Who Fired the Maid?

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Recently I came across a hand-towel in a store that read: “Who fired the maid?” I found the towel a little funny. It’s interesting how a towel has become an image of servanthood. The implication of the towel was, “why do I have to clean something up…that’s a maids job.”

My mind went to events that occurred in the life of Christ and His disciples on the night he was to be betrayed. They find themselves in an “upper room.” The account of the upper room is recorded in all four gospels (Matt 26:1-29, Mk 14:12-25, Lk 22:7-20, and Jn 13:1-38). In these last hours Christ spent with His disciples, He ate with them, instituted the New Covenant in His Blood (communion), gave them last-minute instructions and encouragement, and prayed His “high priestly prayer” over them. Then Jesus went to face betrayal, rejection, torture, and death on a cross for which He had come into the world.

The hand-towel I saw drew my mind to the object lesson Jesus engaged the disciples in that evening. During the gathering, the disciples begin arguing over who is the greatest. Keep this in mind. Jesus’ mind is filled with thoughts of His love for His followers as well as a clear understanding of His betrayal, suffering, and death. Jesus is keenly aware of His God-given authority and His destiny. Then, Jesus quietly rose and began to wash the disciples’ feet. The lowest, most menial servant typically performed this task.

Jesus’ whole coming to earth was an act of humility. Paul writes to the church in Philippi:

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form” (Phil 1:5-7).

Jesus willingly placed upon His divinity humanity. Here again, in the upper room, Jesus shows humility by taking the place of a servant. By this humble act, Jesus reminds them that His followers are to embody His example and take the posture of a servant and not expect to be served. Can you imagine the mind-shift from discussing who is the greatest to see the greatest take the place of the least?

He goes on to explain that, unless the Lamb of God cleanses a person’s sin, that person will never be clean: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Jesus teaches that until we humble ourselves and let Jesus wash us of our sins, we have no saving fellowship with Him.

Jesus is our Teacher and Lord and yet humbled Himself to perform a lowly service, how could we do any less than with humility serve others. Jesus example provides the picture of a Christlike life overflowing with the fullness of God, where the blessed can be a blessing. Jesus teaches us that salvation is only possible through receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. And, only through the pathway of humility can we live with the blessing of the overflowing fullness of God flowing from us, the blessed, to bless others. In a real sense, no one fired the maid. I am commissioned to be that servant. Imagine how following the example of Christ’s humble posture would impact our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and region. It would bring more than a mind-shift, it would be renewal and revival.

It is my joy to follow Christ with each of you. Let’s encourage each other to embody Christ’s humble service to others. Let’s pick up our towel and descend into the greatness of genuine fellowship with our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

God is Here

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I believe most, if not all of us, would admit that it is easy to go throughout our day without recognizing God’s presence. This neglect can be heightened when times and situations are difficult. One of God’s attributes is that He is omnipresent (God is present in all places at all times). No matter where we find ourselves, we can confidently proclaim, “God is here.” However, the full impact of this blessing can only be experienced if we actually affirm our encountering of God throughout the day, everywhere, and in every situation.

We discover in the Old Testament book of Genesis an account of a man by the name of Jacob fleeing from his enraged brother Esau. Esau had a right to be upset. Jacob had stolen his birthright effecting his inheritance and future standing in the family. Jacob discovered himself in a strange land, feeling very much alone. He’s exhausted, so he went to sleep using a stone as a pillow. In Genesis 28, we learn that while he slept, he had a dream about heaven and angels. God speaks to Jacob in this dream, making him a promise.  The Lord declares:

“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen 28:13-15).

When Jacob awoke, he exclaimed, “Truly, God is in this place and I didn’t know it.” Jacob’s discovery was not just for him but for all of us. We too can be confident that God is always with us. Christ announced: “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20). He spoke these comforting words to his disciples that are just as true for His followers today.

I have found it helpful throughout the day to pause and remind myself, “God is here.” Whenever I feel distant from God, I do the same. I especially have developed a practice of doing this when I face a difficult or uncertain situation.

Saint Patrick stated it this way:

“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”

That about says it all. I am surrounded by Christ and indwelt by God’s Spirit, and God is everywhere. This must have been on the heart and mind of the psalmist when he wrote: “You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues” (Psalm 31:20). Where you find yourself, take a moment, and declare, “God is here.”

I am so thankful to serve our ever-present God with each of you. Let’s encourage one another, often with the truth that the King of the universe is with each of us. He is here. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Prayerfulness

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For followers of Christ, prayer is the best way to communicate with God. Therefore, prayer is crucial to our ability to encounter God. Prayer is not designed to be a monotonous monologue, but a dynamic dialog with the Lord. The importance of regularly praying cannot be overstated. Prayer is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. Through prayer, we get to share all aspects of our life with God (see: Jer 33:3; James 4:8). We can express gratitude to and trust in God through prayer (see: 1 Chron 16:34; Ps 9:1). God invites us to confess sin and ask for the strength and wisdom to live victoriously through prayer (see: Ps 32:5; 1 Jn 1:9). Prayer is an expression of worship (see: 1 Thess 5:16-18). Lastly, prayer acknowledges that God is in control of our lives (see: Isa 46:9-10; Daniel 4:17; 1 Chron 29:11). I believe these reasons among many more are the thrust behind the psalmist proclamation: “God’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it” (Psalm 145:18). Astonishingly, our loving God desires for us to invest time with Him through prayer.

There is biblical precedence to connecting prayer with fasting. Interestingly the connection between prayer and fasting is not explicitly explained in Scripture. However, there is a common thread in God’s Word threading the two together.

In the Old Testament, prayer and fasting had a sense of declaring one’s need and dependence on God during times of great difficulty. Throughout the Old Testament, prayer and fasting occur during times of mourning, repentance, and deep spiritual need. In the New Testament, there seems to be a sense of anticipation of God’s moving among His people and seeking His guidance and power in specific situations. It is safe to say that the examples of prayer and fasting in the New Testament are components of worshipping God and seeking His favor.

It is essential to acknowledge that nowhere in the Bible is a Christ follower commanded to fast. Instead, the Scriptures present fasting as something good and profitable. The focus of fasting is not to go without food but is focused on taking our eyes off the stuff of this world and unto God. It is a physical manifestation of our heart’s desire for a growing relationship and increasing reliance on the Lord. Fasting is not about changing God’s will to our will, but our will to align with God’s will. Fasting is not always a food fast.  Some physically can’t fast due to health reason, but all of us can temporarily give up something to draw closer to God.

It is important to note that the Bible nowhere teaches that God listens to prayers more when they are tied to fasting. What we observe in Scripture is that prayer and fasting seem to indicate the earnestness of those who were praying as well as the situation and circumstances for which they prayed. In fact, the more critical the situation, it would seem, the more appropriate it is to pray and fast. For example, I prayed and fasted the first time in High School when I sought the Lord’s direction on what path of preparation for pastoral ministry He had in mind for me.

Mark records in his Gospel that on one occasion, a man brought his son to the disciples of Jesus to heal him of an unclean spirit. They are unable to do so, but Jesus does heal the boy. Jesus’ disciples ask Him privately why they failed to heal the boy. Jesus responds: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). It appears that the lack of prayer makes us weak in faith. Through prayer and fasting, our will is conformed to God’s will, and we are given all we need to fulfill that will.

Prayer is something we ought to do regularly. We ought to be in a constant attitude of prayer (1 Thess 5:17). This suggests a mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and consciousness of being in God’s presence throughout the day. Again, prayer is crucial to our ability to encounter God.

I am honored to do life with each of you. Let us encourage each other to be people of prayer. The church statesman A.B. Simpson once said, “Prayer is the link that connects us with God.” I agree and believe the Bible confirms this to be true. Let’s encounter God through prayer. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Faith in God’s Word

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One way God has provided for us to encounter Him is through studying and applying the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word to us. The Apostle Paul writes to his protégé Timothy: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, the Bible is the very words of God written so that we can know Him and make Him known.

The purpose of the Bible is not that we will merely know it, but through it, we can encounter God. I have often been asked if I have “experienced” God. In part, I do every time I explore the Scriptures. Not only does my time in God’s Word allow me to encounter Him, but it has provided me with some of the most influential mentors in my life. I get to sit at the feet of people like Moses, Ruth, King David, Paul, and Peter. I grow as I read their testimonies and instructions. I learn from their failures and victories. My interaction with them provides a genuine encounter with God.

The Bible also provides me God’s answers to many of life’s questions. People have asked many questions that God answers in Scripture. What is the purpose of life? Is there life after death? Why is there evil in the world? Besides answering these questions, the Bible gives much practical advice in areas such as: How can I have a successful marriage? How can I parent rightly? How can I be a good friend? What really matters in life? How do I handle the highs and lows of life in a way that glorifies God, bless me and blesses others through me?

It is no secret that we live in a world inundated with thoughts and opinions. Through the Internet, there are massive amounts of information at our fingertips. This can be a great thing, but it can also lead us down a path further and further from the truth. Contrary to what some believe, just because it is on the Internet does not make it true. However, the Bible is totally reliable and true. Please, do not get me wrong. I believe in reading books, posts, and blogs from various authors and hearing the opinions of others. But, I also believe we all need a filter to allow us to discern the difference between truth and falsehood. As we encounter God through His Word, we are provided such a filter.

I want to be very careful that I do not live according to the opinion of others or even my own opinion. I want to know God and His ways through His Word and live accordingly. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who expressed gratitude that he had made a particular decision in life. He even attributed it to the success he was experiencing in a specific area. The problem was that the decision he had made is clearly named as a sin in the Bible. He appeared to be successful in the area he was addressing. But, it was fallacious to believe his success was due to sin. Unfortunately, this is all too prevalent in the church. I am reminded: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). The simple truth is that the path of one’s life has consequences consistent with how it is walked. I prayerfully strive to walk as one who has truly encountered God through His Word. I am not perfect in this pursuit, but God is perfecting me.

It is a privilege to be invited by God to encounter Him every day through His word. The psalmist writes: “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him” (Psalm 119:1-2). Those who delight in God’s Word are invited to know Him and walk righty with Him and make Him known.

I am honored to be given the opportunity to encounter God with each of you. Let us encourage one another to invest in studying and applying God’s Word. Together let’s know God and make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

A Burning Call

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In Exodus, there is a fantastic account where Moses encounters God by a burning bush. In this experience, not only is Moses introduced to the one true God in an awe-inspiring way, but he receives a divine call to lead Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land.

How does Moses respond? He responds by voicing some objections. Moses fears that the Israelites will not recognize him as a leader. Moses even declares that he does not even know how to tell them who sent him. He claims he lacks credentials and also the ability needed for such a call. Then, he flat out declares, send someone else.

We discover that God patiently meets each of Moses’ objections with encouragement and even inviting Moses to partner with Him in some miraculous displays of divine power. In the end, Moses is sent to fulfill his call. We discover as Moses’ story unfolds that he comes to believe he is called, that God will provide all that is needed to fulfill his calling, and that he was the answer (he had a part in God’s redemptive plans).

Moses goes on to be one of the most prominent figures in the Old Testament. He is warmly remembered as the man chosen to bring redemption to God’s people held in Egypt. God specifically chose Moses to lead the Israelites from captivity in Egypt to salvation in the Promised Land. Moses is also recognized as the mediator of the Old Covenant and is commonly referred to as the giver of the Law. Finally, Moses is the principal author of the Pentateuch, the foundational books of the entire Bible. It is no exaggeration to state that Moses role in the Old Testament is a type and shadow of the role of Jesus in redemptive history. However, this would not be possible had he not trusted the Lord and accepted his calling.

Moses received a burning call from God that, once he accepted, led him to a life filled with dynamic fruit from the Lord. Each of us is called by God as well. Paul writes to the Ephesian believers: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10). God has a burning calling for each of us.

We can understand God’s call in two tiers that we need to keep in alignment. We have our primary call or common calling. We are to be disciples, who make disciples, wherever we are (see: Matt 28:18-20). Then, we have our secondary calling. Paul writes that we are “masterpieces,” created by Him with the call and ability to do great things for the Kingdom that will glorify God, bless us, and benefit others (Eph 2:10). A believer must keep his or her unique secondary calling aligned to his or her primary calling to make disciples who make disciples. (2 Tim 2:2) This is true whether we are pastors, teachers, students, clerks, moms, and dads…you get the picture. Every believer, as part of the church, has the capacity and call to participate in God’s redemptive plans.

What a burning calling, but I would guess all of us have either boldly like Moses or passively declared our objections. But, our objections does not change the fact that we have been called. In order to move personally beyond our objections, we need to, like Moses, believe we are called. We must believe God will provide what we need to fulfill our calling. Lastly, we must believe we are the answer (God has a place for each of us in His redemptive plans). In one way or another, God wants us to partner with Him to impact our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, this region, and yes the world, for His glory. Imagine what it would look like for all of us to accept God’s calling on our lives. We and the world around us will never be the same. The crucial question is: Will you accept God’s call on your life?

It is my joy to serve our Lord with each of you. Let’s encourage each other to answer God’s call on our life. Let’s help each other to believe we are called, that God will provide everything we need to fulfill our calling believing we are the answer (God has a place for each of us in His redemptive plans). Imagine the Kingdom fruit that will be produced as we partner with God by answering His call. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

A Burning Experience

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In the Bible, we find various accounts of people’s encounters with God. These stories reveal truths that impact our own life with God, with others, and with our very self. In other words, these extraordinary meetings between God and people are more than historical realities. They can serve as a means of assisting us in our experiencing God in a way where we truly know Him and can make Him known to others. One such encounter is between a man named Moses and God. For four hundred years, the descendants of Abraham lived in Egypt. We could venture deep into the weeds to discuss why the Lord chose to have His chosen people live in Egypt for such a long period of time and to do so, in part, as slaves. However, it will need to suffice to say that although God certainly could have chosen a different way or a different time frame for bringing them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, He chose a particular way to bring glory to Himself and for the benefit of each and every one of us. Part of this plan was calling Moses.

Moses was the great leader and deliverer of the Law through whom God used to bring about His plan of liberating the descendants of Abraham from slavery in Egypt, constituting them a nation for His service, and delivering them within reach of the promised land. God’s calling of Moses was a fascinating encounter where God revealed Himself through a burning bush. We read:

Exodus 3:2–5 (ESV)

     And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush. This is not a visionary or inner experience. What happened there cannot be explained on any naturalistic basis. This was a genuine theophany – a visible appearance of God to humans. As we read through the account (Exodus 3:1-10), we discover that God knows Moses intimately. Moses might have felt alone, but God knew him his entire life.

Another lesson we learn is that God is holy. God’s holiness is His defining characteristic. God’s holiness speaks of His goodness, power, and otherness. God’s holiness is unique, all-powerful, and radiating from Him. God warns Moses not to come closer because God’s holiness is so powerful that He must be treated with respect. But, we also learn in Scripture that His holiness is a gift that is able to heal our broken and impure world (see: Ezekiel 47). God also reveals His identity to Moses as well as His compassionate heart and desire to see His people redeemed. Lastly, God calls Moses to be part of the answer by “bringing God’s people…out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

Moses’ experience with God is truly dynamic, but it is recorded in Scripture for more than merely providing a historical account, it reveals much about our own encounter with God. God also knows each and every one of us (see: John 10:14). We also experience God’s holiness, but due to the work of Christ, those who have received Him as Lord and Savior are accepted by God as holy – as holy as Jesus (see: 1 Corinthians 1:30 & 5:21). Even further, God’s holiness resides in every Christ follower empowering us to spread the holiness of God to the entire world. God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ, and we experience Him as we study God’s Word and through the work of His Spirit in and through our lives as a result of His compassionate ministry of redeeming us (see: Galatians 5:1 & Psalm 130:7). Like Moses God also calls us and empowers us to be a part of His work of spreading His love and message to our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, region, and the world (see: Acts 1:8).

Moses had an amazing encounter with God, but so to have we. Imagine what it would look like to truly allow our encounter with God to lead us to partner with Him in our gatherings and scatterings as His church for His glory. God speaks to us words of love and deliverance and mission. But, there is a crucial question that turns all of this from mere knowledge to life-changing action. How will you respond?

It is my honor to serve Christ with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to partner with God as His church to share His love and message with the world around us. Let’s give our all to the God who knows us, has revealed Himself to us, has compassionately redeemed us and made us holy, as well as, calls us to live on mission with Him. Soli Deo Glory (Glory to God Alone)!

Redemption

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When I read a book or watch a movie, I like it when there is a surprise ending. I love a good thriller or mystery (who-done-it). My wife, Krista, gets annoyed with me when I figure out the ending early on into a movie. I like it when I can’t. I enjoy it when the end is a surprise. As one reads the Book of Ruth, the ending is as much a surprise for us as it was for the original recipients. We discover that Ruth is the grandmother of King David and the foremother of Jesus our Redeemer.

Redemption is commonly understood as the act of purchasing back something previously sold. Redemption is the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil. We discover in the Book of Ruth that the family line of Elimelech and Ruth are redeemed through Ruth’s marriage to a righteous man named Boaz. However, on a broader plain, understanding that Ruth is a foremother of Jesus Christ makes this account a snapshot into the sacred thread weaved throughout the Scriptures leading to our redemption found only in Christ. For Israel, the Book of Ruth speaks of their establishment and redemption as a nation. David’s reign was not merely the result of his shrewd politics or his smart tactics but from divine preservation. For us Christians, the Book of Ruth speaks of how the story of Ruth anticipates, another devoted handmaiden, Mary, who gave birth to Jesus (see: Lk 1:38).

The Bible clearly teaches that everyone needs redemption. Our natural condition was characterized by guilt: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Christ’s redemption has freed us from guilt, being “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). We can understand the word redeem to simply mean, “to buy out.” The term in the time of the New Testament was explicitly used about the purchase of a slave’s freedom. The application of this term to Christ’s death on the cross is quite telling. If we are “redeemed,” then our prior condition was one of slavery. God has purchased our freedom, and we are no longer slaves to sin. We are free in Christ. Jesus Christ paid the price of our redemption on the cross. When we choose to follow Him, we enter into a personal relationship with God marked by freedom.

The good news is found in God’s purpose for us. God created us to live in a right loving relationship with Him. Our problem is that our wrongness (sin) keeps us from naturally experiencing this relationship. God’s remedy is that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sin on the cross so that through Him, we may experience the relationship with God for which we have been created. However, our redemption, this gift of salvation, requires a response. We must accept this gift of God, we must believe. A true Christian is a person who has honestly surrendered their life to Christ. They have turned away from his/her sin and placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and have received the gift of eternal life, God’s extravagant love. We find in John’s Gospel: “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). These words are just as valid for us today as when John wrote them. We can choose to either receive Christ or reject Him. The choice is ours. Redemption is offered to all of us, but we must choose. I pray you have joined me in choosing to receive Christ our loving Lord and Redeemer.

It is my privilege to be on mission with each of you. Let’s remind one another of the redemption Christ offers and experience in Him. Let’s encourage one another to share the message of freedom in Christ to the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Believe that God is Able

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Faith, belief, and trust are words that are closely related to one another and are actually synonyms in the Christian experience. We exercise these words daily in our life. For instance, every time you sit in a chair, you are physically demonstrating your belief that the chair can hold you. I have broken a few chairs in my life. I remember, on one occasion, a friend inviting me to take a seat in a flimsy antique chair. I refused. But, after her relentless offer, I succumbed. I sat, and the chair broke. That was a little embarrassing. I have to be honest; still today, I eye up whether I believe a chair can hold me before I sit. This is why I think faith is so difficult at times because we do not want to be let down or embarrassed. For me, it is always a question of trust.

As we look to the Lord, we will exercise faith if we believe God is able. If we have faith that God is able to hold us up, we will act in faith. If we lack this trust in Him, we will avoid him like a flimsy chair. The simple truth is that the life we practically live reveals our level of trust in God.

In Ruth 4:1-12, we discover an amazing example of what it looks like to live in belief that God is able. We find that Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi, and a man by the name of Boaz trust in God because they believe He is able. They don’t blindly follow God but trust that although they can’t see the future, they know the future is in God’s hands. You see, faith is not blind in the sense of closing our eyes and just jumping off the cliff. No! Faith is taking what we do see and placing it in the hands of a God we don’t see, but believe He is able.

In a genuine sense it is the posture of faith that often times reveals when faith is truly being experienced. Faith is placing your trust in someone, and this is a humble posture. I know there is a God, and I also know that I am not Him. Therefore, I will humbly trust that God is capable of caring for all the details. I have found that God does a fantastic job of being God. He is so trustworthy.

What the account in Ruth teaches us, and I have experienced is that faith has the power to unlock opportunities. As I place my trust in God, the practical response is that I actively walk with Him. In this sense, faith is not passive, but active. What is impressive is that as we exercise faith, our faith grows. You cannot underestimate the posterity of faith. Faith tends to beget faith.

I remember teaching each of my children how to dive. They each embraced it at different degrees. But, all shared this in common – they would not try it until they had seen me do it successfully. This is true, with many faith ventures. People will follow, but first, they need to see examples of faith. I am thankful that God’s Word is filled with examples of faith. Seeing faith in action encourages us to exercise faith.

God is trustworthy. We can believe He is able. We can trust in Him. We can act in faith. Imagine what it would look like for each of us to place our faith, to trust, to believe God is able. We would discover God’s hand on all the ins and outs of life. We would embrace the process of faith, take the humble posture of faith, experience the power of faith, and lay the foundation for the posterity of faith.  However, all of this begins with believing God is able.

I am honored to be on mission with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to act in faith, believing God can handle all the big and small issues of our lives. Let’s experience the power of faith working in and through our life. Let’s see how faith begets faith, not just in our own lives, but in the lives of others as they see our example and are encouraged to join along. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Grab Hold of Unexpected Opportunities

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Throughout my life, I have heard of people who bemoan the lack of opportunities they have been given. I have to ask, what would they have done if the opportunity had presented itself? Would they have been prepared to grab hold of the unexpected opportunity?

I first realized the lesson of grabbing unexpected opportunities when I was in High School. In my High School, Gibbs, I was one of a small group of Christians. Looking back, I realize it was a rough city school. However, I actually enjoyed Gibbs. A few friends and I began to meet at school for prayer. We asked God to give us opportunities to share His love and message with our classmates. One morning one of us said something like: “What would we do if an opportunity presented itself?” This set us on a journey of preparation. We began to study the Bible more intently, sought training and advice. We wanted to be ready when God answered our prayer. Soon opportunities presented themselves through a flood of circumstances. I remember, on one such occasion, a friend Ben, a self-proclaimed Satanist, asked if he could look at my Bible. I marked a passage I thought would intrigue him. Day after day, he would sit in the back of the class and read the passages I marked for him. He began to ask questions. I didn’t always have the answers, but I would find the answers, and we would discuss them. By the way, I am so thankful for the adults who served as leaders in my High School student ministry. They were such a big help. Back to the story… One day we had a study period, and he declared that he was ready to accept Christ. Right in the back of Biology class, Ben gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, I was able to grab hold of this unexpected opportunity.

There is an old Latin saying: “Fate rewards the prepared ones.” It is probably better understood as “The fates reward the prepared ones.” Ancient Romans believed that the fates were female personifications of destiny who directed the lives (and deaths) of humans and gods. Now I don’t accept this belief from mythology. But, I do believe that opportunities are more apparent to those who are prepared and that God provides opportunities to those who are prepared.

In Ruth 3:1-18, we discover a passage that beautifully displays the interaction between God and human efforts. God uses Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, to prepare Ruth so that she can seize an opportunity when it presents itself. Now I understand that we are not to step ahead of God, but we are not to lag behind Him either we are called to keep in step with Jesus. When we face unexpected opportunities, we can either become paralyzed by fear of the unknown or step out by faith in what we know to be true of God. Preparation helps us keep in step with Jesus and, therefore, grab hold of unexpected opportunities.

God is at work in the world, but he does not always work by direct intervention, but within the righteous acts of His followers, who grab hold of unexpected opportunities. Preparation is actually a sign of trust. The person preparing is trusting God for an opportunity. In this sense, I don’t see preparation as passive, but I would warn that it is not a guarantee of specific opportunities presenting itself. I will prepare and trust God with the results. I see unexpected opportunities as gifts from God. I want to be ready, and when opportunities present themselves, be prepared to open the gift. Side note, not all opportunities are right or good, but that is a topic for another time. I am speaking of opportunities God allows or places in our path to seize.

Imagine what it would be like for each of us to grab hold of unexpected opportunities in a way that honors God. I am so thankful I was able to do so in the back of my High School Biology class. It radically changed Ben’s life and mine as well. I believe grabbing hold of unexpected opportunities will change us, as well as the world around us. I pray God will help each of us be prepared to see and seize unexpected opportunities.

It is a blessing to be on mission with each of you. Let us encourage one another to intentionally be prepared while praying that God will give us eyes to see and courage to grab hold of unexpected opportunities. We and the world around us will never be the same. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Conduits of God’s Blessing

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When I was in graduate school, my family and I moved into family housing. Family housing was a trailer park, where we bought a trailer. This was a cost-effective venture, but meant that my wife, Krista, and I were responsible for the trailers upkeep. This was fine and good until our hot water heater went out and it was our responsibility to fix it. We had very little money, so paying someone to replace it was not an option. We sifted some cash from our tight budget and were able to purchase the heater. I found a gentleman at the local hardware store who generously offered his counsel, which I took him up on throughout the three visits back to the store that day (plumbing job!). The first miracle was that, after putting it in, it worked. The second miracle came later that day when Krista checked the mail. In the mail, that very day was a letter and check from the missions committee from a church in Michigan where Krista grew up. Inside the letter, the team let us know that they were running a surplus in their budget, and as they prayed, asking God what to do with the excess, the Lord brought us to mind. The check they sent was for the amount we had spent on the hot water heater. Tears flowed from our eyes as we gathered our children and together thanked God for His faithfulness to us.

God brought the miracles and did so through others as conduits of His blessing. A quick glance reveals that the gentleman at the hardware store was used by God to minister to me. I could not have put in the hot water heater without his guidance. The church in Michigan was a conduit of God’s blessing as they sent us a generous gift, not knowing how badly we needed it. The people who had given faithfully to that church were conduits of God’s blessing. Without their generosity, there would not have been a surplus in the missions budget nor the resulting gift to us. God provided these miracles, but, as He often does, He used people to conduits of His blessing.

In Ruth 2:14-23, we discover that the Lord uses a man by the name of Boaz to be a blessing to Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. We find out in this passage that Boaz goes above and beyond the Old Testament Law’s requirement of caring for those in need. In fact, he not only provides Ruth the opportunity to gather the food needed for her and Naomi but made it extremely easy and very productive. Boaz exhibited a kind of generosity modeled after God’s generosity.

I am reminded that you and I may be the only Jesus people will ever see. Therefore, we ought not to simply sit back and pray for others to be blessed, we need to be open for the Lord to use us as an instrument in their blessing. The simple truth is that we are to pray for God’s blessing on others, but we also need to be open to being conduits of God’s blessing for others.

Boaz’s generousness reflects these words from Edward Everett Hale:

“I am only one,

But still, I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Imagine what our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces – our region would experience as we place ourselves in God’s hands; being used as conduits of His blessing.  I believe miracles would abound, and God would be glorified, we would be blessed, and others would benefit, perhaps in coming to know Christ.

I feel so privileged to serve Christ with each of you. As we seek to know God and make Him know, let us encourage one another to be open to being used by God as conduits of His blessing. God is a miracle working God, and He often uses people like you and me to bring those miracles to others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone!)