Faith in the Midst of the Unknown

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes He works in our lives in such a way that we do not really understand. Sometimes He answers prayers in a way that we weren’t expecting. And sometimes, from our perspective, we don’t see Him working at all. And in the midst of it all, we sometimes question God and wonder, ‘how are you possibly in the midst of this?’ We rationalize and say that “it’s always good to have a back up plan” and rely partly on God and partly on our own instead on relying completely on God as we are commanded to do. When we do that we are double minded between the world and God. In this hesitation there leaves no room for true faith but rather faith becomes a matter of opinion. We never are certain because we never quite give authority to our invisible God. This hesitation is the death of hope. It is so tempting and easy to take it upon ourselves and help God get His plans going instead of letting God lead. So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds?

I’ll tell you a little bit about my story. When God called me to Youth Ministry, I questioned God’s leading and thought His leading was ridiculous. My undergrad is in Gerontology, the study of old age, the only youth ministry experience I had was attending Youth Group as a teenager and to be quite frank, teenagers scared me! I questioned God many times trying to figure out what He was doing. Many times I felt very discouraged of God’s leading because it didn’t seem to make sense to me. But I knew I needed to obey God because He knew what He was doing. Abraham’s story of faith was one of the stories of faith that drove me to continue marching on.

As Christians, we have faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Paul describes the life of the Christian as living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; meaning you show your faith in God when you obey Him and where He leads you. Martin Luther King Junior said it well when he said, “faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It was by faith that enabled Abraham to overcome obstacles that from a human perspective were impossible.

God asked Abraham to leave his home and family. Abraham obeyed without hesitation even though he did not know all the details. He was called by God to go to a place where he would receive his inheritance although he did not know where he was going. Abraham left the known and familiar into the unknown and unfamiliar following God’s lead. He acted based on God’s promise alone completely controlled by God and his promise which, is what faith entails. Abraham acted upon his faith by obeying God and showing that He trusts Him.

Then once he arrived at the Promised Land, he lived as a foreigner in tents. Sometimes obeying God mean sacrifice. God sometimes asks us to give up our secure familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will. Even still, verse 10 tells us that Abraham “looked forward” to what God had in store. In the midst of the unknown, even if we do not know what the future holds for us, our faith gives us hope for the future.

I’m always marveled at the faith of Abraham and Sarah because where God led them seemed absolutely ridiculous yet they showed their faith in God even know they did not know all the unknowns. Let’s stop for a moment and put ourselves in the shoes of Abraham and Sarah. Who here has children? Who here had children when they were 90 years old and older? Who here thinks that sounds absolutely ridiculous? Well when Abraham and Sarah had Isaac, he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. It’s no wonder Sarah laughed when she heard she was going to have a child. It is humanly impossible!

In the end, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham. He received the land and has descendants as numerous as the stars. (Pause). Despite Abraham not knowing what the future held, and despite living as a foreigner in the land God promised to give to him, he obeyed God trusting in His promise. Despite Abraham and Sarah being well past childbearing age, He trusted God would fulfill His promise. So although the future seemed preposterous, this did not alter his faith.

Honestly, there probably isn’t anything harder than waiting whether we’re expecting something good, bad or unknown. One way we cope is helping God get his plan into action or conclude what we are waiting for is never going to happen.

In Abraham’s case, God promised him the Promised Land and descendants as numerous as the stars. When he got there, he lived as a foreigner but he continued to look forward to that day it that would be inherited to him. God promised Him and Sarah a child even though they were very old. It was humanly impossible yet they looked beyond their humanness and trusted Him. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Abraham doubted God but rather obeyed without hesitation. He said yes to God’s leading with the drop of a hat because the faith he had in our promise-keeping God.

But if we are honest with ourselves, saying “yes” to God is really hard sometimes and never doubting God or obeying without hesitation is really hard sometimes. Perhaps we pray for something and God answers it in a completely different way than we were expecting and that is hard for us to handle sometimes. Or perhaps you pray and nothing happens. Or a loved one gets sick and the future doesn’t look good. Sometimes the future looks grim or it looks confusing and we wondering, ‘what are you up to God?’ And it’s scary not knowing what the future holds: whether it involves the world, our nation, Berwick or even this church.

But faith is so freeing. The African impala can jump over 10 feet high and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet in one jump. Yet, within the walls of a 3-foot high wall at a zoo, they won’t jump. They will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. We can be like that African Impala sometimes. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen in the next hour. Like the African Impala who will not jump where they cannot see, fear can make us freeze when we do not know what is going to happen next. Faith is so freeing! Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see. …confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; obedience means trust. Faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Frankly, sometimes God’s leading can seem preposterous, but faith gives reason to trust our promise keeping God. I want everyone, if you can, to put your hand on your chest. We probably all feel the same thing. Your heartbeat. The human heart beats about 60 to 100 times per minute and each of those beats is a gift from God. God woke you up those morning. That means God has a plan for you today. God has a purpose for you today. Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose you. He didn’t have to create you but He did. Isn’t it such a comfort to know you are chosen by God. So if we are chosen by God and He has breathed life to us and has given us the gift of a heartbeat today, that means God’s promises apply to us too.

If God promises He has plans for you, plans for you to prosper, not to harm you but plans to give you a hope and a future, then he does. If God promises He will comfort you when you’re down, then He will. If God promises He listens to your prayers, then He does. If God promises that if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you, then He does every time. The Bible is filled with promises from God to us. Our God is an unchanging God so why is it we doubt Him sometimes and doubt His leading? Our humanness gets in the way sometimes when we try to help God along with His plan; but that only shows our lack of trust in Him.

We can learn from Abraham and the faith He had in God; he was always mindful that God always keeps His promises, no matter how ridiculous they may sound. So when God leads us somewhere, and it seems ridiculous, that is when our faith in God will shine through. Instead of humming and hawing like I did when God called me to youth ministry as I questioned His leading, we should remind ourselves of Abraham’s faith who obeyed God without hesitation. Abraham obeyed God because he had faith knowing God knew what He was doing despite Abraham perhaps not completely understanding.

Some days, I still question God’s leading into youth ministry but what I know now is God has brought teenagers to Evan and I who may not have heard of Jesus otherwise. Even if that is the only reason, and I never know all the details of what God is up to, I’m convicted that I ever mistrusted God’s leading. Even though it seemed ridiculous at the time, He has brought me to and through that experience trusting Him more than ever before.

Our willingness to obey God is dependent on how much we trust Him. Even though Abraham was not readily seeing what was being promised to him, what kept him going was faith and the hope that God would fulfill his promises. What kept him going was confidence in God who does and always will keep His promises. God is faithful and unchanging; if he kept His promises then, He does now as well.

As I mentioned in the beginning, sometimes He works in our lives in such a way that we do not really understand. And that is okay. He is God and we are not. Sometimes He answers prayers in a way that we weren’t expecting and then we look back and the pieces start to fall together. And sometimes, from our perspective, we don’t see Him working at all and if that’s the case perhaps we need to check our priorities and ask ourselves, am I God over my situation or am I letting God be God?

So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds? God works in mysterious ways and that’s okay. Because we have a God who can and does the impossible. And we also have a trustworthy God who always keeps His promises no matter how preposterous the future may seem. We have faith. Faith allows us to break from the chains of fear knowing we can trust our future as a church, as a community and as Christ’s disciples by trusting in our promise keeping God.

He Already Knows What He Is Going To Do

I recently heard a 6-year old boy talk about how God is in the snow. I’ve never thought about that before. I don’t know about you but when it is “spring” and it looks like winter and I have to play Russian Roulette when I leave my driveway because I can’t actually see if any cars are coming, I just kindda dart and hope there isn’t anything coming. I’m sick of the snow. But in the mind of this 6 year old, God is in the snow. And He isI always knew and believed in my theology that God is everywhere but when I see snow, my mind has never gone to how God is in the snow. Knowing and believing that God is everywhere and in everything should give us this ultimate faith where God is in everything, in every circumstance, in every situation, in every trial, in every church, in the heart every believer. This ultimate faith where we never doubt because we have the comfort in knowing the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us but yet sometimes we do not trust God fully.

I am currently in ministry in a church where the average age is 70 and as I look out into the congregation, it is a sea of gray hair scattered in the pews that hold 250 people with about 40-50 present each Sunday. We also have a vision of having more young people in our congregation, as is the case with many churches in the Maritimes. So it has been my prayer for many months now that God would help our church bring young people to our church. It seemed God was silent. He wasn’t doing anything. So the attitude of my prayers shifted slowly from “excited to see God work” to “hoping” God would answer my prayer.

To me, it seemed unlikely that young people would want to come inside a church filled with older adults, an organ and old hymns. But a few Sundays ago, there were three young people in the church. To be quite frank, I was surprised. I was convicted by my reaction because my surprise meant I did not have confidence that God would work. I “hoped” God would answer my prayer instead of have confidence that He would. When I was praying all those months, it seemed like God was silent so the enemy started planting thoughts in my mind and I began to doubt my prayer. Well maybe it isn’t realistic for young people to come to this church. Maybe this church doesn’t have a future. Maybe this is it.

That day when Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, people began to follow him to the other side because they saw all that he was doing, the healing and the miracles. And when Jesus looked up He saw all the people coming toward Him. John 6:10 about five thousand men were there. Now that’s just men. During the time that this would have been recorded, it was quite common to document events by mentioning only the men because women and children had a very low status in society during this time. So if this is the case, this is not taking into account women and children, which leaves the possibility of there being approximately 20,000 people there. Just to put that into perspective for you, that’s all the students at Acadia University and Dalhousie University combined. Or all the people who live in Wolfville, Gaspereau Valley, Greenwich, New Minas, Kentville and Coldbrook combined. 20,000 people. Some argue that it could have been just 5,000 people and if so, that is still staggering.

So after seeing all of these people, Jesus asks Phillip, “where shall we buy food for these people to eat?” And Phillip was a good one to ask because he was from Bethsaida, which was approx. nine miles away. A fishing town so Phillip would know where to get the food. But Jesus didn’t actually want to know where to get food. Verse 6 tells us He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

God does that a lot. He puts us in situations and circumstances to test us. It may be a financial situation that seems impossible. Or we may have nothing lined up yet after graduation. Or it may be the future of a church that seems grim. Or maybe you have 20,000 people in front of you and five small barely loaves and two small fish to feed them all. God puts us in those situations to test us, to see how far we will trust Him. He asks, “what are we going to do now?”

Philip responds, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” What a human thing to say. Jesus asked for a human solution knowing there was none highlighting the miraculous and powerful act He was about to do. The wheels starting turning in Phillip’s head as he began to assess the probable cost of feeding so many people. But Jesus points out here that financial resources are not the most important ones.

God taught me this lesson recently when I went to the dentist and learned I had to get my wisdom teeth out. Since the Acadia plan only covers 50% of wisdom teeth extraction, it would cost me some money. As I was talking to the receptionist, she quotes me at $737. I politely said, “okay!” and began to walk home. But in my mind, I was budgeting like crazy and I could feel my anxiety rising as I tried to figure out where the resources were going to come from. During my 15 minute walk home, I was dwelling and brainstorming on how “I” would make this happen. Then I got a call from the Dentist Office. It was the receptionist and she said, “I’m so sorry Kayla, I misquoted you. You would only have to pay $244.” I thanked her over and over and then hung up. As I hung up, God began to convict me. I did what Phillip did. The wheels began to turn in my head as I began to assess the probable cost. But financial resources are not the most important ones.

Like Phillip, I didn’t trust God to provide the resources. How often does God ask us what we are going to do and we often respond by doubting and taking matters into our own hands. We forget that God is everywhere, in every situation, in every circumstance, in every trial, in every church, in the heart every believer. We can get so caught up in this world and our busy culture that we even forget that God is even in the snow. Sometimes God asks us only to test us for he already has in mind what he is going to do.

We are all a praying people. But I bet you can all agree with me when I say sometimes we pray about the same thing for a long time and we don’t see anything happening. We don’t see God moving in the situation or in the person and the enemy likes to plant thoughts in our mind to change our attitude. It’s a very human thing to do. Like Phillip, our automatic response sometimes can be on the flesh. What can “I” do. How much is this going to cost. Where am I going to get the resources? But like Jesus taught Phillip that day, as children of God, we do not have to depend on human resources. We have a divine resource that we can depend on.

As disciples of Christ, He is constantly growing up and stretching us. In the midst of all that, sometimes it really sucks. Sometimes we wonder what the heck God is doing and even question how God can be a part of it all. Sometimes nothing seems to make sense. Sometimes He puts us through things in life to see how much we truly trust Him, how much we will truly trust Him in the midst of it, how quick we are to rely on our own understanding. God stretches our souls sometimes and it hurts and its rough and its frustrating. But the soul is like a violin string; it makes music only when its stretched. What a beautiful thing. God brings us through trusting Him more than ever and depending on Him more than ever. In the midst of stretching our soul, He is bringing us closer to Him.

So when I was praying all those months for God to bring young people, and as my attitude of that prayer began to change from “excited to see God work” to “hoping God would work”. God was using this to test me because He already had in mind what He was going to do. God was already working in the hearts of these young people. God gave them the drive and the curiosity to see what was going on inside that church that morning. And there I sat, surprised by God working. God works despite us, even when we do not put our full trust in Him.

Since we are all human, I think we can all agree that we would have had the same reaction as Phillip. Whether you believe there was five thousand that day or 20,000, how would you respond if Jesus asked you, “where are we going to buy bread for these people to eat?” If I’m going to be honest with you and with God, I would have probably have said, “Well, geez! Bethseida is like nine miles away so that’s going to take forever to get food travelling there and back! And all we have is five tiny loaves of bread and a two fish which will feed like three people! So I don’t know!” Then I would probably proceed by budgeting in my head and letting my anxiety rise.

But really, being in a relationship with someone means you also trust that person. Being Christians means we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Furthermore, being in a relationship with Jesus Christ means we have direct access to God. We have divine leading in our lives. The only thing eternal is God and if we truly trust Him, we depend on Him in all circumstances. The wisdom of the Proverbs in chapter 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” A deeper look at those two verses tells us that means a deep reliance on God, and settled confidence in His care and His faithfulness to His Word. “Your own understanding” is often what humans perceive to be the right course of action. Trying to figure things out on our own. It doesn’t make any sense when you stop to think about it. Trying to figure things out on our own when we have the glorious gift of a never failing, ever-trustworthy faithful God who already has in mind what He is going to do.

So maybe you are in this place now and if you’re not, its guaranteed you will be in the future. If you are in a place where God is asking you, “what are we going to do?” God is asking because He is testing you. But be comforted in knowing He already knows what He is going to do. He wants to see how you will respond. He wants to see how far you are willing to trust Him. He wants to see how much you truly rely on Him. Remember, He’s in the snow. He’s everywhere, in every situation, in every believer’s heart. He is already working. He already knows what He is going to do. He just wants to see if you will trust Him in that truth. God seems like He is quiet sometimes, but remember, the teacher is always quiet during a test.

How Can We Trust God When We Don’t Know What the Future Holds?

I’m sure we can all relate when God leads us somewhere and we question His leading. Some of us may be curious about what God has in store after graduation and it’s scary not knowing. Especially for those of us who like to plan, or those of us who are bombarded by questions about what we’re going to do after graduation and have not established a job yet. Or those who just want to know what God is up to. It is so tempting and easy to take it upon ourselves and help God get His plans going instead of letting God lead. So how can we trust God when we do not know what the future holds?

When God called me to Youth Ministry, I questioned God’s leading and thought His leading was ridiculous. My undergrad is in Gerontology, the study of old age, the only youth ministry experience I had was attending Youth Group as a teenager and to be quite frank, teenagers scared me! I questioned God many times trying to figure out what He was doing. Many times I felt as though I was ready to quit because I was so discouraged of God’s leading because it didn’t seem to make sense to me. But I knew I needed to obey God because He knew what He was doing. I obeyed hesitantly but I obeyed. Abraham’s story of faith was one of the stories of faith that drove me to continue marching on.

As Christians, we have faith. (Pause). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see.” Paul describes the life of the Christian as living by faith and not by sight. In the book of Hebrews, faith involves active obedience; obedience means trust. You show your faith in God when you obey Him and where He leads you. Martin Luther King Junior said it well when he said, “faith is taking the next step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It was by faith that enabled Abraham to overcome obstacles that from a human perspective were impossible.

God asked Abraham to leave his home and family. Abraham obeyed without hesitation even though he did not know all the details. He was called by God to go to a place where he would receive his inheritance although he did not know where he was going. Abraham left the known and familiar into the unknown and unfamiliar following God’s lead. He acted based on God’s promise alone completely controlled by God and his promise which, is what faith entails. Abraham acted upon his faith by obeying God and showing that He trusts Him.

Then once he arrived at the Promised Land, he lived as a foreigner in tents. Sometimes obeying God mean sacrifice. God sometimes asks us to give up our secure familiar surroundings in order to carry out his will. Even still, verse 10 tells us that Abraham “looked forward” to what God had in store. In the midst of the unknown, even if we do not know what the future holds for us, our faith gives us hope for the future.

In the end, God fulfilled his promise to Abraham. He received the land and has descendants as numerous as the stars. Despite Abraham not knowing what the future held, and despite living as a foreigner in the land God promised to give to him, he obeyed God trusting in His promise. Despite Abraham and Sarah being well past childbearing age, He trusted God would fulfill His promise. So although the future seemed preposterous, this did not alter his faith.

You probably don’t know the long-term effects of most decisions you make. But shouldn’t the fact that there will be long term results cause you to think carefully and seek God’s guidance as you make choices and take action? There probably isn’t anything harder than waiting whether we’re expecting something good, bad or unknown. One way we cope is helping God get his plan into action or conclude what we are waiting for is never going to happen.

In Abraham’s case, God promised him the Promised Land and descendants as numerous as the stars. When he got there, he lived as a foreigner but he continued to look forward to that day it that would be inherited to him. God promised Him and Sarah a child even though they were very old. It was humanly impossible yet they looked beyond their humanness and trusted Him. Scripture doesn’t tell us that Abraham doubted God but rather obeyed without hesitation. He said yes to God’s leading with the drop of a hat because the faith he had in our promise-keeping God.

Frankly, sometimes God’s leading can seem preposterous, but faith gives reason to trust our promise keeping God. If God promises He has plans for you, plans for you to prosper, not to harm you but plans to give you a hope and a future, then he does. If God promises He will comfort you when you’re down, then He will. If God promises He listens to your prayers, then He does. The Bible is filled with promises from God to us. Our God is an unchanging God so why is it we doubt Him sometimes and doubt His leading? Our humanness gets in the way sometimes when we try to help God along with His plan; but that only shows our lack of trust in Him.

We can learn from Abraham and the faith He had in God; he was always mindful that God always keeps His promises, no matter how ridiculous they may sound. So when God leads us somewhere, and it seems ridiculous, that is when our faith in God will shine through. Instead of humming and hawing like I did when God called me to youth ministry as I questioned His leading, we should remind ourselves of Abraham’s faith who obeyed God without hesitation. Abraham obeyed God because he had faith knowing God knew what He was doing despite Abraham perhaps not completely understanding.

Some days, I still question God’s leading into youth ministry but what I know now is God has brought teenagers to Evan and I who may not have heard of Jesus otherwise. Even if that is the only reason, and I never know all the details of what God is up to, I’m convicted that I ever mistrusted God’s leading. Even though it seemed ridiculous at the time, He has brought me to and through that experience trusting Him more than ever before.

Our willingness to obey God is dependent on how much we trust Him. (Pause). Even though Abraham was not readily seeing what was being promised to him, what kept him going was faith and the hope that God would fulfill his promises. What kept him going was confidence in God who does and always will keep His promises. God is faithful and unchanging; if he kept His promises then, He does now as well. We can trust God when we do not know what the future holds by having faith in a trustworthy God who keeps His promises.

“Is there more to life than this?”

The timeless big question about life is, “Is there more to life than this?” Of course there is. If you havn’t discovered that yet, look around you.

Seriously, look around you. Everyone is seeking more. Seeking fulfillment. Seeking meaning. Seeking comfort. For those who havn’t found what they are looking for has been looking in all the wrong places.

I have seen so many loved ones – friends and family – seek meaning and explanations by reaching out to worldly means (for example, money), creating their own faith by picking and choosing what they like out of numerous faiths, or come to the conclusion that there is no God so they strive to be as successful as possible here on this Earth in attempt to gain meaning in this life.

I watched one of my classmates randomly ask someone the other day if they would like to come to Chapel. They said yes! I surprised myself by being surprised that these strangers were so open. It made me think of how everyone is seeking that “something more” to life. Meaning. Satisfaction. Hope. Truth.

Then something clicked. People are constantly seeking more because they feel a void. The Bible tells us that eternity is written on our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) therefore if eternity is part of who we are, it is no wonder people are constantly asking and wondering about the big questions in life. God made and designed us to seek Him. Eternity can only come through God. That meaning, satisfaction, hope and truth that people constantly long for can only be satisfied and found in God.

Knowing my loved ones who do not believe in God, I know their immediate response to this post would be that they don’t actually feel a void and are happy with their life. But I bet if they were actually honest with themselves, they would admit that there is something lacking in their life. That question of “something more than this” would definitely apply to them.

If God designed us with eternity written on our hearts, He obviously created us knowing that we would feel a void in our life UNLESS we seek Him. That is so cool 🙂

As a Christian, follower of Jesus and believer in God, life isn’t perfect because I have God in my life but I have meaning, hope, faith and satisfaction in life. It’s not really an explainable thing. It’s something that needs to be experienced in order to fully grasp what I’m talking about.

God writes eternity on the hearts of all of us because He wants us to seek Him. He is the only way someone will fulfill their need for meaning in life.

I promise you that.

“Gone Too Soon”

In reaction to the death of a young person, the initial response is usually something along the lines of, “gone too soon” or “died before their time”. But is there any truth to that?

I may be opening a can of worms here but I can’t help but get uncomfortable when I hear those two statements or any variation of them. When a young persons dies, did they really die before their time, are we just uncomfortable with the fact that young people die or are we trying to justify a young person’s death through the statements we say in reaction? (Or none of those things).

A good friend of mine took his own life a few years ago (4 years ago this November) and I remember the feelings that came with the grief. Not only was I mourning his loss, but it just didn’t feel right. From my perspective (and I’m sure many can relate to this), when a young person dies, it just doesn’t feel right. A young death stirs up an uneasiness within us that seems to perplex us and question their death. In comparison, when an elderly person dies, although grief happens, that same uneasiness and uncomfortable feelings associated with a young death do not necessarily come up.

For example, this summer I went home for a friend’s wedding and it just so happened that the three days I was home, a precious elderly man in my home church had died and his funeral was when I was home. At his funeral, one of the pastor’s that spoke said something that I have been thinking about ever since. He said, “I don’t think God created humans to be able to handle death.” He went on to say how when God initially created the first humans, we were created to be in God’s constant presence in the garden. Experiencing death was not in God’s original plan. How else do you explain Revelation 21:4 (this portion of Scripture is talking about what heaven will be like), “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

After hearing what this pastor had to say, I thought, “Huh, that is so true!” Humans don’t handle death well because God never created us to handle it whatsoever in the first place. Makes sense! Now I’m not trying to present the message that I know everything there is to know about God and death…I’m just putting my thoughts out there.

So now that I have ranted about all that is on my brain about this topic, my question is, even if someone dies young, does God already have determined when someone dies? Even if it seems untimely to us, is it all part of God’s providence? And then you can get into sticky topics of the way some young people die: car accidents, overdose, illness, suicide, etc…the list could go on and on.

Does God know already when He creates someone when they will die?

This is what I have found the Bible says:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5)

All of these Bible passages connote the message that God knows; He determines when we will be born and when we will die. In Job, it specifically says, “a person’s days are determined.”

As humans and as Christians, I think we need to be at peace with the fact that we won’t always be at peace with all the mysterious questions of life. I’m perfectly content not knowing all the mysteries of the universe. As Isaiah 55:8 says, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.” Although I don’t have all the answers, I’m okay with that because I try my best to put my full trust in God and let life happen as it will happen because I know God is in control.

God bless ❤

Where Are Your Priorities?

(This is from a sermon I did August 10, 2014)

The American Bible Society recently released the results of an annual study that monitors beliefs and behaviors of U.S. adults toward the Bible. Christianity Today reported that while some of the 2014 results were not surprising given the nature of society and busy lifestyles, they found that more than 88 percent of American families own a Bible with most having four or more on their bookshelves. But only 37 percent of those adults read a Bible more than once a week. In 2011, 86 percent of adults surveyed viewed the Bible as sacred – a number which dropped to 79 percent in 2014.

More than 47 percent of Bible readers said their #1 frustration on the topic was never having enough time to read scriptures. More than 81 percent of Americans surveyed believe that the values and morals of America are declining, but in 2014, it was found that participants were more likely to blame this decline on movies, music and television rather than lack of Bible reading.

There are even devotionals that Christians can buy that specifically target those with “busy lifestyles”.

I read an article recently that announced that Scottish researchers have recently diagnosed a brand new syndrome called “Busy Lifestyle Syndrome” This syndrome is caused by those who lead very busy lifestyles and give themselves little to no rest. Symptoms include: small frequent memory lapses, like forgetting why you entered a room, why you pulled your phone out, where you left the remote, etc. You may feel aloof and confused with too many tasks to juggle during the day. You may also feel emotionally overwhelmed and may have difficulty dealing with stress. This article also assured the reader that it’s okay to have Busy Lifestyle Syndrome; just take a break or vacation.

But the last time I checked, Western culture is a very busy and hectic culture. Everyone is always busy and agendas are always full. To be honest, I am most definitely a product of our culture and furthermore, when I am not busy, I have to find a task that will keep me busy or I simply just do not know what to do with myself.

When you step back and look at the big picture, all things in life can be a distraction. It just so happens that in our culture, the busy-ness of our culture is a huge distraction. Most of the time, we don’t even realize that it is a distraction. But a distraction to what?

In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is comparing Mary and Martha and asks Martha what really matters. Martha was distracted by the busy-ness of preparations for the meal, which distracted her from her spiritual health. As Christians, much of what fills our schedules is things for God, like helping out with something at the church, showing God’s love by spending time with someone who is going through tough times right now, helping people do some yard work, and simply living our daily lives and letting Christ shine through you. I think we can all identify with Martha; where would the church be without all of its Marthas? But surprisingly, Jesus is telling Martha to get her priorities straight.

Jesus puts into perspective for Martha about why she needed to set her priorities straight. I found a letter written by a college student to her parents who goes above and beyond to try to put into perspective for her parents why they need to set their priorities straight. As I read this, for all of those here today who have daughters, try to put yourself in the shoes of the parents who received this letter and bare with me:

Dear mum and dad,

It has been nearly three months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing, and I am very sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now; but, before you read on, please sit down. You are not to read any further unless you are sitting down. Okay.

Well, then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital, and now I can see almost normally and only get those sick headaches once a day.

Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump were witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the Fire Department and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital; and, since I had nowhere to live because of the burnt out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute.

He is a very fine boy, and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven’t set the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show. Yes, Mother and Dad, I am pregnant. I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents, and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion you gave me when I was a child.

The reason for the delay in our wedding date is that Michael has some very large debts from his three previous marriages that he needs to work off before we can afford to be married.

Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you that there was no dormitory fire, I did not get a concussion or a skull fracture, I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, and there is no one in my life. However, I am getting a “D” in History and an “F” in Science, and I wanted you to see these marks in the proper perspective.

Your loving daughter,
 Edna

In her own unique way, Edna went all out and above and beyond to try to show her parents that although she flunked History and Science, things could be a lot worse. She was simply trying to tell her parents to get their priorities straight.

I very much doubt Jesus walked away from that meal with Martha and Mary completely awestruck by all of the preparations and how good the food was. But I bet Jesus walked away from the meal with a strong impression of who had their priorities straight. Was it Martha who spent her time worried and distracted by the busy-ness of the preparations in the kitchen? Or was it Mary who spent her time at Jesus’ feet, spending quality time with Him by listening to what He had to say? In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus was asking Martha what really mattered: that Mary wasn’t helping her with the meal preparations or that Mary had chosen to do what is better, spending time and listening to Jesus.

Speaking for myself and I’m sure many here today, we can all identify with Martha; if not now, sometime in the past. When I read this story about the meal Jesus had with Martha and Mary, I took some time to really reflect on how I spend my time. Am I like Martha who is caught up in the busy-ness of life including doing this FOR God? Or am I taking the time to purposely spend quality time with God by reading His word and talking to Him through prayer.

In our own cultural context, most people are forced into busy lifestyles. Our lives usually have a busy schedule with activities of good merit or something that is worthy of your time or else it wouldn’t be in your schedule in the first place. Our schedules are often prioritized; some things come high on the list and other things must wait. Sometimes our priorities must be shuffled to meet needs at last minute. This is found in the story of Martha and Mary when Martha invited Jesus into her home for a meal as a guest.

The fact that this story has not one but two women in the story would have been shocking in its 1st C context because women were of little importance in society. The fact that Jesus commends Mary and has a meal with Mary and Martha shows that Jesus is concerned about all people. Therefore given the cultural context, the fact that there are two women in the story and given that Jesus is actually giving them his time, this story is obviously designed to make a strong point about all disciples.

This story shouldn’t be read in a way that frowns upon Martha…what Jesus is trying to show Martha is the difference between something good and something better. As Martha works away in the kitchen preparing the meal for Jesus, I can imagine that her frustration toward Mary was rising and rising until she just blew up. As Martha is getting all the preparations ready for the meal, Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him and Martha is not going to have it! She says to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Verse 40 says that Martha was distracted by all the preparations and so her point of view is questionable not only by Jesus’ reply but also she made the comment while she was “distracted by all the preparations.” To further emphasize her questionable comment, in the Greek, Martha asks this question in a way that Jesus is expected to have a positive answer. In other words, according to the original Greek, Martha makes the comment fully expecting Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help.

Knowing this, Jesus’ response would have taken her by surprise. He responds tenderly by saying “Martha, Martha” which shows that He cares. He says, “You are worried and upset about many things.” Put another way, Jesus questions her not because of her activity but because of her attitude about it. Jesus compares what Martha is doing and what Mary is doing. One is concerned about the preparations of the meal and one is concerned about listening to Jesus. In other words, one is concerned about doing things for Jesus and the other is concerned about spending time with Jesus. Jesus sets priorities and says, “only one is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus is telling Martha to get her priorities straight. Mary is essentially taking part in the “right meal”. What she has done by sitting at Jesus’ feet will remain with her; what she has spent her time doing will last. Jesus is not condemning Martha’s activity but more so commending Mary’s choice of activity. He is showing Martha that Mary’s priorities are in order.

As Christ’s disciples, of course He wants us to do things for Him. But he also wants us to spend time with Him. Jesus wants us to sit at his feet like Mary and devour His teaching. There is no more important meal than that. Doing things for God is of course good, but if we get caught up in those things and they get in the way of us spending time with Him, then those things become a distraction.

Now, I want to emphasize that I am not discouraging anyone from doing things for God, the church (and when I say the church, I mean the body of believers gathered here), needs its Marthas…those faithful followers who clearly have such a big heart for God and want to live their lives for Him and do things for Him. What I am trying to say is that it is just as important to check our priorities to ensure we are not neglecting what Jesus says is even better. Mary and Martha both loved Jesus dearly. In this passage, Martha was doing things for Jesus and Mary was spending time with Jesus. Sometimes we can get so caught up in doing things for Christ that we become distracted and neglect the most important thing of all: spending time with Jesus.

It is true that much of our busyness and distraction stems from the noblest of intentions. We want to provide for our families, we want to give our children every opportunity to enrich their lives, we want to serve our neighbors, and yes, we want to serve God. Indeed, where would the church be without its “Marthas,” those faithful folk who perform the tasks of hospitality and service so vital to making the church a welcoming and well-functioning community?

Matthew 4:4 says, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In other words, we cannot only feed our physical bodies and neglect our souls…our souls need food and that food comes from the Word of God. Martha was distracted from her soul’s need for spiritual food. What distracted her are not bad things. I think I would be safe to say that even if our schedules are filled with good things, sometimes even the good things are a distraction, which causes us to neglect our souls.

“But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about so many things.” We all know people who are worried and upset about many things. Or maybe you are worried and upset about many things. It’s an inevitable consequence of our hectic busy culture. As we learned earlier, there is even a newly discovered syndrome called “Busy Lifestyle Syndrome” that is caused by too much stress, too much worry and quite simply getting caught up in all the busy-ness.

Martha is certainly a stressed out lady at this point in time. Her exasperation can be seen in the way she forms her question, “Lord, do You not care…?” Of course He does! But not nearly as much about the problem as Martha sees it as He does about the real problem of which Martha is unaware. Jesus is more concerned about Martha’s priorities than He is about being served food.

According to Jesus, what Mary had chosen, spending time with Him, was better. In our culture, it is common to hear the phrase, “I’m too busy”. But if we are so busy that it distracts us from spending time with God, then perhaps we may need to reflect on where our priorities are. If our relationship with God consisted mainly on doing things for Him while neglecting spending time with Him, then we are not experiencing life as He has planned for us.

Have you ever went a day or perhaps even a few days without opening your Bible or talking to God? I really don’t recommend it…but if you’ve been there, you can speak to the difference it makes in your day.

In John 10:10, Jesus says that He has come so that we may have life and have it in abundance; in other words, until it overflows and is contagious to others. God wants us to enjoy life but life cannot be fully enjoyed if we are caught up in the busy-ness of life and neglecting time spent with God. The truth is, God wants you to enjoy your life every day. This clearly tells us that God doesn’t just want us to be alive, but He wants us to enjoy being alive.

A recent survey determined how the average person spends their time and the results really make you think. In a lifetime, the average person will spend:

6 months sitting at stoplights

8 months opening junk mail

1 year looking for misplaced objects

2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls

4 years doing housework

5 years waiting in line

And 6 years eating

Both listening and doing, receiving God’s Word and serving others, are vital to the Christian life, just as inhaling and exhaling are to breathing. Yet how often do we forget to breathe in deeply? Doing things for God without nourishing our soul by spending time with God is like expecting good fruit to grow from a tree that is undernourished.

Luke’s story is left suspended. We do not know what happened next — whether Mary and Martha were reconciled, whether they were all able to enjoy the meal that Martha had prepared, whether Martha was finally able to sit and give her full attention to Jesus. But what we do know is that God doesn’t want us to be “too busy” to spend time with Him. He wants us to spend time with Him, know that we are His loved and valued children. He wants us to be renewed in our faith and strengthened to do work for Him.

Jesus wants us to set our priorities straight if other things are distracting you from spending time with Him. Doing things for Him is so very important but if those things are getting in the way of spending time with Him, Jesus says we need to set our priorities straight. Remember, Jesus wasn’t condemning Martha, we need to be like Martha and have a genuine heart for God and do things for Him but we also must not neglect to be like Mary and nourish our souls by spending time with Him. American writer and editor, Carl Sanburg, once said, “time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.” Like Jesus said to Martha, “…few things are needed or indeed only one” and that thing is paying attention to our guest. As Christians, Christ lives within us so as it turns out, our guest is also our host.

Our Soul’s Need Nourishment Too

Taking care of the body that God has given you is so very important because He lives within us. Some people forget that part of our body is the soul and so we often neglect the soul. As a result, many find themselves feeling lost or like there is something missing…like “there must be more to life”. There is more.

I believe that feeling of being lost of feeling like we don’t belong comes from a neglected, undernourished soul. If we don’t feed it, of course it is going to suffer. If we didn’t feed our bodies with good food, our physical bodies would be undernourished as well. Think about it. It makes sense. Matthew 4:4 says, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In other words, we cannot only feed our physical bodies and neglect our souls…our souls need food and that food comes from spending time with God (through prayer – talking with Him) and reading the Bible.

Before I became a Christian, I had this intense fear of death. Of course, I grew up going to Sunday School and Youth Group but I never committed to having a relationship with Jesus Christ. I didn’t really understand what that meant. I feared death like many people in the world mainly because I wasn’t sure of what would come next. I knew about heaven but I was constantly asking myself, “how do you know for sure if you are going to go to heaven or not?”

That question soon disappeared from my thoughts when I committed to having a relationship with Christ. Meaning, I prayed to God that He would come live within my heart. With a genuine heart, I told Him that I believed with all my heart that He died for me on the cross so that if I choose to believe in Him, I will have eternal life.

Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s about being in a relationship with Christ as He dwells within my heart. He guides me each and every day. He is my friend. Because He dwells within my body, I do my very best to take care of the body God has given me. He also nourishes my soul. I don’t fear death anymore. I have a peace in my heart that is unexplainable. Only those who also have Christ living within their heart would be able to understand. It’s a peace beyond all understanding.

As I nourish my soul by having a relationship with Christ, He guides me. He has guided me to where I am today. The only way I can explain that is by believing that He closes doors and opens doors to new opportunities. Revelation 3:7-8 says, “these are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

I know this because things have happened in my life that cannot be justified as coincidences but rather can only be justified by pointing to God. For example, when Evan and I were trying to decide whether or not to continue our education at a Masters level, we didn’t want to pursue it unless we had financial help somehow. Feeling overwhelmed one night as to what we should do, we prayed together one night and specifically said to God, “If this is where you want us to be (Acadia Divinity School for the Master of Divinity program) then provide financially.” The very next day, we were accepted into the school with $4000 renewable scholarships each. A few months later, just before school started, we were both offered a job as team Youth Pastors at a local church (and they approach us to send them a resume). Coincidence? I can’t buy it. By leaning on God, He has guided us to where we are today. He opens doors and He closes doors.

As humans, we are made of mind, body and spirit. It is so important to take care of all three and make a point not to neglect any of them.