"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!'"
July 11, 2018
This week I am going to continue writing about Elijah. (1 Kings chapter 19) Last week I wrote about the showdown on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah. God showed up big time and consumed the sacrifice that Elijah had built on the altar of the Lord, which had been repaired. The promised rain came soon thereafter, relieving Israel of the 3-1/2 years of drought and famine. If you haven't yet read the last two weeks devotionals, please do so to get caught up on the story.
King Ahab told his wife, Jezebel, all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets of Baal. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you, just as you have killed them."
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day.
He sat down under a juniper tree and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died." Then he laid down and fell asleep
As Elijah was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, "Get up and eat!" He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again.
Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, "Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you."
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and nights to Mount Sinai. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
The Lord said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
Elijah replied, "I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."
"Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Once again, God asked him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah replied as he had the first time.
Then the Lord told him, "Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel. Anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-mehola, to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!"
One of the things that I notice in this story is Elijah's fear, and how that fear caused him to react. Previous to this, he had just stood fearlessly before King Ahab, the four and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, as well as the people of Israel on Mount Carmel, to show them who the real God is. That would have taken a lot of boldness and courage!
For the three-and-a-half years leading up to this, God had miraculously sent ravens to feed Elijah while he had sat by the brook; then had miraculously provided by keeping the widow's barrel of flour and container of oil filled so that she could bake bread to feed herself, her son, and Elijah. When the widow's son had died, Elijah had prayed and God raised him back to life.
He had experienced miracles and God had just finished sending fire down from heaven to consume the water-ladened sacrifice. The people of Israel had then declared, "The Lord -- He is God!" Then the prophets of Baal had all been killed.
But Jezebel had a bee in her bonnet about all that had happened and declared that she was going to have Elijah killed, so he ran in fear for his life. Apparently, it was not death that he feared, for he laid down under a tree and prayed that God would let him die! He told the Lord, "I've had enough! I'm done!"
Not only was he feeling discouraged, but he allowed his fear to skew his perspective. The Israelites had just finished declaring that the Lord -- He is God! Elijah had just talked to Obadiah, who was a godly prophet working in Ahab's household, and Obadiah had told him that he had hidden one hundred other prophets of the Lord in caves and had secretly been feeding them.
Yet when God asks Elijah, "What are you doing here?," Elijah's response was, ""I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."
God gave Elijah instructions and assured him that He had the situation taken care of! God tells him, "I have reserved 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." God lets Elijah know that he isn't alone.... he isn't the only godly man left in Israel.
We have all faced fear, and have all either reacted irrationally or have lost perspective. Sometimes we may have been able to rein our fear in and redirect it to see whatever we are facing in a more realistic view. Sometimes we may have been able to shut fear down, by affirming that we are going to choose to trust God. But fear is something that everyone has dealt with at one time or another.
I remember as a child hearing the adults talk about Big Foot and all the stories that were going around about him in the 1970's. There was one story about Big Foot reaching inside a camper and grabbing some kids while the family was on a camping trip. We lived out in the country and had no A/C, so slept with open windows and box fans. I shared a bed with my sister and slept on the back side of the bed right next to the window. I didn't know what Big Foot was or where he was or anything about him.... only the stories I had overheard. I remember being terrified when we went to bed that during the night Big Foot would reach through the screen covering the window and grab me out of bed. I laugh about it now and it seems silly, but to a little girl, that was a very fearful thing. Of course, now I realize that Big Foot is a legend and not real, so my fear was totally unfounded.
Many times, adults will downplay the fear of children, thinking that they don't understand or are just being cute. But kids have the need to feel secure and safe, and need assurance that they are going to be taken care of; even when the parent or others thinks it's irrational or silly or funny.
A few days ago, I had an incident involving fear. We had a huge pecan tree, approximately 94 feet tall from my husbands estimations, that had died. It sat right behind our house and we had noticed last year that the leaves were really small; but this year the few leaves that budded out were tiny, then ended up all dying. Since the tree was only a few feet from our house, there was a risk of the big limbs falling and hitting our roof should a big windstorm come through.
We have had three other big pecans taken out, paying close to $3,000 per tree. We didn't really have an extra $3000, so Jon decided that he could do it himself. He spent countless hours measuring and doing the math and looking at the tree and thinking of all the safety issues. My opinion was that I'd rather pay the money and have it professionally done.... Jon's opinion was, he'd rather save us money and do the work himself. He priced what it would cost to rent a 50-ft lift. I finally told him, fine, you can do it, but I am not going to help you....but you have to find someone to help and not do it alone; and I am not going to do the clean-up afterwards.... and you cannot leave all that wood from the tree laying out in our backyard afterwards, but have to clean it up. Jon assured me that he knew there were risks, but he could do it, and he agreed to my stipulations on him doing the work himself.
It didn't go quite as I had said. I ended up finding the help for him on Saturday -- four of my nephews. I bribed them with homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and grilled burgers and brats and homemade ice cream for lunch; as well as us paying them for their time. So I ended up doing a whole lot of cooking. They didn't get finished on Saturday and none of them were available on Sunday, so guess who ended up helping Jon for 10 hours all day Sunday?? It was me!
I regress.... Jon thought that I didn't trust him, assuming that was why I didn't want him to do the work himself. But honestly, I had a very real fear of him getting hurt. I knew that he would take safety precautions and do everything possible to prevent any accidents from happening; but I also know that things can happen even when we do everything we can to prevent it.
I can't remember all of the details of what happened, but several years ago one of my cousins was in a lift working and he either got knocked out of it or it tipped over. He has been crippled ever since and is in constant pain. He walks with his back bent almost at a 90-degree angle and can't straighten up. He has been on disability ever since. So I know first-hand that lift accidents can happen, and what the outcome can be should the person survive.
Finally, I had to come to the point of telling Jon, "Okay, you can do it. I trust you." I knew that there were risks involved and there are always unexpected things that can happen. I also prayed.... a lot... for God to send His angels to encircle Jon and protect him, as well as protect the others working, as well as protect our home. I chose to let go of fear and grab onto trust; which wasn't particularly easy for me to do.
All was well and I felt a deep peace as the work day began on Saturday. Everything was good, until Saturday afternoon. A huge limb that Jon had cut had fallen down beside the tree trunk (it was chained), but had become lodged on another limb and wouldn't fall the rest of the way down to the ground. Jon and the other men had worked on it.... Jon from the lift and the others looking at it from ground level and trying to figure out how to get it loose. Jon had to cut other limbs off the tree, and had to cut pieces off from that limb to lighten it so that it would fall. Finally, Jon was probably 30 feet off the ground in the lift, made one final cut, and that limb came loose and swung around and hit the lift where Jon was standing. Thankfully, the steel bars around the lift (although they were only waist high) protected Jon and he didn't get a single scratch; although it busted and bent one of the tail-lights of the lift when it hit.
We had only one other incident on Sunday, when I was helping Jon. He was cutting one of the very highest limbs and when it fell, the rope that was holding the chains around the limb broke, and the limb and chains and ropes all swung around to the front of the tree in one very swift move and landed right in front of me. Again, nothing hit me and I was protected.
Not only can we fear situations, whether it be due to stories we've heard or people we know who were affected from similar circumstances, but we can fear the unknown. We can worry and fret and make ourselves sick thinking about all the "what ifs". We never think about the positive what ifs, but tend to allow our minds to think of every single negative scenario possible. The truth is, none of us know what can happen from one moment to the next; let alone one day to the next, or one week to the next. We can choose to embrace fear of the unknown of what could possibly all go wrong; or we can choose to trust that God will be with us, regardless of what happens. We can choose fear, or choose peace.
The past few days has been extremely difficult for many people that I know and love. Jon's aunt and her family have been under attack, with his aunt and her son both receiving unexpectedly diagnosis on the same day; breast cancer for one and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma for the other; as well the two other siblings in that family recently losing jobs. Fear and all the what ifs tend to rear its ugly head; but I know that they are choosing to embrace trust and faith and tenaciously hold onto the promises of God.
There are situations when God will ask us to do something or place a call on our lives and we can allow fear to stop us from responding and obeying. Often that fear is people based, on what others will say or think. We often fear that we're going to make a mistake or look stupid or somehow miss what God is wanting us to do. "What if we do that, and are wrong?" "What if I pray for that person and they aren't healed?" "What if I talk to that person about Jesus and they become offended or get angry?" "What if I speak up, and look foolish?" "What if I do what I feel like God is calling me to do, and I end up making a mistake or it doesn't work out?"
But what if we respond and souls are saved or we make a difference in someones life or that person received their healing when we pray?!? God's intent is never to make us look foolish or to embarrass us or to make us fall on our face! But He uses people to minister to people. He uses people to pray for others and help others and encourage others and build one another up. God prompts us to speak out or pray or respond or minister or give a word of encouragement or offer hope or lend a hand; then it's our responsibility to listen and respond.
God spoke to Elijah during his moment of fear. He didn't reprimand him or say, "Oh forget it! I'm never going to use you again! I just miraculously provided food for you for 3-1/2 years. I just showed up when you prayed in front of the king and the false prophets on Mount Carmel. Now you doubt and fear that I can't protect you from this evil woman, and run away and sit under a tree, praying to die. You think you are all alone and the only one left who knows who I am and honors Me; but there are 7,000 others in Israel who haven't worshipped Baal. Forget you, Elijah! Sit here and have a pity party and die!" NO! God didn't do that.
Elijah woke up and God had baked him some fresh bread on stones right there beside him and provided a jar of water; not once, but twice. He told Elijah that he was going to need the nourishment for the journey. Once again, God provided miracle food for Elijah to eat. God passed by the mountain where Elijah stood, and spoke to him in a still, quiet voice, giving instructions on what to do next. He didn't lift the call of being prophet from Elijah, just because Elijah had a moment of weakness and fear. But God was there during those moments and gave him nourishment and a word of encouragement; as well as telling him what to do next.
When we have times of fear, God doesn't forget us or punish us or turn away because of our moments of running away in fear. When we cry out, feeling all alone and wanting to die because no one is there to help us and we feel like we are out-numbered, God doesn't let us lie there in our pity-party; but He gives us encouragement and speaks to us and tells us what to do. He nourishes our soul. He never leaves or forsakes us.
But we have to choose to listen and respond to and obey what God speaks to our heart. We have to choose to be silent so we can hear when He speaks in a still, quiet voice. Then we have to leave our place of fear, our place of self-pity, our place of wanting to quit and die, and obey what God says to do.
Fear is never of God. 2 Timothy 1:17 says, "God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
I learned a bit about how Elijah felt. Saturday, I started by tying off a rope to a healthy tree, to use to tug on other limbs. (We never really used it, though.) That was only about 30' up, and I was surrounded by green limbs even below me, so I couldn't even see the ground well (as long as I faced the tree). Then I just quickly tied off the other end of that rope about 35' up. I went back to about 15', and slowly worked my way upward over the day. I thought I only made it up to 35 or 40 feet.
My legs were getting shaky, mostly from being so tired. And one of my safety rules for the day was to quit before anyone was too exhausted. Working in a hurry when you're tired is a sure way to increase the risk of accidents.
Sunday morning, I needed to start off as high as I could get, which I thought was another 10-15' past where I had worked before. I felt more anxiety at that thought than all of Saturday. I kept praying for safety and the nerve to finish. But it didn't seem to be helping a lot.
I took the lift to about the same point I had been at on Saturday, and set my chain and safety harness. I rested there about 5 minutes to work up my nerve to go on up to the maximum the lift would go. It turned out, I had only been about 1' short of the limit. It meant I'd have to cut off larger parts than I hoped for, but it also meant I didn't have to go any higher. So I was both more and less nervous at the same time.
I worked longer Sunday, but much more slowly. I think I took a 10-15 minute break for every 30-45 minutes of work; more or less. So, I didn't get as worn out.
Fear of heights is one of my biggest fears. As long as I was chained to the tree, I didn't focus on falling. But I couldn't stay chained in all the time. I also imagined what might happen as I leaned over the railing, if a 900 pound limb pinched me against the railing. Over all, I'm just thankful God was watching out for all of us and gave us strength.
So, now... Does anyone want about 12,000 pounds of pecan wood? I suspect Loretta's biggest fear is having a pile of limbs in the yard for a year.
Strawberry Poke Cake
1 white cake mix
1 small package strawberry jello
1 small container Cool Whip
1 small package French Vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix white cake mix according to directions and bake. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. Use a fork and poke holes in the cake. Mix jello according to package directions and pour evenly over the top of the cake. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Mix the French vanilla pudding with 1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla; stir until thoroughly combined. Fold the Cool Whip into the pudding mixture. Spread over the top of the cake. Dice up strawberries smaller pieces and sprinkle on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made the day before.
This summer, I have had a "date day" with three of my nieces four kids. Jemma wanted to go to Walmart and Target and look at toys; which we did.... we looked at every single toy in both stores. And she wanted to eat at McDonalds, even though I tried to get her to go elsewhere. Jaycee wanted to go to Walmart and look... then we went and looked at shoes.... then we ate at a Chinese buffet.... then came to my house and made cookies. Jax and I went to IHOP, then went to see a movie, and ended our date at Walmart looking at toys.
I have Jovie this week for our day together. She is the youngest and is 4 and a half years old. Eating out is not her thing.... she prefers a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She does want to go pick out a toy (I've let the others all pick out one thing to buy themselves when we were together). I asked her yesterday what special thing she wants to do when we have our date day. She said, "Hmm... can we take a nap?!" Why yes, we can!! That's my kind of date!
It's not about what you can't do. It's about what God can do.
Don't focus on your limitations, focus on your mighty God. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon