O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Advent 1

Advent has begun. It’s a season of expectation, a season of waiting, as we wait for the celebration of the birth and coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We also wait expectantly for His second coming. The kingdom of God is an already-but not yet kingdom. Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years ago and the kingdom of God was established in the hearts of those who believe in Him. But the kingdom of God will one day be established on earth in a physical sense. Just as the nation of Israel, as they waited for the coming of the Messiah, did not know the day or the hour when He would come, so we do not know the day or the hour when He will return.

Israel had been through years of exile and captivity, living at the mercy of the empires that ruled over them. They needed to be set free, to be ransomed. And they believed that the coming Messiah would bring that freedom. They believed that He would set them free from the oppression of their captors. They believed that He would rule over them and establish His kingdom in Israel, restoring it to what it was in the reign of King David. And so, they waited in anticipation, waiting and longing for the Son of God to finally appear. This anticipation is captured in the first verse of the beautiful hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:

O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Has come to thee, O Israel!

Emmanuel, God with us, has come. He came in the form of a tiny baby born to a virgin named Mary in the city of Bethlehem. He is Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Messiah. He came to set the captives free, just as it was foretold in Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” But the freedom that is promised here is not the freedom that the people of Israel expected rather, it is freedom from the chains of sin that bind each and every one of us and from the sin that results in death (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Jesus came to earth and died so that those chains could be broken.

Jesus’ first coming set us free from our sins. One day He will return. When He does, He will set up His kingdom here on earth, and peace will reign. One day, God will live among His people, those who believe and follow Him, and there will be another type of freedom, freedom from death, freedom from sickness, freedom from sorrow and pain (Revelation 21:3-4). The curse of sin will be lifted (Revelation 22:3). In the last verses of the Bible (Revelation 22:20), Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” As the apostle John wrote in response to that, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

O come, o come Emmanuel!

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God-Sized Requests


The blind man sat by the side of the road leading to Jericho, as he did every day, begging for money or food. But on this day, he heard the sounds of a crowd approaching. Judging by the excitement in the voices of the crowd, the blind man called out to those nearby, “What’s going on? What is all the excitement about?” Someone in the crowd replied, “It’s Jesus! Jesus of Nazareth is passing by!”

The blind man had heard about this Jesus of Nazareth. People had been saying that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David. So, the blind man began to cry out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” No doubt the people who lived in that area had heard this man crying out for mercy for a blind man as he begged for money or food. So, those nearest the blind man yelled, “Be quiet!” But the blind man would not be deterred. He needed to get Jesus’ attention. So the blind man started crying out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus heard the man’s cry. He stopped walking and ordered that the man be brought to Him. When the blind man was brought before Him, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man could have asked for money. He could have asked for food. But he had a bigger request, a God-sized request, and so he said to Jesus, “Lord, I want to see!” Although physically blind, the man had enough vision, enough faith to know that this Jesus, the Son of David, could give him what he wanted. Anyone could give him money or food, but Jesus was not just anyone. And so, the blind man’s faith led him to make a God-sized request, to ask for sight. And his faith was rewarded, as Jesus restored his sight. (Luke 18:35-43)

God wants us to come to Him with our requests, with our needs. He wants us to bring Him all of our requests, but He especially wants us to bring our God-sized requests to Him, those things that we can’t possibly do on our own. He wants us to have God-sized dreams and God-sized visions. When the blind man received His sight, He began to follow Jesus and began to glorify God. And those who saw what had happened gave praise to God. We need to be just like the blind man. We need to bring our God-sized requests, dreams, and visions to Jesus. Why? Because when those God-sized dreams and visions are fulfilled in our lives, they point us and those around us to God, and God will be glorified.


God Has No Favorites


What does it mean to be partial, to show partiality to someone or something? Partiality is defined as an unfair bias, favoring one person or one thing over another. When it comes to having a favorite food, such as being partial to apples over oranges, or having a favorite color, like preferring blue over green, partiality is not a bad thing. It’s actually pretty benign. But when it comes to preferring one person over another, such as showing favoritism or special privilege to a rich person while ignoring a poor person, partiality is something to be avoided. It is this type of partiality that the apostle James addresses in his letter. James 2:1-4 (NLT) says:

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

James is addressing the early church here, advising them that they must not show partiality in their interactions with people. But the message is as pertinent to each of us now as it was to the early church. As James points out, if we show favoritism to one type of person over another, not only is our faith in question but our motives, as well. In fact, when we show partiality, we are actually committing sin and are breaking the law (James 2:9). What law is that? The law found in Leviticus 19:18, the law that Jesus Himself reiterated in Matthew 22:39: we must love our neighbor as ourselves!

Confucius once said, “The sun and the moon shine on all without partiality.” Each and every one of us receives the benefits of both of these two great lights that God created (Genesis 1:15-16). They are not partial to any of us. And neither is the God who created them. Romans 2:11 tells us that, when it comes to God, there is no partiality. In the NLT, this verse says, “For God does not show favoritism.” This is true when it comes to sin. Whether Jew or Gentile, God looks at those who do evil the same way, and they will be judged in the same way (Romans 2:9; 12). This same lack of partiality on God’s part also applies to God’s gracious gift of salvation.

Romans 3:23 points out that all of us have sinned. All of us fall way short of God’s glory. Not some of us, not a few of us. ALL of us. But God, through His infinite mercy and grace, has made a way for all of us to be right in His sight. He did this by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, in order to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 3:24). And all that we must do is place our faith in Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus, turn from our sins, and accept Him as Savior, we are made right with God. That applies not just to some of us, not just to a few of us, but to all of us. This promise of God is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Romans 3:22).

God has no favorites. And neither should we.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God is at Work

god at work

Electricity powers many things. It comes into our homes quietly and is always there when we need it (except, of course, during a power outage!). We can’t see it or feel it, but we know it’s working, even if we don’t turn on the lights in our homes. We know that all it takes is the flip of a switch and the lights are on. That’s a comforting thought. Just like the electricity in our homes, God is always working in our lives. We may not see Him working and we may not feel Him working, but He is always there at work in our lives, day in and day out. And, unlike electricity, God is not limited by power outages. And yet, sometimes we have more confidence in the electricity working in our homes than we have in God working in our lives.

When we are going through difficult times, He is working. When we are waiting for something to happen in our lives, He is working. When we are experiencing doubts that are threatening our faith, He is working. God was working in our lives before these times began, He is working through those times, and He will continue to work in our lives even when those times have passed.

When the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, even when the Israelites did not see it or feel it, God was at work. He was setting the stage for a deliverer named Moses to be born. And when Moses became a man, God was busy preparing Moses, molding him into the leader that was needed to lead the Israelites out of their bondage. The Israelites may have felt that God had forgotten them, that He was not doing anything to answer their cries for help. But, as God commissioned Moses to do the work that He had prepared for him to do, God told Moses that He was fully aware of the sufferings of the Israelites (Exodus 3:7). God had heard their cries and seen their afflictions, and He was busy putting into place the plan for freeing them from their captors. God was at work.

Scripture assures us that God has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). It is a plan for good and not for disaster. It is a plan that is designed to give us a future and a hope. We need to remember that promise at times when we doubt that God is working in our lives. In fact, it pleases Him to be at work in our lives (Philippians 2:13). In John 5:17, Jesus tells us that God is always working, and so is He. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, and, if Jesus tells us that God is always working, that is something we can be confident of. At those times when we can’t see it or feel it, we need to be patient and believe that God is at work!

Hiding Behind a Facade


In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, the Wizard of Oz first appeared to the young girl named Dorothy as a great floating Head. He appeared to the Scarecrow as a lovely Lady, to the Tin Woodman as a terrible Beast, and to the Lion as a Ball of Fire. But, when the Wizard tried to delay the promises he made to these four, the Lion tried to frighten the Wizard by letting out a large roar. As he did, Dorothy’s dog, Toto, jumped back and knocked over a screen that stood in the corner, revealing a little old man with a bald head and wrinkled face. When asked by the Tin Woodman who he was, the little old man trembled as he replied, “I am Oz, the Great and Terrible.” But, as it turned out, this great and terrible wizard was not a wizard at all. He was simply a common man. He had landed the Emerald City many years before in a hot-air balloon, and the people of that city thought he was a great wizard, so this common man hid behind the facade of a great and terrible wizard.

Much like the Wizard of Oz, believers sometimes hide behind a facade. On the outside, we may appear to everyone as full of confidence and full of joy, while on the inside we may be filled with doubts, fears, and pain. We don’t want others to see that we are dealing with these things, and we are afraid to let others in. Often, this is because we believe that, as followers of Christ, saved by grace, we should not have feelings such as doubt, fear, and pain. But Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, we will have trials and sorrows (John 16:33). The trouble Jesus spoke of includes such things as doubts, fears, and pain. So, it is inevitable that, at times in our lives, we will experience feelings such as these. But we must not hide behind a facade, not allowing others to see that we are not as together as we appear at the moment. So, what should we do?

First and foremost, we must cast our troubles on the Lord. Psalm 55:22 says that when we do this, He will sustain us. Jesus said that when we are weary and weighed down with troubles, we should come to Him (Matthew 11:28). He is there to help us shoulder our burdens, to help us through our times of trial, to help us deal with our feelings of doubt, fear, and pain. God has also placed others in our lives, people who can come alongside us and help us in dealing with what we are going through. But this can’t happen when we hide behind a facade, pretending that all is well when, in fact, it is not. All of us go through difficulties at times. God comforts us in those times so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4). He helps us so that we can help others. So, when we are the ones going through a difficult time, we need to let others in to come alongside us. That person we let in may be the very person whom God has helped in the past so that he or she can help us now.

Having the Right Priorities Helps Avoid Regrets


Have you ever regretted something you did, or something you didn’t do but should have done? Often our regrets come from not giving priority to God. When we fail to put God first in our lives, we will inevitably come to a point where we realize and regret that we have neglected the very thing that is most important. Neglecting the importance of God in our lives can often lead to neglecting everything else that is of importance, such as the relationships with people in our lives and the needs of people whom God puts in our paths. When we place our priorities on things like the pursuit of riches and material things rather than on what is important, that, in turn, will inevitably lead to more regrets.

In the novella A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghost of Jacob Marley speaks of such regrets. On Christmas Eve, Marley’s ghost appears to his former partner, Ebenezer Scrooge. In their business partnership, both Marley and Scrooge turned their eyes to the pursuit of riches. With their eyes focused on riches, they turned away from the relationships with people in their lives and turned a blind eye to the needs of the poor and destitute around them. In Dickens’ tale, the now-deceased Marley has learned too late that their priorities were in the wrong place. He tells Scrooge that he has realized that money was not his true business but rather mankind, the welfare of the poor and destitute, was his business. He has come to warn Scrooge to change before it is too late and, at one point says, “…no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”

When we place our priorities on the wrong things, such as riches, we will one day find ourselves filled with regrets. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul says, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” To avoid such griefs, and to avoid regrets, we must place our priorities on God. We must put God first. When we do, we will also place the proper priority on those people whom God has placed in our lives and on the needs of those around us.

Paul later says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” When we have the right priorities, we will avoid regret and will experience true life, the life that God wants us to experience.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

More on Bridging the Generation Gap


The term “generation gap” refers to differences between generations that cause conflict and complicate communication, creating a “gap.” Sometimes the differences between generations become major differences, differences that pull us away from each other, differences that cause us to be distrustful of each other. The generation gap even exists in the church. But is this something new? Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 says: “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” So, the answer to the question is, no, the generation gap is nothing new. It has existed for as long as man has existed.

So, here’s another question. What does God think about generations? Does age matter to God? Does God consider one generation better than another? Scripture makes it clear that the answer to that question is “no.” God looks at young and old through the same eyes. He looks at each generation as being the same as any other. He places equal importance on each generation. In Joel 2:28 (NLT), which was echoed in the book of Acts, God said, “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” God didn’t say I will pour out my Spirit on Baby Boomers. He didn’t say that only Millennials will dream dreams and see visions.

1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” God doesn’t see us as the Silent Generation. He doesn’t see us as Baby Boomers, as Gen Xers, or as Millennials. God sees us as one chosen generation.

In his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 1 to 7, Paul tells us that, as members of the body of Christ, we are called to be humble, to encourage and comfort one another, to be in fellowship with one another, relating to each other with hearts that are tender and compassionate. We are called to be in agreement with each other, to love one another, and to work together in unity, with one mind and one purpose. We must not think of ourselves, or of our generations, as being better than others. And we need to take an interest in the interests of other people, of other generations.

So, as the church, how do we bridge the generation gap? First, we can recognize that each generation has differences. These differences are influenced by the times and by the culture in which we grow up. They also reflect our own personal preferences. Next, we need to accept those differences. In fact, we should even celebrate them as they make us each who we are. And finally, we need to remind ourselves that, although our age and cultural differences may not change, there is one important thing that we have in common, the thing that we need to hold onto in order to bridge the gap—our love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We must share that love with each other and share what God has done in our lives, in our generations. Our greatest tool in building the bridge across the generation gap is communication!

Psalm 145:4 says that one generation should declare and praise God’s works to the next generation. Each generation should pass on its knowledge of God and all He has done in their lives to the next. I love the way this verse is translated in the NASB: “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” I see this as each generation sharing with other generations all that God has done. Baby Boomers can tell Millennials what God has done in their lives. Millennials can tell the Silent Generation what God has done in their lives. We can all learn from and be encouraged by each other, regardless of generations.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Bridging the Gap


In November of 2017, it became clear to me that we had a generation gap at my church. God put it on my heart to do something to help to bridge the gap between generations. At that time, I had an idea for trying to accomplish this, but heard the Holy Spirit telling me “not now.” And so, I waited and prayed until I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to create the event that we called Bridging the Gap, which took place on November 10, 2018. Although in the flesh, I had concerns about whether it would work and whether I could plan an event that would accomplish what was intended, I trusted that God would direct me and just put my trust in Him. My trust and obedience to following the prompt were rewarded in ways I could never have imagined.

As I reflect on the planning and the actual event, I can see that God’s hand was all over it. When I reached out to people in the older generations, they were enthusiastic about the idea of an event where they could get to know brothers and sisters in Christ in the younger generations. When I reached out to the younger generation, I was totally blessed by their excitement about the opportunity to sit down with older generations and get to know them as well. My concerns were beginning to slip away. But, on the day of the event, I was totally blown away by the way in which God orchestrated everything, starting with the timing of the event.

One of my younger brothers in Christ, Jonathan Thorne, came up to me at the event and asked if I had chosen that date deliberately or if it was God. I didn’t understand his question until he pointed out that the day of the event fell in between the weeks when, as part of the series THIS IS US, we, as a church, were looking at the values of “We Row Together” and “We Want Heaven Here.” My answer to Jonathan was, “It was God!” I picked the date before knowing that it would fall at that point in that series. But God knew! He was showing us that, as members of various generations, we need to work together, to be united as one in Christ. We need to “row” together. And, just as Evangel reflects the diversity of heaven in our diversity of race, ethnicity, languages, and cultures, we also reflect a wonderful diversity in generations.

The event was an amazing time of fellowship. Young and old worshiped together, shared a meal together, and then talked, learning a little more about each other than they knew before. The conversations at the tables were beautiful and, from the reactions I have heard from some of those who attended, I would say that some walls came down and the generation gap has narrowed considerably. One of the activities that I planned for that day was a generation personality quiz. It was something that I found on the internet that I thought would be fun to use at the event. The idea behind the quiz was that by answering the ten questions asked, you would find what generation your personality says you belong to. When we all took the quiz and shared the results, we had a laugh as we saw that most of us came out as traditionalists or baby boomers. But I realized later that God had used what was intended to be just for fun to show us that, because of our faith in Christ, we are not so different from each other, despite the generations that we belong to based on our date of birth.

I heard from those who participated that day a desire to continue the dialogue that has begun, to continue to work at bridging that gap. As I shared that day, Isaiah 58:12 in the ESV says, “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” I believe that we can apply that verse to the generation gap and that, as we continue to work on bridging that gap, we will be known as repairers of the breach.

God is moving in the generations at our church. A work has begun that we need to continue.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Nothing Is Impossible


Have you ever faced a problem that was seemingly impossible to overcome? Maybe you have agonized over it day and night. Maybe it has cost you sleepless nights. Maybe it has caused you to sink into a pit of depression, caused you to avoid the company of others, or maybe it has even taken away your desire to live. There are times in our lives when, in our own limited human strength, we cannot overcome the problems, trials, and difficulties that we face. It’s at those times that we want to give up, to just throw in the towel. And it’s precisely at those times that we need to turn to God.

In Jeremiah 32:27, God tells us that He is Lord, He is the God of all the people of this world. And then He asks the question: “Is there anything too hard for Me?” God is the God of the possible. There is nothing impossible for Him, no problem or situation that is too difficult for Him to deal with. To ask if God can deal with our problems is to put God in a box. But God has proven time and again that He cannot be put in a box. There is nothing too hard for Him.

In six days, He created the world as we know it. When Abraham and Sarah were old, He gave them a child. When the Israelites were trapped between a rock and a hard place, between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian army, He parted the Red Sea so they could cross it. God’s mighty hand caused the walls of Jericho to fall down flat so that Joshua and the army of Israel could take that city. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in the fiery furnace for their devotion to God, He kept them from being consumed by the flames. And when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for refusing to worship King Darius, God shut the mouths of the lions.

Nothing is impossible with God. In Matthew 19:19-26, we read about a rich young man who sadly walked away when Jesus told him that he should sell all his possessions and follow Jesus to receive eternal life. After the young man left, Jesus told His disciples that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. In other words, it was impossible. Understanding this to be the case, the disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With people, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Sin made it impossible for us to have eternal life. But, as Jesus points out, while this may be impossible for people to accomplish, with God it is quite possible. Through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, God has provided the way for all who repent and believe to receive atonement for their sins and to receive eternal life. God made the impossible possible. And that same God who did all of these things is the God who can help you to walk through any “impossible” situation in your life.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Handling Disagreements in the Church

Cuntry Church and Cemetery

Jesus’ prayer for us as believers is that we should be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). It was Jesus’ desire that unity would exist in the body of Christ. Yet believers often allow disagreements over traditions or church doctrines to stand in the way of that unity and to divide them. And this is not confined to division between believers of different denominations. Disagreements can cause division to happen even between believers of the same church body. Disagreements can be over styles of music, preaching styles, or changes in the format of the Sunday service. Often such disagreements are what cause churches to split. When disagreements arise and threaten division, we would do well to look to the example of the early church.

Acts 6:1 tells us that at a time when the church was increasing in number, a disagreement arose between Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) believers and Hebraic (Aramaic-speaking) believers over the distribution of food to widows. Specifically, the Hellenistic believers complained that their widows were being overlooked. The issue was creating division and threatening the unity of the church. When problems such as this arise, church leaders are faced with a choice. They can either continue with the status quo (“Hey, our numbers are increasing so why change anything?”) or they can look at the problem as an opportunity to look at the way ministry is being done and make any changes that may be needed. In the case of the early church, the church leaders, the Apostles, chose the latter.

First, they admitted there was a problem. They gathered the disciples together and came to the conclusion that the problem existed because they were trying to do it all. They were trying to deal with the secondary tasks such as the distribution of food while at the same time attending to their primary tasks, prayer and the teaching of the Word. They came to the realization that their primary tasks were being neglected as they focused on the secondary tasks (Acts 6:2). In other words, they had their priorities wrong. But while they knew that the teaching of the Word and prayer should be their first priority, the Apostles also knew and acknowledged that the secondary tasks also were important. To their credit, the Apostles were not afraid to share their authority and their ministry with others. So the next thing that the Apostles did was to suggest a solution.

The Apostles asked the disciples to select from among themselves seven men who would take over the responsibility of serving the body in secondary tasks such as the distribution of food. But, as they pointed out, these men should not be just any men. They should not be chosen because of their popularity but because they were men of good reputation. And by good reputation, the Apostles meant that these seven men should be full of the Spirit and full of wisdom. They would then turn over the responsibility for things like the distribution of food to these seven men, so that the Apostles could give their attention to praying and teaching the Word (Acts 6:3-4).

The Apostles’ proposal was embraced by all with open arms. Seven men were chosen who held the qualifications stipulated by the Apostles. These men were presented to the Apostles, who laid hands on them and prayed for them, commissioning them to do this important work (Acts 6:5-6). The result was that the disagreement did not cause what would have been the very first church split, but instead, unity prevailed. What a lesson this is for the church today. When disagreements arise, we need to first acknowledge the problem and determine the cause. Then we need to prayerfully seek a solution to the problem, talk about it, and put it into place.

There was another benefit to the way the early church handled their disagreement. The Word of God spread, and the number of disciples increased. In fact, even a large number of Jewish priests came to Christ as a result of the way the early church dealt with what the enemy intended for harm (Acts 6:7). When we, as the church today, handle our own disagreements the way the early church did, those outside the church will take notice, seeds will be planted, and a harvest will be reaped.

Hearing God’s Voice


In 2010, a teacher in Northern Ireland named Annalisa Flanagan set the world’s record for the loudest shout ever recorded. Her shout registered 121 decibels. That’s ear-piercing! The normal human speaking voice averages about 70 decibels, while the average shout comes in at about 88 decibels. At those levels, most of us would have no trouble hearing the voice of the person speaking or shouting. But what about the voice of God. How loud is His voice?

Psalm 29 gives us a picture of what God’s voice sounds like. In the New Living Translation, this psalm tells us that God’s voice echoes above the sea. In fact, it thunders over the sea (v. 3). God’s voice is powerful and majestic (v. 4) and is able to split the mighty cedar trees of Lebanon (v. 5). At the sound of God’s voice, mountains skip and leap (v. 6). His voice strikes with bolts of lightning and can make the wilderness shake (v. 7-8). Mighty oaks twist when God speaks and forests are laid bare. The story of creation in Genesis 1 tells us that God used His voice to create the heavens, the earth, and all living things. God’s voice is powerful. So, why do we sometimes have such difficulty hearing it?

Think about it. A voice that is louder than the seas, that can split and knock down trees, cause mountains to jump, and lay bare the wilderness has got to be a voice that you couldn’t possibly miss. In Scripture, God’s voice is often described as thunder. Unless you’ve lived in a soundproof booth all your life, you know that thunder is quite loud. In fact, thunder usually ranges between 120 and 135 decibels. That compares to the sound of an ambulance siren or to someone shouting in your ear. So if God has a voice like thunder, why do we sometimes have such difficulty hearing it?

In 1 Kings 19:11-12, Elijah waited on the Lord at Mount Horeb. As he stood there, a wind blew that was strong enough to break rocks. But Elijah did not find God in the wind. After the wind died down, an earthquake shook and a fire raged, but Elijah did not find God in them either. But following the fire, there was a gentle blowing sound. In the King James Version, it refers to the sound as a still small voice. And it was in this quiet sound, this gentle whisper, that Elijah found God. In Psalm 46:10, God tells us to be still and know that He is God. In Isaiah 55:3, He tells us to incline our ears and listen to Him. So, although God has a voice like thunder, He speaks to us in a whisper, in a still small voice. Why? Because He wants us to give our full attention to His voice.

The average person’s whisper registers 20 decibels, well below the decibel range of a normal speaking voice. When someone whispers something to us, we need to lean in, we need to get close to that person in order to hear. That’s why God speaks to us in whispers. He wants us to lean into Him. Our heavenly Father wants us to draw close to Him just as an earthly father wants his children to draw close. God speaks to us in whispers. He speaks to us through promptings in our hearts. But, if we are to hear Him, to hear His voice, we need to give Him our full attention. We need to push aside all of the other voices that clamor for our attention and incline our ears to Him and listen.

Psalm 3

david's flight

In 2 Samuel 15, we read the story of David fleeing from his son, Absalom, who has taken over the throne. Knowing that his son sought to kill him, David fled with his attendants, crossed the Jordan River, and camped at Mahanaim. Absalom was a handsome, smooth-talking person who knew how to please the people of Israel and steal their hearts. Because of Absalom’s lies, the people had turned against David, and so the numbers of his enemies had increased. The times were very dark for David, and it was in this dark time that David wrote Psalm 3.

Psalm 3 begins with David crying out to the Lord about how great the number of his enemies had become (v. 1). He pointed out that many of the people were saying that David was beyond help (v. 2). They did not believe that God would save David, would not deliver him from his enemies or from the dire situation he was facing. But David knew the God he served. He knew that God was his refuge, his strength, and his very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). So, in verse 3, David praised God for the fact that God was a shield about him, that God was his glory and it was God who would lift David’s head high, despite the circumstances. Knowing this about his God, David called out to God with the confidence that God would answer (v. 4).

When we are in dark times in our lives, when our circumstances seem hopeless, we should take our cue from David and remember that God is our shield. He covers us with His glory and will lift our heads high above our circumstances when we cry out to Him.

In verse 5, David says something that, from a worldly point of view, makes no sense. Despite that fact that his enemies had increased, despite the fact that his very life was in danger, David says that he laid down and slept. He woke the next morning and had no fear, despite the fact that tens of thousands of people had set themselves against him (v. 6). Why was David able to sleep? Why did he have no fear? Because the Lord, His God, sustained him (v. 5). God gave David the rest that he needed and helped him to see past his circumstances. David knew that God was with him and that God would give him the victory. And so, David slept, just as Peter slept when he was in prison (Acts 12).

When we place our trust in God and seek to do His will, God will give us rest from the things that cause us to be wearied. In Matthew 11:28 (NLT), Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Just as David was confident in God’s ability to sustain him through his trials, so we can be confident as well.

In verses 6 and 7, David asks the Lord to save him. He points out that victory comes from God. David knew that his salvation was from the Lord, and so he had faith that God would go before him and defeat the army of Absalom. And that’s just what God did (2 Samuel 18). When we are facing trials, when darkness seems to surround us and the enemy of our souls is telling us that we are beyond help, that God will not save us, we need to be like David and have faith that God will come through for us. We need to praise God for the victory that we know will come.

God is our shield, He sustains us, and He will save us when we cry out to Him and trust in Him.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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