Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pentecost 5:Elijah "I'm tired and I've had enough"

Running on Empty

King Ahab told his wife Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets of Baal to death.

A few weeks ago when we started this series on Elijah, we looked at a very busy day in the life of this great prophet: ...... he summoned 450 prophets of Asherah and 400 prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel.................  Many of these would have been personal friends of Jezebel who had introduced Baal and Asherah worship to her husband Ahab and he, in turn had promoted it throughout Israel.....  On Mount Carmel, they had each prepared their own sacrifices and asked their God to light the fire......  Of course, the prophets of Baal and Asherah were unsuccessful and Elijah’s sacrifice, even after being drenched in water, is consumed by the fire of God.......  Elijah then has the 850 prophets put to death, and then he prays to God to end the drought which has been going on for over three years.......  A huge storm develops from over the Mediterranean and Elijah ends his day, which can probably be described as a very good day in the ministry, by running ahead of Ahab, who is in his horse-drawn chariot and beating him back to Samaria. 

All the above is what King Ahab would have told his wife Jezebel. not amused!

She sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don't do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.”

Even though the awesome power of God has been displayed, she remains unchanged.  This is a sad but recurring truth, namely that awesome displays of God’s power do not always lead people to faith, and as we see, especially in the New Testament, when miracles do lead to faith, it is often a faith which doesn't endure.  The greatest faith is the faith which believes without seeing, which believes even if it can’t stick its fingers into the holes in Jesus’ hands and side.  That is faith, and that is a faith which will endure.  But...Jezebel is unchanged.  “I’m going to get you Elijah.”

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life;

Did you hear that?......Elijah......Afraid!!!!
Elijah......fleeing for his life!!!!!  
Elijah, the great prophet of God, no doubt full of the Spirit of else could he have done what he did on Carmel? ......and here he is having a very serious panic attack; overcome with anxiety, full of fear, and all he can think to do is run for his life.

Many of us...more than we would like to admit it, have often felt the same way.  Do you ever feel afraid? you ever suffer from anxiety,......or panic’re in good biblical company if you have...remember that Elijah was a person just like you and me.  

Perhaps a more important question is: Do you allow yourself to be anxious or fearful or do you say to yourself, “I’m a born-again Christian, I shouldn't feel like this” and suppress the way you feel?  
Do you allow other Christians to be fearful and anxious, or do you load them up with guilt for feeling that way?  
What does it mean if Christians are afraid?
Previously, I have preached on the fact that fear is often a sign of a lack of faith, which it often is, but I would struggle to say that Elijah lacks faith, so there must be someting else at play here, just as there often is something else at play in us when we are afraid.

1 John 4:18 can be helpful here:  
There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 

Here a connection is made between fear and love. When the love in us is perfected...then there is no reason for fear because it drives out fear.  

Is the love in you perfected. 

For us as Methodists, Christian perfection, the goal of the Christian life, is nothing more and nothing less than to love perfectly.  Perfect love can be summed up by the great command Jesus gave, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”  So the obedient Christian life is not so much one that is full of what I can do and what I can’t do, which always leads to long lists, usually followed by a long list of exceptions...No, the obedient Christian life is a life which lives by this one “rule”...Love.  

There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 

Jezebel says she is going to kill Elijah; he is afraid of this threat and because he can’t go to the chemist and get put onto some pills which would help him overcome his anxiety and deal with the stress in his life at that time...he runs away...tells his servant to stay behind (sometimes we just want to be alone don't we?)...he wants to run away from life...and he does.

Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It's too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”

How many of us have not felt that way at some time in our life?  How many of us...feel that way right now?  All you want to do is just roll up into a ball and...go to sleep...or even wish...... that you were dead?  Years before, the Psalmist had gone through a similar feeling of running on empty and wrote Psalm 42.  Maybe this Psalm helped Elijah, maybe it’ll help you and me this morning – it describes how we so often feel.

As a deer is drawn to a stream of water, so I am drawn to you, Lord my God.
I have a thirst for the living God, O where can you be found?

Day and night I am sustained by tears, people mock: “Where is your God?”
I used to lead people in worship, my enthusiasm overflowing.

Why am I now in such a depression?  What is it that is disturbing me?
I know I should trust in God, someday I will praise again.

God’s pure love reaches out every day, surely my life is still in God’s hands.
Hymns echo in my head all night, songs that I still enjoy to sing.

Why does God feel so very far away?  It seems the world is against me.
They see me dying a slow death, mocking: “Where is your God?”

Why am I now in such a depression?  What is it that is disturbing me?
I know I should trust in God, someday I will praise again.

Be my advocate in these evil times, take my side against the ungodly.
Rescue me from their deceit.  Save me from wickedness.

God, I have always relied on you, why have you rejected me?
Why should I be mourning?  Enemies oppressing me.

Why am I now in such a depression?  What is it that is disturbing me?
I know I should trust in God, someday I will praise again.

Let your truth revealing light come, to guide me into your presence,
Joyful at the alter of my God, I will praise with the harp.

He lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

And what does God do?  How will God react to this fearful prophet, running for his life, curling up in a ball and wanting to die?  How will He react to you and to me when we feel this way?

Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.”

Notice God didn't feed His exhausted servant bitter herbs in order to punish him.  He didn't beat the already beaten man with a ministry stick and say, “On your feet you stupid coward; go and share the four spiritual laws with Jezebel.”  The Bible simply says that God touched Elijah with the loving words, “Get up and eat, this is too much for you.”  When we lose our perspective in life, we often lose our perspective on God Himself.  At such times we need to try and be still, feel His loving touch and hear Him say: "Go to sleep, rest a while, the journey is too long for you."  Many of us believe we need permission to go to sleep, to relax.  When we are like this, the journey, life, can be too much for fact, it will become too much for us.

He looked around and saw a loaf of bread and a jar of water near his head. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The Lord's angel returned and woke him up a second time, saying, “Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.”

There is a great truth in this verse, which we ignore at our peril.  Listen again: Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.  Notice that God’s answer to Elijah’s dilemma was a physical one.  My own tendency when I go through times like this one in Elijah’s life is to open my Bible and look for spiritual food.  But sometimes He says: "Put away your Bible and go to sleep.  We’ll talk about this later."

We must be careful not to look for spiritual answers to physical problems.  God is always concerned about both, because He knows that if we neglect either...the trip will be too much for us.  

The trip will be too much for you – perhaps you are already feeling it is too much for you right now...what you still have to do today will be too much for you......what God has planned for you to do in this week, the good works He has already planned for you and me to do, will be too much for you and me...the journey that God wants you to make from now on, your pilgrimage from now on will be too much for you...walking in God’s way will be too much for you,..... living obediently to Him and His Will, will be too much for you,.... growing in holiness, perfecting your love, will be too much for you......... if you don’t rest in God, and if you don’t eat from God and if you don’t drink from God.

Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain.
Friends, I don’t know where you or I have to walk this our homes, our work places, our our faith walks and in our growth in holiness and our growth in perfect love.  What I do know is that the trip is too much for us, and what I mean by that is that we cannot do it in our own strength...we can actually do nothing in our own strength...not even drive home after this service.
But we can do all things in Him who strengthens us.  If we don’t look to Him in all things for strength, the trip will be too much for too much for us, right now you might think you’ll manage, but you won’t.  You might think you are managing...but you’re not...and deep know it.  

But come to the One who said:

I am the bread of life………..If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink

Come to the One who said, “I am the Bread of Life” ....and eat...and you will find strength for the trip. 
Come to the One who said, “If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink”...and you will find strength for the trip.
Wherever you are right now, perhaps at a high point like Elijah was at Mount Carmel, perhaps at a low point like Elijah was at soon afterwards...wherever you are, come to Jesus and find strength for the trip.
Come to Him now... in worship as we sing “As the deer.”
Come to Him now... in prayer.
Come to Him now... through the words of the Scripture as you read your Bible.
Come to Him now... in rest as you perhaps commit yourself to...resting.

Come to Him and eat and drink, otherwise the trip will be too much for you.

Next Alpha at Alberton Methodist Church

This 10 week course is the most effective church growth and evangelism tool that I have come across in my 20 years of full-time ministry and I highly recommend it. I have been involved in Alpha in South Africa since 1996 and have constantly and repeatedly been amazed at how our LORD uses this course to literally change lives and churches before my eyes.
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wonderful accounts of Christian Perfection from July 1762

Monday, 26 July 1762: At five in the morning the congregation was larger than it used to be in the evening. And in these two days and a half, four persons gave thanks for a sense of God's pardoning mercy; and seven, (among whom were a mother and her daughter,) for being perfected in love. The person by whom chiefly it pleased God to work this wonderful work, was John Manners, a plain man, of middling sense; and not eloquent, but rather rude in speech; one who had never before been remarkably useful, but seemed to be raised up for this single work. And as soon as it was done, he fell into a consumption, languished a while, and died.
I now found he had not at all exceeded the truth, in the accounts he had sent me from time to time. In one of his first letters, after I left the town, he says: "The work here is such as I never expected to see. Some are justified or sanctified, almost every day. This week three or four were justified, and as many, if not more, renewed in love. The people are all on fire. Such a day as last Sunday I never saw. While I was at prayer in the society, the power of the Lord overshadowed us, and some cried out, ’Lord, I can believe!' The cry soon became general, with strong prayers. Twice I attempted to sing; but my voice could not be heard. I then desired them to restrain themselves, and in stillness and composure to wait for the blessing: On which all but two or three, who could not refrain, came into a solemn silence. I prayed again, and the softening power of grace was felt in many hearts. Our congregations increase much, and I have no doubt but we shall see greater things than these."
Four days after, he writes: "The work of God increases every day. There is hardly a day but some are justified, or sanctified, or both. On Thursday three came and told me that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed them from all sin. One of them told me she had been justified seven years, and had been five years convinced of the necessity of sanctification. But this easy conviction availed not. A fortnight since she was seized with so keen a conviction, as gave her no rest till God had sanctified her, and witnessed it to her heart."
Three days after, (May 11,) he writes thus: "God still continues his marvellous lovingkindness to us. On Sunday last Dor. King entered into the rest. She had been seeking it for some time; but her convictions and desires grew stronger and stronger, as the hour approached. Awhile ago she told me she grew worse and worse, and her inward conflicts were greater than ever: But on the Lord’s day she felt an entire change, while these words were spoke to her heart, 'Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.’ She now walks in sweet peace, and rejoices evermore. Her father received the blessing a few days before her, and is exceeding happy.
"The fire catches all that come near. An old soldier, in his return from Germany to the north of Ireland, fell in one night with these wrestling Jacobs, to his great astonishment. He was justified seventeen years ago, but afterward fell from it for five years. As he was going to Germany, in the beginning of the war, the Lord healed him in Dublin; and in spite of all the distresses of a severe campaign, he walked in the light continually. On his return through London, he was convinced of the necessity of sanctification; and soon after he came hither, his heart was broken in pieces, while he was with a little company who meet daily for prayer. One evening, as they were going away, he stopped them, and begged they would not go till the Lord had blessed him. They kneeled down again, and did not cease wrestling with God, till he had a witness that he was saved from all sin.
"The case of Mr. Timmins is no less remarkable. He had been a notorious sinner. He was deeply wounded two months since. Ten days ago, on a Friday, God spake peace to his soul. The Sunday following, after a violent struggle, he sunk down as dead. He was cold as clay. After about ten minutes he came to himself, and cried, 'A new heart, a new heart!’ He said he felt himself in an instant entirely emptied of sin, and filled with God. Brother Barry, likewise, had been justified but a few days, before God gave him purity of heart."
May 15, he writes: "God still makes me a messenger of good tidings. His work goes on. Our last night's meeting was remarkable for the presence and power of God, while several were relating what he had done. One said, ’All that day in which God delivered me, I felt the blessing just at hand, but could not open my heart to receive it. I was fast shut up, till, under the sermon in the evening, I felt God open my heart, remove the bar of unbelief, and give me power to receive the blessing freely.'
"There are now three places in the city, wherein as many as have opportunity assemble day and night, to pour out their souls before God, for the continuance and enlargement of his work."
"May 29.—Since my last account, many have been sanctified, and several justified. One of the former is William Moor. He was a long time struggling for the blessing; and one night he was resolved not to go to bed without it. He continued wrestling with God for two hours; when he felt a glorious change, and the Spirit of God witnessing that the work was done.
"We begin now to meet with opposition from every quarter. Some say this is rank enthusiasm; others, that it is either a cheat, or mere pride; others, that it is a new thing, and that they can find no such thing in the Bible."
"June 3.—The Lord increases his work, in proportion to the opposition it meets with. Between Monday morning and Tuesday night, I have had eight bills of thanksgiving; for two justified, three renewed in love, and three backsliders healed."
"June 15.—There is no end of the mercies of God. Three days of this week are gone, in which God has justified five sinners. On Sunday, in the afternoon, I preached at three in the Barrack-Square; and a more solemn time I have not seen; the hearers were as many as my voice could reach, and all remarkably attentive.
"In the evening a cry ran through the society, and four were justified that night. Two of these, Alexander Tate and his wife, were but lately joined. The power of God first seized her, and constrained her to cry aloud, till she heard the still small voice. He continued calling upon God, and would not cease before God answered him also in the joy in his heart."
"Saturday, June 19.—We have had eight this week, whose sins are blotted out, and two more have entered into that rest. One of them says, she has enjoyed the love of God nine years; but felt as great a difference between that state, and the state she is now in, as if her soul was taken into heaven!"
"June 26.—Last week eleven were justified, or sanctified, and this week eleven more; eight of whom received remission of sins, and three a clean heart: And a troop are waiting for the moving of the water. Among them whom the power of God has seized lately, are two eminent sinners, each of whom lived with a woman to whom he was never married. One of them already rejoices in God; the other mourns and will not be comforted: But the women are gone: They put away the accursed thing immediately.
"I had much fear about the children, lest our labour should be lost upon them; but I find we shall reap if we faint not. Margaret Roper, about eight years old, has been thoughtful for some time. The other day, while they were at family-prayer, she burst into tears and wept bitterly. They asked, what was the matter. She said she was a great sinner, and durst not pray. They bade her go to bed. She no sooner came into the chamber than she began crying, and clapping her hands, so that they heard her across the street; but God soon bound up her broken heart. Being asked how she felt herself, she said, ’Ten times better. Now I can love God. I wish you would sit up and sing with me all night.' She has been happy ever since, and as serious as one of forty."
"July 3.—Our joy is now quite full. The flame rises higher and higher. Since Saturday last, eight sinners more are freely justified, and two more renewed in love. Our House was once large enough; now it is scarce able to contain us: And we have not many in the society, who are not either wrestling with God for his love, or rejoicing therein."
Thus far the account of John Manners, quite unadorned, but plain and sensible.
Upon farther examination I found three or four and forty in Dublin, who seemed to enjoy the pure love of God: At least forty of these had been set at liberty within four months. Some others, who had received the same blessing, were removed out of the city. The same, if not a larger number, had found remission of sins. Nor was the hand of the Lord shortened yet: He still wrought as swiftly as ever.
In some respects the work of God in this place was more remarkable than even that in London. 1. It is far greater, in proportion to the time, and to the number of people. That society had above seven-and-twenty hundred members; this not a fifth part of the number. Six months after the flame broke out there, we had about thirty witnesses of the great salvation. In Dublin there were above forty in less than four months. 2. The work was more pure. In all this time, while they were mildly and tenderly treated, there were none of them headstrong or unadvisable; none that were wiser than their Teachers; none who dreamed of being immortal or infallible, or incapable of temptation; in short, no whimsical or enthusiastic persons: All were calm and sober-minded.
I know several of these were, in process of time, moved from their steadfastness. I am nothing surprised at this: It was no more than might be expected: I rather wonder that more were not moved. Nor does this, in any degree, alter my judgment concerning the great work which God then wrought.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Naboth's Vineyard: How much for your soul?

Text verse
 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Mark 8:36-37

How much do you want for your soul this evening?  What do you want in exchange for your soul?

Ahab’s soul had a price…just one vineyard.
Our reading picks up with Ahab asking a neighbour to trade or sell him a piece of land.  Naboth had a vineyard next to Ahab’s country palace in Jezreel.  But the vineyard was actually the property of the extended family.  Naboth was obviously the oldest and most senior member of the clan, but he would not sell the land because that would destroy the future security of the children of is clan.

So he answers the king, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”  
Ahab reacted to this refusal like a spoilt child.  He went home sad and angry, refused to eat until his behaviour attracted the attention of his wife, Jezebel. 

You might remember that she was a foreign princess, probably from a culture where all the land belonged to the King and was only leased to the people.  She either did not know or refused to accept the Law of Israel that clearly stated that “the king must not consider himself better than his brothers.”  [Deuteronomy 17:18-20]

Jezebel and Ahab stand for that class of people who believe that power and authority give licence to treat others abusively; to exploit them. 

Imagine how our nation’s history would be different if people in power didn’t believe they could exploit other people.

Apartheid was based on the abuse of power and the exploitation of people........ 
The corruption in our nation today is based on the abuse of power and the exploitation of people.

Jezebel has Naboth murdered while her husband does nothing and says nothing.  His silence lends his full support to her abusive, exploitative actions.  Your and my silence often lends our support to the abusive, exploitative powers that members remain silent,..............neighbours “mind their own business”.....and keep silent…................people in the workplace “mind their own business”........and keep silent…  People in nations keep silent.......................Silence has a price!

How much for your soul?
God calls His prophet to confront the king.  This is called “speaking truth to power” and it happens many times in Scripture…just one other example will suffice:  The prophet Nathan confronts another king, David, “a man after God’s own heart” after David commits adultery, steals another man’s wife and murders her husband.

Speaking truth to power…it is scary and dangerous, and seldom makes one popular.

When Ahab saw Elijah approaching, he cried: “Have you found me, O my enemy?”  To a guilty conscience, a prophet of God always looks like an enemy.  “I have found you” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

Remember, Ahab had actually done nothing…all he has done  is…remain silent while someone else did evil. 
But in his silence he sold his soul............... for a vineyard.

How much for your soul?  
We can lose possession of our souls without selling them outright.  We may gradually lose possession of our souls by mortgaging them.  Somebody “gets something” on us and it gives them a hold over us.  We cannot be our true self in their presence because they will “tell-on” and then I might lose my job…or not be considered for soul is mortgaged to the person who "has something over me". 

How often do we sell our souls, just so that people will like us?  I won’t speak for your line of work, but for my “line of work” it is so easy to think, “I’m pastor of a congregation and mustn’t I seek to give the message in a way that people will accept?”  Our concern for acceptability can lead us to soften the truth.  To be a servant of one’s congregation and also a prophet of one’s God is no easy task.  But this applies in all situations:
Remember, we are all called to be God’s prophets, God’s representatives, God’s spokesperson, wherever we find ourselves, so......
To be a servant of one’s parents or children and a prophet of God is no easy task.....
To be a servant of one’s boss and also a prophet of God is no easy task......  
To be a servant of one’s teachers & principal and also a prophet of God is no easy task......  To be a servant of one’s nation, a good citizen, and a prophet of God is no easy task.
In ethics this "problem" is called the problem of dual loyalties and it can tempt us to sell our souls.

How much for your soul…how much for mine? 
What will we pay, what are we paying to keep our jobs; keep our spouse?  
What are we paying to “keep the peace?” ........ There are so many ways we sell our soul.

Ahab sold his soul by keeping silent in the midst of his wife's abuse of her power.  Some of our politicians know how to be silent in 3 or 4 different languages.  Another way we sell our souls is by claiming to have the interests of others at heart.  “I have a wife and children to think about.”

Most of us are members of families.  How can we follow our own clear line of duty without sacrificing the interests of those who lean on us?  How can big businesses be loyal to employees, stockholders and the general public?  How can we be loyal to the country that protects us and yet not sell our souls by participating in government programs that seem wrong to us?

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  Mark 8:36-37

Our guiding principle is to have a sovereign loyalty which heads the hierarchy of our other loyalties.  Jesus insisted that His followers put Him and His Kingdom first.
“He that loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me.”  
Matthew 10:37

There may be times when our loyalty to Christ seems to cause hardship on members of our families.  There may come times (and many of us have lived through such times in South Africa) when the conscientious follower of Christ seems to run counter to what the majority of our countrymen think is good citizenship.

But in the long run, the person who uses their best ability in being loyal to Jesus, will never be a bad father or mother, a bad spouse, or a bad patriot.

Those who follow Christ to the end never feel that they have sold their souls.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Caleb Samuel, our second grandchild and first grandson

What a mighty and prophetic name Stu and Lee have chosen for their first child........
כָּלֵב, Kalev, Caleb is pronounced as "Colev" in Hebrew meaning "Whole-Hearted" or "Faithful".
Caleb is actually a compound word in Hebrew, Col (Cuf + Lamed) = all or whole. Lev (Lamed + Vet) = heart. 
 Thankful, happy, grateful parents

 The Poole Family

 Grampa and Granma Poole

 Going out for his first cappuccinno...notice the small cup.....Naughty grandparents :-)

 Indeed, they do

Saturday, June 8, 2013

3rd Sunday after Pentecost: "Ministry With"

1 Kings 17:8-24
Text verse
 Elijah was the same kind of person as we are.
James 5:17

Last week we began our series on the Old Testament prophets, looking at Elijah and his confrontation with the prophets of Baal.  We saw that he is recognised as one of the greatest prophets of Israel and then I introduced a somewhat troubling verse from the New Testament which reminds us that:

   Elijah was the same kind of person as we are.  

As it says in the original Greek: “Hy was ‘n mens, net soos ek en jy.” (only my South African and perhaps Dutch followers will appreciate this attempt at humour).  The truth is......What Elijah and I can do.  So as we look at Elijah, and in fact any of the Biblical prophets, the Bible is holding up a mirror in which we see what you and I can both look like and be like.

So, let’s work through our reading and see what we can look like, what we ought to look like:

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Now go to the town of Zarephath, near Sidon, and stay there.   I have commanded a widow who lives there to feed you.”

Last week we saw Elijah’s obedience to God in a very difficult situation.  Once again, Elijah is sensitive to God’s guidance, even though it is strange.  Go to a Gentile territory to a Gentile woman.  Gentiles are unclean.  But Elijah has had his meals brought to him for the last few months by an unclean bird, so... 

                                                      So Elijah went to Zarephath

He goes, once again in obedience, and he becomes the first prophet to the Gentiles.  He decides to “minister with” those unlike himself.

“Please bring me a drink of water,” he said to her.    

Notice, as the rest of the story unfolds, how, as this poverty stricken gentile woman responds to the request of a total stranger, a beggar, she does 3 of the 6 things that Jesus will teach as marks of true discipleship.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

She welcomes strangers, feeds the hungry and gives the thirsty something to drink, even though she is hungry and thirsty.  Do you need to be reminded to do these things today?

She answered, “By the living Lord your God I swear that I don't have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour in a bowl and a bit of olive oil in a jar. I came here to gather some firewood to take back home and prepare what little I have for my son and me. That will be our last meal, and then we will starve to death.”   (for most of us, these would be good reasons to not help a beggar)

You know what I see in that verse – good, plain, old-fashioned honesty.  Tell one another what is going on in your life.  Share your pain.  We so often don’t know what is going on in the lives of other people we love because they don’t tell us, even when we ask "How are you?"

And then the prophet remember, she and her child are about to starve to death – what word does the LORD have for her through the prophet...................

“Don't worry,” Elijah said to her.

This is one of the 365 times (according to Philip Yancey) in the Bible that God will say “Don’t worry.”  Worry is the opposite of trust.  Do you need to be reminded of that command today?

And then comes what for me is one of the most amazing miracles in the Bible.  As a child (and in many ways I am still a child) this is my favourite: 
“Go ahead and prepare your meal.  But first make a small loaf from what you have and bring it to me, and then prepare the rest for you and your son.  For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel says, ‘The bowl will not run out of flour or the jar run out of oil before the day that I, the LORD, send rain.’ ”   

He says the flour and oil won’t run out, if she first makes a meal for that believable to a gentile woman about to use her last flour and oil? Would you believe it.....especially from a beggar who has just shown up asking for water in the midst of a severe drought?  

She has to take that step of faith,....... make it for him,........ use up her remaining flour and oil, ........take it to him ......then go back and make for herself.  It’s a huge step of faith.  What would you do...feed your child first??........ she takes the step of faith and is then saved by that faith.  Salvation by faith which proves itself by works, has always been and remains God’s way of saving human and me. 

 Now, I don’t know where you are right now.  You might be at a place of abundance..... of green pastures..... of still waters in your lives.  But perhaps you are in or going into a drought; certainly if we listen to the news of the last week – it’s getting very tough economically in our nation.  Maybe you’re in a drought..... a wilderness..... a barren place, spiritually or physically, right now.  Remember my text verse: 

 Elijah was the same kind of person we are.

Oh God, how do I become more like Elijah today?  Can I make 3 suggestions from this first part of our reading:

First:  Elijah learned to depend on God for the basics.  Move away from thinking that you can provide the basics for your life and that you’ll only turn to Him for the big things or for the emergencies.  The food you’ll eat today – realise that God has provided that for you, not your cleverness, or your wise investment...but God.

Secondly:  Learn that God works in mysterious ways and be on the lookout for them.  See Him working in the strange and even unwanted things in your life.  None of us want hard times, but learn to look for the providence of God in the midst of what’s going on in your life.

Thirdly: Learn to trust and obey God.  This is a commitment which really needs to be renewed daily – trusting and obeying God.  

So, depend on God above, look for His mysterious workings, trust and obey Him and you, LIKE ELIJAH, will discover that God will provide. 
That's what our gentile widow discovered as well

Some time later the widow's son got sick; he got worse and worse, and finally he died.

A lot of time is compressed into this one verse..... Some time later......  This gentile woman has now been caring for Elijah – serving a great prophet of God, for nearly 3 years.  She has been experiencing ongoing, daily miracles in her home; the jar of oil and the bowl of flour,....... not running out!!!!  Her faith must have grown.  But.......... her son falls ill,.............. he gets worse...and worse...and finally...he dies.  Horrible things can happen to us, even when we are living a life committed to God and His service. 
 Don’t become a Christian if you think it means an easy life.

“Man of God, why did you do this to me? Did you come here to remind God of my sins and so cause my son's death?”

She feels that God sent Elijah to examine her life and discover some hidden sin and the death of her son is the punishment for the sin that Elijah discovered and told God about.  It was a commonly held view of God then...and today....... I’m amazed at how many people think God is always looking for unwitting and long forgotten sins in your life so that He can punish them.  And these people then take a jump to believing that that’s why God has ministers – to send into your home and your life to look for sins which He can punish you for. 

You laugh/smile (In a previous Church, Chris and I went to the Church and one of the ladies was offloading something and she was smoking.  As she saw our car, the cigarette just disappeared into the boot or down her throat.  She didn’t want the minister to know she smoked, perhaps because she thought, like the woman in our story, he would then tell God and then God might punish her.)

And so this widow thinks Elijah has discovered something and told God all about it.  Whenever we ask God, “What have I done to deserve this” we are saying the same thing to Him – You’ve discovered something in my life and now you’re punishing me.

It’s a very small picture to have of God..... that He just wants to punish you for your sin.  He punished His Son for your sins!!!!  

How does Elijah respond? 

“Give the boy to me,” Elijah said. He took the boy from her arms, carried him upstairs to the room where he was staying, and laid him on the bed. Then he prayed aloud, “O Lord my God, why have you done such a terrible thing to this widow? She has been kind enough to take care of me, and now you kill her son!”

He doesn’t give the widow a lecture/sermon like I just have to you.  No, he gives God a little lecture.  Notice he prayed aloud ...................... why?  I think because he’s a bit cross with God and he raises his voice.  “Why have You done this?”  “Haven’t You noticed how kind she’s been to me?”  
We see a powerful example here of intercessory prayer at it’s best!  A friend crying out to God...for you.  Now I don’t know if you have such a friend, but more importantly...are you such a friend?  The best some of us can manage is “Oh God please bless and comfort this widow in her mourning.” 
 Are you prepared to risk getting angry with God, not because of what happens to you .......but because of what happens to others?  That’s a real friend and that’s real intercession

When the Virgin Mary heard she was with child, her response was “Let it happen as You’ve said.”  But I hope (and I’m almost sure she did) have friends or family who went before God and said “Why are you doing this to her?  She’s young!  She’s actually the nicest girl in the neighbourhood!  She’s engaged for goodness’ sake, to a very nice man!  Do you know what Your Law requires us to do to a betrothed woman who falls pregnant?”

Are you that kind of praying friend?  This always happens privately of course ...... Elijah goes upstairs...... Jesus says go into a closet............... You don’t advertise that you’re praying, so you might not actually know if you have such a friend, but you do know whether you are such a friend.

Such prayer will lead you to action.  Faith always leads to works; faith bears fruit.  Not necessarily in answered prayer, that is not a fruit, but in trying to be the answer to your prayers for others...that is fruit.

So “Oh Lord, feed the poor” only becomes a useful and fruitful prayer when you actually make 3 Marmite sandwiches and say “Oh Lord, show me who to give these to today.”

You find yourself doing strange things when you begin to pray this way.    Look at the weird thing Elijah does: 

Then Elijah stretched himself out on the boy three times and prayed, “O Lord my God, restore this child to life!”

This is a strange thing to do..........because in the whole history of the world, up until that point, no-one has ever died and come back to life.  But that doesn’t stop Elijah asking God to do it and then doing something to try and make it happen.....Faith which shows itself in actions........ And the boy comes back to life and the widow says 

She answered, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the Lord really speaks through you!”

I think these words were for Elijah – because, as we see in the next stage of his story in this series, he changes.  This miracle changes him. 

 Elijah discovers what he can become in the Hands of God.  Have you?

Elijah was the same kind of person as we are.

You are a person (says the Bible) just like Elijah.  You can be a friend, just like Elijah was..........You can pray, just like Elijah did..................You can do things to help God answer your prayers.

You and I can discover what a surrendered spirit can become in the Hands of God.  

May you and I discover what a surrendered spirit can become in the Hands of God...this we do “Ministry With” the people around us.