Tag Archives: self

I Kings 17; Empty

I’ve heard the story of Elijah and the widow for as long as I can remember. In my mind’s eye, I can picture the figures on the flannel board in our Sunday School room. (When was the last time you even saw a flannel board? ūüôā ) The lesson we learned from this Scripture was: GOD SUPPLIES ALL OUR NEEDS.

I read what J. Vernon McGee had to say about this passage today, and he reminded me Elijah had just returned from the desert where God used ravens to feed him, a stream to meet his need for water. McGee pointed me to others who had similar experiences: Moses, Abraham, John the Baptist, Paul. Even Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. GOD STRENGTHENS US IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.

Dr. McGee then talked about the miracle of the healing of the widow’s son. The boy had died. But when Elijah went to him, made contact with him three times, the boy lived again. GOD IS THE DIVINE HEALER.

Do you remember Jesus’ first miracle? The wedding in Cana of Galilee, right? He turned water into wine. GOD GIVES HIS VERY BEST.

Then J. Vernon challenged every lesson I thought I’d learned from these stories. While it is true that God provides what we need, that He is our strength, our healer, and that He does all things well, we miss something important if that’s all we see in these passages.

What does the never-ending flour pot, the desert, the dead boy, and the wine have in common?

NOTHING.

Well, not nothing. But an emptiness, a void, nothingness. The lessons are not just that God prepared people for ministry in the desert. It’s the desert.

It’s not only that God didn’t let the flour run out. It’s the empty pot.

It’s not raising a boy from the dead. It’s the dead boy.

And it was never about the wedding, or even just the wine. It was the empty jars.

All which were filled by God Himself. To make his point, Dr. McGee shared a story about Hudson Taylor. It’s lengthy, but I want to quote it from page 107 in Thru the Bible Commentary Series on 1st and 2nd Kings by J. Vernon McGee. (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1991):

It is said of Hudson Taylor that when he prepared young missionaries for service in his mission, he insisted, “Remember that when you come out here you are nothing. It is only what God can and will do through you that will be worth anything.” One young missionary replied, “It is hard for me to believe that I am just nothing.” And Hudson Taylor said to him, “Take it by faith because it is true. You are nothing.” You and I are just dried up brooks unless the Word of God is flowing through us.

You, my friend are nothing. I am nothing. Neither of us has anything of value to offer God who owns everything, and who created everything anyway. And until we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us with Himself, we are worth nothing to Him, we cannot be used by Him.

Sorry if that offends your sensitive sense of self.

Paul said he died daily, that he was crucified with Christ, that he was dead to self. If you think you can effectively serve God any other way, you are wrong.

Empty yourself. Let Him fill you to overflowing.

Then stand back and be amazed at what God can and will do through you, for His sake, and for His glory!

Dear Filler of our souls, I pray that all of us reading this chapter in I Kings today will be challenged to BE that desert, that empty pot, that dead boy. Help us to empty ourselves of our hopes and dreams, our talents and our gifts, our egos and our rights. Then, Lord, fill us with YOU. May we be instruments in Your hands, clay in the hands of the Potter, and may You create in each of us pure hearts. Use us today as we yield to Your will. And may Jesus be glorified.

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Exodus 21-23; Play Nice

Wouldn’t life be amazing if everybody lived according to the principles God laid down for His children here in these chapters? Murder demands a death sentence, you pay your debts, you are honest, if you are guilty of careless behavior you fess up and pay up, and you don’t mistreat people. It’s the Golden Rule broken down into specific behaviors.

We live in a day where so many people trample over others in order to get ahead. One person’s rights trumps another’s rights, sometimes violently. We live in a society with a sue your neighbor mentality, and we are witnessing the consequences for such selfish and self-centered behavior.

But there are many who aren’t caught up in “self.” I see examples of that almost every day. And I hope you do, too.

I was talking to some friends of mine the other day, and they said they’d received a check from their granddaughter who was almost done paying for her car. They had loaned her the money and she’d been faithful to pay it back. Oh, that’s not unusual, they said. They’ve loaned money to most of their kids and many of their grandkids at one time or another. They never charge interest, and they’ve never been stuck.

In fact, the husband said they let the kids determine how much they can pay a month, AND he lets them keep track of the debt themselves. When the kids tell their parents they are paid in full, the parents trust them that they have indeed met their obligation. Debt paid.

Some of you might say that loaning money without charging interest is not good financially. That money would be gaining interest if it sat in the bank. So, while they are loaning money to their children, they are really losing money.

So?

These two are not in any way wealthy. She is a retired nurse, he a retired county worker. But when I read Exodus 22:25 I thought of them. They are living what God instructed the early Jews to do with their own families.

I know others who are financially generous. My sisters and their husbands are. I know many people who are generous with their time, their talents and abilities. I know honest and thoughtful people who live the Golden Rule every day. And life is better because they do.

Now let’s be clear. None of these good people are earning brownie points with God in order to earn heaven. We saw that in the chapters we read in my former post. But God would love for us to enjoy this life while we’re here. He’d like us to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, generous, thoughtful. He’d like us to treat one another in a way that we’d like to be treated ourselves.

We’re stuck here on this planet until God takes us home. So while we’re here, let’s play nice.

 

All Of Me

“… those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8)

Paul is talking about what it looks like to be a child of God: Led by the Spirit. Putting to death the deeds of the body. Suffering for Jesus’ sake. Setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.

The opposite is true for those who are in the flesh. Their focus is on “self”: Self-confidence, self-gratification, self-acceptance, self-love. They are led by the things that benefit themselves without a thought of what benefits the Kingdom of God.

Or are they?

Can’t a Christian have a tiny bit of “self” and still be ok? Does God really insist I lose my identity?

I don’t see Paul making provisions for anything other than total submission. It seems he is telling us we are either led by the Spirit, or we’re not.

Oh God, I don’t want any of me left in this body. I want you to fill me, to transform me, to live in and through me. I want to look like You,¬†talk like You, live like You lived while you were here on earth. I want to see people like You see them, love them like You love them. Forgive me for the times when I allow myself to be led by anything other than your Spirit, even if those things sound good. I want to please YOU alone. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

God Doesn’t Give you… What?

Naaman’s story from 2 Kings 5 is a pretty familiar story for those of us raised going to Sunday School. It’s the story of a little Jewish slave girl who shared her faith in Israel’s¬†prophet, and whose master’s husband Naaman was not only healed of leprosy, but became a believer in Israel’s God because of it.

I’ve read or heard the story many times over the years, but today I had one of those laugh-out-loud moments when I read something in the story I’d never noticed before. Naaman, who was a Syrian warrior, went to Israel on the word of this little Jewish girl, with a letter to the King of Israel written by his boss, the King of Syria. In it, the Syrian King said:

“Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.”

The reaction of Israel’s King is priceless and it is what made me laugh this morning. He tore his clothes, a sign of distress and anguish and says: WHAT? Does he think I’m God? Is this a trick so he’ll have an excuse to go to war with us when I don’t heal this man? I CAN’T DO THIS! WAAAA!

Talk about a major misunderstanding by someone who was looking within himself way to hard.

I laugh because, sadly, I recognize myself in the king’s panic. Sometimes I look at the circumstances of life, feel the weight of expectations on my shoulders, fret about a situation I’m facing, and think I CAN’T DO THIS. Then someone tells me, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

LIAR!

Read 2 Kings 5. When the prophet Elisha heard that the king was losing his mind over this situation he sent a message to the king: Relax. God’s got this covered.

And God is saying that still. The truth is, God does allow things in our lives that are too much for us to do¬†on our own. If he only sent things our¬†way that we could handle, we wouldn’t need him, would we? God delights in revealing himself in every circumstance you face, good or bad. He wants you to go to him, to trust him, to depend on him, to show the world what he is able to do through you. I am convinced that God is not concerned about strengthening your ego, or teaching you how powerful you are. He wants to point you and me, and everyone around us to Himself as¬†we allow him to handle every situation, as we trust him with every detail.

And I have found that, when I do surrender to him, I am blessed beyond what I can imagine. I believe it’s Satan’s lies that tell you you can handle things on your own, or worse, should handle things on your own. Satan certainly doesn’t want you surrendered to God.

The next time you are tempted to think God won’t give you more than you can handle, think again. Then turn the situation, your very life, over to him and see what he can do when you get out of the way.

The Show Must Go On

I remember, when Mom was dying of cancer, I would drive to work with a heavy heart. Most mornings I would cry as I talked to God about Mom. But when I got¬†to the stop light a mile from school, I would dry my tears and take a few deep breaths. And before walking into the office, I’d put my hand on the doorknob, breathe again, put a smile on my face, and pray, “God, let’s do this. I need you to go in there with me today.” I didn’t want to be there. I wanted time with Mom. I wanted to be alone in my grief. But I was a middle school counselor, and I had a job to do.

It was hard. And listening to the familiar complaints of 11-year-olds tested my patience like never before. Suzie took my pencil. Billy made fun of me. Nobody likes me. The teacher yelled at me. Even the: Mom grounded me or worse, didn’t separate me from my own pain.

But I loved my job, loved those children, and it wasn’t their fault my mother¬†was dying.

I realized today Jesus knows exactly how I felt. His cousin, John, was murdered. His heart must have hurt like mine did. And he needed to be alone. He needed time to grieve. So he went off to a remote place to be by himself.

But the crowds followed him. They had needs only Jesus could meet. So Jesus put a smile on his face, and preached, and healed their sick.

Did you know the feeding of the 5,000 from five loaves and 2 fish happened in the midst of Jesus’ grief? (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9) He had compassion on those needy, demanding, insensitive people, even when his own heart was broken.

I know some of you are going through hardships of your own. Sickness, finances, relationships can cause us to live with the burden of grief on our shoulders. Yet that doesn’t stop the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”, or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” demands from your children, or the deadlines your boss gives you at work, or the electric from being turned off for lack of payment. Life goes on even when we want it to just stop for one minute.

Jesus knows what that feels like. Jesus shows us by example that sometimes the show must go on. Sometimes we have to choose to let God pick us¬†up and help us meet our responsibilities even if we don’t feel like it.

But here’s something else Jesus teaches by example. He made time to get alone and pray. (Matthew 14:23) He didn’t go off to “find himself”. He spent time talking to God.

That’s where our society might be wrong. It says we’ve got to be happy before we can make someone else happy. Put yourself first and things will get better.

But doesn’t Jesus teach us something different? Didn’t he take “self” out of the picture? Didn’t he place God first, others second, and himself after that? I’m thinking if it worked for him, it probably will work for us, too.

Pray, dear one. Pour yourself out before God, give him yourself and your circumstances. Ask him to empower you to be who he wants you to be in the midst of your pain. Bathe yourself in prayer, then trust God to be exactly what you need him to be. Yes, the show must go on. But you don’t have to go on solo. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have someone who has been there, to guide you, to strengthen you, and to love you like no one else can.

If we take the world’s advise and concentrate on ourselves, we are concentrating on the wrong person. Concentrate on God. Notice the opportunities he gives you to minister to someone else. Take him up on his offer to never leave or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5-8)

Is that a recipe for a trouble-free life? What do you think?

It is, however, a recipe proven by Jesus himself, to be exactly what we need to face the worse life hands us. And to be victors. And to let others see Jesus in us.

God, I pray for grieving people today. Some have burdens that are breaking them. Father, I pray they will come to you and lay that burden down. Give them strength. Give them purpose. Help them to look to you instead of looking within themselves. And may they find peace from allowing you to be exactly what they need to get through today. May they feel your love right this minute. And may Jesus be seen in and through them as they walk through this storm.

August 24

Jeremiah 43:1-44:30; Psalms 71, 116

Psalm 116 is a psalm of hope and filled with praise. The writer reminds us that “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (vs 5). It goes on to say God protects and gives rest, that he answers prayers and gets us through tough times.¬†

And how can we repay God for all he does for us? Verses 12-14 tell us God wants us to obey him, to live lives that honor him.

But then in verse 15 the psalmist throws in a verse that seems kind of random to me. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” It’s really the only verse in this psalm that talks about death.

I know this verse has been used at funerals and is a comfort to those of us who grieve over the home-going of a believer. But because it seems so out of place here I wonder if the psalmist isn’t talking about another kind of death.

Jesus used the example of a seed that dies before it can grow. Paul said he was crucified with Christ, yet he lives. Dying to self is a theme repeated often in the New Testament. And I wonder if this isn’t what the psalmist is talking about, too.

He goes on to say, “O Lord, truly I am your servant”.¬†

Just a thought. And a reminder that this life isn’t about me. It’s about God. May I give up control, die to self, ¬†and allow God to have his way in my life. Then I can say with the psalmist:

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (vs 7)