THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"  

Luke 15:4-6

February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!!

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

I am continuing the series I have been doing on Elijah. If you would like to study Elijah's life for yourself, you can find the scriptures relating to him in 1 Kings chapters 17-19, then in 2 Kings chapters 1-2. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and learn from these devotionals over the next few weeks.

I realize that these devotionals have been a little longer than usual, but once I start writing there is so much information that I want to share, that it's hard to keep them short. Believe me, they are usually even longer, but I go back through and edit and delete before sending them out each week. I've tried to divide the scriptures up into sections to keep the devotionals shorter, but they still seem to be lengthy. But as my husband often tells me, it's hard for me to say anything in just a few short sentences. What he can say in five sentences, it takes me five paragraphs. He just gives the surface facts when he talks, and I give the facts plus all the little minute details. That not only goes for talking, but writing also! I sincerely hope you all have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

1 Kings 18:1 begins, “After many days, the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, 'Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.'”

The rain didn't fall immediately, but some things had to take place beforehand. Elijah met up with Obadiah and had him go tell Ahab that, “Elijah is here.”

Elijah had Ahab summon the prophets of both Baal and Asherah, and all the people from all over Israel, to meet him on Mount Carmel. There Elijah asked how long they would waver between two opinions between worshiping Baal or God. He issued a challenged so they could see who the real God was.

After many hours of the prophets of Baal ranting and raving and cutting themselves, there sacrifice remained untouched by fire.

Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord, prepared the sacrifice, then had the men pour water all over the bull, wood, altar and even filled the trench surrounding the altar. He then prayed a simple prayer, and God sent fire that consumed it all. The people fell on their face declaring that, “The Lord, He is God!” Elijah then destroys the false prophets of Baal.

Now that the people had finally recognized the one true God, there was no longer need for the drought and famine to continue. God's purpose of Israel acknowledging Him as the only God had been fulfilled.

Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of rain!” In other words, go party, because the end of drought, poverty and hard times in Israel is getting ready to come to an end!!

What's interesting is that when Elijah spoke those words to Ahab, there was not a cloud in the sky at that time. It wasn't overcast or windy or starting to sprinkle rain. But Elijah knew what God had told him. Therefore he spoke those words in faith, even though there was no evidence of it occurring.

Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, where he bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. Even though he knew that God had promised rain, he continued in prayer until the answer came. He told his servant to go look towards the sea. The servant looked and there was nothing. Elijah continued praying and sent his servant back seven times. The seventh time, the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea.” That was all the proof that rain was on its way, that Elijah needed.

He sent his servant to go tell Ahab, “Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”

Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and a heavy rain began falling as Ahab rode off towards Jezreel. The hand of the Lord was on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of the chariot which was carrying Ahab, all the way to Jezreel (which was nearly twenty miles.)

This whole story of Elijah shows us what can happen through one man's prayers and total obedience to God. Elijah wasn't a super hero, he wasn't an angel, and he wasn't a god; he was created just like us. But he was a man who saw the corruption and sinful idolatry of a nation, and he began to cry out to God to intercede.

James 5:16-18 says, “...The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

Too many times, we become discouraged when our prayers aren't answered right away and we give up. We may pray for someone or about something for a few weeks or months (sometimes just a few days), and if we don't see a turn around or change in the situation, or if it seemingly is growing worse, we stop praying. We think, “It must not be God's will, so I may as well stop praying.” Or we become discouraged and begin thinking that our prayers don't make any difference, or that we are so small and insignificant, that God doesn't listen to our requests.

The Bible doesn't record how long Elijah prayed for Israel before God stopped the rain. He may have been interceding and praying for many, many years. He knew their nation couldn't continue as it was, and that the only solution was for God to step in and intervene. Sometimes God's intervention is painful for both the sinners and the Christians. The drought and famine affected both the heathen and the believers. Those that followed God were not exempt from the consequences of lack of rain. In fact, many of the Godly prophets had been killed and those who weren't, were hiding out in caves. Elijah was living with a widow and her son, with God providing just enough for one meal at a time.

Do I believe that God can work on behalf of a nation on behalf of one righteous man's prayers in our day and age? Absolutely! But I'm not sure that there are many Christians with the faith and boldness that Elijah had.

Knowing the possible consequences of having to endure hardship, may be why most Christians aren't too keen on crying out to God on behalf of America and the ungodliness that is sweeping our land. We want God to send revival and blessing, but we sure don't want to have to personally suffer or face persecution. In too many areas, we have become complacent and accepting of today's culture. It's much easier to be silent and not get involved. We see and hear things and think, “That's too bad, but that's just the way things are, and there's nothing we can do about it.” We attribute it to being the day and age in which we live.

I had a Christian lady tell me one time that she didn't feel convicted or see anything wrong with watching R-rated movies that had sex scenes, foul language, violence, or nudity in them. She said that was just how life really was and she felt that she could block those things out without it affecting her. True, those things may be very real and prevalent in our society, but the more we fill our minds with filth, the more accustomed and accepting we become to sin. We come to the place where sin and wrongdoing no longer affects us.

Sadly, the sin that surrounds us on a daily basis, doesn't really bother most of us that much. We may not care for it, but we have become very tolerant of it. There are many things that the Bible clearly states as being sin, and some as even being an abomination to God, yet we turn a blind eye. We are so afraid of offending someone or sending a negative message or hurting someone's feelings, that we downplay the wrongness of their actions. Very few people are willing to speak out the truth, because they are so scared of being labeled as being prejudice or intolerant.

I honestly feel that we as Christians have forgotten that we are to “hate sin, but love the sinner.” Instead we tolerate and accept the sin, and shrug it off as not being any of our business which life choices others make. We have such a need to be seen as loving and merciful, and don't want anyone to see us as judgmental or condemning, that we have begun accepting the sinful ways and habits right along with the person. Too many sins are being downplayed as being okay and not that bad, where unbelievers and church attenders alike, have forgotten what true godliness and holiness is. No one knows where the line is between right and wrong. Where there used to be a distinguishing line between black and white, over time that line has become so wide that there are now more gray areas than anything else.

Several years ago, I had a situation happen that I have never forgotten. We had a married couple start attending the church where I was a member. They were in their forties and neither of them had ever been in church before. They were rough, uncouth individuals who knew nothing about God or “how to act” in church. More times than not, they showed up about half drunk. They would talk out loud during church and were sometimes disruptive.

Our little church had never quite dealt with a situation such as this. They had both had their drivers license revoked, so our church van went and picked them up. Both the man and woman were very needy and wanted friends so badly. The church people opened up their heart, got out of their comfort zone, and really reached out to this couple. But alcohol had such a stronghold on their lives, that they were never able to break lose.

One Sunday morning something happened that I had never experienced before, nor have I since that time. During the Sunday School hour, we had prayer teams of 5 or 6 people that would meet in one of the classrooms and pray for the Sunday morning service. I was in there praying a particular Sunday, and this lady was in there too. All of a sudden, she grabbed me around the neck and was sobbing her heart out and saying, “The devil won't let me go!” The people in the room gathered around and began to really pray for/with her. For probably half an hour or so, she and I were almost wrestling. The whole time she was clinging to me.

At one point, it was like I could not breathe. I was gasping for air. She wasn't choking me, but just had her arms around me at that time and was sobbing. It is almost indescribable to find the words to explain what I was feeling. I literally felt like my heart was breaking, and was sobbing myself. I remember the words I finally came up with afterwards to describe how I felt, which was that, “I was holding sin in my arms.” The stench of sin was almost overpowering, but my heart felt like it was being ripped in half for this woman. I felt like for just a few short seconds, God let me have a tiny glimpse at how sin affects Him and breaks His heart. Not only the sin of the unbeliever, but the sin of those who profess to be His children. It doesn't matter how small or large the sin, it is a stench in God's nostrils. Yet He holds the person in His arms and longs for them to cry out to Him for help. It grieves God and breaks His heart whenever anyone allows sin to remain in their life.

Perhaps God had shown Elijah had the sin and idolatrous condition of the people of Israel was breaking His heart and was a stench to His nostrils. Maybe God had given Elijah a glimpse of how He longed for them to come back to Him, where they acknowledged that He was the one true God.

Regardless of how it happened, Elijah prayed until God answered. He was determined to not let go until he heard from God. God heard Elijah's prayers and saw his faith, and honored his request. Yet, even though God answered and didn't send rain nor dew for 3 ½ years, through it all, Elijah had to listen to God and obey His commands.

He had to speak to Ahab when God said speak, he had to live by the brook and be fed by ravens when God told him to go there, and he had to leave and go to the widows house when God told him to. Elijah had to ask the woman for some water and bread, and speak in faith that God would not let her flour or oil run out, if she would bake him a cake first before feeding herself or her son. He prayed for the son when he died, and he came back to life. He had to go find Ahab at the end of the 3 ½ years and tell him to gather the false prophets and Israelites on top of Mount Carmel. Then Elijah had to issue the challenge and believe that God would answer and consume his sacrifice with fire. Afterwards, he had to slay the false prophets. Then he told Ahab to eat and drink because there was the sound of an abundant rain, even though the sky was clear. He went to the top of the mountain and prayed, and kept praying until the servant saw a cloud coming from the sea. Then he supernaturally ran twenty miles ahead of Ahab's chariot, all the way back to Jezreel.

If you just look at the miracles, it's easy to think, “Wow, I would like to experience and see the things happen that Elijah did.” But looking at the details of everything Elijah had to do in obedience to God, we realize that God didn't just pour blessing and miracles upon Elijah without him having to do anything. Elijah had to step out in faith, he had to speak in faith, he had to confront a wicked king even when it meant his own life may have been endangered, and he had to stand alone before all Israel and the hundreds of false prophets and boldly offer the ultimate challenge. There was no room for unbelief or doubt in his mind.

We want the blessings and miracles of God without us having to do anything. But we see from Elijah's example, that God will answer prayer and will perform miracles, but we have to be willing to be obedient and not question His word; and pray with complete faith and trust. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and is unchanging. Just as He worked through Elijah, He will work through us today.

None of us may have the ministry or accomplishments that Elijah had. We may never see the miracles that he saw. But God still has a purpose and plan for each of us today. We may not confront a nation like Elijah did, but God still wants us to stand for truth and righteousness and take a stand against sin, no matter how unpopular that may make us. We each have a sphere of influence; whether it be in our families, friends, workplace, communities, churches, etc.

We are each called to be a light that shines brightly for Jesus. There is a song I sang when I was a child, that we each need to remember and make it our theme:

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

'Hide it under a bushel, NO, I'm gonna let it shine. Hide it under a bushel, NO, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

'Let it shine till Jesus comes, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine till Jesus comes, I'm gonna let it shine. Let is shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Last of all, I'm sure there were those who knew Elijah, yet they rejected him as a prophet and had a hard time accepting his word; especially those from his hometown. There had to have been many, many widows in the nation at that time. Why did God send Elijah to this particular woman?

We find the answer in Luke 4:22-26. In the verses prior to these we see that Jesus had returned to his hometown of Nazareth. On the sabbath he went in the synagogue, as was his custom, and opened the scroll and began to read. After he read the people were amazed and began to ask, “Isn't this Joseph's son?”

Jesus began to speak again and said, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me; 'Physician, heal yourself!' Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum. I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zaraphath in the region of Sidon.” When the people heard Jesus say this, they were furious and drove him out of town. They took him to the brow of the hill, in order to throw him down the cliff. But Jesus passed through the crowd and went away.

Many times, it's hard for people to accept the ministry or word of someone they grew up with. They may have gone to school and studied with that person; or know the family history, and are privy to too much information about that individual. Perhaps they knew the person from the time they were a child, and it's hard to accept what God is doing in and through that person. At times, individuals are more readily accepted and respected by outsiders than their own families and communities. Both Jesus and Elijah had that problem. Yet they remained faithful to their message and purpose.

There is a man who is in his 50's and within the last year or so, started attending church and gave his heart to the Lord. He is a changed individual! He still has a lot to learn and is rough around the edges, but he has a sincere love for God and is excited about his new life in Christ.

After attending church for some time, they had a Sunday service where he experienced a special touch from God. He was with some of his old drinking buddies a few days later and was telling them about what had happened. They were laughing at him and didn't believe him. He spoke up and said, “When I used to drink with you all the time, and we would sit around and talk about whores and stuff, you never questioned me and believed what I said then. Why do you think I'd lie to you now?” He didn't get mad at them, or go home and start doubting that his salvation and touch from God were real. In his coarse way, he stood up for what he knew had been a very real experience and he didn't let them persuade him otherwise.

It is so important that we stand strong in our beliefs and don't let our faith be shaken, even when we may be questioned or harassed by others. It may be that there is something in your past, and although you have moved on and committed your life to Jesus, there may be those who still continue to question your motives or sincerity. Don't be discouraged, don't feel like a failure, and don't give up. There may those who won't listen to what you say, but they will watch your life and believe what they see. Over time they will see the change that God has made in your life.

There may be times when we experience a “spiritual” drought, but don't lose faith nor get your eyes off God, for the day will come when blessing and rain will once again fall. We all go through various seasons during our life. Some are easier and more enjoyable than others. But when we experience that time of drought in our life, we need to continue praying and believing that once again we will “feel the abundance of rain”.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I just recently read in Matthew about the story of the landowner who hired harvesters. He hired some men looking for work early in the morning, then again later, and finally just an hour before quitting time. When they were done, he gave everyone a full day's pay. Jesus said that heaven is like that. That no matter when someone comes to Him, they will all get the same salvation.

Imagine the relief God feels to have someone accept Him just in time. But at the same time, they miss out on a lifetime of blessings and peace.

ON THE MENEWE:

Creamy Banana Pudding

1 (14 oz.) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 ½ cups cold water

1 ( 4 serving size) pkg. instant vanilla pudding

1 (12 oz.) Cool Whip

Vanilla Wafers

3 medium bananas - sliced

In large bowl combine condensed milk and water. Add pudding mix and beat using a mixer until well blended. Chill 5 minutes. Fold in Cool Whip. Spoon 1 cup pudding mixture into a serving bowl. Top with Vanilla Wafers, then sliced bananas. Continue layering with pudding, Vanilla Wafers, and bananas; end with pudding. Chill.

RAM-BLING IDEAS:

Just a reminder for all you husbands – Valentine's Day is tomorrow (Thursday, February 14th). This seems to be one of those days that's more special for women than men. Men, it doesn't have to be an occasion where you go into debt and spend big for your sweetie. Most women, just want to be made to feel special and cherished. They like surprises without having to ask for them or having to give reminders. Not just on a special holiday, such as Valentine's Day, but receiving something unexpectedly from their husband lets the wife know she is loved, appreciated, and thought about.

From a woman's point of view, here are a few ideas (Yes Jon, you need to read this too!):

Roses are nice, and I enjoy getting flowers (yes, I know some women don't). But I told my husband a long time ago, that when we don't have the money, I don't expect or want him to spend a lot for gifts. Last year, Jon stopped at Walmart and bought me a dozen roses for $15 and they meant as much to me as the $60 ones do. Walmart also has mixed bouquets of flowers for $4.88. I mentioned that I would be happy if Jon would stop and buy me one of those $4.88 bouquets and surprise me occasionally. He hasn't done so yet, so when/if he does, it will be a big surprise!

A handwritten note or card (other than for birthdays or Valentine's Day) is special. Leave it lying somewhere where your wife will find it unexpectedly.

A back rub or foot massage are always nice....but don't do it if you're trying to bribe her to reciprocate!

Running a bubble bath when you know your wife is tired and needs to relax is nice.

Unloading the dishwasher or helping clean up the kitchen after dinner occasionally makes her feel appreciated. Also, when you get up to refill your glass with tea or Pepsi in the evenings, ask if she would like you to get her something while you're up.

Chocolate is always nice!

There are lots of ideas of ways you can romance your wife without spending a lot of money. Some men seem to be good at being romantic, but most seen to need encouragement and prodding. If a woman has to ask for romance, it takes the delight and surprise out of it. (And yes, I'm sure there will probably be a woman that reads this and will say she doesn't need romance or to be shown appreciation – but I don't buy it! But I won't argue either!)

LAUGHING LAMBS:

(I received the following joke this week, which I thought you all would enjoy.)

Traveling down the interstate and needing to use the restroom, I stopped at a rest area and headed to the restroom.
I was barely sitting down when I heard a voice from the other stall saying: “Hi, how are you?” I'm not the type to start a conversation in the restroom and I don't know what got into me, but I answered, somewhat embarrassed, “Doin' just fine!”
And the other person says: “So what are you up to?” What kind of question is that? At that point, I was thinking this is too bizarre so I said: “Uhhh, I'm like you, just traveling!” At this point I was just trying to get out as fast as I could when I heard another question. “Can I come over?”
OK, this question was just too weird for me, but I figured I could just be polite and end the conversation. I told them  “No..I'm a little busy right now!!!”  Then I heard the person say nervously... “Listen, I'll have to call you back.  There's an idiot in the other stall who keeps answering all my questions.”

Ahhh...cell phones!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep along.” - Anthony Burgess

Happy Valentine's Day! We hope you have a special day. Even if you may not be married (yes, I remember all those holidays for all those many years when I was single), it can still be a wonderful day.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org