This is Us

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

I have been swept away, like the many millions of fellow viewers, by the television show “This is Us” on NBC.  Now in its second season, I have relished every emotion packed episode and each week I count down the days until its next true-to-life installment.  In my opinion, it is one of the most relatable drama series to be released on air, giving a very accurate look at family life in all of its beautiful dysfunction.

The interplay between characters, with an intricate look at their lives past, present and future, is masterfully portrayed through incredible writing, directing and acting.  The fairy-tale premise on which the story is based, is one that so many fans dream for; a young couple falling in love, entering in to a completely devoted marriage and raising three great children successfully.  However, the twists and turns these lives take along their journey together are never short on surprise and often represent our deepest family fears or experiences.  The show’s appeal is in this very juxtaposition of themes; fairy-tale meets reality.

“This is Us” is simply incredible television, with shares in Kleenex; of that I am sure!

Without creating any spoilers for those yet to watch, I would like to draw attention to one character in particular.  The family patriarch, Jack Pearson.  He is truly an all-around good guy!  A thoughtful, selfless, gentleman, wholly committed to his wife and hopelessly romantic.  An involved father who lovingly speaks words of guidance into his children’s lives, having great fun along the way.  A loyal friend and brother, willing to stick up for those he loves.  A hard worker, full of integrity in the workplace and handy around the house.  Jack is always optimistic amidst adversity, is exceedingly sacrificial and always has good to say.

I keep waiting for his character to falter and reveal a drastic flaw, but I have yet to see this!

What I find most interesting about Jack is that every other character connected to him, both in his family and outside, look to him as their “saviour.”  Jack will know what to do.  Jack will fix what is wrong.  Jack will make better what is at odds.  Jack will speak what others cannot.  Sure, he has his challenges, but despite those he is always smiling with a witty joke to lighten the mood!

His very presence brightens the room picking up the spirits of others.  His very absence cripples the ability of others to carry on.

When I reflect on this observation, I realize that in our humanity we are all searching for a “saviour.”  Just like the characters in this drama, we often look to other people to save us from life’s perils.  This is due to the finite nature of our minds and that we are tangibly driven.  Naturally we do not look to the Lord for our salvation.  It takes wilful action on our part to place our trust in Jesus, our one true Saviour.  Jeremiah 15:5-12 (NLT) says this,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 

They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future.  They live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.

But, blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. 

Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.

Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.’”

Daughters, let “This be Us.”  That we would be trees planted by the streams of living water, Christ Himself, rooted deep in His love and provision, producing the fruit of the Spirit despite adversity, giving glory to His name in all circumstances, thus, making Jesus famous to all we interact with.  Amen!

The Promiser and the Promise

Written by: Jody Mugford

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-3

Many of us are familiar with this story in the Old Testament.  God had promised Abraham years ago that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky.  But Abraham didn’t have any children.  How could he have descendants with no children?  Abraham was later blessed with a miraculous son, promised from God, at the age of 100 years old.  He and Sarah waited a long time for Isaac to be born and were overjoyed when he finally arrived.

Some time later, God stretches Abraham in a way he would never have imagined…by asking him to sacrifice his beloved son.  I don’t know about you, but I struggled with this story for a long time.  It seemed so cruel to me.  Why would a loving and merciful God put Abraham through so much torment and turmoil by asking him to do such a thing?  I even felt angry that God would test Abraham, His faithful servant, this way.  I couldn’t reconcile this test of God with what I understood about His character.  I wondered how Abraham didn’t rise up in anger against God’s unthinkable request, as I might do.  I realized, some time later, that there was a piece of the story I was missing and it changed everything for me.

In Genesis, we read that Abraham obeys God and brings Isaac to the mountain God has appointed and prepares to sacrifice him.  Abraham loved Isaac so much.  We can only imagine the heartache he was feeling, knowing he was about to slay his son.  I am sure he wondered why the God he served faithfully would ask this of him.  I am sure he wrestled with the torture of this task.  Abraham fully intended to sacrifice Isaac, as God had asked, but I’m sure he was heartbroken at the prospect.  I am heartbroken just reading it.  The amazing portion of the story I had missed is found in the New Testament in the Book of Hebrews:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.  Hebrews 11:17-19

Abraham expected God would resurrect Isaac!  Abraham had a promise!  He knew that God had promised his descendants to come through Isaac and that couldn’t happen if Isaac was dead.  I was floored by this revelation!  What struck me even more so was that Abraham had no frame of reference to know God as Resurrector.  Today we have the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection, of Lazarus and even modern day testimonies of people coming back from the dead but Abraham had none of this.  Abraham took what he knew of God: a just, loving, miracle-working, promise-keeping God, and reasoned in his heart that God would bring his son back from the dead.  Abraham had a promise from his Creator and he knew that, somehow, God would keep that promise.

And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” 

Genesis 22:10-12

Has God given you a promise that, in your perspective, just doesn’t seem possible?  Has He asked something of you that seems confusing and you are uncertain what to do?  Hang in there, friends, I have been there too.  Thankfully, God is not limited by our understanding of Him.  He does not ask that have Him or His ways all figured out.  What kind of God would He be, if we could do that?  But He does ask that we trust Him.  He asks that we dig into His Word, His love letter to us, and discover who He is.  He asks that we spend time in prayer and in His presence so He can reveal more of His character to us.  He is a promise-keeping God and, sometimes, believing these promises can stretch us further than we had anticipated.  But the stretching builds character and gives Him the opportunity to show up and do mighty things.  So the next time we are looking at an “impossible” situation, we will know that, even if we’ve never seen God do this before, He specializes in making the impossible possible.

Steve Guzik said something in one his commentaries that really struck home to me.  He wrote, “Abraham had to learn the difference between trusting the promise and trusting the Promiser.  We can put God’s promise before God Himself and feel it is our responsibility to bring the promise to pass, even if we have to disobey God to do it.  Trust the Promiser no matter what, and the promise will be taken care of.”

Love and blessings,

Jody

 

CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM!

Written by: Christianne Williams

It hit me all of a sudden, it gripped me, and I couldn’t understand why.  My heart started to race, my breathing picked up, and I got a pain in the pit of my stomach.  I felt like something bad was going to happen, like I was about to have my life thrown into a tailspin, and yet, there I was, sitting in a chair in my living room as safe as one could be.  I looked around and no one seemed to notice that I was being hit with the fist of anxiety. It is after all, a relatively silent thing.  You can become pretty good at hiding it all behind a smile because you don’t want anyone to think you don’t actually have it all together.  You don’t want to feel like you’re the only one on the block who sometimes feels this way, let alone the only Christian on the planet who has these moments hit them like a Mack truck at an intersection.

I refused to tell anyone how badly I was feeling at times because any time I did I was always met with the platitude of, “Christians don’t have anxiety, they have God.”  or “God’s got it all under control so you shouldn’t be worrying.”  Or my very favorite, “It shows a real lack of faith to have anxiety.”  Now, I’m not talking about worrying occasionally about something, I’m talking about the panic that hits you in the stomach and no amount of talking yourself out of it helps.  I know that God is good, that He doesn’t want us to suffer, and that He can deliver us from all anxiety and fear.  I know it’s not His plan for us to live in this prison.  But I also know that it can be really hard, from the inside looking out, to get this feeling to just go away by talking yourself out of it.

Anxiety and fear are a tool used by the enemy to cripple the children of God so they believe that they are powerless and thus, stay where they are, not brave enough to step out and try the things God is calling them to do.  Anxiety calls to mind the ‘what ifs?’, it tells us that bad things are in store if we proceed any further.  It’s the voice that tells us that God really isn’t for us, that He’s there waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us.  It’s the voice of a liar.   Fear of man, fear of failure, fear of a new direction, the list goes on, these are all things that will steal the joy from our journey and the fulfillment of our destiny.  Doing things for God will mean confronting these lies head on, even when we feel like running away, we must put one foot in front of the other.

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you”

Lately I’ve been choosing to be more real about the anxiety I feel from time to time.  I believe that the struggles we face, we go through for a season and a reason.  One of those reasons is to help others who are facing the same thing.  I remember hearing the speaker at a conference one time say that if we go through a valley, even if it takes the stuffing out of us, we can choose to let it kill our testimony or we can use it as a platform to help others find refuge in God.  I really want to step past the fear and allow God to use my struggle to support others who feel that they can’t go on.  Another reason is because I find that if I can talk to someone about the thoughts in my head, it actually doesn’t seem so bad.    Memorizing scripture, truth, that you can repeat over and over again will help to redirect your thoughts, bringing peace to your spirit.

2 Timothy says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.”  Another of my favorites says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  In my life I want to accomplish all God has for me, and I want that to be the cry of all our hearts, even those who are right now crippled by fear.  Let us allow God to have complete control of all of those anxieties, being completely open with Him and giving Him permission to deal with whatever hurts or events that brought us to this place.  Having complete freedom in Him is possible if we’re willing to lay aside our feelings and begin to make a concentrated effort to fill our minds with His words of truth.

We Choose JOY: Jennifer Cesario

 

Written by: Cindy Morrone

February 5, 1963-August 20, 2017

Our first interview in our new video series, We Choose JOY!! is different than any other.  It’s a memoire of someone very dear to me, who suddenly passed away last year.

She was everyone’s best friend.  You only needed to spend a moment in her presence before you knew you were loved, and cherished.  A true reflection of Jesus!!

And her laugh!!!  Was contagious!! And the silly things she did, made you laugh even harder! She exemplified JOY in her every day!!

Love you Jennifer.  Thank you for leaving a wake of JOY!!

Thank you to Karen Greener, who so graciously created this video for us!!  Here’s a little about this incredibly gifted lady;

“My name is Karen Greener, I’m originally from Livonia MI…I moved up to the Oxford area in 1992 and first met Jennifer on our church’s softball league where she showed up for the first game wearing 2inch open toed sandals and doing cartwheels in right field signing “Thriller” at the top of her lungs! I knew then that our friendship would be one of non-stop laughter and adventures…but it didn’t take long to learn that Jen’s passion was serving her Lord and His people in ministry, which she did faithfully for the rest of her life!

Family and friends, did you spot yourself in this video?

Watch Video HERE!

 

Peace Be Still

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

Many years ago when our children were very small we took a family vacation out east to P.E.I. It was one of the best vacations ever! We slept in a lighthouse and it was such a cool experience.  At one point on the trip we decided to take a boat excursion. We were not very far along on the journey when all of a sudden the dark clouds rolled in and a violent thunderstorm broke out. I remember the high waves and the boat being tossed about.  Even though the top of the boat was covered, water still began to flood the inside. It did not help things when the captain of the ship said something like “This is terrible. I have never been in the boat during a storm as bad as this. We should be ok though” We were all just a little nervous to say the least.  I remember my heart pounding a little faster and my stomach in turmoil. One of our sons was so scared that he peed his pants.  Fear can really mess with us and bring havoc to our lives.

This real life storm reminded me of another real life storm that happened back in the time when Jesus walked on the earth.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So, they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Then he asked them “Why were you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:34-40

 

The disciples had Jesus in the boat with them and yet they still were afraid.  Is it possible to have fear and faith at the same time? I don’t think so.  I don’t think they can coincide at the same time. The thing that amazes me is that even though there was a massive storm and the disciples were afraid for their lives, Jesus slept.  How can one sleep when the storm is raging all around? And even though there was great chaos, Jesus wasn’t concerned or worried by it at all. All he had to do was speak to the waves and all was calm again.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will lay down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord will keep me safe.

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety for the Lord was watching over me.

Recently we asked the children in our Bible classes (in Honduras), what they were afraid of. They said things like rats, cockroaches, clowns, and gunshots. One girl said loneliness.  And I think if we were honest with ourselves, there are things that we are afraid of too.  I can be a bit insecure at times so for me it is things like the fear of being alone, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not saying the right thing. Many people have the fear of public speaking. I am also afraid of rats. I have seen rats the size of cats here.

The bible says in Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid I will put my trust in you.

We can remember that no matter what we are afraid of or what storm we are going through that our Saviour is with us.  He’s not going to leave us high and dry. He’s not going to leave us alone to face our fears by ourselves.

There are some practical things that we can do to increase our faith when we are feeling afraid or are in the midst of chaos. Reading and memorize scriptures, praise and worship and prayer…talking to God and remembering the good things he has done in our lives.  And here’s a tip….write those scriptures down so you can go back and read them again and again when those times of fear come knocking at the door.

Isaiah 26:3,4 you will keep in in perfect peace, all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord is the eternal rock.

 

Finding the Gold: Hold On For Dear Life

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Over the last three weeks I’ve dug into the responses from three questions I asked of a couple dozen friends. On week one we looked at our identity and on week two, our purpose. We concluded that both our identity and our purpose are only fully maximized when looked at through a Jesus filter. Any and all other perspectives (our own, the world’s, our friends, etc) creates a misinformed view of who we are and who we are created to be.

The third and final question I asked was this:
Does the way you feel about yourself affect your relationship with God and the way He sees you?

Once again the responses I received were incredibly diverse. We are all in different seasons in our lives, after all. Each response echoed the fact that ‘yes’ the way we feel about ourselves directly affects our relationship with God. Each person also deduced that regardless of how our relationship with God changes or is affected by our own interpretations of our present circumstances, God’s love for us never does. His love is unconditional, eternal and endures all things.

These are great realizations based on biblical truths. Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, 1 Corinthians 13 mirror these responses. Are we living as though we truly believe in God’s unconditional love for us? His incredible love is transformational —are we being transformed? Are we being pushed to be more like Christ because our faith is propelling us forward?

If we aren’t being changed by the redeeming love of Christ, we gain nothing but unrest and feeling ‘stuck’. If this is how you’re feeling— if the way you are feeling about yourself affects you in such a way that you doubt your salvation, you need to go straight to the word of God and remember these truths:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14)

“Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Memorize these scriptures, tuck them deep into your heart for the moments your faith is a little weaker or your circumstances start pushing you to believe in something less than what the Lord has for you. Find the gold, my friend. And when you find the gold, hold on to it for dear life because everything in this world will want to steal it away from you.

Let Us Run With Perseverance The Race

Written by: Conny Varga

I love watching the Olympic Games! It never ceases to amaze me how dedication and hard work can result in such incredible athletic feats and stunning performances. I love cheering on our Canadian athletes and feel national pride when they perform well enough to be awarded a medal. And since I grew up outside of Canada, I get to cheer for two countries, which means double the fun!

I find it interesting that a number of athletes mentioned in interviews that it’s their friends, family, support system, and cheering fans that keep them going and propel them to greater accomplishments. It’s the fuel they need to compete and finish well.

I believe this is what Hebrews 12:1-3 talks about, when it compares our lives as Christians to that of an athlete: “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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

The writers of the New Testament were very familiar with athletic competitions, as well as the Olympic Games, which had likely been going on for more than 600 years. They saw first-hand what it took to participate, race, and finish well. Just like athletes have to make numerous lifestyle choices and changes that are beneficial and will help them reach their goals, we also must choose to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. Discipline is a word we don’t like to hear, but it is what conditions us for the race. Just like any good coach or trainer will often push their client past their limits to stretch and grow their abilities, we also are being “pushed” by our coach, our Father in heaven, to stretch, grow, and produce the right results. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)

Finally, we have a role model to look up to and imitate. Jesus finished the race before us, and despite the incredible difficulties He had to push through, He set a perfect score in all disciplines and categories!

So what can we learn from the Olympics? We are in a race as well, a race that is eternally significant, a race that requires whole-hearted dedication, sweat, blood, and discipline. Slacking off is not an option. Toying with sin is not an option. Distractions are not an option. It also teaches us that it is just as equally important to cheer on the other “runners” in the race. They are being fueled by our encouragement. They need to feel our support to run well. And above all, our inspiration is Christ, who calls us to follow His example.

What can you do today to focus more on your spiritual “race”? How can you dedicate your whole life to this? What needs to be thrown off? What lifestyle changes need to happen?

Is there someone who needs your encouragement today? Who needs to hear your cheers as they struggle through a tough part of the course?

Let’s enjoy the Olympics and allow them to remind us that we are in the race of a lifetime, and that we have much work to do to finish well. Let’s aspire to imitate Jesus, who finished the race through tremendous hardship and discipline, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” when hard times come. Then let’s encourage our team mates to do the same.

Go for the Gold

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Over the last week and half, my family has thoroughly enjoyed watching the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  Cheering on our Canadian athletes as they “go for the gold” in their respective events causes us to swell with patriotic pride.  Their laser focus, fierce determination and advanced skill on display for all to see is truly a sight to behold.  As we sit watching them compete, we can only imagine the hours upon hours of training and discipline endured for a few fleeting moments of fame on the world stage.

As I reflect on the above, the following sobering questions come to mind concerning my spiritual performance in the eyes of Jesus:

  • Do I “go for the gold” in my spiritual development and service for my Saviour in order to mentor believers and reach the lost?
  • Am I spending time daily in His word, prayerfully communing with Him and living out the Fruits of the Spirit in my life?
  • Do I seek fleshly glory here on earth or am I sowing in to the rewards of eternity?
  • Will others see in me the same spiritual commitment, drive and discipline reflected in my everyday words, decisions and actions?

With respect to the temporal, I know that I am one to focus when it comes to the disciplines pertaining to my family and work.  There are children that need to get places, lessons that need to be paid for and meals that need to be made.  At work there are issues to resolve, finances to account for and future outcomes to project.  Yet when I look at my relationship with Christ, including my devotional life, prayer times and praise experiences, sometimes I am remiss.  The temporal invades the spiritual leaving my spiritual muscles lacking and weak.

Thankfully I am still a work in progress, and when I detour from the training plan the Holy Spirit is there to help me get back in shape.  He is the best personal trainer.

Further, the Olympians show me things that I can relate to as a follower of Christ.  I am sure that when the alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. to train, there are mornings these athletes would rather just roll over and go back to sleep.  But this is not an option for them.  They simply get up with vigor and intensity, ready to attack their practice, because they want to be the best that they can be.  They are intentionally focused on one goal:  Gold.

Daughters, I encourage you today, myself included, to have that same laser focus when it comes to how we spiritually train and live out our lives for Christ; for the purpose of the gospel.   Christ arrested our hearts at conversion and our purpose each day is transformation.  Let us stay as disciplined as Paul commands us in Hebrew 12:1-3 (The Message):

“Do you see what this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?  It means we’d better get on with it.  Strip down, start running – and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how He did it.  Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – He could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.  And now He’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside of God.  When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through.  That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

 

Give Me Jesus

Written by: Jody Mugford

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:1-5 (NLT)

Let’s take a look at this scene. Jesus has just rebuked and cast a demon out of a possessed man. He dramatically demonstrated His authority over evil spirits and His fame has spread rapidly through Galilee. He continues to perform miracles, cast out demons and preach the Good News to all who will listen (Mark 1:25-45). Jesus is attracting crowds wherever He goes and when he returns to Capernaum, it is no different.

On this day, we meet four friends who have decided to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing. The friends arrive at the house where Jesus is preaching and see that it is too crowded to get in. They know that they can’t get to Jesus how they’d originally planned but they refuse to give up! They’ve decided that today is the day they see Jesus! Today is the day of salvation! They don’t know when Jesus will be nearby again and they refuse to let the opportunity slip by. So they manage to carry their friend on a mat, up a flight of stairs (awkwardly and with great difficulty, I’d imagine) and proceed to tear apart the roof and lower him down through! Imagine what people must have been thinking when the ceiling started to come apart, materials falling to the floor, and they look up to see a man on a thin pallet being lowered to the ground in front of everyone!

The paralyzed man may have felt all eyes on him and wondered what on earth he had gotten himself into. His friends may have felt nervous…wondering, “What will people think? We must look crazy! What if we are sent away? How are we going to pay for this roof?!”. In truth, these are thoughts I would likely have had. What if…? What if…? But Jesus saw their faith. This is why I admire these friends so much. They decided that they weren’t going to let a distracting scene or unexpected obstacles stop them. They were determined to bring their friend to Jesus. I believe they had resolved in their hearts that Jesus would heal this man. Think about it! They knew that once they lowered their friend down through the roof, they probably couldn’t lift him back up. He was going to have to WALK out. Wow! Oh Lord let me be such a faith-filled, determined friend!

Jesus saw their faith and He responded. Jesus knew their hearts and He also saw their actions. He saw their willingness to fight and not give up. He saw that, against all hurtles, they were going to bring their friend to Him. In return, Jesus did something amazing. He said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Wait…what?

Jesus…we didn’t come here for forgiveness!

Didn’t you notice?! Our friend is paralyzed! He needs to WALK!

This was my initial reaction when I read this story. Why would Jesus first forgive his sins when he so obviously needed physical healing!?

God is being gracious to teach me that the greatest miracle Jesus will ever do for us is to forgive our sins. The most amazing gift is for Him to wipe us clean of our past and accept us into His family, to give us eternal life with Him. Our greatest need always has been and always will be…Jesus Himself.

The next part of the story is such an awesome lesson on how God values our faith.

“…So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”
Mark 2:10-12 (NLT)

Jesus knew what the man was seeking. Jesus knew what the four friends were hoping to see. He knew they all wanted him to walk. Jesus also knew that, more than anything, this man needed forgiveness. He needed a Saviour. He needed to have a true encounter with Jesus, the Saviour of the world. But Jesus, in His love and mercy, doesn’t stop there. He gives him a second miracle, the one the man thought was his biggest need. Now he can walk! His life and the lives of his friends are forever changed. Now this man can tell his story of Jesus, the One who healed him inside AND out.

Jesus knows what we need, friends. He knows that we need physical miracles, healed relationships, financial provision, and more. He loves when we seek after Him for ourselves and our loved ones. He is urging us to do so! But I am convinced that SOMETIMES, when He allows us to seek for oh so long, and to pray oh so hard, believing against all obstacles, it is to drive us to Him. So, in our desperation and determination, we find ourselves digging into His presence, seeking and finding Him. When we do that, we begin to realize that we don’t need miracles, healings and provisions only…more than anything, we need Jesus.

Give me Jesus.

Love and blessings,

Jody

HIS POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN OUR WEAKNESS

Written by: Christianne Williams

I was always a shy kid.  I loved spending time by myself, I never liked to be in the spotlight, I would turn red if someone looked at me.   I can remember singing in the Christmas concert at church, backwards so I couldn’t see all the people in the audience.

One day in junior high we were asked the question of what we wanted to do with our lives after we graduated.  I took a leap of faith and raised my hand very excited to share what I had been dreaming about.  It was a big thing for me to share my vision of my future.  The reaction I got was, “You’ll never be able to achieve that.”  That response came from a high school teacher, someone who should have cheered me on toward my aspirations. Instead, that  interaction was one of many that fed my feelings of inadequacy; the idea I had about myself that I wasn’t good enough, and would never be good enough.

It’s no real surprise that our negative feelings about ourselves will be fed at certain times in our lives, especially if we possess a negative self image.  Our enemy is a liar, a deceiver, one who wants to cripple us and keep us from our destiny. And if he can do that by convincing us that we will never amount to anything, then he will pull out all the stops.  If he can get us to focus on what we perceive as shortcomings and inadequacies, then we will begin to believe that whatever God has placed in our hearts is beyond our reach.

We are not the only people who have struggled with inadequacies. For example, Moses had a bag of excuses such as telling God that he was slow of speech and therefore could not lead the Israelites in their journey from bondage to freedom.  Gideon came from, by his own admission, the least of the tribes of Israel, and saw himself as the least of that tribe; yet God used him to defeat the Midianites with a skeleton army.  The disciples were a bunch of misfits! For example, Peter needed anger management, Matthew was a tax collector- the equivalent of a national traitor and thief, and James and John Jesus called the “sons of thunder”, perhaps for their fiery judgmental dispositions! The truth is, each had their own issues, their inadequacies.  But despite their flaws, God called them, commissioned them, and empowered them to be His representatives.  Saul of Tarsus was a murderer, trying to eliminate all of the Christians around, but a powerful encounter with Jesus changed the course of his life, and sent him on missionary journeys to win the lost.  There are so many more examples of people who had things that could have held them back and hang them up, but God chose them, despite their weaknesses, and in response, they chose to trust God and obey Him!  God used them because of their willingness to let Him change them and be seen in them, and great things were accomplished because of it.

What if we decided that, although we feel ill equipped, unprepared, and maybe even unworthy,  God knows what He’s doing when He calls us to a certain assignment?  He sees the deepest parts of our hearts, knitted us together in our mother’s womb, knows our innermost being, He knows who He’s calling better than we know ourselves.  He sees what we can only imagine and He wants to shine through us.

2 Corinthians 12:9&10 say, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am, strong.”

We have the promise that when we are called to do something that doesn’t fall into the category of our strong suits that God will be made strong in us and that our victory will shine with His glory.