The heavens black with clouds and wind. A great rain. A wind so strong wind that it tears the mountains and breaks rocks into pieces.
Sounds like a description of Typhoon Mangkhut on Sunday but this is actually an old weather report. Really old, like from the Old Testament old.
It was desperate times for God’s people in Elijah’s day, especially if you were a prophet of the Lord like him. Israel was ruled by an evil king, Ahab, who worshipped Baal. In 1 Kings 18 and 19, Elijah had just triumphed over the prophets of Baal in a display of God’s might and rightfully humiliated them. But this great victory is short-lived and he is running for his life from Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. He takes refuge in a cave on Mount Horeb, the mount of God, completely exhausted and afraid, thinking that he’s the last prophet alive. Then God shows up, tells Elijah to stand outside the cave for this:
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13
In the aftermath of Mangkhut, it might be good to reflect and think if God may have a message for you in the wake of the storm. God’s whisper to Elijah gave him two valuable insights.
Elijah was badly in need of this. After defeating the prophets of Baal, he was fearful, exhausted, hungry and tired. He believed he was the last of God’s prophets. He was certainly burnt out but it was to the point that he completely forgot that he was told of a hundred other prophets, also sheltering in caves, hiding out from Ahab and Jezebel (18: 4, 13). God assures him that there are indeed other faithful ones, even seven thousand (19:15-18). Elijah lost his perspective and regained it.
Sometimes it takes a big event to give us a good dose of perspective. We need to be shaken out of our norm once in while. At the very least, we should all be deeply thankful for how well Hong Kong weathered the super typhoon (which was the world’s most powerful storm this year) and the minimal damage suffered.
There has been a lot more devastation, loss and grief in the Philippines and other places (and from Hurricane Florence in the U.S. too). We need to pray and act to help those who have lost so much.
But personally, we should not miss the lesson in perspective from this. For everyone reading this in Hong Kong, our homes and buildings are probably still standing. I don’t know anyone who suffered any injury. We have the ability and resources to get right back up after the storm. For these, we are grateful. Maybe there are other lessons in perspective for you like appreciation, humility, generosity, service.
What perspective does God have for you after the storm?
Also the wake of the wind, earthquake and fire that passed, God had big-picture news that equalled those elemental forces: He revealed Elijah’s successor, Elisha (18:16). Knowing what (or in this case, who) comes next means peace. It means a measure of certainty. It is an assurance that God is sovereign and in control. For Elijah, there would be someone to train and pass the mantle to. There would be greater meaning and purpose in knowing that the line would not end with himself.
Purpose doesn’t have to only mean something as significant or far-reaching as this. Purpose could be His near-future purpose and plans for you. Maybe it’s wisdom for a specific situation or for the days or weeks ahead. Or maybe it’s a short-term peek into the future, not the whole picture, but enough to give you faith to continue on a certain path.
What purpose does God want to whisper to you?
Unlike other typhoon days that have been more like a day off, Mangkhut kept most of us too busy to relax and reflect. But just like in this account, God didn’t speak to Elijah during the winds. He spoke to him gently afterwards. Don’t miss the chance after this storm to listen for His voice.
In the wake of Mangkhut, how are you doing? (Or aside from anything else, how are you doing today, right now as you read this?)
What are you doing today with the lessons from the typhoon?
It’s a word that is in our headlines all the time.
Freedom of speech. Political freedom. Economic freedom. Sexual freedom.
Amid all the fuss about freedom, little is mentioned about spiritual freedom. Sometimes spiritual freedom is often misconstrued as the license to do, think, or speak however one wants to under the guise of freedom. But when freedom is misapplied it leads to chaos
True freedom isn’t the unrestricted option to do whatever we want, but rather the ability to do what is right.
The apostle Paul was greatly concerned with misapplied freedom among the Galatian believers. Here some of his words of urgent concern:
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him.” 1:6
“I am perplexed about you.” 4:20
“I fear for you.” 4:11
“Who hindered you?” 5:7
Seeing Christ-followers lose their way through bad choices was alarming for Paul.
He knew the very essence of the gospel is understanding how it brings true freedom. Not unrestricted, call-your-own-shots kind of freedom, but rather a reasoned submission to God that allows freedom to come from doing what is right.
It’s counter-intuitive, for sure. Most of the Christian life is. The last shall be first? You must die to live?
But it’s nonetheless true. True freedom is found is willing submission.
Paul reasons with them: “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16)
Truth is a gift and the pathway to real life. Truth guides us to real freedom.
Consider doing an inventory of your recent choices. Are they deliberate, intentional, and filtered through the wisdom of God? Or have you allowed the wisdom of the age to creep in, causing you to justify unwise actions, all the while calling it your freedom?
So pursue truth and apply it to your life. Joyfully live with limits. You are a child of God, and your heavenly Father is only good. So his limits are not cruel, but pathway to real freedom.
Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me. May those who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!” But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay. Psalm 70:1-5 NIV
Recently, I have had a very tough time at work and the challenges that have been thrown my way have weighed me down, pressured me and at times, made me want to give up. I can relate to David when he said “I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay.” I was so desperate for God’s help and was crying out for Him to deliver me from all the situations I was going through. I knew that only God could help and deliver me from the trials and tribulations I was going through.
But as I reflected on this scripture, I was reminded of when Jesus was thinking about the suffering He would soon have to face – dying on the cross. He said His soul was “troubled’ and contemplated whether He should ask God to “save Him from this hour” but ultimately said, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” (John 12:27–28a)
Both David and Jesus were facing pain and, in David’s words, he asked for his pain to be taken away so that God can be glorified and in Jesus’ words, He knew that He had to face the pain in order for God to be glorified. Because of Jesus and the pain He faced on the cross, we can now experience the salvation, grace and freedom from God. Sometimes, God is most glorified when He delivers us but others times, He is most glorified when we “take up our cross.”
So as I continue to face the challenges and pain through different circumstances in life, I no longer ask God to take away the suffering, rather to be glorified in every circumstance of my life. If taking it away glorifies Him – amen; if facing and overcoming it glorifies Him – also amen. God, help me to sustain that!
Let us come before God by:
I recently discovered a truth that I have overlooked in all my years as a Christ-follower. I have heard others, and I myself have used the following scripture many times over the years:
I say to you, if two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:19-20
As I recall, this passage was in every case linked directly to prayer, when it doesn’t specifically say this; and it is often misquoted as “two or more,” instead of the way Jesus directly states – “two or three.”
I found this really interesting!
Now without a doubt, Christ is present when larger numbers than three are gathered and prayer remains a center piece in faith. But this specific passage is not about such. The context for Jesus’ words helps clear up any confusion. The context of this part of Matthew 18, is dealing with the reality of sin and dealing with conflict when it arises between brothers and sisters in the church and how to recover health in relationships.
Jesus is promising us that when we have done all we can to resolve some interpersonal problem and we need help from another person, then he will be intentionally present with them as followers who are seeking unity in reaching decisions and gaining health.
Matthew, who is primarily writing for Jewish followers of Christ, knows well how this concept is interlinked with Old Testament teachings, such as Deuteronomy 19:15, where two or three witnesses are needed to resolve sinful behaviour within the community of faith.
I am personally fascinated with what this passage clearly states but has so often been misused, thereby causing many to miss a powerful application to real problems and debilitating sin.
This truth about a power found in “two or three” gathered to assist with recovery in no way speaks against larger group gatherings or of the power of prayer in other settings. It is instead an amazing layer in the richness of God’s love and provision for us in Christ. Jesus is sharing with his followers that when a brother or sister is held captive by some specific wrongdoing and ready to recover and rebuild, there is a promise that Christ will be present in powerful and unique ways when that person is gathered with one or two fellow believers. How special is that!
On a personal note, my study of this passage led me to once again enter into a support/accountability relationship with one brother. We met yesterday, not to deal with some specific sin, but to provide a relationship to guard against what Satan may throw our way. An amazing time with Christ’s presence in our midst.
What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:4 (ESV)
For many of you, this is a beautiful and familiar verse; for those who have never read this verse before, I am glad that it was introduced to you today.
What I would like you to do right now is read this verse very slowly… “What is man – that you are – mindful – of him, and the son of man – that you – care for him?” Now, close your eyes and meditate on these few simple but profound words… “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
The definition of “mindful” according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “careful not to forget about something”. It overwhelms me to know that God sees us as His precious sons and daughters, and that He is careful with us. I have three precious sons and I don’t need to be reminded of that since they are always in my heart.
As a father, how can I forget my children? As an imperfect human being however, I need to be careful not to forget that they are their own person, have their different personalities, and need to be loved in a way they each feel loved.
But our Father in heaven is perfect! He knows every strand of our hair because He created us (Luke 12:7). Isn’t it comforting to know that our God is the perfect and holy God? That He never sleeps nor slumbers (Psalms 121:4)? Isn’t it comforting to know that He is careful in loving us and that He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)?
In fact, let me turn this around. It is I who needs to be mindful of God. I need to be careful and not forget that He is the one who is ultimately in control and that whatever happens in my life, I know I am His beloved child, His creation and that He is always, always be mindful of me.
How about you? How are you being mindful of your Lord God today?