At my church we have this multipurpose activities building. We have used this building to its fullest. It’s held our sanctuary and gym, multiple classrooms, almost every on-site meal… My life-group used to meet upstairs in this one room where every time it rained, it would leak from the ceiling. We’d put trash cans and buckets, but the ceiling is now falling in. We held workdays and patched the roof, but nothing has held. We eventually moved rooms.
Recently we decided that the solution of 2 entire rooms just not being usable was not going to work, and we started a fundraising effort to fix it. We wanted to raise all $60,000 in 40 days. This would be above and beyond all of our normal giving. I was dubious.
Last week in about 1/2 the time we had raised $60,227. I leaned over to my wife. “How about that?” I said. “$60,000.” “And $227”, she pointed out”. “That’s important”. I don’t know if she was joking. But she was right.
Mark 12:41-44 gives us this story of a widow who has almost nothing and gives her two coins faithfully. Jesus knows this and knows her heart. He exalts her offering above the rest because of the faithfulness and trust she shows to God by giving it.
There were certainly some very large donations that helped us meet that goal. And knowing my church, they were being faithful stewards of what was entrusted to them. But someone gave $1 or $10 just as faithfully, if not more so.
This week I want to remind you that God has money, but He needs your faithfulness. And in the big picture, you need the $60,000, but He wants your two coins more.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Hebrews 11:1, 3 ESV
I have always wanted a telescope, but I’ve never had one. I’ve always wanted to be able to observe the things I have learned in science, and not just see pictures. But nonetheless, I believe I the things I’ve been taught and haven’t seen. I believe they’re out there because someone has seen them and has evidence they exist.
I also love history. A lot of things I know about history I was taught. I wasn’t there, but I know they happened because they were written down in a relatively objective way so that later on we could read and learn about them.
Its odd to me that when we read these things that other people have observed and know, we readily accept them, but when it comes to something as personal as our faith and the things we have observed God doing in our lives, we look for a more difficult explanation.
There have been countless times in my life where the very tangible and real thing that happened was an unmistakable act of my Father. The evidence is not something I hold, it is my own faith itself. I will receive no more assurances than that. So why is it that I have considered my faith to be less reliable than any of my other senses?
This week I remind you that you should learn to rely on all of your senses. Read and be knowledgeable, listen and learn. However, when it comes to your faith about the things and works that God has performed in your own life, trust in Him and the rely on the faith that He built in you. It is the evidence of the things you are hoping for and things that are unseen.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is such a well know story that everyone knows what a “good Samaritan” is, or at least has their idea of what one is. The story has so much nuance in it that you can spend days studying it.
I think one thing that gets overlooked quite a bit is why Jesus tells it. A man asks Him, testing Him, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers his question with a question. “What does the law say?” The man quotes the law, and then asks Jesus to interpret the law.
We don’t know the man’s intentions, but if you know me, that doesn’t keep me from guessing. And given Jesus’ other interactions and the slightly confrontational nature of the exchange, I think there’s some good clues there. I believe the man had preconceived notions of who he wanted to be and what he wanted the scriptures to mean. He wanted to know that he could love some people and ignore or hate others. But the story Jesus told him gave him no out. Jesus picked someone the Jewish community viewed as a parasite to help the helpless man and said “go and do likewise.”
When we read the Word of God, what do we read? Are we made in the image of God or is do we construct Him into ours?
This week I urge you to read deeply into scriptures and parts of Jesus that make you uncomfortable. I encourage you to listen carefully when God speaks to you through those scriptures and it’s not quite what you thought he would say. I implore you to hear His voice when He says something that interrupts your view of who you thought He was. Most of all, enjoy the new revelations He gives you and the closeness you feel by knowing Him better and the mission He has for you.
Most of us are very familiar with the story of Matthew 8:23-27. Take the time to read it before you start here. Jesus gets on a boat with his disciples and proceeds to sleep through a storm. The disciples reaction was different. They were terrified for their lives. They woke Him up and asked him to save them. He woke and immediately calmed the storm.
This is a simple story of trust for most, and I think we all struggle with simple reminders and stories like this sounding fresh. Of course we hear this story and we think “yes, I know. Have faith in the storm”. But both Paul and Peter say it is good to be reminded of these things even when we are firmly planted in the truth.
The storm is absolutely a symbol for us to represent our hardships, but the importance of Jesus’ reaction is just as true today as it was then. He wasn’t next to the boat, he wasn’t on the phone talking them through a disaster or praying for them. He was literally “in the same boat”. And his reaction was to sleep.
Our natural inclination when things happen that we perceive as bad and out of our control is to panic and worry. But just as the disciples didn’t actually need to have Jesus calm the storm to stop worrying about it, neither do we. All we need to do is look to His reaction and mirror it.
Are you worrying about something that Jesus is not? This week I implore you to look to your Saviour’s reaction. Ask for the same peace that He received from His Father: a peace so great that it not only removes the fear, but shows you that in comparison to how geat your God is that this storm is so small you may just decide to sleep right through it.
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Psalms 84:10 ESV
I was reflecting this week on the time I spent as a single father again. I was very poor, and those times had some terrifying moments where I thought I may lose my home or maybe not afford groceries. I had a good community that stepped up, but it was exhausting at times and frightening as well.
Not to cheapen my victories as a single parent, or the growth as a perso, but my worst day being married is better than my best day being a single father. I get more time with my children, worry about money less, and have a wonderful companion with whom I share it all. It’s easy to forget those times that I had none of those things though.
My relationship with God can be like that. I’ve known Him all my life, and He’s interwoven into every facet. I’ve tried to remove Him a few times and almost been successful. Those dark times were long ago and tough and filled with heartache. The truth is that my worse day now is better than my best day then. But just like being married fills my life, it’s hard to invent that contrast.
Oddly enough, people are superstitious about this and afraid to ask God to remind them of the goodness of His presence. They think if they ask Him to show how they’ve taken Him for granted, He’ll withdraw from them and show them just how good they had it before. But that’s now out history has shown us he works. Jesus said “which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish would give him a snake?” So why do we assume if we ask God to show us His glory He’d withdraw from us?
If you feel like you’ve taken God’s presence for granted, then I encourage you to sit down with Him this week and confess that to Him. Ask Him to show you how one day in His courts is better than 1,000 elsewhere, and be ready to be amazed at the day he has for you, and not the 1,000 more away.
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
1 John 3:18 NLT
I think I’ve heard “I’ll pray for you” uttered as a conciliation prize more often than anything else. We say it like, “I can’t do anything more, so I’ll do this thing. It’s the least I can do”.
But it’s not. As a Christian, it’s the first thing you should do, always, and it’s the thing you should always be doing. And sometimes it is the only thing God will implore you to do. But it’s not often. In your prayers, He will usually tell you your next steps.
Currently in our world there is almost too much to care about. There are hurricanes and wildfires that have currently displaced so many, there are many more who were already homeless in our nation, and there is famine and disease around the world. The opportunity to love and serve is overwhelming. “The harvest is great, but the workers are few”. You as one person cannot do it all.
This week I encourage you to pray for your fellow man, but in doing so, ask God what His next steps for you are. Ask Him to show you where He wants you next. Be ready to move when He says to go. Speak the truth with your lips, but moreso let His live be known through your actions.
I spent the greater part of last week on the coast of Texas. Our room was located at the corner of a peninsula and had an amazing view of the gulf. While down there I also visited Johnson Space Center for the first time in almost 30 years. Everything I saw was moving and beautiful.
I spent quite a bit of time staring out across the water and knowing I was only seeing the surface. I spent a great amount of time at the Space Center thinking the same thing. As humans, we have only explored up to our own moon, and even our the oceans here have creatures rarely seen and yet to be discovered.
It moved me to learn that the crew of Apollo 8, after orbiting the moon and seeing the Earth come into view began to quote Genesis 1:1-10.
The expanse of creation makes me feel both small and significant. God delights when we delight in His creation, and His hands are deep within every part. We will not reach the end of what is to be discovered; He has already created well beyond what we can see.
Spend time this week marveling at what He has created for His and our pleasure. Be awed by His presence in the things He created.
“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and just as the Lord had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen.”
Exodus 9:12 NLT
There’s this interesting thing that happens when people discuss this verse and those like it. “Did Pharaoh have free will if God hardened his heart?” It’s a valid question, but in the end one that lacks context.
Not getting into any other theology, that question forgets that pharaoh had made his choice. See, God hardened pharaoh’s heart according to scripture. But this was after pharaoh had hardened his own heart 5 times. He’d made his decision. He was not going along with God’s plans willingly. God can see the future anyway. He could have hardened it from the beginning and forced paroah’s hand. Instead he gave him the choice to willingly participate, and pharaoh kept God’s people from worshipping Him. It was a grave and eventually fatal mistake.
It’s human nature to hold on to that which we are already doing. Sometimes it’s pride, sometimes it’s fear of losing our investment, sometimes it’s fear of the unknown. But make no mistake, it is dangerous to harden your heart to a certain path against God. Eventually you can find yourself so far down that path that the darkeness is insurmountable. Sometimes God doesn’t light your dark paths but commands you to find the light of the path He originally set your feet upon.
This week I implore you to examine your decisions. Never haggle with God and ask Him to make right what is wrong. Never harden your heart against His real plan and always trust him if He has told you to change your path.
“If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”
Luke 4:7 KJV
What a terrific promise this is, right? All we have to do is worship Jesus, and all is ours from beginning to end?
There’s only one problem. Jesus didn’t say this. Satan did. To Jesus. This was one of his ways of tempting the Lord after His fast.
One of the easiest ways that we are deceived as beleivers is in our lack of knowledge of the scriptures. Someone will quote something to us, and our reaction is either “I agree with that” or “surely it can’t say that” because we don’t know the context. “That’s the Old Testiment” we protest when we want to make a point against the scripture being quoted, “the Old Testament still applies!” we insist when trying to drive a different point home.
The most interesting part of Jesus’ temptation at the devil’s hand is that every answer He gave came from scripture. He knew it intimately and in context. His replies were sharp and pertinent. Satan knew scripture; our Lord knew it better.
This week I implore you to stop taking scripture at face value. Have your favorites, sure, but dig deeper. If you claim to believe it from beginning to end, then get intimate with it from begging to end.
My sons are terrible at surprises. “Get dressed”, I tell them. They ask where we’re going. “It’s a surprise”. It’s never a bad thing; I know my sons, and we always go to some great place where they love the activity or food. But they don’t stop. They almost whine about it. They just have to know.
It’s a sentiment I fully understand. In 2 Corinthians 6-7 Paul says, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” When I read this, I never think, “trust God because what I can see is not early as good is what He is doing”. Instead I take a “we’ll see” attitude, asking God to prove that what He, the Creator and Author of all things, has in store for me is better than what my narrow mind had already planned. And yet, like the surprises I have for my children, He has never let me down. When I allow His control, in hindsight I can see that the path I would have taken would have been either mediocre or downright disastrous compared to allowing Him to make my paths straight.
This week I encourage you to find the ways in which you are begging God to tell you His surprises, depending on your eyes and peeking through your fingers instead of having total faith that God’s purposes will be much better than what you have planned.