Tag Archives: gods love

Nuggets of Hope 14 – Not Separated

The three cuties in this pic are my granddaughters Madeleine, Sophie and Alivia. They live in Kansas City with their parents, my son Simeon and his wife Heather. This photo was taken during their last visit to us, just after Marion’s Mom passed away in December 2019. Marion and I had been planning to visit them this week, but the COVID-19 pandemic put plans for a visit on hold.

One of the impacts of COVID-19 has been to separate people. Our other children and grandchildren are much closer by, but we can’t see them in person either. With the need for social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, not only can many people not go to work, but churches and community groups can’t meet as they normally do, and family members and friends can’t see each other.

Even more painful is the separation due to death. As painful as that is in more normal times, during this pandemic some have lost loved ones due to other causes and have not been able to hold normal funeral observances due to the need for social distancing. Others have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and have not been able to be at their loved ones’ bedside when they passed because of the risk of infection. In Wuhan, Italy and Spain, where the pandemic has been more severe than what we have so far experienced in Canada, at times normal funeral observances have had to be completely bypassed. All of this only serves to accentuate the sense of loss and grief due to the separation of death.

In the midst of all this separation, pain and loss, I am so thankful for the glorious truth that nothing can separate believers from the love of Christ.  In the powerful closing section of Romans 8, Paul asks a rhetorical question :

Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress,
or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Romans 8:35

He goes on to answer his own question.

No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers, 
nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

This was not written by someone who was a stranger to suffering. Paul suffered many things because of his devotion to the cause of Christ. But he had no regrets because he had encountered the love and power of the risen Christ. He knew Jesus was alive and he knew he had an eternal inheritance in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken.

The Bible tells us that we were made for eternity. This is why humans hate and fear death.  When the author of Hebrews writes of those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery, he’s speaking of a universal human experience. But praise God, Jesus has conquered death on our behalf and opened for us the gates of eternal life.

One day we will inherit a renewed heaven and earth where there will be no more death. This is a glorious and blessed hope. We look forward to the Day of the Lord when this age of death will be over and a new age will dawn. But we have an advance taste of this inheritance now. I want to encourage you to practice talking to the Holy Spirit. He is the living deposit that Jesus has put into every believer. Not only can you talk to him, he can talk to you. He is eager to comfort and strengthen you with strong confidence that Jesus is alive and can guide your every step.

Although all of us – even introverts like me – find it hard to be separated from loved ones, COVID-19 is actually a great opportunity to take extra time alone with God and get to know Him better. The Bible talks about a secret place of the Most High, and says that the friendship or secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him. God has not left us alone, but to experience his friendship we need to practice talking to Him and listening to His voice. This is not complicated. In fact it’s surprisingly simple. Although the Holy Spirit can speak to us in many ways, the most common way is through his still small voice, a gentle nudge in our spirits. This can come when we are reading Scripture, but will also come at other times if we are paying attention. The Holy Spirit will always lead you to Jesus and show you things that are consistent with His word, so this is one way that you can be assured you are hearing from God. If you’re concerned about family members or others in need, He can also show you how to pray for them. I often ask Holy Spirit to show me how to pray for specific situations or people, and He never fails to answer.

Jesus assured us that he would not leave us alone.

The Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
he will teach you all things
and bring to your remembrance
all that I have said to you
John 14:26

I will be thoroughly delighted when I can hug my children and grandchildren again, see my friends and go places freely. I’m sure you will too. But I have sensed the Spirit of God nudging me to make good use of this time of being “shut in” to get to know Him better. As much as circumstances allow, I want to encourage you to do the same. Even if you have busy young children, you can train them to take some quiet time so that you can do the same. Time with the Lord is your lifeline. He is waiting to speak to you.

God bless you.



But why would God care about little old me?

“You say God cares and that he looks after you.  But do you think he would do that for me?  Why would He care about me?”

I will always remember the day Simon asked me that question. It was fourteen years ago, and Simon was a fairly new friend. He lived down the road and around the corner in the townhouse development that my wife and called home. Having left the relative security of ministry in the United Church, Marion and I were raising our young family on a shoestring while shepherding a tiny church that we had planted in the Blossom Park area of South Ottawa.

I first met Simon in the spring of 1995 through a strange series of events.  One spring day there was a neighbourhood garage sale and I was playing my guitar on the front step of our house.  A few days later, a woman we had never seen before knocked on our door and in heavily-accented English asked “Do you have a Bible group in your home?”.  Well, things like this don’t happen every day, and we had been praying for our neighbours, so of course Marion and I were pretty excited.  Her name was Sigrid, she was from Germany, and she told us that she had heard me singing worship songs on the front step and had decided we must be Christians.  She had known some Christ-followers in Germany who had impacted her life deeply, and we reminded her of them. We later learned that she was married to Simon (who was Canadian but of German-Jewish extraction).  Within a few months they and their three children had become part of our little church, and I began spending quite a bit of time with Simon, sharing faith and practical help with him.

Fast forward a year to spring 1996.  During the preceding twelve months, we had spent quite a bit of time mentoring Simon and Sigrid and had become friends with their young family.  We had also reluctantly concluded that our tiny church was not viable, and the leadership team had come to a collective decision to shut it down.  This was, for many reasons, a heart-rending decision – but that’s a story for another day.  I had decided that no matter what God had in store for me by way of ministry, I needed to go back to school and learn a trade, which led to my current work as a technology consultant.  During my year at business college we were living on Employment Insurance, which provided us with 56% of what had already been a poverty-line salary, so it was a very challenging period for Marion and me.  Yet during this period of soul-searching and spiritual and financial distress, we were also seeing much evidence of the grace of God at work in our lives.

Simon and Sigrid had had seen us walk through the process of having to shut down the church; our struggles were not hidden from these baby Christians. Yet in the midst of all the testing, we experienced an inexplicable peace that I can only attribute to God.  We knew He was upholding us, and of course Simon and Sigrid saw this as well.  One day Simon was telling me about his financial problems and how he needed work, and I shared with him how God had always provided for our family through several years of poverty-line living as church planters, and that even now, during my year at business college, we were experiencing God’s constant provision and His kindness to us.  I will never forget Simon’s plaintive, agonized response to my testimony: “But do you think God would do that for me?  Would he care about me?”

People reject God for all sorts of reasons, but I suspect that deep down, many of those who have created sophisticated intellectual smokescreens to explain why God doesn’t exist are really wounded souls crying out to be loved, and finding it impossible to believe that anyone could actually love them.  After all, when all is said and done, in spite of all the pop psychology that tells us how great we are, deep down we know we don’t actually deserve to be loved by God.

The thing is, although we try to hide from the truth, deep down we know that we are sinners – selfish, dishonest, unreliable, unrighteous, impure, untrustworthy, unloving, unfaithful. If you think I’m exaggerating, look in the mirror – or read Romans 3:10-18 and Romans 7:15-21– or look at human history. Yes, there is much good mixed in with the evil – but always it is flawed, and it never endures. Most of the time we succeed in convincing ourselves that this is all someone else’s fault – that it is other people who are perverse and unreasonable – that we, of course, are basically good people. But in moments of blinding honesty, when we see ourselves as we really are, each of us is forced to face the awful truth that if there is a God, and if He is good, we don’t deserve to be loved by Him because we most certainly are not righteous, pure or good.

The amazingly good news is that our own brokenness is not something from which we need to hide. Once we face ourselves as we truly are, we find that God knew about it all the time – and that He has been calling out to us, longing for us to come to our senses and see our broken condition, so that we can run into his arms and find our home in his love.

God doesn’t love you because you deserve it. You don’t have to deserve it, and you never could deserve it no matter how hard you tried. Take a look at the night sky sometime, in a place where you can get away from the city lights and you can really see the stars in all their majesty – and ask yourself whether anything you do could ever impress the maker of the Universe or make Him your debtor. He does care about you – cares with an infinite, fierce and unrelenting passion – but this is not because you deserve it.  He loves you simply and purely because He is good.

I used to be a very negative, moody and convoluted man, but God in his kindness has healed my soul and made me new.  I can truthfully say that I am no longer ashamed, no longer anxious, no longer worried about the future.  In fact I haven’t lived that way for years, but I can still remember when I did.  To clarify – I do admit that I still stumble at times, but my life is no longer characterized by these things – and when I do stumble, I know what to do about it.  It was my Father’s kindness that rescued me – pure and simple.  And I know He still has much more to do in my life.  I want to be a much better reflection of the love, kindness and power of Jesus Christ.  I want this because He is the only one who makes life worth living, and because His Kingdom will stand when all else crumbles.  And because He is good, I know that I will stand.  If you already have this same confidence, you know what I am talking about.  If you want what I am describing, but don’t have it, it’s freely available to you.  All you have to do is humble yourself, admit your need, and ask.


Too simple?

When my children were younger, Marion and I did our best to teach them God’s ways.  We had family worship, family Bible study, family prayers.  Now that our family is pretty well grown up (our youngest is almost 17), I find that my role has changed.   My young adult children are making their own way in life, and rather than give direction, my part is to give unconditional love, encouragement, support, and advice if asked.  But in addition to all those things, and at least as important as any of them, in this season of my life I find that I am very motivated to pray for my children.

Sometimes, though, I’m not sure what to pray for.   Recently when praying for one of my sons, I was trying to discern the real need of his heart, so I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what he most needed at that time.  As soon as I had asked, I knew the answer.  Immediately in my spirit I heard these words: “He needs to know how much I love him”.

My first thought was “But that’s too simple!  It sounds too easy!  What about all the other concerns I have for him – don’t they matter? ”  But as I continued praying and listening and reflecting, I asked the Holy Spirit for more insight and I soon realized that this really is the deepest need of every heart.

If my son really knows how  much God loves him – if he sees the full extent of the wonder of his creation in God’s image, of the many ways that God has provided for him and made a way for him, of the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for him on the cross, of the plans God has for him in this life and the eternal destiny he has in God’s kingdom – if he really sees all that, then everything else will fall into place.  If he really sees how much God loves him, he will trust God with the details of his life and make wise choices as he listens to God’s voice.  If he really sees how much God loves him, he’ll have confidence in each step.  If he really sees how much God loves him, how can he help but respond to God’s love with his whole heart and serve God with his life?  And if he does that, what more could I ask or hope for?

Too simple?  No, just right.


Do you know that God loves you?

When Jesus’ disciples returned from a particularly exciting mission trip – one on which they had overcome demons and seen God’s power at work in major ways – He first rejoiced with them in their victory, but then gently reminded them that the thing to get really excited about is that they had a place in the Father’s heart and that they were citizens of Heaven.

Near the end of his long life, the aged apostle John, who had been a young man while Jesus was on earth, wrote these words to his followers :

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God !

This morning while I was waking up, I tuned my spirit in to the Spirit of God and asked Him to speak to me.  He reminded me that He loved me.  It sounds simple, but it makes all the difference.  We are made for relationship with God – we were never designed to live without it.  Long ago St. Augustine wrote “He has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him”.  That, fundamentally, is why Jesus came – so that we could be reconciled to our Father and be at peace with Him, secure in the knowledge of His love.

Do you know that God loves you?  There is no more precious gift, no greater knowledge.  If you already know God’s love, maybe this is just a reminder to stay tuned in to His channel.  I need those remainders daily.  If you’re not confident of His love, get hold of a Bible and try reading the gospel of John.  Ask Him to reveal His love and goodness to you.  Be prepared to have your life changed.

God bless you!


Is God good ?

You can’t answer that question based on what life throws at you.  We live in a messed-up (fallen) world, but we have a good God.  In this confusing world we can see the works of a good God and the works of the Evil One.  Jesus had a personal revelation of who God was before he ever came into this world.  That’s why He could reveal God’s goodness and kindness to people who had been hammered by life.  That’s why He could live with courage and offer hope to others.

Last weekend Marion and I attended a concert with Brian Doerksen and Kathryn Scott.  It was  my wife’s date idea, and she picked a good one (thanks, honey ! )

I love Brian Doerksen’s music but I also love his honesty about life.   He doesn’t varnish life – he talks about the painful experiences – but he also talks about how he has experienced God’s kindness in the midst of struggles.   Brian and his wife Joyce have six children, including two sons with Fragile X syndrome and autism.  At the concert Brian recounted what a struggle it was when Isaiah, the younger son, was born,  and Brian and Joyce learned that he had the same disability as his older brother Ben.  Then he shared a beautiful, moving song he had written about how God’s faithfulness was revealed to him in an even deeper way in the midst of this pain.

Illness and death were not part of God’s original plan, but in a world that has been marred by sin, all of us are touched by illness and death.  But some people seem to get more than their share.  What’s it been like for Brian and Joyce to have two disabled children ?  Brian says “It’s been a huge challenge and an incredible blessing. Both of my sons are teaching me much about life and the heart of God.”  He adds, “(Joyce and I) make sure we keep investing in our marriage, because over 80 percent of marriages with special-needs kids end in divorce”.  You can read more about this on Brian’s website.

What I love about Brian’s approach to life is that he doesn’t just believe God is good, he knows God’s goodness and kindness from personal experience – but he also knows that this doesn’t mean everything will always go just the way he wants it to, and he has come to a place where that’s just the way he wants it to be – because in the end, God is god and we’re not.

Here are some questions I’ve asked about this whole issue – I think they’re questions everyone asks, in one way or another – and the answers I’ve come up with.

Is God good ?  Yes, very good – in fact He defines goodness.

Can I trust Him?  Yes, it’s the only choice you have if you want a life worth living.  No-one else is ultimately trustworthy.

If I trust God, will I have a good life ?  You’ll have an awesome life – but not necessarily an easy one.  God will be with you in it, though, and it will be far, far better than your life could ever have been without God.  In the end, it’s the only way to really live.