In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. Now the Earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 
Genesis 1:1-2

“Advent begins in the dark.” Though Christmas is called the season of lights, we remember that the story starts in darkness, longing for the light to come.  Genesis 1 opens with an image of chaos. Darkness, void, the Spirit hovering over the waters. Yet out of that chaos, God brings Creation. The first chapter of the Bible describes the work of His Creation. And the pinnacle of His work comes in verses 26 and 27, the forming of humanity in the image of God. 

Genesis 1:26-27  – Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female, He created them.
All of Creation reflects his glory. But only humanity bears His image. With that privilege comes a mission. God roots Adam and Eve in His garden as His representatives, entering a covenant partnership with them. “He will be our God; we will be His people. “Genesis reminds us of the fall in the garden that broke the covenant and eventually led to the world’s flooding. 

After the flood, God again planted the idea of hope in Noah and his family by assuring them He would not destroy the Earth again and promised to be with them if they chose Him. This covenant involved a commitment on their part to embody His character, His will, and His way of being in the world. 

Adam and Eve, Noah, and his family are chosen as representatives of God’s covenant with humanity. Even though they fail in their covenant mission, God is still faithful to His promise. Genesis 1-3 reminds us that what went wrong in the garden is set right through Jesus. Genesis 6-9 reminds us that even though sin is judged, grace provides the rescue. 

The ultimate fulfilment of this HOPE is found in Jesus. He takes the judgment of sin and becomes the expression of our rescue on the cross. From the very beginning, He has been our long-awaited hope. Today, because we are part of God’s promises, we are invited to experience and remind others that God has been with us and remains close to this day. 

The Reason.        

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:1-8

Christmas is just around the corner, and many people will seek to make Christmas 2023 their most memorable.  To some, Christmas means gift-giving and receiving. To others, it means children’s plays and pageants. Christmas to others includes family activities, decorating the Christmas tree together, get-togethers, and wonderful meals with relatives. Sadly, for too many, Christmas means overindulgence, drunkenness, debt, and even family anxiety. Worldliness has stolen the purpose of Christmas and even fanned the flames of hostility towards its true meaning and purpose.
King Herod was the first in a long line of people to become hostile towards the true meaning of Christmas. Scripture shares, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” (v3). The confirmation by the priests and teacher of the law that a messiah’s birth was foretold both alarmed and agitated Herod. He responded to this news with deceit (v7-8) and then hostility (Mathew 2:16, murder of innocent boys). Herod pretended to be a big fan of Christmas, but his focus was on himself and his future reign. 

Today, there is ongoing hostility towards the true meaning of Christmas. Christ came into the world to save sinners, which is the reason for the Christmas season. Truthfully, you can’t think about the stable without thinking of the cross; the two are inextricably intertwined. Telling people that the purpose of Christmas is about the salvation of the world is going to disturb a lot of people. Those most likely to be concerned are those who believe Christmas is all about giving gifts, going to parties, and singing Christmas songs. Now, this may sound Grinch-like, but scripture does not say, “We saw his star in the east and have come to give him gifts”, or “We saw his star in the east and have come to give him a party”, or “We saw his star in the east and have come to sing songs to him”. It says, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him”. The world behaves as if it doesn’t want to be saved and it doesn’t feel a need to worship a saviour.

Jesus said about Himself, Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The truth is that every person, including those reading this article, needs a SaviourNicole, you and I are sinners whom God loved so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins and for whom Jesus willingly gave His life. God, in His love, provided a way by which we can have eternal life, forgiveness, acceptance from God and a relationship with God. Jesus puts it this way to a Pharisee named Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). What an enormous gift we all have received that first Christmas and that is worth celebrating. 

We can celebrate Christmas, but remember the reason for its existence, especially over these next five weeks. God wants everyone to be saved. Make prayer your gift to others, including strangers, asking God to intervene in their lives. When you are out and about, do what Jesus did: leave a place of comfort and look for those who need comfort. Listen to those around you, offer a hand, a hug, or a prayer. 

What have you done for me lately?

Sing to the Lord,
for he has done glorious things; 

let this be known to all the world. 
(Isaiah 12:5)

In the late 1980s, the singer Janet Jacket released a song titled, “What have you done for me lately?”. The main character is sitting around with her friends talking about their partners. As she recounts life with her partner, she lists the perks of their relationship, saying, “Yeah, I love him, and he is fine, but…”. Her friends goad her to proclaim, “But what has he done for me lately?”

Although it has a catchy tune, the song shares a message of selfish, self-motivated desires. It is an attitude that, in 2023, fills the minds of many on this planet who struggle to find satisfaction with what they have. People are demanding more; even when they get more, more is needed. It is a mindset that is also creeping into the Christian community. Many expect quick, if not immediate, results from God because they did ask in prayer. Many often need to remember we are most likely to be blessed with what we need and not necessarily what we want. 

One of the names of God is Yahweh-Yireh, which means “the Lord will provide”. He has provided, but somehow, we have forgotten what he has done for us. A second article in this newsletter titled, “What God has done for us”, reminds us we have been given all we need to sustain us and prepare us for eternity with God. Scripture reminds us that we can ask anything and pray about everything. However, the caveat “God’s will” is best understood if we remember, appreciate, enjoy, and use what we have been given already.  

Consider this little challenge. If Christ were to appear before you today and ask, “What have you done for Me lately?” What would you say? Maybe you would start listing things you have done: “prayed, read your bible, helped an old lady across the street.” May I suggest that as we share our list of what you do, Jesus would interrupt you and remind us that it is our hearts He desires and that our focus should be on loving God with our whole being and loving others.  

What God has done for us.

1. God Has Provided the Bible, His Word
God provided His written Word to teach us valuable truths. The Bible tells how God’s children attempted to follow Him, including their victories and shortfalls. It also depicts how people messed up while following Him and reminds us that the Bible is full of second chances, which we all need. 

2. God Provides Life
When we were conceived, God knit us together in our mother’s womb. He provided us with an intricate and complex body. He provided the air that we need to live. And He planned how He would use us before we were born. He gave us life and a destiny to go within that life. 

3. God Provided the Earth
In Genesis 1, God provided a beautiful earth for us to live, learn, and grow in. He provided the heavens and the earth for us to enjoy. The light was a relief from the darkness, and seed-bearing plants and trees with fruit fed us. 

4. God Provides Mercy
Genesis 3 shows Adam and Eve disobeying by eating the one plant God said they couldn’t. But God, in His mercy, did not destroy them because of their disobedience but provided animal skins for them to have clothes to cover their nakedness and a purpose to pursue. Even when we mess up, God still cares for us. 

5. God Provided a Sacrifice
God provided Himself, Jesus, as a sacrifice for His children’s sins. God loved the world so much that He provided His Son so we could have eternal, abundant life. 
God provided us a way out of sin and death. 

6. God Provided Us an Example to Live by in Jesus
Jesus walked the earth with us to show us how to live. He gave us a perfect example of how to walk in love, forgiveness, and peace. 

7. God Has Provided Us with an Advocate, the Holy Spirit
When Jesus had to return to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us after we believed in Christ. This Spirit shows us when we do something wrong. He shows us how to live righteously (morally) and Holy (dedicated to God). He guides, protects, and holds us safe. God provided a Helper to be with us always. 

This is what God has done for us.
Now, putting the shoe on the other foot, how would we reply if God asked us, “What have you done for Me lately.”

Offering prayer in November

As we continue with the theme of prayers, we ask that you join us and start the month of November by offering prayers as a Christian community seeking God’s grace and blessing on the military community.   Below are a few items to remember in prayer.  
The November Edition of the Shield also provides you with daily prayers. Please take time each day to pray His will be done. 

Let us remember:

1. As we remember those who fought for our freedom, pray that God reveals Himself to those in our military family who do not know Jesus so that they may be freed from the bondage of sin that seeks to destroy their eternal freedom. 

2. Remember those who struggle with injuries, both physical and psychological, caused by their involvement in conflict while serving their country. We pray for their healing and ask God to remove their distress.  
3. Remember the families of our military brothers and sisters who gave their lives in the line of duty. We ask the Holy Spirit to bring them peace. 
4. Remember those serving worldwide today who are exposed to all kinds of risks that interfere with their physical and mental well-being. Pray their relationships are not strained by this separation 

5. Pray for the Association of Military Christian Fellowships as they seek to bring the gospel to military communities worldwide. 

6. Pray for the ministry of the MCF in this upcoming year as we desire to make a difference in our military community. Pray for our finances, asking that our needs are met. Pray for our programs that they may be developed and made available. Pray that God brings us more workers so we can have an MCF presence on every military base or station wherever our military serves.  
“Heavenly Father, we commend to you the safekeeping of our brothers and sisters who serve the world for peace and harmony. We ask that You reveal yourself to them so that they may know your desires for them. Let them sense You wherever they are. Holy Spirit, give them strength to guard their souls. Protect them from the evil who wants to turn them from the truth. Be with them in their trials and temptations. We ask this in Jesus’ precious name. AMEN”

Give thanks, this is God’s Day.

“The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” Psalm 118:24

Today may seem like every other day to many. People will do whatever is necessary to get them ready for the day. They will leave home, take public or private transport wherever they must go, and spend the day doing whatever they had to do, only to return home to have a meal, lounge around, and then head off to bed knowing that tomorrow will probably bring the same routine. Yeah, what fun!  
Would it make any difference to you knowing that today is different from every other day that existed and will be unlike any other day that will follow? Could it make a difference knowing that God created today for a reason, including worshipping and honouring Him? Does knowing that God gave us specific instructions on living today make a difference? “Rejoice and be glad.”
So, put a smile on your face, kind words on your lips, and a song on your heart. Then go out into the world and be generous with your praise and free with your encouragement of others. Connect with a friend and invite them to do the same. After all, this is God’s Day, and He said to celebrate it with Him.  

Enter through the narrow gate

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus compared the way to heaven as a path and suggested that many have intentionally widened that path by pushing aside God’s boundaries. Many focus on the passages that promise what God will do for them, but Jesus’ disciples take the whole counsel of God seriously. Disciples follow God whether they agree with God’s word, whether they understand or not, whether obeying is comfortable.

Some elevate their opinions, feelings, and thoughts above the Word of God, while disciples elevate the Word of God above their beliefs, feelings, and ideas. Jesus says that because so many have created a wider path, they will miss the gate that leads to eternal life with Him. Many will miss eternity with Him because they believe they are playing the game properly. But it is not a game or a performance. 

The creator of the universe wants us to spend eternity with Him. He has given us the Holy Spirit, prayer, and scripture to guide us to Him.  He desires for us to have a relationship with Him. He invites us to be disciples of Jesus, so we are transformed into the creation He created. He wants more than people going through the motions. 

What would you do?

“At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
 “At midnight, the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out. ’No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both you and us. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were going to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later, the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Recently, a newly married couple was leaving the church to go to their reception when their vehicle was hit – they were killed. A husband and wife went for a walk in a BC forest with their dog and were attacked by a Grizzly bear – the couple and their dog were killed. A couple of teens were playing basketball in the park when they were meaninglessly sprayed with gunfire – three teens died. A Ukrainian family was celebrating their birthday when rockets hit their home, killing all occupants. Families were going about their day in the Middle East when rockets were fired, and people on both sides of a border were killed.  An 11-year-old girl was walking to the store and was killed in the crossfire between two rival street gangs. When all those people got out of bed that morning, none expected their day to end as it did. 

There is a powerful statement made in verse 10 of the parable; it says the door was shut. There is a finality in that statement. When that time comes, there is nothing more that can be done about sin; there is nothing more that can be done about life because the door has been shut. Like the foolish virgins, you can not depend on another’s grace to enter the door. Five of them went out, five of them went in, five of them had no oil, and five of them had oil when they needed it. Jesus’ parable reminds us that none of us knows the day or the hour of the coming of the Lord or the day of our demise and so it is not only important to have a lamp, but it is also essential to get it burning. It is important to keep it burning until the bridegroom arrives. While we wait, we can enjoy the blessings of God’s creation, but we must also live our lives acknowledging God’s grace and mercy. 

What would you do today if you knew tomorrow would be your last day? Would you try to bring your relationship with God up to date? Would you kneel, praising God and thanking Him for His forgiveness? If you knew that tomorrow was the last day, would you focus on things of eternal value? Would you do the work of the evangelist. You would want to see those friends and neighbours, family members who don’t know Jesus know of the Kingdom, and so would share the gospel message of Christ. 

None of us know when our last day will be. None of us are beyond the potential of falling into the traps of the world’s system. That is why Jesus Christ left us this parable to warn us. Live your faith as if you would soon be called to stand before the Lord and give an account of yourself.  If you think you are in your comfort zone today, please know there is no such thing in the Spiritual realm. We don’t reach a point where we say, “I got eternity covered”. We have an adversary, the devil, constantly looking to put out our light. An adversary who goes around like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8).  We need to be constantly looking to see how much oil is in our lamps. Daily, our minds and hearts must be turned towards God. We must not only acknowledge our dependence on Him but act as if we depended on Him. 

The theme song to the disaster movie Poseidon Adventure cried, “There’s got to be a morning after”.  But what if there are not any more tomorrow for you? Why not do today what you think you would do tomorrow if you knew it would be your last?

Hear, Oh believer

The Shema is the cornerstone of the daily morning and evening prayers spoken by traditionally observant Jews. It declares a confirmation of God’s oneness and kingship. The opening lines to the prayer begin, “Hear, O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai in One! Blessed is God’s name; His glorious kingdom is forever and ever!” It is a beautiful prayer that God’s people have been praying for millennia.

Moses, who introduced the Shema, believed that loyalty, obedience, and love for their true God is the only way to live. He also felt their attachment to many gods was the greatest threat to Israel’s future. So, they prayed the Shema daily to remind themselves that Adonai alone was their God. This prayer continued during Jesus’ earthly ministry. He drew upon this truth in his teaching. He reaffirmed Moses’s thoughts when he said, “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NIV)

Prayer reminds us we are connected to the creator of everything that was, is and will be. Praying keeps God’s love and loyalty in our minds and moves us toward obedience – not out of obligation or duty but out of love. 

Scottish church leader Thomas Chalmers once wrote, “May we never forget that Christianity is in a war and that every generation of believers has had their difficulties to deal with.” He reminds us that the life of a Christian is a life of vigilance and that while we are in the world, we will have to struggle with its vices. Whatever happened around them, church leaders of the past knew where they wanted to end up. They kept their eyes on the Lord, and they kept their eyes on heaven. And they knew that, no matter what they said or did, the outside world would never approve.

Do you start your day with words affirming your belief that God is one and will be with you during your engagements with the world?

Puritan Lewis Bayly (1575–1631) liked to pray this when he arose in the morning: “As you have awakened my body from sleep, so I beg you, awaken my soul to sin and from worldly security. As you have caused the sun’s light to shine on my physical eyes, cause the light of your word and Holy Spirit to illuminate my heart”. 

Pray without ceasing Pt 3

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

Pray according to God’s will.
To pray without ceasing means that prayer is not primarily about us; it’s about God. While God wants us to come to him with our concerns, we must understand as fully as possible what his concerns are.

When a man asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, he answered by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:36, 39). Jesus died so we would have the freedom and capacity to love God with all we are. And to love each other.

First, seek to love God with everything you are through and in prayer. Then, seek to love your neighbour through prayer. In this way you seek God’s will in every aspect of your prayers, as you include the concerns, requests, and needs for the people God has put around you.
Pray for:

  1. Your literal neighbour,
  2. Those in your church,
  3. The missionaries that you know,
  4. Family, 
  5. Strangers you’ve interacted with recently; and
  6. Your pastors and your politicians.

Pray without ceasing for all of them as you do for yourself—with God’s will paramount in your prayers for them.

Through your times of active prayer, the Spirit will begin to cultivate an attitude of unceasing prayer, and this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.