Have you noticed lately, that everyone seems to be telling (selling?) their story? From sunrise to sunset, someone is trying to get our attention through one of the many forms of media that we all choose to interact with. The airwaves are packed 24-7-365. Every storyteller insists that their story is the most captivating with an important lesson for the listeners.
Have you ever wanted to know God’s will? Well here is one instance (and there are many), where the Bible makes God’s will crystal clear. It is God’s will that the believer should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is his God’s will in Christ Jesus. The believer gives thanks, not because the situation is good, but because it is God’s will. It means giving thanks in the hard times, as well as in the good times.
Has God been speaking to you? That’s a question that many believers wrestle with from time to time. How can one know when it is God and when it is just a personal desire or dissatisfaction or something else? How can mortal, flawed and sinful human beings identify the voice of a divine and infallible creator whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9)? I don’t know how, but I know it is possible and I know that it does happen, because of God’s love for humanity, and his love covers a multitude of sins (John 3:16).
What would you do if someone asked you the same question three times? This is exactly what happened to Simon Peter, Jesus’ disciple. Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” as though to say, this is of utmost importance Simon. It is a question that is equally important and relevant for us today. In the midst of a world filled with God and truth deniers, there is urgent Kingdom work to be done. In the midst of a great falling away, Jesus is once again asking as he did back then, “Do you love me?” If so, then, “Feed my sheep.” And this is love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13:
In 1864, while the American Civil War was still being fought, three young women, Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller and Elizabeth Myers began the custom of decorating soldiers’ graves at a cemetery in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. They wanted to recognize the contributions of these brave soldiers from the village who had paid the ultimate price. Today it has become customary to decorate graves with flowers as a sign of our deep affection for those who sacrificed their lives for us, and for those whose lives have touched ours.
Do you live in a state of constant expectation that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says, he will do? This appears to be the way the disciples in Acts 9:37-38 lived. In the face of what most humans would consider IMPOSSIBLE, they exhibited outrageous faith; the kind of faith that anticipates the inevitable intervention of the Almighty God. The kind of faith that is completely surrendered to the will of God, whatever that may be. They displayed the kind of faith that invites ridicule.
Leon Morris, a New Testament scholar, once said: “There is no point in accepting Christian teaching if we refuse to let it shape our lives.” The writer of the book of James is more direct. He says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22). And yet believers around the world have turned their backs on doing the word. Instead of letting God’s word shape our lives, we have allowed the influences of our world to shape us.
Where do you turn to in times of trouble? It’s quite a revelation to watch little children interact with their parents. Whenever a little child is in distress, that child will turn towards a parent and look up with lifted arms, expectantly waiting to be picked up and comforted. In such a case, the parent’s most eloquent response is to bend down, pick the child up and hold them close to reassure them. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s love.
Last night I attended the premier showing of the soon to be released movie “Breakthrough” which is based on a true story. After the movie, all I could think to say was “Wow!” What a display of God’s power, and of the unfathomable ways in which he works through ordinary humans and events to affect his divine plan.
The children of Israel had been held captive in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10), when the word of God came to them declaring that God was “doing a new thing;” something they had never seen before. God was doing this new thing right there in the wilderness; in that uncomfortable wasteland; a place where they did not want to be. At the time they must have wondered what he meant.
While visiting Kenya recently, I stopped by a local shopping center in the western part of the country. As I looked around the shops, I observed a woman emerging from a tiny kiosk with a young girl, about five years old, carrying a book bag on her back. As I watched them, the woman bent down and whispered something in the girl’s ear, simultaneously pointing towards a building which was about half a mile down the road. With that, the little girl began to run. I stood there glued to the scene, fascinated to see such a tiny child running such a long distance on her own. I watched her frame grow smaller and smaller as the distance between her and her mother increased. Occasionally, this precious child would slow down and begin to walk and her mother, who kept her eyes on her the whole time, would shout encouragingly, “Keep running, you’re almost there.” With every shout, the young girl who never once looked back, would once again break into a jog. Finally, she made it! As she turned into the building that her mother had pointed out to her earlier, the woman went back into her kiosk to serve her customers.
Have you ever had moments in life when you have felt frail, weak, or distressed? Have you gone through a season so dark, you felt there was nowhere to turn? The truth is all humans, no matter their occupation or station in life, go through seasons of struggle and difficulty. It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we can draw on God’s strength.
Many of us living in the US will fall back on time, this week (adjusting our clocks one hour back). This practice can often make some people feel as though they have power over time, and this can lead into a pattern of thinking we can control the events of our lives and change the time when important things should happen. The truth is, we can try but we will not succeed. For as the Psalmist says, concerning God, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night (Psalm 90:4).”
If you have ever said, “Yes!” to the call of God upon your life, you know that, that is only the beginning of the journey. The path from here to there is often filled with the unexpected; with the extra details that God didn’t reveal to you at the beginning for fear that you would run. Truthfully speaking, the work of the ministry, though fulfilling, is often hard and lonely. In fact, expect it to be so, for God promised both blessings and persecutions (Mark 10:30) to all who follow him.
Words have power. In some cases, words influence who we are, and words are also the lens through which the world often judges us. When life is calm, it is easy to find the right words for any occasion, but when we are under stress or trial, we sometimes feel less restrained in what we utter. Consider times when you’ve said something you ought not to have said and then added sheepishly, “Pardon my French!” or “Oooops! That was a slip of the tongue.”
Does the thought of God the Father overwhelm you with a deep sense of awe and wonder? Does the idea that he cares for you and loves you completely leave you overwhelmed with gratitude. Does the realization that he knows every aspect of your life, past, present and future and that he has knit every event brilliantly for your good, flood your heart with humility?
A New Year is a great time to hit the restart button, and many of us do, but by the time April rolls around, the majority of us will have gone back to old habits. Why? Because we typically strive for improvement in our own strength, which fails us every time. This is especially true of our spiritual lives. As we are reminded in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. Only God’s Spirit is able to replace the darkness in our lives with his light.
In almost every culture, the birth of a child is marked with gifts and special ceremonies. Things were no different when the baby Jesus was born. The Magi came into the house where the baby lay. They fell down and they worshipped him, and presented their gifts to him, gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Magi presented the baby with the very best gifts they could find, because this was no ordinary child. This was a special child, who would grow up to be the Savior of the world.
God loved the world so much that he gave us the greatest gift of all; his one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God’s gift was not wrapped in glittering paper, but rather in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. God’s gift was never meant to be torn open, ignored, returned or rejected, but to be held close, nurtured and cherished, and loved for all eternity.