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Monday

27

March 2017

Encouragement | Isaiah 45:2

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make the crooked places straight

“I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” (Isaiah 45:2)

In the New American Standard version of the Bible, Isaiah 45:2 is translated, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth…”; in the English Standard version of the Bible, “I will go before you and level the exalted places…”; in the New International Version, “I will go before you and will level the mountains”.

It’s an encouragement to know that we serve a God Who will make the crooked places straight, make the rough places smooth, level the exalted places, and level the mountains.

Having that kind of strength and power before us, behind us, and within us is a huge comfort. Whatever crooked or rough places you face, whatever exalted places, whatever mountains are in your way, trust God. He will be the One to make your way straight, smooth, and level.

“I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.” (Isaiah 45:2)

 

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Friday

24

March 2017

Hope Reflected | The power of the tongue

Written by , Posted in Hope Reflected, Published Work

power of the tongue james 3:8

The power of the tongue

One thing that we all have in common is that at some point or another, each one of us, – inevitably, – is going to say something we don’t mean. You may make a comment in the middle of an argument, or maybe it will be something you say behind someone’s back, or perhaps you’ll speak words to someone that just don’t come out right. Or, as Wes experienced this past week, you may say something about a complete stranger that you instantly regret. The tongue. At some point in each one of our lives, our tongues are going to hurt someone else and cause us trouble.

The problem with the tongue is that once you say something, you can’t take it back. James 3:5 tells us, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” We all need to learn how to guard our tongues and watch our mouths.

There’s the old saying that goes, “God gave us mouths that close and ears that don’t so that should tell us something.” It’s so true, isn’t it? How often we speak words in haste when really we should be just as quick to listen. I write that quickly, like it’s no big deal and easy to do, when the reality is more often than not quite different. I struggle at least a couple of times a day to listen when everything in me wants to interrupt. It’s like, sometimes when someone else is speaking and telling me something, the time I should be spending listening to them, I’m actually formulating my response to them in my head. That’s not right. We are called to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19) Don’t underestimate the power of the tongue.

  1. Once you say it, you can’t take it back. “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” (Proverbs 12:18) Like the toothpaste leaving the tube analogy, once you speak words, you can’t “un-speak” them. That’s why it’s so important to consider our words before saying them aloud.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) There’s the saying that goes, “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” The way you live is just – or more – important than the words you speak. There is no such thing as a part-time Christian. Living a life that is pleasing to God happens every day of the week, every where, – whether you’re in the barn or in the office, – authentic Christian living does not just happen on Sundays while you’re in church.
  3. Take a step back; give it some time. “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3) If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just need to take a step back before you react. I’ve learned the hard way – and learned several times, actually – that in the heat of the moment is the wrong time to hit the ‘send’ button on that reactive email or to say something out of spite. Usually, the best practice is just to sleep on it. Give yourself some time to cool off before you answer anyone in a heated tone. “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace.” (Proverbs 17:28)
  4. It’s never too late to apologize and ask forgiveness. “’Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘Return to Me with all your heart.” (Joel 2:12) In earthly terms, words can be forgiven but not forgotten. But God, when we truly repent, He forgives and God has the ability to wash our slate clean and make us white as snow. If we’re truly reflecting a life lived for Him, we’ll seek forgiveness to those we’ve wronged through our words (and our actions). It’s never too late to seek forgiveness, and you might be surprised how well received a sincere apology will be.

Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” James 3:7-8 shares that “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue.” It may be small, but the tongue is a mighty weapon. May each of our words speak love and truth.

 

Originally published as “The power of the tongue.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. March 9, 2017: 8. Print.

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Monday

20

March 2017

Encouragement | Isaiah 30:15

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in quietness and in confidence encouragement isaiah 30:15

 

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

If you’re like me, sometimes (OK, a lot of times) you have the tendency to speak out, to get the last word in, and to be the authority on the issue of the day.

That’s why I love the gentle reminder of Isaiah 30:15 “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”

So often throughout God’s Word, we read of examples of men and women who, by the world’s terms, weren’t strapping and strong, but rather were humble, had a teachable spirit, and were quick to listen (rather than quick to speak). I’m reminded of the fact that it’s in the stillness of our souls that we become strong. It’s not when we’re trying to be tough, getting out there and talking back, or being of an argumentative spirit that God uses us; no, it’s when we have a quiet spirit that God speaks through us most. It’s when we’re ready to rest in Him that He will use us.

This week, while everything in me wants to challenge and to be strong, I need to remember that I can do that best when I am quiet and confident in my Heavenly Father and His strength alone.

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

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Wednesday

15

March 2017

Wednesday Wisdom | Living Slowly

Written by , Posted in Hope Reflected, Wednesday Wisdom

living slowly wednesday wisdom

“Everywhere, people are discovering that doing things more slowly often means doing them better and enjoying them more. It means living life instead of rushing through it. You can apply this to everything from food to parenting to work.” Carl Honoré

I’ve long been a fan of Carl Honoré’s insight into the slow movement; he comes at the topic from a place of practicality, and believes in the value of moving more slowly.

Where are you today? Rushing through work, sending off a series of emails, or trying to complete as many things as possible off your to-do list before the end of the day?

Time is a hot commodity and often we spend so much of our energy trying to jam as many activities into our limited time that we lose sight of the things that really matter. We even practice daylight savings time in an effort to give ourselves more daylight hours to get things done!

Wes and I were talking last night about how in some cultures, there is beauty in slowness. Life, when it’s not muddied by our modern-day “conveniences” (smart phones, internet, fast cars) becomes something that we can appreciate, and even enjoy.

Is the stress that rushing brings really worthwhile? Is pushing through a task just to complete it really better than taking the time it deserves to be done right? Does eating fast make my dinner taste better than if I actually took the time to taste it? The answer to all of these questions, is no.

“Everywhere, people are discovering that doing things more slowly often means doing them better and enjoying them more. It means living life instead of rushing through it. You can apply this to everything from food to parenting to work.” Carl Honoré

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Monday

13

March 2017

Encouragement | Psalm 103 | Forget not all His benefits

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Psalm 103:2 encouragement Forget not all His benefits

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Psalm 103: 2-5)

One of my favourite Psalms, Psalm 103, was written by David and is a twenty-two verse song of praise for the LORD’s mercies. One of my favourite parts of this psalm is in verse two, when David says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

Forget not all His benefits.

It is so easy to forget about God’s blessings. More often than not, we’re more apt to express momentary gratitude for God’s blessings and then lapse back into our bad attitudes, when in reality we would do ourselves a great favour by consistently living an attitude of gratitude.

Consider the children of Israel, who we read about in Old Testament. They would frequently forget God’s blessings, and spent forty years wandering in the wilderness as a result of their complaining and grumbling. What about us? We can get so caught up in our everyday challenges that we neglect to give God praise. We put our focus on what’s going wrong and we forget to give attention to everything that’s right. Imagine what would happen if we took every negative thought captive and focused on counting our blessings!

Forget not all His benefits!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:

(Psalm 103:2)

 

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Friday

10

March 2017

Hope Reflected | Bitterness

Written by , Posted in Hope Reflected, Published Work

 

bitterness

 

Cain and Abel. Saul and David. Hillary and Donald (OK maybe not so much the latter as Hillary did handle herself gracefully after Donald won the election). Bitterness. It dates back as early as the book of Genesis, and it’s still consuming people to this very day.

Just saying the word sounds sharp. Bitterness blinds, blocks, hurts, and steals. Like its cousin comparison, bitterness is a thief. If you let it creep in, bitterness will steal your joy. You may think you’re above being bitter, but guess what? You’re not. Who can blame you? That person last week who gave you a back-handed compliment, you’re right! It was rude and it wasn’t fair. That person who purposefully tried to sabotage you and throw you under the bus? Of course you feel completely justified in not speaking to them. Bitterness. It’s the antithesis of sweetness.

Last week when I came home ranting and raving about some rude comments that someone made, Wes (almost always the voice of reason) reminded me that while others may speak out of spite or selfishness, as Christians we’re called to be careful about our reactions. While it may be tempting for me to get upset, or to carry hard feelings, ultimately the only person that it’s going to hurt, is me.

Here’s what I know about bitterness:

  1. Bitterness makes you lonely.
  2. Bitterness hurts other people.
  3. Bitterness hurts you more than it hurts other people.
  4. Bitterness blinds your eyes to beauty.
  5. Bitterness bars your soul from love.

When it’s put like that, bitterness kind of loses its attractiveness, doesn’t it? So when we’re feeling wronged or like someone’s hurt us, or like the situation we’re in just won’t get better, what should we do instead of becoming bitter?

 

  1. Pray about it. “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25) Is it another person or a certain situation that’s caused you to feel bitter? Pray about it! Take it to the Lord and pray for the person who hurt you, and pray for the situation of which you’re in the middle. Pray that God will help you forgive and move forward.
  2. Put your faith and hope in God and trust His power. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) No matter who hurt you, and no matter how huge that situation you’re in may seem, God is bigger. Seriously. He made the sun, moon and stars. He is the One Who knows every grain of sand and every bird of the sky. He created you. Though you may not know it – or think it – He’s got a reason for everything (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
  3. Focus on the good – and right – things. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) Don’t let your mind go where it shouldn’t. Is it easy? Not always! Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to focus on the negative, but harbouring bitterness will only hurt you. When you catch yourself focusing on the negative, bring it back and focus on the good.
  4. Let go, and let God. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21) Only the Lord can free you from your bitterness, so it’s only by seeking Him that you will ever be free from your bitterness.

Don’t get bitter; give it to God and get better. As Dave Willis says, “Bitterness and love can’t live together in the same heart. Each day, we must decide which one gets to stay.”

Originally published as “Bitterness.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. March 2, 2017: 8. Print.

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Monday

6

March 2017

Encouragement | Rest | Matthew 11:28

Written by , Posted in Encouragement, Hope Reflected

matthew 11:28 encouragement rest

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

You know how sometimes Monday morning can roll around and you wonder how on earth you’re going to make it through another week?

More often than not, it seems that each of us has too much going on, that we’re always running from place to place, just trying to get things done. While we’re busy being busy, it can be so easy to forget that there is One who sees all and knows all. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is no rest like the rest that Christ provides. There is no peace apart from Him.

You may recall in Isaiah 40:31 we are promised that “those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

A.W. Tozer once said, “Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is.” No matter how much is going on this week, or how many tasks you have on your to-do list, fix your eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ, and He will give you rest.

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

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Friday

3

March 2017

Hope Reflected | Sharing Your Faith

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sharing your faith psalm 96:2

 

As a young child, I can remember hearing stories of missionaries who traversed the world over, taking the Gospel to the farthest-reaching places of the globe, and sharing the “Good News” in a country that wasn’t their home. Historical figures such as Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and Amy Carmichael dedicated their entire lives to spreading the Gospel of Christ and serving others. Even sitting and listening to the letters being read at our own church, – the weekly updates and reports of teaching, preaching, and building, – seemed unending coming in from those serving the Lord in other countries. “How do they do it,” I wondered. “I don’t even think I could share my faith with my friends here at home!”

 

Sharing your faith may seem like a daunting task, however there are a few things to keep in mind when you feel led to share your testimony with someone else.

 

  1. Sharing your faith is something you can do right at home. “Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” (Psalm 96: 2) Sharing your faith isn’t something that you need to travel the world over to do. Sharing your faith starts right at home with your family, friends, and neighbours. We are called to proclaim the Good News from day to day. We are called to be missionaries wherever we are. Where does each day find you? Whether at school or at work, or even in recreation; sharing your faith is something you can do right in your own backyard.

 

  1. Sharing your faith is about Christ and what He did for you. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) Your salvation is not about you or anything you did. This is a reminder that we can all use, is it not? How often do we find ourselves caught up worrying about not having the right words to say, or fearful that if we stand up for our Faith, other people will judge us or not want to be friends with us? Well, here’s a reality check: Sharing your faith is not about you, and it’s not about me. It’s about Christ. I love what Billy Graham says on the topic: “Remember that God does not call the equipped; He equips the called – and as Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done.” When it comes to sharing your faith with others, things don’t have to be complicated; while some individuals may have an incredible story and testimony about how they came to know the Lord, others may not; and there’s nothing wrong with that! Remember, sharing your faith is about what Christ has done for you, not about anything you have done.

 

  1. Sharing your faith is more than speaking words from a Bible. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15) When it comes to sharing your faith, remember that your testimony is more than speaking words; it’s living them. Your testimony is demonstrated practically in the life you live. Anyone can do some research and recite Scripture. The real proof is in the pudding. Is your life indicative of a close walk with Christ? It is a daily challenge to live right. As Wes says, “we’re all a mess and the only way we can make it through each day is by God’s grace.” In my own life, having the right attitude, being consistent, and guarding my tongue are not always easy tasks – the struggle is real. It is hard to live the fruits of the spirit, especially when some days I feel like I’m failing lesson after lesson on patience, kindness, and goodness. Sharing your faith is about your actions just as much as your words.

 

We are called to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6) We are also called to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) God makes no mistakes, and He brings people across each of our paths for a purpose. Grow where you’ve been planted!

Originally published as “Sharing Your Faith.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. February 23, 2017: 8. Print.

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Monday

27

February 2017

Encouragement | Psalm 139:3

Written by , Posted in Encouragement, Hope Reflected

encouragement psalm 139:3

“You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” Psalm 139:3-4

Sometimes it may seem like you can’t see the path just ahead of you, and you’re afraid to take the next step. Rest assured and be encouraged knowing that God knows your path, He knows your lying down, and He is acquainted with all your ways.

Psalm 119:105 tells us that God’s Word is “a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” If you’ve ever held a candle-lit lamp, you understand that it doesn’t provide a whole lot of light. Rather, it provides just enough light for the stairs in front of you.

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with God. We don’t need to see all the stairs; we can trust that He’s in complete control and will provide the light we require. Just like we’re told in Psalm 139:3-4, God knows our path and He knows all our ways. We can rest in that.

“You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” Psalm 139:3-4

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Friday

24

February 2017

Hope Reflected | Jealousy

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jealousy proverbs 14:30

 

It was at the age of eight when I was gifted the Barbie Fold ‘n Fun House, and that Barbie house was amazing. Three different rooms, a rooftop patio, a couch that turned into a bed, and ‘outdoor’ sitting area with a street light that actually worked; my Barbie collection was complete now that Barbie, Ken, and friends had a place to live. Or so I thought. Enter the Barbie Dreamhouse, gifted to one of my best friends. Not only did it have a rooftop patio, it also featured six rooms spread over two stories, a Jacuzzi tub, and a ‘functioning’ fireplace. It made my Barbie Fold ‘n Fun House look more like a cottage. I would have loved to have that Barbie Dreamhouse as my own. It wasn’t until I stopped comparing my Barbie accessories to my friend’s that I actually started to appreciate and enjoy what I already had.

 

Jealousy. It happens to everyone at some point, and if you say it hasn’t happened to you, you’re lying. The key is that we shouldn’t dwell on jealousy or let it consume us. That being said, there are two types of jealousy of which we should be aware. There’s a rightful jealousy (that occurs when you have ownership of something that you’re trying to guard or protect), and there is an unhealthy, sinful jealousy (that occurs when we covet something we don’t have that belongs to someone else).

 

The Bible talks about both types of jealousy. You’ve likely read in the book of Exodus where God is described as a jealous God. That’s not a bad thing! You see, we belong to God. He created us, and when we take our focus off Him and put it on ourselves and on earthly things, that’s not right. God has a right to command our full attention, because we belong to Him. Interestingly, when we take our focus off Christ, that’s when we are at the greatest risk of going astray and falling away. Enter the bad type of jealousy (among other sins). Alternatively, when we keep our focus on God, and desire to do His will and live for Him, God wants nothing more than to see us happy, living in love and enjoying Him (the exact opposite of jealousy).

 

How do you guard yourself or catch yourself when you’re jealous? An important thing is to take the focus off yourself. We tend to get jealous or envious when we focus too much on what we have – or don’t have. Comparison to others is a dangerous game, and you won’t win. You’ll either come away with a false sense of pride, or you’ll feel inadequate.

 

  1. Admit jealousy for what it is. “You are still wordly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1 Corinthians 3:3) Each of us is human, and none of us is above jealousy or envy, but that doesn’t make it OK. Jealousy is wrong, and the first step to overcoming your jealousy is admitting it.
  2. Put your focus in the right place. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) We tend to get caught up in jealousy when our focus isn’t in the right place. As Christians, we’re called to act with love, and love’s attributes do not include jealousy (1 Corinthians 13:4). When we put our focus on the Lord, He’ll help us put things in perspective. (Psalm 37:1, 3).
  3. Choose contentment over comparison. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30) You’ve likely heard the adage, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and there is great truth in these words. When we start comparing ourselves to others and going through all the haves and have-nots, there’s not doubt we’ll get jealous. It’s important to remember that God makes no mistakes. When we let jealousy take control, we’re essentially saying that God makes mistakes and that His gifts aren’t enough. When we choose contentment, however, we’re resting in God’s grace and His goodness.

 

Don’t let your coffee get cold because you’re so busy looking at someone else’s mug. Make the conscious choice to count your blessings, and remember the Lord “who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:5)

 

Originally published as “Jealousy.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. February 16, 2017: 7. Print.

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