Why? … Why did God create us?

This is a question that many have been discussing for centuries, and you may have even asked it yourself. We have heard God created us for His glory, to have people to love, to demonstrate His greatness, and so on. These are all undoubtedly true, but have you thought God may have also created us for fellowship?

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”  (1 Corinthians 1:9, NASB).  In Greek, the word “fellowship” is koinonia. It is also translated as “communion.” God wants to have an intimate communion, a close fellowship with us. Remember the garden of Adam and Eve and when they sinned! Who hid themselves? Adam and Eve. Who went looking for who? It was God looking for them. After the expulsion from the garden, after the flood, and at the time of the Exodus, God says to the people, “And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” Again, who is seeking to dwell with who? It is God-seeking man. John 1:1, 14 shares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” 14″And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word “dwelt” is the Greek skano-o. It also means to the tabernacle, to tent, to dwell among. Again, the Lord is seeking us, who is dwelling among us. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), which signifies that the Lord is in and with us.

This tells us that God is a God of fellowship and desires to have people to be with and to love. God is love (1 John 4:8), and the nature of love is to give (John 3:16). God desires to have an intimate relationship with us through His Son, Jesus.

Do you have that intimacy with Jesus? Do you spend time talking to Him? Do you seek the relationship and fellowship with God that He desires. Seek Jesus. Have fellowship with Him. It is what God wants.

Purpose

We have been created in God’s image, designed to live in harmonious relationships. We are meant to love God and others without reservation. We were made to know how to behave as God would, with respect for ourselves and all of creation. We were created perfect, but, as Adam and Eve’s story tells us, we craved more, and that is when the troubles started. Our image was corrupted, but God loved us so much that He made a way with Jesus for all of us to find our way back to Him.   
 
Read the headlines and see how far we have fallen. People are targeting others because they are different. They are victimizing, brutalizing and killing them. Many do not see the sinfulness of this act and are wrongfully deciding whether they stand with the killers or victims. Our call is to condone acts against God’s creation. We are to love and not judge. When someone chooses to follow Jesus, we gather around them to encourage and show them the way of scripture, prayer, and other spiritual practices. The Holy Spirit set them up to hear God’s will. He will also convict them of their wrongdoings. In His time, the Holy Spirit will make God known to all of us and may use Christian brothers and sisters to light the path to God. 
 
We aim to bring the gospel to the world in a way unique to the circumstances and gifts God has given us. Focus on that and pray God uses you. Beware of your attitude toward others, those who are not like you. Remember, first, we are all made in God’s image and pray for those who are being persecuted and murdered because of their difference. When you pray for your neighbours, ask for healing and recovery for those injured, peace for those living in fear, and hope for those who do not know that God has a way for them. Remember also those in your community who seem to live relativity-safe lives but do not know the gift Jesus is offering them. 

Workers Needed

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2

 When Jesus made this statement to His disciples, He travelled from town-to-town preaching and healing. He witnessed the daily lives of the people and their helplessness. He knew they needed to hear His message and shared that so many need God, yet few shared His truth. When Jesus told His disciples to pray that more people be sent out to share the gospel, He was not only speaking to His generation but was also addressing future generations like ours.  
 
When we choose to become disciples of God, we must not forget that we also chose to become missionaries so that He could carry out His mission. We decided to become involved in the harvest as seed planters, those who feed the crops, or those who gather the crops. We became involved in sharing the gospel with the helpless, those who need Jesus.    
 
I recently heard a sermon by Andy Stanley, where he spoke about individual involvement in sharing God’s hope. He challenged all generations to listen and ask themselves what kind of disciples they had become. Were they continually seeking to grow their relationship with God, were they living as followers of Christ outside the church doors, and were they reaching out to family and friends and telling them about Jesus? He said if we were not actively engaged in those activities, we needed to Step up and step in. The mission is not over because God has not called us to glory. There are people in desperate need of hope, and we have that message within us to share. We must step up our game, reevaluate our role as a disciple, and get involved because the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 
 
What can you do? 
 
Firstly, take Jesus’ advice and pray. Pray for your church. You know that with some thought, you can identify those in your church who have become bystanders. Many are probably long-time followers but somehow have lost their love of the mission. Pray that revival comes into their lives. Pray you are also revived, so refocus on what God has called you to do. Pray God gives you the strength and courage to step up and become the disciple He desires.
 
Next, adopt a missionary attitude. Recognize your neighbourhood, workplace, and the places you shop and go to be entertained as your mission field. This is not only the food bank you serve at or the seniors’ home where you may sing or volunteer. But much more, it is the community where you live, where helpless people are wandering through life without hope. There is no retirement from kingdom work, so STEP UP and ask God to show you where to STEP IN. 

Tell your story.   

We love to talk about the weather, sports, our kids, or politics. But when discussing our faith, many of us cower like chickens running away from the Colonel. If we know Jesus, we have GOOD NEWS! It’s like a life ring thrown to the person drowning or a fire alarm to rouse the sleeping from a burning building! 

Some people seem to think that a life-witness is good enough; that is, quietly living your life of devotion to Christ before others. It is NOT enough. People need to hear what Jesus means to us, so we need to share our testimony. 

Here are a few tips on how to share: 

Practice – Work out what you will say so you aren’t ever caught off guard. Have a long and short version for different situations.

Pray – Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and work in the person you share with.

Personal – Give enough details to help them understand where and why.

Be yourself – Don’t try to be more “spiritual” than you are. Just tell your story.

Understandable – Don’t use “churchy” words. Say “Bible” instead of “the Word.”

Witness – A witness tells what they saw, heard, or experienced. You are simply telling your story of how you met Jesus. Relive your experience through words.

Transformed Life – Talk about your life before Christ, how you came to Christ, and the change in your life since being saved.

Evangelize – Take it from telling your story to asking if something like that has ever happened to them. Explain how they can be saved.

God wants us to tell His story through our experiences. If we ask him, he will prepare someone to hear our story. He will not set us up to fail but will be with us. The Good News is not meant to be kept secret, and many around us need to be thrown that life-saving truth found in the Good News. 

YouTube has several versions of the song: “I love to tell the story.” Take a few minutes today and play one, such as “Chris Rupp’s A Cappella” and then pray that God helps you tell His story. 

Lean on me. 

Often, when someone goes to counselling to address a longstanding problem the counsellor hears these words, “Please, tell me what I need to do to fix this” or “Maybe if I try harder …”  Having something to do may feel good when a person is stuck, and the problems seem overwhelming. But there are few times when we genuinely have the ability and resources to fix our troubles. Trying harder doesn’t solve everything. Counselling will eventually explore what wise actions are helpful and appropriate. But something more basic comes first. 
 
What is the answer then?

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Initially, this might seem an odd place to go. It offers no obvious path to “solving” anything. The idea that we should stop and consider this invitation from Jesus might seem passive, even unhelpful. But it is very active: “Come. Take. Learn.” 

Is Jesus speaking to you here? Is he describing your experience? Where do you feel weary and burdened? If he is putting words to your experience and if Jesus speaks to you, what is your reaction to this invitation?
 
Jesus calls you to come to him. If you are hesitant to do this, remember that he is gentle. Remember that he is humble. He is the safest place for you to go in your struggle. 
 
Jesus will give you rest. Relief that comes with our efforts or a change in our circumstances is limited. Only Jesus can provide lasting rest—rest to our souls. This is the rest we ultimately long to have and the rest he longs to give us. 
 
Jesus calls you to learn from him. This means he has things to teach you that will help you. This is good news. Jesus delights in sharing these good things with us.
 
Jesus invites you to take up his yoke. If this sounds like another burden, remember that Jesus started the conversation by acknowledging that you are already weary and burdened. You’ve already been wearing the burdensome yoke and carrying heavy burdens. His yoke is different.
 
Look for small but significant ways to come to him, rest in him, and learn from him this week. It may not seem like that will solve all your problems. And it won’t. But resting in Christ is always the starting point. Remember, you need him first.

As One with Authority.   

Surrounding most military facilities is fencing with signage stating, “No trespassing by order of the MND.” Most who would want to enter the property would not know the meaning of MND nor the name of the current Ministers of National Defence. Yet, they accept the warning not to trespass as authorized by someone in authority.

When we read about Jesus in the Gospels, do we take His ministry as done by someone of authority? When we end our prayers “in Jesus’ name”, do we do so because we acknowledge Jesus as someone of authority? Throughout his ministry, Jesus did not just affirm and endorse the words of Scripture; he talked and acted like he had authored the Scriptures. He lived with the authority of the One who wrote the book. 

Below are a few verses referring to his authority, which may enhance your understanding and acceptance of His power. 

1. JESUS HAD THE AUTHORITY TO LAY DOWN HIS LIFE

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”   John 10:17–18.

2. JESUS HAD THE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS

 “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So, he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.   Matt. 9:6–8

3. JESUS HAD AUTHORITY OVER DEMONS

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:27

4. JESUS HAD AUTHORITY OVER SICKNESS  

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.   (Mat 10:1)

5. JESUS HAD AUTHORITY TO JUDGE

And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.   John 5:27

6. JESUS HAD AUTHORITY OVER ALL MEN

 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.   John 17:2

7. JESUS HAD AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND EARTH

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”   Matt. 28:18.

Thy will be done. 

Growing up in Toronto, I enjoyed going to Centre Island and playing in the garden maze. Although I visited many times, it always had unsuspected surprises. While in the maze, I could see a short distance before me, but I did not know what was around the corner or two rows over. Imagine searching for the exit door through a giant, life-size maze. During the walk, you can see only the passageway directly in front of or behind you, and you have no real clue how your current position relates to the overall goal of getting out of the maze. We think we know what is around the corner, and on a hunch, we may make a run for what we believe is the way out, but ultimately, our understanding of the situation is only a guess, given our limited perspective. 
 
Contrast that with God, who has a bird’s-eye view of the entire maze, seeing the beginning and the endpoints. Because of this, if we let God lead us through the puzzle, He may take us around twists and turns that we might think are needless or even in the wrong direction. But they would be the steps needed to reach the goal. God looks at things in the light of eternity, whereas our outlook focuses on the here and now.
 
When Jesus taught us to pray, He said pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray according to God’s will, we surrender our concerns and seek God’s wants. We are affirming that God’s in control. When we pray “thy will be done,” we’re telling God we’re glad He’s in control, not us. Praying under God’s will means surrendering ourselves to God. It does not mean we are indifferent to our prayers, but it implies we care about our prayers and trust God enough to release them to Him. When we pray, “thy will be done,” we repeat what the psalmist shared in Psalm 40:8, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” 
 
God uses prayer to change us. So, when we pray “thy will be done,” we’re exchanging our will for his, turning our needs and wants to God for him to deal with. Continue to ask God for anything, but do so with an attitude of meaning, “thy will be done”. 

Lost. 

“And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; Joseph and his mother knew nothing of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the Temple.”—Luke 2:43-46.  

Luke shares how Jesus purposely stayed behind in Jerusalem, allowing those who had been with Him to go on without him. Who has not felt a similar experience in their spiritual life? Jesus seemingly withdrew right during prayer or passing by when we thought He would remain. At times, we may be overcome by a strange feeling as if he were going to leave us. What does it all mean? The issue question is whether we realize He has left and whether we want to pursue Him. 

Luke suggests Joseph and Mary were so busy buying and selling and getting ready for travel that their eyes got off Jesus, and they drifted apart. Many have done just the same since. They have drifted from Jesus. They never intended it to happen, but they became so absorbed that it did. In some of these cases, there was no flagrant sin, but while attending to a business or occupation that was legitimate and proper, they gradually let go of Christ. They were busy buying and selling, caring for the children, attending to the spouse, and running around. There were hours of laughing and talking, days consumed in entertaining others, and contact with many people distracted and diverted their minds so that one night, after going to bed, they realized there was no Christ in their hearts. They were elbowed out of the divine companionship of Jesus by the busyness of the world around them. 

Christ does not have a fluctuating love, nor is erratic in His treatment of us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and could not be fickle. He does so in the highest wisdom and in obedience to laws that most Christians do not take the time to study and understand. God announces himself as a jealous God. He is worthy of being followed and sought after. As a mother puts down her child and makes it walk to her, the Lord withdraws and is silent to make us pursue him and call after him.

According to Luke’s passage, Jesus was lost, and He was lost by those who loved him. The same continues to happen today. He is gradually lost because God loves us too much to leave us at once. He gives us loving, gentle warnings, but those so absorbed in other things have not seen them. Are you willing to ask yourself whether you have Jesus in you? Please take some time this week and ask yourself that necessary question. 

A Changed Life !

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
 Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) 

Why would anyone want to be a follower of Christ? It seems an odd question to be asked in this newsletter, considering that Christians maintain it. This question is worth asking because it may be the most challenging question a believer will face when trying to share their faith with another. We know there are many legitimate responses based on biblical references and theological arguments, but remember that little of that made sense before we believed. Did a logical argument convince us, or did we start thinking about Jesus after someone told us how He affected them? Can we tell others the differences in our lives after becoming followers? 

Whether we believed in Jesus 25 years or 25 minutes ago, we should expect to see changes in ourselves. Some changes occur instantaneously, while others require time and effort. When we accept Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to change us, we can recognize and measure changes like those recorded in Galatians 5:22-23. Do you want to share a reason why people should want to follow Jesus? Tell them how you used to be a miserable so-and-so that flew off the handle at the slightest provocation. Tell them self-control and gentleness seemed to overtake you after you accepted and started to follow Jesus, and you changed. Admit that you still slip and react poorly at times, but not as often or in the same way you did before. If we share a before and after story about a change in our life, we may even slip into the “and I get to spend eternity with Jesus” truth. 

If you take a few minutes to reflect on your life before you chose to follow Jesus, and then think about how the decision came about, and then identify changes that have occurred since your conversion, you will find that you have the reason why someone would want to follow Jesus. 

“Father, thank you for choosing to change me. Holy Spirit, thank you for revealing the truth to me. Jesus, thank you for the sacrifice that allowed me to choose you. God continue to change me and use me to share with others. Amen”  

We are the light

“You are the light of the world”. Matthew 15:14

Jesus often spoke to crowds of people, telling them of God’s desires. Not everyone in the crowd agreed with what He said, but they listened. Matthew 5 tells the story that contains the phrases we call the beatitudes, statements that speak of the types of truly blessed people. These ideas contradicted their daily experiences, where money and titles seemed to suggest a blessed life. Jesus told those present that they are a light to the world around them. Although that term is later used to describe Christians, Jesus was saying to them that people are watching what they do, and they could have an impact on those watching. 
 
The world around us, including families, colleagues, and neighbours, is watching you, and Jesus wants to know if you will make a difference for them. Each of us reflects church life to those watching, whether we have good days or bad. However, we can’t let that worry us because we want to show how our relationships hold us together during the good and bad times. It is a challenge to be a light to the world, but we have Jesus as our guide and the church family as our support. 
 
Please join us as we pray this for our Military family: 
 
“Heavenly Father, enable us to do Your will. Help us look outward into our community, workplaces, and families with compassion to share Jesus’ love and truth. Amen”