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Saturday, 10 November 2018

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 5

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 5
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
How to Handle Anger in Godly Ways:

1)      Acknowledge it. We all get angry and so recognize it for what it is. Pour out your thoughts and feelings to God.  Psalm 55: 1-3
Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.

2)       Learn to get angry slowly. Angry words spoken quickly are usually regretted later. Make sure you have good reason to be angry. Listen and ask questions.
                What did I feel angry about today?
                Where is my anger coming from?
                Why did I feel so threatened that I believed my anger was justifiable?
                Is my intense anger over something that’s actually insignificant?
                Is my anger for the benefit of another? Or is it directed against another?
                Did my anger further God’s interests or my own?
                Did I provoke anger in someone else today?

3)      Change your beliefs about God. Where is our anger rooted? Most of our feelings are based on deeply held beliefs about where life and security and significance are found. Most often our anger is not rooted in feelings, but in what we believe about God.
The challenge is not to change our feelings, but to change our thinking. Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing an perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

4)      Confession. Praying to God not just that you were angry, but that you need to live life on God’s terms not yours. It also means repent of the angry resentment you have held against God and all the anger you inflicted on God and on others.
It also means turning toward God and choosing to live by the belief that he exists and that he rewards those who look for him, even when things don’t turn out the way you think they should.

5)      Under New Management. We can change what we believe by giving ourselves to the Spirit of God and under his influence, we will find our anger increasingly shaped and restrained by a new kind of self- control. By placing our anger under God’s care we will not dissolve and lose all anger. But we will be free to express and new and godly anger toward the kind of sin in ourselves and others that slowly angers the heart of God. How we respond to God determines how we work through the more immediate issues of our anger. How we ultimately answer God’s call, and respond to him determines our eternal destiny.
Anger is such a part of our world today- we don’t like something, someone, some person’s actions we get angry. Yet what does this mean about how we are called to love. Yet there are moments when anger is the ideal response. But how we control that anger is what this series of reflections have focused upon. Growing angry slowly enables us to collect our feelings and thoughts and then we are able to put them alongside each other.  After discerning the reason for the anger we can act accordingly and through prayer we may be able to control this anger.
Loving God help us to grow in wisdom as we seek to have you control our anger. We know we will get angry but as we seek to live like Christ help us and show your way to respond in love and with hope. Amen.
RESOURCE  “When Anger Burns: A Biblical View on Handling Anger” by Tim Jackson. Grand Rapids, MI: Our Daily Bread Ministries. (p.28-0323-27)  Watch for a new topic next week!

Bless You

Bless You
Numbers 6:22-27

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
                The words bless, blessed and blessing are found over 500
times in the bible and describe such diverse things as rain, bumper crops, babies and salvation from sin. God blesses all kinds of people and through them brought blessing to the whole world. But what is a blessing?
                A blessing is any act of God that brings Him glory by accomplishing His will and helping His people grow and do His will. You cannot buy blessings or manufacture them as they can come only from God. God’s blessings are gracious gifts from heaven that meet our needs in ways that build us up and help us glorify the Lord.
                In some churches today just before the time of worship is over, a blessing is shared. It is also called a benediction which often is a biblical statement that states something good. This benediction enables the listener to receive a blessing in order to be a blessing to others in the coming week. But what are the blessings that God wants us to receive from Him and share with others? As followers of Jesus and believers in God’s love, we are channels of God’s blessings and not reservoirs only.
                Benediction of Israel  (Numbers 6:22-27) may be considered in three ways—the benediction of Israel the nation; Israel the man who founded the 12 tribes and ‘the Israel of God” that Paul mentions in Galatians 6:16.
A)      Benediction of Israel the Nation  God mentions the Israelites and they are the only nation in history that has entered into a covenant relationship with God. This began with God’s call to Abraham and the ‘covenant of a great nation’ (Gen 12:2-3)
Paul tells also of the blessings God gave the Jewish nation- Romans 9:3-5
God chose Jews to be His special people and gave them a land in which to live as long as they obeyed God’s law. Even though they were dispersed around the world the Jewish people were never assimilated into the other nations. Israel has glory and grace as well as provision and protection.

B)      Israel the man Jacob
Three experiences with God transformed Jacob into a man of God and a channel of God’s blessing to others: i) Jacob flees from his brother Esau and turns to God. He is assured by God that he would be blessed including the land of Canaan and descendants would bless the world.
ii) Jacob  sees the face of God after struggling with him. Gen32:22-32
iii)Jacob and son Joseph reunited and safe again in Egypt (Gen46:1-4,47-49)

When we consider this blessing/benediction- have we considered the 3 Israels or primarily the country of the Jewish nation? Does it make a difference for you that Jacob/ Israel was blessed by God in 3 different times and ways? What does this blessing mean for you?

NEXT week—We will include the 3rd way God blesses Israel in this benediction and reflect on it more.. meanwhile Pray the words of the blessing over and over. Reflect on the words bless and keep you; make face shine, turn his face…what do these mean to you in this moment?

PRAYER Holy God bless us O God through the words we have uttered many times before. Bless us as we praise your holy name. In Christ Jesus we ask. Amen.

Warren W. Wiersbe.  Bless You: Receiving and Sharing the Blessings of the Lord. Grand Rapids,MI: Our Daily Bread Ministries, 8th printing- 2018. (p.7-22)

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 4

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 4

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

                Why do we hang on to anger? There are three main reasons. 1)
to protect ourselves from additional pain. We choose to be angry because it is easier to control than pain and disappointment. What we tell others by our anger is that we are hurt too much to care about you. We are expending all our energy on our self and there is nothing left to protect others from our failure to love them.
                2) Deflection When we have done wrong we become angry. Instead of accepting the responsibility for our actions, we get angry. We use our anger as a weapon against those who expose and shame us. We try to turn the tables on them to get the attention off ourselves.
                3) Distancing. Anger can also be an attempt to make sure that others don’t get close enough to discover our weakness. We keep others away from us.
                If we are angry towards others it is because we feel we have been threatened, hurt, belittled, shames or controlled. Anger directed toward ourselves will fuel suicidal behaviour that strips vitality from life. Both lead to devastation.
                But what do we do with our anger? 1) Repression. Many people repress their anger because it is a frightening emotion and we want to avoid it. This often leads to depression because it is easier to shut down and no longer engage with their world because they have discovered that all their efforts to make life work on their terms have failed. Some people  also pretend that all is well but reality is that they feel nothing at all- no pain or joy.
2) Shallow confession. This is often recognized as mishandling anger and being quick to confess that you were angry and it is wrong. Yet it is important to explore our anger and expose its roots.
3) Outbursts of anger. We all need to express our feelings but it must be done with the discernment and regard for others.
Are you feeling angry right now? What has caused this feeling to emerge? Was it something you did or did someone hurt or offend, physically harm you or upset you so much that you are searching for words of anger? What do you normally do with this anger? Repress it, deflect it or dismiss it? Which is the best way to handle this anger for you? We are called to control our anger. This does not say not to get angry but to control it so that there is not a volcanic eruption, tucking it away forever or even half confessing something that is normal. Anger is an emotion we experience—we need to deal with it and why it emerges in us.
God of love, you know what it is like to become angry. How often you must feel this when people who have loved you their whole lives turn away from you or hurt you through their actions and words rather than sharing of themselves in love. As you get angry too, we need to know how we might control the anger but not throw it out. Help us to face these angry filled fears. We ask this as we know that you will continue to love us through all of it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

RESOURCE  “When Anger Burns: A Biblical View on Handling Anger” by Tim Jackson. Grand Rapids, MI: Our Daily Bread Ministries. (p.23-27)  We will conclude this series on anger next week!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 3

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 3
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
                                                                                                James 4:1-3
                What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t’ they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

                 There are different sources for our anger- both external and internal. External factors do affect us as we think we are reacting to external stimuli. We even reason that ‘if we hadn’t been treated so poorly, we wouldn’t have gotten angry.”  As individuals we essentially live for ourselves and so when asked we often live primarily for ourselves. Life is unfair and this also causes us to be angry. Life is also difficult as it is filled with thorns and thistles (John 16:33) but what we perceive to be external sources for our anger are really external.
                We often get angry when we do not get what we want when we want it. The desires within us fuel our conflicts especially when we want something that matters to us. God created us with the desire for love and respect and with a longing to be enjoyed and to know that we matter. All the lesser desires are linked to the core desires of love and relationship.
                We are also afraid which grows out of a lack of faith and confidence that God is really who he says he is. And when we think this we look to find a  god of our own making which we think we can control.  We also rebel against God and look to others to provide what only God can supply. We fear we don’t have what it takes to make it on our own. We need others to agree with our plans. But we fear they won’t cooperate and give us what we want.
                We also rebel against God and this forces us to demand that others fill in for him. Inevitably they will fail and so these unfulfilled demands give rise to anger.
                Asking God to meet our needs is one thing. But when our desires become demands we become arrogant rebels. The solution for anger then requires a growing confidence in the presence and promises of One we cannot see. Through the disappointments, losses, and frustrations of life we must learn that our well-being lies not in our demands but in his loving and capable hands.
When was the last time you became anger? Who was receiving that anger from you? Under what circumstance did that person fail to meet your desires or demands? How did you respond when they said no? What should you have done instead?  When we have disagreements or fights and quarrels have we always considered asking God first? Or are we asking God with the wrong motives so that we can get what we want? And if we do not receive what we want with whom are we really angry?
Wonderful God we need to come to you in prayer prior to our growing angry but we often pray after words are said in anger that we cannot take back. Help us O God to ask you first; seek your way; and enable us to show you who we are and what it is we need from you. Love us O God we ask even when we are angry at and with you. This we ask in faith and in hope in Jesus’ name. Amen.         
RESOURCE  “When Anger Burns: A Biblical View on Handling Anger” by Tim Jackson. Grand Rapids, MI: Our Daily Bread Ministries. (p.17-22)

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 1

Angry at Change, Process, others? Part 1
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Exodus 22:24; 32:10-12
                Anger burns furiously hot in these passages from Exodus     
and it seems to consume others. But how are we to cope when we know that we will and do become angry? The Bible often paints a bitter image of anger yet God did get angry too! God’s anger was with his enemies or with his own people.
                Anger is neither: wrong or right until there is a motive. Anger can be productive and loving just as it can be destructive and selfish. We need to take time to discern our anger in order to see it for what it is. There are different kinds of anger. The first kind involves a person to do harm to himself or others and this is selfish. It is the kind of anger that destroys rather than buildings up. It is like a wrecking ball.
                 Genesis 4 tells the story of Cain and Abel. Both men brought sacrifices to God that reflected their occupations. But only Abel brought a sacrifice which pleased the Lord. Cain was very angry and his face was downcast. He became angry. God approached him and made it clear that he desired to accept him, but Cain had to come on God’s terms, not his own. God warned Cain telling him that if he did not do what is right, sin was crouching at him. Cain’s choice was difficult. He was hurt and angry because God would not accept his offering like his brother Abel’s. God gave him an opportunity to deal with his emotions. But Cain refused to do what God had asked and took matters into his own hands. Cain murders his brother and his heart is hardened. Instead of speaking to the one to whom he was angry, Cain killed his brother. God asked him where Abel was and he said “I don’t know.” God knows what happened to Abel and Cain was condemned. Cain paid for his anger because instead of humbling himself and accepting God’s direction and correction, he was rooted in self-centred efforts. His anger was to destroy.
                Have you ever been angry that you took it out on a wall or hit something in order to release the anger? What resulted because of this? Another person hurt, a wall damaged or relationship ended? How are we to control the anger that enrages us? How are we to calm ourselves down?
                It is important that you be angry and not bottle it up inside. But in order to alleviate and cool down, how do you cope with the anger within? Some people box—literally beating out the anger, others show their anger in their interpretation through arts and crafts. Others just play the piano or musical instrument in order to say it is ok from within. But you should deal with any anger promptly and then let it go.
What or who are you angry at or with? Why?  Are you able to fix this relationship? Do you want to? Often when there is anger it is not a good time to fight, but to do so means that emotions are out there and they are free to be heard and seen. But are you willing to listen and hear responses from others and not get angry again? Controlling our angry is a skill we learn over time. Sometimes it is confused with frustration but there is hope. This hope is in knowing that it is ok to get angry but it is better to figure out why, let it out and move on.  And sometimes God’s help, strength and guidance is required we just need to ask.

Holy God we praise you that we have emotions which include anger. This shows that we have the ability to think and reflect and to act on circumstances which we face. This also shows that we need you to guide us and lead us to something better as we strive to control our anger of self. Help us O God to be able to replace these moments of anger with hope and love. Amen.

RESOURCE  “When Anger Burns: A Biblical View on Handling Anger” by Tim Jackson. Grand Rapids, MI: Our Daily Bread Ministries .

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Love in the Air

Love in the Air

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

                “Love is patient kind not jealous or boastful” Paul’s letter  Both couples were excited about getting married, being married and had anticipated their wedding day for years.  Different circumstances led both brides and grooms to wait a while to celebrate this happy day which would forever change their lives.
to the Corinthians includes information about how people were to get along in love, and with love being the focus. Yet what is love? This past week I had the privilege of officiating at two weddings of two very different couples experiencing life to its fullest and experiencing love.
                But what I experienced by sharing with these two couples will never soon be forgotten. Genuine love in the hearts and minds and in the actions and tears of all involved. There was joy on the grooms’ faces as their brides met them at the front of the church—not only did their brides radiate beauty through their smiles, but their eyes told the story that what they saw in each other was well beyond the physical attractions both couples had.  There is love, there is wonder and hope and through their smiles, there was also tears. Both couples acknowledged those around them, but it did not seem to matter as they held hands, looked into each others’ eyes and made their vows.
                Love between people is honest and giving. But this kind of love is only a portion of the love God has for us.  And as humans we cannot comprehend the depth of God’s love for us.  And what is also amazing is that the love these couples share now is only the beginning, a strong foundation of love which will grow stronger each day.
                God’s love is deep for each of us and to truly experience His love we need to practise it with everyone we meet. And especially those whom we call spouse/ partner/ husband or wife. Others who see you with your spouse should see love—like I have seen on many couples on the wedding day. It is hoped that this love will endure as we know it does not fail. But rejoices in the right!. May the love you experience from your spouse and/or family members be joyful and cause you to smile!  And remember God loves you even more!
God we pray for those who have and experience love. We ask for your blessing upon spouses-newlyweds or those married for many years. Bless them O God and remind them always of their love, when it was a twinkle in the eye as on the wedding day. Remind us all that love never ends and that we are called to love others as Christ did and to do so means putting aside all problems and focusing on another and their needs. Call us to love as you first loved us, we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Praying for Unknown People and Concerns

Praying for Unknown People and Concerns

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

                Paul’s teaching to the church people of Thessalonica
called them to pray to God. He writes,” Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Praying in celebration of human events is easy. Rejoicing in God’s blessings is wonderful but what happens when you listen to the news of the day, whether international or local. How do you give thanks to God in these moments? Or even how do you pray for unknown situations or people? Why do we do this?
                The phrase, “I’ll pray for you,” is often uttered by both the faithful and those on the edge because these words may come across as negative. I’ll pray for you- because you need help from God. I’ll pray for you for a better outcome than this. I’ll pray for you because this is not what God or you wanted, is it? Yet when in earnest we say, “I’ll pray for you,” there is so much if we truly sit down and pray for people either aloud or in our hearts. The Spirit stirs us to what we focus upon and that is to focus on the individuals we know who need support for the circumstances they are in- facing losses, experiencing good news,. But it is not up to really know the end result, all we are to do is to lift up the people and the situation and let God answer in his way in His time.
                We pray for people to be ok during and after a flood, because we are aware the God can provide what is needed with the many faithful and willing people who share of themselves. God knows the bigger picture and who is willing to help. Our part is to pray and ask God to intercede through the Spirit by calling his followers to use their hands and feet to respond.
                We also pray for people we do know as they face surgeries, illnesses and chronic care issues. We become aware of situations we know and offer our concerns our thanksgiving and yet we know that it is  God who will respond, yes, no, not yet. So whether we know the individuals or do not it is important to pray . To talk with God about the situations and people who are in need is a vital part of our faith life and growth. To share about the needs of others is how we grow within and care for others. Praying is an act of faith with hope knowing that God will respond. Let us pray!     
Wonderful God as we pray for those affected by hurricane winds and flooding we know that you are holding those affected through this difficult time. We pray that you would comfort them in this time of loss, and enabling them to see that life is not over just changed. We also pray for those who feel that they are alone in this world and are searching for you. Be with all who are in need of comfort, healing and to be loved.  We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

What does it mean to be INCLUSIVE?

What does it mean to be INCLUSIVE?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Mark 7: 24-37

                This scripture passage is the story of Jesus being challenged   Yet Jesus’ response was that he came to save the children of Israel. But the woman did not give up. She said the dogs in Israelite homes receive scraps that the children have left behind. Surely, the crumbs left by the dogs could be used for healing a Gentile woman?
in his ministry by a Syro-Phoenician woman who was Greek. This woman had heard of the man who performed miracles and healed people. When Jesus had left Galilee and gone into Tyre, this woman became aware of his presence because she was searching for a miracle for her daughter. The daughter was possessed by a demon and out of faith, this woman begged Jesus to heal the daughter.
                Jesus whole ministry was changed for not only did he come for the redemption of Jewish or God’s chosen people, Jesus can to save all people. As he was talking with this woman he acknowledged the strength of her faith and he told her that her daughter was healed.
                Did Jesus’ have a new perspective upon healing and even a wider perspective about his mission for all people?
                Jesus had just taught that everything God had made was good. There was nothing that was unclean. Yet in this story he was ready to exclude the Greek speaking Syro-Phoenician woman and her plea to heal her daughter.
                When we think of the church we say we want to be inclusive but are we really? Do we have conditional love for all people? We will welcome you to our church family, but… then the conditions are not made clear but one learns to see who is asked to do things, who is excluded from others. We also see that there are people who want everyone involved yet they themselves do not take part. Is this inclusive or exclusive?
                After Jesus healed this woman’s daughter, the passage continues with Jesus healing a mute and deaf man. The people were overwhelmed with amazement at his ability to do this. He has done everything well. But Jesus’ eyes were also opened—to realize that in his coming to earth, he would become the Saviour not only to the Jewish people, but to all who would receive him. Jesus became inclusive of all  people because this woman spoke up and asked for the crumbs of faith.
                Are you in need of healing? Or maybe you are searching about how to grow in faith? Realizing that Jesus too grew in his understanding of his mission, we may be content to know that we too will continue to learn to grow in knowledge of heart and mind. But we must be ready to ask the questions, to seek the answers and to be open to the Spirit moving in us all!
Wonderful Jesus, we ask for healing upon those who are not well physically bring healing to the bodies of those who have had surgery, mentally bring clear thoughts and hopes to those not sure of what is real; and openness to all who pray knowing that spiritually they are growing in you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Breath of Life

Breath of Life

 Wednesday, September 5, 2018

'And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life'   Genesis 2:7

                Spending time together as a family is a primary reason for taking
time away from work and the regular routine of life. This summer I was able to take that time away through July and August and so I took a break from writing the Reflections. Now with school back and a somewhat regular routine in place I will once again be writing my thoughts, asking questions of your faith and hopefully giving you something to reflect upon in the middle of the week that causes you to pray, read a Bible passage or even just to stop for a moment!
                One of the things I enjoyed doing most was while being at my parents’ home was to sit outside under the pine trees and read. I don’t recall what novel I was reading but it was such a wonderful setting. It had rained throughout the previous night and the fragrance of pine trees can never really be captured in a spray. It was truly captivating. While reading and sitting a few cars would drive by but other than these few vehicles it was quiet. Sometimes when silence came the song of birds as they flew over or a breeze went through the trees causing leaves to flitter. It was just quiet and this is when I breathed in the pine scent and said, “What a wonderful world!” It was truly a moment of inviting God’s Spirit within. I just sat there, closed my eyes and breathed in the fresh air and relaxed. Stopping all thoughts I exhaled and breathed in again. Things just slowed down for a short time. This is what is meant as clearing the mind and body at the same time! Yet in doing so, I was made to feel alive again! These few minutes are what I needed in order to recharge and to think about life, ministry and family and how all of these are so important in my life!
                But what about you? Did you take time to stop and breathe in to live and enjoy the moment? Did you stop and think about what life is about? Or maybe you were reflecting on what was occurring where you were and what you intend to do? Summer vacations are wonderful and people choose to do different things—filling each day with activities or lazing on a beach; finding the best restaurants to eat a slow dinner or buying groceries and picnicking in a parking lot. Yet what is important in all of these-is being together, discovering something new, and seeing each other learn and grow together.
                As we begin this new academic year and come back to church and worshiping God more regularly, we can take these ideals of what makes a good vacation and share them with our church family. What was a good experience can be shared with others- as long as our focus remains on loving each other God will guide us. We live in a hurry up world—but are we willing to stop and let God’s Spirit come into our being alive? Are we willing to say I need the Spirit in me to guide and protect me each day? Breathe again and receive God’s gift of life. Use every breath you receive to love others and it will make a difference in your life today and always.
God we praise you for life and new beginnings, challenges and dreams. As we stop to reflect we breathe in your presence and know that you are with us. Help us anew as we share with others and our church family this precious gift of life. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home    
Wednesday, June 20, 2018

                Have you ever taken a trip to see your childhood home?
How have you reacted- with comfort, concern, despair or even cried? Often when we see the home from years before we respond with mixed emotions for it is not the house we see before us, but the memories that come to the front of our hearts and minds. Memories of how we shared special times with our families at that place as we grew older. Memories of relatives and friends coming and going in time. Memories which will never be repeated. It was a house and a home for a time, but home was wherever you established relationships which in turn made new memories.

                When we think of home are we comforted, cared for and loved? We know that for many people home is not this place where loving caring people support and nurture you. It is a place of tears and hopelessness. Yet there is a place that is a forever home and with an eternal family that longs to grow larger. The church. The earthly church is a spiritual family that foreshadows the true, heavenly community for which we long for. For the faithful people of the church, our heavenly home is what we should be yearning for, preparing to see and experience and of course, fill us with hope.

                Paul wrote of the need to be with God and yearned for the eternal home which has been prepared. (2 Cor. 5:1-4) Our true citizenship is in heaven and Christ waits for us. But how do we prepare for this eternal dwelling place? We look to the church for support in times of crises, but are we willing to offer this support to others? The church is a foreshadowing of God’s great goal to create a united, like- minded people made up of every tribe and nation who will worship before God’s throne. This is the reason why we follow Jesus’ command known as the great commission. Matthew 28:19-20.

When was the last time you felt ‘homesick’, that is remembering life when you lived as a child, or youth? When young, children make many pictures and have many accomplishments. Often, parents will put these on the refrigerator so that the whole family can see these items. This often is seen as a sign of family support. Imagine if God had a refrigerator; would your pictures be on it?
In faith we believe God calls us to serve, to love others as Jesus taught and to share the message that is in our hearts—loving others. If we believe we need also to know that one day we will be called home by God to rest in heaven, where it is not a lonely place—but a place with the comforts of home- only better! God is in control and all we need do is sing his praise.  Are you yearning to go home one day?

Thank you God that you call us to be like families as we worship and work within our churches. Help us to know that you love us and that we do the work necessary for the sake of your story being told again and again. Hear these prayers as we pray for homes, families and the churches which serve as the family of God for each of us. Amen.

Resource:  (based upon) Kay Swatkowski “Make Yourself at Home: Discovering the Heart of the Church” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2016 (ch.10)    
PLEASE NOTE: Next Reflection sent out July 11!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

What is Hospitality?

Make Yourself at Home
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
What is Hospitality?

                Hospitality enables deeper relationships between people.
Hospitals care for the sick and support patients as they return to health. In the church, hospitality cares for people. True biblical hospitality can return a church to health. When a gift touches our souls, there is healing. Hospitality focuses all attention on the needs of the guest and the host prioritizes the spending of time with the guest.
                Two sisters, Mary and Martha learned that Jesus was coming to their village. IN Luke 10:38-42 we read of their story. Martha was preparing the meal, building a fire, setting the table, fetching the water and wiping sweat as she worked. Mary sat a Jesus’ feet. Martha was annoyed about to cross the line between hospitality and entertaining. She grumbled, “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” Jesus reminded Martha that she was worried about too many things. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her. Spending time with Jesus is always the most important.
                The early church understood hospitality. They needed to be together to make their relationships all the more precious. They gathered strength from sharing meals. When the disciples traveled to share the good news, they depended upon the hospitality of others. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angles without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2. Hospitality is not entertaining. True hospitality costs.
When was the last time you truly felt or showed hospitality? Sometimes we forget that this is a gift of the Spirit which is often seen as being assumed by the church. But people in a church family which is made up of all ages, and stages of life need this hospitality in order to grow and be with people for who they are!
Why do churches have meals or potlucks?  To build up hospitality. Yet often what occurs is that fellowship is moved for something to grow from within to fundraisers where those involved are there to provide a meal and clean up. Little interaction takes place between the hosts and guests. And this is where something is lost in those wonderful church suppers! How might we try to be more hospitable with one another?
God you have gifted us with many blessings. Help us to be more hospitable and to choose what Jesus said was the right thing to do. To sit and listen at his feet. Help us to have time to do this and to rejoice that Jesus truly loves us for who we are. Enable us to share his love and tell these stories as we become more hospitable. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Kay Swatkowski “Make Yourself at Home: Discovering the Heart of the Church” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2016 (ch.3)

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Make Yourself at Home - What is love?

Make Yourself at Home
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
What is love?

                As Christians we are called to love. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. “ John 13:35 The ancient Greeks had three   Eros- romantic love, philia brotherly love and agape sacrificial love.
words to define love
                Eros- this is not used in the New Testament but it describes most people’s understanding of love; it is romantic love and not the kind of love Jesus commanded Christians to have for one another.
                Philia-philia love is encouraged as it is brotherly love but not commanded. Philia love is emotional responsive love. This also includes affection mutual respect, and camaraderie. Philia love is beautiful, inspiring, and touching it is also friendship. But is not the kind of love Jesus commanded Christians to have for one another.
                Agape- love that is commanded love and is uniquely Christian love It promises meaningful relationships and not the emotion based love of philia. It is an act of the will. It is characterized by acts of sacrificial service. And agape love consistently seeks the benefit of another person. It is always giving! Agape love may be hard to define but we know it when we see it.—Jesus agape loved us so much he gave himself for us!
                Early Christians believed in agape love—All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possession to give to anyone who had need.” Acts 2:44-45
                Love is central to Christianity—God is love (I John 4:16) God does not ‘do’ love- God IS love! The goal for us as believers is to love from a pure heart.  Wherever love is true—God is there.
What is your understanding of ‘love’? By using the Greek translations of love we can redefine who and what we are to love and how close that loving relationship should/ ought to be. When we are in church community the love we experience is because of the love we each have for Jesus and so we want to share it with others. And it is in this loving relationship we remember who we are and what we can be with and for each other. Have you told others in your church that you love them?
A short song has these lyrics:  “I love you with the love of the Lord. Yes I love you with the love of the Lord. I can see in you the glory of my King and I love you with the love of the Lord.”  Would you be comfortable singing this song with your church family? This song expresses the love we are commanded to have with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we willing to share it?
God you command us to love each other. Help us to do this when it seems to difficult to reach out and share our love for you with others. Enable us to do this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Kay Swatkowski “Make Yourself at Home: Discovering the Heart of the Church” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2016 (ch.2)

Make Yourself at Home - …love one another even as I loved you…

Make Yourself at Home
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
…love one another even as I loved you…  John 13:34-35

                What is the heart of the church? What are the greatest  that is we do not share and show love for one another.  This love is the heart of the church as people are the witnesses to the reality of Christ’s love
challenges confronting churches today? Swatkowski states that the greatest challenges are relational. That is, when Christians do not connect meaningfully with other believers,
                Jesus came to unveil God’s love in a way the world had never seen before. The theological foundation of the church is the good news of God’s love for humanity as shown through Jesus. The unselfish love of one believer for another shapes the emotional heart of the church. And we need both.
                Why Community is Important—the desire for community is a nearly universal human longing. Whether they admit it or not, every person has a need to connect with God and with others. Some people refuse that connection with God, others thrive on it! But as human beings in order to survive realities of life we need to connect with others to live.
                In times of crisis it is known that when neighbours had more intimate knowledge of each others’ lives they were better able to help. This too is true of those within a church family but only if trust is established.  True Christian community is constant and universal and unchanging. Through each stage of life and difficult we face the church offers a place where we can grow and nurture the loving relationships people crave. And this is true no matter where one travels.
                True Christian community is eternal since it is based upon the eternal person of Jesus. The Christian community will persist through all ages of history and into eternity. Hebrews 12:1-2- “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”
                True Christian community is made up of believers who have been adopted into the family of God.  It is a place of love, belonging and care without discrimination. Everyone is welcome and everyone receives care. We are family together!
When did someone last make you feel welcome in your church? Not just an offering of a cup of coffee but actually asking questions about you and your life? How did this make you feel? How did you respond? Did you ask questions of the other person, too?
God we thank you that for the church that truly cares about its people being in relationship with one another. Help us to understand Jesus’ teachings on loving others and caring for their needs. Be with us and show us how to love. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Kay Swatkowski “Make Yourself at Home: Discovering the Heart of the Church” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2016.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Message of the Angel

A Rumour of Hope
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
The Message of the Angel
Mark 16:1-8

                Jesus is no longer in the tomb but the tomb is not unoccupied. When the women entered the tomb they saw a young man dressed in white sitting there and they were afraid. He said, ‘don’t be afraid for you are looking of Jeuss the Nazarene who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. Go and tell his disciples.”
                Then the angel tells them where Jesus is going- into Galilee
and this is where you will see him. This statement tells us that he appeared to people at a specific time and space. So the women leave- the empty tomb, the grave clothes and the message of the angel had a profound effect on these women. They were filled with hope and joy and excitement. They were transported from despair into something beyond imagining. So they went out and spread this rumor of hope but it is the only durable rumor of hope the world has ever known.
                Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. According to John’s gospel, after the other women left the tomb, Mary Magdalene lingered. It was in the early morning light that Jesus appeared to her, called her by name. She ran with the news and Peter and John came to the tomb saw the grave clothes and believed.
                According to Mark’s account of the resurrection –the women believed although they did not see. They saw an empty tomb and grave clothes. They did not see Jesus—only Mary did a little later.
Peter wrote “Though you have not seen him you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (I Peter 1:8)
                What about you? We have not seen the risen Lord, for he departed this realm of visible things many centuries ago. But we have testimony, evidence and the scriptures. Acts 1:3- “He presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” These proofs persuade the intellect and encourage the soul. They awaken hope within us just as those women found their hope awakened in the empty tomb.
                Durable rumor—the only one the world has ever known. But for those who have not yet heard this rumor, the world is still a dark place, as empty of hope as that terrible Saturday between the cross and the resurrection. We have this rumor to share with the world—we need to tell others! It is not a rumor- but by faith we believe!

God we thank you that by faith we believe that Jesus rose from death and is present with us in hope. Help us to tell this story in faith and with love. Enable us to know and grow in our faith with you. You love us so much that Jesus lived, died and rose again for our sakes. We believe, help our unbelief to grow. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Ray Stedman, “A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2017. (p.29-32)

Thank you for your patience—these past two weeks have been filled with many pastoral and personal care days!

Watch next week for a new series of Reflections!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

From Despair to Ecstasy

From Despair to Ecstasy

Mark 16:1-8

                Dr. Carl F.H. Henry wrote, “Jesus planted the only
durable rumor of hope amid the widespread despair of a hopeless world.”
                At the entrance of the tomb the first whispers of that wonderful rumor—“He has risen!” And then it spread through the streets of Jerusalem! And it is still being shared today—some rumour!!
                This rumour began amid hopelessness and despair according to Mark 16. The women brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body but they were not sure about how they would get into the tomb to do this. Yet upon arrival the stone had been rolled away from the entrance and when they set about their task, there was a young man dressed in white sitting there. He said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Jesus who was crucified is risen.” The women left the tomb and out of fear, said nothing to anyone.
                What were they thinking as they left the tomb? Joy, hope fear?  They were in awe and amazement and even maybe bewildered, shocked, numb?  Maybe they were caught up in an ecstasy of wonder in learning that Jesus is alive.
                When the women came to the tomb they were concerned about how to get into the tomb to be with Jesus’ body as there was a large stone which blocked the entrance. Yet when they arrived they no longer had a task to perform. Jesus was alive. The body was gone but the grave clothes were left behind. The cloth that had been around the Lord’s head was neatly folded and separated from the other grave clothes. The strips of linen that had been around the body had not been unwrapped or unwound. They were lying the form of a person as though the body had vanished from inside them.
                In John’s account of the resurrection story, it is because of the grave clothes that Peter and John were convinced that Jesus was alive. The story of Jesus’ empty tomb and the resurrection spread the Christian story very quickly. It was not a rumour—it is  a central fact of human history. Jesus is alive.
                Recent debates indicate that Jesus’ resurrection is still not certain. But when a rumour spreads and is proven false it usually does not last in its telling for over 2000 years.  Jesus is alvie. And this affirms our faith in God because of his love for us all he gave us Jesus. Jesus came not only to teach and heal, but to give us hope beyond our death. And this is what He did by rising to new life. Do you believe in the resurrection of Christ? How else would you explain the empty tomb?
A rumour of hope led to the establishment of the Christian church as believers came to know the Christ of the resurrection as the Son of God. People gathered like Jesus gathered his disciples and ate together, shared love and worshiped God because there was no need to be afraid. Are people afraid to be identified as Christian today by attending church? What does this say about putting our faith out there? Is it by action only and not in the words or the way we live? What does this mean for us/ you?

We praise you God for the gift of Jesus and that he rose from death for our sakes. Help us to spread the story to others that it is not a rumour, but that you have received His Spirit and know in your heart and mind that he is alive. Help us to believe this with our whole lives and lie for Jesus. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Ray Stedman, “A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2017. (p.23-28)

a Rumour of Hope

The View from the Cross

Who was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified?
3) Mockers and Priests and  4)The Centurion, the Women and the Secret Disciple
                These people’s lives were changed because of their encounters with Jesus- even briefly.

3) Mockers and Priests
                There were passersby at the foot of the cross.
They were bystanders to the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion but when they saw him hanging on the cross they remembered the claims he had made. He claimed that he would destroy the temple and raise it up again. They were shaking their heads at him. Ironically this was the time of the 3 days that he was in fulfilling his own words as he hung from the cross, anticipated his death and his burial.
                The priests and scribes plotted the death f Jesus and they too were at the foot of the cross. They mocked Jesus. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself” They had been frightened and jealous of Jesus as they had witnessed his teaching nd blessing the crowds in ways they could never do. So they plotted against him and they were revelling in the moment as he hung on the cross.
                An unknown man who yells out is also at the foot of the cross. When Jesus calls out to the Father, the voice heard states,”Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” At this moment someone runs and fills a sponge with wine vinegar, puts it on a staff and offers it to Jesus to drink. The voice then states, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Then Jesus breathed his last.
4) The Centurion, the Women and the Secret Disciple
                After Jesus’ death, there is no one who abuses, mocks or reviles him. The centurion was in charge of the soldiers who carried out the crucifixion. When he stood in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” He was a Roman soldier, a pagan and likely believed in many gods. Yet to this man the crucifixion was a mistake- an innocent man of God. There was something about the way Jesus died that the centurion had never seen before- dignity, nobility,  a force of personality that transcended the merely human (p. 16)
                The women who cared and loved Jesus included Mary Magdalene, May the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome. John the other disciple was with Jesus’ mother, Mary for in the first 3 hours Jesus was on the cross he committed his mother to the care of John. They have no hope but pray for a resurrection.
                Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of Council went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead but gave the body to Joseph. Joseph bought burial linens, took down the body, wrapped it in linen and placed it in a tomb. He rolled a stone in front of the tomb. Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus body had been buried. Joseph was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and believed in Jesus but was afraid to profess his faith.
                Jesus cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani” My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus dismisses his spirit. His death was deliberate and voluntary. He was a sacrifice. Within the temple wall the veil which enclosed the ‘holy of holies’ was torn from top to bottom. Yet now with Jesus’ death the holy of holies was exposed.  These 3 events tie together to form the meaningful truth: The way into the heart of God is wide open. All are welcome.
Reflection  Read Mark 15
In sharing the story of Jesus’ death have you ever paid attention to the role of the bystanders? The centurion’s words and Joseph of Arimathea?  Often we dismiss them because we are overcome with the death of Jesus. Yet these people played a significant role in this story. They see the bigger picture. But do you? Often we are bystanders to a situation and like witnesses to the crime we should tell others.
God of grace and love we thank you for Jesus’ death on the cross for our sakes. Help us to have and kep hope alive because of him. We ask O God in prayer. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Ray Stedman, “A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter” Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2017. (p.15-21)

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

A Rumour of Hope

A Rumour of Hope
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

                A story about the island of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands For seven years this colony existed before a Belgian priest volunteered to serve among the lepers. He arrived in 1873 with skills ranging from carpentry to medicine. He lived among the lepers and taught the people how to construct buildings, cared for those living, buried the dead and encouraged them through prayer and preaching.
reveals that in the 1800’s hundreds this island found in paradise was really an island of horrors. Leprosy broke out in 1848 and by the 1860’s it was an epidemic. The government of the time rounded up everyone infected with the disease and they were quarantined. They were cut off from the rest of the world by a 16 foot cliff with no dock or harbour. Lepers would be made to jump overboard and swim to the shore. There was no shelter, drinking water or anything else. If they survived it was in caves or crude shacks. Sometimes supply slips would toss crates of food into the water and if the currents were cooperative, the supplies might reach the shore.
                One evening while washing his feet, Father Damien de Veuster learned that he too had taken their disease into himself. (1885). Standing in front of his congregation the following Sunday, he spoke simple words, “we lepers.” He died 4 years later.
                This story of Father Damien reminds us of Jesus who came among us while people were searching, isolated, and condemned by sin, castaway without any hope. He came as a carpenter, healing nd teacher. Jesus encouraged people with prayer and preaching and in the end he took upon himself the sins of the world, for our sake.
                In this Holy Week we are reminded of the moments written by Isaiah when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Jesus paid this penalty on our behalf so that we might live eternally with him.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Reflection:How does reading Isaiah’s prophecy about the one who would be Messiah help you to understand what Jesus did for us on the cross?
Why is it necessary to hear Jesus’ passion story his arrest, trial and crucifixion and burial as part of Holy Week? Why don’t people want to listen to it?
We need to hear the story of Jesus’ death so that we can truly celebrate his resurrection. But many people don’t like feeling uncomfortable if given a choice. What do you think? Should we skip Good Friday and only worship on Easter?
Prayer: God of grace we praise you and thank you for sending us Jesus to be our Saviour. We don’t like to hear the words of sorrow and pain and agony which he endured for us but we know it is necessary to understand what he did for our sake. Teach us again the depth of his love and show us your way. We ask in Jesus’ name so that we might have hope because of Christ’s resurrection. Amen.
Resource:  (based upon) Ray Stedman, “A Rumor of Hope: The Good News of Easter”Discovery House Publishers, Our Daily Bread Ministries, 2017.