Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Changing Zip Codes: Devotions for Movers

Day 19

Brief encounters = eternal results…

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." (Acts 17:23-32, NIV)

I noticed her shoes first. As I sat down at the coffee bar in Barnes & Noble, my eyes caught a pair of red felt elf boots with upturned toes. I commented to the owner on her unusual footwear and she commented on my reading material, the Bible. We chatted for a few minutes and the topic soon turned to deeper things.

"I can't really believe in a loving God if he is like my father. He's quite controlling," she stated.

"Yes, some of us can't use our human fathers as an example, but having a flawed parent doesn't rule out the kindness of God," I explained. After a few minutes we exchanged emails. I met with this questioning college student a couple more times before I had to move away.

It was a chance encounter in a city where my husband and I lived for just a few short months. Not having a full time job, I'd show up at a public place and pray for opportunities to show God's love. As I parked myself at a coffee shop or on an outdoor bench, I became fascinated by those God brought across my path. He taught me the concept of planting myself somewhere in the midst of people and seeing what happens.

The Apostle Paul planted himself smack dab in the middle of a hill in Athens called Mars Hill. This hill was a gathering place for the local philosophers. Epicureans who felt life was for seeking pleasure and Stoics whose philosophy was to live above any emotion in life, battled it out in public. Paul used this meeting place to speak to both sides, referring to their statue of the unknown god. He proclaimed how all could know the name of the unknown god. His name was Jesus. Always on the move, he traveled from city to city, spending nights in many new believers' homes. As a man focused on his goal, he kept his eyes alert for all opportunities to preach Christ.

You and I, like Paul, may find ourselves in temporary quarters. We may be waiting for a house to sell, or we might be in the armed services with a career that requires moving every couple of years to another military base. If we observe Paul's life, we notice his gift for redeeming his time in whatever town he was in, for as short a period as he might have had.

Take advantage of those "temporary" moves and use that transitory time to bless others. All time periods are temporary in light of eternity.

A challenge: If you had to move today, would you have accomplished all that He wanted you to accomplish in your current place of residence?

Day 22

The dangerous job of sheep herding…

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: "The kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 10:6-7, NIV)

Did you ever think of a move as God's catapulting you out to another mission field? As newlyweds, my husband and I attended a dynamic church in California before we moved to the Midwest. Brimming with hope and enthusiasm for our new city, we tried different churches. Finally we settled into a smaller church in the same denomination in which my husband grew up. We had hoped for close fellowship. Instead, we discovered strife and disharmony between the pastor and the assistant pastor. In addition, it appeared newcomers were a threat to the assistant pastor's wife who seemed to work behind the scenes to make sure we weren't welcome.

We didn't have an agenda with the new church other than to make friends. I had left my family out in California and as a new mother with a preemie newborn, I craved fellowship. But by placing us in the crossfire of a divided church, God used our presence to root out some ugly divisions.

We didn't plan to step into a spiritual war zone, but in Matthew 10:6-7 it's apparent He sends some to "preach to the lost sheep of Israel." Lost sheep often want to be lost but God still uses His people to call them back. He may send us to help prod lost sheep out of the ditch and back into grazing meadows.

We are called to be ministers of the gospel. We aren't necessarily called to a life of spiritual ease. Today I challenge all of us to look around and see if He might be calling us to strengthen a failing church where lost sheep are running rampant. Rebuilding a church the enemy has bombed honors God in a special way, even if we have to dodge a few sheep hoof grenades.

Day 27

Southern fried speaking…

Why don't you understand the language I use? Is it because you can't understand the words I use? (John 8:43, God's Word Translation)

"Call the police."

Now I can panic a bit, but when the oil change attendant waved for me to pull up and said, "Call the police," I hesitated. Did I hear him right? I whipped out my cell phone assuming the previous customer just drove off without payment. Of course I'd be happy to nab that greedy driver who's not paying and making the bill higher for the rest of us. I rolled down my window to talk to the young employee.

"Looks like someone drove off without paying. Or maybe worse, but I figured you look pretty calm for having just been robbed."

The man shot me a confused look.

Now I was puzzled. "Didn't you just ask me to call the police?"

"No, ma'am, I just said, 'Pull up please.'"

I could almost hear his thoughts: "Dumb Yankee…can't even understand English!"

I'm afraid I had to agree.

Sometimes it seems like God's plans for us are also lost in translation. It's as if He is speaking Japanese to us and we just haven't learned the lesson. Should we move here or stay put? Should we put our children in public school or home-school them? How large a mortgage should we bite off? All these questions are important and we want to hear God's will for our lives. But fretting seems to keep us from hearing what he wants for us.

As you and I adjust to a move, we need to remember that God wants to communicate with us. James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it and he will give it to us generously. It might take time to translate into your circumstances, but we serve a God who loves to translate his truth into our lives. Today, believe that whatever decisions you are wrestling with, He will have an answer.

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