Do you think copiers pick up on our stress level?
Luke 12: What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax.
Most Sundays I arrive at church early, meeting with friends for coffee and prayer. Usually, as we’re praying I can hear the church “waking up” as folks start arriving. Generally, I like what I hear. I’m a real fan of happy chatter, children playing, folks sounding glad to see one another. Sometimes, though, I can tell that the morning isn’t going well for some. They’ve met with some issue or another on the way to church. Maybe there’s some family argument going on. Others have things to take care of when they get to church. They arrive and want to get past the friendly greetings as quickly as possible so they can hurry and make copies before their class begins. I appreciate their dedication but wish I could get them to relax a bit. In the passage I’m reading today Jesus notes that some people are always worried about one thing or another. His examples aren’t just frivolous stuff either. They’re concerned about having food to eat and clothes to wear. In soothing tones our Lord points to how God supplies the needs of nature and assures them that they’re more valuable to him than all else. I understand that life brings unexpected, last minute concerns to us so I’m not being critical of those folks who anxiously wait for the copier to warm up. Still, I have the idea that their day will go much better if they’ll make it their practice to join us in prayer, enjoying some quiet time in the presence of the Lord before launching into a busy Sunday morning.
Take Away: If I view the Lord as a stern unyielding judge I have every reason to be stressed – if I see him as my loving Heavenly Father I can rest in the assurance of his provision for me.
My attitude toward things that matter to the Lord
Haggai 1: I’ve matched your tight-fisted stinginess.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Generally, I put about 95% of the emphasis on the first part of that statement. I certainly know I need the Lord’s forgiveness for the many “debts” of my life. It makes me a bit uncomfortable to realize that the Lord uses the level of my forgiving attitude toward those indebted to me as his measure of his forgiveness in my life. In the passage before me today the Lord uses Haggai to deliver a message concerning current events in the lives of the people of his day. They’ve been stingy in their support for rebuilding the Temple. Now, the Lord says he’s treating them with that same level of stinginess. They’re holding back in supporting the rebuilding of the Temple and the Lord’s holding back in his provision of rain for their crops. I’m glad today for the abundant generosity of God. His provision in my life greatly exceeds all that I do for him. Still, there’s a time to be reminded that some of the Lord’s blessings to me are linked to my attitude toward the things that matter to the Lord. Jesus teaches me to pray, “Lord, forgive me to the same extent that I forgive others.” Today, Haggai adds that I should be able to pray, “Lord, care for the needs of my life in the same way I care for the place in which I worship you.” If that makes me squirm a bit, well, maybe it’s supposed to!
Take Away: Remember that some of the Lord’s blessings to us are linked to our attitude towards the things that matter to him.
Department of human resources
1 Chronicles 12: Hardly a day went by without men showing up to help – it wasn’t long before his band seemed as large as God’s own army!
David’s cause is a just one. He’s been open and honest and faithful. Still, King Saul knows that his throne is, in reality, David’s. He’s done nothing but be loyal to Saul yet he finds himself named public enemy number one. David withdraws simply to save his own life. However, like a magnet, he begins drawing fellow outcasts. Saul can’t find David, but everyday people just show up and ask to join him. Before long, he commands a force to be reckoned with and some of the great warriors of history are numbered among David’s band. How’d this happen? I think God’s finger prints are all over this. The Lord picked David and now the Almighty’s building his team for the work to be done. Many years later David’s most famous descendant has surrounded himself with twelve good men. Still, there’s much to do. A great harvest beckons, but more workers are needed. Jesus tells his core group to pray that the Father will send more harvest workers. In David’s day people who probably weren’t even sure how they found him just showed up to join his cause. In the Gospels, Jesus puts out a call for harvest workers. Maybe we church leaders should take note of what happens here. If we’re doing what God wants done, he’ll supply the people to do it. The Lord doesn’t use up human resources so we can do what we want to do. However, as we see in David’s case, he has an abundant supply of people to help us do what he wants done.
Take Away: If we’re faithful to the Lord he’ll supply the resources necessary for us to do what he wants done.
Apples or fish
2Kings 4: They not only ate, but had leftovers.
During our Lord’s ministry some of the people think Jesus is possibly one of the prophets of old, resurrected from the dead. It might be that they’re thinking of this incident. In fact, Luke’s report of the suggestion that Jesus is a resurrected prophet comes right after Jesus feeds the five thousand. In this case Elisha feeds, not thousands, but a hundred; and not with bread and fish but with bread and apples. It’s a different day in which a different man provides and different main course. But it’s the same God. Because of that the lessons are the same. One lesson is that “little is much when God is in it.” Another is that I can trust the Lord with my meager resources; he can make better use of them than I can anyway. Whether I’m thinking about Elisha or Jesus or apples or fish it’s good to be reminded that when I give my all to the Lord he does wonderful things.
Take Away: The Lord takes the little bit that’s our all and does more with it than we ever could.
Bring your vessels not a few
2Kings 4: He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped.
Clearly the series of stories in the first part of 2 Kings are examples of what a powerful man of God Elisha is. Still, it seems that, like a symphony, each story is a variation on one theme: that when people have faith they act on that faith. These miracles all start with a need and the promise of God. Then, the person has to take action in preparation for God to move. In one story we see soldiers digging ditches in the desert in preparation for water to miraculously flow into them. Now we have a widow with just a little oil being told to go out and borrow jars from everyone she can. When she starts pouring oil out of her meager supply she fills all the jars she collected. It’s only when she runs out of jars that she runs out of oil. So often we take our needs to God and then stand back to watch what he does. However, in this, and the other stories, we see that God invites us to partner with him in what he does for us. No doubt, he does the greater work; after all, anyone can collect jars. Only God can fill them all from such a limited supply. Lord, help me to be a “jar collector.” Help me to be a person doing my part in working with you as you accomplish your purposes in my life and in this world.
Take Away: What does the Lord call you to today that will prepare for what he intends to do in your life tomorrow?
Ditch digging for the Lord
2Kings 3: Dig ditches all over this valley.
An alliance of three armies has formed to take on the army of Moab. The armies of Edom, Israel, and Judah plan to circle around and attack from an unexpected direction. However, it all backfires. They find themselves a day out of Moab and in the desert having exhausted their supply of water. Jehoshaphat asks for a prophet of God and Elisha “just happens” to be nearby. God’s word through Elisha is that they’re to begin digging ditches in this desert plain because, without a single drop of rain falling on them, God will fill those ditches with water. Many years earlier Elisha’s predecessor had prayed for rain and, when a cloud “the size of a man’s hand” appeared on the horizon he stopped praying and started running in preparation for the rain storm that was coming. Now, Elisha promises water, but tells them that they need to start preparing for it before they see even the first drop. Obviously there’s a pattern here and in many other instances in God’s Word. God expects us to act in faith that he’ll keep his word to us. For Elijah that meant he needed to stop praying and start running. For this army it means that out in the arid, dusty desert they’re to prepare for flowing water. How does this principle apply to my life today?
Take Away: Our acts of faith really do have a bearing on what the Lord does for us and through us.
A miracle working God
1Kings 17: The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty….
The drought brought about by the judgment of God is a hardship for everyone. Elijah goes into hiding and for a time God sends ravens to feed him. Now, as the drought brings famine to the land, the man of God is sent to Zarephath for long-term lodging. The widow there is nearly out of food and about to surrender to starvation when Elijah shows up. He makes the startling promise that as long as the drought continues she won’t run out of oil or flour. And that’s how it is. For the duration of the ordeal God supplies the need. It’s good to know that God is the Way Maker in our lives. Only he can make something out of nothing. I need to be careful to not be so blinded by my circumstances that I count God out. Generally speaking, he works through the normal course of life to bless us, but he’s not limited to that. If necessary, he can work his purposes by suspending the laws of Creation and performing miracles. That’s the God I serve!
Take Away: Never count God out.
1 Samuel 10: The Spirit of God will come on you…and you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person.
Beyond Saul’s natural advantages is the stated intention of God Almighty to make him into one of the heroes of the Bible. This big man is humble and practical and will be used by God in wonderful ways. What Saul lacks, his shyness and his inexperience as a spiritual leader, is recognized by the Lord so right off the Lord goes to work there. Samuel says that before the day is out Saul will be transformed into a man who openly worships God, one who can be numbered among the prophets. Failure is coming to Saul, but not because God just tossed him into the water to sink or swim. The same God who chooses him also enables him for the task. That’s still true today. What the Lord calls me to be enables me to be. There’s clearly more to be said about that, but this is a truth that’s made real in the lives of all that hear God’s call.
Take Away: Those the Lord calls he also equips.
By God’s help we can live steady, Christ-like lives
1 Samuel 7: Samuel gave solid leadership to Israel his entire life.
This is a powerful and important statement about Samuel. Only rarely do we encounter such high credentials, even in the Bible. Abraham messed up by trying to “help” God in his relationship with Hagar. Moses failed at the Waters of Meribah Kadesh. Just about all the heroes of the Bible have blots on their records. But it’s not so with Samuel. From the time that as a lad serving in the house of God at Shiloh he hears God’s Voice to the end of his life Samuel is faithful. As a result, some of the golden days of the Old Testament are before us in our Scripture reading. Of course, this is actually a God-story more than it is a Samuel-story. It’s God who answers Hannah’s prayer that brings Samuel into the world in the first place. It’s God who initiates contact with the boy Samuel. And it’s God who continues to lead Samuel even as Samuel leads Israel. We see today that spiritual failure doesn’t have to be part of anyone’s story. I know it’s true that just about everyone has a story of spiritual breakdown, but here we see that the Lord’s able to keep us as we allow him to work freely in our lives. Isn’t it wonderful to be reminded that because the grace of the Lord is freely available to us that we don’t have to stumble our way through life hoping we can hold it together just enough to squeeze through the Pearly Gates at the finish line of life?
Take Away: The Lord provides us everything we need to live faithful, victorious Christian lives.