Monday, October 26, 2015

Eating an Elephant


[Photo of an elephant perched on a spoon]

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
—Matthew 6:34

You’ve no doubt heard the question: “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer: “One bite at a time.”

I confess that I am a veteran “planner.” I plan everything in order to stave off unwanted surprises or risky situations. God gave me this innate ability to systematically prepare for every contingency.

Yet, I don’t imagine He had in mind giving me this capability of planning in order that I should use it so in lieu of trusting Him. Much of the time He chooses to keep me in the dark about what comes next just for that very reason.

I’m sure that the Israelites would have liked to have known when God was going to lead them on in the wilderness so that they could have prepared meals “on the go.” Instead, He provided only enough manna for one day at a time. It appeared as dew in the morning and quickly evaporated. The people of Israel had to gather it without dawdling and trust God that He would supply the same food every day.

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman whose family hid Jews from the Nazis in their home and who was subsequently imprisoned at Ravensbruck concentration camp, tells the story about a conversation with her father. Corrie had asked her father why God only seems to give them a clear answer to their prayers at the very last minute.

Her father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed and gently began to ask Corrie a question: “When you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?”

She sniffed a few times before responding with “Why, just before we get on the train.”

Her father then went on, “Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.” 1

Whether the situation seems as dire as Corrie’s, or has to do with how you will get everything done for the upcoming wedding, or household move, or the months of chemotherapy ahead, God gives us the same answer: “Trust me and take one thing at a time.”

Certainly the patriarchs listed in Hebrews 11 give us plenty of examples of men and women who trusted in God during impossible situations. As Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.

God comforts us as we begin “eating our elephant” in 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.


1 Ten Boom, Corrie, The Hiding Place. Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1971.



Monday, October 19, 2015

Bread and Water


[Photo of an open Bible with folded hands on top]

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity
and the water of affliction, your teachers will be
hidden no more; with your own eyes you will
see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the
left, your ears will hear a voice behind you,
saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
—Isaiah 30:20-21

A diet of bread and water conjures up images of life in prison, of poverty without funds for anything but the essential elements, and of loss and sadness. Although most of us in twenty-first century America do not directly relate to such a diet like, as the verse at the beginning of the blog post suggests, we sometimes do experience times when God may seem to place us in a spiritual or emotional confinement.

At such times, we not only pray for release from the prison of problems, but we pray for understanding and guidance. We wisely go to God for the meaning of it all because the meaning seems hidden to us. We ask Him where we should go and what we should do. We need His divine guidance.

Some verses of Scripture offer comfort. In Isaiah 30: 19, we read:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Our God wishes to show compassion and justice to us in our adversity and affliction.

As godly Job learned, harder still than the prison of problems God allows, are the deep, nagging questions: the “whys” and “what nows” that accompany them.

As Mary, the sister of Lazarus learned, in John 11, when Jesus finally came to her in her grief and baffled thoughts and called her name, everything changed.

As Peter learned after betraying his Lord and finding himself in a “prison” of shame and fear, in John 21, we see that a few minutes with Jesus changed everything. He heard the voice of God, responded, and nothing was ever the same again.

Being able to see our Teacher, to hear the Voice clear and strong, through His Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit, becomes our comfort in the prison of problems we face. The God who spoke to Isaiah, Job, Mary, and Peter can speak to us.

Praise Him for His gracious promise to come to us and direct our way. When we lose all else, His voice of loving guidance changes everything!



Monday, October 12, 2015

Trickle Down Blessings


[Photo of a spoonful of salt]

“Through the blessing of the
upright a city is exalted.”
—Proverbs 11:11

Has God blessed you? Consider this. If God has blessed you, He has also blessed those around you.

How many close calls have you experienced on the road? Did you ever stop to think that when God spared you, He spared others as well?

Speaking to His followers in Matthew 5:13, Jesus tells us that:

“You are the salt of the earth.”

As “Christ’s-ones,” we not only help to give flavor and delight to the world, our very presence helps preserve it!

We need go no further than the scriptures to see illustrations of this blessed phenomenon.

In Genesis 37 and chapters following, we read the story of Joseph, the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. We read about his jealous brothers who sold him to a band of Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt where he became a slave under the Pharaoh’s rule. He assigned Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of the guard, putting him in charge of all he had.

Genesis 39:5 tells us:

From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

If we look at the New Testament, we read the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, and the storm in which they lost the ship on which they sailed. In Acts 27:23-24 we read from Paul’s testimony:

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’

Like salt prudently used, our presence, and God’s blessing on us, may not call attention to itself. People around us may not even perceive that, because of us, God has included them in His goodness. Yet, when God removes His blessing, the world wonders what went wrong. We as a culture, too often presume things will go well for us, and believe they should. God has favored us. He has ambassadors of His grace all around, including you and me.

We must thank God today that He has called us to operate in our culture as a preserving influence, as a blessing, and as a flavoring agent to scatter His good grace to others around us. When we ask for His blessing, we must also remember to include all of those whom we will influence today.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Gas in Your Tank


[Photo of a woman holding a fuel nozzle ot her head]

“May the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace as you trust in him, so
that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
—Romans 15:13

We all need a “fill-up” with hope from time to time. The “Enemy of Despair and Hopelessness” can bring us down and ruin any day, relationship, job, church, or project. Hope keeps us going. Hope fuels our way, even through difficult times.

Joni Eareckson Tada says:

It’s amazing how far we can go on a little bit of hope. Hope means “I know I can make it!” 1

We have a God of hope according to the verse at the beginning of this blog post. We must trust Him to keep us going, to assure us of His presence and His good plan. In the book of Lamentations, chapter three, Jeremiah confesses:

My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.

Notice the past-tense of this sentence. Just three verses later, he says:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness…The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.

When we hope for things from God, He doesn’t always come through as we would desire. But, when we hope in God, He shows up to lift us up.

When Jeremiah looked at his circumstances, he saw nothing promising. Yet, when he looked at his God, he could rejoice.

Take a long look at our God. He has the answers we need and has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Let’s ask Him to refuel our drooping spirits. Then rejoice with the hymn writer:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.” 2


1 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Pearls of Great Price. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ©2006, Devotional for September 30th.
2 Mote, Edward, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. Public Domain.