Getting God’s Attention

From my earliest childhood, I remember hearing the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel from I Kings 18. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Elijah was the sole prophet of God in the land, and the people were following false gods. He called out the prophets of Baal and challenged them to a public duel on top of the mountain. They each prepared a sacrifice and would pray to their god to see whose was real. The god who was real would answer by fire and burn the sacrifice up. As the prophets of Baal tried for hours to get their god’s attention, Elijah mocked them.

I always thought very poorly of those prophets and even laughed at the way Elijah mocked them. But now I wonder if we are any different than they were. We may serve the God who won that duel, but we have resorted to their tactics to get His attention. We seem to believe that there is something you and I can do to earn His favor or to get an answer to prayer. We pray loudly, we stomp, we circle, we make promises and even put ourselves in danger to test God to get Him to answer. But God isn’t looking for that from us.

What He’s looking for is found in verse 37 in Elijah’s prayer. He said, “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God, and that you are bringing them back to yourself” (GNB). The prayers God responds to are ones that bring Him glory and allow Him to do the work. Religion is all about working to get a god’s attention and favor to do something for us, but Christianity is about letting God draw us to Him. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He does. He hears each one of our prayers according to 1 John 5:14, and He sees our intentions. You don’t have to do anything crazy to get His attention. He loves you and is constantly drawing you closer to Him.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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The Place Of Provision

I’ve always been fascinated with the story of Elijah in I Kings 17. After he prophesied there would be a drought, God said, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve commanded the ravens to feed you.” It wasn’t long though before the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God told him to go to a certain city and live there. He told him that he had instructed a widow woman to feed him.

My question has always been, “Why did God allow the brook to dry up?” After all, he went to the place of God’s provision. Why did he have to leave that place? He was where he was supposed to be. Then I looked at the story from the other side. Think about the widow. She knew she was about to run out of flour and oil. She knew there was nothing more she could do. She knew that when her flour ran out, she and her son would die. Knowing that, I can imagine her calling out to God in desperation for help. I can hear her crying each night wondering when God would answer her prayers.

Then, one day, God speaks to her. He said, “I’m going to send a prophet to you. Prepare him a meal and you will get your answer.” As each day passed, she looked for the prophet. Each day that passed without his arrival the flour and oil went down. Finally she was down to her last bit of flour and oil. Death was around the corner. She had quit looking for the prophet and was looking for sticks to burn in order to prepare her last meal. As she was scouring the ground for firewood, a voice came from behind her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug?” She barely looked up and nodded. As she headed to the well, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?”

I’m sure her eyes lit up and she whipped around. “Could this be the prophet,” she thought. Only one way to find out. “I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die,” she said. Any stranger would have let her eat her last meal, but the prophet would still ask for it. She had to make sure so she could be obedient if it was him. Elijah told her not to worry. He said, “Make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go and make a meal from what’s left.” The oil and flour didn’t empty until the drought was over.

We rarely know why God moves us from a place of provision or causes the brook of blessings to dry up. In this case, I believe it was to answer the widow’s prayer. God needed Elijah to move so he cut off his source. For the widow, she had to wait until she was down to her last meal. She was then asked to give it up in order to be blessed. Both had to trust God. Both had to be obedient or both would have died. God asked both to give up what they had for the other. What has God asked you to give up? It may be all you have, but it will be the gateway to miracles. Where is God trying to move you to? You may not understand now, but your obedience will lead you to another place of provision. Obedience is always required before the blessing.

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Controlling The Outcome

We’ve all been in a situation where we were outnumbered, outgunned and facing nsurmountable odds. It’s stressful to be in that place. Questions fill your mind causing you to doubt and to wonder if you’re in God’s will or not. Your fight or flight mechanism begins to kick in and it likes the flight option. In those moments, we have to be guided by our faith and not our fear. Moments like these are designed to build our faith and to grow our trust in God. If we run, we not only give into fear, but we lose an opportunity to grow our faith. God allows us to be in situations like this because He’s looking to grow our relationship. These pressure situations should cause our roots to go down deeper into Him.

In 2 Chronicles 14, Asa became king of Judah. After a long line of kings who disobeyed God, he changed course. He tore down the pagan altars his predecessors had built and turned the people toward God. There was peace during much of his reign, but it didn’t last. An Ethiopian came out against him with a million man army compared to his of just over half a million. He was thrust into one of those, “God, what’s going on? Aren’t I doing everything right” moments. He was outnumbered and outgunned, but his faith remained strong. He went out to meet the Ethiopian army head on knowing God was able to bring victory, and was willing to stand firm and fight even if God didn’t show up.

In verse 11 he prayed, “O LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and the weak; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in and rely on You” (AMP). Not only did he show up for the battle, he placed the outcome in God’s hands instead of his. There is an underlying peace in the turmoil when we give up our control of the outcome. It doesn’t make sense to let go, and often it goes against everything in us, but either God is going to step in or He’s not. Is your faith prepared either way? Even if he doesn’t deliver you or cause things to go “your way”, will you still trust Him? That’s the point we all must come to in faith. If we trust God is in control of the outcome, then we must determine ahead of time that whatever happens should deepen our faith not destroy it.

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Start Planting

One of my favorite quotes says, “I don’t measure my day by the harvest I bring in. I measure it by the Seeds I plant. For in planting seeds, I’m assuring a future harvest.” There are so many applications for this quote, but the common question it begs is, “What am I doing today to make sure I have enough tomorrow?” We all love it when we reap the rewards for things we’ve done in the past, but we can’t measure our successes by that. We must always be doing something that is going to make sure we have another harvest, but too many of us hesitate because we’re waiting for everything to be just right before we act.

The problem with planting is that there are no immediate results for your work. We live in a world where we are conditioned to instant gratification, but many times the things you plant are hidden beneath the surface germinating where you can’t see. However, the longer you wait to start planting, the further away the harvest will be. Conditions will never be just right to plant for the future, but don’t let that stop you from doing what God has called you to do. Fear will lead to hesitation, and hesitation will lead to procrastination. After you procrastinate, you begin to make excuses as to why you can’t do it.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything” (GNT). Today’s the day to quit your excuses, to stop your hesitation and to put fear behind you. The longer you procrastinate, the less impact you’re going to have. When you step out in faith and do what God has called you to do, you’re trusting Him to bless it. When you wait for perfect conditions, you take faith out of the equation. Whatever it is that’s on your heart to do, find one thing you can do today to begin planting the seeds. Those seeds, no matter how few, will always produce a greater harvest than the ones that never get planted. Stop procrastinating and start planting.

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Troubles, Pressure And Pottery

Have you ever watched a potter with their wheel? It’s truly magnificent. They take a lump of clay, and with wet hands they begin to shape it into whatever they’re making. Then, they stick their scalpel in the middle that begins to follow it out. After that, they begin shaping the outside by removing more clay with the scalpel. If they want to, they add lines and other designs the same way. Once it is what they are looking for, they place it in the fire so it can be usable. After it cooks, they paint it and glaze it to continue the process of bring beauty out of what was once a lump of clay. Every part of that process must seem to the clay that the potter doesn’t love it, or is even against it, but the potter knows what the clay needs to go through to bring out its full potential.

I’ve never met anyone who loves going through tough times. We all enjoy good times and pray our lives are filled with those. However, God allows us to go through troubles and extended periods of pressure to produce in us things that can’t be produced any other way. He is constantly looking out for our good and will use whatever means necessary to form and shape us into the people He created us to be. Like the potter, He’s not afraid to use His scalpel or to put us in the fire for extended periods of time. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, God is working in our lives to create something beautiful. Most of the time He’s doing that though, it can feel painful and like He’s picking on us. Hang in there. He’s working things out for your good and turning your life into a thing of beauty.

Here are some Bible verses on how trouble can be good.

1. When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 GNT

2. Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

James 1:2-4 MSG

3. Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4 AMP

4. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 NLT

5. Yet, as God’s servants, we prove ourselves authentic in every way. For example: We have great endurance in hardships and in persecutions. We don’t lose courage in a time of stress and calamity.

2 Corinthians 6:4 TPT

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Comfort In Calamity

When I was in high school, my physics teacher gave us an assignment where each of us had to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and glue. There were some other specifications it had to meet as well. Then, on the date the assignment was due, he put the bridges to a battery of tests to see how well they held up. One test was a weight test. He kept adding weights to the bridge until it broke. Only one bridge in the class survived this test. The rest all cracked at some point under the weights. On that particular one, the teacher ran out of weights to put on it and it was still standing strong.

The book of Nahum in the Bible is a book of prophesy that spoke of a time of calamity and hard times that were coming. Unlike some other books of prophesy, this one was designed to administer peace in those times. Even the name of the prophet God chose to write the book Nahum has significance to the prophesy. It means comfort. I believe God was telling the readers of this book that no matter how bad things get, He is there to comfort us and give us peace.

Nahum 1:7 says, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him” (NLT). I love that first phrase. It’s not a promise, it’s a fact. The Lord is good. He’s also strong. Each of us have a breaking point under the weight of stress, but God doesn’t. He is a strong refuge when we are weighed down. We must learn to trust Him with our burdens and the weights that we carry. Even though at times it feels like we’re alone, He is close to us ready to comfort us in our time of need and able to handle the weight that would crush us.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Finding Your Encourager

I’ve always heard that each of needs someone in our life who is mentoring us to help pull us up to that next level. I’ve also heard that each of us needs to be mentoring someone who needs help getting to where we are now. What I really don’t hear much about is having someone in your life who is at the same place in life as you. All three roles are important, but I think this role is the most important. This is the person you do life with. They’re the one who is in the trenches with you when life gets ugly. They’re the one who won’t let you give up because they know your potential and challenge you to fight another day. They’re also the one that sharpens you by disagreeing with you at times to help you see through other lenses than your own.

This kind of relationship isn’t easy to have, which is why many of us don’t look for one. This person is more than a friend. They’re a pusher. Friends usually avoid conflict of any kind with you and keep the peace. This person isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love that you need to hear. They’re not going to disappear when times get tough or be too busy when you fail. They hold a mirror up to you, not to embarrass you, but to challenge you to be all that God created you to be. They don’t just cheer you on either. They remind you of why you do what you do.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (NLT). This isn’t just talking about a friend. This is talking about your encourager, the one I’m describing. If you haven’t identified your encourager, ask God to show you who it is. Look at the Kingdom connections around you and find that person. If you know who it is, thank God for putting them in your life. Make sure they know you’re thankful too. They’ve helped you succeed when you’ve felt like quitting and stood by you in the hard times. In return, be the encourager that they need as well and fill that role in their life because we all need that person in our lives.

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