hope

DOESN’T GOD CARE?

(January 29, 2023) Maureen McQuillan seeks to comfort a distressed sister…

Dear Pastor Maureen

I’m going through a difficult time. I’ve prayed and prayed but don’t seem to be getting answers, or help. I want to  believe that I can trust God but I just feel He hasn’t heard my prayer. My heart is sobbing, I cry myself to sleep. Doesn’t God care? I am a Christian, I have accepted Jesus. Bella.

Dear Bella

Oh yes, God does hear our prayers… your prayers, and yes, He does care! I’ll be open, honest with you, won’t mislead you… becoming a Christian doesn’t mean we’ll have a carefree life. Yes, we will have a good life, sins forgiven and an assurance that we’re heaven-bound. But… presently we’re still here and things can go wrong, even for God’s children! Accidents, sicknesses, disappointments, marriage and family troubles, sudden loss of loved ones, even disasters.

But we can keep trusting God, we can bank on His love, provision, protection in that He will help us and bring us through whatever the issue is! Your prayers are heard by God (1John 5:14-15, 1 Peter 3:12). 1 Peter 5:7 is particularly precious: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.’

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NEHEMIAH – GOD’S CALL TO BUILD THE WALL (9)

(January 16, 2023) Hope Flinchbaugh, concludes her reflections on Nehemiah’s commission from God

I’ve been sharing how Nehemiah, although an exile in Babylon, was cupbearer to Artaxerxes the king of Persia.

On learning the plight of his troubled people back home in Jerusalem and the city’s broken-down wall, he had wept and prayed to God for guidance and help (Nehemiah 1).

The outcome was that he obtained permission, and letters of authority, from the king to return home (Nehemiah 2).

In effect Nehemiah responded to God’s call to build that wall… and I’ve been encouraging you, dear reader, to respond to whatever God’s calling on your life may be.

God our amazing helper
Nehemiah 6:15-16NASB declares that, despite opposition, ‘… the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they realised that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.’

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REAL HOPE CALMS LIFE’S STORMS

(December 21, 2022) Maureen McQuillan shares this encouragement …

A Christmas/New Year greeting from a friend referred to 2022 as a year of mystery, one of ‘What’s going on?’ And wondering if 2023 will be similar, and if so can we get through more mysteries and storms?

Anyone else thinking like this? I wonder… perhaps 2022 has brought disappointments and you’re looking back with regrets and recalling sorrows… hoping for a better today, never mind come 2023.

Whoa… let’s stop right there and remember what we’re celebrating come Sunday! The birth of Jesus, our friend and Saviour. The Christian’s great hope is that no matter what goes wrong, whatever storm hits us any day, we can rejoice that our Lord is no longer the babe of Bethlehem, but advocate in heaven before the Father (1 John 2:1). And in the boat of our life, still our friend and storm breaker!

Storms of life
Mark 4:35-41 tells about Jesus crossing the lake with His disciples and, tired, decides to have a nap. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s verses 37-38a – ‘A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.’

Now this would have been frightening for anyone, never mind Jesus’ disciples. KJV describes this ‘squall’ as ‘great’… megas, indicating big, mighty, loud. Scary! They (friends as He called them!) ‘woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”’ 

Hold it right there! If you’ve been encountering storms, F.B. Meyer has written: ‘They that bear Christ’s company must prepare for squalls.’ Regarding ‘mysteries’ that may lie ahead in 2023, I ask this… are you really a companion of Jesus? If so, you’re ‘bearing’ – are in – the best company, so why act as if you have no hope! Your friend will bring you through!

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LEVELLING MOUNTAINS – NOT BY MIGHT, NOT BY POWER BUT BY MY SPIRIT! (Part 1)

(August 28, 2022) Dr Jim McClure, noted theologian, shares encouragement…

Facing mountains in these dark times?

I’ve been reflecting on a character in the Bible who faced a big mountain and discovered God had gone before him in an amazing way. His name was Zerubbabel – not the easiest name to say, nor would it be likely that you would give your new born child that name.

Most Christians know little about this man, but I find him to be inspirational and also encouraging as we cope with the ‘highs and lows’ in living in these days.

Contemporary scene
We are living in disturbing times. In my lifetime I have never known such worldwide hostility, political instability, social confusion and moral corruption. And according to medical researchers the global rates of anxiety and depression are soaring. News articles and television reports can often be quite troubling as they confront us with a stream of disturbing incidents.

Of course ours is not the only generation that has been confronted by tragedy and emotional stress. Historical records reveal many periods when war, oppression and disease have had a crushing effect on people.

God does not provide a protective wall around His people to prevent their experiencing the pain and struggles of life, but His presence in our lives gives us hope.

In the Bible, living in hope doesn’t mean that we whistle in the dark to keep our spirits up. No, biblical hope means looking to the future with assurance because we know that, regardless of conditions and circumstances, when it seems that everything is spiralling out of control, God has never lost His control! Jeremiah succinctly declared, Our hope is in you’(Jeremiah 14:22).

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YOUR MOURNING WILL TURN INTO JOY!

(July 21, 2022) S. Sam Selva Raj shares hope to troubled Christians, indeed everyone…

During times of adversity, when we approach our friends or doctors to get counsel, they may comfort us by saying, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be all right.’

Many children of God live in sorrow, pain and affliction. When our problems multiply, we lose hope. When we are not very clear about the leading of God in our lives, we worry much. For instance, people worldwide  have suffered a lot due to the impact of Covid-19… but any sorrow, trouble, punishment of sickness is painful.

Never lose hope!
Contemplating any sorrowful events that have happened to us, we might think, ‘Has this happened without the ‘Lord’s knowledge? Hasn’t He taken note of my problems?’  We must remember that nothing happens in our lives without the Lord’s knowledge!

 As we go through painful experiences trusting God, He turns our sorrows and troubles into joy! So, your present sorrow will surely be turned into joy (John 16:20)! Do not be afraid!

We also find in Matthew 5:4, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ We think that blessed people are those who enjoy all sorts of material comforts in this world. But Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed! Why? He also knows that mourning will be turned into joy!

Jesus promised comfort
It is very difficult for the people to agree with this, even some sad Christians. A silent and depressed state of mind can bind those who are in deep sorrow.

Read more: YOUR MOURNING WILL TURN INTO JOY!

Sorrows may arise due to unemployment, sickness, lack of money, work difficulties, family problems, worries about the future, and so on. Whatever our sorrow, the Lord says that all of us who pass through such difficult times are blessed and will be comforted. Those difficult situations would turn into joyful ones.

And although Jesus promised this long time ago, it is still relevant today. Therefore be happy and rejoiceful. Peter wrote, ‘Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time’ (1 Peter 5:6). ‘Exalt’ is hupsoō… to lift you up.

It is not that God sends sorrows… such happen in life! And if such sorrows come our way, we look to the Lord to encourage us. We can hear His voice and sense His touch.

When we are in deep trouble, we often try  to wriggle out of by our own effort. But, instead of depending on our own strength, if we lean on God, we can surely feel his touch.

King David’s experience
With a grateful heart, David said firmly in Psalm 30:11 that our mourning would be turned in to joy!

When David encountered problems, many of them huge, and be surrounded by evils, he would go into the Lord’s presence and plead before Him (1 Samuel 30:6 is a good example). And God delivered him from all problems, blessed and comforted him  and turned all his sorrows into joy!

Are your problems overwhelming you? Don’t only look for ways outside of God to come out of your problems. You could be led into greater dangers, troubles and failures! Seek the Holy Spirit’s voice that tells you if you fully trust the Lord and have faith in Him, believing that He will fulfill your desires and bring blessing (in whatever way and time God chooses of course).

When one is overwhelmed with troubles…

1. The soul wearies!
David faced numerous problems – through his father-in-law, King Saul, his son, Absalom, many times through the people and kings of other countries. But because he leaned on his Lord who had called him, God turned all his afflictions and troubles into great joy!

No wonder he would pray often to his God! The composer of Psalm 119:28 reflects a David-like prayer: My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word’

Many of us also have to walk through difficult times and rarely can any of us avoid worrying at the times of sufferings. Some are heart-broken and attempt  to commit suicide. If we turn to mere humans to get advice, they may deceive us. Some may mislead us. In the midst of worries and shedding of tears, if we wholly rely on and keep faith in the Lord, He will definitely lead us out from sufferings and surprisingly keep us comforted.

When  troubles multiply, we should spend more time in reading the Bible louder! We should believe and expect a wonderful deliverance from God. Surely He will do greater things than what you expect in your life.

Please know this: I’m speaking from personal experience! When various hardships have hit me, I have wholly depended only on God, reading His word and meditating on it in full faith. I have several verses marked with dates on which I heard God’s voice, and obtained unbelievable great victories!

If you also do the same, victory is sure!

2. Eyes dim with grief!
Although not written by David, I feel verse of nine of Psalm 88 reflects his thoughts many times, ‘My eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.’

‘Dim’ is daab, mournful and sorrowful. The psalmist says that out of afflictions his eyes grew dim from misery (NASB). If one is very sad, one can feel a change in their sight. Sadness makes one faint, reduces the thinking capacity, causes sleeplessness and losing all hope about the future. The help we get from others is also reduced. What can we do to come out of this? Without giving place to discouragements, we can do two things:

(i) Pray about our concerns
Psalm 119:26, ‘I have declared my ways, and You answered me…’ would be David’s solution to concerns. Taking time to talk to God brings great victories.

Unfortunately these days, troubled Christians can spend more time on their themselves, worldly causes, entertainment, even on Christian television programs than talking to God in prayer! Sadly, certain TV preachers have caused many Christians to be lazy and static, no longer prayerful or Bible-reading.

But you could watch genuine Christ-centred presentations and after shutting off, engross in prayer, Bible reading and meditation! Then you can be sure of victory. Your eyes will not ‘waste away.’

(ii) Trust  God!
This means that your attention and trust are on God only. After all, your thoughts and actions should please Him. There is no use praying long prayers and observing many days of fasting, if you don’t believe He is the answer, your comforter!

Regarding your troubles, where is your attention today? From whom do you expect help? Which way do you search? ‘… the prayer of the upright is His delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves him that follows after righteousness’ comforts Proverbs 15:8-9.

Praying to God in faith and trusting Him, you won’t have eyes dim with misery!

3.  The spirit is broken!
Proverbs 17:22 declares that ‘A merry heart does good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.’

Certain objects can be glued together if broken. But if the spirit hidden in our heart is broken, no expert doctor or psychiatrist can mend it. The failures we face in this world, such as economic confusion, sickness and family problems are but some of the causes of broken hearts.

There is only one way to overcome these setbacks and that is by going to the Lord. ‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord”’ wrote David in Psalm 122:1.

It is very important to meet with people, if covid and variation safe, who truly praise and worship the Lord. You can be refreshed with the Holy Spirit as you too worship, clapping hands and lifting them up in praise, even kneeling, in a church where the Lord is being worshipped in spirit and truth. There you’ll be filled with joy and happiness; your broken spirit will be healed as assurance that God is in control comes to your heart.

4.  ‘Big’ trouble hits!
‘Anxiety weighs down the heart. But a good word makes it glad’ (Proverbs 12:25).

David was certainly weighed down in 1 Samuel 30:6! Several Bible versions translate this verse as ‘David was now in great trouble.’ Other translations read distressed. The Hebrew word is yaw-tsar’, meaning to be vexed, narrowed in thinking. In considering David’s problems – and our own – we’d probably think of ‘big troubles’ as depression (a word slightly similar to distress)!

Whichever word you would use, troubles not dealt with actually cause one to function normally,  When people are distressed, they cannot think freely. Changes happen in the mind causing some problems to lead to taking extreme decision. Some try many ways to solve their problems and when they fail, they  go for extreme steps. Sadly, some have committed suicide. Deep distress is very deceptive, very sidetracking!

David always met with his numerous  problems by standing strong  faith in the Lord. He knew his God could give him needed courage. ‘David strengthened (encouraged) himself in the Lord his God’ concludes (1 Samuel  30:6ESB).

5. Trouble can be daily!
Sometimes we lose confidence in ourselves and because of this state of mind we end up with a very dangerous disposition. David, under such situations, even daily (Psalm 56:5NLT) would seek his Lord’s help: ‘Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack’(Psalm 56:1).

Fear and doubts will make even a powerful person like David feel useless. When we walk through difficult times, we shouldn’t think that it is the end! No, we must understand that when upright Christians face troubles, and evils, God will deliver us from every situation and cause us to live happily.

We read in Psalms 34:19NLT, ‘The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.’

But… are you a righteous person? Have you genuinely repented and know that your sins have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ? God is powerful enough to compensate all that we have lost and bless us with long life and happiness. And if you suffer of being righteous, fear not!

In these days of adversity, Edward Mote’s great old hymn (1834) is so encouraging…

‘My hope is right built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetness frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain: On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

May David’s encouragement in Psalm 30:11 be yours and you know that ‘your mourning will turn into joy!’

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SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

(July 12, 2022) Richard Winter brings a timely challenge…

History records both good and bad times that humanity lives through! And we don’t need anyone to tell us that were living in difficult days today… we know! Indeed, bad times these days offer us a perspective of worse times to come!

This was true in the times of Jesus too! And one day He gave His disciples ‘a scripture memory test’ about Noah’s times, linking it to the end of time and His return from heaven.

Most people know the story of Noah and the ark Jesus referred to. Indeed everyone should take note of His Matthew 24:37-38 warning, ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood took them all away.’

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TREASURED MEMORIES WITH JESUS BRING HOPE

(April 04, 2022) Carol Round challenges us to share good memories…

A recent morning devotional reminded me of treasured memories of my childhood. Growing up in southwestern Louisiana, I spent many hours outdoors on sunny days. Barefoot most of the time, I loved lying in the grass.

On my stomach, I would search for a treasured four-leaf clover. Other times, I’d lie on my back and study the clouds. My imagination ran wild as I spotted a dinosaur shape or maybe a fluffy sheep.

A large mimosa tree at the edge of our property also became a treasured spot to hide among the lacy leaves. I daydreamed about the things I read in books. My thoughts often turned to fantasies of being swept away to a land filled with princes and princesses.

Treasuring the Prince of Peace
Next weekend with joy we’ll worship and celebrate our Saviour, the risen Christ, on Easter Sunday!

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NEGATIVITY… TIME FOR A CHANGE IN THINKING!

(March 11, 2022) Maureen McQuillan challenges:

Negativity… it can be so rampant among many people but we Christians don’t need to be negative!

The reality is that if we talk negatively we’re dishonouring God… and also causing others to be wrongly influenced.

We mustn’t dishonour the Lord!
The reality is that if we talk negatively we’re dishonouring God… and also causing others to be wrongly influenced.

Off all people, Christians should know scripture and be living a life of trusting God. We’re meant to be living above and beyond all negativities!

Oh I know, life has its negatives and reversals but, with the Holy Spirit’s supernatural help and by trusting God’s word – even as our greatest example, Jesus, did – we too can overcome such blues and be a good influence on others.

Afterall, it’s not good for any Christian to be acting, talking or even thinking negatively. Doing so must hurt and disappoint our loving heavenly Father God who expects us to fully trust him (as Robert wrote about last month: Trusting God in Everything)!

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STILL MUCH TO DO!

(January 25, 2022) Maureen McQuillan encourages all who feel unsure about the future… 

A lot of good folks at this time of worldwide troubles have been experiencing disappointments… not being able to do certain things, go places, catch up with family and old friends, getting hit unexpectedly with covid-19 (but, praise God, had been vaccinated and are getting through), job losses, short of ready finance, suicides, troubled minds… and so on.

And so it’s a joy when one hears good news stories, especially of God answering prayer and blessing in various ways. Mark Ellis GodReports regularly shares such testimonies, eg… Muslim Woman Dreams About Man in White With Bleeding Feet. And we ran missionary to Romania David McGuire’s excellent report Grateful for 2021 Successful Outreaching but Moving Ahead Into 2022 With Vision.

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However, one also hears of Christians who have had bad life experiences and my ‘heart goes out to them.’Some are so troubled that as they hear negative news reports from around the world, wonder what’s next, or think ‘the end is near: Is Christ coming back very soon?’

Encouragements from God’s word
To troubled saints, I would say this: Be encouraged! Be blessed by scriptures such as the following…

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PRACTISING HOPE LEADS TO BOLD FAITH

(December 5, 2021) Carol Round reminds us to activate our faith…

‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful’ encourages Hebrews 10:23.

As the first candle of Advent was lit this past Sunday at our church, it set the tone for this season – a season of hope. For those unfamiliar with the Christian liturgical year, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve.

For Christians, Advent is a time to reflect. It’s a time of anticipation, a time of waiting. During this busy season, we seek the quiet reflected in the starry night, thanking God for what he has done in our lives, wondering what God is doing, and… for what he will do next.

While Advent celebrates Christ’s birth – his first coming, it’s also a time of excitement and preparation as Christians anticipate his second coming, his return as Christ the King. It’s a time for imperfect people – all of us – to look forward to something greater to come, something greater than ourselves. The hope of better things to come.

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