Pastor Luke | Reject the False Gospel of Self-Improvement | Friday jan 6, 2023
I love making New Year's resolutions. If I had it my way, I’d make the start of every month January 1st. I love the idea of a fresh start, seeking to be my best self, and critically evaluating the routines in my life to see what I can optimize. I love the sense of optimism and hope that this next year could be better than the last if I just fixed my life, tried a bit harder and made the right choices each day. This type of thinking resonates with me, and you may be thinking some of the same things this year.
Maybe you want to make a change for your health with a new diet or exercise routine. Maybe you are thinking of adjusting your morning routine to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. Maybe you want to reign in your spending and save some money. Maybe there is a bad habit you would like to shake. Maybe there is a good habit you would like to adopt. Most of us would like a fresh start and work towards some level of self-improvement this new year.
The sad reality of the situation is that most people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them. I know you’ve experienced this because I have as well. You set an intention, you make a commitment, but life gets in the way. You go back to your old routines and rhythms. Sure, something will stick, but at the end of the year you find yourself making similar resolutions as last year. How do we break this cycle?
Christians are very familiar with applying the concept of grace to the sin in their lives. The grace of God is that, through Christ, we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s favour and have a relationship with him, since Christ took the penalty of our sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). It is by the power of this grace Christians can turn from their sin, in repentance, and trust in the work of Christ on the cross for their sins, in faith (Ephesians 2:8). Rather than being stuck in a cycle of sin and guilt, Christians are motivated by grace to overcome sin in their lives in Jesus’ name (Galatians 2:20). But that is as far as grace will go in the lives of a lot of Christians. What if we applied this concept of grace and the Gospel to other areas of our lives? What if we took our identity in Christ seriously in every situation, every day? Let’s take this idea of New Years resolutions as an example.
The Gospel says that in Christ you are enough, you are loved, and you are accepted by God as his children. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Through Christ, there is nothing left to do to earn God’s love or favour. Then why do we have this need to be better, to do more, to be more, and make ourselves into something more, when God says that we are enough? It is this radical message of God’s grace that should be our starting point, not this internal feeling fed by external pressures telling us we aren’t good enough yet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still making New Years resolutions. But if I’m going to see any sort of lasting change in my life, it is not going to come from motivations of guilt, shame, and comparison. Lasting change comes from knowing that you are enough by God’s grace through Christ. We can be motivated by that grace to honour God with our lives, stewarding our finances, taking care of our health, and working hard for God’s glory as co-workers and co-heirs with Christ.
This is my challenge to you, whether you are into making resolutions or not, make a resolution to adopt a weekly practice of nothing. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you don’t have a New Year’s resolution, I’m saying your New Year’s resolution is to do nothing for a few minutes, an hour, an afternoon or even one day a week. Instead of trying to add something more into your life, consider adding more of nothing. Producing nothing. Doing nothing. Improving nothing. The Bible refers to this weekly practice as Sabbath, and its one of the ten commandments that most of us are consistently breaking:
Exodus 20:8-10 - “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…”
After Christ’s death and resurrection, Christian’s began taking their “Sabbath” on Sundays, or the Lord’s Day, since that was the day of the week Christ rose from the dead. Whether you feel called to take your Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday or another day of the week, the point is to find weekly rest in the Gospel of grace rather than in the false Gospel of self-improvement.
This ancient practice of Sabbath continues to be an oft neglected, counter-cultural game changer for those who take it seriously. In a culture that values people for what they do, choose to do nothing, intentionally. Rest in the fact that you are enough and that no amount of self-improvement books or habits are going to make you any more loveable to God. Reject the false Gospel of self-improvement and resolve to do nothing for a change.
Author Anonymous | The Scope of My Life | Friday May 14, 2021
The Scope of My Life
Depression is more than feeling empty all the time. It is more than experiencing nothing because you are numb. It is more than isolating yourself from your family and friends because you are afraid you could shatter with any spoken word. It is more than wanting to step off this ever-turning globe for a short time because you know that the alternative of taking your own life is the wrong option.
It is walking apart from the Truths of Jesus.
Depression has always been a part of my life. My best friend’s brother committed suicide when he was 16. I was 12. I attempted suicide when I was 16. I think about it. A lot. I am sad. Most of the time. I laugh. All of the time. I feel. Nothing.
It is real. It is my life. It is a constant struggle.
What is not real is my view. Of me. Of my life. Of Jesus.
Because I am looking through a scope that is distorted.
I am unable to see that I exist because I was created to be in fellowship with God. Always.
I am unable to fill my heart with a worshipful love for The God Who Created me.
I am unable to offer care to others.
Depression sucks. Literally. It sucks any temporary shine from the dullness that engulfs me. But that is because it is temporary. It isn't meant to last. That new book. A bit of good chocolate. A phone call from a friend. A hug. As good as they are, they cannot nor will not ever fill the emptiness that was meant to be filled by Jesus. I was created with a hole. You were created with a hole. That hole is meant for Jesus. Jesus completes us.
Only Jesus completes us. Colossians 2:10. Look it up. It’s there.
It doesn’t happen right away. But it can.
It can take a lifetime. And it will.
That hole, that nothing, that emptiness, that sadness, that isolation, that wanting to quelch the pain so badly that you even consider giving up your life. That is distorted thinking.
Look, instead, to Jesus. Look at the Truths He teaches. Look at His Word. Let Him fill that hole. Fall on your knees and cry out to Him to complete you. Ask Him to give you a clear scope through which to SEE. The shine. The true and everlasting shine. It is Jesus. Only Jesus.
Every single day. Talk with Him. Listen to Him. Read His Word. Hang On.
That hole will be filled in. That pain will lessen. You will feel. Joy.
I know Jesus.
I will smile and laugh. And mean it.
Life is worth it. Your life is worth it. You were created by The God who chose to die for you. He promises.
Look it up.
The Music Box Ballerina / Beautifully Broken”
I didn’t want to tell my friend Jennie that the music box ballerina she had bought for me and had sent to my house, was broken. I didn’t want to tell her the dancer didn’t spin to the soothing music it played, or that the mirror had a tiny crack in it, or that the ballerina’s right arm was sliced and barely hanging on.
Should I even tell Jennie? Would it hurt her feelings? Would it make her feel bad? Would I look unappreciative? Would she judge me? Here I go again...so worried about what everyone else thinks of me.
Truth is, I actually preferred the hanging ballerina the way she was. Like me, she was beautifully broken. I’ve felt like her many times in my life, spinning in perfectly poised circles over and over again, dizzily performing to the only song I had ever known.
Play it safe, Melinda. Don’t fall. Chin up. Keep spinning.
My thoughts won’t leave me alone.
Stopping will only expose you.
They can’t handle the real you.
People can’t carry the weight of your baggage.
Rejection. Pain. Judgement.
You can’t carry that either.
The song didn’t play long enough for the audience to see who I really was. Before the song had even ended, before falling from exhaustion and exposing my weaknesses, I firmly pressed myself back down into my dark, cold, box where I lay motionless - still in a perfect fourth position, ready to perform a crowd-pleasing pirouette when I was needed on stage again. I was so worried I would fall in front of people. I was so worried they’d see my imperfections. My inner child still begged for healing. I found safety and protection within the walls of my music box. I trusted its silence more than the chaos outside of it. No one could touch me in there. No one could hurt me. No one could see the real me - the one who cried alone in the dark.
How many of us stare into broken mirrors longing for perfection? How many of us hide our cuts and scars so people don’t ask the deep, hard questions about our lives? How many of us feel like we have to perform for people and always look like we ‘have it together?’ It’s exhausting.
Exposing my true identity became both my greatest fear and deepest desire. I had so many questions:
Who was I? More importantly, who was I in Christ?
Who is God? Was he different from who I believed he was - someone constantly angry at me for being a failure? What if...what if he LOVED me?
What if he opened the lid to my box, pulled the rod from my back and asked me to dance to a different song? What if he fixed my voice box and allowed me to speak his truth?
What if he loved me for exactly who I was - a beautifully broken mess?
What would we see if all stopped spinning? Could we focus on the One who goes before us? Could we pull the rods of perfection from our backs and say no to society’s expectations of us? Could we finally see ourselves the way God sees us? Could we unravel and bandage our bleeding toes and finally find rest in the arms of Him who truly knows our heart's desires?
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
Bio: Melinda Melo and her husband, Mike, have attended Summerside since 2017. They have two children biologically, and a soon-to-be son, whose adoption is planned to be completed by the end of this year. Melinda was raised in the foster care system and shares the passion of fostering children with her family. She loves the art of writing and is currently working on a memoir with the hopes of publishing it one day.
Among the many things I have been covering with my kids this year, as we embark on a new journey of homeschooling (another topic for another day), is the concept of “opposites”. You know: hot/ cold; sad/happy; full/empty; big/small…,etc. It’s important for them to know these simple concepts, and they always enjoy being quizzed and seeing how many they know.
This idea of “opposites” hit me the other day as I was re-listening to a recent sermon and then reflecting on a passage that came to mind from the book of John. Here, we see Jesus praying to his father and he says these words in 7:20-23
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
I know that, on first glance, the idea of “opposites” isn’t obvious here, but bear with me. Jesus is praying for his people - and he’s praying for us who will come to believe in him through their message. He knows that he is about to leave his followers and return to his father. He knows that, as they go out to every corner of the earth spreading the good news of his life and death, they will face difficulty and challenges. So, what is on his heart at this momentous occasion? Unity. Plain and simple. That his people would “be one” in Him.
This idea of unity is so vital and heavy on his heart that he focuses in on this as he prays. Why is it so important? It is the evidence of the truth of the message that his followers proclaim. As an unbelieving world encounters Jesus’ disciples, and comes face to face with this message of hope, what will cause them to stop and take notice? What will help to move them in a direction of faith and belief? Our unity. This is where I was struck with the idea of “opposites”. If our unity is a steppingstone to help unbelievers in their acceptance of Christ, would it not be accurate to say that our division would do the complete opposite? Encountering Christians who are constantly at war with one another does not add much credibility to our message, does it?
I am sure you can think of families you have met throughout your life that are dysfunctional. You know the ones I mean - always quarreling, full of family drama. It’s sad, yes, but also off- putting to be around. I would not want to be a part of that type of family and I’m sure you’d echo that sentiment. Such homes are not places of peace and joy that someone would be drawn to. In fact, I am sure if you are like me, you would do your best to limit time around such a family. And yet, we as Christians often wonder why those outside of our church communities are not drawn to Christ or accepting of our message. Could it be that, at least in part, they witness far too much disunity and disharmony within our own walls to actually believe the message we declare? I have to say that I am thankful that at Summerside, although we are not a perfect church, this is not a major issue for us. We experience harmony and a real sense of family here that is often lacking in many other churches. But we can still work on it, right? What areas of our church life could we work harder at in sowing seeds of unity and love? How do we interact on social media? How do we talk about and handle issues that we differ on? Can we disagree with hearts of grace and compassion towards one another? Even in our own homes, as followers of Christ, how do those who interact with us see evidence of unity, even amidst disagreements and conflict? The reality is that no family is immune to disagreement. At some point in our life together, we will face areas that we differ on and on which we hold our own unique perspectives. That is okay. I don’t believe unity means never disagreeing; it’s deeper than that. It’s this idea of “being one” in Christ, united by and in him because of the gospel, regardless of or personal opinions or preferences on secondary issues. Even more so, in today’s world, wherein people have become so divided and at odds with one another, this is even more crucial for those of us who profess to be followers of Christ.
If we want our message to hold sway and have impact with an unbelieving world, we have to continue to work hard at fostering and building unity. The “opposite” of this is contrary to the heart of our King and his desire for us. We cannot afford to live in opposition to his prayer for us - the impact of our mission to make disciples is at stake - and that is too great a cost.
We do this so that “…that the world may believe…”.
Let’s be a family that loves one another despite and through our differences, so that we can continue to be effective for the glory of Christ and his name.
*Heather MacDonald Bio: I’ve been married to Deven for 14 years. We have three kids ages 6, 5 and 2. We have been on staff at Summerside for about 8 years. I was a missionary kid growing up and spent a big chunk of my life in Scotland. I came to Canada at age 20 for bible college and that’s where I met Deven - never looked back 😊 I love music - song writing/singing, lifting heavy weights, and being out in nature with my family.
Read Matthew 24
Abide in Him What a crazy season of life this has been for so many of us. These months have been full of uncertainty, questions, doubts, and fear. We are walking unknown paths and facing emotions many of us have never experienced before. On top of all of this, I have spoken with many who are facing their own kinds of crises on top of COVID- sickness, relationship breakdowns, financial struggles, wayward children. The reality is that life is full of the unexpected. If not today, then at some point in the future, your journey will bring you through a season of pain. You will find yourself desperately crying out to God for help - acutely aware of how little “control” you have over anything. I hate to be the bearer of such disheartening news, but we all know this to be true, whether through our own experience, or that of others. Life is full of twists and turns. One second you are blessed with a full heart, cup overflowing with good things and then, in a mere moment, the fragility of life blindsides you, as the road you are walking descends somewhere you could never have imagined. This has been a reality for me.
Throughout my own life, and even in our early years of marriage, we have walked some very difficult and painful roads. But it was there in that darkness that my own walk with Christ grew in depth and my love for him become so real and full. I miss the deep dependence I had on him to meet my heart’s longings with his unfailing love. I miss the sweet moments, as I listened to a passionate worship song on repeat and spoke to him through my tears,- telling Jesus that he would be enough for me. An unwavering truth settled firmly in my heart in those years that, no matter what was coming around the next bend, he would be there and would not forsake me. I desperately needed Jesus in those times, and I knew it.
I hate to admit this, but it’s true - in seasons of peace and rest, when I am soaking up the blessings of God, I often find myself no longer crying out to him in the same way. I, instead, become content and comfortable - which are not bad emotions in themselves, but so meaningless without a grateful heart and a continued dependence upon God.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a sadist. I am INCREDIBLY thankful for where God has brought me, and for this beautiful period of life I find myself in right now (yes, even with COVID). Still, I find myself feeling somewhat dry spiritually, no longer as aware of my need for Jesus, and wondering why it takes such pain and sorrow to really drive me to Jesus. Perhaps you understand this feeling? I don’t want to have to endure suffering in order to know God’s presence in that deep and real way, but I DO want to need him with that same intensity. So, the question becomes, “How do I soften my heart today and wake myself up to just how much I need him, even still?”. I want the truth of the gospel, in all its redeeming fullness, to cover even these sweet and peace-full days.
I know this is a familiar passage to many of us, but as I read it the other day, it was a wonderful reminder to me of the fact that we depend on Jesus for all things and in every moment of our life. These verses are found in John chapter 15:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Abiding in Jesus sounds like such a tender place to be. To “abide” means to rest, trust in, and depend on Jesus. Now, as Christians, of course we would say that we do those things but, day to day, we are often just relying and depending upon ourselves. When life is a struggle, and we feel overwhelmed with even the next step before us, we know how much we need to “abide” in him. In those times, we are acutely aware of the fact that we can do NOTHING. We have no control, we can’t “fix” the problem, we can’t control the outcome, we are utterly helpless. In times of difficulty, we are quick to call out to Jesus to help us and we work hard to push ourselves to abide in his love daily. Yet, this need to abide is a reality even when we feel like we have nothing to worry about and the path is smooth and gentle under our feet. Even when we are in seasons of rest and ease, the need to “abide in him” is constant. Each breath is his gift, and we can do NOTHING of eternal value without his sovereign and loving hand enabling and empowering us.
As Christians, we do not want to merely coast through the day making “good enough” choices. We want to “bear fruit” that will last. When my children need me for the hundredth time, and I have to respond with patience AGAIN, it is Jesus who I can cry out to for the ability to do this rather than responding with an impatient and irritated edge. When my spouse (yes, even Deven) responds insensitively to me, and I want to retaliate and prove him wrong, it is Jesus whom I can plead with to help me show grace to Deven when I’d rather tell him what I really think. When I have a day full of blessing, laughter with friends, time to myself, and energy to spare, it is Jesus who has given these gifts and, without him, I would have none of it. I can fall asleep with simply a contented sigh or I can take a second and cry out in thanks to him for every good gift he has given that day. We can take the simple and often-overlooked moments of our lives and turn them into opportunities to give him glory and declare our utter reliance on him. Our love for Jesus grows as we develop thankful and dependent hearts and stop to recognize our need for him in all things.
The truth is that we have nothing good and can do nothing good without abiding in Christ. John 15:8 says that “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
The ultimate goal as a disciple of Christ, as we choose to abide in him, is that God would be glorified (made much of). It is this truth that we must settle in our hearts, no matter where we find ourselves today. We NEED Jesus - for without him, we can do nothing and bear no fruit that brings him glory.
Let’s declare together today the words of this familiar song:
“Lord I need you, oh I need you. Every hour, I need you. My one defense, my righteousness. Oh God, how I need you”
Heather MacDonald Bio: I’ve been married to Deven for 14 years. We have three kids ages 6, 5 and 2. We have been on staff at Summerside for about 8 years. I was a missionary kid growing up and spent a big chunk of my life in Scotland. I came to Canada at age 20 for bible college and that’s where I met Deven - never looked back 😊 I love music - song writing/singing, lifting heavy weights, and being out in nature with my family.
Read Matthew 24
Soon after COVID-19 caused the closure of borders and schools, I received a phone call from a friend asking me if I thought the virus was a sign of the end times. Not too long before that phone call, my grandmother celebrated her 96th birthday, and it got me to thinking: how would she answer that question? She grew up during the Great Depression and left home at fourteen. She served in the Canadian navy and watched a husband go to war twice. She's lived through the threat of nuclear weapons and ozone depletion, through Y2K, and asteroid near misses. How many times in her nearly one hundred years have Christians asked, "Is this the beginning of the end?" And so I answered my friend on the phone and said, "It doesn't matter. The end is not yet."
In Jerusalem, just before his crucifixion, Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple and His disciples asked:
Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age? (Matt 24:3)
The disciples wanted to know when the end would come. Jesus gives a long reply and never answers their question. The heart of his response is this:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. (Matt 24:6)
Jesus warns the disciples of hard times coming, of tribulation and persecution, of famines and natural disasters. He warns them so they understand the path to His return isn't easy, and they shouldn't lose faith when things look bleak. The end is not yet.
We are in the end times and have been for centuries now. God's ultimate plan for salvation ended with the cross and Jesus' resurrection. He could return tomorrow or a thousand years from now. So what are we to do without knowing when the end will come? Jesus answers that as well:
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. (Matt 24:44-46)
Jesus doesn't tell us when He will return, but He tells us what to do while we wait. We are servants with a task, the task of spreading the Gospel through word and deed. Whatever happens tomorrow, whether a new war or disease, another natural disaster or a man-made one, as long as the day dawns, we should rejoice because people are hearing the Gospel and souls are being saved. The Kingdom of Heaven grows because the end is not yet.
Mark DeVries Bio: Mark, his wife Kristin, and their two children have been attending Summerside for six years. Born and raised in London, Ontario, Mark became a Christian at 19 through reading the Bible while attending university. He loves reading, running, and camping.
Would you like your marriage to be strong? Would you like your relationship with your kids to be strong? Would you like your finances to be strong? Those are a few examples, but if you would like anything to gain strength in your life, read on and see what the Bible says about this.
Let us take the CN Tower in Toronto as an example; this building stands 553m tall and the foundation of the building goes 335m deep underground. One thing I realized is that none of the CN Tower glory would be possible without the importance and priority of the foundation. The foundation is almost the same size as the tower itself.
Mathew 7:24(NIV) says these words:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash.”
In this parable, we are to assume that the houses were of the same size and value because the focus was not on the house itself but on the foundations that they were built on. What mattered most was not the grand structure or how expensive the house was, the greatest value was the foundation.
This is about the universal values that God has set vs. the personal desires that we seek. For example, some people want to jump into marriage so quickly and have not set a solid foundation in their own life. There are people that want wealth and have not rooted themselves into being like Jesus. There are people who strive for success, and the way they measure it is by what they gain and what was achieved by their work.
But this passage tells me the measurement of our success is calculated by our foundation. I can only imagine the feeling the wise man had in seeing the man beside him building a house, a beautiful house, that is tall and big while he was still digging into the ground. It would have been discouraging at times to see that there was progress with his neighbor while he was still digging, trying to find that bedrock to build on.
So, let us bring the CN Tower back into the picture again. They wanted that building to be the tallest and the way they accomplished that was to dig down the same distance as they wanted the tower to stand high. I think that is a good example for our lives. Instead of building up, we need to start laying our foundations down. Start building these foundations in our marriage so that our marriage can stand on rock, building our finances on solid rock and not just building up. Our health starts from building the foundations for it.
So, what is our foundation? What are we to build on? 1 Corinthians 3:11 has that answer for us. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
You want your marriage to be strong? Build it on Jesus
You want your relationship with your kids to be strong? Build it on Jesus
You want your finances to stop stressing you out? Build it on Jesus
Some practical ways of doing this are:
- to read the bible daily with your spouse
- to eat at the dinner table with the whole family and discuss how God was present in that current day
- to do personal devotions each day
- to be generous and to give to the ones in need without forgetting to tithe
- use time wisely - instead of binge-watching a show, watch one episode and then do something productive
- study the word; be a continuous student of the scriptures.
And the list goes on.
This all comes down to practicing. We can think all this sounds great, but if we do not practice what we hear, we become the foolish builder.
Be encouraged Summerside family! I love that we can be one family as we grow in Jesus. I love you all 😊
Max Zurawski Bio: I'm married to Victoria Zurawski. We have two daughters ages 5 and 3. I have been going to Summerside for approx. 3 years now and love every moment of it. Previously, I was a youth pastor for a while and started serving the church since I was in my late teens. Some fun facts about me are: I am older than I look; my favorite color combo is orange on black; my favorite food changes every week but, as of this week, it is sushi; and the big debate about wearing socks with sandals - I say go for it because comfort is my best friend 🙂
Maybe it’s a season in my life – but I am just tired, so tired – and so weak! Sometimes I’m too tired to see the joy or too weak to even try. I know it’s there – but maybe I’m just too tired to open my eyes and SEE. I have seen beautiful things happen, seemingly impossible things, for the Glory of God. I know that he is far greater than my fatigue and my weaknesses. I know that his strength is made perfect in my weakness. Maybe I’m allowing my weaknesses more control over my mind and body – maybe that’s why I’m tired. But there are just so many. Sometimes, it’s just too much! I want to be beautiful in Christ – to live a life that mirrors the joy that I should feel. I want to give my weaknesses to the One through whom I am made perfect – I know that even a drop of his blood can cover all of my weaknesses! I desire that and I want to claim that!
My Jesus proved that on the cross – and that’s where I want to lay them! How do I get real – real life, real thoughts, real perspective, real energy? I struggle with so much: envy, jealously, worry, fear, lack of confidence, aches & pains, bitterness, impatience, hurt.
Philippians 4:4 tells us to ‘’Rejoice in the lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
It isn’t circumstance or things or people or vacations or good days or bad days or compliments or feelings that matter or define or engage or renew– it is the Lord! REJOICE IN HIM ALWAYS! It even needed to be said a second time – REJOICE!
He is the same no matter what – whether I feel happy or sad or whether I’m having a good day or not – it just doesn’t matter. I just need to remember to REJOICE IN THE LORD. I can rejoice whether I’m tired or full of energy because I am rejoicing in the One who created me, who loves me, and through his Son, saved me. He knows me and he loves me. As I am.
Just the very act of choosing to rejoice brings body, mind, and spirit into the One – Jesus - whose Peace, Joy, and Love will sustain.
Liz Fildey Bio: I have been the church Administrative Assistant for the last, almost, 14 years. My husband, Rick, and I have two adult sons, Dexter (and his wife, Emily, and our grandson Silas) and Isaac. We have been attending Summerside for over 23 years and can honestly say that we have the best church family at here at Summerside!
There is a story I like to tell myself about how life is supposed to turn out. Where everything is good and fun, and the world is normal. This is a place where I can veto anything bad from happening and feel very certain about how things will turn out. This is a place I want to live in, not just vacation there. Let’s face it, this year has shown that life doesn’t work that way.
The year started like the dream for me, I was married at the end of December and was still on my honeymoon when January 2020 began. We were excited about the future and what it would contain. Then COVID-19 hit Canada and the uncertainty of what life would look like started creeping in. There were questions about whether my business would be able to hold on till we could reopen, and questions from my employees about how it was going to affect them. Then, during the middle of the worst of the social isolation, I received a call from a hematologist telling me that I had been moved up the waitlist and I could have a phone consultation. I didn’t even know my doctor had referred me to a specialist and now I was dealing with the possibility of leukemia. It felt like my world was falling apart.
Where could I go? Church was inaccessible, and friends and family were only online or through a phone call. Even though I have a loving and supportive husband, it felt like there was not anywhere for us to turn and the world was crumbling. I wanted to cry but even that felt difficult because I needed to be strong for those around me and there really wasn’t a good place to do it as my house felt too crowded.
As I was sitting in my chair in the corner of my room, I opened my Bible and it landed on Psalms 23. I was surprised when that was where it opened to as I thought God would show me some new verse that I hadn’t already learned to guide me through this darkness. Then I read the powerful but short psalm again.
Psalm 23 NIV
A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The first word that struck me was “my”. God is mine not some impersonal being that just sits up in the heavens and looks down from afar. He is here, He is personal, He is mine. Then the verses go straight into my problem area, wanting to have control over my own life and the outcomes. But that isn’t what this passage says. It says He makes me, He leads me, He restores my soul. Then it struck me, I have been trying to take over God’s role!
I learned a few things about sheep through studying this and sheep aren’t able to do much of anything for themselves. They can’t even bathe themselves and need to be completely taken care of by their shepherd. Since God doesn’t make mistakes, utilizing this analogy must be very important. God didn’t make me capable of controlling events, pandemics, the future, or my own health. What he did make me capable of is following His lead no matter how life turns out. But He doesn’t just leave me there in my pain and worries, He promises that He will restore (another version uses refresh) my soul.
Refreshes and restores - what beautiful words. They both bring hope and light to me as it suggests a place that is relaxing, peaceful, where I can be renewed. In the midst of a society which totes self-care as a personal responsibility, the truth is that restoring myself is not part of my job description from God, it is part of His role. Even having that responsibility removed brings a lightness and joy as God can do a much better job at it than I can.
The passage continues to talk about the bad stuff that comes in life. The promises keep coming as I do not have to fear the evil that comes because God will protect, bless, and has even reserved a place in His house for me. This psalmist reminds me that God has everything under His control. The only thing I am responsible for is to follow Him, through the pains and the joys of this world. When I allow Him to take control of my life, peace and hope are renewed.
Even though my health issues resolved, the uncertainties in life will continue. As I write this, I just found out that my brother-in-law’s parents have COVID. But, the difference is now I’m learning to tell myself a new story, one that doesn’t create a world where I plan for a certain future and bad things don’t happen; but, rather one where I trust that God is in control and He will take care of me. I hope you will take a moment to read Psalm 23 for yourself to see where God is leading you.
Trish Pauls Bio: Trish moved to London two years ago and started attending Summerside Community Church with her finance, John, who she married last December. Previously, she lived all over Canada and the US - as far north as Nunavut and as far south as Texas, as far west as British Columbia and as far east as Nova Scotia and places in between. Trish is a small business owner and enjoys learning people’s stories. She is passionate about actively seek the will of God and enjoys volunteering in the community.
Do you ever feel like you just don't measure up? Have you recently read Proverbs 31 and feel like anyone else would be a better wife or mother? I know that all of us are never going to reach our full potential this side of heaven. Maybe you feel like you are not even wired right for this calling. I struggled for so many years with this type of bondage. This stereotype that Christian women are supposed to be soft spoken, pioneer women, who never loose their cool and have a verse at the ready in every situation.
If you know me, then you know I am not soft spoken. I am loud, boisterous, and like to take control. I feel like I constantly say the wrong thing and am a hot mess. I do not get up and make my family breakfast most days, and some days Mark does not even get a lunch for work. So how can I possibly be a Proverbs 31 woman? Did God make a mistake? Did he forget to turn the volume down when he made my voice and laugh? I struggle with having energy to run a household and business, so how can I burn the midnight oil to do more?
I want you to skip down to verse 30. It says, “charm is deceptive, and beauty is deceptive; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised”. Wait....what? All the attributes listed above this verse are great qualities, but without the fear of the Lord it is all nothing. These verses are not a checklist you have to achieve to measure up to God’s standard. We will never measure up, that is why He had to send Jesus. What He really wants is for us to love Him in everything we do. This may mean sewing our own clothes or having a garden to feed our family. Or it may mean running a business or staying home with kids.
We are not all called to the same life. God has made us all unique to fill a certain role in His kingdom. All of this is basically summed up in Romans 12:4-6 “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”
I wish it didn't take me so long to realize what God has called me to do isn't less, it's just different. I love to meet new people; I actually get a huge high from it. This is why I am at the front door of the church on a Sunday morning with my name badge on. I am also really task oriented and like to take the bull by the horns and get things done. God gave me leadership qualities (or as some of you call it, bossiness) to help plan events. I love to organize volleyball, games nights, or whatever other ideas the women’s ministry team comes up with.
What unique gifts did God give you? They may not be the same gifts as everyone else, but God has a special purpose for you. He does not make mistakes.
Family Facts - Sherry is married to Mark Nasvadi, assistant treasurer here at Summerside and they have been attending here for 10 years. They own and manage Deveau Accounting and Income Tax in Dorchester, where they live with their 2 boys. Sherry spends most nights at the arena either watching hockey or playing volleyball.
I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.
I am inviting you to be grateful - to be thankful.
Wait. Thankful? During a pandemic? In a time filled with financial uncertainty? With the stress of social isolation and physical distancing? With so much unknown about our future?
As a church, our emphasis from June 1-14 is going to be gratitude and thankfulness. I want to invite you to be grateful, to reflect on God’s goodness in your life, and to take some concrete steps to help you think carefully about just how much you have for which to be grateful. With this in mind, we have created ‘The Gratitude Project’ which you will find in this packet. It includes some fun and engaging projects and challenges for you and your family centered around gratitude.
In the letter to the Colossians, The Apostle Paul writes,
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Over and over, the bible commands believers to be grateful. Why is this? Why, of all of the emotions and feelings we encounter, is thankfulness so important? What makes thankfulness so central to the Christian life? Because it disrupts our natural, self-focused perspective on life. It’s human nature to compare, to covet, to look at what others have and imagine that, somehow, we’re missing out. The practice of gratitude reminds us, shifts us, stirs us, to turn away from what we’re missing out on, and enjoy that which we have.
Regardless of how much you want to complain, or how dark your life looks right now, if you started making a list of all that you can be thankful for, I bet you’d be amazed. Day by day, in small ways and in big ways, we have much to be grateful for. So, for each day from June 1-14, use your Gratitude Journal to write down one thing for which you are grateful.
But what about the exception? What if your life feels like it’s just crumbling? What if you feel no hope and your dreams are being crushed? What if you’re like Job in the bible and everything that could go wrong is wrong? Can you still be grateful? Can you still be obedient to God’s command?
This is the great hope of the gospel. No matter what we walk through, what pain, hardship, health struggle, depression, fear, or dark valley through which we wade, one reality is settled. One reality remains uncompromisingly true, real, and enough to make your heart sing for all eternity.
That reality is this: Jesus Christ loves you and gave himself for you (Galatians 2:20).
Even when your life is crumbling, you can be thankful because you have received affection, attention, and mercy from the King of Kings.
Even when you feel like everyone else is getting ahead and you are stuck, you can be thankful because Jesus is working to prepare a future for you that is greater than anything you can imagine. So be grateful.
When your body fails, you can still be thankful. Jesus will resurrect you and give you new life. It won’t always be this way.
When your mental health is failing, you can still be thankful. Jesus’ love, care, and hold on you are not determined by your present state, but by his faithfulness. It won’t always be this way.
When your finances are being rocked, be thankful. Jesus is rich and you’re a co-heir with him. You have an inheritance waiting for you in heaven. You won’t always be poor!
I could go on and on. Why? Because there is no end to the good, incredible, and eternally-wonderful reality that Jesus has for those who trust him.
Join us in exercising gratitude this coming month.
This fall, we launched a new vision and mission: Summerside Exists to Develop Everyday Disciples who make Disciples Every Day. This means that the emphasis and priority is placed on developing our people, seeing them equipped, and then seeing them use their gifts to serve God however he leads. We’re here with the purpose of investing in and partnering with you as you follow Christ.
To help our people grow, we’ve launched some new ministries (rebranding Connections 1 to SummersideEXPLORE; Establishing SummersideFOUNDATIONS) and have some exciting plans for the New Year. This Sunday, I will be revealing an exciting initiative for 2020 that will help our people, extend our reach, and increase our impact. Come Sunday and look out for an email from the church office.
As we look into our bright future, we recognize the need to end 2019 in a healthy financial place. We want to end the year “making budget”. Now, I know – making budget doesn’t sound that exciting, but it is. Why? Because our budget represents our ministry top to bottom.
Staff that lead, train, and care; ministries (kids, youth, seniors, men’s and women’s); resources (books, handouts); building costs and maintenance – all of this costs money. More importantly, giving is a spiritual discipline and part of what it means to be an Everyday Disciple. This is an area in which we want to see you grow and develop.
Presently, we require $81,000 in the month of December to continue our ministry and be ready for 2020. This is around $25,000 above what we need in any one month. Would you consider giving above your regular offering to ensure we end 2019 in a healthy place?
If you call Summerside home, join with us in prayer for our finances, for our Christmas season outreach, and for our continued growth and dependence on God.
You can give via:
- Sunday offering
- Website: https://www.summersidechurch.ca/giving/
- NEW: Send an E-Transfer to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tithely App
For Christ our King,
What’s Not In Our New Mission and Vision?
I’ve had a few people ask, so I thought I’d write and address what is not in our mission statement. No mission statement can cover everything. A mission statement in a church is usually just a catchy way for a group of people to clarify their language and keep focused on the Great Commission.
Our new mission is pretty simple:
We are Everyday Disciples who make Disciples Every Day
Our Values, likewise, are pretty straight forward:
- We are Disciple Makers
- We are a Family
- We are Great Neighbours
- We are Bold In Christ
Now, I get it. There’s lots that’s not here. What’s not included? Well, let me offer a few things that aren’t included:
- The importance of global missions
- The authority of God’s Word
- The role of prayer
- The significance of worship
Could those have been included? Well yes, sure. But really, there is no end to what we could have included. For example, isn’t it true that all Biblical churches would be committed to, not only the above, but also
o The sanctity of life
o The importance of giving to your local church
o The essential role the Holy Spirit plays in the church
o The biological distinctions of men and women
o A proper and biblical understanding of marriage
You get my point? There are literally 1000 items that could have been included. So, just because something that you are passionate about wasn’t mentioned by name, it doesn’t mean it’s not important.
You see, it’s all about how you understand the word “Disciple”. As I explained on the infographic (and as we’ll be studying this over the next number of months through our sermon series), a Disciple is someone who follows Christ and submits to him in all things.
A Disciple, then, is someone who is:
o Passionate about missions
o Submits to the authority of God’s Word
o Is active in prayer
o Passionate about worship
o Works in whatever ways they are able, to protect life
o Gives to their local church
o Understands and relies on the Spirit of God
You get my drift?
Everything hinges on how you understand the word “Disciple”. If a Disciple is just a word that we take and twist however we want, then it has no particular meaning and we would need a bunch of qualifiers and deeper explanations about all of these extra areas.
If, however, we look at Jesus’ words about what it means to be a Disciple, we’ll see that all of life – every inch of our existence – is to be submitted to him. So, rather than making our mission statement hundreds of pages long and including everything, we kept it simple because, really, there is no end to what Jesus requires of us.
Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 14:25-26 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.”
So, what kind of people are we looking to develop? Disciples! Those who love Jesus and love their neighbour enough to share the gospel with them. If you’re still wondering, check out the HEAD/HEART/HANDS section on the infographic. That may help.
All we do, we do in submission to the Risen Lord. He is our Great High Priest; our Good Shepherd; our King and Rescuer. Disciples submit to and follow their teacher. I’m excited about doing that together.
For Christ our King,
Pastor Deven K MacDonald
I think we need to rethink our language.
What comes to mind when you think of the word, “volunteer”? Maybe it’s someone who helps out here and there or something that you begrudgingly commit to do for a brief period? Maybe it’s an obligation that, if you’re honest, you’re not too thrilled about?
In a church, there’s a bit of a problem with using the word “volunteer”. It’s not that it’s a bad word, or without its usefulness, but I think it’s too small of a word. I think we need to rethink our language.
If I volunteer for something, it’s really something of which, in the end, I can opt out. It’s too often something that I feel guilted into. Something I’m not really excited about.
On Tuesday, June 25, we’re having our first ever Gratitude Gala (if you serve – sign up!). But it’s not really designed to thank our volunteers, per se. It’s designed to recognized and thank you – those who serve, give, and minister alongside of us. We want to celebrate the work God is doing through you and in you.
A church is not a group of staff and pastors who are helped by volunteers. It’s a family that serves as God leads. This is a big difference. At Summerside, do you see yourself as a volunteer or as a ministry partner? Do you see yourself as someone who begrudgingly helps out here and there, or as someone who is called to use your gifts to point people to Jesus?
So, what do I propose? Well, I won’t jump on you and correct you if you use the word “volunteer” – and I can’t promise I won’t ever slip up and use the word myself. But I think it’s more helpful to understand the work you do here as a calling, as a sacred honor, or as joy-filled partnership for the sake of the gospel.
God has you here for a reason. The bible teaches that God is the one who builds and unites a church as a family. Each family is given specific, spiritual gifts to help it glorify God and do the work he has commanded (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Peter 4:10). Each church is called together (the Greek word for church – ekklesia¬ means exactly that – “the called ones,” “the gathered” – the congregation). A beautiful metaphor the bible uses for the church is the human body, wherein head (Christ) leads all the parts to work for his glory (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:24-27)
As we celebrate you, I invite you. I invite you to reconsider your heart, posture, and thinking about your role here. Let me encourage you - you’re not just a volunteer, helping how you can. You are a called people, a gifted people, and co-laborers with me in the gospel. God has you here on purpose. Our church is better off with you serving, loving, and leading how God designed.
You’re not just a volunteer, you’re a partner. You have a calling. You’re a part of the body, here for a reason. You’re an integral part of the mission God is working out here. You’re not merely a volunteer – you’re a servant.
It’s time to rethink our language.
Where do you turn when you hit a wall? When you’re tired, frustrated, angry, lonely - where do you look for comfort? Whether it’s binging on Netflix or online shopping, turning to alcohol or porn, abusing food or pills, there is never a shortage of places to turn for some semblance of peace and rest.
For those who are followers of Christ, there is a greater and more glorious place to turn - to God himself. Look at how the Psalmist puts it:
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
Here, Asaph, the writer of twelve Psalms, explains that in his pain and struggle, and through his distress and hardship, he refused to be comforted by anything less than God himself. He refuses comfort – the soul-numbing escape that we crave and waits for God alone. Here’s the point – to find true rest, nothing less than God will do.
Throughout the rest of the Psalm, Asaph points his heart (and us) to God in worship.
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Nothing less than a holy, great, miracle-working, worship-receiving, powerful, mighty, redeeming God can satisfy our souls and give us the comfort and rest we so desire.
So, think with me. When you hit the wall, when you are like the Psalmist and in distress, where do you turn for comfort? Nothing less than God will do! Don’t go elsewhere. Don’t give yourself to lesser things – God has made himself present to us through his Son, Jesus. Jesus purchased our redemption through his death so that we could enjoy him, know him, and find comfort in him. He invites the tired, the weak to “come to [him], all that are weary and in need of rest … and you will find rest for your soul.” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Nothing less than God will do. So, find comfort in nothing less than God.
Hey, Summerside. We are engaging in a month-long emphasis on prayer until May 8. Our focus is Renewing our Dependence on God.
How You Can Be Involved:
- Use the suggestions in the worship guide to help guide your personal prayer time every day
- Choose to fast for 24hrs. from Tuesday after supper to Wednesday supper. If that time doesn’t work for you, choose another day during the week. (Check your mailbox/website for more info)
- Join others at the front of the auditorium 10 minutes before the service to pray for the service
- Arrive 5 minutes early to spend time in prayer on your own before the service begins
Wednesday Prayer Meetings
- Participate in one (or both) of the prayer meetings planned for Wednesdays at church
Here is the Focus for Each Week:
- April 10: Prayer for our Individual Lives - Asking God to change us
- April 17: Prayer for our Leaders - Asking God for wisdom and discernment
- April 24: Prayer for our Church - Asking God to empower our ministry
- May 1: Prayer for our City - Asking God to move in our city & churches
- May 8: Prayer for our Missionaries - Asking God to change our world
Today, we want to inform you of an exciting new resource we want to use as a church. We are putting before you a Spiritual Formation Assessment that is designed to help measure the spiritual health of our church. Beyond basic demographic questions, this survey investigates our walk with the Lord. It asks questions about how we view our relationships with others both in the church and outside the church. It will also help us assess how we view the spiritual gifts the Lord has given us. As leaders, we believe a survey like this will help us as we begin to plan and think about the future of our church. There are two requests we have of you.
First, please take the survey. Our goal is to have as many people as possible take this assessment. There are two ways in which you can do this. You can take the survey online by following the link that was in our e-newsletter of March 29. If you prefer a paper copy, some are available in the foyer on the desk by the main auditorium doors. Please return your completed paper survey to the basket provided. In case you are wondering, the survey should take less than ten minutes to complete. We desire to collect all the surveys by April 14, 2019.
Second, please be honest. This survey is anonymous for a reason; you can be completely transparent. We are not looking for what you think we want your answers to be. We are not even looking for what you hope your answers would be. We want your answers to reflect your life as it is today.
With your honest feedback, we will be able to get a more accurate pulse on the spiritual health of our church. Of course, a survey like this is not perfect; but it should give us a baseline that will catapult our thinking for future ministry.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this survey.
Everything for Christ!
Summerside Community Church Elders
Whatever you’re walking through right now - whatever hardship, pain, or struggle you’re facing, it’s not eternal – it’s momentary.
Think about that.
The depression that keeps you down? It’s not eternal.
The infertility that haunts you? The pain is not eternal.
The boss that makes your life difficult? That’s not eternal.
The cancer? The back problems? The financial instability? The broken relationships? None of these will be with you 1000 years from now. All this pain is actually momentary. And this is good news!
In Isaiah chapter 65, the writer points us to the day when Jesus returns and makes all things new (65:17-25). Later, at the closing of the New Testament, the Apostle John presents a more complete vision of what we can expect when the curse of the fall is reversed; when Satan is fully, finally, and completely defeated; when pain, evil, and sin are done away with (Revelation 21).
What God has instore for his children in the New Heavens and New Earth is greater than we could ever dream. Not only will we see and know God in a more profound and complete way, but we’ll also be free from the pain of this life.
If you’re a follower of Christ, seal this truth into your heart. We know God is with us in our struggles, we know that he is faithful to the end, but we can also rejoice in knowing that our struggles are not eternal, that someday we’ll find rest from all that plagues us. God’s not going to allow pain and struggle to rule forever. Through Jesus, he is recreating the world to the way it was meant to be.
Paul offers this encouragement to help us shift our perspective:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
We can suffer well because we know that our troubles are not going to last. They are momentary.
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Every Sunday, I sit in the front row of our auditorium. The reason I do this is so that I can hear you sing to Jesus. I’m moved deeply when I hear God’s people singing out about the beauty and glory of Jesus and all that he’s done. As much as I enjoy hearing you sing, I know I’m the not the target audience!
Our worship on Sunday is not primarily singing songs about God, it’s singing songs to God. Think about that. There is a difference between the two. Of course, part of what we do is to sing about God. Our songs are designed to teach, instruct, and encourage one another in the truth of the Bible. But, primarily, God, alone, is the audience and the one to whom we sing. It’s to him that we praise, that we lift up, and that we sing.
Think about it this way: Can you imagine if Jesus appeared before you when you were sitting down to pray or read your bible? How do you think you would you respond? If you are his follower, forgiven and made new, you’d likely want to fall down and worship. So, apply that to our worship music. Jesus is present when we worship. He hears our words, knows our hearts, and welcomes us to sing to him.
Therefore, let’s apply this. If our singing is directed to God, then who cares what other people think of you when you worship. The focus is not your vocal abilities, your physical expressions (lifting hands, closing eyes, dancing in joy), whether you’re sitting, standing, or kneeling in prayer – the focus is God himself.
My hope is that, every Sunday when we gather, God is pleased with our praise. My prayer is that we come together and sing to God proclaiming his great power, beauty, and majesty. My desire for us as a family is that we don’t just sing about God, but sing to him as we reflect on all that he’s done.
I can’t count the number of times around my house that I hear the words, “Dad, look at this!” I hear this, or some variation, over and over. Think about it, what is it that my kids are asking me? It’s more than just, “Dad, do you notice what I’ve done”. It’s a question about visibility, about meaning, and about value. In essence, I’m being asked, “Dad, do you see me?”. And, more than just sight, it’s a longing to not just be seen, but to be validated.
We’ve all been in places where we’ve been ignored, marginalized, or simply gone unnoticed. It doesn’t take us long to figure out when a conversation partner isn’t really that into the dialogue. Often, they look around, look elsewhere, or just fail to make eye contact. More likely than not, this kind of hurts.
The act of being seen, of being truly noticed, is a basic human reality. Throughout history, parents have given their children their names to carry. Warriors have fought for prestige – for renown. Builders and architects erected structure that outlast even their memory. Writers and poets put their ink to paper, painters paint, seeking to immortalize, not only their work, bu, often their names, for the generations that come.
We want to be seen. We dread being forgotten. Perhaps one of the worst emotions a person can experience is abject loneliness. To feel unseen and forgotten. This is painfully obvious for us today in the digital age, but it’s also true of the Ancients who lived long ago.
Genesis 15-17 records the account of Abram (better known as Abraham) and Sarai (better known as Sarah) and their futile attempts at fulfilling the promise God had given them. The gracious Lord made an oath to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son; and that, through that son, the world would be blessed, the family tree would grow immensely, and that a significant area of land was going to be gifted to Abraham’s descendants. But, the problem was, Abraham and Sarah were old. Real old. Rather than walking by faith and trusting God’s Word, they came up with a “solution”.
Sarah had a handmaid, a servant, named Hagar. Sarah asked Abraham if he’d like to try having a son through Hagar. Abraham, apparently from what we read, didn’t have to think very long before taking his wife up on this offer.
Hagar became pregnant. The “solution” worked. But, like all folly, eventually the consequences came to bear. Sarah becomes increasingly antagonistic and harsh with Hagar. Eventually, Hagar is dealt with so harshly that she runs away (Gen 16:1-6).
Eventually, after fleeing into the desert, Hagar collapsed by a stream. She was pregnant and alone in a brutal world. Her future, and that of the baby’s, are grim. She is alone, unseen, and unnoticed.
But there is One who sees.
God sent an angel. The angel of the Lord explains that God is going to protect her and the baby. The angel promises that her son will become a great nation “too numerous to count”. After Hagar is told by the angel to return to Sarah, she proclaims a beautiful truth that still resonates with our hearts today:
“You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Hagar, through her suffering and pain, came to this incredible realization: She wasn’t alone. She wasn’tunseen. She wasn’t invisible. There is one who sees – the Lord. When no one else was there, when she had all but lost hope, there was one who did see her. His name is the Lord.
This same Lord - revealed in Jesus in the New Testament - continues to see. We are his sheep and he is the Good Shepherd. Jesus explains to his friends and followers that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep and that he calls to them by name. This Good Shepherd looks out at his flock and notices if even one of out a hundred has gone away. This Good Shepherd seeks out the one lost sheep and brings it home. The Good Shepherd continues to see.
Wherever you’re at right now – struggling with loneliness, looking for meaning, searching for validation, there is one who sees you, knows you, and (amazingly) still loves you.
There is one who sees. He sees you now.