The Whirlwind of Life

She experienced a whirlwind of emotions.

She was a widow, with a son, in the middle of a famine. Provisions were almost expired; enough was left for one last meal. She was gathering the wood for the cooking fire when Elijah entered her life.

Elijah asked the widow to bring him a drink of water and a piece of bread. She responds in 1 Kings 17:12, “As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have any bread, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son that we may eat it, and die.”

Can you imagine? The widow is in a desperate situation, and she may feel hopeless. But here comes hope.

Elijah encourages her to do as he has directed, and promises the Lord will continue her provisions until the end of the famine. 1 Kings 17:6 records the widow and her son having enough to survive until the famine ended. This storm ended, but another rain cloud was on the horizon.

Some time later her son died. Amid the storm, the widow went to Elijah so he could act on behalf of God. This would have been an emotionally draining whirlwind for the widow; hard times followed by okay times only to be replaced by hard times again. Sadness giving away to happiness only to be broken down by grief. The winds of life tossed and turned the widow.

Perhaps this sounds familiar to your experience. Don’t lose the big take-away of the widow’s story.

Her faith pushed her forward.

It was the widow’s faith which compelled her to feed Elijah and go to him upon the death of her son. Her faith steadied her as the winds swirled around her.

You and I have a friend in Jesus who sticks closer than a brother. His compassion wiped the tears of the widow and held the hand of the man with leprosy. His power was victorious over death. There’s nothing in life that is a match for him.

Allow the Lord to be a part of your storm today.

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Looking to the Future

The future is coming.

Well, the future is coming. It may be unsettling, but we can not stop it from coming. The good news for Christians, the future will be glorious. At the end, the Lord will be victorious.

Isaiah had many unsettling things to say, but the Lord promised through Isaiah, a future of peace and rest.

Isaiah 4:5-6 says, “Then the Lord will create, over all of Mount Zion, and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night. Over everything, the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”

Israel did not fully experience this when they returned out of exile, nor have we fully experienced it today. But the Lord promises he will create for us an eternal dwelling of peace and rest. The toil of this life, for Christ’s followers, will give way to peace and rest in the future.

The future is coming. We can’t stop it, but we can rest assured it will be a time of peace and rest.

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Forever Hope

A loving and patient God continues to offer hope.

A large city’s school system had a program to help students keep up with their homework while in the city’s hospitals. A teacher assigned to the program received a routine call to visit a student in the hospital. She obtained the child’s room number and name. She spoke to the boy’s teacher and found out the class was studying nouns and adverbs.

No one told the teacher the boy was in the hospital because he had been badly burned, and he was in a great deal of pain. When she saw the patient-student, it took all of her strength to continue. “I’m a teacher from your school,” she explained. “I’ve been sent here to help you with your nouns and adverbs.”

The two worked on an assignment, then the teacher left feeling defeated. She believed she had accomplished nothing, but the next day a nurse applauded her.

“I don’t know what you did yesterday, but the patient’s outlook has changed. He is fighting back and responding to treatment,” the nurse happily explained.

Two weeks later the boy explained the teacher’s visit gave him hope. “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on homework with a dying boy, would they?”

Hope is a powerful tool of the Lord, which he continues to offer.

Max Lucado explains, “Isaiah revealed Judah’s impending doom. God vowed not to listen to the prayers of his people because of their excessive sin, but God assured he would restore Israel after purging it of sin. A loving and patient God continued to offer hope to the Israelites. He offered forgiveness if they repented.”

Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God promised he would purge the Israelites.

The Same is true for us. Whatever is causing you and I to feel hopeless, the Lord can remove from our lives. Past mistakes and difficulties are no match for his grace and mercy. He can turn our hopelessness into pure hope.

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Confidence in a Storm

Psalm 18 reminds us of God’s faithfulness.

It is no secret our journey through life will encounter storms. Things may be going well to suddenly be derailed by events and actions that are out of our control. David was no stranger to life being derailed.

The Bible’s biography of David reveals a turbulent life filled with mistakes, yet the Lord remained faithful to David. People turned against David, but the Lord did not. David made stupid mistakes, but the Lord stayed true. In Psalm 18, David reflects on the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness.

Psalm 18:30 says, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.”

Here are 3 take-aways from Psalm 18:30.

God’s way is the best way.

It may not always seem like the best approach, but if God is leading, he will always take the best way. He will always make arrangements for things to work out.

Remember, he arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah and help him travel to where God wanted him.

God’s promises prove true.

The Lord keeps his promises. He has never made a promise he does not intend to keep. On the night of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds found everything the way they were told it would be. The Bible records many instances of the Lord sending someone on a journey with a promise, and the individual found the promise to be true.

You and I have been made promises by the Lord, and we will find each of them to be true.

God is a shield of protection.

God offers us protection.

Psalm 18 says, “For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.”

Life may lead us into storms, but the Lord will always be with us. Amid the storm, remember the words of Psalm 18.

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Unusual, but Effective.

The Lord arranged for a fish.

Jonah’s story is interesting. It shows us the power and patience of the Lord, and it illustrates God works in seemingly unusual ways.

Jonah, while running from God, gets on a boat. The boat encounters a storm, and after much effort, the conclusion is reached the only way to stop the storm is throw Jonah overboard. The sailors throw Jonah overboard and the storm stops. The boat’s crew witnesses the Lord’s power, and worship the Lord.

Meanwhile, Jonah is in the sea, but God makes arrangements.

Jonah 1:17 remembers, “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”

Of all the ways the Lord could have helped Jonah in the moment, he sent a fish. He could have used drift wood or a piece of wreckage. He could have allowed Jonah to be close enough to shore to swim. He could have miraculously carried Jonah to shore, but God does not choose any of those methods. He uses a fish; an unusual way which may have not been the most appealing to Jonah.

Jonah’s lifeboat would have been smelly and dirty. Traveling in the digestive system of a large whale would not be the most ideal, but it saved Jonah’s life.

While we’ve not been swallowed by a great fish, we may be able to relate. God helps us in some unusual ways. They may not be ideal or our first choice, but they do provide the help we need.

When we find ourselves in Jonah’s place, how do we respond? Do we grumble because we are being helped in an unusual way, or do we thank the Lord for the resources he is providing?

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Here’s Good News!

“If that’s not God, I don’t know what is.”

Good news seems to be rare these days, and it does not take long to get down when looking at headlines. However, there are many things for which you and I can be happy. The Lord is always doing something good.

The list of good things is big. People beating illnesses, days spent with kids, and many other blessings. If you are in need of a bit of good news today, take stock of the blessings and miracles the Lord has put in your life.

Much out of Little

A flask of olive oil is all it took.

A widow was not sure what to do. She had bills to pay, and there was nothing in her home except a flask of olive oil and faith. Elisha told her to borrow some jars and fill them until she was out of olive oil.

2 Kings 4:5-6 says, “So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was filled to the rim. ‘Bring me another jar,’ she said to one of her sons. ‘There aren’t any more,’ he told her, and the olive oil stopped flowing.”

The widow reported the events to Elisha. He told her to sell the olive oil and pay her bills. There would be enough left over for her and her sons to live on.

When faith is calculated into an equation, much can come from little. We see this lived out here, and with the widow who had no food left talking to Elijah and Jesus feeding many people with one boy’s lunch. Much can come out of little when the Lord is at work.

The Lord can provide when bank balances seem low. He can help when the cash flow sheet is nearing red territory. When it seems there are no options, the Lord still knows what to do. He is in the business of doing the impossible.

How has the Lord come through for you? Be sure to thank him today, and maybe you’re still waiting on him to come through, don’t give up. He can make much come out of little.

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5 Ways to be Today’s Good Samaritan

Neighbors come from surprising places.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan encourages us to be neighbors with anyone in need who is made in God’s image.

So, you and I are accountable to love our neighbor – anyone made in the image of God. Here are five ways you and I can be Good Samaritans today.

1. We should be aware of our neighbor.

Like the Samaritan, we should pay attention to those we pass. We should be aware of their needs. This requires attentiveness and compassion. Awareness helps you and I identify a neighbor’s needs and recognize how we can provide assistance.

2. We should be willing to come to our neighbors.

There were three travelers who came upon the injured man in Jesus’ parable, but only one was willing to take the risk to come to the man. We have many neighbors with needs, and approaching them can be risky. We risk our neighbor slapping our extended hand with no interest in our help. We risk driving our neighbor away. We also risk being hurt by our neighbor.

Approaching our neighbor may place us in a vulnerable place and may result in heartbreak. This is a risk Christians should be willing to take. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you even though it seems that the more I love you the less you love me” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Jesus was willing to be hurt to help us. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own, yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Coming to our neighbor is a risky move, but the profit of being able to help him or her is great.

3. We should be willing to serve our neighbor.

We should be open to opportunities to serve. This may be checking on a neighbor, seeing if we can pick up something at the store, helping them find transportation to an appointment, or just listening to identify their needs. We should strive to serve our neighbors in the same way Jesus served those around him.

4. We should invest generously in our neighbors.

The Samaritan invested in the man’s recovery. The IVP New Testament Commentary calculates his investment to equal three and a half weeks of time for the injured man to recover. This would have been approximately two days’ wages. The Samaritan acted generously toward the man’s needs.

Our generosity can go a long way in meeting our neighbors’ needs. When we are in a position to be generous, the Bible encourages us to give freely.

5. We should follow up with our neighbors.

Meeting an immediate need and walking away may be helpful, but it is not the best approach. The Samaritan met the man’s initial needs, but we can also assume he followed up to ensure the man healed and the innkeeper was fully compensated. We too should follow up with our neighbors in an effort to fully meet their needs. This helps show we truly care for them.

We live in a society filled with needs, and as Good Samaritans, we should not pass by on the other side; rather, we should work to help our neighbors. After all, we are the hands and feet of Christ, and it is through our actions his grace and mercy shine brightly in a crooked and depraved generation.

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Which character are you?

3 Travelers, 1 Neighbor

Jesus uses a parable to illustrate a true neighbor. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus places us on a 17-mile stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Descending sharply toward the Jordan River just north of the Dead sea, this especially dangerous patch of road curved through rugged, rocky terrain. It made an excellent hiding place for thieves. The IVP New Testament Commentary compares this stretch of road to the inner city late at night, and Josephus recorded travelers would carry weapons to protect themselves in this region.

Jesus says a man was traveling this road and fell into the hands of robbers, who left him “half dead.” Luke 10:31-32 goes on, “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” These three men were all Jews, so according to the Lawyer’s definition, the priest and Levite should have acted as a neighbor to the man lying on the road.

However, they acted contrarily, passing by on the other side. This may have been to keep themselves ceremonially clean. Culture dictated one’s shadow could not even come in contact with a dead body, or one would become ritually unclean. They may have ignored the man out of concern for personal safety. What if the robbers were still around? They may have chosen not to check, thinking there was nothing they could do for the man. In short, the priest and Levite made excuses so they did not have to get involved in the man’s affairs.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” This Samaritan acted mercifully toward the man lying on the road. He bandaged the man’s wounds, served the man by placing him on his donkey, and made sure the man was cared for until he healed.

A Samaritan is the last person the lawyer would have considered a neighbor. In fact, Jesus may have stunned his listeners with this character. Much hostility existed between the Jews and Samaritans. John 4:9 says the hostility was so great the two groups would not even share dishes. Scholars are not confident when the hostility began.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary points out, “The history of the Samaritans is uncertain. Many hold that they were a mixed race since the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The king of Assyria deported the leaders of Israel, among them the religious teachers, and replaced them with foreigners. From that time on, the inhabitants of the northern kingdom received no further prophetic instruction, nor did they recognize God’s revelation to the southern kingdom. The Samaritans were a fringe segment of the Jewish world for which Jesus and Luke had a concern.”

No matter the root of the hostility, the fact this Samaritan acted as a neighbor would have turned the stomach of the lawyer. He had a preconceived notion that he could not be a neighbor to a Samaritan. The expert in the law would not even say the word “Samaritan.”

Jesus continued by asking, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.”

Jesus’ definition of neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. Geographic location, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and culture are mute points in determining a neighbor.

The IVP New Testament Commentary remarks, “Jesus point is simply be a neighbor. Do not rule out certain people as neighbors and his parable makes the point emphatically by providing a model from a group the lawyer had probably excluded as possible neighbors. To love God means to show mercy to those in need. An authentic life is found in serving God and caring for others. This is a central tenet of discipleship. Here human beings fulfill their creative role, to love God and be a neighbor to others by meeting their needs. Neighbors are not determined by race, creed, or gender. Neighbors consist of anyone in need made in the image of God.”

Which character in Jesus’ parable best represents you? Are you the neighbor who passes by or the Samaritan?

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God is here, there, & everywhere.

“Whether I’m looking for him or not, that’s where I find God.”

He may show up in the strangest of places. For someone hitting rock bottom, he can be the person who lends a listening ear and gives advice. For the parent who is struggling, he can be the friend who offers a great idea. For the husband or wife who is ready to throw in the towel on marriage, he can be the older friend who offers encouragement. We never really know where he will reveal himself.

God can be found many places in our daily lives. He is not restricted by buildings or worship services, and he promises he is always with us. He will show up at the right place and time. Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will work out his plans for my life. For your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me for you made me.”

We just need to be attentive to his presence and recognize his work. You never know when the Lord will show up.