(Reading List Theme 3.2)

It seems like lately a lot of not-great things have happened to people connected with our church. There is the man whose son was arrested for drugs this week. There is the couple with two kids who live in one bedroom in a shared house with others and are having trouble finding work or shedding a rough past. Someone arrested for a fight. Several facing ill health. Several with kids who don’t follow God. People within the church who have issues with others in the church. And on top of that, we have some new needs in our childrens/youth programs – with no ready solutions.

Some would look at these things and see trouble… I look at these things and rejoice! Why, because these are GOOD PROBLEMS to have. We have challenges with kids’ ministry because of more kids coming in the past year – that is wonderful! We seem to be touching the lives of people who REALLY NEED JESUS – people who are broken and have years and years of letdowns and family troubles and challenge – and God has entrusted them to us. We have new people come in, and find it to be a welcoming place, so they stay, and bring their issues with them. And many of the health problems are faced be long-time members of the church who are aging, and facing a natural decrease in physical health. A church full of faithful senior citizens? Great! What a blessing to have them with us. I believe a church should look like this church. It should be messy, and it should have people facing hard issues. If not, then we are all either faking it, hiding it, or not following Jesus’ command to bring the gospel to the poor and outcast. If problems are coming to the surface, then we must be a safe place to heal. Dear God, I do not ask you to make the problems disappear. I ask you to give us wisdom, knowledge, and miracles that lives and bodies might be healed and transformed through the power of your Holy Spirit.

Elijah was a prophet who served God at a time of an extremely evil ruler in Israel. In America, we don’t face quite so much (at least there is not OVERT religious persecution here), but sometimes it is very hard to stand up for God and have hope to face the challenges, and faith that God will come through, when so much of what we see does not honor God and when so many don’t believe.

I am a natural introvert. I love people and I am not afraid to share my life with anyone – I just usually don’t open up unless I am asked. Or unless I feel the Holy Spirit is leading me to share. I know some people with the gift of evangelism, and it seems everywhere they go, they end up talking to someone about God. The grocery store while choosing produce. While exercising. In line at the bank. At the playground. At the office copy machine. These things don’t generally happen to me. I have asked God to help me share my faith, and to see the opportunities around me. But often, he seems to lead me instead to people who already know Him. I’ve had my moments with a stranger when I had the chance to share Jesus, but not often.

I recently heard a pastor say, “Don’t worry about who you are going to talk to… If God really wants you to talk to someone in line at the grocery store, you won’t be able to get away from that!” Meaning to me, when God is speaking and leading me to do something out of the ordinary, I have an increased heart beat and sense of urgency and excitement about it. I don’t know how you feel when you know God has something to say or do through you, but if it has happened to you, I bet there is something recognizable about it each time. And those are times God has prepared someone else to hear what I have to say.

Elijah was a man who stood up for God in a major way, and because of it, he had to “run away from home.” He went to a neighboring country, to a village called Zarephath, and found a widow whose heart the Lord had prepared to receive him. In a complete miracle, God provided for their needs, because they both took a step of faith: Elijah in going to a foreign land, and the widow by giving Elijah what she thought would be the very last of her food. Later, God did an even bigger miracle by bringing the widow’s son back from the dead.

Thinking about this story, I also think about the people I know who seem to have not enough food, not enough patience, not enough strength to kick bad habits, not enough money month to month, and who generally need a miracle for a place to live or an illness healed or a family relationship restored…

Matthew 6:25-26 says (paraphrase) “So I tell you, ‘Don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink, clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than these things? …God takes care of the birds – he’ll care for you too – you are even more valuable to him than they are.’”

Psalm 37:25 says, “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly forsaken, or their children begging for bread.”

These verses, along with 1 Kings 17, remind me that nothing is too hard for God. When we are earnestly following him – not just as a back-up plan – but REALLY centering our lives around him and making decisions that honor him (even when something else would be easier) – God ALWAYS comes through! Whether it is by ravens that bring you food or a widow who takes you in, whether through a flat-out miracle or a “lucky” meeting with the right doctor or social service person to help you, and even when it is hard to wait and keep praying, God always comes through.

Another good reminder from 1 Kings 17, is to take a pause before placing blame. In the middle of her tragic loss of her son, the widow just wanted someone to blame, and since Elijah was closest, he was the one she blamed (verse 18). Sometimes we take out frustration of our circumstances on whoever is closest to us, whether or not they had anything to do with it. Other times we just blame God for everything bad, even if the bad thing is the direct result of another human being’s failure to follow God and live in love. As I was reminded by a kid’s TV show my daughter was watching the other day, “Placing blame won’t help solve the problem. What will help, is focusing together on a solution, and working as a team.” Maybe those weren’t the exact words, but the lesson rings true. Instead of trying to find someone to blame, instead let’s run to our solution (God) and focus on team (Christian community) who can help us through it.