Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 18

Fire from heaven. Then Elijah told the people, "Enough of that—it's my turn. Gather around." And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. 1 Kings 18:30 (MSG)

I have, at times, prayed for fire from heaven as I stood next to the ruined altar of my life.

Silly me.

God didn't answer Elijah until the altar, which lay in ruins, was repaired.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Elijah

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 17

Running on empty. This is the word of the God of Israel: 'The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought. 1 Kings 17:14 (MSG)

It's been a long week and I'm tired. The physical and emotional batteries are on empty.

As I read the chapter today, I was struck by God's promise to the woman of Zarephath to replenish the oil and flour in her home each day so that she, and her son, and Elijah could eat.

Just as Jesus would replenish the loaves and fish until everyone had their fill of fish sandwiches.

Just as Jesus taught us to pray "Give us this day, our daily bread."

God is in the business of replenishment. He provides what we need when we need it. And, that's a good thought as I head out the door this morning.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 16

Jesus owns a breadmaker. It was under Ahab's rule that Hiel of Bethel refortified Jericho, but at a terrible cost: He ritually sacrificed his firstborn son Abiram at the laying of the foundation, and his youngest son Segub at the setting up of the gates. This is exactly what Joshua son of Nun said would happen1 Kings 16:34 (MSG)

"If there is any purpose or value in this whole thing, it's completely lost on me," my wife said to me in the car yesterday. Behind her dark sunglasses, I knew her eyes were filled with tears. I understood. I feel the same confusion. Her statement echoed in my spirit the rest of the day and I've been chewing on it.

The purpose and value of difficult circumstances do not usually show themselves in the moment because they are not momentary in nature. We call them "lessons learned in time" because, for us, time is a required ingredient. We have a wonderful, state-of-the-art breadmaker in our kitchen. As good as it is, it still takes 3-4 hours to bake a loaf of bread. It can't speed up the time necessary for the yeast to perform its chemical reactions and make the dough rise.

God has all sorts of time because, unlike me, he exists outside of time's boundaries. It's likely that Hiel of Bethel and the people gathered at the dedication ceremonies at Jericho had no idea that the terrible sacrifice of his own sons had been spoken of 600 years earlier by Joshua. That's like Cristopher Columbus talking about the recent earthquake in Haiti. It seems an eternity to us, but not to God. He exists concurrently in both moments.

The difficult stretch of the journey I'm experiencing today is frustrating, agonizing, and confusing. I don't get it in the moment. I can only trust that someday I, or my children, or my grandchildren, or my great grandchildren will be on another difficult stretch and I will look back in time to find that the lessons learned through this time will profit me for that time.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and solidstate76

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 15

Cleaning house is making room for new things. Asa conducted himself well before God, reviving the ways of his ancestor David. He cleaned house: He got rid of the sacred prostitutes and threw out all the idols his predecessors had made. Asa spared nothing and no one; he went so far as to remove Queen Maacah from her position because she had built a shockingly obscene memorial to the whore goddess Asherah. Asa tore it down and burned it up in the Kidron Valley. 1 Kings 15:11-13 (MSG)

There is something about "cleaning house" that brings a fresh start. Cleaning house means purging old and worthless things that take up room, demand time attention and distract me from more important things. I might "rearrange house" so that there is a sense that things are fresh and new, but it is not the same thing as cleaning house. The old and worthless things are still there. They may be tucked away for the moment, out of sight, so I can fool myself to believing that things are clean. But, nothing has really changed.

"Cleaning house" requires uncomfortable decisions. I'm sure Asa's decision to remove grandma from power had tremendous ramifications in his life, his household, in his family, and in his community. She had been holding "position" within the family, the royal household, and therefore, the government, for multiple generations. The removal of something or someone that holds an old, secure position within any kind of system tends to throw that system into conflict and confusion for a while. That's why we avoid it.

"Cleaning house" is a requisite part of the process for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. You don't get far in the journey if you keep accumulating and never purge. A journey requires mobility and you can't move if you're loaded down. "Old things pass away, new things come," God's message tells us. But, there's no room for new things in our backpack if it's still full of our old stuff.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and questioneverything

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 14

"And that's it. Go on home—the minute you step foot in town, the boy will die. Everyone will come to his burial, mourning his death. He is the only one in Jeroboam's family who will get a decent burial; he's the only one for whom God, the God of Israel, has a good word to say." 1 Kings 14:12-13 (MSG)

I was struck by the blunt truth that Ahijah spoke to Jeroboam's wife in today's chapter. Sometime's I think that we avoid speaking plain truth in today's culture.

Instead of telling a child that they've failed the test and need to take the course over again, we pat them on the back and applaud them for doing the best they can. Instead of facing loss, learning from it, and letting it motivate us to improve, we hand everyone a trophy and tell them they are all winners.

God, help me to be obedient and "speak the truth in love."

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 13

Guide me in Truth. But he said, "I am also a prophet, just like you. And an angel came to me with a message from God: 'Bring him home with you, and give him a good meal!'" But the man was lying. 1 Kings 13:18 (MSG)

The promptings of God are a sticky wicket. I will hear the words "God told me" slip from the lips of others. In some cases, quite often. These are powerful words, as they presume that the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God of Creation is the ultimate author of a person's comments or actions. There is a not so subtle claim of authority and pride in the subtext of such statement.

The phrase used to pass my own lips more readily, but along the journey I grew more reticent to claim such a thing publicly and more discerning when I hear it uttered by others. I know there have been times when my own deep (or shallow, even) longings got mingled and confused with my perceptions of what God was prompting. I confess there have been specific instances in which my statement "God told me" was no more true than the prophet from Bethel in today's chapter.

God still speaks to my spirit through his message, in the midst of prayer, and in the course of a given day. His still, small voice whispers deep with me. I have just chosen to relinquish my human desire to broadcast it in most cases. I know God still speaks to others, so I don't immediately dismiss those who claim a message from God. Still, I wonder if they are a true prophet like the man from Judah, or a well intentioned fraud like the man from Bethel. It's not for me to judge the person either way. I simply pray that God give me the discernment to know Truth and the grace act on it accordingly. God can handle the rest.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Fickr and loswl

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 12

From chaos to creation. Rehoboam turned a deaf ear to the people. God was behind all this, confirming the message that he had given to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah of Shiloh. 1 Kings 12:15 (MSG)

There are many waypoints along the journey where I stand and wonder, "Why?"

Why did that have to happen?
Why do my prayers seem to fall on deaf ears?
Why would God allow that?
Why does it seem so easy for others and so difficult for me?
Why not me?
Why does this have to be so hard?

I stand and wonder. Then, I glance back on the broken threads of my life. My foolish decisions, my blatant disobedience, my ignorance, my stubborn pride not to mention the tragic events, painful actions of others, and random circumstances that resided outside of my control. I look back at the chaos surrounding them and, what seemed at the time, the seeming senselessness of it all. But I also see how God wove those broken threads together with His grace, mercy, purpose, and goodness so that a beautiful tapestry began to emerge. We begin to see, like in today's chapter, God is behind all this.

Chaos to creation. The paradigm of Genesis is revealed in each of us as God takes that which is formless and void and fashions a new creation, that in the end His ultimate purpose is revealed.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" Revelation 21:5

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and loswl