Sunday, May 3, 2020

What is "Normal?"

“For I the Lord do not change;” (Malachi 3:6)

Social distancing…

Flatten the curve…





Wash your hands…

Wear a mask…

Lock down…



At risk… 

Some are concepts we have heard previously but are only used with varying degrees of frequency, others are new ideas.  Which ever category they fall into for you, I think it can be argued that it is a rare event which will so dramatically changes the language we use on a day-to-day basis.  And now, several weeks into the various reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a question that is becoming more and more common, “When are things going to return to normal?”

“Normal” is of course a fairly relative concept, and does vary some from person to person.  But, in general, when people are asking about things returning to normal, they are wanting to know when things will be like they were before the pandemic.  When most things were predictable to some degree. When you had your daily routines and habits that guided you through your day.  When life wasn’t turned upside down like it has been for so many people around the world.

In searching online for an idea of when things may return to normal, there really is no good answer.  Some “experts” say its close, others say it is months, if not years, away.  If there was one prevailing thought concerning a return to normal it was more along the lines a “new normal.”

Considering the idea of a “new normal” and how things may change got me to thinking about whether or not there is anything in our lives that does not change.  We see change in our lives every day, some minor, some more significant, and that is without taking into consideration the changes we have seen over the last several weeks.  But, is there anything that does not change?

There is only one thing I can think of that does not change –


God does not change!  The world around us can be going completely crazy, and God is still the same.  The same as He has always been, and the same as He always will be.

God was there in the beginning and He will be there in the end:
-       “In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.”  (Psalm 102:25-27)
-       “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
-       “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

God does not, will not, and cannot change:
-       “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
-       “For I the Lord do not change;” (Malachi 3:6)

God’s unchanging nature provides an anchor for our souls:
-       “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” (Hebrews 6:17-18)

God’s word does not change:
-       “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
-       “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89)
-       “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

God’s plans never change:
-       “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)
-       “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

God’s promises never change:
-       “In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” (Titus 1:2)

God’s love is and everlasting, unchanging love:
-       “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

God is always with us:
-       “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is attributed with saying, “Change is the only constant in life.”  In saying this, he was acknowledging that there are so few things that remain unchanged in this world. This is even more true today than when Heraclitus said this thousands of years ago. Change is inevitable.

Lucky for us, we have an ace in the hole.  An unchanging God!

As you face change in your life, whether it is during our current times of uncertainty, or some other point in life, remember:  

God is always there and He DOES NOT CHANGE!  EVER!

Whatever the world's "new normal" turns out to be.  As Christians, we have no need for a "new normal," seeking and trusting our unchanging God should be our normal.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Surrender Pt. 2

Isaiah 64:8 – “Yet You, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, You are the Potter; We are the work of your hand.” 

It is so important to let God work in our lives.  We need to stop resisting and get out of His way.  The more parts of our life we surrender, the more room we give the Holy spirit to work in our lives.

We can find a number of examples in the bible of people surrendering to God’s will.  Abram left his home and went to an unknown land becoming Abraham.  Moses led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and was God’s instrument in delivering the Law to His people.  David is called a man after God’s own heart.  Esther stood in the gap for her people to prevent genocide.  After being taken away to a foreign land, Daniel stayed true to God and defied the orders of Nebuchadnezzar.  And these are just a few.

Multiple times, Paul calls himself a servant of Christ.  My favorite is in Romans 1:1 in the New King James, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ…”  The Greek word Paul used here is doulos which is more than just a servant, more like a voluntary slave.  Paul was making it clear he was surrendered to Christ.

Jesus Himself provides a powerful example of surrender for us to follow.  In Philippians 2:6-8, Paul encourages us to take on the same mindset as Jesus: “Who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”  

Jesus, second person of the Trinity, surrendered Himself to not only become human (the Creator becoming one of His created) but also willingly surrendered to endure a horrendously gruesome death. And He did it for us! Because of His deep abiding love for us!

We eventually have to ask what kinds of things can we surrender to God? I think Proverbs 3:5-8 gives us some insight. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and, and He will make your paths straight.

“all your heart,” “all your ways.”  Interesting word ‘all.’  Rather inclusive of, well pretty much everything.  Not much in the way of wiggle room.  Obviously, there is not enough room here to cover everything but here are a few ideas to consider.

-       Do we really truly own anything? Anything and everything really does belong to God; we are blessed because He allows us to take care of some of it for Him.  Some of us are granted more, some less, but we need to remember to not let these things get between us and God.
-       A personal example: I love to read and I have a quite sizable collection of books.  They cover a wide range of topics from fiction, fantasy, and biography, to science, history, and theology.  And that’s not all.  Several years ago, we had a couple of wild fires, each destroying several hundred homes in and around the city where I live.  This got me to thinking about how I would feel if I lost all my books and I was having a hard time even just thinking about if that were to happen.  It took some time but I have been able to let that go.  It would be disappointing but I cannot let that loss, or potential for loss, stand between me and God.

A Position:
-       Whether it is a career or some sort of social standing, what do these things really bring us.  We get caught up in the position, perks, benefits, our own importance or whatever it is that strokes our ego.  It somehow becomes our identity; it can even start to overshadow our true identity as a Child of God.  This is the much greater position.

Our Plans:
-       The things ‘I’ want to do. It can be kind of selfish when you think about it.  Not that we can’t do some of the things we would like to do but there are many examples in scripture where we are told to put others first, to serve them and to serve God.
-       Sometimes it is not that we aren’t serving God and others, spreading God Word, or bringing glory to God.  It’s in how or where we are choosing to serve.  Are we truly following the path God has laid out before us?  Some people have very specific plans God has called them to follow, some of us it doesn’t always seem to be as clearly defined.  I think it is definitely a good idea to check in with God from time to time to make sure we are still on the same page.

-       There will be people that will always be a part of our life, some will be family, some friends.  Others will simply pass through our lives for some shorter period of time.  You may also experience people that come and go multiple times in your life.  We need to enjoy the time we have with those who become close to us and strive to keep these relationships healthy.  Thank God for those you have in your life; past, present, and future.  Be a blessing to them and lift them up to God.
-       You never know how, when or where you may meet someone who may impact your life, or you theirs.  Keep yourself open to the possibilities and think about how great it will be to spend eternity with them.
-       A personal example:  I met Obednego when I went on a mission trip to Sierra Leone.  He is a pastor that worked with the church there in the city of Bo where we were working.  I don’t know how or why but it was one of those things where you just click with someone.  I really enjoyed spending the little bit of time we were able to share.  I remember the fire he had in his heart for God.  He called me “My Giant” which stemmed from the relative difference in our size.  I was blessed to be able to see him again the next year when I went back for a second trip.  That was several years ago and I don’t know if I will ever see Obednego again in this life, but I do look forward to seeing him in heaven.

Ultimately there is one very specific thing we are called to surrender to God.  Ourselves!  

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.” (Mt. 16:24-25) 

That really sums it up.  The ultimate surrender.

Saturday, March 28, 2020


I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We are in such a strange time. Never have people been so isolated, not just emotionally, but physically.  In an attempt to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government officials around the world are instituting isolation protocols of varying degrees.  These vary by country, and in the United States even by state and municipality.  These range from complete lock-down to “stay-at-home” orders to recommendations to protect oneself by avoiding contact with other people, either all together or at least maintaining 6 feet (or 2 meters) distance. Ultimately the result is literally billions of people isolated from each other around the world.

The challenge is that we were created to be relational beings.  From the very beginning God said it was not good for us to be alone, “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”” (Gen 2:18)  Even after man had sinned, God sought him out, “But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”” (Gen 3:9)  God has not stopped looking for us and reaching out to us ever since.

An amazing example of just six short verses tells us how much God is there for us in every way. In reading them again I can feel a renewed sense of peace come into my heart.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 2He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

In writing this Psalm, David gives us so much to consider, and he jumps right in with the first verse, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  Everything the shepherd does is to the benefit of the sheep under his care.  Jesus doubles down on this when he tells of the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep to restore it to the flock (Mt 18: 12-14 and Lk 15:4-7).  

David then expands on some of the different ways the Shepherd takes care of us.  Restoration, comfort, rest, abundance, mercy, and righteousness.  And nestled among this truly amazing list of benefits, a simple "You are with me." 

Our not being alone is a promise made throughout scripture. Here are a few examples:

-       Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-       Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”
-       Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
 -       Matthew 28:20 – “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
-       John 14:16 – “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another helper who will be with you forever.”
-       Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or more are gathered in My name, there I am with them.”
Paul also addresses this in his characteristic and remarkable way:  "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Unfortunately, isolation is not a new concept for many people.  The elderly, the sick and infirm, the poor, and social outcasts are just a few groups that must endure isolation to some degree or another.  Though some can handle isolation form other people better than others, even that has its limits.  And there is plenty of evidence to show how detrimental long-term isolation can be, ranging from feelings of loneliness or depression, to adverse health effects.  All of the measures being taken and meant for good may only add to the burdens people are already experiencing.

In this time of extreme isolation, take time to reach out.  Take advantage of the amazing options we have in the 21st century; text, social media, video calls, or even just a good old-fashioned phone call.  Let others know they are not alone.  Even in our own struggles in this isolation, we need to be the salt and light we are called to be.

We may never know the impact it may have on someone through the simple act of reaching out to them.  And I firmly believe that in this simple act of kindness you will find your burdens lifted because God is there with you as well.

I pray for God’s peace to fill your heart and the heart of those you love.  Together we will get through this brothers and sisters!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Surrender Pt. 1

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Gal 2:20

Surrender.  It is used in multiple songs we sing at church and most of us have heard it referenced numerous times in sermons and other biblical teaching over the years. There must be something to this. But is surrender straight forward or is it something that is more elusive? 

As I started looking into it, the lack of verses that contain the word surrender left me scratching my head. (Several translations don’t even use the word, of those that do it is more often found in the Old Testament than the New.) Isn’t the idea of surrender kind of important to our Christian walk?  Surrender your life to God and His will for your life and such?

As I started digging, I found that although the word itself is not used; the idea of surrender is actually a common idea theme in scripture.  It’s just a bit more subtle (but definitely not elusive) in the context of scripture.  Which is one of the things I like about scripture, the subtleties you can find when you really start digging in.

First though, what does it mean to surrender?

Probably the most familiar setting of surrender is that of a military force surrendering to another after a defeat on the battlefield.  Another is the idea of a person who has committed a crime surrendering to the police.  Not exactly what I was looking for, yet when I looked up the definition for surrender the first couple entries fit with the above.

Then I found the following:
-       To give up completely or agree to forgo especially in the favor of another.
-       To give (oneself) over to something (such as an influence).
-       The act of yielding one’s person or giving up the possession of something, especially into the power of another.
Now things were starting to click.

Looking at some of its synonyms helped further clarify the idea behind surrender in the scripture.  Here are a few: cede, hand over, give up, relinquish, yield, and submit.  In seeing the list of synonyms, it makes more sense that there have been so many sermons and other teachings that reference surrender. 

Here are some of the ideas I found:

-       Psalm 55:22 – “Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” This is pretty straight forward and I like the promise that God will be there for us.  That’s pretty awesome!  It gives me a sense of peace knowing that God is there for me. (I have written on this previously.  See Burdens, March 2013) 

-       Along this same line, Jesus tells us to not worry about the various things going on in our life in Matthew 6: 25-34.  Here he assures us that God, who is taking care of the birds and the flowers, will do so much more for us and ends by telling us, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (vs. 34)

-       James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  By taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on Him we again reap the benefits of our surrender.

-       Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  We don’t have to have all our ducks in a row when we answer this personal invitation.  That’s good news!  We can come to Him when we are tired and worn down. And in doing so we find something, rest.

-       Romans 12:1 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”  Surrendering our lives to Him is a form of worship.  When we worship God, we bring Him glory.

-       John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit.”  Surrendering our lives will make an impact, an important type of impact as we see in vs. 8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  Bringing glory to God is one of the things we are called to do and by submitting to Him and bearing fruit in our actions does exactly that.

-       Psalm 37:4-6 – “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust Him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”  To truly delight in God; who He is, His mercy and compassion, in His great love for us. We need to take our eyes off what we want in life so that we can long for what He desires.  If I want to be honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that what I want is not always what is best for me.  But God’s desires for me are so much better that what I can come up with for myself, why would I not want to open myself up for what He has for me?

-       Romans 6:13 – “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness.”  God wants us to give Him our all.  As we grow in our faith, our level of commitment, our ability to surrender grows as well.  Luckily God meets us where we are and allows us the time to grow.  The determining factor is us.  God is there, and he always will be.  Our growth is determined by how much we focus on Him, how much we surrender to Him and what He has for us in our lives.  Letting go and letting Him work in our lives.

One thing we can see here that we don’t have to have perfect lives to surrender to God.  In fact, when we don’t, and allow God to work in us, wonderful things happen.  The simple act of surrender also brings blessing to us and more importantly, glory to God. You can’t argue with those kinds of results.  It also changes us. Helps us be the person God made us to be.

A.W. Tozer once said, “If we would but quickly surrender to the will of God, we could the sooner begin to enjoy His blessings.”

While talking about surrender at a retreat I attended a couple years ago I was looking at the lyrics to the song Exhale by Plumb. Part of the chorus talks about getting lost in the surrender.  As I considered these words, I started thinking about letting go and getting lost in the surrender, then I had a bit of a revelation.  If I surrender to God, a complete and total surrender to the point of loss of self.  I am not lost at all, if anything I have been found.  Found by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  What can compare with that?

Don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the surrender.  God will find you there.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Jesus replied, "I am the Bread of Life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35)

          I was studying Mathew 16:5-12 the other day and it started me thinking about the many references to bread in the bible.  First were the stories I had recently studied of Jesus feeding the 5000 and 4000 in Matthew 14 and 15.  This led to questions about the importance of bread in the culture, what was their bread like, symbolism related to bread, and what other types of references to bread there are in the bible.

          There are about 270 references to bread in the bible.  These references cover a number of ideas, here are a few: Bread as a meal, the Manna provided in the wilderness, showbread, and “our daily bread” (The Lord’s Prayer).  The ultimate reference was when Jesus referred to Himself as “The Bread of Life” in John 6:35.

          Bread was a very important part of ancient cultures, there are even some today in which bread plays an important role.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Accessibility of ingredients, ease in transporting bread or its ingredients, it is relatively easy to make, and most importantly it was a staple in their daily diet (for some it may have been their only source of food).  It was such an integral part of their diet that in some cultures to talk of “eating bread” or “eating a meal” were basically the same thing.  Being that having bread could literally mean the difference between life and death (and in some beliefs considered sacred), cutting of bread was considered wicked or akin to be cutting life itself.  From this arose the custom of breaking break prior to eating it, and lead to our use of the term “breaking bread” to reference gathering together with friends and family to share in a meal.

A number of grains were an important part of the ancient diet: wheat, oats, millet, rye, spelt, barley, and quinoa.  Of these wheat and barley were most commonly used by the ancient Hebrews for bread and are both commonly used in Israel today to make their most common types of bread.  There are a wide variety of breads made in Israel in modern times.  This variety comes from combination of various cultural traditions that have resided in the area over time and from the wide-ranging backgrounds of the immigrants that have arrived since founding of the nation of Israel in 1948.

          Bread for the ancient Hebrews was more limited in scope and fell into three main types. One was a larger loaf similar to what we think of today as bread, most likely it was more round than rectangular in shape and probably a bit weightier.  Another was a smaller loaf with a heavier, denser consistency more akin to what most of us might think of as a biscuit.  The third was a flat bread that was very thin and pliable which can be used for wrapping food or in the place of normal utensils.

  One bread that is most often associated with the ancient Hebrews or with Israel is unleavened bread (bread made without yeast) called Matzo or Matzah, sometimes called the Bread of Affliction.  Though matzo can be used in meals and celebrations throughout the year it is an integral element in Passover.  Matzo used in the Passover celebration is to only be made from flour and water.  Proper celebration of Passover also required all yeast be removed from the home.  Use of the matzo serves not only as a reminder of their delivery from Egypt, but also as a reminder to remain humble and to not forget their suffering as slaves.

  There are actually some differences between bread made by ancient cultures and bread today.  This is mainly due to the differences in grains used today than those used in ancient cultures, as well as, in the processing methods used today.  Modern grains have been significantly modified through breeding and hybridization or genetic manipulation (most of this happening in the last 100 years).  Between the changes in the grains and some modern farming techniques you can see that modern grains are very different from their ancient cousins.  Grains today are also processed much more heavily than they have been in the past.  Part of this processing removes two of the three components of the grain and is used for other purposes.  These two components, the bran and the germ, contain most of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in the grain leaving the endosperm, which is mostly starch.  Using primarily this starchy component makes most of today’s commercially available breads very different from ancient breads. 

On a personal note, my mother has a small counter-top grain mill and periodically grinds wheat herself to make fresh bread or rolls.  In a word, her fresh made bread is incredible! Much better than bread from the store, especially right out of the oven with a little butter.

          Manna, sometimes called the Bread of Heaven, was provided by God to the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after leaving Egypt (Ex. 16).  It is described as, “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (vs.31).  The word manna means “What is it?” in Hebrew.  In Number 11:8 we see one of the ways they used manna was to make bread with it.  Manna provides us a powerful symbol of God’s provision for the Ancient Hebrews after Moses had led them out of Egypt.  It also shows us God can provide for our needs as well.

          There is another lesson for us here which ties the symbol of the physical provision to our spiritual life.  In Deuteronomy Moses tells the people, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut. 8:3) We need to remember to keep our focus on seeking God for the betterment of our spiritual lives.  True life comes from seeking spiritual nourishment that only comes from God.

          Showbread, or Bread of the Presence, was 12 loaves of bread made with fine flour that were placed in two rows on the gold table in the temple.  The 12 loaves represented each of the 12 tribes of Israel and were made such that each was the same size.  This bread was to be replaced each Sabbath by the priests and could be consumed by them in the sanctuary.  Leviticus 24:5-9 gives us some of the information concerning preparation and placement of the bread.  Because leavening, or yeast, is often used in the bible to represent sin, it is likely that the Showbread was unleavened bread so as to not desecrate the Holy Place in the Temple. The table of showbread was a sign of God’s everlasting covenant and provision with the nation of Israel and also pointed forward to the future Messiah and the fulfillment of His covenant.

          When asked, Jesus gave us an example of how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer – Mt. 6:9-13).  Verse 11 says, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”  In this petition to God, Jesus was teaching us to come to God humbly, asking God to provide what we need in order to sustain us from day to day.  Not just one time, but coming back to God daily for His provision in our lives.  This can apply to our physical needs, but the bread also represents God’s Word, think of the Bible as spiritual food.  So, we can see that we don’t just need physical nourishment, but we need spiritual nourishment as well.  God will meet our needs if we trust in Him to provide for us in every way.  Some scholars also believe this is a reminder of the manna God provided in the wilderness.

          In John 6:25-40, Jesus has an interesting discussion with the crowd people following Him.  He starts by accusing them of following Him because they want a free meal rather than because of the signs He has been performing and telling them they need to focus more on the eternal than the temporary.  That they need to believe in the one whom God has sent.  The people ask for a sign, pointing out that their ancestors ate the manna while in the desert.  Jesus remind them that God provided the manna and tells them they need to ask for the true bread of heaven that brings life.

          When they ask Him for that bread Jesus responds, “I am the Bread of Life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35) This is huge!  In this statement, Jesus equates Himself with bread and therefore saying He is essential for life (remember what I mentioned before about how important bread was in that time?).  Just as Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 8:3, we need more than physical nourishment.  We need spiritual nourishment and by telling us He is the Bread of Life, Jesus is telling us that He is our spiritual nourishment.

How can we apply this to our lives?  

          Because Jesus is the Bread of Life, we need to treat Him with the same level of importance of actual food.  And I think one could argue He is actually more important when you look at it from an eternal perspective.  As such, we need to create a daily habit (“our daily bread”) of seeking Him.  A few ways this can be done is through prayer, reading the bible, praise and worship, a devotional, and listening for the Holy Spirit.  Whether you do one of these things, all of them, or some combination of them, the important thing is that we all need to do something to reach out and seek Him on a daily basis.  When we focus on seeking Him, we are nourishing our spirit and this helps us become all that we were meant to be.

          The next time you eat, take a minute to think about the parallels between physical and spiritual nourishment and how they work in your life.  Then thank God for how He provides for both our physical and spiritual well-being.  I do believe that He is doing so much more than we realize.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Great American Eclipse

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” Psalm 8:3

They are calling it “The Great American Eclipse.”  The people that count these things say there are approximately 12.25 million people that live in the path of the totality of the eclipse from Oregon to South Carolina.  An additional 220 million people live within about a one-day drive to an area in the path of the totality.  All 50 states, even Hawaii since it started out in the Pacific Ocean, and North America were able to see at least a partial eclipse.  They are estimating that upwards of 7 million people may have traveled to some point along the path of totality.  Based on what numbers I can find that does not include international travelers who visited the United States in order to watch the eclipse. 

In looking into it I found out that total solar eclipses happen about every one to three years.  Many of them happen in areas that are sparsely populated or there are no people around to watch like in the polar regions and the Pacific Ocean.  There is also a frequency in eclipses called Soros that allow scientists to predict eclipses with similar geometries.  I also found a number of scientific reasons dealing with orbital angles and irregularities as to why we don’t have an eclipse every month during the New Moon.

Between the people that just wanted to check out the eclipse and the scientists who want to study the eclipse, either total or partial, experts are saying this is the most observed eclipse in the history of civilization.  With potentially close to 20 million watching from the path of totality and over 500 million (based on the population of North America) being able to witness at least a partial eclipse, it would be hard to argue that point.

I did not make the trip to path of the totality but the area I live in Colorado reached about 90% coverage of the Sun.  The picture above is about what the eclipse looked like in my area at its maximum coverage.  My current job has me working outside so we had the chance to periodically check out the progress of the eclipse from start to finish.  This was not my first experience in a partial eclipse.  There was an eclipse in 1979 that I remember watching which only reached about 40% coverage of the Sun in the town where I grew up.  Ironically that town was in the path of the totality this time around. 

I don’t remember much about the eclipse when I was younger but watching the moon slowly pass in front of the Sun was truly amazing to watch.  It is hard to describe what I felt when I looked up at the sliver of the Sun at its maximum coverage for the area I am in but if I were to try and describe how I feel after watching it, I would have to say I find myself awe struck. 

It's incredible to think about how God set everything in motion at creation that allows us to witness events like this. And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.(Gen 1:14-19)
With all the people that were able to watch this eclipse, how many just saw a spectacular celestial event? And how many saw a something of the magnificence of God’s creation?  The next time you look up at the night sky what will you see?  I have always enjoyed looking at the night sky, I can honestly say I will not look at it the same way again.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Spirituality In Work

“The works of His hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.”  (Ps 111:7)

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue helping him.” (Heb 6:10)

In today’s culture people have a tendency to separate work into differing levels of importance with some vocations being considered more acceptable than others.  Some even take a superior attitude and consider certain types of work to be beneath them.

These attitudes can carry over into the Christian worldview.  Some believe that a church pastor has a more spiritual vocation or is closer to God than say a missionary or a church administrative assistant.  An even wider gap can be seen between what is considered secular work verses work that is part of some type of ministry or is considered spiritual work.

A sense of higher purpose in a vocation has also been lost to most people.  This is true in both the secular world and at least to some extent in the Christian world.  Basically, the idea is that any sort of work, or at least certain types of work, have been reduced to a utilitarian function: a means of acquiring some sort of benefit from the world, whether it is material gain or a sense of self-fulfillment.  That one’s vocation no longer has any sort of transcendent purpose as a means of serving God, much less our fellow man. 

But is it true that there is no higher purpose in work?  And, is there a difference between secular work and a Christian vocation?

Here are a few things to consider:

Scripture tells us that God Himself has worked.  “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done” (Gen 2: 1-2).  Right from the beginning God sets an example in performing work.

After He finished the creation, one of the first things God does is put man in the Garden of Eden in order to “tend and keep it” (Gen 2:15).  We can see God places a level of importance to our work with that being one of the first things He instructs man to do.

Generally, there is not much said about this topic but, have you ever given much thought to the fact that Jesus had a vocation before His ministry?  That’s right, He was a carpenter!  In fact, when you think about it, He was a carpenter far longer than He spent in His ministry here on earth.

Let’s put this in perspective.  Formal school for Jewish boys in Jesus’ time started at about 5 years old.  This was a half day of school, usually 6 day a week.  When not in school, it was not uncommon for them to spend time learning a trade from their father.  Knowing this we can see that it is possible that Jesus started learning how to be a carpenter as early as 5 years old.

Even in today’s apprenticeships, a person will spend several months if not a few years just watching the teacher and learning basics before they are even allowed to do any work.  When they do start work they are usually closely monitored by their teacher until they show a certain level of proficiency in their work.  Allowing for a few years of this, Jesus could have started doing basic carpentry between 8 and 10 years old.  With Jesus starting His ministry at 30 years old, we can see that he was a carpenter for upwards of 20 years.  This example from the life of Jesus helps point to there being importance to the work we perform in this world.

Jesus gives us another example of work.  Specifically work that some might consider demeaning.  In John 13:1-17 we find the story of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet after the Passover Dinner.  The dusty and dirty conditions encountered while travelling necessitated the need for foot washing.  In those times the foot washing was normally performed by the lowliest of menial servants.  It was only in a very rare exception, and then as a mark of great love, that a peer would wash another’s feet.  In doing this, Jesus served as a model of Christian humility and taught us a lesson in selfless service.

We also find that the Holy Spirit has responsibilities as well.  Here are just a few examples: He teaches us and helps us remember what Jesus told us (Jn 14:26), He reveals truth to us (Jn 16: 13-14), convicts us of our sins (Jn 16:8), and He helps us when we don’t know how or what to pray, even interceding for us and praying for us (Rom 8:26-27).

There are many other examples and commands related to work in the bible but I wanted specifically mention some that are tied to each person of God.  Being as we are made in God’s image we are called to reflect His character in all we do.  This would include our work. 

Actually, the idea of a separation of work between the secular and the spiritual is nothing new.  The early church had to define a biblical view of work in contrast to the influence of the Greek culture which denigrated manual labor.  Paul also addressed the importance of work in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 and 1 Timothy 5:8.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther wrote, “When we carry out our vocation in obedience to God’s commands, then God Himself works through us to His purposes.”  In this he is referring to all legitimate work, not just spiritual vocations.  Luther specifically rejected the idea that the clergy were engaged in holier work than those not necessarily considered holy, such as tradesmen and farmers saying, “Seemingly secular works are a worship of God and an obedience well pleasing to God.”

Church pastor, corporate CEO, ditch digger, teacher, banker, theologian, farmer, administrative assistant, architect, homemaker, truck driver, missionary, auto mechanic, chef, volunteer, doctor, manager, soldier, butcher, journalist, coat room attendant, realtor, maid, dentist, social worker, engineer, flight attendant, evangelist, gardener, police officer, laboratory technician, payroll clerk, sailor, surgeon, computer programmer, tour guide, barber, used car salesman, nurse, counselor, mortician, fitness trainer, cashier, janitor, bus driver, coal miner, inspector, plumber.

I cannot say I have seen or heard anything that says God sees a difference in these various professions.  On the other hand, we see all sorts of differences between them (or the numerous others not listed).  Whether its salary, benefits, location, title, how it makes us feel, or we put some kind of label on the position, it is too easy to look at all the differences.  Not that some of these things are not important, sometimes it is even necessary to take them into consideration when we look at what we do for work, but we tend to put too much emphasis on these things.

This has recently all been brought into sharp reality for me.  A couple months ago, I lost my job due to a contract change.  As I have been looking for new work I have had to do the normal evaluations you need to do when looking for work: what I am qualified to do, what I might like to do, salary, location, position, etc., etc., etc.  Along the way, I have also found I need to put thought into how I look at jobs I may apply for.

When we break it down, whether we are answering a call in our life, or just trying to make end meet in our day-to-day struggles, it isn’t what we do that is the most important thing.  Nor is it important that the work is done in the Christian or secular arena.  It’s our attitude toward that work that is important.  Are we doing the best we can?  Are we setting a good example to those around us?  Are our actions bringing glory to God like they should? 

Examples of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all performing work lends dignity to the work of their hands, no matter how lowly that work may seem to our eyes. 

This dignity should be reflected in the work of our hands as well.