When God is With Us

I open my eyes as a new day dawns. Sounds from the early morning drift through my window. Children are waking, filled with energy after a night’s rest. The streets are getting busy as the markets are set to open. There are things to do, places to go.

I should go to the temple to pray today. Praying at home is fine, but there’s something comforting about being where God is. If only I were invisible.

It’s not easy to navigate the streets, even with the daytime crowds. Someone always seems to point me out. Or they whisper angrily as we pass each other. Even without making eye contact, I just know they’re talking about me.


They hate me. I’m not a bad person. God is working on me. But my job? People hate what I do. I’m a tax collector. I’m really trying to make the most of a bad situation, but no one cares to listen to that part of my story.

As I approach the temple, my eyes scan the area for a place to pray. Over there! I spy a little corner where hopefully I can pray unnoticed. Maybe I’ll blend in with the crowd. With head bowed, ready to talk to my God, my thoughts are interrupted by a loud, pompous voice.

I hear a Pharisee praying. Aloud. As though these temple steps were his private chamber. I want to ignore him, but I can hear every word he says.

Wait, what? He’s not like me?

He’s right—he’s nothing like me.


I shouldn’t be here. I am nothing. My days aren’t filled with religious duties like his. My speech isn’t as eloquent. I’m not versed in all the scriptures and fancy teachings. People like him.

All I know is what God has done in my life. Is that even enough? If a Pharisee is going to stand on the temple steps, of all places, and declare that I’m horrid before God, is it true?

Well, maybe, just maybe I’ll give this prayer bit one last shot. I don’t even know what to say anymore. I had something in mind, but my head hurts. My heart hurts. I should really go home. I won’t bother coming back to temple anymore. Yet, I feel compelled not to leave before saying something. Maybe God will understand? Maybe He’ll hear me?

“O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”

That’s all I have the strength to pray. I don’t need anything else. I don’t want anything else. Just His mercy.

Ouch! How long have I been beating my chest? I didn’t even realize.

Suddenly I’m feeling better than when I first arrived. God, is that You? Are You here beside me on these steps?

I’m glad I stayed.

I have peace.

(Adapted from Luke 18:9-14)

The Girdle


Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15, NLT)

I remember learning about the benefits of a girdle. Designed to be worn under clothing, this article was small, yet powerful. The main goal was to restrict and alter your shape into something more flattering. Many people do not want to reveal their full selves. Many are uncomfortable with their true selves being on full display. Certain clothing drapes the body better when parts of the midsection are held back.

One of the articles of the high priest’s garment is a girdle. Surely with all the layers of his clothing, no one would notice whether or not his midsection was a bit bulky. Why would he need a girdle?

For the high priest to be girded with his sash meant that he was fully arrayed in his garments and ready to serve. Likewise, we should always be prepared to serve and witness.

The girdle or sash the high priest wore was the opposite of what we know today. His girdle was not restrictive in any way. Rather, when his girdle was on and tied, it was a symbol that he was ready for service. He was ready and available to be used by God.

Are we ready to serve?

Have we loosened whatever may be holding us back from fully engaging in God’s work? He wants to use us to reach other people. God has filled us with gifts and passions that will help spread the gospel message in a unique way. Our stories, our daily life experiences allow us to share a common ground with people in similar situations. But we cannot be effective if we’re living restrictedly.

God wants us to be free.

Free to love. Free to serve.


This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Transformation of the Heart

Change my heart, O God! Make it ever true.
Change my heart, O God! May I be like You.

These song lyrics speak of a desire for change. More than a change of pace or a change of clothes, the words describe a heart transformation. When we sing this song, our desire is to change from our current state to the people God calls us to be.

When we’re asking God to transform our hearts, it means we’re consenting to the necessary work involved. The challenges we face during change are what make it difficult.

In this song, we’re asking God to give us a heart that loves people. This means letting go of unbiblical biases and un-Christlike conditions that we attach to how we currently love people.

We’re asking God to give us a heart that serves people. We’re asking for our eyes to be opened to the needs around us that we can meet through our service. God has gifted each of us with skills and talents that can be used to lead people to Him. We may need to eliminate or reprioritize certain activities so that we’re available to serve as God has called us.

We’re asking God to give us a heart that desires closeness with Him. This may mean altering our mindset to think more positively about people, places, and things. Quit seeing the impossible and weighing all the cons to a situation while ignoring the potential pros. We need to ask God to show us how. We should move forward knowing that God makes all things possible through Him.

It’s unfair to ask God to change us to be more like Him and then attempt to deflect the changes He suggests. When we trust God with our lives, He walks us through every minute detail of our heart transformation. God operates in a way that always yields the best results.

Let’s live out the desire expressed in the song. As we ask God to change our hearts, let’s embrace the changes and trust what God has planned for us.

The Ephod

I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. Isaiah 46:4, NLT

Competitors on the television show The Amazing Race each carry a large backpack. The bag, when empty, is light and easy to manage. But once it’s packed full of additional clothing, outerwear, extra shoes and other necessities, it can become a cumbersome burden. In fact, sometimes the weight of the full bag can even be a hindrance of sorts.

The racers compete in teams of two. On occasion, the stronger team member would offer to carry their partner’s bag when they notice a struggle. After a time, the unburdened partner would have to resume carrying their own bag again.

As the high priest carried the ephod on his shoulders, so our High Priest carries our burdens, strengthens us in our trials, and enables us to witness for Him even in difficult circumstances.

Some aspects of our lives can burden us from time to time. Depending on what’s happening in that moment, we may struggle to survive. There are times when we may be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. We may have no energy left to carry anything else.

We do not have to shoulder our loads alone. We have a High Priest. We have Jesus! He has offered to carry our loads, permanently.

Shouldering our burdens is only one part of the role. Our High Priest’s work doesn’t end there. He continues to support us by strengthening us through the trials and sticking by our side the entire time. He doesn’t sit on the sidelines, waiting for us to conquer life on our own.

One reason why our High Priest willingly carries our loads is that He loves us. Another reason why He carries our loads is to free us up to share the good news of Jesus with others. Even in our bleak moments, we see glimpses of God’s goodness. These glimmers of hope motivate us to keep moving forward. They’re meant to be shared with others, to motivate them to keep moving forward as well.

Thank you, Jesus, for being our High Priest. Thank you for carrying our burdens.



This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

City-Wide Worship Service


On Saturday, February 10, there will be a city-wide worship service hosted by Red River Valley Junior Academy.

As they plan for their future, they ask for our prayers and support to guide their decision-making process. One way to do this is to have all the Winnipeg Adventist churches join together for worship and prayer.

The morning starts at 9:30 am with various Sabbath School classes for all ages. The adult lesson study will be led by Elder David Ripley, president of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

The worship service begins at 10:40 am and will be filled with lots of praise music, selections from the school band and a special message by Pastor Sethres Dixon, senior pastor of the Henderson Highway Church.

The venue for worship will be at 851 Panet Road (The King’s School). This is northeast of Panet Road and Munroe Ave. There is parking located both in front and behind the building.

The venue is also accessible by Winnipeg Transit. The closest stops, services by routes #77 and #85, are at Panet Rd & Girdwood Cres.
Northbound stop is #40689
Southbound stop is #40690

At 6:00 pm, there is a special meeting at Red River Valley Junior Academy (56 Grey St). All constituency delegates, parents & guardians of students are invited to attend. This meeting will explore some of the options for RRVJA and its future. There will be refreshments served after the meeting. There is also childcare available.

Are We Willing to Team Up?

“Usually, those two didn’t get along with each other.  But they both hated Jesus so much, that they decided to cooperate to get rid of Him…”

This statement caught my eye as I was reading a children’s Sabbath School lesson one day. The Pharisees and Sadducees hated each other. However, their combined hatred for Jesus was bigger than their hatred for each other. They will willing to work together to eliminate a shared enemy.

These two groups were no longer focused on their differences or figuring out which group was more superior to the other. Their focus was on the bigger picture. They understood they had a better chance to accomplish their goal if they worked together.

They were willing to come together; to drop biases, even if temporarily, to tackle a common problem.

Are we willing to do the same?

Within Henderson Highway Church, we are supposed to be motivated by God’s love in order to share this love with others. Are we willing to come together; to drop our personal biases, even if temporarily, to tackle the work of sharing God’s love?

There are people within our walls who attend regularly but have never experienced God’s love. There are people on the fringes, those who may drop into our church from time to time, who do not know this love. There are those in our community who have never been to our church and do not know this love.

We must work together because the workload is too overwhelming for one person to tackle alone. Jesus was repeatedly exhausted after ministering to people each day. And even He didn’t meet every single inhabitant on Earth while He lived here. He also dispatched His disciples, in groups of two, to do what they were able to do. Likewise, they couldn’t meet every single person.

Though they couldn’t do it all, their love for Christ propelled them to give their best efforts.

God has asked us to go and tell others about His love. God has asked us to go and love others, just as He loves us. While we do have an impact on the people we each know, our reach will be greater if we cooperate and work together to share this love.

Are we willing to work together to share this love within and around our church?

The Robe

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10, NLT

There used to be a television show that aired called “What Not to Wear”. While friends and loved ones would apply to the show on behalf of a friend–the featured guest–who desperately needed a fashion makeover, the ultimate choice to accept it lay with the guest. The show hosts would explain the guidelines and rules before offering a shopping spree and physical makeover. They would then ask the guest if they wanted to accept.

Most people jumped at the chance, particularly those who recognized their need for help. But on occasion, there were also those who said no and rejected the entire idea. They were unwilling to accept help to change and couldn’t see how this positive change would benefit them.

The Robe is a symbol of Christ’s righteousness that covers our nakedness when we accept it.

Because of sin, there is a chasm between us and God. While the enemy tempts us to believe that this breach is unrepairable, God is not satisfied to live this way. God loves us too deeply to let us go without making every effort possible to reconcile our relationship. He wants us to be right with Him. God wants to bridge this chasm. This is why He offers us His robe of righteousness.

On our own, our righteousness is like filthy rags. But we can come to God in our tattered state and He freely offers us a makeover. God is a master designer. His expertise is in radical transformations. Yet, we are the ones who must choose whether or not to accept. He’s awaiting our permission to complete our transformation.

Even though He has the best plans and all the answers that we need to live well, God doesn’t force His will on us. He doesn’t blackmail or manipulate situations to get His way. It has to come unforced, from our own desire to be with Him for Who He Is.



This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Got Grace?

Friends Matt and Tommy ran into each other at the store as they were shopping with their Moms. It was one of those stores that had signs everywhere, warning customers not to damage the merchandise.

Matt and Tommy started talking, then taunting and playing. Soon, Tommy bumped into a shelf and heard a crash! Something broke. Tommy started to sweat as he thought of the impending doom and consequences. In fact, Matt was eager to see Tommy punished.

Tommy swallowed deeply as he approached the manager with the broken item. Remorseful, Tommy explained what happened and apologized. He braced himself for the oncoming punishment.

However, the store manager was touched by Tommy’s sincerity. Rather than make him pay, he spoke to Tommy and cautioned him to be more careful in the future.

Tommy was free.

Matt was furious! Why didn’t Tommy get into trouble? He deserved all manner of trouble and punishment and suffering for breaking the item.

Instead, Tommy got something that he didn’t deserve.

Tommy got grace.

God shows us His grace repeatedly, by not giving us what we truly deserve. God is more concerned about our hearts than fitting a punishment to a crime. His divine perspective goes beyond what we consider to be fair and unfair.

The sad reality is that there will be people who are upset because of God’s graciousness towards us. Because it doesn’t make sense.

Grace doesn’t make sense. God’s love doesn’t make sense. In order to reach us, to love us unconditionally and touch our hearts, He is willing to do what doesn’t make sense.

Because we are worth saving and loving, in God’s eyes, He finds us worthy of His grace.

Bare Feet

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

Beaches are beautiful meeting places. The best way to enjoy the beach is to experience it. Postcards, while picturesque, don’t offer a scratch ‘n sniff option. The air is different, the noises are different at the beach. To truly experience the beach, your feet need to be bare. This allows you to feel the heat from the sand as your toes sink in. As the curves of your feet come in contact with the sand grains, they sink in deeply. Some of the gritty sand sticks to us even as we walk away from the shore. The evidence of where we’ve been lingers.

Bare feet were part of the high priest’s attire for temple service. Going into the sanctuary to serve and worship God was a holy meeting. The high priest met with God in the sanctuary. In addition to the reverence and humility required for this role, with his feet bare, the high priest was able to have an intimate experience with God.

With his feet bare, the high priest had nothing between him and God. He was all in, able to immerse himself fully in the presence of God.

While many of the sanctuary customs have changed since the death of Jesus, God’s love for us has remained steadfast. He continues to love us with the same intensity and desires an intimacy with us. He wants us to immerse ourselves fully in our worship to Him. He doesn’t want there to be any obstacle between our hearts and His indescribable love.

As we spend time in worship with God, our lives will be the evidence of our time together. There will be something different about our characters, our behavior, our words, our service that will linger long after we’ve left His presence.


This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Where to Pray

There was something off about the cupbearer, something out of the ordinary. Sensing that Nehemiah wasn’t fine, the king asked him what was wrong.

Nehemiah explained what was happening back in his homeland of Jerusalem and the deterioration of its surrounding wall. Then the king took the conversation one step further. He asked how he could help Nehemiah with this situation.

This was the moment for Nehemiah to win big. The king, someone of influence and wealth, had offered to help. But Nehemiah didn’t respond immediately.

Instead, he prayed. While standing directly in front of the king, Nehemiah first addressed the King of kings before responding.

It’s not surprising that Nehemiah prayed before sharing his requests with the king. He had been praying, fasting and grieving over Jerusalem for about four months prior to this moment. He knew that another prayer would only be helpful.

This story shows us that we, too, can pray at any time and in any place. Nehemiah’s prayer before the king did not go unheard because he wasn’t in his private room. God didn’t ignore him because he wasn’t lying prostrate with his head bowed low.

Nehemiah’s request was a large one. He asked for a leave of absence from his work, to go back home and help with the rebuild. He also requested that the king send letters of recommendation allowing safe travels and supplies from surrounding kingdoms. The king granted his requests.

There will be times when news pierces our hearts. Before responding, before reacting, let’s try Nehemiah’s approach: prayer. God will show us the right time and the right way to respond to hard situations when we give Him the opportunity to lead us.