ALL WE NEED TO KNOW…1 Kings 17 and 1 Corinthians 4:1

1 Corinthians 4:1 mentions  ‘the secret things of God’, which reminds me of Deuteronomy 29:29, where Moses makes reference to God’s ‘secret things’.  The Bible provides us with all we need to know.  However, there’s somethin we’re not meant to know.  Secrets known only to God.  We have all we need to lead a godly life.  The rest is His.

I love the story of the prophet Elijah and that widow from the town of Zarephath of Phoenicia.  Elijah’s cared for by God, fed by ravens until its river runs dry.  God tells him to head up to Phoenicia, where He commands a widow to provide food for him.  Situated in the center of Baal worship, a false god if there ever was one.  Known for exporting oil and flour.  Big cash crops.  Also, the home of Queen Jezebel, who despises all who worship the One True God, Yahweh.  Great place,  Elijah!

Even in Zarephath, food and water run out.  Death stalks at the city gates.  This poor widow has a bit of flour and oil for one last meal for her son and herself.  That’s it.  Soon the grim reaper will harvest them.

Elijah, at the city gate, sees this widow and asks her help.  Seems a bit nervy!  To feed him first of all, even before her own son?  He’s fortunate she’s too weak to give him a good punch in the face!  But Elijah tells her that the God of Israel will provide.  This widow has a big choice to make.   Take a chance trusting God…or not.

How about you?  Something you need to trust the Lord about?  He’ll take whatever seed of faith we plant in Him, and yield what’s needed.  Trust…

Lord, we choose to trust you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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SO MUCH MORE!…Luke 5: 17-26

They came seeking help for their friend in need.  when they get to the house where Jesus is speaking, there’s absolutely no room.  Not to be deterred, they cart their disabled friend up to the roof, and literally dismantle a large section of it, lowering him down to Jesus.  He simply speaks the word and the man is made whole.  Amazing!   The man gets up on his feet, rolls up the mat that he lies on, off he goes home, thanking God with each good step he now takes!

Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled.  The religious leaders smell blasphemy.  Jesus not only heals this man, but declares that his sins are forgiven.  Only God forgives sins.

The paralytic gets the use of his legs.  He seeks physical healing but gets much more.  That’s what happens when we meet Jesus.  We come for a variety of reasons.  For me, I felt lonely and worthless.  A mediocre high school student.  Had a few friends.  Not many.  Emotionally isolated, in the little upstairs bedroom, of my parent’s house.

That’s when a radio program acted like friends lowering me down in front of Jesus.  I never knew that He cared or loved me until a Sunday evening on the radio.   Jesus eagerly desired to be in my life.  Guess what?  I prayed and got companionship with Jesus, exactly what I needed.

But I got even more.  Started getting better grades.  When I graduated from High School, I was a straight ‘A’ student.  Me?

Maybe I’m worth something?  Without a doubt!  Had new friends…in a new church where Christ was preached and the Bible taught.  He keeps giving.  More than I could ever imagine.  Much more…

Thank you, Lord, for all you give.  In Jesus.  Amen.

THERE’S A FAMINE COMING…Amos 8: 11-12

We hear of famine.  Drought causing food shortages, shrinking our wallets with higher prices.  Children suffering malnutrition.  Families struggling to make ends meet.  Famine and drought.  The Bible speaks of another type.

Amos 8–‘…not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.’  And ‘…the days (that) are coming…’ causing me to wonder if we’re not there now.  Who knows?  God knows.   A drought and famine of hearing anything from God.

Our culture has pushed God to the edge.  Over-and-out completely looms on the horizon.  Not even edges for Him anymore.  Allowed to hang around in old crosses in some veteran’s cemeteries.  The rationale given runs like this:  ‘well, it’s just tradition and heritage, nothing religious about it.’  Really?  That offends me in a society easily offended by everything and everyone Christian.  There’s a famine coming!  Wait, it’s here!

A few years back I ask a professor from the Moody Bible Institute what differences he notices in students today and from my time.  Of course, I was much smarter!  No, he didn’t say that!  What he did say was that students today know so little about the Bible.  Did I hear what he said?  If they, the cream of the crop, don’t know their Bibles, what about the average Christian living in a biblically illiterate society?

The famine again.  Money, gender issues, terrorism and sectarianism make us all nervous and cautious.   Amos 8:12 describes our thirsty, searching planet: ‘…but they will not find it.’  Find what?

The truth with a capital ‘T’, which resides in the Bible.  Best way to push back?  Dive in.  Immerse yourself.  Plant its seeds in your heart and mind.  Share the Word with others.  Push back!

Lord, thank you for the Bible.  Amen.

QUITE THE CONTRAST!…Isaiah 32: 5-8

Who says that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’?  Never?  Are you kidding?  Name-calling lingers in our memory-banks for decades and decades.   Watch what you say.  Wish I could take back some foolish names I’ve called others.

Names can hurt worse than broken bones.  Feelings don’t heal as quickly.  I’m thinking of a man named Nabal, whose wife is Abigail.  When asked to supply King David’s men, he dismisses them without lifting a finger (1 Samuel 25).  His story didn’t end well.  He’s foolish.  Nabal in Hebrew means exactly that–‘fool’.

Turn to Isaiah 32.  The contrast of the fool and the noble.  The Bible says that the fool is a scoundrel, plotting all kinds of folly.  Relishes the next commandment to break.  The only thing he can’t resist is giving in to the next temptation.  He shakes his fist in defiance at godly things.  Greedy and selfish, he could care less.  Isaiah 32 lists all these under the category of ‘nabal’… fools!

The contrast?  It’s interesting.  The word for ‘noble’ in Hebrew is ‘nabiv’, having 2 of the same 3 consonants as ‘fool’.  Very close…but not a cigar!  Close… yet mirror opposites.  For ‘noble’ means someone who is magnanimous.  The ‘noble’ person is kind and giving.  The Hebrew indicates a willingness to take act positively.  Not just doing what I say, but also doing it!

I used to take required continuing education classes and tests from a company called Noble.  To keep my securities and insurance licenses current in our state.  When it comes to godly living, I’d like to pass the Noble test for generosity and encouragement.  To do my best for Him.  Foolish to do less!  Passed your noble test?

Lord, we want to be noble, kind and giving.  As Jesus is.  Amen.

 

YOU’VE GOT TO HAND IT TO HIM!… Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62 speaks of ‘The arm of the Lord’ symbolizing His might and His presence.  As I read this,  I think back to when we tour the city of Bethlehem.  Mary and Joseph come by donkey.  We come by bus.  Enjoying the Church of the Nativity, we descend down into a large rock-hewn cave, traditionally Jesus’ birthplace.  This church dates back to 4th century AD and Constantine’s mother, Helena.

We walk Bethlehem’s streets, entering a shop where they sell olive-tree wood carvings.  You know that my sense of humor is not normal and a bit ‘twisted’!  One of the sales people approaches me describing in detail this figurine that is about 8 inches tall.  Wanting to be polite I listened.  By the way, the figurine has three arms.  All I could think to say to the salesman was– ‘you’ve got to hand it to him’!  Thankfully, I don’t think he got the nuance of my warped humor!

Reading Isaiah, this little figurine comes to mind.  How often in life do we need strength beyond our own?  For its twists and turns.  Where God’s arms are mentioned.  A tiny word in Hebrew–‘yad’– ‘arm’.

More than that.  Strength.  Technically, it’s used to identify the support structures that hold up the heavy bronze basin in the Temple (1 Kings 7:35-36).  This font, filled with water, would topple over without the ‘hands’ supporting it on all sides.  So would we without His help.  Life without Him would topple and crumble in disastrous flooding.  To rack and ruin.

Read Isaiah 62:3-4.  Let the arms of the Lord uplift.  Share these verses with someone who needs a helping hand from God.  We’ll need nothing more…to hold us up!

Lord, we need your help and strength.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

INTO DAVY JONES’ LOCKER!…Micah 7: 19

The Prophet Micah brings encouraging word from God–Hi anger will not last forever.  The Lord is long-suffering and patient.  ‘Again’–He will have compassion on His people.  Then Micah tells this– ‘…(God) will tread our sins underfoot…’  No.  He’ll tramples sin, blots them out, grinds them into tiny dust that will blow away in the wind.  Sin–good-bye and good riddance.

I remember losing a good watch down the New Jersey shore.  Running in a panic back to where I last was at the beach, trying to find it.  Gone.  Bad news.  Good news is that our sins are gone by the cross of Jesus Christ.  When we believe in Him, He ‘treads them underfoot’.  Gone, in this case, is good riddance!  Our sins?  Under His feet.  Thank God!

Micah tells even more.  God ‘…hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea’.  All of them.  Not only the ‘white lies’.  Even those we’ve never shared with anyone, except the Lord.  The ones that shame us the most.

And where do they go?  Into the depths of the sea.  I remember being on a cruise approaching some tropical isle, and was out on one of the decks along with everyone else.   The woman next to me had the most amazing camera in hand.   Not like the one I was carrying!  Passengers were pushing and shoving.  You guessed it–someone elbowed her from behind and that pricey camera went flying out of her hands over the railing straight into ‘Davy Jones’ Locker’.  Gone!

Our sins, in God’s hands, are tossed into the depths of the sea.  Glub…glub…glub…gone!  Don’t try to fish them back out.  Let them go…where God has sent them.

Lord, thank you for forgiveness.  Because of Jesus.  Amen.

WHAT A STRANGE STORY!…1 Kings 13

Talk about a strange story.  This is it.  The story and what happens.  The Lord sends one of His prophets to King Jeroboam of Israel.  Jeroboam, to keep his people from worshipping in the city of Jerusalem, sets up his own worship centers, chooses his own priests, establishes his own holy days, and worst of all, creates man-made idols for the people to worship.  Baddest of the bad!

This prophet gives due warning to Jeroboam and a chance to repent.  No way!  Not interested!   So, God allows Jeroboam a traumatic seizure of his hand, the altar to false gods shatters and turns to dust.  ‘Help!’, cries Jeroboam.  This prophet prays.  God responds.  A healing occurs.  The king then asks the prophet to remain with him as his religious guide.

But no, he can’t do that.  Verse 9– “For I was commanded by the word of the Lord, ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.'”  God is clear as clear can be– go home!  Now enters one called ‘a certain old prophet’ (v.11).  Somehow he gets the other prophet to stay with him for a meal.  Not what the Lord had told him to do.   That cagey, old-goat lies through his teeth, which are probably as false as he is!

Too bad neither prophet listens to the Word of the Lord.  How about you…and me?  Too bad when we cave into society’s norms rather than God’s Word.  Too bad denominations cease hearing from the Bible.  Too bad when pastors do the same.   Too bad indeed.

Who do you listen to?  Whose voice counts?

Lord, we want to hear and heed you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

TOO MANY VOICES… John 10: 1-6

Information screams at us from computers, I-phones, I-pads, laptops, Kindle Fire, Nooks and crannies!   Jesus says something His disciples can’t figure out.  In John 10, He reminds them that He’s the good shepherd.  The only voice that ultimately matters in their life is His.  Get it?  They didn’t.

Renting an English 15th century manor house was magical.  Looking out its windows,  we see lots of sheep grazing.    Herd animals for sure.  One would take off and the rest scamper along following close behind.  We shake plum and apple trees, and they would come running, pits and cores as well.  But if we got too close to them, off they would run in the opposite direction.

One day, the shepherd comes to cart them all off… for mating.  I was relieved that it wasn’t for our dinner table!  He shows up and they all come running, walking up the ramp, sardined inside with hardly room to breathe.  No sheep arguments.  No trying to bolt out the back.  Content to follow wherever their shepherd wants them to go.  Open fields or over-crowded van.  They’re his.  His voice, all they need to hear.  They know his voice.  No doubt about it.

As Jesus says–‘…the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… for they know his voice…’ (John 10:3-5).  How could His disciples not understand (v. 6)?  They often didn’t.   Why is it that I don’t so many times?

Maybe we’re not listening?  Maybe we should spend more time focused on His Word?  Maybe we should turn off  those digital devices, spending time in prayer?  Maybe?  No doubt about it!

Time to go now.  I hear His voice calling…

Lord, we want to hear more from you.  Amen.

 

DISTANT AND WHAT?…Micah 7: 18-20

Who wouldn’t enjoy reflecting on God’s forgiveness?  How He loves to free us from our sins.  After all, He’s crazy about us!  He gladly lets go of our waywardness.  We hear that ‘…(He) delights to show mercy’ (Micah 7: 18).

If it were me, I’d forgive reluctantly, with lots of strings attached!  Not our God!  He delights to forgive us, His inheritance (v.18).  Quite the different attitude from little old me!

Verse 19 says that God has a big heart of compassion.  A passion to get close to us, not only during good times.   We crave to be near their children and grandchildren.  Could God be any different?

I remember taking a social mobility test years ago for a job I not only wanted but needed.  Had no idea what the test questions were leading to and concluding about me.  No idea, silly me!  But I was honest and answered all those weird questions about how I would handle certain situations.  How I’d best like to use my free time– playing cards or reading.  What did this test reveal my social mobility?

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on paper.  Must be a mix-up.  Had someone else’s scores.  They said I was ‘distant and aloof’.  How dare they!  I’m going off by myself and they can go fly a kite!  Distant and aloof!  Don’t bother me!

Well, I got the job anyway and did quite well.  Who knows?  Maybe I am distant and aloof, but what I do know for sure is that God is not.  He’s filled with compassion.  He loves us and loves to be near us.

Remember, He’s never far away.  Never!  He passes that test every time!

Thank you, Lord, for being so close to us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

PIANO LESSONS!…1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

I didn’t take piano lessons growing up.  My parents had an electronic organ, which my father played.  The store salesman talked them into giving me lessons.   I still play, but only with chords printed above the musical notes.  Rudimentary at best!

Recently, we attended a concert by a piano major we’ve known since early childhood.  My, how he played that instrument!  The piano must have been well over a hundred years old.  Beat up, ugly, scratches galore.  He sat on a borrowed harp stool.  Makeshift…yet it seemed like he had played this piano all his life!  Old and tired, he made it sound new and alive!

He says that his final piece is the most challenging, requiring a page-turner for the sheet music.  His sister has been helping, but for this composition, he calls for his father’s help.  Says that his Dad knows the music, and can better keep up.

As he was playing, with his father turning pages, I thought of the help our Heavenly Father gives us.  He can because He knows all about what we’re going through.  He should.  He’s the author.  Every page He turns.  Father does know best.

1 Corinthians 15:10: ‘… by the grace of God I am what I am…I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me’.  Like this piano player, work hard.   Apply yourself.  Do it again.  Knowing that it is the Lord’s hand that moves the pages we’re playing off of.  Jesus’ scarred hands offer good help with whatever page of life we’re on.

He turns the pages and gives us strength while orchestrating harmonies in our discordant lives; helping us to play the last note, ending well for Him!

Thank you, Lord, for always being with us.  Amen.