By Bob Flynn
When David went to battle Goliath he took five smooth stones. Five? Why not four? Three? Wouldn’t two stones show more faith in God? No. David didn’t lack faith; he lacked certitude. Look over one shoulder as far as you can, then as far as you can see over the other shoulder. Somewhere beyond the horizon on one side is faith and the other certitude.
Goliath had certitude. He was absolutely certain he could kill any Israelite who faced him. Goliath insulted the Israelite soldiers every morning and every evening. His voice roared over the hills. He had a bearer carrying his shield before him, turning it from side to side to flash light on Goliath‘s cruel, cocksure face. Goliath waved his sword over his head and the mountains rang with cheers.
David came forth with five stones and a slingshot. If David had certitude he would have twirled his sling like a child while the high places echoed curses, jeers and ridicule. He would have held up one smooth stone, showing that was all he needed to defeat this giant. Certitude comes with a lot of showmanship and pride.
All humans live somewhere along that continuum between faith and certitude whether its news, history, religion, politics, geography, science, math, whatever. Scientists and mathematicians cling to certitude, except for the futurists who have visions and dreams that cannot be tested yet, and still look for certitude to prove their belief. Some religious people require certitude. If you keep all the laws, check off all the commandments, fulfill all the requirements, then you can be certain that you will go to eternal bliss, or at least purgatory, and not the bad place.
Some people live by faith. They accept few things as certain and many things by faith. I have little confidence in news, a little more in history by reputable writers, and a great deal in the arc of human history that includes fossil, archeological, astrophysical, chemical, biological history, with many questions, theories and things unknowable.
Leslie Weatherhead, a Methodist/Congregationalist English preacher wrote a book titled, “Christian Agnostic.” I thought all Christians were agnostics in the sense that we don’t know much about God, but we have faith in our knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. The many things we don’t know and can’t understand aren’t a stumbling block. That is the human condition and we try to walk by faith, not by knowledge.
You have to locate yourself on the continuum by finding where you are most comfortable. Do questions excite you and inspire you to find answers? Do you prefer steps and formulas? Remember the man referred to as “the rich young ruler.” He had obeyed all the laws and checked all the boxes, What did he lack?
Life is pretty amazing, isn’t it?
For example, take my Lord Baltimore Hibiscus. When I bought it in the spring of 2012, it was just a 3” high stick in a pot. It didn’t look like much. Jennie even asked me why I bought a dead stick in a pot. They told me at the nursery to give it time and consistent water and it would grow when it got hot.
Well, it got hot and we kept it watered and it grew and bloomed and was beautiful. And then when the winter came, it died. This hardy-type of hibiscus is supposed to last through a mild winter and there aren’t many winters more mild than here in San Antonio. So, I did the only thing I could…I cut it to the ground, watered and waited.
At the bottom of the left photo, you can see a stump, that is where I cut it down. In the same picture you see the new growth that finally began to erupt in late spring. On the right, you can see the same plant as it looked in early July. It is beautiful; already taller than last summer and putting out more blooms this year.
We thought the plant was dead — two different times. Yet, life was still there. We kindled it with patience, pruning, and water. God delivered the miracle of life.
Have you been to a point of complete despair? I have — both for myself and others I love. It is so hard to be patient and wait. It is hard to be gentle. It is hard to prune things that need to go (some of those things are good and some are not). It is hard to continue to water. But, God is faithful. He will provide beautiful life.
What does it take to get that beautiful life back? The patience of consistent time with God in prayer, Scripture, and community no matter how you feel (Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 119:11, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Consistent watering of humbly serving others in Jesus’ name (Philippians 2:3-5). And trusting God to provide a miracle (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).
By Ed Twedt
It was John Wesley who once famously wrote, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.” At first glance this statement seems like a mere truism, but it has much more depth than a quick look can uncover.
First, Wesley tells us what to do: do good. He tells us how much good to do: all the good you can. He tells us how to do good: in all the ways you can. He tells us to whom to do good: to all the souls you can. He tells us where to do good: in every place you can. He tells us when to do good: at all the times you can. He tells us with what kind of energy we should do good: with all the zeal you can. Finally he tells us how long we should do good: as long as ever you can.
So, Wesley takes this simple Biblical concept of doing good, aims it squarely at each of us, and expands it to cover all the bases so to speak. When God calls us to do good, this call is all-encompassing, and extends throughout the entirety of our lives. In effect Wesley pulls together almost everything that can be said about doing good in the Biblical sense, and lays it right at our feet. God’s call to do good is a full time call to each one of us. It is like Woodland’s commitment to the idea of “every member a minister” because the ministry of doing good is a personal ministry for each one of us. How much good will you do today?
By Daniel Zamora
“When the trumpets sounded…the wall collapsed” Joshua 6:20
“…David would take his harp and play. Then Relief would come to Saul” 1 Samuel 16:23
“Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang… Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud…for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14
Every year in June, youth choirs from all over the United States attend the Nation’s Capital Festival of Youth Choirs. I had the opportunity of going this year and not only to accompany some anthems but to admire how youth voices could make such beautiful music together opening their mouths at the conductor’s cue.
From the moment the festival began, choir directors and counselors noticed the first rehearsal went beyond their expectations. Each choir member was prepared knowing his/her respective parts and many were ready to sing from memory. At the end of the second day, I was not sure about the remaining practices because the group sang so well.
Towards the end of the last day of rehearsals, they received an unexpected visit from the manager of one of the hotels across National City Christian Church, where the practices had been held. She wanted to listen to the choir in order to invite her hotel guest to attend. Randy Edwards indicated they would sing a few short excerpts from the festival music. The manager sat in the choir loft in front of the choir. Since there was no mention of any specific order, I got closer to the front to be available for accompanying.
They began singing “E’en so I love Thee, And in Thy praise will sing” from Jane Marshall’s anthem My Eternal King. Within a few seconds, the sanctuary was filled with sounds produced by these teenagers and I could not resist to walk in front of them to observe the visitor’s face but as I began doing it, the music became so intense that I had to stop, then went back to my seat and listen while tears flooded my eyes. Yes, the power of music had changed my mind, soul and spirit.