Encourage one another in Christ

They Knew

The times that have often felt so very long in the past few months have opened opportunities to focus on God’s word and to reflect on devotions that help with a clear understanding of who God is and who we are. One such devotion focused on Genesis 3:1–15. It is always a surprise when there are “new” reflections and it is always a blessing to reflect on His word. My focus started with v. 7: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were ‘naked’.”  THEY KNEW they had done wrong. They were convicted in their inmost being. And then in v. 10, after God had called to the man, “Where are you?”, Adam said, “I heard the sound of you …and I was afraid.” It was because THEY KNEW they had disobeyed that they were afraid. Verse 11 makes me think of the moments when I don’t want to admit I have done wrong and an authority says, “Who told you that you were naked?” THEY KNOW! Satan had deceived them and encouraged them to believe the lie.  

Our world today, during the time of this pandemic, would say “Go ahead, go to the store without wearing a mask—no one else is wearing one” or “Go ahead, have a gathering with minimal space between your guests in your home—no one will notice and who will tell?” Yet, WE KNOW! The deceit the world offers becomes an act that only my sinful heart will “know” like:

  • I don’t have the disease.
  • No one else is using protective attire.
  • I can’t stand being separated anymore—it is all about me so let’s get together.

Then, I KNOW, and I feel convicted in my being because I have done wrong, just like Adam and Eve. How easily I follow that worldly idea, and I fall into the deceit—I SIN. It is easy to find excuses, because, just as in Genesis, the snake presents a “believable” image.

Verse 15 offers the promise that I continue to rest on, knowing that Jesus, the Christ, would come and “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Of this promise, I KNOW that Jesus made atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17). 

So I go from the “what harm will come of my action” to I KNOW that I have done wrong to I KNOW that Jesus died and fully paid for my sin, so that now I am free to live my life without fear, and no matter what God has planned, I KNOW that I do not fear death. I walk with Him always.

Linda, Ontario

Fear Not

The Sparrow’s Nest

The sparrow’s nest,
God’s haven of rest.

An insignificant little bird
No monetary value yet precious –
In the eyes of the Lord.

We are the sparrows, you and I,
Sheltered by His robe of righteousness
Till we fly away with Him on high.

It matters not where we rest
He is our Rock, our Redeemer–
In Him, we’ve been blest.

The Lord resides with us.
We are His channel of love.
To bless in the name of Jesus.

At the foot of His throne
God, whose eye is on the sparrow
Promises an everlasting home.

–Irene Warpula

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was the inspiration for the devotion that follows it. For years I wondered what the first two lines of the poem meant; the answer came to me in 2002. When I learned that our last name Varpula (there is no ‘w’ in the Finnish language) is derived from Varpunen which is “sparrow” in English, I equated that to the Bible passage that begins the devotion. God is our refuge and resting place. God also inspired the poem. Glory be to God from whom all blessings flow!

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I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Each day brings something new, unexpected, and challenging. How we view and approach each situation can set the mood of the day. Let God’s Word guide and strengthen the day as you pause and see Him at work in your life.

This Palm Sunday was not as jubilant as usual as I watched the church service on YouTube. No children walked down the aisle singing and waving palms, only palms in vases on the altar. From my sofa I joined in the hymns of praise, but my heart was saddened as the echo of only my own voice rebounded. I missed hearing the voices of our church family and seeing them in their usual pews.

Pull quote - July 13With the service ended I checked my phone messages. My daughter had sent pictures of our grandchildren doing potato print crafts. Do you remember doing those as a child? Tears came to my eyes as I saw prints of palms on the potatoes. Even though our worship has changed, our daughter found a way to bring the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem alive through an online Bible story and a craft. Lord, wonderful are your works! The Holy Spirit, planted in my daughter’s baptism, has helped her grow and she, in turn, is nurturing that Holy Spirit planted in her children.

Praise to You Lord, my saddened heart rejoiced to see Your Word at work! Hallelujah!!

In these challenging times of limited public gathering, our congregations across Canada have risen to the challenge and continue to feed their flocks in different ways. How has your family continued to nurture the faith and how are you nurturing that faith in your children? We would love to hear your story of faith.

Annette – Manitoba

If you have words of encouragement to share, please send them to vpmemberdevelopment@lutheranwomen.ca and they will be a future blog posting.

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“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” (2 Timothy 1:5).

 One of the greatest things you can do for your children and grandchildren is pray for them. Pray for them daily, without ceasing. Start early when they are still in the womb.

 “He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…” (Psalm 78:5b-7).

Life is so good here in Canada that sometimes we forget, don’t we? As this story shows, thank God for continuing to send His Holy Spirit at just the right time to help us remember. Baby is due in September and the young couple is so excited to start their family. They planned well for this. Then COVID-19 hits. His grandfather gets sick, then his dad. He starts wondering, “Is this the end of the world? Our faith is so weak, we will not go to heaven. And if our faith is weak, then our baby’s faith will be weak too, and our baby won’t go to heaven.”

“a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick, He will not quench;” Isaiah 42:3a

Though reeds and wicks are of little value, they are still handled carefully by our Lord. How much more will He handle us carefully when our faith is weak. All things and people are precious in His sight.

Our father-to-be gets out his Bible and begins reading God’s Word. Comforting words from their own baptism and confirmation come flooding back. They begin to pray together, an evening prayer her mother taught her and the Lord’s Prayer. They decide they are going back to church. Right now, all churches are locked down, so they tune into the nearest Lutheran congregation online. There the pure Word of God reaches their ears again…the wick has been kindled.

Arletta, Saskatchewan

Share your story. Has your faith been rekindled by the work of the Holy Spirit? Have you been drawn closer to God in faith and trust during this pandemic? Send it to vpmemberdevelopment@lutheranwomen.ca and it will be shared via this blog in a future posting.

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”  (John 3:16).

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In a short amount of time we have lived through more than our parents, our great grandparents and anything our nightmares could have dreamed up for us. In our time of self-isolation, we have gone through so many emotions – fear, sadness, loneliness, heartache, and wondering when is it going to stop? As a Christian, I believed I was safe, cocooned in His love and protection. But reality was always around the corner, newscasts told the numbers, governments told the rules, family get-togethers became a distant memory. How I missed the laughter.

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! Joshua 1:9

I recently read an article about “Nurturing Resilience” by Michael Ungar PhD, that put so much into perspective when I spoke to my friends and church family. It was like a light bulb went on.

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In our conversation I asked them how they are doing; I went on to ask about their coping strategies for being alone, as many were advanced in age. We talked about their personal habits and were these making them stronger or weaker in their mental health. This led to asking about their social connections and who were they hearing from. And we wrapped our conversation up with talking about things to do to remain optimistic for the future. What a variety of stories I heard; had this situation not happened I would have missed getting to KNOW people I had already called friends and family.

The strength our Lord had given us is as Joshua tells us. So many I spoke with told stories of gratitude for what they had and further stories of some unexpected pleasures that came their way despite the pandemic.  So, I invite you to tell us how this pandemic has affected you; what has been the most surprising thing you have discovered during this journey to wellness?

Pam O.  Ontario District, Member Development

Got some encouragement to share? Send to vpmemberdevelopment@lutheranwomen.ca.

 

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In a study of the Monarch butterfly, we learn about the stages in development making it unique. Unlike other types of butterflies, it goes through an extended cocoon stage and sheds its skin up to five times before emerging as a beautiful butterfly.
For a Christian, too, when the Holy Spirit enters her heart, gradual, life-changing experiences occur. In Titus 3 Paul states: “at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures…malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” But then, we learned about the bountiful love Jesus Christ, our Saviour, had for us. He generously saved us through the washing, rebirth, and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Pull quote - May 25With the working of the Spirit subtle changes occur in our hearts. Gradually we begin to more fully “put on Christ” and show the newness of life Paul talks about in Romans 6 and Galatians 6. In fact, in Galatians 5:22 he tells us in detail about the nine fruit of the spirit—namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, which enable us to “be able to discern what is best…filled with the fruits of righteousness, that come through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:10-11).
Even though we strive to live Spirit-filled lives, there will always be trials we may need to face. These, for Christians, come along to strengthen our faith and enable us to give words of comfort to strengthen others in their own trials and thereby indirectly aid them in purifying their faith.

Christian composer Karen Maio sums up the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit these words from one of her songs:
“Live by the Spirit and walk in His grace,
Go serve God and others with joy on your face.”
Used by permission

Adapted from an online devotion by Barb J, Ontario.

It and other monthly devotions may be found at lutheranwomen.ca.

To share your own words of encouragement, send them to vpmemberdevelopment@lutheranwomen.ca.

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The Member Development Committee of Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – Canada (LWMLC) will begin posting to a special blog, Serving in His Strength, on Monday, May 25. Their plan is to continue posting on the second and fourth Monday of each month.

Usually an individual writes and posts to a blog and readers can only respond by commenting on what has been posted. It will take a little more effort on the part of the women of the LWMLC Member Development Committee, but they are determined to make the blog Serving in His Strength one where you can do more than comment. They want this to be YOUR BLOG.

For more detail on the purpose and plans regarding the blog click the About link upper right. Before you do, sign up to “follow” so you won’t miss any postings. You should find a little pop-up lower right. Click on it, add your email address, and click on “sign me up.” If you receive notification of this posting, you were a “follower” when President Iris or the mission team visited Nicaragua, and now you are already signed up to this re-purposed blog.

Final Day

We spent our final day, Thursday, Dec. 15 in Cartago, Costa Rica. We enjoyed lunch with Betty and Pastor Edmundo and visited the homes of two women of the congregation.

We were sent off with a beautiful service of prayer, preaching and singing, in Spanish and English! It was a wonderful warm farewell from our sisters in Costa Rica.

Two weeks, four seminars, over 100 women who shared, as sisters in Christ, what it means to live the life of a Christian woman. The time went by very quickly, the memories and friendships will last for a very long time.

What a blessing to build relationships with the women of Central America. We are thankful that God has allowed us to enter into their lives and also for bringing them into our lives.

 

Our Day in Costa Rica

 

Today the Canadian sisters, Iris, Renate, Judi and Pauline met our sisters from Cartago, Costa Rica. We shared the Bible Study “The Life of a Christian Women”. We also shared our personal stories with them. One of the things we share with the women is that prayer is very important in the life of a Christian woman, and it is our way of talking to God and keeping him near us.

After our break in the morning, one of the women was very sad, and shared her sadness with us. I asked her permission to share her story with you in this blog.

Here is the Story of Margarita:

Margarita had a total of six children. Her husband died of a heart attach at the age of 43. He had a hereditary heart illness passed down in his family. One of her sons who was in his forties recently died and today she got word that her other son has just been hospitalized for the same heart condition. She asked if her sisters in Canada would pray for her son’s health and for all of her family, that they would trust in God’s plan for them. We all prayed with her and she was more at peace as the day progressed.

The day continued with a leadership session and the making of bead bracelets. We ended the day presenting them with the “Sister to Sister” pin and a seven-day prayer booklet in Spanish for them to use each day.

Today we felt that God was in our presence especially to comfort Margarita.

Tuesday

group-in-san-jose

Day 12 – Yesterday we said a tearful goodbye to Jose and Lidia as they returned to their homes in Chinandega. This morning we left Christine and Barbara at the airport in Managua to catch their flights home while the 4 of us continued on to San Jose, Costa Rico. Unlike their long flights back to Canada, ours was so short they didn’t even have time to serve us coffee! 

Pastor Edmundo Retana met us at the airport where he had the challenge of fitting the four of us and all of our luggage into his Hundai Elantra!! It was quite the feat, but he did it with the help of a passing Good Samaritan taxi driver. 

Off went and were soon joined by Pastors wife Betty, who met us with open arms. It was like we were long lost sisters, she made us feel like we had just come home. Before our journey to  Cartago where we will be staying tonite, Betty showed us some of the sights of this beautiful country, including a butterfly sanctuary. 

It has been a very long day and  as we wind down this evening, we ask that you keep us and all the women who will be attending the final presentation of Sister to Sister 2016 in your prayers….Mañana.