One of the hardest things about the COVID-19 pandemic for many people is isolation. Yes, it’s better than getting sick, but not being able to have contact with friends and loved ones is hard for all of us.
You probably all have lists of people that you are missing. I miss my children, my grandchildren, my friends from our church Bible Study group. I’m thankful to be able to see them online through the blessing of technology, but it will be wonderful to be able to see them in person and hug them again.
Others have bigger concerns. A friend contacted me recently asking me to pray for his ageing parents, who live in Chicago and both of whom have COVID-19 symptoms. His father is in ICU and at last report was fighting for his life. Many have similar concerns for loved ones.
In the midst of this pandemic, I want to encourage you with this simple but powerful Scriptural truth. As believers in Jesus, with our record of sin washed away by the blood of Jesus and our spirits made alive by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have full access to God. That has not changed. He is near, he is not far off.
Long ago, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus that before the coming of our Saviour we were without hope and without God in the world. This is how many people today feel about their lives – no hope, and no God. But that’s not God’s final word on the subject. Paul goes on to speak these words of assurance (Ephesians 2:17-18).
He [Jesus] came and preached peace
to you who were far away [Gentiles]
and peace to those who were near [Jews].
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
God has an open door policy. He has paid the debt of sin that stood against us so that we are not condemned, and given us His Spirit so that we can draw near to Him. His Spirit in our hearts prompts us to cry out Abba, Father (Abba is a word that means much like Papa or Daddy). He wants us to come to him. He is waiting for us to come.
Recently I heard a powerful testimony from a man of God whom I know personally, a man of integrity. In an online prayer meeting, they had been praying for a young woman who was battling COVID-19 in ICU. He spoke over her that angels would minister to her and that she would be healed. Some hours later she was recovering well and reported that angels had visited her.
Make no mistake. COVID-19 is a powerful enemy. But Jesus is a more powerful friend. We have friends in high places. Let’s be wise, and take all necessary precautions, but let’s not allow fear to paralyze us. We still have access to our God and He is still the King. In the midst of many shakings, which we know will increase as the end of the age draws near, let’s draw near to God – which is our privilege in Christ – and trust Him to show us His favour and glory. He is good.
God bless you today.
The children in this photo are orphans. They live in a group home in East Asia, run by people who love Jesus and love children. In this group home they are cared for by volunteer house parents. Having lost their family of birth, they have found a home in a new family where they are chosen and wanted.
This is a picture of one part of the Biblical meaning of adoption. It’s a picture of children who, instead of being rejected and discarded, are loved and highly valued.
The other part of the Biblical picture of adoption speaks of inheritance. Paul says (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV)
But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
And because you are sons,
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son,
and if a son, then an heir through God.
The reason for the gender-specific language here is that in that culture, it was sons who inherited. Daughters married into their husband’s inheritance. Paul uses the terminology of adoption as sons to underline the fact that as believers, we have come into a great inheritance. This is true for every believer, male or female – just as every believer is also Jesus’ bride. Whether you are God’s daughter or God’s son, you have an inheritance in Him.
There’s a third dimension of being adopted that is even more powerful. We can come to God as His beloved sons and daughters, and we can cry out to him as our Father, and he will listen.
Abba is not just the name of a famous Swedish pop band from the 1970s. It is the Hebrew word for Daddy or Papa. It conveys both tenderness and respect. This is the word that Jesus used when praying to His Father. He opened up for us a relationship of intimacy with our Father. Even though we deserve death and hell, we have been grafted into the family, given an inheritance, and given a relationship with a Father who loves us.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s easy to feel despairing, helpless and alone. In the face of these temptations, I want to remind you of these three powerful truths. If you have put your hope in Jesus, you are not alone. You are your Father’s son or daughter. You are chosen and loved by Him, and you have an eternal inheritance that nothing can take away from you. You are his forever, and you share all His glorious riches. We will receive the full inheritance in the Age to Come, but even now we have His Spirit in our hearts, giving us access to a foretaste of His blessings. So, in the midst of this crisis, we can pray, live and act with courage, boldness, confidence and hope – hope for the present and for the future.
God bless you.
“I’m no saint”.
When someone says these words they are usually admitting that they’re far from perfect. But is that what it means to be a saint? Does it mean that you have achieved moral perfection? If that were the case, no-one would qualify except Jesus.
For the past week I’ve been offering these daily reflections on Scripture to bring hope and courage into the hearts and homes of God’s beloved people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we are going to look at a Biblical concept that is often misunderstood, and may not seem very relevant or encouraging at first glance. Like some long-lost family heirloom, many people don’t appreciate its value, or don’t even know it’s there. In this short post I want to try to blow the dust off and shed some light on this gem of life-giving truth.
Most people have a great deal of respect for Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was renowned for her works of mercy and charity. She was also recognized for her simplicity and humility. Many would have no problem calling her a saint.
These are all great qualities, and they do indeed flow from a genuine relationship with Jesus. But it’s not actually our character traits that make us saints. Believe it or not, being a saint is actually very simple. The only qualification is that you have to belong to Jesus. It’s really that simple.
This doesn’t just mean saying a quick prayer. It means letting Him change us day by day, by the power of His Spirit living in us. So, for example, if we truly belong to Jesus, we won’t be panicked by this pandemic. Yes, we’ll experience feelings of fear like everyone else, but we won’t let fear rule us. Why not? Because we have Jesus living in us, and we are letting Him renew our minds with His word, and pour His peace and joy into us by His Spirit.
Being holy is a gift, but it’s also a daily choice. It’s something that happens over time, as you respond to Jesus day by day. The pull of darkness and despair is strong – not just during COVID-19, but all the time. But the resurrection power of Jesus is stronger. We are the ones who get to decide what defines our lives. It took a lifetime of daily choices for Mother Teresa to become someone who was defined by the Light. We can feed ourselves on Jesus, or we can feed ourselves on things that pull us away from him. One way is the path of life, the other is the path of death.
The Apostle Paul frequently referred to those who believe in Jesus as saints (e.g. Colossians 1:3-4, 12). The word saint simply means someone who is holy, set apart for God, and in the process of being purified. He wasn’t saying that they were already perfect. Far from it. He was saying that the life of Jesus in them was changing them day by day, and that their destiny was to be like Him. Their destiny was to shine. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, he wrote, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
The Apostle John put it this way (1 John 3:2-3).
Beloved, we are God’s children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared;
but we know that when he appears
we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he is.
And everyone who thus hopes in him
purifies himself as he is pure.
If you already belong to Jesus, you are a saint – a holy one. The power of God is at work in you to make you new. And if you don’t belong to Jesus, this amazing gift is freely available. All you have to do is surrender to Him and trade your life for his. It’s that simple.
What a hope! What a promise! When we wake up to the glorious destiny that we have in Jesus, what hold does a virus have on us?
God bless you today with hope and courage. You are called to shine.
Good morning. Welcome to Nuggets of Hope.
These brief daily reflections are intended to bring hope and encouragement during the COVID-19 crisis.
During these times when self-isolation is being imposed on us to keep us from getting sick, many feel cut off from others. This is hard for all of us. Today I want to look at the key truth that no matter how isolated from others we may feel, those who belong to Jesus are in fact organically connected. We are connected to Jesus and to each other.
In a very well-known passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul wrote these memorable words
For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body,
though many, are one body,
so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12 ESV
First of all, we are connected to the whole human family. It’s important to acknowledge this. Scripture affirms that all of us are descended from one original couple. This makes us one family. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. Remembering that we are connected to the whole human family helps us to pray and serve all people – simply because they are made in God’s image as we are.
Secondly, those who belong to Jesus are always connected to Him, no matter the circumstances. I recently re-read a summary of the life of Richard Wurmbrand, a Jew who became a Communist who became a Christian who became a political prisoner of the Romanian Communist government. During his two bouts of imprisonment, together lasting over fifteen years, he spent three years in solitary confinement. It was his relationship with Jesus that kept him sane during those times. He would meditate on the Word of God – large chunks of which he had memorized – and to keep himself sane he composed a sermon each night and preached it to himself. The power of the Word of God kept him connected to Jesus. Our life comes from Him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. We are organically connected to Him by our faith in Him, by the power of His word that sustains us and renews our minds, and by the power of His Spirit living in us.
Thirdly, those who belong to Jesus are also connected to each other. Paul says that we are members of one another. Just last night, Marion and I spent some time in a video chat with two dear friends who are part of our weekly home fellowship and Bible Study group. We can’t meet in person right now so we met through the blessing of technology. I’m looking forward to connecting with the whole group in this way on Thursday evening. But even without technology, the Holy Spirit connects us to everyone who belongs to Jesus. Believers in Wuhan, in South Korea, in Israel, in Pakistan, in Italy – they are our brothers and sisters. We can strengthen one another through prayer.
This is so important. Those who are persecuted for their faith often testify to how much it means to them to know that they are being prayed for. The same is true in the face of this virus, and the fear it brings. Stay connected. Remember that you belong to Jesus. Remember that you belong to the human family, and bring the needs of your neighbours and your leaders before God. Remember that you belong to the Body of Christ. Your brothers and sisters around the world are praying for you, and you can also pray for them. There may be other practical acts of service that we can perform as well, but whatever our situation, we can always pray, and meditate on His living word, and in so doing we stay connected to Jesus and to each other.
God bless you.
In our world, we all need it, and can’t live without it. We use money to purchase many of our daily needs. In fact, the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis is one of the big concerns that many people have.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am offering these brief daily reflections to inspire hope in God’s people as we think about different aspects of His purposes and plans for us.
Today I want to consider a powerful truth. God has placed a value on your life.
In addressing a moral issue that was plaguing the community of believers in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote these powerful, hope-giving words (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Money is how most of us assign value to things. We say something is valuable if it costs a lot of money. But God didn’t use money to purchase us. He used something of far greater value – the life of a person. And not just any person. He purchased us with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
This means that we are of great value to God. You don’t pay a high price for something that is unimportant to you. The more you pay for something, the more you value it. God paid the highest possible price to redeem us from sin and eternal destruction. He paid the life of His own beloved Son. He did this because He loves us and wants us to be with him forever.
As God’s purchased possession, we are secure in Him. In the midst of all the shakings and uncertainties of the time we are in, those who belong to Jesus and have surrendered our lives to Him can know with confidence that we are loved, chosen by God to inherit a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
Being purchased with the blood of Christ also means that we do not belong to ourselves. When you buy something, you have a purpose in mind. God redeemed us from the empty way of life of the lost world around us so that we could live in a different way. How we walk through this time, or any time, is of great importance. We are called to purity, to hope, to love. We’re called to think of others and not just ourselves. Fear can make us stupid, but the love and sanctifying power of Jesus enables us to live by a different standard. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
My granddaughter Madison loves to sing This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. We have a light within us that is placed there by God. We are His purchased possession. We are of high value, and secure in Him. Let’s shine for Him today.
His Spirit lives in us.
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on the good news that those who have put their hope in Jesus have His Spirit living within them.
Writing to the believers in Corinth long ago, Paul penned these words – whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17 NIV). As Jesus promised, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 ESV).
This is powerfully good news.
If you have put your hope in Jesus, if you belong to Him, then even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the daily onslaught of bad news, the Spirit of Jesus dwells within you. Your thoughts and feelings do not have to be ruled by the latest frightening report. He is willing and able to give you wisdom, insight, comfort and direction. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My friends, those are not just nice-sounding words. This is truth to live by. We don’t have to be paralyzed by fear. Jesus is holding us securely. Each day we can get up and set our hearts to trust Him, and direct our hearts to listen to what His Spirit wants to say to us about the affairs of the day. I have found that Holy Spirit is ready and willing to speak to me about anything that concerns me. It’s an amazing blessing that has brought me peace and perspective more times than I can count.
Not only that, the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. We have the hope of eternal life. As Paul wrote to the believers in Rome long ago, if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11 ESV). We don’t live for this life only. A million years from now, this current trouble will be only a memory, but how we respond to Him in the midst of it will have an eternal impact. He is developing our hearts, training us to trust Him, preparing us for glory. The rulers of this age quite clearly do not know what to do. They are making it up as they go along. I speak this with no disrespect. They are doing their best, and they are in need of our prayers, but they are clearly overwhelmed.
Our God, however, is far from overwhelmed. He is at work in this situation for the good of those who love Him. He is not worried or anxious. He is working in those who trust Him, preparing them for what is to come.
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV
People of God, let us rise up in courage and seize the day. His Spirit lives in us.
That’s what God, the Judge of all the earth, will say on the Last Day to all those who have put their hope in Jesus, the slain Lamb of God.
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on the good news that those who have put their hope in Jesus have peace with God because of the Lamb’s sacrifice.
In Romans 5:1, Paul writes these powerful words.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
First, he says we are justified. That means we are declared innocent.
COVID-19 is something we can’t control. But what about the things you can control?
If you think of your actions and life choices as articles of clothing, are there things you don’t want to be wearing when you stand before God? Being justified means that instead of wearing those things, you can wear the purity and goodness of Jesus. The Bible depicts this as a clean white robe of righteousness. It’s been assigned to you as your inheritance.
Second, he says that we are justified by faith. Not faith in ourselves, not faith in our own intelligence or hard work, not faith in our spouse or our children or in the medical system or the government, but faith in Jesus. He died for us so that we might live free of regret, free of shame, full of confidence in God’s love.
Third, he says that because of this we can have peace with God. How wonderful in times like these to know that you can come to God humbly for mercy and help in time of need, and you don’t have to wonder whether he will welcome you.
I am so thankful to have this inheritance of peace with God. It’s available to you as well. All you have to do is ask.
God bless you.
The photo in this blog is of Dan, my best friend throughout high school and college years. It was taken in 1976 when Marion and I got married. I lost touch with Dan for years but then he re-appeared in my life in 1991 and we remained close until he went to be with the Lord eight years ago.
I am very thankful for his lifelong friendship, and remember him with gratitude. But as thankful as I am for Dan, I’m even more thankful for Jesus.
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am offering these brief reflections as a way of finding hope by turning our attention to God. Today I want to focus on friendship. Let’s take a quick look at some amazing words that Jesus spoke to his closest followers about this important topic. In John 15:13-15, Jesus’ best friend John tells us that Jesus spoke these powerful words about how He saw his relationship with them.
Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends
if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you servants,
for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all that I have heard from my Father
I have made known to you.
This tells us three things about what Jesus is like and what it means to be his friend.
First, he lays down his life for his friends. Greater love has no-one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. That’s exactly what Jesus did. He spoke these words to his friends just before heading out to the Garden of Gethesemane to be betrayed, mocked, tortured and hung on a cross. He gave his life for them and for us, so that we could stand before God with confidence, unafraid and unashamed.
Second, one mark of being Jesus’ friend is that you obey His teachings. You are my friends if you do what I command you. Jesus’ words have unique power – they are the words of life – and He is worthy to be obeyed. He’s our friend, but He’s also our Lord. David, the shepherd boy who became King of Israel, wrote that the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him – those who stand in awe of Him and treasure His counsel.
Third, although He is worthy to be obeyed, Jesus doesn’t treat us as slaves or underlings. He treats us as partners. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. In the full knowledge that they would all fail him badly, Jesus called these weak men his friends, and told them that he wanted to share with them every secret that He had learned from His Father.
I am so thankful that I can talk to Jesus. I am also very thankful that He talks to me. I am thankful that He is not ashamed of my weakness and my need. I can’t count the number of times He has instructed my heart and given me a fresh perspective that I badly needed. He corrects, guides and encourages those who want to be His friends.
I encourage you today to spend time talking with Him and listening to His words. Take a look at any one of the four Gospels. They are a rich treasure of heavenly insight and shine a bright light on the character and purposes of this amazing Man. You won’t be disappointed.
Good morning. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which is ramping up in Canada, this series of short reflections is my attempt to help you see God’s promises with unveiled eyes, and believe with unveiled hearts, as you turn to Him.
Each post will reflect on a thought from a collection of Scripture verses that I use as a daily devotional aid.
Today I want to explore the powerful words of John 1:12-13
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God—
children born not of natural descent,
nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
If you have received Jesus as Lord and believed that He is God’s promised Messiah, the Saviour of the World, then God considers you His child.
The little guy in the photo is my grandson Josiah. I love him fiercely, just as I love all my children and grandchildren. I have a strong desire to protect them from harm and to see their lives blessed.
This is how God feels towards those who are His children by faith in Jesus. He fights for us. He wants us to live in hope. He is on our side, for us and not against us.
Being His child doesn’t mean you will never have trouble in this life. In fact, Jesus assured his disciples of exactly the opposite. In this world you will have trouble, he said. But then he added, Take heart, for I have overcome the world.
We will have trouble because the wonderful, amazing world that God created is also a broken place, marred by sin and the curse that is on creation since our first parents turned away from God. We will also have trouble specifically because of our decision to follow Jesus. But we who belong to Him can also have hope, because Jesus rose from the dead and has put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, a foretaste of our heavenly inheritance, guaranteeing what is to come. And so we can be confident that our God is with us and we have an eternal future with Him in the Age to Come. He has given us the power to live in hope, and so we can also live in love that conquers fear.
If you already believe in Jesus, I want to encourage you today to take that hope that is in you because of him, dust it off and let it shine. If you don’t believe in Him yet, or not any more, I want to encourage you to turn to Him with your whole heart, ask Him to forgive you of your failures and your stubborn independence, and place your life in His hands. He is waiting for you. God bless you.
The other day I was working out on my exercise bike. When I’m on my bike, I set a goal, and I try to push myself and fight the temptation to quit. I was getting winded, and so I asked the Lord to help me finish well.
I often return to this prayer theme during exercise. It speaks to me on two levels. At one level I am focussing on a very practical, physical goal. I am asking for strength to persevere in doing the things I need to do to stay fit. It would be easier just to quit.
But there’s another level to this prayer as well. Why bother exercising if your life isn’t going anywhere? I work out because I have hope and a purpose. I have hope for this age and for the age to come. So, it’s my goal to finish well.
My mother in law passed into the presence of Jesus a little over six weeks ago. Since then, three people who are close to me have said good-bye to their mothers for the last time in this life. Two others have received cancer diagnoses. This has reminded me of my own mortality. When you’re young and energetic it’s easy to think that death is a long way off. But the older you get, the less you can convince yourself of that particular delusion.
The passing of Marion’s Mom completed a process that began with my Dad’s death thirteen years ago this month. Marion and I no longer have earthly parents to look up to. We do have great memories and much to be thankful for, but our parents have left this life, left the family circle, and we are now the ones that our children and grandchildren look up to. We’re the old folks now, as our good friend John Herweyer used to put it.
I know that I have entered the last major phase of my journey in this life. I might stay healthy for another twenty years or more, but unless Jesus returns first, my life on this earth will end in my death, and that date is drawing closer with every breath. But I don’t want to live out my remaining years worrying about what might happen to me. I’m not afraid to die. I’m in good health and enjoy a reasonably active life. My health is a blessing. But even if my health should fail, and even as my strength gradually wanes as I age, I want to run my race with perseverance and joy.
I have friends who went to South Africa two years ago when Tony was in his mid seventies and L-A was approaching her sixties. They have been serving young South Africans in one of the townships in the Western Cape. They inspire me. It hasn’t always been easy for them, but they have run their race with joy, creativity and purpose. I am inspired by people who live their senior years in conscious devotion to the goodness and purposes of God, relying on His nearness and power to sustain them and give them hope. That’s how I want to finish out this life. In the words of a classic worship song,
This is my desire – to honour You.
When I draw my final breath in this life, I want to enter Jesus’ presence having lived my last years on earth in wholehearted obedience to my Lord who gave me life, and who redeemed that life and gave me a purpose. He is worthy of whatever I have to give, and much more. I recognize that good health and energy are a great blessing, and I want to honour Him by enjoying my remaining years. I believe this gives God more honour than living a miserable, fearful, self-obsessed life. I want to be a blessing to my children and grandchildren. I want to support missionaries and help the poor. I want to be a good steward of the bit of land I have, and the time, energy and finances that have been entrusted to me. I want to use my spiritual gifts to serve others and help them turn to God with their whole hearts. And if health and strength should fail, I am still determined to close out my days with my eyes on Him who gives me hope for eternity.
Lord, give me strength and grace to finish well.
All my life you have been faithful
All my life you have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God.