SEEKERS…I Chronicles 13

At my second church, I started a Wednesday night Bible Study group called ‘the Seekers’.  We gathered at the parsonage, next door to the church.  Invited people from the neighborhood to join us.  All would be welcome.  Unfortunately, decades before, the governing board had rejected people from our racially-mixed neighborhood.  Because of their color only, they could not be part of the church family.  The community was changing.  The church leaders were not.

But I love a challenge.  I’ve learned that about myself.  One church I served was well-organized, had lots of members and programs with ample giving, which totally bored me!  What?  You read it!

I love to see what God can do, when otherwise it appears helpless and hopeless.  Seeking His direction and His will.  That’s how our Bible study got its name.  Seekers.  I sought out lots of people.  No limitations applied while I was pastor.  None.

Our group consisted of college students, teens, new converts to Jesus, people from India and the Caribbean, mixed-race couples, the elderly–basically anyone seeking to know the Lord better, getting closer to Jesus.  Seekers!

1 Chronicles 13 offers a sobering reminder about seeking the Lord.  King David wants to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.  What’s the Ark?–a large wooden box containing those 10 Commandments given to Moses by God.  Also, the Ark symbolizes God’s presence with His people.

David seeks the Lord–‘Let us bring the Ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul’ (v.3).  What?  All during King Saul’s reign, the Ark was ignored.  A nod in God’s direction never crossed their minds.  Not seekers, that bunch.   God’s people had turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to their Lord.

But just them, right?  Couldn’t be us! No way! Fat chance!  How foolish when we cut down on our time in God’s Word.  Or pray only during some dire emergency.  Is that smart?   When I’ve taken that path, and sadly I have, it only leads to bigger messes.  Going MY way.  Prayer as a last resort.  Turning to Jesus only when convenient or desperate.

Am I alone?  Wish I was.  You know when you’re seeking His direction for the next turn in your life.  No mystery if we’re honest with ourselves…and with Him.  Seek the Lord.  GPS–God’s Positioning System!  Be a Seeker…of Him!  Always!

Prayer:   Lord, we know how important it is to follow you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

RAIN OR SHINE!…Psalm 72

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we get way too much rain in the winter.  More than our fair share!  A recent one doused our backyard with so much H2O, we feared our lawn would be washed away.  Puddles everywhere.  Ground saturated.   Brown mud where green turf used to be.

Fear not!  Sun came shining back in March.  Ever so slowly our lawn dried up and, with a little help from reseeding and peat moss, we were back on the right track.  Lush, green sod until the next winter!

Sun and rain.  We ourselves need both.  Psalm 72: 5-6–‘May they fear you while the sun endures…May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!’

‘Sun and rain’ can become good goals for us in the hands of God.  A call to be all that we can be… for others.  To be like the sun that warms us especially in those cold disappointments that come our way.  When the frigid hand of death grips tightly, may I be warm and compassionate, comforting those in tears.  Like the sun on a winter day.

Warmth to nourish the seed of faith in a new believer– to help someone else to set, root and grow.  Warmth to draw alongside, keeping the enemy from tossing someone into the deep freeze of derailed discipleship.  Sun!

And rain.  Adding moisture to a dry life.  Purpose where there was little.  Quenching thirsts for the Lord and for human friendship.  We can be rain to another’s drought-stricken life.  Rain!

My prayer is that these weekly devotions would be like sun and rain in your life.  I want to partner with you, letting you know that you are not alone… and neither am I.

Even better to know that we’ll always have Jesus by our side.  Always.  He will be our sun and rain…forever!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for fellow travelers in our Christian journey.  Especially for Jesus.  Amen.

BLESSINGS GALORE!…Psalm 84

In Psalm 84 the word ‘blessing’ is used a number of times.  This psalm was sung by God’s people, travelling to the Temple in Jerusalem, to worship the Lord.  The first ‘blessing’ comes in verse 4– of being in the Temple.  With God.  Singing His praises.  To be with Him, the very best blessing of all!

There’s more?  Verse 5 tells of the blessing that God puts in our hearts as we seek Him.  It’s that certain longing to find Him and His will for our lives.  A blessing of obedience that feels clean and right.  ‘In whose heart are the highways to Zion’.  God paves the heart-highway that leads directly to Him.  Happy trails!

The third blessing is hinted at in verses 5- 7, where those who trust in God can’t even measure all His blessings.  They’re like springs and pools of water flooding over their banks.  Blessings galore!

In Hebrew, the word ‘blessing’ is ‘b’raca’.  Psalm 84 pilgrims go through the ‘Valley of Baca’ on their journey to the Temple.   ‘Baca’ refers to a dry and desolate place.  Psalm 84 reassures them that when in that dry valley they can hold His hand, walk beside Him, and arrive safely in that place of blessing.

When I’ve been down and dry myself, I’ve been tempted to imagine that God has abandoned me, left me to my own rotten devices.    I’ve needed His reassurances to nudge me from ‘Baca’ to ‘B’raca’!  You too?

Here’s something odd I’ve discovered about myself.  In a couple of the churches I’ve pastored, which were going and growing fellowships long before I arrived on the scene, I found myself utterly bored.  Couldn’t wait to get out.  What was missing?  I now know–the challenge of ‘baca’!

The last church I served was down to eighteen members (that was before I arrived, thank you!).  They had searched out real estate brokers about selling the property.  Had been a church of over three hundred thirty years before, a thriving congregation.  Now they were ‘baca’ for sure.

The call came my way to serve the Lord as their pastor.  My reaction?  I loved the idea of being in ‘baca’-dryness to see what ‘b’raca’-blessings the Lord had in mind if we but looked to Him, seeking His will.  What happened?  God not only showed us His blessings.  He showered us with them!

Don’t fear the ‘baca’ you may be in.  Pray.  Look to the Lord.  Ask for His ‘b’raca’-blessings and see what He has in store for you.  Seek Him.  Don’t ever let go.

‘Blessed are those…as they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs…blessed is the man who trusts in you’ (Psalm 84:5-6,12).  Could never have said it better myself!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for staying with us through discouraging times.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

AND THE WINNER IS!…2 Kings 2: 1-18

Remember when Elijah had that competition with the priests of Baal?  Yahweh versus Baal?  Baal had it much easier.  Wood and a bull animal–let Baal set fire to them.  Go ahead!  Do something, Baal!  But nothing happened.  Not a thing!

Now for Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is wood and a bull, but also water drenching and soaking this sacrificial site.  Will Yahweh send down fire?  Can He?

Which god is the true one?  Baal?  Called the god of fire and water?  The ancients picture him standing, holding both his hands upright, with one hand holding a hammer for thunder;  and, in the other, lightning bolts.  He has bull’s horns on his head, symbolizing virility.  The god of fire!  Should be a piece of cake for Baal?  Cry out to Baal, O you his priests!  Cry out!  Or just cry!

You know the outcome.  The true God, Yahweh of Israel, overcomes all the obstacles.  Fire falls from heaven, a blazing inferno leaves a scorched, desert wasteland.

Baal?  A fireless flop!  His fire extinguished.  His priests a bunch of crybabies.

Many times Yahweh God is associated with fire in the Old Testament.  Moses at the burning bush.  By night in the scary, cold desert during Israel’s forty wandering years, providing warmth and light.

In our Bible text today, we see Elijah and Elisha walking and talking together when suddenly a chariot and horses appear surrounded by, yes, fire!  All heaven breaks loose!

I was thinking about something.  When stress and worry heat up my life, might it be the moment to step back, seeing what the Lord has in mind?  Not to fear the ‘fire’ or fight it, but to let it be for my guidance and comfort.  Think about that for awhile.  Stay near the fire for a change, sensing His presence with us in the flames much like what Daniel’s three friends experienced (read Daniel 3).

Fire–not to hurt us but to light our way.  Maybe we’ll experience a proverbial ‘cloak from heaven’ giving us new purpose and direction in life as it did for Elisha.

Don’t doubt this for a second.  He has more in store for us.  More than we can even imagine.  Let the fire and light shine!

Prayer:  Lord, we need strong faith to see you in the fires of life.  To trust your power, love and kindness.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.