Category Archives: God’s Provision

Do Not Be Anxious

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’” Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)

Heavenly Father, we come to you as the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  We praise You because You have blessed us with many good things, always providing what we need.  You are the sovereign and all-powerful God and there is nothing too difficult for You.

Forgive us, Father, when we doubt Your faithfulness and become anxious about the present or the future.  This always happens when we take our eyes off of you and start relying on our own strength and wisdom.  As You have promised, please provide us with the things that we need to accomplish all that You have called us to do for Your purposes and Your glory.

And Father, You know that we have many hopes and dreams for our future and for those we love.  Bless us with the desires of our heart.  However, where the desires of our heart are outside of Your perfect will, please lead us into the path of greater blessing for us and for the greater glory for Your holy name.

Give us wisdom and strength to appreciate and enjoy Your gracious gifts and to use them for the building of Your kingdom.  Help us to hold fast to the enduring hope that we have in Jesus Christ, trusting You to provide for all of our tomorrows, from now until eternity.  Amen.

Together for His glory…

Trust God and See What He Will Do

Over 20 years ago, I pulled up in front of my parents’ home. My wife was beside me in our car and our three children, all under the age of five, were seated in the back. We had less than $5 in the bank and there was even less in my wallet. We were a family in transition and not sure where God was leading us. Across the state, we had left behind some special friends and experiences. God had worked in our lives, bringing change and renewal. However, the path ahead was not clear. In fact, it was not even visible.

The next several years were filled with trials and growing. I worked a seasonal job for several years. I enjoyed the work, but I had to find other employment every winter. God always provided and I found something to do to provide for my family. We were without health insurance for six years. Again, God provided, as we were relatively healthy and without major incidents. With three growing boys in the house, that is a miracle in itself.

We never had a lot of money, but God provided us with places to live, some in neighborhoods where we would never have been able to afford a home. One of our homes during this time placed us in an area where my annual salary was probably equal to what our neighbors made weekly. No joke. And yet we rented a two-story, historic house, on over an acre of land, for a few hundred dollars a month.

With as little as we made, God also allowed us to be generous in giving and, in the process, showed us His faithfulness. This came about, primarily because of an error on my part. Our church had a missions’ conference, and, as part of the event, we made pledges to support the missions’ efforts of the church. As I mentioned before, we did not have much money, so we pledged to give $25 per month for missions.

When we returned home that day, we pulled out our copy of the pledge card and were shocked to discover that I had pledged $25 per week, not per month. My initial response was to contact someone and notify them of the mistake. However, my wife and I discussed it, prayed about it, and decided to honor the pledge. We really did not have the money to cover it. But we decided to see how God would provide. And everything was smooth sailing. Well, not exactly.

As I mentioned, I worked a seasonal job. That year, we had a rainy fall season, and so I did not work as much as usual. Then, winter came along and though I found work, it was about half of the income I normally made. Rent was due in a couple of weeks. I knew that if I made out the check for our tithe and missions’ pledge, we would be $200 short for rent. I told my wife. We told no one else, but we prayed for God’s provision and wrote out the giving check.

Following the service that week or the next, we returned to our car in the parking lot (which we left locked).  We found an envelope on the front seat. When we opened it, we found $200 in cash inside. To this day, we have never discovered who it came from or how they got it into a locked car. Yet, once again, God had shown us that we could trust Him for our provision.

This past Sunday, our pastor taught from Matthew 6:19-34. In this passage, Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven and to not be anxious about our lives. He concludes this section by saying, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34

God is not on His throne, wringing His hands and wondering how we are going to survive. I, on the other hand, find myself frequently concerned with the future. In fact, I find that I worry more now than when I had less money and possessions. Isn’t that something? It is really not surprising though.

When I made less, owned fewer possessions, and had very limited resources, I had no choice but to trust God. It is not that I did not worry. I was, and am, far from perfect. But then, I knew that there was nothing within my power I could do to create something out of nothing. It was either trust in God or live in despair. Now, with more resources, I somehow think I am the one making it all happen. How quickly we can forget that God is the provider of all things. Also, what we have today can be gone tomorrow (check the stock market today?).

Jesus clearly teaches us to seek Him first and He will take care of the rest. In a world that believes that we control our own destiny, this is a radical departure. It is a call to not hold onto the possessions and treasures of this world. We cannot allow them to rule our hearts. By releasing these things to God, it gives us freedom. It also allows us to be more radical in our trust and giving, and therefore, storing up treasure in heaven.

When we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, His work in our lives shapes our priorities and builds our faith. God becomes bigger in our eyes. It is not that He actually becomes bigger, but we see Him for more of Who He really is. Our focus begins to shift from our abilities, or lack thereof, to the character and unlimited resources of the eternal God.

As a result, He can then pour out His love and generosity through us, even if we do it by mistake. I am so glad I made that mistake years ago. Because it taught me that God was faithful. I can trust Him, always. However, it is a lesson that I have to learn over and over again. I have a short memory. I think we all do. That is why we are reminded about God’s faithfulness and urged to stir up each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).

We need to tell the stories of how God works in our lives. And then tell them again and again. It reminds those who listen, as well as us, of the goodness and faithfulness of God. It reminds us that He is worthy of our trust. And when we trust Him, He will always come through. It may not be according to our timing and expectations, but He will provide us with what we need. And it will be better. He has promised (Romans 8:28).

Together for His glory…

The Cost of the Life of Worship

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

I have a friend who is a pastor in another country. Their church has gone through difficult times. Because of decisions made, which were based on following what they felt led by God to do, about half of their congregation left the church. To make matters worse, the government has determined that churches like theirs will no longer be recognized as an official church; therefore creating additional struggles for them, logistically, culturally, and financially, as they try to reach their community with the gospel.

However, at the same time, God continues to bless his ministry and the church. God is using Him to reach thousands of people throughout his country and beyond, as he teaches and reasons from the truth of the Word of God. His ministry reaches into his culture and into the theological, academic, and political communities of his country and beyond. Recently, he found out that their church would have to move locations. This could be a hardship on their church. However, he looks on this as God opening the door for ministry, as their new location is in an impoverished area, where there are thousands in need of hope. He is excited about the opportunities this will provide to spread the gospel.

I have another friend who is a pastor. The church he pastors has also gone through some difficult struggles. The economic impact of the past few years has taken a toll on families within the church. Several individuals or families have left the church, either because they feel led to go somewhere else or because they have issue with someone in leadership or something within the ministry of the church. These circumstances, and others, have together impacted the financial situation of the church.

Therefore, to be faithful to manage God’s resources well, decisions were made to cut spending. He informed the congregation of decisions to tighten spending, providing an overall view of the cuts. What he did not tell them was that he, along with the other full-time staff member, agreed to have their salaries cut by 15%. They sacrificed so that the part-time staff would not be impacted financially and so other areas of ministry were not stripped of additional resources. So, they quietly sacrificed for those they serve, at significant financial cost to themselves.

However, the Lord continues to bless this ministry. This pastor continues to faithfully teach the Word of God to his congregation. He continues to pour out his life in service to those in his congregation. And God is blessing this ministry, as he, the elders, staff, and ministry leaders strive to implement the vision that God has provided for growing disciples and reaching the community with the gospel. People are learning and growing in the faith through the impact of the ministries of the church. Over the past months, several people have come to Christ and are now growing in their faith. Other believers, who have been less active within the life of the church, are now fulfilling God’s call to serve His people and spread the gospel. Still others, already pouring out their lives, are giving even more of their time and resources. God is at work, even in the midst of uncertainty and struggle.

We could speak of many others, who live throughout this country and the world, pouring out their time, their gifts and talents, opening their homes, giving away their resources and money, living in the face of opposition and danger, and even giving up their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are not looking for power, fame, and prosperity. They are looking to a greater blessing, that of knowing Jesus Christ and living for the glory of their God. They have counted the treasures of this world as worthless compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ and the eternal treasure that is Him and through Him, both now and for eternity.

So, this leads me to a question. What does following Christ cost us? If following Jesus Christ does not significantly impact our lives (spiritually, culturally, emotionally, physically, financially, popularity, and availability), then we need to examine our lives and priorities. Does the way we live demonstrate that we treasure Christ? Or do we value our earthly possessions, homes, cars, careers, sex, popularity, success, vacations, entertainment, time, and leisure more than Christ?

Here in the American church, I think it is time for a serious evaluation of our lives. How are we different from our neighbors or the culture? Earlier in the letter to the Philippians, Paul urges the church to shine as lights in the world, as they live in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation (Philippians 2:14-18). How are we doing? Do we shine like stars or do we blend right in? If we are to shine like stars, there should be a significant difference in our lives.

Jesus said that people would know we are His by the way we love each other (John 13:34-35). Frequently, some of the greatest damage to Christians is done from within the church. Churches can be ripe with gossip, slander, lack of respect and criticism towards leadership, bitterness, an unwillingness to forgive each other, rebellion, and more. Who needs enemies outside the church? We do the enemy’s work for him. Why get involved in ministry when I can lob grenades from the sidelines? Remember the words of Jesus. The world will know we are His disciples because we love one another.

We are called to give up the temporary pleasures of sin and to pursue God in holiness, through the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit. We are to put to death what is earthly in us, whether sexual immorality, impurity, overindulgence, coveting, slander, lying, malice, obscene talk, or any of the other sins that entangle us. We have put off the old self, with its practices, and put on the new self which is being renewed into the image of Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:5-10). There is a cost to pursuing Christ in righteousness, forsaking those public and private sins. We give up the temporary, but empty, pleasures. But if we yield to His work within us, we will reap joy and the wonder of becoming more like Christ and enjoy fellowship with Him.

Does following Jesus impact how I spend my money and use my resources? The New Testament is full of examples of those who gave abundantly, sacrificed beyond their means, gave up possessions, comfort, and lived humbly so that they could give to God and support the work of the gospel. Many believers throughout the world today make great sacrifices to follow Christ. They give up much and, many times, have things taken from them specifically because they are Christians. Their generosity and forsaking of worldly gain can put us to shame here in America.

How significantly should following Jesus impact us financially? This is a question that every follower of Christ has to ask themselves. “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

When, at the end of days, we stand before Christ, I don’t think we are going to wish we had spent more money on homes, cars, going out to eat, entertainment, the newest electronic devices, or the myriads of other things that flash across our computer or television screens. So, how much do I have to give? If I am asking myself the question in that manner, my heart is not in right place. I think we should pray that God would allow us to give as much as possible. “How much can I give, God? Please help me be able to give more!”

When it comes down to it, the cost of being able to live the life of worship is very expensive. However, the ultimate price is not paid by us. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9.

We cannot pay for salvation. We can only receive it. We can never repay God for what we have received. We can only participate in the grace that we have received, living by His power and wisdom, and by following the example of the One Who gave His life for us. And by valuing the eternal and letting go of the temporary, which will fade away in the end, we bring glory to God and are promised the rich reward of our God.

It may be rough going at times, as we learn to leave the things of this world behind and face the backlash of those who hold onto this world and its temporary pleasures. We will face opposition, sometimes even within the church. But the reward of God is eternal and it will never end and it will never fade away. More on that later.

Together for His glory…

Walking in a Manner Worthy of the Lord

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14 ESV

Our Father in heaven. You are holy and righteous. There is none like You. You possess all strength and wisdom. You are truly worthy of our worship and praise.

Forgive us Father, when we, who You have rescued from the domain of darkness, choose to walk in our own ways instead of the wisdom and strength which You so graciously provide.

We pray that You will fill us with knowledge of Your perfect will, granting us wisdom and understanding to grasp the wonder of Your gospel and to walk in Your ways. We need You, O God. Be our strength, our sustenance, our peace, our hope, and our joy. Empower us by Your Holy Spirit.

We know that we will have times of trial and struggle in this life. Help us to keep sight of eternity and the glorious inheritance we have in Christ, with all of the saints. Help us to remain faithful to follow You in obedience, in the steps of our mighty Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ. Help us to finish our race with joy.

We thank you again for the rescuing us from ourselves and from the kingdom of the evil one, and transferring us to the kingdom of Your beloved Son, through whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. Amen.

Together for His glory…

The Sacrifice of the Life of Worship

And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV)

Control. We like to have it. It gives us security and pleasure. We think we have to possess it in order to have happiness and accomplish the things we want in this world. The world itself tells us that we need it. And yet, Jesus tells us that the only way to truly live is to relinquish it. There is a lot packed into those two sentences from Jesus.

Deny myself. This means that I give up ultimate control of my life to Christ. It is far more than making resolutions or giving up certain things a few times a year. It is more than trying to be a good person and follow the teachings of Jesus. This is a complete turning over of my life to God. It is yielding my wants, desires, and dreams to the perfect plan of the sovereign God.

Take up my cross. Taking up my cross implies that I must die. I must die to my will for my life, and take hold of God’s will for my life, my family, my church, my community, and my world. I must be willing to face the rejection that comes with identifying with Jesus Christ.

Follow Jesus. I must follow Jesus wherever He leads. During His earthly life, Jesus’ path often led Him into suffering and sacrifice. As His follower, I must expect that my path will lead there as well. Today, if I truly follow Jesus, the world will not stand up and cheer. If I truly follow Jesus, I will sacrifice many things in this life.

Losing my life to save it. As I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus, I will find that I have lost nothing. In losing my life, I will actually save it. I may lose temporary, earthly things that the world clamors after, but I will gain the riches of eternity. In denying myself, yielding control of my life to God, I actually find freedom and joy in the richness and wonders of God. In taking up my cross, I might lose the favor and rewards this world has to offer, but I gain the favor and rewards of God Himself. And in following Jesus, while I may experience suffering and loss of worldly gain, I gain Christ and become co-heirs with Him.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12 ESV) As the apostle Paul says in this verse, I have not yet arrived. I have a long way to go. I want to be abandoned to God, but I get in my own way and I let other things turn my gaze away from the greater purposes and glory of God.

This past Sunday, our pastor spoke from the book of Malachi. It was a call to abandon mediocre living in every area of our lives. My selfish desires and fixation on temporary things are what keep me from living beyond the mediocre and experiencing the wonder of being in the center of God’s will. This is because moving from mediocre to extraordinary requires me to lose my life. It means giving up my rights to my time, my possessions, my money, and my life. It means putting it all at feet of God.

This is the sacrifice of the life of worship. It is yielding, dying, and suffering loss. And in turn, it is freedom, living, and gaining the riches of eternity.  In losing my life, I find it, in abundance from the very hand of God, through Jesus Christ. For all of the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

Together for His glory…