This past week in Tampa, Mary and I were enjoying a balcony breakfast of fruit and oatmeal. As we were eating, I threw three or four small blueberries off the balcony onto the parking lot below. I had hoped that a few of the birds might swoop down and snatch them up, but after a few minutes, nothing had happened, and we had kind of forgot about them. Suddenly, without warning birds came from everywhere. We’re not talking three or four birds, but 20 or 25 birds. My immediate thought was wow! Those three or four berries caused this? I was quite proud. It was a few seconds later that I realized it wasn’t my three or four berries, it was bread from above. Someone above us was throwing handfuls of bread off their balcony, and the birds weren’t drawn to my berries, but to the bread from above. What a moment of truth! Often, we feel like our work accomplishes so much; that our efforts, talents and skills make all the difference when actually, it’s His bread from above. God says cast the nets on the other side of the boat, we simply obey, and Jesus nearly sinks our boats with blessings. It’s not our fishing ability, but His blessing. Paul says it well when he says, “some plant, others water, but it is God that gives the increase.” What Paul was telling us is what we experienced that morning at breakfast. The possibility and the power is in God. That it is God that makes the difference. That God loves to take our empty vessels and small lunches and fill them and multiply them. The psalmist understood this when he said, “if it had not been for the Lord who was on our side.” God, let us regularly be reminded that it is because you are with us and for us that we are blessed and favored.
John 4 is where we find Jesus setting his sights on helping a fragile and apprehensive Samaritan woman. The story opens as Jesus arrives at Jacob’s well, alone. He has sent His disciples to get bread. The setting is important, because if he isn’t alone, He likely doesn’t have a chance to have a conversation with the woman. It’s not that the woman isn’t broken, she is. It’s just that she is jaded and skeptical because of the bruises of life. She’s been hurt by five different husbands and the man that’s now a part of her life isn’t her husband. As the conversation begins, Jesus faces an emotional wall that is as high and thick as a prison wall. Trying to break through the icy stare, Jesus asks for water. He is met with a why? Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan for a glass of water. Don’t you know your type doesn’t talk to people like me. When Jesus offers her water she skeptically asks, how are you going to give me water, you have nothing to draw with. When Jesus explains it’s spiritual water, she judgingly questions, are you greater than our father Jacob? Every attempt Jesus makes to help her is met with a jaded and calloused response. Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman reminds me of the difficulty we run into when we try to share the good news; the news that Jesus can bless and impact their life. It’s met with the same skepticism and jaded response. Why? They’ been hurt and they don’t trust. How do we overcome their pain? The same way Jesus did. Keep loving, showing compassion and offering mercy. Hopefully, at some moment, the walls crack, the heart softens, and the love of God comes pouring over their heart like a spring shower.
Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “for I know the plans I have for you… plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” If we take this verse literally, God has a specific plan for our life, and it is for good and is to give us a future that is filled with hope. If God has a plan for us, what hinders it from coming to pass? Satan, people, situations or circumstances? No. The biggest issue impeding God’s plan from happening in our life is us. Jesus lets us know His ultimate goal for all humanity in Luke 19:10 when he said, “I came to seek and save those who are lost.” That’s it. That’s the reason He robed himself in flesh, lived with the humanity He created, died on a cross, resurrected and ascended into heaven, so that everyone can be saved. But is that it? Is that His only plan for our lives? No, I believe God has a specific plan for each of us, but how? It begins by getting in alignment with God’s Spirit, getting in the flow of His purpose. For that to happen it requires that we have a hunger for His will to be accomplished in our life. It requires continually humbling, submitting and yielding to His leadership. It means being led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. It means as John said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Regularly, daily, we must pray that prayer. God let Your plans, Your will increase and let mine decrease. Help me to yield my plans, ideas and concepts to yours. What awaits? Joy. Happiness. Calm. Diminishing fear and anxiety. A peace that passes all understanding. Get in the flow. Get in alignment with His Spirit and His plan. It will be life changing.
What do we do when there is a forecast of an impending snowstorm? We head to the grocery store. We load up on bread, milk, eggs and other essentials. We top off the car with fuel, head home with a trunk full of groceries, prepared for the storm. Wake up to a forecast that says rain and we grab a jacket and an umbrella. Being prepared is vital to surviving a storm, whether rain, snow or the storms of life. Why fast? Because storms are coming. It’s not a maybe or possibility, it’s not the question of if, but when will the storms hit. This year there will be unexpected job losses, sickness, emotional hurt, life disappointments and difficulties we don’t anticipate. Knowing storms are in the future, what do we do? We prepare. We pray. We fast. We make our relationship with God a priority. That’s how we prepare spiritually. Jesus went into the wilderness, full of the Spirit, but comes out in the power of the Spirit. What happened in the wilderness? He was tempted. He fasted. He came out ready for all the challenges lie ahead. Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, but before he ever preached a message, God sent him to an Arabian desert. What happened in the desert? He prayed and fasted. He was being prepared for the impending storms; shipwrecks, stonings, beatings, persecution and jail, all storms that lay in front of Paul. How did he survive? Spiritual preparation. What does 2021 hold? God only knows, but one thing I do know, there will be storms. Are you preparing? How we prepare today will determine how we handle the storms and if we will survive. Fast today because storms are coming.
It’s over! Now that it is, it’s important that we take a final look back and make some assessments. There’s been some casualties, some losses but more than anything, change. The way we live life is different. We wear mask. We avoid contact with others. We work from home. We do carryout. The list goes on and on. The way we do church is different too. We’ve sacrificed a lot, probably too much. No hugs. Very little expressive worship. Sermons end and we go home. Some have found it convenient to stay home. The trip that didn’t seem so long, now is, and we watch, if it is convenient. For others, what once was important doesn’t seem as important now, the Spirit outpouring and doctrine became irrelevant, so they attend a “nice” church. Some can pass people in the isle at the grocery store, Target or even set in restaurants, but church, even with social spacing, is too dangerous of a place to attend. We’ve given up a lot. But of all the things we’ve given up, one of the most dangerous is the altar. It’s what the adversary is always after, our altar. So much happens at an altar. We rejoice, repent, find encouragement, get deliverance and worship at altars. We are broken, find healing and praise together at the altar. The miraculous happens at the altar. The Spirit falls in an altar. We are refreshed, gain faith, are convicted and make new commitments at altars. But in 2020 we didn’t have altar services. They went dormant. A casualty of COVID. The 2021 challenge? Like Jacob, get back to Bethel, the house of God. Like Elijah, restore your commitment to building back up the altar. The altar. The success of your life and family depends on it