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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tired of Self-Service?

I had bronchitis frequently when I was a kid, but good old Dr. Harkness was only a phone call away, and he knew how to get me well. Moderns might consider him old-fashioned, but he was just right for me. He answered Mom’s phone calls personally and came to our house within hours of receiving a call. Medical attention has changed since Dr. Harkness toted his black bag from one patient’s house to another. Today, we visit the doctor’s office—an arrangement that may be best for us but not as convenient as the doctor-to-home visit of long ago.

Does it seem to you that service isn’t what it used to be? When gas was 19 cents a gallon, a service station attendant would fill the gas tank for you. He would also pop the hood and check the oil, check tire pressure, and wash the windshield. Not bad for 19 cents a gallon! Today, gas costs almost 3 dollars a gallon, and you pump it yourself. You may find a bucket of water and a squeegee at the pump in case you want to wash the windshield. If you need to put some air in your tires, you can drop quarters into an air compressor and attach an air hose to each tire valve. However, at my age, getting back up from a crouched position to pump air into a tire may lead to another visit to the doctor.

Self-service has arrived at the grocery store too. I prefer a checkout clerk’s voice to that of the automated voice at the self-service counter, but my wife likes the self-service feature. She enjoys talking back to the automated voice, but I don’t think the machine scans her items any faster because she talks back. Of course, you bag your own items at self-service. And have you noticed how extinct baggers have become?

Big box stores epitomize self-service. Don’t look for an employee if you want to know if a certain item available. Your guess is as good as the employee’s. And don’t expect an employee to check the inventory in the stock room to see if an item has arrived. It isn’t going to happen.

Have you watched the TV show, “The Apprentice”? After each show, a fired contestant strides out of an elegant high-rise office building and walks to a cab. The cab driver remains behind the wheel while the passenger open a rear door and loads his or her luggage into the back seat before hopping aboard. When did cabbies stop helping passengers with their luggage? Apparently, self-service has reached the taxi business.

Fortunately, we don’t have to take a do-it-yourself approach to Christian living. If we did, we would fail, Jesus said plainly, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Knowing we need help to be what we ought to be and to do what we ought to do, God has given us the Holy Spirit. As the name “Comforter” implies, the Holy Spirit is alongside to equip, encourage, and exhort us to lead a productive life.

Now here is an amazing truth: the Holy Spirit is even more readily available than old-fashioned Dr. Harkness. He is in us and with us forever (John 14:16, 17).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Restored Faith

The prophet Elijah tumbled. He had shown tremendous faith by confronting and triumphing over 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, but his faith deflated faster than a punctured balloon when Queen Jezebel threatened his life. He fled far into the desert, where he asked God to end his life. To put it plainly, Elijah was depressed.

Some forms of depression have medical causes and require medical attention, but others, like Elijah’s, result from a lapse of faith, worry, weariness, and a sense of overwhelming guilt. Elijah’s faith went poof when Jezebel said “Boo!” He worried and ran for his life. Exhausted, he plopped down under a broom tree and asked God to take his life.

So how did God restore Elijah’s spiritual and emotional well-being?

First, He let Elijah rest (1 Kings 19:5a). A pastor used to say, “Christians on their way to heaven should be in bed by eleven.” If we fail to get adequate rest, we may succumb to depression.

Second, God fed Elijah and provided a jar of water too (vv. 5b, 6). Proper sleep and nourishment often help us move out of “the dumps.”

Third, God gave Elijah a new revelation of His presence. He showed Elijah He was with him in the stillness as well as in life’s exciting times. He was present in the desert just as He had been on Mount Carmel (see vv. 12, 13).

Finally, God gave Elijah new assignments. He commissioned him to anoint a successor and two kings (vv. 15, 16). God doesn’t write us off when we write ourselves off. He has specific assignments for each of us. A sense of mission rejuvenates us.