The Rest of the Story

Who Was the True Hero?

In 2 Kings 5 we are told the story of Namaan, a Syrian captain, who was a leper. He heard that the prophet Elisha could heal him. So, with his king’s permission, this important man placed himself in a humbling position by traveling to Samaria to ask for that healing.

Elisha’s words, “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River” must have seemed like a slap on the face. Fortunately, his traveling companions were wiser than Namaan. At their urging he relented and did as he was commanded.

With gratitude and a new vision of the one true God, Namaan returned home free of leprosy. His obedience had paid off.

But who was the true hero? Namaan? He was seeking gain for himself. His companions? They were showing their loyalty to their friend. Elisha? He was doing his God-directed job. Who then?

The unsung hero was a little Israelite girl. Taken from her home, family, friends, heritage–everything that was familiar and dear to her–she became a servant to Namaan’s wife. Her childhood, that should have been carefree, was left behind, replaced with doing the wishes of another person, growing up in a place where she didn’t belong, living in a culture strange to her. How alone and lonely she must have felt!

This insignificant child, a spoil of war, displayed no bitterness, no unforgiveness, no anger, no depression, no running away. She didn’t lose faith in her God. Instead, she shared Him with her captor. Even at her young age, she recognized that the true hostage wasn’t herself. It was Namaan.

She was the courageous one. She displayed unshakable faith despite possible ridicule. She made the most of her unpleasant situation, realizing that God had missionary work for her to do. She refused to allow the hopelessness of her circumstances to become a stumbling block. Instead, she climbed that mountain in recognition and adoration for her one, true God, bringing with her Namaan’s family and all those he influenced.

What was her name? We aren’t told, but she is known for what she did. In a few generations, people won’t know our names either, but the works and deeds we do today will circle our part of the earth with lasting effects.

Undoubtedly, this unselfish girl was the true hero–a giant in heart and spirit, not seeking her own gain but placing others ahead of herself.

How proud of her God must have been in order to immortalize this true worshipper in His Word!

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Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 1:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gifts

 “Father, is it time to prepare the gifts?”

“Son, I believe we can give some away today.”

“What shall I wrap first?”

“Well, how about Riches?”

“Father, what paper shall I wrap it in and who is to receive it?”

“Son, use the paper labeled surprise. It will go to my child who for the past years has been faithful in giving above what I expected. She gave so unselfishly. Her thoughts have been ‘Where can I use this money that will yield eternal value?’ Let’s give this package to her. It will be delightful to see how she spends it.”

“Father, what about this gift of Honor? Who do you have in mind to receive it?”

“Do You see that servant over there? I have given him small assignments from time to time to test where his loyalty lies–himself or Me. Each time I have not been disappointed. Whenever people complimented him for a job well done, he answers with ‘It was as God directed.’ or ‘I asked God how He wanted this job completed, and I carried out exactly what He said.’

“The tough times I sent his way to strengthen him, he proved worthy of the Honor gift. As people praised him on his good nature and attitude through it all, he would answer, ‘God has been so good to me.’

“The cloak of Honor goes to him because he never robbed Me of what I deserved.”

“Father, I see one more gift. Comfort and Understanding are tied together with a curtain cord. Who will receive this?”

“Son, my persecuted child will get this today. He has been ridiculed, abused and criticized because he loves and worships Us. Today, We will pull back the curtain so he can take a peek as to what his devotion is accomplishing–for himself and others. This will give him great comfort as he understands that My purpose is being fulfilled through his steadfastness during his tribulations.

“He has faithfully followed Your example, My Son, in seeking only My will for his life. Today, he will have a glimpse of the bountiful harvest that is being planted, watered and grown by Holy Spirit because of his devotion.”

“Oh, wait. What about this in the corner?”

“Yes, the gift of being pruned.”

“Father, pruning is painful–hardly considered a gift by humans.”

“True, My Son, but some of My children see pruning through eyes of wisdom. They understand that dead weight interferes with running the race. Those things that interfere with My servant in accomplishing My will need clearing.

“Wrap it in Future Blessings and scatter it among My believers. My work has been jammed by logs of inconsistency, selfishness and life of ease. Pruning will cause true disciples to rise above these. Only in pruning can My blessings flow.”

“Father, once again You live up to Your name–Giver of Good Gifts!” (Matthew 7:11)

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Living Up to His Names

 

“The way you act is a reflection on your parents,” I said to my 6th graders.

During my devotions one day, I considered this thought: I was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). What exactly does this mean?

I can reason, feel emotions, work and enjoy the fruits of my labor. The same is true of God. Since I have a sense of humor, God must also. I ask questions and wait for answers. So does God. I enjoy seeing things of beauty. So does the Creator.

I am given His various names so that I might know the attributes of an invisible God. Perhaps giving me these names is a two-way street. If I am His child, the way I act is a reflection on Him. Perhaps these many names are given to help me realize just who I am and how I should act so that my Heavenly Father receives the recognition, praise and honor due Him? Eph. 5:1-2 tell me that God wants me to be like Him , as His child.
How, then, can I live up to His names?

The Bible tells me that God is Faithful (Rev. 19:11). Does that mean I, too, must be faithful in using the talents/gifts I have been given and performing the responsibilities entrusted to me?

God is an Encircling Shield (Ps. 91:4 Hebrew Bible). Am I also to be that to my family and those on my prayer list?

How can I exemplify God of Hope (Rom. 15:13) when I succumb to depression and do nothing about it or when the words from my mouth are negative?

How can I be a Refuge for the Poor (Is. 25:4) when I don’t follow Is. 58:7 to share my bread with the hungry and take the wretched poor into my home and clothe them?

How can I copy Lifter of My Head (Ps. 3:3) when I speak harsh words that are put-downs and when I fail to minister kindness to a wounded spirit?

How do I act as Peace Giver (Is. 57:21) when I entertain gossip and pass it on?

How can I act as Teacher (Jn. 3:2) when I turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit’s instruction? Even my prayers will be an abomination to God (Prov. 28:9).

How do I show the attribute of Forgiver (Matt. 6:14) when I harbor ill feelings toward those who have offended me or seek revenge on those who have used me?

What about the harder names? How do I follow in my Father’s footsteps?

Giver of Spiritual Life (Rom 6:11) – when I witness to others, planting Gospel seeds that can lead to their salvation.

Hiding Place from the Winds (Is. 32:2) – when I offer complete confidentiality to those tossed about in bad circumstances.

Holy Father (Jn. 17:11) – when I show, with pure motives, a father’s concern to the people that cross my path.

Omnipresent (Jer. 23:23-24) – when my prayers for people and situations know no geographical boundaries.

Omniscient (all-knowing) (Is. 65:24) – when I am sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit teaching me all that I need to know for each particular situation.

Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) – when I act with spiritual authority to bring about peace and well-being to myself, people and situations around me.

Prov. 22:1a tells me that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. If I live up to His name, then Zep. 3:17 becomes a reality:

Your God the Lord is in your midst, a warrior who brings triumph. He will rejoice over you and be glad. He will shout over you with jubilation. He will soothe with His love.

I listen for your voice, my Father.

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Over-Flow Cup

 

Dieting? No problem! Here’s a little trick I learned. When measuring out a portion of food, use a smaller measuring cup.

I discovered this when I wanted to measure out one cup of the bite-size shredded wheat. My ‘cup’ measure was dirty, so I used the ‘half cup’ size twice. That way, I could get extra food because I had two heaping portions (1/2 cup twice filled) rather than one heaping portion (1 cup once filled).

Of course the principle of dieting would be to level off the top of the measuring cup. I tried it, but that left too many areas that didn’t come up to the rim, and I certainly didn’t want to cheat myself.

Strangely enough, when breakfast was over and I had eaten more than my fill, there was still cereal left over. This reminded me of the Bible verse found in Luke 6:38:

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure with which you measure it will be measured back to you.”

In other words, we reap what we sow. Jesus confirmed this in His Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 7:2). The Savior also said in Mark 12:31 to love my neighbor as I love myself. If I am generous with myself, I also need to be generous toward others. God’s response to such actions is to give me far more than what I need.

“Pressed down and shaken together” insures that my cup is totally filled to the top, but it had to have first been filled with a “heaping” portion. Otherwise, where would the “running over” come from?

I wonder if that works with Bible reading? The more I read and seek His ways, the more understanding and wisdom I receive? What about praying? The more time I spend in prayer, the more revelation I receive on how to pray which, in turn, results in more prayers answered? And works? The more I work, the greater the accomplishments? Giving? Does the saying, “You can’t out-give God,” ring true? Love? The more love I show for God, the more areas He shows His love for me?

Somehow, I don’t believe my measuring techniques are new. I believe God uses them. He uses the “fill two half cups” principal because His blessings are so abundant.

Note: It’s comforting to know that dieting is only limited to the body, never the spirit!

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Over-Flow Cup

 Dieting?  No problem!  Here’s a little trick I learned. When measuring out a portion of food, use a smaller measuring cup.
 
 I discovered this when I wanted to measure out one cup of the bite-size shredded wheat. My ‘cup’ measure was dirty, so I used the ‘half  cup’ size twice. That way, I could get extra food because I had two heaping portions (1/2 cup twice filled) rather than one heaping portion (1 cup once filled).

 Of course the principle of dieting would be to level off the top of the measuring cup. I tried it, but that left too many areas that didn’t come up to the rim, and I certainly didn’t want to cheat myself.

 Strangely enough, when breakfast was over and I had eaten more than my fill, there was still cereal left over. This reminded me of the Bible verse found in Luke 6:38:

 “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together,
 and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure with which
 you measure it will be measured back to you.”

In other words, we reap what we sow. Jesus confirmed this in His Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 7:2).

 The Savior also said in Mark 12:31 to love my neighbor as I love myself. If I am generous with myself, I also need to be generous toward others. God’s response to such actions is to give me far more than what I need.

 “Pressed down and shaken together” insures that my cup is totally filled to the top, but it had to have first been filled with a “heaping” portion. Otherwise, where would the “running over” come from?

 I wonder if that works with Bible reading? The more I read and seek His ways, the more understanding and wisdom I receive? What about praying? The more time I spend in prayer, the more revelation I receive on how to pray which, in turn, results in more prayers answered? And works? The more I work, the greater the accomplishments? Giving? Does the saying, “You can’t out- give God,” ring true? Love? The more love I show for God, the more areas He shows His love for me?

 Somehow, I don’t believe my measuring techniques are new. I believe God uses them. He uses the “fill two half cups” principal because His blessings are so abundant.

 Note: It’s comforting to know that dieting is only limited to the body, never the spirit!

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blessings

“The grackles are eating all the food,” I thought. At the rising cost of sunflower hearts, I was tempted to take the feeder down until late afternoon. Then I saw a cardinal watching in the nearby tree. Probably waiting until these big blackbirds left.

If I remove the feeder, the grackles won’t eat but neither will the sparrows, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees as well as the cardinals, blue jays and mourning doves.

I have the control of the feeder. I have the control to bless all the birds or none of them.

Perhaps this illustrates what Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 (NKJ) : (Your Father in heaven) makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

In order for God to bestow natural blessings on His children, He must give to all people.

I look at the grackles feeding. It seems as though I am showing them favor. However, it is the smaller songbirds that have my concern. The blackbirds simply reap the blessings meant for others.

Sometimes it looks like my enemies are being blessed at my expense. The promotion that I deserve goes to another. I don’t see the total picture as God sees. Who were the pray-ers behind the one promoted? What were their prayers that God chose to answer them? What did I lack that He kept me in my same position? Did I need additional experience? Did my boss need to observe how I handle disappointment? Did I need to exercise, for myself as well as others, my belief that God truly is in charge?

What about recognition of a job well done going to those in the forefront with total disregard for those of us behind the scenes? Can I demonstrate a servant’s heart and genuinely rejoice with others that a job was well-done? Do I need others’ accolades or is it sufficient that my heavenly Father is pleased with my performance? Can I see that a job well done takes priority instead of who receives the credit? Can I be a good team player or is my value based on being recognized for my contribution? Even Jesus stepped out of the leadership role to wash His disciples’ feet (John 13:5 KJ).

How about the deceit and lies that attack my reputation? Even if proven untrue, the words remain as poison on the minds of others. What is the blessing in this situation? Is it God’s way of weeding out the truly caring friends from counterfeits? Is Jesus showing me how He felt when such poison resulted in the crown of thorns, mockery and the ridicule of the title placed above Him? Does knowing how He felt heighten my sensitivity to others?

There are times when situations seem grossly unfair. It is good to remember that my Father is a God of justice and equity (Ps. 98:9 Tanakh).

A lone blackbird returns. Seeds from the square cup are flung to the ground as it searches for choice morsels. The rejected seeds become a blessing for birds too skittish to fly to the feeder. This feast remains hidden in the tall grass until searched for.

May I, in turn, search for camouflaged blessings from unlikely sources.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Father’s Heart

 

 

I was the head servant of a wonderful and compassionate man. This is his story.

He had two sons. The older boy was a diligent worker. He made up for his brother who was a restless soul.

One day the younger boy said, “Father, I am bored out of my skull living here. I crave excitement. I want friends. I want to experience life in the fast lane. Give me my inheritance now so I can live life to the fullest while I am still young.

Well, the father’s heart was grieved, but he knew his son well. Giving him his inheritance early was a small cost to eventually win his loyalty and love.

It didn’t take long for this young man to pack his gear, thumb his nose at his brother and leave. Setting off for the country of dreams, he could only imagine how wonderful life would be.

And it was just as he thought. So many friends to pay attention to him–not like his father’s hired servants. So many women to embrace and make love to. Women who whispered in his ear just how wonderful and exciting he was.

Yes, life was certainly good until that fateful day when he had used the last of his savings. Until then he hadn’t noticed that food was scarce. As long as he had plenty of money to buy, he had enough to eat and lavish on his friends.

His friends! How fickle they were. When he was hungry, they laughed and taunted him instead of filling his stomach.

Finally, he was evicted from his living quarters. He didn’t have much to pack–not like when he left his father’s home–for he had sold his fine wardrobe to put food in his belly. Now there was nothing left and nowhere to go.

Fortunately he heard of a small job, applied and was hired.

Reports of the son’s fast living surfaced from time to time. Although the older son never spoke the words in his father’s earshot, the smug look on his face said, “I told you so!”

Once after hearing about the riotous living and escapades with harlots, this gentleman looked at me. I knew him well enough to know what his questioning eyes were asking. “Is the fatted calf still ready for my son’s return?” And my nod assured him that it was as he had instructed on the day that his son left home.

Everyday this devoted father searched the road for his son, and every day the older brother became more jealous.

What a joyous time it was when the father finally could order that the fatted calf be served at a festive dinner in honor of his son’s return.

When the older son heard all the laughter, he asked me what was going on. I answered him, and his face turned beet red. Hatred was in his eyes and harsh words spewed forth.

Hearing his voice, the father came out. Anxious that his sons be reunited, his pleas fell on deaf ears. The same patient love that he had shown his second son, he now showed this angry man.

Back inside the celebration continued. This young, naïve man left home as a son. Today he returned as a wise and humble servant.

Pity swept over me. Pity for the father who displayed so much love for his first born son without getting any back. Pity for that son because he didn’t understand his father’s heart.

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Water into Wine Miracle

I tell you. I was really nervous that day. We all were. Severe reprimand was in our near future. We could feel it. Let me explain.

We were minding our own business, just doing our work when — BAM — we ran out of wine. I don’t know why. Were there more guests at the wedding feast than expected? Were the people drinking more? Or had they not purchased enough in the first place? All I knew was we were out.

Then comes this woman, a guest. Why she came around I don’t know, but there she was. When she found out that the wine was gone, we were afraid that she would blab it to everyone. Then our master would have been embarrassed which would then lead to our punishment.

Instead, she called her son and told him. He was reluctant to do anything. After all, what could he do? But I guess Mary knew him better than we did. Her instruction to us was boldly spoken, “Do as he says.”

My guess is that seeing her concern for the bride and groom and the host for this celebration overrode his feelings because he instructed us to fill six water pots that we had out.

As we filled them with water we couldn’t help but wonder how this was going to help the wine situation. After all, even very drunk guests would realize they were drinking water instead of cheap wine.

Now you see the dilemma we were in when he told us to pour some out and give it to the host to sample.

As my fellow worker nervously poured some in a cup, my eyes grew wide. This was incredulous! What went in as clear liquid now came out as a delicate red color. This was beyond our understanding. Even more unbelievable were the master’s words to the bridegroom, “You have saved the best wine for last!”

All I can say is that it was, indeed, a miracle, and all of Cana will be talking about it for a very long time. To me, it will always be in my memory, unforgettable.

The bridegroom’s lack provided the opportunity for this man to give what was needed. He took common water and turned it into something special. And there was plenty for everyone. In the days following this I couldn’t help but wonder if this man could do the same thing with people’s lives? Could a common person be turned into someone special? Could common resources like the water pots hold something valuable? Could a person’s negligence be turned into praise?

More than water was changed. I was changed. I now look for the “wine” in the people I live and work with and in the situations I find myself in. Better still I see the “specialness” in myself.

It was a profound day for me when I met and obeyed the man called Jesus.

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 1:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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