May Your ‘Christmas’ Prepare The Way

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

Readings for December 6, 2020; Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85;  2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.. . .You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” . . . He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:3, 9, 11

Although Isaiah is prophesying about the coming of John the Baptizer who prepared the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah, perhaps right here and right now in these days, we can consider Isaiah to be speaking to us- you and me. Perhaps right now in these days of preparation, we, through our actions, attitudes, and words, could proclaim loud and strong the coming of the Saviour of the world. As sinners awaiting the coming of our Saviour, we can be the ones who bring good news by gently but loudly displaying the reason for our joy. Yes, our hope and motivation in these days are different than the world’s, and our actions will speak louder than words, as the old adage goes. Without a doubt, our words, attitudes, and actions should be like a megaphone to those who are lost and seeking.

Many in our world may be preparing for a ‘Happy Holiday’ and may even erect a holiday tree, and maybe they’re running around trying to purchase the perfect gifts and create the perfect holiday memories. This all sounds so exhausting. What expectation! What cost of time and money! What stress! If this is the case then why bother?

But you see, for the world who does not yet truly know the depth of love of the one true God, and as a result, has not yet received Jesus as the Saviour of the World, then this Christmas season is just some time off and a lot of extra effort to humanly create. It is exhausting and it is expensive. It is no surprise that many say they hate the season.

Photo by Emin B on Unsplash

However, as God’s children who are anxiously awaiting the Lord’s arrival and the day we can celebrate and remember his birth, our actions and purpose is motivated not by human desire and expectation, but by the love and desire that comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s a joy that springs from within us as we remember all that Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection means for us. It’s the anticipation of sharing in the joyous celebration with our loved ones and our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a time to sing from the church steeples his glory and praises.

Everything we say and do and feel throughout this advent season, leading up to Christmas day, should be strangely noticeable by all those around us who are rushing around preparing for a holiday of their own making. So stand tall in love and grace and truth, as you prepare your heart and your home for the coming of Jesus.  Yes, “lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid.” (Isaiah 40:9b) Jesus, your Saviour is coming!

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you are the true reason for this season! Help me not to get caught up in the worldly ways but to stay focussed on you. May all I think, do, and say display your love and grace, and be an opportunity to rejoice in you. In your name I pray. AMEN!

Got True Christmas Spirit?

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

Readings for November 29, 2020; First Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7;  1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10 or 13:34-37

Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3

We are heading into the Season of Advent. Advent is a time of reflection. It’s a time to focus on the coming of our Lord and Saviour, and all that it means to us- you and me- and to all of humankind. It’s an opportunity to first ask yourself how your life has been affected because God himself was born as a helpless child? And secondly, how will your life be affected when Christ returns?

If we seriously stop and think about these two comings of Christ, we can be brought to the lowest of lows, as well as, the highest of highs. For at first, we are brought low in humility and repentance as we see the depth of our sin and our unworthiness to be loved so dearly by such an awesome God. And only at that depth of lowliness can we truly appreciate the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf and, at that point, rejoice with the truest thanksgiving and purest joy of the gift of freedom and salvation he has given us because he loves us so much. Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, there need be no fear for the second coming of Christ when he will bring, to his heavenly home, all who have acknowledged that their sin separated them from God Almighty, and believe that Jesus has reunited them by being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Yes, the season of Advent guides us to Jesus, where we experience joy and thanksgiving, peace and rejoicing beyond what we will ever know in this world alone. Such joy and rejoicing is the heart of the Christmas spirit. For only in Christ and the faith-filled knowledge of all that his coming accomplishes for us, can we place the worries and griefs of this life aside and acknowledge that we are his and he is ours, and that nothing in this world can ever change that. This freedom allows us to love others unconditionally. It is in the Advent Season that we see this Christmas Spirit shine so brightly.

Even in the secular world, the Christmas spirit has been acknowledged. However, it cannot be forced upon oneself. Only in Christ can you truly know the joy of self-sacrifice and love, and only by the power of his Spirit can we give unconditionally, with no strings attached. So if you are having a hard time feeling joy in these days leading up to Christmas, go to Jesus. Lay all your worries and concerns, sins and regrets before him and let him fill your heart with his peace. He is faithful and he will fill you with his grace and enrich you in every way. Then in the truth of Jesus, may you go forth with the true spirit of Christmas, shining his light and goodness to all.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, this Advent season, help me to focus on you and the true reason why you had to come in the first place: to save sinners like me. Dear Lord, forgive me. Dear Lord, Thank-you! In Your name I pray. AMEN!

You Are Loved, Little Sheep!

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

Readings for November 22, 2020; Last Sunday of the Church Year

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 95:1-7a:  1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25: 31-46

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. Ezekiel 34:11-16

Have you ever been in the middle of chaos in your life and received the most loving words or actions from someone and, at least for a moment, the chaos dissipates and you feel a great sense of peace and assurance that you are loved and everything will be okay? Well, that is what the above passage does for me.

In the middle of absolute destruction and chaos in the Israelites’ history, out comes these loving words of assurance and protection for those who are seeking the Lord and can’t seem to find him in all the chaos. In the midst of heart wrenching pleas and pain, change and sorrow, God wraps his faithful children up in his arms as a devoted Shepherd, a loving Father, and whispers that everything will be okay; He will protect them, he will feed them, he will bind up their wounds, he will bring them back to their fold, and he will stand against those that are unjust to them.

Although he was long dead, David too knew these promises which allowed him to pen Psalm 23. And it’s the assurance of these promises why, I believe, the psalm is so beloved:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Also, from the words of Ezekiel, I am reminded of the poem Footprints In The Sand, where at the deepest, most painful moments in our life’s journey, the Lord picks us up and carries us. We are his beloved and he loves us deeply.

Re-read today’s passage…

May you take the promises of this love letter from God to you into the week ahead. Know with assurance that whatever you must endure, your Good Shepherd is watching over you with the utmost love and protection, and when you most need him, he will pick you up and carry you through. There is never a time he isn’t watching over you, so go in this peace, and serve him in all you do!

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to always remember that you are my shepherd, and I lack nothing. You make me lie down in green pastures, you lead me beside quiet waters, you refresh my soul. You guide me along the right paths for your name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

This Is Not Paradise

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

Readings for November 15, 2020; 24th Sunday after Pentecost

Zephaniah 1:7-16; Psalm 90:1-12:  1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25: 14-30

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. [Lord,] teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:10,12,17

Stop and reflect for a moment: What have been the best days of your life?

Perhaps among the memories are a graduation, a promotion or obtaining a dream job, a wedding, a birth, a reunion or something even more wonderful. Such memories are blessings and put a smile on our faces and lighten our hearts. Personally, I am so thankful for such events in my life and the memories I have of those days.

However, such joyous events are not the norm of our every day lives. No our every day lives are filled with responsibilities and enduring such things as illness or chronic pain for ourselves or our loved ones.  We may be enduring unemployment or homelessness or loneliness or fears and anxieties. Or perhaps the honeymoon stage is over with a number of things. The reality is that these things are the things that fill our every day.

Yes, let’s face it; these things are the things that fill our every day: the mundane, the painful, the unpleasant, the inconveniencing. Just as the above passage states, most of our days “are but trouble and sorrow.” It is a fact. And it shouldn’t be a surprise.

As Christians, we know we live in a fallen world. This is not Paradise so why do we think it should be. There are people going hungry, because those of us with money and food, keep it to ourselves. God has provided enough resources to provide for every person, yet we blame him for not being caring enough. We abuse our bodies and then blame him for some of our illnesses. The world is in decay and brings illness and death, and we wonder why this is.

Let’s just stop! Let’s stop blaming him for the world that we, humankind, has brought into sin, decay and death. Let us bow before our God in repentance and ask his Holy Spirit to help us think properly of this world, and to be thankful for the blessings we do have here and now. Then, let us remember that there is an eternal Paradise and be joyous that he has paved the way for us to live there eternally one day. Let us think on and number our days properly, in light of what we do have and not of what we do not have.

Right now we may not have perfection, total peace, constant happiness, or total freedom from responsibilities, pain, or death. However, we have been blessed with the beauty of creation and loved ones. We do have the ability to show love, grace, mercy and forgiveness which he first has shown to us. We have hope in the midst of pain and suffering. And we have the ultimate freedom from the temptation of Satan, from sin, and from death, and no one can take that away. We can live each day with the constant assurance that no matter what happens- even death- that our Heavenly Father has taken care of our final outcome through the loving sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, to one day enjoy Paradise with him forever. In Christ this fallen world is not our final destination.

In this light, we can awake each day in wisdom and truth of what this world has to offer. We walk into the day knowing that God will guide each of us to be his arms and voice to help make other people’s day better. We can see our God in truth, and live in anticipation of our home in Paradise that is awaiting each of us. We can enter our day not asking how can this world make our lives better, but rather, what can we do to make the lives of those in our own little worlds better.

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me for questioning you and your ways. Help me to see you in my day and to not be self-centred in thinking that this world is all about me and my happiness. Help me to number my days properly, that I may walk in your truth, and look forward to my home in Paradise. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

You Don’t Have To Do It Alone.

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

Readings for November 8, 2020; 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else. . . . May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.             1 Thessalonians 3:12a,13, 4:16-18

Have you ever been motivated to do something, especially a life-changing something, and found that within a few days your motivation diminished, and then a few days after that, you were back to your old ways? On the other hand, have you been motivated to do something alongside a friend or two and found that together your support for one another, your accountability and your motivation stayed stronger, and as a group, you got farther in obtaining your goal than if you were alone? I know I have personally experienced both situations to be true.

Well, on one hand, the above words of encouragement from Paul are meant for you personally to encourage your hearts and to be strengthened to live your days with your eyes, heart, and actions focussed on the Lord Jesus. However, his words are more specifically meant to encourage the whole body of Christ to be strengthened in the Lord and to strengthen each other to remain in Christ until our earthly death or his coming, whichever comes first.

Although it is true that we each have a personal faith and intimate relationship with our Lord, we are part of a much bigger assembly. God does not desire our days of faith and walking in his ways to be a one person show. He desires us to be united with the whole of the body of Christ. In fact, Paul’s words are words of encouragement to the church of the Thessalonians; the group of people in Thessalonica who believed in Jesus as their lord and Saviour and who lived their days to support and love each other, as well as, those who crossed each member’s path.

Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

You see, our fellowship with Jesus, our head, is intimately integrated with his whole body, the Church. We are not meant to be separated. We are not meant to walk our days of faith alone. For some, they may not be able to help being alone if they have been imprisoned for their faith, or live in a country where Christians are persecuted and their worship is to be hidden. In such situations may God bless these brothers and sisters with strength and courage to endure their days, and may he guide them to fellow believers with whom they can find mutual encouragement. However, for the majority of countries where there is freedom of worship, like in Canada, we have the privilege to join in the fellowship of believers, the body of Christ where we live, to be encouraged and to encourage each other in the faith until the day we are called home or Christ comes. For either day is not a laughing matter. This such day in your life will be the final call of your ultimate destination, and Satan, the world and your sinful self are doing everything to keep you from being focussed on Jesus. Alone, we can question, we can grow weary, we can believe Satan’s lies, we can make up excuses; all of which keep us from being ready and which can lead us away from the one true faith. That is why Jesus told multiple parables of the kingdom of heaven, and why he said over and over again to be ready and keep watch, “because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13b

So, if you are living your life of faith alone, may I encourage you to seek out a Christian community where you can join with others in your daily walk of faith, and together seek and grow in His Word, support and become accountable to one another, so that you may not be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, [you] will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:14b-16. Then, you will be ready, without a doubt, for that day when you are called to your heavenly home.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you do not desire that I live my days for you alone. You know my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. You have made me part of your Church, the gathering of fellow believers, with whom I can find support and encouragement. Guide me so that I can be an active member of your body while giving and receiving the daily support and encouragement to keep my eyes always on you until that day I am with you in paradise. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

You’re Praising God with the Saints in Heaven

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

Readings for November 1, 2020; All Saints’ Day

Revelation 7:2-8 (9-17); Psalm 149; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. . . . Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7: 10, 12

The above words are proclaimed by those who have died in the Lord. They are praising him with such words now, even as we sit and read this devotion. All our beloved from generations past are before the throne of God rejoicing with these words. What a sound!

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Close your eyes and imagine these joyous proclamations honouring our God; your loved ones who are there now, worshiping our God, and the Lamb, in all his glory. No more tears. No more pain. Just joy and rejoicing. Yes, close your eyes and envision the spectacle. Just let your being be silent and take it all in. See the majesty of our God and join in the praises, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. AMEN!”

(Take time to do so.)

In our life of faith we, the saints on earth, are eternally joined with the saints in heaven. It’s the very reason we proclaim in the Apostles’ Creed, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of Saints…, and we sing, “I’m but a stranger here. Heaven is my home.” Not only one day in the future will we be rejoined with all those who have passed on before us, but right now, we are worshipping and praising God with all the saints. How awesome is that!?!

May you find peace in knowing that when you are singing His praises, your voice is resounding with those who are rejoicing in his presence.

Let us praise the Lord, one and all, now and for eternity!

Prayer: Dear Lord, holy, holy, holy is your name. All praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength are yours. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Did You Hear What They Said About Jesus?

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

Readings for October 25, 2020; Reformation Day

Revelation 14:6-7; Psalm 46 1 Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36 or Matthew 1: 12-19

[Jesus said,] “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” Matthew 11:18-19

Have you or someone you know ever been so stuck on a negative perception of someone because you feel that he/she is a threat to you in some way and you nit-pick all the possible flaws in them to continue to justify that perception? We see it in political elections between candidates, we see it in workplaces, and especially during Covid, we see it on the news with some National leaders every day.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Although they are spewing lies, these people will degrade and diminish others for the sake of their own purpose, no matter the cost. And if we’re honest, it has occurred in our own lives too, yours and mine. When someone is threatening us and our security, we look to disprove them, think or speak falsely of them, and will do anything to remove them from our comfortable life that we have created.

Well, this is exactly what happened with the Pharisees, the Jewish church leaders, and Jesus was calling them out on it. Because Jesus was threatening their power and comfortable routines and sets of rules, they hated him. They could not bring themselves to actually hear what Jesus had to say for the sake of their own fear of losing their power and all they had created. They would do anything to protect their position. They would spew lies about Jesus, no matter how false. Just as in the passage above, not only did the Pharisees tell rumours that John the Baptizer was demon possessed -probably to defend themselves against John’s accusation of them being a ‘brood of vipers’, but they gossiped about Jesus being a glutton and a drunkard who hung around with the worst of the worst of society.

Yes, Jesus ate, drank and spent his time with people who were once tax collectors, prostitutes, demon possessed and down-right sinners. But the truth is we know he was never a glutton nor drunkard, and when confronted by the Pharisees on why he chose the company he did, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13) You see, in Jesus’ response he is guiding the Pharisees to understand, through the Scriptures that they already knew by heart, that God desired their worship of Him to be displayed in their lives through love, mercy, grace and a true relationship with him, not just in all the sacrifices or rules they created that built themselves up and burdened the people.

 Jesus’ same response is extended to us as well. Jesus desires our faith in God to be one where our hearts and our healing rest in Him, our Saviour, and we seek and trust Him above all things. Our salvation through Jesus is seen most clearly through the actions of love and mercy to those around us, not simply the acts of coming and going from a church building, participating on church committee, or saying “Ya, I’m a Christian.” Oh, don’t get me wrong: those things will occur eventually as you seek the Lord as he is desiring, but they on their own mean nothing. First comes your seeking of Him and then comes walking in His ways. Perhaps this is what James was meaning when he said, Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:18b

James had an intimate relationship with the Lord, as did all the disciples, and people like King David, Joseph, Abraham and so many others. So just as Jesus desired the Pharisees to put more importance of worshipping God by listening to and seeking him, the Son of God, than in their sacrifices and rules, so he desires us to seek him where he may be found- in Scripture, to trust him with our lives- the highs and the lows, to let his Holy Spirit fill us to love others each and every day as a response to his love for us, and join in the fellowship of believers in church. May His wisdom be proved right by your deeds.

Prayer: Dear Lord, let me seek you first. Let the sacrifice I lay before you be my very own life. You have come to seek sinners. You have come to seek me. Forgive me when my own sinful, selfish nature keeps me from fulfilling your will in my life and the lives of others. Let not my own agenda keep me from seeing and serving you. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

What Do You See In The Bathroom Mirror?

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

Readings for October 18, 2020; Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9(10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22: 15-22

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1: 2-3

When you wake up in the morning and look in your bathroom mirror, what do you see? Personally, at first glance it’s not very pretty – mouth guard in, tussled hair, sagging everything and the list goes on and on. Despite what you see on the outside, do you ever stop and really – I mean REALLY – look at who’s looking back at you. Underneath all of that not-so-prettiness is something beautiful and full of promise – God’s promise.

On the outside, you may not look all that pretty, but on the inside God has renewed you and filled you to overflowing with power, strength and endurance to fulfill the works he has prepared for you. You see, He’s prepared interactions and blessings for you to encounter today; opportunities for you to be his hands and voice to specific souls that he places in your path and parts of creation he has placed under your care, and he has totally equipped you to fulfill those tasks thoroughly. You are a person of beauty and importance. There is no time to waste. This day is full and God has prepared you – yes YOU- to do His work.

Through the eyes of faith in all that Christ has accomplished for you, our Heavenly Father wishes to share that hope and his love to others through you. God’s will for your life, through the works he has prepared in advance for you are awaiting you today. It does not matter if He does not make known his particular tasks. Simply do all you do, as if doing it for Him. Remember we only see dimly now, so trust in Him to unfold your day as he chooses.

However, to see more clearly and labour more willingly, let go of your sins through repentance and begin your day in the assurance of the forgiveness Christ won for you. Humble yourself as his willing servant and say as Isaiah, ‘Here I am Lord’ (Isaiah 8:6b, paraphrased). Then start seeing in the mirror, the beautiful, purpose-filled advocate of love that you are.

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me all my sins. Cleanse me through the blood of Jesus, my Saviour.  Thank-you for filling my day with purpose. Help me to show your love – to be your arms and voice, to all those you set in my path, and willingly accomplish the work you prepared for me this day. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Contented? Yup, Even Now.

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

Readings for October 11, 2020; Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:4-13; Matthew 22: 1-14

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13

During these past several months since the pandemic presented its ugly head, I have been faced with a season of life ‘in want’. It’s not a need for food or shelter or employment, as many are having to endure, but still a very real state, none the less. It is the lack of being in relationship, in sharing in others’ lives, the emotional and psychological stimulation that assures you that you are loved and worthy, and the physical interaction that allows you to express yourself and your love to others. It is this social and psychological aspect of my being that has been surviving on minimal replenishment. And I know from others and the mental health statistics, that I am not alone. We are all struggling with it, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe that we must continue in our diligent efforts of physically distancing and self-isolations for the love of others. We have seen that such efforts by people make a difference, and we have also seen how rejecting such efforts by people feed the virus. So, I will continue through this season of ‘being in want’, and I pray you choose to too.

Despite these days, I am thankful that we can turn to Scripture to know God and his promises. God’s Word tells us of God’s truths. We know that God promises to fill us to overflowing when we seek him as our Shepherd, no matter how empty we feel. Christ promises to take our burdens and give us his burden which is easy and light. He has said and proven over and over again how much he loves us and that he will never leave us nor forsake us. When we seek him, he answers. Therefore, may we go to him in the quiet of our days and lay before him our ‘wantings’ and our needs. As we simply rest in his presence, he will fulfill all our needs and fill us with his peace. What we are missing from one another, he can accomplish.

In the remainder of these pandemic days, especially if your country is heading into colder, more isolating weather, may you seek the Lord and receive contentment and fulfillment in Him. May you join me in continually heeding Paul’s words:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4-7)

Then with confidence proclaim: “I, state name here, can do all things [and endure all things] through Him who gives me strength! AMEN” (taken from Philippians 4:13)

Prayer: Dear Lord, Glory to you oh Lord! You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Thank you Jesus for loving me so much that you willingly paid the price my sins deserve so that I can spend eternity in Heaven with You, the Father and Holy Spirit. Together, you are my God! I lay before you this day my needs of (state needs here). Help me to see your blessings all around me, and to continually turn to you for my strength and contentment. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

The Vintner & His Vineyard

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

In our readings for this coming Sunday, although the readings speak of God’s vineyard, I couldn’t help but hear a dialogue between God and his people. Let’s top up our coffees and begin reading through the conversation…

Readings for October 4, 2020; Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 5:1-7, 25-32; Psalm 80:7-19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21: 33-46

The People: Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. Its branches reached as far as the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? Boars from the forest ravage it, and insects from the fields feed on it. (Psalm 80: 3-13)

The Lord Almighty: The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. . . . What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it. When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? (Isaiah 5:7, 4)

The People: Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:17-19)

The Son of Man: “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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

My husband and I enjoy visiting wineries and viewing the amazing architecture of their structures, taking in the scenery of the acres of meticulously manicured grape vines, and savouring the vast differences of taste in the many varietals. We stand in awe at the great amount of time, effort and hands that go into caring for a vineyard and the work and science involved in processing even a small amount of wine. Vineyards take work and producing good grapes for good wine takes ones attention and care. We have come to appreciate the great pride and joy a vintner takes in producing a wine that is all he/she hoped it would be.

In the same way that a dedicated vintner cares for and takes pride in his vineyard and grape vines, so God cared for His people, the Israelites, as described in the dialogue above. He took great pride in choosing the grapes, cultivating the land, planting the vines and caring for them. He gave them his full attention and guided them in the ways they should grow in order to produce good fruit, to be faithful. But even with all he gave, they continued to refuse to listen. They produced bad fruit. They turned away from the ways of the Lord and did evil in his sight. So God, the vintner left his people, the vineyard, to their own devises which we know simply accumulates with weeds and is devoured by the beasts. Any good that may have been growing simply gets swallowed up.

This story isn’t just about God and the Israelites of the Old Testament, but about our relationship with God as well. Are we a vine that chooses to turn a blind eye to God’s cultivating? Do we rebel when we’re being pruned? Then, are we surprised when our lives are overcome by the weeds of consequences and despair and we are face to face with wild beasts waiting to devour us? Do we wonder why God is allowing such things to happen? Do we, in arogance, ask how he could turn his back on us?

Well let’s get one thing straight: It is not God who turned his back on us. It is never God who turns his back on us. He only did that to one person, and it was for your sake, for mine. No it is never God who turns his back on us, but it is us – you and me- who turn our backs on him and his truths.

If you are crying the same plea as the Israelites in the above passage, then perhaps you may stop and consider the Almighty’s reply and adjust your prayer to lay your straying ways and guilt before the Lord and seek to be graphed into his grace through his Son. You see, even the Israelites new the son of man, a saviour, would come and redeem them from their sinful ways. But even beyond their wildest desires of an earthly saviour to whom they could follow, God sent the Saviour of the world to redeem all of humankind for eternity: in both the earthly and heavenly realms.

Now for us, on this side of the cross, we can rejoice in the Son of Man who came and paid the price our sins deserve, on whom God turned his back so that the Father Almighty would never have to turn his back on us. In Christ we are graphed into him, the true vine, and in him alone we bear good fruit. Fruit that brings our Heavenly Vintner great joy!

Prayer: Dear Lord, Please forgive me when I turn from your ways. Please forgive me my sins. Renew me and help me to remain in Jesus, the true Vine, so that I can bear abundant good fruit. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

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