It was a normal day for me. I had been working all morning, and when lunch time rolled around, my wife and I drove to the Kroger near our office. It’s our go-to spot for lunch because they have an amazing deli and hot food section. Lately I had been getting some sort of soup or chili, but today I was craving some more substance, so I went to the counter to order my favorite: “I’ll have the brisket meal please.”
At that moment I was functioning on auto-pilot. The deli worker was cutting my brisket and I was staring at my phone. I don’t even remember what I was looking at, but most likely I was scrolling on a social media channel. But all of the sudden, I felt a nudge in my spirit. It was a gentle nudge, but it got my attention. I’ve been trying to practice being more aware of the presence of God all around me for about a year now, and the opportunities to be more tuned in to what He wants to do in each moment. More often than not, I slip back into auto-pilot and am usually in my own head thinking about my own life.
But this time, the Lord got my attention.
I was suddenly awakened to the reality that the deli worker in front of me was loved deeply by my Father. He was a child of God, whether he was walking in that reality yet or not. I put my phone away and became focused on the present moment at hand. I could sense that this deli worker was not having a great day, and he seemed down and out. Then I noticed his wrist watch. I love nice watches and used to collect them for a while. The Lord then spoke to me and said, “Compliment him on his watch.” At about this time the deli worker sealed my food container and nonchalantly said, “Have a nice day.”
I responded and said, “Thanks a lot. And by the way, I love your watch. That’s really sharp. I love watches and I’m always on the lookout for nice ones, and I really like yours.”
The Kingdom of God had just broken into this man’s world for a brief moment.
His demeanor changed instantly. A huge smile broke out on his face and I could sense confidence and joy come over him. He made eye contact with me for the first time and said, “thanks,” as he continued to smile and then walked away.
That was it. Nothing miraculous or extraordinary, but just a simple compliment brought joy into this man’s world and noticeably changed his demeanor. I went on my way and he continued on with his work, but for that brief moment, that deli worker got a little piece of knowing what the perfect King of Heaven is like. Jesus lives in me, and when I allowed myself to respond to His voice and become tuned in to what He wanted to do in that moment, I realized some beautiful truths:
- Jesus notices us and takes time to be present with us. He’s not distracted.
- He cares about the things that we care about, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the grand scheme of things.
- When we speak under His leading, it releases life and changes atmospheres.
It’s a beautiful thing when we can heighten our senses to God’s voice and begin to tune into His agenda for the world around us. If it hadn’t been for me noticing His nudge, then I would have missed this simple opportunity to bring joy to this deli worker who was having a rough day. But because I was responsive and flowed with Him, the King was able to speak through me, and therefore minister His Kingdom in that moment.
How aware are you of God’s presence in your day-to-day moments? When you’re out and about, are you tuned in to His agenda, or are you lost in your own? I know I’m usually the latter, but I’m getting better every day. Ask the Lord to begin opening your eyes to the opportunities all around you to reflect His love and kindness to others. It’s an amazing thing when you begin to see with His eyes and move as He moves.
I encourage you to give a compliment or encouraging word to one stranger you come in contact with this week. Because for all you know, it may be the only time they hear one.
Written by: Nate Ebel
It’s become inevitable, really. Every time there’s a major storm or tragedy that sweeps through our nation, certain Christians and so-called “prophets” waste no time in declaring that God is bringing judgment upon our country or the specific people affected by the events. While the body of Christ should be focusing their energy on sending out resources (money, supplies, water, etc.), mourning with those who mourn, and weeping with those who weep, some will always find it more important to use the latest tragedy as a way to prove their theological belief that their sovereign God is “in complete control.”
To be clear, I absolutely believe that God is sovereign. He is above all things and has the ultimate power and authority to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. I strongly reject the idea though, that God is orchestrating every single event that transpires in our world, especially when it goes against His nature as revealed in Christ.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is “the exact representation of His nature.” Throughout the gospels, we see the religious Jews quoting Old Testament scripture (thinking that because they memorized scripture, they knew God) and Jesus then having to correct them because they totally misinterpreted the true heart behind the text. Jesus not only came to provide forgiveness of sins, but He also came to reveal what the Father is really like. The veil has been torn, and we no longer have to guess what God’s heart is as we read through Old Testament passages. As Bill Johnson says, “Jesus Christ is perfect theology.”
Now, if we look closely at the life of Jesus as it relates to natural disasters and tragedies, then we see that He was always in opposition to these things. Jesus went about healing all who were sick and afflicted. And when Jesus was on the boat sleeping in the midst of a storm, He didn’t wake up and explain to His disciples that His Father sent the storm as judgment. Quite the opposite, actually. Jesus woke up and rebuked the storm, saying “Peace, be still.”
God did not send the storm!
In John 5:19, Jesus says that he “only does what He sees his Father doing… whatever the Father does, the Son does also.” If we claim that God sends storms and tragedies as a way to bring judgment or to teach us a lesson, then we must also be consistent and claim that Jesus was in opposition to the Father. In only doing what He saw the Father doing, Jesus calmed the storm. If it’s true that God sent this storm, then Jesus would have actually been acting in opposition to the Father by calming the same storm He sent.
We live in a fallen world that is going to have natural disasters until God’s kingdom has fully advanced throughout the earth and is fully realized at the final return of Christ. As Romans 8 tells us, “the whole earth groans, and as believers, we also groan as we eagerly await redemption.”
It’s time for the body of Christ to start showing the world how good our Father is. It’s His kindness that leads men to repentance, not judgment (or sickness, tragedy, punishment, etc.). When storms and tragedies do come, let’s rise up and show the world that our Father is not the author of death, but of life. He is the not the God who causes storms, but He is the God who sleeps through them. He is not the God who orchestrates storms, but He is the God who calms them.
Written by: Nate Ebel
I recently asked a group of people this question, when you look at Jesus in the gospels, what do you see? How you answer that question will greatly affect not just your worldview and perspective on life, but even in your way of thinking within your worldview and belief. The writer of Hebrews went so far as to say that Jesus is the “exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). So once again, what we perceive when we look at Jesus in the gospels, should also affect what we think about God.
There are two post resurrection accounts in the gospels that I believe give us a good picture about who Jesus is and what his heart is for people. I’m going to look at both of these in a two-part blog (this being the first). When we understand this, it should then cause us to believe what God the Father’s heart is for people. That Jesus is in to restoration and so therefore, God is a restorative God.
The interesting thing about the post resurrection accounts is the fact that Jesus, after defeating death, hell, and the grave through the power of resurrection, decided to even pursue any one of His former followers who had abandoned him and left him in his darkest hour.
The first account is that of Thomas.
Have you ever been defined by one weak moment in your life? Have you ever had a nickname that you couldn’t seem to shake no matter how much you changed? This is the story of Thomas. He has one moment of weakness in regards to analytical doubt, and throughout the rest of church history, he is forever nicknamed “doubting Thomas.” We read about this post resurrection account in John 20:24-29, where it says:
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
What I love about the restorative heart of Jesus in this narrative is that Jesus doesn’t give up on Thomas even though Thomas has given up on him. Though Thomas is full of doubt and his rational-analytical mind is getting the best of him in this moment, Jesus comes to him and reveals himself as the Resurrected Lord to once again, ignite lasting faith in Thomas. So many times, we forget that Thomas had left everything he had and followed Jesus for 3.5 years. Just like many others, he had placed his faith and trust in Jesus as Messiah and things didn’t turn out the way he had anticipated. Thomas had pre-conceived ideas of what the Messiah’s kingdom was to look like, and crucifixion was not a part of it. At one point, Thomas was ready to die for the sake of Christ (John 11:8-16).
Church history tells us that Thomas went on to be a great missionary to many neighboring countries in the Middle East as he proclaimed the Gospel message in ancient Babylon, where Iraq is today. He then went to Persia, present-day Iran, and continued to proclaim the message of Jesus and His resurrection. He eventually ended up in Malabar on the west coast of India in 52 AD. It is said that when the Portuguese landed in India in the early 1600s, they found a group of Christians there — the Mar Thoma Church –established through Thomas’ preaching a millennium and a half before. Finally, Thomas traveled to the east coast of India, continuing to preach the gospel unashamedly. He was killed near Mylapore in about 72 AD, near present-day Madras. Tradition tells us that he was thrown into a pit, then pierced through with a spear thrown by a Brahmin. He who had so fervently proclaimed his unbelief carried the Christian message of love and forgiveness to the ends of the earth in his generation.
This disciple who would forever be known as “doubting Thomas,” became a great evangelist and missionary for the cause of the Kingdom and followed Jesus to the point of his death. Had Jesus not revealed Himself to Thomas in his moment of weakness and doubt, imagine how different Thomas’ story could have ended up.
I believe this narrative of Thomas reveals several things about the restorative heart of Jesus that should shape our perspective about God.
- Jesus isn’t offended by our analytical minds or doubt.
- Jesus will often meet us in our place of doubt and questioning.
- Jesus reveals Himself in unique ways to each of us.
“Christianity offers not merely a consolation but a restoration — not just of the life we had but of the life we always wanted but never achieved.”
– Tim Keller
Written by: Timothy Woodcock