Salt, Light, and Uber Mushrooms

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

My son Nathan (far left) and I training up a generation of future mushroom hunters.

By Larry Short

In worship last weekend, we heard Pastor Martin share from John 2 of Christ’s consuming passion for both the symbolic and manifest presence of God in our midst.

For the Jews of His day, that symbolic presence was the Temple. Christ’s passion for this powerful symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people was so consuming that this most meek, humble, and lowly of men stunned religious leaders, bystanders, and even His own disciples by making a whip of cords and forcefully driving exploiters out of His Father’s House of Prayer! (That would have been something to see!)

Passion for the Presence

One of the most fascinating things about this passage, to me, is the few verses that follow it. They reveal that while the Temple was the symbolic presence of God, the real presence of God there in Jerusalem, the real “Temple,” was the Body of Jesus Himself:

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

Martin then went on to connect this passage with 1 Corinthians 3:16:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

The implications are profound. We are to be consumed with zeal for the presence of God in His Church, the Body of Christ—both corporately and locally, and, more specifically, as He dwells in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ! Loving each other well is how the world will know we are His disciples. We are to burn with passion for His Church, His presence in the midst of a dark and decaying world.

Being Salt and Light

We are also to honor God’s presence in our own hearts by seeking His holiness and by being salt and light as He calls us to be.

Recently, on my personal blog, I shared how God used Cindy, one of our sisters in Christ here at Elim, to help me understand how He wanted me to recognize that part of the purpose for this particular season in my life, having been laid off from my career job with World Vision, was to “clear out the rubble” so I could move forward to see and embrace what He next had for me.

I had an epiphany of sorts about this while Martin was sharing on Sunday. He spoke about how he had struggled to understand how he could be salt and light while working completely within the “Christian bubble” that is Elim and how, as a result in 2017, he was planning to move “out of the bubble” and become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) in order to start sprinkling salt into some of the places in our world that really needed it!

This made me think about what God was doing in my own heart and life. At World Vision, I too frequently felt frustrated that I never really had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the unsaved. (World Vision is another “Christian bubble.”)

Then, guess what? My “bubble” got burst! I was laid off. Since then, God has been building four new things into my life, and it wasn’t until Sunday that I realized each of them is an opportunity for me to become better salt and light. Here are the four things:

  • Writing a science fiction novel
  • Tutoring for the Puyallup School District
  • Developing a mushroom business, training young ‘shroom hunters, and writing about what fungus teaches us about the presence and heart of God
  • Driving for Uber, which has created many opportunities to share Jesus’s love with more than a few (because they asked)

For more about how each of these four activities creates opportunities for me to be salt and light (and how fungus declares the glory of God), see this blog post.


Salt and Light Is Humble and Simple, Right?

Working for nearly minimum wage as a tutor or a wannabe taxi driver is not something I anticipated as God’s best for me when I was laid off from World Vision. (Although I could see myself gushing about mushrooms or writing sci-fi! I’m weird, I know.) Compared to what I achieved and experienced at that wonderful organization, what I am doing now is humbling in the truest sense of that word. But as I realized as Pastor Martin was teaching, it’s not something I chose; it’s something God chose for me, even as I prayed for His best for my life and for how He might use me in His Kingdom.

So, that’s my challenge to each of us as we consider how God wants to use US to be salt and light. You may not be the next American Idol, or the Great American Novelist. But, maybe, does God want you to serve others in the humblest ways possible? Perhaps He wants you to help a bedridden invalid, or care for a foster child, or ride the bus and talk to a hurting stranger, or build and hand out homeless survival kits. Or maybe He wants you to spend your time and energy praying (in obscurity, like countless prayer warriors before you) for anyone and everyone. Who knows?

Being salt and light is not just an individual responsibility for the believer; it’s a Body responsibility. So we are also to encourage and hold each other accountable as we seek to “march off the map” and influence a world that desperately needs Jesus.

Pray for His best (both for you, for Elim, and for the Kingdom), and then let Him lead you where He wishes to!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

What’s Your Exploitation Quotient?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Larry Short

In recent days I’ve felt particularly vulnerable to the possibility of exploitation. This wasn’t something I considered when I got laid off in early August from my 22-year job with World Vision. But being jobless, and the prospect of approaching a time (in the near future) when our income may be considerably smaller than it is today, leaves one with certain feelings of vulnerability.

And the thing that has been a shock to me, which I didn’t expect at all, is all the people and organizations “out there” who seek to exploit that vulnerability for their own ends.

My first real taste of this came about two months ago. I was looking for a new job, hard and fast, and, using a legitimate employment site, I was contacted by a company in San Francisco that was supposedly looking for a social media director. The job seemed a good fit. After an hour-long interview (which I felt went well), the hiring manager offered me a job. The bad news is, it turned out to be a total scam. The good news is, I got suspicious before I actually lost anything. (Read more about this story on my blog.)

I reported the scam to the FBI, but never even got a call back. Someone told me these type of scams were so common they don’t even, apparently, get investigated.

This was just the first of many attempts to exploit my current vulnerability. I receive multiple emails daily from insurance companies, employment sites, and others offering me work-at-home “jobs” that are too good to be true. I now realize the vast majority of these are attempts to exploit people who are in a vulnerable position because they have been laid off.

I’ve had lots of time to think about why this happens. People seek to exploit us daily. Sometimes it’s obvious; other times it’s very subtle. Sometimes strangers are the culprits; other times it’s people we know, trust, and love.

Yes, it’s true — we often seek to exploit each other. Even in the Church, sometimes I think we fall victim to this. It might come in the form of trying to “guilt” someone into serving or fulfilling a particular ministry need. Or perhaps it might come in the form of pressuring someone to give to a specific financial need, for reasons other than their best interest.

Or sometimes we might attend worship services or other church events, or participate in small groups or ministries for what WE will get out of it, how it will benefit us, rather than engaging from the core motivation that others might be blessed by our presence, service, and participation.

Upon reflection, I also realize that, inter-personally, we often seek to exploit the people we love, even perhaps without really thinking about it. We might manipulate a spouse or a child or a parent or a friend into doing something we want them to do for us, that isn’t necessarily in their best interest. But because WE want it, we attempt to manipulate the relationship, sometimes without even thinking about it, to exploit their vulnerability in order to make what WE want happen. Or we might treat them in such a way as to make them feel “smaller,” so that we can magnify ourselves by comparison and “feel better about our self.”

In 2 Peter 2:3, the Apostle had strong words for those who would exploit others:

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

You’ve heard the saying: “Don’t use people and love stuff — love people and use stuff!” One of the remarkable things about Jesus’ life is that there was no trace of exploitation in it. While others frequently sought to use Him for their own personal ends, His every thought, word, and deed was for the ultimate good of the people whom He loved and was sent to serve. 1 John 4:10 says:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

This verse acknowledges the stark reality that we are lousy at loving. And God is very, very good at it! So much so, that it is said of Him, “God is love.” (Sadly, I am not aware that anyone has ever said, “Larry is love!”)

So my question and my conviction is, “How can we get better at loving others?”

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Christ urged His disciples: “… love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Not a word about exploiting one another in any of that, is there?

So, I guess I will leave you (and me) with this challenge: What’s your exploitation quotient? Are you (perhaps unintentionally) acting in such a way that exploits those around you, even those you love, rather than loving them unconditionally and seeking to build them up?

If you need help loving others the way Jesus loves us, you’re not alone. I think it’s a challenge that confronts all of us. Let’s seek to prayerfully and honestly “stir up one another to love and good works,” as Scripture commands.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

How Do We Look at Faithfulness?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Larry Short

Cheryl Weller is very faithful to remind us elders when she needs a Last Word from us. Last week, she told me, “You are on schedule to write the Last Word for next week. Can you have something to me by Tuesday?”

“Sure!” I said, then promptly forgot about it. (I almost said, “of course,” but we’ll talk about that in a moment!)

Last night (Tuesday at 10:20 p.m.) she emailed me and (very graciously!) said: “Hey Larry, do you have a Last Word? I needed it today, as I’m publishing tomorrow. Any chance of getting that by noon ready to publish? Thanks! Cheryl :)”

The bad news is, I didn’t receive her email until this morning. I would hit myself in the head with my shoe, but that’s happened too many times before and my head is already sore from yesterday’s abuse. So here I am, pounding it out guiltily! (Referring to the Last Word . . . not my head.)

The good news is, I have been thinking about “faithfulness,” and this whole situation gives me great ammunition. I in so many ways fall short of God’s standard of faithfulness, and this is just another example. As I’ve been reflecting on this, I’ve been listing in my head reasons for my unfaithfulness. They start out as excuses, but end up migrating toward real-life examples of my own sinfulness.

  • My memory is terrible! That’s a big excuse I use a lot for blowing people off when I promise them something (like a Last Word done by Tuesday) and then fail to deliver. I’m a busy person! I have too much going on! Blah, blah, blah. The truth is, I don’t sufficiently value my word, so that when I promise something, I don’t make it a high enough priority to deliver.
  • I de-prioritized delivering on that commitment because I had higher priorities come along. Cheryl has given me grace before, and I knew she would give me grace again. See #1 above!
  • I didn’t really mean what I said when I said it. Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I interpret this to mean, “God’s faithfulness is known by His Word. Your word should be golden. Tell the truth, mean what you say, and do what you say.” Seems simple, no?
  • Selfishness and other sinful priorities. Here’s where it gets really uncomfortable. What was I doing yesterday that was more important than writing the Last Word? I made three Facebook posts. I did some training for a new job. I made a few bucks driving for Uber. I was tired and took a nap. For goodness’ sake, I apparently (without even thinking about it) prioritized my nap above my commitment to Cheryl to finish this Last Word yesterday!

When I look at the topic of God’s faithfulness, I frequently think it’s a no-brainer. Of course God is faithful, I reason. He has a perfect memory. He has all the time in the world. He has the wisdom to prioritize properly. We may simply take it for granted (I may take it for granted) that God will do what He says!

Obviously, this speaks far better of God than it does of me, but here’s the truth: We should never take God’s faithfulness for granted. It’s a matter of life and death for us! Let’s take a look at some of the promises Scripture gives, related to God’s faithfulness:

Psalm 26:3 – For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

There are 170 references to the words “faithful” and “faithfulness” throughout Scripture, and many of them tie God’s faithfulness to His steadfast love for us. His faithfulness is proof of His love, as it were. And it’s His faithfulness that creates a path for us to navigate the challenges of daily life.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Without God’s faithfulness to forgive us, we would be condemned to pay the penalty (of death) for our own sins!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Because God is faithful, we can resist temptation, knowing there is ALWAYS a way of escape.

Psalm 86:14; 119:75 – But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. . . . I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

God’s faithfulness establishes His mercy and grace as constants in our lives; even when we are “afflicted” (sometimes because of God’s discipline), we can bank on God’s faithfulness to us!

Psalm 89:14 – Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

God’s faithfulness, once again acting in concert with His steadfast love, is based upon the foundation of His righteousness and absolute commitment to true justice.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 – But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

Like Job, we may be assaulted by the onslaughts of the evil one. But God has promised to establish and guard us in the midst of those assaults. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!

Psalm 31:5 – Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

These were Christ’s very last words as he died on the cross and gave up His spirit into the hands of the Father He loved, whose faithfulness He trusted so deeply. At every moment, and at the very end of our lives, each of us will be confronted with a choice to do the same. Do we trust our souls to the One who created us and promises to redeem us for all eternity?

When I think about it, neglecting to deliver a Last Word at a promised time may be among the least of my acts of faithlessness. Every time I cheat somebody something I owe them or am faithless to my wife with my eyes (by fancying a passing pretty girl a little too longingly, etc.), or “stretch the truth” in my conversation, I am demonstrating my own faithlessness.

Thank God He is faithful and just to forgive, and that His faithfulness is a sign of His steadfast love for me! Let’s pray together that faithfulness, one of the fruits of the Spirit presented in Galatians 5:22, would ever more clearly mark us out as those who are called children of the Father.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

How Anything That Truly Matters, Happens

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

by Larry Short

I shared recently during worship that one of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Zechariah 4. In this chapter, the prophet is sharing a fifth out of eight visions. All occurred on the same amazing, exhausting night.

An artist's depiction of Zechariah's vision of the golden menorah in Zechariah 4.

An artist’s depiction of Zechariah’s vision of the golden menorah in Zechariah 4.

Zechariah’s fifth vision was of an object which would have been familiar to him as a priest—a menorah, or seven-branched candelabra. But this was a menorah on steroids! It was made of pure gold and had pipes to each of the seven lamps running from a reservoir on top, which was connected by two larger golden pipes, one to each of two olive trees that stood by it on each side.

The trees were delivering a constant, organic flow of golden olive oil to the lamps.

This vision was highly unusual in light of the normal duties of priests in the Temple. They were responsible to tend the golden menorah: to trim its wicks and to refill its bowls with a continuous supply of olive oil. The menorah in the Temple was to burn brightly, 24 hours a day, so this lamp-tending duty was a constant and highly important responsibility of the priests.

But here, in Zechariah’s vision, was a menorah that tended itself! No priest had to intervene to keep it burning brightly.

Zechariah was baffled by this vision. He asked the angel who had awoken him “from a deep sleep” to show him the vision, “What are these, sir?” The angel replied, “Don’t you know what these are?” I like Zechariah’s humble response, “No, sir.” (God help me to respond likewise when I don’t know the answer to a question!)

Therefore, the angel told him, “These signify the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord who rules over all.”

Zerubbabel was a political leader of Israel who, along with its religious leader, Joshua, had been responsible 14 years earlier for leading a contingent of 42,000 Jews across the desert to reclaim Jerusalem after Israel’s 70-year captivity in Babylon ended. The project (to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and the Temple) had a great start, with the foundation being laid, but then it faltered due to internal dissent and external threats. The prophet Haggai, a contemporary of Zechariah’s, reveals that the Jews had become concerned only with rebuilding their own houses instead. They had grown complacent and given up on the vision.

The menorah symbolized Israel’s duty to be a light to the world. God had called Israel to show His glory to the Gentile nations, but instead they descended into comfort and complacency and considered Gentiles only as fuel to keep the fires of hell hot.
When Zechariah uses the Hebrew word translated “strength” in 4:6, it refers to resources we might wield, such as armies. When he uses the word “power,” it refers to our personal will or drive to make things happen.

This chapter reveals very clearly that God’s agenda for us is not to “make things happen” for His glory in our own strength and power, but rather to serve as channels, or conduits, for the flow of His power (symbolized by olive oil).

While Zechariah knew what a menorah was, he didn’t understand exactly what he was seeing, and he asked the angel for help grasping the meaning of the two olives trees and the pipes that carried their oil to the lamps. The angel said the trees were “the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

The immediate application was clearly referring to Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two God had chosen to complete the task of restoring Jerusalem. But a more future, prophetic application looks forward to the “two witnesses” of Revelation, where a  menorah representing the seven churches of Asia Minor also appears. These churches are tasked with shining God’s light into a dark, end-times society, and the two witnesses were the conduits through whom the power of the Holy Spirit would flow to make it happen.

Oil in Scripture always represents the Holy Spirit: it lubricates (removes obstacles and makes things happen); it burns brightly (glorifies God passionately); it heals; it anoints; and it offers a sweet-smelling fragrance (representing the prayers of the saints) to the heavenly throne.

The truth is, nothing that matters happens aside from the power of the Holy Spirit. All our frenetic activities yield only temporary results. Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” His power must flow through us (if we “abide in,” or remain connected to, Him) and into the fruit (if we seek through open hands to serve and bless others).

Jesus often spoke of the Holy Spirit as a gift who is ours for the asking. Through prayer we must acknowledge that we are impotent to make anything of true and lasting importance happen. Instead, we must seek to become vessels of God’s Holy Spirit.
Hence, I have made Zechariah 4:6 my life verse, to remind me of these truths. For my natural tendency is to push, like Sisyphus, the rock uphill to try and make things happen, only to find myself sliding back to where I began.

Only through God’s power can we see obstacles removed, people healed, our lips and hands anointed, our prayers ascending like sweet incense to the throne of God, and the light shone into the darkness. Do you begin each day asking for God’s Holy Spirit to anoint you and make your efforts of lasting import, for His sake and glory and not your own?

*****

Larry shares these words and more about personal transformation on his new blog, ShortChanged.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Investing God’s Way

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

by Larry Short

I really enjoyed what Dan had to share during his sermon on August 28 about making a “see change” (clever!) in our hearts. Matthew 6:19-24 is packed full of amazing truths, and I had always wondered in particular about the meaning of Christ’s words, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

Dan brought great clarity to my thinking when he revealed that this passage is really all about our focus. Having a clear (healthy) eye is having the ability to focus on the right priorities, the ones God desires us to focus on, and seeing clearly the grace He has given us, which we did nothing to earn. This focus on grace, Dan said, has the potential to change everything in our lives.

Larry Last Word

This spoke to me because clear eyesight has always been an issue for me. Many of you know that I am legally blind without my contact lenses—I am so nearsighted that I walk into trees! If I have to get up at night to put the cat out of the room, without my contact lenses she might end up spending the night in a closet. I once went to kiss my wife only to discover I was embracing her pillow – the real Darlene had gotten up to use the restroom!

So, I certainly realize how important clear eyesight is.

In light of this “focus” on seeing grace clearly, I’ve also been thinking a lot this week about a particular part of the passage he shared that God has used in my life to speak important truth. After Christ encourages us to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven” rather than on earth, verse 21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This verse captures an incredibly important truth about us as fallible human beings, and that truth is this: Whatever (or whomever) we invest in (invest our time, our money, our energy, our longings and desires, etc.), that is the thing (or person) that (or who) will end up capturing our heart.

And we all know, of course, that Christ uses the word “heart” throughout Scripture to refer to our souls, that innermost, eternal part of us that makes choices about how we will live our lives, Whom we will follow, Whom we will worship. God’s Word reveals that if we invest faithfully in heavenly things (or perhaps more clearly, if we invest in Jesus’s priorities rather than our own), then our hearts will follow that investment and will be entrenched deeply, immovably in God’s Kingdom and in the things of God!

There are so many important applications to this principle. If we invest our time and energy in frivolous entertainment; in watching movies, TV shows or videos that mock God; in reading books that don’t edify; or in listening to music that blasphemes, rather than investing our time in soaking up God’s truth and sharing His love with people, where will our heart end up going? If we invest our money in toys that just please us and feed our envy of others, rather than investing in furthering God’s kingdom through our church and other worthwhile ministries, what will our investment gain us? Jesus said investments in “earthly things” are all wood, hay, and stubble that will burn under the brilliant focus of God’s final judgment, rather than gold that will be refined and last eternally for His glory and our pleasure.

So many times I hear brothers and sisters complain, “Please pray that I will have a heart to read Scripture. I just can’t get into it.” Well yes, I will pray, but I also want to shout at them: You dummy (yes, you’ve guessed it, I don’t have a lot of tact sometimes) this isn’t just something that you need “prayer” for! It’s something that you just need to start doing! (Like Martin says, “Stop it! Just stop it!” Only this would be, “Just start!”)

Carve out the time, and make it a priority, even if you don’t yet “feel like it.” And I say “yet” because Matt. 6:21 implies that if we invest in God’s Word, if we devote our time and our energy to reading it, meditating on it, praying through it, even if we don’t yet “feel” like it, eventually our hearts will follow along behind our investment.

And it’s a glorious thing when we discover that we suddenly have a heart to dig into God’s Word, and to spend time with Him in prayer, and in serving others—when what was previously a duty becomes a delight! Now there’s the kind of joy that Jesus was talking about in John 17:13.

How’s your eye? Can you see clearly? Are you focusing on the grace of our Savior? Are you investing treasure in the things of the Kingdom? Are you experiencing the “see change” that God desires to see happen in your heart?

P.S.: Do you realize how blessed we are, in addition to having staff like Martin, Brian, and Nate whose teaching blesses us nearly every week, to also have lay teachers such as Dan, Jeff, Tom, and Jim and others who are gifted to deliver God’s Word and can fill in from time to time? I don’t think you could find too many churches where this is the case. Many thanks to all who have taken a turn at the pulpit!

Please join Larry as he reflects about personal transformation on his new blog, ShortChanged.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

Why Does God Send Worms?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Larry Short

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

I don’t know whether women struggle with this as much as we men do, but, as Americans, I think we are all way too performance oriented. Whenever something good happens to us, we have a tendency to feel a bit buoyed up. We may think, “Yes, I deserved this.”

Conversely, whenever something bad happens, we are deflated and frustrated. We also may think, “Yes, I surely deserved THIS.”

Scripture provides great anecdotal perspective on these, our very American tendencies. In the fourth chapter of the book of Jonah, we find our reluctant prophet—who so far in the story has struggled with massive disobedience issues, prejudice, and lack of compassion—acting like a spoiled child, disappointed because God has given grace to his enemies, and sitting alone on a hillside overlooking Nineveh, hoping for fire and brimstone while a spiritual revival of historic proportions is going on in the city below him.

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

“But the Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.”’

As Jonah sat and sulked, two very interesting things happened:

“Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.”

“But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’ ‘It is,’ he said. ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.’

“But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?’”

Jonah 4:1-11 NIV

As Elim’s young adults group, Pulse, was studying this chapter, God sent a worm to take away a shade tree I had enjoyed for 22 years: my job at World Vision. I’ve had the privilege there of doing enjoyable, meaningful, and rewarding work for more than two decades. I can’t remember when I last felt bored at work. I started an Internet program that is now the third-largest online nonprofit fundraising platform in the world, pioneered online products that now raise hundreds of millions of dollars and save or change countless thousands of lives, and enjoy a huge amount of respect and a significant sense of accomplishment.

Then along came a worm. I was informed that I was being laid off on August 3.

World Vision is a wonderful organization, despite being staffed by fallen human beings like me, and I’ve learned not to take such things personally. I’ve gone through a lot of challenging transitions in my four decades of adult work life, and each and every one has ultimately proved the truth of Paul’s words in his letter to the church at Rome:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV

It’s awesome news … we, too, can claim this promise if we love God, knowing that we have been called “according to His purpose!”

I know many of you reading this are going through far tougher things than I am right now: cancer, heart disease, family or marital struggles, addictions, or financial challenges. But God’s promises are true. The same gracious and loving God sends both shade trees and worms. He cares more about building Christ-like character in us than He does about making us comfortable.

I am praying for you as you face whatever “worms” God sends your way. Thank you for praying for me as well!

P.S.—One quick insight about the worm God sent Jonah. The Hebrew word for that worm is a very specific one: Tolah, the crimson worm who, throughout Scripture (as in the messianic Psalm 22), represents Christ Himself! Our suffering Saviour is present in a very real way in the midst of whatever sufferings God brings our way to build our character. So chew in that one for awhile!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.