Luke 9:51-56--When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determinedto journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
Jess and Jen moved into Rarebucks, a town of 79,000, so Jen could pursue schooling and Jess could work for United Parcel Service (UPS). They didn’t have a lot of money but they did have the faith that God had called them to live there and that He would provide. Sure enough, a favorite uncle gifted Jen with $50,000 and they were able to afford a 20% down payment on a home. Though they were seven hours from both sets of parents, they were happy to put down roots and start a family.
Do you remember growing up hearing the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!?” The intent of that couplet is to steel us against teasing and badgering but, the reality is, words can internally leave nasty marks. Cruel, mean-spirited, or foul comments may inflict enduring damage and color the way we view the antagonist.
There is an insightful television program called Undercover Boss. Each episode, the owner or CEO of a company is disguised and then works for several days with different employees with differing responsibilities. Often the boss is inept at the tasks the employee is to teach him which puts pressure on him to do better. As he works with each selected person he also finds out what life is like in their shoes. Some are struggling financially or dealing with challenges that make life difficult.
Roman Catholic monk Girolamo Savonarola, (September 21, 1452 – May 23, 1498), was shocked by the immorality in Italy and by the corruption he observed within the church. As a teenager, he walked beside the River Po where he sang to God and wept over the condition of the people. At the age of 22, he wrote “Contempt of the World,” comparing the sins of his time to Sodom and Gomorrah. Years later, while praying, the Holy Spirit gave him a vision in which he was told to announce to the people that hard times were coming to the church.
Greg is an avid kayaker. Along with his two sons, they decided to make a trip on the Tennessee River. Together they had a great day paddling until they hit a section where five-foot swells continually pounded them. His boys were in larger kayaks and had little difficulty cutting through the waves. Soon they were far away from Greg. But their dad hit a portion in the middle of the river where he could no longer cut through the waves and he began to take on water. With only a water bottle to bail he continued to sink. Calmly recognizing that his life was in serious danger, he prayed, “God, I need Your help, there is nothing I can do.”
Will was getting concerned. He had not received a response from the church where we were scheduled to bring a concert in Tracy, California. Finally, the night before we were to sing and share, he received a call from one of the pastors. An eight year-old girl from one of the families in the church was kidnapped and her body was discovered in a suitcase. Understandably, a broken-hearted church needed to cancel our appearance and meet the needs of a grieving family. Pastor Tim, our host in Sonoma, with only 20 hours notice, scheduled us to minister in his church. We had a fantastic evening of ministry and with the Sonoma church we spent quality time praying for our brothers and sisters in Tracy.
Have you ever had a period in life where you felt like an idiot and wish you could crawl in a hole and hide? I think I’m just emerging from the hole.
Job 3:25,26--For the thing I feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.I cannot relax or be still; I have no rest, for trouble comes.
He was the picture of success, a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. He had ten children and was fabulously wealthy—the greatest man among all the people of the East. Job was so concerned about living a pleasing life to God that he would have his children purify themselves after partying and he offered sacrifices on their behalf in case they might have sinned. So why was this mighty man fearful that something bad would happen to him?
Angel started her job in July. She looked forward to the opportunity to share Christ with her new coworkers and to utilizing her cooking skills in the popular restaurant on the busy street of MG. A month later, she fought back tears—work was not going as she had expected. When the other girls on her shift learned she was a Christian, many were curious and began to ask her questions, but not Varuni, a tall, woman from Pune. She let Angel know in no uncertain terms that she did not care for Jesus chatter.
Mahesh and Seetha Gopal* were raised in Hindu families. They married and operated a successful business but their lives were unfulfilled until they met Christ. When they chose to follow Jesus they encountered much persecution from their relatives and countrymen. Eventually, they moved away to Wayanad, a city in the hill country of northern Kerala. They bought a piece of land and built a house. Seetha asked her new neighbors if she could draw water until they could afford to dig their own well. But they refused to share with her because she and her husband were Christians. So, everyday, the Gopals had to walk two miles just to get their water.
1 Samuel 6:7-9--Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. Take the ark of the Lord, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects that you’re sending Him as a restitution offering in a box beside the ark. Send it off and let it go its way. Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh, it is the Lord who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn’t, we will know that it was not His hand that punished us—it was just something that happened to us by chance.”
It was 1:00 a.m. and the doorbell rang. I got out of bed, walked down the stairs, looked through the peephole and opened the door for a young police officer.
“Sir, we received a 911 call from your home.”
“Officer, was the call from 620-4081?”
“Yes, the dispatcher said all she could hear was static. She called back and left a message.”
“I’m so sorry. This is the second time this week (midnight or later) this has happened. My computer is turned off and I don’t know how you are getting called.”
I took him into my office and showed him the offending phone.
“Okay, you might want to call your phone company and have them check this out.”
“Yes, I will. I’m sorry you had to come out here.”
“No problem. Hope you can get back to sleep.”
With celerity they moved across the desert, angry, with revenge burning in their hearts. Six hundred bully chariots commanded by officers led a thundering army across the hard rocky soil. Pharaoh knew his freedom-seeking slaves were trapped. Enraged by the death of his firstborn son and hardened against an omnipotent God Who had ravaged his country, he would make Moses and his pathetic people pay. As the Egyptian warriors approached the Israelites panicked. They turned on their reluctant leader and cried out, “Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt: Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:12).
Most American Christians are familiar with the term “rapture.” The belief that Christians will avoid living through the tribulation is largely attributed to 1 Thessalonians 4:17—“Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.” The fictional series Left Behindglamorizes this view and reinforces the notion that the church will escape the tribulation.
It started when my good friends Rob and Glenn realized they had to install a handicapped accessible restroom in their San Diego church. The molehill they faced turned into a mountain. At a cost of $50,000 a ramp had to be built, doors had to be widened, and handicap accessible doors with electronic openers installed. During the construction the carpet was ruined. Beneath the tiles underneath the carpet they found asbestos requiring them to call in a removal team. Finally, after much time and expense, the renovations were complete.
You probably remember the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. This godly man invoked jealousy in the hearts of the administrators and princes in Babylon. They didn’t like it that he was a better leader, or the fact that the king was planning to put Daniel in charge of the entire empire. So, they set him up by appealing to the ego of King Darius. They convinced the king to sign a stupid law—a law that stated that people could only pray to the king for thirty days, or they would be thrown to the lions.
My brother, Nate, recently wrote while at the border of Hungary and Ukraine:
We are held up here at the border because they have to change all the wheels on the train. The Russian rails are built wider than European rails. Apparently the Russians after WWI decided that it would be in their interest to have a different rail system as it made an invasion more difficult. Paranoid? Maybe not. It was one of the reasons why Hitler had such a tough time advancing into Russia. Now, it is an economic headache that adds time and money to all imports and exports.
In an Indonesian restaurant in Sweden, Jonathan, a Swede who grew up in the Congo, shared with us Tulo’s* story. Tulo and 44 of his friends and relatives (to include a two-week old baby), fled Bukavu, Congo to escape an enemy intent on taking their lives. For one month they walked approximately 700 km (434 miles) and lived off monkey meat, fruit and anything else they could scrounge until they reached the city of Kisangani. It took a week in a hospital for Tulo to recover—others remained longer. Miraculously, none of these Jesus-followers died!