I have always loved desert imagery in the Old Testament; there’s something pretty amazing about God bringing beautiful new life to ground that had once been dry and barren.
In 2010 I had been going through a dry season in my spiritual life. I still loved Jesus and I knew He loved me, but I felt somewhat stuck in the ways I was growing. I was desperate for some relief from the dryness of my prayer life. I would go for walks in the evenings, asking God, “What needs to change? What are my next steps?”
One morning I opened an email from FEB Central and the first line jumped off the page. It said, “Have you ever wondered about your next steps?”
The email described Women’s Ministries Institute, a 9-month course offered by FEB Central to equip women to grow deeper in their spiritual journey for effective leadership. I prayed about it and decided to join the class, graduating in June 2011. A few years later, Sarah Bean also joined, graduating as the Valedictorian of her class (Yay Sarah - great job!).
If you are a woman and are feeling like you are going through a place of spiritual drought, you are not alone. I know that there are days where you just go through the motions, and there are other days that you don't even bother trying to do that.
Sisters (and brothers!), we are promised in Isaiah 41 that when we are feeling dry and parched, God will not forsake us. He will pour out rivers, filling our valleys with life-giving water. He brings new growth to those places in our spiritual lives that have felt barren and dead.
If you'd like more information about WMI, you can talk to Sarah Bean or myself, and visit their website here: www.womensministriesinstitute.com. Maybe WMI isn't for you at this time, but please don't stop asking God, "What are my next steps?" Because God will always remind you that your next steps are the ones that draw you closer to Him.
This past Sunday we talked in our service about Pregnancy Support Services of Hamilton. PSSH is a Christ-centred ministry which promotes life-affirming pregnancy options. They offer education, support and assistance to women and their partners as they face important decisions about pregnancy and sexual integrity. With PSSH clients receive pregnancy options counselling, post-abortion support, mentoring for both men and women, and Sexual Health and Relationship Education, plus there's an on-site baby boutique for infant wear and maternity clothes.
PSSH saw 250 new clients in 2017. Their services are free of charge, and they rely solely on donations to run their programming. One of the trends that they have observed is an increasing number of people who call from the Burlington and Oakville area who don't want or aren't able to travel into Hamilton. With this in mind, it has been on their hearts to expand their program into Burlington and Oakville to provide assistance to men and women in this area.
Formula 4 Hope is an opportunity for Calvary to partner with PSSH to help them raise money for their current clientele, and for their future site in Burlington/Oakville. We're asking each family to take a baby bottle home and to fill it with money. You can do this daily by filling it with whatever spare change you have in your pocket or purse at the end of each day, or you can do a one-time donation with paper money and/or cheques. Continue collecting until June, then return your filled baby bottles on Father's Day.
It's our tradition on Mother's Day and Father's Day, in lieu of giving small gifts to the men and women in the church, to donate those funds to an organization that is on the ground working with people in crisis. This year, in addition to the Formula 4 Hope baby bottles, Calvary is donating to PSSH on behalf of each man and woman who attends the church. In this way we can have the cumulative effect of seeing many small amounts add up to one big donation.
Please be generous; PSSH does so much great work in our area and it would be wonderful to see them continue to expand to meet the growing needs of our busy city. If you have any questions, please contact us, or visit PSSH online at www.preghamilton.ca
It took me a while to decide what to write about this week. I wanted to write something beautiful and inspiring, but instead I’m going to write about discipline.
I even gave a few tries at writing a lovely little Mother’s Day blog, but no… we’re going to talk about discipline.
Before we go any further, take a moment to read through Hebrews 12.
To many of you it’s a familiar passage. It encourages us to run the race set before us. When I was younger, I always thought that was a great analogy, because it seemed so exciting! I pictured the 100-meter dash at the Olympics; adrenaline pumping, crowds cheering, putting everything on the line.
But the reality is that our race is more like a really, really, really long marathon.
You’re probably going to feel like walking for part of it. Or you might get a cramp partway through and wonder if you’ll make it to the finish line at all.
You will get tired.
But the author of Hebrews writes, “It is for discipline that you have to endure…. For the moment, all discipline feels painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Emphasis added)
As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to discipline a child. But I also know that not to discipline my son would be a disservice. Because I don’t just care about who he is now, I care about his whole life. It can be painful and frustrating, but we discipline our children because we love them.
And how much more does our Father in Heaven love us. So much so that he takes the time – despite our resistance, despite our stubbornness – to shape and mold us into who we are meant to be.
So press on - even when you feel exhausted, even when you’re overwhelmed – press on to the finish line.
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
“I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God's call through Christ Jesus to the life above.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
“For He disciplines for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10)
This past weekend our Student Ministry leaders attended the annual Youth Summit in Cambridge, a training weekend hosted by FEB Youth. Together with churches from around our Region, we heard five different speakers training and encouraging youth leaders to stay the course and persevere even when if we feel like giving up.
Our Saturday afternoon speaker was Sid Koop. And Sid's encouragement to us was to pursue intimacy with the Father as a way of remaining steadfast and finishing well. Not only is this valuable in Student Ministry, there's also something to be gleaned for the church as a whole. Each of us has our own ministry field – our place of business, family, friends – and this concept of finishing well by pursuing intimacy with the Father applies to all.
We looked at the well-known Psalm 139. In the first 12 verses, we see David wrestling with a God who knows everything about him, a God who has gone before him, has searched him, who knows the words he will speak before he even speaks them. In verse 6 we see David saying “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” And this was our turning point. In the original language, this verse is really saying that “This is overwhelming.” David is unpacking the sheer presence of God in his life. God has gotten into everything, God IS in everything...and David is saying, “Where will I go that you are not?”
As 21st century people, we can certainly relate to David's feelings. We live in a world of self-security, self-preservation, and self-promotion. But God doesn't see any of those things. He doesn't see the brave faces we put on, or the filtered image of ourselves that we post to Instagram.
God breaks through that facade to see our innermost being. And that can be overwhelming to us. We like to be in control, we like to dictate our future. What if God doesn't like what he sees, or He comes in and wants to change something? But we need to remember that God doesn't see our facade, God sees us, the true us. And what's more? He sticks around. Despite our flaws, despite our sin, despite the ways we fail Him...He's. Still. Here.
When David realizes this, it blows his mind. And his response is to then press in to God. Verses 23 and 24 say “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” David finishes his Psalm by requesting that God get to know him even better. To search him for any grievous ways and lead him toward the everlasting. David is pressing in to God. He's amazed at how God has stuck around, and so David's response is to ask God to come even closer.
When you read through Psalm 139, you'll see how that comes full circle for David. You'll see how he realizes, that God knows everything about him, knows his thoughts and his actions, YET, God sticks with him. David cannot go anywhere that he'd be away from God. God stuck around for David, and he'll stick around for you. And our response should be to press into God. We need to pursue that intimacy with Him. When we do that, we'll see the difference He can make, so that we can finish well.
Mike Sanders, Director of Student Ministries
Each week we post about a range of things from the Christian life, faith and more.
In these posts we hope you'll catch a glimpse of ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.