Not in it

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” The Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was a such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)

How often do we look for God in the storm, the quake, and the fire? He can and has appeared in those things, but He also comes in a gentle whisper. Too often, we get so caught up in watching for the big and loud that we completely miss out on the soft and quiet. On a daily basis, we’re so surrounded by sound we would never hear a whisper unless we were intent on doing so. Yet Elijah heard it—even after the noise of the storm, the quake, and the fire died down. With all that noise ringing in his ears, he would have had to be listening closely to hear the gentle whisper.

It wasn’t just that Elijah was listening for the whisper, he’d put himself in a place to do so. I’ve seen people stumble into church fifteen minutes late, frazzled by the effort it took just to get there, and then walk out in a huff because they didn’t get what they wanted from God.

Prior to the mountain, Elijah was on the run. Jezebel had made a solid threat to end his life, so he, like any other sane man, ran from the crazy lady. He planned to die in the wilderness, but God had other plans and sent an angel to feed him.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.

1 Kings 19:7-8 (NLT)

Elijah’s mountaintop experience didn’t just happen. He wasn’t taking a scenic hike when God just decided to interrupt him. He was there on purpose. It took him forty days and forty nights to get there. We act like God should shower great blessings on us just because we managed to make it to church before the service ended and here, Elijah travelled for forty days and nights on two meals.

It doesn’t take any effort at all on God’s part to reach us no matter where we are, but I firmly believe that He is looking for great effort on our part to reach Him where He is. Our response to Him is often akin to Elijah had he politely declined the food and water the angel brought to him. No thanks, I’d rather die in the wilderness than eat this miraculous food because I know God will ask me to do something I’m probably not willing to put in the effort to do.

After forty days and nights of travelling, Elijah could have given up when God wasn’t in the the storm. He could have started back down the mountain when He wasn’t in the quake (be honest, would you stay on a mountaintop after an earthquake?). He could have seen the glow of the fire from a distance. And he would have missed the whisper entirely.

When we put in the effort we think is required of us to hear from God, our patience can often run thin. We get to where God wants us and then expect Him in the storm and check out because God was not in it. In reality, it is our hearts that are not in it.

In his weariness from the long journey, having almost been swept away by the storm, tossed down the mountain by the quake, and consumed by the fire, I’m sure the only thing Elijah could hear was his heart. Pounding in his ears. But he stayed where he was. Maybe he was frozen in fear and couldn’t move, but when God finally spoke, he was listening.

The next time you’re ready to walk away because you don’t see God in it, check your self. Make sure you are in it. Then wait. Listen closely for the sound of a gentle whisper.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2

His Voice

Jesus said to him [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:29 (ESV)

Are you a have-to-see-it-to-believe-it kind of person? I’m not. I can read a fantasy novel and drink it up and have no problem believing in other dimensions, alternate universes, or time travel. Call me crazy.

Thomas, on the other hand, was a touchy-feely kind of guy. He had to touch Jesus’ wounds before he could confirm that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead.

But what about Mary Magdalene? Earlier in John chapter 20, Mary is one of the first people on site at the empty tomb. A man appeared before her asking whom she was looking for. She saw the man yet did not recognise him. But when he said her name, she knew immediately who stood before her.

Where Thomas needed to see to believe, Mary had to hear.

We’re not all going to see Jesus standing right in front of us. But we all have the ability to hear his voice.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27 (ESV)

Even if you are not like me, easily able to believe in the supernatural, you can still listen. Mary, in her firm belief that Jesus was dead, did not recognise him in appearance, but his voice, his voice she knew. After years of sitting at his feet listening to him speak, she would know his voice anywhere.

Have you been listening? Even if you can’t see Jesus, can you hear him? Do you know his voice? Is his voice proof enough for you?

Daily Bible reading: Ezra 3-5; John 20

The Voice

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot of bad news this week. Not in the media. Personally.  I’ve heard enough.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 (ESV)

Don’t make the mistake of believing that God sends these trials to His people. Every bad report I’ve heard this week is the work of an enemy working to destroy the people of God. If the church is full of hurting, broken people, it’s ineffective.

When that same church of hurting, broken people stand up and say NO MORE! the world will have to take notice.

My question for you today is simple: whose voice are you listening to? The voice that tells you that your marriage isn’t worth fighting for? The voice that tells you the cancer is back and there’s nothing you can do about it?

Or do you listen to the voice that says love is a choice. That God is love and where ever He is, love is. Do you listen to the same voice that made the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the dead to live again?

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do no know the voice of strangers.

John 10:2-5 (ESV)

When I was a kid leaving the house for school, my mother would give me a song to sing all day. If you’re old enough to remember this one, keep it in mind today:

Whose report shall you believe?
We shall believe the report of the Lord
Whose report shall you believe?
We shall believe the report of the Lord

His report says I am healed
His report say I am filled
His report says I am free
His report say victory

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 17-19; John 10:1-21

He Listened

Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him.

2 Kings 13:4 (ESV)

Did you know that God listens to you? He doesn’t pick and choose who He listens to based on who you are or what you’ve done. The verses prior to this say that Jehoahaz did evil in the sight of the Lord just like his father had done and his father before him. Yet, when the king of Israel called out to God, God listened.

When you call out, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, God listens.

Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NCV)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 12-14; John 5:25-47

Familiar

I’ve always said that, if I were ever to hear the voice of God audibly, He’d sound like James Earl Jones – more Mufasa than Darth Vadar. I don’t know why, but in my mind, God is an old black man. I have no scripture to back this up.

If I really were to hear the voice of God, I wonder what He’d sound like. Would He be the rumbling, echoing voice in the clouds or would He be the softly carried whisper in the wind that causes fields of grain to ripple in ripe, golden waves?

In 1 Samuel 3, the boy Samuel hears a voice in the night. Is it a deep, raspy voice or a light, airy sound? Whatever the timbre, it wasn’t a stranger’s voice he heard.

How often do you see Christians heeding the voice of a stranger? A voice on the radio? A passer-by? A travelling preacher?

And how often do those very same people ignore the voice of the trusted and familiar? Close friends. Family. Pastor.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and Samuel answered, “I am here!” He ran to Eli and said, “I am here. You called me.”

1 Samuel 3:4-5 (NCV)

Thrice over, young Samuel heard a voice and ran immediately to Eli. Why? The voice he heard wasn’t strange, but familiar. God called to him in a voice that wouldn’t frighten him, but rather give comfort and trust.

God will often use the voices of those closest to us to convey His words.

Whose voice are you listening to?

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 1-3; Luke 12:1-34