He Already Knows What He Is Going To Do

This is a sermon I did on July 12th (Scripture John 6:1-11):

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 we had the winter that we had this past year, my first thought is not how God is in the snow. It’s more like, “oh my goodness, this winter is never going to end! I’m sick of the snow.” But in the mind of this 6-year-old, God is in the snow. I do believe that God is everywhere and in everything but when I see snow, my mind has never gone to how God is in the snow. But really, 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 nor forsake us but yet sometimes we do not trust God fully.

We have a vision of bringing more people through the doors of this church, as is the case with many churches in the Maritimes. Part of this vision is about relationships. Building relationships within our church and community, so this has been my prayer for awhile now. That God would guide us in the ways in which we should go next. And He has been leading and guiding us. But I think we have all been there where we pray for a long time about the same thing and it seems God is silent. So in that time of waiting for God to answer prayers, the attitude of our prayers can shift slowly from “excited to see God work” to “hoping” God would answer prayer.

In the Scripture read this morning, we read that on that day 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. Verse 10 tells us there was 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. 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. It may be health issues that seem to never end. Or it may be the future of a church. Or maybe you have 20,000 people in front of you and five small barley 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. Jesus asks us, “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. 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.

We are 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 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 as I continue to pray for God to lead, guide and direct our church to build relationships within our church and with people in the community, God is already working. Sometimes God puts us in situations to test our faith and behind the scenes He already has in mind what He is going to do. We live in a culture where we want results quick but our timing, more often than not, is not God’s timing. 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, “Uh, I don’t know! All we have is five tiny loaves of bread and a two fish which will feed like three people! So I don’t know, that’s impossible” 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.

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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.

Faith: The Antidote to Worry

First of all, my apologies for not posting! I have not fallen off the face of the Earth but rather school and ministry has taken over my life for the past couple of weeks. I’m back though 🙂 

Here is a sermon I presented on Oct. 26:

“Worry” is such a common word in our culture. So common in fact that I bet it would be odd if you went a day without using the term “worry” at least once. I think it is safe to say that the term “worry” has almost become meaningless because we are so used to using the word and hearing the word. We say things like, “no worries” or “don’t worry about it” or even just expressing concern over someone by saying, “I’m worried about so and so.” We use “worry” so often that we have forgotten the weight of the word and what it really means, especially what it means to worry as Christians.

Worry has plagued our culture and the world. It just comes natural to us. When something bad happens that is out of our control, what is our natural reaction? We begin to worry. Because it is such a natural reaction for humans and for our culture, we are usually not mindful that Jesus commands us not to worry. If your not careful, worrying can snowball very quickly into a downward spiral. We begin to think of what ifs, we may create scenarios in our mind of what may or may not happen, it may develop into anxiety or you may become paranoid. If you allow worrying to get out of hand, worry can become chronic and you begin to lose sleep, perhaps your appetite slowly dwindles away, your job performance may decline and some turn to smoking, drugs or alcohol to try to seek relief from worry.

Take Joseph Stalin, for example, the Russian dictator. He is what you would call a paranoid chronic worrier. He was worried of being killed and so he had seven different bedrooms and would sleep in a different one each night and lock it up tighter than a safe. In order to fool any assassins, he also had five chauffeur-driven limousines that transported him wherever he went, each with curtains closed so no one would know which one he was in. Stalin allowed his bad habit of worry get so bad that he eventually employed a servant whose sole job was the monitor and protect his tea bags. If any one knows who Joseph Stalin is, you know Stalin had the right to be worried about being killed. This is an extreme example but what I’m trying to illustrate is that if you let it, worry can eat away at you, make you paranoid, make you think about things that just may not happen, and play tricks on your mind.

We worry about money, how we’re going to pay the phone bill next month, some worry about death and what happens after we die. People worry about work, school, getting laid off, or illness. I have even encountered some young people who have a genuine worry of zombies but if you ask me, that’s a bit far fetched.

So it appears that worrying is a natural inclination to human nature. Yet, Jesus commands us not to worry. In this passage alone, the term is found six times and Jesus commands us three times to not worry. He commands us, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” He continues, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” and finally, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Worrying comes so natural to us yet our Saviour commands us to not worry. Since it’s a command, that means there’s no if’s and’s or but’s about it! I’m sure many here have read this passage many times but to actually not worry, seems almost impossible; as if it is going against the grain of human nature.

If you look at the Greek meaning of the word worry, μεριμνᾶτε it makes more sense. μεριμνᾶτε is translated as the opposite of trust in God, in other words, lack of faith; the faith that is needed in order to trust God. It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? It’s no wonder we have a culture that is filled with people who worry about most things in life because we also have a culture filled with unbelievers, people who do not have God part of their lives. Why wouldn’t they worry? If someone has not made a commitment to God and made a genuine choice to give their heart to Jesus, then they have no hope. So if there is no hope, worrying is inevitable because we try to figure things out on our own. They have a reason to worry because they do not have God in their life to put their full trust in.

When I discovered the meaning of worry, it hit me hard. I confess, I worry sometimes! Yet I have a relationship with God whom I talk to on a regular basis through prayer, who gives me hope, meaning in life, purpose in life, peace, happiness, He makes life whole and complete. Yet sometimes its so easy to let our problems become much bigger than God. He wants us to trust Him and if we are worrying, we are not doing that. Jesus is saying, trust God! He’s commanding us to trust God!

When we worry, it usually is triggered by something that is happening in life that is out of our control. Worry plagues our thoughts when we start to think we have to figure things out on our own when in reality, we have a God who wants us to trust Him and let Him have control. The truth is, life happens. Every once and awhile, life throws us a curve ball and most of the time, we can’t do a thing about it. When you worry, its a prideful way of thinking that you have way more control over your life than you actually do. What is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not.

Jesus’ command to not worry is very clear. He tells us to not worry about our life, and the things we need to sustain life, food and clothes. Jesus is saying, if God has given you life, then why wouldn’t He provide what you need to sustain life? God gave you the gift of this life and created your body so why would you not trust God to provide what you need to sustain life? We have a really hard time trusting God. We are hesitant to give our problems to God because we want to have control and we want to take matters into our own hands. For me, sometimes I have the attitude of ‘hoping’ that God will take care of it instead of having ‘confidence’ that He will.

I heard a story recently that really spoken to my heart. There was a woman in Africa who needed shoes. Not in the way we would need shoes. We say we need shoes when there is a hole in them or when the sole wears down or simply because they go out of style and need a new pair to keep up with fashion. This woman didn’t even have one shoe. So she trusted God would provide. So she waited. And waited. And waited. Until weeks later, someone gave her a pair of shoes. She told her church family about how God had provided for her needs that Sunday at church and everyone cheered and praised God. God knew what she needed and so she gave it over to Him and trusted that He would take care of her needs.

I felt convicted when I heard this story. When I look in my closet at home, Evan and I have a whole shoe rack filled with our many shoes, not just one pair but several pairs of shoes for every season! We’re not wealthy by any means but I think everyone here can agree that we are all wealthier than that woman who waited upon God to provide the shoes that she needed. God has blessed our nation with money and I believe that can also be a curse. We can be quite distracted by all the stuff that surrounds us and still worry and have a hard time trusting that God will see us through.

When you replace the bad habit of worry with faith and trust in God, it changes your whole perspective on life. You begin to let go of things. You begin to feel peace. You feel a burden being lifted and never realized how heavy your shoulders really were from carry around all that stuff you were worried about. It’s an inward transformation that takes place. When you have a genuine trust in God, that He will take care of you and provide what you need, life begins to be lived as God intended. To the fullest!

There’s even proof that God provides and Jesus says, all we have to do is look at nature. Jesus says, ‘Look at the birds of the air; They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they?’ Birds are on a constant pursuit for food. When you see birds, they are either flying in search for food, perched on a branch looking where to go next, on your lawn eating the bugs and worms from the ground, or you would be hard pressed not to see a crow eating on the side of the road. I can honestly say, I have never seen a bird that has obviously died from starvation. Why? Because God provides food for the birds to sustain their life.

Jesus continues and says, ‘See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?’ Jesus is pointing us to the beauty of nature. It’s such a beautiful part of God’s creation that really displays His creativity. When you look out the window this time of year, the leaves on the trees are painted beautifully with so many colours. Or when you think of flowers, there is no such thing as an ugly flower. Yet, God creates all these beautiful aspects of nature despite them having a short life-span. And here’s the kicker: God provides what they need to sustain life.

Jesus goes on to saying that we are like the pagans who worry. In other words, those who do not have God in their life, they worry, but those who have God in their life, they have faith and trust in God. In other words, those who don’t have God are characterized by worry and those who do have God are characterized by faith. In God’s eyes, what does it mean if we worry, Christians, those who have God in their life? If Jesus’ disciples worry, then their faith in God is like the faith someone would have if they didn’t have God in their life. It is the faith that we display as Christians that makes the difference. People notice that.

What if you, like the woman in Africa, needed a pair of shoes but you didn’t have the money to buy a new pair? Our human inclination would be to worry. Begin to make scenarios up in our head and think of the ‘what if’s’. Or what if, we decided to trust God. Trust that he would provide the shoes or the means to buy the shoes. Trust in His timing, not our own. Trust that he cares about us. And acknowledge and ask yourself, ‘If he created me and gave me life, then why wouldn’t He provide what I need to sustain this life?’ Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:8 that God knows what we need even before we ask!

If you worry, you accomplish nothing. You are only putting yourself in an uncomfortable spot of discontent and anxiety. I’m sure you have all heard the common saying: Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.’ There’s so much truth to that statement because worrying cannot change a thing, but faith can change everything.

Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. So as Christians, the faith we have is complete trust in God. But I will be the first to admit, that is really hard sometimes. To not lean on your own understanding and not try to take matters into your own hands. By times, its seemingly impossible.

What we need to do when we find ourselves worrying is to replace the bad habit of worrying with the excellent habit of trusting God. So the next time you find yourself worrying about something, ask yourself, ‘Am I going to worry about this or am I going to trust God with this?’ In other words, are you going to dwell upon it, think of the what ifs, become anxious, allow it to consume your mind, or are you going to let go, ask God to help you let go, and ask Him to take care of it because you trust Him. Are you going to have faith, or are you going to worry? Faith or worry, pick one, because you can’t have both.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us, ‘Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.’ God knows we worry. He knows we fret about the little things and the big things in life. But He doesn’t want us worry, He commands us not to. Being in a relationship with God puts you at an advantage when things happen in life. Being in a relationship with God is being completely dependent on God and realizing that we cannot live this life without Him. So we lean on Him in bad times, we seek His guidance when we don’t know quite what to do and we give Him praise and thanks when we see Him working in our lives.

God cares for us very much. He loves us. He created us. He chose to give us the gift of life. There’s proof all around us of the care He has for His creation. As Jesus says, all we have to do is look at nature. The beauty of it has despite having such a short life. Yet God cares about it all because He gives them all what they need to sustain their life. So if God cares about the rest of creation, how much more He cares for us! He gave us the gift of life, so why wouldn’t He give what we need to sustain it? He knows what we need even before we ask. He knows us better than we even know ourselves. He may not always what we want, but always what we need.

I came acrossed a cute story about a little girl who had the right idea and it goes like this:

A mother and her 4 year old daughter were getting ready for bed one night. The little girl was afraid of the dark, and the mother, on this occasion felt a bit fearful herself. When the light was out, the little girl caught a glimpse of the moon outside the window. ‘Mother,’ she asked, ‘Is the moon God’s light?’ ‘Yes,’ said the mother. The next question was, ‘Will God put out His light to go to sleep?’ The mother replied, ‘No, my child, God never goes to sleep.’ Then the child said to her mother, ‘Well, as long as God is awake, there is no sense both of us staying awake.’

That little girl has the right idea. Even when life doesn’t exactly go the way we want it to, and most of the time it doesn’t, as seen through the little girl’s eyes, we have a God who never goes to sleep. He’s always there, no matter how many times we try to figure it all out on our own. Worrying happens when we start to think we have to figure everything out on our own. As Christians, that’s not the case. We have faith in a God who loves us, cares about us and never breaks His promises. God is trustworthy. He is trustworthy and He is who we put our faith in, who give us hope, meaning and purpose. When things happen in life that cause us concern, we need God’s help.

So the next time you find yourself worrying, turn to God before trying to take it into your own hands. Ask God for help. Humble yourself and admit that you can’t do it on your own. God knows what’s going on in your life, even before you aks Him for help. Worrying never wins but trusting God never fails becasue you’ll find the antidote to worrying is trusting God.

The Unexplainable is the Hand of God at Work

My family seems to be somewhat attuned to the supernatural. Whether it be dreams about those who have already passed on, strange encounters or unexplainable events. Since my great aunt died last week, strange encounters and unexplainable events are the case.

My dad called me last night to tell me about the events and I was brought to tears. Not because I was sad, but because I just felt an overwhelming presence of God and a feeling of such comfort. It is a moment I will likely never forget.

This is the first event that happened:

My great aunt was in the hospital and she took a turn for the worse. She has two daughters: one lives in the same city and the other lives about an hour away. When my aunt took a turn for the worse, the sister her sister that lives away to let her know that her mom was going to die soon. She was adamant that she would drive to try to make it before she died but the sister ensured her that she wouldn’t make it. And so they said their good-byes and hung up.

In the home of the sister who lives away, she has a glass patio and a deck. A few minutes after hanging up, she watched a deer walk up onto the patio, walk up to the door and look at her. She said, at that moment she knew her mom was gone. But at the same time, a peace came over her.

he called her sister and sure enough, her mom was gone.

This is the second event:

The family was at the sister’s house making arrangements for the funeral and the doorbell rang. They have the kind of doorbell that can be set to play a song of your choice and the sister has it set to “Star Spangled Banner”. When the doorbell went off, it played, “Joy to the World”. For some reason, they never thought anything of it. A few minutes later, the doorbell went off again and played “Joy to the World”. This time, my aunt’s husband got up to check and no one was at the door. He pressed the doorbell and it played “Star Spangled Banner” – the song it is set to in the first place.

This is a bit eery but comforting at the same time.

I look at this as the hand of God at work. Perhaps my aunt’s daughter needed to see that deer at the moment to have peace. Perhaps the doorbell went off without being pushed singing “Joy to the World” to let her family know that she is okay.

When things like this happen, it gives me the chills but also reminds me that God is in control and through faith in Him, I have hope for a future in heaven.

“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 ❤