Monthly Archives: September 2021

Unique in Birth and Purpose

“You were an idea in God’s mind before you were born.” So, my wife overheard our 5 year-old granddaughter, Rosie, telling her younger sister, Ellie, who asked where she was before she was born.  This was likely an idea Rosie had heard from her mother, but it is nonetheless a profound truth confirmed by God’s Word.

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)  The psalmist says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  (Psalm 139:13-14) 

These words also apply to us. We are not a product of chance.  We are not the result of some random accident of an evolutionary processThe most important part of our nature – our soul and spirit – were created by God and known by him before our physical nature was born. St. Paul says God “chose us in him before the creation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)  We are “precious in the sight of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:15)

God loves us even before we come into being.  Like a parent’s love for a new baby, he loves us before any of our achievements or failures become evident.   When our first daughter was born, I was so full of joy and love that I went directly from the hospital to our church, knelt before the altar and thanked God for this new person who was precious in my sight.  I experienced the same level of love for each of our other four children.   

Not only does God consider each of us unique, he has a unique purpose for each of us that is distinctly tailored to match the gifts and nature of our being.   This purpose includes loving and caring for the people in our lives that we are uniquely suited to love and care for.  I believe that God intended for my wife and me to come together and love and care for one another.  When we may have appeared to be going different ways before we were married, he implanted a course correction in our hearts to fulfill his purpose for each of us.  He intentionally gave us specific children and now a larger family to love and care for that has always been a part of his purpose for us.

God’s unique purpose for each of us also includes our work which we are distinctly equipped to do. Whatever our work, if it is where God wants us to be, it is important to him.  As Lester DeKoster says in his book, Work – The Meaning of your Life, our work is like a thread in the larger fabric of civilization — pull it out, and the fabric is weakened. 

While our pride and sin can frustrate God’s purpose for us, we can take confidence in Paul’s words, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) 

What unique purpose has God given you?

“They Have No Wine”

These are words addressed to Jesus by his mother, Mary.  They are at a wedding in Cana, nine miles north of Nazareth.  Mary learns that the host has run out of wine and asks Jesus to remedy the situation.  Though Jesus first protests that his time had not yet come, he accedes to his mother’s request as she presumes to instruct the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  

Jesus asks the servants to fill six large jars with water.  He then tells them to draw some out and take it to the headwaiter.  After the headwaiter had tasted the water that had been turned into wine, he exclaims to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:1-11)

There is a common notion among some Christians that we should only seek God’s assistance in important matters and not bother him with practical every day needs.  Situations involving life and death or economic calamity may qualify, but surely not replenishing the wine supply at a wedding party. 

Yet, that is exactly what Jesus did at the request of his mother.  How reassuring it is that God should concern himself with a practical thing like a wedding party running out of wine.  God places no restrictions on what we may bring to him in our requests.  St. Paul says, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

As father of the bride and host of three of our daughters’ weddings, I would have been horrified if we had run out of wine.  No doubt Mary was a close friend of the family hosting the wedding, and brought God’s mercy to bear through her son Jesus. 

Over the years, my wife and I have brought all manner of requests to God, from mundane things like a parking place at a busy shopping center to the significant, like the healing of a daughter’s heart born with a hole between the ventricle chambers.  We have prayed for where we should live, the health and well-being of our children and parents; good schools, good neighbors, good friends for our children and their future spouses; safety in travel, wisdom in our relationships, and that we would all come to know God more each day. 

We should not forget that in his Lord’s Prayer, Jesus suggests that we pray each day for our daily bread.  It is only natural that God, who created us in his image and likeness and entrusted us with taking care of his creation, would want to respond to our requests for the practical needs of life. 

Do you pray for the practical needs in your life?

Gentle Evangelism

“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased…Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street.  A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.” Isaiah 42:1-3

These are the words of the prophet, Isaiah, speaking about the coming of Jesus and how he will reach out to people.  Jesus did not shout or raise his voice in the street to proclaim the kingdom of God.  His concern was for the broken hearted, the bruised reed.  He would not snuff out the smoldering faith of the weak or downtrodden.

For many of us when we hear the word evangelization, we conjure up images of someone handing out Christian tracks on a street corner, a televangelist in a mega church, or a famous preacher in a large stadium.  But Jesus did not do the usual things we might think of as evangelization. Jesus simply responded with compassion and mercy.

Although these words were intended by Isaiah for Jesus, they are also applicable to us, his followers.  The following story illustrates how this might work.  The names have been changed for the sake of privacy.

Jerry worked in a medical office and wasn’t feeling well.  He asked his boss, Karen, who oversees the administrative staff, if he could have the rest of the day off.  When Karen asked what was wrong, Jerry offered a rather vague response.  Karen continued to probe, asking if he would be returning tomorrow.  Jerry said he didn’t know.  Karen asked if there was something wrong and Jerry said no.  She invited him to sit down and he started to share that nothing was going right in his life.  He wanted to get married to the woman he was living with, but she was talking about moving out.  He found it difficult to have enough time for his two small children.  He seemed quite despondent to Karen.

As he was leaving, Karen asked if she could make a suggestion.  He said yes.  “When you go home, go into your bedroom, close the door, kneel down and ask Jesus to come into your life and help you.”  Jerry said, “I’ve tried church.”  Karen said, “I am not talking about church, I’m just saying that if you offer that prayer, Jesus will not refuse you, and things will start to change.” 

Sometime later, Karen noticed that Jerry seemed to be happier and had a more positive attitude.  She asked how he was doing.  He smiled, and said, “I did what you suggested and something did happen.  I started to feel warm all over when I prayed.  Later, I bought a Bible and started reading it.  I bought a Children’s Bible and started reading the stories to my kids.  We have started to go to church and my partner and I are moving toward marriage.”

You will notice that Karen did not judge Jerry or preach to him. She gave him an opportunity to talk, she listened, she empathized, and she asked if she could make a suggestion. She related to him as Jesus would. A “bruised reed” she did not break.   

How do you evangelize — with words of persuasion and argument, or with empathy, mercy, and confident in the work of the Holy Spirit?

God Answers Intercessory Prayer

“As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” (Acts 7:59-60)

The Book of Acts reports that while Stephen was being stoned, watching on approvingly was a young Pharisee named Saul who later became St. Paul.  Is it possible that Stephen’s intercessory prayer impacted Paul’s heart and opened the door to God confronting him on the road to Damascus? 

While we can’t be certain of the answer, we should never underestimate the impact of intercessory prayer.  We know that a similar prayer by Jesus from the cross had an impact on the centurion who oversaw Jesus’ Crucifixion.  “The centurion who witnessed what had happened, glorified God and said, ‘This man was innocent beyond doubt.’” (Luke 23:47)

When it comes to intercessory prayer, we can easily make the mistake of thinking, “Who am I that God would listen to me and change the order of nature or human life.”  Yet, Jesus declares, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be given to you.  By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:7-8) Jesus offers the parable of the persistent widow to show how we “should always pray and not give up.” (Matthew 8:1-8)

Long before our three daughters were married, my wife prayed for each of them to meet and marry a good Christian man.  She offered the same intercessory prayer for our son to meet and marry a Christian woman.  This prayer was answered for each of them, and today all four of them along with their spouses are raising Christian families that have blessed us in so many ways including thirteen grandchildren.

For a number of summers we have spent a week at the beach with all 24 of us under one roof for some joyous chaos.  With my wife’s initial prayers and our ongoing intercession over the years, we can echo the words of John’s gospel, “From the fullness of his grace we have received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16)

Inside my Bible I keep a list of people that need prayer for healing, discernment, guidance, protection and conversion.  Some of the people don’t even know that I am praying for them.  Others I have lost contact with, but I keep praying.  I don’t need to know the outcomes.  We never know when perhaps another St. Paul might be the result.

Do you have a family member or friend who needs an answered prayer?