Rome at last

Today’s Reading: Acts 28:16-31

During the summer months many people attempt and make successful family trips to various places. Some may be right in your backyard while others take you to far off exotic places.  Now, I’m not even going to try to connect these trip to that of Paul’s journey to Rome in Acts 28, but want to just dig a little deeper into Paul’s legal trip to Rome and highlight the influence he had in a specific place God divinely brought him to, in order to influence others.

Mindset’s, or lets say faith-sets make a difference. Paul’s trip to Rome was a “legal matter“, he was a ward of the military system and placed on house arrest and guarded in Rome for two years. What did he do? Paul thanked God, he took courage. verse 15 This wasn’t the way Paul planned to reach Rome but knew God had blessed him by allowing him to get there.

What is my response?  So…maybe the trip you take for work, or the family vacation to “not your ideal location“, or a stay at the your in-laws or your own extended family is like house arrest or a trip that you don’t have any control over.  Maybe its sitting at the practice or game with other parents? Talking outside with neighbors?  Either way, let’s make these summer trips or even just our daily routines like we have the mindset of Paul.  Our journey today may not include chains, being shipwrecked, and the many other trials in a physical sense or maybe it has? We all have a story and trials we face daily. So if it has felt that way like it did for Paul, trust that God is working all things out for good (Romans 8:28) for you as well.  God may not always allow us to feel comfortable and secure, but He provides us the opportunity to do His work.  Look at the work Paul was doing. When our journey is feeling difficult, we need to lean in a little closer to God and trust in His plan for our varied journey’s or storms like Lynden mentioned yesterday.

God called Paul to see and speak with both Jews and Gentiles in Romes.  Paul knew that the hearts of the people were calloused, ears were dull for hearing, and their eyes were closed (Acts 28:26-27) still, Paul would speak of God and speak of the glorious message that can convert a heart,can heal deafness, or any loss of sight. This is the same message that have changed our hearts, opened our eyes, and opened our ears to hear His Living Word.   These verses are originally quoted in Isaiah 6:9-10 where God was using Isaiah in Jerusalem to convert hearts.

God uses Paul, He used Isaiah, He is using us to share His message.  That even today in the spaces and places where it may seem hard or not favorable to share because of hardened hearts, closed ears, and blind eyes. Jesus will use His words spoken through us to convert, change, and heal those who are hurting. Those who feel like they have nowhere to go. Those who have lost all trust and faith in others… you can point them t to God.  Maybe this was your story? I know it was mine.

This summer we have some mini trips planned, many days will be spent around our home and neighborhood. some days will be spent at work, at the pool, practices or games.  Although, we may not be on house arrest, the fact is that without others knowing about God and His love for us, many will be in a lot worse place then jail for eternity. I’m humbled and amazed to think that Paul wrote letters like Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians, (the Prison Epistles) during this time. Paul wrote these letters for the millions that have read them through the centuries, he wrote them for you and me. Paul wrote while changing the hearts of many who were in his presence in these years at Rome.  Rome, a place that had many gods, similar to the many gods that we can focus on today.  Let’s not let these worldly things get in our way.  Let’s take today, and every day in our short lives here on Earth to preach about the Kingdom of God, and those things which concern the Lord Jesus, with all boldness and without hindrance.

Welcome to Rome biblejournal family, don’t worry about the words to say, God is with you, go with boldness.

 

Awestruck

Can you see the wonder across her face? The complete joy and splendor… about pancakes with sprinkles and candles? The flame flickering and twinkling in her eyes. Mesmerized by the beauty. Anticipating the deliciousness. Can you hear the squealing with delight? Absolutely awestruck.

Do you receive the kingdom of God like a child? Luke 18 commands this – and it’s left me pondering what exactly that would look like. What would it feel like if we approached our Creator and eternity, like a child?

Curiosity

        • Hey Mommy, how do birds fly?
        • Who teaches them to flap their wings?
        • Where do their parents take them?
        • Why do they fly south for the winter?
        • How do they know it’s warmer in the south?
        • What’s instinct mean?
        • But how do you just know?
        • Do you have any instincts, Mommy?

If you’ve spent any time with young children, you’ve probably found yourself in one of these never-ending question cycles of why, what, how, when, where, or who. A hunger for knowledge and understanding is part of childhood and maturing. It’s not just the hunger, but also the confidence to seek the answers. When I hear the term “child-like faith”, I don’t take it to mean blindly believing what you’ve been told, without asking questions.. I think it’s more of a willing and humble heart to explore who God is.

What questions do we have about God or salvation that we need to get to the bottom of? Are we ashamed to admit we don’t understand something? Are we so busy with our to-do lists that we haven’t allowed time for curiosity?

Reliance

From sun up to sun down children rely on their parents for so much. This chapter actually uses the word infants – and wow, babies require even more than children, to keep them alive. Feeding, bathing, clothing, diapers, transportation, safety, medical attention, etc. They cry to communicate and eventually we figure out what they are asking for. They learn that we will comfort them, feed them, help them, when they’re in distress.

God has never let me down, has never left me to figure it out alone. He has always comforted me, directed me, and loved me, through every distress. Yet each time I can see a storm coming, I begin to worry. And isn’t worrying a sign that I’m not trusting and willing to rely solely on the Lord? Complete surrender to God is so beautiful, and this level of trust comes from experiencing patterns of His faithfulness.

This weekend, let’s ask God to show us which qualities of children we need to embrace and emulate as we grow in our faith. I know I can approach the throne of God with an awestruck heart, more curiosity, or greater reliance and trust. What child-like qualities do you need more of in your life?

In the Boat

Today’s reading is Mark 4.

Mark 4 is jammed full of great messages and contains four parables, as well as Jesus calming a storm. We will specifically focus on the parable of a seed growing in Mark 4:26-29 and the storm in Mark 4:35-41.

Let’s begin with Mark 4:26-29.

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Easter time of year has caused me to not only have a heightened focus on the forgiveness of my sins through the cross and the promise of eternal life through His resurrection, but also the spread of the Gospel not through kings and queens or dignitaries…but 12 ordinary men. Most were fisherman and Matthew was a tax collector, known to be the worst of sinners. God, through these men, spread the Good News not by force or the sword, but through their faith and the boldness to share it.

This past weekend I went to visit my 99-year-old great Uncle Roy in the hospital. He is the last in our family from the Greatest Generation. He grew up during the Great Depression and fought in Europe in World War II. He faced more challenges and saw more bad things before age 30 than I hope I have to see in my entire lifetime. As I drove a little over an hour to Springfield, I didn’t know if I might find him sleeping and even unaware of my presence. To my surprise, I found him up in his chair wide awake. Although he may be in his final months on this Earth, his mind and memory is as sharp as ever. He shared some really special family stories I had never heard before and will treasure forever. Uncle Roy is related through marriage, so it was very cool when he told me my great grandfather Frank “Tubby” Wilson, his father-in-law, who was deceased before my father was even born, was “the finest man” he ever knew. He said he greatly was respected by many in his hometown, although he was a railroader during the Great Depression and not a prominent leader or businessman, because he cared for and raised his younger siblings when his father passed away young. Most importantly, he told me that Frank and my great grandmother Mayme Wilson were Christians and raised my grandmother and great aunt (Uncle Roy’s wife Almeda) in the church. This relationship with Christ in our family trickled all the way down to my brother and me with our children today.

Just think about this for a second, God used 12 ordinary men who were fearful for their lives when they thought hope was lost because the man they dedicated their life to follow who they thought he would become king died, to just a few days later become fearless to share the Gospel. This ultimately lead to my family knowing Jesus nearly 2,000 years later on a continent which wouldn’t be discovered until nearly 1,500 years later in a country which wouldn’t be founded until nearly 1,800 years later in a city 6,300 miles away (in case you are wondering…yes…I did do a map search from Israel to Beardstown, IL!).

Romans 8:26-27 says..

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

These are powerful verses when it says, “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” The fact that He cared about helping my family know Him that far away nearly 2,000 years later blows my mind. Think of all the things that had to occur between then and now for that to happen! As hard is it is for me to do daily, how can I then not believe He has a plan for and cares about every little detail and perceived “bad thing” that happens in my life? Like these verses from Mark 4, we ”know not how.” But, He connects all the pieces and makes amazing things come from bad things years and years later. His will is always perfect. And..”the will of God” cannot be stopped.

In Mark 4:35:41, the disciples woke Him from sleep in fear for their lives when the boat they were traveling in began to take on water during a terrible a storm. Specifically, Mark 4:40 it states…

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

What He’s really saying is…don’t you remember…”I’m in the boat. I am God.” Or as Psalm 46:10 states… 10 “Be still, and know that I am God…”

As our boats begin to take on water or we fear it might due to the storm which hasn’t even occurred yet from to the weather forecast in our minds (which is usually wrong often like the weather forecast on the news), we must remember to “Be still” and know that He is God. Let our hearts and minds be aware that He always has been..and always will be…in the boat.

Samson

From the book of Joshua we go to Judges, and it’s a fascinating period of time with a lot happening. Joshua dies, the tribes are still trying to conquer/divide/settle into land, and going through cycles of sin and depravity. Between Joshua’s death and until Saul is named the Israelites’ first king, we have “judges”. These judges are different than modern day judges and I love how they’re described in chapter 2 verses 16-18:

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 

In our reading today, we focus specifically on Judges 16, which outlines Samson as a judge for the Hebrew people being oppressed by the Philistines (there are 11 other judges recorded in the book of Judges). If you’ve heard this one before, your high points might be similar to what stood out in my mind over the years:

  • God gave Samson supernatural physical strength, and if he cut his hair he would lose his strength – but no one knew that but him. 
  • Delilah tries to get the truth from him multiple times – in order to sell his secret to the Philistines. The first couple of times he tells her lies, but she tries to take away his strength with these lies… why does he keep trusting her and telling her?
  • Eventually (third time is a charm) he tells her the truth about his hair and she sells him out and Samson is captured. 

After spending more time in Judges and the life of Samson, a few new things came to light for me:

  • Samson was born to Manoah and his previously barren wife, after an angel appeared telling her she would bear a son that would be a deliverer for the Israelites. – Ch. 13
  • Samson was raised as a Nazarite and as he grew, the Lord blessed him. – Ch. 13
  • Samson desired/tried to marry women outside of his tribe (against God’s laws at that time) – Ch. 14 the woman from Timnah, Ch. 16 Delilah. 
  • Samson was betrayed by both women, both telling information he trusted them with. 
  • The situation with the woman from Timnah (his soon-to-be wife) is Lifetime Movie ready. He kills a lion on his way to ask for his bride.. then during the wedding feast creates a riddle for the Philistines to solve. His bride tells the secret answer, and it all ultimately ends in death. Samson was a great warrior and killed 1000 men without an army. Ch. 14-15
  • Samson has his “Hey there, Delilah” moments and we do not know how long she nagged him to reveal his secret, but in verse 16 it says she pressed and urged him daily until his soul was vexed to death. 
  • The Philistines gouged out Samson’s eyes upon capturing him. Samson, whose role was to help people keep their eyes on God, lost his way, and his own sight in the process. – Ch. 16
  • God gives Samson one last super strength moment during his captivity and he kills 3,000 Philistines before his own death. 
  • Samson is listed among the men and women of great faith in Hebrews 11! 

This deeper study of Samson has replaced my thoughts of “why did he spill the beans” with some areas of encouragement: 

After Samson is captured and realized he wrongly told the secret of his strength, he still had the courage to call upon the Lord for help. Wow!! When we mess up, we need God’s help to deal with the fall out. But sometimes we let our shame, pride, or doubt keep us from calling on God. What an awesome example Samson gave us to cry out with faith! 

Be wise about who you allow into the inner circle of your heart. Are they Christ Followers, encouraging you in your walk with the Lord? Is there anyone influencing you in ways that come between you and God? 

What strength did God entrust you with and how are you using it for His kingdom?   

Final Exam

Today’s reading is Genesis 22.

Starting at the end of Genesis 11 through today’s reading we learn about Abraham’s life. As I reflect on his life told in these chapters, one of my biggest observations is that Abraham consistently heard the Lord speaking to Him, and then He trusted and obeyed. This occurs many times, but we first see it in Genesis 12 when Abraham is living in Haran and God tells him to go from his country and he will make him a great nation and bless him to be a blessing. It is amazing to me that he obeyed for 2 reasons. First, he was already 75 years old and moving back then didn’t just mean calling Two Men and a Truck or hopping in a car! Secondly, Genesis 13:2 tells us he could have been content because he already had much livestock and gold. Often, it’s harder to trust God when you already have everything you need and feel like you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. However, we must continue to stretch ourselves like Abraham did to have faith and trust and obey. Faith is never a “stay’..it’s always a “go.” If you stay, you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be.

Although it may seem like Abraham had everything, the Lord continued to stretch Abraham to trust in Him with faith, and there were challenges. The biggest challenge being Abraham and his wife Sarah’s inability to have a child. However, God kept his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child, and they did at Abraham’s age 100 and Sarah’s age 90. Now, we see the final exam or test God gives Abraham. God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Those of us who have children, can you even imagine? Not to mention the fact that Isaac was the miracle son they had waited for. I can’t even imagine what Abraham must have been thinking. We see in verse 22:1, Abraham says, “Here I am.” He does not ignore God when God is asking him to do something He really doesn’t want to do. Some of you may say you have never heard God speak to you. Well, you may not have heard the audible voice of God, but all of us have heard that little voice in our head saying things like call a certain friend, check in with your child, buy that lady’s meal, take that new career path, join a small group, begin going to church again, spend more time with me in the Word or prayer. Do we stop, listen, trust and obey like Abraham? Or do we completely ignore it thinking of all the barriers and go on busily with our day. I have also observed in my life and the life of others that when we spend more time with the Lord in His Word, prayer, and in church He speaks through those mediums giving us clarity as to the right direction and actions to take. Ask yourself, am I even giving myself an opportunity to hear the Lord speak to me in those ways? Then, am I showing faith and taking action with trust and obedience to Him. or am I just going on quickly to the next thing in my day?

We know that God does not let Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Again, the Lord speaks and Isaac says, “Here I am.” God stops Him from doing so as he takes the knife to kill Isaac. God could have asked Abraham to sacrifice his riches or many other things but God knew he truly had Abraham’s heart when Abraham was willing to give up what was most important to Him in Isaac. This was the final exam so to speak. This was the final test for God to see that Abraham truly trusted Him, and that He alone was enough for Abraham. Once Abraham showed Him this, God tells him in Genesis 22:17 he would not only get to keep his 1 son in Isaac, but he would have offspring numbering as many stars in the sky and sand that is on the seashore. As pastor and author Mark Batterson says, “You can’t out give God.”

As I read this I ask myself, is God enough? Would I give up everything for Him? God may not ask us to give up everything, but I don’t think there is any question He wants our heart..and not just some it…all of it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us of His steadfast love and that his mercies are new every morning. In the same way He shows His favor upon us which He doesn’t have to do, we must show our gratitude for his saving grace on the cross through our trust and obedience and giving Him our whole heart today and every day, even in our old age until we leave this Earth, just like Abraham did. He is enough.

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

To The Church

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family!

In Revelation 2 we have hear Jesus speak to John and to four of the seven churches in the province of Asia. The words Jesus speaks to John would be the letters written for the churches then and to all of us as “the Churches” now.

The letters to the churches are of praise and encouragement, but also warnings.  So as you read through Revelation 2, listen to His words and hold onto His promises.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

To the Church in Ephesus

  • He is our right hand that holds it all in His hands. v.1
  • He knows our actions and our deeds. v.2
  • He understands our perseverance.v.3
  • He reminds us to repent when we have fallen. v.5

To the Church in Smyrna

  • He is the First and the Last v.8
  • He knows our pain and needs. v.9
  • He reminds us the devil will test us, still be faithful to receive your victor’s crown. v.10

To the Church in Pergamum

  • He holds a sharp double-edged sword. v.12 (Hebrews 4:12)
  • He will provide manna v.17
  • He will provide a white stone with a new name on it. v.17

To the Church in Thyatira

  • He knows our deeds, love, and faith, our service and perseverance. v.19
  • He gives us time to repent, are you willing?
  • If we don’t repent, we will suffer. v.22
  • I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.  v. 23

Jesus is reminding us that He truly knows us. (Romans 8:27-37)  He knows what is said and done in the dark and what is in the light. (Luke 12:3)  That judgment will be passed and He gives us the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. (John 9:39 and Matthew 4:17)

To each church and to each of us Jesus says, Whoever has ears let them hear.  Do you hear Jesus speaking to you today? Listen close, He knows what we go through every day, He is here for us, waiting. All we need to do is listen.

Dear God,

Thank you for your words that we are able to apply to our hearts each day.  God, we know you are with us always and know every detail of our being.  Help us to listen and obey your words. That in this wonderful Christmas season we remember and focus on your ultimate sacrifice of sending your own son Jesus to live a perfect life and ultimately die for our sins.  The sins we all like to hide away, let us bring them to the light and repent.   God I’m sorry when I lose faith, I’m sorry when I don’t listen.  Search my help and reveal to me all that you desire and help me to live not by my will, but yours.  Help me to open my ears, and hear your loving voice today.  We love you.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.

Wave Walker

Matthew 14:25-31

Two weeks ago our family had a trip to Wisconsin, where much of the time was spent on the water, swimming, skiing, tubing, etc. When my 8 year old was out on the water skis, we could see her from the boat smiling and singing this song from Citizen Way:

I can’t help but think of Peter singing (shouting) this song as he was helping to build the early church! From the moment he was called by Jesus to be a disciple and follow him, he was a learner. Peter asked all the questions, had doubts, and had real fears. Jesus continued to surprise Peter with his parables, life lessons, and responses to his questions – even down to Jesus telling Peter he would deny him three times. Can you imagine? And then to experience everything Peter did through Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and then the Holy Spirit coming to them. He had quite a testimony! As he was building the early church with Paul, I have to think that his time walking on the water with Jesus was huge in his faith journey, and a point he could always go back to. When things would begin to crumble around him, Peter could remember that he is a wave walker! Jesus not only did miracles in front of Peter – he did miracles THROUGH Peter.

When I asked my daughter what she knows about the real story of the wave walker, she quickly replied that Peter was in a boat and a storm came and Jesus was there and walked to the boat from the shore. He gave Peter the power to walk on the water, and as soon as Peter took his eyes off Jesus he would start to sink. But if he kept his eyes on Jesus he would not sink! I love the matter of fact faith that kids have – it’s humbling and challenges me to not overcomplicate things. . Pure and simple, keep our eyes on Jesus and we can be wave walkers too!

What miracles has Jesus done in your life? What’s your anthem of praise for who He has created you to be?

The Truth

Today’s Reading: Matthew 5:33-37, Psalm 64

Good Morning! I’m so happy to be with you again Monday morning readers. This week, we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s reading focuses on oaths. When I think of the word “oath” I think of serious situations like testifying in court or taking an oath of office. In our society we view an oath as a promise to tell the truth, a promise to do no harm or a promise to do our best to protect people. When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount sometime around 60 AD, an oath not only implied keeping one’s promise but also had significant spiritual implications. Jesus is emphasizing the importance of telling the truth. Keeping our word or oath is one of the few forms of earthly currency we have. It builds trust and makes committed human relationships possible. Jesus’ teaching on oaths has three distinct facets:

  • You must keep your promises to God. Back in 60 AD, Jews avoided using God’s personal name when taking an oath. Instead they would use a reverent sounding substitution in order to appear sincere. How often do we as Christians make a promises in the name of God whether in church, at small group or in our community. The Bible condemns making vows or taking oaths casually when you know you aren’t fully committed to keeping your word.
  • Jesus tells us not to take oaths at all. This seems counterintuitive, but Jesus’ message is that our word should be enough. He encourages us to act with integrity in all areas of our life. When we do so, we can be our authentic selves and therefore do not have to make promises in order to redeem trust. If we tell the truth all the time, we will have less pressure to back up our words with an oath or promise.
  • Do not swear by your head. What Jesus means is that we do not have the authority to create or destroy things over which God has authority. Swearing against God aligns us with the enemy. Just as he attempted to assume God’s position, so do we when we attempt to sit on a false throne.

Oaths are needed today because we live in a sinful society. Trust is a powerful element of our ability to interact as sinners. Psalm 64 says:

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,  from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose;  they talk of laying snares secretly thinking, “Who can see them?” They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. (Psalm 64:2-6)

 Jesus calls us to be genuine in our pursuit of honesty and personal integrity. He asks us to keep our promises to God and ask for forgiveness when we fail. The grace in this lesson is that God always keeps his promises to us, no matter how many times we fall.

Peace and blessings this week