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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Elijah’s Walk in the Desert

”But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.” (1Kings 18:5,6)

Three hundred miles, maybe more, depending on how circuitous a route he took and where Mt. Horeb was. Forty days walking. That’s a long, lonely walk.

Although prophets of God do not lead normal lives like most people, there can be seen glimpses of our own walks with God in them. You may not have called fire down from Heaven, but every time you stood up against the normal conventions of worldliness to declare the truth of God, you do pretty much the same thing. The world by nature does not like holiness, and it will resist anyone who steps out of the crowd to call it to change. And prophets are considered the worst.

But somebody has to do it, and that’s why God calls prophets. They do not possess pleasant personalities and are not the “life of the party”. They are not swayed by others’ opinions, nor would they be considered “nice guys”. Nor do they care.

Everything is black or white to them; there are no shades of grey. It is either righteous or it is sin. And for some reason, they feel compelled to tell you so.

Even if you are the king.

You will not find them in the spotlight of a big ministry receiving the accolades of the crowd. They just don’t fit in. The corporate ministries of today are foreign soil to them. They are more suited to wearing camel’s hair in the middle of a river than the Brooks Brothers suits and coifed hairdos of this generation’s spiritual leaders. And as a result, they walk a lonely path.

Few understand, and fewer appreciate them, and none realize the price.

We think they are made of some kind of steel that doesn’t feel the loneliness or the pain of rejection. Since they don’t bend to popular attention, we think their hearts are like stones that feel no affinity for others, but the truth is, they are people just like everyone else. They love, they hate, they need, and they feel just like us. They just have to walk a different path and keep on going.

Sometimes it is for three hundred miles with no food or water just to hear the voice of God.

I had a dream many years ago of myself walking in a desert of soft sand, much like the Sahara. Each footstep was difficult as it pushed through the sand. No water, a hot sun, and nothing but sand made it a weariness just to get to the top of the next sand dune and see if the city that I was trying to get to was there. But all there ever appeared was more sand.

I didn’t know where I was or if I was heading in the right direction, but I just kept walking, hoping that I wasn’t walking in circles. And then I heard a vehicle coming from behind me. A young man with blond hair and a bronze tan drove by in a Dune Buggy, waving to me as he passed by, “Hey, Mr. Garris. I’m off to my ministry! Praise the Lord!”. And off he drove over the horizon.

You have to wonder at times like that, what is wrong with me? Why am I here trudging along in this loose desert sand heading seemingly to nowhere, while this young kid is zooming along so effortlessly to his ministry? What did I do wrong? Will I ever reach that city that I am trying so desperately to find?

Do you ever feel like that? Does it seem so simple for others, when everything seems to be a battle for you?

Forty days trudging through the wilderness just to wait in a cave. Make sense to you? I doubt if it did to Elijah either. All that way, then up a mountain to sit in a cave to wait.

First the storm, then the earthquake, and then the fire. But still Elijah waited. And then the still, small voice.

Had Elijah not allowed God to take him through that crucified walk that strips the flesh and breaks the spirit, I don’t believe he would have recognized that voice like he did. It would have been just noise, indistinguishable from all the noise of the world.

You may not have to go for three hundred miles without food and water, or stand up against a king to declare a spiritual famine upon the land. You may not call down fire from heaven or raise a woman’s dead son, but you possess in your soul the ability to declare the righteousness of God to a worldly church that is mesmerized with an easier, worldly doctrine that mistakes grace for sin and covetousness for prosperity.

You will get the same results as Elijah did and you will go through the same lonely walk as he walked. But know that you are not alone – there are 7,000 that God had reserved – and you are not walking aimlessly. You will finally step over the hill of that last sand dune and see the City that you’ve been searching for and you will recognize the still, small voice of God as He speaks to you.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

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Once upon a time, there were three little pigs.  They were all brothers, but were very different from one another.

There was also a big, bad wolf, but nobody paid him much attention because, although he was very dangerous, he wasn’t seen very much.  There were plenty of signs that he was around, but he rarely came out into the open.

Life was good.  The sun was shining, the fields were warm, and it was summer – time to have fun.  The first little pig loved to play in the fields.  It made all the sense in the world to him to live for today and enjoy life while it was summer.  He would worry about tomorrow when tomorrow came.  So he built himself a house of straw.  It was easy to make and didn’t take much effort.  That gave him more time to have fun.

His older brother also loved to have fun, but knew that he needed a better place to lodge in than just some flimsy straw.  He took pride in the fact that he actually put forth some effort to build a house of sticks.  It was a form of a house, but it didn’t take that much more time to build. At least, he felt he had a better place of safety than straw – and it still gave him plenty of time to enjoy life.  He knew there was a big, bad wolf out there, but didn’t feel too threatened by him because the wolf had never really caused him any trouble.  As a matter of fact, sometimes the wolf could be seen smiling at him.  Maybe he wasn’t that bad of a wolf after all.  So a house of sticks would probably be sufficient.  After all, work wasn’t his prime objective.  He could do just enough to get by and he would be OK.

The oldest little pig had a different view of life.  He knew that old wolf was just biding his time and lulling his other brothers into a false sense of security.  He knew that half-hearted efforts of straw and sticks would not protect them from the wolf, but his brothers would not listen to him.  They thought he was just over-reacting and was missing out on all the fun and blessings that the world had to offer.  So this little pig spent all summer building a house of bricks – precept upon precept, line upon line, brick upon brick – while his brothers played, had fun, and got fat in the summer sun.

Then came that day… you know the rest of the story.  Only one pig survived.

I think by now you’ve picked up on the obvious analogy.  We are in a time of relative “peace and safety” and many Christians are relaxing in the summer sun.  Life is good, and we spend a lot of time singing songs and watching “Praise the Lord” television shows and listening to “feel good” ministries, but we are only getting fattened up in relative spiritual ease while the real Big Bad Wolf is biding his time.

Safety won’t be found in a “name-only” Christianity of straw.  Neither will half-hearted efforts of sticks be sufficient to stand against what’s coming.  The warnings are there in the Word of God for all to see.  It may not be fun to spend your time building your house of safety while others proclaim the blessings and prosperity of the Lord, and it’s hard work laying all those bricks one at a time.  It may not even seem that it is really necessary to work that hard, but if you understand how diabolical Satan is, you will put forth the effort no matter what the cost.

If your Christianity is cheap and easy, you will find that the time will come when Satan huffs and puffs and blows your house down.  And where will you run to then?

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:13

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A Christian gentleman I know committed an indiscretion recently with a young prostitute who approached him at a café. He had been a Christian for years and had never even entertained committing adultery.  He knew what this young woman’s intentions were, nevertheless he thought he might witness to her to see if he could convince her to give up her sins.  Unfortunately, the opposite happened.

After a short while, as she began to reel him in, he was overcome with waves of lust that were drowning him. Before long, he was kissing her and then roaming with his hands, eventually succumbing to oral sex in a nearby alleyway.

When it was over, he was devastated. This was not like him. He would never have done such a terrible thing.  How on earth did this happen? It was almost like a hiccup in reality.  But it really did happen, and it happened to him.  What’s more it can happen to anyone.

He cried to the Lord for forgiveness, but would God really forgive him, or would he be terribly punished and see his testimony as a staunch Christian be destroyed? He didn’t feel worthy and had nothing to offer as payment or ransom, but he appealed to the Savior anyway.  Just maybe God would have mercy and forgive him even though there was no excuse for what he had done.

He read the Psalms where David struggled with the same sin.  But David was the apple of God’s eye. Of course God would forgive David, but what about him?  He was just a regular guy, nothing special, and even though he had spent his life as a strong Christian, there wasn’t anything that suggested that God would bestow upon him any special favors.  He had committed sin and would have to pay the price, whatever that would be, and that was that.

But God doesn’t think like us.

This opens up a depth about forgiveness, sin, our need for a Savior, and what Jesus really did when He went to the Cross.  He didn’t die because we deserved it, neither did He die because we asked. When we were still in sin and rebellion, He shed His blood for us.

He did it because He is God.

Our friend now has a deeper compassion for those who fall into sin.  Now he understands how easy and compelling lust can be, and how quickly it can take complete control over you.  And which sin is worse? Lying? Hate? Gossip? Unforgiveness?  Spiritual pride?  So how do we judge someone who has fallen to lust? Can we exercise the same compassion that has been shown to us?

When I got saved, I never had that overwhelming thankfulness of being forgiven.  I just said the prayer and joined the army.  I have acknowledged but never understood the mercy of God and how thankful we all should be.  But begging God for forgiveness and for another chance changes the whole picture. Grasping this desperation for forgiveness causes David’s prayers to leave the poignant realm of poetry and become a desperate cry from the very essence of our lives. “Oh God, if you will just pass over this sin, how thankful I would be!  Please give me another chance!”

And He does.  Wow.  He didn’t have to, but He does.  Why?  Because he delights in mercy?  Because He is love incarnate?  Yeah, okay, but I still don’t understand why.  We didn’t keep the rules and we should be punished.  And maybe we will be … but maybe we won’t be.  That strict adherence to the rules is not the Grace of God.

That’s the nature of the Cross, that He gave his life with no conditions. We had nothing in our hands to give – no reimbursement, no ransom, no special deeds or talents, nothing worthy … nothing but our hearts.  And He forgave us because He loved us.

I still don’t understand, but I sure feel a lot better.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isa 55:8-9)

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