Work in the New Year

God calls all of us to be involved in some form of work. Some of us work on a farm, while others of us work in offices, still others in restaurants and factories. Others have jobs in fields like engineering, chemistry or another mathematical  or scientific field. In addition, we each have talents and abilities given to us by God. God requires us to use these gifts in the service of the church. Whatever our calling, God requires that we do our best. We’ve all had jobs that we haven’t cared about much for one reason or another. But even in jobs such as these, we ought to work hard for the glory and honor of God. As the apostle says “whether therefore we eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

Struggling with a negative attitude toward the work we are called to do, whether in the workplace or at church, is nothing new. It is something everyone struggles with at some point. Moses, the author of Psalm 90, was called to one of the hardest tasks that any of God’s people have had to face: leading the children of Israel through the deserts of Egypt and the Middle East to the land of Canaan. He was a man who got discouraged sometimes in his duties, as we sometimes do in our own work as well. Part of this was the realization that he was a sinner leading a large group of fellow sinners who sometimes faced the anger of God as a result of their disobedient actions. “For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told”(Psalm 90:7-9). God called Moses to lead His children to the Promised Land, but often it seemed that Moses and the Israelites faced nothing but plagues, hunger and enemies. How could they carry on in the face of all of this? They prayed to God for His grace and wisdom, so that they could persevere in the face of overwhelming odds. “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom… that we may rejoice and be glad all our days”(Psalm 90:12,14b). We too battle sin as we go about our callings in this new year and as a result we also get discouraged. Like the Israelites, we too need to ask of God for wisdom in our lives. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him”(James 1:5). In other words, when we pray to God in faith for the strength, wisdom and guidance that we seek, He will give it to us in great abundance. This doesn’t mean that our lives will be easy and that we will get everything we want, but it does mean that we too, by the grace of  God, can maintain our spiritual perspective on our work in this life, no matter how overwhelming circumstances may be in our lives. Then we can pray with Moses “…establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea the work of our hands establish thou it” (Psalm 90:17b). May God give us the grace we need to work to His glory in the year ahead!

Kevin Rau

Fire

Fire is one of the most amazing powers in God’s creation. Sitting by a bonfire on a cool evening can be relaxing and mesmerizing. Fire, however, can also be deadly. Many people were killed in fires after the San Francisco  earthquake of 1906. Many others perished in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and in other blazes around this same time in Peshtigo, Wisconsin and Holland, Michigan. God used fire during Biblical times to display His power. Elijah prophesied that Ahaziah, one of Ahab’s sons, would die of illness sustained in a fall because he consulted Baalzebub, the god of the city of Ekron which belonged to the Philistines. Ahaziah was not very pleased with this turn of events and sent a group of fifty soldiers to arrest Elijah and put him in prison. God sent fire from heaven and consumed these fifty men and their captain. The same thing happened to the next group of fifty men and their captain. The third captain and his fifty men were spared from this fate and Elijah went with them to prophecy to Ahaziah concerning his death. Elijah saw God’s power demonstrated in fire once more. He had killed the 450 Baal prophets after proving on Mount Carmel that Jehovah is God. God sent fire to consume the sacrifice, the altar and everything else around it connected with the sacrifice.
Sometimes God sends trials to us that seem like we are going through a major fire. “For thou, O God hast proved us: thou hast tried us as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.”(Psalm 66:10-12). This theme is continued in the book of Malachi: “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3). The meaning here is that, just as a gold or silver smith takes what he believes to be gold or silver and burns away the impurities to get at the metal, so too God does the same thing with us. He uses the trials in our lives to purge us of sin and make us fit for heaven.  The persecution that we will experience in the end times will be an intense time. “Beloved think it not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad with exceeding joy”(I Peter 4:12,13). Nevertheless, God has not and never will bring on us more than we are able to bear “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Isaiah 43:2). May that be our comfort as we go through the trials of life.
Kevin Rau

Riding on the Wings of the Wind

God’s wonders are displayed vividly throughout creation. He created plants and animals in such a way that they are adapted to their environment perfectly. The sun, moon, stars, and planets all revolve in a God-ordained course in space. But one of the most spectacular ways God reveals His power is in the weather and specifically severe storms such as tornadoes. On extremely warm and humid days during the spring and summer months, cold, dry air from Canada and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico travel thousands of miles and form massive thunderstorms over the Great Plains and Midwest regions of the United States. These storms bring with them plenty of rain, lightning, and hail, and if there is enough rotation (spinning) in the clouds, tornadoes. Once a funnel cloud hits the ground and becomes a tornado, it can do great destruction. There are many stories of whole neighborhoods of well-built houses being leveled as though they were made out of cardboard. Did the weather always behave this way or did it come about later on? God created all things good, so that the weather was mild and didn’t have the extremes of heat, cold, and other conditions that we are familiar with today. Before the flood the only precipitation that came down from the sky was a mist that watered the earth at night to keep the Garden of Eden fresh. “But there went up a mist from the earth , and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6). Once man fell into sin as recorded in Genesis 3, God cursed the ground for man’s sake. This curse extended to the atmosphere and became especially evident in the Flood. Afterwards rain, hail, and other weather conditions became common. The Bible speaks of whirlwinds in various places. Job’s children were killed by a “great wind” as recorded in Job 1:19. God used a whirlwind to take Elijah to heaven (2 Kings 2:1). Ezekiel mentions God speaking to him out of one as well. “And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and fire enfolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire” (Ezekiel 1:4). I do not know whether these whirlwinds were actually tornadoes or not, but it is possible. How are we as Christians to view tornadoes? I read about a woman in Pennsylvania whose house was destroyed by a tornado and one of her children killed by this storm, and she said “This isn’t the work of God, it’s the work of Satan.” It can be tough for us, especially if we have been through a significant loss like that to think of God sending such a thing into our lives, but He is in control even of extremely severe weather. God is the one “Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind” (Psalm 104:3). He is in control not only of the storms we see in the creation around us, but also of the storms that we experience in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether it’s illness, loss of a job, family member, or friend. He sees, knows, guides, and directs all things and we can flee to Him for refuge when we are in trouble. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Whatever storms may blow our way, let us place our trust in God and find our comfort and peace in Him.

Kevin Rau