An Earnest Plea

Isaiah paused before he pushed the palace door open and looked up. “Why, LORD? He’s such a good king.”

He walked in and was led to the king’s bedroom.

Hezekiah’s face was pale. Sweat drenched his hair as he shivered.

Isaiah swallowed. “Set your affairs in order. The LORD declares that you shall die from this.”

Hezekiah closed his eyes and rolled to his left for privacy. “LORD, remember how I lived for You as best I could. I’ve been truthful and loyal.”

His body convulsed with heavy sobs.

Isaiah turned and left.

When he was halfway to the door the LORD’s voice stopped him.

“Return to King Hezekiah. Give him this message from the God of King David: ‘I have heard your prayer and see your tears. I will heal you. You shall go to the temple in three days. I will grant you fifteen more years and deliver you from the Assyrians for My name’s sake.'”

Isaiah went back and delivered God’s message.

Hezekiah got help sitting up. “How shall I know this will happen?”

Isaiah looked around trying not to show his frustration. He spotted the sundial. “Shall the shadow move forward or backward now?”

The king looked from the sundial to the prophet. “It always moves forward. Only God can make it move backward.”

Isaiah closed his eyes and sent up a silent prayer.

Somebody gasped when the shadow moved back ten degrees.

Isaiah looked at the attendants. “Make a poultice of figs and place it on the boil. Behold your king for the next fifteen years.”

************

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

When you don’t know what to pray because the grief is too much to bear just cry. God hears your tears louder than your feeble words.

King Hezekiah was reduced to tears. God was induced to grace.

The context is fierce for the nation of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel has been taken captive by Assyria.

The Assyrians are moving in on Jerusalem.

When it comes to what kind of king Hezekiah was his name goes on the good king list. He did his best to follow God’s laws to stay on His good side.

An infection turns bad and the king is clinging to hope that the prophet Isaiah will tell him God will spare his life.

Instead of hope God’s man gives grave news.

The king is reduced to a sniveling idiot.

Isaiah thinks his task is done until God tells him to turn around.

Don’t you just love God’s grace?

Before I go on I just feel I need to say nobody deserves to live a full life according to our terms. Some spectacular people who had great potential to make a huge positive impact on the world die before they reach the age of 20.

I hated typing that as much as you hated reading it.

You and I don’t call the shots as to who lives and who dies. God does.

The only reason I can come up with as to why God spared Hezekiah’s life that day is because it brought Him glory.

The wicked Assyrians had Jerusalem surrounded but went home without entering the city.

It’s king was assassinated soon after he arrived back home.

Nobody saw that coming but God.

I don’t know why some of the sweetest people die young while some wicked people live to old age.

That’s not how I would work things out if I was God, but I’m not.

A lot of folks would do away with all hatred and lying and greed and every evil thing if they called the shots.

I wonder about one thing if we lived in a world like that.

Where would any passion grow from?

You don’t know deep love until you’ve experienced abandonment.

You don’t know true compassion if you’ve never experienced evil and hate.

You don’t know true trust if you’ve never experienced lying and betrayal.

The deepest lives are lived on a full spectrum of emotions and experience.

We’re not called to be robots who go through the motions of living. We’re called to be humans who care for the hurting by stepping in and making a positive change. That’s not living. That’s called life.

That is all things working together for good according to God’s plan.

Hezekiah knew he had fifteen more years to live. What did he do with those fifteen gifts? He sat back and got lazy.

He showed the Babylonian envoys all of Judah’s wealth. They carried it all away after the king’s lifetime.

If you knew you had fifteen more years to live what would you do with them?

Would you travel as much as possible to experience as much of this world as you can? Besides your travel agent who will benefit from that? You’ll take your memories with you to the grave.

Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?

There’s a kingdom being built right now on this earth. It’s not dependent on what size house you live in or what brand of car you drive.

We’ve touched on the evil occurring in the world. Those atrocities are happening to people all around you.

What are you doing to change that?

The people the evil is happening to and the folks doing the evil all need to hear about how God came to earth and died for them so they can have a relationship with God.

That’s the kingdom that needs to be built now.

After we die there’s no chance to come into God’s kingdom.

Use whatever days, weeks or years you have to live out the life-giving message of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for all people.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Called to Fail

Where am I? Who is that sitting on a throne? His robe is incredible. It’s filling every part of the floor.

Those beings over the throne…who are they? Why do they have wings…six wings on each one? They’re using two to fly with, but why are they covering their face and feet?

The seraphim spoke in antiphonal chorus. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His majesty.”

Their sound is so amazing. It’s even making the door posts I’m standing near shake. That must be…Oh, I’m done. My mouth is so foul. How can I be in the presence of God?

One of the angels flew to the burning altar, picked up the tongs and carried a live coal to Isaiah. He placed it on the man’s mouth. “This has made atonement for your sins. You are safe now.”

God looked at him. “Who shall we send to tell My message?”

Isaiah stepped forward. “Send me. I’ll do it.”

“Go and say, ‘hear, but don’t listen. Look, but don’t see.’ Dull their senses so they won’t do anything about what you say, otherwise they’ll turn and be saved.”

Isaiah swallowed the lump in his throat. “How long will this last?”

“Until the cities are abandoned, the houses are vacant and the land is desolate and resting. I will remove them far away, but I will leave a remnant. A tenth will remain like the growth from a stump after a tree is cut down.”

********************

The call of the Prophet Isaiah is one of the most incredible accounts in all the Bible. The symbolism is so rich. Messages are littered all over the retelling of it all.

I don’t want us focusing on that. We’ll let the scholars hash all that out.

Since this is a series on prayers in the Bible I want us to ponder the message God told Isaiah to announce.

This was definitely a divine call of a man by God Himself. Isaiah even got to live after seeing God on His throne. He interacted with the angels who attend God in worship.

How could Isaiah say ‘no’ to the Creator of the universe. So he didn’t.

But, then he asks for clarification of what his job will entail and how long it will last.

In today’s numbers-happy culture we’d expect a grand awakening or incredible revival. Instead Isaiah is told he’s going to me an epic failure.

Isaiah was given the unenviable task of telling the last generation before Judah’s exile what God wants them to hear, but they won’t listen.

I often wonder if Isaiah wanted to back out of this calling at this point. I know I would have wanted to.

I think that’s why God set up this grand show of Himself to Isaiah before He let him know what he was going to do.

Isaiah would have this memory and experience to hold him firm to his mission.

I’m so glad Isaiah was obedient, otherwise we’d have missed out on some of the most incredible Messianic prophecies in the entire Bible.

So, what does this all have to do with us?

I was afraid you were going to ask that question. I’m not sure you’re going to be comfortable with my answer.

I truly think we’re at the same place Isaiah was at in his life.

History has proven that the most powerful civilizations last approximately 200 years. The United States of America has passed that threshold.

Many experts believe China is developing into the next world power. I’m not saying that’s bad or good, I’m just making an observation.

Looking around the world today I have one thing to say.

At best America in on the decline, at worst the entire world is near the end of its existence.

The nation of Israel, then the divided nations of Israel and Judah, were God’s chosen race of people who would bring about God’s redemption.

They were promised prosperity if they obeyed God’s laws and exile if they chose to not obey.

That’s a simple formula that’s complicated to carry out.

Power corrupts. Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day for that very reason.

It’s human nature to want to take control out of God’s hands so we can get our own way. The breakdown of too many marriages have littered God’s people for that very reason.

Governments today are getting folks to depend on them more and more so they can control them. People are more comfortable with someone they can see having that type of control.

That’s not God’s ideal. He’ll put a stop to this nonsense someday…it could be soon.

That’s what makes our life like Isaiah’s. We have a message from God to tell. People don’t want to listen to it but we must still tell it.

What they do with it is their responsibility. Giving God’s message is our responsibility.

God never blamed Isaiah for folks not listening. He knew it was going to happen.

God loves people so much He wants to give them every possible means of coming into His kingdom. He’ll keep begging them to listen by sending His message as often as possible.

God promised Isaiah a tenth of the people would remain. If only a tenth of today’s people respond that’s still an amazing amount of people spending their eternity with God to experience His love.

They won’t make that decision if they never hear God’s message. We’re being sent with that message of love, forgiveness and grace.

I’m amazed every time I hear of someone in the United States of America who hasn’t heard who Jesus Christ is.

That’s why I volunteer when my church puts packages together for the homeless and poor.

That’s why I write God’s message in as many ways as I can.

That’s why I love each individual I come in contact with.

I’m God’s message and so are you.

Jesus came to personify God to us.

We must go and tell.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Short-term 2nd Chance Successes

Jonah awoke with a sharp pain on his leg. He reached down and groped his right shin. He pealed off what must have been a section of octopus tentacle.

“Lord, how much longer must I suffer like this? I’m sorry for running. I know it was foolish of me. Nobody can win against You. Please give me another chance. Let me see Your temple again.”

The fish turned sharply to the right. Jonah sloshed with the stomach juices. He felt pressure on his feet so he curled up in the fetal position.

The fish seemed to climb up then stop. The stomach opening released just before Jonah slammed into it.

The sunlight never seemed so bright.

Jonah saw the giant fish slide back into the water. A wave washed up rinsing some of the debris off of him.

He looked up. “Thank You, LORD!  I won’t waste this second chance.”

“Go to Nineveh. Tell them what I tell you.”

Jonah searched his surroundings. A city was upriver from him. He stepped into the water and washed himself off.

As he approached the city a man was fishing along the river.

“Excuse me, sir. What city is this?”

The fisherman looked Jonah up and down. “Are you a Hebrew? How did you get here? Why are you naked?”

Jonah blushed. “I guess my clothes didn’t survive the stomach acid. What city is this?”

The fisherman removed his coat. “Here, put this on. This is Nineveh. Always has been. Always will be.”

Jonah put the coat on. “Thank you. My God has a message for your people.”

A crowd gathered around Jonah by midday. He stopped when he heard God’s voice. He turned and faced the crowd. “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed.”

A murmur built in the crowd. “Isn’t the Hebrew God the one who destroyed the Egyptian military in the Red Sea?”

“Yeah, and He crumbled the walls of Jericho like they were nothing.”

“How do we appease Him?”

“Sackcloth and ashes according to my research.”

The crowd dispersed only to return wearing sackcloth and worried faces.

********

Thirty nine days later Jonah walked east of the city in disgust. “Isn’t this why I fled to Tarshish to begin with, LORD? I know You’re compassionate. They don’t deserve it.”

He set up a small shelter to shade the sun. Maybe brimstone will still fall from the sky tomorrow.

A sound behind him caught his attention. A plant was growing up extremely fast. It’s shade was refreshing.

“Ah, nice.”

Jonah awoke the following morning. Nineveh was still intact. He ate the figs he brought with him. The plant behind him fell. A caterpillar was gnawing on the stump. “What a shame.”

As the sun climbed in the sky a strong wind blew in from the east.

Jonah felt his energy slip away. “Just end my life now, LORD.”

“Do you have a right to be mad about the plant that you had no control over? Shouldn’t I have the right to forgive the people of Nineveh when they show remorse for their evil?”

****************

Here we have yet another prophet falling into a depression after a success. Didn’t God have any better men to choose from than that?

Actually, He didn’t. All He had to choose from were ordinary folks.

That’s one of the things I love about the Bible. It’s filled with normal people being used by God even when they fail after they succeed.

That means there’s hope God can use you and me, too.

I see two short-term successes in this story about second chances.

First, Jonah took advantage of his second chance by telling the people of Nineveh about God’s impending judgement on them for their wicked lifestyle. But then he relented and wished God wasn’t so compassionate because of his hate for such wicked people.

Second, the people of Nineveh took advantage of the warning Jonah gave them and showed remorse to stem off God’s anger for their sins. But then they turned right around and defeated the nation of Israel to show their strength.

So, what’s the message of the book of Jonah if these second chances were wasted?

God was really big on using object lessons to make a point to His people.

When Jonah returned to Israel and told them how God relented from destroying the Assyrians they should have sat up and paid attention. That Gentile nation was known for their brutality in war.

Had the leaders of Israel caught the lesson they would have turned back to God to save themselves, but they didn’t. So God used the freshly wicked Assyrians to punish His own people.

I don’t call the shots here. God does.

Wickedness is a tool in God’s belt as much as grace and mercy.

It’s like a tapestry. If you only see the back side of a fine rug it won’t make much sense. It’s just a jumble of threads seemingly thrown together.

We don’t see the picture side of the fine artistry until God allows us to.

The history recorded in the Bible shows us God’s orchestration of all kingdoms through time.

Wicked nations were used more strategically than peaceful Israel was during Solomon’s reign.

That plant God grew for Jonah was destroyed by a bug. All of that was ordained by God.

Mighty nations, fish, storms, plants, bugs…they’re all the same in God’s plan. They all serve Him.

That control you think you have over your own life. Give it up.

Your success and failure are controlled by God.

Accept that it all belongs to God.

He can take it away in a moment or make it flourish past your lifetime.

That should remove a lot of stress from your life.

Do the best you can with what God has given you. He gave you the stewardship of your life for a reason.

Use what you have to build God’s kingdom, not yours.

Don’t waste your second chances.

Let them change you into someone more like Jesus Christ.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Man Overboard

“Tarshish? Yeah, we’re going to Tarshish. What you need us to take there for ya?”

“Just me.” Jonah watched the crew loading crates below deck.

The captain looked at Jonah’s small pack. “You sure do travel light. You have family in Tarshish?”

Jonah shook his head. “No. Just been hankering to visit that fine city. That’s all.”

“Four silver coins will get you there. Five will feed ya, too.”

Jonah pulled out a coin pouch and dumped all five of his coins into the captain’s hand.”

The captain smiled. “Looks like your god has blessed you just enough to get you where you’re going. Climb aboard. We’ll be setting off soon.

The crew finished loading the ship and came ashore for final preparations. Jonah climbed up the plank then went below deck to find a good place to settle in. He found a space between some boxes that fit his small frame perfectly. The rocking of the ship lulled him into a deep sleep.

The captain came aboard and waited for his crew to return. He looked around at his men then kept scanning the group.

“What you looking for Cap?”

“Not what, but who. There’s a guy who paid me to take him to Tarshish. Anyone see a little fella carrying a small bag?”

Everybody glanced around. “No sir. It’s just us here.”

The captain shrugged. “I guess I’m five coins the better. We got a schedule to keep.”

They untied and headed west. As soon as the land disappeared below the eastern horizon the wind kicked up in their face.

“Pull the sails down.”

The crew obeyed the captain’s order.

Waves crashed onto the deck.

“We’re going down if we don’t lighten the load. Start throwing cargo out. Everybody pray to your god or whatever you have to do to get this to stop. This is the worst storm I’ve ever seen.”

The men struggled to get crates on deck to save the ship.

One of them called from below. “Cap, you gotta see this.”

The captain went below deck. “What is it?”

“Is this that fella you was lookin’ for?”

The ship rocked Jonah onto the floor. He looked at the men.

The captain looked at him. “How can you sleep through this? Pray to your god to stop this storm.”

Jonah staggered to the deck and vomited overboard.

Somebody grabbed a bag and some stones. “I have an idea. Let’s see who’s to blame for this storm. I have five white rocks and one black one. We’ll each pull a stone out of this bag. Whoever gets the black one is it.”

They all agreed. Jonah took the first stone out. It was black.

The captain grabbed him by the shoulders. “Who are you? Where are you from? What have you done?”

“I’m a Hebrew. Our God made the sea and dry land, people…everything. He told me to go to Nineveh to pronounce His judgement on them. They deserve His wrath.”

The captain shook him. “We don’t deserve your god’s wrath. What do we have to do to stop this storm before it kills us all?”

“Throw me overboard.”

The captain shook his head. “That’s not an option.”

The ship rocked, then cracked.

“Cap, we’re all gonna die anyway. Let’s try his suggestion.”

The captain looked up. “Forgive us god of the Hebrews for this man’s life. We’re innocent of his blood.”

They grabbed Jonah and tossed him into the sea.

The wind stopped. They watched Jonah sink. A huge fish swam by. Jonah was gone.

“The Hebrew God is real, men. Let’s worship Him.”

************

You probably thought the story of Jonah was about a disobedient prophet, didn’t you?

I think it’s more about God getting the attention of Gentiles.

The men on that ship sure found God in a big way. So will the folks in Nineveh once God gets Jonah where He wants him.

Running away from God won’t stop His will from being done. It will only delay it.

It will also affect others in the process, sometimes positively, like here, or more times than not, negatively by reaping consequences of turning away from God.

I’ve seen people claim to not feel good about a decision they’re making, but they carry it out knowing it’s against God’s will because they feel a peace about their decision.

I have news for those misguided folks. God’s truth expressed in the Bible trumps all peace we work up to fit our agenda every day of the week.

Jonah thought he would thwart God’s plan by running the opposite direction. When that failed he expected his death by drowning to end the conflict.

God’s will cannot be stopped. He could have used another prophet to carry out His agenda, but He didn’t.

God chose a way that would not only show his control of every aspect of creation, but would also lead to an object lesson about how long Jesus would remain in the grave after His death.

You see, everything worked together to accomplish God’s ultimate plan in spite of Jonah’s lack of cooperation.

Is there something in your life you’ve been fighting God over?

Have you been running away from a task you know you need to do for God’s work to be accomplished?

Is there something in the Bible you don’t want to agree with even though you know it clearly states it’s God’s will?

I hope you know you can’t win over God. He will win in the end if not sooner.

Too many people quench the Holy spirit’s work in their life to fit in with the crowd they run around with.

There’s no better place to be than in God’s will.

Crowds are made up of individuals led by fickle emotions and whims.

God is the Creator who has a plan for every aspect of His creation.

The more people who work with God’s plan the better this whole planet will be.

Turn your will over to fit God’s will.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Battle Song

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

King Jehoshaphat kept walking back to Jerusalem. He couldn’t shake the prophesy of Micaiah about King Ahab dying in this battle. “Why weren’t you fighting at the time?”

“My brother just received a gash on his leg before it happened. I pulled him to safety. When I turned around I surveyed the scene to see where I should go back to fight next. That’s when I watched one of their guys draw back on his bow and let an arrow loose over everyone’s head. That arrow had Ahab’s name on it from God as far as I could tell cuz that’s where it came down. Hit him square in his chest.”

Jehoshaphat shook his head. “It split right between that narrow slit in his armor.”

The remainder of that walk was conducted in silence.

Jehu met the king at his house. “God is not pleased that you allied yourself with Ahab. But He’s happy you took down the idols as you seek Him.”

******

King Jehoshaphat spent the following weeks setting up judges in every town in Judah. “Make sure you don’t take any bribes. You don’t answer to me, but to the LORD Himself. Amariah will be in charge of matters concerning the LORD. Zebadiah will focus on any matters I need to know about.”

******

One day a messenger arrived out of breath. “There’s a huge army heading this way. They’re from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir as far as we can tell.”

King Jehoshaphat stood up from his throne. “Declare a fast through all of Judah. I will seek the LORD’s counsel on this matter.”

Men, women and children showed up from every town. Jerusalem was filled beyond capacity when the king entered the temple.

The priests stood behind him. “LORD God, You drove out the inhabitants of this land You promised to Your friend Abraham for his descendants. You restricted us from attacking the Moabites, Ammonites and the people of Mount Seir. Now they’re coming for us to annihilate us. We aren’t strong enough to win against such a massive army of trained soldiers. Please come to our aid. Nobody can stand against You.”

The silence was broken by Jahaziel. His reputation as a man of God was well known. “This is what the LORD has to say to you, King Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah. Go out tomorrow to the battle, but don’t worry about the outcome because the LORD will fight for you. You’ll find them at the brook by Jeruel. Don’t be afraid.”

When Jehoshaphat bowed his head so did everyone else. Some of the Levites sang praises.

******

The following morning found everyone ready to leave Jerusalem into whatever lied ahead.

King Jehoshaphat stood at the gate. “Don’t be afraid. Believe the LORD’s prophets. The battle is not ours, but God’s.”

He looked at the crowd. “Who will lead us into this battle?”

“Um, shouldn’t the king do that?”

Jehoshaphat shook his head. “If this was my war I would. Since God has promised us victory and said He’d fight for us we’ll let the Levites lead the charge with praise songs.

The Levites stepped forward singing, “Praise God who loves without end.”

Everyone followed the song’s praise.

Jehoshaphat pushed ahead when they reached the hill overlooking the valley the enemy was in.

The scout stationed on the hill saluted him. “Sir, you’re not going to believe this, but they’re all dead.”

The king smiled. “Tell me when you get to the part where I’m supposed to act surprised. What happened?”

“I was watching them get ready to fight. Then I heard singing behind me. Before I could tell where the music was coming from the men of Moab and Ammon turned on the guys from Mount Seir. Once they were wiped out they turned on each other until nobody’s left.”

The people spent the next three days picking up anything of value the soldiers left behind in what was named The Valley of Blessing.”

************

This is one of those fight scenes the folks in Hollywood would never dream up.

“It could never happen that way. Not in a million years.” They’d say.

That’s why God didn’t use Hollywood insiders to write the Bible. He’s too unpredictable that way.

About now you might be wondering why God stopped this massive army from wiping out the people of Judah.

The short answer is because He wanted to.

The longer answer is because they sought His advice on how to fight against them. King Jehoshaphat was one of the better kings because he did his best to abide by God’s laws and take down any idols anyone might want to worship. From there God stood up for them.

Jehoshaphat’s weakness lied in the fact he supported the northern kingdom too much. They never came around to following God’s decrees.

So, what enemy is coming against you today?

Do they seem insurmountable and invincible?

How long have they been breathing down your neck?

I have some advice for you. Stop looking at the enemy and look to the God of the universe who is waiting to help you overcome them.

Once the people of Judah were assured God was going to win this battle for them they took as unusual an approach to going out to battle as anyone I ever heard of. They sang a praise song before the fight.

Have you ever thought of doing that?

Two weeks ago I was facing some unexpected unemployment with growing debt. I sang the hymn It Is Well on my way home from church that Sunday. God has showed up in mighty ways ever since that experience.

I’ve read the end of the Bible. Guess what.

Our side wins in the end.

Don’t focus on the problem, my friend.

Focus on the God who promises to move mountains if we have faith the size of a mustard seed.

It actually works.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Gentle Voice

Elijah opened his eyes. A hand was on his shoulder.

“Get up and eat this.”

He looked to his left. A small cake and some water sat on a rock.

When he turned back to the man nobody was there.

He sat up, ate the meal then laid back down.

Another hand on his shoulder woke him as the sun was rising.

“Eat this for your journey.”

He saw the cake and water on the rock. The man was gone before he could ask anything.

He ate the food and felt refreshed. He walked south.

******

Forty days later he approached a mountain and felt the need to climb up it.

A cave beckoned him to sleep for the night.

The early morning sunlight shone in his eyes.

He sat up and stretched. He heard God’s voice.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

“I’m zealous for You, LORD. The children of Israel have torn down Your altars and killed all of Your prophets. I’m the only one left so they’re coming for me, too.”

“Stand on the mountain and I will present Myself to you.”

Elijah was drawn out by a loud sound. When he looked to the north a tornado was fast approaching.

He ducked back in the cave as a tree branch sailed by. Two rocks fell over the entrance.

After that passed the ground shook. A boulder tumbled over the cave entrance as it rolled past.

A crackling sound brought him back out. The wind shifted from the south and brought the smoke of a large fire toward him.

He crawled to the back of the cave and prayed for fresh air.

An eerie silence filled the cave. The sunlight was casting a shadow of the mountain peak.

The silence drew him out. A gentle breeze caressed his cheeks.

The LORD’s voice was a whisper. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

“I’m zealous for You, LORD. The children of Israel have torn down Your altars and killed all of Your prophets. I’m the only one left so they’re coming for me, too.”

“I need you to go to Damascus. Anoint Hazael as Syria’s king; Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as Israel’s king and Elisha, Shaphat’s son, as My prophet to replace you. There are still seven thousand people in Israel who haven’t bowed to Baal or kissed his idol.”

******

Elijah headed north. He came upon some men plowing a field.

One of the men shouted back to the last guy. “You’ll be here til midnight at your pace, Elisha.”

Elijah walked over and laid his coat across Elisha’s shoulders before he continued his journey.

Elisha stood tall. A sense of strength filled him.

Everybody stopped and looked at the man walking away.

Elisha ran after Elijah and stood in front of him. “Can I say good bye to my family first?”

Elijah shrugged. “Sure. This isn’t my idea, but God’s.”

Elisha broke his plow apart and used it to fuel a fire as he offered the oxen he was plowing with to feed everyone before he left.

************

God wasn’t done with Elijah. Not by a long shot. Even if the man wanted to die.

Do you see what God did to prepare him for the next stage of his work?

First thing was to feed the man. Rest and proper nutrition go a long way in rebuilding a person’s vigor. Of course God’s food was far better than anything we can mix up. It lasted 40 days before Elijah needed his next meal.

The second thing God did was give His man some time to think and sort things out. Too bad Elijah wasted that time throwing a month-long pity party for himself. Sometimes solitude doesn’t work for some folks.

So, the next thing God did was give Elijah a sidekick. Someone to teach and help shoulder the load. The man definitely needed someone younger to keep him from becoming an old curmudgeon.

Sometimes people get so comfortable with their depression or other destructive habit that they’d rather wallow in it than change.

Elijah told himself he was the last man of God so much he actually believed the lie.

After God assured him there were yet thousands who hadn’t bowed to the false God the man was able to go back to work.

Where are you in this equation?

Are you stuck believing a lie? Is it a lie you tell yourself or something you heard from someone else? Either way you’re losing out on the life God has granted you. Read the Bible to learn God’s truths. He hasn’t changed and neither have His truths.

Shake those chains that are holding you back. God still has work for you, too.

Are you too drained by the stress you live with that you can’t sleep? Is your diet what it can be?

There are many folks offering meal plans online to help you get better nutrition.

There are also ways to de-stress and unwind from the cares weighing you down.

What you need is a lifestyle change more than anything.

A short evening stroll will work wonders to help you unwind at the end of a hectic day. Having someone to tell your troubles to can help, too. God is always available to listen to you.

Fad diets will only work while you’re on them. That’s why you put the weight back on so quickly later. Determine to eat more nutritious meals continuously. That’s a lifestyle change that will make a huge impact.

Surround yourself with folks who share your new commitment to become better. The better your network is the more likely you’ll succeed at it.

Immersing yourself in a challenging Bible study will help you see how God intends for you to live. This one habit should ignite a passion to fuel everything else.

Once Elijah had Elisha to teach God’s ways his life regained focus.

Mentor a younger believer. They’re aching for such leadership.

I told you God isn’t finished with you, yet.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Clinically Depressed

Elijah pointed at the prophets of Baal. “Surround them. Don’t let any of them get away. Bring them to Kishon.”

The crowd of citizens did what God’s man told them to do after seeing His fire fall from the sky and all it did.

Somebody picked up one of the knives a prophet used to cut himself. He gave it to Elijah.

Baal’s men were lined up along the brook. Elijah slit the throat of each one of them per God’s instructions in the Law.

Elijah’s eyes were wide. “Tell Ahab to eat and drink because I hear the sound of rain.

The crowd dispersed. Elijah and his friend went to the top of Mount Carmel.

Elijah dropped to his knees facing the temple in Jerusalem. “LORD, evil has been abolished in Israel today. Bring life back to Your people.”

He pointed to his friend. “Look to the west. Tell me if you see any clouds.”

His friend ran off to get a clearer view of the Mediterranean Sea.

He came back breathing hard. “There’s nothing, sir.”

Elijah continued his earnest prayer. “LORD, bring rain.”

He looked back at his friend. “Check again.”

This repeated seven times. The last time the friend reported. “I see a cloud, but I can cover it with my hand.”

Elijah stood. “Tell Ahab to get in his chariot and ride home before the rain stops him.”

His friend ran off.

Elijah sent up a prayer of thanksgiving. The evening sun was blotted out by the clouds. Lightning streaked across the sky.

Elijah picked up the bottom of his robe and tucked it in his belt before he ran down Mount Carmel. He passed Ahab’s chariot before they reached Jezreel.

He sat on a bench at the city’s gate.

A few minutes after King Ahab entered the city somebody brought Elijah a note from Queen Jezebel.

May the gods do to me, and more so, if you haven’t become like one of my prophets by this time tomorrow.

Elijah ran away as fast as he could. His friend followed him to Beersheba.

Elijah turned to his friend. “You stay here. I must be alone with the LORD.”

He wandered south for a day before he fell under a tree in exhaustion.

He mouthed one more prayer. “LORD, it’s enough for me. Make me like my fathers before me now.”

************

Spiritual warfare is demanding work. It was then. It still is today.

Elijah just stood in the gap for the nation of Israel during a dark time in their history. A drought lasted three years because of a proclamation he made.

It ended after false prophets were killed to end their influence on the people.

Not only was it raining. It was pouring down hard.

You would think God’s man would have been so bold at this time that a note from the queen wouldn’t phase him.

I just heard a professional quarterback tell about a time he spoke at a revival. He felt God tell him to stand up and say something as the altar call was being given by the pastor.

He did it and helped at least three people because of his obedience. He said when he sat back down he felt more drained physically than after his hardest football game.

Chuck Swindoll makes sure his schedule is clear for Sunday afternoons and Mondays for the same reason.

I think if we could see all the spiritual war going on around us we’d be too overwhelmed to get anything done. That’s why we aren’t given a view of that part of creation.

That’s why prayer is such a vital part of any ministry.

Don’t think that your prayer support isn’t being used by God today.

It’s more vital than financial support. Keep interceding.

Any spiritual victory you experience will be met with even more opposition from the enemy and his angels.

Remain on your knees and keep fighting.

Elijah’s battle was epic. Elijah’s victory was huge.

It came at a horrific personal expense to the man.

The Bible says he executed 450 men at the Brook Kishon.

I’m sure God’s Spirit emboldened him to perform this task because of the evil they spread. But, that would be an impossible memory to erase from a person’s memory.

How often did he see their twitching bodies on the ground when he closed his eyes? Did their screams wake him up at night?

So, after the spiritual victory for the nation of Israel, which included murder, he spent time in intense prayer to end the drought. Then Elijah ran from the mountain to the city in heavy rain before he could take a break. Just as the exhaustion was setting in he receives a threatening note from the very evil queen. So he takes off running south out of Israel, through the nation of Judah where he leaves his friend and goes another day south by himself before he rests again. Whew!

If you could have taken a blood sample of the man and sent it off for testing I’m sure his doctor would have prescribed every drug in the books for Elijah.

He was extremely clinically depressed.

This is not a point to be taken lightly.

Depression is real and can have tragic consequences.

Rare are the times someone comes out of it without outside help.

Elijah was by himself now, but he wasn’t alone. We’ll see that next time.

Chemical imbalances take place in the brain. That’s why certain drugs can help.

Emotional shifts occur that can be treated with the right counseling help.

When the depression is bad enough a combination of treatments is best.

If you’ve lost the will to live get help.

Pray for God’s strength to take the next step.

Seek professional guidance from a trained counselor.

Suicide is too permanent an option for what can be a temporary problem.

God still has plans for you, my friend.

He’ll use the new you to help others going through the same trial.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

God vs god

King Ahab stepped out of his chariot and approached Elijah. “So, there’s that troublemaker.”

Elijah shook his head slowly. “I’m not the troublemaker. I’m just the messenger. You’re the one worshiping other gods. You know better than that. Call all the people of Israel together on Mount Carmel. Make sure all 450 prophets of Baal come, too.”

******

Elijah waited at Mount Carmel for the contest to begin. Ahab’s 450 prophets were dressed in their finest garments. The crowd of private citizens filled the valley.

Elijah faced the people. “How long will you straddle the fence? Either worship the LORD or Baal.”

Nobody replied.

“I’m the last prophet of Jehovah. Baal has 450 men here. Let’s see who serves the real God. Bring us two bulls. We’ll each set up an altar and sacrifice a bull without setting it on fire. The God who burns the offering from heaven will prove who the real God is.”

The people all nodded. “That sounds reasonable.”

Elijah waved toward the prophets of Baal. “Since there’s more of you I’ll let you go first.”

As the morning sun rose higher the men fashioned an altar and cut their bull up to place it on the wood. They called out to Baal for a few hours. Nothing happened.

Elijah saw the crowd grow restless. He held a hand to the side of his mouth and faced Baal’s prophets. “Yell louder. Maybe Baal is sleeping or having a tryst with Asherah. There must be something keeping him from responding.”

The men began jumping around. Still nothing happened so they grabbed knives and cut themselves to get a response…nothing.

After the sun passed the high point Elijah raised his hands. “Come to me everyone.”

The crowd watched him build an altar with twelve stones. He laid the wood in order and cut his bull in pieces before he laid it on the wood.

He looked at some men standing near some water containers. “Fill four of those big pots with water and dump it on the altar.”

He had them repeat that two more times until the trench around the altar was filled up. “Now stand back.”

He raised his hands toward heaven. “God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel hear me now. Let these people know that I have done this at Your word and that You are the only real God. Turn their hearts back to You today.”

A bright streak fell from the sky. The wood on the altar quickly ignited the meat. Then the stones they were on went up in smoke as the water around it disappeared.”

All the people fell to their knees. “The LORD is God. There is no other.”

************

Here’s another one of those popular Bible stories folks pass by too quickly. We know how it’ll turn out so the surprise is lost on us.

Put yourself in the sandals of somebody in that crowd, or one of Baal’s prophets.

You’ve been told there are many gods. Worship whichever one you like, or better yet, more than one. As long as you’re sincere you’ll be fine.

Sound familiar?

You see. These folks are just regular folks like us after all. Society has led the majority astray. They’re following the crowd, especially when the leadership says it’s good.

That straight and narrow road has always been unpopular.

Baal’s prophets did all they could to get their god to respond. They began talking, then shouting, then jumping around until they got desperate and cut themselves. All to no avail.

Elijah simply asked God to intervene and He did.

Take a breath. God’s got your problem, too.

If it’s out of your hands it’s still in God’s grasp.

Give it to Him and trust His timing.

Do you remember what the rich young man in the gospels asked Jesus?

“What must I DO to be saved?”

We want to maintain control of things in our lives.

We want our efforts to be impressive to God.

We want Him to accept us for what we’ve accomplished.

God is too perfect for us to reach Him by our efforts.

That’s why He came down as one of us and died in our place.

That’s how much God loves you.

He loves you too much to let you waste your life in fruitless tasks just to fall short no matter how hard you try.

Baal’s prophets were even on the government payroll. That didn’t help them.

You don’t have any advantage over anyone else when it comes to reaching God.

Let God be God. You be you.

God has a plan for your life, even all those mistakes.

When you know for a fact you’re on the winning side you have a confidence that stands up against the odds.

Elijah was outnumbered 450 to one.

He taunted Baal’s guys because he knew they didn’t have a God, just a god.

The majority was wrong then. Yeah, don’t trust the majority now.

Being in the minority is hard.

The reason Christians meet regularly is so we can encourage each other to keep on keeping on.

Elijah had recently been involved in a resurrection of a boy from the dead. That’s how he knew his God was real.

This fire from the sky thing had been done before when Solomon dedicated the temple.

That resurrection bit was a new thing.

I got news for you. God is still in the resurrection business.

God can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh in a moment.

Keep praying for that loved one.

Don’t give up on them. God hasn’t.

Jesus died for them, too. His resurrection proved his power over death.

God told Elijah He was going to do something remarkable and He did.

The drought was about to end.

Life was going to begin again.

Take hold of that truth and don’t let it go.

I don’t know when God will turn your situation around, but He can.

Trust Him to be powerful enough to do it.

He can come through for you.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Prophet Training

Elijah’s hands were shaking as he left King Ahab.

God’s voice was clear. “Go to the Brook Cherith. You will drink the water from it. Ravens will bring you food.

Elijah went to a secluded place overlooking the Jordan Valley. The sun was near the western horizon.

Two ravens landed in the tree he sat under. They hopped to a branch near him. One dropped a slab of unleavened bread on the rock near him.

The other raven held a roasted chicken leg in its beak. Elijah lifted his hand. The bird dropped the meat in his palm.

The scene repeated each morning and every evening.

Elijah contemplated his message to the king of Israel. ‘No rain until I say it will rain.

That is what God told me to say. Right?’

The brook became smaller by the day because of the drought.

One morning the ravens didn’t show. The brook was dry.

Elijah sent up a prayer. “What now God?”

“Go to Zarephath in Sidon. A widow will care for you there.”

The trek seemed longer than normal. Thirst will do that to a person.

Finally the city was in sight. A woman was picking up sticks as he approached.

“Excuse me. Can I have some water?”

The woman stood, then nodded before she walked away.

Elijah’s stomach growled. “And could you bring me a piece of bread?”

The woman stopped. Her hands fell to her waist. Two sticks bounced on the dirt. “I…I don’t have any bread. Honestly. I’m picking up enough wood to bake the last bit of flour and oil I have for me and my son. Once that’s gone we’ll wait to die.”

Elijah swallowed the lump in his throat. “Bake me a cake from what you have first. My God will keep enough flour in the bin and oil in your jar until it rains again.”

The woman looked closely at Elijah. “You’re from Israel. I’ve heard of your God. I’ll be back.”

She brought Elijah some fresh bread. Then they went inside. She bake some bread for herself and her son.

This continued each day.

One day Elijah heard the woman scream downstairs.

He climbed down to see what was happening.

She was rocking back and forth on the floor. Her son didn’t move in her arms.

She stared into Elijah’s eyes. “Why have you come here man of God? Are my sins too great for me?”

Elijah walked across the room. “Give me your son.”

He took the lifeless body up to his room and laid the boy on his bed. Tears ran down his cheeks as he looked up.

He fell on top of the body. “Why, God?”

He stood and wiped more tears away.

He laid over the child again.

He stood and fought off the doubts and pain.

He laid on his bed again. The boy’s body was colder each time.

“Dear God, return his soul to him.”

He felt movement under him.

He jumped up.

The boy coughed, then cried.

Elijah laughed. He picked the boy up to comfort him.

He carried the lad downstairs and handed him back to the widow.

She stared in disbelief. Then she laughed. “Now I know without a doubt your God is real.”

************

Have you ever put yourself in Elijah’s sandals? Too often we’re too familiar with some Bible stories to fully appreciate them for what they are…accounts of real people in real time.

Elijah was just a man living life one day at a time.

Then God dispatches him to give a message to the wicked King Ahab.

Before anything can happen to him by edict of the king God tells him where to hide and provides for him with birds.

We’re not told how long the prophet was out there all alone. But, he was alone.

Solitude is one of God’s favorite conditions to place some folks in to get their attention.

It gives time to think about what’s important in life. ‘What shall I do next…and when?’

‘Is this God I can’t see really someone to be trusted?’

‘How long will this drought last anyway?’

We aren’t told what went through Elijah’s mind as the brook became a weak trickle.

The time of solitude did come to an end.

When did you last spend time just thinking about what’s really important in your life?

Widows didn’t have many options for income back then. Many don’t now.

Yet, God chose a woman with a son and just enough food for the two of them to send His man to.

I don’t think Elijah knew what God was up to when the words came out of his mouth.

Flour and oil don’t appear out of thin air…unless you have faith in God and God wills it.

I’m not about to tell you all you have to do is believe and it will happen to you too. God is too unpredictable for that.

That widow didn’t deserve to be provided for any more than any other widow. God showed her grace.

But, what about her son dying? Was God any less gracious then?

It didn’t appear that way to anyone in that house. Until God showed up again.

Miracles don’t happen every day. They didn’t then. They don’t now.

I’ve known people who’ve been given a way to keep the house they’re living in by some means they didn’t get until the day before they were going to lose that house. I’ve known others who lose it all in a fire.

God doesn’t answer to you. He didn’t answer to Elijah. He calls the shots in this world. Period.

All things do work together in God’s economy and His timing.

I don’t know why you’re going through your tough time.

But Elijah was being built into a man with a steel spine for a hard task ahead.

Trust God to know what He’s doing.

He has a plan.

He’s developing you, too.

Remain faithful and He’ll let you know what He has for you.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

IF…THEN

Solomon climbed on the bronze platform in front of the new temple, the crowning achievement of his young kingdom. The crowd before his was vast.

He fell to his knees. The bronze sang a solemn note.

Solomon’s hands raised toward heaven.

“LORD God of Israel, there is no god like you in heaven or on earth. You keep your promises to those who commit their way to You. You promised David, my father, that he would have a son build You a house to dwell in. Today that commitment is kept. Now continue to uphold Your word by keeping a son on Israel’s throne as long as we follow Your words and commandments.

“But, how can a God who cannot be contained in all of heaven abide in a building? Indeed, this building can contain Your name alone. I beseech You to stay attentive to prayers said in this place. Listen to the broken and contrite, LORD.

“When people pray toward this place hear from heaven and forgive.

“If neighbors take an oath judge between them. Bring retribution on the wicked and justification on the righteous.

“If your people are defeated in battle because of sins against You and they bow before You to confess their wrong then hear from heaven and forgive the sinner to return the land back to them.

“When You shut off the rain because of sin and Your people come and confess their sins then hear from heaven and return Your blessings to our land.

“When You send a plague of any kind and people come to this temple I have built and confess their guilt to You then hear from heaven and heal the land to return your people to prosperity.

“When a foreigner comes to this temple to pray to You because they recognize Your awesome power hear from heaven and do all that is asked of You, LORD.

“When Your people are in battle and they pray toward this place then hear their plea and fight for their cause.

“When your people sin against You, for all sin, and You carry them off to a distant land. When they recognize their failures and pray toward this temple I have built hear their cry and return them to this land for Your great name’s sake.

“Now, LORD God, come and dwell among Your people in the temple according to the promises You made to David.”

Fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering waiting on the altar. Smoke filled the temple so that the priest could not enter it because it was the presence of God.

God appeared to Solomon at night. “I have heard your prayer and will dwell among My people in this temple. I will hear their petitions to forgive when they confess their sins. I will heal their land as I hear the humble who turn from their wicked ways.

“If you continue to follow Me as your father David did then I will uphold the throne of your kingdom, but.

“If you turn away from Me and follow other gods then I will uproot these people from this land and this house you have built for me will become desolate. People will shake their heads and ask why this structure has fallen. ‘Because they forsook the LORD their God who brought them out of Egypt,’ will be the reply.”

************

This public prayer from King Solomon received a private reply from God. Oh, God did show Himself when fire came down from heaven and smoke filled the temple, but the king did hear directly from THE King.

The more I read this passage of scripture the more it became obvious this is a series of If (or when)/then statements.

Wise Solomon knew God required conditions for blessings and cursings even if he didn’t complete the required ceremony Israel’s kings were supposed to carry out.

He thought of several scenarios where people would need to pray to God. He even recognized his own personal need to follow God’s commandments.

Still, the next two decades found everybody loosing focus and drifting away from the God who kept His promise here.

God’s response to Solomon’s prayer was a more concise if/then prayer. He promised to hear the contrite and heal the land. He even promised Solomon a similar covenant to David’s ‘if’ he continued in his steps.

When success comes to people too young it’s difficult for them to keep focused on the real prize, God’s heart.

Saul had no preparation to become a king. He quickly failed.

David had to live in hiding from Saul for several years. Then he had to fight for the kingship before it took hold. He finished strong and became known as a man after God’s own heart.

Solomon was handed the kingdom at the age of 19. His dad fought off their enemies so Solomon inherited a peaceful time to reign. His foreign wives stole him away from this God he just prayed to.

So, where are you in this mix?

Are you still struggling and fighting? Or are you succeeding and building?

If God has you struggling then take heart, my friend. He’s building you into a better servant leader. You’ll be used in ways you never thought you could be used in His timing.

If you’re successful stay on your guard, my friend. Satan will do his best to knock you off your pedestal and flat on your face.

Everybody needs to stay grounded in the word. Encouragement and direction come from the same source.

God wrote His truths down for us because they don’t change, and neither does He.

Society will tell you things are different. We’re more enlightened now.

God made us and He knows whats best for us.

Satan is still whispering in Eve’s ear, “You can be like God.”

I’m here to tell you that lie is still a lie.

Only God is God.

The rest of us answer to Him.

Just ask Solomon.

I’ll see you later.   Wade