Christianity 201

February 21, 2021

Having an Elijah Moment

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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The phrase was used in the middle of a sermon I was watching by John Mark Comer. (Either Feb. 7 or Feb. 14.) I immediately recognized the Biblical context, but in an online search discovered the phrase has been used with several different applications.

The Biblical context in which John Mark used the phrase was about the time after the showdown on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal. Buried in one verse in that account is Elijah’s preoccupation with the numerical challenge. Or what he considers the overwhelming statistics:

NCV.1 Kings.18:22 Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord here, but there are four hundred fifty prophets of Baal.

repeated in 19:10b “…I am the only prophet left…”

Not only does Elijah win the fire-on-the-altar contest, but the drought ends and the area receives the rain it badly needed. But Jezebel is not pleased, and next thing, Elijah is fleeing for his life.

God meets him where he is, and there follows a familiar passage where again, Elijah is looking for “big-ness” even though there isn’t a particular quantity mentioned.

NCV.1 Kings.19.11 The Lord said to Elijah, “Go, stand in front of me on the mountain, and I will pass by you.” Then a very strong wind blew until it caused the mountains to fall apart and large rocks to break in front of 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. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle sound. 13 When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.

At that moment, God throws out his own statistic:

18 I have seven thousand people left in Israel who have never bowed down before Baal and whose mouths have never kissed his idol.”

This is the Elijah moment that John Mark referenced. It’s a verse that has stuck with me because I believe that even in the most God-less locations, God has a people — a remnant if you prefer — who are following Him.

I’ve seen this firsthand. I live in a small town. Actually, it’s the convergence of two small towns, and each has about ten Christian churches. If you were to add up the  total attendance, or membership, or some other metric you could easily conclude that this is the total Christian population. But working several hours a week for 25 years in the Christian bookstore has introduced me to hundreds (literally) of people who for various reasons would not be included in such a census.

I also saw it in my extended family. As a child, our family was always “the Christian family.” We went to church. We did church things. Most important, in terms of how I remembered this as a kid, there was no beer in our house. And nobody smoked. But a recent re-connection with a cousin was eye opening as she described her mom’s (my aunt’s) prayer life. All those years, perhaps she has never been that far away.

As Henry Blackaby said in Experiencing God, “God is at work all around you.” …

…So what were the other “Elijah Moment” iterations online?

There was this one: “Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Congregation Agudath Sholom, Stamford, Connecticut and Pastor Greg Doll of Norton Presbyterian Church, Darien, Connecticut created the Elijah Moment Campaign to encourage people to put aside their differences and simply help each other anonymously” Their motto is “Give Back – Pay it Forward Through Small Acts of Anonymous Kindness.”

It was also the title of a book by Veronica Merchant. She derived the phrase from the larger section of 1 Kings quoted above, “…the intercessory prayer warrior’s daily meditation to give you peace in the midst of the storm. The Elijah Moment is your moment with God in devotion. It’s a personal walk with the Lord! It’s journal time between you, God, and other warriors walking and praying with you. The Elijah Moment truly takes a moment in your life to return to God for specific requirements for daily living.”

At the blog, Vision for Living, it was about the contradiction between Elijah’s victory and his subsequent flight:

…Elijah was a man of the same weaknesses as us, and like us, he was prone to forget God’s goodness or remember it while moaning about something else. Not that Elijah’s problems were insignificant. After the victory at Mount Carmel, his life was threatened and he was left to hide in the desert without food and water. He despaired of life and questioned the God he had so faithfully trusted. It was a low point in Elijah’s otherwise faithful life and ministry.

But lest we are too hard on the Prophet, we are all prone to the Elijah moment. We are often “giving thanks for one thing in spite of something else”; or we are giving thanks for one thing while complaining about something else. Truth is, life is not perfect, nor is it supposed to be this side of eternity…

…Elijah’s victory is both short-lived and bittersweet. I’ve always found this to be one of my favorite narratives in scripture, but when I think of it now, I don’t frame it in terms of the faceoff (to use a hockey term) against the prophets of Baal, but rather that tidbit of statistical information God passes on to him.

CEB.1 Kings.19:18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

I’m not saying this is a general principle that applies at all times in all places, but I do believe God is working in the lives of people where you live in ways you cannot begin to imagine.  Blackaby’s next advice to us would be to find those places where God is working through the Holy Spirit, and come alongside those people who are endeavoring to serve Him [see this article, Applying Energy Where God Is Already at Work] rather than worrying about getting them to attend our Church and become part of our programs.

 

August 16, 2015

Lord, I Can’t Do This; Please Get Somebody Else

A few days ago we looked at how Moses was reluctant to be God’s chosen mouthpiece and his reasons why God should get someone else. Our particular focus there was the public speaking aspect of the job God was calling Moses to do.

But sometimes it’s not public speaking, we have other reasons why we just wish God would choose someone else. (After writing this, I realized there’s also a tie-in to our devotional from two days ago; that often we just wish we could be somewhere else.)

I never really thought of this verse in this context until a sermon I heard this morning, but certainly God understands when we are struck by our limitations:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses – Hebrews 4:15a

and an earlier verse in the same book:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity – Hebrews 2:14

In Christ we have a role model, who as he took on a mission that, in his humanity, as Calvary loomed large, caused him to ask if there were not a better way or a different way. It’s like he was almost saying, ‘Maybe someone else can take over at this point.’ Okay, I know that’s not the way it works, but you do get a sense of the anguish that Christ as feeling at that time.

But sometimes we hesitate to enter into the mission God has for us because of condemnation. This is a difficult subject to address because sin needs to be dealt with before a person is fit for public ministry (which might include everything from teaching a class to helping at the soup kitchen.) But sometimes the condemnation is simply an attack of the enemy.

I John 3:20 states,

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

From the Forerunner Commentary at BibleStudyTools.org:

When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God’s grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.

The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God’s Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God’s merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God’s willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, “God will just have to take me as I am” disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.

This is why John says, “God is greater than our heart.” He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life’s experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.

We will never enter into God’s acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ’s life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.

[read more at Bible Study Tools]

Ephesians 3:12 states:

 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

If we find ourselves in a battle, Ephesians 6:13b reminds us:

…[W]hen you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm. (ISV)

Our local congregations are in need of people who are able to give their time in ministry service, but many are afraid to step up because of what the commentary above calls excessive guilt; however, our texts today I hope help us see that this may just be another tactic of the enemy to get us to quit.

Don’t get discouraged and don’t get overcome by feelings of inadequacy.