Holland’s church is a special place filled with many special people. For decades, Holland’s has aspired to be a caring community that invites and equips people to follow Jesus. One of the best things about Holland’s is their people, and the way they continue to leave their mark on past, present, and future generations. As Paul writes in Romans 12: 4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Holland’s church is a family of believers and I’m thankful it’s my church home. Despite what people may say, believers need Church and church to maximize their full potential as examples of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me explain the difference in Church vs. church.
Holland’s is an example of a “little c” church. The “little c” church exists only to the extent that the “BIG C” Church is glorified. The “BIG C” Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, and it was founded on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost was the day in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus. Jesus had died on the cross, rose from the dead, walked the earth, and ascended into heaven, but yet his presence was STILL felt among the disciples in the form of the Holy Spirit. The “little c” church we know today worships the power of the Holy Spirit across countries, denominations, and even service preference (traditional vs. contemporary). Holland’s church is special, but it’s nothing without “BIG C” Church.
The Church of Jesus Christ has no doors, no walls, and no limits. Whatever “little c” churches may differ on, “BIG C” Church holds true. It transcends all people, space, and time, and it’s much bigger than anything you can imagine. When you walk or drive away from Holland’s, “BIG C” Church is with you, and it never leaves you. The “little c” church has many missions, but “BIG C” Church has one…to promote the cause for the Kingdom of God. Holland’s is an important vessel, but “BIG C” Church remains, “the way, the truth, and the life.”
In the great state of North Carolina, there are seven unique structures that are different on the outside, but nearly the same on the inside. Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, Currituck Beach, Oak Island, Ocracoke, and Old Baldy are the names of North Carolina’s seven oceanic lighthouses. Through many storms, repairs, and natural shifting of shoreline, all seven lighthouses still stand tall today. Ocracoke is the only lighthouse you can’t climb to the top of, and that’s because it’s still in service as the oldest operating lighthouse in the state! If you paid attention in 4th grade (that’s when I learned about the history of North Carolina), you learned about these lighthouses and were told that they were navigational beacons of light built to warn boats of dangerous areas near the shoreline. If you’re ever on a boat at night near the shore, you will really appreciate a lighthouse…as long as it’s shining.
The first lighthouse on Earth was actually human, and his name was Jesus. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He says again in John 9:5. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus was and is the original hope, truth, and light, and He wants us to carry it on. Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Our call to shine is further revealed in Ephesians 5:8, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
We are more than breathing specimens; we are human lighthouses. If you love Jesus, you are equipped with His light and His love. There is plenty of darkness in our world, but it can’t overcome the light. Just like North Carolina’s lighthouses, we are all different on the outside, but the same on the inside. Life will brew storms, but lighthouses stand tall. Be the lighthouse that steers away danger (sin) and leads the way to the greatest lighthouse we have ever known (Jesus). What good is a lighthouse that won’t shine?
The company I work for was tasked with designing a very large water main to carry water from the Cape Fear River to a nearby water treatment plant. The goal is for the dirty river water to eventually become drinking water for people who live in Wilmington. To move that water, a large pipeline needs to be constructed, and someone needs to make sure that pipe is put together correctly. Today’s devotional photo is a photo from inside this pipe, taken by the person who is tasked with inspecting nearly 14 miles of it over a 2-year period. Oh, and I forgot to mention, that person is me! As of last week, I have completed about 4 of the 14 miles, so there’s still a long way to go. If you think this is scary and creepy, welcome to the club. It’s definitely a little nerve-racking, but it reminds me of the story of Jonah.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Jonah from the Old Testament. Jonah was an Israelite who God had called to be a prophet, but Jonah didn’t want to listen. Jonah decided to get on a boat with some sailors to avoid God’s calling and God created a great storm out of anger. When the sailors realized that the storm was happening because Jonah was making God angry, they threw him overboard. God spared Jonah’s life by sending a “great fish” (which we think was a whale) to swallow Jonah and hold him inside the stomach of the fish for 3 days. When God called the fish to “vomit Jonah onto dry land” he took up God’s prophetic calling for his life in Nineveh.
I obviously have never been inside the stomach of a whale, but I think being inside a long, dark pipe is pretty close. After a while, you get tunnel vision, and can only focus on what’s directly in front of you. When Jonah was inside the whale, he prayed to God in distress and was only focused on his future with the Lord in his prayers. It’s easy to take for granted how often God protects us, but He does. In times of darkness and uncertainty, a future with God is much better than a future without. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are two kinds of car passengers. One kind usually looks on their phone, listens to music, or sleeps nearly every car ride. The other kind helps drive the car by communicating to the driver how they should turn, what they should watch out for, and how fast they should be going. No matter the location in the car of the second kind of passenger, this person is commonly referred to as the “back-seat driver.” Aren’t back-seat drivers the best? I never understood why the first car was not designed with another steering wheel because it would be much more helpful to have two people steering the car instead of one. Seriously speaking, I don’t think I have ever met a licensed driver that enjoys having a back-seat driver in the car. Cars (not including the Driver’s Ed car) were designed with one steering wheel, one gas pedal, and one brake pedal for a reason. If it only takes one person to drive the car, what’s the deal with back-seat drivers?
More times than not, back-seat drivers just want to feel safe, and although they know they aren’t driving the car, they want to ensure the driver knows it’s important to drive safely for everyone in the car. However, no matter the plans or the well intentions of the back-seat driver, really only the driver can control the car. At the end of the day, there is a significant amount of trust we place in a driver when we are the passengers.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” The old saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” certainly applies here. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Our lives are often like a car ride riddled with anxiety, sharp turns, easy turns, no turns, stops, and for some of us…full speed ahead. I imagine God gets a little annoyed with us when we try to tell Him how to “drive” our lives, but He loves us anyway. Don’t be afraid to buckle up in the back seat, and trust God to take you where you need to go.
Anyone who has ever spent a decent amount of time at the beach knows all about seagulls. Like other birds, seagulls are constantly flying and walking around in search of food. I was recently at the beach and noticed a bunch of seagulls walking around on the sand like they always do. A group of people several feet away got up for a few minutes to walk down to the ocean. I looked away for a few seconds, and when I looked back, the seagulls had snatched a bag lying under their umbrella! On that day, the seagulls had Cheetos for lunch, and that inspired them to look for more food just like it. If too many Cheetos, cookies, and chips are bad for humans, they are bad for seagulls too! While seagulls will eat just about anything, food provided by humans will make seagulls aggressive and dependent upon our food instead of the food they were meant to catch for themselves in the ocean. Like a seagull, we too must be mindful of what we consume.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
In our modern world, it’s so easy to over consume just about anything. Sports, drama, news, fear, gossip, work, cell phones, and sleep are some examples outside of commonly known food and drink. As Paul writes in Corinthians, our bodies are as sacred as temples, and whatever we do (or consume) must be done to glorify God. Our choices of consumption are endless, but our mission is clear. Stick to the fish in the ocean and like the old hymn says, “Glorify Thy Name in all the earth.”
For someone who works as a civil engineer and is involved in construction, I’m pretty familiar with earthwork. For those that don’t know, earthwork is just a fancy engineering term for the movement of dirt and rock. I spent A LOT of time in 4.5 years of college learning all about different kinds of soil and rock. Much different than geology (the study of rocks), which many people call “rocks for jocks,” civil engineers have to consider the weight of rock along with the density and saturation of soil when performing basic earthwork calculations. [As a side note, geology is NOT “rocks for jocks” and anyone who ever took (or will take) that class can attest to it.] If you’d like to learn more about the fascinating world of earthwork calculations, please take a seat and wait for your number to be called. So…who’s going to be #1?
Civil engineers are responsible for many projects involving earthwork, but our lineage is derived from earthwork engineered completely by God. God created Adam from the dust of the Earth (Genesis 2:7). When Adam (like Eve) chose to eat from the tree of forbidden fruit, God reminded him where he came from and promised him he would return there. God says in Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Whenever we think we can make it on our own; God humbles the proud as a reminder of who is really in control. God’s original engineered paradise for humans was lost in the Garden of Eden due to the willfulness of human sin, but God remained in control. Thanks to Jesus, we are saved from God’s wrath, but there is plenty of spiritual earthwork left to do. The story of Adam reminds us of what happens when our plans contradict God’s plans. We don’t have to be civil engineers to do God’s work here on Earth, but we should listen to God’s calling for our lives. If it’s unclear now, God may ask you to take a seat because your number could be next!
Some of the earliest forms of record keeping for writing, editing, and reading text were found on scrolls. It’s fair to say that Christians popularized scrolls due to all the religious text recorded on them by the Hebrews. Long before the Bible was the book we know today, parts and pieces were likely first recorded (and read) on plant-based paper (aka papyrus) that we call a scroll. It’s fascinating to think about how God’s Word has evolved from a scroll to something digital that we can take with us wherever we go, or even share in an online devotional. Usually when someone reads from a scroll, it’s pretty important. Jesus even read from the prophet Isaiah on a scroll (read Luke 4:17-21 where it notes that, “the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.”) In 2020, we all know how to scroll, but in a different way.
The modern version of scrolling involves technology. We usually get on our phones and open up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok to swipe our finger up and down until we find something we like (or maybe even something we don’t like). If we don’t have social media, we do it on news apps, and the same goals apply. Like anything else, some are better at scrolling than others, but I believe it provides the same result for everyone. In a world that demands we keep up, we try, but we ultimately fail. That’s because no matter how much information we try to soak in, it will never fill the void we all share.
One of my favorite hymns says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” As someone who has scrolled before, I don’t find much hope in it. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Scrolling has changed from what it once was, but the Word of God is steadfast. When Christ is the solid rock in which you stand, all other ground is indeed sinking sand. Don’t forget the scrolls of old that remind you exactly where to fasten your eyes.
The first neighborhood I lived in had an ice cream truck that came down the road on weekends in the summer. Whenever I heard “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” it was ice cream time! This is probably the first (and not the last) time I vividly recall asking my parents for money. I mean…who doesn’t scream for ice cream when you hear an ice cream truck? To follow up on the “not the last” time part, I also recall asking my parents for money at the pool to get some snacks, at the grocery store to get candy I really didn’t need, for more toys, new clothes, a car, gas for the car, and groceries in college. I know there are many other examples, but you get the point. Unless you’re a Disney Channel superstar, the yodel boy (Mason Ramsey), or a baby who knows physics, you probably won’t have much money when you’re young. As you get older, you can keep asking for money or work for it to make your own. We all need money in life because like an ice cream truck…money talks.
People generally don’t like to talk about money because it can be a touchy subject, but fear not, the Bible tells us how to handle it. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Matthew 6:24 says point blank, “You cannot serve God and money.”
Making an honest living is important, but we should be cautious about letting monetary aspirations take over our spiritual aspirations. Money talks here on Earth, but not louder than God. As we become more spiritually mature, ice cream still tastes really good, but our faith becomes the most valuable thing we possess. Better than ice cream, wealth, or fame, Jesus offers us eternal life with no money down because He already paid the price.
A little known fact about me is that I have seen every episode of the original CSI television show that ran for 15 years on CBS from 2000-2015. The show was set in Las Vegas and was twice named “most-watched show in the world” during its amazing run on TV. In case you’re wondering, 15 years is a long time in the television industry! I was always fascinated by the storylines and how the team used science and problem solving skills to solve murder mysteries, like real SBI agents do every day. The theme song for this show was a song by The Who ironically titled, “Who Are You?” The song is very catchy because the band repeats that phrase throughout the song and then sings “Who, Who, Who, Who.” Another part of the song says, “Who are you? I really want to know.” Pretty clever theme song for a show about forensic investigators trying to discover the identity of creepy people who commit crimes!
Let me put on my CSI hat for a second and ask the question: Who are you? What I mean is, how would you answer this question? Would you tell me your name, your gender, your grade in school, your profession? Usually when asked, we introduce ourselves by name and further describe ourselves with interests we have. We do this a lot in youth group and say things like, “My name is Jacob and I like to run.” There is nothing wrong with this, but does it really answer the question?
To put it simply, we are many things, but first and foremost, we are children of God. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Many other scriptures in the Bible remind us that we were created in the image of God (like Christ), which means it’s very important we understand that. God already knows who we are, but if someone else really wants to know who you are; show & tell them you are a member of the body of Christ (and tell them that they are too).
Who are you? I really want to know.
Whenever I get thirsty, I think about the most successfully advertised thirst quenching drink on the market. It’s hard to beat an ice cold Gatorade after a long day outside working, playing baseball, golfing, running, walking, biking, fishing…and the list can go on and on. An assistant football coach for the Florida Gators invented the concept of Gatorade in 1965. After complaining to team doctors that too many players were being affected by the hot Florida sun and succumbing to heat related illnesses, team doctors went to work on a drink that not only hydrated you (like water), but replaced electrolytes and carbohydrates lost in sweat. Believe it or not, the Gators actually started winning more games in 1965, and even more games in 1966. While we know that Gatorade doesn’t make you a better football player any more than Air Jordan’s make you a better dunker, it certainly helps, especially when your body needs a boost.
Even though I love Gatorade, it doesn’t replace water. Approximately 60% of the human body is water. Without water, we can’t survive. It’s no coincidence that Jesus used water as a way to explain whom the real thirst quencher is. In the famous story of Jesus and the woman at the well, a Samaritan woman asks Jesus for some water. Jesus responds by saying if she had asked God for it, He would have given her “living water.” Naturally, she is confused, so Jesus explains. John 4:13-14 says, “Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed the water I give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Despite the fact that we need water to survive, it can’t replace Jesus. That’s because Jesus is correct (as always). No matter how much water we drink, we will be thirsty again. When we strengthen our relationship with Christ, our entire lives change and people may not recognize the person we’ve become. Gatorade and water quench the thirst of your body, but Jesus will quench the thirst of your soul.