Let’s Stop the Noise and Start Praying

43,200 rapes. Murdered mother and unborn child. Toddler’s body washed ashore.

I try to write my new book which is oddly on the topic of supernatural rest. But while I attempt to type out these life changing revelations from God, my mind swirls with these recent news stories.  A sex trafficked victim who estimates she was raped more than 43,000 times. A pregnant woman shot in the head by a home invader, who later died as did her unborn baby. A drowned toddler who joins the countless other bodies washed ashore in Europe as they fled from their country.

I sit in the silence and look outside my window. It’s sheer beauty. Right here in front of me. Warm. Safe. Peaceful. But it’s not beautiful everywhere. Not warm, safe or peaceful.

What’s to be done?

I cry out to the Lord the only thing I know to say. “I care, Lord. I care. In the name of Jesus, I care about these people and other heart-breaking stories.”

And to be candid, there is more to the mental swirl. The “red cup” coffee fiasco. Various celebrity plastic surgeries and adulteries. The nauseous amount of Santa Clauses crowding my Thanksgiving shopping.

Again, I cry out to the Lord. “I don’t care. I don’t care. In the name of Jesus, I don’t care about this insipid world.”

red cup

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Holy Help

As I finish these reflections on Elijah, for now at least, I want to come back to one of the most basic tenets of Christianity. Christ dwells among us. He is our ever-present help in time of need. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Do you boldly approach His throne of grace with confidence? Do you believe you WILL find grace to help your health, your addictions, your bills, your fears, your longings?

Elijah learned to do this. But the keyword here is “learned.”  Over time. Through journeying with God. Elijah learned to walk through the testing, failing, trying believing, succeeding and even being disappointed with God. Over time Elijah learned to ask and keep trying. John Dee often says to me, “Keep swinging.”  I love that, now. In the beginning of my own journey I hated that phrase; I didn’t want to keep swinging. I wanted to get it Right! And right, right now. Sound familiar?

I think one of the biggest tricks of the enemy is to create a false demand of our perfection then bar-be-que our behinds with guilt and regret when we fail. How pointless to fall for that lie over and over again.  If there is no condemnation from God, why are we listening to this accusing hack?

Today, I see the courage of John’s statement and goodness of God’s plan. I keep swinging, because I am convinced this situation, this hurdle, this attack is not the sum total of me, nor is it the end of me. I am increasingly more convinced, that God enjoys the journey with me, with you, so much that He purposely sets us up with life happenings that teach us over time, slowly, with repetition, so that we are truly transformed.

Remember school?  I would cram information in so I could dump it back out on a test, but two days later I couldn’t recall a single date or fact.  Not so with God.  The Holy Spirit is the best Truth Teacher anywhere, so He uses all manner of techniques to instruct, guide and impart for lasting, lifelong, eternal change. Jesus has kept his promise.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13

So the final Elijah picture is beautiful in that God’s response to Elijah’s question was to send a helper, Elisha. God sees, hears, and responds. We do not despair like the godless. We rejoice for Our Living God is with us and for us. Regardless of the present circumstances, we watch and worship, waiting on our Sovereign Father to move on our behalf.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.

Habbakuk 3

What Are You Doing Here?

Elijah travels for forty days and forty nights to The Cave and greater revelation of God. And as is God’s way, He begins the revelation with a question.

“And the word of the LORD came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ ”

In this moment of truth, Elijah does a very noble thing. He is honest before the Lord. Elijah just lays it out the way he perceives it. “Okay God,” he says, “here is the way I see it. It ain’t pretty. And it’s gonna get worse. And to beat it all, I am the only one left and even I am a marked man.”  (Paraphrased of course.)

Have you ever been asked, “What do you want?”  I have and it about took my head off. One question tore down all the tasks and oughts and shoulds and left me with, “Wow, I don’t know; what can I have?” This is an explosive invitation to Elijah and to us. When God asks you a question, He already knows the answer. He wants to know if you know the answer.  And after Elijah’s short sighted answer, the Lord does for him what He does when all of His children are scared: He reminds Elijah of His power and strength.

The LORD said,

Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before 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.

After the earthquake came a fire,

but the LORD was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This whole passage is packed.  Look at where it says, “in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  See the two expressions of the Lord? This is our Father’s world. Every bit of it. His presence fills everywhere, all the time. Dallas Willard calls it a “God-bathed world.” So we don’t have to fear Him not being near. He truly did come to live with us, Immanuel. And in addition to His presence, there is greater revelation of the Lord Himself. He passes by Elijah. He walks with us.  He talks with us. He LISTENS to us. He protects and encourages us.

He dwells right where we are. Only He is not us. His wind tears down our protective walls. His earthquake shakes the foundations that we stand on. His fire burns up anything but the sheer weight and tenderness of His presence. Powerful, but merciful.

And again comes the question that already has an answer.  If I fault Elijah at all, it is that he said the same thing twice. Did he miss it? Did he miss God’s beautiful demonstration in answer to his very lament? With such a display of tender strength, what or who could come against this Living God?  Elijah could never be more safe than in the presence of God. Perhaps that is why on a different day, but a similar inquiry, Job exclaimed, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5

Seek the face of God. Even in then caves.  Ask for eyes to see the goodness and greatness of our God. And ears to hear His very present gentle whisper.

Who’s Running On Empty?

So we’ve talked about Elijah’s journey through the draught, the brook, the widow and the showdown with the false prohets.The rain has begun again and there are posters all over town that Jezebel is going to kill Elijah. Better than any reality TV.  And even after all this God movement, Elijah is scared and pooped.

Is that okay?  I mean do you ever feel like it is Un-Christian to be afraid and need a break?  I talk to a lot of people, including myself, who have this spiritual notion that if you are “rightly filled with God” you will never get scared or weary.  Or if you do, you’d better not admit it. Lord knows, there are plenty of scriptures that charge us to “press on” no matter what. Here are a few:

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize….”Phillipians 3:13-14

These are all 100% true. And on the right day  these verses really strengthen me (and you).  But our fear and fatigue is 100% true too. And on the wrong day, these verses just make us feel more afraid, tired and alone. However, if we look at Elijah’s story a little bit differently, we might see God a little differently too. Much writing on this part of Elijah’s story focuses on Elijah.  We despise his weakness. Maybe because it reveals our own.

But like most of the Bible, this story is not about the frail human, but the loving God who reached down and comforted His son. Go back and look at the passage again:

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.  1 Kings 19: 5-7

Why did God do that?

The angel touched him. He “came back a second time.” He fed Elijah. He gave him water to drink. He let Elijah sleep. He woke him up. Picture a mother or father standing over the bed of sick child. Watching, waiting, hoping praying for restoration. Again, why did God do that?

I don’t think for one minute that God was disappointed in Elijah. I don’t think He scorned or rebuked him. For sure I don’t think He despised Elijah’s fear or weakness.  That is what we do, perhaps. But that is not what God does. He comforted, supplied and strengthened His child. This is a loving compassionate interchange. God is so pleased to dwell among weak, broken people like Elijah, like us. And where was all this effort leading Elijah? To the mountain of God.

Where are you freaking out? What has got you running blind with fear? What has you so despondent that you would rather die than press on?  Then purposefully take a rest. Take a nap, a walk, a breather. Take a time out and let God feed and refresh you. Let Him remind you that He is right with you in the middle of the mess. And He alone knows where you are really headed — the mountain of God.

A Little More Elijah: The Showdown

I have a couple of more thoughts about Elijah.  Hopefully they will hit you like they hit me. There are four parts to his story that sound a lot like yours and mine. I call them: The Showdown, Running on Empty, The Cave, The Helper. We’ll be looking at these over the next few days.

Last week we talked about God teaching Elijah (and us) to focus on His daily care and provision. And we noted that the private encounters with God prepare, equip, and deposit truth BEFORE the public encounters. We often get that out of order. We go out into the world and ask questions: How am I doing? Does anyone like me? Am I succeeding?

But those questions for Elijah were answered before he went out. At the brook it was just Elijah and God. Then it was Elijah at the widow’s home. Then it was the showdown of taking on the 400 prophets serving Baal.   Elijah may have been scared, but he moved in the power of the Spirit – in the faith that God had poured in, refined and tested in much quieter settings.

I know that God is up to something big when He hems me in for sitting, resting, hearing. I know that He wants me to “get” something about Him.  He wants me to discover a facet of Him I didn’t know before. But as we go to new places, He always reviews core issues.  He alone is God, He alone is truth. I can do nothing apart from Him.  And my heart must be connected to His heart before I DO one thing.  They don’t call him a “jealous God” for nothing.

God knows how to keep the main thing, the main thing.  And it ain’t working for Him. It is loving Him and being loved by Him.

Have you got a showdown coming?  Then get quiet. Allow God to speak His truth over you and in you. Let Him remind you that whomever, whatever you’re facing, that Thing has to face You and God as a team. Wow. Talk about offense.

Here is another thing about Elijah’s Showdown.  The prophets and Elijah were to both build an altar and sacrifice a bull. They were to call on their respective god, Baal or Jehovah.  And the god that answered by fire was the one true living God.

The prophets of Baal shouted and danced around for hours. Then they began to slash their bodies so that blood flowed. To no avail. Don’t miss this picture.  You can shed your own blood before a deaf and mute god (read: addiction, habit, fear, false god) but nothing will change.  Nothing will burn up that offering.

Or you can follow Elijah. Elijah poured water, and more water on the altar. Twelve jars of water. One for each tribe. Elijah stacked the deck and made it so clear that God and only God could receive any glory for the fire. But I also love the picture of “washing.”  The way we enter into the power of God is not by our own fleshly expressions of sacrifice. We enter by letting God wash us.

Our false gods (addictions, past, fears, etc.) will demand more and more of our very lives, our blood, but they have no power. We need the water and fire to be in the presence of the living God. And why did Elijah ask God to show up in this crazy way?  “Answer me, O Lord answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Not your effort, but His effort to restore, heal and renew.

May the Lord speak truth in your secret places today. May He wash you. And may He pour down fire from heaven for His glory and your faith.

Elijah – Take 3

I heard a phrase a long time ago that God brings back to mind often: “When you don’t know what to do, you worship.”

This is the essence of Elijah’s next adventure with God.  Elijah called for no rain which produces a draught. God provided for him in the middle of the draught through a remote brook and food from ravens every day. But the brook dried up. So God moved Elijah along on THEIR adventure together. He told Elijah to go to a widow’s home. But when he got there, the woman was preparing her last meal.  She and her son only had enough food for one last meal then they would die from starvation because of the draught.

(Talk about economic distress?  God has been rescuing people long before today’s health care mess….)

But Elijah called to the woman and told her to bake a cake for him first and to trust God because God was going to give her oil and flour every day until the draught ended.

Have you been there?  Totally on empty and someone asks you for a ride?  Or trying to scrape things out of the cabinet and someone says they are coming over for dinner? Maybe you are freaking out on how to pay one bill, and you get three more in the mail. Or maybe it’s not money related, but you are already dirt tired, and someone calls in crisis.

For me, God takes me to the very end of my resources, knowledge and strength and says, “Now Jana, let’s begin.” Begin?  I feel more like the widow who is ready to lay down and die for lack of expectation that things will change. But oh the beauty of God!  It is at the end of me, you, us, that He begins.

The widow had to believe that God was going to show up tomorrow when the cupboards were bare today. Don’t miss the day to day provision of the Lord in the story of Elijah. He depended and trusted and thanked God each day for the raven’s meals. Then he and the widow thanked God each day for the flour and oil. Belief in the little so you can learn to believe in the greater.

Jesus said in Luke 16 that “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”  This applies to money, faith, healing, the spirit, all of the God life. Are you trusting in the little for when you need to trust much?

After some time, the widow’s son died. More than daily bread now, they needed resurrection power. And Elijah and the widow saw God’s power poured out as God raised the son back to life. They went from little to much. Belief in the little, trusted with little so they could learn to believe in the greater, trusted with much.

My last thought for today is this:  Are you more like the widow? Or Elijah? Where are you starting from — ready to quit or steadfast expectation?

The good news is, they both grew to believe God in all His goodness. They both learned to worship first before they received. They praised God regardless of the circumstances and saw Him move in their midst.

“Oh, worship the King, all glorious above.
Oh, gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.”

Elijah – Take 2

So yesterday we talked about God feeding Elijah morning and evening through the ravens.  A sweet time of rest, trust building, reflection. Perhaps. Or maybe it was a time of wrestling, arguing and doubting, waiting for God’s goodness to run out.  Sound familiar?

Guess what happened? The brook dried up.

I love it when God brings us to these pivotal moments.  The “Now what?” moments. The OMG, freakout moments. It is almost as if we think that God  left the cosmos or something. Like He went off line or went to sleep.

For Elijah it was the brook drying up. For me it was the missed deadline for a deposit for Zimbabwe. Same reality: helpless to provide for  myself. Same question: “God, You gonna take care of me?” But the good news is: it is the same God. “Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.'” 1 Kings 17: 8-9.

The King James Version says: “Arise.” I love that. Get up and get going.  God is on the move.

It reminds me of the Narnia stories when they would say, “We hear Aslan is on the move.”  They didn’t know what that meant, or how Aslan would change the circumstance.  But they were strengthened because they remembered that Aslan was the great high king over all Narnia.  And everyone knew he had the power to do anything. Everything. Everyone knew he might not be a tame lion, but he was good.

So it is with God. He has a wild story that He is constantly telling.  Our lives are the plots and twists, the reckless romance, the good vs. evil story played out by this great, untamed God. And what does He ask of us?


“And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists,
and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

And what do we believe in?  The power and goodness of God. “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  Colosians 1: 7

Finally, we believe in the Who of God. We trust that He empowers our cries, prayers, and praise. His Spirit is actively changing the world, and our hearts.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 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.”  James 5:16-18

Pray for rain; pray for God to heal and feed you. Praise Him for all things: ravens, dried up brooks, and widows. Pray and believe.

Between Morning and Evening

The Lord has me sitting in the story of Elijah lately. I must be a slow learner because it seems like we have been here a while. But I confess, the longer I sit in these couple of chapters, 1 Kings 17- 19, the more I see of God, and the more I see of me.

What I like about Elijah is his utterly honest humanity. He walked with God when things were really, really bad; when it didn’t look like things would be improving soon. But still he depended on God. And he trusted God to not only understand his weaknesses but to CARE about them.  This strengthens me. When all the wheels start coming off my life, it refreshes me to have a God that won’t despise my weaknesses but help me in them.

Look at Elijah as a flesh and blood example.  He had just declared to Ahab, one of Israel’s most wicked kings, that “as the Lord lives, the God of Israel lives,” there would be no rain or even dew until Elijah says so. Talk about gumption. That is serious confidence in God. Elijah’s whole accusation against Ahab was that the king had turned to false idols and led the nation away also. Elijah was constantly pointing back to the clear evidence God was alive and well and willing to be their Loving God.

Now look what follows. God sent Elijah to a remote place where there was a brook and told Elijah that He had commanded the ravens to provide for him there.  Draught on the land, provision for you. All through the Bible you see how God protects and provides for his own regardless of what is happening all around.

In this quiet place, equipped with fresh water, God sent ravens every morning and evening with meat and bread to feed Elijah.

This weekend in my own head, when the giants seem too big, the desert too hot, the needs too great, the bills too many — this weekend I was struck by the time between morning and evening for Elijah. Did he ever question that the ravens would come? Was he ever surprised day after day?  Why didn’t the Lord just give him a small oven and flour?  What was the Lord teaching Elijah (and us) in the space between meals?

Before every great battle and public encounter, there is a private battle and spiritual encounter. I think God used this time to teach Elijah that he could not take care of himself. Elijah had to look to God to provide, even for the food in his mouth. I think God was teaching Elijah how to faith in the space between meals. I think God was teaching Elijah how to Receive from His hand, in whatever way, by whatever means the Lord decided was best for Elijah. Even when that way was ravens. I think God was preparing Elijah in the quiet space for the battle that was on its way.

I am not going to rush through this story. But for today, I wonder, are you looking for the ravens? Are you receiving what the Lord is sending for your good?  Are you waiting by the brook for your God or are you bustling about trying to feed yourself?   “He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.”