February 18 – Loving our Community

We’ve looked at how to love and care for our brothers and sisters in the church. What about caring for our community outside of the church? How do we do that?

Some people, like me, are called to move to a foreign country and care for the people there. Many people are called to care for those in their home country, those in their own towns and cities, those who are neighbours and acquaintances.

Scripture is descriptive and straightforward with instruction of how to care for those around us. It is illustrated well in Matthew 25:31-46 (NLT),

But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g]42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

How are we to care for our communities? Give generously. Give food to the hungry, clothe the naked, be hospitable, visit the sick and those imprisoned. Scripture also talks about caring for the widows and orphans, the injured and the homeless.

Sometimes, when we look at the many needs of those around us, it can be overwhelming and so we do nothing at all. We may think we don’t have enough money or time or resources to help all those who are suffering. We become discouraged and think there is nothing we can do. But that is not true.

We can donate clothes that we no longer wear. We can buy a few extra canned goods at the grocery store to take to the food bank. We can give a sandwich to a homeless person begging on the street. We can volunteer at an after-school program for at risk kids. We can help sort food or clothing at donation centres. We can serve a meal at a soup kitchen. We can drop off a meal at a local shelter. We can buy an extra toy or two at Christmas so a child living in poverty can have Christmas gifts too. We can sponsor a child overseas.

The possibilities of what we can do to love and care for our communities are endless. And we have no idea how God may use our generosity. Perhaps someone we help today will go and help two other people tomorrow. Then those two other people will help four more people the next day. And so on.

Our gifts are never wasted. Our generosity is never wasted. Our effort is never wasted. We may feel that we can do very little, but God can do so much! God can multiply each act of compassion, each act of service, each act of love.

So, I encourage you to do whatever you can to love your community. It can be as simple as offering a smile to someone who is having a bad day. Or instead of going out for lunch again, pack a lunch from home and give the money you would have spent to a food bank. Every little bit matters. Every little bit helps.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
-Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

February 17 – Brothers & Sisters in Christ

We have spent time in one of the most well-known scripture passages in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which tells us what love is and what it is not. Now that we have reminded ourselves of what love is, how do we apply it in our relationships within our church family?

We are told multiple times in scripture that we are to love one another as God has loved us. In fact, Jesus said the second greatest commandment is “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Matthew 22:39 (NLT).

John 13:34-35 (NLT) says:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

What are practical ways to love well within the church? Again, we look to scripture for direction.

Colossians 3:13(NLT) says:

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

We must forgive one another for our transgressions and faults, just as the Lord forgives us. We are all sinners. We all make mistakes. We all have days where our temper is short, where our patience runs out, and where we speak before we think. We have all said or done things that we deeply regret. But Jesus died so that we can be forgiven for our sins. He sacrificed himself so we can be saved. Therefore, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from our brothers and sisters.

Forgiving someone who has hurt or wronged us is difficult. It can take time. It involves reconciliation, and sometimes confrontation, which we tend to shy away from. Most people do not like conflict, so we find it easier to pretend everything is fine. But when we don’t offer forgiveness, it builds bitterness and resentment.

Forgiveness is an opportunity to show God’s love and mercy, a love and mercy that is so incredible! It’s healing, it’s kind, it’s compassionate, and it is a testament to the mighty power of our Lord.

Scripture also commands us to show kindness and tenderness to one another. It tells us not to judge or condemn each other.

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 (NLT)

Do not judge or condemn others. How many of us are guilty of this? I know I am. We are often quick to judge and quick to speak words behind the back of another. People love gossip; they love a scandal; they love to feel superior. But scripture is very clear. We are not to pass judgment on one another. That is only for our Heavenly Father to do.

Scripture tells us to be other-centred, to regard one another as more important than ourselves. We should be humble in our interactions and not selfish. We must not be conceited. We must look out for the needs of others.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)

The Bible is clear about how we are to treat our brothers and sisters. So, how do we apply these instructions in practical ways? How do we care for and love the people in our church?

Let me list some ideas I have for this and I encourage you to write down your own too:

  1. Visiting/Calling elderly members of the church who live alone.
  2. Buying groceries for a family who is struggling financially.
  3. Making food for someone who is sick.
  4. Inviting a new church member over for dinner.
  5. Hosting or leading a Bible study in your home.
  6. Talking to someone who has hurt you; often things are simple misunderstandings.
  7. Welcoming every person who walks into the church, no matter how different they may act or look.
  8. Providing a listening ear to someone who needs to talk.
  9. Giving a hug.
  10. Volunteering to serve.

Many of the above apply to a non-pandemic world when we are going to church and not practising social distancing. I do have faith we will be back to that again. However, given that we are in the current Covid era, here are some options for that:

  1. Call elderly and single members of the church who may be feeling quite lonely.
  2. Deliver groceries to the doorstep of the elderly who fear going out in public.
  3. Leave meals on the doorstep of anyone who is sick.
  4. Play a game together online or over video chat.
  5. Start an online Bible study or book club.
  6. Have a coffee & chat time on FaceTime/Zoom/Google Meet
  7. Buy a grocery gift card for someone who has lost their job due to the pandemic

I encourage you, especially in these Covid times, to reach out to each other often. Pray for each other. Offer support. Listen. The are so many ways to show one another love.

Love one another as the Lord loves each one of us.

February 4 – The Power of Prayer

James 5:13-18

Prayer. What a beautiful thing it is. Prayer is a gift from God to us. He welcomes us to communicate with Him directly and personally. Jesus and the Holy Spirit also pray on behalf of us. Take a moment and think about the last time you had a long conversation with our Heavenly Father. How did you feel while you were praying? How did you feel after?

James encourages us to pray about everything.

13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.
James 5:13-18 (NLT)

James is telling us that no matter where we are in our lives and what we are experiencing, to pray. How often do we only pray when we are in times of struggle? Or when we want something from God? It is so important to pray, and praise God at all times – in sorrow, in joy, in sickness, in health.

God wants to be connected with us in everything, not just when things are falling apart. Think of the close relationships in your life, whether they are family, friends or both. Don’t you share everything with them? Don’t you tell them about the good and the bad?

God wants us to share everything with Him, even more than we share with our closest friends and family. He knows our every thought and what is in our hearts, but He still wants us to come to Him in prayer.

In verse 16, James tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (NLT)

How often do you ask someone to pray for you? Asking for prayer and praying for each other is a beautiful experience. It brings us closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ. It creates vulnerability, deep relationship, and intimacy among our Christian family.

In the youth online Bible study I lead, we talked about prayer last week. I questioned the teens how often they ask others to pray for them. The majority of them said they don’t ask others for prayer. They were either too shy or didn’t want to trouble people with their prayer requests.

Do you ask others to pray for you? Are you ever afraid to ask for prayer?

Praying for each other is a joy and a privilege. I can honestly tell you that I love when people ask me to pray for them. I am honoured to pray for others and I sincerely enjoy it. Most Christians feel the same way I do. Never be afraid to ask someone to pray for you.

In this verse, James also instructs us to confess our sins to one another. I think that is much harder than asking for prayer. No one wants to admit to the shameful things they have said, done or thought. Confessing to God is hard enough, but to each other? That seems beyond difficult.

Why is confessing our sins to each other so hard?

Because we fear judgment. We fear that people will look at us differently. We fear we will lose respect. We fear we will lose relationships. We are ashamed.

Confessing our sins feels like a huge risk. We’d rather keep our secrets buried and deal with our shame privately. But we need to confess our sins and release the weight of the burden of our guilt and shame. We need to share honestly with each and experience in return, not judgment, but love and compassion. We need others to pray for us, especially when we are not sure how to pray for ourselves.

Confess your sins to each other and let your fellow Christians give you a glimpse of the incredible compassion, love and forgiveness that God offers us all.

Since James is so practical, he gives us an example of the power of prayer from a faithful person in verses 17-18:

17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. (NLT)

What faith Elijah had in our Lord! He prayed earnestly and God answered His prayers.

God hears every one of our prayers, and He does answer all of them. Some He takes longer to answer than others, but He does answer every single one. However, we often think that God does not hear us when we don’t get what we prayed for. We assume He hasn’t answered our prayer.

This is not true. God hears and answers every prayer, but He responds in His wisdom, not in our desires. God is not here to give us everything we ask for. We often think we know best, but God knows better. He knows the past and the future, and He answers our prayers according to His plan, not ours.

Prayer is incredibly powerful. It is also beautiful. It is our personal connection with our Heavenly Father. I encourage you to turn to God in prayer with all things. There is no bad prayer, no prayer too short, no prayer unheard. Pray often. Seek out others to pray for you. Witness the power and love of our amazing Lord.

February 3 – Patience and Endurance

James 5:7-12

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
-Joyce Meyer

Today’s verses focus on patience, something we all need more of, especially during these unpredictable times. For nearly a year we have been living in a global pandemic, and I think we have all had times of extreme impatience. Impatience with our home-schooled children, impatience with our families as we isolate, impatience with the restrictions placed upon us, impatience with mixed message & uncertainty, impatience with wearing masks everywhere we go. Yes, it is very hard be patient these days.

James, in chapter 5, verse 7, advises us to be patient as we wait for the Lord’s return, using farmers as an example of patience:

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. (NLT)

How many of us are patiently waiting for the Lord’s return? How many of us are impatiently waiting for the Lord’s return? How many of us are not ready for the Lord’s return?

I am in the second category – impatiently waiting for the Lord’s return. I admit it, I can’t wait for Him to return to this earth, and I pray it will happen in my lifetime. However, I must not remain only focused on His return, but on my own attitude and behaviour as I await it. Here, James gives us further instructions:

Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!

10 For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.11 We give great honour to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

12 But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned. (NLT)

James is giving us specific examples of how to remain patient. He tells us not to grumble about each other. How many of us are guilty of that? I know I am. I have sinned through impatience and anger towards friends, family, and strangers many times. I have complained about others and spoken poorly of them. It is something I am continually working on and praying about to be become more patient and kinder with those around me.

Those who know me well know that patience is not one of my strengths. My ability to be patient has improved over the years, as well as my attitude during times where patience and endurance is required. However, I must actively work at daily and be fully self-aware of the times when I am failing at it.

I have struggled with patience and endurance throughout the pandemic. But in those times of struggle, God has drawn me close to Him. He has taught me more about endurance and patience during this season than in previous trials in my life. And He has pointed me to Biblical examples of those, like Jesus, who endured unimaginable suffering.

James also points us to those in the Bible who have faced immense struggle, like Job. Job suffered so much, as God allowed Satan to test him. He lost everything – his wealth, his health, his family – yet his faith never wavered. He grieved deeply, accepted his suffering and never once blamed God, but continued to worship Him.

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.” Job 1:20 (NLT)

What an incredible example of faith Job was. In the end, the Lord, who is full of love & mercy for us all, blessed Job greatly.

Do we, like Job, turn to praise God when we suffer? Is our faith on solid ground despite terrible things that happen? Most of us are quick to praise God when something good happens, but we need to be just as quick to praise him when the bad happens too, just like Job. It is important to note that Job didn’t stop himself from mourning his losses. He grieved greatly. We need to grieve when we experience loss and suffering, and God grieves with us. He doesn’t expect us to be indestructible or unaffected by pain, but He does want us to turn to Him in our sorrow.

Do you turn to God first in times of struggle? Do you praise Him even as you grieve? Are you finding strength in Him during suffering?

James has a final instruction for us in these verses: never take an oath by heaven or earth. He tells us to simply say yes or no. I believe this is applicable to our daily language as we have so many common phrases that involve swearing to the Lord or taking His name in vain. James is asking us, as He has before, to watch our tongues and speak in simple truth.

January 22

James 3:13-18 NLT

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

In my NLT Bible, the heading for these verses is ‘True Wisdom Comes from God’. That, I believe, is undeniable. We can read books, take classes, and talk to experts about any subject, but ultimately, true wisdom is gained from our Father in heaven. With the current state of our world today, we need His wisdom now more than ever.

To me, it feels like everyone across the globe is arguing, debating, one-upping each other, and lashing out. I see it in the news, on social media, and in daily life. Everyone is fighting – politicians, scientists, doctors, talk show hosts, and Christians. We have all been directly affected by a global pandemic. We are all facing fear, confusion, isolation, anger and illness (both mental and physical). But what are we doing about it?

Verse 13 says we show our understanding of God’s ways in how we live. So, how are we living right now? Are we living selfishly? Jealously? Are we spreading lies and propagating the ‘fake news’? Or are we offering hope, compassion, and patience?

I understand the many emotions people are feeling these days. I feel them too, especially living alone in a foreign country while our world is in chaos. However, each time I’m tempted to get angry, or wallow in self-pity, or feel jealous of those who are close to family, I ask God for help. I ask for wisdom in how to respond to the current situation.

When I was young, it was popular for Christians to wear bracelets with WWJD – ‘What would Jesus do?’ I never had one, and they are much less common now, but it’s a question I still ask regularly.

What would Jesus do? Would He get angry and march in protests, demanding that church be reopened because it is essential? I know He believes, as I do, that church is essential, but church is so much more than a place to go on Sunday morning. The church is not a building. We, Christ followers, are the church.

So, how do we be the church at a time where we can’t gather together in person? We can call a member of our church who lives alone just to chat and see how they are. We can deliver groceries to the doorstep of the elderly couple down the street, so they don’t have to put themselves at risk by going to the store. We can start an online Bible study or prayer group that meets via Zoom/Skype/Google Meet. The options are endless.

Are we truly seeking God’s wisdom during this tumultuous time, or are we giving in to the world around us? Verse 17 says wisdom from above is pure, loving, peace-keeping, gentle and merciful. Are we loving our neighbours as Jesus commanded us? Are we being gentle to those we disagree with? Are we doing our part to bring peace, and to protect those around us?

True wisdom comes from God. Let us not forget that. Always seek Him first. Let Him be your guidance and your way. Bring love. Bring peace.

And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18, NLT

January 8 – Jesus and the Woman at the Well

John 4:7-26 NLT

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshipped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

I love this passage of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. I recently read a fictional novel about the life of this woman. The Bible tells us very little about her. We know she had multiple husbands and the man she is living with when she meets Jesus, is not one of them. From that we can determine two things: this woman is a sinner, and she has likely had many struggles in her life.

Yet Jesus wants to save her.

Her initial shock comes simply when Jesus speaks to her, for He is a Jew and she is a Samaritan. Jews did not associate with Samaritans at that time. They regarded them as inferior and unholy.

Yet Jesus speaks to her.

Jesus treats her in an unexpected way. He does not shun her or shame her based on her sins or where she is from. He does not walk away in disgust when she approaches the well.

He engages her. He lets her know that He sees her, and He knows her.

This is a woman who had likely been shamed often throughout her life. We don’t know why she had five husbands, but we can imagine how she was viewed by not only outsiders, but her own people. She was probably used to being ignored, dishonoured, looked down on, and talked about.

Yet, here was Jesus, a Jew, talking to her as a human.

When He tells her who she is, she immediately believes Him. She does not question Him, but runs back to her people to tell them she has met the Messiah.

This passage of scripture reveals so many things about the love of Jesus and His acceptance and desire to save us all. Jesus did not come just for the righteous. He didn’t come just for those who lead holy, faith-centred lives.

He came for the sinners. He came for the broken, the outcasts, the weak, and the hurting. He came for us all. He came for you. All He asks in return is that we believe in Him and follow Him. And He asks us to share our faith with others.

In our broken, chaotic, painful world, it can be hard at times to follow Jesus. It can be hard to see above the suffering, the anger, and the evil. It can be hard to have faith.

How can we be more like the woman at the well? She instantly believed. She immediately shared her new faith with others, and because of her, Jesus remained in her town for 2 more days and many others became believers. (John 4:39-42)

In times of trial and struggle, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Let Him fill us with His peace and His love. May His light be evident in us no matter what is happening around us. May we believe like the woman at the well. May our joy and our faith cause us to tell everyone we meet about Him.

May we always remember His promise to us and the sacrifice He made. May we make disciples who make disciples in His name.

December 14 – When Troubles Come Your Way

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to a new devotion writing partner. Becky Ferguson is a full-time missionary in the Czech Republic. She arrived on the field in January 2019, and since then has been learning Czech while working in ministry. God has specifically called her to work with Czech youth, which she does through English camps, a weekly Bible study, and one on one mentoring. Before becoming a missionary, Becky worked at Lakeshore St. Andrews Church as the Office Administrator, and previously worked at a multi-site church based in Oakville, called The Meeting House. She is passionate about writing, loves animals, and is a proud aunt to four beautiful kids.

Occasionally, Becky writes a blog that I love to read – and that’s why I asked her if she would have time to write some devotions for us. She agreed that hopefully, she could write 2 each month. Keep her in your prayers as she is busy in the Czech Republic, and yet still has time for us.

James 1: 2 – 6; 12 – 18 (NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:2-6 NLT

I read these verses during my Bible study this week. As a missionary in the Czech Republic, called to work specifically with youth, I lead a Bible group for teens every Tuesday. We currently meet online because of the pandemic. We’ve been in our second lockdown since early October, with students doing distance learning. My high schoolers don’t know when they’ll be back in school, they miss their friends, and they are extremely stressed. So, I chose these verses to talk about this week.

Upon first glance, it can be easy to dismiss these words of James. Rejoice in our suffering??? Sounds nice, but James has no idea what we’re going through! We’re in a global pandemic here! People are dying, jobs are lost, we can’t see friends and family, and we have to wear masks in public! Thanks James, but we are struggling too much to find joy.

Am I right?

No, of course not. We could complain about so much right now. It would be very easy to drown ourselves in anger and pity, shouting at God for all of our suffering. But that’s not what I focused on with my youth. Instead we picked up a few verses later.

12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterword they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

James 1:12-18 NLT

Read those verses again. These are the words I focused on with the teens. It is the reminder that all ‘good and perfect’ things come from God. He does not give us pain or suffering. He may allow it, but He does not cause it. God will never tempt us. He only gives us blessings, and He promises us He will be with us in times of trial. He gives us strength and wisdom when we turn to Him in our need.

God creates good everywhere, even in times that seem hopeless. He can take a mess and create beauty out of it. I’ve seen Him doing many times in my personal life. And, as it says in verse 17, God never changes. He is consistent no matter what else is happening. He is our constant, our rock, our source of light.

So, I encourage you, as I encouraged my Czech youth, in this season of struggle and chaos, look for the good. Look for God’s light. It is there. Some days it can be harder to find, but it is always there. He is always there. He is pouring out His love to us in blessings big and small. Ask Him to help you see them. And always remember, that though we may face trials in this life, God has promised us an incredible reward at the end – a place in His eternal kingdom. We are His ‘prized possession’.