Tag Archives: encouragement

Nuggets of Hope 4 – God’s Spirit in us

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.


The power of blessing

My beloved wife celebrated her 60th birthday a few days ago.

I’m not always the best at planning ahead for such events, but I have learned over the years that special days are important to Marion, and I have also learned that I do a better job at honouring her on such occasions if I give some thought to it in advance.  So, about a month before her birthday I began thinking about what I could do that would bless her, and I had an inspiration. I remembered that when I turned 50, Marion had compiled a book containing words of encouragement, appreciation and blessing from various people in my life. I realized that she could benefit from some encouragement (can’t we all?) so I decided to do something similar for her 60th birthday. I contacted a number of our mutual friends by email and Facebook and asked them to email me with messages communicating something that they appreciated about Marion or some statement of how her life had been a blessing to them.

I found this experience to be a very powerful one. It was a great benefit to my own relationship with God to read the messages that came into my inbox through the month of July.

I learned (or re-learned) several valuable lessons from this experience, and thought they would be worth sharing with others.

Firstly, I was reminded that our words really do matter. They have powerful impact on how others perceive themselves. We are told in Proverbs 18:21 that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. As I read the words of gratitude that so many friends sent to bless Marion, I found myself appreciating our friends and family all over again, and thanking God for putting such wonderful people in our lives. Since I gave her the book on her birthday, Marion has been enjoying it as well. Even when we know that Jesus loves us and gave His life for us, it is a great encouragement to hear from other people how our simple words and actions of love – many of them long forgotten by us – have impacted their lives.

Secondly, I was amazed at the kindness of God. Many of our friends expressed gratitude for things Marion had said or done that she does not remember at all. I know this is because she has set her heart on loving God, and when you do that, kindness and encouragement flow out to those who are receptive. This to me is a powerful motivation to keep walking in the Spirit. As we set our hearts on following the way of love, others are blessed. It is so simple, but we do need to choose daily to walk this path.

Thirdly, I realized again how thankful I am for the wife God has given me. She brings me good, and not harm, all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:12). It is good to be reminded of reasons to be grateful. So, for all of you who took the time to send words of blessing on my wife’s birthday, thank you so much. You encouraged her, but you also encouraged me. Well done.

I’ve uploaded the completed Blessing Book for anyone who is interested in seeing the finished product.



Thirteen friends filled our living room last night. That may not seem like a huge number, but we have a small living room. They spilled over into the hallway and the dining room.

Since the start of the year, Marion and I have set aside Thursday evenings to worship Jesus and pray for our neighbourhood and city,

There have been a couple of occasions when Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the angels were our only companions. God has used those times to test and shape our hearts by reminding us Who we are doing this for. One of Jesus’ complaints about the Pharisees (religious leaders of his day whom he considered to be hypocrites) was that everything they did was done for people to see. They wanted to be noticed. They craved recognition, approval, attention. The times when no-one else is present have trained the eyes of my heart to focus on Jesus, and seek to bring Him pleasure simply because He is worthy.

That’s a process that is not yet complete. But Father in his kindness and mercy also gives us times with friends to encourage us. Last night was one of those times. Our house was full of friends new and old.

Some were from our wonderful church family at All Nations Ottawa. Some were from The Village, a little church in our neighbourhood of Vanier where Marion and I served for several months last year. Some were from Love Ottawa. Some were brothers and sisters from other parts of Ottawa with a vision to see local houses of prayer birthed across our city.

They came to worship and pray with us. They also came to hear from Jill and Kirk Weber of Greater Ontario House of Prayer in Hamilton, who brought much encouragement by sharing stories and insights from their journey as pioneers in the contemporary Canadian prayer movement. The presence of the Lord was sweet and our hearts were refreshed.

I don’t know where all this is going. I am learning to simply take one step at a time as Marion and I seek to obey Jesus. For now, we will simply keep doing what we are doing, until He shows us new steps of faith. But two truths were lodged in my heart last night.

One of these truths is that, in the Psalmist’s words, for me, it is good to be near God. I don’t know any other way to live anymore. Loving Jesus has become my identity, and being a man of prayer isn’t just something I do, it’s who I am and who I am becoming.

The second of these truths is that seeking the Lord is not meant to be a solitary occupation. Although we need to keep our eyes on Jesus when no-one is around, and although both Marion and I place high value on times of solitude when we can be alone with the One who knows us better than anyone else, we have also learned that truly God sets the lonely in families. We were made to give and receive love. We were made to share life with others.

Living in community is part of the heart and soul of a genuine life with Jesus. Learning to love others strips away our fear, our pride, our self-preoccupation. It teaches us to cultivate genuine humility and gratitude. While we do need the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we also need the encouragement of fellow travellers who are seeking to walk the same road of faith, hope and loving obedience.

Last night I received a fresh dose of both kinds of encouragement. For that, I am grateful.




Is God real?

Is God real?

I mean, is there actually a living, loving, personal and powerful God who really cares about you – a God that you can connect with, a God that makes a tangible difference in your life?  Is there a God that you can trust to direct your steps and see you through?

Biblical faith is all about relationship.   It’s not an abstract, theoretical faith.  I am grateful for apologists who present a reasoned case for Christianity, but even intellectuals need more than logical arguments to sustain their faith.  God has not designed us to be able to survive on an abstract faith that is never experienced.  Our hearts are not meant to be able to operate that way.  Only a God who makes a tangible difference in our lives will hold most people’s attention for long.  The God of the Bible is a relational God – a God who speaks to people, who interacts with them.  Our hearts long for His touch.  As the Psalmist wrote, my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

I was raised in an atmosphere of skepticism about prayer, spiritual experiences and miracles.  As a young man, although intellectual wrestling was an important part of my journey from unbelief to faith, rational arguments alone weren’t enough to bring me out of the pit of turmoil to the solid ground of confident assurance.  It took a series of encounters with God’s supernatural power to get past my defences and convince me that the God of the Bible was real and alive.  Probably the most pivotal single occurrence was a dream I had twenty-seven years ago that I have never forgotten.  When I went to bed I was not yet convinced that God spoke through dreams, visions and prophecies.  When I awoke, I knew that He had gotten my attention in a simple and unforgettable way about a major life decision.  That dream changed the whole direction of my life, starting a chain of events that led to my salvation.  Since then, there have been several key turning points in my life at which God has broken into my life with a fresh word, bringing hope, encouragement and new perspective.  I am more grateful than words can say for such divine encounters.

The most recent of these encounters came during a recent two-week road trip with my bride in celebration of our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.  I love road trips, and I had been looking forward to this one for a long time.  After visiting with Simeon, Heather and Sophie (see Life Lessons from Sophie), we went on to spend a weekend at International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  We had brought our daughter Bethany with us (she was a great travelling partner), and all three of us had the opportunity to receive personal prophetic ministry while we were there.

I know that God can speak to me without any human intermediary, and frequently does.  I read my Bible regularly, and His written word provides a solid foundation for my life, and a lens through which I evaluate the many and varied other ways in which He speaks to me.  Still, I count it a great privilege whenever praying, believing people set time aside to hear from God for my life and tell me what He has shown them.  Although I’m no stranger to personal prophetic ministry, I had been looking forward greatly to this aspect of our visit to IHOP, and I was not disappointed.  I found the prophetic ministry wonderfully refreshing, encouraging and confirming.  It was also very simple, calm, and totally free of hype.  Marion, Bethany and I sat down in three chairs, and the two women who were to minister to us sat down facing us.  They prayed briefly and then, in a quiet but confident manner, they began sharing what they sensed the Holy Spirit showing them for each of us.

I won’t give details of what was spoken over my life, because I am still processing it, but let me simply say that it got my attention.  There was nothing spectacular about it – no fireworks, no earthquakes – and yet I knew God was speaking to me powerfully through these two very gentle, unassuming servants.  Marion and Bethany likewise found that the prophetic messages they received were very pertinent to their lives.  Keep in mind that none of us had ever met these two women, and we had given them no information about ourselves, yet they accurately identified several key issues in each of our lives, and spoke truth into situations that they had no way of knowing anything about except through the Holy Spirit.  As for me, they brought Biblically-grounded insight, encouragement, confirmation and clarity to four major areas – my work, my finances, my sense of identity, my relationship with my children.  As I result, I have a fresh awareness of the goodness of God.  I felt as though He were saying to me, “I see your ways – I have my eyes on you, and I have a purpose for every area of your life”.  Of course as a believer in Jesus I already knew this was true, but I now know it in a different way – not only by conviction, but also by personal and recent experience.  God has filled my cup with encouragement and fresh faith, and I am profoundly grateful.

In his instruction to the Corinthian church about the operation of spiritual gifts during their meetings, Paul says that visitors who come into a gathering where the people of God are prophesying will find the secrets of their hearts laid bare, and they will fall down in worship, declaring “God is really among you”.   I didn’t literally fall down in worship, but I did give thanks to God for exposing areas of my heart that needed to be exposed, and speaking life-giving wisdom and truth into my life through loving, trustworthy, faithful servants.  As a result I can say with fresh confidence that God is real and alive, and both speaks and acts on behalf of those who seek Him and trust Him.  As the Psalmist wrote, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a  light to my path.  If you have been wondering whether God sees your pathway, and whether He cares enough to direct your steps, the answer is a resounding Yes.  Yes, He does.  Turn to Him and ask Him to speak to you,  and – one way or another – He will.