Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bring On The Rain

June 11,2012.
17 days.
2 weeks 3 day.
That is how long it has been since we have had any measureable rainfall. And according to the weather forecast we don't expect to see even a sprinkle for at least another week.  My husband is not happy about this at all. He is not a farmer but he is a country boy that loves the outdoors 

Each year in the spring he jumps on his tractor, tills up the ground and plants 3 fields of corn mainly for the wildlife.  As it grows he takes pictures of its development to show other farmers and hunters.  He is like a proud papa with a newborn baby to show off.  Sunday we got home from church he said that he wanted to go out to the fields to see how much the lack of rain had hurt them.  After inspecting the first field he came back to the house and told me that most of those stalks were burnt up from the heat.  He was discouraged that all his effort was seemingly going to waste.  He wasn't sure he even wanted to ride over to the other fields.  He didn't want to know how bad they were.  Later that afternoon when I was leaving to head back to church he decided that there was no use putting it off any longer.  So he went off into the woods on his 4 wheeler. 

That night at church my dear friend Kim Dunn was leading the worship service and one of the songs she sang made I think back to mine and Mike's discussion about how the corn fields need the rain in order to grow and produce.

"Lord send the rain, Pour out your Spirit. 
Let the fire fall, heal us one and all.  Fall fresh on me"

God used these words to show me how much I am just like Mike's corn stalks.  Without water, the living water, to quinch my thirsty soul I, too, will not grow.  The heat and the pressure of life will cause me to burn out and wither away. 

When I return from church Mike's mood was lifted because when he went to check on field # 2 and 3 he found that the corn there was thriving and most stalks already had several ears of corn on them.  What was the difference between the first field and the other two?  The field with the withered plants is in an opened area.  It has no shade and the only source of water is natually from the rain. However, the other fields are actually back in the forest where an area had been cleared specifically for the corn.  Both area in low areas that will get any water run off from the hills around whenever it does finally rain.  But the biggest difference is that the natual spring creek that runs close to both. 
In John 7:38 Jesus tells us, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  So again I am like a stalk of corn.  In order for my faith to grow and flurish I must remain close to "the flow rivers of living water."  Jesus is the living water (John 4).

What do you do that keeps you by the river?  Are you spending time sitting and allowing the "rain" pour freash on you everyday ?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Forget About it

"But forget all that --
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness,
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19

There are a lot of things in all of our past, some good and some bad.  But God says to forget those things.  The mistakes we made have been wiped clean and are not to be the object of our focus anymore. The good in us is also nothing because He has so much more planned.  We are to lock our eyes forward, looking only to Him.  The wilderness we perceive to be in is all a part of His plan.  He is working even when do not see it or feel it but we have to trust His promise that He is making that pathway for us and as an added bonus He is going to give us a river to quench our dry mouth. 

Are you so busy twisting your neck around to try to get one last glimpse of past victories or hanging you head low in sorrow of past falls that you can't see the "something new" He is doing in your life?  Is God carving out a new pathway in your wilderness?  Tell us about it.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Zumba Exile

"Where are you ?  I have missed you and hope everything is okay"are

I just sat there staring at text message not really knowing how to reply.

It had been 3 weeks since we had seen each other.  I had not planned on being MIA for that long. In fact I had not planned on being missing at all.  Over the last 6 months it had been our routine to get together 4-5 times a week  My absence was just one of those things that came up slowly.  After I missing the first couple of days having to work late and take care of some things at home the next few days was easier.  Before I knew it a week had passed.  I had no excuse.  No reason except that I was embarrassed for missing so long.  Ashamed of the fact that I was slacking, that I was falling back into my old habits.  I didn't want to face the ladies that had spent months encouraging me and helping me along the way.  Those feelings not only kept me out the second week but also on into the third.  Yesterday, I decided to face the awkwardness of missing all those weeks and return to my Zumba class.  It was so good to be back.  Once I heard the first note of the first song a smile came across my face.  By the end of the class I was enjoying it again. I could not believe that I had spent so much time away. 

My self imposed exile made me think about the children of Israel.  Our ladies bible study has been reading through the One Year Chronological Bible for the last couple of years.  It has really opened my eyes to how little we really know about the Old Testament.  As children we hear the miraculous stories of Moses leading the children out of Egypt, going through the desert and finally into the promised land.  However, once they get in the land of milk and honey we tend to just leave them there and up forward to the New Testament.

The Israelites had everything God had promised them yet they still turned away away from Him and to the idols of others.  After generations of this downward spiral in 586 BC Israel was sent into exile.  Then in 538 BC a few of them begin coming back with Zerubbabel, then Ezra brought back another group, and finally Nehemiah asked the king if he could return.  He had been greived that the wall of protection had fallen and not yet been rebuilt. The king granted his request.  Once he returned he organized the people and the wall was rebuilt in just 52 days.  After the task was completed the people all gathered together.

Nehemiah 8:1 -- "all the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate.  They asked Ezra to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had give for Israel to obey."

Moses had commanded that every 7 years the Book of the Law be read however, that had not been done for quite some time.  We know that for a period of time the Book was lost because a servant of King Josiah had found it somewhere in the Temple.  This means that Moses' instructions to read the word as a reminder of who God was and why they should follow Him had not been done since even before the exile.  There were a few like Daniel and his friends that continued to follow God even through their time in Babylon, but we can assume that there were some in the crowd with Nehemiah had never heard God's word before. The people stood and listend intently as Ezra read the word from daybreak until noon. So for 5-6 hours they listened to God speak to them. Remember I told you that my groups is in the process of reading through the Old Testament for the second time and I have to tell you that listening closely is not an easy thing to do.  Especially to Leviticus.  Yet these people sat and just soaked it up.  They were so thirsty to hear from God.   After Ezra had finished reading :

It is here that we see the mercy of the exile.  Before exile, the people had not just become rebellious but they were really just indifferent to God and his laws.  The time spent in exile that retenderized their hearts toward God.  They began seeking after Him.  Now they are responding in agreement with God by bowing down and worshipping Him. 

Put yourself in their shoes. Think of all the emotional baggage that the Israelites brought back with them: on one hand they are excited but on the other hand nervous, proud to be going back yet ashamed that they ever had to leave and thankful that God is returning them but wondering if He will still accept them.  In the mist of all these emotions they just begun to weep and worship.  In the reading of God's word their eyes were opened as to how far they had pulled away from the Lord.

Do you have the same emotional baggage as the Israelites?  Are you afraid you have been in exile for to long or to far away to come back ?  Do we allow the word to bring us to a point of recognizing where we have fallen? 

Nehemiah 8:6 -- "Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, 'AMEN!! AMEN!!' as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground."

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Am A Vessel

This is the last day of a study I have been doing on 2 Kings 4:1-7.  Last Saturday I told you that God had shown me that He does have His way of doing things. Then I continued to share all that He taught me like the fact that it isn't always a lack of faith  that throws us into a desperate situation.  Then on Tuesday we learned it just takes small flask of oil to bring about a miracle.  Finally Wednesday He reminded me that I do have a part to play in my own miracle and that if I do my part then God will do the rest.

All of those are building blocks that that we need to be able to take in the lesson He has for me to share today from the final verses of this passage.

4 Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”
5 So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another.
6 Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.
7 When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

Verse 5 says that she did as she was told: no questions, no whining, no complaining and no procrastination.  She simply did as God had told her through the prophet.  How many times does God tell me to go in and shut the door and I just do it ?  Not only did she do it but so did her sons.  So rather they understood or believed the widow and her husband had raised them with enough respect to follow their mothers lead.  As they bring her the jars she continues to pour and the oil continues to flow.  She does not even look up from her task.  She doesn't stop to count how many they have left to fill nor does she begin figure the value of the jars that were already filled.  We don't know how many hours she had sat there pouring and pouring before her son says “There aren’t any more!” but as soon as he says that the oil stops flowing.  God had filled all the vessels that they had brought.  He didn't short  them one jar not did he have the oil to continue to flow with no vessel to contain it, which would have been a waste.  However, I think if she had had 10 more, 100 more or even 1000 more vessels the oil would have still been running. 

I love the song Vessel by Chris Sligh

The chorus is:
Make me a vessel that you can always use
No matter how you break me, what I win or what I lose
Let me be a vessel pure and holy,
perfect in your eyes
Lord hear me when I cry for you to make me a vessel.

Just as God fill all the vessels with oil that the widow and her sons brought to Him, he will fill us if we are willing to offer ourselves. 

Are you giving yourself as a vessel to be filled by Him?  Is there and area of your life that you are not offering ?  Are there others in your life that you need to be bring to the Lord in prayer that they begin to see themselves as jars molded by the Master and needing to be filled ?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You Do Your Part, Let God Do His

If I said that in some situations we expect God to do to much for us would you accuse me of blasphemy ? Would you argue that we really do not expect enough ? That we attempt to much on our own? Please allow me to explain before you click away never to return.

Imagine a single young woman that has prayed and prayed for God to bring her Mr. Right yet she will never go out or even speak to a man?

Or how about a man that prays to lose the extra weight that he is carrying around but he refuses to change his eating habits or exercise ?

And in my job situation, if I prayed for God to provide a new job for me but I did not apply for even one?

Yes He could bring Mr. Right, take weight and even give me a big better job without any of us doing anything. He is God and he can do anything He wants in any way He wants. However, he wants and allows us to partner with Him.

Let me show you what I mean but using the next verse in the passage that we have studying this week:

3 And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from
your friends and neighbors.

Elisha tells the widow to go door to door and borrow empty jars and not to few of them. This means that she must open herself up to being ridiculed and/or rejected. Picture her walking up to a house, lifting her hand to know but then walking away a couple of paces only to turn around and go back. She does this 3-4 times before she gets the nerves to tap on the door. as the homeowner opens the door her eye drop low and she quietly ask to borrow any empty jars they may have available. "What do you need them for?" ask the neighbor. What does she need them for ? Elisha did not tell her. How was her walking around town and gathering empty jars going to help her pay her bills to save her sons? Yet she continued on doing what God (through Elisha) had told her to do.

God could have just had someone hand her the money she needed or He could have caused the creditor to forgive the debt but He wanted her to have a part in her own miracle.

Think of how we are with our own kids. There are some things we gift to them out of love but then there are times that we make them work towards earning the money to make their own purchases. We want them to "have some skin in the game." When we do this it opens their eyes as to the cost and value of the other things we give them.

As God provides for this widow in her time of need she will be more aware of all that He has already done for her and will continue to do for her. It is also and example to her kids that God will provide but something may be required of us in the exchange.

The ultimate lesson in this is the fact that God provided us a way to reconcile our relationship back to Him by sending His Son to died, be buried and then resurrected but in return we must give Him ourselves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just a Flask of Oil

God has taught me so much in the last month about His ways. Today's post is all about how He takes what we have to bring about our miracle.  You can go back here to see how this series all began. And here to see how our faith may or may not be our cause for desperation. 

2 “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”
“Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied.

Have you ever thought you could pull yourself out of a desperate situation if you just had "IT".  Whatever you think the "IT" is, you are convinced that you don't possess it.  You are sure that your circumstances will never change.

When I heard the news that I would be losing my job in 2013 I was strong I was sure I God had a plan and before long I would have a new position and life would go on.  Then a month passed by.  I sent out dozens of resumes, filled out profiles on numerous job sites and networked with others but nothing came.  Still I was sure God's plan was in place.  Finally, I not only got a call for an interview but I felt it went great.  I was comfortable with the questions they asked and the answers I gave.  I walked out feeling very sure that I had the job.  Then one week later I opened my email to see that HR dept had forwarded me a short and simple "No Thank you" form letter.  After that contact is when my feelings of despair began.  Then God took me to the scripture that I am sharing with you this week and especially the verse I am focusing on today.

In verse 2 Elisha ask the women what she has in her house. That seemed like a strange question. Do you not think that in order to save her sons from being taken she had already sold everything she had? She was desperate and destitute.  She had nothing left. NOTHING.  What part of that did Elisha not understand? I think he did understand but she wanted her to change her focus.  He wanted her to see what she did have to offer for God to work with. He was going to take something that she already had to bring about her miracle.  Her little offering would be multiplied like the fish and loaves of bread were.

What she had was just a small flask of oil. During these times this olive oil was not the same oil we use today. It was very valuable and could easily be exchange for currency. We could compare it to diamonds or gold in today's marketplace. (Many commentaries also believe that the oil is a representation of the Holy Spirit.)  What if she had continued to insist to Elisha that she didn't have anything? 

I asked yesterday to think about what your desperate situation is. Today I want you to think about what do you “have in the house” that God may use to bring about your miracle? As I look at my current situation I began to take inventory of my marketable skills. I asked a few friends and co-workers what skill they saw in me that I may have missed. God started showing me how He may use what I already have.

Several years ago I took a continued education class in project management. This class has little value in my current position but I have noticed in my job search that there are many openings that are looking for this knowledge as a secondary skill. God used the widow’s small flask of oil to bring about her miracle. He will also use the knowledge, contacts and/or other provisions that He has blessed me with in the past to bring about my miracle of the future.

So what do you have in already that you can/will offer to God to work through this current valley?  Tomorrow I'll share with you about how there maybe some work God will expect you to do on your own before He begins to do His part.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It Isn’t a Lack of Faith

I am continuing a short series on what God has been teaching me about His ways.  As I learn more I am able to trust more and therefore lean more on Him in  my times of desparation.  You can read the beginning of this series here.

When I learned about my job situation I begin to ask God a lot of questions:


“Why now?” My whole family is serving you. I pray expectantly. I attend church regularly. I teach bible study. I work VBS. I am the women’s ministry director and I share my testimony at every opportunity.

“What are you trying to teach me? “

“Is this the result of a sin?”

“Where is my faith lacking?”

4:1 One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”

As I read 2 Kings 4:1, my heart breaks for this poor widow (and myself). Here she is not only a woman that has just lost her husband but before he passed they had become “a member of the group of prophets.” The best way I can describe this group of prophets (after much study) is to liken it to our modern day seminary. They had given up a lot to study under Elisha. We don’t know exactly but I imagine that they had to move, leave family and go into debt. After all of that, all of their dedication to want to serve the Lord the husband dies. Not only does the husband die but the creditors come to take her sons into slavery as debt payment. (think if you couldn’t pay your Visa bill that you would lose your kids)

Widow was not in this situation due to the fact that her family was rebellious against God. It doesn’t appear that this was any type of judgment against. And I don’t see that is was a situation brought on by their making a bad decision. Yet she does find herself, one who feared the Lord, in a desperate time.

We all find ourselves in times of desperate need. This is one of the ways God works.

I have always lifted up what my friend calls breathe prayers. You know the little short “I need this or God do that” type of prayer. Before I faced my various times of desperation I never knew what it was to cry out to God. To lie at the church alter with tears flowing as if from a faucet. What is was to cry to God for so long that I would lose my voice. There are times when I can’t imagine a way that things will work out but God has His way. I won’t say that I enjoyed walking through the valleys of my past nor the current one but I will tell you that I would not trade all He has did or all that he taught me for anything.

What desperate need are you facing? Can you accept it as His way? If not, then pray for God you show you His love, comfort and provision as you walk through this time.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

God has His Ways

Have you ever received some news that was so hard to hear that you feel as if you were punched in the stomach?

News that leaves you unable to speak?

New that when you hear it the words swirl like a tornado in your head then they move to stir up the dirt in your heart ?

Even though the words are there you just can’t seem to get them out. Not verbally or in writing. That is how I have been over the last 8 months. I learned late in 2011 that my job functions would be moved out of state in early 2013. Although I am thankful that the company has given me such a long notice the time does not quite to worry and concern. One of the hardest things I have struggled with is trying to understand God’s reasoning for allowing this to happen. I have questioned, “What am I to learn for this?” “How is this for my good?” and yes even the why question has entered my mind many times. Please don’t get me wrong I love my Lord and I KNOW that His ways are right/good. I have to admit that threre are many times I do not like his ways. I would rather his ways match my ideas of how things should be done. I want him to work quickly. I want him to work painlessly. I would rather that he work in such a manner that there is no way for me to wonder if it is really him or not.

A few days ago during my quiet time I turned in my bible to 2 Kings 4:1-7. In this passage God has taught me not only more about his ways but also more about his love and provisions.

Elisha Helps a Poor Widow (NLT)
4:1 One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”
2 “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied.
3 And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors.
4 Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”
5 So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another.
 6 Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.
7 When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

The four things I learned was:
  1. My desperation is not directly due to a lack of faith.
  2. God will provide for me out of what I already have.
  3. God will do all that I can’t
  4. God will fill only what I offer.

I plan to share more on each of these points in the days to come. But in the mean time here are a few questions for you to ponder.
What has God taught you in your time of desperation? Do you get angry with God in times of desperation?