Don’t Stay Under the Juniper Tree

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” (excerpt from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst)

Have you ever felt like Alexander?  I have, and so did Elijah.

Elijah served God faithfully during the days of wicked king Ahab and his sinister wife, Jezebel, who introduced pagan worship into Israel. In a contest on Mt. Carmel, Elijah was God’s instrument to prove His power and sovereignty. Afterwards, Jezebel said she would kill Elijah. Fearful and weary, Elijah sank into the depths of despair, went into the wilderness, sat down under a juniper tree, and asked God to take his life.

 

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers’.” (I Kings 19:4)

Elijah’s fear, fatigue, and frustration distorted his perspective of reality. He fell into an exhausted sleep, psychologically depleted and physically drained. God sent an angel to provide food and water.  Elijah ate, went back to sleep, then ate again.

Do you feel like sitting under a juniper tree? Acting on the following four words can help change your feelings from hopelessness to hopefulness.

Rest

Our minds need rest from thinking and our bodies need rest from motion. Sleep   renews and rejuvenates our bodies.  My pastor says, “Sometimes, one of the most spiritual things you can do is take a nap.” Turn off the television and put away your electronic devices.

Relax

No one can go full-throttle all the time. Listening to soft music, taking a hot bath,   or going on a walk are ways you can relax from the day-to-day grind. Crying can help release pent-up emotions. A friend recently said, “God wastes nothing – not even tears.”

Relate

Choose to be with people with whom you are comfortable, who make you laugh, who know how to listen, who will pray with you, and who speak the truth in love.  Don’t stay away from those who care about you. Seeing a professional therapist with whom you can express your thoughts and emotions can also be beneficial. God listened to Elijah and let him vent his frustrations. God knows what we are thinking and feeling so nothing we say will surprise Him. Pour out your hurts to Him. Pray, asking God to renew your strength, stabilize your emotions, and give you hope during your times of distress and discouragement.

Reflect

Reflect on God’s character and the things He has done for you, His provisions,    comfort, and love.  Remembering the times of God’s presence and power brings       renewed hope and strength.  Spend time in God’s word.  Read one Psalm or one chapter of Proverbs each day.  Underline verses that encourage you.  Memorize scripture.  Keep a journal and write down your thoughts.  Make a list of God’s promises or the names of God.  Choose to trust God even when you can’t see what He’s doing.

God knew Elijah needed to take a break from the emotional and physical challenges he was facing and lovingly helped Elijah transition from hopelessness to hopefulness. Elijah didn’t stay under the juniper tree and neither should we.

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.

JAWS

“IF YOU WANT TO LIVE, THROW ME OVERBOARD!” cried Jonah, as each wave grew higher and higher, crashing against the vessel. With each wave, the ship groaned and creaked louder, signaling that it could not hold much longer. “Lord, forgive us of this man’s death!” the sailors shouted as they tossed him into the raging sea. Jonah surfaced; instantly the waves stopped and the water was still. But wait, what was that Jonah saw as he bobbed in the water?

Jonah saw a great fin breach the water for a second. It breached again, closer to him this time. Then again, even closer. Something bumped him from underneath the water. Another bump. Can you hear it? The sounds of “JAWS”: duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun!

Personally, as one who only gets about ankle-deep in the ocean, I cannot imagine a more terrifying scenario. After reading Jonah 1-2, I saw that the Lord powerfully pointed out that His purpose will be accomplished, with our obedience or without. The last part of Jonah 1:3 says, “After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Take a look at the beginning of that sentence again: “After paying the fare . . . .”  it cost Jonah to disobey, and he paid greatly for his disobedience. Let’s dive into (see what I did there :)) a few of the details chapters 1 and 2 give us regarding how Jonah paid for his disobedience:

  • actual money (Jonah 1:3b)
  • the humiliation of having to confess to his fellow sailors what he had done that put their lives in danger (Jonah 1: 4-11)
  • being swallowed alive (Jonah 1:17)
  • the unimaginable experience of surviving in the fish’s stomach for 3 whole days. We can only guess at what that must have done to his body. I would assume that it included ruptured eardrums as the fish dove down into the depths of the ocean. (Jonah 2:3-6)  The motion sickness coupled with the smell of partially digested marine contents probably induced vomiting. Lastly, can you imagine the intense, oppressive darkness and overwhelming claustrophobia? He probably couldn’t breathe due to the intense fear.
  • Did I mention being swallowed alive? Just making sure.

This had me thinking, what in my life am I making more difficult than it has to be? What am I not being obedient in, causing extra hardships that wouldn’t be there if I would just obey?

Another sobering thought is that God didn’t have to save Jonah from those terrors. He very easily could have let Jonah die, several times, and instructed someone else to preach His word. How much disobedience is too much before God decides not to use us as His disciples anymore?

After Jonah prayed a prayer of repentance, God commanded the fish to vomit him up on dry land. (Jonah 2:10) Then our loving Father allowed Jonah a “do-over.” Jonah 3 starts with the Lord again commanding Jonah to go to Nineveh to tell the people their city will be destroyed unless they repent.

Join with me in confessing sin and disobedience to the Lord.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness.  Psalms 103:8

Let’s make it easier on ourselves and stop fighting Him with our disobedience, while we still have a chance.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

Good News/Bad News – An Obscure Woman Speaks Truth to a powerful Man

 . . . but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.  Acts 1:8

As 1978 ended, during one of the worst ice storms in Dallas history, electric power was out all over the city.  Our house was totally without power for a whole week!  That major inconvenience was a great reminder of how important it is to have power!

Many folks are obsessed with a desire for a different kind of power.  They want personal power in their jobs, homes, churches, schools, government, and everywhere else.  Power couples, power suits, power ties, power lunches, power to choose, political power, government power, police power, military power, girl power, kid power, super powers, power drinks, power bars, power positions, power lifting, power walking, the “elusive powers that be” abound everywhere.  There is no limit to the craving for power.

Huldah wielded a great deal of power.  This obscure woman was a prophetess in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-20; 2 Chronicles 34:14-28).  Before Josiah became king at the age of eight, the people of Judah had sunk about as low as possible spiritually.  They worshiped Baal and other pagan gods, even offering their children as sacrifices on those heathen altars, consulted sorcerers and diviners, and practiced sexual deviance.  They had abandoned the worship of the Lord who had created and blessed them.  But Josiah desired to follow the example of King David and to please the Lord, destroying many of the pagan altars and initiating many reforms.  In the eighteenth year of his reign, he ordered God’s Temple to be repaired.  During the restoration, a priest discovered the Book of the Lord!  When the king heard the words of the Book, possibly Deuteronomy 7 and 8, he tore his clothes and sent representatives to “inquire of the Lord” about these words!  They went to the prophetess Huldah to receive God’s message to the king.  Huldah spoke the words from the Lord with grace, courage, and dignity.

The very, very, “bad news” came first.  Because of the debauchery and rebellion of Judah, God would bring about all the curses the were described in the Book!  But the “good news” for Josiah was that these terrible events would not happen in his lifetime since he had humbled himself and repented on behalf of his people.  Josiah led the Jews in the greatest revival and celebrated the greatest Passover that had ever been observed in Judah!

Sadly, however, the repentance of the people did not last past the death of Josiah.  Unfortunately, the kings who followed led Judah into the same depravity as before.  Those who rejected the Lord, in wickedness and perversion, were ultimately exiled, though they had been warned and given a chance to repent.  Huldah had spoken powerful words of truth, leading that great, though temporary, revival.  Where did she get such power?  The power came from the Holy Spirit of God Himself!  The good news for believers is that we have the same Holy Spirit that Huldah had!  All who trust in Jesus as Savior receive the Holy Spirit to dwell within them forever! The power He gives is not the power the culture is seeking – power over other people, to control or intimidate.  The power that comes from the Spirit enables a believer to share the gospel with those who are perishing in sin, speak kindly to one who has been rude, release the desire for retaliation, rejoice in a time of loss, find wisdom in the Word of God, stand for “right” even when no one else does, have peace in the middle of turmoil, continue to trust when prayers seem unanswered, resist the temptation to sin, forgive even when brokenhearted, persevere in doing good when relief seems far away.  The power Jesus demonstrated was the power to choose to be humble and submissive in spirit, not seeking fame or the praise of men, but serving others instead.  This is the power we should “wield.”

“Dear Heavenly Father, empower me to be humble before You and others, to serve them as though I am serving You, never to be prideful or desirous of worldly power, but only the power that comes from You!”

About the Writer
Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Studies teacher. For many years a stay-at-home wife and mother, she is now also a grandmother to three young Oklahomans, who call her “Gigi”.

 

In this Upside Down World, How Can I have Comfort?

Look up comfort in a dictionary and you’ll find a definition like “something that promotes a state of ease or provides freedom from pain and anxiety.”  Is comfort something we try to obtain through materialistic means – anything from new clothes, to drugs, drinking, sex, luxurious homes, cars, etc.?  Today’s culture would lead us to believe this is true.

Note this excerpt from a recent devotional by Dr. Charles Stanley:

“According to God’s Word, when consolation or comforting is needed, the only true solution is the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Greek, He is called paraklētos, which means ‘he who stands at one’s side; he who comes to one’s aid.’  Believers don’t have to rely on outward remedies or distractions to ease their mind, because help is available from the ultimate Comforter.  Even before the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell believers. (John 14:26),(Ephesians 3:16) Scripture identified God as the one who comforts His people. (Isaiah 40:1)(Isaiah 49:13).  The Lord personally provides consolation and reassurance because no one knows our hurts the way He does.”

“I like this anonymous quotation: ‘When we have gone into the furnace of affliction, His hand is on the thermostat and His eye is on the clock.” God allows hardship, and as a result, we become stronger believers, wiser servants, and more humble people. But He stays by our side through the entire experience, sustaining us and limiting the intensity and duration of our distress. The Spirit’s reassuring whisper to our heart gives more comfort than the solace of family or the encouragement of friends.”

In the life of David in the Old Testament, we find numerous times that he sought out the Lord for comfort, reassurance, and instruction. A few of those instances were:  when fighting with Goliath (I Samuel 17) and running from Saul (I Samuel 19-22).  He wrote the Psalm below describing how our Lord provided comfort and reassurance.

Ps. 16:8-11  I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Notice in this Psalm the steps he took:

  1. Kept his focus on the Lord – “set the Lord continually before me”
  2. Demonstrated faith, peace, and security in the Lord – “I will not be shaken”
  3. Recognized his joy was from the Lord – “my heart is glad”
  4. Knew he would never be left alone – “You will not abandon”
  5. Recognized where his joy and pleasures came from – “in Your presence  . . . In Your right hand”

Sometimes on this side of heaven, we may not know the purpose for trials and tribulations, but we can be sure that our God is Sovereign, and will provide true comfort, peace, hope, and reassurance through His Holy Spirit.  Lean on Him, let go, and let God.

About the Writer:
Beverly is former educator, administrator, and Sunday school teacher, who is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing God’s love.