Hunger after righteousness…

What an encouragement is this to hunger after righteousness! Such shall be filled. God charges us to fill the hungry (Isaiah 58:10). He blames those who do not fill the hungry (Isaiah 32:6). And do we think he will be slack in that which he blames us for not doing? Oh come with hungerings after Christ and be assured of satisfaction. God keeps open house for hungry sinners. He invites his guests and bids them come without money (Isaiah 55:1, 2). God’s nature inclines him and his promise obliges him to fill the hungry. Consider, why did Christ receive ‘the Spirit without measure’? (John 3:34). It was not for himself. He was infinitely full before. But he was filled with the holy unction for this end, that he might distil his grace upon the hungry soul. Are you ignorant? Christ was filled with wisdom that he might teach you. Are you polluted? Christ was filled with grace that he might cleanse you. Shall not the soul then come to Christ who was filled on purpose to fill the hungry? We love to knock at a rich man’s door. In our Father’s house there is bread enough. Come with desire and you shall go away with comfort. You shall have the virtues of Christ’s blood, the influences of his Spirit, the communications of his love.

-Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes

Take a fast from your iPhone…

When we think of fasting, we naturally and rightly think of abstaining from food. The purpose is not weight loss but to discipline the body for the purpose of prayer. Given the so-called busy-ness of our lives—made busy by all those leisure activities—perhaps it would be better to fast from other things in order to make time (sad way to put it, isn’t it?) for fellowship with our Father in heaven. Take a week-long fast from television (actually, just beat that idol into powder, mix it with water, drink it, and send it to the place where it belongs–Exodus 32:19-20). Take a day-long fast from the iPhone. Take a month-long fast from the Internet, Fox News, football, baseball, ESPN radio, Facebook (let’s see how many likes that gets), Twitter, Pinterest, Craigslist, texting, blogging…all for the purpose of prayer. Of course, discipline your body and deepen your dependence on God by fasting from food. Consider fasting from those time-consumers also. You may find you are not as busy as you think.

Some encouragement from Spurgeon:

“Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove: and nothing shall he impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:19-21).

And what is fasting for? That seems the difficult point. It is evidently… practiced oftentimes by our Lord, and advised by him to his disciples. Not a kind of religious observance, in itself meritorious, but a habit, when associated with the exercise of prayer, unquestionably helpful. I am not sure whether we have not lost a very great blessing in the Christian Church by giving up fasting….

Martin Luther, whose body, like some others, was of a gross tendency, felt as some of us do, that in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing, in another sense than the apostle meant it; and he used to fast frequently. He says his flesh was wont to grumble dreadfully at abstinence, but fast he would, for he found that when he was fasting, it quickened his praying. There is a treatise by an old Puritan, called, “The soul-fattening institution of fasting,” and he gives us his own experience that during a fast he has felt more intense eagerness of soul in prayer than he had ever done at any other time. Some of you, dear friends, may get to the boiling-point in prayer, without fasting. I do think that others cannot…

"'I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.'"

Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land (1 Kings 17:1-7).

Like a scene from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, birds fly provisions to a man on a dangerous mission. But what we have in Scripture is no fairy tale, unless we take Chesterton’s definition (“Fairyland,” he said, “is nothing but the sunny country of common sense. It is not earth that judges heaven, but heaven that judges earth…”.) which, like much of Chesterton’s writing, I don’t understand and, yet, know it is right…

Ravens, by God’s command, delivered provisions to Elijah the prophet. King Ahab was deepening Israel’s idolatry (1 Kings 16:31-34), so Elijah’s first work was to announce God’s punishment for that wickedness: “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” After speaking God’s Word to King Ahab, God tells Elijah to hide himself. Twice each day while he is exiled to the banks of the brook Cherith, the ravens—an unclean beast (Lev. 11:13-19)—arrived with meat and bread for the exiled prophet.

As you worked through your Scripture reading, did this wonderful demonstration of the power and kindness of God stand out to you? Perhaps because of magnitude of the works of Elijah (raising the widow’s son from the dead; mocking, dominating, and finally killing the prophets of Baal) that follow, we overlook the miracle of the ravens. Or perhaps we are conditioned to be dismissive of Scripture’s miracles. Let this one sink in…

I imagine Elijah laughing with joy the first time these skittish, awkward black birds landed close by and hopped toward him with beaks full of fresh bread and cooked meat. He’d never experienced anything like this, and he probably got all mixed up and thanked the birds for their delivery. Thanksgivings probably dribbled out of the sides of his mouth as he laughed and chewed and swallowed and sang. What a powerful confirmation of God’s fatherly care!

How many lessons can we learn from such a miracle? Well, here are a number from Matthew Henry, who has no trouble giving attention to this overlooked passage… Continue reading

Wifely Wednesday: Sipping Chicken Soup with Rice

Cheers to any readers who get the Maurice Sendak reference in the title of this post.

I’m sharing a recipe today, since I was sitting down to type it up anyway for a few friends who had requested it recently. Since I’m a lazy blogger, I thought I’d kill two proverbial birds with one stone. This is a soup recipe I make very often for Sunday guests, so if you’ve been to my house, I’m sure you have eaten this. It was given to me by the senior pastor’s wife at the church we were at prior to this one. So all of you Toledo readers have probably eaten this, too. Here goes:

Cream of Chicken Wild Rice Soup

2 boxes Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice (Made as directed)
2 Tbl  butter
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Minced parsley, chives, salt, and pepper to taste
2 cups milk
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast cut into 1 inch pieces

Directions: In a large stock pot melt butter and saute garlic and onion until tender. Mix in the flour well. Pour in chicken stock, using a wire whisk to blend until smooth. Add the seasonings, cooked rice, and chicken (raw). Cook for 20 minutes. Slowly add the milk and half and half. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.

And just for fun I’ll fill you in on the Sendak reference. If you have children small enough to crawl on your lap or pile on a big chair around you, do them a favor and find this lovely little set of Maurice Sendak books. It’s a home library essential, in my opinion.

~Sarah Dionne