It has been a good year for tomatoes in our garden. We’ve eaten them, given them away, and preserved a lot of them. In addition to canning them, Kathy decided to use our dehydrator to save time and space in preserving them. A few days ago, she filled the machine with several rows of sliced tomatoes. She would set the temperature and time, then come back when it was done. The fruit would still be wet and tacky. After this happened a few times, she was concerned that our appliance was malfunctioning. It was then that she noticed she had not pressed the tiny start button on the far right side. She pushed it, and after eight hours she came back to perfectly dehydrated tomatoes. All the prep and planning were futile without the power.
How often do we conduct our lives that way? We meticulously make plans and we do our part to try to make them happen, but we neglect to access the power that makes it all work? Do we ever forget what Paul reminded Philippi, that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:13)? Paul also said that while we may have a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects, it is “the same God who works all things in all persons” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). We’re told that it is God who will “equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight…” (Heb. 13:21).
How do we hope to do God’s work without God’s help? We need His guidance, His wisdom and instruction, and His help. That necessitates skillfully laboring in His Word (2 Tim. 2:15), leaning on Him in fervent, faithful prayer (Phil. 4:6; 1 Th. 5:17), and relying on His providence in setting our direction (Rom. 8:28). It makes all the difference when we tap into God’s power. Let’s not overlook the one thing that is always essential in everything we undertake!
In Romans 12:9-21, Paul reveals to us what a true Christian looks like. He gives a list of actions we should always strive to accomplish. This list is totally different from the message we hear from the world. The apostle tells us that as true Christians we:
Have genuine love
Hold on to what is good
Love one another
Outdo each other in showing honor
Have a Fervent spirit
Serve the Lord
Rejoice in hope
Are patient in tribulation
Contribute to the Saints
Bless our persecutors
Do not curse our enemies
Rejoice with those who rejoice
Weep with those who weep
Live in harmony
Associate with the lowly
Don’t think too much of ourselves
Don’t repay evil with evil
Do what is honorable in the sight of everyone
Don’t take revenge
Care for our enemies
Don’t let evil overcome us
Overcome evil with good
That’s a whole lot to remember. But if we love God, we will try our best to follow these commands. Christianity is practical because it gives us the best life on this earth and the one to come.
We know what’s truly important. We have a purpose and we know how we are to act, speak and think. We know why we’re here on earth and we know where we are going if we are faithful to God’s word. This list in Romans 12 gives us practical tips on how to handle the situations that come up in life. We have the key to a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. We follow the Bible because it is practical. It contains wisdom and knowledge that is found nowhere else on earth. It provides a map to salvation and it gives us the answers to life’s problems.
The story is told of an old man who was wandering in the desert looking for water. He approached an old shack and on the porch area he found a water pump.
Next to the water pump he saw a one gallon jug. A note on the jug said, “Use all the water to prime the pump.” The man’s instincts said to drink the water and not trust the pump. Nevertheless he poured the water into the pump and began pumping until an abundance of cool water came to the top. The Bible is like the note on that water jug. Sometimes the instructions contained in the Bible do not make sense to us, but it is always right. The commands given to us from God are practical. He knows what is best for His own creation. They help us in our decisions, and they teach us how to act and think. We can have confidence in knowing that our lives are based on the perfect commands of Scripture.
In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham where God instructs him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. We know from the text that God was testing Abraham and we know that God stopped him and then provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Because of God’s provision Abraham named that place THE LORD WILL PROVIDE! Three months ago, a tornado devastated many parts of Bowling Green affecting some of our own members, as well as many others in the community.
We have witnessed the outpouring of help and concern by the aid and donations made over 100 congregations and individuals – giving their money and their time to help those who have lost their homes and possessions. God has used us as the facilitators of this aid and used it as an opportunity to show His love and tell people about Him. We can honestly say THE LORD WILL PROVIDE.
I want to keep with the theme of God’s provisions but change the verb tense to THE LORD HAS PROVIDED!
THE LORD HAS PROVIDED us with a magnificent world to live in. In Genesis 1 we read that everything he made was good and He has provided everything we need to enjoy a fulfilling life. As Spring approaches (my favorite time of the year) we will see God’s handiwork as the trees begin to bud and flowers bloom and He created it all for us.
David wrote in Psalms 8 : “when I consider your heavens the work of your fingers, the moon, the stars you have set in place What is man that You are mindful of him.” He loves us and has made this world for us to enjoy.
THE LORD HAS PROVIDED each of us with talents, abilities, and opportunities to serve….and He expects us to use them to serve Him, as well as our fellow man. The Bible instructs us to use our talents and gifts to the best of our abilities as pointed out in Matt 25 in the parable of the talents and again In Romans 12: 6-8, Paul says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy with cheerfulness.”
THE LORD HAS PROVIDED us with a peace in times of trouble. Those who do not know Him can’t really understand. With Covid and all the political turmoil in our country and the war in Ukraine we can still have the assurance of God’s love and understand HE is in control.
We read in Philippians 4:6-7 to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. His assurances are also given to us in Romans 8. Verse 31 says, “If God is for who can be against us. In verse 38 and 39 Paul encourages us with these words “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
THE LORD HAS PROVIDED us with a way to live with Him for eternity through Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
He has provided reconciliation through Jesus – He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:22).
He has provided redemption through Jesus – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7).
God has provided many things for us, but most of all is the way to live with Him forever. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
If you are searching for peace and a way to be with God for eternity, He has provided a way.
The Bible is filled with so many helpful verses on daily living. Many of us can find it difficult at times to work with people, especially if we’re having a stressful day. Here are eleven practical passages that will help us in our interactions with others this week.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1)
The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)
Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2)
Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10)
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31)
Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12)
Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with Him? (Matthew 25:40)
Season your speech with grace. It’s the Savior’s All-Spice for every relationship-building goal (Col. 4:5-6)
Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15)
One thing you might notice about these scriptures is how many of them deal with our speech. According to the book of James, the tongue is incredibly difficult to tame. Reading these verses, it becomes clear that there are several advantages of placing the bridle over our lips.
Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).
What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people.
David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced.
The first giant was the giant of degradation.
David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals.
The second giant was that of accusation.
In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).
The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.
He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining.
Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!
I’ve heard some say of a house left standing after a tornado or hurricane that God must have spared the structure’s owner from material loss because of their righteousness. But, unfortunately, such statements imply that the neighboring destroyed property belonged to the unrighteous. Yet Jesus said, “for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated).
Even amongst the destruction, though, if someone is observant enough, he sees what he chooses to call miraculous. However, since a miracle is the suspension of God’s natural laws, we understand that the word “miracle” oft becomes an adjective to describe what defies human comprehension. In reality, laws of nature explain the “skipped” houses or why a decorated Christmas tree can remain amidst a room, missing its walls and a part of its ceiling.
For example, there can be what scientists call “suction vortices” within tornadoes. Within a more significant tornado, these many vortices move in a looping, cycloid pattern that will hit some things while completely missing others.1 In other words, the hand of God was in the creation of the natural laws resulting in the occasional formation of tornadoes, with their suction vortices, as opposed to directing storms into particular locations.
But did God originally intend for His natural laws to include such destructive phenomena? Think back to the world God initially created. God called it “very good” (Genesis 1.31). What changed? Humanity used its free moral agency to sin, bringing change to the world. In fact, things got so bad that God destroyed the original world. Peter says, “…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3.5-6).
Among those mechanisms that God put into place in the world emerging from the flood are the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes and hurricanes. The patient patriarch, Job, observed the following regarding the wisdom known to God: “…He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure…He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt…He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out” (Job 28.25-27).
Now, the point of our devotional today is not to increase the misery of those having suffered loss during what insurance companies euphemistically call “acts of God.” Yes, things like tornadoes and hurricanes do arise because of sin. However, it is not a part of the chastisement God sends upon us (cf. Hebrews 12.4ff). So, if you want to see God after a tornado, do not see it in a church building with no roof, but with all its hymnals and pew Bibles still safely secured in the pew racks. That is likely but a side effect of natural law.
No, look for God in His grace. As Fred Rogers often said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”2 Might I suggest that it is in the helpers that we see the actual hand of God? His Providence works through the people clearing debris, handing out food, and providing shelter to those who have lost everything. These fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2). Thus, God does not only shelter some in a storm. He provides for all of the weary through the agency of those whom He made in His image (Genesis 1.26-27).
Sources Consulted and Cited
1 Seman, Steven, et al. “Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths.” Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths | METEO 3: Introductory Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l9_p8.html.
Someone once said, “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far.” Ben Franklin is quoted saying, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
Jeremiah had a complete list of excuses ready when God called on him to be a prophet to the people of Israel. Many times the excuses of Jeremiah become ours when we are called on to be a preacher to this world. We see that with every excuse Jeremiah made, God gave promises in return.
First, Jeremiah said, “the task ahead is difficult.” God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Notice what God says to Jeremiah: “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The task ahead is difficult, so Jeremiah gives off a list of excuses for why he isn’t the one for this job. God gives a promise for Jeremiah’s excuses; He says, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” God knew that Jeremiah was the one for the job, even if Jeremiah didn’t think so.
Second, Jeremiah said, “I don’t have the talent.” Jeremiah 1:6 says, “Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” Many times people blame their cowardice on lack of talent. They say that it isn’t a natural talent to them, that there are others more suited for the job; but God knows Jeremiah and the great good he can accomplish. In Jeremiah 1:9, God promises that He would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.
As Christians today we have these same promises for our worries and excuses. Let’s not blame our cowardice on a lack of talent. That isn’t a good excuse to God. Nothing is. God has promised He will be with us, and we have HIS Word to teach to others. Let’s trust in that.
I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.
Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came here to teach. I was not there when the authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?
Think about this carefully. From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear: God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, thousands of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).
Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday morning and I came downstairs to see dad sitting where he always sat every single morning. He was in his lazy boy recliner drinking what was probably his third cup of coffee, wearing his fuzzy dad slippers and a pair of reading glasses. If I saw that combination, I knew what dad was doing.
Every morning he would get up early, grab his coffee, Bible, slippers and glasses, and sit in his lazy boy recliner. And every morning I would see him sitting there reading. When I look back and think about these instances, I now see just how powerful his actions were. He wouldn’t tell us what he was doing, he wouldn’t tell us to join him, he wouldn’t tell us why he was doing it. He would just grab his Bible and read.
When I think about influence this is what I think of. A committed man of God. Showing us by his actions how to grow our own relationship with The Father. The silent influence that I saw growing up has shown me the power of actions. Through his actions I saw what his priorities were. I saw what his focus was. I saw who he loved more than anyone else.
There’s nothing we should want more as Christians than to have this kind of influence on others. Not preaching at them day and night condemning them and cutting others down, but showing them by our actions what a relationship with God looks like. If we work on perfecting our faith and cultivating a genuine relationship with God, people WILL notice. For others to be affected by our influence we need to get three things straight: our priorities, our actions, and our speech.
When we think about winning souls, it’s best to start with our own before looking to others. If we can grow our faith and be fully invested in our relationship with God, people will notice and ultimately glorify God.
I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting, especially old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple. I went to light one of my lanterns and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure it was the vent.
To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick. At this point I was stumped.
The next day it occurred to me whilst putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.
This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love – He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word.
If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for those who look to God for answers before relying on their own wisdom.