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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Celebrate the Baby

Celebrate the Baby
“Christ the Saviour is born! The Saviour has been born this day in the city of David. Bethlehem!”
 Luke 2:11
December 20, 2017
                How are you celebrating Jesus’ birthday? Will it
be different from how you celebrate your own birthday? Will there be cake, and ice cream, candles and presents? Will there be balloons or funny party hats and games? Will there be close friends and family around? Wait—this sounds like a regular birthday party doesn’t it? But what is so different is that we celebrate Jesus’ birth –as an infant yet when we celebrate our own it is not when we were first born, but who we are now. Why is Jesus’ birthday celebration different than our own birthdays?
                Because Jesus was born to save his people—his purpose was to die yet when he was born it was not just an ordinary day. Had there been Twitter back then, the 140 characters might have said-
Important baby born in stable, star appeared, angels too, shepherds visited and left glorifying God. Not sure of parents who stayed in a stable but all is well. Bethlehem not such a sleepy town any more. Who is this baby given such a heavenly welcome? Anyone know?
                But we do know because of what happened in years which followed. This baby Jesus grew up to be the Saviour of the world. But when he was an infant those who saw him had no idea what he eventually would accomplish as an adult. But they celebrated his birth and we are forever grateful because Jesus’ birth was the most remarkable event in human history- changing the world as it was known and still changing us one person at a time.
                Jesus was this tiny baby who had created those who worshiped him. This baby grew up and lived a perfect life and then taught his followers how we should live. And then he fulfilled his purpose by willingly dying for our sins.
                How do we make Christmas complete? We celebrate the baby and trust the Saviour. Celebrate Jesus’ birth with special guests, food, decorations, traditions and laughter. Celebrate with others or take time alone and reflect on Christmases of the past. Pray enjoy and know that Jesus of the manger is the resurrected Lord and Saviour. Rejoice and know he is with us- Emmanuel forevermore.
PRAYER
God of grace we praise you for Jesus’ birthday celebrations around the world filled with many traditions, joys and wonders. Help us to remember that it is Jesus’ coming into this world as a human infant that we are celebrating. He became like us to save us and to show us how to live and love. Help us to hear and know this message with new meaning and with hope. Bless us O God as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Amen.
Blessings to all for Christmas and as we look to 2018!

Watch for the next Reflection on Jan 10,2018!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Joshua Jesus

Joshua Jesus
She will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.”
 Matthew 1:21

December 13, 2017
                What calls parents to name their children as they do?
Is there something about a character in a story, a precious stone or jewel, a time of year when something amazing occurred or is it because of family and tradition?  Some names given to children in recent times have included the name of a fruit – “Apple”, precious stones “Emerald” or even Old Testament prophets- “Isaiah” or “Jacob” and also “Elijah”. But tradition also prevails in the names of George or Charlotte. But what about your name? After whom or what did you receive your name? Why do you think your parents named you this?
                Before Mary had her firstborn son an angel of the Lord told Joseph that Mary, his betrothed wife, would have a son and he was to name him Jesus. Jesus purpose in coming to earth was in his name as he was to save his people from their sins. The reason for his coming to earth was to enable people to be reconciled with God and offer to them the gift of forgiveness. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua (Hebrew) which means the Lord saves. In that day and in that region many children would have been named Jesus but only this baby born to Mary and Joseph came to die so that all who receive Him might live eternally through the gift of forgiveness. This Joshua/ Jesus was born to die so that we might live eternally. His name and mission are the same- He came to save us.
                What about you? What is your mission as you live on this earth? Maybe before we can answer this we might answer the question about whether Jesus’ birth is significant for you because of why he came. Jesus was born to save his people and enable reconciliation with God to occur. Have you prayed to Jesus for this to occur? Do you know the baby born to Mary and Joseph and laid in the stable feed trough? This is the Son of God born for you? His purpose is his name. What is your purpose in life other than to follow him? Are you willing to know Jesus by name so that his life’s purpose may be fulfilled in you?
PRAYER

Wonderful and loving God we thank you for Jesus born of Mary and raised in love with Joseph. We thank you that through Him we might be reconciled with you and receive the gift and promise of eternal life. Help us to understand what having hope in Jesus means not only for this Advent/ Christmas time, but always. Hear our prayers O God. We ask in the name of Jesus, our Saviour. Amen.  

Friday, 8 December 2017

A Thrill of Hope!

A Thrill of Hope!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as
you trust in him.  Romans 15:13
                One of the most loved Christmas hymns of praise which tell of Jesus’ birth is “O Holy Night.” This song reminds us that part of the purpose behind Jesus’ birth was to offer the hope that the world needs. This hope is still yearned for and desired by many people around the world.
                “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
                For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
               
                With Jesus’ birth there is hope for our weary hurting world and it may be found in the baby who comes and rests in a manger. This same baby also died and rested in a tomb only to rise again and give to us the gift of new life. But are we willing to look to this baby with hope?
                When Jesus was born the world of the holy land was not hope filled. It was under Roman rule and every lone lived under the established religion of the time. There was a cynicism because the people had hoped for someone to change the ruling people but this did not happen. Yet Jesus came as an infant and was born in Bethlehem, a small sleepy town where nothing exciting seemed to occur. It was not the centre of the established nation, nor was it a spectacular village. It was a nice community where Joseph’s family had lived in years past. In order to fulfil Roman law, Joseph took his betrothed Mary to register for the census back to the community of his family. But the town was busy with the details of this registration process and the innkeepers were kept busy. When it was time for sleep, Joseph pleaded with an innkeeper for a safe warm place for his wife. And sure enough, she gave birth that night. Nothing too odd about having a baby in a barn because of a shortage of beds. Yet the ordinary resident of the community would not know what had happened. Unless they had heard the angels and saw shepherds running to the stable. Yet in that manger bed was hope personified in an infant. Hope for a bright future, for the forgiveness of sins and for God to be present always.
                Do you have this hope in you? Jesus came to give you something better than the disappointments of life. When you receive him as Saviour you can have a hope that is no longer iffy, but truly confident for what your future may bring. Where is your hope as we draw closer to celebrating Jesus’ birth?
                PRAYER from Romans 15:13
I pray that God the source of hope will fill you/ me completely with joy and peace because you/I trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May the God of hope go with you every day! Amen.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Peaceable Kingdom!

The Peaceable Kingdom!
Isaiah 11:6

“And the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…”  
                One can only imagine a world, a community at peace
for peace was lost at Eden. Yet Edward Hicks an American artist painted over 60 versions of his “Peaceable Kingdom” depicting animals not normally seen together lying in contentment and at peace. This idea of a world at peace comes from the prophet Isaiah 11 who states that “the wolf and lamb shall dwell together in peace when the kingdom of God comes in fulfillment.
                It is difficult to imagine this because God’s Kingdom as we know it is not peaceful- there are enemies and death, war and destruction at various places around the world. But the prophet says that the kingdom will come and everyone will be at peace. This kingdom will come when Jesus the Prince of Peace comes and calls us into his presence and asks us to live loving others. Changes and transitions will be experienced and the kingdom of God as God intended it without sin, will come into existence.
                But how are we to prepare for this or even understand this? As we begin this new church year and Advent our focus is on God’s peaceable kingdom. Hicks’ painting helps us to visualize animals sitting contentedly and at peace but I wonder can we? Can we truly understand this peace and what it means as we enter Advent?  God’s peace may be experienced if we truly believe that the One who comes and was placed in a manger is the one who also enables us to have peace within forevermore. If we believe and have faith we can do many things but are we willing to risk our lives and seek the peace found in Christ Jesus alone?
                Advent is a time of waiting, preparing and looking ahead to Christ’s birth. It is a time to look for the gifts of Christ in others just as others are searching for these same things in us. Where is the love, hope, joy and peace to be seen in you? What do you seek as you look to Jesus and search for these gifts in others? God’s peaceable kingdom is possible if we believe and have faith that Jesus comes to change the world. Do you believe this?
                PRAYER

God of grace and love, we thank you that Isaiah wrote about the peaceable kingdom where all of life lives life to its fullest and there is contentedness wherever we walk. Help us to understand that this kind of peace is possible through faith and truly knowing the Baby born in a stable as the Resurrected Christ. God of love open our hearts to receive your peace. Amen.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Eternal Life- What a Gift!

Eternal Life- What a Gift!
Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal
life in Christ Jesus our Lord.     
                The Bible Study group at our church has been studying sin and evil and God’s relationship to people. What we have realized is God did not want sin to enter the world, but by choices made by the fallen angel and by human beings, sin is here. But just like faith and love, to sin is a choice.  And to seek forgiveness for all wrongdoings, is also a choice that God’s people can and do make.
                No matter how righteous and good living a person is, there is always the possibility of choosing to go against God’s teachings and to sin. People may not choose to commit murder or burglary on a regular basis but lying, cheating, acts of fraud are also sinning against God’s and the world’s view of acceptable behaviour. As human beings we are subject to sin yet we can choose otherwise. We can choose God and ask forgiveness for all our wrongdoing. But are we willing to do this?
                The story of Job appears as a test of faith for a righteous man of God. Job endures extreme losses, illnesses, and even the silence of his friends who eventually tell him to ‘curse God’. But Job’s faith is strong and keeps asking God what he did wrong. That is why he has endured so much when he lived a good and faithful life. It isn’t until Job realizes that he is not God and does not understand everything. He states “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job’s relationship with God is now stronger and in humility, Job repents. Even the most righteous person sins.
                But all is not lost because gifted us His Son Jesus. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have been given hope. And where this hope lies is in Christ Jesus himself. We all sin but we each need to realize that forgiveness is possible through God’s love and beyond forgiveness, we have been promised eternal life. Are we willing to admit to sinning even a little bit?  Let us remember that if we confess our sins God hears and forgives. We all sin and we all may be forgiven but it is up to each of us to repent, to tell God our sins.
PRAYER

Holy One, hear us as we pray to you and offer to you our ‘sorry’ for the sins which we have committed. Forgive us we pray. And enable us to come to you in faith and with hope knowing that you give to us the eternal life through faith. Hear our sins and forgive us we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Standing Up in Faith

Standing Up in Faith
Joshua 24:15     
 
                Sometimes it is difficult to serve God and to live as
Christians. In our Western culture we are not as familiar with these difficulties because we have rights and freedoms to have faith and worship God.  However we fail to realize that persecution is real in many nations. Christianity has grown in many countries even under oppression and in many cases violence. Yet here in Canada our secular society seems to be growing stronger and so we must ask why? Where is our faith and whom do many Canadians serve?
                In Canada this week, the Members of Parliament were warned by many church leaders to keep their hands off the law prohibiting the disruption of a religious service. Bill C-51 is the work of the Commons justice committee whose task is to clean up the Criminal Code by removing sections that are outdated or redundant. Yet, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the B’nai Brith Canada groups are urging this group to keep the section which makes it illegal to “obstruct a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or to wilfully disrupt an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose.” It has been decided that this section will remain but with updated language so that it will clearly capture all forms of religious and spiritual services.  (Windsor Star, Nov 10,2017 p.NP3)      But what if these groups did not raise concerns? Would it make a difference for our churches and laws? Would it make a difference to you?
                Joshua asked the people who entered the Promised Land whom they would serve. He stated that he and his household would serve the Lord God. Joshua told the people that they had to choose God or the gods of the people of the land in which they now lived. He told them to make a decision and stick with it. They chose to serve God who had been with them for generations as they had left slavery in Egypt to a time of coming into their own land and life.
                Whom do you serve? Are you living life with the need to acquire possessions and money or real estate and stuff? Or are you living life knowing that God’s grace is a blessing and a gift and that God will take care of you for all of eternity if you believe? Do you know God? Joshua’s question is so relevant today when we are unsure of whom to follow, believe and trust. Whom do you serve?
PRAYER

God of love we serve you in faith and with hope so that we might know you and trust you to care for us each day of our lives. Help us to grow in understanding of who you are and who you want us to be and become. Bless us we pray as we continue to live and serve you. Amen.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Remembering with Hope

Remembering with Hope    
         
                On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh
hour silence reigns across the country near memorials and cenotaphs as those gathered remember, honour and pay tribute to those men and women who fought and died for the sake of peace in the world. As we put on a poppy this year and hear the trumpeter play the “Last Post” what are you going to remember? There are many people, ideas and images to consider on Remembrance Day. White crosses, poppies blooming bright red in open fields, guns at rest, the flag waving in the wind, and a child asking, what does this mean?
                What does Remembrance Day mean? It is a day to respect the soldiers who fought in battles away from home so many years ago and that they returned home safely. It is a day to honour those men and women who raised up guns or were on battleships, or who flew over enemy lines so that we would not know anyone as enemies. It is a time to remember the willingness and self sacrifice that many soldiers had when war broke out only to return forever changed. And it is a time to say, never again.
                But this is difficult to understand because there has always been war, conflict, death and destruction due to power struggles over land, food and the economy. So what can we do? Pray for peace. Give thanks to those who served years ago and who continue to serve today. Wear a poppy with pride and support the Royal Canadian Legion whose primary purpose is to ensure veterans are cared for and that their needs are met.  And give thanks for those who gave of themselves in war so that we would not know what war is.
                Let us remember this and consider these words by an anonymous poet.
It is the Veteran, not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Veteran, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Veteran, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Veteran, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to assemble
It is the Veteran not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran not the politician who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Veteran who salutes the flag. It is the Veteran who serves under the flag.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
                 
PRAYER

Keep veterans in our memory, in honour and respect O God. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me! We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

ALL SAINTS’ DAY

ALL SAINTS’ DAY   
           
REFLECTION:  Wednesday, November 1, 2017

                All Saints day is a day when we commemorate all
Christian people of every time and place. The saints in the New Testament usage refers to Christians collectively and it is with this biblical understanding that celebrating this day has spread among Protestants in recent years. It Is often included in many churches as it does celebrate and honour one person but all those who have and did serve faithfully. This ‘communion of saints’ is the solidarity of the living and the dead in Jesus Chirst and when we consider who is included in this we need to remember those people who have walked with God throughout the ages and in any particular church. What are the particular gifts and resources as well as the limitations did some people within any church’s history help to ensure that the church would go on.
                Many people do not understand what October 31 Halloween traditions mean but what is of course most important to children is the receiving of candy if they wear a costume. All Hallows Evening was the time of preparation before All Saints’ Day was celebrated and it was a day to remember those who had died and wearing a costume was to ward off evil spirits. Many people do not believe this but just hand out candy and enjoy the evening. But what does honouring the dead mean?
                When we honour those who went before us we need to remember that people served God in many ways- similar to those today and when they served their intention was honourable and faith filled. This is the same for us. Our teachings and understanding of the world is easily attainable but for those who lived before us the world was smaller and knowledge was limited. Today as we serve the church let us be mindful of who we are and more aware of the challenges and hopes that our forebears endured. Let us be aware of the saints of the past and those who sit amongst us serving faithfully and with love.
                QUESTIONS:
                Who would you name as saints in your church family/ life/family? Why?
                How did they serve God? Was it different from what you do to serve in faith? How?
                What do you think future Christians will say about this time period in Christian history regarding                 faithful service to God?
 PRAYER:
Thank you God of both the living and the dead we praise your holy name for all your servants who have finished their course in faith. We pray that encouraged by their example and strengthened by their fellowship we may be partakers with them of the inheritance of the saints in light. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

PRAYER
God we know it is difficult to forgive others who hurt, wound and offend us yet you ask us to listen to the other, and to respond in love and with faith. Enable us to do this as we are challenged and show us again what it means to be your faithful follower. Help us forgive others as we too need to be forgiven. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Resource:  Gary Inrig, “The Risk of Forgiveness: What it means to forgive”. Discovery Series, ODB Ministries. p. 28-32. NEXT week we will be a new series of reflections!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

FORGIVENESS

FORGIVENESS  
REFLECTION:  Wednesday, October 25, 2017

                Forgiveness involves both choice and process. True
forgiveness cannot be reduced to a simple formula but one might consider the following four steps which may lead to forgiveness.
1)      Face the facts
If we truly want to forgive and be forgiven, one must identify what has happened and understand its significance.  Consider the following:
a)       How serious was the offense? Some things require more patience than forgiveness. Does the offense warrant a need for the forgiveness process?
b)      How raw is the wound/hurt? Did the offense occur recently or was significant to you years ago? Would you be ‘picking the scab’ just to keep it open?
c)       How close is the person to me?
d)      How significant is our relationship?

2)      Feel the Feelings
If we tend to forgive quickly one might declare that forgiveness has occurred in haste that is without fully processing the violation for what it was. If one is in a state of emotional numbness or denial, one is in no condition to truly forgive.
But if we tend to slow the forgiveness process down by not feeling ready yet this may also be a subtle way of inflicting punishment on the offender.
Between these two extremes, there is an appropriate time to grieve the loss of what might have been.

3)      A Decision and a Declaration
Forgiveness is ultimately an act of the will, not a stirring of emotions. Forgiveness is an inward choice that produces a declaration:  ”I forgive you.”   From that moment on, the issue is done and over.

4)      Refresh It
Sometimes when we have forgiven someone we remember the hurt that they had caused. It is not a one-time decision to forgive but one needs to remind themselves to keep the commitment made and then let it go. Memories of the hurt will return but letting it go is a task we must do.

C.S. Lewis writes: “To forgive for the moment is not difficult, but to go on forgiving, to forgive the same offense every time it recurs to the memory- that’s a real tussle.
Questions to consider:
1.       Reflect upon each of the four points of forgiveness. Are you experiencing any of these steps towards forgiveness with others? How does this list help you to prepare to fully forgive?
2.       Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them. “ Luke 17:3-5
Are you willing to forgive others this many times even if they say, ”I am sorry” and seek forgiveness? How difficult is this to do?
What would you say to the one who hurts/ wounds/ offends you?

PRAYER
God we know it is difficult to forgive others who hurt, wound and offend us yet you ask us to listen to the other, and to respond in love and with faith. Enable us to do this as we are challenged and show us again what it means to be your faithful follower. Help us forgive others as we too need to be forgiven. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Resource:  Gary Inrig, “The Risk of Forgiveness: What it means to forgive”. Discovery Series, ODB Ministries. p. 28-32. NEXT week we will be a new series of reflections!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

FORGIVENESS

FORGIVENESS  

REFLECTION:  Wednesday, October 18, 2017

                What is involved in forgiveness? Genuine repentance
and this goes beyond an apology or even an expression of regret. It is a change of mind that produces a change of action.
                Repentance is the way we deal with sin but is deeper than regret because it involves a determination to change. Change may not be instant but it can be genuine. When a person repents they need to do so with feeling and usually with words. But without repentance the process is broken.  True forgiveness flows toward repentance. Process is clear—I am sinned against, I confront the offender, he sincerely declares his repentance and I declare forgiveness.  Yet if this process does not occur, that is the offender will not admit the sin, no matter how clear the evidence or there is no regret what do you do then? It is not always easy to forgive!
                Forgiveness can only come from those who have been wronged. And yes, forgiveness can occur but forgetting what occurred will unlikely be erased completely from memory.
                Tutu wrote: “Forgiveness and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong.”
                Forgiveness looks sin in the eye and speaks the difficult words: “I forgive you.”  Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness clears the ledger but it does not instantly rebuild trust. Forgiveness is given; reconciliation is earned. Forgiveness cancels debts, it does not eliminate all consequences. Forgiveness involves both choice and process.
Questions to consider:
1.       How would you distinguish between forgiveness and reconciliation? Does it make a difference to the degree of reconciliation one has with the other person? How?
2.       Jesus says to forgive even 7 x 7 times per day as long as the person seeking forgiveness is willing to r repent. What does this notion of repentance mean for you? Does repentance matter for you?
PRAYER
Wonderful God you call us to forgive those who seek to repentance just like you ask us to do. Sometimes it is so difficult and yet you do it because of your amazing gift of grace and unconditional love. Help us to fully realize your gift of grace and to share this with others. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Resource:  Gary Inrig, “The Risk of Forgiveness: What it means to forgive”. Discovery Series, ODB Ministries. p. 23-27. NEXT week will be the conclusion of this series with the “Four Steps of Forgiveness”.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

FORGIVENESS 2

FORGIVENESS  
REFLECTION:  Wednesday, October 4, 2017

                What is forgiveness? Jesus’ statement about one of the most
discussed topics within faith communities is found in Luke 17: 3-4      “if your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them”. These are simple instructions about forgiveness but they communicate ‘foundational aspects to the giving and receiving of forgiveness.”
                We have often heard people say, ‘forgive and forget”.  We read in Hebrews 10:17 “their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” But did God really forget them? To be God he didn’t forget these sins, they were recorded so that future generations could learn from them. When God forgets our sins, He no longer holds them against us.  The central issue is not that we forget, but what we do when we remember that someone has wronged us.  It is through God’s grace and the power of the Spirit that enables the transgressions to be blotted out. God is really testifying to God’s faithfulness and offers grace.
                The only way to truly forgive is to remember. This requires a careful look at what has actually happened. Two misconceptions_ we may need to forgive God and that we need to forgive ourselves.
                Often people blame God for what has happened but the blame is misplaced.  We may need to come to terms with what God has permitted in our lives. We may need to vent our anger to God or our disappointment with how He is working. But isn’t our anger only misplaced? God does not sin so therefore cannot be forgiven.
                Is it possible to forgive oneself? If a person has sinned, they are the offender and not the victim of the actions. But if the actions harm oneself—who needs forgiveness? There might be a feeling of guilt, shame, disappointment and anger. But when people speak about forgiving themselves, they nearly always talk about alleviating these feelings.
                If we turn forgiveness inward there is a danger that we would focus on feelings rather than the act which was done. Deep repentance and character transformation should come before emotional release. But there is genuine repentance when forgiveness does restore the joy one has!
                Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven!”
QUESTIONS:
Do you remember the sins of others who have hurt you?
Do you remember those sins you have committed? Have you let go of the feelings tied with them in order that you can move forward? God is calling you to do this right now. Pray and ask forgiveness so that you might have joy in your heart.
PRAYER:  Holy God as I reflect on those actions and inactions which have gone against your teaching please lift away the feelings of guilt, shame, disappointment and anger. Enable me to search within to find a new way of life—filled with joy and hope. Hear me O God …. SILENCE… Amen.

Resource:  Gary Inrig, “The Risk of Forgiveness: What it means to forgive”. Discovery Series, ODB Ministries. p. 13-18

Monday, 25 September 2017

FORGIVENESS

FORGIVENESS  
REFLECTION:  Wednesday, September 27, 2017


                What is forgiveness? Jesus’ statement about one of the
most discussed topics within faith communities is found in Luke 17. Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times a day and seven times come back to you saying, “I repent, you must forgive them.”
                This is difficult to do! Watch yourselves—that is we need to guard against causing others to sin. But on the other hand, we need to resist the temptation to keep those who have sinned against us in an emotional penalty box making them serve endless time for their offenses. We need Jesus help to be forgiving to the extent Jesus’ asks. The disciples realized this and asked, “Increase our faith!”
                But how do we really forgive another person? Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them”. Who is our brother and sister? Those with whom we have a relationship and this reminds us that the primary place forgiveness needs to be expressed is in the community of faith. People we know within the church- Christians, we need to forgive each other.
                Jesus was also specific—about sin- requiring forgiveness. Just because someone irritates, annoys or upsets us they do not involve forgiveness they require endurance and maybe even tolerance. Forgiveness is only necessary if sin occurs, that is when God’s standards of behaviour have been violated.
                But we cannot forgive right away. Sometimes what occurs is not required but may be excused instead. Forgiveness is about those things which are inexcusable, not ignoring or denying sin but still responding to it.
                C.S. Lewis said, “Real Forgiveness means steadily looking at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse after all allowances have been made and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice.” That is, seeing the sin for what it really is. When God forgets our sins, He no longer holds them against us. The central issue is not that we forget, but what we do when we remember that someone has wronged us.
QUESTIONS:
What does forgiving another person mean to you?  How do you go about doing this?
How does knowing that God forgets our sins help you or hinder you in understanding forgiveness or being forgiven?
PRAYER:  Holy God as we learn what it means to forgive help us to take the risks, to understand your love and to know again that we need to forgive because of your Son Jesus, forgiving us and calling us to him. Enable us O God to forgive and to love again. Amen.

Resource:  Gary Inrig, “The Risk of Forgiveness :What it means to forgive”  Discovery Series, ODB Ministries. p. 11-12

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Transitions

Transitions         

                The United Church of Canada will be going through
governance transition in the next two years. Discussion between General Council Executive and the churches have been ongoing for about 5 years and with Remits or votes taken from across the country, the answer is clear. The church will move to Regional councils instead of having both Presbytery and Conferences. But what is unclear is how many regions, who will work at this level of the church and most importantly for many people is will it make any difference when it comes to cost, or running the governance and administration of the United Church of Canada.
                What does this mean for the person who comes to church? Not a lot really because connections to the national or regional councils will be limited. However the cost of governance will make a difference in budgets across the country especially during the transition period of 2018 and 2019.
                The United Church of Canada has been a unique church throughout its history. Will this change in governance model make a difference in its outreach to people? This is unknown but one of the things we must keep in mind is that no matter the governance model being used, the church is led by Jesus Christ, the one true head of the church. If we lose sight of this, we might as well close our doors.
                What does it mean to be “United Church” today? What attracts people to this church? Is it its structure of governance? Probably not but what is important to know is that the church is changing and this may make a difference for ministry personnel and their role or activity in the ‘wider’ church. It means being very intentional about meeting other clergy and working with other churches in order to grow and develop in faith. It also means letting go of the way things used to be and living in the present.
                Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, abundant and full.” Jesus was not a proponent of the established church during his time. The Pharisees felt threatened by his new ways of thinking and teaching. They tried to trip him up in the teachings of the law. And they wanted to do away with him. But Christ rose from death in order to give us life. Sometimes we get tripped up in the governance of the church and forget who we are as Christ’s followers and why we meet in churches- to worship God our creator. Maybe we need to pray about this for clarity and look to the future placing everything into God’s hands through faith. Jesus brings us life. Let us receive it with humility and love.
PRAYER

God you call us to be with you and when we face changes, transitions and challenges you guide us and love us. Help us to trust your Spirit as we face transitions in every day life not only in the church, but in what we experience in this life. We ask in Jesus’ name Amen.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Canada 150

Canada 150
                The flyers and posters are starting to go up; social media is also seeing a frenzy of activity announcing another special gathering being planned and prepared to mark Canada’s 150th birthday celebration on July 1. The logo is available to download with your
promise to use in celebration of a nation of people of many cultures, many faiths and many stories. The logo represents the maple leaf and has been stylized to reflect the changes our country has endured and continues to face. With 10 provinces and 3 territories with two official languages and the freedom to worship in speak various languages we truly are blessed to share this land.
                But not everyone will celebrate the joy of Canada. Our brothers and sisters of the First Nations peoples were here first. This was their land and settlers from away came and made this ‘little village’ of Kanata theirs. We learned from our indigenous friends how to live and cope in the ruggedness of the land- the rocks, trees, rivers and prairies were the source of all life. But we often forget that this land is not owned by one people but several.
                Yet as a country we will wear our red and white, wave our flags in numerous parades and sing joyfully the words of our anthem for we are the true north strong and free. We will sing and share food of our heritage, we will eat Canadian treats and we will be together as a country sharing in a celebration worthy of our history.
                Yet our history in these 150 years has not been easy—crises, wars in faraway lands, questions of leaving or staying within the confederation, and welcoming more people from around the world. As Canadians we strive for peace, look to the good in others and continue to be mindful and gracious over the blessings we have in this country.
                Canada’s 150th anniversary invites us to look at what makes us uniquely Canadian and what calls us to be together now. It is a time when we might reflect on those men and women who fought for freedom so that we could celebrate this milestone in history. And it is a time when we pray for the future.
                Psalm 72:8  Sir Leonard Tilley suggested the “Dominion of Canada” as the name of the new nation when confederation talks were being considered. Tilley was inspired by this verse from the Bible: God shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Under the British North America act of 1867, the Dominion of Canada was formed uniting the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
                Let us pray for our country and its leaders now and always.

REFLECTION:
 Is it important to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday? Why?
How will you acknowledge this important moment in time?

PRAYER

Holy God as we rejoice in our celebration of Canada’s birthday help us to remember the losses, the tragedies, the pain and hurt of the many people who fought and died, whose lives were known and unknown for the sake of this country and its future generations. We thank you for faithful people who envisioned a country that would expand across the land and to the northern waters. We pray for our country, its people and its future. Show us how to live in love for others. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Power of Weakness

Continuing in our study of |The Power of Weakness, one must
reflect upon God strengths and where his power lies.  Erwin Lutzer wrote” God is not in the business of helping the humanly strong become stronger, rather he takes the weak and makes them strong in himself.”
                But how do we find strength when we seem to be so weak. What is our purpose? The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” How are we to understand this? To seek personal power for ourselves is an unworthy goal but to seek His power to glorify Him in our lives is a mark of spiritual maturity (p.78)
                How do we glorify God? If we change our ways and grow in our faith and understanding of who God is in our lives. God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds—it is his will for us (Romans 12:1-2) But we must be willing and open to receive this and we can only receive the change if we allow God to act in us. We cannot do it alone.
                Three stages of Life—Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
3 stages:1) soar and fly like an eagle; -- on top of the world  2) run and don’t grow weary—go through the routine 3) all we can do is to walk and not faint.
                But where is hope? It is different from strength because it is the light at the end of the tunnel with the belief that  the horrible circumstances I’m experiencing now won’t last; or that I won’t feel the same way I do about them now.
                Even Jesus did not face his death alone- he called out to God.  So can we.
REFLECTION:
Under which circumstances are you needing to be strengthened? Is it continuous or when you have a crisis or question of faith?
What do you do? Do you glorify God or do you sit and mope? Do you praise God with prayers of hope? Or do you pray to God asking for the strength you need to overcome this situation you are facing?
PRAYER:

God help us in our moments of weakness to be strengthened by who you are and what you are doing in our lives and in our world. Renew our strength so that we can ‘soar like eagles’ again. Help us we pray. Amen.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Recognizing God’s Power

Recognizing God’s Power

                William Barclay wrote, “The Christian hope is the hope
which has seen everything and endured everything, and has still not despaired, because it believes in God. The Christian hope is not hope in the human spirit, in human goodness, in human endurance, in human achievement; the Christian hope is hope in the power of God.  This is the hope that we need to revive when we feel that our power has been taken away. But how do we recognize God’s Power?
                The creative power of God to speak into existence the world we inhabit and explore demonstrates God’s unique power.  Hebrews 11:3 and Psalm 33:6 and 9 describe God’s creative power—out of nothing the worlds were made; God spoke and it was done.
                God’s supernatural power enabled the Nile River to turn into blood, when the sun stood still for Moses, when Jesus walked on the water, turned water into wine, etc people saw the miracles yet were they miracles or supernatural power of God being demonstrated.  Miracles are the glimpses of restoration.
                God’s transformative power involves the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Paul and even in modern times—C.S. Lewis a former atheist! The New Testament shows changes in people and in culture. None of the early Christians were powerful and often they were unpopular, persecuted and maligned. Yet within 300 years Rome became Christian.
                This power—comes from God and can only be used when He wants to show it. This is usually when we are weak and we turn to God for help. Human weakness is the perfect opportunity for God to demonstrate His power to accomplish anything that is in His perfect will. Your greatest weakness can become the gateway to God’s greatest demonstration of power in your life. 2 Cor 12:9.  “My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul responds, ”When I am weak, than I am strong!”     
REFLECTION
How much hope have you put in the power of God in your own life? Why? In which areas have you expected or hope to experience His power?
Have you ever experienced God’s transforming power in your own life? What about in someone else’s life?
Do you rely and trust in God’s power now and are you really trusting that God will/can raise us from the dead by His power?
PRAYER Holy God of grace and love we praise you for the power you have to create all things, transform people and to show us glimpses of your restorative love. We praise you that we might have hope because of this power and your love. Speak to our hearts again as we seek you and as we search for you in our every day living. Help us in our unbelief. Amen.

Reflection based upon Dan Schaeffer. The power of weakness. Discovery House Publishers, 2014, p. 61-74.                                                                                                        

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Admitting Our Weaknesses

Admitting Our Weaknesses


                What’s been on your mind lately? As I write this the

 sun is shining brightly on a Monday morning with the temperature not nearly as warm as it should be. But I am welcoming the sun after the rain has been falling for over 3-4 days. As a write, I am thinking about the extremes of what our world experiences in certain areas and at certain times of the year. In eastern Africa where almost desert conditions exist there has been no rain for several weeks and the draught has caused food crops to dry up. As a result of this there is famine and people are seeking food assistance.  Yet with recent North American storms there has been an incredible amount of rain causing rivers and lakes to swell. Hardest hit are the communities of Gatineau and Oka in Quebec. Army reserve personnel have been flown in to assist the families to evacuate and/or sandbag their property which is be flooded by 2-3 feet of water.
                What do we do? Pray for no rain/ or rain? Maybe we need to check for causes of these extremes and ask for balance rain when we need it, and sunshine other times.  But what does this mean if we are unsure of what to ask for? Is it a sign of weakness or humility in not knowing what is best or is it merely a need to hand everything over to God to deal with?
                Dan Schaeffer’s book The Power of Weakness points out that it is difficult to admit our weaknesses even if these weaknesses are questions which we cannot answer, or prayers we are unsure to ask. 2 Corinthians 11:30 states, “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.”
                What are your weaknesses? How do you recognize them and do you do anything to let them go or grow in strength? Our fear of admitting weakness is real, but so is the power of God available to us through that very same weakness.

PRAYER
Wonderful God you made us and we know we are both weak and strong because of the gifts you bestow upon us. Help us O God to recognize our weaknesses and then giving them to you, enable us to grow a little bit at a time. Show us O God your way to be strengthened in faith and with hope. Amen.
Reflection based upon Dan Schaeffer. The power of weakness. Discovery House Publishers, 2014, p. 37-59.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

We’re Not Alone

We’re Not Alone”
                                                                        Hebrews 11

                God chose the weak so that no one may boast before
God. (I Cor. 1:26-29). But we need to be reminded that God loves us and we are not alone no matter what we do or say.
                In reading Hebrews 11, one will read the stories of strong heroes of the Bible but the chapter concludes that these men and women were made strong from their weakness. They were not strong to begin with but God enabled them to become strong. The power of God launched from their weakness to enable them to become strong.
                The power of God is seen most clearly when there is no other explanation that will do justice to the events. But not everyone believes that God does take the weak to bring about change.
                Throughout Paul’s life he suffered physical problems. Paul wanted to know that God was working through his weaknesses to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God so that God would receive the glory. When life got difficult for Paul he learned to relax because though he could not handle it all, he didn’t have to. Christ wanted to demonstrate His power in a remarkable way through Paul and so in Paul’s weakness, Christ was strong. (p.32)
                What are your weakness? And are you really honest about yourself in all matters of life when it comes to naming these weaknesses? We should note that weakness is not a failure but just that- a weakness and it is standard to all people. But people also have strength and through faith and experience one learns to understand what those strengths are and can be. Yet we must also take into consideration where we are and what we are doing and if we recognize the fact that God is with always even when we think we cannot do what he calls us to do.
                God wants us to demonstrate His power through our weakness. The only things stopping this I that we do not know how to access His power or we think only individuals like Moses can do this. Jesus became weak for our sake. How can we use our weakness for God’s glory?
REFLECTION
How difficult is it for you to be honest about your weaknesses? Has anyone pointed out weaknesses which you were not aware? How did you feel? How did you react? Did you learn from this?
Where are your strengths in terms of relationships and knowledge? Why do you define them as strengths and how did these strengths become strong in your experience?

PRAYER
Holy God we praise you for the many examples of people who were weak and yet grew to be faithful and strong people. We pray that you will speak to us about our weaknesses so that we might grow stronger in faith and in life. Be with us we pray. Amen.  

Reflection based upon Dan Schaeffer. The power of weakness. Discovery House Publishers, 2014, p. 23-36.                                                                                                        

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Power of Weakness

“The Power of Weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10


And God has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power
is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rater boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

                When you have found yourself weak and maybe even vulnerable? Were you in hospital and receiving medical treatments, approaching surgery, or even when you realized that you had lost time and consciousness? How did this physical weakness make you feel? That is, did you feel a loss of control, out of sinc with the world, or even did you sense that your hope was fading?  Often when we experience moments of fear, or uncertainty, when one is vulnerable or uncertain about life’s challenges we realize we are weaker than others and we do not like the implications. We are weak. But in this weakness can we find some truth to the relationship God has with us through our faith? Are we able to communicate with others about what God calls us to say and do? Or are we merely giving up because the world only likes super powers and not super weaknesses?
                In the scripture reading above, Paul states that he is ‘well content’ with his weaknesses. How could Paul be well content or pleased with weaknesses? What does Paul mean when he writes, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”   Yet our world tells us that we need to believe in ourselves and all will be well. This thinking has entered the church and the church has been weakened and will remain so until and unless we become strong for the sake of God working in our lives. But we must first recognize our weaknesses including the fact that we have come to believe that weakness is bad and power is good. Shredding all our weaknesses and becoming powerful is not the answer. God desires to display His power through our weaknesses. Yet are we willing to do this? Are we willing to embrace the very weaknesses we detest in order to realize that it is through these weaknesses, that God is able to demonstrate His power through us.
                Our world tells us “Embrace your strengths and overcome your weakness.” But in scripture we are encouraged to embrace our weakness and through them, we are to experience a power we could never know otherwise. (p. 21)
                In this series of reflections on Schaffer’s book (mentioned below) we will look to experience God’s power in one’s life so that even in our weakest moments we will receive God’s power and strength to carry on.
REFLECTION:
1.       Have you experienced a lot/some/little/ no power in your life?
2.       Are you able to identify ways which make you feel weak? Have you tried to overcome them?
3.       Personal weakness= Opportunity to experience God’s power
What do you think/ feel about this statement? Is it hopeful, doubtful, confusing or suspicious?
4.       Whatever you are thinking/ feeling bring these thoughts to God and pray!

PRAYER:
Loving and Risen Christ you have called me to serve your church and yet many times I feel so weak and tired I wonder if I do any good. Enable us to realize what gives us life on a regular basis and help us to name these things. Hear us O God as we call to you and praise you Amen.


Reflection based upon Dan Schaeffer. The power of weakness. Discovery House Publishers, 2014, p. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Jesus is Alive

“Jesus is Alive”

Matthew 28: 1-10

                Throughout the season of Lent we focused these
reflections on the scene at the cross where Jesus was crucified. Jesus died and was buried. But the most important thing to remember is that He lives again. And through his resurrection we who believe in this mystery this love sacrifice often forget why Jesus experienced this. He did this so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He died so that we might live more abundantly. He died so that we might live eternally. But do we get ‘it’?  the gift of an abundant life? Or do we merely nod and say Amen and continue on to the next exciting thought about Jesus?
Alive—this is an amazing concept—he was dead, buried entombed. Guards were posted at the sealed tomb and yet over 2000 years later we are still talking about the Son of God, Jesus. Stories about faith are broadcast on national television because Jesus death and resurrection are still the focus of many.  But do we really understand what his life is about for us now?
We recently watched again, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” on dvd even though it was broadcast on TLN. This amazing movie should never have been a box office hit as it is a tragedy, acted out in time sequence and flashback, using an ancient language and very little dialogue with subtitles. The flogging scene was overwhelming and the blood was extreme. But when the sky grew dark we knew the story had come to its climax, or did it?
Seeing the visual recreation of this story puts the human touch on Jesus but when one single tear falls to the earth do we understand the impact of God’s touch in the world. Do we understand that Jesus’ death really did make a difference in human history?
We call ourselves an Easter people but are we really willing to live for Christ? Are we really taking to heart Jesus’ teachings and do we understand God in our lives on a daily basis. Easter is marked as one day on the calendar but it is a lifetime response to the gift of life Jesus brings. Are we understanding this gift? Or are we continuing to search for it?
PRAYER

Loving God we praise you for raising to life Jesus Your Son, our Saviour. Through his resurrection we receive new life, new hope and the embrace of your loving Spirit. We are Easter people—sharing in hope for eternity and looking to share our love with others. Be with us we pray as we continue to learn to live and love like Jesus now and always. Amen.

Monday, 17 April 2017

He Chose the Nails--- My God what have you forsaken me?

“He Chose the Nails”


                It is Holy Week and our journey through Lent leads us to
the scene on Mount Calvary where three crosses with three men are hanging. This manner of capital punishment is called crucifixion and is one of the most painful ways to die. Two thieves are dying along with Jesus. It is upon him we focus because Jesus on the cross is a symbol of our faith.
                Jesus speaks out loud, My God what have you forsaken me? A Pharisee sneered sarcastically, “he’s calling Elijah.” But no one laughed as Jesus yelled out loud in pain. And then Jesus said, “It is finished Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He breathed in and out and then silence. All was quiet- no more mocking. Jesus is dead.
The soldiers are now cleaning up the dead. Two men who knew Jesus are given the body of Jesus. And what is left at the foot of the cross? Nails, crosses in the horizon, a crown of thorns with blood.
                These nails held your sins. One criminal would be with Jesus and the other not. It seems absurd and ironic but how did Jesus redeem us in this moment? Why would God enable Jesus’ death to occur like this?
                Jesus came to the cross with scarred hands and then offered forgiveness. After flogging, he promised acceptance. He took the path to take us to be with him in paradise/ heaven.  But what are we bringing to him? This Good Friday, what do we bring to Jesus as we look upon his death. He chose the nails for us. He did it for you. What is your response? Are you seeking his love and forgiveness and are you looking for hope beyond this life?
               
REFLECTON:
For many years you have heard the story of Jesus’ death but imagine if you were really at the foot of the cross. What do you see as Jesus has nails hammered into his wrists and ankles; as his blood flows on his face, hands and feet? What are you thinking about?—you or him? Jesus did this for you. Jesus died this way for you. How do you respond? Offer your prayers to God—prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of hope, prayers of joy.
For we must remember that Jesus did die. But he also told his disciples that he would rise again. Do you believe in the resurrection of Christ? How do you know he is alive? Does he live within you? Pray and ask forgiveness, receive Christ into your life or renew your faith as you live for him.

PRAYER
Thank you for your love Lord, and giving us your Son Jesus. He cried out wondering if you abandoned him and sometimes so do we. Help us to realize the gift of life eternal we may receive because of Jesus. Help us to know you and build our relationship with you. Reveal to us also, Easter joy, and the hope of eternal life. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Reflections based upon Max Lucado,   He Chose the Nails, ch.12- 13