Monthly Archives: September 2013

More Jars

bigstock-Pottery-1248429Another jar story. I couldn’t resist. Here a full jar begins the story, but by the end, the abundance has been miraculous. This widow is a believer, but her husband’s death has left the family in a financial crisis. She and her boys have nothing to live on, but that’s not the main concern. Creditors threaten to take her children as slaves. She comes to Elisha the prophet willing to do whatever he tells her. Obedient, needing only direction. Elisha sends her to collect all the jars she can find. The boys scurry from house to house asking to borrow any extra jars. Large, small, they slowly fill the small house. Then, she brings out the only thing she has—a little oil. She closes the door and begins to pour.

And pour.

And pour.

And pour.

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’”(2 Kings 4:6,7 NIV)

And guessing from the quality of Jesus’ wine at the wedding in Cana, this would be some EVOO Rachel Ray would proudly use. Imagine the awe, the dropped jaws as the little jar filled big ones. The wonder at God’s provision. The humility of knowing God saw and cared and moved on their behalf.

Cultivate such willingness to obey that all you need is direction.

How? One choice at a time.

“The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”  C. S. Lewis

Questions:

How willing are you to obey?

When is obedience easy?

When is it hard?

Does obedience get easier? Is there a process at work?

When has your obedience opened the way for a greater revelation of God?

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Empty Jars

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God, through Elijah, proclaimed a three year drought. To protect His prophet from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, God hid Elijah by a small brook and provided takeout via Raven Express. Now, the brook is dry too. So God sends Elijah to the beach to a poor widow from Zarephath. Only God neglected to give the widow a heads up.

“So he(Elijah) went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel says, ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”(I Kings 17:10-14 NIV)

Here it is. A call to choose: what she wants vs. what God wants. God says feed my guy; her mother’s instinct says my boy is hungry. This poor widow in Zarephath has every right to tell this crazy old prophet to get lost. This is their last meal—one piece of bread—and then they will starve. Note how she refers to God: the LORD your God.

Yet, for some reason, she obeys. She gives away their last bite of food.

And a miracle happens. The jar and the jug are full.

God calls us to give up our right to ourselves. He wants us to zero in on one choice only—His. What shape has your call taken? Talk to the kid everyone ignores? Not cuss when the guys in the locker room do? Cut off the gossip before it starts? Tithe? Take turns with your sibling? Give your husband ten minutes before sharing the kids with him? Return the favor for your wife?

Our call may come one hundred times a day. Look to the One calling and remember, He will keep the jar full.

Questions:

Reread the passage. What stands out?

What would you have done in her shoes? What do you think her reaction was when the jars didn’t empty?

Did Elijah’s God ever become her God? What kind of discussions might she and Elijah have?

How do you think Elijah felt? God sent him to a Gentile woman. By Jewish law, Elijah shouldn’t be in her house. What rights did Elijah give up?

What is God calling you to choose? Do you think He will come through for you?

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Riding Shotgun

bigstock-Man-taking-car-key-41217067Individual rights. Freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the American way.

But is it God’s way?

God loves freedom too, but not how we think. He gives us free will and allows us to make our own choices.

Yet, He asks us to lay down this right. When presented with God’s way and our way, He wants us to choose His. Scripture tells us:

“You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6: 19b, 20a NIV)

When we accepted Christ’s payment for our sins, we handed Him the keys to our lives. Jesus slides into the driver’s seat, and we ride shotgun. He leads, we follow. Even if we know a shortcut, or it’s Happy Hour at Sonic and a cherry limeade sounds good.

The good news? You’re in for a great ride. An adventure guaranteed to stretch you and change you forever. It’s like the guys in the Volkswagen commercial who head on a road trip and put in a CD to learn Spanish. Hours later when they finally stop for gas (because it’s a Volkswagen), they’re speaking fluent Spanish.

There’s no telling what will change when you let Jesus do the driving. The choice is yours.

Questions:

What rights do you most protect? (For me, it’s how I spend my time.)

When is yielding control to someone difficult? Easy?

Where does yielding to God fall on the Difficult to Easy spectrum? Why?

<———————————————————————————>

Difficult                                                                                              Easy

Think of one thing or area where you are willing to scoot over and let God drive. Now scoot over.

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My Hands Are Full

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3 NIV)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She loved to dress up. Hats, shoes, scarves, and lipstick. She had a favorite necklace of little plastic pearls and she wore it everywhere. One night, Daddy came to tuck her in bed. He asked his little girl to give him the precious necklace.

“No, Daddy. It’s mine. It’s my favorite,” she said.

“Ok. You keep it.” He kissed her goodnight and she went to sleep. Night after night, he asked her for the necklace. Night after night, she refused. One night, tears streaming down her cheeks, she handed him the little plastic pearls.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Daddy said. “I’m been waiting to give you these.” He took out a strand of real pearls and placed them around her neck.

Keep this story in mind as we take a look at the verse above from Matthew.

Poor.

Empty-handed.

Not positives where we live. We like full things. Full bellies. Full gas tanks. Closets, houses, hands—full. But look. To the poor is given the kingdom, the real pearls.

God can’t fill hands or hearts that are already full. What’s filling your hands, your heart, your schedule? Is it plastic or genuine? Temporal or eternal? Yes, work, school, those things are musts, but what about the rest? What’s eating the rest of your time? TV, electronics, endless activities?

As the schedule takes shape for this school year, clear some space for God:

  • Keep a Bible at the table and read as you munch your Cheerios in the morning
  • Tape a memory verse to the bathroom mirror
  • Play praise music and pray in the car

Let go of the plastic. Turn to the One whose gifts will leave you speechless.

Questions:

Look at your week’s schedule. ID the plastic. (Not the have to’s, rather the good that pushes out the best.) ID the genuine.

What can you let go to make room for the real stuff?

Start small. To what one thing will you commit to turn your attention to God?

Get ready for distractions. What is most likely to throw you off your commitment this week? How will you fight it?

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Are You Being Watched?

cross-training“No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.” (Psalm 33: 16-19 NIV)

Big armies. Strong warriors. Fast horses. All impressive. As an athlete, I admire strength, discipline, and muscle. God, however, looks elsewhere. Check out verse 18:

“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love”

My oldest currently trains for a spot in the Navy’s special operations forces. Muscles, strength, and discipline abound. His training is top notch and if anyone is prepared for battle, it’s his group of guys. As thankful as I am for his training, my hope for him rests with God. God holds my son’s life regardless of the size of the enemy army, the battle conditions, or the weapons used.

The same holds true in the civilian world of Starbucks and soccer practice. Do any of these challenges ring true?

Workplace: the boss, competitors, the economy

Home: overbooked schedule, marriage maintenance, parenting

School: peer pressure, tests, friend issues

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by an outward show of strength.(My calendar/to-do list can paralyze me in seconds if I let it.) Yet, God makes a promise to those who fear Him, whose trust is in His unfailing love. God has their back. He delivers them and keeps them alive during famines of all kinds.

Where are you putting your hope? Your 401K? Your marriage? Your BFF?

Or are you growing respect for God? Are you building trust in His love? If you are, you’re being watched. You can count on it.

Questions:Kings, armies, horses—places ancient peoples put their hope. Where do people place their hope and trust today? (This varies for adults, teens, preteens, and kids. Take turns sharing.)

Talk through the things people place their hope in today. Discuss what would happen if each were to fail or fall through.

Is it hard to put God first, to fear Him as Scripture counsels? Why? Is it a busyness thing or a trust/faith issue?

What is God doing in verses 18-19? What is the purpose of His watchfulness?

How can this impact the rest of your day? Tomorrow?

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