Pausing in His Presence


“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”
— Luke 5:15-16


While visiting Galilee Retreat Centre a few years ago, God started to lead me into a journey of pausing before Him. As I sat by the lakeside in the morning, listening to the waves splashing on the beach, I realized that I was all by myself. I pictured Jesus Christ standing before the Sea of Galilee with His crowd of followers around Him. In the lonely stillness of that morning, I was reminded that although Jesus spent most of His time in the midst of people, He also valued His private quiet times of prayer.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that after a long day of teaching, Jesus dismissed the disciples and crowds and “went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23). These verses reveal that when life got busy, Jesus got away from the noise of life and came purposely before the Father in silence and solitude.

I honestly am not comfortable with silence; I have never been good at being silent  before people, let alone God. However, on that day, imagining Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, in the silence and stillness of the beach, I experienced the fullness of being silent before God in a renewed way.

Thomas A. Kempis wrote, in The Imitation of Christ, “The further the soul is from the noise of the world, the closer it may be to its Creator, for God, with his holy angels, will draw close to a person who seeks solitude and silence.”

I encourage you to practise the art of listening, pausing first for God to speak in your prayers. I know that as you make space for God to speak, He will speak to you.

1. When was the last time you were silent before God and listened to Him during your prayer time? If you cannot remember, now would be a good time to start.
2. What changes to your schedule need to be made so that you can spend time listening to God in prayer, instead of rushing into a list of requests?

David Nguyen is married to Joyce and has three young children. He has been in ministry at Ottawa Chinese Alliance Church for thirteen years.

Photo credit: alebaffa via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Pray and Obey


“And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
— Joshua 24:24


A gentleman in our church always sat at the back of the sanctuary writing text messages during the sermon. One day, he told us his wife had committed her life to Jesus! He had been texting the sermon notes to her, as she lived in their home country!

Once, we were praying about organizing a Chinese New Year outreach event. We knew people would feel homesick during the festive season. We didn’t know how many people would come. We rented 2,200 seats from a sports stadium. If 1,000 showed up, we would be satisfied. Financially, we did not have enough to cover the rent and other expenses, but after much prayer, we went ahead in faith and signed the rental contract. On the actual day, 2,200 people came and filled every seat. Another 1,000 people stood outside, because the inside was totally full. God also provided all the funds to cover the financial need. On that day, 163 people came to the Lord. People still remember this joyous event.

What are the common aspects of these two stories? Prayer and action.

The gentleman in our church did not just pray for his wife’s salvation; he also took action to share the Gospel with her.

We did not wait until we had sufficient funds to sign the contract; we believed God would provide. Signing the contract was an action of faith that involved some risks.

In Joshua 6, we read that the walls of Jericho did not fall by prayer alone; it also involved obedient action.  The seven priests had to go before the ark with seven horns; the warriors followed and marched around the city for six days. On the seventh day, when they sounded the trumpet, the wall tumbled, and the people shouted, obeying the instructions that God had given them.

Pray, in order to understand God’s will, claim His power, obey His instruction, and give God all the glory.

1. Do any Bible passages come to your mind when you think of God delivering His people from trouble, danger, persecution, or lack of resource? In addition to praying, what actions did God’s people take before God led them through with victories?
2. Are you facing a task that seems greater than you can handle right now? In addition to praying, do you sense an action God is prompting you to take?

Ruth Teo is an Alliance international worker. She and her husband, Rev. Dr. Jonathan, have been serving in the Silk Road Region since 1998.

Photo Credit: what_marty_sees via Compfight cc

Praying for those we Love


“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit…”
— Ephesians 3:16, NRSV


Do you ever find yourself groping for words when it comes to expressing our hearts to God on behalf of those we love – our kids as parents, our students as teachers, our congregation as pastors? How about our friends, co-workers, or international workers?

Aside from any specific needs of which we may be aware, if you are like me we seem to run out shortly after asking for God’s blessing (whatever that may mean), His watchful care, and protection. God has preserved so many wonderful prayers in Scripture that we can borrow and pray back to the Lord. Among several, the one that I pray for our kids and grandkids more than most is Paul’s prayer found in Ephesians 3:14-21 by inserting their name into the prayer.

I encourage you to try using the prayers of Scripture on behalf of whoever is on your heart today. Simply insert their name as you pray the following:

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that _____________ may be strengthened in his/her inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in ________’s heart through faith, as ________ is being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that ________ may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that ________ may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Now watch God work in answer to your prayer!

1. How can the components of this prayer relate to the current context of the one you are praying for?
2. How can this prayer lead me to pray more specifically and practically for their life or situation?

Rev. William (Bill) R. McAlpine, PhD is a professor of Practical Theology at Ambrose University in Calgary, Alberta.

Photo credit: RebeccaVC1 via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Let God Be God


Edition 3: Day 25

“But the Lord replied,
‘Is it right for you to be angry?’”
— Jonah 4:4


I love the story of Jonah and the big fish. It has nuances of storms seizing the boat and terrifying the heart, of being swallowed up in the sea and belched up on the beach, of crying out to God and being heard – but not as we’d like.

From the belly of the fish, Jonah prays for the presence of God, asks for salvation, and gets it. Jesus tells us that the story of Jonah teaches about His path to the cross and the grave; Jonah was in the fish for three days due to his sin, and Jesus was in the grave for three days due to our sin. Then, like Jonah, Jesus came out of the grave. God’s power and presence was real and Jonah experienced it, but what about the purpose of God?

Jonah was reluctant when it came to the purpose of God, which was to call the people of Nineveh from idols to the living God. Jonah asked, “Is this not what I said when I was still at home?…I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God…a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah wanted God to be different: a god who is for Jonah and against others; a god who is a grumpy guy, not a good neighbor; a god who is a mirror reflection of—guess who—Jonah.

Are hard hearts all around us? But is our own heart harder still? Are idols all around us? Do we just hate it when laws are changed, when the definition of things that have been building blocks of society are changed? Do we hate it so much that we start wondering when God will show His judgment in order to show that we are right, always have been, and always will be? In this case, are we making up a god who is like us?

“You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love”  (Jonah 4:2). It is God’s purpose that we are like Him, not that He is like us. It is in prayer that we embrace His purposes so that our attitudes and actions reflect the grace and compassion of God.

1. Do you have a desire to see God extend grace and compassion to people who are unjust, cruel, and oppressive?
2. What might God be asking of you in terms of your attitudes towards others?

Franklin Pyles pastored churches that served inner-city neighborhoods, taught theology at Canadian Theological Seminary, and pastored in Owen Sound, Ontario before serving as President of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada for twelve years.  He continues his preaching and teaching ministry at McMaster Divinity College.

Prayer for Wisdom


Edition 3: Day 24

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”
— James 1:5


Every fall, my family performs a thorough review of our belongings to make sure we do not keep unnecessary items. We take this opportunity to give to families around us who have greater need for some of our items.

Once, when opening some plastic storage bins, I was surprised to discover that I had a large baseball cap collection. I wondered, “Do I need ten baseball caps while only one would suffice?” This discovery led me to think of the variety of responsibilities that we all have in our lives.

Many of us wear multiple hats. Soldiers wear a military beret to work, which is a duty and responsibility. However, while going for a leisurely bicycle ride with the family, a soldier wears a helmet for safety. There are some who use one cap to go fishing and a different one to go hunting. Each hat represents a specific role, as every aspect of our life comes with its own set of responsibilities for which we need wisdom, whether you are a parent or child, an employer or employee, or a teacher or student.

Some hats can be removed, and some can’t. The important thing is to discern which hat is the best fit for us in the circumstances that we are facing each day.

Many of us have difficulties in choosing the right hat for the right occasion because our perception of events is sometimes wrong. That is why we need the help and influence of our infallible God to give wisdom. The Bible says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

1. It is one thing to trust God for the big decisions of life. Will you also seek His wisdom for the mundane responsibilities that your role brings to you each day?
2. Identify a responsibility, decision, or struggle that you are facing today. Humbly ask God to give you His wisdom to discern the right hat to wear for the situation ahead of you.

Padre (Captain) Steeve Arseneau is a Military Chaplain with the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, near Quebec City. Steeve represents the C&MA’s St. Lawrence District on the national leadership team of the Association of Alliance Chaplains.

Photo credit: Symic via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Living in His Promises


Edition 3 : Day 23

“Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen”
— II Corinthians 4:18


Three short blasts from my morning alarm summon my soul from restless sleep. It’s as if a shofar has awakened me for battle. My wife stirs. I hit snooze…

Debris from the previous day weighs heavily on me. Up extremely late helping our overwhelmed teenage daughter through a frustrating school assignment, bills need to be paid, but work is scarce…my favorite aunt is on the edge of losing her battle with cancer. Does she know Jesus? I just want to go back to sleep.

I step out of the shower and wipe the fog from the mirror with my hand. I see my reflection in the watery swoosh, you are My child, My beloved, I am so pleased with you. I love you. I close my eyes and breathe in these words. Comfort, identify, hope. I look closer, past my weariness, past my grief, past myself, fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. A pang of hope twitches in my gut. You are with me Jesus.

Ham, cheese, bread. “Which one of you kids likes mayo and which one likes butter?” I can never remember that. Bags packed, mitts and scarves on. Off they go for another day of learning…

I sit down at my desk, steaming coffee in my mug. My daily reminder pops up on my screen: I want you to live in the impossible, with Me all things are possible.

Eyes closed, deep breath, I listen. I position my heart in God’s personal promises. Out of His glorious riches I am strengthened with power though His Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ dwells in my heart through faith.

His presence and promises rise in me, strengthening me to enter into the impossible.

Further Reflection: Mark 1:11, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:16,17

1. List the impossibilities God, by His strength, is calling you into?
2. What are the promises God has given you to meet these challenges?

Jason Hildebrand, part storyteller, part creative catalyst—Jason works around the globe as an actor, producer, and communication coach. He lives in downtown Toronto with his wife and four children. He is a member of Toronto Alliance

Photo credit: WasabiDoobie via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Celebration Sunday 4

There is no wonder more supernatural and divine in the life of a believer than the mystery and ministry of prayer…the hand of the child touching the arm of the Father and moving the wheel of the universe.
— A. B. Simpson

The six Sundays are not counted among the forty days of Lent because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” – a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. With this in mind, let’s pause today to celebrate the opportunities we have had this week for deeper intimacy with Jesus.

Let us also consider during this time of celebration that we are actively participating in this journey together, in community, with thousands of others. Lets encourage one another, and inspire each other with thoughts and ideas as we celebrate together what the Lord has graciously done for us.

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Edition 3 : Day 17

Worship through Lament

Edition 3: Day 18

Experiencing God on the Beach

Edition 3: Day 19

Praying and Living for God’s Glory

Edition 3 : Day 20

Bringing Things about by Prayer

Prayer Moves the Hand that Moves the World

Edition 3: Day 22

Dearest Father