God with us.

It’s always easy to say God is with us when things are going well. But many struggle to sense God’s presence when they’re hurting. We sing “God on the Mountains”, reminding ourselves that God is with us when times are good and when we’re walking through the valleys, the wilderness and the storms of life. 

Last week, many watched the news reports of the snowfall in New York. It unexpectedly dropped up to 6 feet (182 CM) in some places.  Several people died as a result of the storm. People weren’t expecting that amount, they didn’t know what to expect; unlike other storms that batter the countryside, it was not given a name. Many of us have been in a storm, are in a storm, or are anticipating the next storm. Maybe you’re in a storm right now that you would like to name. Maybe it’s a storm named divorce. Maybe it’s a storm called, money or it’s called a career. Maybe it’s friendship. Maybe loneliness. Maybe grief or addictions, kids, in-laws, friends. Maybe it’s a storm called cancer. 

In the midst of our storm, some wonder where God is in these struggles. Why is He allowing this to happen? We usually don’t understand, and even if we’re the cause of our storm, it still doesn’t seem fair or right. Yet, God is there. He’s always there in the midst of the storm. We must not allow the presence of a storm to cause us to doubt the presence of God. 

Acts 27 contains the story of Paul being transported to Rome. During the journey, there was a massive storm at sea which seem to go on and on. The crew was so terrified that they threw the cargo overboard, believing they were about to die. They had given up hope. 

Have you been there? Have you given up all hope? Is it finances that are killing you, and you see no hope? Maybe there’s a wedge between you and your spouse or your family and you can’t see any hope. Maybe it was a medical diagnosis. Maybe it’s a job, it’s the kids, and it’s getting older and becoming more dependent. Whatever it is, just like those sailors, you’ve given up all hope!

Paul calls on the crew to have a positive spirit and to have good courage. He was reassured by an Angel that there would be no loss of life. We will have trouble, but Jesus promises us that He will be with us and on top of that, He has overcome the world. (John 16:33). 

In the midst of our storms, God is our hiding place. He is our refuge and our strength. He is always ready, willing and able to help us in times of trouble. Why? Because He is Immanuel. He is God with us. Be courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be defeated. Don’t give up hope! Because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! His Spirit is with you. Jesus is with you. God is with you yesterday, today and forever. He is listening to your prayers. When you recognize that even though you’re in the presence of a storm, the Lord is with you it changes how you ride out the storm. You will have peace. 

That is why you never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God. True peace is not found in the absence of trials and storms. True peace is found in the presence of Immanuel – God with us

How do we lament?

First, direct your conversation to God.
Lament is not directed toward our enemies, toward our suffering, or toward our pain. We direct our conversation to God, the One who hears us. It acknowledges God’s sovereignty in all things, and He is the One in control.
 
Second, describe your suffering and your pain to Him
The Lord knows our deepest innermost thoughts, but we should make it a point to tell Him what we are feeling! How angry are we about the pain we are experiencing? How frustrated we are that He seems to be silent?

Thirdly, depend on Christ for your help and your hope
We don’t simply pour our sorrows and pain before God and end there. Instead, we then turn to the gospel of Christ to find help and hope in our suffering. We turn a corner, begin to speak the gospel of peace and hope to ourselves, and turn to Jesus and ask Him for comfort, for His perspective, and for Him to act.


In the Bible, lament isn’t about blame, or anger. 

Lament is when we acknowledge, in grief and pain, that there’s no getting back what we’ve lost. 
Our fixes haven’t worked.
Our world will never be the same again. 
We’ve all lost by what’s happened during the Covid-19 crisis, whether or not we’ve been ill or bereaved. 
We’ve lost work opportunities, the company of friends and family, the ordinary privilege of doing what we like. 
Perhaps most of all, we’ve lost the illusion of invulnerability.
The idea that life will just keep getting better, because scientists and technicians will always keep us safe, healthy and comfortable, turns out not to be true. 
These have been dark times, and it’s right to acknowledge that without joining in those calls for someone to take the blame for it.

We shouldn’t try to be cheerful, or to peddle a false optimism about COVID 
We shouldn’t pretend we can soon, if at all, go back to how things used to be. 

But we are also people of hope, because we follow a crucified and risen Saviour. 
We’re familiar with the sadness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when hope seemed buried in the tomb; but we also know the rejoicing of Easter Sunday, when Christ rose from the dead. So for us, lament is not the same as despair.
Our hope, though, doesn’t rest on human skills or achievements. 
But so is hope, grounded in a faithful God. 
We want to move forward to be part of the mission God has called us to.
We want to look at where he wants to lead us and what plans he has for our church family.
But we have to acknowledge the damage COVID did to us and the church, talk with God about it and be ready to move forward.

I read these verses on Pastor Carols O’Donnell’s Facebook page, do join me in speaking them into our lives.

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from Him. 
 
He comforts us in all our troubles. 
Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. 
We ourselves have received comfort from God. 
 
We share the sufferings of Christ. 
We also share His comfort. 
If we are having trouble, it is so that you will be comforted and renewed. 
If we are comforted, it is so that you will be comforted. 
Then you will be able to put up with the same suffering we have gone through. 
 
Our hope for you remains firm. We know that you suffer just as we do. In the same way, God comforts you just as He comforts us. 
 
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the hard times we suffered during COVID  
We were having a lot of trouble. 
It was far more than some could stand. 
We even thought we were going to die. 
 
In fact, in our hearts we felt as if we were under the sentence of death. But that happened so that we would not depend on ourselves but on God. He raises the dead to life. 
 
God has saved us from deadly dangers. And He will continue to do it. We have put our hope in Him. He will continue to save us. 

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.