"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
June 27, 2018
I'm sure we've all heard the nursery rhyme, "Rain, rain, go away; come again another day."
The truth is, rain is never convenient for everyone at the same time. The farmer may be praying desperately for rain; yet doesn't want it to arrive when he's in the middle of hay season and trying to get his hay cut, raked, baled, and hauled. Those with gardens may be praying for rain, but not on days when they need to mow or have a picnic or outdoor outing planned. Adults may think/pray, "It's getting really dry and there is a high fire risk; we really need a good rain." Yet they don't want it to come if they have a vacation planned, or are heading to the lake with the family, or having a backyard BBQ. Kids might not mind playing outside in the rain from time to time, but don't want it to rain if they are going to the zoo or to the park or have a fun outdoor day planned.
Really, think about it from God's perspective! He has people in one house praying for rain; while the neighbors next door have a big event planned and praying that it doesn't rain. No matter when He opens the heavens and sends the rain, there will be people rejoicing and thanking Him, while others are pouting and upset because the rain interrupted or ruined their plans.
I don't like driving in rain. If I'm having to go someplace when it's raining, I'll often say, "I hope it stops raining before I have to leave!" But if I'm going to be home, I'll say, "I'm so happy that we're having a rain day today! It's so relaxing and I love reading when it's raining outside."
The truth is, rain never comes at a convenient time for all people; no matter how desperately it may be needed. And there are those who think we need more and those who think we have had enough. There will be those who are thankful when it rains 2-3 days in a row, and those who will say, "I know that we needed the rain, but enough is enough! It needs to stop now. I'm ready for sunshine!"
One of my favorite rain stories in the Bible involves Elijah. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah told King Ahab, "As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives -- the God I serve -- there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!"
This wasn't a matter of going a few days or weeks without rain where things got a little dry or crops weren't quite as good as they could have been. It wasn't where some places got rain and some didn't. But the entire nation of Israel was under this drought, which led to severe famine.
James 5:17-18 says, "Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops."
Why did this happen? It wasn't so that Elijah could show off his God-given authority and prophetic gift. This is what was going on in Israel at that time:
Ahab became king of Israel, and he reigned for twenty-two years. Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. (1 Kings 16:30) He married Jezebel and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple that he built for Baal in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. That is why God had Elijah to prophesy to Ahab that there would be no dew or rain for the next few years, until he gave the word.
While Samaria went through a time of famine and suffering, God provided for His servant, Elijah. I love this!
The Lord spoke to Elijah and told him to hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan River. "You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there." That is exactly what happened.
Elijah obeyed the Lord and went where he was told to go. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and evening, and he drank from the brook.
Can you imagine that? Ahab knew that the wicked king and his equally wicked wife were wanting to kill him, and had men out searching for him, yet God hid and protected and provided for him. He had all the water that he wanted to drink. He had two meals a day of meat and bread; food prepared in heaven or by angels or spoken into existence by God Himself and delivered by ravens..... that must have been delicious. He probably had a cool shade to sit/lie under and soft grass to lounge on.
It reminds me of Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul...... You prepare a table (a feast) before me in the presence of my enemies."
Elijah was surrounded by those who hated him and whose hearts were filled with evil and wickedness. Yet God prepared a table, provided food, for Elijah while the enemy sought to destroy him. The Shepherd provided everything that Elijah needed so that he lacked nothing. God gave him green pastures to lie down in and quiet waters to drink from. That's pretty awesome!
But then the day came when the brook dried up, due to the lack of rain. God provided water from a rock for Moses and the Israelites when they were in the desert, so He could have caused the brook to continue to produce water, but He had a different plan for Elijah. Also, there are times when we suffer the consequences of the sin of others. Elijah wasn't the one worshipping and serving idols, he wasn't the one doing more evil than generations before him, he didn't deserve to be punished; yet his water supply dried up due to the famine that God had sent to punish the nation for their wickedness. God also stopped sending the ravens with Elijah's daily meat and bread.
But God didn't forget Elijah and stop His provision. He had a different plan for His servant than to sit by the brook and be fed by ravens; a plan that also brought provision for someone else. God instructed Elijah to "go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food."
There are times when we are enjoying God's provision and blessing; but then the day comes when our brook dries up and we are no longer being supernaturally fed. What then? It doesn't mean that God has forgotten us or is punishing us or has withdrawn His hand; it means that God has a different plan for us; one that may bring provision and blessing to someone else.
Elijah once again obeyed. When he came to the town gate, a widow was gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, "Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?" As she was going to get it, he called, "And bring me, please a piece of bread."
"As surely as the Lord your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread -- only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it -- and die."
This widow lady knew that she only had enough flour and oil for one more meal, then her supply was out and she had no way of getting more. I think that while she was gathering those sticks she was praying for God to provide, not knowing how that could possibly happen in the midst of famine and the starvation of those around her.
Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.'"
That's exactly what happened. She did as Elijah instructed her. After that there was food every day for Elijah and the woman and her son. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jar of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:15-16)
There are times when what God asks of us is a difficult choice. If we look at it with our physical eyes and think it through with our mind, it seems as if we are giving up so much and don't now what will happen next or how a miracle could possibly happen. But if God speaks and makes a promise, He will bring it to pass.
At some point after that, the son became ill and died. The widow asked, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" Elijah took the boy and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on the bed. He cried out to God, then stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, "Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!" The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. He carried the boy down to the mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!" Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is truth."
Honestly, I find her statement a bit ironic. Prior to this she had been down to her last little bit of flour and oil, only enough for one last meal, then Elijah showed up. Since that day, her flour never ran out and her oil never ran empty; always enough to make a meal for the three of them daily. I would have thought that she would have recognized Elijah as a man of God at that time and been awed by the miraculous provision. Yet is was only after her son was brought back to life that she said, "NOW I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is truth." Did she not know that the words from his mouth were truth after he told her that God said that she'd never run out of flour and oil, and that was exactly what happened?
But isn't that a lot like our human nature is today? God provides for us, and we may see it as a miracle at first; but then it just becomes ho-hum, expected, normal, and not seen as miraculous any longer. It's just how things are. When we go to our barrel of flour, there's always some there for another loaf of bread... when we open our bottle of oil, enough flows out to moisten the flour, so that we can make another meal. We come to expect it to happen, and maybe aren't as thankful as we were in the beginning.
Then something major happens and we really need a huge, seemingly impossible, miracle that only God can do! At first, we may cast blame, somewhat like the widow lady did to Elijah, instead of saying, "God, you miraculously provided when I needed flour and oil, and have been doing so daily ever since, so I know that bringing my son back to life is not impossible with You!" When God answers, our response tends to be the same tone of this woman. "God, now I know that your word is really true and that You can do miracles!"
When we pray and God answers, we are often surprised. Yes, we know that God can do it; but when He does, we are amazed and have a hard time believing that what we had prayed for actually happened.
There also are times when God answers, but it's not exactly in the way in which we expected or particularly wanted. If we're not careful, we are often as those in the example that I gave regarding rain in the beginning of this devotional. "I wanted you to answer, but not like this.... it's inconvenient.... it's not what I expected or how I had planned.... it requires me to do something and now isn't a good time...."
We want the rain, but we want it on our own terms. Something to think about!
This took longer than I planned on. I'm hoping to add a comic every week from now, on, but I'm not going to make any promises.
Not long ago, a prominent missionary gave a prophesy for our church. Among other things, he said that the supernatural would become so common that miracles would seem natural. I truly look forward to that.
It seems silly to think we might get spoiled by miracles, and get upset when we suspect we aren't about to receive one. Or that we would get so used to them that we don't realize each and every one is from God, regardless if whether it's a green light that stays green longer than natural, or a rain that comes just as we are singing "Let it Rain" and goes away as we head to our cars, or a leg 2 inches too short growing to full length, or someone being raised from the dead.
It also seems silly to think the disciples would see Jesus perform one miracle after another, and then finally say, "Wow, you must be the Son of God, after all!" (Matthew 14:33, paraphrased).
I do hope to get so used to miracles that they seem more natural than supernatural. But I hope I continue to be awed and thankful for every one.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup Zesty Italian dressing
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Place chicken in crockpot. In a mixing bowl combine BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours.
Once the chicken is tender, you can serve the breast whole, or shred with 2 forks. If shredding, recover and let cook in sauce for about 10-15 more minutes to soak up all that delicious flavor.
Serve as a sandwich on buns, over rice, in wraps, on a salad or eat a plateful as is!
(My sister shredded it and her family ate as sandwiches and she said it was delicious!)
Sometimes I will randomly get a memory from childhood that I hadn't particularly thought about in many years. A while back Jon and I had eaten at a local cafe that serves really delicious homemade food. We both were too full for dessert afterwards, but their fresh baked pies looked so good that we decided to each take a piece home for later. I'm not a huge pie fan, but when I do eat pie, I like a really good, flaky crust. As I was eating the pie later that evening, I remember Mama making fruit pies when I was growing up. She would can her own peaches or cherries or blackberries. Generally when she baked a pie, she would have leftover pie crust. She would roll it out, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it, then cut it into strips and bake it. I used to love that as a kid; even better than the pie. I got a hankering to try that once again to see if it's still as good as I remember, but haven't yet stirred up a batch of pie crust to try it.
God is constantly calling us to places we have never been,
so we have to continue to grow to where we need to go! - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon