Written by Cameron Miller - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Photography by Deana Harvey
Barnabas flipped the coin in the air and watched how the sun glinted off the silver as it came down to rest again in his hand. He saw the fishermen bringing in their morning catches as he walked along the docks. They’d have to struggle to earn a single drachma for their entire night’s work, but his last patient had given him four drachmas for a single hour’s work. He was glad to receive it, but in truth, Barnabas had done little. A quick procedure had left the patient feeling much better in the short term, and they’d heal on their own in the days to come.
Something inside told him this coin was for something special. But what? He flipped it again as he thought. Perhaps he’d buy a fine cask of wine to enjoy. Flip. Perhaps he’d buy the meat of a fattened calf for tonight’s dinner. Flip. What about putting it toward a higher purpose? He could donate it to the temple. Flip. Or give it as alms to the poor. No, not the second one. He could just imagine this precious coin being gambled away or wasted on drink. Then what? He flipped it again. Suddenly, a boat hit the dock, startling him, and the coin fell past his grasping hand and into the sea.
Barnabas stood on the docks, stunned. All his plans vanished into the water, disappearing as a dark shadow moved over them. How could God allow this senseless waste to happen? He plodded home, discouraged.
Jesus said to Peter, “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:27 NIV)
Written by Jill Haskins - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
It was the evening before my son’s 10th birthday. A busy week of balancing work, home, kids, and church commitments. I knew his birthday was coming – we had been counting down the days for weeks! However, time seemed to fly, and I was not prepared for his big day.
I looked at my watch and saw that it was 7:30 p.m. and realized his birthday was the next day! How in the world was it already that late? Why hadn’t I even begun to think about a cake prior to then? Not only that, but presents were still not purchased. I thought to myself, “Oh boy….I’m not sure how I ended up here, but here I am. Now I need to figure it out, and figure it out QUICK!”
Off to Kroger we went.
My husband Shane and I usually divide and conquer when we go into a store. Together, the three of us headed toward the baking aisle, and I told my son to pick a cake flavor and some frosting. He chose white cake with chocolate frosting. Easy enough. Problem number one solved. Now, off to find candles.
As we walked down the aisle, he instantly noticed the Hot Wheels display. Of course, he ran over and began digging through the display. He pulled out a few that he liked and began telling us how cool the cars were.
Shane and I, being married for 17 years, instantly looked at each other with understanding. Our son had just solved our second problem — what to give him for a gift! We had forgotten that he had been asking for Hot Wheels!
In that moment, we knew it was time to divide and conquer. Shane took the birthday boy on a hunt for candles, while I picked out a few cars for his gift. We knew (without verbally communicating) that Shane would stall, and I would check out separately and quickly as possible.
Shane tried his hardest to divert his attention. Before we knew what hit us, the “baby of the family” behavior began to rear its ugly head. “Can you buy those cars for me? They are so cool! It IS my BIRTHDAY after all!”
Shane answered with a quick, “Not this time, buddy.”
That’s when the full-on death stare and pre-teen, redhead attitude revealed itself in all its sinful glory.
“BUT IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!! I don’t want a dumb birthday cake, I. WANT. THE. CARS!”
Oh boy...there is no going back now. He was crossing his arms, digging in his heels, and his cheeks were turning red with anger.
“Why can’t you just get the cars for me! Look! That one at the top is my FAVORITE!”
Shane and I shared a quick glance, knowing that this is not going to go well. He began slowly dragging the loudly protesting boy away from the Hot Wheels. Once they were down the aisle, I quickly began grabbing the cars. I was careful to grab the one that he said was his FAVORITE, while also choosing an additional nine cars. I stealthily ducked down the end aisle and into the self-checkout all the while watching for Shane, who would be coming down the aisle any minute. As I finished checking out, I heard, “DAD!!!! MY FAVORITE CAR IS GONE!!! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!!! NOW MY DAY IS RUINED!!!”
Uh-oh. Time for me to get out of here. Sorry, Shane!
I made my way to the parking lot knowing Shane would know to meet me at the van. Just as I sat down, I saw Shane smirking, two steps behind a scowling little boy. There was the birthday boy: arms crossed, head down, looking out over the top of his glasses with a furious scowl, stomping his feet across the parking lot.
He approached the van, opened the door, and dramatically proclaimed, “Well….this is the WORST day of my life, THAT’S for SURE! I went back to look at that car and it was GONE!!!”
Shane and I shared a quick glance as we both tried to stifle a laugh at the ridiculousness of the temper tantrum.
Shane began the car and as we drove home in awkward silence, I was surprised to discover that in that moment, the Lord revealed a small part of my sinfulness as well as His character to me.
I heard the Lord say to me, “See how he is acting? He’s throwing a fit because he thinks you are withholding something good from him. However, you aren’t withholding anything from him. In fact, you are giving generously to him, even when he acts like a jerk. You do this because you LOVE him.”
As I pondered the lovingkindness of God, I was reminded of these two verses.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 ESV).
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV).
1. Can you think of a time that you were frustrated or angry with God when He didn’t seem to give you what you thought you needed or deserved?
2. What lie were you believing about the character of God in that moment?
3. Begin a journal of good and gracious gifts God has given to you. What do these gifts reveal about His character?
4. Spend a few moments confessing and repenting of a time that you “threw a fit” because you believed God was withholding something good from you.
Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Illustrated by Lisa Wickham
I am usually so careful with my keys. I hate the thought of being locked out of anything…especially my car. But that dreaded thing happened one cold winter day.
I left the store with an unusually large cartful of groceries. Seeing my car in the distance and wondering if the groceries would all fit, I popped open the trunk with my remote control. Once at the car, I threw my purse in the front seat and locked the car as usual. That way, when I unloaded the groceries and returned the cart to the stall, my purse wouldn’t be advertising itself in an unlocked car. This was my well-oiled system.
Yes, all the groceries fit, and I returned my cart to the nearest stall. Then I reached my hand into my coat pocket expecting to find my car keys, but only came up with a used Kleenex. “Keys, where are my keys?” I moaned while patting myself down. Nothing. I frantically tried opening the car doors, but I had locked them! There sat my purse, all tidy and safe, smirking at me—with my keys probably inside. My mind was racing quickly. Oh, I’ll just call my husband and have him come rescue me. Again, my hands searched my coat pockets. Nothing! My phone was in my purse, too. Sigh.
I had left the trunk open, which I thought might be my salvation. Is it possible to push the backseats forward from inside the trunk? I saw a young man approaching my area and called out to him. “Young man, do you know if there is a way to gain entrance to this car from the trunk?”
Puzzled, he looked inside and responded, “I don’t think so…”
He seemed friendly enough so I asked him if I could use his phone. He happily obliged.
“Honey, I’m locked out of my car. Are you on your way home from your errands? Can you turn around and rescue me?” I sheepishly asked my husband.
“I don’t carry your car key with me. I’ll have to go home and get it,” he replied.
By now, I was angry at myself for stupidly leaving my keys in my purse and then locking them in the car. And now I had a long wait ahead of me, and I hate wasting time!
Slamming the trunk down, I marched back into the store to wait the forty-five minutes before my husband got there. The magazines did not keep my interest long, and I went back out to the store lobby to watch and wait for Larry.
Suddenly, a thought dropped into my mind: “Check your back pocket.” I had checked my front coat pockets over and over where I always put my keys. It hadn’t occurred to me to check my back jean pockets. My hand quickly flew to the right pocket, and a “Hallelujah” welled up inside me. Indeed, there were my car keys!
Feeling foolish yet triumphant, I raced back to the car to grab my phone and call my husband, “The keys are found! They were in my back pocket all along!”
On the drive home, I couldn’t help but rehearse how that thought, “Check your back pocket,” seemingly dropped out of nowhere as I “never” put anything in my back pockets. How often the key to solving a problem is right inside you or beside you! As close as your back pocket—as close as the Holy Spirit.
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
February? It can’t be February, can it? And is that the right spelling? Nobody says, Feb-brew-airy! Just like no one pronounces Wednesday the way it is spelled. And what about the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl. Surely that can’t be right! (Sorry, I just had to get that in, Go Bengals !)
Well, there are a lot of things in life which won’t necessarily appear to be right, yet are true, and there are a lot of things in scripture which seem to be impossible, but we know they are true. We know by faith. The whole story of Creation doesn’t make sense based on logic which itself comes mostly from experience. Yet individuals spend a lifetime, and our government is spending trillions trying to discern the origins of the universe. Why? Because it is a mystery, and most people perceive a mystery as a problem to be solve, while God’s mysteries are truths to be believed by faith and celebrated as facts to be revealed when and if God chooses.
How about the Exodus. Did all those plagues really happen in Egypt? Did the Sea of Reeds part and the waters stand up like walls? (Ex.14:29) and, did the Hebrews really wander around in the wilderness for forty years while their sandals and their clothing did not wear out? (Dt. 8:4; Neh. 9:21) Did the walls of a great city like Jericho collapse with no more effort than having a tribe of people walk around outside its walls seven times and then let out a mighty shout? (Josh. 6:20)
There are literally dozens of examples like this in scripture; different unbelievable events occurring in different places and with different circumstances, but they have one thing in common; -- the faith of the people. When people of faith are obedient to the word of God, miraculous things happen. And even as you are a witness, logic tries to convince you, “That can’t be right.”
Consider what we know about Jesus. Minute details of his life were foretold centuries before His birth. Details such as the place of His birth, Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2), that his family would take him to Egypt (Hos. 11:1), and then settle in Nazareth (Mt. 2:23, oral tradition) Scholars long knew He would come from humble beginnings, yet would be considered a king (Zech. 9:9) and that He would suffer for our sins. (Is. 53)
These prophecies, and many others going back hundreds, even a thousand years, revealed the Messiah, yet when Jesus came, the scholars did not recognize Him. Is it possible that the Gospel writers pulled all these prophecies together and created a character to fit? This is highly unlikely since these writers were mostly uneducated men coming from a variety of backgrounds and without access to libraries, etc. Even King Herod had to call in his scholars who in turn had to search the scriptures to determine that the Messiah was to have been born in Bethlehem. (Mt. 2:4) To think that anyone could make up a story that so neatly fit all of the Old Testament prophecies is perhaps more difficult to believe than are the events themselves.
Then, we have the eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are given testimony that Jesus suffered and died on a cross; that He was entombed for three days, then the tomb was miraculously opened and over five hundred people saw him alive before He ascended into heaven. (1 Cor. 15:6) Surely these provide sufficient proof that the story is true, as unlikely as it may seem to questioning minds?
How about you? Is Jesus alive in you? Do you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you such that He is your constant strength and your guide? Does He comfort you in time of sorrow, does He give you hope when the world around you is in chaos? Then, what more is there to know? You are His witness, for the Lord God has revealed Him to you. And you know in your heart the stories are true. They are true, and it is all very right!