Lament

“Lord, you rule forever. Your throne will last for all time to come. 
Why do you always forget us?
Why have you deserted us for so long? 

Lord, please bring us back to you. Then we can return.
Make our lives like new again. Or have you completely turned away from us?
Are you really that angry with us?” 

Lamentations 5:19-22

North America has had few interruptions to its progress since WWII, and there seemed to be nothing we couldn’t fix. But Covid-19 dealt a blow to all of us. And maybe it’s time to lament about the things lost and suffering experienced over these past few years. Perhaps it is time to go before God with a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.

Many of us experienced suffering before the pandemic; however, the COVID-infused isolation, depression, loneliness, and all kinds of challenging trials seemed new. We spent months disconnected from corporate worship, the encouragement of one another, and the essential ministries and sacraments the church provides. As time progressed, discouragement, depression, despair, and fear hit many to the point where their strength waned.  

Lament is not simply complaining. Lament is expressing our genuine anguish and pain to our Sovereign King and finding hope and comfort in the truths of His faithful character and promises. Lament recognizes that God enters our pain, is with us in our trials, and meets us with His unchangeable nature. Lament helps us acknowledge our suffering, not pretend, or deny our trouble. Lament concedes that life is challenging but helps us cast our eyes beyond our pain to our eternal hope and reward. 

A lament is a form of praise and prayer to draw close to God in times of great suffering and pain. It is an essential part of the human experience! Just as Christians ought to come before God with songs of thanksgiving and praise, we should go before God with Lament.

“Lord, please bring us back to you. Then we can return. Make our lives like new again.”

see “How do we Lament” for more

You will answer me

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer” Psalm 17:6


I could often tell when my office colleagues had something important to say to a client because their typing sounded louder. Maybe they thought hitting the keys harder would somehow translate importance to the client. They knew that how they typed did not make a difference to the message, but the appropriate wording, spelling and grammar did. They also knew whether the letter was typed in the office, at home, on a desktop, laptop, or a smartphone did not matter. What was important was why they were typing a message and what they wanted to say.   

Some people have suggested that if we pray a certain way, it will be sure to get God’s attention. Pray each morning at 4:00 AM, while kneeling on the cold floor and balancing a bible on your head. Hold lit candles in both hands, so that God will get the idea that you are serious about prayer and therefore will focus on what you are about to say. 

Does the posture we adopt influence our prayer?
Do our surroundings matter?
Does the wording matter? 
The answer to all can be NO,
          but it can also be YES. 
 
I enjoy the book Christian Prayer for Dummies. It does not contain vast amounts of spiritual wisdom or theological arguments concerning prayer. I like it because it simplifies prayer while also suggesting it is very personal and essential. We may have been taught to pray with our hands folded and head bowed, eyes closed while seated or kneeling. That is a great posture that can focus us while also allowing us to remain comfortable. However, it is only one of the many postures we can adopt. How we pray is linked to our personal feelings and circumstances. The circumstance may cause us to stand up where we are, raise our hands to God, and cry out to Him. Or, in our humility, cause us to lie face down before Him submitting ourselves to His will. All postures are correct, whether alone, in a group, in church, or in our car, God hears our prayer.   
 
God’s word tells us that it is through prayer that He hears and speaks to us. It is hard to imagine being connected to Him if we are not praying. We are designed to communicate, to live in harmony and understand one another. When we speak to our spouse, children, or friends, we connect to their needs and feelings. We do not talk the same way, at the same time, or in the same place. Our circumstances dictate our communication. The person who can get up and carry on their day without saying anything to anyone is probably very lonely and hurting. The person who can avoid speaking to God during their day is also probably very lonely and hurting. 
 
All of us can afford to change our prayer life, not to get God’s attention but to get God. Christmas is six weeks away, and we have probably been asked by at least one person what we want for Christmas. God wants to give us something, but if we do not talk or listen to Him, we will miss out on an incredible gift. Change your life so you can experience Him daily. 

Who is Jesus to you?

“Jesus went to the area of Caesarea Philippi. There he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist. Others say Elijah. Still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.” “Matthew 16:13-16


If you have seen Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, we watch Ricky reveal his very lop-sided view of Jesus. In one scene, he prays for their meal as follows: “Dear lord baby, Jesus, thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Domino’s, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell. I want to take time to say thank you for my family …. Dear tiny Jesus in your golden-fleece diapers, with your tiny, little, fat, balled-up fists pawing at the air ….”  Ricky’s wife interrupts saying, “Hey, um, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby. It’s a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby”. Ricky replies, “Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grownup Jesus, teenage Jesus, bearded Jesus, or whomever you want.”

Although we’re not as obvious about it as Ricky Bobby, we are all tempted to create God in our image.  And it is frighteningly easy to do as long as life goes well. But when the bottom falls out, our fake gods make us miserable, and only the real God can help. When we build our life around another person (a husband, a wife, a child, a parent), and that person suffers,  we are tempted to ask why a loving God would allow their suffering. We ask why He allows harm to happen to the one person we can’t imagine living without. Unable to answer these hard questions, some people give up on God.  They don’t stop believing. They stop praying, trusting, and hoping. And some become angry with God. They think about him all the time, but hardly positively or productively. They believe God has revealed himself to be unjust and want to hold him accountable. 

Ricky Booby’s best friend likes to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-shirt, combining his love of formality and partying. Ricky’s boy likes to portray Jesus as a ninja fighting samurai. It’s ridiculous, somewhat irreverent, and oddly, what some attempt to do daily. We’ve become very adept at trying to catch God. We try and trap him in our understanding. We project upon him how we want him to think and act. We make him over in our image. We grasp him and tame him according to our understanding and preferences. But we’re fooling ourselves because our limited and foolish understanding will not confine God. His ways are not our ways. He is beyond our comprehension. 

Thankfully, He catches us, and that’s no easy feat! He had to take extreme measures, like being born as a baby and dying on a cross. But He’s got us right where He wants us. He invites us to stop running and stop chasing but to rest, caught up in the loving arms of grace. 

Who do we pray to, the Messiah?  He took on suffering, rejection, and the cross, for us. We have a Messiah who is willing to die for us even when we reject and deny Him and race right past His ways. This Messiah was raised on the third day, ascended to heaven, and will return to set all creation right. That’s who Jesus is. 

Too many people look at Jesus and see what they want to see, conforming Him to our desires, wishes, and limited understanding. But when Jesus looks at us, He sees us for who we are: sinners in need of saving, transgressors in need of forgiving, and wanderers who need to be caught. Jesus doesn’t promise success, prosperity, or even happiness. But what He does give himself and invites us to follow behind Him.

Belief and Faith

“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”.            Romans 10:10

Many Christians use belief and faith interchangeably, yet they differ. Faith is trusting the things we believe about God and living our life based on them. 

Have you ever been invited to go skydiving, or have you done it? It is possible to learn and believe that the parachute is safe and will function as designed. You can see videos of people jumping out of planes and believe that the chute is designed to bring you slowly and safely to earth. With minimum research, you can believe that a parachute is an excellent tool to jump out of an airplane plane and survive. 

How do you know when you have faith in the parachute? WHEN YOU JUMP. When you leave the plane. The parachutist’s faith is put into action when they trust their chute and step out of the plane.

To increase your faith in a parachute, you can do a few things to make you more aware of the chute’s function. You could take a class on parachutes. You could visit a parachute depot and meet the people who make them. You can learn about how they are maintained and inspected. You can watch and be trained on how to pack a chute and talk with people who have parachuted before. These activities will strengthen your trust in the parachute. 

Knowing what you believe about God is essential to trust Him; to having faith. Christians believe many things, including:   

Christians believe in the Bible:  We believe God inspired the Bible, which contains all the teachings we need to know to live the life God desires.  

Christians believe in One God Who Created the Universe: We believe that creation is a result of His will and that He created everything in the world. We also believe He is actively involved in our lives and hears and answers our prayers. 

Christians believe in Jesus Christ: We believe Jesus is our Saviour and Redeemer, and He died on the cross to pay for our sins. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that He is alive today. We believe that through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life. 

Christians believe in the Holy Spirit:  We believe He is the one who convicts us of our sin and leads us to repentance and that He helps us grow in our faith and to live a holy life. 

Christian faith is based on what we believe and trust about God and our faith becomes real when we have confidence in what God has promised. In this newsletter, we have identified ways to increase our faith, but like the parachutist, our faith is not tested and strengthened until we step out of the plane, out of our comfort zone and trust what we believe. 

Together

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Why is “US” better than “ME”?

The Canadian Forces have people from different generations and cultures serving in our forces. They are part of the military family (the serving and retired), and many do not know Jesus as Lord and saviour. The MCF of Canada, its members, and other MCF around the globe must work together with the Church to turn the mindset from “ME” to “US” and take the Gospel to our Military family. 

Why together: 

1. “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labour.” 
I had a boss who said, “It’s more productive for ten people to do their jobs than one person trying to do all ten”. The MCF will get healthier as people move from the sidelines into the game. When each member gets involved and serves as the Holy Spirit enables them and approaches the mission with an attitude of willingness, we all make a difference.  

2. “if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”
We all fall physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Where do those people go if they do not have a loving arm to help them? Do we expect the ministers, the medical system, or anyone else to “take care of it?” Those who have loving, and kind relationships will tell you that if they fall, the people they reach out to often reach out to them and pick them up. Let’s help each other and show mercy to those around us. 

3. “Furthermore, if two lie down together, they keep warm.” 
This is an illustration of two or more soldiers facing a battle in the winter; it’s an illustration of encouragement. How will we survive in the winter battle if we lie down alone?

4. Fourth, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
The MCF is part of the Church. It is not just a bunch of individuals that get together via email, Facebook, or other media …it is a family; it’s a “band of brothers” and a “band of sisters” involved in a battle for eternity. The Lord Almighty has invited us to join Him on His mission to take His truth to our Military Family. 

Life’s Race

In our world of competing faiths, conflicting theories, and contentious politics, many have become confused in their search for the truth. There seem to be more gray areas than absolute rights and wrongs. Some good people hold convictions different from our own, and some people with impeccable spiritual credentials have disillusioned us with their lives. Overall, many are less sure of things than they once were. 

So, we must go to God humbly and acknowledge our role as seekers. We must not be disheartened because we know He walks with us. We must not be discouraged, as we can find excitement and satisfaction in our journey. We must not despair because we know that God accepts us even in our weakness. In a world of anger and hatred, we need to make peace. We need to seek to help those who are less privileged. We need to seek the healing of the sick, rehabilitation of prisoners, and the freedom of those who suffer from addiction. We need to go into Life’s Race and bring the Good News. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2 NIV).
 
READY
“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40 NIV).

  • We prepare for His coming when we repent and renounce sin (2 Peter 3:9).
  • Repentance must be accompanied by faith (Acts 16:31).
  • The Christian must commit his Life to Christ which requires total dedication (Rom. 12:1).

SET

“Set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2 NIV).

  • We will become established in the faith by setting our love on spiritual things (Col. 2:7).
  • By praying, meditating on God’s Word, and faithfully attending church, we become rooted and grounded in the faith.
  • We need dedication and determination to be holy (set aside) for God. 

GO

“I will go in the strength of the Lord God” (Ps. 71:16a NKJV).

  • We must go into the world taking the Gospel, not in our strength but in the power God gives.
  • We must go into the world in prayer. The power and influence of prayer can reach across the globe.
  • We must go into the world in person. We must call, invite, and witness for the Lord to win Life’s Race.
  • We must go into the world until the race is finished. If you are not DEAD, then you are not DONE. There is no stopping place on this side of heaven (2 Tim. 4:7–8).

Resist

“God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” 1 Corinthians 10:13b

Early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, He went into the wilderness and allowed Satan to tempt Him. Satan elicited Jesus to prove Himself by turning stone into bread or jumping off the temple without injuring Himself. He offered Jesus the glory, power, and recognition that humanity often seeks. Satan sought to seduce Jesus by misusing scripture. However, Jesus refused and rebuked Satan. 

Being tempted to do wrong is not a sin but giving in to temptation allows corruption to thrive. Later in His ministry, Jesus would change the laws of the universe when He fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and pieces of fish, when He calmed the storm with His words alone, or when He walked on water. Jesus gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and freedom to the demon possessed. Jesus did all this not because He had to prove something but because He wanted to show us what we could do if we honour and believe in Him alone.  

We should note these two points: (1) God allows temptation, and (2) Satan never gives up trying to tempt us to go against God’s plan. We should especially consider these points as we participate in the MCF mission to share the gospel with the military community. We can learn from Jesus’ response to temptation and let it guide us as we are tempted. 

Suppose we are not connected to God nor recognize His authority over all creation and eternity; in that case, we could become tempted to believe we have the skills and abilities to convince someone to be a follower of Jesus. If we set out without God’s grace and support, we are ripe for temptation that makes us think we must modify the message to reach our culture. We can be tempted to promote a plan that may not necessarily give God complete honour and glory. Satan can tempt us to think less about God’s role and focus more on our own. 

We need partners to pursue our vision to see the gospel shared with all of our military community. We need you to be battle-ready to participate in this mission, so we need you to be prepared to recognize and resist temptation. Scripture provides the guidance, the battle plan, and the expected outcome, while prayer enhances and strengthens us, so we are combat-ready. Jesus prayed and quoted scripture to combat Satan and guided us to do the same.

If we accept our calling as disciples of Christ, we will be motivated to reach out to the lost. However, we will face struggles that can derail us, especially as the evil one tempts us to call on Jesus to prove Himself to us. Pray, read the Word, and join us as we share the gospel.  

Divine appointment

Acts 8:26-40 shares the story of a spiritually curious Ethiopian eunuch. The Holy Spirit instructed Philip to walk alongside him and help him understand what he was reading. That interaction led to the baptism of the eunuch. God arranges this divine appointment so someone may know the truth.  

What is your initial reaction when you hear the word EVANGELISM? If said in church, a few will slide forward in their seat with an eager look, waiting to hear what the pastor wants to share. However, many become nervous and stare at the pastor, apprehensively worried about what will be said. 

Often the thought of evangelism scares us because we worry we don’t know enough Bible or the right words to say. Here is some reassurance – evangelism is not about what you know; it’s about who you know – JESUS. The best thing we can realize is that it’s not about us. Praise God if we speak with someone, and they choose to follow Jesus. If they decide to reject Jesus, that’s not on us.

We are to be faithful and share the good news of Jesus Christ. We must trust God to do His part of working on the hearts of those who have not declared Jesus as Lord and then accept His call to plant seeds of truth. But, and yes, there is a but. Pray and ask God to arrange that divine appointment He has prepared for us, so we may all go in His strength and authority so someone may know the truth.  

Building a relationship

“Spend time with God”
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1-13

Have you watched the television series The Chosen? It’s a characterization of the life of Jesus, and His followers, unlike any other depiction. Again, it’s only a television series and the director has made it clear it is not the bible – he says the bible is the bible. The series does address some interesting points that maybe we don’t consider because we struggle with Jesus the man. I have enjoyed the series so far and like watching the customs and cultural nuances shown through the series. I have been particularly interested in prayer. During this era, it was the practice to pray three times a day, morning, afternoon and evening. They also prayed at other times. In one scene, when the character representing Peter was saying his morning prayers, he seemed lifeless. He said the words he has said every morning since childhood, but his heart did not seem to be in it. Peter, like many brothers and sisters in Christ we may know, say words because they have been told they should, yet there is no connection with God. Sometimes it is not the fault of the person praying because, this is how they were taught to pray and forgot why they should pray. 

The Gospel of Luke shares a story about the disciples coming to Jesus and asking Him to teach them how to pray. They had prayed all their life but noticed Jesus’ prayers were more than what they had been taught in their temple. They noticed that before He did something astonishing to those watching, He prayed. They noticed that He prayed amongst people and while alone. They noticed He prayed differently than they had been taught as children and they recognized it was special.  

Reading and reciting the prayers others have written is not cheating in prayer. Like praise songs, they help us focus on God, not asking Him for anything just worshipping Him. They are especially helpful when trying to develop a prayer routine or when we want to say something to God but can’t find the words. Because I can pray anytime, I enjoy sitting alone and talking with God. I know I don’t have to try to sound “King Jamesy”, but can say what is on my heart or I just sit and reflect on who He is. 

I have spent a few days in a monastery and have participated in the daily prayer cycle of the Anglican Church. I enjoyed these set prayers we read together and accepted them as a means to turn my mind towards God. But I also knew that I could pray anywhere, anytime using my own words. The Jewish people believe prayer builds a relationship between God and human beings and when people prayed they were spending time with God.  As followers of Christ we should believe the same and spend time with God. 

Initiating the relationship.

When you pray … “(Matthew 6:5-9)

When the Holy Spirit started to prepare us to hear God, it was the beginning of a relationship. Let there be no doubt that God initiated the relationship, but it grew when we expressed our desire to participate in it. Scripture shows us that the way we join with God is through prayer. Prayer is listening and talking with God so that we can understand Him and strengthen our relationship with Him. 

Most of us don’t start our Christian lives by working out our faith for ourselves. Our growth is guided by others, attending church, reading books, and fellowship. So, when we begin to study our bible seeking God, we carry all that guidance with us and look at God with those things sitting in the back of our minds. Most followers form their opinion of prayer by observing others and listening to how they pray. They may mimic their prayer pattern if they think it works for the person they are watching. When listening to others pray, we mostly hear them asking for something, so we can quickly get the impression that we only pray because we need something. The general approach seems to be to go to God in humility, ask for whatever we desire, and instead of ending the request with abracadabra, we say “in Jesus’ name” or “Amen.” Then, we wait and possibly don’t pray until we need something else.  

What do you talk about if you are in a relationship with someone? Is the only time you speak to them when you want something? Are the first words you greet them with “can I have” or “could you “? Is that even a relationship? God wants to personally reveal Himself and His truth to us and does this through prayer. It is challenging to be in a relationship thinking the sole purpose of the other is to meet our needs. Before we dare ask, we should know who we are asking. When we discover who God is, we will undoubtedly change our conversation with Him. James tells us we don’t get what we want because we ask with the wrong motives. He implies we don’t even know what we need, so we ask for things that impact us personally. 

Why do we pray? We pray to know God and His plans so we can line up our lives to live in that plan. No matter what we pray, He will listen. But how about the next time we pray, we try listening to Him? We can ask God for His grace to reveal Himself to us. We can pray, asking to understand Him. We can humbly ask Him to grow our relationship.