that you guide me to (place Godly attribute here). In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Come! I have a gift for you.

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

A blessed Christmas to you and yours!

Let’s top up our coffees and rejoice in the best gift ever….

Readings for Dec. 25: Christmas Day: The Nativity of Our Lord

Isaiah 52:7–10; Psalm 2; Hebrews 1:1–6 (7–12); John 1:1–14 (15-18)

 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:9, 4-5

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth! Our Saviour is coming! The light of the world is coming to shine on our lives! This week is Christmas. Let us rejoice and be glad. Our Saviour comes and he reigns. “Burst into songs of joy together.  . . . All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:9a…10b)

No matter where you are at or what you are enduring, no matter the struggles or the burdens of your life, Christ is coming. He is coming for you. He is coming to bring light to your life and disperse the darkness. He is coming to redeem your life now and for eternity. So let him. Let him fill you. Lay your burdens, your guilt, your worries on him and he will wash over you with his forgiveness and peace. He will cleanse you from the inside out. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18b) In the light of Christ you will be radiant. In Christ, you are radiant; you are beautiful; you are loved.

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So, celebrate the best gift ever. Celebrate the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the baby! Hear our Heavenly Father whisper in your ear, “Come, my child. I have a gift for you because I love you! Take him and don’t ever let him go.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank-you for sending your son as my Saviour; to walk the path that I cannot. He is the best gift ever! Help me to cherish him always and to rejoice in your grace and love and salvation through Jesus, my Lord. Thank-you! In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Got a Joseph problem?

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Readings for Dec 22: Fourth Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 7:10–17; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1–7; Matthew 1:18–25

But after [Joseph] had considered [divorce], an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

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Do you have a burden you’re carrying? Are you at the end of your rope? Are you looking for a solution to a problem? Is something putting a damper on your Christmas? On your life? If so, may you be encouraged by Joseph’s situation and outcome.

Think about it. The story of the coming of Christ was not filled with excitement and rejoicing for those initially involved. In fact it was anything but that. Mary was seemingly pregnant and not by her husband. Joseph was engaged to an adulterous, as far as any human mind could comprehend. He had a problem, and it wasn’t a little thing.

In human eyes, the situation was not good. Joseph needed to do something. He was not going to marry an adulterer. According to Jewish law he had the right to divorce Mary and actually have her stoned. The futures of Joseph, Mary and the baby were going to be determined by Joseph’s decision. Yet, it wasn’t just Joseph’s decision. God was very much part of the story. He had a plan for Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and he had the solution for Joseph. Joseph just needed to listen, trust, and obey what he was told. And thankfully he did.

God, too, has a plan for you. This baby Jesus, whose birth we will be celebrating in just a few days, was born for you. His life and sacrificial death which paid the penalty for humankind’s sin, was for you and the payment for your sin. And his resurrection and life eternal is your life eternal, as well. He did it all for you, and he desires to be part of the solution to your problems today. Go to the Lord, lay your request before him and trust him to walk with you. Listen to what he says to you in his word, and to what he’s saying to you in your heart or even in your dreams, like Joseph. Then trust and obey. It may not be an easy road, as I am sure, Joseph’s wasn’t either, at first. But know it is the best decision for all involved. Stand firm and faithful to your God and he will direct you in all your ways, even as he did with Joseph.

Prayer: Dear Lord, at times my problems seem so big, but they’re not too big for you. Today I lift them up to you. Help me to honestly listen to what you would have me do. Please give me the strength to trust you and the courage to obey you. Instead of worrying, help me to take the time this Christmas season to rejoice in the coming of your son, my Saviour, Jesus. Glory to God in the highest and Peace to us all! In Jesus name I pray. AMEN!

Been to the malls yet?

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Christmas is only a couple weeks away and I’m sure you’ve noticed the busyness at the stores and malls. Let’s top up our coffees and see what precious words we can cling to this week to keep us focussed on the true reason for the season…

Readings for Dec 15: Third Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-11; Matthew 11:2-15

Be patient, then brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. . . . Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The judge is standing at the door. (James 5:7a, 9)

Have you started hitting the stores yet? Have you gone to the mall to get some Christmas gifts yet? If so, how did you do?

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The malls and stores can be chaos at this time of year while people scurry around to get their Christmas purchases. The closer you get to Christmas, the more chaotic it gets. People seem to become so impatient and will do anything to bypass the long lineups or to get the parking spot closest to the entrance, even if it means cutting in front of someone else. People’s patience can seem non-existent and their high level of stress seems to give them the right to say and do the nastiest of things. Can you relate? Do you get caught up in the heat of the Christmas shopping and parking chaos?  Oh I must admit it can sometimes get the best of me.

Isn’t that exactly what Satan wants us to experience at a time that should be the most exciting and holy? Doesn’t he strive for us to be impatient,  hateful, and anxiety-filled to the point that we hate, just absolutely hate, ‘doing’ Christmas. Doesn’t he desire that we are filled with stress and grumbling at a time when we should be eagerly anticipating the birth of our Saviour. Do not let Satan, the world around you, or your sinful self, draw you into the chaos of the world at this time. Do not be fooled. Before you know it, the Lord will be here. He is coming, and he is coming soon.

So take off that layer of anxiousness and judgement, and clothe yourself with patience and peace. Remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, not the gifts and all the ‘to-do’s. Give yourself the time to do the things that need to get done with the understanding that it will be crazy out there. Do not expect anything less. Just like Jesus, you know how people are going to act in their sinfulness but don’t let it have power over you or cause you to sin. But again, be patient. Think on him who is coming, the Saviour of the world, and rejoice and sing. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. (Psalm 96:2) Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus! Come!

Prayer: Dear Lord, please forgive me for getting caught up in the chaos that can come in preparation for Christmas. Please help me set aside the time I need to do what I need to do to prepare for the festivities of your birth. Give me patience and understanding of the people I will encounter on my excursions. Help me to still be your light to those I meet, and help me to continue to remember, rejoice and sing your praises for the plan of salvation you prepared for me through the birth of Jesus. Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on Earth! In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

The Christmas Tree; The Christmas Branch

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Have you started decorating your home? I love decorating my home. For me, one of the most important decorations is my Christmas tree. Let’s fill up our coffees and ponder one specific tree…

Readings for Dec 8: Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him.  Isaiah 11:1-2a

Have you put your tree up yet? I have. I love putting up my Christmas tree. Although it is usually a task I do all alone, I love my time in solitude preparing the tree. I get my tree-in-a-box out, my lights untangled, my decorations organized, my Handel’s Messiah playing, and away I go. Resurrecting the tree with all its colourful decorations and glowing lights is quite a site to take in, and with its tall stature and strategic placement in my livingroom, it is hard to miss by those who pass by my home. Its beauty is something I not only wish to personally take time to enjoy, but I want to share it with everyone.

In this coming Sunday’s readings, we learn from Isaiah that a branch will spring from a stump of a tree. It is a branch that shoots up from the family tree of Jesse, King David’s father; from the line of David. This branch is Jesus, our Saviour, and Isaiah tells us about him about 700 years before he is actually born; 700 years before the first Christmas. Jesus’ birth is no accident. His birth was foretold, his actions were described and his purpose of redeeming humankind was to unfold starting with that first Christmas morning. God had it all planned out from the moment Adam and Eve committed the very first sin.

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As we ponder each strategically place decoration that hangs from each branch on our trees, may we think of the branch of Jesse, our Saviour, who intentionally left his heavenly home to be born into this world to redeem us – you and me. May the glorious beauty of knowing his salvation fill you with radiant joy as you continue with your Christmas preparations during this Advent season.  And for always, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)

Prayer: Dear Lord, during these busy days, help me to remember that your birth was planned with purpose and patience for me and my salvation. Fill me with your patience and the joy and peace that such wonderful news brings. With the same intention and joy that I desire to share the beauty of my Christmas tree, help me to share your beautiful plan of salvation with all people. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This coming Sunday starts the beginning of Advent. Advent is the season in the church year leading up to Christmas, which includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas. Like Lent is a time of reflection before the death and resurrection of Jesus, Advent is a time to focus and reflect on the birth of Jesus.

Over the next four weeks we will focus on preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming, for Christmas… and that doesn’t mean organizing our Christmas lists. …lol

Let’s top up our coffees and begin preparing for the real reason for the season

Readings for Dec 1: First Sunday in Advent 

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 21:1-11 or 24:36-44

…Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,

and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 13:14

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Have you begun planning your Christmas lists, or started purchasing or making any gifts yet? Does the thought of those tasks give you high blood pressure and anxiety? I have known some people to come to literally hate Christmas because of the expectation, stress and expense that surrounds the gift giving portion of our society’s ‘Christmas’.

Although the meaning behind gift giving at Christmas is wonderful since the human race was given the best gift ever in Christ Jesus, and the story of Saint Nicholas and his Christmas stockings is reflective of how we as Christians should live, getting gifts for others and desiring gifts for ourselves should not be the focus of our time and attention.  As Christians, we should not be celebrating this festival like those who do not know the Lord; like those who do not know the hope and salvation we have in that little baby that is being born in a few short weeks. Even more importantly, our habits and lives should reflect and lead people to the joyous and peaceful anticipation and hope of Christmas morning. However, our habits, words, and actions are only outward reactions of where our hearts are at. Therefore,  may we focus our hearts on Christ and let Christmas and all its wonderful activities, festivities and gift giving fall into their proper place.

As you begin this Advent Season, may I challenge you to spend just as much time, or more, thinking about how Christ came to earth in order to clothe you in his righteousness as you do thinking about how to gratify the desires of your family, friends and self through the physical preparation of Christmas lists and activities. Every time you begin thinking about your Christmas ‘to-do list’, take time to pray, giving thanks for Christ’s coming as a baby, and ask God to guide you in your preparations so that you can make him a priority and be a light of his love to all whom you encounter.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, as we approach this Advent Season and prepare for the coming of the Saviour of the World, help me to not get so caught up in the chaos that our society has turned Christmas into. Help me to be your light of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE to all I meet and especially to my family and friends. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

The Criminal’s Fate

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year, and it is fitting to be ending the year with Jesus’ final words to us, through his words to the criminal on the cross. Let’s top up our coffees and take a closer look…

Readings for November 24: Last Sunday of the Church Year

Malachi 3:13-18; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43

Then [the criminal] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

I can never get enough of this conversation between the thief on the cross and Jesus. There are so many lessons to learn about God’s character and humankind’s behaviour and salvation.

To begin with, let’s focus on the thief. We don’t know much about this fellow except that he was a criminal. He even acknowledged his unlawful and evil deeds. He may have lived every moment of his days plotting and scheming, and then cursed the day he got caught. Through crucifixion, this criminal was getting what he deserved, as per the laws of the day. He was an outright criminal and his deeds were worthy of death. Without a doubt he was sentenced to die!

Yes, he would die. Yet, in those final moments of his life, as he hung in pain and humility upon that cross, he acknowledged Jesus and his kingdom, and requested Jesus to be merciful to him and to remember him as Jesus returned to Heaven. In those few seconds that passed between the two of them, the final outcome for this criminal changed forever. He would not be receiving death, but life eternal. Not by anything he had done in his life, but simply by acknowledging God in his mercy through Christ.

Think about it. This criminal had no way of erasing or lessening anything he had done in the past. He simply saw Christ as he was and acknowledged him to be God, to be his God and Saviour. In the same way, just like this criminal, it does not matter what your past deeds are, or even the deeds of others. You cannot erase them. God knows all of them. They should not control you or have power over you, and they certainly do not stand in the way of God loving you and desiring you to be with him for eternity.

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God in his grace and mercy simply desires you to repent of your sins and leave them with Jesus, acknowledging Jesus as the one who has taken those sins and paid their penalty on that dreadful day 2000 years ago. For just as the criminal said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong,” Jesus didn’t have to be there, hanging on a tree, paying the penalty for the most evil of deeds. Yet, he was. He was there paying the penalty for your sins and mine. So, just like that criminal that day, even if you are breathing your last breath, no matter what you’ve done, may you too lay your sins before Jesus in humility and repentance, and acknowledge him as your Saviour. And may you hear Jesus’ most precious words whispered in your ear, “Truly I tell you, today [and always] you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Finally, may we never limit God’s grace of salvation to anyone, but pray for everyone and be Christ’s lights always. For even in one’s final breath, Jesus is ready and desiring to bring them to himself in paradise.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank-you for your sacrifice on my behalf. Please forgive me all my sins that caused you to pay such a terrible price. You are my God and my Redeemer. Remember me this day, whether here on earth or life eternal. In your most precious name I pray. AMEN!

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