Answered Prayer?

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Answered prayers don’t always come in the packages that we anticipate or plan. It’s how much we trust God that makes the difference and what we do with them that matters. In 2 Kings 5 we meet Naaman, “who is the commander of the army for the king of Aram, a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded because through him, the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a brave warrior, but he had a skin disease.” (v.1)
To make a long story short, Naaman really wanted to get rid of his skin disease because he has a new young wife and I’m certain no one really wants to keep a skin disease (which many scholars think was leprosy) young wife or not. So the King sends him with silver and other treasures to the King of Israel for healing by Elisha (the man of God) that they had all heard about. After some fear issues from the king about war, etc. Naaman goes to Elijah’s house and knocks at the door waiting to see Elijah. Soon, a messenger from Elijah approaches and instructs him to “Go wash seven times in the Jordan and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean.” (v.10)
Naaman didn’t receive this instruction very well. In his mind, he thought something more spectacular should happen. “Naaman got angry and left, saying, “I was telling myself: He will surely come out, stand and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and will wave his hand over the spot and cure the skin disease.” (v.11) Naaman was downright angry, turned and left in a rage. I mean, he had come for healing and didn’t even get to see the prophet himself. He only received a simple instruction from a messenger. He felt shafted. Thankfully, he had a level-headed servant who spoke gently, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more should you do it when he tells you, ‘Wash and be clean’?” (v. 13)
So Naaman went, washed and was healed instantly and then boldly declared, “I know there’s no God in the whole world except in Israel. Therefore, please accept a gift from your servant.” (v. 15)

God doesn’t always do flashy, giant and extravagant things. He doesn’t have to. Consider this, he spoke creation into existence. He may choose to get our attention with the loud stuff sometimes, but He speaks in the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12) and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). I wonder what would have happened if Naaman hadn’t had a servant who was bold enough to speak the truth to him that day? Would he have missed the miracle all together? Would he have gone the rest of his life with the skin disease never knowing and believing in God?
I wonder how many miracles I’ve missed out on seeing or experiencing because of my stubbornness or personal ideas of what answered prayers should look like? I pray from here on out, we are all more open to God’s way, lean less on our own understanding and more on His. May we follow Him in obedience and with a mighty trust and be bold enough to speak out and give those around us Godly advice when we see the need.

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Four Little Words

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Elijah is known for many things in the Bible. He was a prophet, defender of God over all other idols and God even performed miracles for him like bringing back a boy from the dead, raining fire from the heavens.  He didn’t even die, but was taken up by a whirlwind instead. My point is, he was quite the man (or prophet) of God. So when I read four little words in this one verse after reading the story of God reviving the dead boy after Elijah’s prayers (1 Kings 17) I stopped dead in my tracks.

After a long time, the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year: “Go and present yourself to Ahab. I will send rain on the surface of the land.” 1 Kings 18:1

Did you see it? He said, “After a long time.”

Quickly, I wrote in the margin of my Bible, “How did Elijah feel during that time of not hearing from the Lord?” Have you ever experienced those times where God seems to have put us on hold and is taking everyone’s call but ours? Or those times when you have prayed so hard for something and feel as if all your prayers are hitting a blockade before they can reach God’s ears? What about the times we just can’t feel His presence like we have in the past or He seems to have dropped us off in the middle of a hurricane and left us without any provisions?

I wonder if Elijah ever felt like that? Here we have a man of God, a prophet, who God has been so close to, revealed weather patterns to him and listened so closely to his prayers He raised a boy from the dead and then . . . . silence for “a long time”. God went silent on Elijah. I wonder if he felt like I have when those desert times have hit. Did he fell vulnerable and lonely? Did he wonder if he had done something wrong or had some sin in his heart he hadn’t confessed? Did he think his purpose for God’s kingdom had been fulfilled and God had moved on to the next person to do the prophesying?

I know that when I go through times like Elijah experienced, a short time can feel like an eternity, but it’s always a great reminder of how much I rely on God in my life and how much His presence and gentle whisper mean to me and guide me. I can’t say I’m always ready to respond to Him with wild abandon, but I yearn to serve Him and seek Him and His ways. When I can’t sense Him it stirs my soul and I begin to seek Him more and more. As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. (Psalm 2:1) He is always close, but maybe that is why He quiets himself from time to time. To stir our hearts, create appreciation, desire and open our eyes to how much we truly need Him in our lives from day-to-day.

 

High Places

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Abijah rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. His son Asa became king in his place. During his reign the land experienced peace for 10 years. Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God. He removed the pagan altars and the high places. He shattered their sacred pillars and chopped down their Asherah poles. He told the people of Judah to seek the Lord God of their ancestors and to carry out the instruction and the commands. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom experienced peace under him. 2 Chronicles 14:1-5

Bigger and better always seems to be the way the world judges value and success. Who has the tallest buildings, biggest house, bank account or company? I love how this scripture from 2 Chronicles speaks of Asa removing the pagan alters and “high places” of Judah. Asa loved God and knew that by following His ways and laws it would lead to blessings of peace, rest and abundance.

Because the land experienced peace, Asa built fortified cities in Judah. No one made war with him in those days because the Lord gave him rest. 2 Chronicles 14:6

“High places” were the places of worship that the people of Judah had created to glorify their false gods and idols. As Asa’s predecessors found out, when we take the one true God, our Creator, and demote Him from the high place in our own lives things tend to fall apart. Quickly, we see the benefits of rest, peace and blessings fall away from us. Honoring anything or anyone above the one true God can have devastating effects that ripple through our lives.

I often stop and check my heart for idols. They can be so sneaky and slip in undetected! Stopping to ponder and pinpoint what has taken up residence in the high place, where only God should dwell, is vital to a strong relationship with our Father. Sometimes, either without my realizing or by own fault, I’ve placed finances, worry, fear, self or schedules over God. Reflecting daily on the condition of our hearts can help us serve God as Asa did and keep God in the appropriate place in our lives. For when we do, even in the midst of the biggest obstacles and trials we can count on strength, courage and protection from the Lord. Just as Asa did when his army of 580,000 came up against an army of one million and cried out, Lord, there is no one besides You to help the mighty and those without strength. Help us, Lord our God, for we depend on You, and in Your name we have come against this large army. Yahweh, You are our God. Do not let a mere mortal hinder You.” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

As we close today I ask you to prayerfully consider (along with me) these questions:

  1. When you need direction, discernment, strength and courage do you seek God or someone (or something) else?
  2. Do you believe in your heart that there is NO ONE besides our God who should reside in the “high place” of your life?

I pray you can answer yes to these most of the days of your life, but if you can’t please know that through prayer, discipline and study God will defeat the idols that have taken over residence of your “high place”. He desires to always be your guide, protector and comforter. Every single day is a battle to keep God in our high place, but He can break through the darkness with His light.

Have You Flung God Behind Your Back?

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As I have read through the Old Testament during the past several months there is one theme that has repeated itself over and over again. God’s desire for His people to obey, walk in His ways, keep His laws and commandments is front and central in every generation. These are the words of the Lord to Solomon after He began to follow idols in the later years of his life.

“‘After that, if you obey all I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight in order to keep My statutes and My commands as My servant David did, I will be with you. I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I built for David, and I will give you Israel. 1 Kings 11:38

These are the words the Lord spoke to Solomon, but throughout the OT the Lord requires this of all His people from the beginning of time. So what happens when we don’t obey, walk in His ways and keep His laws? We see God’s response when he speaks to Jeroboam after placing him in leadership after Solomon’s son.

You behaved more wickedly than all who were before you. In order to provoke Me, you have proceeded to make for yourself other gods and cast images, but you have flung Me behind your back. 1 Kings 14:9

Wickedness, provoking God and making images to worship all make us (as the Lord said) fling Him behind our back. It always seems so obviously wrong when I’m reading it in scripture. I shake my head and wonder how His people could have turned so far from God. Then I realize that our country has turned away from God in ways that mirror His people from the OT. We allow abortion, our government officials are overcome with greed and lies, we don’t allow our children to pray in school and if we stand up for Christian beliefs we are seen as narrow minded haters.  There are so many problems that can arise when we “fling God behind our backs” but one that gave me pause was this:

. . . .  “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have abandoned Me; therefore, I have abandoned you into the hand of Shishak.’” 2 Chronicles 12:5

When we abandon God, he abandons us. There isn’t anything that scare me more than being abandoned by God. I have come to realize over the years how desperately I need Him for everything I do, accomplish, attempt and desire to attain (loving marriage, Godly children, a heart for Him, peace, everything). None of it happens without God’s love, courage, sustenance and guidance. I know we can’t change the minds of everyone and make straight what is so crooked, but we can live out the ways and laws our God has commanded us to follow even in the face of “hardship and mockers”.