Christianity 201

August 2, 2013

The Two Crows


Sometimes a certain scene or series of events will remind you of a Bible story, and many times that memory trigger is something you need right at that moment. That’s true of today’s story.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a popular author and speaker. If you don’t know her story, you can (and should!) read more about her at this link. Her devotional page changes daily, so I don’t have a specific link for this one, but you can access them regularly at this link at the website Joni and Friends.

The Two Crows

“The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” —1 Kings 17:6

The morning of my trip dawned. As I got ready to leave, I couldn’t shake the blues. I felt ashamed for being down — what did I have to be discouraged about?! I prayed, “Lord, please brighten my spirits. Grab me by the scruff of the neck and show me Your goodness.”

We packed up and headed to the airport. We flew to Dallas and after our plane landed, I sat by the curb waiting for my friend to get the van. I heard a “caw!” behind me. When I turned my wheelchair around, two ugly, big crows were sitting on the roof’s ledge. They remained there for at least five minutes, looking down at me. It was so odd, I stared back at them.

As I did, God brought to mind the story of Elijah. The prophet had become depressed after he performed spectacular miracles just the day before — Elijah had announced the end of a drought and was the people’s best friend. Still, he had a bad case of the blues. The record shows the angel of the Lord touched Elijah and even agreed that “the journey is too much for you.” Elijah rested and had something to eat and drink. At another point, God sent ravens to feed Elijah.

All the Lord’s provision came to mind as I stared at those old crows. I knew God had placed them right there when I needed to be reminded that the Lord wanted to give me rest and refreshment.

The lesson of those crows and of Elijah is for all of us. The Lord gives us gentle reminders of His intimate concern over every detail of our lives. We just have to open our eyes to recognize that, yes, He may even use a couple of crows to make His point.

God, give me physical rest and spiritual food. Enable me to recognize Your signs of encouragement even when they come in strange forms.

Taken from More Precious Than Silver. © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530.

Back in February, Daily Encouragement profiled Joni as an example of how God uses “treasure in jars of clay.” To read that blog post, click here.

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Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are often in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

March 20, 2013

Are You All In?

Today’s devotional is from the blog of Kerry Shook pastor of Woodland Hills in Houston, Texas, and coauthor of One Month to Live and Love at First Sight.  This originally appeared a few days ago under the title Striking Arrows.

There is an obscure passage in the Old Testament Second Kings where the prophet Elijah is coming to the end of his life, and he has lived an all-out, no regrets, totally committed life to God. He runs into the King of Israel, and the King of Israel wants him to prophesy, so Elijah prophesied over the king. He said, “I want you, King, to take an arrow and shoot it out the window.” The king did, and Elijah said that arrow represented that the king was going to be the tip of the arrow to bring victory over his enemies to the people of Israel.

Then Elijah did something really strange, he asked the king to do this, and it is found in Second Kings chapter 13. Then he said,

“Take the arrows, and the king took them, and Elijah told him ‘strike the ground,’ and he struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘you should have struck the ground five or six times, then you would have defeated Arum and completely destroyed it but now you will defeat it only three times.’”

Now, the king only striking the ground three times was a symbol that he was halfhearted as a king. He was holding back and wasn’t completely all out surrendered in reckless abandonment to the love of God. He was always holding back and being tentative. He wasn’t completely in the game. He just struck the ground three times in life, and I’m afraid, many times, that I just strike the ground three times in relationships, and I’m halfhearted.

When we come to the end of our lives, all those awards, achievements, success and money won’t matter. All that will matter is your relationships. Your relationship to your Creator. Have you made peace with God? Your relationships to the people around you.

In all my years of being at the bedside of folks when they take their last breath, I have never once heard anyone say, “You know Pastor Kerry, could you make sure they bring my Ferrari in here so I can just touch it one last time before I go and my kids take it and wreck it. Could you just bring it in here? Could you just tell me my bank account? Could you just give me the numbers one more time? I just want to hear it ringing in my ears when I die before my kids fight over it. Could you bring me my trophies and my awards because I want them to be close to me?”

No, I have never once heard that, but I’ve heard over and over again family, friends and loved ones around me because at the end of life, the only thing that matters is relationships. You can be on the cover of People magazine, and the most famous person in the world. You can be at the top of Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world, but if you don’t have love, then you are a zero because all that matters in life, when its all said and done, is did he love? Did she love? That’s the only thing that’s going to last. It’s the only thing that never fails. Attraction fails. Success fails. Accomplishments fail. In the end, the only thing that matters is love. Love never fails. I have to be all out totally committed to striking the arrows on the ground as many times as it takes.

What can you do to be all out committed to your relationships?

March 26, 2012

A Legacy That Lives On

Our non-stop tour of the Christian internet today lands on Jonathan Stone’s blog StoneWritten.  I can’t think of a better place to begin the week than with this piece, originally titled Legacy.  (Remember, you’re encouraged to read these daily posts at their original source.*)

Everyone wants to leave a legacy. Everyone wants to be remembered for something, and to leave something in the hands of those who come after them. Teddy Roosevelt used the slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Likewise, we all hope to leave some sort of lasting impact. We do not necessarily want to have to shout it out to people. We just want it to pack some punch in the end. Perhaps we would hope others would adapt Roosevelt’s slogan in describing us after we are gone. Something like, “He lived quietly and left a long shadow.”

One person from Scripture that comes to mind when thinking of legacies is Elijah. Calling fire down from Heaven is kind of an automatic qualifier for leaving a legacy (1 Kings 18:38). As if that were not enough he left earth on a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). The Old Testament ends with a promise that God would send Elijah back (Mal 4:5-6). John the Baptist is compared to Elijah (Luke 1:17). And Elijah appeared to Jesus along with Moses on the so-called Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:3). After that impressive resume James felt the need to remind all of us that Elijah actually was human (James 5:17).

It is hard to imagine a much more impressive legacy. However, there is one aspect of his legacy that is often overlooked. We are probably all aware that after Elijah’s fire-calling victory on Mt. Carmel he got scared and ran for his life into the wilderness. He eventually ended up in a cave on the side of Mt. Horeb. There was a wind and an earthquake and a fire, but God was not in any of those. God was in a still small voice. And after a few words were exchanged God instructed Elijah to go back and do three specific things:

The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 1 Kings 19:15-17 

So, Elijah was commanded to go and anoint three people–Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha. How long do you think it took Elijah to do those three things? Okay, okay. That is a trick question. It is a trick question because Elijah never completed the commission that God gave him to do. In fact, he only did one of the three things that God instructed him to do. That is pretty amazing coming from this prophet that left a very long shadow. I have seen a lot of different grading scales. But in every grading scale that I have ever seen thirty three percent is failing. Elijah? Failing? What gives?

The one thing that Elijah did do was anoint Elisha as prophet. They spent a lot of time together, and when Elijah was taken up into Heaven Elisha received a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. Scripture records Elisha performing exactly twice as many miracles as Elijah. And interestingly enough, Scripture also records Elisha eventually fulfilling the rest of that commission that had been given to Elijah. That is, Elisha sees that Hazael and Jehu are anointed as kings. Hmmm. What does that mean?

I often get the opportunity to speak with other ministers about their ministries. Sometimes I am speaking with elders who are seeing their ministry wind down. Sometimes I am speaking with peers who are in the middle of their ministries, and often still struggling to see their vision come to pass. Sometimes I am speaking with young ministers-in-training who are still dreaming about what God might be calling them to do. But this is not restricted to licensed ministers. For all of us have a ministry, a calling and commission from God. Each of us is trying to be faithful to fulfill those things that we understand God to have commanded us to do.

But when I look at Elijah I realize that most of the visions that I have ever heard are way too small. I have heard a lot of visions that sound big because they include some pretty big things. I have heard visions that look to impact entire nations. Visions that require enough money to run a small government. Visions that have the potential to change the destiny of entire people groups. Visions that could bring about global revival. Despite the grandeur of all of these visions it seems that all of them are limited in one critical way. That is, all of the visions assume that the vision will take place in the lifetime of the one casting the vision.

Consider Elijah. And then consider this. If the vision/purpose that you understand God to have for your life is limited to the number of days that you will walk this earth, then your vision is too small.

Elijah understood that out of the three things that God instructed him to do one of them was mission-critical. If nothing else he had to pour his vision into the prophet who would succeed him. Elijah was not the only great one in Scripture to realize this spiritual truth. Abraham needed Isaac, and the rest of his progeny, for the promise to be fulfilled. Moses needed Joshua to get the Israelites into the promised land. David needed Solomon to get the temple built. Jesus needed His disciples to establish the church. Paul needed Timothy to strengthen the foundation that he had laid.

I worry that we have gotten this almost completely backwards. We hear the three commands and put Elisha last on the list. We seek out Hazael and Jehu, when we should be pouring into Elisha. We are unwilling to accept that our life is like a mist that appears for a while and then suddenly vanishes (James 4:14). Consider your purpose today. And then ask yourself, “What changes if I realize that God intends to do none of this in my lifetime, but in the lifetime of those who I pour the vision into?”

~Jonathan Stone

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Just curious… Have blog posts here resulted in you making the author’s blog part of your daily or weekly routine?  My hope is that in introducing you to a wide variety of Christian devotional and Bible-teaching bloggers, some of them will resonate with you to the point you bookmark their sites and/or subscribe, making their writing a regular habit. 

And remember, while C201 is a repository of some great Christian writing, please read the blog posts at source.