Be encouraged, Elijah

Elijah said to the people,"I am the last of the Lord's prophets." (1 Kings 18:22)

(Elijah replied), "I am the only one left, and now they want to take my life too." (1 Kings 19:10)

He (Elijah) said , "I am the only one left, and now they want to take my life too." (1 Kings 19:14)

Then the Lord said, "But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18)

Elijah, the great Prophet, thought he was the only one left who was serving the Lord. Did you get that? This capital "P" Prophet was mistaken. He was very discouraged. He seriously thought he was the last man standing for God. He wasn't off by one or two, but thousands.

Maybe you are a prophetic person or an intercessor. You've had a glimpse of how things ought to be, but things are quite the opposite. A pit fall for you is discouragement that can turn to resentment towards people and even towards God.

Prophets and intercessors need fellowship and encouragement too. You need people who "get you" and people who have a different passion, but for the same Christ, who love you without condition. Let's work this thing out together.

Orientation

What's your orientation? Orientation has to do with what you are pointed towards. A simple compass points north. It points north when you are moving north, standing still, or moving in a different direction. Christians are pointed toward a person who is Christ. Seems obvious, but we need to be reminded of the simplicity and genius of God's plan. You point to, follow, believe in, put your faith in, give your life to and daily pursue Christ; you are a Christian. Christian means Christ-follower. To follow means to be oriented towards. Simple yet deep. It's personal, relational. Great God of man. He calls us and adopts us to be his children in and through Christ. We were lost and God showed us or revealed to us his love in Christ. Christ died for sinners and we received salvation or rescue by Christ. We became one of Christ's disciples which means followers in that he is teaching us God's ways for people to live. Christians have Christ orientation.

We get disoriented in life. Sometimes we get disappointed and we have to re-orientate. Sometimes Jesus or God seems distant. We have God's word to re-oriented us and we have the fellowship of fellow sojourners to encourage us. Sometimes we get disillusioned, confused, angry, depressed, afraid, or feel thrown overboard and upside down under water. We need to re-orientate. Go back to the simplicity of walking with Jesus my savior. I don't know about this or that, but I know he loves me. Orientation. It is affirmative, but not just an affirmation, but truth; the truth that I'm growing in throughout my lifetime.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones (that's me) to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

But wait, there's more. Jesus also says that he won't leave us feeling like orphans, or feeling at a loss of him (John 14:18). So he asked the Father who sends you the Holy Spirit to comfort you, help you, guide you, empower you (John 14:16-19). Who is the Holy Spirit's favorite person, favorite subject? Jesus.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

How to survive the storm

Safe rooms, storm cellars, safe houses, building high, building low; and moving away, but where to? These are some of the things people are thinking about in regards to future storms, floods, or earthquakes. There are also economic, societal, and governmental catastrophes that may occur.

Jesus says that storms will come and to be ready. How does he say to be ready? At the end of the sermon on the mount, Jesus says that the key to surviving storms and floods in life is to put his words into practice. That is what discipleship is: Following Jesus, listening to him, reading his words and putting them into practice; with each other. The big mistake is to hear the words of Jesus, perhaps study them, and even know them so well, that you can teach them to others; but not to practice them! Sounds crazy, but this seems to be our problem at least in the part of the American christian culture that I have been familiar with. It's much harder to live it than to know it. God is after changed lives and transformation. That's real learning, when you become what you have learned. Jesus warns us that hearing him is only the beginning and that we must do it and become it; be disciples and not just observers.

We would be wrong to take away that Jesus has formed a new law centered religion that builds on Moses but Jesus is the new law giver. The larger context of Jesus whole message, that the sermon on the mount is found inside of, is the message of the kingdom of God. Jesus has come, declaring God's kingdom. This message is part of that: how to live. But, we also need God to live it. We die daily as another writer would say and the Holy Spirit helps us, empowers us in our weak flesh to live out Jesus ethic. Jesus way here is full of grace, which means a fail-safe environment. There's grace to fail, grace to try, grace to cry. Jesus is saying that you must try. You can't do nothing and make it through storms.

“Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock.
25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock. 26 But everybody who hears these words of mine and doesn’t put them into practice will be like a fool who built a house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed.” Matthew 7:24-27 (CEB)

The church is a menagerie

The French word menagerie is often used to describe a collection of wild animals kept in captivity. Menagerie can also be defined as, "a diverse or miscellaneous group". Menagerie comes from "menager", which means "to keep house", or "to husband". The word husband has at it's core, the idea of care-taking: "animal husbandry", for example. It doesn't mean being married, but caring for.

The church is also a menagerie, a diverse group of people, completely miscellaneous. I think that the fact that a diverse group is together in unity is a special attribute of the church.

I looked at two French translations of the New Testament and did not find the Greek word for household translated to menager or menagerie, but I really like the way that the CEB (Common English Bible) translates 1 Timothy 3. It has the word household in it several times. When a preacher says, "in the house", while preaching at a church meeting anywhere, he or she is correct. The NT does talk about the church as a house or household and it does not mean building; neither a church building nor a house, but the people of the church are the house (of God).

1 Timothy 3 (CEB)

Supervisors in God’s household
1 This saying is reliable: if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor[a] in the church, they want a good thing. 2 So the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest, and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching. 3 They shouldn’t be addicted to alcohol or a bully. Instead they should be gentle, peaceable, and not greedy. 4 They should manage their own household well—they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, 5 because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church? 6 They shouldn’t be new believers so that they won’t become proud and fall under the devil’s spell. 7 They should also have a good reputation with those outside the church so that they won’t be embarrassed and fall into the devil’s trap.
Servants in God’s household
8 In the same way, servants[b] in the church should be dignified, not two-faced, heavy drinkers, or greedy for money. 9 They should hold on to the faith that has been revealed with a clear conscience. 10 They should also be tested and then serve if they are without fault. 11 In the same way, women who are servants[c] in the church should be dignified and not gossip. They should be sober and faithful in everything they do. 12 Servants[d] must be faithful to their spouse and manage their children and their own households well. 13 Those who have served well gain a good standing and considerable confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Leading God’s household
14 I hope to come to you quickly. But I’m writing these things to you so that 15 if I’m delayed, you’ll know how you should behave in God’s household. It is the church of the living God and the backbone and support of the truth. 16 Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory.
Footnotes:
  1. 1 Timothy 3:1 Or bishop, overseer
  2. 1 Timothy 3:8 Or deacons
  3. 1 Timothy 3:11 Or wives, omit who are servants
  4. 1 Timothy 3:12 Or deacons

The Helper

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26

Back in the late 1980's, I read a little book about the Holy Spirit called The Helper by Catherine Marshall. I had never heard the Holy Spirit called the Helper before. The NIV & new Living translations say the Advocate, the new CEB says the Companion, the old KJV says the Comforter, and the new KJV as well as the ASV, NASB, and ESV say the Helper; and The Message says the Friend.

In our Christian culture, teaching and being taught is a big deal. The most common form of Christian radio is teaching. Most Christian books are written to teach you. One of the main reasons people say they go to church is to receive teaching. We go to a second church meeting mid-week to get taught some more. The most common thing you'll see on Christian television is teaching. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

But, how is it that Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them, but we seem to have lost this today? The Holy Spirit uses people and all the other means and ways to teach us, but what about being taught directly, as Jesus said in the verse above? What about being taught directly by the Holy Spirit?

What if you've been reading an author's books and others who know the author's material are teaching you his stuff. That's good and fine. But what if the author is available to you, but you ignore him while reading his books and seeking out others who have delved into his material, that you want to learn from? Wouldn't that be odd? Perhaps that's the way we are with the Holy Spirit. He is the smartest person on the earth today. No one knows Jesus better than he does. Why not ask him to teach you and since his name means helper, why not ask him for help?

Spiritual dryness, thirst, and barrenness

I have been looking at Hosea 2:3 lately. Here is the second half of that verse:

"I will make her like a desert, and turn her into a dry land, and make her die of thirst."

The context is that God is telling Israel what the consequences will be if she continues in her idolatrous and unfaithful behavior. We, as the church in America are not without our own sins and repentance may be called for (1).

Maybe you are embracing your personal brokenness and your heart is also broken over the lost as well as the ineffectual church and her sins. I think that God deals with the big and the small, the whole church, the whole nation, and also individuals. A single person may be walking closely with God in a land of famine or dryness. You may be in a dry place and it's no fault of yours. Be encouraged.



When I read Maurice Smith's piece, Spiritual Tsunami and falling tides, he helped me finish my thought that I am writing about here. Perhaps God allows dryness to help us to get in touch with thirst. Perhaps God hides himself so that we will seek him. There is a phrase, "calm before the storm". Perhaps that is a form of grace. Perhaps we are right now in a calm before the storm. We have grace right now to prepare and to position our selves. Grace for today, hope for tomorrow.

Footnote

1. "Therefore, the LORD God, the holy one of Israel, says: In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength— but you refused." (Isaiah 30:15)

"So remember the high point from which you have fallen. Change your hearts and lives and do the things you did at first. If you don’t, I’m coming to you. I will move your lampstand from its place if you don’t change your hearts and lives." (Revelation 2:5)

"So remember what you received and heard. Hold on to it and change your hearts and lives. If you don’t wake up, I will come like a thief, and you won’t know what time I will come upon you." (Revelation 3:3)
(Common English Bible)

How's the test-imony going?

Last week, I was thinking about how it sometimes feels like things are never going to change. Notice how I said "feels like." In reality, things do change, and God keeps His promises and God is good no matter what. If you have terminal cancer or your child was killed, God is still good. God has something for people going through the worst of times. Jesus said, "blessed are the poor in spirit" and "blessed are those who mourn." He says that the kingdom of the heavens will break in for the poor and the mournful will be comforted. You can take Jesus' words to the bank. Some people like to talk about "getting a break-through." I have come to the conclusion that, more than you or I getting a break-through, God wants to break-in to our circumstances. That's the message that Jesus came preaching and entrusts us with. God wants to come and take over.

I was reflecting on how God keeps his promises, and you can count on God. My red NASB Bible, given to me in the 1970's, had the promise "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever," (Isaiah 40:8) written on one of the first pages. You can count on God's word. Then I was thinking about Abraham. He had a promise from God that seemed to take forever to be fulfilled. But we know it was fulfilled. We can look at his and Sarah's lives to learn something about how to live in the in-between time of promise and fulfillment.

David Wilkerson wrote about this topic:

"Being not weak in faith, (Abraham) considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19).
The essence of true faith is found in this single verse. God had just promised Abraham he would have a son, one who would become the seed of many nations. Remarkably, Abraham didn’t flinch at this promise, even though he was well past the age of siring children. Instead, when Abraham received this word from the Lord, we’re told he “considered not his own body now dead (nor)…the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”
To the natural mind, it was impossible for this promise to be fulfilled. But Abraham didn’t dwell on any such impossibility. According to Paul, the patriarch gave no thought to how God would keep his promise. He didn’t reason with God, “But, Lord, I have no seed to plant. And Sarah has no life in her womb to conceive. My wife is past the ability to bear children. So, how will you do it, Lord?” Instead of entertaining such questions, Abraham simply “considered not.”
The fact is, when God is at work producing a faith that is tried and better than gold, he first puts a sentence of death on all human resources. He closes the door to all human reasoning, bypassing every means of a rational deliverance.
The faith that pleases God is born in a place of deadness. I’m speaking here of the deadness of all human possibilities. It is a place where man-made plans flourish at first and then die. It is a place where human hopes bring temporary relief but soon crash, adding to a sense of helplessness.
Have you been at this place of deadness? Has it seemed you have no options left? You can’t call someone to advise you. The heavens are like brass when you pray, your requests falling to the ground.
I declare to you, this is God at work. His Spirit is working to get you to stop considering the impossibilities—to stop looking to human ways and means—to stop trying to think your way out of your situation. The Holy Ghost is urging you, “Quit hunting for help from some man. And quit focusing on how hopeless you think your situation is. Those are hindrances to your faith.”
Embrace the fellowship of Christ's sufferings (Phil. 3:10). Remember that Jesus, who put his trust in God and was tempted in every way but did not sin, also was a man of sorrows and was acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). We struggle against things and live in anger and fear when that is not the way of God. Sorrow and grief are healthy. The highest form of worship is lament.

Non-Biblical Terms for Church Leadership

From “Elder Shepherding”by Dr. Cliff McManis:

"Non-Biblical Terms for Church Leadership: Pope, Cardinal, President, Archbishop, Priest, Reverend, Monk, Doctor, Prelate, Monsignor, Father, Session, Cleric, Superintendent, Senior Pastor."

Did you know that there is one Senior Pastor and he is Jesus Christ?

"And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive an unfading crown of glory."
-1 Peter 5:4