I was half way through my second year as Director of a Bible school which was part of a mega-church said to have a membership of about 13,000, when I realized I was violating my Prime Directive, a principle I'd lived by since a teenager, found in Zechariah 4:2-6. Most Christians have heard or know by heart verse 6;
"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord." but don't realize it is merely the conclusion drawn from what was seen in verse two:
"I see a lamp stand of solid gold, with a bowl on top, with seven channels going from the bowl into the lamp stand's seven lamps. Also, there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and one on the left."
Olive oil is a type of the Holy Spirit, so this verse illustrates the olive trees (for our purposes the Father and Son) providing an endless supply of oil flowing from them into a bowl which represents our spirit, which fills and then overflows through the channels into the lamps which represent the various aspects of our lives, which burns the oil to produce God's light for those many elements to our lives.
The lesson being there is an endless supply of the Holy Spirit, therefore 'Not by (your) might, not by (your) power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the fuel that fuels first us and then the lamp.
What I learned as a teenager is that my spirit is the bowl and it is my job first and foremost, to stay in the flow of the oil filling and overfilling my bowl, and not to live in a way that I give out faster than oil can flow in.
Give people and life only the overflow, keep the contents of the bowl for yourself. Keep your spirit filled with His Spirit. For if our bowl isn't first filled, then we can't overflow to life and those in our lives.
Lesson one: You come first, keep priorities in order
You must arrange your life so you can minister to you, and He can minister to you. In Acts 1:8 Jesus revealed His plan and a larger principle for life when He told them, "...You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth."
That is of course exactly what Acts records. They were in Jerusalem from Acts 2:4 when the Holy Spirit left the temple and entered into human beings, until 8:1 records all but the apostles left the city due to persecution, and moved to Judea and Samaria. Then 11:19 tells us when everyone left the city back in 8:1, some eventually went to the coast and island of Cyprus, eventually going to Antioch in Syria and shared Jesus with Greeks living there. Thus fulfilling Jesus' words in order, first in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, then to the uttermost parts.
In my example, Jerusalem is you. Judea represents those closest to you - spouse, children, family - and can represent close Christian friends. Samaria in Jesus' time were a people who believed in God, but as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:22, "You worship what you do not know." These are those who are known to you through work, neighborhood, stores and such and seem to be good people, but aren't saved. The uttermost parts represents unsaved strangers that cross your path in the course of life, in public interactions, and such.
Think of ancient Jerusalem surrounded by big high walls. Think of your spirit and your spiritual life as that central core that is key to your spiritual, mental and emotional, and physical well being. Protect it. Set time aside to repair, restore, rebuild the part(s) that need it.
Judea - your relatives including family. We have an old family video tape of me doing a video on one of the kid's birthdays, a day filled with big meals, a big cake and ice cream, presents, and above all with 3 little boys - noise. Everything but the noise was prepared and served by Barb. In the video she was there one moment, and then gone the next. If you were to watch the video you'd see me wandering all over the house looking for where mom went...and then I see our bedroom door closed, and now I open it, which reveals Barb sitting on the bed reading the newspaper, taking some quiet time alone. When I try to get her to smile for the camera she puts the newspaper up to her face and tells me to leave - and rightly so!
If she exhausted herself serving us to the point she couldn't do anything, all would have suffered. She needed that time, and I honored that as did the boys, to have some time to herself. We called it 'momma time'.
Lesson two: Ants?
When the boys were young we subscribed to the 'Ranger Rick' children's magazine, filled with stories about the natural world, cute animal pictures, and the host was a cartoon raccoon named 'Ranger Rick'. His friends include Ollie Otter, Scarlet Fox, and so on.
I had been thinking on Proverbs 6:6-8 where it says to consider the ant who, having no boss, internally has a sense to work and provide and plan ahead - I had been thinking about planning ahead, being wise and the mix of supernatural provision with my responsibility and how it relates to me doing what I need to do in the natural to provide for my family.
At that time I read an article in Ranger Rick about ants. It said ants divide their day into 3 parts: 1 part they work hard, 1 part they do light work around the nest, and 1 part they rest. Suddenly I realized Solomon's words were deeper than I had realized.
In observing a typical work day of those I knew in office jobs, everyone I knew had that sort of structure, on most days at least. They worked hard until lunch. After lunch things moved in a slower speed, small jobs were done and loose ends tied up. By an hour before quitting everyone was looking at the clock and not doing much. Some days are non-stop, but over all there was that pattern.
I began dividing my day like that. For me, working in the early morning until noon or early afternoon works best according to how I'm built - I'm most concentrated and focused in the morning. Then the afternoon I'll change what I'm doing, having spent the morning on the computer, in the afternoon I'll do something around the yard, take a break from about 4pm until 9pm, and then often return to the computer for another couple of hours - 1/3 hard work, 1/3 light work, rest...finish up some work.
Find the rhythm according to how you were created, but in that daily mix, set aside time for yourself. During that time don't answer the phone, take time to recharge - a walk in the woods, through the neighborhood, read a book, water the plants...figure it out.
Walk with God
The words the Lord gave Micah in 6:8 are as true today as they were then: "Hasn't He shown you O man what is good and what God requires of you: To do right, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God?"
That's basically what we see from Adam in the Garden to Abraham, to Jesus and the Father, to us today - walk with Him. Include Him in all you do as part of life, not as a God compartment where He gets your x amount of your time and then you move on.
Each person is different. You can look back over your life and find a pattern of those moments you received from Him. What were you doing at the time? What has been the most common way you've recharged, refilled that bowl by letting the Holy Spirit flow into you? Figure it out, and then make like an ant to carve time in each day to take care of yourself. Live in balance, live in strength. Doing all things is through Christ, not in our own strength. Let the flow begin...another subject next week.
Until then, blessings,