This past Sunday at Centre Church we discussed 'The Vow of Purity' and the idea 'where secrecy lives, intimacy dies.' I understand this message lands a lot of different ways to different people and that some of the ideas or truth spoken was challenging. We had those at the end of service who responded to make change and asked for God to move in their lives. To help you make further steps towards health and freedom we want to provide you with 4 next steps you can take today for overcoming porn or secret sexual sin.
Here are 4 next steps you can take today:
1) Tell your spouse and/or someone you trust about any areas you may be feeling shame about or struggling with regarding purity. If you don't feel like you have someone to share with, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk or I can help you find help.
2) If you may struggle with porn and need help with web accountability read this article for how to quit porn. This is an article produced by life.church with some resources at the end that can help you in your battle to beat porn.
3) Join a small group and get connected with people who will support you towards freedom. For a list of groups go to ccsmallgroups.net
3) Take time to memorize God's word starting with Proverbs 28:13, which reads, "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Know that God's forgiveness is available to you and that as you confess your sin he forgives you.
I want to help you live in the freedom God has called you to and live well his calling for your life. I believe that you can overcome and am praying that you take your necessary next steps today!
Josh Loeve - Lead Pastor
1. DIY Painting Night
Let the creative juices flow! Grab some canvases and acrylic paint (hit up the Dollar Store or Michaels for these), and search “Easy Painting Tutorial” on YouTube. Make a masterpiece and a memory in one evening!
2. Power’s Out Party
The idea is to pretend the electricity is off. Turn off the lights, switch off your phones, light the candles, order in take-out, and cozy up for your favorite Power’s Out activities. Try a board or card game, or ask some of our date night questions to kick-start great conversation.
3. Spa Night
Treat your significant other to a night of pampering. Think foot soaks, back rubs, hand massages. Have candles, lotion and relaxing music at hand. This will be a real winner for those who love a little extra affection!
4. Gamer Night
Pull out your (or your significant other’s!) favorite video games! Try renting your childhood favourites (Mario Kart anyone?!). Have popcorn or chips at the ready, and bring out your playful and competitive sides for this fun evening together.
5. Breakfast in Bed… at Night
Cook up your fave breakfast, make your coziest hot beverage, don your jammies, and hop into bed for this delicious change of routine! Men are like waffles, amiright?
6. Around the World Night
Pick a country. Make a recipe unique to that country or order in food from a local restaurant. Find a movie from that country and cozy up together to watch it. Or, choose an activity well known to that country to do together. If you love a challenge (or are prone to wanderlust), pick less familiar countries to learn about!
7. Nostalgia Night
Settle in for a reflective and memory filled evening together. Sip on coffee and eat your favorite dessert while you open up photo albums, wedding books, keepsake books, or your iPhoto library to relive the gamut of memories together.
8. For the Love of Fun Night
Let the silly and playful side of you thrive! Raid your kids Nerf Gun stash and plan for an all out battle. Turn off the lights and play Hide and Go Seek in the dark. Rig up a fort in the living room. Complete the fun with a stash of your favorite 5 cent candies.
9. Dinner for Two (Parents Addition)
Make the kids dinner, put them to bed, and enjoy a dinner for two alone. Shop ahead of time for a meal you can prepare at home or order something in. Put on some candles, some soft music, and enjoy a quiet dinner together. P.S. Don't forget dessert.
Need help starting a conversation? Here's some questions to help you.
1) What is your favorite memory as a child?
2) What’s my best physical feature?
3) What is your favorite memory of us dating?
4) Which of your parents are you most like?
5) What’s a new hobby you’d like to try?
6) If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
7) What’s the happiest you’ve ever felt?
8) What do you want to do when you retire?
9) For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10) If you could meet one famous person, who would it be?
11) What’s another career that you think you’d love?
12) If you could go back in time, what age would you be?
13) What was your favorite date night you’ve ever had with me?
14) Who do you know that has the best marriage? And what can we do to get there?
15) If you bought a boat, what would you name it?
Do you want to grow spiritually together? Take 6 days and track along with 'The Vow" devotional on YouVersion.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Typically I have seen the above passage used in the context of marriage, probably due to the reference to two people keeping each other warm, but in actually this wisdom scripture can be applied to the broader context of friendships.
This week at Centre Church we are launching all of our Small Groups with groups meeting in homes all over Surrey and Langley. What gets me excited as a pastor is to watch the relationships form in these groups as people wrestle through placing Jesus at the centre of their lives. The incredible part of small groups is that they allow for people to develop friendships that reflect the sentiments of the above scripture.
This is deeply important for two reasons: 1) A recent study was conducted in Vancouver reporting that nearly a third of people aged 18-24 were lonely (read here) and this statistic is continually increasing. 2) According to the TalkTrack research used in Ed Keller and Brad Fay’s The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, our conversations in person are much more powerful than those online. Keller-Fay’s TalkTrack research study also suggests that 90% of the influential conversations that we have every day happen offline, while only 8% are online. This is why small groups are so important to people's faith development. Small Groups connect us and influence us to live out God's calling for our lives for as read God's word, keep each other accountable, confess sin, and pray for one another.
So today as you're reading this I want to challenge you to get into a small group where deep, meaningful relationship takes place. There are many events, activities and the like that can busy up our time, but there is nothing that replaces a small group in the life of someone committed to following Jesus.
As the writer of Ecclesiastes states, "two are better than one and a strand of three cannot easily be broken."
Prayer Focus: Pray today for all of the small group leaders and members. Pray that God would unite the groups, develop deep relationships, take their Next Step of faith and that each person would have a personal encounter with Christ.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
There are a lot of misconceptions about what forgiveness is and isn't. Some choose to not let go of past hurts thinking that somehow they are letting someone get away with something while others continuously allow others to hurt them, believing that forgiveness is completely allowing someone back into your life. So what is forgiveness and how do we approach it?
Rick Warren on his blog "Daily Hope," outlines 4 steps to forgiveness, which I believe are apt steps and I encourage you to implement these steps into your own life.
The first step Rick says in the process of forgiveness is recognizing no one is perfect. When we understand that everyone sins, makes mistakes, has faults, and needs forgiveness it reminds us of our humanity. Bitterness and hate can lead to dehumanization and resentment, but reminding ourselves that all people need forgiveness places us all in the same boat. The Bible reads, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT, second edition). We’re all imperfect and this is a necessary place to start.
The second step that Rick suggest for forgiveness is to relinquish your right to get even. In Romans 12:19 the Bible reads, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it." We could easily seek out revenge and at times can justify our negative responses, but God asks us to choose otherwise. Rather than avenging ourselves, he asks us to trust him as God to bring about justice.
The third step Rick offers for forgiveness is to respond to the evil with good. Our natural inclination may be to fight back, gossip, slander, and ensure that someone is hurt as much as us. However, God asks us to love, rather than hate. To pray for someone, rather than spend our words tearing them down.
The fourth step is to refocus on God’s plan for your life. When you turn your eyes towards God and allow him to connect with you, encourage you, and solidify the calling in your life, the past hurts slowly begin to impact you less and less. This isn't to completely forget, but rather to remember that God still has a plan for you and wants to use your life to bring reconciliation, healing, love, and peace to those around you and ultimately to have you experience the same.
If you continually think about how someone has hurt you, that person has control over your life. Unfortunately, if you don't let go of the hurt, you may begin to become like the one who hurt you.
So don't spend another day in resentment, but release it to God, put these four steps into action and allow God to help you step into the future.
Acts 1:8 "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Today we pause and pray, let us pray to be witnesses for God in all the regions that Jesus describes here. Basically, Jesus is saying to be witnesses in our city in the verse referred to as Judea, in our region referred to as Samaria, and to the whole world. Pray that Centre Church as well as those globally that life up the name of Jesus would have boldness and courage to share the message of Christ with others.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland."
A new beginning or the start of something means something old is now gone and what was is now a memory. This is not a news flash, nor an earthshattering statement, but if we’re not careful we forget that the past is the past. Each day is an opportunity for you to choose to move on and let go of what was or to cling to it wasting mental energy that could have been used to build your future. For instance, I remember leaving my workplace of 11 years and starting the new adventure of planting a church. What this meant for me was that I would have to establish a new work culture, church identity, brand, hire personnel (started just me on staff), and find a workspace, which started in my home. During this time I remember thinking that this adventure was awesome, but then also having moments where I would look back and think, “This journey is much harder in what God has called me to do now then what I was doing before. Why did I choose this?” Now, to be fair… I wouldn’t have turned around, but the thoughts of what was tried repeatedly to steal my joy, calling, peace, and posture in what I was daily trying to accomplish.
During these moments of wrestling I found much inspiration and hope in Isaiah 43. God is telling the Israelites, and dare I extend this same idea to all of us, that he is going to do a new thing. In this they can dwell on the past or choose to grab hold of the new thing that he is doing! The irony in choosing where you focus your energy is that change is inevitable and even if you cling to the past the future is still dawning. Therefore, nothing stays the same, the world keeps spinning, and either you atrophy or grow stronger.
My point to you today is this: Like the people of Israel, you can complain about where God has taken you, throw your fists to the sky and look at what might have been or maybe it’s time to ask God, “Show me the new thing that you’re doing” and choose to embrace where you are today in all its fullness. With the Biblical character Joseph, God used his slavery to lead him to a great purpose. With Moses, he directed his path at a burning bush from being in obscurity to the leader of a nation. With Joshua, the walls fell through with God’s power when they were impenetrable. Lastly, God raised Jesus from the dead, when death itself took hold.
So today, you have a choice: Trust in the God who holds your past, present or future and lean into the new thing he wants to do through you or look back, live with regret and miss the greater opportunities that lie ahead. My prayer today is that you would live fully present, ready for all that God has called you to accomplish for today. You can’t change your past, but you can change your future through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer Focus: Ask God to help you let go of the past and embrace the new things in your future.
On January 28th, 2018 Centre Church will celebrate it's 3rd Anniversary as a church. It's a huge milestone and we want to pause to celebrate all that God has done over the last 3 years. Our passion has been to lead people into lives centred on Jesus and we look forward to sharing the stories of how God has done this through the mission of Centre Church.
So mark your calendar and join us Sunday, January 28th for a not-to-be-missed weekend service with treats, giveaways, special celebration elements and more! We'll see you there.
Today, I’m sharing thoughts that were planted in my heart five years ago. I had so many troubles in my life, my friends were swamped in troubles, and it felt like there was no hope. When a friend first shared this Bible verse with me, I thought she was crazy.
You will too:
My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
And have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Seems a little out there, right? Let’s dive in:
“…have dug their own cisterns…”
Way back when, people dug huge holes in the ground, lugged water into them jug by jug, and then covered them, so they could stockpile water closer to home.
Easier than walking to the river over and over again.
Once you were done digging. And trekking with heavy jars.
And if you didn’t mind drinking stale, muddy water.
Digging. So much work. So much sweat. So much effort. But, we all need water.
Think of how often you’ve swapped stories about what’s sucking all your energy right now, often with no end in sight, because you need the goal at the end. That one—or two or three--relationships in an impossibly tough place. That goal that is just out of reach, no matter how hard you try. That bad habit that always comes back to haunt you. Always.
What else does the verse say about these cisterns?
“…And have dug their own cisterns, Broken cisterns that cannot hold water…”
All this work. All this effort. And the cisterns are broken. The water leaks out. It’s not there when you need it. We work so hard, and everything just breaks again.
I’ve been there. You have too. And you’ve got people in your life also pulling their hair out when all their work and effort just leaks away into nothingness.
Why does this happen? Why can’t we get a break?
God’s answer is tucked into this verse too:
“…They have forsaken me”.
Forsaken. Not one of those words we use every day. What does it mean? It’s not about forgetting. It’s not about things we’ve never learned or experienced. Forsaken is something we abandon.
All this hard work digging, all this frustration at how leaky our cisterns are, it’s all because we’ve abandoned God. We’ve turned our backs on God, and made our own rules and schedule for our lives.
God is love (1 John 4:8). And we’ve gone and abandoned love.
And along with that, we’ve abandoned the good things God gives us, like forgiveness, trust, and self-control. Of course, all for reasons that feel incredibly right and justifiable… until we dare consider the selfishness and fear and anger and laziness wrapping around all our reasoning.
And here we sit, desperate for water, but surrounded by broken, leaking cisterns and the weariness of so much hard work that leads to nothing.
But that’s not the end.
God is our answer!
“…They have forsaken me, The spring of living water…”
God is our spring of living water!
A spring, not a cistern!
A spring, gushing from a never-ending supply of fresh water!
Fresh water. Living water. Water we never have to work to access, to drink, or to live. Water that is freely given whenever we need it.
Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in despair, living off dirty, tepid water. And, he’ll give his water to anyone who asks (Matthew 7:7).
Take a closer look at what’s sucking all your energy and filling your days with stress. An honest look. When did that journey abandon God and his love?
All it takes is one prayer, and you can leave that cistern behind, and taste God’s sweet, gushing, living water. I can tell you that it works.
Jesus said, “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
God loves fill us with his love, giving us his living water. And he’s really good at fixing broken things. Broken hearts. Broken relationships. Broken habits. You name it, he has a perfect track record for fixing it.
Wondering what to pray? Start with this: “Jesus, I abandoned you, and am tired of drinking from my broken cistern of _________________. I’m turning back to you, desperate for your living water. Amen.”
There’s more to this story. The Bible is full of truth about how God’s powerful love invades lives and teaches our hearts to run to his spring instead of our old, broken cisterns. If you want to dive deeper, the book of John in the Bible is a good start.
Read this verse one more time:
My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
And have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Not so crazy, this time, right? My prayer is that as this truth makes its home in your heart, that you will find yourself sharing it with more and more people in your life. Because we all get bogged down in messy cisterns. And we all need some living water.
In the fall, I received a beautiful white book of poetry by the poet Mary Oliver. In amongst the pages I was captivated by these words in a poem called “Prayer”:
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris,
it could be
weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together
and don’t try
to make them elaborate,
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a
silence in which
another voice may speak.
Ms Oliver is onto something powerful here in her thoughts on prayer. Our God is constantly giving us gifts and it is a necessary spiritual practice to attune our eyes to see them. The beauty of blue iris or the common weed or stone, all a gift. Now life is not all roses, or irises, and the real treasure of gratitude comes when we are facing the “vacant lot” of life. Yet, I believe there is always a something, if not a wealth of things, to express gratitude for. And who but God deserves this thanks?
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!" - Psalm 118:1
If you ever feel stumped by the words to use, know that prayer is far less about the right words than the right heart. But still the thankful words poured from a thankful heart are important! You can begin this practice with a prayer of gratitude that is as simple as “Hi God. Thank you for that.” Our ability to speak words of gratitude create the doorway into a thankful heart space. A thankful heart space becomes a peaceful and contented heart. Try it for yourself!
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord" - Psalm 92:1
When I keep the everyday goodness of God forefront, it fills me with wonder and joy. All my senses are awake: what is God up to next? It turns my eyes towards God, ready to see (and respond to) God at work in the space around me. Anticipating goodness, my heart is poised to hear from God. I love that the above poem on prayer ends with thoughts on listening, which is the integral other half of communication with God.
"I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart" – Psalm 138:1
Gratitude is also all tied up together with honour and humility. I sense my humble place in the grand scheme of things when I recognize the kindnesses of God towards me. I give honour where it is due, to the Creator.
"Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done" - Psalm 105:1
So today, be paying attention. What common things and what less-common things, can you find to create the “doorway into thanks”? Perhaps consider beginning a gratitude list or journal. How many things could you pause to notice and be grateful for this day? Speak them out to God. He’s bending down low to listen.
"We thank you, O God! We give thanks because…" - Psalm 75:1
PRAYER FOCUS: Take a minute to take inventory of the all the things that you're thankful for. Take time to thank God for all these things!
“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’” - John 5:5-6
To onlookers, the question from Jesus must have seemed a bit strange - offensive, even. There Jesus was, in an area reserved for the disabled and paralyzed, addressing a man who had clearly been there for a very, very long time.
“Do you want to be healed?” he inquired.
The answer appeared blatantly obvious. Why even ask?
One way to think about this little encounter is to look at our own lives. All of us have struggled from time to time with various forms of spiritual illnesses: addictions, destructive habits, negative patterns of acting or thinking. It’s incredibly easy for us to tell God, others, and most critically, ourselves, that we want to be healed of our condition, that we want to change, that we want to walk in the freedom and boldness of the Holy Spirit. But do we really?
We don’t know the whole story of the paralytic man in John chapter 5, but we can infer a few things. For one, healing for this man meant that he would have to completely redefine himself. After some 38 years of receiving donations from others, he would now have to find alternative means of income. He would need to develop new trade skills or find a profession. He would have to build new social relationships. He would have to navigate mainstream society for the first time.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that the man didn’t want to be healed. I’m certain he did, at least in an intellectual sense. But I also can’t help but wonder if he was truly as hungry for healing as he thought he was. If he was ready for change. If he was actually prepared to count the cost that leaving his illness would demand.
I can’t help but wonder if, on some level deep within his spirit, the man had reached a place of quiet complacency about his problem. If he had become okay with his illness. If he had embraced a narrative of victimhood. I suspect that Jesus was trying to address this.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves a frank talking to. Sometimes our assertions of paralysis and victimization need to be firmly challenged. We say we want to be healed. But do we really? Are we prepared to count the cost? Are we actually prepared to surrender our struggle and embrace the Healer?
The paralytic man from John 5 had defined a set of conditions for his healing. When someone helps me up, when an angel stirs the waters of the pool, when I reach the pool first, when it’s a sunny day, etc. But the Healer wasn’t interested in his preconditions. He was interested in transformation.
When I think about different spiritual illnesses I’ve struggled with throughout my life - be they addictions, habits, or patterns of behaviour - I realize that here too I’ve been guilty of defining the terms of my own recovery. I’ll stop this bad habit once I’ve finished this stressful season, I’ll tell myself. I’ll change this pattern of behaviour after reading this book. I’ll restart this life-giving action when life isn’t so busy. Self-assurance can be so dangerously comforting.
Thankfully, Jesus isn’t limited by my terms of recovery. He simply says “I’m here. Do you want to be healed?”
God created us to work in partnership with him. He doesn't offer to transform our lives while we sit passively by the pool. He wants us to engage with him, walk with him, and work out our healing in relationship with him. This healing brings strange new territory, the departure of comforting vices, and the release of old identities. It’s only when we fully embrace the Healer that we find the courage to actually get up, take up our mat, and walk.
If you seek healing as I do, let us not wait until we feel ready, or someone compels us, or life is convenient. Let's not wait for revival, a unique feeling, or a special touch from a spiritual celebrity. While we’re waiting for conditions to align perfectly, Jesus stands beside us, asking us if we want to be healed.
Let’s embrace the Healer, whatever the cost. Let’s walk.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” - John 5:6-9
Prayer Focus: Pray for healing for you or someone you know? Ask for the faith to believe his promises for healing.
With every New Years, I feel a tremendous pressure to have goals, make plans, and ensure that I’m most successful for the upcoming year. At times, I can be unsure the specific reason I need to do these things and sometimes when I’m honest with myself I do certain habits, because word on the street being that this how you get the best results. Now, I’m not advocating for eliminating goals or for abdicating a plan, more so I want to stress that goals for the sake of goals are generally silly and the addiction to success, whatever one’s definition may be, is unsatisfying and often leaves me unfulfilled.
This past year I took a Birkman Assessment Test, which as a side note was one of the first helpful personality tests I’ve ever done. The helpful aspect of the asses my leadership style/personality, how I can best communicate to those around me I interact with and how I view the world in contrast to everyone else. What saddened and shocked me about an aspect of the results was that I scored highest in the area of challenge. Basically, this means that I constantly shoot for the moon with everything and challenge myself intensively to achieve what I’ve set up to achieve. As with most personality traits, this has an upside and a downside. The upside being that I will always strive for the highest level of achievement and the downside being the same with the only difference being that I will do whatever I can to be successful, no matter the cost. Spiritually, the desire to be successful, paired with the attitude of ‘no matter the cost’ has been deadly, but this is a year of change.
As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!” The point being is that Jesus has already done the heavy lifting of life change in me and the most crucial part is that I work from knowing that I’m made new, not that I have to earn my newness. No earthly success, achieved goal, or recognition could ever add to who he has recreated me to be and will not bring lasting fulfillment like Christ. So this year, I am choosing to focus on working from the knowledge that I am excepted rather than trying to earn God’s acceptance through what I do in my life. My security lies not in the work of my life, but in the knowledge that I am new in Jesus. My prayer for you today is that despite all of your aspirations, goals, and agenda’s that you would know who’s you are and not try to work for God’s love or favour, but rather from it.
PRAYER FOCUS: Pray today that God would help you live from a place of security and completeness knowing that you're new in him. If you haven't made Jesus your Saviour, pray today for Jesus to come into your life and make all things new.
John 3:30 – "He must become greater; I must become less.” (NIV)
“New year, new me” that’s how the saying goes doesn’t it? I can get pretty obsessive about the New Year and all the goals I want to make and all the resolutions I want to create. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with goal setting; I think it’s healthy and good. However, there’s something about the New Year that makes me feel overly optimistic about myself. All of the sudden I feel like I can conquer anything and everything. I’m eager to head to the gym 7 times a week, I’m suddenly on the gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo diet and the list goes on. I start to create a list of items on how I can improve myself, and sadly one of the last things on my mind is how I can best strengthen my relationship with God.
The first thing my mind goes to are about me, instead of how I can best create more space for God who makes me my best self.
A part of me forgets that how I have survived the past year has been through the help of Christ and the community HE has put around me. However, despite God’s provision and care, the first thing on my mind has been about myself.
I guess you can say that I have an addiction to self. Even after celebrating Christmas and remembering the story about Jesus coming down to earth, which is the biggest invitation story for us- I’m back to thinking about my own wants and needs.
Then, I realized something. It’s possible to sing the declaration of the advent without ever accepting the invitation. It’s possible to sing worship songs to Jesus, but clouded by the perceptions of other people around you. It’s possible to come to church and sit under a message but to continue to live your life with self-sufficiency, fear and rivalry. You can agree in your mind the story, but give glory (and live out) a different story. You can say yes to Jesus and experience Jesus, but go by the fumes of your own strength.
What does this have to do with prayer?
Prayer forces us to think of ourselves less, because it’s pointing us back to God and to others.
There’s something about prayer that’s always been difficult for me. Other than the given of me creating space and time for it, the biggest difficulty would be that when I pray, it would mean that I would need to look away from myself and TO Jesus for his help. When I begin to pray, it would require for me to look away from my problems and be open to what God is saying during the situation. It would require for me to put my own opinions aside in order to listen. It would mean that I would need to stop looking to myself for guidance, and reposition my mind to God. It would mean trusting myself less, and trusting God more.
But – it’s hard. It’s hard to look away from myself and rely on God. Yet, at the end of the day I know that He’s mighty and powerful, and I am not. I have limits, where as He does not.
This year, I really want to create more space for Him.
During the 21 days of prayer, my prayer is that you will learn to love your time with God more. And that you will begin to hear his voice a lot clearer then before. That you will learn to trust and love Him more, then you will yourself, and your declaration to God is the same in your actions.
Prayer Focus: Pray today that you would learn to develop a deeper love for your time with God and hear his voice more clearer.
2017 was a difficult year for me! There was lots of change and transition. Some change was planned and anticipated, while other change was unexpected and unwanted. It was a year of high mountain tops and low valleys. I started my masters degree in 2017 (I love studying!). I drove a 15 passenger van (full of college students) across Canada. I was promoted at work! I was demoted at work. I served at Centre Church with some amazing friends, and I got to lead worship at camps and conferences around North America with some of my favorite people. My wife and I got to take Jairen (our little boy) to Disneyland for the first time - best ever, and in September we lost Jairen and haven’t been able to see or talk to him since.
At times I laughed ridiculously hard, and at other times I cried more tears than I had in all 26 prior years combined.
I look back, and although there were times of great pain, I see God’s hand in it all. I see that through times of great trial, he was shaping me and forming me into the image of His son Jesus. He was teaching me to trust Him, even when I don’t understand. Romans 8:26-28 has been an important verse for me.
"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God (MSG). And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)
Bethel Music released a song last summer that was exactly what I needed, and it was called “Take Courage”. One of the lyrics says “Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, He’s in the waiting..." (listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJoABwNMzvM). Out of everything I could say about 2017, that is one things that is certainly true. He was with me in the waiting. He was with me in my sorrow, and He was with me in my pain.
My prayer for 2018 is not that that my life would be easier and more comfortable, but instead that I would have eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants me to learn and who He wants me to become. That I would not tire of doing good, and that He would find beauty in my brokenness.
2018 is a new year. A new beginning. A new opportunity to grow and become. As cliche as this phrase has become, I truly believe that “the best is yet to come”. In saying that, “the best” might not be what I think “the best” is, but I know that God is working all things together for my good, and that he has great plans for my future. He’s not done with me yet, and I’m thankful for that.
PRAYER FOCUS: Pray and ask God today what he wants you to learn and who he wants you to become. After your time of prayer, write down what you believe God is speaking to you.
January is about new beginnings. As I sit and reflect on this incredible gift of beginnings, I can’t help but think of the connection it has to a renewed life with Christ. A clean slate, a fresh start to live a life of purpose and meaning. As a Christian, now that I have made the decision, I can say with full confidence that it is the best decision I have ever made in my life, but it didn’t come so easily for me. I wrestled in the balance of uncertainty.
I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic school, attended mass, received the sacraments, but God was never someone I could relate to. He held His place on a throne as Lord, but not close to me like a friend. He was presented as someone far away where my prayers and petitions may have been lost in transit. He was a God seated on a throne but never the Lord of my life. As I grew older, I became more of a realist. A person of facts and action opposed to beliefs and even dreams. I hardened my heart to the world around me and to the God of this world. As I look back I find it fascinating how pain can change us. Even strip someone of the very life they were called to live.
Eventually I became desperate and in this place I sought God who became a safe place from danger. I began learning his character and feeling his presence in my unbelievably lonely and isolated environment. When I finally accepted Jesus to be the Lord of my life, I did it about 20 times just to be sure He heard me or maybe as confirmation to myself that I, someone who had definitely fallen short of the glory of God, was declaring Jesus as Lord of my life. I was transformed and given a second chance, a clean slate, a fresh start or better yet... a new beginning.
There are thousands of promises in the Bible that God has given to his followers and as I began my journey with God, I wrote them around my home in the hopes that they would ring louder than the words that I told and believed about myself.
I clung to two familiar scriptures found in John. These scriptures as I repeated them over and over in my head my perspective shifted. It was here, as the promises took hold of my life that I changed.
The first text that resonated with me was John 3:16 which reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You see, it all becomes new at the cross and not just that, He came for me.
The second scripture that resonated with me was John 10:10 “The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. This scripture was important in starting new as it helped me remember that in pursuit of right living, there was also something fighting against my attempts to make change. In this verse the word “abundantly” was one I held onto tightly as I needing reminding in my changes that there was something more, something great beyond my current struggle. This scripture became the key to unlocking the lies the devil had spoken to me and helped me expose what was trying to destroy my life.
The new year, maybe due to it being a new beginning, reminds me of the life I once lived. This time in my life was a painful time, but thankfully not the end of my story. As I begin a new year it is a time to be thankful for the work God has done in my life and more specifically in my heart. I welcome this new year with anticipation and hopefulness, because of His faithfulness and the commitment to change that he has helped me with each passing year. I sense this year is a year to walk in the fullness of what God has already planned for me… and I believe the same is true for you! Maybe it's experiencing Christ in a new way or giving your life to Him? Maybe it's trusting God more or praying everyday? Whatever new beginning or next step you want to take I pray that you would trust in God's goodness and take your step of faith today!
Prayer Focus: Identify what your next step may be with God. Pray that God would help you by the power of the Holy Spirit to take your next step.
"Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
At the age of ten, I decided to chase a dream that promised glory and fame. I chased this wild dream with all my heart, imagining all who would cheer for me and the impossible task I had managed to complete. But it just never happened.
The dream would get close to reality, and then crumble, over and over again. Until God led me into living my dream in the suburbs. And, he threw in a baby, just to keep me on my toes.
After a few months of recklessly living in the present, as infants force you to do, I suddenly realized that I was living the wild dreams I craved for so long. It just looked different than anything I expected.
I slowly realized that my joy in living this dream was connected to some habits I had desperately reintroduced to my life. Habits like hunting down encouraging verses in the Bible. And broadening my grumpy, complaining prayer life to include some gratitude. And letting go of bad habits. And remembering what it’s like to live with the faith that God has plans to do good things with my life.
It is so ridiculously satisfying to be at the end of a grumpy season of life, to step away from crumbling dreams and to be flooded by a rich life right now. Even though circumstances haven’t changed too much, my heart is stronger because it is linked with God’s.
It took a while for me to realize that knowing God, and seeking more and more faith in him, was what my heart was craving. What my soul needed. Where dreams would make sense, and explode in surprising ways.
These days, I pray for things like a faith in Jesus that grows bigger every day, and eyes to see how to walk hand-in-hand with God through upcoming changes and the uncontrollable surprises that fill life. And I keep adding to lists of things I’m grateful for that have already filled sheets and sheets of paper.
Should you be thinking about sharing your grumpy heart and crumbling dreams with God, I can promise you that he understands and can’t wait to renew your life.
I encourage you to re-read Isaiah 40:27-31, and pray. Prayer today that your life will soar a little closer to God’s truth and his deep love for you.
The Resurrection King: Author of Comeback Stories
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’" - John 11:25
One of the primary reasons we worship our heavenly Father is that we recognize him as the Creator of all living things. Whatever his timeline or methodology, we credit him for the mind-numbing intricacy and logic-defying expanse of the known universe. From the complexity of cell design to the overwhelming power of the largest stars, we know God as a source of creativity and design. His life force permeates every plant and creature that moves on this planet. He wills that all things live - and not just live, but flourish. His handiwork in nature reminds us of his creative energies, and his character is actively reflected in us when we express ourselves creatively through art, media, music, and all sorts of mediums.
But there’s more far more to see of God than just his creativity. Just as significantly - perhaps even more significantly - our Father loves to reveal himself as the Resurrection. To understand the profound value of this aspect of God, we must first understand his nemesis.
The story of God’s world is one of beauty and life, but it contains a great antagonist. This antagonist goes by many names in scripture: Accuser, Deceiver, Destroyer. His essence and mission are precisely antithetical to our Father’s. Instead of creation, he seeks destruction. Instead of joy, he seeks suffering. Instead of life, he seeks death. He sows seeds of sin throughout God’s creation in an attempt to corrupt every good and living thing. Jesus describes his enemy - and the contrast in their missions - this way:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” - John 10:10
We don’t have to look any further than our own lives to see evidence of the Evil One’s work. Our sinful choices - and the sinful choices of others - inevitably yield harvests of discouragement, pain, and loss. Fear, pride, and jealousy lead to abuse, selfishness, and subjugation, and in turn these actions tend to breed more of the same. Cycles of sin and suffering are easy to find in our broken world, and the Evil One celebrates them all.
But it is here we see that we witness another amazing quality of our Father - one very much worth celebrating. More than Creator, he is the Great Reviver. Throughout scripture and across the span of recorded history, God loves to be known for repair, for renewal, for reconciliation, even - or especially - when it appears that all is lost. Again and again, God seems to enjoy writing the story of the underdog, the written off, the down and out. Though the resurrection of Jesus is the most famous and important example of this, the Bible is packed with other examples of remarkable comebacks engineered by the Resurrection King.
In the Old Testament, God brought a vision to the ancient prophet Ezekiel. He showed Ezekiel a valley filled with nothing but bones. Ezekiel couldn’t see much potential, much reason for excitement in that valley. But God proceeded to breathe gusts of life-giving wind across it, and before Ezekiel’s eyes the bones assembled and reconstituted themselves into a large and powerful army - just like a scene from Lord of the Rings.
I’ve seen this principle first hand. Seven years ago, my marriage was crumbling into separation. I sunk deep into discouragement and shame, certain I would wear the title of failure for the foreseeable future. I withdrew from friendships and church community, feeling I had nothing of value to offer others.
But I am thankful to say that in his faithfulness and in his way, God gradually turned my ashes into beauty. He restored my soul. He breathed new life into this heart of mine, giving me a new hope and a new future. Although I haven’t forgotten my valley of suffering from years past, I’m amazed by the positive turns my life story has taken. There was a time when I no longer thought such turns were possible.
Perhaps you’re surrounded by a valley of bones. Perhaps it’s hard to see hope past the corpses of past defeats. I want to encourage you today that no matter what you see of yourself, your mistakes, or your shortcomings, God longs to write new chapters in your story. He specializes in mending the broken, transforming the miserable, reviving the lifeless. His very essence thrives on it.
Yes, our God is the Creator. But he’s more than that. He’s the Resurrection King. This year, I invite you to let God breathe new life into your story.
Prayer Focus: Pray today that God would breathe life into the area's of your world that seem dead or desolate.