January 3 – Mighty Mites

 

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One of my dearest friends in the whole world and his precious wife have found themselves in a tremendous battle. To some, their situation looks pretty tough. But I tell you, there’s nothing like hard times to bring to light those who truly love you and stand with you.

My buddy’s the sort of guy that served his country, paid his dues, and wouldn’t ask anybody for a single penny. He believes in hard work and helping others. So, when he found himself swimming upstream and holding on to his wife’s hand for dear life, it was all he could do to keep his head above water.

Well, out of the blue, people from where he works started strategizing on how they could get involved and help remove some of the financial burden. They started collecting change in mason jars! Now, I am told that a pint-sized mason jar might hold $30 or more of random change. That doesn’t seem like a lot when you are talking about serious medical bills.

But it is an extravagant amount when you consider why people would give. My own children, when hearing about the jars, filled their own share. All because they, like everyone else involved, wanted to let my friend and his wife know they were not in this fight alone.

After the fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about the power of the widow’s mite in Mark 12. Often, I viewed this passage as a plus for the “have not’s” and a minus for the “haves.”  But that all changed for me. No, I began to see that Jesus was showing the disciples the power of “from the heart” giving.

The widow didn’t have a lot of surplus when it came to money.  But her heart said, “It’s the least I can do to give what I have to the Master for His service.” And it is that spirit, I am convinced, that I have witnessed in these precious souls pouring out their change for my buddy. So, today, may you and I be most encouraged. Whether our giving is big or small, when it comes from the heart, it is extravagant in the eyes of God.  

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins-a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave  what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford-she gave her all.” Mark 12:41-44 (MSG)

Biblical Meditation: Mark 12      

January 2 – Waymaker God

Cross On The Wooden Background

Sometime ago an old wise man told a story that touched me deeply. It literally changed my life. He said growing up as a country boy in the South, his family was poor. He was the oldest of several brothers and sisters and his daddy had passed away before he reached young adulthood.

He was a good-sized lad and could handle most of the “manual” tasks for his mama. So he planned on staying home with her after he graduated high school and working. But his wise mama had told him as far back as he could remember that God promised her he had a special plan for her son and He would make a way for her boy to go to college.

And although there were many great men in his day that made tremendous impact on him and his community who never had formal education, his mama was adamant God’s plan for him involved college.

So the day came. She loaded him on the greyhound bus and sent him on his way with his lunch sack in hand. He had no money. He knew the power of his mother’s faith. He had watched her go into the kitchen with just one chicken from the backyard and feed him and all his brothers and sisters, with leftovers to spare. But somehow, this was different.

He said when he got off the bus, all he knew to do was just go get in the enrollment line. Now he had been a good student in high school. He was at the top of his class and he had been accepted to this college. But now it was time to enroll and pay tuition. As the line got shorter and he found himself close to the registrar, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

The gentleman looked stern as he asked him his name. Startled and convinced the man had come to remove him from the line because he had figured out he had no money, he reluctantly stated his name.

The man told him to get out of line. As he prepared to protest and plead his case, the gentleman stopped him dead in his tracks. “Your tuition has been paid in full. And there is a work study job awaiting your arrival. So, get out of line and come with me.”

Just like that, God made a way out of no way. And fortunately, I’ve now lived long enough and had an ample amount of my own “by faith bus rides.” I can confirm the old man’s mama was ‘right on the money.’ God is a WAYMAKER!

Today, if you are dry, desperate, confused, frustrated, afraid, discouraged, or alone, the prophet Isaiah beautifully solidifies this promise about God as he so long ago assured his people that God would make a way. He doesn’t forget His precious ones. Ever!

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 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. 20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. (NLT)

18 Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The beasts of the field honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen, (AMP)

18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. 20 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

Context of Meditation: Isaiah 43:1-21

December 3- No Fear When the Plan is Clear

 Luke 1:12-15

When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.

 David sat by me at lunch at my new school. After talking awhile, he agreed to teach me how to play the piano, if I would teach him how to “break dance.” We were in junior high in the early eighties and I was new to the district so I didn’t know very many people. Soon after this arrangement was made, a kid challenged me to a “dance off” in the cafeteria. I held my own doing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” without a hitch and all of a sudden I was the man.

 Right around the same time I went to chorus one day a little earlier than normal. I witnessed the most amazing display of piano talent I had ever seen. That little white kid I had been sitting by at lunch could play! Well, you know how it is. You want what you don’t have; so he wanted to dance and I wanted to play the piano. Since dancing came natural to me, I thought it would be easy to teach David. Not so! And since playing the piano was second nature to David, he thought I would pick it up with no problem. Wrong again! When I would explain how to make a certain move and then demonstrate it, David’s eyes would just glass over. He had no clue. And I was the same when it came to piano. We would both just lock up, afraid to act for fear of failure. Why? The plan to accomplish our goals was not yet clear to either one of us. Each of us felt like we were staring at a “freak of nature.”

There is no doubt in my mind that I could have learned the basics of piano and David could have mastered some dance moves had we stayed at it and overcome our fear. This is valuable insight into how to respond to God’s “outrageous” directions for your life. Zechariah was serving in the temple of the Lord. But he got scared when an angel of the Lord showed up with an answer to a prayer that stemmed from a desire of his heart that he had long forgotten he prayed.

Our Father is funny like that; He doesn’t forget our prayers, but He doesn’t follow our time. We don’t have to be taken aback or afraid of His plan. He promises to grant wisdom and insight to all who ask (James 1:5). So if you have something strange staring you in the face today you didn’t see coming, don’t panic. You’ve got the answer right there in front of you. And when you’ve got a Daddy, you’ve got no worries. In due time, rest assured, He will make His plan as clear as day.

Suggested Biblical Meditation: Luke 1 and James 1

 

 

December 1- Blamelessly Barren

 

 Luke 1:5-7 NIV

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

 Are you a person that likes to know the why? Why did this happen or why did that happen? Where did I mess up? How can I fix it? You are among friends. Most all of us are, by nature, interested in the “why.” Make no mistake about it; there are laws that govern most everything in this universe, so “cause and effect” is valid. But it seems to me that there are also events which seem to be orchestrated by a higher order of operation.

When it comes to the blessing God spoke over mankind in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:26-28), barrenness would have to be viewed as a curse. However the above passage describes Zechariah and Elizabeth as upright and blameless in the sight of the Lord, yet barren. So what’s up?

Check out this account of Jesus’ and His disciples out of the Gospel of John: Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do (John 9:1-3).

 Did you get that last part? Look instead for what God CAN do. Don’t get trapped by the blame game, and especially, don’t blame God! You know what, even if your situation or that of a loved one is a result of past mistakes, it doesn’t matter. God is a master at taking our knots and making bow ties! If you are spending time in His Word and fellowshipping with Him on a daily basis, He will let you know if He wants you to change something you are doing or if He’s going to change something you can’t. Find yourself in His presence, and listen for the direction He will always give.

Suggested Biblical Meditation: Luke 1, John 9

November 30-Bullies and Other Giants in the Land

2 Chronicles 20:2 The Message Bible Jehoshaphat received this intelligence report: “A huge force is on its way from beyond the Dead Sea to fight you. There’s no time to waste-they’re already at Hazazon Tamar, the oasis of En Gedi.”

I first knew of the fight with the Bully when I came to the spot my sister and I met to walk home together. My sister wasn’t there. But I looked to my left, over by the cedar trees, there she was…an enormously big girl was all up in her face. I knew my sis and I could tell she was terrified. If I didn’t do something quick, this mountain of a girl was going to squash her! Just then, I saw my sister’s purse on the ground where she had dropped it in the midst of all the drama. I came behind the giant swinging my sister’s purse like a sling shot. WHAM! I clocked the bully in the head, grabbed my sister’s arm, and we ran for dear life.

I don’t advocate violence, but what do you do when you’re faced with a fight and you are overpowered and outmanned? This is a picture of the above incident with King Jehoshaphat. He was minding his own business when some bullies decided they wanted to fight. Jehoshaphat wanted no part of it. As a matter of fact, he was afraid of the outcome. He knew he couldn’t win.   But unlike me at eight years old, Jehoshaphat turned to God for help (vs. 3). He also got others to pray with him. Bullies come in many forms and in this life there’s no way around them. For you, the issue might be gigantic, but it’s minuscule to God! So what if there are giants in the land! There are no giants too big for your God!

 

November 25- The “Something” He Wants

Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Ephesians 5:11-14 The Message Bible

 I have come to realize there are a whole lot of actions that are permissible for me. I can act on them and they aren’t necessarily wrong and won’t cause any major problems for anybody, so I tell myself. If you are in any way tempted by such human tendencies as I am, may I be a source of encouraging insight to you today. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s the “something” He wants you doing. Don’t allow your selfishness to pull the wool over your own eyes; every step is ordained, planned and orchestrated by the Author and Father of all Creation. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman at the end of the day. All that we are belongs to Him and He has established some guidelines to help us decipher His will for today. If you have any desire to stand before Him on that “tallying-up” day with a clear conscience and a completed work order, you will have to spend some face time with Him now – day by day! So don’t waste your time in the dark alleys of “I know what’s best for me.” Get on your knees and report for duty with the Master Foreman and get to working in the Light.

 

 

 

November 24th- Every

Psalms 139:13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

When I was 19 years old, I worked for an inner-city sports camp called Kids Across America. Located on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, it was a paradise of forests, beautiful water, gorgeous sunsets, and a few mosquitoes. It was the perfect set-up for hours of really hard work that can help bring “light-bulb” moments.

While I spent the summer there at KAA, I was privileged to listen to a wise mind of our century, Mr. Joe White. He founded KAA along with the huge organization of camps called Kanakuk. While speaking to my group, he persuaded us to be a student of the Word of God. He shared how powerfully he had seen growth in his own life because of time spent reading God’s letter to us.

There was one big problem he seemed to face in his pursuit of time with God. Consistency. Don’t we all know what he’s talking about? As a college student, my lack of consistency had yet to rear its ugly head. After all, I didn’t have anyone else to think of but myself! But Joe knew we’d come to those moments when many others, namely the ones we love the most, might have to be the victims of the times we “drop the ball.” I was thinking of this when I looked at a pile of 4 loads of laundry on my rocking chair, unfolded. Or the list of thank you notes, not finished. Projects started, many still underway…..the requirements we are under could go on and on.

But I then MADE my mind go to the rest of that precious “gem” God gave me through Joe White: “EVERY.” He explained that every morning as he goes into the bathroom mirror, he sees a yellow post-it note with the word “every.” This reminds him to go to the main thing he knows he must do every day. He must spend time with the Author of the day. When he does this, everything else can fall in place, or he can “go with the flow” when it doesn’t! God said to Moses, “Tell Pharaoh that I AM sent you.” God is the God of today! He is not the God of yesterday and its mistakes, nor the God of tomorrow and its worries. For the rest of our “days,” may every day count as a treasure as we walk out our “life-book!”

Jennifer

Biblical Meditation: Matthew 6:27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

 

November 18- God Breathed

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. II Timothy 3:16-17

Just came home from a long trip with my family. We had a great time, a truly relaxing time. And as is the case with long trips in a fifteen passenger van, one tends to grow weary of whirling wind and winding roads. But nothing peeks the agitation meter like finger swirls on the rear glass windows. I must admit, when I was a child, I too loved to huff on the car glass when the air was crisp and leave creative finger impressions in the dew. But as a dad desperately striving to deliver his family to their destination in one piece, the artful inspirations fail to inspire.

Interestingly enough, it is the thought of breath that captures my attention just now. Often, the simplest of things are missed or mashed under the weight of intellectual exercise. This is the case with the Word of God housed in the book known as the Bible. Though human hands and mortal hearts were used to translate them for our benefit, it is the supernatural breath of God that separates them from all other words floating about in the great expanse of all that exist. And just like childish finger doodle on a huffed on car window, God’s Word bares His finger prints. But if you and I are too busy trying to get from point A to point B, the thought of His Breath, His Word, and His Fingerprints might be more annoying than awe inspiring. And if we fail to pay attention, we will find ourselves pulling over just as fast as we can to wipe the evidence of His presence from our view.

Heaven help us!

November 17-Accustomed

Luke 2:41-43 Every year Jesus’ parent went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  

Change can mess you up, if you let it. My oldest daughter loves to rearrange the kitchen and she does it with no warning. The first time she did it, I couldn’t find anything for days! Cups had changed places with bowls, pots and pans swapped space with the storing containers, and Lord knows where the silverware went. Up until that time, I thought of myself as a fairly flexible individual. In reality, I was no different than anybody else when it came to change. I believe it is just woven into the fabric of our humanity to dig ruts and camp out. It happens to us before we even know it.

Going to Jerusalem was a yearly thing for Mary and Joseph’s family and apparently quite a few people traveled with them from their home town of Nazareth. Jesus wasn’t on their minds as one of the youngsters who needed their attention. Needless to say, they were probably flabbergasted when they realized he was nowhere to be found. If you have ever misplaced a child, you are familiar with what they were going through! But add to the equation they had traveled a whole day home before they discovered he was gone!

What happened? How in the world do you leave your child somewhere and don’t miss them for a whole day? You become accustomed to the trip, the people, the event, and even the child. We do this all the time, everyday. Customs have their place, but in the midst of building our daily traditions, it is important to remember everyday is a new day. God is all about showing us something new right smack-dab in the middle of a routine we’ve done for years. So today, keep your eyes on Him and don’t take anything for granted, not even your own kitchen!

Lorenzo

Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

November 12- You Was Ward!

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind.

 Awhile back, while living in a very large city, we had an interesting experience. We had 2-3 trash carts that had to be emptied on the trash truck, and there were very specific rules as to how we could put them against the curb. Three feet away, 2 feet apart, you get the picture. I was striving to be very accurate in these rules. No one wants their trash to be left until the next week! Well, I guess I wasn’t getting the specifics “to the tee,” so the next week, the young man helping with the carts just left ours there! I couldn’t figure out why, so I attempted the next week to line them up ever so carefully. After running an errand, I drive up and see, amazingly, the trash carts were left again!!! UGH! I walked up to the carts, and there was a note on one of them. It was a “warning ticket” from the city. It simply read, “YOU WAS WARD!” I couldn’t even decide what this guy wanted me to do, much less, imagine trying to talk to him to find out!

After I figured out that the cart man surely meant “you were warned,” I got a few laughs out of the deal. In fact, our whole family has laughed about that incident many times now. But today, I got another kind of reminder. We are new to the rural trash system here, but they’ve seemed really nice. This morning I heard two very long, loud honks outside. We ran to the window and realized, “Oh no, we forgot the trash!” Caleb ran outside and said, “I’m so sorry, we forgot, we’ll have it right out,” while Nathaniel ran out with the cart. The young man just gave us thumbs up and smiled, took our cart, and went on his way. Wow, that was nice!

I’m not comparing rural and city trash systems here, but I am comparing something much more important. Patience and kindness go a long way with anyone you meet. Any relationship you have can benefit from your determination to be patient and kind. I always thought that I’d memorize 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and I’m not quite there. But the “patient and kind” part at the first almost could take care of everything else. Your family, and all the other people around you, will bloom when you love them in this way. In fact, many problems we face in our relationships could be avoided by each of us paying attention to how we sound and how we act. Are we treating others like we would want to be treated? Really think about that. Sow some patience and kindness seeds, and see what you grow. Then maybe you won’t be tempted to give anyone in your life a rude and impatient warning ticket!

Jennifer

Biblical Meditation: Luke 7:12 Message Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.