HE SHALL REIGN FOREVERMORE
One of the things that we all have are memories. Some may be wonderful and others not as wonderful, but we all have them. Sometimes we may even say something like, “That was such a wonderful experience, I wish I could do it again.”
Based on these wonderful memories, we try to replicate them in different ways, but as much as we try to do that, instead we create new memories. Memories are special moments that occur and we are able to reflect on them for many years.
You may be reading this today and have already celebrated Christmas. As we are in this season, do you have any special Christmas memories?
While I truly appreciate and am thankful for memories, I am grateful that “He Shall Reign Forevermore.”
Jesus is much more than a memory and from generation to generation, He is the Same God. Are you grateful for this today?
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
In a world of constant change, we can find comfort and joy that Jesus doesn’t change. He is the same God and He shall reign forevermore.
As children of God, this is one of the most powerful things because at any age, with any situation, God is with us and He doesn’t change.
Here are some other words for the word forevermore: consistently, constantly, regularly, eternally, invariably, forever, always, continually.
God will reign always.
God will forever reign.
God will reign eternally.
God will reign invariably.
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah,
and He will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
For the next few moments, I would like to outline a couple of reminders for us about this powerful truth.
On February 24, 2022, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine began. Unfortunately, this invasion has caused many devastating and challenging things for people in the Ukraine and all over the world: tens of thousands of deaths, no access to food, water, health, and other essential supplies, significant loss of human capital, destruction of agricultural trading infrastructure, cost of food and goods, rising energy prices, and so much more.
While these effects as a result of the invasion are heart-breaking, let us be reminded that no matter what happens, God will reign forevermore. He is still on the throne and is well aware of everything.
If you feel led to help with the crisis in the Ukraine, please click here to help support these wonderful people who have been through the unimaginable.
2. No matter how we feel, God will reign forevermore
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
Feelings can sometimes be complicated and that’s ok. We all go through different seasons and situations that are hard. But, these feelings do not determine the fact that God is with us and He will reign forevermore.
Paul said it well in the verse we just looked at in Philippians. He learned to be content in all situations and it was not based on his own strength, but through the strength that God gave him. No matter how we live on any given day, we can be assured that God will give us the strength that we need to overcome.
There is a beautiful song that can be heard any time of the year and it is what helped inspire this blog. It’s called: He Shall Reign Forevermore by Chris Tomlin. You can click here to listen to this wonderful song.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
May God continue to bless you, equip you, lead you, guide you, and encourage you, as you live for Him!
LET GO, BUT DON'T GIVE UP
Do you have any family traditions?
One of my memorable things to do every summer was visit Canada’s Wonderland. I enjoyed the swings, the boat ride, the bumper cars, and of course getting a funnel cake at the end of the day before leaving. I really enjoyed these things about Wonderland.
What I didn’t particular enjoy was the roller coasters. And this fear that I had lasted a couple of years and I was not able to fully experience the park for what it was. As I got older, staying with my uncle while the other kids went out rides started to get a little boring. I had to let go of this unknown feeling and fear.
Eventually, it got to a point where I had to overcome the fear and I did. I don’t remember exactly when, but it happened and I actually looked forward to going on the rollercoasters.
Is there anything you had to ever let go of?
Today, we are going to look at this subject of letting go. It’s something that we can all relate to and something we have all had to do in our lives.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
To let go means:
-We are not in charge.
-We are not in control.
-We trust God’s plan for our lives.
-We give every aspect of our lives to God.
As we let go, the Holy Spirit begins to flourish in us and as we share our experiences with God, a trusting relationship begins to grow. We bring everything to God and look for His perspective, which is what we all need today.
We all need God’s perspective and people out there in the world need God’s perspective. A great way that we can do that is through God’s Word. God speaks to us through His Word.
There are many different examples in the Bible of people who had to let go of something. Let’s look at a couple today:
Jochebed and her husband, Amram, had done their best to hide Moses for as long as they could. At three months old it would have been a matter of time before someone found him, so something had to be done now.
As a parent, I see this woman as a woman of great courage and faith. We all know what happens next, the daughter of Pharaoh finds Moses and not only did the Egyptian princess proclaim she would adopt Moses as her son, she sent his very own sister–who happened to be nearby–to find a nursemaid for the baby.
Jochebed had to let go of all fear and uncertainty in this situation and she was so blessed by letting go. God blessed her obedience by making her Moses’ nursemaid.
The prophet Jonah was called on a mission to Nineveh and he responded by attempting to run away from his assignment from the Lord. He went towards Tarshish which was in the opposite direction of where he was supposed to go. Talk about a bad sense of direction, right?
Fast forward, he ends up in the belly of a large fish for 3 days and this where he repents and turns back to God. Jonah had to let go of his own uncertainties, plan, and pride. He had to let it all go before God.
As we talk about this today, I would like us to look at our own lives and ask the Lord to reveal to us anything that we need to let go of. Although letting go doesn’t sound like a positive thing, it actually is. When some people think of letting go, they think of giving up on something. Letting go is not giving up!
If we aren’t letting go, what are we doing?
We are holding on. And if we are holding onto things that God intends for us to let go of, we can miss out on receiving and experiencing fully what God has for us. Kind of like how I couldn’t fully enjoy Wonderland until I let go of the fear I had.
While letting go can be challenging at times, it is honestly one of the most freeing things we can do and letting go is so important that Jesus also let go. He knew what He was about to go through and He asked God if there was a way to take it away but not His will but God's will be done. He surrendered to the will and plan of the Father. If Jesus let go, how much more should we?
We are going to now look at a parable to help illustrate this a bit better for us today. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a story that most of us are very familiar with and it truly is a beautiful picture of God’s love for humanity.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-3
Here we see tax collectors and sinners drawing to Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes (religious leaders and writers of the law) were complaining or grumbling about this. So in response, Jesus addresses the Pharisees and scribes with the parables.
From verses 4 through 32, there are 3 parables here:
Let’s now read the following verse and notice the emphasis and relation to these particular verses:
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7
“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
“Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:23-24
While these parables involve something that is lost, its not the main focus or theme here. Jesus is bringing light to God’s desire and joy in welcoming sinners to Himself.
There is also a main difference in these parables to take note of. Until Luke 15:24, we kind of expect the story to just end in celebration but there is a bit of a twist or something more important for us to see in the text.
We see the other character who is the man’s other son who is also grumbling and complaining. Sounds familiar right? Let’s read about that again.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-3
This is an image of the Pharisees and scribes here.
The older brother didn’t grasp the freedom and joy of always being with his father. And he also didn’t appear to feel the loss of his brother leaving and the significance of his return.
Jesus was trying to bring awareness to the Pharisees and scribes of some things they had to let go of.
What do you need to let go of today?
I don’t know what you need to let go of, but I have some good news for you today. It doesn’t end with letting go. There is more to it. You can let go, but don’t give up!
The father let his son go but he never gave up. The bible says that when the son was still a great way off, the father saw him and had compassion. So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
The father was waiting for his son to come back home. And he even ran towards him. This text is also something to take note of with what Jesus is saying.
It was considered extremely undignified for a man to run anywhere in those times. Running was for children and running required men to hike up their robes and expose their legs, which was considered humiliating and disgraceful.
Jesus is showing us the importance here of letting go of things. The man didn’t care. He wanted to get to his son.
Maybe there is something you are trying to let go of today. I want to encourage you with these 4 points:
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
2. Let go of worry and let God comfort you 1 Peter 5:7
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
3. Let go of control and let God guide you Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
4. Let go of disappointment and let God love you
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Maybe like the story of the Prodigal Son, you may have a child today or another loved one who has not come home yet.
Let go. Let go. But don’t give up.
Pray for them, surrender it to the Lord and don’t give up. Have faith in the Lord and in what only He can do. This is how we don’t give up church. We can’t give up. We need to keep pressing on.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
At OMS Canada, we have some wonderful missionaries who sacrifice so much in their own lives and in their families. They let go of their own plans and choose to prioritize their time to serve God and others.
Learn more here about our missionaries and consider supporting one of them as you are able to. May God continue to bless you in all that you do.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Do you remember a time when you thought about or asked yourself the question, “What should I do?” It’s actually a pretty common question to ponder and ask, and many of us likely do this quite often without even realizing it. It’s a good question to think about.
Today, I want to encourage you. You may even be in a situation today where you are asking yourself this very question. Let’s look at this a bit further today.
Where we Start
I think the best place to start here is adjusting the question because it can ultimately change the outcome of whatever situation. We are all human beings with emotions, triggers, etc. so the question we must ask is, “What would Jesus do?”
Jesus is our perfect example when it comes to anything we go through. It can be something personal, relational, emotional, etc. God has given us the ultimate example of Jesus so that we can become all He has called us to. But we need to do our part.
At our house, we have a 5.5 year old who loves to repeat things that are said. It can sometimes be funny or not so funny, depending on what is said. Go ahead and laugh out loud if you want. We are not there yet.
Kids do that a lot. They copy, they imitate.
“But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6
We need to live as Jesus did and a huge part of that is looking to the example of Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. It is so important to do this because it will empower us to make the right decisions in our lives.
Let’s look at 3 reasons today, why this is so important:
In this chapter, Paul is talking about imitating Christ’s humility and how we should look to the interests of others. When dealing with others, we need to remember this. There are many examples in the Bible of Jesus dealing with others and there was always a focus on the need(s) of the other person. If you are dealing with a relational matter today and wondering what to do, look to Jesus and how He related with other people. When we look to Jesus, it can shift our own attitude and mindset
2. When we look to Jesus, we surrender.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Jesus always had an attitude of care towards others and you are no exception. Jesus cares for you. By focusing on Jesus and looking to Him, we surrender to Him. The situation is no longer ours to carry alone. This brings such hope and peace that surpasses our understanding of circumstances. When we feel overwhelmed, we have to let go. We have to surrender it to God. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
3. When we look to Jesus, we trust Him with the outcome.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
What should I do? What would Jesus do? Whatever the situation today, trust in Him. He knows the plans He has for you and they are to prosper you and not to harm you. They are plans to give you hope and a future.
I remember when we got some news that wasn’t easy to hear and at first, all I could do was cry. The human part of me felt heartbroken. We had learned that our child had a special need and that it would require therapy and intervention. Initially, I had to feel heartbroken because it led me to shifting my attitude and mindset, surrendering it to God, and trusting God with the outcome. Today, our child is doing very well and she is one of the most amazing children out there. She loves Jesus with all her heart and that is the most important thing.
Be encouraged today. God loves you, He is for you, and He is with you on your journey. Remember to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” It will greatly impact your decisions and you will see outcomes that you never imagined.
At OMS Canada, we have some wonderful missionaries whose hearts are to live for Christ and to share and encourage others to do the same. Please prayerfully consider supporting one of these servants today. May God bless you as you live for Him.
ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS
“You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” Luke 18:22
When the young, wealthy ruler encountered Jesus, the latter's words struck him to the quick, suddenly compelling him to examine his beliefs and motives. Would he give up the riches he had worked so hard to get, along with the associated status, power, and voice? His entire world was laid out before him, upending all of his core values, beliefs, and world view of his being.
When you and I encounter Jesus, what happens within us?
Our entire existence should be re-oriented and reframed as we have a fresh encounter with the Lord.
Just as the rich, young ruler, our lives can be suddenly turned upside down. Jesus gets to the crux of the matter as He touches into our personhood, our gifts and resources. Consequently, an internal filter emerges, revealing the motives of the heart. How are we prepared to respond?
Each time we are brought face to face with a need, we have the opportunity to encounter the heart of the Father. We can harden our hearts and turn our thoughts elsewhere or we can ask “Lord, what would You want me to do in this situation?”
We may have ideas of savings for retirement, fulfilment of travel dreams, the purchase of another home or cottage or setting funds aside for residential care in our later years – yet, our plans can be pre-empted by an encounter with a need.
Our giving and partnering with God are much greater than ourselves. We do it unto Him. We respond in obedience. We make ourselves available for His purposes. We avail our wealth, resources and person to Him –the author and creator of all.
We will have many opportunities in this side of heaven to partner with Him. We can open ourselves up to see the world around us through the eyes of the Father, knowing what value He placed on people and the Kingdom in which we are called to live. Are we willing and available?
Nothing is more thrilling and rewarding than realizing we have been about the Father’s business.
Have we given Him our undivided attention and unwavering response in every new encounter? All that we have is His. What other way could we respond?
May our hearts be open to a fresh encounter with Him that radically changes our perspectives and causes us to see the endless possibilities where we can release our wealth for eternal purposes and the expansion of the Kingdom in the lives of many.
FOR ME TO LIVE, IS CHRIST
I heard a song the other day, and these particular words stood out for me:
I'm gonna know what it means to live
And not just be alive
-Say I won’t by Mercy Me-
I’ve been thinking about those words and what they really mean.
God gave us the gift to be alive, and if we really think about it, it doesn't require much effort on our part. We need to eat, sleep, etc. A lot of these things are part of our daily lives and we all do these things, regardless of what we believe. These are all basic human needs. Living, however is a bit different when we really think about it.
When we say that we are living, it is something that we all can do differently. We have different jobs, live in different areas, have different families, etc. So how we live is actually something we choose to do, regardless of circumstances. We can choose how to live each day.
So let’s look at a couple of verses and dig into this a bit more.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
In the book of Philippians, Paul was imprisoned in Rome, awaiting a potential death sentence for sharing the gospel. Imagine what he was going through. We can’t possibly, but if we really think about the text in the verse we just read, we will have a different perspective on what that means. Paul was quite literally meaning that with all of his heart.
What does it mean to really live for Christ? How do we know if we are truly living for Him?
Let’s look at 3 things today that we can do that can help us answer these important questions.
All things have been created through Him and for Him. We must first realize that living for Christ is not about us. Jesus demonstrated this in the most amazing way, by giving His life for all when no one deserved it. Even during his life, Jesus was always focused on the needs of others. While this may not be easy at times, let us take the time each day to focus on others.
2. Living for Christ is a lifestyle
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
Living for Christ is not just about going to a church building. Every area of our lives ought to demonstrate that we are living for Christ. Our jobs, school, what we watch, what we listen to, how we talk to others, etc. are some examples. If we are just attending a church service and not living for Christ in our everyday lives, we are not truly living for Christ.
Another thing to remember about this is also why we live for Christ. We do it for the Lord and not to impress or get the attention of others. Living for Christ is a lifestyle.
3. Living for Christ is a life-long commitment
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
Jesus is the only way to God and that is how we will enter into glory someday. Living for Christ is a beautiful commitment and wonderful honor. Life is never perfect and we all do face challenges, but let’s keep at it. Let’s move forward in Christ. By staying connected to God and other believers, we can be encouraged to continue with this life-long commitment. I encourage you to make this a priority in your life for God. Do it for Him. He is worthy and He is awesome.
Paul was truly living for Christ, not only through his words, but how he lived his life for Christ.
Jesus was everything to him and like Paul, we are encouraged to live out our faith each day by God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do it on our own strength and ability. We need to depend on God.
Like the song I mentioned earlier, let’s just not be alive but let’s truly live…for Christ.
At OMS Canada, we have some remarkable missionaries whose hearts are to live for Christ and to share and encourage others to do the same. A lot of them make different sacrifices for their own families and by God’s grace, they live for Christ. Please prayerfully consider supporting one of these servants today. We are all in this together, living for Christ. May God continue to bless you as you are a blessing to others.
ACCOUNTABILITY IN DISCIPLESHIP
One of the biggest challenges disciple makers face in Canada is the lack of enthusiasm for obedience. Some say that it sounds an awful lot like legalism to talk so much of obedience. Others claim they can have Jesus as Saviour but not so much as Lord. Still others just do not know how to build obedience into the regular rhythms of life.
To the first two comments (legalism and Lord) I would say that you really need to take this up with Jesus himself, as it is He who said to teach disciples to obey every command He had given (Matthew 28:19-20). His words, not mine. It’s not legalism, it’s simply obedience. And I don’t think you can claim one part of Jesus (His saving work) while refusing the other part (His requirement of obedience to His commands - Matthew 28:19-20).
So, how do you build faithful obedience into the DNA of a worshipping group or fellowship? By using the
Three Thirds Meeting format.
The Three Thirds Meeting- What is it?
This concept was first used by Ying Kai, but later put into a chart and words by Steve Smith. I want to be sure to give them credit as this is definitely not original with me (you can purchase the T4T book here).
You can use whatever words work well to describe the three parts for you in your context. Smith describes the three parts as:
Basic Three Thirds Meeting Structure
In using this, I’ve adjusted the sections a bit (from Smith’s description). I am using a hybrid approach that combines elements of both T4T and DBS. I stick to the three parts because of the powerful accountability loop it provides. The time frames are up to you, but its good to keep them somewhat equal. If you want to have a one-hour meeting, then 20 minutes for each section works well.
Look Back (20 minutes)
In the look back section, we start with Member Care. Instead of jumping straight into your lesson or Bible study, take a few minutes to hear how people in the group are doing. Ask about their families and take any prayer requests. This doesn’t need to be long (5 minutes is enough) but it should be sincere.
Then have a brief time of worship. You can sing a few songs or use non-musical worship.
After that you have a time of friendly accountability with the group. Ask them about the goals they set in the last meeting. How did they do at obeying God’s Word from the lesson last week? How did it go when they tried to share their testimony or what they learned last week? Smith says we should ask about both 1) following (the obeying and 2) fishing (the sharing).
Give everyone a chance to answer about both areas. If your group is too big, split into pairs or groups of three to do this friendly accountability time.
If you set goals and do not ask for a report, you are training disciples to be disobedient! You do not want to do that. So be sure to include this important accountability time as a regular part of your meeting DNA.
The final thing in the first section is Vision Casting. Vision casting is a short, simple challenge to reach the lost in your area. You can use a story, a scripture, picture or a variety of options for the vision casting part. But be sure to remind them every meeting of the urgency of reaching the lost. Keeping this front and centre helps to keep the group focused on the primary task of a disciple.
Look Up (20 minutes)
In this section you train them in content from God’s Word. Whether you use a short passage of scripture or a story, keep it brief. The reading of the passage or telling of the story should not be more than 5 minutes long.
After sharing the story or scripture several times, have the trainees/disciples repeat it back to you. This is very important in helping them gain confidence. It also helps you know what they have understood. In the DBS method, this is the “repeat the passage in your own words” part. Be sure that everyone in the group can repeat the passage or story with some level of accuracy before you move on to discuss it. If they make mistakes, gently correct them and ask them to try again until they can each share it well.
Adult learning specialists tell us that taking this step of repeating before interpreting is vital. It helps people to internalize what is being said. If you take time to do this well, you will find you have much deeper and more meaningful discussions about the scripture.
Then work through these questions to engage with the Scripture.
What do you like about this story/passage? What don’t you like? (this can include anything they find difficult to understand)
What do we learn about God?
What do we learn about people?
Is there a sin to avoid? A promise to believe?
Is there an example to follow? A command to obey?
Look Ahead (20 minutes)
Then, you move to discussion about how you will be faithful through sharing and obedience. These are questions you can use:
What did I discover/learn from this?
Who will I share with? (If you use this question, you are already moving into goal setting).
What will I obey?
Find the set of questions that works best for you. But stick to the same questions each time as you train. Variety can hinder multiplication. It needs to become normal and natural to always ask these same things.
During the discussion, make sure each person gets a chance to share. Again, this is why your disciple-making groups should not be too large. If you have a bigger group, split into pairs or threes to answer these questions so each person speaks. As disciples speak out these answers, the Word of God is taking root in their hearts.
Set specific goals related to following Jesus (obedience) and fishing for men (sharing). Make clear decisions regarding personal and/or group application of the scripture.
For example, say you study the passage about the Good Samaritan. You might decide as a group to work together to help a needy widow in your community that week. Also, be specific about who you will share the gospel or this week’s passage/story with in the coming week. The more specific the goals, the more likely people will do them! And, they know that next week, you will be asking them to report on how that went.
Start with reporting and end with goal setting in each disciple-making meeting. This is what we call the Friendly Accountability Loop. It works! Don’t let time pressure (because you had too long of worship or went into preaching-mode in the lesson time) cause you to skip these things.
Are you connected to Wi-Fi internet right now? It is very likely that you are, even as you read this blog. Today we are going to be talking about connection.
CONNECTION IN SOCIETY TODAY
The reality today is that it is easier than ever to stay connected to people.
With various social media platforms such as: WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. we can stay in touch with people very easily. With our smartphones: we can text, we can browse the web, we can make phone and video calls to someone who is in a different part of the world at the push of a button. Today, staying connected is easier than ever.
I remember when I was a teenager, not that long ago, we had what was called, “Dial-up Internet.” Basically, this was connected to our house phone and we would be able to go on the Internet by using this method. You would literally hear it dialing and then some weird sounds until the connection was established. The connection was not the greatest, and would often disconnect but it’s what we used to connect with people in those times. I certainly don’t miss dial up and I’m very happy with wi-fi speeds nowadays.
It doesn’t matter how many years we go back- connection has always been important. Connection has power, connection has purpose, and we all desire it in some way. God created us for connection and the most important connection we have is one with God through Jesus.
5 “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.”
Using this verse, we are going to focus on connection today.
I love how Jesus decided to use this metaphor when speaking to His disciples.
If there is one thing the people of Jesus’ day were familiar with it was grape vines.
Grapes were important in Israel for several reasons:
-They were used in their diet.
-They were used to produce wine. Wine was used in their meals, used as medicine, and it was used in their worship.
Since Grape vines, and the fruit that they produced were a very important part of life in Jesus’ day, Jesus uses this example of a vine to share with His disciples something even more important. Jesus describes Himself as the Grape vine.
What do grape vines do?
-They provide nourishment and life to all of the branches that are connected to it. This is what Jesus does in our lives daily.
As we walk in the Spirit, we bear fruit. This can only happen through the Holy Spirit and by us abiding in Jesus. No amount of self-effort will bear spiritual fruit.
It requires a total surrender to God, so that the Holy Spirit can work through us. Jesus describes us as the branches.
What do branches do?
-Branches connect to the vine. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and allow Him to live through us, we are connected to Him.
If you think of a branch that has fallen from a beautiful tree, no matter how beautiful the tree is, the branch has no life in it if it has lost that connection to the tree. It could’ve disconnected because of weather or some other reason. The point is, something impacted the connection and actually caused it to disconnect.
Just like our wi-fi connections may be a bit slow at times, and just like how branches sometimes disconnect from their main source, there are things that can actually impact our connection to God.
Here are 3 things that can impact our connection to God:
1. Life Circumstances
We all go through different situations and we also deal with situations differently so life circumstances are very unique to each one of us. These can include: challenges, trials, etc.
When I was a fairly new Christian on fire for Jesus, our family went through an unexpected difficult situation. On Christmas Eve, my father, who according to the doctor was in good health, suffered from a heart attack at the age of 48 years old.
I will never forget the moment when we were informed that they did what they could, but that he did not survive. Everything stopped for a moment as if life paused. God gave me amazing strength and comfort during the whole process and then after everything set in a few weeks later, I began to grieve. I remember not being angry with God but just so sad and hurt. This affected my connection with God. I still loved God, prayed, went to church, etc. but there was an impact on my connection with God.
I want to mention this because we need to be aware of what we experience in life and fully surrender it to God and allow Him to heal us in all areas: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
1 Peter 5:7
7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
18 “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
By casting all of our anxiety on God and by accepting His healing and comfort, we
can strengthen and build up our connection back to God.
2. What we feed our souls with
What we feed ourselves with on a daily basis is so important. Because the world is imperfect, we need to constantly be vigilant to what we feed our souls with…what we listen to, what we watch, what we read, what we engage in.
8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This verse is pretty clear and an excellent guide to help us make choices about what we allow our souls to be fed with.
I love to listen to my satellite Sirius Christian radio station. We do pay each month under $20 for mainly one channel, with access to many others but we feel it’s definitely worth it. So whenever I am on the road, I have it playing. It’s encouraging, it’s worship to God, its powerful, it’s uplifting, it connects me to God. We need to feed our souls with things that allow and encourage us to connect to God.
There are a few different yearly performances that a lot of people see as great performances and entertainment. The reality is that a lot of times there are many hidden messages which are disturbing: occult rituals, symbolism, and a very twisted idea of women empowerment: women are sexualized and degraded.
We choose what we listen to and engage in and whatever that may be, it will either bring us to a closer connection with Jesus, keep us where we are, or further from Jesus.
I would encourage you to feed your soul with what allows you to have a closer connection with Jesus. This is vital in our spiritual growth.
3. Other People
The people we choose to spend our time with can have an impact on our connection to God.
1 Corinthians 15:33
33” Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
We need to surround ourselves with people and things that encourage and help strengthen our connection with God. This is so important. We need to stay connected. Let’s talk a little bit about how we can do that.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we will ever have. Through prayer we build our connection to God and we grow spiritually so that we could do all that God has called us to. The more time we spend with God in prayer, the more connected we are to God.
And the more connected we are to God, the more we become passionate about what He is passionate about. Prayer is a powerful tool that we have and at any moment of the day. Through Jesus, we are automatically connected, no dial-up necessary-direct connection!
2. Other Christians
23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Spending time with other Christians is so important to our growth. We are there to encourage each other and genuinely want the best for each other. I personally have a handful of people in my lives that I know care about me, pray for me, and have my best interest at heart. It’s important to have at least one or two people like this in our lives. It will help us grow in our relationship with the Lord.
3. Make it a lifestyle
6” Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”
As Christians, we represent Jesus wherever we go and we need to remember that being a Christian is not about religion. It’s about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus and a lifestyle where we daily connect with God.
Noah is one of the most important people in the Bible. In a world taken over by evil, violence, and corruption, he is presented as a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time. Not only that, he was the only follower of God left on Earth. We all know the story of how God called him to build the ark. You can read the story in Genesis chapters 6-9.
It amazes me the connection that Noah had with God. He received very specific details about building the ark and he followed God's instructions. Even when people would ridicule and make fun of him, he still did what God asked him to do.
This tells me that Noah had a strong connection with God and he made it a part of His everyday life.
Are you connected to God’s network?
-God's network is always strong
-God's network never fails
-God's network offers us unconditional love.
-God's network offers a clean slate each day, new mercies.
We talked about connection today and this is the most significant part of the connection we have with God because it actually determines eternity for each one of us. God doesn’t force Himself upon us, He allows us to choose Him. He allows us to choose to accept Jesus as our savior and be connected to God
What is also significant is that our life on earth is where we get connected to God and maintain that connection with His help. In heaven, we will enjoy that connection forever. But it’s here, where we need to maintain it. None of us know when this part of the timeline is for us, and that’s why we need to always be in communication with God. We need to be connected and stay connected.
Now is not the time to tap out, but instead to tap into our connection with God.
It’s also not the time to not tell others about this connection. We need to share this connection with others. Feel free to pray with us on Tuesday mornings or Thursday evenings via zoom. Contact us to get the zoom links.
Maybe you’ve lost some connection? That’s ok: God is saying right now you can
re-connect with Him, right now we can build our connection with God. My prayer is that you would stay connected to God wherever you’re at in your walk with the Lord. God is for you. Be encouraged. May God bless you as you stay connected to Him.
Whatever will be will be, the saying goes. That is not the Gospel. Nor is it the heart of God. Jesus described His purpose on earth by saying “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
A sense of urgency about lostness is one of the most common characteristics found in disciple-makers.
Hearts Broken For the Lost
Jeremiah cried out, “I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me” (Jer. 8:21).
Jesus wept as he looked at Jerusalem, calling them sheep without a shepherd.
Does lostness cause us to weep? Or have we become casual in our attitude toward those apart from God?
Ask God to give you His heart in a fresh way today.
What Keeps a Sense of Urgency to Reach the Lost Burning In Our Souls?
1. A proper theological understanding of lostness.
The world tells us it is arrogant to think that others are lost and we have been found. “All roads lead to God,” say Hindus or New Agers. “Do your own thing. You be you, I’ll be me” is the millennial mantra of the West.
Is it proud or intolerant to see those apart from Christ as lost? Not according to the Bible!
Christ is our example. He used this word, not only to describe His mission but also to explain His great love for those apart from Him (see the parables in Luke 15). If Jesus called those who did not know Him lost, so can we.
2. Embracing compassion rather than looking at your own needs.
It can be challenging to focus on others rather than self. This is especially true when we are in pain. Emotional or physical suffering causes us to be self-centered. Part of the solution to coming out of that difficulty is to focus on others. Millions wait to hear the good news. They are our neighbors, colleagues at work. Does their lost condition stir your heart?
3. Letting go of judgements and offense caused by unsaved people in your life.
The lost are not always nice people. Sometimes they are rude, even evil in their actions towards you. Their sin may feel offensive to you or their behavior cause feelings of disgust. We must ask God to change our heart, to help us see them as those who are lost lambs that the shepherd is seeking after.
Repent of judgments and ask Jesus to fill your heart with His love for those who do not yet know Him. Do not be like Jonah who called down fire and brimstone and hoped God would judge his enemies. That did not turn out so well for him.
4. Regular prayer and intercession for those apart from Christ.
I cannot change my own heart or cause it to become soft and compassionate. There is something I can do though. Regular prayer for those around me who do not know Jesus changes me. I begin to get my Father’s heart for those I am lifting before Him, those I am asking Him to bless. Soon, I find my heart is feeling different as well.
May God soften our hearts and cause us to see the lost as helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.
Share your own prayer for lost people, or any comments you have on this topic in the comments below.
Today, we are going to look at a parable that Jesus told. A parable can be defined as: a story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle. So, a parable is a teaching tool that Jesus would use often. They all used everyday examples, and were relatable stories to those who heard them. And they had a truth that Jesus was attempting to get across to those He was teaching.
We can understand a parable to contain two distinct layers. One on the surface which was a story that was understood by the listeners and the other layer is the deeper meaning which would illustrate a spiritual truth.
Before we read this particular parable, let’s look at Luke 14:1-14 to get a bigger picture of what Jesus is talking about and teaching.
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, He was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of Him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, He healed him and sent him on his way.
5 Then He asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.
7 When He noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, He told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 Then Jesus said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Here, we see Jesus dining in the home of a prominent Pharisee. Note here that the text in verse 1 says, they watched Jesus closely. These people (mostly Pharisees) seemed to always want to see Jesus do something that they could call Him out on. While they were doing this, Jesus was always teaching them something greater and more significant.
Jesus shares about the importance of godly hospitality and having a humble attitude. Jesus is always encouraging us to focus on others, and He really demonstrated it the greatest in how He lived and what He did on the cross for all of humanity.
Now, let’s look at the main parable we are talking about today.
15 When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
Do you like to receive an invitation to a special event or celebration?
The truth is, most of us do. There is something special about receiving a beautiful invitation in the mail that’s for you.
The parable we just read is a beautiful picture now of the fact that God’s invitation to His kingdom is for all people.
Let’s unpack this parable a bit more and see what this may represent for us today.
Let’s unpack this a little more.
In the first verses we read, someone at the table overhears what Jesus was saying and says, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
And Jesus responds with this parable: The Parable of the Great Banquet
The one who said “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” is a Jew who expects that he himself will enjoy the blessings of the coming kingdom and Jesus takes the opportunity to teach that one enters the kingdom of God enters by salvation, not by birthright or by works, by repenting and having faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus was teaching a greater truth about this and He uses the comment as an opportunity to clarify who would participate in the kingdom of God.
The Jewish religious leaders believed their seat at the table was secure because they lived a good life, they had kept the law, or so they believed, and therefore they had secured their ticket.
Have you ever planned a special dinner or party and had everything prepared and nobody wanted to come?
There is a lot of hard work and preparation involved in gatherings like these and it wouldn’t be fun to be the host in this scenario.
So now we see the guests starting to make excuses one by one, and these were certainly not good reasons for not attending. The behavior of all three invited guests would have been representative of the behavior of all of the many invited guests who chose not to attend. The Greek phrase used, apo mias pantes, means “from the first, all. So, the invited guests chose not to attend.
Something to also make note of is, back in the day, it would’ve actually been rude and an insult to the host for not attending a banquet, which you previously had accepted and indicated your attendance. So I’m not surprised that the master actually became angry when he heard those excuses.
When the Master said in verse 17 “Come, for everything is now ready,” Jesus was reminding the Israelites of what He’d been telling them repeatedly: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).
Yet, while Jesus preached about the kingdom of heaven being near, the Jewish nation as a whole rejected Him and His teachings.
Their Jewish nation had been those who God had historically invited to relate personally with Him through His covenant and many of the invited Israelites refused to obey God’s covenant, thereby worshiping false gods, not obeying the commandments, and refusing to accept God’s invitation.
The Jews also did not like the Gentiles and they considered them “unclean” and “enemies of God” and Jesus came to tear down these barriers, making repentance and faith in Christ the only conditions of admissions to the kingdom.
This great banquet that Jesus was talking about has great significance for us today. It represents the kingdom of heaven. There were people back then who rejected this invitation, but unfortunately there are still people today who reject this invitation, who reject Jesus.
This points us to the text that talks about the great supper continuing, despite the people that chose not to attend. In verse 23, the master instructs the servant to “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be full.” To compel is to: urge.
I believe that God is bringing our attention to the urgency to reach the lost today.
Just as the banquet still took place, the kingdom of God will continue and will remain, even as people reject God and His open invitation.
Today, I also think about the many means that we have. We have social media, we are in a country where we can freely worship God and share Jesus with others. We have such a great opportunity and I believe the Lord is encouraging us to seize this opportunity for His glory.
The process of the open invitation is very important for us. I want to encourage you and I also want to leave us with 3 reminders today:
1- God’s invitation to be saved is for all people
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The master wasn’t satisfied with a partially full banquet hall; he wanted every place at the table to be filled. This is a great picture of God’s heart for all people. This is His desire, that all would come to repentance and have a relationship with Him.
It’s also important to appreciate the fact that the Master’s invitations were sent to the poor, maimed, blind, and lame. These people were considered outcasts by the Pharisees. But Jesus challenged that way of thinking, always teaching His audiences that the kingdom of God was available to anyone, even the “unclean” whom the Jewish leaders deemed to be cursed by God. Jesus came to die for all and God has a heart for all people. This is an open invitation for all.
2- This invitation needs to be accepted and not just received and acknowledged
“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
When we receive an invitation, there requires some sort of response on our part. Usually, we will reply with a yes or no. This allows the host to make the necessary arrangements and planning, according to the guest list.
When we receive God’s open invitation to His kingdom, we need to accept it as well. This is actually the greatest invitation we will ever receive because it is eternal. It’s not a one-time event that we attend, but rather a life-long beautiful relationship that we enjoy forever.
We need to respond to the invitation and accept it.
3- Once we’ve heard and accepted God’s invitation, we need to extend and share this invitation with others who do not know Jesus
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In today’s days, sharing is such a big thing. You hear about sharing all over social media, and it can actually be a powerful thing. Out of all the “sharing” we can do in this lifetime, the most significant thing we need to share with others is this open invitation to God’s kingdom.
It is life-changing, powerful, and beautiful in so many ways. Let’s make it a priority to share this invitation with others. You cannot control the response, but let’s not allow that to be an excuse to not share.
Have you heard of people who are considered “unreached”?
Unreached people are consisted of people groups who have very little or no access to hearing about Jesus.
The world Population is currently about 7.96 billion and there are about 42.3% unreached people in the world. That is mind blowing. It is almost half of our world population. Some examples of countries with the highest percentages are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, and Turkey.
You can visit JoshuaProject.net for some more statistics and to stay updated.
You may have never heard of these people groups and I wanted to share this with you. You may not be able to visit these places yourself, but you can certainly pray for these countries and pray for new missionaries.
At OMS Canada, we believe the power of the gospel in the hands of disciple-makers will transform all nations and we give every missionary and donor the opportunity to make a generational investment in the lives and communities of people around the world who have yet to hear the good news. Your investment will multiply disciple-makers, churches, leaders, and missionary movements.
Will you join us?
There is an urgency and we need act now, while we have the time because as we all know there will be a time where the opportunity will no longer exist. The invitation is open right now. Let’s do our part, with God’s help, through the Holy Spirit, to share this invitation with as many people as we can.
What scripture or text do you turn to most often when you are going through a trying time? What biblical principles do you turn to when you are going through a difficult time or experiencing some sort of suffering? Romans 8:28 is a treasured passage of many believers:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
We often cling to the idea that something positive will emerge out of our suffering. But what exactly are we hoping for? Sometimes, we interpret the good as something tangible, earthy, and now, such as: Maybe the job I lost will lead to an even better job. Perhaps this unfulfilled ambition will open the door to one that is even better. Maybe the reason why this relationship ended is because I have a better one in waiting for me.
The fruits of affliction are not always material or tangible.
While there are moments in our lives when we can reflect on adversity and see how it led to something better in the present, there are other positive outcomes from adversity that aren't material or tangible. They aren't something our unaided eyes can see. They have an inner and a spiritual side. They therefore have eternal significance.
Although John Newton is most remembered for writing the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, he also produced a large number of letters over his lifetime. Today, several of these letters are still published. His writings serve as a reminder of God's grace in the believer's life.
In one letter, he discusses the fruits of affliction for the believer:
Though afflictions in themselves are not joyous, but grievous, yet in due season they yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Various and blessed are the fruits they produce.
There are numerous fruits of affliction in the Believer life.
What are those fruits?
1. Prayer: Because our prayers have a tendency to become stiff and lethargic in times of ease, prayer is intensified by affliction. How accurate is this? We are more inclined to pray to the Lord when we are going through a difficult situation than we are when things are going smoothly. In my personal experience, I've seen that throughout difficult times, my prayer life grows and develops because the difficulty serves as a reminder of how dependent I am on God's grace.
2. Scripture: We can better understand the Scriptures and, in particular, God's promises to us, through affliction. Many of God's promises in the Bible deal with how he will help us when we are in need, but we won't be able to personally experience these promises unless we are going through a trying period. "We cannot know their fullness, sweetness, and certainty so well as when we have been in the position to which they are fitted, have been able to trust and plead them, and have found them fulfilled in our own case. The wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God are shown to us more clearly through trials.
3. Testimony: Our afflictions provide the opportunity to testify to others of God’s grace. When people see how God has brought us through a trial, God is glorified. Our lives then become living testimonies of God’s mercy and grace and give us an opportunity to share the reason for our hope.
4. Strength: Some graces, including resignation, patience, humility, and long-suffering, can only be discovered through affliction. The same way that lifting weights strengthens our muscles, suffering also causes us to develop traits that we would not otherwise possess without suffering's influence on our life. As the saying goes, "Activity and strength of grace is not typically gained by those who sit still and live comfortably, but by those who constantly encounter something requiring a full exertion of the force the Lord has given them."
5. Compassion: Affliction helps us have compassion for others who suffer. While we can have sympathy for others in affliction without experiencing such suffering ourselves, it is not as strong as when we have experienced it ourselves. Likewise, suffering helps us know more of the sufferings of Christ.
6. Humility: Finally, adversity and suffering help us better understand the genuine nature of our hearts. Affliction makes hidden sins in our souls more evident. This finding is undoubtedly painful, but until it is discovered, we tend to underestimate our own depravity and are unable to so fully despise ourselves and repent in dust and ashes. The fruit of humility is seeing the truth about ourselves.
Romans 8:28 promises good to come through our trials and afflictions. Though the trials are not good in and of themselves—far from it! —God uses them for our good.
Have you seen any of this fruit in your own life?
We would like to hear from you.
I AM BLESSED
Today we are going to talk about blessing!
I don’t ever recall meeting anyone who doesn’t like blessings. Whether you are a believer or not, blessings are something that we all enjoy.
It’s important to enjoy blessings, to be thankful for them, and praise God for them, but we also look a bit deeper into what it is to truly be blessed.
I believe that during these times, God is calling us to reflect and to go deeper with Him and God is allowing us to do that through simple ways such as prayer, connection, and being in His Word more. He is also reminding us of how truly blessed we are.
So, to start. What is blessing?
In the dictionary, blessing can be defined as:
-praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal.
- God's favour and protection.
BLESSING IN THE BIBLE
God's intention and desire to bless humanity is a central focus of His covenant relationships. First, a blessing was a public declaration of a favored status with God. Second, the blessing brought power for prosperity and success. In all cases, the blessing served as a guide and motivation to maintain that life within the blessing that was given.
The history of Israel begins with the promise of blessing. The curse, which had dominated the early chapters of the biblical story (Genesis 3:14 Genesis 3:17; 4:11; 5:29; 9:25), was countered by God's promise to Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" which is found in Genesis 12:3.
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The institutions of society — the family, government, and religion were the means by which ceremonial blessings were received.
Within the family, the father blessed his wife and children (Genesis 27:27-29).
And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. 28 Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!”
In the government context, the ruler blessed the people (2 Samuel 6:18)
After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty.
Those who possessed a priestly role had the privilege of blessing (Genesis 14:19)
and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
The parallels between the Old and New Testament usages of blessing are interesting. In the Old Testament, to be blessed is to be granted special favor by God with resulting joy and prosperity. In the New Testament, the emphasis is more on spiritual rather than on material blessings.
There are many key components or things to remember and consider when it comes to blessing for us today. Let’s look at 4 today.
The first thing we must acknowledge is that blessing comes from God and begins with God.
There is a beautiful song called, “10,000 Reasons.” The lyrics of the chorus are:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul
I'll worship Your Holy name.
Blessing always brings glory to God. He is worthy of all glory and deserves all glory because He is a good God. He first loved us and He first blessed us so it’s all about Him.
I remember when we had been praying and trusting God for the blessing of a child. So when we found out that we were now expecting a little one, we were so excited. We had so many ideas and plans in mind already and it was just such an exciting time in our lives.
A few weeks later, we had some unexpected news that the pregnancy was not viable and that the baby went to be with Jesus. It quickly went from a very exciting time to one of the most challenging times in our lives. It was hard, but God was faithful and we knew we were still blessed regardless of our situation.
With time, I realized that we were so focused on the blessing and not as much on the One who was the source of the blessing. Blessing begins with God and we need to always have that as our perspective.
God is so good and faithful and of course we now have our beautiful child who keeps us quite busy and whom we adore.
2. Blessing is generational
“Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in His commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalms 112:1-2
When we fear God and take delight in His Word, generations will be blessed.
Some of us may be first or second generation Christians in our family and it truly is such an honor to have.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home so for me some of the norms growing up were: alcohol and substance abuse, violence, anger, and rage as some examples.
We believed in God and knew about God but there was no personal relationship with God and no transformation in our lives. We may have been blessed with a home to live in, plenty of food to eat, and all the latest clothing and shoes but we were not experiencing the most important blessings. The ones we cannot see.
We can’t do anything about our ancestors, but we know that as children of God other generations to come will also be blessed after us. The things which seem like set backs whether from our past or present can actually be setups for the greater God has in store for us. When we have this perspective, it makes all the difference.
Are there any setbacks in your life right now? I know you don’t see the blessing yet, but you ARE blessed and God has better in store for you. Keep trusting.
So no matter what upbringing we’ve had, if we choose to follow the Lord, we will be blessed that blessing will be available to our children, grandchildren, and future generations. What an amazing thing to be a part of!
3. Blessing is meant to be shared
“I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2
We have all heard the verse that says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and that is so true. We are blessed to be a blessing- it is not meant to be for us only, but to be a blessing to others. There are so many ways we can be a blessing to others.
We are blessed, and then we give the blessing away.
And in giving it away, we are blessed all over again.
So God blesses us, and we give it away.
He blesses you again, and you give it away.
He blesses you yet again, and you give it away. When God blesses, there is an outpouring that happens. This outpouring is meant to be spilled over to bless others. We need to share the blessing of Jesus and His salvation to others. This was never meant for us to hoard or keep to ourselves, but to share with others.
4. Blessing is undeserved
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24
We do not deserve God’s blessing, but by His grace He blesses us anyways. All the blessings that any of us receive from God are ultimately and only the result of the cross of Christ. God loves us and blesses us not because of who we are or what we can do, but because of who He is and how great His love is for us. It is not about us and all about Him.
Here is a short story that I would like to share with you that I found online:
-A Blessing in Disguise- [Short Inspirational Story]
A young man was getting ready to graduate college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.
As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box.
Curious, but somewhat disappointed the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible. Angrily, he raised his voice at his father and said, "With all your money you give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible behind.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day.
Before he could make arrangements, he received word that his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care things.
When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search his father's important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. As he started to read, a key dropped from an envelope that was taped behind the Bible. It had a tag with a car dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired.
On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words...PAID IN FULL.
See, sometimes the blessing God has for us in right there but we can’t see it because we are so focused on what we are expecting as a blessing.
How many times do we miss God's blessings because they are not packaged as we expected?
Sometimes when we have certain expectations and those aren’t met it can cause us to feel disappointment. So, our attitude is key when it comes to receiving blessing.
Many times God blesses us in ways we didn't think of and sometimes we don’t see the actual blessing because we are so focused on what we thought was the blessing.
We need to remember that God’s blessings are sometimes not packaged as we expected but those are the blessings that will bring us closer to God and that is what’s most important and significant. It’s those blessings that will take us deeper with God. The waiting a bit longer will bring us to where God wants to take us. Even and especially in the waiting, there is blessing.
Let’s begin to go a bit deeper together.
BLESSING A BIT DEEPER
We often hear statements such as, “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams. We are incredibly blessed!”
But what happens when we don’t feel so “blessed” in your current circumstances? For example: Someone who has been out of work and is trusting God for a job. They get an interview with a great organization but are not offered the job after praying and trusting God.
Let’s think about this for a moment because we have all been through challenging and trying seasons.
Are we no longer blessed when things are challenging or trying?
The answer is no. God has a purpose and time for everything to be done according to His plan and what I believe God would like us to focus on here is that we often associate being blessed with positive circumstances, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems or challenges. This tells me that we need to reflect and re evaluate what it truly means to be blessed.
So, what does it mean to be truly blessed?
Let’s look at some very powerful and profound words that Jesus shared.
The beatitudes come from the opening verses of the famous Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 5:3-12.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and He began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
From a human perspective, most of these conditions would not indicate a blessed life. But from a heavenly perspective we know that we are blessed when we endure such things.
We know that we will inherit the kingdom of heaven, and that we will be with God forever and He will rule and reign in His Kingdom.
We know that we will be comforted, there will be no more pain, no more suffering, tears, heart ache, loss, discouragement, fear, we will be comforted by the good shepherd Himself.
We will be satisfied and forever fulfilled. We pursue and keep striving on earth to find satisfaction, but Jesus says that we will be satisfied. He will truly satisfy us for all eternity.
Therefore, we are truly blessed because we belong to Christ Jesus and He is our eternal reward.
Though the world says we find happiness when we have the newest, biggest, shiniest, most advanced fill-in-the-blank thing on the market, Jesus says we find it when we demonstrate the true characteristics of Christian faith.
There is a key element to blessing that we must not forget- its the spiritual element, the things which are eternal and last forever.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
We may not feel very happy some days, but that emotional feeling doesn’t take away the reality that we are still blessed.
We have the peace of God that passes all understanding, we have victory through Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven and set free, we are eternally secure, we are loved unconditionally, we have the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth, and so much more.
THE GREATEST BLESSING
Our greatest blessing is having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Great families, financial wealth, great jobs and homes, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings because they can make us delight, not in God, but in His gifts.
I do not put my hope in the substance of the blessing but my hope is in the giver of the blessing. My hope is in Christ, I am blessed because I have Him in my life.
God’s greatest blessing always rests in God Himself and when we focus on Him as our source for everything, we are truly blessed.
et us not keep our greatest blessing to ourselves. There are billions of people in the world who haven’t heard about Jesus and the hope He brings.
You can also share this hope with others by supporting OMS Canada. Blessings to you and your family.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.”
ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER
Have you experienced some good things in your life?
What about challenges? Have you faced any challenges or difficulties that you can remember?
Today, we are going to look at what the Bible says about how good things and challenging things actually relate and work together for God’s purpose in our lives.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Let’s look at this verse for a few minutes and really get the context of what Paul was saying here. He wanted the Romans to know that God, who didn’t cause their suffering, would cause all their circumstances to cooperate with His divine plan—for their ultimate good. Paul is not saying that all things are good. He is saying that all things are turned by God and used for good. This is really important to understand because it gives us a different perspective on the difficult situations that we face in this life here on earth.
The good to which Paul referred was not the temporary blessings of good health, wealth, or even success, but being “conformed to the image of God’s Son.” (v. 29)
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
God is most concerned about where we will spend eternity. He is so concerned that He sent His Son Jesus to die for us so that we could spend eternity in Heaven.
Yes, we all go through different things and sometimes very challenging things but the promise that God causes everything to work for our good is for us. It’s a promise for every child of God who has given their life to Christ.
Today, I would like to look at 3 things for us remember when we face challenging situations in life:
1 Chronicles 16:34
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
I remember when I was first saved. There was a peace and a joy that I had never experience before, and it was amazing. God radically transformed my life, I was serving in various areas, I got my first car, I graduated college, and I met my future husband. Life was pretty good and sweet!
Fast forward a couple of years, on my most favourite day of the year, my father passed away at the young age of 48 unexpectedly. It was a heart attack and he was instantly gone, just like that.
My life that was going pretty good had all of sudden been shaken, especially since I was still growing in my faith. It was a difficult thing to go through. I questioned God, I grieved, but I also answered this question by His strength:
Was God still good? Yes. He absolutely was!
But the thing that I was going through definitely did not feel good. But God was still good. He is good all the time. Even as Christians, our lives are not perfect but we have a God who gives us perfect peace in the midst of very difficult situations.
God was working on my character. God was teaching me to trust in Him no matter what. God was drawing me closer to Him and to depend on Him for all things.
2. God is always faithful
What does it mean to be faithful?
True to one’s word, promises, vows, reliable, and trusted.
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
If we were to all share of how God has been faithful to us time after time, we would need quite a bit of time to do that. It is important to reflect on God’s faithfulness in our lives.
Remember what Joseph went through when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph’s brothers made a bad choice by selling their brother into slavery, but Joseph chose to believe God was with him. God took the awful thing his brothers did and not only saved the nation of Israel but also many other nations as well. God had a good plan for Joseph, and He was faithful in making it come to pass.
Joseph spoke about how God used the bad for good in this verse:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
3. God works out all things for our good
Have you ever had brisket?
If you haven’t, I encourage you to try it. It’s one of my favourite meals and if seasoned and cooked properly, it is delicious and so tender.
Brisket is one of my family traditions and as delicious as it is, there is a process for it to taste the way it does. It needs to be marinated for a few days with a few special ingredients, turned around, cooked, put in the fridge, sliced, and then cooked again. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
See, before the brisket is marinated and cooked, it actually doesn’t look appetizing at all. It is simply a bit piece of raw meat. All the ingredients WORK TOGETHER to get that beautiful cooked brisket. We need to wait until the ingredients work together to achieve something they could not achieve individually.
Ok, now let’s talk dessert since we just talked dinner.
Dessert has always been a part of my family’s meals and that couldn’t be more true today. We love our dessert.
Take a strawberry shortcake for instance. It has fresh cream, strawberries, custard, whipped cream…I could go for some right now!
You see, eating the ingredients on their own would not taste good. Raw eggs, baking powder, flour, etc. Doesn’t sound very tasty, but when the ingredients WORK TOGETHER, something beautiful happens.
Let’s look at this verse again:
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Just like the brisket and baking ingredients aren’t very tasty on their own, when the ingredients work together the finished product is very delicious.
It is the same in our lives with everything that we go through. Some things are good and some are challenging. But God says that He causes everything to work for good for us.
In closing, let’s look at what our Lord and Saviour did for the whole world.
For someone who doesn’t know Christ and has not accepted Him, this is where it all begins. The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It all starts at the cross.
The cross was a terrible way to die. It was painful and even Jesus Himself said these words to God the Father:
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”
The Bible then goes on to say that an angel appeared to Jesus and He was strengthened. Jesus than in agony prayed more earnestly and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
As difficult as it was to go through what Jesus went through, God reminds us that He can take the worst situation (dying on a cross) and turn it into the best (the redemption of God’s people).
All things have a purpose in our lives because they all help us be transformed into Christlikeness.
This is how Paul ends in Romans chapter 8:
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God works all things for our good and nothing can separate us from God’s Love which is in Jesus Christ.
In whatever situation we face, let us remember that God works out everything for our good and nothing can separate us from His Love.
THE RISEN LIFE
Easter came and went. There is a good chance that you hunted a few eggs, gathered with friends or family, and worshiped with your church.
Easter Sunday is one of the most highly attended church gatherings of the year. For many, it amounts to nothing more than a dutiful obligation, a day to reflect on a historical event but then to live as though nothing significant took place.
But what does it all mean when the big day is over? Do we just put away the decorations like we do at Christmas and look forward to the next big celebration on the calendar? How does one get past the tendency to celebrate the date and learn how to live a life of resurrection celebration? How does one teach our children the importance that the resurrection has on our lives everyday?
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was all part of the plan of Redemption. What Adam gave over to Satan in the Garden of Eden by disobedience, was taken back by one perfect Man’s obedience. God reclaimed THE BLESSING that was stolen in the garden of Eden and got His family back. He gave us back the dominion and authority that rightfully belong to us as His children.
Jesus triumphed! Colossians 2:15 says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (NKJV).
He triumphed over the devil, triumphed over all principalities and powers, triumphed over the kingdom of darkness. He disarmed every power that could take a stand against us.
Most Christians stop at the cross and don’t take full advantage of all that Jesus provided. But you can! Start today with these four ways to live in resurrection power every day.
Jesus’ resurrection gives meaning to our lives, and it is a truth we can bet out lives on. With boldness, we can tell others about the difference that Jesus makes. He seals our souls for eternity and gives our lives purposes for today.
Paul wrote, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18).
The power of the resurrection is available no matter what we are trying to overcome. If God can bring back His son from death, He can fix whatever is messing up our lives right now.
Jesus Himself said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
Jesus triumphed over death and the powers of evils. That means we have rock-solid hope for the future. As Christians, we do experience sorrow when someone dies, but we don’t grieve like people who have no hope, because we do not have to fear death and the grave, we know the story isn’t over. Jesus is our tangible proof that the worst obstacles, even death itself, can be overcome. Because He lives, we truly can face tomorrow, and we can face each day with confidence.
The gospel is life-changing news. We don’t live in true freedom until we live risen.
Whatever is overwhelming you right now, place Jesus in the center of it. He invites you to bring your burdens to Him, and He has proven He can handle it.
WHAT'S YOUR WHY?
Have you ever asked a question before? What about a why question in particular?
At our house, we have a 5-year-old and lately, it seems to be very popular to ask a lot of questions that begin with why. When I say a lot, I mean a lot.
Why did you do that? Why did you say that? Why is that like that? Why, why why?
Kids in particular love to ask why questions, but as I really thought about this more, I realized that even as adults we can ask these questions a lot as well. And, in some seasons we may find ourselves asking these questions more often than others.
While we all have asked these type of questions, if we are really honest, we have even asked God these questions. This is nothing new and there are actually quite a few examples of this in the Bible. Let’s look at a few together:
1- Moses asked, “Why have You dealt ill with Your servant?” Numbers 11:11
2- David asked, “Oh Lord why do You stand far off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
3- Job asked, “Why have You made me your target?” Job 7:20
4- The disciples asked, “Why was this man born blind?” John 9:2
5- Habakkuk asked, “Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?” Habakkuk 1:3
6- And even our Lord Jesus on the cross asked God “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
The fact that Jesus also used this type of question tells me that these are important questions to ask, sometimes.
When Jesus was on the cross, the sin that was placed upon Him allowed Jesus to feel that God the Father had forsaken Him. This was the only time that Jesus experienced this and He asked the question.
In any relationship, when we are in situations where we find ourselves asking why, it builds the intimacy in the relationship. For example: if someone said something that hurt or upset you, you may ask the person why they did what they did. These questions are definitely not easy to ask, but you learn more about the other person and as you work through it, it helps build intimacy and trust in the relationship.
How many of us have ever been in a situation where we questioned God in this way?
This goes way back to Bible times. The verses that we just went through were some examples of people that asked God why questions.
Now, I would like us to focus on the book of Habakkuk for a few moments. This is a very small book in the Old Testament with 3 chapters. I encourage you to read through all of the chapters when you are able to. There is so much that we can learn in just these 3 chapters.
Habakkuk is a prophet who is ministering during the “death throes” of the nation of Judah. The nation was repeatedly called to repentance, and they refused to leave their sinful ways. We know very little about this prophet except that he asked God questions and he received answers.
The book is written in the form of a dialogue between Habakkuk and God, where Habakkuk is questioning why God is allowing evildoers among God’s people to go unpunished.
The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2. How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but You do not listen?
Or cry out to You, “Violence!”
but You do not save?
3. Why do You make me look at injustice?
Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4. Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
Habakkuk was troubled and confused. He had a problem that he couldn’t solve and it seemed like God wasn’t doing anything about it. So, then God responds to the prophet.
The Lord’s Answer
“Look at the nations and watch--
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on--
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”
God revealed to Habakkuk that the Babylonians, would become God's instrument of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk could not fathom or understand God’s plan and he sure did not expect to hear what God was saying. For a time, evil would win over righteousness and bad things would happen to good people.
This led the prophet to be a bit more troubled and confused. So, he questions God again.
Habakkuk’s Second Complaint
12 Lord, are You not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, You will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
You, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do You tolerate the treacherous?
Why are You silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
14 You have made people like the fish in the sea,
like the sea creatures that have no ruler.
15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks,
he catches them in his net,
he gathers them up in his dragnet;
and so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and burns incense to his dragnet,
for by his net he lives in luxury
and enjoys the choicest food.
17 Is he to keep on emptying his net,
destroying nations without mercy?
Why was God going to use the Babylonians in this way? Surely God must have a better way or plan the prophet must have thought?
How many times do we feel like we need to “help God” in our own lives? We have all done it at one point or another.
So the prophet waits for God’s response.
I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
I think that was a pretty bold thing that Habakkuk did. He was basically saying, Lord, I’m going to wait here for You and I expect You to answer me. Habakkuk just could not understand why this was happening and he really needed some more answers.
If you notice here, Habakkuk also mentions something about being corrected. This is significant because that tells me that Habakkuk was open to correction, he was open to shifting his attitude in this situation as he got more insight from God.
The Lord in His amazing mercy, answers the prophet again.
The Lord’s Answer
2 Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it lingers, wait for it;
It will certainly come
and will not delay.
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up;
his desires are not upright--
but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.
God also acknowledges that the people are being wicked, but also that they will destroy themselves by their own evil. Pride and cruelty always bring destruction but the just shall live by his faith.
God always knows what He’s doing, no question. He is God. He is sovereign. And His timing is always perfect, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. And God will always work out all things for those who love Him. God will use everything in our lives for His purposes for us and for His glory.
So now, we have the prophet who is listening to God again and this time, he is really hearing the Lord. Faith is rising up in him. He is realizing that God is in control and will indeed accomplish His purposes, His way, and in His timing.
I love how the prophet responds to God. It’s with a beautiful prayer expressed in song.
Habakkuk 3:1-2, 16
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
2 Lord, I have heard of Your fame;
I stand in awe of Your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Habakkuk realized that though he did not understand God's ways or timing, he could not doubt God's wisdom, love, or reliability. Then Habakkuk wrote his great affirmation of faith.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk affirmed that even if everything he relied on failed, if everything that gave stability to his life crumbled, still he'd trust the Lord. This is so beautiful and very encouraging for us today. The prophet was able to move from questioning to trusting and praising.
What’s your why?
I encourage you to start praising God today, even through your questioning. It will build your faith in Christ and take you to a new level of trust and intimacy with the Lord.
When it comes to us asking God these questions, I think it’s important that we keep a few things in mind and in check within ourselves. It’s good for us to ask these questions, and I encourage you to ask.
Let’s look at 3 things to remember when asking God why questions:
1- When we ask why, it should bring us closer to God and not further.
2- When we ask why, our attitude and motives should be in check. (respectful, humble).
(Habakkuk eventually had the right attitude. He was a man of faith and he went to God the second time expecting to be corrected, because he knew he needed it.)
3- When we ask why, we need to be ok with whatever answer we get or don't get.
When you are about to ask God a why question remember this:
W- walk towards God
H- hold onto faith
Y- yield control to God's plan. To yield is to surrender or to submit.
When we yield our desired outcomes to God’s sovereignty, He can shift our why questions into other types of questions.
So, instead of asking why we can ask:
What can I learn from this situation?
How can I praise God through this situation?
Who can I help?
God will always work all things together for our good, no matter the situation. He will also sometimes use our situations to help others. There is something about empathizing with someone who has been through a similar situation that we have.
What’s your why?
May God bless you, keep you, and guide you, as your surrender all of your “whys” to Him.
POWER OF THE TONGUE
You've probably heard the playground jingle “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, believe me, it’s not entirely true. We all can testify to the negative effects of someone’s words on our soul, and worse yet, we’ve seen the hurt in the eyes of others whom we’ve wronged with our own words. We are all guilty!
We are told in Scripture that “no man can tame the tongue” and that “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21; James 3:8).
According to the book of James, we can control horses with bits in their mouths and steer great ships with a small rudder, but taming the tongue is nearly impossible (James 3:3–6).
However, when we study the entire counsel of Scripture, we see God preparing His messengers (preachers, instructors, singers, and musicians) by first transforming their hearts in order to affect their tongues. We have the Bible and numerous other historical records of God using men and women tongues to provide guidance in times of confusion, to release power when human hearts are helpless, and to rekindle fire in the human spirit. There is a positive to the power of the tongue, as demonstrated by Peter on Pentecost, Paul on a ship in the middle of a terrible storm, and Elijah who lit a fire on an altar in Israel.
One may ask, “How can I tame my tongue”?
You see, as Jesus told us, what seems impossible for man is not impossible for God. He wants to help us in taming our tongue.
What words are you speaking lately? Are they helpful? Encouraging? Or are they bitter and spiteful? I encourage you to examine your heart, take your thoughts captive to Jesus and if there’s anything offensive inside of you, ask Him to reveal it and hand it over to Him.
Then begin to speak words of life. Ask God what to say before you say it. Ask Him for the words. He will give them to you. Never underestimate the power of the tongue. Allow God to use you for His good and for His glory.
What’s one way you can guard your tongue today? We will like to hear from you. Leave us a comment below.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
While Jesus was here on the earth, there were may things that He said and today, we will focus on when Jesus said, “You must be born again.” A man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus and had a conversation about being born again.
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:1-8
I am always amazed at how Jesus responded to questions; always with such wisdom! So let’s discuss this a bit further now. We know that as believers we must be born again, but what does that mean for us exactly?
I grew up in a Catholic home where going to church was only a couple of times a year and when you left church, you would come back home and do the same old thing. There was no transformation at all, no real relationship with God. I do not have anything against the Catholic or any denomination, I am just sharing my personal experience.
When I heard about Jesus in a new way, how He died for my sin, I wanted to learn more. I learned about accepting Jesus into my heart and being born again. Now, there was transformation. Some of it was instant because there were some things that required that, but a lot of the transformation is still happening today, almost 20 years later.
When we are born again, we change. Our behaviours, habits, and even our interests. And this change that I am talking about is not based on our own power or strength. We definitely do have our own part, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
We must be born again because that is how we enter into the kingdom of God. It requires daily and sometimes hourly, discipline. We need to be in prayer, in God’s Word, and keep in check with how we treat others. These are all practical things that are a reflection of us being born again.
Unfortunately, there are many Christians (no judgement here) who are not truly born again. We really need to hear these words of Jesus today, and ask ourselves if we ourselves are truly born again. It’s not about being perfect, because only Jesus is. It’s about genuinely seeking God and asking Him to show us if there are any ways in us that do not please Him, asking for forgiveness, and asking for the strength to do our part.
What about you? Are you born again? Maybe you would like to be born again?
I encourage you to seek God for yourself and have one or two other believers that you can be accountable to. This is very important and a great way to keep ourselves in check. God loves you, He has great plans for you, and He desires for that experience of truly being born again.
There are also too many people in our world who have never heard about what it means to be born again. Let us continue to pray for more workers to share this great news with them. Let’s also keep our missionaries in prayer. They have a great task ahead as they serve, and our prayers truly make a difference.
May God continue to guide us and equip us with all that we need in our daily walk with Him.
Growing up, I was good at reminding my sisters that I am older than them. This often meant I did things they considered grossly unfair. For example, I would tell them to do the chore they had heard my mum tell me to do. While they would be unhappy about this seniority move, I felt justified in my actions because I was only doing what my cousin had done to me as the eldest. We saw fairness differently.
The thing about fairness is that it can feed into our illusion of control. After all, if the world is fair then things should work out a certain way. For example, being a good person, serving God and praying; are behaviours we often think should lead to good outcomes. When they don’t, we feel a strong sense of injustice.
My pastor will always say, “Fairness died the day Jesus was crucified between two thieves. For it was most unfair for He who knew no sin to hang on a cross and became sin for us”
How often have we been angry at God because we felt he was unfair to us? The truth is, many times we use the tools God has given us to connect with Him as a way to try to control outcomes in our lives…. “But God I prayed”, “But God I served you”.
God can never be controlled but He is fair. The difference is, He controls the terms of fairness, not us. A faithful and righteous Judge!
The bible reminds us that God’s terms are the best even when it doesn’t seem that way. His plans for us are of good and never of evil.
Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of one of God’s plan:
“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord,
thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you a future and a hope”.
So don’t be discouraged, His ways are not ours. TRUST HIM.
Want to pray with us? We host two online prayer gatherings each week. Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Eastern time and on Thursday evening at 9:00 pm Eastern time. We are happy to have you join us and we will send you the Zoom link if you ask for it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 800-784-7077.
Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the previous posts in this series, you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we learned that part of Satan’s Strategy is to destroy the spiritual vitality of the Church. It is that spiritual vitality that is the distinct witness of a dynamic, spiritually transformed people of God.
In this final post of this Spiritual Warfare and Missions series we will look at the final victory and ask whether we will be found faithful.
To begin this final chapter, the authors relate the story of Esther. Please take a few minutes to read the story if you aren’t familiar with it.
In chapter 8, Esther had become the queen of Persia and, at risk of her own life, had intervened for her people. The conspiracy of Haman was revealed, and he was hung on the gallows prepared for Mordecai. However, the decree had already been issued, due to Haman’s devious influence that all Jews were to be destroyed. And the law of the Medes and Persians could not be changed.
So the king issued another decree. In this edict he warned the Jews of the pending threat and gave them permission to arm and defend themselves. It was a message of salvation for a people doomed to be destroyed. The Bible tells us that they sent couriers with the message translated into every language to the most remote regions of the empire. There was a sense of urgency. They chose the fastest horses from the royal stables as the couriers “rode out in haste, at the king’s urgent command” (Esther 8:14).
Several things could have gone wrong with this attempt to get this good news out. What if they had forgotten about one of the minority people groups in a faraway province in the remote regions of the empire? Or what if they had not been able to find someone in the capital city to translate the decree into the language of some of the people? What if the courier had stopped along the way, or been diverted, and the people to whom he had been sent never got the message? The people would have perished, not because a decree of salvation and deliverance had not been given but because they never got the message!
That is exactly what has happened in our world today. Jesus Christ came and died for the sins of the world so that whoever calls on the name of the Lord can be saved. But many of the peoples of the world have not heard that good news, and they continue to perish in their sins. Multitudes continue to die and enter an eternity in hell, not because salvation is not available but because they have never heard the news. Of the sixty-five hundred languages in the world, fewer than a thousand have the entire Bible in their own language.
We are the couriers sent to proclaim deliverance to all peoples, but we have stopped short. Instead of reaching the most regions, we have been diverted to caring for our own people and investing more in our own church programs than getting the gospel to all peoples.
But, God’s mission will be fulfilled. God is moving in providence and power to bring the nations into the kingdom. Mordecai has this sense of God’s providence when he challenged Esther to recognize that God had uniquely positioned her within the palace to be the one to intercede before the king. We often miss the implications of the rest of that often quoted verse. Mordecai goes on to say in Esther 4:14, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Mordecai remembered God’s covenant with Abraham, the patriarchs and the affirmation of His promise to the prophets of God who foresaw the fulfillment of that coming kingdom. He knew that God would be true to his covenant promise. He would make a way to deliver His people that the Messiah would come and bring redemption.
He said to Esther, “If you do not step up to be the one that God chooses to use, you are the loser. You and your household will perish along with others, but God’s purpose will be carried out through some other means and instrument.” God’s mission will be fulfilled. That day will come when those from every people, tongue, tribe, and nation will be gathered together around the throne of God singing praises to the Lamb.
The tragedy is the fact that many of God’s people have forfeited the privilege of being the one used by God. Many have been unwilling to take the risk, holding on to their own security and comfort instead of recognizing that we have been called into the kingdom for such a time as this.
We are called to be the faithful ones that have the privilege of extending the kingdom of God on the earth. “The Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). God is sovereign over the nations, and His kingdom will prevail. We need to recapture the vision that was so prominent among the Old Testament prophets.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (Isaiah 60:1-3).
The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, (Isaiah 62:2).
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem, (Isaiah 2:2-3).
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts, (Malachi:1:11).
It is going to happen. The question is, will we be found faithful to our calling? Will we go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded?
If you want to know how to do this better, let us know in the comments below and we can help you.
KEEPING THE FAITH
If you’ve ever been in any type of relationship, you know by now that all relationships require work. I am not just talking about a marriage, but rather any type of relationship. We all know people and it takes work and great effort to maintain these connections.
Our relationship with God is no exception, and it is actually the most important relationship that we can have with anyone. All of our other connections with others can actually sometimes reveal things about how we relate to God and our own relationship that we have with Him.
Today, we will talk about how important it is to maintain our relationship with God and how this can help us keep the faith.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
This is where we must begin. We need to develop a relationship with God where we pray often. This involves talking to God, and also listening to God. God can speak to us in different ways and we need to be sensitive to hear what He is saying. Prayer is a great way to build our relationship with God and grow in our faith.
Like other relationships that we have, if there is no communication the relationship will suffer and this can unfortunately have some significant impacts in our life and the lives of others. Maintaining relationships is key and asking God for wisdom where needed is also extremely beneficial.
Be in the Word
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
One of the greatest ways we can grow in our relationship with God is by being in the Word. Sounds simple, but this requires discipline and taking the time to actually read and meditate on God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing the Word, so we need to hear it, read it, know it, live it, and share it with others.
I remember when I first heard about Jesus. All I wanted to do was learn and I had such a desire to serve God in whatever way I could. I very much still desire that today, but I have also learned the importance of reading God’s Word for myself and making this a priority. This is so important for us, so that we understand what God is specifically saying to us as individuals.
Hope in the Lord
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
When times get challenging, we need to have hope. Our faith is sometimes tested and sometimes God is allowing us to go through certain things so that we can grow and be more mature in our faith.
When we have hope, we allow God to do the impossible in our lives. He is a miracle working God, and all things are possible with Him. Hoping in the Lord also allows us to keep going, to keep the faith. I think about people like Noah and Job, who had very obvious challenges, but they continued. No matter the circumstance and no matter what people said, they trusted in God. This is the kind of hope I desire. The kind that does not waver. What about you?
Fight the Good fight
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
When Paul wrote these words, he must have been so full of emotion. What a feeling to fight the good fight, to finish the race, and to keep the faith. This is something we should all be encouraged about and make a priority in our own lives. Paul also encouraged others to do the same. It’s also important that we are encouraging others daily. The reality is we all need encouragement at times, so we need to do the same for others.
In all of our relationships with others, we take the time to maintain these friendships and relationships. Today, we talked a little about how we can maintain our own relationship with God. There are many other ways, but by being in prayer, in the Word, hoping in the Lord, and fighting the good fight, we have some very practical ways that we can use to get closer to God.
Are you keeping the faith? Are you sharing this with others?
At OMS Canada, we are always looking for others to pray with us. Prayer is essential and we are always in need of more prayer warriors to pray for our OMS missionaries, projects, and ministry. Will you consider starting this new year with taking the time to faithfully pray together with us? We would love to see you on zoom!
May God continue to equip us for every good work and may we use all of the resources and tools that we have to keep the faith and spread the gospel to others. There are way too many who have not yet heard and our hearts are for those people. May God be glorified in all that we do for His glory.
Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the previous posts in this series, you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we learned that part of Satan’s Strategy is to erode the faith of God’s people. In the same way that the children of Israel believed the negative report of the 10 spies rather than the faith-filled report of Joshua and Caleb, the enemy has eroded the faith of God’s people in our day. Collectively, we have become fearful of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Tribalists and the unreligious, believing that the message of the Gospel is not powerful enough to save or not worth the risk to ourselves and others. May God forgive us for our lack of faith.
This week we will see Satan’s strategy to destroy the spiritual vitality or energy of the church.
If Satan cannot get us to neglect our mission to the nations due to lack of faith, he successfully debilitates our witness by eroding the distinct witness of a dynamic, spiritually transformed people of God. Even in Canada, churches seem to have little energy for engaging their culture in an attractive, positive witness that would draw people to Jesus. Unbelievers may even attend our worship services and see a shallow, meaningless ritual that does not speak to their life needs and even discourages them in their search for God. The lost see Christian neighbours loading the family into their SUV for the Sunday morning pilgrimage to church but observe their squabbles, conflicts, and indulgence in a self-serving lifestyle that hides any reality of a vigorous faith.
Unfortunately, many Christians compromise their walk with the Lord by adopting the carnal values of the world. They give in to the temptation for fleshly gratification that comes from a materialistic and hedonistic lifestyle. The Holy Spirit is grieved and God is deprived of His glory when people become in bondage to internet porn, allowing infidelity to destroy a sacred marriage covenant, or engage in fraudulent business practices. Sexual innuendoes and vulgar language become such a normal part of television entertainment and the workplace environment that we dismiss it as meaningless and even participate lest we be perceived as prudish.
What we are failing to see is how the enemy of our souls is devastating the spiritual vitality of a life that has been redeemed to reflect the glory of our Lord.
Satan knows that most Christians are repulsed by the blatant disregard for God’s Word and the unrighteous values expressed by society, or at least they should be. So he subtly leads us astray in other devious ways to destroy or nullify our witness. Most churches faithfully proclaim the Word of Truth and try to nurture members in the faith, but they are unwittingly distracted from recognizing its calling to a global mission and diverted from its task of exalting God among the nations.
Israel continually fell into sin along the way to fulfilling God’s mission. Their half hearted devotion to the task, while longing for the comforts of Egypt, is reflective of the attitude of many today. Their complaints about the sacrifice required to be the people of God discouraged even Moses. Even after they got possession of the promised land, their continual attraction to the high places of pagan altars and inclination to worship the Baals compromised any hope of being the people that would exalt God among the nations and proclaim His glory to the ends of the earth. They even engaged in carnal revelry and turned from God to worship the golden calf along the way.
Here’s how the apostle Paul reflected on this incident:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea… and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now, these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (1 Corinthians10:1,4-7)
What an indictment and powerful warning for us. The people of God were anointed for a special mission that came from none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. They were led under a covering of God’s Spirit, benefactors of the miracle-working power of Almighty God. But they were rejected and struck down because they were more interested in enjoying life, feasting, and playing, than pressing forward in obedience to fulfilling God’s mission.
Think about it; in God’s providence, what that was all about was an example and a warning to the New Testament church and God’s people today. You do not mess around with a sovereign God who has called you to a mission of glorifying Him among the nations. Our time-consuming church fellowships and expensive activity centers, built for our own enjoyment, reflect something of the values that brought judgement on Israel in the wilderness.
So Satan opposes the mission of God by opposing local churches. He has a vested interest in what is going on at your church. Satan would love to keep churches self-absorbed, blind, and inward-focused. If he can only stop us in the parking lot, then the lost in our communities will never see or hear the gospel. He would love to stop us before we get started. So he will attack the health of the local church and its members. He will attack relationships; he will draw people into sexual immorality and create a false sense of wellness, all to keep the mission of God stalled.
Healthy churches are populated by healthy believers. How can you tell when believers are healthy? You can tell they are healthy through their relationship with Jesus Christ. Healthy believers are passionate about what Jesus is passionate about. Healthy churches, in turn, are always involved in the mission of God, everywhere. They are doers of the Word, not simply hearers. They are obedient disciples of Jesus.
So, how are you doing? Are you comfortable with your little routine of going to church, hearing the Word preached and believing that’s all that’s required? Do you have the feeling that there is more to this Christian life? Or are you one of those obedient disciples who is impacting your community and your world with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you want to know more about how you can become that kind of follower and that kind of church, we have some practical steps you can take to move toward that kind of obedience. Get in touch to learn more.
THE ANSWER TO PRAYER
The Answer to Prayer
For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? (Deut. 4:7)
Most Christians have a moment when they pray in desperation. It feels like their whole future is falling apart. They send rushed text messages to friends sharing their pain and asking them to pray. They lapse into a tearful silence, with a sense that words had finally failed them. They needed to call out to God but wondered if he would hear them or if he would care. At that moment, what would they call him? How would their prayer start? Who hears them?
We refer to God by different names: God, Lord, Father, Jesus, Spirit, Savior, and countless others. Each sheds light on God’s character. Sometimes we call God by a certain name to emphasize his goodness or his mercy. Sometimes we call on a specific person of the Trinity, like when we pray to the Father. Other times, we may refer to him by his title, “Lord.”
On that tearful, desperate night, I hope you know whom to call on. This name isn’t new. Millions of Christians had called God by it over the ages. It was a name that was common to the Puritans, a name that may begin to reshape your idea of who God is and how he loves you.
That name is “Providence.”
Who Is Providence?
The early church father Irenaeus wrote, “The Maker of the universe . . . exercises a providence over all things, and arranges the affairs of our world.” Providence is the way God sovereignly rules all of creation. But it’s more specific. More than a thousand years later, John Calvin wrote, “He sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the last sparrow . . . nothing takes place by chance”. God cares. God nourishes. God, in His sovereignty, has in mind what is best for those who are his.
In college, I can remember countless debates and squabbles over God’s sovereignty. There were horror stories of overzealous young preachers who used the doctrine like a hammer. But it was the doctrine of God’s providence that turned God’s sovereignty from a hammer into a pillow on which to rest my weary head. I had been told countless times how God was sovereign over everything in the world and my life. The message of God’s providence, however, opened my eyes to the truth: God’s love governs God’s sovereignty. His sovereignty isn’t his cold, harsh rule with no regard or feeling for man. In the doctrine of providence, we see more clearly: God meets the needs of his people, according to his love for them.
When Providence is the one caring for you, you needn’t fear loss or pain or death. This is what undergirds Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 6:25–34. Be anxious for nothing, he says (Matt. 6:25). Jesus says we can look to God’s providence over creation to see his love for us in miniature. The birds don’t sow, but they are fed (Matt. 6:26). The lilies of the field don’t toil, and yet they are dressed with more magnificence than Solomon (Matt. 6:28–29). And we, Jesus says, are far more than they. God isn’t just our Creator; he’s our loving Father.
Jesus’s conclusion is the kicker. “The Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them all,” he says. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:32–33).
He knows you need them all.
God’s provision isn’t arbitrary. He doesn’t withhold blessings to put his children through a cosmic test of pain tolerance. Providence is our God, and he knows our needs. He adds them to us.
On that bitter, tearful night, I knew the God to whom I prayed is the God who knows what I need and who provides for me.
Prayer and Providence
If that’s true, it changes our prayer life from beguiling, bartering, or boasting to faithfully entrusting ourselves to the God who provides—the God who is Providence. When it comes down to it, God answers prayers in only two ways: provision or protection. If he gives us what we ask for, it’s because of his great love. But the converse is also true (and what we so often miss): If the Lord isn’t giving us what we’re asking for, then he’s protecting us from it. Because God provides his children with only good gifts, any time he withholds from us we can be sure it’s because that blessing doesn’t serve his ultimate purpose: to conform us into the image of Christ.
Sometimes God withholds things we ask for because the thing itself is bad. Other times he withholds it because of the rotten fruit it would bear in our lives, the unseen pain it would cause, or the lessons or formation it would steal. Sometimes God’s “no” is for a season, whereby he provides for us, in the waiting, that which we couldn’t get through immediate gratification. Often we’re called to be like the woman from Jesus’s parable seeking justice from an unjust judge—to wait on the Lord and be persistent in our asking. But even then, God isn’t the unjust judge. In those moments, he isn’t holding out until we grovel; rather, in his providential timing, he’s forming us and conforming us until we’re ready to receive his answer.
Whatever the answer, we can be sure of this: In every granted request and every “no,” the one who answers our prayers is Providence himself. He has shown us in the incarnation, cross, and resurrection of Christ the extent to which he’s willing to go for our benefit.
Charles Spurgeon once said of God, “[A Christian] trusts him where [he] cannot trace him.” When the dark night of the soul comes, when the tears flow over like a river after a rainstorm, and when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, we can rest assured that our prayers are heard and answered not just by the God who reigns, but by the God who provides, nourishes, and promises to make all things new.
THE GOOD NEWS OF CHRISTMAS
Have you ever received good news about something? I am sure that there are many times that come to mind. What about news that was not so good? We also tend to remember these very well, and both of these experiences can bring us closer to God if we surrender all to Jesus.
Christmas has always been my most favourite time of the year. Growing up, it was mostly about getting together with family, eating lots of good food, laughing, exchanging gifts, and having a good time. As each year passes, I still love Christmas but I have a different appreciation for it. My family does our best to make it all about Jesus and we celebrate with a cake and some other little traditions that we do.
Today, we are going to be looking at the good news of Christmas but first I would like to share a story with you. In 2007 on Christmas Eve, my family were together eating, laughing, exchanging gifts, and having a good time. It really was a great time that we all spent together and I will never forget it.
Later into the late evening, my father was not feeling too well and we called an ambulance. Everything happened so fast and much of this part was a blur. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital and we followed in our vehicles. In about an hour, we received the news that my father had passed away. He was 48 years old and he had a heart attack. This was very sudden news that was not so good to hear, especially during Christmas.
Whenever we receive good news or not so good news, we need to remember that the greatest news we have already heard is the good news of Jesus.
He came to give us the wonderful opportunity to accept Him in our lives and live forever in heaven. There is a wonderful song by Chris Tomlin called, “He Shall Reign Forevermore.” You can listen to it here. The chorus goes like this:
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
Unto us a Child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33
Jesus will reign forevermore. This is the good news of Christmas. No matter how Christmas has been in the past or how it seems like it will be this year, be encouraged that Jesus will always reign. We are so blessed because we have a God who is always there for us, no matter what news we receive.
Let’s remember to share this good news of Christmas with others. We can share it all year!
There are so many people out there who are losing hope and need to hear this good news.
At OMS Canada, we believe the power of the gospel in the hands of disciple-makers will transform all nations. We give every missionary and donor the opportunity to make a generational investment in the lives and communities of people around the world who have yet to hear the good news. Your investment will multiply disciple-makers, churches, leaders, and missionary movements.
Disciples making disciples. “Engaging the One to Reach the Many" with the hope of Christ.
Will you join us?
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May the good news of Jesus be a priority in your life today and everyday.
Have you ever planned for or prepared for something? It may have been for years or for a shorter period of time, but we all go through times of preparation in our lives. When we prepare for something, we are intentional. Lots of effort goes into it and in the end, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.
As we prepare for the Advent season, let us be encouraged to intentionally prepare for the wonderful celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus. It is truly a wonderful time of year.
Advent is a time of reflection, hope, anticipation, faith, joy, and peace. Today, we have many resources that can help us be more intentional as we prepare for Christmas. There are things like: advent calendars, daily Bible readings and devotionals, crafts, candles, wreaths, and more.
Today, we will look at 2 resources that can help us during this time of preparation. Here we go!
In our family we have a book that we really enjoy where we read a short devotional each day and share. We have gone through this book for the last few years, but each time seems to feel like we are reading it for the first time.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
God’s Word is always relevant, year after year. That is one of the things I most appreciate about the Bible. No matter the season we are in, God has something to say to us and it is relevant.
Similar to devotionals, these are also a wonderful way to count down to Christmas. They even have chocolate advent calendars where you get to eat a chocolate each day- yummy! It’s also important to remember that we need to appreciate each day and a calendar is a great way to do that. You can make it a memorable way to spend time with family and take a few minutes each day to share about what you are thankful for, that particular day.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23
Like that beautiful hymn says:
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
Let’s remember to be intentional day by day. God is faithful to not only provide all that we need, but to extend His mercy to us each day.
As we prepare for Advent and Christmas, let us also remember to think about eternity. Jesus came so that we could have the opportunity to be with Him in heaven forever. Let’s be encouraged to intentionally prepare for eternity each day.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
As we prepare for eternity, Jesus prepares a place for us. This is so beautiful. Be encouraged today.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas this season! May you continue to live for the Lord and serve Him each day with gladness. Please remember to keep all of our missionaries and their families in prayer this Christmas and for the upcoming year. Please also pray for more workers, so that those who have not yet heard, will hear and respond. There is hope in Jesus.
Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the first couple of posts you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we learned that part of Satan’s Strategy is to distort the call of God. He has convinced many of us in North America that it takes some sort of a mystical experience with God, like a burning bush, to call someone to serve as a missionary. Instead, we are all responsible to be on God’s team, to glorify God among the nations for the rest of our lives.
This week we will see Satan’s strategy to erode the faith of God’s people.
The nation of Israel is an example of how the people of God can so easily be led astray from the mission of God. His calling and purpose for His chosen people were clear. In His providence, He had brought them to Egypt where, for four hundred years, they were protected and prospered and grew to be a mighty nation. He led them out of Egypt, delivered them from bondage, and set before them a mission to possess the promised land and become a witness to all the peoples of the world.
As Moses reviews their history in Deuteronomy, he reminds them of God’s commissioning, “See, I have set the land before you. Enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).
When they finally reached the borders of the land of Canaan, twelve spies were sent in for reconnaissance. They came back affirming that it was a land flowing with milk and honey and even brought back fruit and produce as evidence of its prosperity. But they went on to report, “However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amelekites are living in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country, and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan” (Numbers 13:28-29).
They concluded the report with a dismal assessment, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are. . .The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size” (Numbers 13:31-32). In spite of the contrary opinion of Caleb and Joshua, in faithlessness, the people succumbed to fear and turned their back on the mission of God.
It takes faith to engage the nations.
Many churches today are like the children of Israel in that they clearly understand the Great Commission task, but they don’t have the faith to move out and give priority to personal involvement in fulfilling God’s mission. In fact, they cower in the security of their church building, enjoying the nurturing fellowship of believers, insulated from even impacting the cross-cultural secularism in their own community. Like Israel seeing the pagan tribes to be confronted in the land, we are made aware of the number of unreached people groups around the world. Media and our own travels may expose us to the massive cities of Istanbul, Cairo, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo, fortified by religious history and traditions that appear to make them impregnable to a Christian witness. We are overwhelmed, feeling we are like grasshoppers among giants. We figuratively throw up our hands in dismay, concluding that we can do nothing. We are too small; we don’t have the resources or know what to do. We will just try to be good witnesses where we live.
Such lack of faith to trust God and His promised empowerment (Acts 1:8) to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth is an obvious and devious tactic of Satan. It keeps the majority of God’s churches from unleashing the resources to storm his strongholds around the world and claim them for our Lord. The contrast was the minority report from Joshua and Caleb who believed God and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it” (Numbers 13:30).
We know that God was angry with the people for their faithlessness. The consequence was their meaningless wandering in the wilderness for forty years as He replaced a faithless generation. Many churches are wandering in the wilderness, trying to find their way, in futility searching for relevance and direction, because they have rejected the priority of their mission. God commended Caleb, saying, “But since My servant Caleb has a different spirit and has followed Me completely, I will bring him into the land” (Numbers 14:24).
All a church has to do is to pray for the peoples and nations of the world, and God has promised to claim them as His possession. “Ask of Me and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). God is sovereign over the nations and will deliver them to the lordship of Jesus Christ, for either judgement or salvation; should we not intercede and pray for them that God would open their culture to a channel of witness and their hearts to His saving grace?
Such prayer is born out of compassionate hearts that are burdened for a lost world, stirred in response to the Great Commandment of our Lord.
Satan is clever. He knows if we prayed for the Baluchi of Pakistan, the Pamir in Tajikistan, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq that enemy strongholds would crumble and these people would be penetrated with the gospel. Satan is a fallen angel, a messenger, who has access to our minds to distort our perceptions and values. So, if we are going to be a people of prayer, he influences us to concentrate our praying on our own interests, focusing on personal concerns - our needs, our family, our church, our community. How much time do we spend lifting up to the Father our pleas for the salvation of the Hazara in Afghanistan or the Bejas in Sudan? Not only does God work in response to our intercessory prayers; those prayers move us to be involved and do something about reaching a lost world.
It is not how big your church is or how many resources it has at its disposal but whether or not a congregation has the heart to follow God and His heart for the nations. Paul expressed concern for the believers in Corinth, “But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Where is evidence of faith and devotion to Christ when we excuse ourselves as being too small and fail to trust Christ to guide, empower, and use us in whatever one’s place may be in fulfilling God’s mission?
So let me challenge you to consider adopting an unreached people group. Go to www.joshuaproject.net and find one to adopt. Learn about your people group. Find out all you can about them. And pray. Pray that strongholds would be broken, that workers would be sent into that harvest field and that the gospel would do its transformative work.
Let us know if you do adopt a people group. We would love to pray with you. Drop us a comment below.
GOING AFTER THE ONE LOST SHEEP
What does a good shepherd do when a sheep wanders off? The greater the distance between the one missing sheep and the watchful eye and protective care of the shepherd, the more the danger. Understanding this, the good shepherd springs into action, taking risks to find the one lost sheep. In the parabolic picture that Jesus paints in Matthew 18:12-13, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and launches an urgent rescue mission to find the one at great risk. The use of the definite article by Jesus, the good shepherd, was an indication of his focused love, deep concern, and willingness to give all for the one.
As the Good Shepherd has rescued you, would you consider engaging in a similar mission to help rescue others?
Jesus’ mission was to seek and to save what was lost. He gave himself fully, even submitting to a horrific and unjust crucifixion, to bear our guilt, failure, and shame. Hours after the most powerful and hope-filled event in all of history, his resurrection, he showed his followers his hands and side declaring, “As the Father sent me, so send I you.”
As the Father sent Jesus to seek and to save what was lost, are you willing to make yourself available for him to send you to help carry out this mission, even if it costs you greatly?
As he wept over the death of Lazarus and in seeing Jerusalem filled with people who were like sheep without a shepherd, he knew his followers would weep many tears in carrying out this mission. He understood they would face mocking, rejection, insult, heartbreak, betrayal, persecution, injustice, torture, and even death just as he had faced all of these and more in carrying out that mission.
Knowing involvement in the Good Shepherd’s mission means tears and all kinds of hardship, will you remain fully engaged, not running away from difficulties but running toward them for the sake of rescuing lost sheep?
At One Mission Society, we’re passionately committed to a very strategic principle. When God uses us to help rescue the one who is redeemed by the power of the resurrected Christ, we seek to prepare that one to reach the many. As the one engages with Christ, forgiveness and restoration come. The result is a new creation in Christ; the old has passed, the new has come! In equipping the one to become a disciple maker, this remarkable principle is lived out. God uses that one to help rescue many, who in turn are prepared to rescue many more . . . and over time with God’s help, multiplication continues, spreading widely and growing deeply!
One God-glorifying, Christ-adoring, Spirit-empowered disciple-maker can be sent on mission by the resurrected Lord to carry out his rescue mission among many. This is why we engage the one to reach the many!