October 2011

Sow a seed to meet your need

“What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. 2 Kings 4:1 (NLT)

The woman in this story is in desperate need. In the midst of grieving the loss of her husband who has just died, she is confronted by a creditor who is now threatening to take her two sons away from her as well and turn them into slaves as payment for a debt she cannot pay. Her husband had been a God fearing man and member of Elisha’s company of the prophets and so she comes crying to Elisha for help.

Note Elisha’s response to her. He begins by asking her to take stock of what she has rather than bemoan what she doesn’t have. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” There is a very important principle of faith that Elisha is tapping into here and we see it at work throughout both the Old and the New Testament. The principle is this: before God meets a need, He always requires someone to sow a seed. Desperate needs are seedbeds for miracles and Elisha knows that the place this woman must begin is by looking for a seed that she can sow.

She admits that she does have a flask of oil, but in her estimation it is “nothing at all.” But to Elisha, and most importantly to God it is that requisite seed, no matter how small, that can be used to prime the pump for her miracle. Sowing a seed in faith is like priming an old hand water pump. A little bit of water is needed to pour into the pump to create the suction necessary to begin drawing out an endless stream of water. In God’s hands, a little bit can produce a lot.

Elisha instructs her and her sons to go to all her neighbors and gather as many empty containers as they can. Then she is told to begin pouring the oil from that little flask into the containers. One by one, her sons set a filled container aside and slip another empty one in as the oil continues to flow. Miraculously the oil does not stop until every single container is full. Then Elisha tells her “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” (vs. 7)

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3 Lessons from the Life of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple passed away this week. His worldwide impact as a computer entrepreneur and innovator is well documented. As a corporate leader he was admired not only for his genius but also for his determination in the face of the adversity that marked his life.

Yesterday, my intrigue about his life caused me to stumble onto an online video of a Stanford University commencement address he gave in 2005, following his first bout with the cancer that eventually took his life. In that address, Steve told three stories from his personal life while extracting three overarching principles that guided his life. Although in the past I had heard and seen references to that address, I had never sat down and watched it from start to finish.

It was short, all of about fifteen minutes, but it blew my socks off. And here is why. This side of heaven, we do not have any indication Steve was a Christian and whatever religious leanings he had are tied to Zen Buddhism. However, the things that Steve conveyed are truths that could have been lifted from the pages of the Bible. God is obviously the author of truth and examining Steve’s address from a Christian perspective is instructive. As I listened, I could not help but acknowledge that the power and conviction of such a message should be on the lips and demonstrated in the life of every Christian.

Now it is important to interject that these life principles, embraced apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ lack His resurrection power and promised redemption. But viewed from a Christian perspective and tied to New Testament “Life” principles these truths are the doorway to discovering and fulfilling God’s eternal purposes for our lives.

And so here are the three Christianized lessons from the life of Steve Jobs.

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The To Don’t List

Our lives are built around “to do lists.” Like most people I keep ongoing and always growing to do lists. There is my work to do list, my home to do list, my call/write to do list, my reading to do list, my prayer to do list, my bucket to do list, and on and on the to do lists grow. These to do lists guide and inform my life of the ways in which I should and/or want to spend my time. But my recent study for a sermon I gave on the subject of the Sabbath, entitled “Faith to Rest” has sensitized me to the equal if not more important idea of keeping a “to don’t list.”

We live in a culture where “to don’t lists” are lost in the flood of to do lists. Our modern world is driven by a busyness that is a by product of the high value we place on accomplishment and accumulation. Consequently the idea of taking time to stop or cease things is anathema to our drive to keep the graphs of life moving up and to the right.

The Bible however confirms our real-life experience that the graph does move down as frequently and readily as it moves up. The passage of Ecclesiastes popularized by The Byrds’ song “Turn, Turn, Turn” in the mid 1960’s says it plainly and painfully. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) It might be summed up like this. There is a time to continue and a time to stop, a time to do and a time to don’t!

The word for Sabbath, derives from the Hebrew word shavat which is frequently translated rest, but more accurately means to cease or to stop (work/doing). The idea of the weekly observance of a Sabbath is a good place to begin when thinking about a “to don’t list.” Although there may be many bad or sinful things that should naturally go right to the top of our “to don’t lists,” the things we often overlook are the good things. Sabbaths were created by God as seasons to suspend even the productive and beneficial things in our lives for the higher purpose of renewed consecration to Him.

A proper “to don’t list” then should include bad things, good things that are simply not the best things and even the best things that need a rest.

Here is a list of clarifying questions that I am finding helpful in determining what things need to be priorities in creating a “to don’t list.”

1. What things in my life am I doing that I need

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