Sunday, March 8, 2009

Astounded by God's Provision

"Have you ever been astounded by God’s provision? If so, what were the circumstances?”

I came across this question last week while doing my lesson for our women’s study of the book of Ruth. We were studying Ruth chapter 2, where something astonishing happens. In order for you to understand how truly amazing it is, let me briefly set the scene.

Ten years earlier, Naomi and her husband left their home and journeyed with their sons to a foreign country. While there, tragedy struck—Naomi’s sons and husband die. Naomi despairs until she hears that the Lord has visited His people in Bethlehem (literally “house of bread”), and she decides to return home. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, pledges lasting faithfulness to Naomi and travels many miles with her to a land where she knows no one and has no promise of security or provision. Ruth and Naomi have only a strong faith in God and a willingness to follow where He leads.

Soon after their arrival in Bethlehem, Ruth asks Naomi’s permission to go to a field and pick up leftover grain, so they will have something to eat. Naomi says yes.

In the next twenty verses, God pours out His providence and provision on Ruth and Naomi in a way they never could have imagined. Here are the highlights:

  • When Ruth sets out to work, she “happens upon” the field of Boaz, who is a distant relative of her deceased husband (v. 3).

  • Boaz, a wealthy landowner, just so happens to be personally visiting this particular field on this day (v. 4).

  • When he hears of Ruth’s character, Boaz invites Ruth not just to glean in his fields, but to work alongside his harvesters (vv. 5–13).

  • Boaz then invites Ruth to lunch (usually reserved for hired workers), where he gives her plenty to eat and even allows her to take the leftover grain (vv. 14‑16).

  • After working in the fields till evening, Ruth discovers—to her amazement—that she has gleaned 30 pounds of barley! (vv. 17–23). To put this into perspective, the average day’s portion was around 2 pounds.
So in the span of one day, God has provided Ruth with a job, abundant food, security, friends, and—we find out soon—the man who will become her husband, with whom she will have a son who is the grandfather of King David, the forefather of Jesus Christ.


Fast-forward to 2009. Many of you know that one year ago, God called our family to make our home in Sendera Ranch and start a church in this community, where we knew no one and had no promise of security or provision. We had only a strong faith in God and willingness to follow where He led.

In the span of one year, God has not only provided for our family in astounding ways (I have so many stories I could share!), but He is drawing together the body of Christ at The Church at Sendera Ranch in ways that are abundantly beyond anything we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

Here are the highlights:
  • When we needed a location for our first gathering, we “so happened” to find a preschool right by our neighborhood where we could meet—for free.

  • When our congregation outgrew that location, God provided a local elementary school, where we could expand our ministry and reach a larger community.

  • Whenever we have had ministry needs, God has provided servant-hearted people to fill these roles—such as our amazing worship leader and praise team!

  • When we prayed for a location closer to Sendera Ranch, God worked out the details for us to meet in Premier Academy—a brand-new Christian preschool with top-notch children’s classrooms and a flexible meeting schedule—giving us even more opportunities to reach people in our community.

This morning, more than fifty people participated in our Belong class, coming to join the many others who are excited about being part of what God is doing here at The Church at Sendera Ranch. And every week, God continues to abundantly provide for the church He is forming here, bringing people to TCASR and knitting together our church family as we faithfully serve Him, grow in Him, and together change lives for good here in our community.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don't Throw Away the Broken Ones!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
—Psalm 34:18

“Hurry! Help me clean up! They’ll be here in just a few minutes.”
It was 8:50 a.m. on a Thursday morning, and it was my turn to host our monthly play date. With only ten minutes to spare before our guests arrived, I was frantically cleaning the house, picking up toys, and making sure everything was ready for our friends. (In hindsight, this seems a rather silly thing to do. Why on earth would I straighten up before a dozen kids came over to pull out and play with every toy we own? But I digress.)

I had given my two-year-old and five-year-old some construction paper and crayons and told them to draw pictures while I busied myself with baking muffins and brewing coffee. Now that the food was ready and the downstairs was clean (meaning, I hid all the clutter in the laundry room), it was time to head upstairs and straighten the kids’ game room.

As I rounded the corner on the stairs, I was pleased to see my younger two children still sitting at the coffee table, happily coloring away. I even remember breathing a quick prayer of gratitude: Thank You, Lord, that they’re getting along so well this morning! (Those of you with more than one child know that this is a small miracle in itself.)

And then . . . I saw the rest of the picture.

Apparently, there is an unwritten rule among preschoolers that goes something like this: In order to find precisely the right color in this large container of crayons, I must dump all of the crayons onto the table and then dig through the pile, flinging unwanted crayons at random on the ground until I find exactly the color I need.

Which brings me to my opening statement. “Hurry! Help me clean up!”

I told the kids to put all the crayons back in the box, while I grabbed a trash can and started tossing the half-drawn pictures and peeled-off crayon wrappers (why do kids always take off the wrappers?), along with the broken bits of crayon rubble under the table.

“Wait! Stop!” my daughter said suddenly, grabbing my hand in mid-toss. “Don’t throw away the broken ones!” She seemed genuinely distraught.

“It’s okay, honey,” I assured her, grabbing another handful of broken crayons in my haste to clean the area. “You have plenty of crayons. You don’t need these.” Another handful, another toss into the trash. Okay, we’re almost done now . . .

“No, Mom, please don’t!” she pleaded, reaching into the trash to recover the ones I had tossed. “I really want these colors. I can still use them. Don’t throw them away!”
I paused for a moment, weighing my desire to finish cleaning the room with her desire to keep the broken crayons.

Then, with a resigned sigh, I reached into the trash can, pulled out all the broken ones, and helped her put them back in the box.

Have you ever felt like one of those broken crayons? Maybe you feel that you, too, have been torn apart and discarded in a pile of broken pieces. Or perhaps you think you are no longer useful or valuable. Every one of us knows what it’s like to experience hurt, disappointment, loneliness, loss, failure, rejection—in other words, to be broken.

This time of year seems filled with wholeness and hope. All around us, we see the springtime signs of new beginnings, fresh blooms, young love, dreams of graduation and a bright future. And as Christians, we eagerly anticipate the most joyous celebration in our faith—Resurrection Sunday, the certain hope of Christ’s once-and-for-all triumph over death and the promise of eternal life.

Yet for those of us who are hurting, Easter can be one of many dreaded reminders of our own brokenness. When we think of Easter Sunday, we envision churches filled with picture-perfect moms and dads with arms around their smiling, adorably dressed children, giving thanks to God for their blessed, happy lives.

But what about those of us whose lives aren’t like that picture? Those of us with broken relationships, broken dreams, and broken hearts . . .

Is there a place for us, the broken ones?

The answer to that question is a resounding yes! Easter is not a showcase of people with unbroken lives; it’s a celebration of those of us with mended ones.

In his classic sermon “Hope for Broken Things,” evangelist Billy Graham explains that whatever is broken—be it our hearts, our homes, or our lives—God will restore us and give us true peace if we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The hope of Easter is this—God can take what is broken and make it whole.

Now, that doesn’t mean that following Christ is a guarantee that the rest of your life here on earth will be picture-perfect and problem-free. Far from it! But it does mean that no matter where you are, no matter what you have done, you can put your faith in a Savior whose body was broken on the cross for you, so that you could be made whole (1 Corinthians 11:24).

You can take the broken pieces of your life and entrust them to the One who came “to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve . . . a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:1–3).

You can experience the comfort of a Redeemer who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

And this Easter, you can celebrate a God who says, “I really want you. I can still use you. Don’t stay there in your pain and hurt! Let Me mend your broken pieces and make a beautiful masterpiece with your life.”

**This article appears in the March/April 2009 issue of Haslet Style.