An influx of refugees to our community has led to new growth in area churches. That growth brings challenges. Church members must learn how to welcome these newcomers as they adjust to a strange culture, new language, and different worship styles. All this change can create some awkward situations.
Misunderstandings and disagreements occur everywhere we find people. Church is no exception. If we don’t handle our differences in a healthy way, they can harden into divisions.
The early church in Jerusalem was growing when a dispute arose that broke along a cultural fault line. The Greek-speaking Jews (the Hellenists) had a complaint against those Jews who spoke Aramaic. The Hellenist widows “were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1). So the apostles said, “Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). The seven chosen all had Greek names (v. 5). In other words, they were Hellenists, members of the group being neglected. They best understood the problem. The apostles prayed over them and the church thrived (vv. 6–7).
Growth brings challenges, in part because it increases interactions across traditional barriers. But as we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we’ll find creative solutions as potential problems turn into opportunities for more growth.
As a teenager, when I became overwhelmed by enormous challenges or high-stakes decisions, my mother taught me the merits of putting pen to paper to gain perspective. When I was uncertain whether to take specific classes or which job to pursue, or how to cope with the frightening realities of adulthood, I learned her habit of writing out the basic facts and the possible courses of action with their likely outcomes. After pouring my heart onto the page, I was able to step back from the problem and view it more objectively than my emotions allowed.
Just as recording my thoughts on paper offered me fresh perspective, pouring our hearts out to God in prayer helps us gain His perspective and remind us of His power. King Hezekiah did just that after receiving a daunting letter from an ominous adversary. The Assyrians threatened to destroy Jerusalem as they had many other nations. Hezekiah spread out the letter before the Lord, prayerfully calling on Him to deliver the people so that the world would recognize He “alone . . . [is] God” (2 Kings 19:19).
When we’re faced with a situation that brings anxiety, fear, or a deep awareness that getting through it will require more than what we have, let’s follow in Hezekiah’s footsteps and run straight to the Lord. Like him, we, too, can lay our problem before God and trust Him to guide our steps and calm our uneasy hearts.
“My husband was offered a promotion in another country, but I feared leaving our home, so he reluctantly declined the offer.” My friend explained how apprehension over such a big change kept her from embracing a new adventure, and that she sometimes wondered what they missed in not moving.
The Israelites let their anxieties paralyze them when they were called to inhabit a rich and fertile land that flowed “with milk and honey” (Ex. 33:3). When they heard the reports of not only an abundance of fruit but also powerful people in large cities (v. 27), they started to fear. The majority of the Israelites rejected the call to enter the land.
But Joshua and Caleb urged them to trust in the Lord, saying “Do not be afraid of the people in the land” for the “
My friend wasn’t commanded to move to another country like the Israelites were, yet she regretted letting fear close off the opportunity. What about you—do you face a fearful situation? If so, know that the Lord is with you and will guide you. With His never-failing love, we can move forward in faith.
On the day our youngest daughter was flying from Munich to Barcelona, I visited my favorite flight tracking website to follow her progress. After I entered her flight number, my computer screen showed that her flight had crossed Austria and was skirting the northern part of Italy. From there the plane would fly over the Mediterranean south of the French Riviera toward Spain and was scheduled to arrive on time. It seemed that the only thing I didn’t know was what the flight attendants were serving for lunch!
Why did I care about my daughter’s location and circumstances? Because I love her. I care about who she is, what she’s doing, and where she’s going in life.
In Psalm 32, David celebrated the marvel of God’s forgiveness, guidance, and concern for us. Unlike a human father, He knows every detail of our lives and the deepest needs of our hearts. The Lord’s promise to us is, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (v. 8).
Whatever our circumstances today, we can rely on God’s presence and care because “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (v. 10).
A young man I know has a habit of asking God for signs. That’s not necessarily bad, but his prayers tend to seek confirmation of his feelings. For instance, he’ll pray, “God, if You want me to do X, then You please do Y, and I’ll know it’s okay.”
This has created a dilemma. Because of the way he prays and the way he thinks God is answering, he feels that he should get back with his ex-girlfriend. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she feels strongly that God doesn’t want that.
The religious leaders of Jesus’s day demanded a sign from Him to prove the validity of His claims (Matt. 16:1). They weren’t seeking God’s guidance; they were challenging His divine authority. Jesus replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign” (v. 4). The Lord’s strong response wasn’t a blanket statement to prevent anyone from seeking God’s guidance. Rather, Jesus was accusing them of ignoring the clear prophecies in Scripture that indicated He was the Messiah.
God wants us to seek His guidance in prayer (James 1:5). He also gives us the guidance of the Spirit (John 14:26) and His Word (Ps. 119:105). He provides us with mentors and wise leaders. And He’s given us the example of Jesus Himself.
It’s wise to ask God for clear direction, but He may not always give it in ways that we expect or want. Perhaps the larger point of prayer is that we learn more about God’s nature and develop a relationship with our Father.
I felt like I was underwater, sounds muffled and muted by a cold and allergies. For weeks I struggled to hear clearly. My condition made me realize how much I take my hearing for granted.
Young Samuel in the temple must have wondered what he was hearing as he struggled out of sleep at the summons of his name (1 Sam. 3:4). Three times he presented himself before Eli, the High Priest. Only the third time did Eli realize it was the Lord speaking to Samuel. The word of the Lord had been rare at that time (v. 1), and the people were not in tune with His voice. But Eli instructed Samuel how to respond (v. 9).
The Lord speaks much more now than in the days of Samuel. The letter to the Hebrews tells us, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets … but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (1:1-2). And in Acts 2 we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (vv. 1-4), who guides us in the things Christ taught us (John 16:13). But we need to learn to hear His voice and respond in obedience. Like me with my cold, we may hear as if underwater. We need to test what we think is the Lord’s guidance with the Bible and with other mature Christians. As God’s beloved children, we do hear His voice. He loves to speak life into us.
The military command, “Mark Time, March” means to march in place without moving forward. It is an active pause in forward motion while remaining mentally prepared and expectantly waiting the next command
In everyday language, the term marking time has come to mean “motion without progress, not getting anywhere, not doing anything important while you wait.” It conveys a feeling of idle, meaningless waiting.
In contrast, the word wait in the Bible often means “to look eagerly for, to hope, and to expect.” The psalmist, when facing great difficulties, wrote: “O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed” (Ps. 25:2-3
We often have no choice about the things we must wait for—a medical diagnosis, a job interview result, the return of a loved one—but we can decide how we wait. Rather than giving in to fear or apathy, we can continue to “march in place,” actively seeking God’s strength and direction each day.
“Show me Your ways, O
One of my daily chores when I lived with my grandfather in northern Ghana was taking care of sheep. Each morning I took them out to pasture and returned by evening. That was when I first noticed how stubborn sheep can be. Whenever they saw a farm, for instance, their instinct drove them right into it, getting me in trouble with the farmers on a number of occasions.
Sometimes when I was tired from the heat and resting under a tree, I observed the sheep dispersing into the bushes and heading for the hills, causing me to chase after them and scratching my skinny legs in the shrubs. I had a hard time directing the animals away from danger and trouble, especially when robbers sometimes raided the field and stole stray sheep.
So I quite understand when Isaiah says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way" (53:6). We stray in many ways: desiring and doing what displeases our Lord, hurting other people by our conduct, and being distracted from spending time with God and His Word because we are too busy or lack interest. We behave like sheep in the field.
Fortunately for us, we have the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us (John 10:11) and who carries our sorrows and our sins (Isa. 53:4-6). And as our shepherd, He calls us back to safe pasture that we might follow Him more closely.