Tag Archives: worship

Growing in God through generosity

by Laurie-Ann Copple

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we still live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa. We leave in a few days for Toronto, Canada.

During our last broadcast, we learned about growing through loving our neighbour.  We found that our neighbour isn’t just those who live next door.  It includes the foreigner, the refugee, the single mom, and fatherless boy.  Those are just examples, but there are many more than that.  Loving your neighbour is compassion in action.  It’s costly, but the Lord repays, since you’re doing this for him.   How important is it to love and help our neighbour?  Here’s Jesus’ take on that.  Listen to Matthew 22 verses 37 – 39.  “ Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is also important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[f]  So Jesus shows us just how important recognizing our neighbours, loving them and being there for them really is.  This isn’t just a wave across the street.  It’s actively looking out for each other. It’s loving them with the overflow of love that comes from having spent time with the Lord in prayer and worship.   Loving your neighbour flows out of a heart filled with generosity.

There are other ways we can grow in God through being generous.  Our God loves to be generous, and I’ve heard it said many times that we can’t outgive God. When we give in our tithes and offerings, it’s an act of worship, especially when we’ve given in obedience.  Sometimes Holy Spirit whispers a figure to our hearts that might seem a little high, but it’s OK, since he’s the one who has helped us earn those funds.  We didn’t earn them entirely by ourselves.  Lately Tony and I have been the recipients of such generosity, from those who were led to contribute to our medical needs. Some people gave a small portion of what they had, since they were measuring it against what they had left to live on.  Others gave far more than we could ever expect. The largest giver is a friend who came to minister here in Worcester.  She gave not just once, but TWICE.   We know that we could never repay this person, but God can.  She gave out of love, and obedience.  For her, it was an act of worship to the Lord.

Generosity, worship and obedience are all connected.  The apostle Paul said about generosity and obedience in 2 Corinthians 9:13. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for your obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”  Generosity and worship are connected also, for they are both offerings and gifts to the Lord.   When the Philippian Christians gave their money for Paul’s support, God viewed it as special. Philippians 4:18 shares that the offering gave “an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” 

Generosity isn’t just about money!  With God it includes time spend with him in worship and sharing your heart. With people, sometimes it’s about acts of service, use of resources, and spending quality time with people.  There is something special about these offerings. They are sacrificial.  Sometimes I am led to give away a valuable drawing or painting.  I only do this when I’m led by the Holy Spirit. This to me is sacrificial.  It’s about giving.  When a Christian doing humanitarian work named Sandy loaned us her car for a few weeks, before we leave Worcester, that was sacrificial.  We are thankful to her and bless her.

You don’t have to be rich to be generous.  Most of the people who have given to us are either middle class or just barely getting by. They were giving us widow’s mites.  Some gave to Iris for our mission needs.  Others gave to us directly when L-A needed to pay a lot of rand towards cancer treatments, diagnostic procedures and medications. Some gave so sacrificially that it made us cry, but also praise God.  We are so thankful for them.

Giving can be an act of worship.  There is a reason why family stained glass windows are captioned “to the glory of God.”  Those windows cost a fortune.  Mike Harland shares that  “scripture helps us understand that generosity has nothing to do with wealth. In 2 Corinthians 8 we read about the churches of Macedonia who had two attributes over-flowing in ample supply: extreme poverty and generosity. They gave out of their poverty in abundance after first giving themselves completely to God. They gave in order to survive.  They begged the apostles for the privilege of giving because they knew their generosity was the key to their survival.

Paul goes on to instruct the church at Corinth who excelled in everything, to excel in generosity as well. And, in just a few verses, he unlocks the secret of generosity. In the last verse of 1 Corinthians 9, we find the key to growing in generosity. Those of us who plan worship need to bear this in mind: that the willingness of our people to give is directly tied to where their focus is in worship.” [Mike Harland, “Encouraging Generosity in Worship” from Worship Life https//worshiplife.com/mike-harland/encouraging-generosity-in-worship-by-mike-harland/]

The Corinthians’ focus was in worship, not on themselves. Notice what Paul shares in 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God, for his indescribable gift!” The Macedonian Christians were also generous, because they were focused on the sacrifice of Jesus. It is in this context that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:9, “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich.” This of the Isaac Watts hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross.” Here is the pinnacle of that hymn: “were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,” [Isaac Watts, “When I survey]

What does the Old Testament say about generosity?  Let’s look at some scriptures – you’ll be surprised that generosity did not just begin with the church.  Here’s Leviticus 25:35-37:

“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. 36 Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. 37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him.  Jayson Bradley says that “God commanded the Israelites to be generous and merciful to each other. Your brother’s need was not to be capitalized on for personal gain. If you loaned money to a fellow Israelite, you were not to charge interest. Because the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, and therefore recipients of God’s generosity, they were to show impartial generosity to each other.” [Pushpayblog – [Jayson D. Bradley, “20 Bible Verses on Generosity.”  Sept 12, 2019. https://pushpay.com/blog/20-bible-verses-on-generosity/]

Here are some other admonitions to be generous.  Deuteronomy 15:7–11 says, ““But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for cancelling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.”   

Generosity defines your whole experience, according to Proverbs 11 verses 24-25.  “Give freely and become more wealthy. Be stingy and lose everything.  The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”   Jayson Bradley notes that “this passage communicates a principle [that’s] sewn into the fabric of God’s world. The more you grasp and hoard, the more you need.  Those who give freely and generously find that they’re happier, healthier and experience more blessings.” [Jayson Bradley]  Proverbs 19:17 confirms this principle of sowing and reaping. “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you!”   Jayson Bradley adds, “can you imagine being in the Lord’s debt?  How much more would you give to the poor if you knew that God himself planned to pay you back?  True altruistic generosity requires a certain amount of faith.” [Jayson Bradley]  I remember the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking into me with this verse after a friend in trouble asked me to lend her ten dollars. It was true, although not every time she asked did I get this leading from the Lord.  It is the same with helping the girls we work with.  It’s important to listen for his direction, so that they don’t take advantage, and that it shows that the Lord is their saviour.  We are NOT the saviour.   I did however get a strong sense of God’s direction when Tony took two of the girls we mentor to our dentist in Worcester.  They had already been to the free dentist, who wasn’t able to help them.  They mostly deal with extractions.  One girl had her front tooth repaired, since her young sister accidentally smashed her mouth with a hook, and half the tooth broke off.  Our dentist was able to repair the tooth beautifully at a very good cost.  The other girl needs more extensive dental work, which requires extractions and a dental plate.  While we need to fundraise for her needs, it was clear that we weren’t going to leave her in the lurch.  This girl is an amazing teacher, and after finishing matric, she’s been given a scholarship to a university. We are so proud of her.  Proverbs 22:9 expects the Lord’s generosity. “Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.” We often feed the poor, both the girls, their families and sometimes others as well.  We took in one girl’s family for a Christmas dinner and we had a wonderful time with them. Jayson Bradley says that “many people live from deficit, believing that there’s only so much to go around – and if you don’t get yours, someone else will.  It’s nearly impossible to see the world that way and be a generous person.  However, you may live with a ‘bountiful eye’ that sees the world ruled by a magnanimous God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, [according to] Psalm 50:10.”  [Jayson Bradley]  This attitude becomes possible when you believe this, and you will become more open-handed with the resources that you have.

What does Jesus say about generosity?  Jesus is right in line with these Old Testament passages.  He challenges us further with a choice.  We can accumulate stuff here, which has no eternal value.  Or we can invest in a way that deposits into the coming kingdom.  Listen to Matthew 6:19-21.  “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  “When we are generous with the things that come through our life, we are actually sending it ahead, and we’ll be compensated by God.  The beauty in this passage is found in Jesus’ promise.  As we invest our resources in God’s kingdom, our heart will also be pulled in that direction. If you ever find yourself praying that God would awaken a desire in your heart for Kingdom things, try practising generosity for a couple of months.” [Jayson Bradley]   So if you’re still learning about tithing, this takes that challenge up a few notches!  But generosity truly is part of a supernatural lifestyle, and is tied very much to the kindnesses of God.  It can even go beyond that into “BUT God” moments, where there is a dramatic turnaround in your finances.  Some people speak of sowing out of our own need.  We’ll look into the law of sowing and reaping in a moment.

Jayson Bradley believes that God keeps track of our giving.  There is a relationship between how we treat the needy and vulnerable around us and our future rewards.  He says, “The Lord is keeping pretty intricate accounts and doesn’t even neglect to record water given in his name.” [Jayson Bradley]    Listen to Matthew 10:42.  “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”   The law of sowing and reaping I referred to before shows that generosity comes in more forms than commerce.  Having a generous spirit gives blessings in all forms.  Listen to Luke 6:37–38:  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”  To withhold judgement and to forgive, is to act generously.  In God’s economy, it is rewarded with the same kind of overflowing blessings. 

Our next scripture is one that is made famous in Christian movies, and in many sermons.  It’s the one where Jesus’ enthusiasm about generosity shows the most.  Luke 21:1-4 shares the story. “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” I’ve had moments like this, and there are some dear donors that bless us with what we call their widow’s ‘mites.’  When we think of financial stewardship, we remember these people.  Jayson Bradley shares that “true generosity doesn’t come from our excess.  It comes from sacrificial hearts.  The beauty of this passage is in Jesus’ enthusiasm to point out this woman’s [extravagant giving] to the disciples. To think that God gets this excited when we’re open-handed, is pretty inspiring.” [Jayson Bradley]  

The Apostle Paul was also generous. He worked hard doubly when he travelled to the churches. He insisted on working to provide for himself, except when he was imprisoned and he could no longer do that.  He was generous with the funds he earned.  To those who wonder why a well-known speaker would pay for their own keep and travel, and also choose to bless their overseas hosts, they need to look at Acts 20:32-35 as an example.   “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. 33 “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. 34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  Paul’s visit with the Ephesians ends with these words.  He wanted to leave them an example to follow of hard work, sacrifice and generous living.

This generosity also needs to be freely given, not coerced.  There are too many in ministry who manipulate their followers into giving.  There are some African churches like that.  They manipulate the poor into giving out of fear. That’s not how God would have us give.  All we have is a gift from God, including what we’ve earned from our employment. God has helped us with good brains, skills, gifts and talents.  Some funds have a more obvious supernatural source, like when Holy Spirit speaks to someone’s heart and has them give to a person, mission or cause.  My first experience of being on the receiving end of this was when I was part of a Toronto church, while preparing for my first mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya.  I was working with Somali refugees. One of the ladies in my congregation approached me and said that Holy Spirit spoke into her heart and said she was to give me a certain amount, but she wanted to ask me what I needed.  I needed $500 to pay back my dad for funds paid towards my airfare.  This was the exact amount that she was given. When I shared with her what I needed, I was amazed that she got out her cheque book and wrote that amount out to me personally, not even through the church, to get a tax receipt.  This was supernatural.  I’ve had many other times this has happened, both on the receiving and giving end.  These gifts were sacrificial and a real delight to Holy Spirit. It was the same when we were led to help a Mozambican widow named Maria, build a little stone house for her.  We had help from two ladies, so we didn’t do this on our own, and even we were blessed financially when we helped her.  This was all done freely, and even joyfully.  Notice that in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, it mentions God loves a cheerful giver.  The word in Greek actually means joyful, and laughing.  Here’s the passage:  “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[a] And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  This is an act of worship!  This isn’t stingy, folks!  Jayson Bradley says that “God’s ultimate desire is that we would give happily.  He doesn’t want us to have to give out of obligation or coercion.  He wants to bless his children,  not so that we can live in complete comfort and luxury, but so that we can be even more generous – abounding in every good work.”  [Jayson Bradley]  

A scripture verse that also comes to mind, is the one that talks about God giving bread for the eater and seed for the sower.  God generously supplies both.  If you really want to contribute towards a worthy mission or cause, and don’t have it to give, ask God to help you with the seed to sow.  He gives us both.   Here is 2 Corinthians 9:10 in another translation.  “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” 

Our last scripture shows us to remember that we are given resources to do good as well as to enjoy them.  1 Timothy 6:17-19 shares this message:  “teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”  Jayson Bradley says that “God richly provides everything for our enjoyment. It isn’t his desire to withhold or diminish our pleasure. In fact, he wants us to experience true pleasure. He wants us to experience the joy of being rich in goodness and generosity. Once again, Paul echoes the sentiment so prevalent throughout the scriptures: our benevolence now is an investment in eternity. Who would turn that down?” [Jayson Bradley]   Since we are being conformed to the image of Christ and he is sacrificial in his love and his giving nature, we could use our own generosity as a gauge of our spiritual health.  How open are we in giving?  How sacrificial are we?  Especially when we are led to be so in specific cases? We need to remember that where we are given that Holy Spirit prompting, the Lord will repay us. And he will remember us saying yes to him. 

One friend of ours recently died.  His name was Don Pruner.  He was a very generous, kind man, who always seemed to be in my life to encourage me.  We both were part of the 8 am service at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.  He and his wife Joan were ‘salt of the earth’ people, who were involved in the community and with us personally.  He reached out when I was ill and was one of the many to help with costs for mastectomy surgery.  He helped in various costs of ministry.  We will always remember his generous spirit, not just in finances, but in his humour.  When I was told of Don’s passing, the first thing that came into my spirit was an impression of Don hanging out with Jesus, and Jesus was laughing at Don’s jokes.   His son Karl ended the email announcing his dad’s death with this line, “In the meantime, smile when you remember Don Pruner – a kind and generous man who lived for a good story, a game of golf and the love and laughter of his friends and family.”  Indeed, Don is remembered as one who sowed, and much of the sowing will be reaped where he is now.  Thank you, Don.  

I also want to be remembered in saying yes to Jesus.  Most of the time I’ve done this, although I haven’t always.  Lord, forgive me.  Thankfully we serve a merciful God, and he gives us second and third chances.  Lord, open our eyes to see the needs that you would have us meet.  Close our ears to platitudes and excuses.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons why we can’t give, and you know all that.  But many times there are not.  You know our hearts.  Cleanse them and forgive us our hard-heartedness.   Make our hearts big and give us seed to sow as well as bread to eat. We thank you that you are in control and that you are the generous one.  Please bless us so we can enjoy and bless others too.  In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #74!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but I’m still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork every six months).  Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer).  He has also been given a probable diagnosis of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining.  However, the pleural fluid that was generated from the tumour is not malignant, so we’re not sure.  When we return to Canada (imminent after a pause to recover from omicron), and after Canadian quarantine, Tony will go to the best hospital in Canada for treatment, with his CT scan, report and doctor’s letter.  We pray this will help the process, so they can continue the treatment by another CT scan and a biopsy of the tumour.   It’s unfortunate that there is a wait, with the unstable travel due to the new omicron variant.  We are in a difficult place, but it’s one that God can and will carry us through in some way.  We just can’t afford any more treatment in South Africa.

Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada.  We also have a hiccup with our visas, which expired while we were in quarantine.  Also, we trust our express PCR test in Cape Town South Africa will be sufficient for both US and Canada (they will be within 24 hours of arrival for both countries).  Since we recovered from covid recently, it may also exempt us from the mandatory random test. 

After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad, as well as have Tony treated.  Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey.  Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).

Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s retina re-attachment operation. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod   If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.”  It would really bless us!  If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.

L-A’s colouring books:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester.  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:


Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:


The books are available online, and through the above shops.  They are available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange, although they may all be sold soon and donated into local schools!  After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English using landscape format.  Bless you and thank you for your support!


Growing in God through thankfulness: What are you thankful for?

what are you thankful for

Last time we learned that when we allow ourselves to depend on God in our service to him, our attitude changes. God has invested special gifts in us – both natural and supernatural. The gifts we are given became an opportunity to serve the Lord and others in a unique way. When we serve, our attention is in two parts – on God, and on the task at hand. Sometimes that task involves stopping for the one. Other times that assignment involves practical service so that needed infrastructure is there for ministry: feeding the poor, clothing the needy, loving broken people, encouraging people through arts that inspire and bless. That requires administration, health care, engineering, and many more skills that take hours to develop. When we serve, we need to keep our eyes on the one who loves us and gives us opportunities. It’s not like we have to serve out of obligation. If you are doing that, then it’s better to set aside the service for a while and just receive God’s love. If we never do a single thing for God, He will still love us very deeply. However, when we do serve, it gives us many ways to express our love and gratitude to God. That gratitude causes us to focus on Jesus and allow our hearts to be filled deeper and widened to contain more love.

How do we develop a thankful attitude? Some people have a hard time being thankful – especially if they feel entitled, and self-focused. How do we rid ourselves of cold hearts, entitlement thinking and ingratitude? A cold heart could be called a heart of stone; a heart where the conscience is seared and there is no compassion. The very opposite of thankfulness and gratitude is unforgiveness, bitterness and complaining. Do we really want to go there? Bitterness causes all kinds of complaints and mean spirited acts. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to not store up a bitter root grows up in our heart and so defile us (and many). When we are bitter and self-focused, we fall into a form of worshiping ourselves. Unfortunately this is the very heart of the old baby boomer motto of “me, myself and I” and “looking out for number one.” If you focus on yourself, you’ll find lots to complain about! And so the cycle spirals down into self-pity and what Leanne Payne calls the ‘hell of self.’ This self-affliction is a horrible prison to be locked in! While the barometer against entitlement is thankfulness, you still need a change of heart.

Thankfully, God gives us a promise through the prophet Ezekiel in Eze. 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” So God has the key to unlock our prison. Lord, please save us from ourselves! (Read Romans 7:7-25) I am thankful that I was drawn out of this kind of thinking – but if I’m not careful, it is easy to forget. I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and share the writer’s shout in 2 Chronicles 20:21. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.”

Let’s go deeper to discover more. What is thanksgiving? Thanks isn’t just one of the “magic words” of politeness that we teach children (like please and thank you). A simple definition may be (according to Wikipedia) “Thankfulness is the expression of gratitude, especially to God.” This is especially true in the example, “he offered prayers in thanksgiving for his safe arrival.” Or thankfulness can be the appreciation of a benefit or a gift. Thankfulness can be shallow or very deep from the bottom of your heart. Most of us are thankful for something at some time in our life.

What am I thankful for? What are you thankful for? When I was living in the Kootenay mountains of BC’s southern interior, I was always thankful for the incredible beauty. Every day I chose to explore the mountain roads, lakes and ranges, I was thanking God for what I could see around me. And so one of the reasons why I remember Canadian Thanksgiving of 2013 is from the sermon that Jim Reimer gave at Kootenay Christian Fellowship in Nelson BC. It was the first time I remember such a talk, which was especially needed at a difficult time. So Pastor Jim started us off with things and people to be thankful for. Later on we shared communion together, and we were to share one word to reflect what or who was the reason for thanks. Jim held his microphone for each person to share, and my word was “church family.” Jim’s list included thankfulness for: Parents, family, friends, rainbows, sight, oxygen, hearing, touch, smell, taste, speech, a heart to pump, lungs, immune system, hands, legs, mind, health, tears, fears and pain, sadness to appreciate happiness, sun, sunset, rain, snow, rainbows, nature, animals, Internet, transport, technology, movies, time, job, music, bed, home, soul mate, best friend, enemies, lessons learned through mistakes, joy and love.

Recently I asked my Facebook friends what they were thankful for. Some were deeply personal about their faith, encouragement from others and family. Others drew connections between gratitude and forgiveness or thankfulness and happiness. I agree with these connections. But one statement stood out – from a friend in Sierra Leone, who has lived through war and the Ebola crisis. She was thankful for being alive… the most basic gift.

Thanksgiving is a holiday in North America. In the US, it is traditionally based on a Plymouth, Massachusetts celebration of a good harvest between 1621–23.  Although there was an earlier time of “official” Thanksgiving at what became Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia (in 1619). American Thanksgiving is generally celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In Canada, the origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. He tried to find the northern passage to the Pacific Ocean and took a break off of Frobisher Bay (perhaps near the present-day Iqaluit). They held a formal ceremony and communion thanking God for surviving the journey through storms and icebergs. Others also trace Canadian Thanksgiving to the French settlers in New France (Quebec) in the early 17th century. Other immigrants added their own voice to Thanksgiving celebrations, although the United Empire Loyalists may have brought the turkey theme to the day. It is good to use Thanksgiving, or perhaps Christmas Day or New Year’s Day as foundational days to stop and be thankful. Yet, what if we chose to be thankful every day? Thankfulness is an attitude – perhaps of gratitude, but also thankfulness causes you to think outside yourself and your circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks was what I was encouraged to do in October 2013, after I was let go by a radio station I was working for as an ad writer and producer. It’s no secret that the broadcasting industry is a cutthroat business, but still this was an opportunity for God to work something deep into my life: gratitude. My pastor comforted me, but also reminded me that “perhaps this was God’s timing for this to happen at Thanksgiving.” He encouraged me to keep thanking God in all the little things and that Jesus would carry me through. He told me “I feel God is up to some good things. I wonder what door will be open to you. He is our provider and source. In times like this all we can do is trust him. He will make a way…” And so he has. While I’m not working for pay (yet), I moved back to Ontario to be with my husband again. I volunteer in one of my churches in admin/reception and media team. I continue to write, teach and blog. I do prison ministry. I carry on and am thankful for all the little things God brings my way. That thankfulness for each little surprise and gift that came my way made a huge difference. It was like Jesus was carrying me, like the person in the Footprints poem. What happened was a deep outpouring of love from my church families and my own family – especially my parents and my husband.

So Christian living places thankfulness at the centre. We can express thankfulness in many ways. We give traditional thanks for the meals that sustain us physically. Jesus gave thanks as he broke bread and fed five thousand (Matt 14:19/Mark 8:6). The Apostle Paul gave thanks for a meal in the midst of a major storm at sea, and God was with them despite their circumstances (Acts 27:35). Rabbis even encourage giving thanks before a meal AND afterwards. (rabbi blessing link)

Thanksgiving is also is part of other prayers. Many times the Israelites gave thanks throughout the Old Testament. Often thanks are found connected with praise and testimony, such as: I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Ps 9:1)

Thanksgiving is also part of the ACTS acronym of remembering how to pray liturgically: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It reminds us of the prayers that have already been answered before we add to our prayer list. This keeps us mindful that God will not forget what we have asked.
Thankfulness is also something that is deeply needed in the church. Sometimes when people minister to us, we forget to say thank you. We forget and think, ‘why should I? They know how much I am thankful.’ But no! That is not the case! Thanking someone isn’t trivial – the person who is thanked receives deep encouragement and it shows that their gift or action actually meant something. I was involved in the local Cursillo movement and have been deeply blessed by their ministry. Unfortunately it was frowned on to thank your sponsor and those involved in blessing you. Yet, does it really diminish the sacrifice of those who have given? Those who give most often just want to see the person happy and or blessed. Your true gratitude is a gift to those who have ministered to you. And for me, my best gift on holidays and birthdays is when you see the giftee’s face as they are receiving my gift.

Thankfulness also causes us to grow in our faith. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Col 2:7 to continue our walk in God, be established in our faith and overflowing with gratitude. Perhaps deepening faith and being thankful are like two poles that long distance walkers used to keep their pace and balance steady (Christian Answers link).

The Christian life is like that long distance journey. Some of the circumstances we encounter are more difficult than others – and it is then that we remember the thankfulness and trust connection. Paul reminds us in 1 Thess. 5:18 to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. This does not mean to give thanks FOR all things, such as the difficult times, but to be thankful in some way at all times. Thankfulness is a lifestyle, almost like being an optimist – looking for how God can redeem a situation and make things better. Some of you may have read Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. In that book, Corrie shares about her family’s time in a WW2 concentration camp. They were sent there after they were discovered helping hide Jewish people from the Holocaust. Corrie and her sister Betsie were thrown into a building that had many fleas. While the fleas made life uncomfortable, Betsie was thankful for them! Why? Well, the Nazis avoided their bunker due to the fleas. That meant they could have uninterrupted Bible study and fellowship! So Betsie went even further for being thankful for something unpleasant, because she had the big picture in mind. She trusted that “everything works together for good with those who love God”(Rom 8:28)

Thanksgiving is also a deep part of worship. Psalm 110:4 ties thankfulness and praise: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Think about it. Many Psalms and other scriptures are put to our worship music. Giving thanks and being thankful is a deep heart felt theme. Our thanks also touches God’s heart. Remember when Jesus healed the ten lepers? Ten were healed of leprosy, but only one returned to thank Jesus. When he did so, Jesus healed him in an even deeper way – beyond the leprosy. “One of the [lepers], when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well. His gratitude was connected to a deep healing and wellness. (Luke 17:15-19)
Andy Cook even likens the “faith has made you well” to faith has saved you, since the Greek word for well used in this passage is the same as salvation (σῴζω). (Andy Cook link)

And so, salvation is another thing to be thankful for as we focus on and worship the Lord. Let’s move beyond our day to day grumbling about the little things and be thankful for what is going right. Let’s be thankful for how God has helped us through difficult times; for kindnesses shown through others, for the big and little blessings he brings our way. They are there if we look. I thank God for your reading this article. May He bless you through and through as you (and I) learn more about thankfulness and our faith. Let’s examine ourselves, give thanks and encourage each other. Let’s sing as in the song “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” and allow God to enlarge our hearts. Let our hearts be filled with love as we continue to thank God in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19)

Have you given thanks today as an act of worship? Next time we will grow in gratitude as we share in the cup of Thanksgiving.

Bless you and Happy New Year!


Ways to Grow in God: Worship is not just one part of life

by Laurie-Ann Copple


Last time we discovered that our faith grows when we learn how to worship God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4: 23 – 24). This means you can worship him through your spirit no matter what you are doing (a real secret of contentment). You have turned your heart and spirit into a temple of worship. To worship God in truth means that we are truthful about whom we are. Once you realize in your heart who God is to you, (as your Father), you can choose to worship Him without unneeded issues getting in the way.

In the ancient biblical Hebrew world view, all of life is interconnected. Our modern western world view sorts everything into compartments. The Bible world-view is more organic and natural. Worship doesn’t have to be divided into religious services, although celebrations, solemn assemblies and times with other believers is a very good thing. Yet it should not be the only time we worship. We can worship God in the midst of beauty – and enjoy creation. After all it is in a sense, one of the ways that he is known (Romans 1:20). The Psalmist notes that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6), and songs such as Brian Doeksen’s “Creation Calls” remind us that creation reflects his glory. With this in mind, it can be easy to worship God outside of a service in what many people call ‘the green cathedral.’

However, you can also worship God in the midst of work. The worlds of work and worship don’t have to be separate. This work can be ordinary, everyday tasks like doing dishes. I spent at least one mission trip where I was called to wash dishes (as well as lead worship, prayer and work with teens on a British army base). I washed dishes in Northern Ireland for three weeks. Washing dishes isn’t my favourite task, but I had a dream that I was officially asked to wash dishes and lead worship in a ministry base. Word spread in this small community about my dream, and people realized that God had sent me and that he loved them! And so did I! I worshipped the Lord and sang my heart out in that kitchen – or at least hummed and worshipped in my heart. I was worshipping God in the midst of an ordinary task, like 17th century Brother Lawrence teaches in Practising the Presence of God. I was physically in Northern Ireland, but my heart/spirit is in heaven with Jesus – in two places. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “we are ‘seated’ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).”

Can worship be involved in other ministry? Yes! Worship of the Lord should be at the heart of ministry towards others. After all, we are the hands and feet of Jesus – we are the Body of Christ. He ministers through us. So we must be rooted and grounded in God, and filled with his love and compassion. We can’t minister in our own power – it must be his love, not just ours. We simply are too frail on our own. Recently, I was watching Heidi Baker minister in a church service online. It was the Sunday following the Women on the Frontlines conference in Phoenix, Arizona (March 2014). Heidi shared of the importance of spending time in worship with the Lord. That precious time is like the oil of the wise virgins (Matt 25: 1-11). Remember what the Lord tells the foolish virgins (who didn’t have their oil)? “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ This means they did not spend TIME with him.

When we spend that time with him, we are able to minister in the Holy Spirit’s power, but also with the love and compassion of Christ himself. This has happened with me on the mission field as well – I have spent time in soaking prayer before the Lord. He has been gracious to fill me each time with love and peace for myself and much more for others. But it was most important just to spend time with God for who he is. We need to be like Jesus with skin on for those who are needy. Sometimes we have seen Jesus in others, and sometimes he is evident in us.

When I attended another women’s conference in Phoenix (January 2010), that same Heidi Baker approached me in the midst of the worship time. She was filled with love, and it was like I was looking at Jesus through her beautiful, loving face. She hugged and kissed me, and handed me a beautiful bouquet of red roses. We didn’t speak, but I sensed that God was touching me very deeply through Heidi’s gesture. I was told by her helpers that those were her roses, but she was led right to me to give them to me. I’m still unpacking what that meant. But in a sense, it was like she was passing on a mantle to me – since I really felt akin to her in missionary ways. That call is becoming clearer with time. Fast forward four years to the Sunday service where Heidi shared about the oil being the time with God. This is a lady who spends four to six hours daily in deep worship. She said that she receives best when she worships lavishly with the Lord and feels badly when she needs more time with him. But the Holy Spirit spoke to her heart that when she is holding a dying child or ministering to a lonely widow, she is also worshipping him. This is another aspect of Matthew 25 (Unto the least of these!). So worship and ministry are definitely interconnected.

Could one worship and work in a secular workplace? You bet! The Apostle Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17), and if we follow Brother Lawrence in practising the presence of God, we are doing this. We can hum worship songs while we work, and at times, we can even pray in tongues under our breath. But how about using our secular work as an opportunity for pastoral care and mercy?   There are times when acts of kindness speak deeply of God’s compassion. Customer service as a retail worker can become pastoral care. Personal financial planning done by a compassionate, conscientious Christian can be an opportunity for pastoral care and evangelism. Reformer Martin Luther believed that secular work could be a lay person’s calling, as important as that of a member of the clergy.

A layperson’s job is not something separate from faith, any more than hands are separate from mind and heart. Devoted work is the very flesh and bone of living faith, without which worship cannot live and grow. Whateveryou do, wherever you minister, you are called to serve Christ where you are. The Apostle Paul reminds us that ‘Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Col. 3:17). Quite often, these folk minister through divine opportunities, and of course can also be a good witness by their presence. Remember what Paul told the Christian slaves: Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritancefrom the Lord as a reward. (Col 3:22-24) While we aren’t slaves, we are bound to our employers to give our very best. And when we go beyond that, it points to the Lord.

Some of you may be called to be a ‘tentmaker.’ A tentmaker is a layperson who works as a volunteer for the church – either in missions or work inside the church, but they are supported by a job outside the church.This is what Paul did when he travelled on his missionary trips. Though he was a trained leader, he made tents to pay his way wherever he went. This is a special calling. This work that is done for the Lord is a gift to Him, which he honours. Though God will work through all of us, these lay people are available to do ministry in ways that full-time professional people cannot. The professional people have to minister within their jobs. Clergy are in ministry too, but they are committed to a certain kind of ministry, which includes encouraging you in your own ministry. They can’t go out like you can… and we lay people have an advantage: since we are volunteer, the people receive our ministry as a gift. It is a beautiful, sweet smelling gift that Jesus accepts, and the people receive.

It is how we minister and how we choose to use our gifts that matters. We have the same Holy Spirit, but how we touch others is unique to you and the Lord. The Apostle “Paul chose how he ministered the gospel.” [R Paul Stevens Liberating the Laity: Equipping All the Saints for Ministry. Downer’s Grove, Il: IV Press, 1985. p 42] He sacrificed being paid for his ministry, he sacrificed his time to love people into the kingdom of God. He sacrificed some of his sleep and ministry time for his job so that he could give himself as a gift. “All genuine ministry comes out of sacrifice.” [Elton Trueblood. Your Other Vocation. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1952. p. 59]. So also true work and true ministry comes out of worship.

Next time I will share how we can grow in God through pilgrimage.

Yours in Christ,
Laurie-Ann Copple



Growing through worship: in Spirit and in Truth

spirit truth

by Laurie-Ann Copple

Last time we discovered that we can grow in God through worship. It doesn’t matter which cultural form or style you choose. Worship isn’t just singing hymns or praise songs. It’s an attitude of the heart. Worship includes the work that God is doing in you while you worship Him. It is there that we discover how to worship in spirit and in truth, as Jesus asks us to do in John 4: 23 – 24.

What does it mean to worship in spirit? I had wondered about what that really means until I attended a conference called the Glory School. We learned what heavenly worship is like. We also discovered what God’s heart was toward all humankind – even those who refuse to know and love him. I became fascinated with the truth that as Christians, our spirits are already worshipping in heaven while our bodies are here on earth. We are three-part beings that are made in the image of God. If your spirit is alive in him, you are in a sense, with him. This means we can worship God in the midst of doing ordinary things, like 17th century Brother Lawrence teaches in Practising the Presence of God. We are in two places. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “we are ‘seated’ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).” In a sense we are already part of a heavenly choir, much bigger than any church choir or worship team.

What is this “three-part being?” We are! We have a physical body, a soul (mind, emotions and will), and we have a spirit: the part of us that is touched by God and filled with his Spirit. When we love Jesus, our spirits are connected to God and united with Him. Our soul has a choice to be involved, and we can decide not to worship God at that time, but this grieves Him. We’re not as close as we could be unless we choose to say yes to him. Worshipping in spirit involves the deepest part of you, your spirit. Yet it is very special when your body and soul are also involved in worship. When you worship in your spirit, you can do other things with your body; such as working, cooking, driving (with your eyes open) and spending time with your family. You could of course be doing ministry. If you worship inside while doing ministry, it makes your outreach very special, since God works through you more effectively when you are focused on Him. It can also make it much easier to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit inside your heart, since you’re already in communication with him. It becomes a natural relational flow from you to God and from God to you. This is also the key of ‘abiding’ that Jesus refers to in John 15: 1-8. He is the vine, and we are the branches. Branches grow effortlessly when they are attached to the vine. This abiding in God gives you deep contentment. Like the Apostle Paul, you can become content in all things (Phil 4: 11-13) because you are focused on Jesus and know that he will never leave you.

The concept of worshipping in truth can be hard to understand at first. However, I believe it simply means to worship in truth is to be honest with God about who you are. Don’t hide anything from Him. As you get closer to God, you may see yourself as more sinful, but that is the way it should be. You just begin to see yourself as you really are – a sinner saved by grace and adopted his love. This allows you to be thankful and hungry for more of his presence. So as you realize who you are, you also realize who God is to you.

Let me explain in another way. Some people have a problem with understanding God as Father. Due to this, they have trouble worshipping him because they think of mistakes their own earthly father made. But God is not that earthly father who made those mistakes. God is pure love and is perfect. If you open yourself up and allow God to reveal Himself (so you can see how He really is), he will be able to bless you with His presence in a deep way. When we begin to realize who God is to us (even in part), and we seek the face of God in worship, we change for the better (just by allowing him to soak us with His presence and fill us with love). It’s like a sponge left in a basin of water for a while. If God is love, he fills you with his presence of love (and that is just ONE aspect of God)!

You may be familiar with Matt Redman’s song “The Heart of Worship.” Look at the words with new eyes. As you meditate on these words, ask God to help you to worship Him in spirit and in truth. “When the music fades, all is stripped away; and I simply come. Longing just to bring – something that’s of worth that will bless your heart. I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear; You’re looking into my heart. I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry Lord, for the thing I made it; when it’s all about you – all about you, Jesus. King of endless worth, no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours, every single breath.”

It’s about knowing who God is, and how you really are – a son or a daughter in Christ. And doesn’t he deserve everything we have?

Next time, we will explore further the notion that worship and ministry aren’t separated.

Growing through worship, no matter the cultural form: Ways to Grow in God

boy worshipping

by Laurie-Ann Copple

Last time we discovered that we grow well when trust God in the midst of suffering or difficult times. He is WITH us when we suffer. When we continually acknowledge Him in all aspects of our lives, he will direct the way we should go (Prov. 3:6).  We also grow in our faith through something far more comfortable than suffering – we can grow through worship. This growth is actually a by-product of our worship, since this adoration is directed to God. It’s not primarily for our benefit. However, we are created to be relational beings, so worshipping our creator impacts us greatly.  What kind of worshipper are you?  Are you able to worship Him in spirit and in truth?  And what exactly is worship?

Worship is something that we do naturally as humans; when we look at something or someone in absolute awe.  Worship itself should only go to God. Sometimes people or things draw our attention and are worthy of admiration, but never worship. Worship means to declare something/ someone worthy of worship. Worship should not be limited to only one cultural form of expressing your love for God.  If it is, then you may miss other forms of worship that are just as pleasing to God.  Worship isn’t just singing, but an attitude of the heart; and includes the work that God is doing in you while you worship Him.  This can include daily tasks, the arts, and so much more.

Some of you may have heard of popular English worship leader Matt Redman.  He wrote a song called “The Heart of Worship” that tells a story of an experience at his church.  Their worship music was selling well, but somehow their focus changed and the music became commercial rather than true worship.  Their church struggled for a while, and they sought the Lord on what could be wrong.  They were led by the Holy Spirit to not only give up worship music, but also music of any kind, for one year.  This must have been very difficult for a musician like Matt Redman!  During this fast, Matt learned that music is not the only way to worship God, and that they could be still before Him in quietness (somewhat like soaking prayer without the music).  When they were allowed to play music again, there was a completely different feel to it than there was before that year-long fast from music.  It was no longer a performance for the people of God, but an offering of worship to the Lord – so the music was for an audience of ONE, not many.  The lesson here is that it is easy to get caught up in what seemed to be worship of the worship music rather than the God we are worshipping. The same can be said of the style of worship music – be it hymns or praise songs. I believe that both of these are pleasing, so we don’t need to start worship wars over cultural differences. The different cultural forms of worship help US to be able to worship.

For some of us worship songs and rousing hymns are fun, but what’s going on in your heart?  Are you thinking about what you’re singing? When I was in northern Kenya, the people appeared to worship with all their heart and were physically demonstrative.  However, on our return mission two years later, the locals requested a talk on praise and worship.  I was confused about this until after prayer I understood the cultural form of their worship fooled me. To me, they sounded like singing angels with their African harmonies and percussion.  Worship is more than moving around and playing instruments, no matter how good it sounds. Worship is a heart attitude.  You can worship with no music at all, although that can be difficult to do at first.  Next time you listen or look at a worship song on the screen, think about the words.  What does this mean?  Do I mean this?

One worship scripture is very real to me: John 4:23-24.  Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well and they discussed about the Messiah and worship. His words to her also speak to us as we seek to learn about what true worship is.  He said, “That true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.  God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Next time I will share what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple