90,000 Hours

One summer growing up, while working for my family’s business, I was assigned an inglorious job: vacuum all the shelves in our large (and hot) distribution warehouse. It was miserable. At the end of the summer, I asked Dad why he gave me such a pointless job. His response? So I’d learn that any type of work can be valuable if done with the right attitude.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the experience. In all the highs and lows our jobs can bring, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s purpose for work. In Calling: Awaken to the Purpose of Your Work, Pierce Brantley tackles the question, How can Christians experience purpose and fulfillment in their jobs? This is a timely topic: research indicates that only about 10 percent of people feel engaged at work, and more than 80 percent of Christian young professionals have no idea how their faith relates to their professional life.

God Grows Us through Work
Brantley—an entrepreneur and businessman—offers a compelling thesis: by approaching work as a partnership with God, Christians can experience purpose no matter the ups and downs of their professional journeys. As he writes, “You can move into your calling at any job, with any boss, at any place in life” (14). Several themes are developed to make the case. Brantley begins by showing that God designed work as one of the central ways of shaping people. We get the most out of our work—and experience the most fulfillment in it—when we receive it as a steward, to be harnessed for God’s glory.

By approaching work as a partnership with God, Christians can experience purpose no matter the ups and downs of their professional journeys.

Brantley then shows how this can reframe our approach—not depending on ourselves but resting in the daily provisions of the Spirit. All work is a gift ,and we can receive it with gratitude, “which puts the focus back on God the provider” (65). Only the Spirit can take our labors and redeem them for eternal significance. This view challenges any bifurcation of “spiritual” and “secular” work; it also means that, especially for those of us making a living in secular workplaces, the passion and excellence we bring to our jobs are vital. As Brantley argues, “Meaningful work means working well” (21). Our career journeys will likely involve season of pruning and planting—the former preparing us for more capacity and impact, the latter enabling us to realize them.

No matter the season, we’re called to keep our hope fixed on the ultimate purpose of our work: the glory of God.

Important Contributions
Brantley’s book is intended for popular audiences; it’s an easy read. He’s at his best when integrating practical messages with personal stories. One of my favorites was how God used his experience living in an industrial oil drum to awaken a passion for graphic design. I also liked the devotional prayers at the end of each chapter.

As a business professional and theologian engaged in the faith-and-work movement, I see three important contributions of Calling:

Challenge the idolization of work. For many of us, we spend more time at our workplace than anywhere else. While work is important to human valuing and meaning, we can easily misconstrue it. Bentley reminds us that work doesn’t become a calling based on externals—position, pay, level of success. Rather, work becomes a calling when we let God use the day-to-day to shape and mold us.
Look back in gratitude, just as much as we look forward in anticipation. Work is one of the primary ways God evidences his daily grace and provision. I know in my career journey, I can easily lose sight of this in my desire to always be pursuing some future aspiration—a new opportunity, a bigger paycheck, and so on. Without God’s guidance, Brantley warns, our work ethic “will turn into a flesh-driven endeavor” (190).
Reclaim the good of work. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is Bentley’s answer to the question, What makes work good? He draws out at least three characteristics from Scripture: good work is intentional, relational, and timely (184–90). This is a helpfully practical way for thinking about the intrinsic value of labor, in contrast to our broader culture’s tendency to reduce the value of work to its mere utility.
Work, Faith, and Scripture
On other occasions, though, Brantley’s use of Scripture seems a bit too principalizing. We need to guard against importing modern categories like “work” uncritically into the scriptural text as we seek to interpret and apply. For example, Brantley identifies six principles for finding meaning in our jobs based on the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon in 1 Kings 10:1–13 (56–64). While the principles are helpful, I’m not convinced they emerge from the text itself.

We need to guard against importing modern categories like ‘work’ uncritically into the scriptural text as we seek to interpret and apply.

My own study of the faith-and-work movement has revealed a general lack of distinction between our modern categories of work and those operative in the Old and New Testaments. This approach can lead to unhelpful generalizations; for example, when we apply the “kingdom of God” to any and all forms of contemporary vocation. Often, Jesus spoke of the kingdom as a fundamental challenge to the unbridled and individualistic pursuit of money and power. We need to retain these challenges in our own integration of faith and work, especially in light of the fact that most of us are immersed in highly individualistic cultures.

Connecting Work with God
Most of us will spend more time at work than anywhere else—nearly 90,000 hours over the average lifetime. While we typically define our careers in terms of the big headlines, how we engage the day-to-day will have the biggest influence on our faith and character.

Drew Yancey

Can You Hear Me Yet?

Prayer has always been the way God has chosen to show himself strong on behalf of those who called upon him. If prayer is that powerful and has that kind of value, then the practice and habit of prayer ought to set a whole new direction for each of us.

The brief expositions that follow illustrate how three Old Testament prayers instruct us in this principle. As you continue reading, I suggest you have your Bible open to the appropriate passages, so you can refer to the text of each prayer.

Abraham (Genesis 18:22–23)
In many ways, Abraham’s prayer for his nephew Lot and the cities of the plain is one of the first formal prayers of intercession and serves as a model for how we, too, ought to pray.

The Lord himself reveals to Abraham that he is about to judge the cities of the plain (where Lot had gone to live) because a serious “outcry” of evil had come up to God (Gen 18:20–21). Abraham never doubts that the people’s wickedness is deserving of judgment. But, he argues, what if there were some righteous persons in those cities? He asks, as we would, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (18:23).

In this context, the man later known as the “friend of God” (2 Chr 20:7; Jas 2:23) raises one of the most difficult questions of life: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (18:25). This lays out a standard not only for Abraham, but also for us: Yahweh will do only what is right. He cannot do or be other than true to his nature as the just and righteous God. Abraham’s “question” is not a question in the usual sense, but is meant to affirm Yahweh’s character: he is the judge of the whole earth and will only work justice for those deserving of it (the words judge and justice come from the same Hebrew root).

Even so, there must be discriminating distinctions in the coming judgment, Abraham suggests. God agrees that for the sake of 50 righteous persons, the greater majority of persons living in wickedness could be saved. Each time Abraham renegotiates this number, Yahweh graciously accedes. And with each reduction in the number of righteous required to save the cities, Abraham expresses an increasing sense of deference for the majesty and greatness of God.

It is amazing to see how intimate and frank this conversation is. Yahweh does not take umbrage at Abraham’s prayer request or even disagree with his line of reasoning (18:26–32). There is no indication that Abraham might be pushing God too far, for the Lord gives him no rebuke, only replies of agreement.

In the end, it seems that even 10 righteous persons was too much to ask for. Yet Abraham persisted in petitioning the Lord for forgiveness. This prayer shows Abraham as a real man of faith who engaged in daring conversations with his Lord. Here is encouragement for all of us, who also are “friends of God,” to likewise pray.

Dolly Parton Tops Christian Charts

(This is one you need to hear)

She might now be 74, but that has not slowed Dolly Parton, with her new song, “There Was Jesus”, going to number one.

A known Country music star, Parton collaborated with Zach Williams, who also wrote the song. This is Parton’s first number on the Christian charts.

“Having a No. 1 record at any time is a great thing, but having a No. 1 faith-based record during these crazy times is even greater,” Parton tells Billboard. “I feel humbled and blessed to be part of this wonderful song with Zach Williams. It does my heart good to know that we have touched the lives of so many people.”

Parton is a noted Christian. In an interview with Today show in April, she shared that Matthew 19:26 was the scripture that had been comforting her during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We just drift along in the wind and then when something like this comes along it jolts you and you just freak,” she told Today’s Kotb. “Then you really realize how small we are in comparison to what matters.

“I think a lot about things my mom taught me growing up and that I learned about in the church growing up and I love that scripture. It just covers so much. For me, that has always been a good scripture.

“Through God, I can do this, all things are possible.”

In 2018, Parton received a second star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, inducted alongside Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris in recognition of their work as a trio.

Parton was also recognized in the Guinness World Records 2018 Edition for holding records for the Most Decades with a Top 20 hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart and Most Hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart by a Female Artist.

In 2020, Parton received a Grammy award for her collaboration with For King & Country on their song, “God Only Knows.”

Matthias Browning

California Church Baptizes 1,000

A California church has taken the term ‘the church without walls’ literally, seeing almost 1,000 people baptized last Sunday.

Calvary Chapel Church in Chino Hills, pastored by Jack Hibbs, held an outdoor baptism service last Sunday

According to CBN News, Church Director Gina Gleason said, “California may be experiencing a spiritual revival. It’s remarkable and a significant number.”

Gleason told CBN that the typical number of candidates for baptism is 300 but Saturday saw over three times that.

Recently, a group called Saturate OC ran an outdoor church service in the same area. Prompted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to ban indoor singing and chanting in places of worship, a Bethel Music worship leader and an Orange County outreach ministry leader have proclaimed that “the Church has left the building.”


“In the face of the virus and racial unrest, God has an answer of his people moving in radical love and unity,” said Sean Feucht, who recently led a crowd of nearly 1,000 in worship song facing the ocean in the city of Huntington Beach, “and maybe we can’t meet in buildings but we can meet on the beach. We can go to the bridge. We’re going to meet in parks. We’re not restricted to the four walls. We can still be the church even if we’re not in our buildings.”

Lost Bibles Are Recovered

An ambitious new digitisation project is set to make the Bible more accessible than ever for hundreds of minority language groups.

MissionAssist, Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translators are seeking an army of volunteer translators to help with the huge task of bringing these ‘lost’ Bibles into the digital realm.

The Bible Digitisation Project aims to translate minority language Bibles that have until now existed only in print form, either because they were created before the digital age or because older digital copies have been lost.

It is believed that at least 204 complete Bibles, 545 New Testaments and over 1,000 Scripture portions published in the last 80 years are not available on digital platforms.

The digitised translations will help to preserve minority languages and ensure their survival, while also providing an opportunity to revise earlier translations and create Braille versions for blind people, the organisations said.

Once completed, the digital translations will be made freely available on major platforms like YouVersion where they can be enjoyed by people around the world who otherwise would never had access.

The Rev Daryl Richardson, CEO of MissionAssist, which is leading the project, said: “A Bible cannot do much lying in a library storeroom covered by dust, but when people read or hear the Word of God for themselves then lives are changed.

“It is such a valuable work – with eternal consequences – when volunteers give some of their spare time in making the Scriptures accessible in the nations for whom they are intended.”

Wycliffe’s Executive Director James Poole said: “In a world where almost one in five people don’t have access to the Bible in their own language, but where smartphone and internet use is growing rapidly, this is a really strategic initiative.

“Having digital Scripture in both readable and audio form can be transformative for churches and communities, and Christians here in the UK can make a real difference to this.”

One of the translations being digitised is in Kare, a language spoken by 97,000 people in the Central African Republic. An indigenous Kare speaker working with Wycliffe on a new revision said: “Since my birth I have never seen a text in Kare. But now we have read a text in our own language for the first time.”

The Kare edition demonstrates the enormous potential of the digitisation project. Elizabeth Marti, director of Bible translation agency SIL, knew a translation in Kare had been completed in the 1940s but it was “lost to the years”.

By a stroke of luck, a copy of this translation that could be digitised was discovered in UK archives.

“What an unexpected blessing,” Marti said. “It can now be used as a reference for a revised, modern translation into the Kare language.”

Paul Murrell, who is working with Wycliffe on the new Kare translation, said the availability of the New Testament in a digital format made it possible to “check how well people understand it and assess how well the existing translation meets their needs for Scripture access”.

“The fact that this is digital will make it so much easier to use as a base for future work, whatever form that may take,” he continued.

“This digitisation has the potential to save years of work down the line; I pray that it is put to good use in the coming months and years.”

The volunteers will be trained by MissionAssist in the keyboarding skills required to transcribe Bible texts in a language they do not know. The only other requirements are time and lots of concentration.

“These people are not part of the translation process but by using their computer keyboards at home, after training from MissionAssist, they make books of the Bible available for people to read or hear in their own country,” Rev Richardson explained.

“It is a privilege to be able to send the word of salvation from the comfort of our own homes around the world.”

Christine Reynolds, from Balham, is digitising the Psalms in Micmac, an endangered language spoken by fewer than 7,000 people in Nova Scotia.

Although the work is demanding, it is rewarding, she says.

“I have to use keys I’ve never been near before. Some letters require four keystrokes,” she said.

She added: “It’s very satisfying because you’re enabling someone to get access to the Bible. You’re also helping to save an endangered language – the world goes wild about endangered species, but we forget that our own languages and cultures are disappearing.

“You’re not only meeting someone’s spiritual needs, but keeping alive someone’s heart language.”

Bible Society’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Williams said: “Digitizing translations of the Bible is hugely important. Bible Society has the largest collection of printed Scriptures in the world, and within our archives are texts in languages which have no Scriptures online.

What Do You Love Most About God?

In a sense, to answer this question authentically, I probably ought not spend any great time theologizing, studying, doing exegesis, or assessing God’s attributes. I ought to simply blurt out — just blurt out — what I feel about God, what I really treasure about him and value and admire. Wouldn’t that be the most authentic answer to the question “What do I love about God?” rather than some long-studied, complicated, fill-up-an-APJ, theological answer? And I think the answer to that question is yes, that’s right. So, that’s where I’ll start.

Flavored with Grace
My first, most visceral, immediate, heartfelt answer to the question is this: I love the grace of God.

I love the mercy of God.
I love being loved by God.
I love being treated graciously and kindly and patiently by God.
I love being accepted and forgiven by God.
I love God’s grace toward me.
I think all of those statements I just tumbled out there are ways of saying that the grace of God is very, very, very precious to me. I would be undone without a God of grace. Late at night, early in the morning, facing conflict, facing guilt feelings, facing judgment from him — ultimately, possibly — or from critical people, facing the world, I would be undone without the grace of God. It is on the front burner of my affections for God all of the time. Even when I’m thinking about all kinds of other attributes of God or ways of God, they’re all flavored with the grace of God.

So, that’s my most visceral, heartfelt, unreflective, immediate, desperate response to the question of what I love most about God.

Love the True God
But the reason I said that answering this way is in a sense the right way to answer this question is that there’s another sense in which the Bible encourages us not just to speak from our inmost or most immediate perception of things, but to ponder — in the light of God’s word and in the light of God’s action — what we mean by what we most immediately say, and whether there might be contained in this immediate response aspects of God’s grace and mercy and kindness that need to be made explicit for the sake of our own souls, as well as for the sake of others, lest we fail to honor God as we ought, and lest we subconsciously find ourselves loving not God supremely, but our own selves.

There are numerous instances in the Bible where people showed some measure of spontaneous devotion to God. And then when God said something or did something that they didn’t like, their devotion evaporated, which means that what they said was love for God wasn’t really love for the true God, but only a love for their imagined God, their picture of God. And then the real God does something out of step with their expectations, and their love is gone. Now, that love was not really love for God.

So, even though it’s right — and I’m going to say it again — for me to give a spontaneous, heartfelt, visceral, gut reaction to what I love most about God, every person who lives under the authority of the Bible, including me, will want to discern from the true, real God revealed in the Bible whether what I’m saying corresponds to reality. Is God really like what I say I love about him? And is my heart so much attuned to the true God that no matter what he reveals about himself, I will still be totally committed to him, and in love with him, and valuing him, and treasuring him, and cherishing him, and being satisfied in him? Then, with the Bible’s help, I’ll know that I love the true God, and not just a figment of my own religious imagination.

The Greatest Gift of Grace
So, what John Piper needs to do, having given his immediate, heartfelt answer — “I love the grace of God toward me in Jesus” — is ask, “Piper, what do you mean by ‘the grace of God’? If you love that most, you should have some sense of what you’re talking about. Or are those just empty words?”

And my answer (now I’m doing the reflective thing: testing my guts and my spontaneity) would be this: God’s grace is his disposition and action to give the greatest possible blessing to the least deserving creatures at the greatest cost. That’s my definition of God’s grace.

The cost is the suffering and death of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:32: “He . . . did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.”

The least deserving creatures are human beings — me — who have desecrated God’s glory by committing treason in preferring other things above God. Romans 5:6–8 says, “Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The greatest possible blessing purchased at the greatest cost for the least deserving is . . . Think to yourself, Now, what’s that? And at this point we are at the most critical juncture. How shall we state the greatest possible blessing that grace gives to the least deserving recipients like me? And it won’t work to say, “Well, the greatest possible gift of God’s grace is grace.” That’s just talking in circles; that’s not going to answer the question.

So, you can see why it’s an inadequate answer when John Piper says that the greatest thing I love about God is his grace until I’ve answered the question, What’s the greatest blessing that God’s grace has given to me in treating me so much better than I deserve at the cost of his Son’s life? To love the grace of God in a way that honors God is to love grace because of the specific content of the blessing given by the grace of God — namely, God. The greatest gift grace gives is God for our eternal friendship and enjoyment.

1 Peter 3:18: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”

Romans 5:10: “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

The grace John Piper says he loves about God is not the grace of God unless the capstone of that grace is the gift of God himself. And the love that I say I have for that grace is not a love for God unless what I love most about the grace is that it brings me to God.

Eternal Excellencies
And I think this is why, in Ephesians 1, Paul says that the eternal election of God and his predestination and his planned adoption of redeemed people through Christ, all according to the good pleasure of his will, has as its ultimate goal “the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6). And that glory, the glory of grace, is the beauty of how all the attributes of the eternal God — his goodness, his righteousness, his unimpeachable justice, his unfathomable wisdom, his omnipotent power, all that he is in his God-ness and his holiness — how all of that unites, fits together beautifully, to plan and perform creation and redemption in a way that magnifies the capstone of his deity — namely, the glory of his grace.

In other words, the eternal excellencies of God give rise to the wise ways of God, for the praise of the glory of the grace of God, so that when we say we love the grace of God, we ought to mean that we have some sense of those eternal excellencies and those wise ways of God.

All of which brings me back to where I began: I love the grace of God, which now means

I love that he’s the kind of God who didn’t spare his own Son.
I love that he’s the kind of God who justifies the ungodly.
I love that he’s the kind of God that gives to the least deserving the greatest blessing — namely, himself.
And I hope to be spending the rest of eternity knowing and loving all of his excellencies better and better.

John Piper

When Your Mother Grows Old

Listen to your father who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old. (Proverbs 23:22)

If you are considered “young,” I am considered “older.” I’m a grandma seven times over already. Last week, my 6-year-old granddaughter and I were jumping on the trampoline when she stopped, examined my feet and hands, and asked with a child’s sweet compassion why they had those wrinkles and why those veins show up.

Entering one’s sixties gives a great perspective on growing older. I’m not young, but not yet what many call old — like my mother, who is a widow in her nineties. Growing old is not a topic many of us like to think about. Perhaps especially with women, the topic often seems off-limits in polite conversation. In the retirement community where I regularly spend time with my mom, many of the female residents retain a certain reticence about their age. (My mother will be fine with everybody knowing — she’s 93!)

Being old is a topic that Scripture does not shy away from. Proverbs, for example — such a valuable book for young people — addresses it directly. As one who is both learning and observing a mother’s experience of growing older, I want to ask you to think in particular about old women, while you are young — in order to encourage clear vision now, and farsighted vision for the years ahead.

Proverbs is well-known for its addresses from father to son, but it’s good to notice that this Old Testament wisdom book regularly acknowledges parents’ joint responsibilities, joys, and sorrows. Proverbs’s opening instruction calls the son (with whom the reader of Proverbs identifies) to hear the father’s instruction and not to forsake the mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

A similar parallelism comes in Proverbs 23:22: “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” The fifth commandment — to honor your father and mother — evidently reaches throughout life’s stages, as does its accompanying promise (Exodus 20:12).

But it is the mother I’m writing about, specifically this “mother when she is old.” Why this call not to despise her? As a woman like me enters the category of “older,” she begins to know why, in very personal ways. And if she’s “old,” like my mother, she absolutely knows why, often in very painful ways.

Some of the reasons have to do with an increasingly wrinkled face (and so on), a slowed pace (or no pace) in games and races in the park, not getting (or not hearing) all the quick jokes about the latest songs or movies, fear or ineptitude with the latest (or not even the latest) technology, and eventually things like having food on your face while you’re eating. To “despise” the elderly is not always to scorn openly; sometimes, it’s just a matter of treating older ones as quietly laughable, ignorable, or invisible.

Both men and women struggle with this process of aging, even if the struggles are sometimes differently experienced. But we do well to consider this unique call in regard to a mother: not to despise her when she is old. We could go many different directions in thinking about this call, but here are three.

  1. Do not despise the fading of youthful beauty.
    Women who are older no longer have the beauty associated with youth. Many women spend many years trying to deny this truth as it relentlessly stalks us. In today’s commercialized culture, we are insistently and publicly taught to prize and to hold on to the appearance of youth. Without a doubt, youth’s beauty is a treasure to be enjoyed, both by the one who has it and the one who relishes seeing it. But especially in an age full of anti-aging creams for women, people (both men and women) can find themselves struggling to celebrate a woman’s value when her youthful beauty fades.

It’s not easy, young woman, to fit into our busy lives the daily cleansing and toning routines that result in “the imperishable beauty” the apostle Peter talks about (1 Peter 3:4). It’s not easy, young man, to develop eyes for that kind of beauty when you’re young. Now, we can spend a lot of time arguing about the implications of Peter’s call for the adorning of “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Better for all of us to pray to know what those words mean, and to learn to value that kind of beauty in women — young and old — for “in God’s sight [it] is very precious.”

  1. Do not despise the end of fertile bodies.
    Women who grow older experience the shutdown of a part of their bodies, the reproductive part, in a way that men do not. How do women view this process in themselves? How do others view it? For some, the process represents a kind of release; for many, it simply heralds the bad news of aging and the onslaught of anxiety. For all, at least implicitly, it represents a kind of loss, a change that marks the end of potential for more life.

Even as we in the church celebrate babies born and God’s faithfulness through generations, how crucial for women, all women, to be nurturing new life — and practicing to nurture new life — as long as we have mind and strength, even if only to pray. I’m talking about nurture and prayers for spiritual life, life found only in Christ our Savior. And how crucial for younger men and women alike to value that nurture, especially those prayers. They need them as much as they needed a mother’s milk.

I have been raised by many godly mothers in God’s family, and I want to be that kind of mother, to the end. Young woman, I pray that you will be that kind of mother. Young woman and young man, I pray you will value those kinds of mothers. Now there’s an identity that lasts: being “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).

  1. Do not despise the women-filled landscape.
    Women who are old often outlast the men. According to the Institute on Aging, these days about two-thirds of Americans over 85 are female. Without any eternal perspective, and especially peering into various residential facilities for elderly folks, the landscape might look dotted with discarded women. There are so many of them. We’ve extended the human lifespan, and we’ve ended up with a crowd of women too often lonely and despised.

How crucial for those of us in the church to love and honor elderly women as mothers in Christ’s family (1 Timothy 5:2). They have great wisdom to share. I have been enrolled in a good school as I’ve listened to my mother and her friends, so many of them faithfully living out Paul’s description of the widow who, “left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Timothy 5:5). What a crowd to value, to learn from, to minister to — and to draw into the family if they are not yet a part.

Better Landscape
The Bible shows us a landscape dotted with women faithful and honored to the end. Right in the center is Jesus himself who, even as he bore our sins on the cross, took thought for his mother, entrusting her to the care of John (John 19:26–27).

And there in Luke’s spotlight is beautiful Anna, “advanced in years,” who worshiped in the temple with fasting and prayer night and day — and who got to welcome the Messiah (Luke 2:36–38). Looking back, we can’t miss Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who with laughter and faith bore the child of God’s promise, even when she was way past her childbearing years. And there’s Timothy’s grandmother Lois, to whom the apostle Paul gives specific mention as a woman who passed on the faith (2 Timothy 1:5).

The biblical landscape gives us perspective. It reminds us of the larger redemptive story in which we women and men are called to play our various parts, from youth into eternity. It helps us laugh like Sarah, only with the fullness of faith. It instills in us the perseverance of Anna, to seek Jesus night and day. It inspires us to pass on faith as Lois did — faith in the Son of God who came down to us, who was born of a human mother, who knew no sin but bore our sin for us on the cross, and who rose from the grave, our risen Savior and eternal King. In our beautiful Savior are life and strength and beauty enough for all of us in his family, forever.

It is good to consider these things when you are young, as the wisdom literature calls young people to do, in order to prepare for a whole life of following the Lord, to the end. It is also good to think on these things as younger and older together, women and men in the body of Christ, all heading toward a Day when our resurrected bodies will not age ever again — at least in the way we know aging!

Until then, we age, we women and men, in our various stages. I pray in particular that the church would be filled with beautiful women young and old. And I pray that all of us will do the opposite of despising our mothers when they are old.

Kathleen Neilson

God Didn’t Leave Us Says Pastor in War-Torn Syria

When civil war started in Syria, Pastor George Moushi didn’t flee. He stayed when bombing meant neighbours had to run to his house in Qamishli for cover.

And he stayed again when Covid-19 saw people hide in their homes from the silent killer while being threatened with financial ruin and starvation.

He stayed because, along with others at Alliance Church, he wanted to make God’s love evident by reaching out to people in his community at their greatest time of need.

Since the crisis began, around a million Christians have fled Syria. It has meant that the number of believers there has dropped from 1.8 million to just 800,000.

Nine years into the war in 2019, when Turkey was dropping bombs onto Qamishli, Pastor Georges hometown, he questioned again whether to stay.

Turkish Armed Forces had launched its offensive, Operation Peace Spring, to the north of the country where it wanted to create a 30km long corridor or ‘safe zone’ free of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which it saw as a threat.

“People were killed, injured, houses and shops were destroyed,” said Pastor George.

“When the Turkish entered Syria, there was a lot of fear,” he said. “At that time, many families were afraid to send their children to school.”

His ambivalence about staying put was compounded by the fact that he was a father of small children himself.

“The Turkish army could do horrific things, they could harm women, rob houses and cause a lot of damage,” he said.

“A lot of the people from Qamishli left for other places in Syria.

“We held a meeting with the members of our church. I wanted to take a decision together with the church, to stay or leave. We prayed and asked God for wisdom.

“At the same time, I tried to find a ready means of transport to be able to leave.

“It was so hard, what should I advise, when I would say they had to stay, would they blame me if something would have happened to them?

“We prayed and after that they were invited say what they wanted, about sixty per cent wanted to stay.

“I had already taken some measures for those who wanted to stay, we had bought extra food and other things. But I had also checked with churches in other cities to see if they could receive us when we would need to flee.

“I wanted to support both groups, those who stayed and those who left. But for me, I didn’t want to leave if there still was a member of the church in Qamishli.

“We knew we could expect anything of those groups fighting with the Turkish army. My people should know that there is a pastor in Qamishli helping the people in need.”

And despite the incredible hardships that Syrians face, the church is growing and not just from the existing Christian population either.

“The war made people think about their life,” said Pastor George. “They ask ‘where will I go after I die?’

“It made people from Muslim backgrounds question their faith.

“When the church started visiting them, they began to understand about Gods love. We show them that God is love and that God loves people.

“The seats that became empty as people fled the war were filled again.

“God didn’t leave us; a lot of people accepted Christ and were added to the church. Although the war was so awful, God turned ashes into beauty, a lot of people came to Christ.

“And the church is now growing more widely. There have been a lot of Muslims coming to Christ, in our church 25 to 30 per cent are from a Muslim background.”

Alliance Church began its relief work in 2012. Since then it has helped hundreds of displaced Syrians fleeing violence and prayed and helped provide for people whose family members were killed. Now, supported by charity Open Doors UK & Ireland, the church remains very much a centre of hope for people suffering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We gave people food and washing detergent coupons,” said Pastor George.

“Our church saw that now was a time to stand by the people, support them and show Jesus’ love in difficult times.

“The need is not just material. Many people are weary and afraid, so I prayed with them.”

He Isn’t as Hidden as You Think

Many non-Christians have argued that if God were real, he would speak audibly or show himself to those who ask. Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say to God if he faced him in the next life. Russell’s response: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”

Non-Christians aren’t the only ones who struggle with God’s hiddenness, though. Scripture is filled with examples of believers desperate to see proof of God or his promises (e.g., Gen. 15:8; Ex. 33:18; Ps. 73; Matt. 11:3; John 20:25).

And God—in one way or another—answered their request.

Doubting Your Doubts
Pastor David Bisgrove has said that underneath doubts lie beliefs that can’t be proven.

For example, underneath the question of God’s hiddenness is the belief that, if God were real, he would reveal himself in obvious ways—in the clouds, in a thundering voice from above, or appearing visibly before our eyes. But this belief can’t be proven. Who are we to decide how God should reveal himself to his created beings?

In addition to recognizing the assumptions underneath our doubts, we must also recognize the ways in which God has revealed himself.

Who are we to decide how God should reveal himself to his created beings?

God reveals himself in the creation that declares his glory; this is David’s assertion in Psalm 19 and Paul’s argument in Romans 1. The place God has most explicitly revealed himself, however, is in Scripture. In fact, a good argument can be made that the most reliable way for God to reveal himself is through the written word.

Think about it: In an academic setting, no student would be allowed to cite only a private conversation as a source. A quote from a published book or article is always preferred. Why, then, would we consider a private conversation with God to be more trustworthy than a book that can be read and examined by all? It’s far easier to doubt something that’s private and confined to one individual.

For instance, if God decided to speak audibly to individuals, wouldn’t they doubt that experience? How could others verify what God had told them or reassure them of the truth they’d heard?

In Scripture, though, we have the benefit of not relying on ourselves to understand what’s true. We can read it in community. God’s truth isn’t subject to our personal whims; it’s available for everyone to see and verify. Scripture is better than private revelation.

God’s Perfect Revelation
God has also revealed himself in his Son, the image of the invisible God. The author of Hebrews puts it like this: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).

We don’t need to constantly ask God to verify what he has said or reassure us of his promises. It’s there for all of us to see.

Former atheist Lee Strobel wrote that he can’t think of a more attested event in ancient history than Christ’s death and resurrection. In his book The Case for Christ, he writes of Sir Lionel Luckhoo, a renowned lawyer who converted to Christ at the age of 64. Luckhoo says he

subjected the historical facts about the resurrection to his own rigorous analysis for several years before declaring, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

The historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection, paired with his own view of Scripture’s supreme authority, is a large part of why we can confidently say that the Bible is God speaking to us. In Christ, all things hold together, in both the universe and also his Word (Col. 1:16).

We may say that God hasn’t revealed himself to us in all the ways we’d like, but we can’t say he hasn’t revealed himself in the most reliable way.

Mike McGregor

Beyond Expectations

AS ABRAHAM and Isaac headed up the mountain, before Abraham knew how God would intervene, he assured his son that God would provide the sacrifice. And sure enough, God provided a lamb: “Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means ‘the LORD will provide’)” (Genesis 22:13–14). A more literal translation of the Hebrew expression Yahweh-Yireh would be “the Lord will see to it.”

The Lord expects a lot from those who claim to trust Him. The rigors and risk of faith must be daunting, or else it isn’t really faith. But God isn’t merely fair; He delights to surprise us by exceeding our expectations. He rewards risky faith with blessings beyond our ability to guess.

Such was the case for Abraham. As for his descendants, they are truly innumerable. And to this day, God preserves His people, Israel, with great plans for their future. Why? Because the Lord keeps His promises, and in doing so, He exceeds our expectations.

REFLECT

In what ways has God provided for you beyond your expectations? In what situations are you trusting Him to provide right now?

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

EPHESIANS 3:20

Chuck Swindoll

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