Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Month: March 2022 (Page 1 of 2)

Vestigial Organs & the Body of Christ

Do you have a function in the body of Christ? 

The short answer is yes. The apostle Paul said, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12.12, NASB).

Christ’s church is described as a body about seventeen times in the NT. This metaphor emphasizes that each member of Christ’s body (each Christian) has a function to perform, just like the parts of the human body. 

To put it another way, there’s no such thing as a vestigial organ in the body of Christ. Do you remember “vestigial organs” from high school biology? A vestigial organ is a body part that has no apparent function. It includes things like the appendix, body hair, or the tail bone. It can also include bodily reflexes like goose bumps and hiccups. 

That won’t work in the body of Christ. Earlier I read from 1 Corinthians 12. Twice in that chapter, and again in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4, Paul gives lists of spiritual gifts or spiritual abilities. Those gifts are for the good of the body, and each person must use the gifts they have to help the body. 

How do you know your function in the body of Christ? What gifts or abilities do you have? There are several ways to answer that. One easy way is to start with the needs that you see around you, especially in the local church. What needs to be done? 

One answer comes in the form of a prayer I found several years ago written by T. L. and LaDonna Osborn in their book, New Miracle Life Now. It reads:

When there is a need for teaching, TEACH through me.
When there is need for truth, SPEAK through me.
When there is a need for love, LOVE through me.
When there is a need for music, SING through me.
When there is a need for understanding, LISTEN through me.
When there is need for guidance, ADVISE through me.
When a gift is needed, GIVE through me.
When a helping hand is needed, REACH and TOUCH through me.
In Jesus’ Name I pray this prayer, AMEN!

Remember, you have a place and a function in the body of Christ. So, find something that needs doing in the body of Christ, and do it! Don’t be a vestigial organ!


“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews…” (John 20.19a).

After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were afraid and hid themselves. Their dream of participating in the Messianic kingdom had seemingly turned into a nightmare. Their hope became despair. Their triumph was dwarfed by what seemed to be an even greater tragedy. So they ran and hid. 

It was while they were hiding that Jesus first appeared to them as a group. It was on the first day of the week in a private setting behind closed doors. In the midst of their fear and despair Jesus came to them. The remainder of the verse above tells us that Jesus “…said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (v. 19b). Jesus then showed him his hands and side, and “he disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (v. 20b). 

In our darkest moments, when nothing else can console, Jesus offers us his peace.

He doesn’t take away the tragedy; instead, He offers us his peace. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14.27). 

Over the past month, the world has witnessed the war in Ukraine. We’ve watched in horror as schools, hospitals, and shelters have been bombed into nothing. We’ve seen loss of property, freedom, and life. We’ve heard the threats of further violence, and even the use of nuclear weapons. We’re collectively holding our breath while world leaders determine the best course of action. At some point, the madness will end. Then for a while things will get better, at least until the next war comes around. 

Does that sound bleak? Perhaps. But the truth of the matter is that so long as this world continues, the ruler of this world will continue to fight like a cornered animal. In Revelation 12, the dragon (Satan) is cast out of heaven and down to earth (v 7). He attempts to destroy Christ and his followers, only to be thwarted yet again (v 13-16). His only recourse is more rage (v 17), and he enlists the help of ghastly human agents who take no captives in an outrageous war that occupies most of the remainder of the book. Throughout John’s revelation (as with the rest of the Bible), sin, persecution and tragedy are realities on the stage of this human drama we call life. They are unavoidable, and all of us are touched by them. They originate with Satan, but he finds willing helpers among us. 

But greater still is the meek and mighty Lamb of God who wins the war and calls us home to victory, peace, and security. 

The peace that Jesus offered his disciples (John 14.27) is elsewhere described as a peace “which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4.7). We can have this peace right now, in the midst of our daily struggles; in the midst of unspeakable tragedy; in the midst of despair. And like all valuable things, it only gets more valuable, grows more deeply, and becomes more secure as we continue in him day-by-day. 

And finally, when the devil and the world have had their say, God will have his.

Come, Lord Jesus.

When Firing Isn’t An Option

Lou Holtz once said, “Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.”

I suppose that for someone in a position of power or authority that is one possible solution to motivation. The head coach can always bench an unmotivated player, or increase his level of motivation with extra conditioning, or cut him from the team. The boss in the workplace can also fire an unproductive worker, or assign him to “the job that nobody wants.” I would think that sometimes this is the best way to motivate someone else. 

But not always.

There are three problems with this approach. First, you can’t always get rid of problematic people. Anyone who has ever coached a team knows that sometimes the lazy athlete may also be more popular than the coach. The athlete may be protected by a prideful administrator or by irate parents. The boss may not be able to fire someone because of contract issues, union protection, or simply because he can’t afford to go out and find better workers.

Second, there are often better ways of motivating others: Being patient with someone; showing someone a better way; offering further training or opportunities; making the workplace more internally competitive. All of these things might prove to be better motivators than the threat of being banished to a deserted island.

Third, this approach overlooks the fact that some of the greatest triumphs in life come out of situations that we cannot change. There are many circumstances in life that we cannot control. I may not be able to control my coworkers’ attitudes, but I can change mine. I may not be able to change the work that someone else does, but I may find a better way to do mine. And, when all else fails, I could learn to be content. Yikes!

The apostle Paul demonstrates this kind of thinking in his letter to the church in Philippi. At the time he wrote, he was imprisoned in Rome for the impolitic act of preaching the good news about Jesus of Nazareth. Some of Paul’s fellow preachers took advantage of his imprisonment and hoped that it would cause him distress. They apparently thought that since he was in jail this would create an opportunity for their own prominence. They thought they could gain some sort of competitive advantage with Paul out of the picture. They thought this would show him that Brother Paul wasn’t the only preacher in town.

Paul’s response? “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice” (Philippians 1.15-18).

Paul couldn’t control his circumstances. He couldn’t control their circumstances. He couldn’t change their motives or their actions. Nor could he fire them. So, he found the good in what they did, even if their motives were corrupt.

Maybe you can’t change someone else’s motivation, but you can certainly change your own. Maybe you can’t change your circumstances, but you can certainly change your attitude about them. Maybe you can’t get rid of your problems, but you can choose to thrive anyway. 

And that’s worth celebrating!

Why Did You Start?

“Think about why you started.”

I saw this quote today attributed to that ubiquitous and prolific author, “Unknown”. It’s not bad advice if you’re thinking about quitting. 

  • Thinking about quitting your diet? Why did you begin?
  • Thinking about quitting your exercise regimen? Why did you start?
  • Thinking about quitting your job? What motivated you in the first place?
  • Thinking about quitting a relationship? Church? A significant life goal? Why did you ever start?

That’s not to say that we should never quit anything. Some diets probably aren’t that effective. Some exercise regimens might hurt more than they help. Some jobs were never meant to be permanent. But especially with significant things in life, the question should at least be asked.

I would also suggest it’s good motivation for Christians. To me, it nicely encapsulates the message of the book of Hebrews. The book was apparently written to Jewish Christians who were struggling with their faith in Christ. They had been Christians long enough to know the fundamentals (Hebrews 5.11-14). They already had demonstrated good works and commitment (6.9-12), and had already been through some stout persecution (10.32-39). 

As they looked back at the familiar and comfortable ways of Judaism, the writer also urges them to look back as well. First he simply reminds them of the greatness of Christ. By giving up on their allegiance to Jesus, they were giving up something that could not be replaced. Jesus was God’s last word to mankind (1.1ff). He was greater than the angels themselves (chapter 1), greater than Moses (chapter 3), Joshua (chapter 4), and Aaron (chapter 5). His ministry, tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices, and covenant were without rival (chapters 7-10). As they looked back to Jesus and to his greatness, it should evoke powerful memories of why they followed him in the first place.

Then, near the end of the book, he also asks them to look back upon their experiences. At 10.32ff, he asks them to “remember the former days”. He doesn’t ask them to think only of the good times, but in a move that would shock any self-respecting life coach, he asks them to remember their suffering. It was in that suffering, and in their response to it, that the depth of their commitment could be clearly seen. In that suffering they experienced joy and hope (10.34). 

At 13.3, he tells them to remember their fellow prisoners. Those with whom they had suffered; those who were still suffering. It’s hard to turn your back on people you love. It’s hard to ignore those with whom you have the most in common.

Finally, at 13.7, he says to remember their leaders, those who taught them the gospel. Most of us came to Christ through the influence of someone significant. We should never forget them. 

Whenever you’re struggling in your faith, look backward and ask, “Why did I start?” It should help cure you of the desire to stop.

For today, look backward.

The Word of God

While sorting through some of my father’s old papers, I came across this poem. At first, I thought it was a poem that he wrote. However, I discovered it to be lyrics of an old song, with slight adaptation. In either case, the sentiments are wonderful.

This Book unfolds Jehovah’s mind,
This Voice salutes in accents kind,
This Fountain has its source on high*,
This Friend will all your need supply.
This Mine affords us boundless wealth,
This Good Physician gives us health,
This Sun renews and warms the soul,
This Sword both wounds and makes us whole.
This Letter shows our sins forgiven,
This Guide conducts us safe to heaven,
This Charter has been sealed with blood;
This Volume is the Word of God.

*Dad transposed the 3rd & 4th lines of verse 1 in the original (first “Friend”, then “Fountain”). He also reworded the line about the Fountain. The original text was, “This Fountain sends forth streams of joy.”

According, the original lyrics appeared in two hymnals — Crowning Joy and The Mission Band Hymnal.

I couldn’t find any information about Crowning Joy, but I did find a digital copy of The Mission Band Hymnal on This hymnal was published by Emilie S Coles in 1878, and printed in 1879. The song was #20 in the hymnal. also said that either the lyrics or the tune were attributed to J B Coats (who wrote “Where Could I Go?”). However, he was born in 1901, so he couldn’t have written the lyrics. He may have written a tune for it, but if he did, I couldn’t find it anywhere.

The Mission Band Hymnal gave two metric notations for the song — “Gratitude” and “LM” (Long Meter). Two hymnals listed “Gratitude” as the tune for the hymn “Purer in Heart.” It will work with these lyrics, but only by stretching the 4th syllable of each line.

A better fit was “LM” (Long Meter or — that is, lines or stanzas consisting of 8 syllables each. There are quite a few familiar songs that use this meter, a number of which work well with these lyrics. They include:

  • “Doxology (‘Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow’)”
  • “O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee”
  • “Sun of My Soul”
  • “Awake My Tongue, Thy Tribute Bring”
  • “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
  • “Father of Mercies” — the fourth line of each stanza must be repeated
  • “Just as I Am” — the fourth verse of each stanza is a bit wobbly



A-gur-i-ty (ah-GOOR-ih-tee) – noun: the quality or state of being like Agur. Who, then, is Agur, and why should you be like him?


Agur is the author of several wisdom sayings in Proverbs 30. He was the son of Jakeh (verse 1a) and offered divine wisdom to his friends Ithiel and Ucal (verse 1b). He apparently had a wide range of life experiences, and several of his proverbs deal with financial issues and attitudes, as illustrated by his prayer (verses 7-9).

Agur’s Prayer

In verses 7-9, Agur says,

Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

This is the only prayer in Proverbs, but it’s in the form of a numerical proverb. Agur likes numerical proverbs (see verses 15, 18, 21, 24 and 29), and begins his prayer in this way.

We don’t know Agur’s circumstances as he wrote this, but there’s urgency in his petitions. He first “asked” the Lord (verse 7a), but then insists that he “not refuse” him (verse 7b), and hopes these petitions are granted “before I die” (verse 7b). Perhaps he’s ill and close to death. Perhaps he’s recently suffered financial hardship. Regardless, he knows his only recourse is an appeal to God. 

Agur’s “two” things are actually three, although the second and third are complementary. First, he asks God to keep deception and lies away from him. Second, he asks God to plant him firmly in the middle. He doesn’t want wealth or poverty, but only enough food for the day. Both petitions – to avoid falsehood and to have the right mindset about wealth – are common themes in Proverbs. Here, they’re combined.

The appeal for truthfulness is stated negatively and seems out of place compared to the rest of the prayer. It may be that Agur isn’t asking for truthfulness generally, but for truthfulness in his finances. Perhaps some associates had stolen or squandered his wealth. Perhaps his wealth had been lost through poor decision-making or bad luck. What he needed now was a dose of truth about his resources and situation. Having more days than dollars at the end of a pay period will quickly get your attention. 

His petition for financial equilibrium is described in three ways: He doesn’t want to be wealthy; neither does he want to be poor; he wants only the day’s provision of food. He then explains the rationale behind his petition. He doesn’t want to forget God. 

Agur is afraid that if he accumulated wealth, he would give credit to himself, not God. This was one of Israel’s frequent problems (Deuteronomy 6.10-15; Joshua 24.13-15). While Proverbs teaches that wealth is the product of hard work (10.4), Agur reminds us that God is still the source of such blessings. 

There’s no virtue in wealth, but neither is there virtue in poverty, hence Agur’s aversion to it. Proverbs asserts that sometimes poverty is the deserved result of poor character and laziness (13.18; 14.23; 20.4). But the poor are often mistreated, exploited and humiliated by others, which may produce bitterness, frustration, and lack of faith (10.15; 14.20; 19.4, 7). 

Agur simply wants each day’s provisions: “Feed me with the food that is my portion.” Behind this petition is an astute faith. “Feed” (Heb., taraf) means to provide, which reinforces that this is a prayer: only the Lord can ensure it. He wants only the simplest of foods (Heb., lechem, bread), and of that, only his “portion” or allotment (Heb., choq). This is Agur’s prayer for daily bread (cf., Matthew 6.11). 

On Agur’s Middle Class-ness

This text is sometimes called, “The Prayer of the Middle Class.” It certainly does make an appeal to be in the middle of two financial extremes, but Agur’s idea of “middle class-ness” is quite different than ours, for at least three reasons.

First, our definitions are quite different. In America, the “middle class” is often defined by its values and aspirations (Middle Class in America, U. S. Department of Commerce, January 2010, 4-5), such as home ownership, cars, a college education, good health care and insurance, retirement, and family vacations. For Agur, being middle class simply meant he had enough food for each day. The apostle Paul said, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6.8). In biblical thought, being middle class is simply being content.

Second, we’re woefully lacking financial self-awareness. Virtually everyone in America thinks they’re middle class. In a 2005 New York Times survey, 98% of all Americans describe themselves as being in the middle class (Middle Class in America, 1) Only 1% consider themselves as “upper class” and only 7% call themselves “lower class.” This jarring lack of objectivity suggests that many are too proud to call themselves poor, while others are too blind to call themselves rich. It’s as if we’re desperate to “keep up with the Joneses,” but once we catch them, we don’t want to admit it. Proverbs 27.23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.” There’s value in knowing exactly where you stand. 

Third, Americans are myopic about their finances in relation to the rest of the world. We have no idea how good we have it. Where does a typical American family of four stand? The following numbers are taken from; for convenience, they have been rounded. 

  • If your annual family income is $25,000, you earn more than 86% of the rest of the world. You earn almost six times the median income, and you make in about two months what someone earning the median income would make in a year.
  • If your annual family income is $50,000, you earn more than 92% of the rest of the world. You earn 11 times the median income, and you make in about one month what someone earning the median income would make in a year.
  • If your annual family income is $75,000, you earn more than 96% of the rest of the world. You earn 17 times the median income, and you make in three weeks what someone earning the median income would make in a year.
  • If your annual family income is $100,000, you earn more than 98% of the rest of the world. You earn 23 times the median income, and you make in about 16 days what someone earning the median income would make in a year.
  • If your annual family income is $200,000, you earn more than 99.8% of the rest of the world. You earn 41 times the median income, and you make in nine days what someone earning the median income would make in a year.

Brothers and sisters, we are materially wealthy. 

On Agurity

So, how do we become more Agur-like? How do we curb covetousness and cultivate contentment? How do we develop Agurity? 

First, make this prayer your own. Can you really pray that you don’t want to be rich? Paul warned, “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” (1 Timothy 6.9-10). If you can’t pray this, you have a problem. 

Second, tell yourself the truth. Have you lied to yourself, your spouse, or your family about your finances? Do you have a realistic picture of your financial life? Do you struggle with covetousness? Are you afraid of being poor? Are you worried about your status? Until you tell yourself the truth and put aside the lies, you’ll never be free from the grip of financial fear and frustration (John 8.32; Ephesians 4.15, 25). 

Third, stop the madness. You don’t have to feed at the trough of materialism! You don’t have to be a slave to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or The Sale to End All Sales. You don’t have to go broke at Christmas. You don’t need a bigger TV. You don’t need the latest, fastest, coolest, most tricked-out car. You don’t need more clothes (or books, or tools, or cookware, or stuff). More stuff requires more storage, and bigger closets don’t address the real problem (Luke 12.13-21).

Finally, use your finances for the sake of the kingdom. Agur’s real desire was to put everything in his life (even his wealth) under the Lord’s scrutiny. He wanted his attitudes and usage of wealth to be balanced. He knew that his attitude and actions ultimately reflected back on his relationship to the Lord.

How about you? What does your attitude about money and your usage of money say about you? About your character? About your priorities? 

May Agur’s prayer and character be yours in abundance. 

He Will Move Heaven & Earth

Psalm 18.6-17 says:

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. 
Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub and flew;
And He sped upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.
Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

The Bible teaches us that God hears and answers the prayers of his people. But it says relatively little about HOW God answers our prayers. It says little about how he arranges the circumstances and forces of our lives to secure his glory, to accomplish his purposes, and to bless his people. For the most part, the Bible affirms that these things are true, but offers little by way of explanation.

The text quoted above is an interesting exception. Psalm 18 is a prayer of thanksgiving by David. The inscription of the psalm indicates that David composed it after he was freed from King Saul’s menace, and after God had delivered him from his enemies, apparently during the early years of his reign. For the most part, the psalm celebrates a military victory for David by the hand of God. We don’t know any details from the psalm, but the militaristic language and the inscription support this.

Verses 7-15 comprise a powerful affirmation about how God answered David’s prayer. David says that he cried to the LORD for help (v 6), and the LORD answered from heaven. Verses 16-17 indicate that the prayer was answered. Sandwiched between these two prayer references is the mighty rhetoric of v 7-15. 

How did God answer David? In highly metaphoric language, the LORD shook heaven and earth to answer David’s prayers. He shook the earth (v 7); he sent fire and smoke (v 8); he flew down from heaven in clouds and wind (v 9f); he used the darkness (v 11); he thundered from heaven (v 13); he sent bolts of lightening (v 14); he flooded the earth (v 15). 

Many times in biblical history God used the forces of nature to accomplish his purposes. The LORD used a massive flood to destroy the sinful world in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8). He used fire and brimstone to destroy ungodly Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). God manipulated nature to destroy the Egyptian army and secure deliverance for Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15). He caused the sun to stop midday to help Joshua and Israel secure a victory over the Amorite alliance (Joshua 10). He used flash flooding to neutralize the superior chariot forces of the Canaanites when they fought Deborah and Barak (Judges 4-5). Whether this is the case with David’s prayer and deliverance, we do not know, but the point remains: God is willing to move heaven and earth to answer prayer for his people.

Psalm 18 is not the only text to suggest this. The book of Revelation presents the prayers of saints as offerings that are perpetually before the throne of God, attended to by heavenly hosts (5.8; 6.9ff; 7.3, 9ff). These are pleas for vindication by those who have been persecuted for their faith. But these prayers, which ascend to the very throne room of God, are answered in dramatic fashion by returning them to earth in the form of lightning judgments. Beginning in 8.3ff, the prayers of the saints are mixed with the very judgments used against their persecutors. 

We may not always be able to see the effects of our prayers. We may not always know if they have been answered. But we can have no doubt about God’s concerns for his people. We can have no doubt that our creator can and does move heaven and earth to answer us. And none can stand against his judgments — rulers, governments, armies, schools, philosophies, markets, sciences — all are impotent against his wrath. 

For today, live with the assurance that God will move heaven and earth for his saints. He will summon his vast forces and resources for you and me.

“Show Him Your Hands”

My mother was not a theologian. Nor would anyone confuse her for an intellectual. I never remember her reading much. She would read her Bible, and she always worked her Bible class lessons. She looked at various housekeeping and craft magazines. She worked her nightly word search puzzles. But, she was not bookish. 

Mom was a resourceful, talented, and meticulous woman. She took pride in her home, in maintaining and decorating it. She enjoyed gardening, and gave special attention to her rose bushes. She canned vegetables every summer for years. She was an accomplished seamstress and quilter who taught all her daughters (and one son) how to sew. She enjoyed entertaining people, and frequently had large groups of people into her home for meals.

Mom was always neat and well dressed. She kept the house in meticulous order. She had cabinets, closets and shelves in abundance. Every item in the house had its own place. The house was filled with knick-knacks, but there was a neatness and orderliness that was unmistakable. The woman even kept the original box for every small appliance she owned!

One thing I remember about both Mom and her mother, Grandma Carman, was that they were always busy. Neither of them was idle. Both worked hard and long each day of their lives. Even when they sat down, they were often busy with their hands — shelling peas, sewing a hem, or making a shopping list. I don’t know any women who worked harder, and who never complained about their work. Their work was part of their identity.

Shortly after Mom died, Dad related a story about her that greatly resonated with me. Once He and Mom were talking about spiritual matters (probably when all of us children were still young). They turned their attention to heaven, and, in a moment of self-doubt, she asked Dad, “When I meet Jesus, what will I give to him?” Dad’s gentle reply was, “Show him your hands.”

The sage said of the virtuous woman, “She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight… She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong… She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle… She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy… She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness… Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31.13, 17, 19, 20, 27, 31).

The Lord has seen my mother’s hands.

Sub-stan-ti-al Food

When I was still at home, family travels were always a lengthy affair. We had exactly five destinations: (1) Grandma Carman in the St Louis area, a five hour drive, which also meant Mom’s side of the family and some of Dad’s. (2) My sister Linda and her husband Mac in Kansas City, about 10 or 11 hours away. (3) Granny Sutton in Flint, Michigan, light years away. (4) My brother Phil in Memphis, about an hour away. And, (5) my sister Deena and her husband Freddie in Forrest City, Arkansas, a 2-hour drive.

On trips #4 and #5, food was never an issue. We didn’t eat in the car and we didn’t stop to eat. I don’t recall being allowed to eat in the car, unless Mom packed a meal. We learned, on shorter trips, to swallow our spit.

On trips #1, #2, and #3, we stopped only when we had to fill up the gas tank. But ancient cars like our ‘70 Impala had 25-gallon tanks, which meant we never had to stop for gas (and thus for food).

But when we did finally stop for food, we would pass by McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen and at least 12 other perfectly good eateries in search of Dad’s ultimate culinary quest: “substantial food.” 

The kids would be begging: “Dad, there’s a restaurant!” “Dad, a McDonald’s!” “Look! A Wendy’s!” 

Swift came the reply: “I want a place that serves sub-stan-ti-al food,” he would say, carefully pronouncing the key word. 

Thus we would drive as far off the highway as we had been on it. We would meander through towns and suburbs, winding up in seedy places, dimly lit, in the far recesses of these villages, crowded with common folk like us. 

There were never any other children in sight. Apparently they had been offered in the pagan temples of “Substantial.” It didn’t matter to me. In my teen pride and rebellion, I always ordered a cheeseburger no matter where we went. 

Dad’s ultimate quest for substantial food reached its zenith 1985. He, Mom, and Linda all came to visit me in Kansas. While there, they took a day trip out to western Kansas. When they got back, Dad was positively radiant. Somewhere near Dodge City, he saw a billboard for a small local eatery that promised “Substantial Food.” 

As he described the glorious billboard, I thought I heard in the background faint echoes of smallish people singing, “Follow the yellow brick road.” For a few moments, Dad had found Oz.

What Can God Do With Rocks?

Scripture speaks often of the power of God. Perhaps no more simple an illustration of Divine power can be given than the lowly stone. God himself is called a rock, calling to mind his steadfastness, strength, and protection. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18.2). “Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress” (Psalm 71.3).

The Scriptures also speak often of what God has done to the rocks in demonstration of his power. “Mountains quake because of Him and the hills dissolve; Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, the world and all the inhabitants in it. Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him” (Nahum 1.5f). 

As he reviewed Israel’s wilderness experience, Moses praised God for his miraculous and generous provisions: “He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32.13). Nehemiah similarly praised God for his provisions, saying, “You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger, You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst” (Nehemiah 9.15; cf. Psalm 78.15f; 114.8). 

Asaph contrasted God’s faithfulness with Israel’s waywardness by reminding them yet again of God’s gracious promises: “…Open your mouth wide and I will fill it… But I would feed you with finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81.10, 15). 

John the Baptist rebuked the arrogance of the Pharisees by reminding them that God would be glorified with or without their obedience. “…And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3.9; cf. Luke 3.8). 

Jesus himself rebuked that same mentality when, during his final and triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees criticized His disciples among the crowd who openly praised him as the coming King. He replied: “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19.40).

The Almighty intends by these assertions of his power to impress upon all creation, both believer and unbeliever, that the power which spoke into existence the stones, rocks, and mountains, is the same power which can transform our lives. If he can bring forth from the rocks life-giving water, he can surely bring forth in our hearts the living water of his Spirit (John 7.37ff). He who satisfied their thirst in the wilderness with water from the rock can surely satisfy the soul’s deepest thirst with his abiding presence (Psalm 42.2; 63.1; 1 Corinthians 10.4). The Lord who is the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2.13) can, from the broken cisterns of our sinful lives, satisfy us with righteousness beyond what we can draw ourselves (Matthew 5.6). 

This Lord who could bring honey from rock with which to satisfy a multitude is the same Lord who himself is bread from Heaven that gives us everlasting life if we but believe (John 6.31-40). He who could bring such sweetness from the stones can surely bring forth the fruit of his Spirit from hearts tainted by sin and carnality (Galatians 5.16-25). 

Finally, the Lord who could from dead stones raise unto himself living witnesses is the same Lord who can by the power of his word (Isaiah 55.10ff) transform us from unbelieving and rebellious enemies into submissive and humble servants. And if he can transform us into his people, he can surely do it unto others (1 Peter 2.4-8). We rely so much upon methods and messengers, as if these are the essence of conversion, that we often forget that it is his limitless power, vested in his eternal word, that makes us into the living stones that comprise his holy temple. 

May God help us learn to trust him as the source of unimaginable power, and his word as the fount of unending life. May we learn to find shelter and strength in him who is our Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer.

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