1 Corinthians 3:4-9

"For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building."

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Building to destroy or yielding to grow

"Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?" 2 Samuel 7:18

David had desired to build the Lord a temple so that He would no longer have to dwell in the tabernacle of the desert days of his people the Israelites. David tells Nathan his desires and Nathan seems to think that it is a good idea.

Then, the Lord speaks to Nathan and gives him a message for David that is contrary to what David has in mind. When Nathan delivers the message to David, his response teaches us much.

David could have responded to the Nathan by rising up against his message, defending himself and his position as king and walking in his rights as the anointed one.

But he seemed to have known Nathan's words were from the Lord and he humbly responded in gratitude and thankfulness that should cause each of us to examine our hearts and our our attitudes towards the Lord and his perfect plans.

What would you have done in David's position?

The Lord told David through Nathan that it was not to be David that would build his house, but rather David's son. Furthermore, the Lord promises to establish His people throne David's seed.

The Lord might not have allowed David's desire, but his denial did not equal rejection. God simply had a greater plan for David's life than to build Him a temple.

David responds to the Lord,

"Then David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said,

'Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet, this was a small thing in your sight, O Lord God; Now what more can David your servant say to You? For You, Lord God, know your servant. For Your word's sake, and according to Your own heart, You have done all these great things, to make Your servant know them. Therefore, You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.' " 2 Samuel 7:18-22

David did not believe that all God had laid out before him was because he (David) was so great or so deserving. No, David knew that the Lord knew him and all his failings and his response shows that David knew the Lord was so great that He would give even David gifts.

Proverbs 15:31-32 says, "He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding."

There is rich application from this section of scripture.

The first and maybe most obvious is that the Lord has a plan for each of our lives and He will direct our steps and guide our paths. When we are looking to Him to do so, even correction, discipline and a change of direction will be recognized as His perfect will and will result in an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness, not in rebellion, pride, or resistance.

Sometimes, the Lord speaks to us through spiritual leaders in our lives. We need to be willing to receive from those the Lord has placed in authority over us and trust Him as we trust them. We need to have open ears to hear from the Lord and open hearts to receive, we need to eagerly desire to grow, and be ready to repent when confronted with our errors.

For the past four weeks, we have had mission teams on the property helping with the remodeling project of a building on the property that will be used to house future mission teams. There has been a man helping the team throughout the whole process who is from the church who is in need of work. He was hired by the church to assist in any way needed. He did everything from run back and from the shed for tools and supplies, to holding a ladder, to trying his hand at different parts of the construction process- sometimes with success and other times realizing that a certain skill or job was clearly not his gift. Saturday, he and his wife brought a token of their appreciation to the team members that remained. His wife had cooked a Guatemalan dessert for the men to enjoy and this was their way of saying thank you. The men had not given them anything material, but it was the time the husband had spent with them that had impacted his heart and touched him deeply. And they came to say thank you. He asked me to translate for him as he shared with them his gratitude. One thing he said to them forced me to swallow hard to keep the tears from coming as I tried to translate. He said he had learned so much from them. But the one main thing that had transformed his life was that he had learned that anything he tried to build of his life would only come to ruin. He had learned that the plan the Lord had for his life was far superior to his and he knew now that he would yield to the Lord and trust him completely for whatever might come.

You see, the reason the tears came to me is that I know their story, They have been in the midst of an intense fire and an attack from the enemy. Seemingly, they have lost everything. But God. He taught the husband through the demolition and rebuilding of a earthly, temporary structure, that His plan is always far better than any that we mere humans could ever imagine.

David learned this same lesson in 2 Samuel chapter seven.

The response of both men are the same- humbleness and gratitude- and a willingness to follow the Lord and His perfect plan, no matter what.

May my heart attitude and my outward reaction be the same as both my fellow brother and as David's.

I thank the Lord for correction, exhortation, and discipleship of the spiritual leaders in my life. I am thankful for their willingness to allow us to walk in the way of the Lord and also for their patience and grace to guide and lead us.

In the devotional, Wisdom for Women, Debbi Bryson says this,
"Never underestimate how God can use your present circumstances to deepen you and prepare you for his noble purposes. Be faithful in the small things. Be a servant joyfully and willingly. Trust God with all of your heart. The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom and humility comes before honor."

This picture was taken in June 2006 on Brooke's first mission trip to Costa Rica. This was the beginning of their journey to present day, for such a time as this. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sons of oil

"So, he said, 'These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the LORD of the whole earth.'" Zechariah 4:14 

Zechariah chapter 4 teaches us about a vision given to Zechariah by God, after being awakened from sleep by an angel of the Lord. The vision is about olive trees and lamp stands and at our first glance might seem insignificant, but reveals to us the essence of our life in Christ.

Zechariah means "Yahweh Remembers." Zechariah was sent by God to encourage the people in the task of building the temple. At the time Zechariah receives the vision, Zerubbabel, who was the overseer of the building of the temple, has been at the task for somewhere around 17-20 years. He needed encouragement to continue on. Zechariah is sent by the Lord to encourage the people and to remind them that future blessing is contingent on present obedience.

 So, the vision relates to the work the people are in the midst of. Within the temple, there would have been a lamp stand that held the lamps that gave light to the temple. The lamps had to be continuously cared for, as they had to be continually filled with oil, cleared of ash and soot, and the wicks maintained. This would have been a constant, tedious, task for a temple worker, and one that could have been easily despised. Here, however, Zechariah sees not a servant tending to the lamps, and filling them with the usual specially prepared oil, but rather two olive trees as the source of the lamp's oil.

Let's look at verse 6:
"This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."

Zerubbabel has a great responsibility. One that requires many resources in order to be completed. But here, the Lord reminds him that the work will not be accomplished by tangible, human resources, but by The Resource- the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

The word 'might' refers to the collective resources of a group or army- the strength that comes from a group of people working together to accomplish a task. The word 'power ' refers to the strength of an individual. When we as humans face a large task we generally assess the situation by determining the collective resources available as well the resources available from the individual members of our group or team, right?  Recognizing available resources in itself is not inherently wrong. We are called to be good stewards of the resources the Lord has provided and also we are given gifts of the Holy Spirit to be manifested through the good works He has planned in advance for His people. He orchestrates the uniting of His people in specific ways in order for them to work effectively together using their gifts and the resources He provides to accomplish His plan. But we cannot forget where we must begin all works.

Just the other day, Matt and I visited one of the popular ruins here in Antigua. We have often caught glimpses from the street of the inside of the building, as it is a popular sight for weddings, but we had never been inside. The size and construction of the building were quite impressive. Since the building was built in the early 1700's, its design and size brings about questions of how long it took to build it, the need and use of a building of that size, and how they would have constructed it brick-by-brick. There are elaborate arches and features that cause you to wonder about how the task was ever accomplished in a day when resources were so little and the work so much more difficult.

Here, in Zechariah, we see the people doing just that- accomplishing a great task with little resources. But they have grown weary. And so the Lord brings them a message of encouragement. No matter how long they have been at it, no matter how little the resources may seem, no matter how slow the process seems to be taking- "Keep at it! Press on!" That is the message brought to the people in that day. And that is the message the Lord brings to us today, too! Because it it not a matter of your strength, or your collective resources, but it is by the continual supply of My Spirit that the work will be accomplished. And that is why the Lord gave the vision of the olive trees continually supplying the lamps with oil to remind the people, and to remind us as well, that His supply of and our reliance on the Holy Spirit need to be continual.

Spurgeon says, "O churches! Take heed lest ye trust in yourselves; take heed lest ye say, 'We are a respectable body,' 'We are a mighty number,' 'We are a potent people;' take heed lest ye begin to glory in your own strength; for when that is done, 'Ichabod' shall be written on your walls and your glory will depart from you. Remember, that he who was with us when we were but few, must be with us now that we are many, or else we must fail; and he who strengthened us when we were but 'little in Israel,' must be with us now that we are like 'the thousands of Manasseh,' or else it is all over us and our day is past."

All of our service to the Lord, all of our ministry, must begin with the each member of the body of Christ being filled with the Holy Spirit of the Loving God and depending on Him to equip us to complete the task.

Matt and I just celebrated (actually we are still celebrating) our 17th wedding anniversary. I look back at the past seventeen years and am literally in awe at all that the Lord has done in our lives. We have faced what seemed like massive mountains in our married lives- having no income, no home, and a baby on the way, but finding Him to be our Faithful Provider; having three small children and being called to the mission field; learning Spanish; after two years, finally feeling comfortable and established, then being called to move to an entirely new and foreign part of the country to completely start over; watching the Lord break us down only to rebuild our marriage and our lives; returning to the United States after five years in Costa Rica; then after just 6 short months, moving to Guatemala. And, oh the transformation He has done in our hearts since moving here!

I know that through these different times in our lives, we had moments where we would certainly have chosen to do things in a different way. If it had been up to us, we would have chosen different methods or used different resources. Yet, we can see that the way the Lord chose to accomplish His will was THE perfect way. And on this side of it all, we would not want to change one thing. Because we know that surrender to His will and obedience to His plan and reliance upon His Spirit yield eternal blessings.

David Guzik gives us several illustrations for why oil is a good representation of the Holy Spirit. Here are a few:
Oil lubricates and when used for that purpose there is little friction and wear among those who are lubricated by the Holy Spirit of God.
Oil heals and was used as a medicinal treatment in Biblical times and when relied upon, the Holy Spirit brings healing and restoration.
Oil invigorates when used to massage and when allowed, the Holy Spirit invigorates us for His service.
Oil adorns when applied as a perfume and when asked, the Holy Spirit adorns us and makes us more pleasant to be around.

Verse 7 says, "Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of, 'Grace, grace to it!'"

So God assures Zerubbabel here that he will finish the work, by His Spirit, because it is a work of grace, not a work of human strength or might.

That is so true for us who are in ministry today. We might face mountains, things that seem impossible. And if we speak truthfully, we might have resources within our grasp that we might use to make a good size dent in the looming mountain. But the Lord says to us, as He did to Zerubbabel, it is a work of grace meant to be accomplished by a continual supply of My Spirit, so that it is all for My glory. He also promises us, as He promised Zerubbabel, that He will finish the work.

Then he says,
"For who has despised the day of small things?"

That little phrase gets me every time. I think most of us, if we are honest, have to admit that we have despised the day of small things a time or two in our lives, haven't we? I know that I'd be lying if I said I have not. Yet, here we see almost two decades of brick after brick being laid in order to build the temple. We are reminded of the tedious task of tending to the oil and the temple lamps. The people are discouraged and can see no end in sight.

But God.

But God says to not despise the 'day' of the small things. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and be obedient, especially in the little things. Guzik says, 'In many of God's choice workers He uses a powerful season of small things. Those days are not a mistake nor are they punishment; they are days of priceless shaping and preparation. They are not days to despise.'

The temptation to despise the day of the small things comes directly from the enemy himself. Satan tempts us in this way, because he fears the small things because he sees the great things God does in our lives through them.

Small things or big things- the task is not important- it is the obedient child of God working for His King that pleases the Lord. He sees all, His eyes scan to and fro throughout the whole earth and they see all works, both big and small. Do not despise the little things, for the Lord is the Lord of the little things.

The chapter ends with verse 14,
"So he said, 'These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.' "

This refers to two branches of the two olive trees on either side of the lamp stand in the vision given to Zechariah. The two anointed ones had a God-ordained work to do. The way they would accomplish that work would be through a continuos supply of the Holy Spirit.

Anointed ones literally means 'sons of oil.' David Guzik says of these two, 'They were so characterized by the ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit that they are sons of oil.'

Matt and I appear to be at a crossroads where the Lord is allowing us to begin to see the fruit of our labors in the 'day' of the small things. The actual duration of the 'day' is insignificant, nor is it most likely to end any time soon. However, with eyes fixed on the One who Finishes the work, we press on. The ruins that I mentioned that we visited a few days ago here in Antigua, are called 'ruins' because they are literally what is left of the destruction from an earthquake, rather multiple earthquakes, that have happened over the course of time. It is easy to sometimes allow our focus to shift from Jesus to the 'ruins' in our lives and lose heart and grow weary. Yet, here we are reminded that not even the end result of our labor is what matters, as everything on this earth will one day soon pass away. What is important is that as we do the work of the Lord, we rely on His Spirit, and we walk in obedience to His call, in both the little things and the big things, for His glory. The results are in His hands and for His glory.

What is most important is that the way we do what we do glorifies the work of the Holy Spirit, both His work in us and also His work through us.

I have written in the margin of my One Year Bible that I have been reading for about four years now:
'What we do may seem small and insignificant at the time, but God rejoices in what is right, which is not what is necessarily what is big. Be faithful in the small opportunities. Begin where you are and do what you can, for that is how God will be glorified.'

I remember Pastor Mike Rozell saying those words to a room full of people at Potter's Field Ranch in Montana a few days after we had arrived there to live, just after returning from five years in Costa Rica. We were just starting a new 'day' of small things then. To look back from where we are today and see the great hand of God upon our lives leaves me no other option but to rejoice in the Lord and in His work of grace in our lives.

As we look ahead with eyes fixed on Him, our prayer is that His work and His ministry in our lives be so characterized by the power of the Holy Spirit that our lives would be looked at as having that continuous connection to THE SOURCE of the oil of the Holy Spirit. And that it would be said of our lives that they were a work of grace for the glory of God in the Highest.

Grace and peace to you this Christmas season.