As the Covid-19 pandemic begins to impact our lives in deeper ways, seemingly in a daily basis, we are all faced with more uncertainty than ever before. There is far more uncertainty today about some of our lives basic needs than there was only a few short weeks ago. How long will this pandemic last? Do we know anyone who has contracted it? Will we or our loved ones contract it? Will a vaccine be developed in time? Will there be any food or other essential supply shortages? When will it be safe to gather again as a church family? Will I still have a job when this is all over? And a whole host of other what ifs.
These uncertainties can be very difficult to deal with, especially on top of all the other usual stresses we might be dealing with at this time. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of scriptures that offer hope in times of uncertainty, particularly Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Or Philippians 4: 6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And, of course, there is all of Psalm 91. But, there is another verse that deals with uncertainty that I’d like to focus on today.
In Luke 9, starting at verse 51, Jesus and his disciples are travelling through Samaria on their way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Samaria was a place where Jews were not always welcome. There was a lot of historical ill-will between Jews and Samaritans, and although Jesus was welcomed in some places because of His growing reputation, there were many more towns and villages where He was definitely not welcome.
In verses 57- 58 it says, “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Doesn’t that strike you as a rather curious response to someone who had just said they would follow you anywhere? No doubt the man pledged his willingness to follow Jesus in all sincerity. He had likely heard Him preach and seen Him perform amazing signs and wonders during His journey through Samaria. But, what the man probably didn’t know was that at moment Jesus was basically homeless. He had no permanent home, and no visible means of income. He was even turned away from a Samaritan town when he tried to arrange lodging for the night, which of course, didn’t sit well with the disciples, James and John, who wanted to bring down divine fire to wipe the town off the face of the map. But, Jesus hadn’t come to judge the world. He had come to save it, so He simply moved on without any definite place to stay for the night.
By replying to the man that, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”, Jesus was making an important point. He was asking if you could handle uncertainty. Can you handle not knowing how God is going to provide for your most urgent needs, and just trust Him to do so? It is a question that Jesus wanted his disciples, and us, to wrestle with. He knew that there are going to be times when we don’t know where our provision is going to come from. Circumstances will look precarious. Plans are going to fall through. People are going to disappoint us.
If these things happened to Jesus, we should not be surprised when they happen to us, too, and we are not to become angry or anxious when they do. Jesus doesn’t want us to be governed by fear at such times. He wants us to be governed by our faith in God, because any uncertainty surrounding our lives, especially now, is only an apparent uncertainty. We can be sure that our future, our provision and our ultimate triumph are all certain to God. He has all the knowledge, power, and desire to turn every circumstance for the good of those who love Him and are called by Him for His purposes (Romans 8:28).
These uncertain seasons can be some of the most powerful God-moments we will ever experience. They often can be times when God demonstrates His mercy and goodness towards us in amazing and unexpected ways. God can use these times to work in the lives of those who don’t know Him, and bring nonbelievers to Himself. If the church works together under His divine guidance, this can be a time of real spiritual growth for the Kingdom, for our parish and for us as individual Children of God.
I’d like to close by remembering God’s promises to us from Isaiah 41:10. “I am with you. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”
Father God, as we traverse this new reality of Covid-19 and all its implications for our lives, we pray that we might be guided by your Holy Spirit to hold on to the certainty that you are in control, that you love your children and will work for the good of those that love you. Help us to not fear what may come but be steadfast in our faith that you will hold us up by your mighty right hand. In the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
James 1: 21-25
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1: 25
How often do we listen without hearing? ‘In one ear and out the other,’ the saying goes. There were so many times as a Police Officer that I gave public warnings for people’s safety which were seemingly just ignored. Sadly we are being made aware of occasions where people are listening to Government and Health warnings today but not heeding them. As Christians, as God’s children, we are well versed at listening to God’s Word on a Sunday morning or in our daily bible readings and prayers; BUT do we really hear what is said? Do we understand God’s truth so that it changes our ‘being and doing,’ or do we walk away and carry on with unaltered lives?
Many years ago my brother, Andy, and I were putting together a playhouse in my backyard for my daughter. It came with instructions. Yes, you can imagine what I am now going to say. Andy and I didn’t bother with the instructions; we thought it simple enough that we’d know what to do. It ended up with an unplanned extension (!) and the need to take it to pieces, go to the instructions and build as directed. Today we are being called to go to God’s Word, His bible, and not just listen but to do as well. So often we know God’s truth because we have heard it but we have remained trusting our own strength or other false foundations; we hear and walk away without doing. We all, right now, need not to just hear but to do. We miss out on such peace and have such fear because we hear God’s promises but then walk away without trusting them and putting them into practice. We keep hold of our fears and worries instead of giving them to God (1 Peter 5: 7). Hearing and doing is a learning process that takes time but is so worthwhile.
James, in our reading today, tells us how crazy it is to hear God’s truth and then not to act on it (vs. 22-24). He reassures us that if we do obey His Word we will have freedom and be blessed in all we do (vs. 25). Imagine how much our lives would be transformed if we were doers as well as hearers; how many other people would be helped and blessed. By God’s grace and our perseverance let’s hear AND do!
To Ponder: What words of God have you heard that encourage you and mean something to you? What do you need to ‘do’ with these Words?
Prayer: O Lord may you make us worthy of your calling. Help us not just to hear your Word but by your grace enable us to ‘do it!’ By your power please bring to fruition our every desire for goodness and our every deed prompted by faith so that the Lord Jesus may be glorified because of your grace that is at work in us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. From 2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12
2 Peter 1: 3 - 11
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
2 Peter 1: 3
When faced with a big project, a challenging relationship, a new job or some outward bound challenge we would all probably pause, consider and plan before stepping out. As we are faced with this global crisis, in our own way, we are all trying to figure out what to. In this age of communication we have multiple sources of guidance from Federal and Provincial Governments, Health Authorities and media. We find advice on how to cope with self-isolation, mental health, financial support and physical fitness. There is a lot to assess in order to decide how best to respond. The purpose of this Blog is to encourage us at this time and to help equip us spiritually to enable us to respond practically. Today I want to encourage us to the source of our strength; our Almighty and loving God.
God tells us, through the Apostle Peter, that His divine power is within us through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls our hearts to be God’s children, He lives within us when we put our faith in God through Jesus, and He gives us His knowledge to guide us in life. This is our source of strength, wisdom and power. He gives us His promises and Word so we can be like Jesus (vs. 4) and then encourages us to build on our faith with spiritual building blocks: knowledge; self-control; perseverance; godliness; kindness; and love (vs. 6-7). These are real attributes that will help us at such a trying time, give us peace and indeed bless others in our communities. In this way, we in turn, can be a conduit of God’s strength and love for others. We become productive and effective in and through the Lord Jesus (vs. 8).
In these uncertain times let us find the source of our strength in God, through Jesus by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has walked our path and walks with us now.
N.B. in our online Sunday service on the 29th March we will focus on the Power of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 3: 14-21 with Rev. Kim Salo.
To Ponder: Which of the above spiritual building blocks will help you at this particular time? Pray and discern how to put them into practical use then step out in God’s strength
Pray: Almighty God, strengthen us in power through your Holy Spirit in our inner being so that Jesus my dwell in our hearts through faith. Teach us the depth of your love. Encourage us and show us that you are able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine because of your power that is at work within us. Amen
From Ephesians 3: 14-21
Hello Brothers and Sisters, Chris here;
Firstly, let me just say that I miss everyone very much and that you are all in my prayers. It has been a blessing to talk with many of you on the phone and I hope to hear all of your voices soon.
Many aspects of life have changed so much since the last time we all met together. Every day seems to be a little different and we try to adjust accordingly. Our inability to meet as a group is hard to understand but it is important to stay in contact and be there for each other in any way we can. Over the last two weeks God has reminded me a couple of things.
The first reminder is that no matter where we are and no matter the circumstances, our prayer can make a difference. I am reminded of the story of Peter in prison awaiting trial in the Book of Acts (Chapter 12). The church was being persecuted and one of the Apostles (James) was recently killed. Peter was in prison and everything seemed absolutely hopeless. At this time, many of the believers were joined for prayer at Mary’s house (Mother of John Mark). We read what happened in Acts 12: 5-10.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Let us never forget the power of prayer and the difference prayer can make for situations happening around us and for ourselves as well.
The second reminder is just how incredible God’s love for us is. Through my conversations with many this past week it has been encouraging to hear the good our Lord Jesus is doing through this time. This is happening as we spend more time in prayer, get deeper into his Word and understand more clearly our need for each other. It is clear through this time how much God loves us and wants to have deeper relationships with all of us.
God’s love for us knows no bounds and He want to lavish us with His love in this time. There are no ends to His love and it is available to all of us. Dare I say, God’s love for us is reckless?
Below is the video for the song “Reckless Love”. When we visit the Manitoba Youth Center, this is the song that all the youth ask Jeff Lukin to play every visit. Please listen and enjoy.
Love you all.
Colossians 1: 3-14
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1: 13-14
What is the frame through which you view the landscape picture of your life; how do you judge the quality of your circumstances? We all have a lens through which we view and interpret matters. As we view the portrait of our world today how should we frame our understanding of the situation? Alphonse Karr, the French novelist and critic, wrote, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”* Today, in the life pictures of awfulness and blessings, do we see mainly ‘thorns or roses?’ How we answer that will be influenced by the frame through which we view life.
The letter to the Colossians tells us of the loving God who rescues us from darkness and death bringing us into His Kingdom of light and life when we have faith in Him through Jesus His Son. The Bible teaches that God is working everything out in line with His will through His supremacy over everything (Ephesians 1: 11; Colossians 1: 16-17). This is THE big picture. When we understand life in this context we can see His hand in all matters, even today’s. We see ‘roses amongst the thorns,’ such as: the love demonstrated towards one another; the opportunity to re-evaluate our lives; the reduction in pollution; and a bigger purpose in all things. Knowing and trusting God also helps us understand why things happen and He guides us in our response.
This response comes from our hope in God which brings forth faith and love (vs.5); also good fruit (vs.6) such as peace, joy, kindness and patience. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand our situations (vs. 9), strengthens us with endurance and helps us in good works (vs. 10-11).
God has the ‘big picture’ and He is the ultimate artist who can transform the worst of paintings into an exquisite masterpiece; even today’s landscape!
To Ponder: How do you view life today; what is your lens? If you look at your circumstances through the love and truth of God what do you now see?
Below you will see a picture drawn by a young member of our Church; a focus of his attention during this time!
Prayer: Lord, plant your hope deep in our hearts so that we may have faith in you and love for one another. May your Spirit grant us knowledge and understanding, endurance and patience and love and good works. May we rejoice in our relationship with you and trust your power and authority. Amen. From Colossians 1
* A Tour Round my Garden 1856
St. Aidan's Church by Conway
Psalm 90: 10-17
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90: 12
Today, dependent on who we are and our roles in life, we may find ourselves with time on our hands or indeed be more pressed for time than ever. Our world and foundations are being shaken and we will be asking ourselves, “What are we supposed to do?” If I was still a Police Officer I know that we would be dealing with the here and now but also planning for the future and the different difficulties that will arise in society with the impact of COVID 19. As individuals we will, I am certain, have worries about these times and will be trying to work out how to respond, how to help.
Our Psalm today reminds us that our lives are a real mixed bag; the length of them, their joys and troubles. Problems in life are not unusual they happen; but at times like now they can be very extreme. If we worry and fear in an oppressive way we have two problems; the matter itself and our anxieties. If we have the right foundation and lifeline (as we have recently thought about) we can turn and face the issue and respond well; difficulties can, in God’s grace, turn into blessings.
Our Psalm teaches us that the matter we should really fear is separation from God. We are reminded of God’s unfailing love and His Sovereignty, rule, over everything. We are encouraged to call on Him, trust Him and ask for His wisdom on how to use our time aright. God is bringing and will bring good out of this situation. On Wednesday we will consider how He is doing this and how we can respond. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” More importantly Jesus has words of wisdom and encouragement over what to fear, how to trust and how to use our time (Matthew 6: 25-34 & 10: 26-31). So for now let us call on Him, trust Him and listen for His wise council and direction.
To Ponder: How is God calling me to act now and plan for the future; what good do I see and foresee in and from this time? (Apparently there are 365 promises from God against fear in His Word…one for each day !)
Prayer: Lord we do not know how long this will last so please bless us with your compassion. Give us your wisdom to use this time aright. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love so that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Help us and give us joy in the bad times as well as the good. May we see you in action, may you give us success in all we do and may your blessings be with us. Amen Based on Psalm 90: 13-17
Hebrews 6: 16-20
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” Hebrews. 6: 19-20a
Following on from the themes in yesterday’s blog I would like to ask ourselves, “How are we to build good foundations in this situation; how are we to have obedient faith?” Our passage today simply teaches us that we can believe in God because of who He is, His nature is unchangeable (vs. 17), and we can trust in His Word because He cannot lie (vs.18). How do we put this into practice when facing such a storm in our lives?
If you visit Fort Whyte Alive on a stormy day when the wind is blowing a gale and there are white crested waves on the boisterous lakes you may notice something; you may witness the waterfowl. If on the lakes, and to deal with the storm, they will simply face into the wind and paddle with sufficient strength to stay still. When we are faced with a life storm often the best response is to face it, not run and hide nor try and overcome it in our own strength, but to face it and be still. We can be still in this storm by trusting God’s unchangeable nature of love towards us and His multitude of promises in His Word, putting them into practice through faith.
To stay still in a storm, we need an anchor; we need a lifeline that we can trust. In the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, Rome, there are some of the earliest Christian images. Some of these images are of anchors, quite possibly connected with our verse above (vs. 19). In some of these images of anchors the shape of a cross can be seen; this Cross is the symbol of our hope in God. Our hope of life through faith in Jesus Christ by God’s grace is our lifeline. This lifeline can give us peace and strength because we know that even in the storms of our lives it is anchored in God’s sanctuary.
To Ponder: What characteristics of God and what promises from His Word give you confidence in this storm? How will these help you in prayer?
Prayer: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first suffered pain, and entered not into glory before He was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace: through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain’” vs. 1
We build our lives upon foundations. Foundations of belief, family, relationships, success, work, to name but a few; the list is long. Often our aim in building these foundations is for a good life: health; happiness; and freedom from pain and suffering. A subtle underlying truth is that we really want to be able to control these matters. The current extraordinary and exceptional circumstances are blowing up our foundations and ripping up our blueprints. Our sense of control is being shattered and we will understandably be fearful and knocked out of kilter to say the least. So where is God in this, what are we supposed to do; what will He do?
Our Psalm today teaches that if we build without His blueprint and do not let Him build the house we build in vain; we build a house of cards that can easily fall. If He is our architect, our creator, the labour is not in vain and He blesses us. This short Psalm goes on to say that in a relationship with Him He gives us rest (vs. 2) and blesses us with children; in other words, gives life (vs. 3-6). We have a role to play under His Lordship to build foundations that will last; for eternity.
In this disturbing time, we can try to solve the situation on our own, building on false foundations that will ultimately fail. Alternatively, we can follow the Lord’s blueprint and discover His amazing love, provision and blessing even in such a challenging situation. Alec Motyer argues that the lesson of Psalm 127 is obedience with faith. Obedience on its own will lead to us thinking we can or can’t manage. Obedience with faith makes us realise that “we can’t, He can – so I will!” God is calling us to trust Him and to love Him, our neighbour and ourselves with all our hearts.
To Ponder: What are your foundations and what foundations are revealed by the circumstances we are facing? How can I trust and obey God?
Prayer: Lord be a refuge for the oppressed and a stronghold in times of trouble. Help us to know your name and trust in you for you have never forsaken those who seek you. Thank you that you will never forget the needy nor will the hope of the afflicted ever perish. Enable us to trust and obey you, be the Rock of our foundations. Amen
(based on Psalm 9: 9, 10, 18).
From tomorrow I will start a Daily Reflection running from Monday to Friday. In this time of challenge that we are facing I want to encourage us to keep connected to one another and most importantly to the Lord. In a way, we could entitle these reflections, ‘Vulnerable Reflections.’ I have, bestowed on me by the Anglican Church, a title of ‘Venerable’ due to my Archdeacon role. I recognise though, and acknowledge, my complete and utter dependence on God; my vulnerability. Our current circumstances are showing us all our vulnerability so I would encourage you to take part in these reflections and not just to lean on God but unashamedly stand and rely on Him totally!
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27: 1
Check back here soon for daily encouragements from Pastor Dave.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.