Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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20 Rest for those on the Run- Part 2

1 Kings 19:8-13

“So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

When in the pits of despondence, we find that God gives both permission to rest and the provision to be revive. First we need time to rest and secondly time to rediscover God. After Elijah rested and was filled by his Fathers food he was ready for the journey to rediscover God. God sends him back to his roots, back to the mountain where Moses received the ten commandments. It is in these desperate, discouraging times that we need to come back to the foundation of faith, back to the beginning, back to the basics. As Elijah heads back to his heritage the journey takes him forty days and nights, even though the mountain wasn’t that far away. Today we tend to focus on the time, how long will this take, we want a formula, a quick fix. But it isn’t about the time or the distance, its not really even about the journey its about Jesus. When Elijah arrives he sleeps some more and then God asks him a probing question: “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Twice God asks him this question, God knew why Elijah was there and now allows Elijah to assess his situation without interruption. Notice that God asks and then listens. Yet rather than consider the question Elijah complains about his circumstances, yet God doesn’t condemn him. Elijah complains that he has been zealous for God, that he has been enthusiastic and exclusively devoted to Him, and now, he says, “I am alone and they are trying to kill me.” This is the next step to recovery, talk to God, reveal what is going on in your heart and life. Often instead of resting in the relationship, instead of responding and opening our hearts to God we choose to run. It is at this point that God commands Elijah to go stand before Him on the mountain. Notice God’s commands so far, rest, eat and stand, things anyone can do, yet it appears that Elijah stayed in his cave. Often God’s commands are not the impossible call we might imagine but rather a reasonable request. But how often do we respond with whining, wanting to know why before we obey, and then complaining about what is required?
Are you stuck in a cave? May be the cave of:
• Offense – Are you mad at God or others? Have you withdrawn because you’re secretly angry?
• Despondency – Are you isolated from the Redeemer or other relationships?
• Comfort – Are you wrapped up in your own wants, insulated from the heart of God, His desires and the needs of those around you?

As Elijah stands before God, a violent rushing wind sweeps across the ridges, roaring through the canyons and over the mountain. But God was not in the wind. Then an eerie earthquake ripped through the land causing gigantic rockslides as the whole earth is rocked. But God was not in the earthquake. A raging, furious fire consumes everything around Elijah but God was not in it. And then, it happened, in the stillness after the storm, in that quiet moment on the mountain, comes the whisper of God. This was such a striking contrast between the noise and the silence, between works and words, that it gets Elijah attention. Often in the pain we miss God’s plan, we don’t hear the Almighty over our own agony, so God has to get our attention. If we want to rediscover God, it is important to emotionally downshift, to remove some of the noise and cultural clutter from our lives. It is hard to hear God when we are inundated with the very things that drive us to into the depths of despair. It was the still small voice of God that drew Elijah to the front of the cave. Today we seem to crave the big show more that the still small voice of the Savior. Often we become so enamored by the action that we miss the Almighty. Yet as we stop and listen for His still small voice He will lead us out of our cave, out of our current predicament, but probably not in the way that we might expect. What we need to learn here is that its not the activity that matters its the Almighty.
What we desperately need is to get alone with the Almighty, to listen to The Lord. When God asked Elijah the second time “what are you doing here?” Elijah gave the same response: “He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 1 Kings 19:14. Elijah never really answered the question, he just shared his pain and his problems. We are all tempted to spend our time whining when what we really need is His Word. The only thing that really satisfies our soul is the soothing voice of the Savior. Elijah thought he was the only one left that was serving God, yet God revealed that there was a remnant of seven thousand who still revered Him, who had not bowed down to worship Baal. Here he’d been feeling like he was the only one left, and wishing he could just die. When we base life on a lie we quickly get out of balance, our sight becomes skewed. Today when we do life base on feelings alone we are prone to jump to conclusions about our circumstances, we become quick to act in anger and alienation. Elijah assumed that he was the only one and when he acted on his feelings he chose to live life alone. Often we live in such a way that our feelings become fact, instead of letting the facts filter our feelings. We need these times of rest where God reminds and reassures us of the truth. Where the Savior can speak sense into our warped perspective. Perspective is a big part of God’s provision, the food sustained him physically but it was the spoken word that flooded and filled his soul. There is power in perspective, but perspective is a puzzling thing, everything changes and yet nothing changes. It didn’t change his circumstances, God didn’t fix Elijah’s problem, He didn’t make Ahab and Jezebel disappear into thin air. The death warrant for Elijah still existed, but what God did do was give him an “orientation of others”. Elijah its not about you. There is always the temptation to turn inward, to become trapped in the tomb of ME, where we trade the trinity of Father, Son and Spirit for the trinity of SELF, Me, Myself, and I. Its the “what about me” syndrome that swallows us whole, trapping us in the pit of pity. Pity kills perspective, it loves to lie, exaggerating our experiences and making us think and feel like the victim. But we are not the victims we are the victorious, its time for the church to rise up out of its self pity and start participating in God’s plan. Only God’s still small voice, speaking truth into his troubled heart could free him from the focus of feelings. It was this “orientation of others” that overcame his outlook. Oh how often have I cried out for God to change my heading instead of my heart. Caught up in the circumstances, focusing on the feelings, pleading over the problems when what I really need is His perspective. Without perspective one of the traps we can fall into as we jump to conclusions is that we don’t have time to wait. So because our lives are constantly in motion we miss the moment on the mountain, in our activity we miss the Almighty. What about you do you need to stop the constant motion and climb the mountain? Do you need to get alone with God? Is there a mount of God somewhere in your life? A silent place to slip away to and seek the Savior, away from the distractions and free to discover God. As Elijah experienced God’s love and listened to the Lord he learned that until we die, we have purpose. Part of God’s provision is physical, His food, part is practical His perspective, and part is personal, you matter, you have a purpose. God gave Elijah a new assignment, Elijah may have been ready to throw in the towel but God was not done. Now God deals with Elijah’s isolation, instead of him going it alone, he gives him Elisha. We need rest and time to rediscover God but we also need relationships with real people. We are not talking about facebook here but real relationships. Sure you may have hundreds of friends on facebook but we need face to face friendships. People to love, laugh with and do life together. With this relationship comes a reassignment, God does a curious thing here, he replaces Elijah’s discouragement with discipleship, the “orientation of others”. Serving provides an outlet, serving smothers our selfishness in a curing blanket of blessing. So are you pouring into others or pouting? This was not the last time God spoke on a mountain, later He came as a Man, speaking on three mountains. First, He would give the new law, second, He would be transfigured in the presence of Elijah and Moses, fulfilling both the law and the prophets, and third, he would be crucified on the cross, where we would heard the words “It is finished.” It is here in the whisper of His word that we discover the wonder of His love, reminded of His plan to redeem those that still reject. May be like Elijah you need to meet God on the mountain, He still speaks, even in life’s darkest moments. Whether you are discouraged or down in the dumps depressed, stop, rest, feed on the Fathers food, rediscover God, remember his power and might, listen and learn from The Lord. It was only after rest and reconnecting that Elijah was ready to reengage. How is it with your soul, is it time for a meeting on the mountain?

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19 Rest for those on the Run- Part 1

1 Kings 19:1-8
Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

After the Jewish kingdom split, the northern kingdom had eight kings in its first 58 years as a nation. The story of the prophet Elijah occurred during the reign of King Ahab, 874-853 B.C. Ahab married Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon, a woman who worshiped Baal, who Ahab built a temple to, consecrating priests to serve Baal. 1 Kings 18 reveals an encounter between Elijah and King Ahab, Elijah challenged him to bring the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel to see whose god, Baal or Yahweh, would answer. So 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asherah, along with many of the people from all over Israel were summoned to met Elijah on Mount Carmel. Baal’s prophets placed a cut up bull on their altar, calling to Baal to ignite the sacrifice. While the people watched them worship, despite their desperate and relentlessly ritual, calling on Baal from morning till evening, even slashing themselves with knives, nothing happened. Their sacrifice didn’t catch fire and the only thing the people witness was worthless worship. Then Elijah asked, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. He repaired the altar of God which had fallen apart from disuse and neglect. Then he arranged the wood and sacrifice, pouring on massive amounts of water, and coving it with pray, asking God to light the fire. Immediately, fire consumed the sacrifice, and the people fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” 1 Kings 18:39. When King Ahab told Queen Jezebel what had happened she sent a messenger to Elijah, telling him that she would have him killed by that time tomorrow. Elijah had expectations, he assumed after Mount Carmel that things would change, that revival and spiritual renewal would replace religion. But it didn’t work out according to his expectations, triumph turned to terror, success turned to survival. As his faith was replaced by fear he fled to Samaria, running over 100 miles to an area south of Beersheba in Judah. When our expectations are run over by reality, leaving us ragged and run down, we often become dissolutioned with God’s plan, choosing instead to run away. Once there Elijah then parted ways with his servant, choosing to go it alone. One of the great dangers of depression and despondence is our tendency to turn inward and isolate ourselves. When we are hurting, we often hold back and hide. Instead of reaching out for relationship we withdraw, pulling into our shells, and then wondering why we feel so alone. Why in our greatest times of emotional need do we run from relationship? Despondency is a signal that something is wrong, that we need help and hope, when we need relationship more than ever. Coming upon a broom tree, he sinks down, it is here we find the prophet deep in depression praying to die. Most have heard of the dramatic encounter between the great Old Testament prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal. We teach about his triumph, but many are not familiar with the story of sorrow that follows. We love to shout about success, we trumpet the triumph, but, discouragement, depression and despair we dare not share about that. Surely despair to the point of death is not for the faithful, after all, this is the victorious Christian life right? But depression knows no boundaries, you can experience success one day and sorrow the next. Like Elijah our mountain top high can soon dissipate, leaving us in a desert of despair. But this is not the end, under the broom tree Elijah discovers rest. Although called a tree, in reality the broom tree is really a shrub with a broad canopy. In Israel, when the white broom tree flowers it is covered in a myriad of beautiful white blossoms that emit a honey fragrance. Could it be that Elijah slumped under its succulent scent? We don’t know but the broom tree has come to symbolize renewal. Reminding us that when reality runs over our expectations, living us rundown, we need to give ourself permission to rest. It is here that we discover a great mystery, both deep and profound, God loves losers. Even in our fears and failures our Father still loves us. The Fathers love is the sweet fragrance we breath, under the brokenness of the broom tree. His unconditional and unfailing love is the one simple lesson Elijah needed to learn. Even in retreating to the desert to die Elijah encounters the reality of the Lord’s love. Notice God’s response wasn’t to chastise, or tell Elijah to get over it, God didn’t shake a disapproving finger at him. Instead of condemning there was compassion, all Elijah was required to do was rest and recuperate. The broom tree becomes the place where we learn to surrender our will to God, to rest in His redemptive love. Elijah surrender to the voice of God, even though reluctant at first, it shows us a pattern. It reminds us that we can hear the voice of God in those difficult times in our own lives. Like Elijah, when we reach the end of ourselves, we often find the beginning of authentic faith. This time of complete fatigue becomes an invitation to deeper faith. We will all find ourselves under the broom tree at some point in our lives, dare I say, often more than once. Many of us despise the brokenness of the broom tree with its discouragement and despair. Yet this is a holy place, a place of invitation, in the unfolding loving plan of God for our lives. It is under these “broom trees”, when we feel the least able to continue the struggle that we finally surrender ourselves to the Savior. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up, and give over to God.
Why does it take desperate times for us to depend on Savior? because we are a stubborn people. When you find yourself in the pits of despondence give yourself permission to rest. Sometimes the first step to healing your soul is stopping, getting off the treadmill of life, and getting rest. Only then can we experience renewal and restoration. Today God is still searching for those who will surrender their lives in love to Him. What if we would learn to embrace the “broom trees” in your life, as we lie down and listen to the leading of the Lord.