From Empty to Excess

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As the widow found in coming to Elisha (2 Kings 4), God would not be held hostage by the expectations around her, he instead would set her free with the exceptions; however, in the end it would all come down to whether she would allow herself to go from…

Empty to Excess! (2 Kings 4:5-7) She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 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.”

Elisha didn’t magically give her enough oil to pay her bills; instead he reveals God’s plan was to allow her willingness to step out in faith to match his provision. God wasn’t something to be possessed, a check to cash, but took on flesh to be pursued!   Think about it, if she would have only gone out, sheepishly, nervously, uncertainly asking for a few jars—3 or 4 from only her closet friends because she was nervous of the result—nothing would have changed her situation for a lifetime. It was in the midst of her problem that God’s provision was given in proportion to her willingness to trust Him! Continue reading “From Empty to Excess”

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REMADE MISSION

ImageThomas Edison when thinking back on all the times he tried and failed to master the concept of the incandescent light bulb famously quipped, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb!”

The Israelites instead of trying to master a light bulb were left fumbling to master Jerusalem with the foreign enemies, wall-less perimeter and wayward people. Throughout Nehemiah God reveals to us his ability to turn our failed attempts into a REMADE MISSION.

Naturally, it takes a remade person to initiate a remade mission! If we personally haven’t met the Risen Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our effort, energy, and insights will eventually dry up like a drop of water in the most oppressive desserts heat. Yet meeting the Risen Lord, Jesus says in John 14:13-, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” When our lives start to align with God’s providence, we become part of a bigger plan and picture for humanity! For Nehemiah it was necessary for him to seek the will of God in order to ask for things that aligned with His will. 

Nehemiah 2:3-4  I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven…From prayer proceeded provision to fulfill God’s plan-(v. 5) and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

While we sat in the computer lab alone, my friend began to share his story of being remade for a remade mission! He grew up a PK (Preacher’s Kid) going to every church event possible: Monday for prayer, Wednesday for midweek service, Sunday- not once, but twice. Yet by the time he reached high school and then in college he felt like being a Christian was all about “following the rules, walking the line, avoiding the rated R movies, etc.” When he got out of the structure of his dad’s house he found college to be a time of exploration, less studying and more partying, drugs and drinking. Within a year he was on the verge of flunking out but in order to avoid the black mark on his transcript instead he took a “leave of absence.” During the time away, he got a part-time job in a factory and lived in his parent’s basement. During the break, his dad invited him to a Christian camp just to get out of the house, help if he wanted to, and maybe get some more sun (being in the basement without windows apparently made him nearly translucent). At camp, he said, “God started working on my heart again.” Instead of being all about rules, it was all about relationship with Jesus Christ. Hundreds of junior high and high school kids in between swimming and kick ball made commitments or recommitments to Jesus Christ- to follow him, serve him, and be in relationship with him. No one knew it at the time, but there was also one college student who recommitted his life to God that day! As we sat in the seminary computer lab, my friend had ditched the factory for the full-time youth ministry–finding that as he was remade, his heart softened, his focused clarified on Christ that it made the mission of “seeking and saving the lost” all the clearer.

Where is God leading you? Charles Finney in his book Principles of Prayer makes it clear that if you are struggling to see the will of the Holy Spirit in your life first seek to recommit to Jesus Christ—“confess and forsake sin” and then as you have been remade or “born again” you can seek with renewed clarity the will of God and the remade mission in your life.

Martin Luther King Jr. once rightly said, “I may not yet be the man I should be or the man, with Christ’s help I will some day be, but thank God I’m not the man I used to be!” Amen to that!

Show Me the Provision

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The 1996 movie Jerry McGuire made the line famous: “Show me the money!” From millionaires to McDonald’s employees people can feel short-changed at different points in time: “Life isn’t going how I planned!” or “I feel stuck in my job!” or “My marriage or family seems to be falling apart!” or “This isn’t what I signed up for!”

It takes a change in perspective to move away from feeling short-changed, trying to live out the American Dream of life, liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness) and begin living out the Divine Reality, moving from self-focus to selflessness, from “Show me the money” to first remembering that everything we have is owned by God! 

If you stop and think about it, all of those questions center on “me,” my desires, expectations, and plans. Martin Luther once said, “I’ve held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess.” Simply put when we cling it crumbles, and when we give away it remains.  Psalm 24:1-2 captures the scope of God’s ownership in our world and lives, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” Fine God! You win, you can have Mount Everest, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Mississippi River, but then we stop short of giving him control of our entire lives! We draw the territory line around our hearts–Trespassers will be prosecuted! Yet when we cling to controlling our own lives it crumbles! When we cling to fulfilling our own needs we crumble in our hollow emptiness.

When you look at the world we get the message that is counter to Scripture–cling to everything you can, meet your own needs, find self-actualization, or develop your own truth that works for you. The more we cling, the more things crumble! There have been times in my life where I’ve set out to meet my own needs, make myself happy, to find satisfaction in things besides God!  It is like going over to someone’s house thinking there would be dinner, but around 8:30pm you realize it’s not on the agenda! During the movie you wolf down the bowl of popcorn, lick the bowl for good measure and then your fingers getting every morsel (Your mother would be horrified!). Yet, the hunger remains, so when you leave where do you head? McDonald’s drive-through! It may blow your diet out of the water, give you heartburn, keep you up all night, but you are hungry! Yet you’ll be hungry again!  Instead Jesus gives us the key to being filled up and satisfied: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

When our devotion, attention, and focus is on the creator and sustainer of all things—suddenly we find that out of God’s hand is the provision we have always been looking for! Not “Show me the Money!” but thank God for “Showing us His Provision!”