In the mid-1400s, the thrilling Renaissance Period, an imposing summer residence was erected for the Archbishop of Salzburg. A beautiful and lasting castle.
Since then it has been captured, confiscated, sold, rented, and auctioned. That marvelous building was intended to bring honor to important men. Today it serves as a novel vacation spot for tourists.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19, 20).
Archimedes, a Greek mathematician of the second century before Christ, said, “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world.”
When a king demanded a demonstration, Archimedes had a huge ship brought ashore; then, using a series of pulleys and a carefully placed fulcrum, with the one-handed turn of a lever, he moved the ship.
Jesus once gave His disciples a promise like that. He said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20).
In other words, faith is our fulcrum. So where is our place to stand? “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (v. 21). We stand on prayer and move the world through faith.
Scripture is full of ridiculous things – armies fleeing in inexplicable terror, parted waters, walking on water, and formerly dead people. However, there is a verse quite near the beginning of the New Testament that could lay claim to the prize for most socially ridiculous statement in the Bible. Matthew, when writing to the religious Hebrews of all people, said, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child.”
This is how it all started, he wrote. It was time for the wedding, but Mary was pregnant, and it wasn’t Joseph’s baby. Well, now, there is a nice start to a story. What a conversation piece! And Matthew was not finished. “She was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” If that is not ridiculous, nothing is. It is the very definition of ridiculous: “That which may justly excite laughter with contempt.”
How could anyone believe that the God of the universe would actually choose this poor, unknown girl to carry His Child? If she was pregnant, she was guilty! She needed to be punished!
Yet God’s ways are higher than ours. He saved her from the humiliations that could have legally come. Joseph did not leave her. She was not punished. In fact, she did not even need to send out “It’s a boy!” announcements. Angels took care of that for her.
Yes, the idea of God Himself coming into a poor family and living the life of the required sacrifice is crazy to any thinking person. But I am glad He doesn’t think so.
Have you ever noticed how often we use food in our spiritual word pictures? The need for food is universally understood, even though the sorts of things we will and will not eat varies wildly. Food, no matter what our preferences, must be consumed if we want to stay alive and healthy.
That is exactly why the Scripture calls Jesus the Bread of Life. In the Old Testament, the Garden of Eden had a tree which provided life-giving fruit. Adam and Eve had to stay close to the tree if they wanted to live. In the New Testament, we learn about a life giving Bread which not only sustains us but also is available wherever we may be. You may be physically present in a land with no Bible, but with Jesus in your heart, you will always be spiritually near His life-giving bread.
With all the talk these days about going green and being good for the environment, it might be a good idea to take a look at one of the greatest green leaders in human history.
I will spare you the suspense. This great Recycler is Jesus.
Don’t laugh. Stop and think of this for a moment.
Has any green program ever taken an educated and resourceful man who was using every loophole in the law to terrorize and murder and turned that man into someone who lived and taught that “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal.”
Do you know of any environmental protection proponent who goes all the way to the heart of the problem? This One actually changes hearts and minds so that decisions and actions are more pure and gentle.
Jesus did not stop with creation. He wants to re-create. He wants to take the old, broken, useless chunk of life we call our own and turn it into beautiful and useful art. Have you been recycled?
What have we done to your world? You filled it with beautiful flowers, streams, and people, with creatures both mighty and miniscule, with so much intricate detail we discover new things every day.
Then you gave humanity a choice. I could blame it on Eve or Adam, but the truth is I could have been the one to take the bite and ruin it all. Now we have filled your perfect creation with anger, bitterness, revenge, lust, terror, pain, sickness, and death.
Father what have we done? Everything we do is touched sooner or later by tragedy — cancer, war, scandal, terror.
But after the rain comes, there is the rainbow. Because of the uneven stones, the stream gurgles a happy tune. In the world’s darkest hour, the ones You created show the selflessness of living as Your image.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:14).
Imagine this: You and your family rose very early this morning and piled into the car. You have been driving for eight hours and have finally arrived at the beginning of your much anticipated vacation. Everyone is excited. The first event? A relaxing ride on a sailboat!
You gather your children and belongings and board the vessel. The three-man crew soon has your journey underway. You trust them to do their jobs, yet something has you concerned. The sail has not been put up. At first, you convince yourself it is not necessary or safe perhaps. We must get away from other boats before the sail can be useful. There is not much wind. Perhaps it just is not practical.
Finally, when the boat has traveled with alternate power for half an hour, you ask a crew member, “Why aren’t we using that fine sail above us?” His answer might surprise you.
“Oh, we don’t need it. The engine still works.”
Be careful. God might want to send you a helpful wind sometime, but if your sail is not up, if you are only depending on past blessings, you will miss it.
Elijah was a man of God. He was more than a reliable prophet. He did more than pass God’s message to the people he encountered. He was God’s man.
That is why being chosen to be his assistant was such an enormous privilege. Elisha would learn the habits of this great man firsthand. No listening to stories or reading books. He learned by observation.
When God took Elijah to Heaven, Elisha may have been nervous at the prospect of filling his shoes, but he was certainly prepared for the mission. Getting to know his predecessor required him to get to know Elijah’s closest ally — God.
The history of the holiness movement is filled with the stories of men and women who accomplished great things for God. Getting to know their stories will require us to meet the God they loved.