There are times when its a major struggle to open my eyes…
open my mind….
open my heart…
to the truth….
to a different reality – God’s reality.
Sometimes I can be just like Elisha’s servant in the Bible who was afraid of the huge enemy army which surrounded the city they were in. Elisha wasn’t afraid. He knew something the servant didn’t know. Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so he may see.” 2 Kings 6: 17.
And when the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, he looked up and saw the hills around Elisha full of horses and chariots of fire. God’s army.
Elisha was not worried – he knew the truth. God had his back and there was no cause for alarm. Elisha understood and trusted in the power and faithfulness of his Father God.
How big is my God? How much does he want to bless me?
God stopped me today as I read the story in the Bible of the widow whose son was going be taken as a slave because her husband had debts he didn’t pay before he died. She asked Elisha for help saying she had nothing left except a small jar of olive oil.
Elisha said, ” Go around and ask your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” 2 Kings 4: 3 – 4. She did exactly what Elisha said and she just kept filling the jars until they were all full. The oil stopped flowing when her last jar was full. Then she sold the oil to pay her debts and had enough money left over to live on.
Now that I know the end of the story, my automatic response is – too bad she didn’t get more jars!
Did you go there? It was great that she had enough money to live on but how much more did God want to give her?
And then I wonder how many times God was willing to bless me abundantly but I didn’t bring enough jars? I didn’t bring enough faith? Enough trust?
How often do I short-cut God’s attempts to lavish love and care on my life because I don’t ask?
The message I’ve been consistently receiving lately from God is that there are some mountains he will move if I will boldly ask. He’s stirring up a wind of his Spirit that he is inviting me to take part in if I will ‘bring enough jars’.
Nothing is impossible for my Father God so I will acknowledge that by boldly asking and watching expectantly for his answer.
It’s hard for me to be still and watch. I’m a doer. I’m an achiever. I spent over 34 years of my career “making things happen”.
So I tend to skim over all the situations in the Bible where God tells us to “be still and watch”. And God says this often. You probably don’t notice how often he says this unless you’re trying to ignore him when he says this – like me.
In 2 Chronicles, King Jehoshaphat tells his people not to be discouraged by the huge, combined army that is marching toward them. “You will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory.” 2 Chronicles 20:17.
After saying this, the king and all the people bowed before God with their faces to the ground and they worshipped God. This creates a great visual picture in my brain because they were acting like they had already won!
Because they had.
Early the next morning, they marched out to their positions singing praises to God. They were not afraid – God was going to fight for them.
And he did. While King Jehoshaphat was marching out with his men singing praises to God, God caused the enemy army to become confused and they started fighting each other – killing everybody in their own army.
When God’s people arrived, all the of the enemy soldiers were dead. They won and the only weapon they raised was their trust in God. It took them three days to gather up all of the supplies and valuables left behind by the dead army.
Wow! They didn’t even have to use their weapons.
God showed me how this works several years ago when I was concerned about a family situation so I was going to do something about it but I kept forgetting to do it. This was very unlike me – I make lists and it gets done. I realized God was trying to stop me from getting involved. So I stopped and watched and prayed. And prayed some more.
A couple of weeks later I discovered that the issue had been totally resolved. God fixed it. And he accomplished something that I could have never done. I had no idea what he was doing until I found out it was all taken care of.
God is saying to me and you today that there are battles coming our way that he wants to fight for us. We just need to trust and be still and watch.
Just like with Elijah, God doesn’t speak to me in a terrible blast of flying rocks or in an earthquake or in a fire. “After the fire came a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12
God often speaks to me in what feels like a whisper – a faint breeze of truth and light that flits through my mind. I have to stop, concentrate and reach out to catch it.
If I’m not careful, it’s gone.
If I’m not purposefully opening up my spiritual eyes and mind, the spark moves on. And I’m left wandering, ‘When God is going to answer my prayer? When will I see him move?’
When I am quiet,
when I am focused,
when I don’t let distractions derail my time with God, I hear him loud and clear.
God’s Word is alive – he will underline passages in my Bible (you wouldn’t see it but I do), he will point out a sentence to me by making it bold print (again – in my mind) and sometimes his voice will start reading a passage in my head when he wants me to really stop and hear. This is especially true when he is talking about how much he loves me. Yes, I know my Father God’s voice. It makes it easy to discern his truth from all the other voices surrounding me, including mine.
There are situations where God simply opens up my eyes to how he has already answered my prayer. He has taken care of the issue and moved on. Keep up!
That’s when I realize how much I miss when I’m not quiet,
when I’m not ‘zoned in” enough to hear the whispers and feel his breeze of truth ruffling the pages of my Bible.
God is never tired, he is never impatient, he is never distracted, he is never busy.
We are made in God’s image – little glimpses of him show up in each of us.
But he is not like us.
This fact brings me a lot of peace and confidence. I desire to be more like Jesus. I am eternally grateful that he is not like me. He has none of my weaknesses or failings.
Sometimes God tell us about his emotions in the Bible – anger, sadness, and joy. All of his emotions are perfect – for the right reason. They are not like our emotions which are self-centered and can often cause us to say and do wrong things.
When Elijah mocked the priests of Baal in 1 Kings, he was trying to point out the godlessness of their gods. When Baal didn’t respond to their requests, Elijah said, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god. Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18: 27. This kicked the Baal prophets into a frenzy of shouting louder and slashing themselves with swords and spears. They often did this trying to get a response from Baal.
I grimace when I imagine this scene of four hundred and fifty bleeding prophets of Baal – crying out to a manmade wooden statue. Looking for answers. Looking for hope.
When I take a look at the world which surrounds me today with overwhelming violence and lies and confusion, I can say the same thing –
Jesus came to bring his light of truth, grace and salvation to everyone who would believe. He is the only answer.
He lives within each believer and he has commissioned each of us to be his light in our part of this dark and broken world.
Dear Father, Please help us shine your light brightly right where we live, work and play
I’m an achiever. I like to get things done. I’m also a planner and organizer so I can get them done.
There have been situations in my life in the past where I have struggled and worked and persevered to make something happen only to discover that it wasn’t the right thing. It didn’t work out.
As my faith in God has grown, I have realized that I want God’s plans for my life to become reality, not my own plans. The truth is he knows everything, he has the power to do anything and his plans are perfect.
So now I talk to God about what he wants, watch to see where he is moving and then join him in what he is doing. Does it surprise you that great things happen when I do this?
I’m not surprised.
Does it surprise you that sometimes I forget to do this?
I’m not surprised.
As I’m reading King Jeroboam’s story in 1 Kings, I am reminded of some of the disappointments I had when I was trying to do things my own way. Jeroboam was setting up his own kingdom in Israel without asking God what he wanted and Jeroboam was making a lot of bad decisions. But he persevered and made everything happen just like he wanted it.
Then, one day, the king stretched out his hand to command to his men to seize the prophet of God (another bad decision) and his hand shriveled up.
Wow! That got Jeroboam’s attention!
Jeroboam knew exactly who shriveled up his hand so he said to the prophet of God , ” Intercede with the LORD our God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” 1 Kings 13: 6. This was a good decision – God instantly restored the king’s hand.
God doesn’t usually make hands shrivel up today but he is constantly trying to guide us down the right paths so we make good decisions. Since I’m a planner and organizer and doer, I have to be careful to listen to God and not just use my own skills to make stuff happen. When the road I’m on gets tough and things just aren’t working, I’ve learned to stop and look to God – is he trying to stop me? – before I just push through to make it happen. Years ago I decided before I put the big effort into climbing a wall, I’m going to make sure it’s the right wall.
When I am keeping my eyes on God, studying his Word and spending time with him, he shows me when I’m getting off track. I ask him to open doors or close doors – somehow show me if I’m going down the right path or not.
And he does. There are times when he opens my eyes to a different next step than I was planning. In other situations, he encourages me and I know I’m supposed to keep moving forward.
By focusing on what God wants – not what I want, God doesn’t have to try hard to get my attention. It’s a great way to avoid climbing the wrong wall and experiencing nasty consequences.
No shriveled hands here.
Thank you for your truth and guidance, Abba Father.
I know because I wandered away for several years when I was a young adult. I moved away from home and gradually filled my calendar with activities I knew were not the best for me. The people I met while doing these activities weren’t interested in a relationship with God so we never talked about him. My whole lifestyle changed to ‘looking for love (and fun) in all the wrong places.”
It was easy.
Several years later, I woke up (with a lot of nudging from the Holy Spirit) and realized I was not where I wanted to be. Don’t get me wrong – I had worked hard and gotten the degree, the husband, the career, the house, the kids and the cars that I thought I wanted – everything I thought would make me happy.
But I wasn’t happy. I was empty. I had a huge hole in my life. I needed a meaningful purpose for getting up every morning beyond feeding the kids, paying the bills and getting my ‘to-do’ lists done.
It took me awhile to figure out that the aching hole in my life was where God was supposed to be. I’m sure the Holy Spirit had to work very hard on me to get me to see that. My relationship with God at this point had melted into nonexistence.
I realized I missed God. I missed my spiritual family.
I’m extremely grateful that the Holy Spirit helped me identify my real need and desire so I could get back on track. My relationship with God has given me all the purpose and joy and success that I was looking for.
Huge numbers of Christians have wandered away this last year because of the pandemic:
their Bible started gathering dust on a shelf.
with churches closed, other things used up the time they used to spend with God and their church families.
it got so easy to tune in to church on line when it was convenient. It’s so much easier than going back to church in person.
their week became too busy with other things and they didn’t like zooming so they dropped out of small group Bible studies, leaving their Christian friends behind.
Do any of these describe you? I’ve got to admit the ease and convenience of on-line church had a hold of me for awhile….especially since I moved out of state at the start of the pandemic and I needed to find a new church home. But then the Holy Spirit gave me a significant nudge, reminding me of the importance of having a spiritual family full of people who I can worship with, serve with and grow with. So my husband and I searched and prayed and God is blessing us through our new church family.
I am reminded that wandering can happen to anyone when I read about the end of King Solomon’s life. He was the wisest man who ever lived and yet his pagan wives influenced him to such a degree that he turned his heart away from the One True God and started worshipping manmade idols. Unbelievable! Such a sad end to an awesome life.
God had warned all the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them (foreign wives), because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” 1 Kings 11:2.
I feel like God is warning me today through his Word. I must be diligent about keeping my priorities straight. If attitudes and activities start to draw me away from God, I need to adjust my focus.
I wandered away once when I was young. I’m determined not to do it again.
I’ve had questions like these rolling around in my brain many times in my life. Have these questions ever kept you awake at night?
As I read what God has to tell me in the book of Ecclesiastes, it sounds like a review of some of the doubts and discouragements that have filled my mind at different times of my life.
I’m going to die – we’re all going to die – and it all ends, it all goes away. So what’s the point?
God talks about all the emptiness we can feel here ‘under the sun’ –
the emptiness of human knowledge – “the more knowledge, the more grief.” Eccl 1:18b
the emptiness of searching for pleasure – what does pleasure accomplish?
the emptiness of achieving goals…and then what?
the emptiness of working hard….and then leaving it all behind.
the emptiness of owning ‘stuff’ and more stuff – chasing after the wind.
the emptiness of chasing after money – “Whoever loves money never has enough” Eccl. 5:10a.
the emptiness of rebellion – “Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them.” Eccl 8:13a.
That’s a lot of emptiness, isn’t it? Do you feel that emptiness sometimes? I used to before I understood why I’m here.
Throughout Ecclesiastes, God gives me hints about the purpose of my life by repeatedly using the phrase ‘under the sun’ to describe the location of the emptiness. This means that all of this emptiness is true of earth when God, who is over the sun, is not involved.
Then in Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14, God comes right out and says “Now all has been heard: here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
There it is. Fear God and keep his commandments. First , fearing God is living our lives with a combination of respect, honor and reverence for God and submitting our will to his will.
And what commandments are we supposed to keep? Jesus fulfilled all the law of the Old Testament when he came to earth and he left us with these two commandments – “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39.
Love God and love others. That’s why I’m here. That’s why you’re here.
Can it really be that simple?
Yes, it can be that simple. Loving God brings his light and grace and mercy into your life and into my life here under the sun. Loving others lets the people around us feel God’s love reaching out through us and it brings his light into their lives here under the sun.
God fills our emptiness and gives our lives meaning and purpose when we focus on loving God and loving others.
Thank you for being so clear about our purpose for being here on earth, Abba Father.
Having integrity means doing what we say we’ll do and doing the right thing even when it costs us something and no one would ever know if we didn’t do it. It means being honest and not just talking a good line but living that out every day.
God tells us in Proverbs 10:9 “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”
I’ve got to admit – there are times I really hate owning a mistake I made. It would be so much simpler to tell a little lie about it and cover it up.
It seems easier to take a crooked path.
There are other situations where I don’t feel like taking care of a responsibility or doing ‘the right thing’. Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.
It seems easier to take the crooked path.
Every once in a while taking a short-cut looks very enticing instead of struggling with all the work that is going to be involved to do something the right way.
It seems easier to take a crooked path.
Satan likes to tempt me by giving me free stuff at stores – things that were somehow never rung up so I didn’t pay for them. I hate the hassle of bringing these things back into the store and asking to pay for them. Satan knows I really don’t want to get back in line and then explain that I didn’t pay for this the first time. I hate the strange looks I get from employees who are wondering why I am doing this weird thing – I had it all the way out to my car without paying for it, I should be happy, right?
It’s definitely easier to take the crooked path – just put the item in my car and drive away.
But God tells me that the crooked path is dark with holes and cracks that will make me stumble and fall. I’m kidding myself if I think people around me won’t realize that I lack integrity by sometimes choosing a crooked path. And I’m really kidding myself if I think God doesn’t know I took a crooked path.
God tells me the blessing of walking with integrity is that I will walk securely. The path of integrity is straight and solidly built on the truth. God’s light shines on this path and it is filled with his love, grace and security.
Each day, each choice, you and I have a decision to make about which path we’re going to take.
Please help us stay in the path of integrity, Abba Father
Doing the right things. Making the right decisions. Saying the right things.
God uses an old fashioned term – righteousness – to describe these actions. It’s ‘living right”.
How do I know what is right? The answer to that question is God’s Word is right. It’s the truth. There are large sections of the book of Proverbs where God spells out what living right means. Here are a few –
“The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.” Proverbs 11:23.
“The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.” Proverbs 12:5″
“The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright.” Proverbs 29:27.
God speaks to me through the words, explaining them and helping me apply them to my life. The Holy Spirit convicts me when my thinking gets off and my actions don’t reflect what I believe.
I’m so glad I have the role-model of Jesus. I don’t have to try to look around me and try to find someone I want to imitate in order to ‘live right’. I have Jesus. This truth has often helped me move passed major disappointments with people – especially people in the church. I used to expect people who went to church to be a lot more ‘righteous’ than others until I realized that we’re all just people, struggling with our weaknesses. If we are a believer, God is gradually redeeming our lives but he still has a lot of work to do.
So watching people – especially people who say they are Christians – I got confused and disillusioned. Then I looked to Jesus. Focused on him. And the issues about imperfect Christians went away.
When Jesus was on earth, he gave imperfect people grace and love and spoke truth at the right time into their lives. This makes me glad because I am imperfect – I need grace, love and truth. And I need to give other imperfect people grace, love and speak truth when God prompts me.
Jesus is my role-model. If he did it, it’s the right thing to do.