Our Daily Bread

A lesson from Niger.

During my recent mission trip to Niger, Africa, I noticed a startling difference from the United States. Traffic lights! After spending a week in the city of Niamey, I only saw 5 traffic lights and 4 of those weren’t even on. But, even without traffic lights, thousands of people took to the streets each day.

  
Cars, trucks, vans crowded with people, camels hauling goods, mules pulling carts, motorcycles darting through traffic, and countless people walking, all moving to a rhythm. The city was alive and chaotic. At first glance, it seemed like everyone was rushing to important business or appointments. But, a closer look revealed something more significant; all of this activity is directed at one goal…gathering daily bread.

  
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/mat.6.11.nkjv

People around every corner were searching for their next meal. In the mornings, we saw people hurrying to get their first meal. After this, we saw people of all ages laboring or selling goods to make money to buy their next meal. Getting daily bread is well established in the culture of Niger. One of my friends asked a farmer why he didn’t plant more in his field and sell the crops. The farmer said he had enough for his family to survive.

The American capitalist entrepreneur in me wanted to say “seize the opportunity and work to get ahead to be happy”! But what I came to realize is that most of the people of Niger whom we encountered were already happy. They were living in their context, not our get more, do more, need more context. It’s easy to go to Niger and think the people would be happier if they had the luxuries we posses. But, even without running water, electricity, central air, Walmart or Target, fast food, and iPads; we still saw smiles on faces. Why? Because the people of Niger are thankful for the daily provisions they receive from God.

This is a valuable lesson for us. Many people in our western culture have an abundance of things, but a deficit in joy. We have nice cars, beautiful homes, electronics and appliances to make life easier, and the wealth to travel the world, but suffer from high levels of depression. Many of us are discontent with what we have because we always want more. I’m not saying we should look at the people of Niger and be thankful because we are blessed with more than them. I’m not saying we can’t complain because we’ve been blessed with so much more than they have. Instead, I’m proposing we should look at their attitude of thanksgiving and joy (regardless of what they have) and learn to be thankful as well.

I think we would all have a higher quality of emotional and spiritual life if we learn to be thankful for daily bread first. It doesn’t matter if we have an abundance or if we’re living paycheck to paycheck, we can still open our hearts to God in thanksgiving and have joy. Before we ask God for anything else, we should thank him for what he has already provided. It doesn’t matter if we have a little or a lot, all that we have comes from God.

Full on love. 

My wife is an incredible cook. I knew I had a winner the first time she made biscuits from scratch when we were dating. Over the years, she has prepared my favorite meals and she knows my appetite (my favorite ingredient is “seconds”). After eating her cooking, I’m satisfied and can’t eat any more if I tried. 
  
Relationships work the same way. Keeping your spouse satisfied and filled with love should be your primary objective. Let’s look at a scenario from the bible.

“Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you!”
‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/sng.1.3.niv

The woman in Song of Solomon has a great guy. He’s popular with the ladies and gets lots of attention. In modern times this dynamic could easily cause problems in relationships. It’s hard to trust your mate when everyone is flirting with them. Many men and women become jealous and resentful when their mate gets too much attention. Too many likes on Facebook, or too many social conversations with coworkers can be a source of insecurity and strife. So what should a woman do when her man is surrounded by admirers? Feed him.

Just like a good meal, if your spouse is filled with your love, he won’t desire affection from someone else. Look at the woman’s response in Song of Solomon.

“Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers. We rejoice and delight in you; we will praise your love more than wine. How right they are to adore you!”
‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/sng.1.4.niv

Let me paraphrase this scripture: “I know the ladies like you but take me to the bedroom and I’ll make you forget about them.” Instead of becoming resentful or jealous she responded with more love. This woman is keeping her man so full and satisfied he won’t need to look for love somewhere else. She’s not putting it off until tomorrow or some special occasion or when she feels up to it. She says let us hurry!

Ladies. If your mate is looking at other women, it may be because he’s not seeing enough of you. If he’s giving someone else his attention it’s probably because you’re not giving him the attention he needs. If you don’t want to be bothered, someone else will. Trust God to help you satisfy your spouse and strengthen your relationship. 

What are you preaching this year?

  

A few weeks ago I posted 5 Steps to Sermon Series Planning http://wp.me/p2yUh4-8o . This week, I’d like to follow up that post by sharing my plan for the first quarter of the year. Prayerfully you’ll see how strategy and opportunity are key components of my plan.

First, through prayer, God has revealed a theme for the year. 2016 will be a prophetic year for our church. All of the messages will either come from the prophets, be about the prophets, or address topics covered in the prophetic writings. With this direction, my next prayers focused on calendar opportunities and strategy.

January – Series Theme: The Call

  

January is the beginning of the year and sets the tone for the remainder of the year. The plan is to examine the call to ministry of four prophets; Samuel, Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. More specifically, we will encourage our members to accept the call of faith in their lives. Strategically our 112th church anniversary is on the 4th Sunday. So the message from Isaiah is fitting. Here are the sermon concepts:

Samuel: Called into service. Called to revelation. Call to stand (none of his words fell to the ground).
1 Samuel 3:1-14, 19-21
Special note: I will be on a mission trip to Niger, Africa on the 2nd Sunday.

Amos: Called from where you are. 
Amos 7:14-16

112th Church Anniversary 
Isaiah: Called to go forward. Consecration, Call, and Commission
Isaiah 6:6-13

Ezekiel: Called to the church. Called to uphold the standard. Called to speak the truth. 
Ezekiel 2:1-9

February – Series Theme: Love Never Fails

  

With Valentines Day in February, we will focus on relationships with four messages from Hosea. We’ll examine the importance of marriage, a love that has grown cold, how to work out challenges in relationships, and how to repair broken relationships. Here are the sermon concepts:

An appointed love. 
Marriage is an appointment by God. 
Hosea 1:2-3

Valentines Day, Sunday, February 14th. 
A forgotten love. 
Love in difficult times. What have you done for me lately?
Hosea 2:1-13

A working love. 
Restoring the love that has suffered. 
Hosea 2:14-23

A tenacious love. 
The love of God won’t give up on us. We shouldn’t give up on love. 
Hosea 11:1-11

March – Series Theme: TBD
Even though I haven’t named the theme for March, I know what it’s about and from which book it will originate. This series leading up to Easter will come from Lamentations. It’s all about having a burden for the city. This significant for two reasons: First, we will have revival in March so we want to encourage members to invite non-believers in the city to those services. Secondly, we will also equip members with invitations and flyers to reach out for Easter. Through this effort each year, we typically triple our attendance. Please note; the Easter message is a stand alone message. Here are the sermon concepts:

A vision for the city. 
Jeremiah witnesses the destruction. He sees the current delapodated state of the city. 
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Hope for the city. 
Great is God’s faithfulness. 
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

A prayer for the city. 
Remember us, turn us back to you. 
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭5:1‬, 19-22 ‭NKJV‬‬

Easter, March 27th, Theme: 3 Days. 
Jesus’ Prophecy about the resurrection. 
“Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” John‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I’ll continue to refine these messages and themes as we get closer to their dates. Each theme will also have an image associated with it that will be displayed on the front of our programs, church website, and social media. In mid-February we will develop themes for the next quarter of the year. I pray that this post has been helpful for you. If you have questions or comments I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to post share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog.