• Devotionals

    My soul will be still, for the Lord is in control

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day:

    When faced with adversity, l will be still and rest in God’s presence, knowing that He is in control. 

    “Be still, and know that I am God! 
        I am exalted among the nations, 
        I am exalted in the earth.” 

    Psalm 46:10  (NRSV)

    One of my favorite experiences in church is Praise and Worship at the beginning of each service. Our church worship team plays contemporary songs with concert flair, complete with visual effects and loud beats, which enhances my worship experience. I love it!  

    Last week, the worship team played Be still by Hillsong Worship.  In the past, l found the song encouraging and the lyrics poignant, but l didn’t ruminate past these initial impressions. However, on this day, something shifted inside of me as soon as the first words of the song reached my ears: 

    “Be still and know
    That the Lord is in control
    Be still my soul
    Stand and watch as giants fall”

    These past few months have been extremely difficult for me healthwise. I have experienced a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and depression that has left me feeling emotionally drained, physically weak, and spiritually vulnerable to lies and accusations from the enemy about who l am in Christ.

    When l am feeling particularly morose, l question whether l will ever travel again to distant countries, take part in social interactions, or even be able to laugh out loud again – activities which require the physical and mental vitality that l haven’t possessed in years. Sometimes, l get really frightened that l will always be watching others enjoy their lives, while l waste away behind an invisible mental barrier of depression, fatigue, and loneliness.

    And yet, when l heard the words of this beautiful song, l felt like God was telling me to stop what l was doing – to stop feeling melancholy and afraid – and just be still in His presence.  

    “I won’t be afraid
    If You are here
    You silence all my fear”

    God assured me that He sees my situation, and He is working in it.  He reminded me that when l had faced adversity in the past, He had been there to support and guide me. Every time, He had brought me out of the valley.

    God had been in control then, and He was in control now. He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow:  I did not need to be afraid. 

    Hearing this message in the heightened atmosphere of corporate worship instantly comforted me.  I felt like the doubts and fears that had slithered into my head were silenced by God’s reassurance of His love. Out of nowhere, I had a sudden surge of hope that everything would work out for the best. It was an unfamiliar sensation to experience – and yet, it felt comforting.

    Later that day, l spent some quiet time with God and played “Be Still” again.  For the first time in a long while, l actually felt the stillness of being in His presence. Finally, I could rest.   

    “Surely love and mercy
    Your peace and kindness
    Will follow me
    Will follow me”

    I learned an important lesson last Sunday: I need not search for God’s love, mercy, and kindness, for it is always within my reach – in fact, it follows me. It is a gift that God gives me, together with His peace, which transcends all understanding.

    All l need to do is stop, be still, and rest in the Lord.

    He will take care of the rest.  

    Prayer: 

    Loving Father, thank you that we can find true rest in the stillness of Your presence. When troubles overwhelm us or we feel doubtful and afraid, help us to remember that You are in control. You will not fail us, nor forsake us. Amen.  

    Delve deeper: 

    If you need to rest in the stillness of God’s presence today, spend time with Him in prayer.  Ask God to show you how you can lay all your problems and your busy schedule aside and just rest in the love, mercy, and kindness of His presence, where you will find peace.

    Blog banner:  Adam Zvanovec on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    Solid as a Rock – When Life Crumbles

    Written by Sarah Keith

    “Oh Lord, preserve my faith. Preserve my faith, O Lord!”

    I found myself praying that prayer – again. You see my husband Bob, of 32 years, fainted and fell October of 2013; he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Twelve days later my mother died.

    My world crumbled. The grief was unbearable.

    I thought l would die of a broken heart. During those dark days it was almost impossible to think, let alone pray. Most days, l could only utter a one-word prayer, “Jesus.” I pleaded with God to heal Bob, but l also found myself praying, “Oh God, preserve my faith.”

    I wrestled and struggled with doubts about what l believed. Did l really believe all that l had taught or had written to encourage others in their faith?

    But where could l go? To whom could l turn?

    Who else is there besides the Lord?

    And who else has opened the gates of heaven to sinful mortal souls and holds the words of eternal life?

    Then God in His providence preserved my husband’s life, and over the course of seven months brought him back from death’s door.

    Bob still has many physical and mental deficits. He can’t be alone. Even so, he has made much progress, and this gives me hope!

    But it is not clear whether he will be completely restored on this side of heaven. I question, “Are you there Lord? Do you care?”

    My daughter has been urging me to do something for myself. So, l took her up on it. She would “watch” dad, while l went for a bike ride – something normal!

    I took my familiar route to the ocean inlet. It was a beautiful morning with bright, clear blue skies, puffy white clouds, and an easy breeze for biking. As l peddled, l prayed, “Lord, preserve my faith. I need you to help me. I can’t do this!”

    When l reached the inlet pathway, l noticed it had been re-landscaped. It was beautiful but now unfamiliar. At the mouth of the inlet, just before it spills into the ocean, sits my prayer rock. When l stepped onto it, a thought came to me, “Everything else might look different, but my rock hasn’t changed. It’s fim and secure. And is this not what the Scripture says about God?”

    My soul groaned deep within, and l cried out, “Lord, l need to hear from You; I need to know that You are there, and that You care. Please let me hear from You today. Don’t remain silent! Please Lord, speak to me!” Then, as is my custom, l turned to the passage in Psalms that matched the date – Psalm 31.

    I read:

    In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
        let me never be put to shame;
        deliver me in your righteousness.
     Turn your ear to me,
        come quickly to my rescue;
    be my rock of refuge,
        a strong fortress to save me.
    Since you are my rock and my fortress,
        for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
    Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
        for you are my refuge.
    Into your hands I commit my spirit;
        deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

    I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
        as for me, I trust in the Lord.
     I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
        for you saw my affliction
        and knew the anguish of my soul.
     You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
        but have set my feet in a spacious place.

    Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
        my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
        my soul and body with grief.
    My life is consumed by anguish
        and my years by groaning;
    my strength fails because of my affliction,
        and my bones grow weak.
    Because of all my enemies,
        I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
    and an object of dread to my closest friends—
        those who see me on the street flee from me.
    I am forgotten as though I were dead;
        I have become like broken pottery.
     For I hear many whispering,
        “Terror on every side!”
    They conspire against me
        and plot to take my life.

     But I trust in you, Lord;
        I say, “You are my God.”
     My times are in your hands;
        deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
        from those who pursue me.
     Let your face shine on your servant;
        save me in your unfailing love.
     Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
        for I have cried out to you;
    but let the wicked be put to shame
        and be silent in the realm of the dead.
     Let their lying lips be silenced,
        for with pride and contempt
        they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

     How abundant are the good things
        that you have stored up for those who fear you,
    that you bestow in the sight of all,
        on those who take refuge in you.
     In the shelter of your presence you hide them
        from all human intrigues;
    you keep them safe in your dwelling
        from accusing tongues.

     Praise be to the Lord,
        for he showed me the wonders of his love
        when I was in a city under siege.
     In my alarm I said,
        “I am cut off from your sight!”
    Yet you heard my cry for mercy
        when I called to you for help.

     Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
        The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
        but the proud he pays back in full.
     Be strong and take heart,
        all you who hope in the Lord.

    Psalm 31:1-24 (NIV)


    Had l ridden my bike the day before or after the 31st of the month, the passages in Psalm 30 and Psalm 1 say nothing about a rock.


    But God in His mercy reminded me that He knows what is happening – and cares!

    He is teaching me to trust that He is the One in whom l can rest and depend! He is working out His plan – in His time.


    Dear friends, if you too are walking an unfamiliar path in life. I urge you to step onto the Solid Rock. Call on the Lord Jesus, take refuge in him; He is our Sure Foundation!


    Update:

    It is now the summer of 2019. Bob has come a long way in speech, understanding, and the ability to walk. Yet, he still cannot be left alone. These past five years have continued challenging my faith.

    I struggle with doubts, insecurities, fear, and burnout from care-giving. My health has been adversely affected too. Even so, God continues to show up in unique and undeniable ways. He continues preserving my faith when l think l can’t take one more step.

    The Lord continues to prove His faithfulness, even when l am faithless – because as the Scriptures promise, “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

    That’s God’s promise to His children when we are weak in our faith!

    This article was first published by Sarah Keith on her website The Sunday School Network.com. Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Blog banner:  Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981, she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.

    Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years

  • Articles

    9 Hopeful Truths for When God Seems Distant

    Written by Madeline Twooney 

    Two months ago, l felt like l experienced a breakthrough in my 3-year convalescence from burnout and depression.

    I was trying to fall asleep when l felt like my head opened up, and all the heavy, dark thoughts and anxiety came out and drifted upwards. It was like l was handing all of them over to God. I remember thinking, “Papa, l think you’ve healed me!” Shortly afterwards, l fell into a deep, restorative sleep. 

    Unfortunately, my recovery only lasted for about two days. The depression and anxiety returned, and God’s presence, which l had felt so intensely that night, remains but a beautiful memory for me now.  

    “Where is God?” l have been asking myself since my heavenly encounter. “Why does He feel so far away?” 

    If you’re like me, and you’re feeling like God is maintaining radio silence, l hope that these 9 tips will give you encouragement that God is very near – in fact, He’s closer to you than you think.  

    God is close to the broken-hearted 

    “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
        and saves the crushed in spirit. ” 

    Psalm 34:18 

    We have all encountered sorrow and loss at some point in our lives, may it be a family estrangement, receiving a negative doctor’s report, or the passing away of a loved one. It’s a heartbreaking process to go through. 

    God’s empathy for our heartache is demonstrated through His Son. When Jesus first began His ministry, He stated that the Lord had sent Him “to bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 61:1). 

    Jesus Himself experienced great sorrow on earth. His feelings upon hearing of the death of His friend Lazarus are demonstrated with two words – “Jesus wept” (John 11.35 NIV).  

    Furthermore, knowing that His moment of sacrifice was nigh, Jesus said to three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34 NIV). 

    In addition to His own personal experiences, Jesus showed compassion for those who suffered, through His many acts of healing.  

    Photo credit;   Alex Boyd on Unsplash

    God promises to never fail us, nor forsake us

    ‘ “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” ‘

    Deuteronomy 31:6

    It is repeated throughout the Bible that God will never leave us to fend for ourselves. 

    Therefore, when it feels like God is far away and we’re feeling vulnerable and alone, God is actually right there with us, protecting us and keeping us safe in the midst of what we are going through.  

    God will not let anyone or anything harm us, and He will not leave us to face difficult times on our own – that is His promise to us.  

    Photo credit:  Dan Meyers on Unsplash

    God’s assurances that He is with us are reflected in His names

    ‘ “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” ‘

    Jeremiah 16:21

    God is known by many names in the Bible. Here are a few that apply directly to His character: 

    • Yahweh, meaning “The Lord” (Genesis 2:4
    • Abba, meaning “Father” (Mark 14:36
    • Jehovah Rapha, meaning “The God who heals” (Psalm 147: 3
    • Jehovah Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14
    • Jehovah Nissi, meaning “The Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15
    • Jehovah Shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24

    If you would like to learn more about the names of God and the relevance of their meanings for us today, then click here to read our article on this topic.

    God’s many names reflect an assurance that He is always with us. They bear a promise that God will always protect us and provide for us.  He is not only the Lord God Almighty, He is our Father, who loves us and brings us peace.  

    Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

    God is working behind the scenes

    ‘At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.”’

    1 Kings 18:44

    Sometimes, we feel like God is far away because we don’t see a change in our situation or an answer to our prayers. In such times, God is actually behind the scenes, working in our circumstances. 

    This was the case for Elijah in 1 Kings 18. After three years of famine in Samaria, the prophet told King Ahab to expect an abundance of rain. However, despite Elijah sending his servant six times to check for signs of precipitation on Mount Carmel, not one drop was to be seen.  

    Though it looked like nothing was happening, God was sending a cloud as small as a man’s hand out of the sea towards Samaria. Only after Elisha’s servant checked a seventh time, did he see a visible manifestation of God’s promise of rain. 

    Photo credit:  Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

    God wants to test your faith

    “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance;  and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

    James 1:3-4

    The Greek transliteration of the word “test” in the scriptures is peirasmóswhich means a trial or a proving. When we feel like God isn’t near, it is actually when He is closest to us; His apparent absence can be a test designed to strengthen our faith.  

    How can that be? 

    Testing is associated with purification – to cleanse out those things that aren’t serving us and produce perseverance by strengthening our belief that God is greater than any adversity we face (1 Peter 1:7).  

    Testing is designed to bear fruit by bringing us up to a mature level of faith. For that reason, James assures us that “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). 

    Photo credit:  Ronaldo de Oliveira on Unsplash

    God adheres to His own schedule, not ours

    ‘ “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” ‘

    Acts 1:7

    TV evangelist and author Joyce Meyers once quoted, “God is never late, but generally  He isn’t  early either.” 

    The omnipotent power of God transcends space and time. Whereas we have plans that we want to achieve during our short visit on this earth, God’s agenda spans all of eternity.  

    God’s schedule runs differently to ours, so when we wonder why He isn’t responding to our requests, prayers, and petitions, His assumed distance can only mean He is sorting things out in His own perfect timing.   

    In Acts 1:7 it states that it is not for us to know God’s timing. However, He does assure us that all things work out for good by Him because we love Him (Romans 8:28).  

    Photo credit:  JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

    God makes a clear declaration that He is with us

    ” Do not fear, for I am with you,
        do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

    Isaiah 41:10

    When thoughts and emotions start to rise to the surface that God is far away, His Word assures us with bold declarations that He is always with us and that we should not fear, neither should we be dismayed.  

    In Psalm 46:1, God even encourages us to seek refuge in His strength when we face troubles, for He is always with us.  

    What is so wonderful about God is that He not only offers us the comfort of His presence in our time of need, He always helps us over and above our expectations.  

    Photo credit:  Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

    Remember all the times that God was with you in the past

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    Hebrews 13:8 

    I keep a journal which l call my “Miracle Book”. In it, l record all the times God has touched my life with His supernatural favor, mercy, and kindness. 

    During times when l feel that God is far away from me, l get out my “Miracle Book” and l read my previous entries. Not only do they encourage me that God is indeed working in my life, they remind me that what He has done in the past He will do again, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  

    Photo credit:  Angelika Spanke on Unsplash

    Feeling distant from God has helped me connect with others in my situation 


    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

    Galatians 6:2

    When l first got diagnosed with burnout and depression, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest and a change of lifestyle that the Great Healer would make me whole. However, as the months went by, it became obvious that my convalescence was going to take longer than l thought.  

    Three years later, I sit in church and hear regular praise reports of people who have been healed from depression, and l ask God sometimes, why l can’t be one of those people whom He miraculously heals. I start to criticize and question myself if my faith is strong enough to warrant a full divine-appointed recovery. 

    However, God works in mysterious ways. He has been using my infirmity to reach out and be a comfort to others, who are also waiting on God for their healing – either through my writing as a blogger and writer or in my daily interactions with people. In return, these wonderful people comfort and encourage me in my faith.  l feel truly blessed that they are in my life. 

    I’m not saying that if l had the chance at a do-over that l would choose to be sick again. Nor am l saying that l would voluntarily choose to go through those feelings of doubting God’s presence and enduring self-chastisement again. However, if l hadn’t gone through all of that, l wouldn’t have been able to connect with the people who have enriched my life and l theirs. 

    God does not only show us His presence during good moments, such as through a glorious sunset, the carefree chuckle of a child’s laughter or the blooming of a beautiful rose. God is always near – in the valley and on the mountain top.  

    However, when we start to doubt this, we need to hold onto God’s promises that He reveals to us in the Bible – that He loves us, He will never leave us, and that He will fulfil His purpose over our lives with His perfect timing for our good.  

    God never goes back on His Word.  

    This article was first published on Crosswalk.com on the 14th June 2019.

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Blog banner credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance SFX Makeup artist and dances to Sister sledge whilst cooking. She is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat.  

  • Devotionals

    The Trust Factor

    Written by Lynne Phipps

    Thought for the day: Trust in God is first and foremost a fact and not a feeling.   

    Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
        therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
        Blessed are all who wait for him!”

    Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

    Every day, my seven canines get a treat to help them maintain strong and healthy teeth. They never receive the treat at the same time on any given day. I hand them out when l fill up their food bowls for the evening meal. Sometimes, l do this early in the day, sometimes later.

    My seven canines used to be eight. And it was this eigth one that reinforced a valuable lessone for me, day in and day out, the older he got. By the time he was twelve, he was totally deaf. And by the time he was fifteen, his sight had greatly deteriorated. His cataracts were so thick, l doubt that he was able to see very much. He was such a happy little fellow though, always full of joy right from the first day he came to live with me and was still quite spry at the age of sixteen.

    And every day when it was treat time, even though he was deaf and basically blind, he always seemed to know. I would reach for the biscuits from the cupboard and turn around – and there would be seven dogs gathered around in expectation. I would dole out the goodies one by one until l had one left, which was Casey’s.

    And where would number eight be?

    Always sitting, waiting patiently in complete trust behind everyone else. He never barked or whined or tried to get his treat first, even though it would have been easy for him to walk under the bigger dog’s legs to get to the front of the line. Rather, he had learned over the years that he was never forgotten and he was never left out – he would receive that for which he hoped.

    Casey died just before Christmas, shortly after his sixteenth birthday. He suffered a stroke during his sleep and though it did not take him, the time had come to say goodbye.

    Now, every day when l turn around with the treats in my hand and see all of my friends gathered in anticipation, l remember the wonderful gift Casey left me: the trust factor.

    I also remember that the Lord longs to be gracious to me, for the Lord is a God of justice and blessed are all who wait for Him.

    Perhaps today, you may be feeling left out or forgotten. The Lord seems to be blessing everyone else but you. You feel that God has been silent and wonder will you ever hear His voice again. If so, fear not. Instead, embrace Casey’s gift: the trust factor. Trust in the promises and the goodness of God. Wait patiently for Him, and you will not be disappointed with the blessing He has in store just for you.

    Prayer: Father God, thank You so much that You long to be gracious to us, Your children. Thank You that You show compassion and are a God of justice. Thank You that we are blessed when we wait for You, for never will You leave us nor forget us. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

    Delve deeper: There is probably not a single Christian in all history, who has not struggled with trusting God when He seems to be silent, no matter how hard we try to reach Him. But trusting in God is not so much about our feelings but about standing upon the facts of Scripture.

     Consider these verses: 


        For I am with you, and I will take care of you.
        I, the Lord, have spoken!”

    Jeremiah 1:19 (NLT)

    Great is his faithfulness;
        his mercies begin afresh each morning.

    Lamentations 3:23 (NLT) 

    I will never leave you nor forsake you.

    Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) 

    So today, if you are struggling because God seems to be silent in your life, remember Casey and the trust factor. Then, begin to dwell upon those Scriptures that promise God is faithful. He is with you and will never forsake you!

    Additionally, think upon all His faithfulness to you in the past, and begin to praise God for His continued faithfulness, not only for today, but also for all the days which lie ahead for you throughout eternity.

    This devotional was originally published at PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 11th March 2019.

    Blog banner credit:  Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    Be still

    Written by JJ Ollerenshaw

    ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.’

    Genesis 1:3-5 (NIV) 

    Isn’t it interesting that God created light before he created the sun and the moon? Nothing can live without light. Plants need light to turn green, and they produce the oxygen that we need to breathe. We can’t grow without light. Have you noticed how fast children grow in the summer months? Physical life needs physical light. We also need emotional and spiritual light.   

    When I was a fairly new Christian, I attended a women`s prayer meeting in hopes of shedding some light on my inner turmoil. My two children were in school all day and it was time for me to return to work. I had been a legal secretary, but times had changed. Computers were now in use, but I didn’t know how to use one. As well, I doubted that I could sit still all day when I had been so active for the past several years. I did not want to go back to school, but neither did I know what else to do. 

    As I fretted about this, and prayed, my mind going around in circles, it seemed to me that the room was filled with wind. Did someone open a window? I opened my eyes, expecting to see the curtains blowing about. But nothing moved – and no one else seemed to have noticed. All heads were bowed, all eyes were closed. There was a quiet female murmuring beneath the whoosh of the wind.  

    Then I heard the Voice. Gentle, loving, but nonetheless the Voice of authority: “Be still ….”  Years later, I learned that the proper translation of these words (Psalm 46:10) is a reprimand, not an invitation or suggestion. That was exactly how I heard it – a command. 

    I obeyed. The Voice stopped me in my tracks. I have never forgotten it. Awed, I had a new respect for God. He spoke to me! I began to ask, what did God want me to do?  

    Shortly after this, I began a completely new career in home nursing, something I had never before considered. It suited me completely. Ten years later, however, I was burned out from trying to be Superwoman. We had moved and taken up farming while I did shift work in a nursing home. My job was physically tiring and stressful. At home, the livestock needed tending and the house needed renovations. The farm was isolated. Our teenagers vied for my car. And I was so angry with God.  

    I felt that I had done everything “right”, the way I was supposed to. We were active in church and raised our kids in Sunday school. This was not what I expected in return. I was tired, unhappy, and literally had no hope for the future. As I blamed God and did a freefall into severe clinical depression, other voices filled my head. I wanted nothing more than to be in the dark – quiet and alone.  

    Depression is not just a human illness. We had two beautiful German Shepherd dogs, not from the same litter, but born two months apart they thought they were brothers. They roamed our farm at will and delighted in chasing the occasional car. As they grew, one dog became bolder and took to chasing chickens as well. When his nose was on a level with our table, he stole food off our plates. Eventually he got himself into big trouble and had to be put down.  

    His brother moped. Obviously in a dark place, he lay on the step and refused to eat. So, I spent time with him, teaching him to catch a ball and walk on a leash. He became my shadow. I saved his life. And when I fell into the depths of despair, he saved mine.  

    God was the mastermind. Anti-depressant drugs are wonderful but work slowly. Meantime, I had to rouse myself in order to let Jasper in and out of the house. How could I resist those soulful brown eyes and not walk with him and throw his precious tennis ball? He needed me and I needed him. As the saying goes: What goes around, comes around – we reap what we sow. He sighed and patiently rested his chin on my knee when I sobbed. 

    What do we do when morning comes but our life is in darkness?  How to rid the gloom of long grey winter days when so many suffer from SAD? We don’t want to talk. We tentatively part the curtains – and close them quickly. Exercise? We can’t force ourselves. We paint the walls green, blue, and yellow. We bring the outdoors in: flowers, bird houses, pictures of beach scenes and boats. We might head south. But there’s only one solution: turn on the light! 

     “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    John 8:12

    One day I was startled to suddenly see everything around me as if through rose-coloured glasses. I recognized that as the day I began to heal. Jesus is the light that banishes spiritual and emotional darkness. He calls himself the Light of the World, and actually gives us the same description, saying that we are the light of the world as well (Matthew 5:14). Our job is to let Jesus shine through us. We’re to go and find dark places, and start shining!

     

    Eventually, obeying that still, small Voice again, I headed back to school and another new career. My faithful canine friend departed this world at an old age, and I have long since retired from work. But whenever I start to fret and worry, God’s Spirit reminds me: Be still, and know that I am God. We can be assured that God is in control. He wants what is best for us, and has a plan. He will shine a light on it when we still our fretful minds and seek only His will for us. 

    ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

    Jeremiah 29:11

    Prayer: Jesus, shine Your light on our problems and show us the way. Help us to reflect Your light and move towards the people and places that need You. Amen. 

    Blog banner photo credit:  Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

    About the author:

    JJ Ollerenshaw is British but migrated to Canada at the age of 19. She enjoys the outdoors, but only in the summer months, hence her travel destinations have only been to warm countries. She enjoys reading, studying the Bible, and writing. She is an animal enthusiast. 

    JJ’s  writing career is diverse: She has written devotionals, short stories, as well as articles on travel and cattle (Yes, cattle!). Additionally, JJ has written a Sunday School curriculum, pioneered a political party newsletter, and has written an account of her and her husband’s genealogy, going back to the 1700’s.  

    JJ is a retired wine merchant, but still keeps active through renovating the family cabin and spending time in her garden. She has 8 beautiful grandchildren. 

  • Articles

    Lord, are you there?

    How God spoke to Elijah in the silence

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I’m sure like me, you are no stranger to hardship. For my part, I have gone through a fair share of adversity: death, illness, financial struggle, and my own family turning their back on me.

    Now, this is not a “pat on the back, admire me for what l have gone through” kind of article.

    Not at all.

    This is a shout-out to all of you who have gone through something or are going through something right now. In the midst of your strife, you’re seeking God, but you just can’t find Him.

    Know that you are not alone.

    Being in the valley is a lonely place, full of darkness and insecurity. You wonder why God allowed such things to happen to you. Moreover, when you call out to Him to help you out of your mess, your prayers and petitions are met with silence. God doesn’t seem to answer you back.

    Or does He?

    Being a Christian does not mean that our life turns into some kind of continuous happy-clappy revival, complete with outbursts of “Hallelujah!” and angel song in the background accompanying us all the livelong day. It certainly does not mean that as Born Again Christians  we are destined to walk around with goofy smiles plastered across our faces, as we react to prejudice, injustice, and racial slurs with glorified meekness.

    Being a Christian is hard. It means that life is still going to come at us with its arsenal of ill-intent; more so, because we are living ambassadors of the Most High God on earth.

    Jesus confirmed this when He addressed His disciples:

    ‘“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution.”’

    John 16:33 (NRSV)

    So, if Jesus warns us that we will experience trouble on this earth, why doesn’t God seem to answer us when we ask Him for help?

    Could it be that we just aren’t listening hard enough for His voice?

    The Bible contains numerous accounts of biblical heroes, who doubted God’s presence in the midst of adversity: Gideon asked God three times for divine confirmation of his calling to lead the Israelites against the Midianites (Judges 6). Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, doubted that Christ had been resurrected from the grave until he saw physical proof (John 20:24-29). After extensive torture and calamity at the hands of Satan, Job doubted God’s goodness (Job 7:20).

    However, in this article, l want to turn our focus onto Elijah the prophet, as his experience of Queen Jezebel of Samaria in 1 Kings 19 provides a beautiful example of how God reaches you in the (literal) silence .

    In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, Elijah had proclaimed God’s glory through a series of events:

    Firstly, Elijah had participated in a show-down in Samaria at Mt. Carmel against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Idol worship in Israel was rampant at that time, so Elijah was bold in his faith in making a stand against it. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Elijah was able to prepare an eye-popping sacrifice that declared God to be mightier than Baal or Asherah (1 Kings 18: 30-38) .

    Secondly, with divine authority (Deuteronomy 13:5), Elijah had slain the 850 priests. These were men carefully chosen by Jezebel, the resident evil queen of Samaria, to serve her and promote her desire of idol worship in the land (1 Kings 18:40). Therefore, it took a lot of guts cutting down the Queen’s prized lackeys.  

    Most impressively, where a severe famine had already raged a 3-year course across the country, Elijah had prayed for rain and God had heard his petitions (1 Kings 18:44-45).

    However, instead of celebrating God’s victories with a much-awaited dip in the now bursting banks of the River Jordan, Elijah freaked out after receiving an ominous message from Queen Jezebel. Apparently, she hadn’t taken too kindly to Elijah slaying her anti-God squad and she wanted Elijah dead. Full of fear, Elijah took flight.

    You’d think that after all the miracles that God had bestowed upon Elijah in 1 Kings 18, that one death threat from a human would be small fries in comparison. However, this message really unhinged Elijah. Granted, Jezebel was a truly evil woman and a formidable queen, who had her husband Ahab twisted around her little finger (I Kings 21:1-16). Mind you, Ahab wasn’t exactly a saint either. Still, who was Jezebel compared to the might and power of God, the almighty Yahweh of the Israelites (Exodus 3:14-15)?

    However, it is not uncommon to experience a crushing setback after a victory. It has happened to all of us, and Elijah was as human as any of us. So, Elijah hot-footed it towards Beersheba of Judah, which was over 80 miles out of Jezebel’s jurisdiction. That still wasn’t enough distance for Elijah, and he kept on moving.

    It states in the Bible that Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (I Kings 19:4). In the Bible, the wilderness symbolizes a dry season or a time of trial and testing. A good depiction of this is the Israelites sojourn in the wilderness for 40 years, which represented not only a physical dry season but a spiritual one – a result of their continuous doubt of God (Numbers 32:13).

    Elijah must have been exhausted after the previous chapter’s events and then he had the added stress of Jezebel to deal with. Hence, he took rest under a broom tree where angels ministered to him (I kings 19:5-8). Even while on the run, feeling lonely and afraid, God was with Elijah.

    However, it was when Elijah was in a cave that the Bible states that “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9). Away from the distractions of his current situation, Elijah was able to hear God speak.

    In your own experience, have you ever realized that you have more perspective over your situation, when you mentally step away from it?

    God further proves that He is with us in the silence. He went past Elijah as a great, strong wind that battered the mountains, as a trembling earthquake and a raging fire; and yet the Bible states that the Lord was not in any of these things (1 Kings 19:11-12).  

    Where was God then? He was in the still, small voice that came afterwards:

    “(A)nd after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”

    I Kings 19:12 (AMPC)

    Why did God choose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice? He could have spoken to him in conversational tones or boomed His message across the heavens, so that the mountains quaked and trembled at His very name.

    But no, God chose to whisper to Elijah, because He was close to him the entire time. The devil needs to scream and shout at us to scare us into keeping our focus on our problems. But God, in His permanent proximity to us, only needs to whisper in the silence to reassure us that He is God. He is always with us and will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

    At the reassurance of God’s voice, Elijah was able to receive comfort and further instructions for the next phase of his ministry, which included choosing Elisha as his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21).

    Though we may be subjected to adversity in our life, God never intends for us to fend for ourselves. He is with us when we pass through the waters, and ensures that when we walk through the fires we will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). If we doubt God’s presence during  trials, it could just be that we can’t hear Him through the confusion, pain, and tension of our current circumstances.

    Before l conclude, let’s go back briefly to that statement that Jesus made to His disciples in John 16:33 – however, this time, l am going to add the second part of the Bible verse.

    ‘”But take courage; I have conquered the world!”’

    John 16:33 (NRSV)

    Did you notice how Jesus stated that He has conquered the world? No matter what measure of ill launches an attack against us, it has to get through God first. So, even if something starts out as an attack against you, God will use it and turn it into a victory for you.

    So, next time you find yourself surrounded by silence, know that it is part of God’s greater plan for your life. Instead of running from Him, convinced that He has abandoned you, stand still and listen attentively for His still, small voice in the silence.

    Trust me, you will hear it.

    You can also read this article on  The Sunday School Network.com. Additionally, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Sources:

    gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to have a wilderness experience?”

    brockwaychurch.com, “Biblical characters who doubted God”

    www.learnreligions.com, “Elijah – boldest of prophets”

    YouTube video: “The power to choose” from Pastor Steven Furtick

    Blog banner photo credit:  Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    How to trust God when He is silent

    Written by Onome Ogbajibrede

    Thought of the day: Trusting in the living God is the living spring that opens the floodgate of divine help from above.

    ‘‘And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.’’    

    Psalm 9:10 (KJV)

    In one of the editions of our monthly crusade held in Abuja, Nigeria, which was organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God Nigeria, a lady gave a testimony that boosted my faith again, and it is really a known fact that if we depend on God without looking elsewhere for help, He would come to our rescue.

    According to this lady, she said she delivered her baby inside the car, and the baby had catarrh in the nostril. At the hospital, it was diagnosed that the baby had a particular disease.

    It is only a mother that can explain the pains of motherhood in clean terms. Therefore, she took up this challenge upon herself. Every Sunday she was always giving a seed offering unto God concerning the baby’s health issue. This she did continuously, and God healed the baby: The disease was taken away by God Almighty who is our Balm in Gilead.

    Everyone who makes God a sure pillar of support and trust in Him will not be put to shame. God has never failed, and He has not forsaken His dearly beloved ones.

    Sometimes, in life, it may seem that God has abandoned us, and that He is silent concerning our case. This He does to see if we will give up on Him. But if we still hold on, it is then He appears from nowhere to calm our troubled storm.

    What a mighty God we serve! He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and when He comes, every other lion runs away.

    How can we trust God even when it appears He is silent concerning our case sometimes?

    Firstly, it is to be born again by accepting Jesus as the only true Saviour. Furthermore, by building confidence in God through studying His Word regularly, through constant prayers, by believing God for the impossible, and by listening to testimonies of how people trusted in God and God did not fail them.

    Prayer

    Dear Lord Jesus, Increase my faith in you, so that I can have absolute trust in you daily and rely on your help always. Amen.

    Delve Deeper: Recount the stories of people who have trusted in God – they were not disappointed. In our daily living, trusting in God will help us survive the storms of life.

    Photo credit:  Joshua Ness on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Onome OGBAJIBREDE is an Evangelist and a Christian Devotional Writer, who inspires and encourages people to come closer to God. He holds a Degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from Nigeria. Onome lives in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be contacted via devotionalembassy@gmail.com He loves researching into new ideas.

    Some of his devotionals can be accessed from the following links.

      Link 1  https://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=71709

      Link 2   https://christiandevotions.us/viewauthor/450

      Link 3   https://presbycan.ca/author/onome-ogbajibrede

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  

    In Part One, we studied Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus. We discovered that Paul was writing to the Ephesians to encourage them in their faith in Christ and to remind them that they are forgiven, loved, and chosen to be adopted by God into the Body of Christ. 

    God’s endgame to unite all nations under Jesus Christ through the church is also revealed. 

    Paul continues to tell the Ephesians that upon receiving salvation that they – and by extension, us – are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit, who comes to reside in us. The Holy Spirit provides us with a portion of the blessings, which is known as a pledge,  that we are to inherit as children of the Most High God.  

    Finally, Paul establishes Jesus as the Head of the Church, whose authority is greater than any entity or dominion and whose power is independent of space and time. If Jesus is the Head of the Church, then we as a community of Christians, are His body.  

    In Part Two, we explored the ways in which we can apply our understanding of God’s promise of love and blessings to our everyday lives. We also discussed how we can be ambassadors of Christ and spread the gospel as individuals and as churches to the nations.  

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you, who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Ephesians 1.  

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    Blog banner credit: ditya Saxena on Unsplash 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Ephesians 1.   

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Ephesians 1 that l have already posted, in order to fully appreciate the lessons portrayed in this epistle and to consider the chapter’s themes.   

    For whom is this study section intended? 

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group.  

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.   

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it!  

    What you will need: 

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries  
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen  
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similiar electronic device  

    This study section composes of five parts:  

    1. Discussion questions  

    2. Testimony  

    3. Suggested reading   

    4. Journal writing  

    5. Prayer  

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit! 

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier!  

    If you are studying on your own  

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Ephesians 1 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.   

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes:  

    1. Discussion questions:  

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.   

    2. Testimony  

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar.  

     3. Suggested reading   

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    4. Journal writing  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    5.Prayer  

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself:  

    “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  
        it shall not return to me empty,  
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

    Isaiah 55:11  

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    Photo credit:  Green Chameleon on Unsplash 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Ephesians 1. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have suggestions regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it!  

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking!  

    Possible discussion topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1.  God loves us unconditionally. How do you define this kind of love? What are some examples of how God has demonstrated His unconditional love for you? 
    2. Paul writes to the Ephesians that we have been foreordained, pre-chosen to be sons and daughters of God.  Does that mean that those who aren’t believers of Christ have not been pre-chosen to be in a relationship with God? What role does free will play in all of this? 
    3. God’s great plan is to unify all nations under Jesus Christ. That means having an end to all religious conflict in the world. Considering the extent of religious disunity, persecution, and acts of terror that occur in the name of religious conviction, do you see global unity under one God and one church as a possibility? 
    4. God considers us holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4). Considering that we are all sinners and are constantly trying to find our way, what does this mean to you? 

    Note: These topics might be a bit sensitive for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit:  Christin Hume on Unsplash 

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.   

     I will declare your name to my people;  
        in the assembly I will praise you.”  

    Psalm 22:22   

    Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us reason to be joyful, for God declares that not only are we loved and forgiven for our sins, He lavishes us with His grace, blessings, and invites us into His family as His adopted children.  

    Possible testimony topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1. How did you come into a relationship with Christ? Share your story of salvation with the rest of the group. Give a testimony of a time when God blessed you abundantly – over and above your expectations. 
    2. It is stated often in the Bible that we should seek God, for example, in Matthew 7:7. However, in this epistle, Paul makes it very clear that God seeks us out.  Share with the group of an encounter you had with God when He sought you out at a time when you needed Him the most.
    3. When we give our lives to Christ we are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit and He comes to reside in us. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in you since you have entered into a relationship with Jesus?  

    To help you with your answer, refer back to Part One of our Bible Study under the section “Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)”. 

    Photo credit:  Wesley Eland on Unsplash 

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy. 

    The following are some scriptures you may enjoy reading about how much God loves you and that He always has your back. 

    Scriptures:  

    Reading the remaining 5 chapters of  the Book of Ephesians will give you more depth and insight into God’s unconditional love for you and the plans He has for you as an individual, as well as for the church.

    • Ephesians 2 – God raised us from the death of a life of sin and has sat us in High Places with Him. It is by faith that we have been saved, not by works. Paul discusses the foundation of the Church, which are the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as her cornerstone.
    • Ephesians 3 – Paul declares from his confinement in Rome of his role in revealing God’s eternal plan for His children.   The power of God is greater than any other authority, and the Church under Christ should reflect His glory. Paul prays that the Ephesians have an encounter with Christ that embeds itself in their hearts. 
    • Ephesians 4 – In this chapter, Paul lists the spiritual gifts that God has given us to fulfill His vision of a functioning Church. Additionally, Paul reminds us to live in humility and morality that honors the Holy Spirit, such as to not steal, be obscene, or allow the sun to go down on your anger. 
    • Ephesians 5– God is love so we should also walk in love. Again, Paul gives us instructions on living a Christian life that reflects God’s will for us. He also talks about the role of men and women in a marriage. 
    • Ephesians 6– Paul gives instructions about family life, specifically the role of both parent and child in the home. Lastly, Paul teaches us that we have a spiritual enemy, Satan, and that we must put on spiritual armour daily to fend off the enemy’s attacks.  

    Interesting online articles relating to Ephesians 1:  

    theprayingwoman.com, “God has your back” Sophia Vilceus 

    www.joelosteen.com, “Claim Your Inheritance” Lisa Comes 

    www.crosswalk.com, “Teaching Life Skills: Practical Outreach for Any Church” Chris Bolinger 

    https://ymi.today,  “5 lies to stop believing about yourself” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com,  “Are There Some People God Will Not Save?” 
     

    Inspirational quotes relating to Ephesians 1:  

    ‘God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ‘- Billy Graham 

    “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” C.S. Lewis 

    “The life of success is one of going forward to posses our possessions. It has been said that God’s will does not send a man to where His grace cannot sustain him. God’s will and His grace go hand in hand.” – Benson Andrew Isahosa 

    Photo credit:  Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal.  

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God:  

    •  A testimony journal  
    •  A dreams and visions journal  
    •  A blessings journal  
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal  

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.   

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.   

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’  

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)  

    Journaling in your group:  

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other.  

    An alternate suggestion, is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group.  

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Ephesians 1 

    1. In your journal, divide your page in half to form two columns. In the left column, write the title “How the world sees me”. In the right column, write the title “How God sees me”.  

    Fill out in the left column how your family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors sees you. Include not only roles and job descriptions but also personality and behavioral traits. 

    Example: “mother”, “husband”,  “reliable”, “shy” 

    In the right column, write a list of everything that God says about YOU

    Example:  “beloved Child”, “forgiven”, “redeemed” 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.   

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    5.Prayer

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.   

    Prayer:  

    Oh, Great and Almighty God, 

    You are the Alpha and the Omega, the God who is, who was, and who is to come – You are the Almighty and the Ruler of All. 

    I come to You today full of awe and humility. I lay myself at Your feet, overcome by the love, grace, and mercy that You lavish upon me. Your acts of kindness towards me are countless, as are Your blessings which are as numerous as the stars in the night sky.  

    Precious Lord, l thank you that You chose me to be your child, before l was even in my mother’s womb. Thank you, that when l was swayed by the temptations of this world and dwelled in the darkness of spiritual death, Your love was a light that shone out and brought me back to life through the redeeming blood of Your son Jesus Christ. 

    Now, l am seated in heavenly places with You, adopted into the Body of Christ as Your child. I am Yours, marked with the stamp of the seal of the Holy Spirit that denotes me as belonging to You and You alone. Your grace and love fill me with wonder that You would have chosen me into Your heavenly family.  

    Father, teach me Your ways, in order that l may live the life You have planned for me. Instruct me in the ways of Your love and grace and imprint it on my heart, in order that l do not sin against You. For without You, where l would l be? 

    Mature me in my gifts through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, in order that l may serve You well in my church and help further Your great plan to unify all mankind under the leadership of Jesus Christ, Your son.  
     

    To You be given all the honor and the glory, for You are worthy to be praised. 

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen.  

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    We hope that you enjoyed our Bible study on Ephesians 1 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies.  

    In August, we will be studying  Joshua 6, which describes the fall of Jericho, a fortress city in the land of Canaan. We would love for you to join us!  

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

    http://www.crosswindschurch.com, “Bible Study Basics – Ephesians 1” 

    http://dsntl8idqsx2o.cloudfront.net, “Ephesians Small Group Series Lesson 1 – Introduction to Ephesians & Chapter 1 The Extent of God’s Love and Power” 

    biblesummarybychapter.blogspot.com, “Ephesians Bible summary by chapter” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Two: Living God’s word – Applying Ephesians 1 to everyday life 

    Last Friday, we started Part One of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1, which is an epistle that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus.

    In this letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that they – and by extension, us – are loved. His blessings are ours through Jesus’ blood sacrifice at the Cross of Calvary, and we receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are His children, adopted into the body of Christ. 

    Furthermore, Paul tells us that God has foreordained us for salvation and holiness. His reasons for choosing us are according to His will and purpose. Upon receiving salvation, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, which identifies us as belonging to God and enables us to receive a portion of our divine inheritance while we are on earth.  

    Additionally, God’s wishes for His children are reflected through Paul’s prayers over the Ephesians:  

    • wisdom and revelation of God 
    • an awareness of our blessings as recipients of God’s inheritance 
    •  comprehension of the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God, which not only shows itself in us but through us. 

    Finally, God’s secret plan of bringing all things of the world under the unification of Christ is revealed. Paul makes us aware that with Jesus being the Head of the Church, we, as a community of Christians, are the body who can spread the Good News of the gospel to the rest of the world, in order to bring God’s plan to fruition.  

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Lukes aptly states in his gospel:

    “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)   

    Now that we understand the message behind Ephesians 1, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series, how we can take the lessons that Paul imparts on us and implement them to live blessed, purposeful lives as children of the Most High God, the beneficiaries of the divine blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven! 

    Additionally, let us explore how we can be ambassadors on earth through our churches and also as individuals in spreading the Word of God.

    Stop condemning yourself 

    God’s greatest message that He wants to share with us, is that He loves us. However, self-condemnation can prevent us from receiving God’s unconditional acceptance of us.  

    Why? 

    Because we see only our weaknesses and failings. We focus on all the times we messed up and the people we hurt and let down. 

    We need to see ourselves as God sees us. We are forgiven, chosen, and unconditionally accepted by Him. Nothing that we can do, no power or entity, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this for us in the Book of Romans, another of his epistles: 

    “For I am convinced 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 8:38-39 

     God knows what is in your heart and He still loves you.  He is omnipresent through space and time (Revelations 1:8): He knows the mistakes you have done, are doing now, and will do in the future, and He’s still there for you. God doesn’t condemn you – why should you condemn yourself? 

    Photo credit:  Sydney Sims on Unsplash

    Know that you are unconditionally loved

    This is the point that Paul wishes to emphasize the most with the Ephesians.  

    God loves you. Unconditionally. Unrequitedly. Uncompromisingly.  

    His love cannot be earned, nor can we lose it when we mess up in life. God loves us because He chooses to.  

    God went through the lengthy process of adoption through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order to bring you into His family.  

    Now, that is love! 

    God chose you – yes you – to be a part of His family. He knew you and chose you to be His child before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eyes.  

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    God set you apart, not only because He loves you, but  because  He has a wonderful plan for your life, a life of abundance until it overflows (John 10:10). 

    When you have God in your corner loving you and cheering you on, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. If someone doesn’t like you, breaks up with you, or doesn’t appreciate you, you don’t need to let their treatment of you influence how you live your life. God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters, and He thinks you are precious and worthy! 

    Hold on to that! 

    Photo credit:  Bart LaRue on Unsplash

    You have God’s grace – accept it!

    Paul began his letter to the Ephesians by wishing that grace and peace be theirs: 

    “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

    Ephesians 1:2 

    As we learned in the first part of this Bible Study, “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm.  

    One can interpret that in a few ways. It can be a quality which endears you to someone, or it can be a quality that you express towards others. 

    In the case of God, l believe it is a combination of both. God’s expression of grace towards us is one of His most beautiful personality traits. It is His gift to us, a token of love and favor that we don’t deserve because we are sinners.  

    For that reason, God’s gift of grace is one of the qualities that cause us to love God even more. It humbles us, stirs us, and has us in awe of the majesty and benevolence of our Creator; especially when we consider that God’s greatest act of grace was His gift of Salvation. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” 

    Ephesians 1:7-8 

    God wants us to accept His gift of grace. He loves you so much, and you are His greatest treasure.  

    Nevertheless, many of us are unwilling to accept it because we feel ashamed about our past mistakes or feel like we are not worthy enough. 

    However, that is not who you are in Christ. Jesus went to the cross to die for your sins, He took your shame, your mistakes, your regret – from the past, present, and future – and He nailed it on that Cross so that it would never have a hold over you again.  

    Therefore, accept God’s gift of grace, and live your life knowing you are forgiven, loved, and cherished! 

    Photo credit:  Kirill Pershin on Unsplash

    Blessed to be a blessing

    God’s blessings are a point that Paul emphasizes in his epistle.  

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” 

    Ephesians 1:3 

    The Greek word for “blessing” means to speak well or voice a positive utterance. In Hebrew, “blessing” can be translated in two ways: It can mean barak, which means to compliment or praise, as well as esher, which can be translated as happiness.  

    God literally spoke blessings to His people throughout the Bible. He blessed Abraham, declaring him to be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4). He blessed Mary with the promise that she would bear the Savior of the world (Luke 1:31-33). God even blessed Paul as being the instrument through which He would bring the gospel to both the Gentiles and the Israelites (Acts 9:15).  

    When God blesses us, it is an expression of an act of favor or a declaration of His will for us. These blessings may come in the form of talents, health, opportunities – even material and financial acquisitions. In whatever form they may manifest themselves, God’s blessings are meant to enrich us.  

    However, these blessings are not given to us with the purpose of self-fulfillment.  God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.  

    Numerous verses in the Bible instruct us to bless others. Here are just a few: 

    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 

    Philippians 2:3-4 

    “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contraryrepay with a blessingIt is for this that you were calledthat you might inherit a blessing.” 

    1 Peter 3:9 

    And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” 

    Hebrews 10:24 

    So, how can you bless others? You can use your talents to help others in your church and community. In my case, l am a fluent German speaker. In the church l attend here in Bochum, Germany, l offer my services in the Translation team, where we translate the church services from German into English.  

    Additionally, you can give financial gifts, volunteer in local charity organizations, host people in your home by preparing a meal or doing a Bible Study, or give food and clothing donations to a local shelter.  

    And of course, the most powerful blessing you can give someone is to pray for them.  

    Photo credit:  zhang Mickey on Unsplash

    Embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit

    When we give our lives to Christ, God confirms the transaction by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are now beneficiaries of the promise of a divine inheritance.  

    The Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and provides us with a portion of our heavenly inheritance. In the Ancient Greek business world, a down-payment or “earnest” known as arrabon was considered a part of the purchase price of a good. In the same way, the Holy Spirit provides us with a pledge, or a down-payment of the blessings we are to receive once we are in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

    “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” 

    Ephesians 1:13-14 

    The pledges of the Holy Spirit are varied and many. Here are a few: 

    The thing about these pledges, is that they come in seed form. That means, that these provisions will become stronger in us the stronger we become in Christ.  

    When we give our lives to Christ, we become new creations – we start anew. Just as a human baby grows by progressing from milk to solid food, so too do we need to grow from “baby” Christians to mature Christians. 

    “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.” 

    1 Corinthians 3:1-2 

    How can we do this? By spending time with God in prayer and quiet reflection, by reading the Bible and being in fellowship with other Christians. In Part Three of our Bible Study, which we will post tomorrow, we outline ways in which you can strengthen yourself in Christ and grow as a community of believers.  

    The potential to become a mature, formidable man or woman of Christ lies within you. If you are feeling undernourished, spend time with God today. Ask Him to show you through the Holy Spirit, how you can tap into the gifts and blessings He has placed inside you. 

    Photo credit:  Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

    Church leaders – be encouraged

    Paul places great emphasis on the role of the Church in furthering the Word of God. As an apostolic missionary, Paul was well aware of the vocation and responsibility involved in braving the outside world and sharing the gospel with people who didn’t know God or believe in Him. 

    The church is of vital importance to Jesus. As her head and cornerstone, He has great plans for the church where each of us has designated roles to fulfill in furthering the gospel. Paul talks more about this in Ephesians 4

    Being a church leader in the modern-day church comes with its challenges. In a time where more and more people are  turning away from God and dedicating themselves to the pursuits of the world, church leaders are under pressure to preach the Word of God, while at the same time not rocking the boat with messages or values that can deter people from wanting to enter their church doors.  

    Paul wants to encourage the Body of Christ that Christ’s power is greater than any authority, power, and dominion in this world and beyond.  

    “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 

    Ephesians 1:20-23 

    Jesus created the church to stand out amidst the brokenness of the world, to be a source of light when others sit in the darkness of unbelief and lack of knowledge of God’s redeeming love.  

    Therefore, church leaders need not fear reproach or rejection for telling the infallible Truth of the Word of God. It is their divine-appointed calling, endorsed by the power of the Name that is above all Names, under which every knee must bow – not just in this age, but for all ages to come.  

    Jesus has your back! 

    Photo credit:  Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

    Go out and spread the Word

    As we stated in the segment above, Jesus is the head of the Church. That makes us, as the Body of Christ, His movable body parts. 

    God’s application of His great plan of unity amongst the nations is through the church. This means, that we all have a role to play in making God’s endgame come to fruition. We need to be the mouth, hands, legs, heart, and spirit of Christ on earth. 

    God calls us to go out and teach the gospel to the four corners of the world, He wants us to bring people into the family of God through salvation. We call this the Great Mission. 

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

    Matthew 28:19-20 

    As Christians, we need to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. DL Moody, the great Christian theologian famously said, “A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.” 


     So how can be known as God’s messengers on earth? 

    We can reflect Christ’s personality through our own behavior

    When l gave my life to Christ, people noticed an immediate change over me. I thought before l spoke, l was quieter, and l stopped swearing (and l used to swear a lot!).  

    People notice that Christ is in us in subtle ways, such as through our behavior, what we choose to talk or not talk about, how we react in situations that are challenging.  

    Reminding ourselves that Christ is in us and going out into the world with a spirit of patience, grace, kindness, and humility will have more of an effect on others than grand, sanctimonious gestures. It will show others who Christ’s true personality is. 

    We can pray 

    Praying is our most formidable and effective tool in making spiritual change. 

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 

    2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

    Not only can we pray for our friends, families, and neighbors, but we should be praying for our nation’s leaders and the spiritual stability of our countries and the cities we live in. Through prayer, chains of pride and disbelief can and will be broken! 

    Have you heard of the film “War Room”? Miss Clara, one of the protagonist’s, had set up her closet as a prayer room. She wrote down everything that was on her heart that she wanted to pray over – may it be requests for herself or requests that were on her heart for others.  When Miss Clara went into her War Room to pray, she was on a divine mission from God to stir things up in the spiritual realm! 

    We can take action

    It is impossible for people to hear about the Word of God if we don’t bring it to them. In Hosea 4:6 it states “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

    For that reason, we can make the gospel accessible to others in different ways. Here are a few suggestions: 

    • plant a church 
    • Start a Bible Study in your home 
    • Invite a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Christ to church 
    • Speak about Christ when you see an opportunity 
    • Start a blog (that’s what l did) 
    • Share a favorite Bible verse on social media like your Facebook or Instagram account 
    • Take flyers from your church and leave them in public places (l leave mine in the locker room of my gym and doctor’s waiting rooms) 
    • Have a Bible app on your phone and show people Bible verses when the situation comes up. This also provides an example for how others can have the Bible always at their fingertips.  I highly recommend the YouVersion Bible App, which was  designed by Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life.Church and his team. (My husband even offers to download the app for people on their phone, right in that moment.) 
    • Invite people over for a Christian movie night. One of my friends regularly invites others to watch The Shack, the film adaptation of Wm Paul Young’s famous book. If you don’t know what the book is about, you can read our book review on The Shack here

    Photo credit:  Jon Tyson on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  To see Part One of our Bible study of Ephesians 1, click here

    If you have enjoyed the series thus far, we would love to have you join us on Saturday, when l will post the third and final part of our series.  

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part One: Understanding God’s Word

    Bible commentary on Ephesians 1

    Prior to choosing a Bible chapter for this month’s theme, “Who l am in Christ”, a dear friend recommended that l read Ephesians 1 during my private time with the Lord.

    I am so glad l took his advice, for this chapter was a beautiful reminder for me of God’s declaration of love. We are cherished, set apart, and fore-ordained to be in a relationship with our Father, full of blessings, grace, and purpose. I knew l had to take the teachings of this chapter and share it on our blog with all of you.

    Ephesians 1 explains how not only have we been forgiven and redeemed, but we have been chosen by God to be adopted as His sons and daughters. On the occasion of this adoption, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, identifying us as belonging to Christ and who is a down payment of our eternal inheritance. 

    Additionally, Ephesians 1 provides us with revelation about the church, which is the Body of Christ with Jesus at its head, as well as our calling to teach and proclaim the Gospel. 

    However, before we begin with studying this pivotal chapter of the Bible, let us find out more about who wrote it. 

    A brief Jacob’s Ladder history lesson – Who wrote the Book of Ephesians?

    The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, in present-day Turkey. Ephesians is one of 13 epistles, or letters, that he wrote to various churches or followers of Christ.  

    Whereas some of the Pauline epistles were written to address issues that had arisen in certain churches, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to give revelation to the most important themes of Christianity – kind of a grand summary of what it means to be a Christian.  

    Hence, scholars have referred to the Book of Ephesians as “the Queen of Epistles” or “the crown of Paulism”, just to mention a few terms. It is also known as a “prison” epistle, as Paul wrote this book while under a 2-year house arrest, as he awaited trial in Rome for spreading the Gospel.  

    Upon studying this epistle, some scholars believe that Paul’s intended audience was not limited to the church in Ephesus, as a few of the ancient manuscripts show a blank space instead of the location of Ephesus. 

    Instead, they surmise that this letter was actually written as a circular for various churches across different cities.  

    Despite this postulation, Paul’s affiliation to the city of Ephesus is rather evident: He had come to Ephesus as an apostolic missionary and established the Church at Ephesus, which became head of the Seven Churches in Asia minor. Ephesus became the third renowned Christian city after Jerusalem and Antioch. 

    The first 14 verses of Ephesians 1 are important, as they set the tone for the rest of the book.  

    Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians in Ancient Greek, so l will be referring to the odd Greek term that Paul used in the ancient manuscripts, as it gives a vivid portrayal of his sentiments and provides us with an insight into the tone of that time. 

    Photo credit:  Paola Aguilar on Unsplash

    Greetings to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1-2)

     Paul begins this epistle with his customary greeting to God’s people. In his salutation, he establishes his only two worthwhile credentials: 

    1) He is an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent out in His service

     The word “apostle” is derived from the Greek verb apostellein, which means to be sent out.  

    2) Any authority that Paul possesses has been delegated to him through Divine appointment 

    Paul is an apostle through God’s will, blessed to be a vessel to spread the Word of God by God’s grace and mercy. From the time he first gave his life to Christ (Acts 9:1-19), Paul was in constant amazement at the mercy and grace of God to use him as a vessel to spread the Gospel.  

    Paul continues his greetings to the Ephesians by wishing that “grace” and “peace” be theirs. These two words hold great significance in Christian faith.  

    The word “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm. Grace is a gift that is only available from God, man cannot attain this for himself by earning it or deserving it. Therefore grace is the underserved merit of God. 

    The word “peace” comes from the Greek word eirene, but a Hebrew translation of the word is shalowm. In the Bible, peace does not necessarily mean the absence of trouble. It is a state that is independent of your surrounding circumstances. Hence, the only true peace a Christian can find is through God. 

    Photo credit:  Sunyu on Unsplash

    Blessed and chosen by God (Ephesians 1:3-6)

    Paul wants to accentuate some major points in these Bible passages:

    God’s blessings are ours  

    God blessings are ours through Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. We receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These blessings are spiritual, which far outweigh any material blessing or temporal joy that we can experience.  

    Gods wants to, nay, He seeks to bless us abundantly with everything available in the Heavenly realm, for we are His children. 

    God has chosen us  

    God has chosen us, though we are undeserving of His benevolence, for we are sinners. God’s reasons for choosing us are beyond our ability to comprehend, but what we do know is that God chooses according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:5) In the Amplified version, this explanation is extended in brackets – (because it pleased Him and it was His kind intent). 

    God’s plan of adoption 

    Paul explains that it has always been God’s plan to adopt us as His own into the Body of Christ, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)  to be a part of His family. 

     In Rome, where Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians, there was a strict law for adults adopting children, as it was considered a serious responsibility. The process of adoption was ceremonial and exact, involving a “father” selling his son twice through the use of a symbolic scale and then buying him back twice. For a third time, the father sold his son, but instead of buying him back, the father had to go the local praetor, a principal Roman magistrate, and plead for his son’s adoption.  

    Once the praetor had agreed to the adoption, the child gave up his rights to his old family and received all the rights of his new family, being recognized as a legitimate son. Any debts or obligations that were connected to his old family were wiped clean.  

    In the same way, God’s adoption of us wipes us clean of our old sins. Our old lives are no more – we can start a new life as new creations in the Body of Christ. 

    Foreordained for salvation and holiness 

    God has foreordained our adoption as His sons and daughters so that we may not only know salvation, but that we may be holy and blameless before Him. The Greek word for “holy” is hagios, which carries the meaning of difference and separation, like a temple is separated in its categorization from other buildings through its purpose of holiness. To apply this to today, a Christian needs to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. 

    Paul wonders that God should choose man and not the other way around. This grace is a further blessing from God, given freely to us and one which we should give God praise and honor for.  

    Photo credit:  Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

    Deliverance as an ultimate expression of God’s grace (Ephesians 1: 7-8)

    Paul reminds us that it is God who has delivered us from our sins, by sending his son Jesus to pay a ransom for our transgressions with His precious blood.   

    The word deliverance comes from the Greek word apolutrosis, which originates from the verb lutroun, meaning “to ransom”. This implies the liberation of a man or an entity from a situation he was powerless to free himself of, by means of payment. 

    Redemption is only possible through the Father; it is impossible for man to earn through his own works or earn by his own merits. It is an expression of God’s ultimate grace and a reflection of His loving, merciful nature. 

    Photo credit: Jason Betz on Unsplash

    God’s secret plan for mankind is revealed (Ephesians 1:9-10)

    In these verses, Paul reveals God’s secret plan for mankind that had been previously kept hidden.  Now, God wants to reveal His secret to us, or as the Apostle puts it, “He has made known to us the mystery of his will. (Ephesians 1:9)”. 

    It is a plan that God has been setting into motion throughout the course of history; the passage of time has been used to arrange and guide events, so that God’s plan can come to fruition at His designated time. Paul uses the Greek word oikonomia to describe this, which means “household management”.  In Ancient times, the oikonomos was the steward of a household, whose duty it was to organize the family’s affairs.

     Yep, God has an end plan for us and He has been working on it for a long time! 

    Would you like to know what God’s secret plan for mankind is? To bring together all things of the world and unify them under Christ.  

    This means a few things. Most importantly, God wants us to know that His Gospel of love, hope, and salvation is available to everyone, Gentile and Jew. Until the coming of Christ, the teachings of the Bible were restricted to the Jewish nation. As a consequence, all tensions between the nations, regardless of their backgrounds, are to be resolved in Christ so that there is unity amongst mankind. Additionally, all rights are to be wronged and every dispute is to be resolved under Christ’s jurisdiction.  

    God’s plan is a plan that will glorify Him and set His children free from the bonds of decay and futility (Romans 8:18-22). 

    Sounds like a good plan, right? 

    Such unity was unheard of during Paul’s time. Now, Jesus wants the church, as His bride, to do their part in contributing to this unification process by spreading the good news of the gospel. 

    Photo credit:  Kristina Flour on Unsplash

    Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)

    Beneficiaries of God’s inheritance 

    Paul tells the Ephesians in this part of his letter that they (and us by extension), have an inheritance in God when we receive His salvation.  

    God has chosen and appointed us as the beneficiaries of His heritage and portion long before we were even aware of it. In Jeremiah 1:5 it states, 

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    As Paul has stated previously in verse 5, God’s reasons for choosing us are His own and are centered around the purpose of His will.  

    Ultimately, those who have chosen to trust God, have been destined and appointed for the praise of His glory (verse 12)!  

    Stamped with the Divine seal of approval 

    For those who have heard God’s Word and received it into their hearts by calling upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God literally confirms the deal by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit.  

    Just as a seal or a stamp denotes ownership, so too does the seal of the Holy Spirit on us denote us as belonging to God.  

    This is especially important when considering that we live in a broken world that tries to lure us away from God with the temptation of material and superficial goals, as well as giving in to our flesh. In such times, we need to remember that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4.4). It is also important when considering spiritual warfare, as Satan constantly attacks us with lies and tries to deceive us into thinking that we are not worthy to God  (John 8:44). 

    So, what does it mean to be stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit? 

    It means that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and does the following: 

    The Holy Spirit does more, but this gives you a working idea of how the seal of the Holy Spirit over us changes us into a new creation in Christ. 

    In the Ancient Greek business world, the term arrabon, meaning “earnest”, was the term for a down-payment or installment. On purchasing goods, this pledge was considered part of the purchase price. It was paid in advance as a guarantee that the full price would be paid in due course. 

    In the same way, Paul is stating that the experience of the Holy Spirit we receive on earth is a pledge of our total inheritance, a down-payment of the fullness of God blessings we are to receive in Heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22). 

    Photo credit:  Gian Cescon on Unsplash

    Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians reflects God’s wishes for us (Ephesians 1:15-20)

    Paul acknowledges the Ephesians love of Christ and His saints. This mention of the word saints is a reference to Christians as being “set apart” through their vocation of leading holy lives in the presence of God.  

    Although Paul had lived with the Ephesians, it seems that news of their continuing faith after his departure had reached him in his confinement in Rome.  Greatly encouraged by these glad tidings, Paul wants to assure the Ephesians that he continues to hold them in his prayers. 

    Paul lists three desires in his prayers over the Ephesians. These desires can also be seen as a reflection of what God wishes for us to also experience: 

    1. Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God which will lead to a deep and more intimate knowledge of him (Ephesians 1 1:17
    1. Paul wishes that the Ephesians have a revelation of their vocational calling in Christ “with the eyes of your heart enlightened”. Additionally, he prays that they are aware of how blessed they are by being recipients of His divine inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). 
    1. Paul desires that the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God is comprehensible to the people of Ephesus, which not only shows itself in us, but is available for us, as God mightily demonstrates to us in our lives (Ephesians 1:19). 

    Paul wants the Ephesians, and by extension – us, to know that we are so precious to God and that His power is great and available to those who believe in Him.   

    It is this same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and has raised Him above any earthly and spiritual rule, authority, power, and dominion for now and all eternity. And this same power works in us as God’s believers. 

    Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:21-23)

    As a continuing expression of the magnificence of Christ’s power, Paul tells us that all things are under Jesus’ feet and that God has appointed Him as the universal and supreme Head of the Church (Psalm 8:6).  

    If Jesus is the head, then we as a community of Christians make up His body.  

    What does this mean? 

    God’s plan of reconciliation for all the nations was through the life and death of Christ. However, God requires followers to spread this message of love and unity. 

    Each part of a living organism has a function. The head is the cerebral center of the body, whereas the legs have their own function, as do the hands etc. And yet, together, all the individual parts work cohesively as one unit.

    The same applies to us in our function as the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head, the spiritual center, however, He requires us to be His voice to minister, His hands to pray, and His feet to go out and spread the gospel. Together, we unleash the full potential of Christ’s glory out into the world and fill the voids of this world wrought by brokenness and disunity.  

    Photo credit:  Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 – “Knowing who you are in Christ”. 

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 

    If so, feel free to join us next week Thursday, when l post the second part of the series.  

    Until then friends, be blessed!  

     Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

  • Articles

    Why we must purposefully pursue peace

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    We are all no strangers to trials and tribulations. It can be a confusing and even difficult interval in our lives that we have no choice but to endure.


    Sometimes these times means that a new chapter is being opened for us, other times it heralds the end of a significant period and the need for closure.


    When our circumstances change, God will always help us and provide a solution. However He is more interested in the changes He can make in you.

    “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing;  rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.

    1 Peter 3:3-4 (NRSV)

    No matter what is going on in our lives, God encourages us to be at peace.

    Where does this peace derive from?


    From the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ.

    For a child has been born for us,
        a son given to us;
    authority rests upon his shoulders;
        and he is named
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Isaiah 9:6

    In the Book of John, Jesus states:

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27

    Jesus gives us the free gift of His own peace. It is a present that He handed over to us, before He left to be with the Father. That’s not just any peace. This is a level of peace that has withstood open criticism from the Pharisees, trials in the desert from the devil, public prosecution, degradation, pain, suffering, and even death.


    No wonder that Jesus goes on to say:

    “Not as the world gives do l give to you.”

    John 14:27

    Is there any treasure on this earth, which can be comparable to the peace that Jesus gives us? With Jesus’ peace inside you, you don’t need to feel fear anymore, you can stop worrying. Nothing can intimidate you.


    In fact, Jesus tells us that these negative feelings have no more place in us:

    “Therefore, do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27

    Now that is one special gift.


    So, if peace is already in us then why must we pursue it?


    When we experience difficult times, we often get distracted or even overwhelmed by the given situation. We start to fret and get annoyed. We become emotional. Consequently, we start making wrong decisions that can make the current situation even worse.


    l used to feel miserable, scared, and defeated when I found myself in a bad situation. Only when l actively sought to be peaceful in such times, did l discover a new interpretation of how l could live my life.


    I realized that living a life filled with peace begins with a choice.
    The conscious choice to pursue it.


    The purposeful pursuit of peace is something we as Christians need to be exercising. It is, with the other Fruits of the Spirit, a ready arsenal that can make not only our own lives, but the lives of our family, friends, and others who interact with us, all the more richer and victorious.


    Ok, so let’s say you’re in the peace zone. What happens next?


    Well, once you have peace, you have to maintain it.


    Think about Exodus 14:14 (KJV):

    “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. “


    God is telling us that not only should we aspire to acquire peace, but that we also need to stay in peace through trials and tribulations. He will deal with the issue at hand, but we need to do our part and be at peace and rest, being confident that He will provide us with the best outcome.


    Holding our peace is telling God that we trust Him.


    I am so grateful to the Lord for showing me the importance of pursuing peace, while He deals with my present circumstances.

    Currently, l am experiencing a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and chronic depression. Panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, and extreme social anxiety are daily battles l have to face, as well as depressive episodes.

    However, in the deepest depths of the darkest, miry pits, l can only stretch my hands out and rely on the grace and goodness of my Father, who promises to never fail me, nor forsake me. He walks with me in the shadow of the valley of Death. He is my light in the darkness, and His peace is a gift that l can accept and rely on, as He walks through this period of illness with me.


    The intensity with which we experience pain and suffering is subjective to each individual. No one can understand what you are going through as well as God.


    Put Him first, do your part and hold your peace and He will do His part and help you. He loves us all so much and He will never ask us to do anything we couldn’t do.

    “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

    Colossians 3:15

    I wish you peace brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever storm you are in at this moment, it too shall pass.

    Blog banner credit: Simon Migaj on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    How God showed me His love through a song on the radio

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day: In every situation, God is with me and comforts me. He shows His love for me in many unexpected ways.

    “Let your steadfast love become my comfort
    according to your promise to your servant.”

    Psalm 119:76 (NRSV)

    My childhood was an unhappy one. My parents beat me, and they constantly fought with each other. l lived in constant fear of them and felt unsafe and unloved.


    Being confined to close quarters with my parents was always stressful, so l wasn’t pleased when one day, my parents decided we should all go on a day trip. It was the early 80’s, so my father always had a mixed tape of songs he played in the car, in order to while away the journey time.


    However, during this trip, he turned on the radio. The opening twangy notes of a pedal steel guitar filtered through the car’s speakers, filling the car’s cabin with the melodious overtures of the song “Missippi” by Pussycat.


    My father had once told me that this song had stormed the UK charts in 1976, in the week l was born. We had been living in London at the time, so in celebration of my birth, he had gone to Selfridges, to buy the single on 7” vinyl.


    I used to enjoy the times my father would play the song, because l associated it with the few memories l had of his pleasure at my existence. However, this was the first time that l had ever heard the song on the radio.
    I may have been only a child, but sitting in that car, l knew that the timing of this song, through this particular format, was no coincidence.

    Unbeknown to them, l had been praying for someone to come into my life and protect me from the violence and mental anguish that l felt at the hands of my parents.


    Then “Missippi” came on and through the sweet-toned harmonies, l heard a still, small voice telling me that l was not alone. God was here, and He knew my suffering: He would protect me and keep me safe.

    God kept His word, and l managed to cope with my parent’s maltreatment until l was old enough to leave home.


    Lately, as l have been struggling to recover from burnout and chronic depression, l have been needing God’s comfort and assurance of love more than ever. Then, the other day, God showed me His love again through the radio.


    I was in the kitchen with the radio blaring as l prepared dinner. Suddenly, l heard the familiar twang of the opening bars of “Missippi”, greeting me like an old friend. I couldn’t help but smile, because even if nobody else saw it, l knew that God was telling me that He was keeping the promise He made me years ago, to look after me.


    God shows me His presence in many ways, however, the radio has become our own personal means of communication. Every time l hear “Missippi” on the radio, I am reassured yet again of God’s love for me.

    Prayer:

    Merciful Father, thank you that You are always with us. Your love is steadfast and always provides comfort in every situation we face. Help us to see Your presence every day, and show us how we can experience You in unexpected and delightful ways. Amen.

    Delve deeper:

    Are you wanting God to show you His presence in your current situation, but you can’t see Him?
    Maybe He is showing Himself to you in an unexpected way. Spend time with Him today, and ask Him to open your eyes to the manifestation of His love and comfort in your life today.

    Photo credit: Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book review: “He Heard Me” written by Brenda Vargas

    In choosing which book l wanted to review for this month’s theme “Who l am in Christ”, the choice was easy –  He Heard Me, written by Canadian writer and poet, Brenda Vargas. 

    I first met Brenda through PresbyCan Devotionals, where she wrote me an encouraging comment to a devotional l had submitted to the website.  

    From that initial contact, a wonderful friendship has ensued. I am thankful to God every day for bringing this kind-hearted, generous person into my life, and l am grateful to learn more about myself and my own faith walk from her passionate love for Christ and her ability to see the good in all people. 

    He Heard Me is a tangible extension of Brenda’s intimate relationship with God. It is a loving testimony to the blessings, mercy, and miracles that God has given to her through the power of His infinite grace and mercy.  

    After reading this book, you will be filled with renewed faith, be grateful for God’s favor and blessings over your life, and be ignited with hope in experiencing the same miracles and revelation that Brenda has experienced.  Furthermore, Brenda’s words will rekindle your desire to discover a deeper relationship with God. 

    Brenda shares her inspiring spiritual journey through a compilation of personal testimonies and self-composed poetry. 

    Her introduction to the book begins with her testimony of salvation. The successive 11 themed chapters highlight situations in Brenda’s life where God has revealed Himself to her. Each chapter is complemented with Scripture.

    One favorite testimony of mine is to be found in the chapter “Trust and Obey”, where God gave Brenda favor with her bank by replacing a sum of money that had been owed to her.  

    Brenda also provides testimonial accounts of her friends and loved ones. One such account is given by a lady named Karen, whose testimony of recovery from lymphoma cancer, despite negative doctor’s reports, is just a beautiful confirmation of the power of God to heal and restore.  

    Within each chapter are self-composed poems, which supplement the chapter themes with their moving declarations of revelation and praise of God’s goodness. 

    What l also love about this book is Brenda’s attention for details. What first caught my eye about this book is the glorious sunset portrayed on the cover. The wash of golden, amber, and bronze hues evoked a feeling of peace and happiness in me.  

    When l asked Brenda about her inspiration behind choosing this photo, she informed me that the photo was taken on Pico in the Azores Islands, from a local photographer. Pico holds a special place in Brenda’s heart and is where she and her family spend a few months of the year to escape the harsh Canadian winters.  

    Inside my book l also found a bookmark, with the same beautiful sunset photo depicted on it, as well as the book’s title and author.  

    Brenda’s keenest desire is that people who read her book will have their eyes opened to see how God’s hand is present in every part of their daily lives. She has certainly achieved this! 

    I highly recommend reading He Heard Me. It is a book that will revive the spiritually fatigued, motivate the new believer in Christ, and give hope to those who are yearning for a meaningful relationship with God but just don’t know how to connect with Him 

    You can buy Brenda’s book on Amazon.com. Brenda also stocks her books in selected bookstores. To find out more, you can connect with her on Facebook.  

    About the author: 

    Brenda Vargas started writing poetry at a young age for special occasions and to communicate the things on her heart.  She has continued to write since that point, with encouragement from friends and family. Brenda currently lives in Ontario with her family and escapes the Canadian winters in Pico in the Azores Islands. 

    Blog banner credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

  • Articles

    How my worship of God is challenged by a world full of choices

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I love spending time with God. My worship of Him is such an essential part of my day; l need it like the air that l breathe. In the same way, being in church is the highlight of my week, because l  can refuel my spiritual tank there in praise, worship and service. 

    It has taken a lot of trial and error, as well as a huge amount of discipline, but over the years l have formed a routine where l set aside time every morning to worship God through prayer, music, bible study, and journaling. 

    In John 4:23-24 it states that we should worship God “in the Spirit and in truth”, and l try my hardest to abide by this. My time with God has become my dedication of thanks to Him, to show Him how much l love Him and to grow in my relationship with Him. His presence fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. Consequently, when l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love and that with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! 

    That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him with my entire being isn’t easy. The world offers values, distractions, and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes of God. It’s like the world is calling out to me to use my time of worship to pursue endeavors it considers more “important”. Hence, l am constantly being challenged to make a decision between the selection of choices that the world is offering me and my choice to spend time with God in worship. 

    1 John 2:15 warns us to not love this world, not the things it offers us. But unless you’re an uncontacted community, entirely cut off from the influence of modern-day society, what the world offers to entertain us, advance us, and ease our everyday lives can be pretty enticing.  

    Through trial and error, l have learned to recognize in what ways l am being distracted by the world and have accordingly worked on those areas to re-focus my attention back to God, when l find myself being challenged to worship Him.  I am still a work in progress, but l am getting better! 

    Here are 3 of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices: 

    1. Caught between serving two masters: Technological distractions verses God

    I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late ’90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the internet. Teaching myself make-up application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as an SFX and Make-up artist.  

    However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and feeds. I was more intrigued by the scintillation of the internet and social media than being in God’s presence.  

    When it got to the point that l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew it was time to cut the digital umbilical cord. 

    It is almost scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve two masters.  When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds or we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’re relying on technological advancement to get through life and we’re not relying on God.  

    These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24).  During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts.  

    Photo credit:  Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

    2. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

    Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God in His presence.  

    However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my delegated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors. 

    Today’s fast-paced society is derived from an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience is making us run from pillar to post – we’re suffering from FOMO. 

    In such times, l go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 highlights seeking God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need, including experiences. l have learned that God has to be the encounter l need to have FOMO about – not the pursuits of the world. 

    Photo credit:  Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

    3. We worship the things of this world, instead of God

    One of my favorite recreational pursuits is to go to the gym. Although l work out to promote a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are being portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the celebrity pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l question myself as to whether l should be striving to attain the highly sought-after peach emoji booty instead of accepting the body that God gave me. 

    The pursuit of a certain aesthetic, acquiring the latest version of the iPhone or constantly showing off photos of our dream partners and our exotic holidays on Facebook – these are portrayed as “goals”. However, in reality, they are societal pressures engineered by the world to woo us into worshipping them, instead of worshipping God.   

    Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by a renewing of our minds. When l find myself going down the rabbit hole of superficial pursuits, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence. 

    We are only temporary residents in this world, but God’s love for us is eternal. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise suddenly becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to quickly pale in comparison.    

    Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

    This article was published on YMI Magazine on May 15th 2019.

    Blog banner credit:  Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    My trust is in the name of the Lord

    Thought of the day: In God do l put my trust and confident reliance and not in the world. 

    “Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
        but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

    Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

    A few months ago, l stopped going on social media. I got to the point where l could not see another Instagram pose, you know the kind with the phone held up in front of a mirror, hip to the side, complete with a pouty lip? Or the photo exemplifying a person’s posterior, with a peach emoji next to it?

    We live in a society that encourages self-promotion and narcissism as a measurement of popularity. Unrealistic beauty and partner ideals, material acquisitions, and exotic travel locations are blatantly advertised as “goals” that should be achieved in order to live an accomplished life. Failing to fulfill any or all of these requirements leaves one feeling insecure, worthless, and constantly comparing.

    However, where is God in all of this? Why isn’t He presented as a “goal” to social media followers, especially to the more easily impressed youth?

    Turning off my notifications has brought a stillness into my life. Free of distractions, l can hear God more clearly. He tells me that He loves me, He is my provider, and that His Truth guides my way.

    I may live in this world, but l don’t have to yield under its pressures. In God do l put my trust and confident reliance and not in superficial conformities. With this revelation, l feel set free from society’s expectations.

    Prayer: Wonderful Lord, help us to not prioritize the ideals and expectations of this world; instead let us hold You first in our hearts, for You give us Love, Truth, and Life.

    Delve deeper: Do you live your life according to how society says you should live it? Do you go on Facebook or Instagram and compare yourself to others? Do you constantly check how many likes your latest tweet or post received?

    Friends, if you find that the things of this world are taking priority over God’s values, spend time in prayer with Him and ask Him to help you re-focus your eyes on Him. What the world says about you is not important; only God’s opinion matters!

    This devotional was published on PresbyCan Devotionals on 26th May 2019.

  • Personal testimonies

    Slave no more

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I don’t know about you, but l have a fantastic relationship with my doctor. When l was living in Cologne, Germany, for 17 years, Dr. Reiner Frenken was not only my physician for this period, he also became a trusted friend.

    Reiner Frenken is a multi-talent: He is a medical practitioner as well as a rock musician, who writes, sings, and produces his own songs. He has brought out four albums Utopia I, II, III, and IV, the proceeds of which all go to supporting “Doctors without Borders”.

    About three years ago, Reiner asked me if l would be interested in writing some lyrics for an album he was working on at the time, Utopia III. I had written reams of poetry during high school and university, so l was interested in discovering whether l could reawaken the dormant bard within. Thus, l agreed.

    One of the lyrics l wrote for Reiner was for a song he had composed titled “Slave no more“. As a Christian, the title evoked my experience of coming to Christ and how He broke me free of the chains of my past. I wanted the lyrics to reflect this.

    This is what l came up with:

    Slave no more

    I’m a slave
    Trapped in chains,
    In the spaces of my mind
    Searching for peace l cannot find
    Won’t let the darkness smother me
    No more
    I wanna break free
    l gotta break free


    No more a slave, no more a slave
    The taste of freedom is what l crave
    I’m no slave, l’ll be saved
    No more a slave, that’s the promise You gave

    I’m a slave
    Head bowed low
    Living in sorrow, bearing the shame
    I need You to take away the pain
    Only Your love is my breakthrough
    I know it’s true
    I wanna break free
    Help me break free


    Take me to a place
    Where the sunlight reaches me
    Where l feel my spirit’s free
    Touch my heart from deep within

    Accept my fall from grace
    Only You can break these chains
    Raise me to my feet again
    Your love is power, l just can’t explain.

    Reiner amalgamated these lyrics to the melody he had written, and the song “Slave no more” became a part of the album Utopia III. You can listen to the song here.

    If you would like to find out more about Reiner Frenken’s music and charity work, then visit him on Facebook or click on his YouTube channel.

    Photo credit:  Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

  • Articles

    Made in God’s Image

    Blessed to Be a Blessing, Created to Be Creative

    Written by Sarah Keith

    Have you ever heard someone say, or maybe you’ve said it, “I’m not very creative; I can’t even draw a stick figure!” While it’s true that many people can’t draw, the visual arts are not the only measurement for determining creativity. In fact, I believe creativity is a hallmark trait of being made in God’s image.

    When God created Adam and Eve, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” Genesis 1: 26-27 (ESV).

    As Christians, we understand the term, “us” in Genesis 1 as a direct reference to the triune* nature of One God, who is manifested in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the other hand, there are those who would say the “us” is a reference to God’s heavenly court, meaning God and His angels. However, this presents a problem, because people are not created in the image of an angel.

    We—human beings, male and female, and not any of the other animals—are created in God’s image (tselem in Hebrew) and in His likeness (demuth in Hebrew). This image-likeness must refer to inward qualities such as our eternal nature, our intellect, our morality, our social nature, and our ability to love and be loved, all of which has been damaged because of the Fall (Genesis 3) because sin has marred our God-like image. Yet, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, we can be restored by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed into the image of Jesus, who is the exact representation of our Father God (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:3).

    The words “create”, “created”, and “made or make” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture, and are sometimes used to explain the same event, as referenced in Genesis 1, above. The Old Testament Hebrew word for “create”, bara’, means God-shaping, God-forming, or God-fashioning what was “not there before” (Latin, ex nihilo, out of nothing.) The Hebrew word for “made or make” in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man. . .” is ‘asah, which means to fashion, accomplish, make, work, produce, prepare, to make an offering, appoint.

    Only God can bara’, that is create something from nothing, but both God and people can ‘asah, make things.

    In Genesis 1:26-27, bara’ and ‘asah are used interchangeably and refer to God’s work in creation. In Exodus 25-28, God instructed Moses to have the children of Israel make (‘asah) Him a Sanctuary, as well as all the components within the Sanctuary: candlesticks, a wooden chest, curtains, frames, and hooks, to name a few. They were to make things (‘asah) from existing things that God had created (bara’) from nothing.

    Throughout the Old Testament ‘asah may refer to making a cake, a garden, a crown, or even making an agreement. There are a lot more! In fact, there are over 2000 references of ‘asah; some pertain to God-making or doing, and others to people-making or doing.

    In Psalm 51:10 David pleads, “Create (bara’) in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David knew in order to have a clean heart, it would be God’s doing. David couldn’t “make” his heart clean! But he also knew there was a purpose in having a clean heart:

    “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.”

    Psalm 51:13.

    The equivalent New Testament Greek word for God’s creative work is ktizo or ktisis, meaning to create, form, or shape, making something from nothing. The Apostle Paul tells us that those who are in Christ are a God-created work:

    “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (ktisis); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

    2 Corinthians 5:17

    And like David who understood that having a clean heart was not just for his benefit, God’s children are made into new creatures for a purpose.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created (ktizo) in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”

    Ephesians 2:8-10.

    Because we are made in God’s image+, it makes sense that creativity would be part of our DNA. Of course, not all of us can sing well, write a novel, play a musical instrument, or even draw a stick figure. But these are too narrow a definition of creativity!

    Consider what you can do!

    • Can you make (‘asah) a cake?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a garden?
    • Can you make (‘asah) an agreement—can you be agreeable?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a friend?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a card to send to someone who is sick or suffering?
    • Can you make (‘asah) a prayer?
    • Can you make (‘asah) order out of chaos—by helping a friend in their time of need?
    • Can you make (‘asah) your witness for Christ known?

    All of us can make (‘asah) something and do it with the purpose of bringing God’s kingdom to others. And we can do it with the knowledge that we have God’s creative DNA working in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). Our good works reflect God’s image, His likeness, to the world!

    My good friend and editor, Kit MacLeod, shared her experience of volunteering at an elementary school, and how God’s creative DNA was available to her.

    She wrote, “I realized a lot of the things I’ve done were more spur of the minute inspired, rather than planned. That goes back to the concept of being open to God’s inspiration, praying for it, and believing it will flow according to His perfect plan. I remember reading the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen to a group of second graders, and seeing that there were some children who were not very engaged. That particular book has the owl’s “whoo-whoo-whooo” repeated throughout.

    After I read it dramatically the first time, on a whim I encouraged them to join in with me. As I continued reading, even the most reluctant students became more and more engaged. They were hanging on every word, waiting for their next chance to dramatically hoot, grinning all the time.

    When we finished reading, they applauded, delighted with the story and their part in it. I believe the inspiration to engage them that way was just God’s creativity flowing through me, showing me opportunities to enjoy and share enjoyment of His creative Spirit.”

    So, let us begin thinking of ways to put God’s creative intellect and power to work in our lives, so that others may believe, be encouraged, and grow in their faith! And when you tap into your creativity, I believe you will discover a deep joy and a Divine creative flow at work within you!

    *Jewish scholars reject the idea of a triune being. However, they must still deal with at least the duality of God and his Spirit, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . . and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2. (See also, Genesis 6:3, Exodus 31:3, or Numbers 11:25 to name just a few.)

    + According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:
    “Image,” the Hebrew term, tselem, is from an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, i.e. (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence, a representative figure, especially an idol — image, vain shew. (We are not to make “graven images,” “tselem,” “carved idols.). And “Likeness,” the Hebrew, demuth, is to “model, shape, fashion, to resemble, liken, consider.”

    From the editor:  Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this informative article. If you would like to read more articles from Sarah Keith, visit School Network.com.

    Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.


    Sources

    bibletools.org, ” Bible verses about Asah” 

    crosswalk.com,  “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” 

    answersingenesis.com, “Did God Create (Bara) or Make (Asah) in Genesis 1?” 

    sunnybrookpub.com, “Asah in Genesis – The Work God Did” 

    creation.com, “Made in the image of God” 

    About the author:

    Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981 she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.

    Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years

  • Devotionals

    My strength comes from the joy of the Lord

    Thought of the day:
    When God is leading me through a transition, His joy for me is my source of strength.

    “Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
    Nehemiah 8:10 (NRSV)

    Being in a period of transition is a stressful time for me. When my circumstances start to change and l experience growing pains, it can affect my ability to see the situation for what it is – as God testing and purifying me so that He can prepare me for the next level of His wonderful plan for my life.

    At such times, I hand over the situation to God, but emotionally, l can’t help but see changes in our family’s circumstances as portents of doom. I admonish myself constantly for allowing my fears to overpower my faith.


    My husband, Solomon, on the other hand, is the kind of person who can always tap into God’s joy, despite what is going on around him. He interacts socially and generally enjoys his life, while l sit at home lamenting over what l perceive as a downward turn of events.


    In order to cheer me up, Solomon encourages me to go out for a coffee with him or to meet up with friends. However, l get too caught up in the cinema playing in my head to take on his suggestions. In such times, my husband reminds me that the joy of the Lord is our strength. God knows our current dilemma and is preparing us for promotion and blessings. In the meantime, we should rejoice in each day that God has made.

    Maybe l am not as spiritually mature as my husband, for l have never really understood what Nehemiah meant when he told the Israelites in Nehemiah 8:10 that God’s joy strengthens us.

    Then, a few days ago, l watched an online sermon that gave me a revelation of this Bible verse.


    The pastor preached on Psalm 23:6, where God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. As l listened, l began to understand Nehemiah’s words better. Sure, life would be more joyful if l could foresee how we were to persevere through our adversities, but true joy comes from the strength that only God can give me.


    Revelation rained down on me: God takes joy in me as His child – I am loved, cherished, and protected. Though changes may be whirling around me in a chaotic cyclone of fear and doubt, l can be confident in the presence of it, fortified in the knowledge that God has my back.


    With this in mind, l will heed Nehemiah’s words to the Israelites to eat, drink, and not grieve. I need not fear change, nor should l condemn myself for feeling it. Instead, l should lift my eyes to Jesus and remember that my joy comes from above. God will do the rest.

    Prayer:
    Wonderful Father, thank you that You love us and take joy in us as Your children. As You lead us through changes, help us to remember that Your joy is our true source of strength which overcomes fear and doubt. Amen.

    Delve deeper:
    Are you currently finding it difficult to experience joy in the midst of your present circumstances? Is God leading you through a period of transition, which is making you anxious and worried?

    Remember that your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth! In prayer, ask God to show you how you can tap into the strength that comes from the joy He feels for us, His beloved children.

    Photo credit:  Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    How l withstood the heat -Bushfires and the Holy Spirit

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    When l was six years old, l experienced my first bushfire. I grew up in Victoria, Australia, in a set of low rural mountain ranges called the Dandenongs, about 35 km east of Melbourne.

    That summer had been a real scorcher, with little rainfall and strong winds. The threat of bushfires breaking out was very real: The majestic eucalyptus gums that surrounded our neighborhood were particularly flammable due to their abundant foliage and high oil content. Many houses backed onto steep gullies that could sweep a bushfire upwards towards us at an alarming speed. Everyone was tense with dread and anticipation.

    Then, the threat became a reality. My family and l were at home when we first saw the fire alert on TV, but we could already see billowing clouds of smoke moving towards us from a distant mountain, turning day instantly into night in its wake. Instead of evacuating, we unanimously agreed to stay and defend our home.

    Everyone had their houses fire-prepared as standard protocol. The air was already thick with smoke as my mum hosed down the patio areas and my dad confirmed the levels of water in the gutters on the roof one last time.

    I ran around the garden, checking that the buckets placed around our property were full of water. The fire was near: My eyes were stinging, and l could taste feathery flakes of ash on my tongue. Panic rose in me as my lungs started to fill with smoke, making me cough and splutter.

    Afer we had completed our final inspections, my parents and l went into our house and shut the windows and doors that had been already secured with metal mesh screens. The phone lines had jammed hours previously, and the radio waves were spitting out static. The TV was our only lifeline and we stayed glued in front of it, watching and waiting.

    About an hour later, the bushfire swept through. We remained safe and our house received only surface fire damage. However, the aftermath of that natural disaster had diabolical effects on our community: Many of our neighbor’s houses were destroyed, local vegetation was razed to charcoal, and only a small percent of native fauna survived.

    Afer the firefighters had left, l looked out onto the charred landscape of what had once been my backyard, with big eyes filling up with sooty tears. I may have been a small child, however, l understood that fire was a cataclysmic force of nature. It was a bitter lesson to learn.

    It was only a few years later in a Geoscience lesson in school that l discovered how bushfires play an important role in the rejuvenation and continuation of Australia’s environment. Natural ecosystems are dependent on periodic fire to cleanse out undergrowth, unleash stored nutrients in the soil, and encourage the germination of seeds and pods, which can only be released through heat.

    Sitting in that classroom, it dawned on me, that what fire initially destroys can be the necessary preparation to refine and give re-birth to the new.

    As a Christian, the application of fire manifests itself in the same way when we enter into a deeper relationship with God. Fire is a symbol of God’s presence, where the Holy Spirit is represented as tongues of fire:

    “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. “

    Acts 2:3-4  (NRSV)

    l experienced this baptism of the fire of the Holy Spirit, after l gave my life to Christ over 10 years ago.

    I recall the encounter vividly.  It was like a thermostat had been turned up, and l experienced a wave of heavenly fire wash over me. Like gold or silver, l was made to withstand the heat, and l felt myself being cleansed of my past, as well as of my guilt and regrets ( Zechariah 13:9). I knew that the fire had purified and refined me.

    Since then, l have never been the same. I feel such a burning in my heart for God – a true passion that has stirred up my entire being. Though l am naturally shy, l have a boldness to talk about my faith – with friends and strangers alike – and l have a burning desire to spread the gospel.  

    I have spent most of my life drifting, with obscure goals and fickle dreams. However, 12 months ago, l started freelancing as a Christian writer and blogger. Furthermore, last month, l started an online ministry through this blog! I am also currently writing my first novel.

    l have the Holy Spirit to thank for instilling all of these dreams in me and for being my source of inspiration. He is guiding me, just like He guided the Israelites through the desert as a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night.

    “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”

    Exodus 13:21-22

    Most importantly, through the fire of the Holy Spirit, God has breathed new life into me through the blood of His son Jesus Christ. When l sat in the darkness of indecision and despair, God’s light set the wilderness inside of me on fire, and l became a new creation, His child. I could start a new existence in right standing with a loving, forgiving Father. Hallelujah!

    All of this was as yet unknown to me at the age of six, as l stood in the aftermath of that bushfire that had turned my childhood memories into a burnt out, blackened wasteland.

    However, in the months that followed the fire, l did witness the bush come slowly back to life. Green shoots began to tentatively burst out of the ground in clusters, pushing the scorched earth behind them as they reached out for the nurturing light above.

    Additionally, I caught the occasional glimpse of a kangaroo with her joey hopping amongst the singed and blistered tree stumps. My ears pricked up at a melodic burst of almost forgotten birdsong.

    Fire, which l had formerly seen as devastating, was a necessary part of the process of living. The season of re-birth had begun.

     

    You can also read this testimony on shelovesmagazine.com.

    About the author:

     

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written artricles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney

  • Articles

    Life sucks? Here are 3 reasons why you need to stick with God right now

    This post is a shout out to all of you who are going through something really hard right now.  

    First of all, l’m sorry that you or someone close to you is in pain and my heart goes out to you.  

    It’s always a blow when you get confronted with a difficult situation. However, God does not expect you to bear through times of hardship alone. He wants us to turn to Him, because He is the only one who can get us out of our difficulties. Not the bank, not another human being, and certainly not a stroke of good luck.  

    What you are going through is important to God, and He wants you to come out of this trial stronger and trusting Him all the more.  

    God doesn’t do things by coincidence. He doesn’t favor some people and not others (Acts 10:34). God loves us all the same.  

    God loves YOU! 

    Yes you! 

    The following are three reasons why you need to stick close to God when life isn’t treating you right. 

    Blog banner photo credit: AbsolutVision on Unsplash

    1. God knows you and has a great plan for your life 

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV)

    Who knows you better than He who created you? Not only does God know us the best, He loves us with a perfect love, a love infused with His grace, mercy, and selflessness.  

    You were made unique.  Know that you are precious to God and are ordained to do great things. 

    These pitfalls you’re experiencing will at some point be over.  God knows what is going on in your life right now. He knows that you are in pain.  

    Nothing that happens to you comes as a surprise to Him. 

             “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

    Jeremiah 29:11 

    Instead of focusing on your problems, remember that God has a marvelous plan for each of us. He wants you to live a bountiful and fruitful life and will help you through tough times to make that a reality for you. 

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    2. Jesus has tremendous compassion for our suffering 

    Jesus knows firsthand how difficult life can be. His time on earth was punctuated with trials, disapproval, death plots, and suffering. 

    Jesus feels our emotions. He hurts when we are hurting.  

    In John Chapter 11, Jesus’ close friend Lazarus dies from sickness. Jesus shows great empathy for Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, as they mourn their brother’s demise: 

         “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” 

    John 11.33

    Though Jesus knows He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, His sorrow upon seeing the sister’s and other mourners grief is evident:  

              “Jesus wept.” 

    John 11:35 (NIV)

    This is one of the shortest, most powerful verses in the Bible. Jesus’ tears demonstrate the extent of His compassion for our suffering.  

    Jesus is with us, sharing our pain. When you are at your lowest, call out to Him. Jesus is right there, always beside you. 

    Photo credit:  Matt Collamer on Unsplash

    3. Sometimes God makes you wait for your breakthrough

    We’ve all been in a situation that we want to see change for the better.  

    You could be experiencing financial difficulty. Or you’re in a job you don’t like. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant but to no avail. You could also be sick and desire to be healed. 

    You may have been asking God for a while now to help you, but you still haven’t seen things turn around.  

    So, why isn’t God doing anything to improve your circumstances? 

    We may ask God for His help with a strong sense of urgency, but God’s timing is different to our own. It is not unusual for God to want us to wait for our breakthrough.  

    Why? 

    •  To build our faith 
    •  So that we learn to trust Him  
    •  God sees the whole picture, whereas we don’t 
    •  God is more interested in changing us than our circumstances 
    • God will sometimes say no today, in order to give you a  better yes tomorrow. 

    Don’t lose hope. Your time of victory is coming! 

             “For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
        it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
    If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
        it will surely come, it will not delay. “

    Habakkuk 2:3

    God knows the hand you’re dealt with. He also knows that you can handle it, because He has equipped you with His love and His strength to go through it. 

    “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

    Philippians 4:13

    Don’t get disheartened because you don’t see any change in your life today. Trust Him and wait. 

    God ALWAYS comes through on His promises! 

    God’s love and power is indeed a great comfort and source of strength for us.  

    Still, you may ask yourself – Why does God let bad things happen to us?  

    That is admittedly a difficult topic. I am not a counsellor, nor am l a psychologist, therefore l am hesitant to venture a response that might not provide the answer you are looking for, nor give you the comfort you seek.  

    However, I can give you an account of a difficult situation l’ve been through.  

    l lost a beloved member of my family four years ago to cancer. I don’t know why it happened, but l know that God is a good God. Only He knows the whole situation and what He has truly spared us from. l still bear the scars of suffering and loss today – but God has taken me on a slow but patient journey of healing. And He can do it with you too.  

    God has not abandoned you to your suffering. He has not forgotten you either. He sees everything, from its origins to its solution, whereas we only see the immediate threat. 

    Live the miracle of seeing God work out everything for your good, to His glory; believe that He is always with you, starting from today. 

    My heartfelt prayers go out to you my brothers and sisters and may God’s peace and mercy be upon you. 

    Blessings, 

    Photo credit:  Xu Haiwei on Unsplash

    Are you in a difficult situation and need someone to pray for you? Then write us an email with the Heading “Pray Request” or leave a comment below and we will gladly pray for you here at Jacob’s Ladder Blog!

  • Devotionals

    The Worry Habit

    Written by Linda Washington

    Thought for the day: Worry is a habit we can overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Romans 12:2 (NRSV) 

    I’m a worrier. Whenever I feel sad, afraid, or overwhelmed, anxious thoughts tumble over and over in my mind, like clothes in a dryer. Even after praying, I still worry over problems. 

    Recently, worry escalated when my niece began to have epileptic seizures out of the blue. I felt cold all over when my brother texted me these words: unresponsive . . . at hospital. Thankfully, he’d been home when she had a seizure. He’d called 911 and off they went to the hospital. 

    She was released when the doctors couldn’t find any reason for the seizure. Everything was good, right? I didn’t have to worry about her any more, right? Wrong. A week later, she had another seizure, which required a hospital stay.  

    As you can imagine my worry meter was off the charts. Even after my niece received excellent care at the hospital and was released, I still worried to the point of sleeplessness.  

    After praying about it, I realized that my constant state of worry showed my belief that problems were bigger than God’s ability to handle them. I needed to be transformed. This brings to mind Paul’s advice in Romans 12:2: “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Sounds impossible, especially if I have to do it on my own. But I don’t. God can help me to change.  

    Recently, I took the first steps toward that change:

    (1) Admitting that I wrongfully chose worry over trust in God; 

    (2) Asking God to forgive me and help me change. That’s part of being a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) – putting wrongful habits to death. I want to be a prayer warrior, instead of a worrier. 

    Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. I need to “persevere in prayer” as Paul suggests in Romans 12:12, seeking God for help whenever I’m tempted to worry. I also need the truth of God’s promises to “hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9), instead of to worried thoughts. They also remind me to “rejoice in hope” and be “patient in affliction” (Romans 12:12). 

    Prayer:

    Lord, forgive me for the time I wasted worrying. You are bigger than the biggest problem I will ever face. I’m grateful that I can always count on you. You are my helper, the One who will never forsake me, as Hebrews 13:5-6 tells me.  

    Delve deeper:

    Got a worry habit? Allow God to transform you “by the renewing of your mind.” Instead of letting worried thoughts tumble over and over, consider Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8: “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable . . . think about these things.”  

    About the author:

    Linda Washington received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worn many hats: textbook editor, senior project writer, manuscript reviewer for several publishers, ghostwriter, and a freelance developmental editor. She has authored or co-authored fiction and nonfiction books for kids, teens, and adults.

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young

    General information about The Shack

    The Shack is a Christian-themed novel by Canadian writer William Paul Young (often referred to as Wm. Paul Young or Paul Young). The book portrays theological topics and explores themes such as redemption and forgiveness through Mack, the protagonist, who spends the weekend with God in an abandoned shack, the crime scene of his youngest daughter’s murder. 

    Wm. Paul Young never actually intended The Shack to be published publicly; he originally printed 15 copies of his book for his friends and family at an Office Depot. When he did make the decision to broaden his reading audience, Young was rejected by Christian and secular publishers alike, until two former pastors formed Windblown Media and self-published the book in 2007.  

    One year after its publication, The Shack sold 1 million copies and made the USA Today Bestseller list.  It was also No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list from 2008-2010. The book even received “The Diamond Award” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association after it reached sales of over 10 million copies. 

    Since then, The Shack has sold over 20 million copies and has been published in 41 languages. The novel was adapted into a film in 2017. 

    What audience was The Shack originally targetted for?

    Wm. Paul Young originally wrote The Shack as a Christmas present for his 6 children as an expression of his journey of atonement, healing, and transformation through his relationship with God. He once quoted, “I didn’t want my kids growing up with the God that I did—white, distant, unreachable, unknowable, the darkness behind Jesus that needs to be appeased.” 

    Young chose the title The Shack as “a metaphor for the house you build out of your pain.” This makes sense when you consider the plot of the book.  

    The plot of The Shack

    Mackenzie Allen Philip or “Mack” is living under what he calls “The Great Sadness”. Four years previously, his youngest daughter Missy was abducted by a serial killer at a camping site during a family holiday.  

    Though the killer left his signature ladybug pin at the scene of the crime, Missy’s body was never found. However, when the authorities found a blood-stained dress in an abandoned shack in the heart of the Oregon wilderness, Mack identified the dress as belonging to his daughter. 

    One day, to Mack’s surprise, he receives a letter in the mail from God, inviting him to spend the weekend with Him in the same shack where Missy had been brutally murdered.  

    Full of skepticism, and yet curious, Mack makes a trip up to the shack expecting to confront his deepest, darkest pain. Instead, he encounters God and leaves the shack at the end of that weekend filled with peace, forgiveness, and hope for a better future for himself and his family. 

    The core theme of this book is one which all Christians grapple with: Where is God when we experience pain, loss, and suffering? Why do we struggle to feel His presence in this world that is dictated by evil? A second important theme is forgiveness and redemption. 

    The book does challenge the reader from the offset. The topic of child murder is not an easy one to stomach, however William Paul Young continues to keep his readers on their toes with his portrayal of God as an African-American woman named Elousia but who is referred to as Papa, the Holy Spirit as a wiry-built Asian woman named Sarayu, and Jesus as a Middle Eastern labourer.  

    Wm. Paul Young also meets theological topics head-on through pages of dialogue between Mack and the Triune, which are not only relevant to Mack, but affects both Christians and non-believers, such as free will, the Church, and forgiveness. 

    Reader’s reactions to The Shack

    Readers of The Shack appear to be rather polarized in their opinion of the book. Some are touched and uplifted by the message of God’s love, while others are convinced that the book is theologically misrepresented and borders on heresy.   

    Though it may be true that certain topics do raise question marks, what stands out for me is Young’s message that God is inherently good, He loves us and is always with us. He is our Father, our Papa.  

    Yes, the world is full of evil, pain, and suffering. I am no stranger to that, and neither are you, precious reader. However, if we can believe in the goodness of God in a broken world, then we can trust Him no matter what comes upon us.  

    What else has William Paul Young written?

    Other books that Wm. Paul Young has written are Cross Roads and Eve.

    Would l recommend The Shack?

    I read this book ten years ago, when l first gave my life to Christ. A friend of mine, who was strong in her Christian faith, gave it to me to help me understand God’s love, mercy, and grace. It was on her heart for me to know that God seeks a relationship with me and that l can trust Him as my Father.  

    My friend was absolutely right (Thank you, Goose!). Until l read The Shack, l hadn’t experienced what it was like to have a parent-child relationship of love, security, and absolute trust. Reading The Shack opened my eyes to the revelation that God loves me, l am His child and that He is my Father. Since reading this book, l call God Papa.  

    l didn’t get caught up in the theological correctness or lack thereof that has been discussed amongst readers and critics alike when l read The Shack: l approached the storyline from an emotional level. After reading the last page, not only had l found that emotional connection l was looking for, but the book’s message of God’s love had embedded itself deep in my heart that l feel to this day.  

    If you are looking for a reason to trust  God, if you are seeking a relationship with Him,  then l highly recommend this book. It will touch you and enlighten you, and you will receive such a wonderful revelation of the goodness, grace, and love of our Father.  

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to read The Shack. Now, where can l buy it?

    If you would like to purchase the book or any other products related to The Shack, then visit the official Windblown Media website theshackbook.com or Wm. Paul Young’s own website wmpaulyoung.com

    Alternatively, you can purchase The Shack through Amazon.com or Goodreads

    Blog banner photo credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

    Book cover photo credit: Goodreads

  • Articles

    How you can let God fix a broken you

    Life is hard.  

    Now, I’m all about being positive, but as we say in Australia, where l grew up, we call a spade a spade. And the truth is, life is hard.  

    Sometimes we get dealt a bad hand, other times we make foolish decisions. And then there are the times where we make the worst mistakes we could ever make, and spiral down, down, until we feel like we won’t ever know again what it is like to be normal.  

    We’re all searching for a way to make things better for ourselves. It is our nature to want answers to life’s questions. However, in the meantime, we cover the pain of living by self-abusing ourselves:  We spend money we don’t have, we enter abusive relationships, we watch porn. Some of us even turn to drinking and taking drugs because we can’t cope.  

    If you’ve been looking for answers and haven’t found them, maybe it’s because you’ve been looking in the wrong place. 

    God is your answer. 

    Some of you might be thinking now, “Hey, l don’t have time for that religious stuff. You’ll never see me in a church!” or ”God doesn’t exist. If He did, l wouldn’t be in the situation l am right now.” 

    I am here to tell you that God does exist. God isn’t religion, God is love. It is all about having a relationship with Him; a loving, healing relationship.

    And as to why you’re in the situation you’re in right now, l can’t answer that question. But l do know, that God is the only one who can help you out of it.  

    The truth of the matter is, without God, we cannot solve our own problems. We can’t come out of debt on our own. We can’t get out of that abusive relationship on our own. We can’t beat that addiction on our own, no matter how many times we’ve tried.  

    Without God in our lives, we’re broken. 

    The good news is, God loves you and wants a relationship with you. It hurts Him to see you suffering. In fact, you are so important to Him, that He sent His own son Jesus to die for your sins, so that you can be re-united with Him again. Through the blood that Jesus shed for you on the cross, your transgressions are forgiven.  

      “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

    John 3:16 (NRSV)

    God’s redemption, by His grace, will heal the brokenness inside of you. You will be saved, living in eternal victory with Him! 

    So, what do you need to do to have a relationship with God?  

    Admit that you are helpless without Him in your life and ask Him for forgiveness for all the sins you’ve committed in the past. Then accept His offer of salvation, His gift to you.  

     All you need to do is speak the words aloud and truly believe in God’s ability to change you. It is an act of faith on your behalf. With the conviction of your sins and a heartfelt desire to have God enter your life, you will be saved by the grace of God. If you don’t know exactly what to say, I have written a Salvation prayer to help you. 

     I gave my life to Christ at a time when l felt very alone. I was battling depression and was struggling to cope every day. I was single and lonely for a partner. I was working as a primary school teacher, and l loved working with the kids and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my colleagues. However, after 10 years of working 12 hour days, on weekends and on holidays, the workload had taken a severe toll on my health. 

    Giving my life to Christ changed my life. God has revealed Himself to me as my true Father, who loves me, who would never hurt me, and on whom l can always rely on. For this reason l call God “Papa”. 

    God has also reignited my desire to be a writer, and l am now living my dream job of writing Christian articles, novels, and being a blogger. Finally, God led me to my wonderful husband Solomon, who is also a Christian. We have been married now for over four years. 

    After reading this article and you’re still not sure whether God is for you, think about this: You’ve tried everything else to make things better, and they haven’t worked out. So, what do you have to lose in giving God a try?  

    You are of the upmost importance to God – you, as an individual, you the person reading this article right now. It doesn’t matter to Him what you have done in the past or what you will do in the future. He knows all that and loves you anyway. You are enough.  

    God doesn’t care if you thought or spoke ill of him until now. He knew you from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb and He delights in you (Jeremiah 1:5). 

    You are His child and He loves you. 

    God wants to heal your hurt and pain. He wants to give you a fresh, new start so that you can live the life you deserve to live: full of hope, joy, and happiness. And it is possible to start over, if you give everything over to Him: the debt, the addiction, the fears, the doubt, and allow Him to enter your heart. 

    ‘” For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”‘

    Jeremiah 29:11

    The choice is up to you.  Do you want to start over? 

    Photo credit:  Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

    Would you like to enter into a relationship with God and need someone to talk to? Write us an email with the subject heading “Salvation” or leave a comment below. Your fellow readers and the team at Jacob’s Ladder Blog will be happy to help you!  

  • Devotionals

    A new acquaintance brings a fresh perspective

    Thought of the Day:  I thank God for bringing new acquaintances my way, for they give me a fresh perspective on my life.  

    Iron sharpens iron, 
        and one person sharpens the wits of another.” 

    Proverbs 27:17 NRSV 

    When my husband and l moved to a new city over a year ago, it was hard for me to leave my friends.  Many years of shared joys and tribulations have made us a close-knit group. In particular, l appreciate my friend’s loyalty and support while l convalesce from burnout and depression.   

    Making friends in an unfamiliar environment hasn’t been easy: l have made some acquaintances in the city and in our apartment building, but our initial interactions haven’t blossomed into anything more substantial. Being unable to lay social foundations has negatively affected my ability to acclimatize to my new environment; I have felt socially isolated, leaving me with regret at having made the decision to move.  

    About two months ago, l started group counseling for depression, where I  was delightfully surprised to find the other participants eager to make their acquaintance with me.  

    In a pleasant turn of events, I now go for a weekly coffee with some of the ladies in my therapy group.  Their knowledge of the city and their willingness to show me its cultural highlights have positively influenced my attitude about living here. In turn, they enjoy picking up make-up tips from me based on my experience as a freelance make-up and SFX artist. 

    I am grateful to God for the fresh perspectives of the city that my new acquaintances give me.  Most importantly, l consider myself blessed to have not only my dear lifelong friends but to also have the opportunity to make new friendships.     

    Prayer: 

    Merciful Father, thank You that You have created us to enjoy fellowship with You and our fellow man. We are grateful for the fresh perspective that a new acquaintance brings into our lives. Amen. 

    Delve deeper:

    Is there anyone that you know of — an elderly neighbour, a colleague or even someone at church — who needs someone to talk to, or even a friendly word spoken to them?

    Ask God to show you how you can reach out to them today. Your efforts will be a gateway through which God’s love can flow into their lives and will give you a fresh, new perspective on your own life.

    Photo credit:  Simon Maage on Unsplash

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 22nd April 2019

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    In Part One, which we posted on Monday, we joined Jacob on his journey back to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had sought asylum with his uncle Laban, in order to escape the wrath of twin brother Esau, from whom he had stolen the latter’s birthright.  

    On the eve of his reunification with his brother, Jacob wrestles with an angel, who is in fact God.  It is in the throes of combat that God breaks Jacob of his self-dependence and craftiness. Only when Jacob finally concedes defeat that God blesses Jacob with a new identity as well as a new name – Israel. 

    In Part Two, which we posted on Wednesday, we explored the ways that we can apply our understanding of Genesis 32 to our everyday lives. 

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Genesis 32. 

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Genesis 32.  

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Genesis 32 that l posted this week, in order to fully appreciate the lesson portrayed in this biblical account and to consider the chapter’s themes.  

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    For whom is this study section intended?

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group. 

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.  

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it! 

    What you will need:

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries 
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen 
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similiar electronic device 

    This study section composes of five parts: 

    1. Discussion questions 

    2. Testimony 

    3. Suggested reading  

    4. Journal writing 

    5. Prayer 

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit!

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier! 

    If you are studying on your own 

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Genesis 32 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.  

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes: 

    1. Discussion questions: 

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.  

    1. Testimony 

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar

     3. Suggested reading  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    4. Journal writing 

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    5.Prayer 

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself: 

    “ So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
        it shall not return to me empty, 
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

    Isaiah 55:11 

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Genesis 32. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have themes regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it! 

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking! 

    Possible discussion topics on Genesis 32

    1. Have you experienced a situation in your life where you tried to fix it yourself, yet only made it worse? Did you finally ask God for help? How did His intervention make your situation easier? 
    1. Are there areas in your life that aren’t serving you, such as fear, pride, or unforgiveness that you are finding difficult to let go of? Why do you think you are holding on to them (e.g. fear of change, conflict aversion). 

    Note: This might a be sensitive topic for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit: mentatdgt from Pexels

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.  

     I will declare your name to my people; 
        in the assembly I will praise you.” 

    Psalm 22:22  

    Jacob’s testimony after his struggle with God was the acquirement of a new identity and a new name – Israel. With God by His side, Jacob could embrace a happy reunification with his brother (Genesis 33).  

    Possible testimony topics on Genesis 32

    1. Do you have a testimony of how God wrestled you free of something that you were holding onto, like a poor mindset, a toxic relationship, or even an addiction? How has He blessed you since?  
    1. Have you learned to lean more and more on God in your life? How has your quality of life improved by relinquishing your self-dependence and instead, putting your trust and reliance in God’s hands? 
    1. Share a testimony with your group of a blessing that God has given you this week. 

    Photo credit:  Jason Hogan on Unsplash

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy.

    Scriptures: 

    Bible chapters about God blessing broken people 

    • Job 42 – God blessed Job twofold for what he had lost  
    • Acts 2 – Peter, who had renounced Jesus three times, was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and preached to the crowd, which commenced the movement of Christianity 
    • 2 Samuel 7 – After about 15 years of exile and persecution, God made David King of a united Israel and blessed him, his kingdom, and his progeny with love, rest from their enemies, and prosperity. 

    Interesting online articles relating to Genesis 32: 

    Crosswalk.com, “How wrestling with God will change you forever,” Dena Johnson Martin. 

    Desiring God, “Will you wrestle with God?” Jon Bloom 

    Inspirational quotes relating to Genesis 32: 

    “God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God!” – H.A. Ironside 

    “Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first.” – Charles Spurgeon 

    “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner 

    Photo credit:  Bethany Laird on Unsplash

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal. 

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God: 

    •  A testimony journal 
    •  A dreams and visions journal 
    •  A blessings journal 
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal 

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.  

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.  

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’ 

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV) 

    Journaling in your group: 

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other. 

    An alternate suggestion is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group. 

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Genesis 32

    1. Are there mindsets, people, or situations that you need to separate yourself from, but you can’t seem to do it? Write them all down in your journal, and pray for God to break you free of these things that are holding you back. 
    1. Write down in your journal three great ways that God has blessed you this week. 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.  

    Photo credit:  Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

    5.Prayer 

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.  

    Prayer: 

    Sovereign Lord, thank you that we can come before You today with our imperfections and weakness and lay them before You at the Cross.  

    Please expose the thoughts and purposes of our hearts to us.  Give us the humility to hand those things over to You which aren’t serving us in order that You can create a clean heart in us and renew a right spirit within us.  

    For only then when our spirits are contrite and our entire being is reliant on You, can we walk in the fulfillment of Your wonderful purpose for our lives.  

    Thank You Lord that Your ways are always good, for You are a good Father who will never fail us, nor forsake us.  

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen 

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    We hope that you enjoyed our first Bible study on Genesis 32 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies

    In July, we will be studying  Ephesians 1. We would love for you to join us! 

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Two: Living God’s word  

    Applying Genesis 32 to everyday life

    On Monday, we started Part One of our Bible Study of Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with an angel all night, only to find out that the angel is God.   

    Jacob, who for all of his life has schemed and been dependent on his wiliness, struggles to relinquish these qualities, which is demonstrated symbolically through his wrestling match with God. However, it is only when Jacob realizes that God is stronger than he is, can he let go of his past and allow God to bless him with a new name “Israel” and the identity and life that he deserves. 

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Luke states aptly in his gospel: 

    “’Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” 

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)  

    Now that we understand the message behind Genesis 32, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study serieshow we can learn to let go of qualities, habits, and ways of thinking that aren’t serving us and instead learn to rely on God as our source of strength, salvation, and refuge. 

    Like Jacob, how can l learn to rely on God in my daily life?

    All of us have blemishes and imperfections – after all, we aren’t perfect.  They might be small foibles such as being untidy, not being able to align your shirt buttons to its corresponding buttonhole (that’s me) or always forgetting to check whether the stove is off before you run out the door.  

    Or, they could be more serious character flaws such as pride, selfishness, or an unwillingness to forgive others.  

    The first few examples are mere eccentricities: They may make our lives a tad more difficult, but they are not a reflection of our moral or spiritual fiber. The latter examples, however, can hold us back spiritually from being able to receive the blessings that God has spoken over our lives.  

    How? Because they lead us to focus on ourselves and keep our egos and our needs as the motivating force of our lives, instead of fixing our eyes on God and having Him as the nucleus of our existence. We become self-dependent, thinking that we can handle life ourselves, when in reality, we can’t. 

    This is the lesson that Jacob painfully learned and one that we would do well to keep in mind ourselves.  

    So, how do let go of those qualities that keep us from having a more intimate relationship with God? What do we have to do to become dependent on Him? 

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Learn to trust God every day – not just when you’re in trouble 

    When we face difficulties, our nature is to try and figure out everything out for ourselves. We lay awake at night tossing and turning, churning out possibilities. Only when we have run out of options, do we turn to God for help. 

    However, God wants us to rely on Him in our daily life and not just when we’re in trouble. So, whether it’s deciding on what to buy in the supermarket to leaning on Him while you or a family member goes through a serious illness, learn to trust God in the mundane things and the life-changing events of your life.  

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
        and do not rely on your own insight.” 

    Proverbs 3:5 

    If you’re going through a difficult period in your life, and you’re struggling with making that leap of faith to trust God, try speaking to Him today about what is on your mind. God will meet you where you are at, and He will help you. All you have to do is seek Him.  

    “Do not fear, for I am with you, 
        do not be afraid, for I am your God; 
    I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” 

    Isaiah 41:10 

    Photo credit: Japheth Mast on Unsplash

    God should be your source of strength

    Life is tough and there are many hard lessons that we learn from it. Having survived hard times, we tell ourselves that we’re stronger as a result of what we’ve gone through. We wear our experiences like metaphorical medals of valor, grittily proud that we have survived warfare. We take the pain that we endured during those battles, and we tap into it as our source of strength. 

    However, our real source of strength should be God, not the resilience of our hearts and bodies to take life’s knocks. 

    “My flesh and my heart may fail, 
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

    Psalm 73:26 (NRSV) 

    By relying on God as our source of strength, we are already in His presence when challenges and adversity come. We can take refuge, knowing that we are where we should be – safe in the hands of our Lord who protects us. 

    “God is our refuge and strength, 
        a very present help in trouble.” 

    Psalm 46:1 

    Photo credit: Amar Yashlaha on Unsplash

    Allow God to change and refine you

    It is not an uncommon belief, even amongst Christians, that God punishes us when we do something wrong. That could be farther from the truth. Though we are sinners, God loves us and has forgiven us for all of our transgressions – past, present, and future – through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” 

    Ephesians 1:7 

    That doesn’t mean that God won’t sometimes allow us to go through seasons of adversity. However, these times are not designed to ruin us, but as in Jacob’s case, it is God’s way of refining us and breaking us free of qualities, habits, and attitudes that are not serving us.  

    “So that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 

    1 Peter 1:7 

    Thus, when God allows us to experience difficulties, He does so because He loves us. He wants the best for us and wants us to live the joyful, abundant life He has planned for us. However, He knows that we can only do that when we let go of those things that hold us back. Therefore, allow God to change and refine you, for it comes from a place of love, not wrath. 

    Photo credit: Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

    What can l do this week to rely on God more?

    Here are three things you can do this week to help you to rely on God more: 

    • Surrender yourself to God 
    • Give yourself grace in the process 
    • Seek God in prayer 

    Let’s look at these three points in some detail.

    Photo credit: Noah Silliman on Unsplash

    Surrender yourself to God

    There is a difference in saying to God, “Change me and refine me, Lord!” and actually surrendering yourself fully to Him.  

    After praying and asking God for help, Jacob still sent Esau a portion of his livestock as a present to appease him. Jacob was able to surrender his possessions, however, he wasn’t able to surrender himself to God and allow Him to do His will in Jacob’s situation. 

    Open yourself to God during your quiet time, or even when you’re going about your day, and tell Him you are ready to give yourself, your situation, and your family into His loving Hands. Don’t be afraid, for He will make all things come together for your good. 

    “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” 

    Romans 8:28 

    Photo credit: Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

    Give yourself grace in the process

    Learning to surrender and trust God completely isn’t going to necessarily happen overnight, so don’t give yourself a hard time over it.  

    Strengthening yourself in the Lord is a gradual thing, and we can be thankful for the grace that He shows us as we become more like Him, from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18

    Therefore, give yourself some grace during the process of completely trusting God. Joyce Meyers, the co-founder of Joyce Meyers Ministries, sums it up so aptly when she says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.” 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash 

    Seek God in prayer

    God likes it when we communicate with Him. Whatever is bothering you, whatever you know is weighing you down and preventing you from receiving God’s blessings of a joyful life, know that you can lay it all before Him in prayer. 

    “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

    Philippians 4:6 

    Thank God for all the wonderful things He has done for you, and ask Him to show you the areas in your life where you still need to let go of those things that aren’t serving you. God hears your prayers and will always help you because He loves you!  

    “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 

    1 John 5:14 

    Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is a little old benevolent man who is watching us from the lofty heights of Heaven, just lingering around until we need Him. 

    However, God is not like that at all. He is Emmanuel – God with us. He is Yahweh – the Great I AM. God wants to not be just on the outskirts of our lives, He wants to be the center of our existence. He is the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the One who sees all and knows all. 

    God wants a relationship with us. He wants the best for us because He loves us. And sometimes, that means He has to refine us by helping us relinquish those things that are damaging us. Instead of wrestling with God to hold onto those things that aren’t serving us, let us start from today to surrender ourselves to God and allow Him to change and refine us. Let us put our trust and confident reliance in God, for He is always good! 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    To see Part One of our Bible study of Genesis 32, click here.

     If you have enjoyed the series so far, we would love to have you join us on Friday, when l will post the third and final part of our series. 

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Devotionals

    A little cloud of hope

    Thought of the day: During trials, l will wait expectantly on God for a sign that He is working in my situation.

    “At the seventh time he said, ‘Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.’”
    1 Kings 18:44 (NRSV)

    Three years ago, l was diagnosed with burnout, anxiety and severe depression. Formerly a full-time teacher, my days suddenly revolved around doctor’s and psychiatrist’s visits, taking medication and trying to cope with mental lows and fears.


    I felt weak and frustrated, yet I was determined to make a full recovery. I prayed and praised God for my deliverance. I believed that l would get well. Yet months went by and l saw little progress.


    Did l get discouraged? Yes. Did l wonder secretly in my heart if things would ever get better? Sometimes. However, l remained insistent that God would heal me.


    Furthermore, I started to get severe headaches. In response, I delved into scripture, l fasted and kept on praying. I concentrated on keeping my eyes on Jesus and thanked him for healing me. I imagined myself being well and whole again.


    Then, one day, the headaches suddenly stopped.


    It was my little cloud of hope, a small but significant sign that carried a loving assurance from God, that more healing was coming. Since then, l have been making continuous improvement in my recovery.
    God pours out great blessings from small beginnings. And it all starts with a little cloud of hope.

    Prayer: Wonderful Lord, thank you that when we wait on you in faith, you will send us a little cloud of hope: the beginning of a great outpouring of your blessings. Amen.

    Delve deeper: Friends, if you are deep in the midst of strife and don’t see any end in sight, ask God in prayer to show you His presence. Let Him guide you to that little cloud of hope, that assurance that He is moving in your situation.

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on the 8th May.

    Photo by Dallas Reedy on Unsplash


  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part One: Understanding God’s word  Bible commentary on Genesis 32

    Brokenness is the path to blessings

    As l was deciding on which Bible chapter l should choose in order to kick of our Bible study series, l wanted to focus on a biblical account that portrayed how the power of God can transform us.

    You see, God will change our situation, but He is more interested in changing us first. However, we as humans resist God’s attempts to change us, for it is our nature to trust ourselves. We take pride in our self-dependence and hold our ability to make our own decisions in high regard.

    However, God knows that it is only when we submit to Him that we can receive His blessings. For that reason, He at times need to break us, for it is only when we lose to God, that He can bless us as we cling to Him in recognition of our need for Him.

    Brokenness is the path to blessings.

    This is the powerful lesson that Jacob learned in Genesis 32. Over the course of this week, we will be studying how Jacob changed in one night from a self-dependent opportunist to experiencing God’s blessings, power, and a new identity. He did this by losing in a contest of wills against God Himself. 

    This bible commentary is part one of three in our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32. Part Two will come out on Wednesday and Part Three on Friday. 

    Before we delve into Genesis 32, let us form a brief character analysis of Jacob.

    Photo credit: by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    Jacob the supplanter

    All of his life, Jacob had schemed and stolen to gain favor.  

    Jacob came into the world grabbing his twin brother Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:26) . Years later, he tricked Esau into exchanging his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). As a consequence, Jacob received his father’s blessings, a great honor that was reserved for the first-born son and which was essentially Esau’s to claim.

    Jacob also tricked his uncle Laban into giving him the goats and sheep of his choice from Laban’s vast flocks (Genesis 30:25-43).  It is no wonder that Jacob’s name meant “Supplanter” or “Usurper”.

    Photo credit:  KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

    God sends His angels ahead of us (Genesis 32:1-2)

    After working for his uncle Laban in Haran for 20 years, Jacob is returning to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had entered his uncle’s household in order to find himself a wife and to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, who had threatened to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright.

    Now, Jacob is coming home, with two wives, 11 children, and vast herds of livestock and servants. He is the epitome of the self-made man.

    However, despite his success, Jacob is still apprehensive about entering the land of Canaan, as he remembers his twin brother’s death threat against him. Jacob presumes that Esau still carries vengeance in his heart against him and is dreading a reunification.

    We see in Genesis 32:1, that angels meet Jacob as he is on his way home. Jacob recognizes and is comforted by them, for he calls them “God’s army” and names the place of his encounter with them Mahanaim (two armies). It is good to know that God is with us to comfort us and provide for us, as we go through difficult situations.

    Photo credit: Raychan on Unsplash

    Jacob prays to God for help but essentially relies on himself (Genesis 32: 3-20)

    Jacob sends messengers ahead to Esau, who lives in Edom, which is a land south of Canaan. This is the news that he sends with them:

    Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now and I have oxendonkeysflocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’” 

    Genesis 32:4-5 (NRSV) 

    Jacob’s motivation in informing his brother of his good fortune is not intended as bragging. Jacob wants Esau to know that he has not come to take anything from him, like he had done in the past – he has more than enough. Instead, Jacob hopes to lower his brother’s defenses by letting Esau know in advance that he, Jacob, poses as no threat to him.

    However, when messengers return with the information that Esau is already underway to meet Jacob and that he has 400 men with him, Jacob becomes very afraid (Genesis 32:6-7). 

    As a man of faith, Jacob prays to God for deliverance from Esau’s wrath. (Genesis 32:9-12). However, it is interesting to see what Jacob does both before and after he prays to God for help.

    Prior to praying: Prior to praying, Jacob divides his company, including the animals, into two groups (Genesis 32:7-8).  Where he has two God-blessed, superior armies at the beginning of this chapter to support him, Jacob now carves two human parties consisting of women, children, and livestock, who are dependent on him.

    Following his prayer: After he prays, Jacob sends Esau droves of livestock as gifts ahead of himself (Genesis 32:13-20).  

    Jacob’s action before praying to God is a defense tactic, a way to preserve at least a part of his hard-earned acquirements if Esau is indeed intent on attack his party. His action after praying is an appeasement tactic.

    Though Jacob loves and trust God enough to ask Him for help, his default setting is to be reliant upon his own strategies and scheming.

    Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash 

    Jacob fights God and loses (Genesis 32:21-30)

    Sending his brother Esau gifts does not make Jacob feel any more at ease about is impending meeting with his brother: He spends the night in his camp but sleep eludes him. He gets up in the middle of the night and sends his entire family, including his two wives, eleven sons, and servants over the ford of the Jabbok, where they will be safer. 

    Jacob is left alone in his camp, but not for long. An angel comes and wrestles with him until dawn (Genesis 32:24). 

    Jacob, having fought for everything he considered of value in his life, fights for his life against the angel. In fact, Jacob fights so resolutely that he and the angel are locked in a wrestling stance the entire night until daybreak. It is only when the angel touches Jacob’s hip and injures him, does Jacob finally concede defeat (Genesis 32:25). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, Jacob is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the location of his encounter with God  Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, the latter is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the place where his encounter with God took place Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Photo credit: Ian Espinosa on Unsplash 

    Why being defeated by God meant that Jacob could be blessed (Genesis 32:24-26)

    Jacob believes that his biggest adversary is his brother Esau. However, God wrestles with Jacob to show him that it is actually himself, who poses as his greatest opponent.  

    Jacob fights his inner man when he fights God. He fights the self-dependent schemer who seeks to take advantage over everyone under ever circumstance, instead of trusting God and handing the situation over to Him. 

    God knows that Jacob cannot enter into a proper relationship with Him until the young man realizes his own weaknesses. However, God allows Jacob to grapple with Him the entire night, in order to show Jacob the power of his own self-will.

    God wants to see whether Jacob will surrender himself to Him. However, when Jacob refuses to yield, God breaks his will with just the slightest touch on Jacob’s hip (Genesis 32:25). It is in this moment, that Jacob realizes that he is defeated.

    Broken and weak, Jacob clings to God, but this time in desperation. He recognizes his own weakness in the presence of God’s greatness. He is made meek by the revelation of how easily God has humbled him when he thought the fight had been evenly matched.  

    Though God asks Jacob to let go of him, he refuses. Being delivered of his own self-will and self-reliance has given Jacob a revelation of his need to keep God first and foremost in his life. He knows that he cannot face Esau without God by his side, especially as God has now crippled him.  Therefore, Jacob calls out, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).  

    Photo credit: Ravi Roshan on Unsplash 

    Jacob is given a new name and a new identity (Genesis 32:27-32)

    God wants to bless Jacob, but before He does that, He wants to make sure that Jacob can admit who he really is. God asks Jacob to state his own name (Genesis 32:27) in order that Jacob acknowledges who he is, with all his weaknesses, and with all that his name stands for.

    It is after this confession that God gives Jacob a new name and with it, a new identity. In Genesis 32:28, He says to Jacob, “’You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’” Consequently, God blesses Jacob.  

    As a reminder of his life-changing encounter with God, Jacob has the memorial at Peniel, as well as a permanent limp. 

    Jacob is ready to meet Esau (Genesis 33). He may be limping, but Jacob is now approaching his brother with God’s strength and in acknowledgment of his own weakness, which is more powerful than had he gone to his brother based on the strength of his meager self-reliance and craftiness.  

    As a reminder of Jacob’s life-changing encounter, many Jewish people to this day abstain from eating the area of the thigh where Jacob obtained his permanent injury (Genesis 32:32). 

    Photo credit; Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash 

    Be aware of falling back into old patterns

    Jacob in turn, asks God His name. However, God refuses to answer Him. Maybe God refuses to grant Jacob this request, because the question is being asked out of a fleeting curiosity. Alternatively, maybe God sees that Jacob is in danger of falling into old patterns of manipulation: By asking God for His name, Jacob could be trying to create an opportunity to try and control God for his own advantage in future. God wants to prevent Jacob from falling into the temptation of reverting back to his old self.   

    This situation shows us, that even when we have been humbled at God’s hands, we still need to be aware of our need to continue to submit to Him, rather than use Him as and when we need Him. The apostle Peter states:

    Discipline yourselveskeep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls aroundlooking for someone to devour.” 

    1 Peter 5:8 

    Coming into the presence of God means being confronted with our personal weaknesses. Because our flesh is resistant to change, God needs to wrestle with us at times to make us see that we need to let go of those characteristics which aren’t serving us.

    Only then, when we cling to God in acknowledgment that He is our source of strength, our salvation, and our refuge, can we be in a position for Him to bless us with the wonderful plans He has for us to live a life of abundance. 

    Photo credit:  NeONBRAND on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 – “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”.  

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Jacob’s journey of self-discovery and revelation of God. 

     If so, feel free to join us on Wednesday, when l post the second part of our series. 

    Until then friends, be blessed! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”
  • Personal testimonies

    Can you see the presence of God in my life?

    Written my Marilyn McAvoy Clark

    I was born in 1947 in Niagara Falls, New York. My mom and dad were 40 and 45 years old respectively when I was born. I have two much older siblings and then my brother who is 4 years older than me.


    My God is an awesome God, and He is always with me and you. However, I didn’t really know that when I was growing up – l only realized it later.


    My family was Catholic, and we went to church every Sunday morning for 7:30 am Mass. Later, we changed to the 5.00 pm mass that took place on a Saturday evening. In the summer we stood for the sermon, as it was 3 minutes long, so we were in and out of church in 20 minutes. I also attended a Catholic grade school.


    My earliest impressions of God the Father was that He was to be feared, because of a very large painting of Him that was on the front of our church. It was maybe 20 feet high, and the Father was portrayed as an old man with a long white beard and looked quite stern. Below the Father in this painting was Jesus on the cross, and below Him was the white dove portrayed as the Spirit.


    Though l was afraid of God the Father, I did, however, love Jesus. What I loved about Him was the feeling I had when l thought of Him – l felt warm, fuzzy, and safe. I still feel these feelings and more now. I finally came to know the Holy Spirit about 15 years ago.

    Can you see how God first touched my life?

    My childhood was a difficult one. By the time l was 5 years old, l had gotten myself into quite a bit of trouble. When I was 2 years old, I climbed up an advertising billboard that had a latticework backing (you won’t see that style anymore). I thought it would be grand to walk across the top, until I fell off and broke my left hip. I spent my third birthday in the hospital because of the injury to my hip, which led to a further complication of a bowel obstruction from the break.


    I used to constantly get lost trying to follow my brother to school, and at least twice l was brought home by the police after searching for pollywogs* in the creek a few blocks from home. You see, my Dad had to work a lot, my brother was at school, and my mother was busy sewing in the basement in order to supplement our family’s income. I have also fallen into empty tar bins, walked through cement and have been brought home by a kind-hearted truancy officer after finding me in a bar.

    Can you see how God preserved me, despite my mishaps?

    When l was 9 years old, everything went further downhill. My mother started going out to work, and my brother started a paper route. l was left alone in the house a lot, so my brother-in-law used to come and visit me. I was 10 years old when he molested me for the first time. He often told me not to tell anyone about his visits or I would be sorry. However, I knew what he was doing wasn’t right.


    Therefore, in defiance, I told my mother. She responded by saying that I would have to learn to protect myself from my brother-in-law’s advances. She didn’t want to tell my dad, as she was afraid that he would kill my brother-in-law. I will never forget how let down I felt from her: It was such a sinking feeling and sense of loss.


    So, in an attempt to defend myself, I took the spare key from its hiding spot so that my brother-in-law couldn’t get in the house, and I listened to him as he pounded on the door. It was totally nerve-racking for me. Therefore, in order to get away from him, I did something else. Our church used to have 7:30 am mass on Saturday’s and that’s where I went. I stayed in church until I thought it was safe to go home. I did this for 2 years.

    Can you see how God rescued me?

    I still had to see my brother-in-law, as he and my sister, as well as their 3 sons, came to visit us every Sunday. Another time, l was left alone with him during a 30-mile car journey. I was terrified the entire time and clung onto the car door handle for dear life. I was determined to jump out of the car if need be, but God kept me safe.

    Finally, when I was 12 years old, l managed to be completely free of my brother-in-law. l became a stock girl at my mother’s place of work, as she needed my help. The job was 30 miles away from home, and l went there every Thursday after school and spent all day Saturday there as well.

    Can you see how God looked after me?

    In my late teens, my life continued spiraling downwards. I discovered how good alcohol made me feel. By the time I was 27, I had cirrhosis of the liver, and I was on the verge of having “wet brain”, which is a form of brain damage that is caused by repetitive and heavy exposure to alcohol.


    Finally, I was hospitalized for 3 weeks in a general hospital and then immediately taken to an alcoholic rehabilitation floor in a psychiatric hospital, where I discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. I got sober and actually celebrated my 43rd anniversary of sobriety this May. While l was in that program l renewed my belief in God.

    Can you see how God freed me from my chains and gave me a new life?

    However, despite my faith, it has been a long road for me to travel spiritually, especially between the ages of 27 and 69. I tried going back to church but it was difficult for me.


    15 years ago, l joined a course which guides you into an introduction of the Christian faith. I asked a few people I knew about this course and since signing up, l have not looked back.

    Can you see how God never forsakes me?

    I have an amazing relationship with my God now. He has picked up this lost sheep, and He has carried me on His shoulders to a new life filled with His joy. He has been with me when I broke my neck and fractured my jaw. He has been with me when my l broke my leg, and I was in a wheelchair for 18 months. He has been with me through 2 alcoholic husbands and the birth of my wonderful son. He has been with me through back surgery on my spine. He has been my refuge and my strength.

    “God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.”
    Psalm 46:1 (NRSV)

    Can you see how good God has been to me all my life?

    He has blessed me with gratitude, peace, patience, and joy. I have a smile on my face now when I greet people – all because God loves me. My hope comes from Him, for He alone is my rock and my salvation.

    “For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
    On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
    Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.”
    Psalm 62:5-8

    I would like to tell you today, that you too can have all this – and more. Just ask God or like in my case, beg Him for help. God hears you, He walks beside you, and He cries with you. I trust God for everything now. I know I will still face problems but I am not alone. I am His child, and He will never leave me!

    “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
    And l shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.”
    Psalm 23:6

    *tadpoles

    About the author:

    Marilyn McAvoy Clark is a reformed Christian who has an intense love for the Lord. She lives in Ontario, Canada, although she is technically American-Canadian, as she was born in Niagara Falls, New York. She attends Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Ontario and has a son. If you would like to get in contact with Marilyn, you can write to her at marilynjclark1947@gmail.com.

  • Articles

    9 mighty names of God and how their meanings are relevant for us today

    God is not revealed to us in the Bible as being called just God. He is referred to by other names, each which reveal a certain aspect of His character.  

    In the Old Testament, names held significance as they did not only fulfill the purpose of identity, they explained characteristics and even occupations. 

    Therefore, God reveals not only who He is by His many names, but also who He is to us as we learn more about the different aspects of His nature.  

    Though most of these names may have been revealed to God’s people in the Old Testament, the meaning behind them denotes God’s power, love, and mercy that is just as relevant for us today as it was for believers of the ancient world.  

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever 

    Hebrews 13:8 

    Here are 9 of the most well-known names of God and what they mean. 

    1.Yahweh 

    Meaning: “The Lord”, “God”

    These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.  In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”         

    Genesis 2:4

    Yahweh is found in the Hebrew Bible and holds particular significance in Jewish tradition as a covenant name of God, the holiest of names, and it is held in the highest esteem. In fact, it is considered to be too holy to be even spoken aloud (Exodus 20:7 NRSV). It is derived from the Hebrew word “I am”. 

    With that in mind, Yahweh first appears in Genesis 2:4. However, God first revealed His covenant name to humans, Moses specifically, in Exodus 3:14-15, when Moses was commanded to tell the Israelites the name of the One who had sent him to lead God’s people out of Egypt. On recognizing the ultimate power and authority behind the name Yahweh, the Israelites would know immediately that Moses had the blessings and strength of God behind him. 

    The spelling of Yahweh is modern, as it includes vowels to aid with its pronunciation. Yahweh is actually the transliteration of the Hebrew word YHWH, which is known as the Tetragrammaton, meaning 4 letters. 

    The word Adonai (Lord) is sometimes used as a substitute for YHWH. As a consequence, early English translations of the Bible have amalgamated the two words into Jehovah, which is in common usage even today. 

    2. Adonai

    Meaning: “Lord God”, “Master” 

    “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.” 

    Exodus 34:23 

    Adonai comes from the plural form of adon (Lord). Hence, Adonai is a reference to the Trinity, as well as a reference to God. When the singular form adon is used, it is usually referring to humans in a position of power, such as King David (2 Samuel 3:21) or the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2:19). 

    As a remnant of their tradition of esteemed reverence for the covenant name Yahweh, modern Jewish believers will substitute the word Adonai when reading the scriptures aloud. For that reason, most English versions of the Bible might translate YHWH as “Lord”.  

     3.Elohim

    MeaningFather God / God the Creator 

        “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,” 

    Genesis 1:1 

     Elohim reflects the sovereignty and absolute power of God. He is the God who created heaven and earth, He is the Almighty and ruler of all. He omnipotent decree is declared in the first verse of the Bible and occurs a total of 2000 times in the scriptures.  

    The name Elohim is a glorification of the awesome power of God that is displayed through nature. He is mightier than any other gods or false idols that govern the world today, such as consumerism and self-advancement. He is the one true God under which every star, animal, rock, and human must bow to. 

    So, the next time you watch a sunset or even see a beautiful flower in full bloom, remember the One who created all things.  

    4. Abba

    Meaning: “Father” 

    “He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”’ 

    Mark 14:36 

    The name Abba was vocalized by both Jesus and Paul in Aramaic in the New Testament, which reflected their deep and personal relationships with God. It is actually mentioned only three times in the Bible – by Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 as well as by Jesus in Mark 14:36 in the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion.  

    However, despite its minimal representation in the scriptures, the name Abba is widely acknowledged as being one of the most intimate names for God.  

    Through this name, we can see how God cares for us as a father cares for a small child. It is a name that we can call upon when we are in need of assurance, comfort, and protection, knowing in childlike faith that our Father will hear us and look after us. 

      5. Jehovah Jireh 

    Meaning: “The Lord will provide 

    ‘“So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”’ 

    Genesis 22:14 

    The name Jehovah Jireh is only found once in the Bible – in the Book of Genesis. It is used by Abraham to name the place on Mount Moriah where God provided him with a ram to sacrifice as a replacement for his son, Isaac.  

    This is a beautiful name for God because it reflects His faithfulness and how He keeps His promise that all things will work out for His good (Romans 8:28).  

    God knows exactly what is going on in our lives – the good and the bad.  As in Abraham’s case, He will never fail us nor forsake us when we are in need (Hebrews 13:5-6). His help comes with perfect timing. 

    6. Jehovah Rapha

    Meaning: “The God who heals” 

    “He heals the brokenhearted, 
        and binds up their wounds.” 

    Psalm 147:3 

    The name Jehovah Rapha is a particular favorite of mine and one which l call upon when l need God’s hand of healing over my life.  

     It is a name that not only reveals the power of God to heal, repair, and rejuvenate the areas of our lives that are not working in His perfect timing, calling upon the name Jehovah Rapha gives incredible comfort in the knowledge that it is God’s intent to make us whole.  

    Therefore, if you are waiting on healing, call upon the name of Jehovah Rapha “The God who heals” in your quiet time with the Lord, today. 

    7. Jehovah Nissi

    Meaning: “The Lord is my banner” 

    “And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner.” 

    Exodus 17:15 

    There are numerous instances where God spread His hand of protection over His people and kept them safe from their enemies: 

    • In Exodus 14:26-29 when God caused the parted waters of the Red Sea to return and drown the armies of Pharoah, however, the Israelites crossed over safely on a dry river bed. 
    • In Judges 7:16-23 God kept Gideon and his 300 men safe, who were armed only with trumpets and torches inside empty pitchers, as they attacked the Midianite camp numbering 135,000 men.  
    • In 1 Samuel 17:37 God protects David, a shepherd boy, from the prowess of the giant Goliath of Gath, who is a seasoned warrior and the fear of the entire Israelite army. 

    Jehovah Nissi is a name that proclaims God’s declaration and promise to always protect His children and to deliver them from their foes. 

    In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, it states that our adversities do not come in the form of flesh and blood but are spiritual.  

    That means, the issues that rise against us today, such as financial lack, health, and relationship issues all have spiritual roots that can be addressed by calling out to God in prayer and declaring Him as our protector and deliverer – Jehovah Nissi.  

    8.Jehovah Shalom

    Meaning: “The Lord is peace” 

    Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace 

    Judges 6:24 

     Gideon, a Judge from the Old Testament, learned a lot about being in the peace of God as he led a military campaign of 300 hundred faith-filled Israelites against a Midianite army of 135,000 soldiers with no military experience.   

    The name Jehovah Shalom appears only once in the Bible in Judges 6:24. And yet, this characteristic of God is both powerful and essential to our daily existence.  

    Where the world is urging us to hurry, as we set our routine to the rhythm of alarm clocks, deadlines, and 40+ hour work weeks, it is important to know that God is not only peace, He has already given us this peace through Jesus Christ. 

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” 

    John 14:27

      9. Quanna 

    For you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” 

    Exodus 34:14 

    It’s incomprehensible for us to think that God could get jealous, right? But He does!  He is the One who breathed life into us and who promises to never fail us, nor forsake us, neither loosen His hold on us (Hebrews13:5-6).   

    Whereas we see jealousy as a negative characteristic, God’s jealousy for us is based purely on His encompassing love for us. He sees the broken world in which we live in and knows that there are forces at work to distract us and lead us away from His love and protection.  

    For that reason, God sent His only son to pay the bond price for our sins in order that we may be reunited with Him and be in eternal fellowship with Him. 

    Considering all that God has done for you in your life up until this point, isn’t it understandable that He gets jealous? Doesn’t He deserve our praise and adoration? 

    I have listed 9 names of God, however, there are many more. For example: 

    If you are interested in learning about more names that God is known by, l believe the links that l have provided at the end of this article will help you. 

    God’s propensity to love us is addressed by many names. He really is everything we need – His many names prove that. 

     Whatever you are going through in your life today, l recommend that you call upon the name of the Lord in supplication: Jehovah Rapha if you are waiting on healing, Jehovah Shalom if you are desperately needing peace over a situation. 

    Though the names that God is known by may be different, they all explain one thing: God is always powerful, always unchanging, and always good. His presence is an unwavering banner in a world that is constantly bowing down to ephemeral trends, transient movements, and shifting expectations. For greater is He that is in us, that He that is in the world (1 John 4:4).  

    God and His name – all of His names – and what they stand for, are as relevant for us today than ever before. And thank goodness for that, for what would we be without Him? 

    The Sunday School Network has published this article on their website. Also, check out their vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Sources: 

    1. Blue Letter Bible, “The Names of God in the Old Testament”

    2. God TV, “Do you know these 14 Hebrew names of God?”

    3. iBelieve.com, “10 powerful names of God (And what they mean for us today)

    4. Bible Study Tools, “The Wonderful Implications of God being Our Abba Father” 

    5. Active Christianity, ”Why God has to be a jealous God”

  • Devotionals

    Not my way, but God’s way

    Thought of the day: Rather than struggle to find solutions in my own strength, I will follow God’s purpose for my life.

    “The human mind may devise many plans,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”
    Proverbs 19:21 (NRSV)

    Since l was a child, it has been a dream of mine to be a writer. I wrote my first poem at age ten and continued writing throughout my teens. During my university studies, some of my work was published in one of the campus’s magazines.
    After graduating, l started writing a novel while l drifted from job to job. When the opportunity presented itself to teach at a private school, l accepted the position without much thought.
    I was optimistic that l would be able to write in my free time, however, my career took over my life. I worked 80 hours a week, on weekends and in the school holidays. My half-finished manuscript lay forgotten and started to accumulate dust, along with my childhood aspirations.
    When a diagnosis of burnout forced me to leave the teaching profession, l knew that l had to make a lifestyle change. This time, l consciously sought God’s advice through prayer and petition. In response, He put it in my heart that l should become a Christian writer and blogger.
    To be honest, this was not the answer l was expecting to hear. However, with the gift of hindsight, l realized that making decisions independent from God hadn’t worked out well for me in the past. In Hebrews 13:5, it states that God will never fail us nor forsake us. Maybe, the time had now come for me to act in faith and follow God’s way.
    Fast forward to today, l am currently sitting in my favorite café enjoying a steaming cup of coffee while l write an article for a Christian magazine on my laptop. Choosing to trust God and launch a new career as a Christian writer and blogger has changed my life. I relish being my own boss and being a creator invigorates me. Stress and drudgery are things of the past.
    I am so grateful to God for revealing His purpose for my life. It has taught me that His way is always designed with our well-being in mind, because He loves us and knows what’s best for us.


    Prayer:
    Sovereign Lord, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Teach us to not rely on our own understanding, but to trust in the wonderful plan You have for our lives, for only You know what is best for us.

    Delve deeper:
    If making your own decisions hasn’t worked out well for you in the past, maybe it’s now time to choose God’s way. God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly over all that we ask or think, so trust in Him and trust in His process of doing things. He will always keep your best interest at heart and make all things beautiful.

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 13.06.2019.

  • Personal testimonies

    One more step along the world l go

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
        when he delights in our way;
     though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
        for the Lord holds us by the hand.

    Psalm 37:23-24 (NRSV)

    Education was always  an important theme for my parents when l was growing up. I was born in England, but my parents, who are Sri Lankan, moved with me to Melbourne, Australia, when l was three years old.  

    From an early age, my parents instilled in me the significance of studying hard and acquiring good grades. It was their fim belief that the only viable career path for me was to become a doctor or a lawyer; not only would these professions assure finanicial succes, but they would also bring prestige to our family.

    However, my dream since childhood was to become a writer. Netherless, parental pressure obliged me to view writing as a hobby and pursue their dream instead.

    When l was 13 years old, my parents took me out of the government-funded high school l had been attending and enrolled me at an Anglican private school. My father was a chef and my mother an artist, so their earnings were somewhat modest.  For that reason, l appreciated their financial sacrifice in investing in my education and was determined to study hard and make them proud.  

    For the 2 years l visited that school l was very unhappy. The other kids in my year level either bullied me or completely ostracized me. What made my time in that school more bearable was the kindness my teachers showed me and the interesting lessons they taught.  

    One subject l particularly enjoyed was Religious Education. The lessons were taught by the school’s chaplain, Reverend Mc Chrioch. The chaplain was funny and entertaining, and I looked forward to his weekly teachings of the Bible.  

    Apart from teaching, Reverend Mc Chrioch fulfilled other pastoral duties at our school. Every Monday, when the entire school gathered for its weekly assembly, Reverend Mc Chrioch would speak a prayer over us and lead us in singing hymns. Over the course of two years, l learned a variety of beautiful hymns such as Amazing Grace”, “Be thou my vision, and Jerusalem.  

    On one particular Monday, Reverend Mc Chrioch asked us to sing a hymn titled “One more step along the road l go”  by Sydney Carter. As soon as the lyrics reached my ears, they resonated with me immediately: 

    “One more step along the world I go,
    One more step along the world I go;
    From the old things to the new,
    Keep me traveling along with you:
    And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
    Keep me traveling along with you.”

    That Monday morning, God became very real to me. He was more than the omnipotent, omnipresent Almighty l had read about in class – the God who had released a great flood upon the earth, made the walls of Jericho fall, and spoke from inside a burning bush.  

    Instead, He was a sympathetic God who knew l was feeling rejected and alone in school. He was my Father who saw how my parents tried to make me into being somebody l wasn’t and could never be.

    And yet, God accepted me for who l was. In fact, He loved everything about me because He had created me and declared that His work in me was good, right down to the last hair on my head.  

    Sitting in that school auditorium, with the hot December sun streaming through the large paned windows behind me, l learned who God was to me: He was my comforter in my pain, my guide through the darkness, and my hope for a better future.  l believe that it was on this day that God sowed the seed that led to me giving my life to Him 20 years later. 

    I left the school at the end of that academic year. Though my time there had been fraught with trials, my parents were content with the extensive knowledge l had acquired through my studies.  

    However, the most important lesson l had learned was the revelation that God had given me about Himself through the words of a song.  That information was life-changing, not the training l received for a life of financial prosperity and prestige. 

    As a further outcome of my encounter with God, “One more step along the world l ago” became my means of seeking Him when l was confronted with change and adversity. During such times, I would sing the song and walk down the street, imagining that Jesus was holding my outstretched hand as l took one more step on my life journey.  

    I ended up finishing my secondary education at another private school, where l was very happy. However, in my senior year, I didn’t make the grades to qualify for a place at a law or medicine faculty at university.  Instead, l ended up studying German, English, and English literature at a university in Melbourne, which l enjoyed.  

    My parents were disappointed that l wasn’t going to become a lawyer or a doctor, so l did a minor in Economics to appease them, but it wasn’t what l was really interested in studying.  

    I never ended up using that Economics minor, though my languages degree proved to be very useful. I moved to Germany where l reveled in immersing myself in a new culture. Additionally, God provided me with a position as a German teacher at an English private school. As l stood in front of my first class, Jesus was by my side.  

    “Round the corners of the world I turn,
    More and more about the world I learn;
    All the new things that I see
    You’ll be looking at along with me.”

    Being a teacher was rewarding, however, 14 years of working 80-hour weeks under immense performance pressure took their toll on me. Three years ago, l had a breakdown and was diagnosed with burnout and depression. I was forced to leave my job in order to convalesce. Again, Jesus was there, comforting me when my life as l knew it irrevocably changed.   

    “Give me courage when the world is rough, 
    Keep me loving though the world is tough;” 

    Today, as l go through the ups and downs of recovery, God is with me. He pulls me out of the dark, miry pits of depression when they want to envelop me; His love is my shield, my glory, and the lifter of my head when l feel overwhelmed and afraid. He guides me through the valley. 

    “As I travel through the bad and good, 
    Keep me traveling the way I should,” 
     

    Furthermore, God has given me a new direction for my life. He has put it in my heart to spread His Word by becoming a Christian writer and blogger. I may not have met the university requirements to study medicine or law, but God has qualified me, as He has qualified all of us, to be a disciple for all the nations (Matthew 28:19).  

    “Where I see no way to go, 
    You’ll be telling me the way, I know.” 
     

    Looking back, l can see how God has been guiding my steps throughout my life, to get me to where l am now. My childhood dream of being a writer has come to pass, something that l would never have had the courage to pursue in my own strength. 

    How glorious that God had set my path before l was even born, and neither man’s expectations nor societal pressure could deter me from it! How reassuring to know that all things work out for good by Him! For when God is for us, who can be against us? 

     May God continue to guide me, and may l continue to travel along the world with Him, for He is a good, loving, and merciful Father!  

     
    “You are older than the world can be, 
    You are younger than the life in me; 
    Ever old and ever new, 
    Keep me traveling along with you.” 
     

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written artricles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney

  • Articles

    Who is God, actually?

    Whether you believe He exists or not, the word “God” carries significance. His name makes up part of our daily vernacular, and the world comes to a standstill due to cyclic traditions that are celebrated in His honor, such as Christmas and Easter. The acronym OMG has become an internationally recognized catchphrase.
    As a Christian, God is more than a buzzword or a reason to enjoy a bank holiday. He is our Father, our Creator, and the anchor of our faith. With around 2.3 billion people declaring themselves to be believers, God has more followers than any social media presence on earth.
    That’s a lot of love for someone you can’t see or get autographs from.


    So, who is God, actually?


    These 6 points will hopefully give you a clearer perception of who God is.

    1. God is the Creator of heaven and earth

    “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
    Genesis 1:1-2 (NRSV)

    The book of Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament. It is known as the “book of beginnings”, not only because it introduces the entire Bible, but because it records the story of Creation – how God created heaven and earth. Genesis continues to record God’s creation of day and night, the sun, moon, and stars, as well as vegetation and man. It also reveals man’s need for a redeemer and consequently, the foreshadowing of Jesus’ coming.
    Science claims its own theories for man’s existence, such as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, or the origin of the universe, such as the Big Bang Theory.
    However, the thing about the Bible is, is that it requires faith to believe it. God’s word is infallible. In fact, the whole basis of believing in God is faith. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it states, “for we walk by faith, not by sight”.

    Photo by Robert Koorenny on Unsplash

    2. God is the great “I AM”

    “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’”
    Exodus 3:14

    When God revealed His name to Moses in the Old Testament, He referred to Himself simply as “I AM”.
    In the Old Testament, a person’s name was a reflection of their character or even their calling in life. Abraham, for example, means “Father of a great multitude” which makes sense, as God promised Abraham that his offspring would be as countless as the stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).
    God is known by many names – Elohim, Adonai, Jehovah, Emmanuel – just to name a few. Though His names may change, God’s character stays the same, throughout the ages, regardless of our circumstances. In Revelations 1:8 it states “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”
    Hence, God is the great “I AM.”

    Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

    3. God is part of the Trinity

    ”The Father and I are one.”
    John 10:30

    “For through Him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
    Ephesians 2:18

    In the hymn “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty”, one of the lines of the lyrics goes as follows:
    “God in three persons blessed Trinity”
    The Trinity refers to the existence of God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as a triune God.
    During Jesus’ 3-year ministry, Jesus referred to Himself on numerous occasions as belonging to God – not only as His son but that they were one and the same.
    The connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is quite evident in the New Testament. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove and God spoke out, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17).
    Jesus also tells the disciples that though He is leaving them, the Holy Spirit will come to reside with them instead (John 14:26).

    Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

    4. God is love

    “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
    1 John 4:8

    Our definition of love is not the same as God’s definition. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 describes God’s love – a perfect love for us that surpasses any human capability to love another person.
    When the Bible says that God is love, it is declaring God’s character. God loves us because that is who He is. He can’t and won’t stop loving us – even when we make mistakes or commit a sin – because that is simply not His nature.
    God does not force His love on anyone. It is because He first loved us, that we seek a relationship with Him in response to His offer of love.

    “We love because he first loved us.”
    1 John 4:19

    Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

    5. God gave us His only son

    For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
    John 3:16

    When Adam ate the apple from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, it resulted in the fall of Man. Since then, we are separated from God through our sinful nature.
    However, God does not want to be separated from us. He created us in His own image, in order that we would be in fellowship with Him, love Him, and glorify Him.
    However, as long as we are held captive by sin, we cannot be in the presence of God (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, He sent His son Jesus to us to pay the ransom price for our freedom, in order that we may be reunited for all eternity with Him (Romans 5:8).
    Jesus, who we have already established is God, additionally assumed the mortal coil of man, complete with our human frailties. He took on all of our past, present, and future sins and brought them to the cross of Calvary where He was crucified.
    With the blood that He spilled on the cross, Jesus broke the chains that sin had kept us in, thereby freeing us to have eternal life with our Father (Isaiah 53:4-5).

    Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

    6. God’s grace saves us

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
    Ephesians 2:8-9

    What is so beautiful about God, is that He offers salvation to everyone. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you have made in the past, whether you have followed another religion, or even if you are a kind natured person who regularly helps elderly people cross the road.


    God’s salvation is a gift that He freely gives – it cannot be earned.


    In order to receive the gift of God’s salvation, we need to recognize in faith that it is God’s grace that saves us. We need to acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for our transgressions, for it is only through Him that we can enter into a relationship with God (John 14:6). We must repent for our past mistakes and inequities (Romans 3:23).
    If we do all of this, we are born again. Not only does God forgive us for all of our sins, but we can start a new spirit-filled life in a loving relationship with God. He is our Father, and we are His children.

    God is just as relevant for us today as when He first created us out of dust and breathed life into us. In a broken world, His grace is a way out of the darkness; His love is a lamp at our feet and a light on our path as we walk in eternal fellowship with Him.

    Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    On the wings of eagles

    “But those who wait for 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.”
    Isaiah 40:31 (NRSV)

    Thought of the day: When l am weak, I will wait on the Lord, for He gives me strength.

    The temperamental spring rains have bidden their farewell where l live in Bochum, Germany. In their place, summer has heralded its arrival, with fresh breezes rippling through lush grasses scattered with colorful bursts of dahlias, petunias, and hydrangeas.
    I have embraced this change of season by making my first attempts at gardening. For the last three years, l have been in convalescence from burnout and depression. Consequently fighting fatigue, fear, and low mood has been a daily struggle. Recently, however, l have felt strong enough to venture outdoors. Being in the fresh air, with the rich dark earth sifting through my fingers and the sun caressing my face is extremely therapeutic. While l work, l thank God for His goodness, and l trust Him with further improvement in my health in His perfect timing.
    Yesterday, the cheerful chittering of birdsong drew me outside to the garden. As l drank my morning coffee, l watched the swallows flying above me, fascinated by their dipping and soaring. I saw a similarity between my feathered friends and myself: Just as the birds rely on God to keep them airborne, so too will l continue to put my life in His hands.
    Furthermore, as l wait in faith, God will continue to renew my strength until l too, like the birds, will soon mount my wings and triumphantly soar, fully recovered and ready to start a new exciting chapter of my life under the loving provision of the Lord.


    Prayer:
    Precious and loving Father, thank you that when we are weak, we can find refuge in You. Teach us to wait faithfully in Your presence, while You strengthen us in Your perfect timing. Amen.

    Delve deeper:

    Are you waiting for a breakthrough in your life? Seek God’s presence where you can find rest from your toil. Wait in faith, for with His perfect timing, God will fill you with a surge of revival, and you will soar with His strength and love into a new and exciting season of your life.

    First published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 2nd April 2019: https://presbycan.ca/2019-04-02/eagles