This week, I took a drive with a good friend and we were not short on conversation. We talked about the three Virginia football players who were shot and killed, the four college students stabbed to death in Idaho; the three teens who killed a man who attempted to discipline them here in Rock HIll; the heavy snow to come for upstate NY; North Korea showing off its missiles; Russia and Ukraine; the fentanyl drug bust in York County; and more! None of these things affect us directly or personally - we didn’t know the Idahoan students nor the man killed by the three teens - but someone does and they are likely experiencing great stress.
While these things are on our minds, we each have our own personal worries, struggles and endeavors that we are praying the Lord will see us through. We all have situations that require our attention. We don’t always know what to do, and sometimes we fear the outcomes. Jesus told us “in this world, you will have trouble.” Trouble is not new and it’s not temporary, we all experience waves of trouble in our lives. My question for you today, is how do you cope during times of trouble?
Jesus told His disciples, and it applies to everyone who believes in Him, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26 ESV In times of trouble, when we face hurt, grief, anger, uncertainty, strife, alienation, we can pray and the Holy Spirit will remind us of God’s goodness. He will remind us of God’s victories. He will remind us of God’s nature, how He has a plan that may not appear to be a plan for our goodness and His glory, but it always is.
I must credit Bible Study Fellowship for helping me to build my arsenal of Scriptures and stories of God’s faithfulness and glory. Without BSF, the Holy Spirit would be quite limited in what He could bring to my remembrance. He can’t bring something to our remembrance, if we never knew it, if we never knew it. What’s in your remembrance?
I had someone tell me, recently, that he was no good at memorizing Scriptures. I’m not good at this either, and that’s not what Bible study is about. Bible study is about reading the Bible as God’s history of interaction with mankind. It’s about learning man’s situations and God’s reactions, although He already knew the situation would arise, and quite often He set up the situation to cause man to turn to Him. Sure, certain verses stand out in my memory, but I’m not concentrating on memorizing Scripture. My mind is on how God worked in every situation, and how the situations of the past are not dissimilar to the situations we face today. In this week’s study, we read about how there was famine in Samaria and the head of a donkey sold for 80 shekels of silver and one fourth of a cab of seed pods cost 5 shekels of silver. 2 Kings 6:25 This is inflation, the same thing we are experiencing today. A donkey’s head, seed pods - these are not even desirable foods, but they were expensive! But God! He met the need of food, in abundance, after seven years of famine, and four unselfish lepers notified the people of the great bounty. Speaking of seven years of famine…this happened generations before, too! The final chapters of Genesis tell of Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons of Jacob. Scripture tells us how God foretold of the famine in two dreams He gave to Pharoah, then brought Joseph to the remembrance of Pharaoh's wine servant when Pharoah needed someone to interpret the dreams. God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dreams, and placed it on Pharaoh's heart to put this young man in charge of all the planning and preparations for the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine to follow. God had a plan for Joseph. He elevated Joseph from the death his brothers intended for him 20 years prior, to being in charge of Pottifar’s home until his wife accused him of sexual assault which landed him in a dungeon, to being in charge of the dungeon, to finally Pharoah said to him, “You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” Genesis 41:40 Who saw that coming? Only God! When I study Scripture, I am reminded of God’s goodness, how He has planned the events of our lives for our good (although it might not feel good…) and for His glory.
What’s in your remembrance? Where are you in your study of God’s Holy Word? You can’t remember something you never knew. I am grateful for all I have learned about God through studying the Bible. I’ll be the first to admit, I need the Holy Spirit to bring to my remembrance all that God has done. Sometimes, the future appears to hold no hope, but if God brought Joseph out of the dungeon, He can and will do the same for you and me. Keep your faith. Pray - praise, repent, ask, and do not fail to yield. Allow Him to have His way in your life. Amen.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33 NIV
If you are anything like me, in addition to your actual to-do list, you have things you just need to do. They seem urgent at times, but not pressing. They nag at you from time to time. What am I talking about? Well, my back hedges need to be trimmed, but they’re not in the front yard, so they wait. The carpet needs to be cleaned, but I would have to get quotes, get on someone’s schedule, and move all this furniture…ugh! I wrote a novel in 2020…it’s basically finished, but it needs to be formatted, the cover needs to be finalized, and…it’s just going to take some work. I need to lose weight - and that needs no explanation. I pray about these things, but if my prayer is not accompanied by some steps, no progress is made.
2 Kings 4 begins with the story of a widow who is distressed. Her deceased husband’s creditor informed her that he would take her two sons as slaves to pay off the debt. She went to the prophet Elisha to ask what she should do. Elisha asked her what she had. She said she had nothing except a little bit of olive oil. He told her to go to all of her friends and neighbors to ask for all the empty jars they had available. She was told to fill the jars with olive oil.
Now, when she said she only had a little bit of olive oil, I envisioned that to be like a cupful, or so, not enough to fill jars and jars. That’s where the power of God took over! She and her sons filled jar after jar after jar and when they filled the last jar, Then the oil stopped flowing. 7She 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.” (v. 6-7)
There is no indication that the widow initially had enough olive oil for a sale, but when she was obedient and went through the steps, the process, the Lord multiplied the oil. He blessed their efforts. She and her sons were able to achieve the goal of paying off the debt, so her sons did not become slaves and they had enough money that they didn’t need to borrow from anyone else. God multiplied her efforts. He multiplied the oil! She had limited means, but He is not limited. She had faith AND did the work.
Someone may read this passage and wonder why the Lord solved the woman’s problem in this way when, as we read in Scripture, His power is unlimited. Maybe you wonder why when she returned home that the olive oil had not been turned into the exact amount of money needed to pay the creditors. Maybe you wonder why Elisha didn’t send the woman home with the amount of money she needed in her hand. Asking questions such as this reveals our lack of faith. God does things the way He decides to do them because He is God. He is sovereign. Maybe there’s something He needs to teach us as we go through the process. Maybe He reveals the steps to us to give us a testimony we can share with someone else who might grow to know Him through following the steps He, years ago, revealed to you! I’ve been through many processes in my years and each has served to make me stronger. James 1:2-4 says we are to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Why would we think God would spare us the steps, the process? Who are we to be spared the process? Jesus Christ, Himself, was not spared the process. He faced trials and temptations on earth. He suffered on earth. He endured a torturous death on the cross. He went through the process to give all of us, me and you, a testimony. Jesus went through the process so we could have eternal life. You nor I will be spared the process. We must pray and be quiet so we can hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit as he reveals to us the steps of the process.
What steps, what process do you need to go through? You’ve been praying about it and every morning you wake up and the problem is still there. What are you worrying about, yet taking no steps towards change? What is it in your life that needs to change, but you just don’t have the energy, the means, the time, to go through the process? Well, until we go through the process, we remain status quo. If the status quo is okay, then stop praying about it. If you really want the change, start the process and let the Lord see you through. Amen.
A few more Scriptures to leave you with for the week:
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
I was a high school science teacher for 16 years. I brought work home every evening, whether to finalize plans for the next day, to grade papers, to plan a project, complete field trip forms, I worked nonstop. On Sunday, after church, it was time to get back in gear for the work week, boys’ lunches, lesson plans, laundry, changing linens, all of that. After becoming an administrator, I continued to bring work home because some days were consumed by meetings and I didn’t want to be rude and send emails or work on projects during the meetings, so I would bring it home.
For the past 3 years, I have worked with a young man from a different generation and I’ve begun to learn about boundaries. On Wednesday we received an email request from our supervisor, an urgent request, at 4:58pm. He proceeded to pack up and leave, while I was going to stay after to fulfill the request. “Boundaries,” he said. “She asked at 4:58pm. That means send it by 9:00am tomorrow.” I had not considered that, but it’s a helpful way of thinking.
My parents taught me about boundaries in dating, but not as they pertain to what we now call our “work-life balance.” They worked nonstop and I inherited that practice. I am currently involved in quite a few projects. Some of these projects are my own initiatives, others are dictated by work, and a few are things I’ve agreed to help with. I am learning to be careful what I agree to do.
Twice Jeshosophat, king of Judah, agreed to assisting other kings in battles they wanted to start. He didn’t just agree to have their backs if needed, he stated, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” (1 Kings 22:4, 2 Kings 3:7) In the first instance, he did say, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:5) In battle, King Ahab put Jehosophat out on the front lines as a target, but the Lord protected him from harm. In the second instance, when invited to join King Joram, they did not pray first, but in their desperation when they ran out of water they went to see the prophet Elisha for a Word from the Lord. (2 Kings 3)
Setting boundaries is an important practice. We must consider our boundaries as we consider which causes to join, how much time we are willing to spend at home doing work, and which organizations we will align ourselves with. I have had to upset a few people when I could not join their cause. The Lord has given me plenty to do without also taking on the projects of others. This week I was asked to direct a renewal of vows ceremony. I was honored and immediately accepted the invitation. These are two people I know and love and they want to publicly pronounce the continuance of their marriage - yes, I will help! I believe God has a calling on my life and I cannot allow all of my time to be consumed with projects He did not call me to complete. I also have to be careful of delving into projects that pop into my own mind that may not be of Him. He allowed me to take some time off from writing this weekly message, but now He says, I must restart. I wrote a novel in 2020 and have done nothing with it. Now, He says, I must get it out there. He sent me several reminders, as signs, then He sent me a text from someone who desires to make the cover. I say all of this to say, If I tell you NO, please understand. I’m trying to walk in my calling and I must set boundaries. Amen.