Wednesday

That Fiasco on the Mountain -- How to Hear God's Voice


The fiasco on the mountain was truly a pathetic scene. Desperate to prove the superiority of their false god, the prophets of Baal worked themselves into a frenzy. They danced. They sang. They called out. 


After hours of such nonsense, Elijah’s patience with their theatrics wore thin. He began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened" (v. 27) 

Humiliated, the prophets renewed their efforts to attract their god’s attention. They cried louder. They cut themselves until the blood ran in rivers down their arms. 

And heaven’s voice was silent. No thunder clap from the clouds. No bolt of lightning. No booming voice declaring their god’s presence. Just silence. And, perhaps, a snicker from the lone prophet who watched their antics with disdain. 

This big-screen showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a familiar story. Captured in all its glorious detail on the pages of 1 Kings 18, the epic battle (which wasn’t a battle after all) between the God of the universe and the gods of this world ends just as we expect it to. God displays his power with miraculous signs and wonders, vanquishes his enemies, and leads even the unbelieving to testify, "The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!" (v. 39). 

But what prompted God to show up? A two sentence prayer from Elijah: 


"O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 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" (vv. 36-37). 

Two sentences comprised of mostly one- and two-syllable words. A simple, heart-felt plea from one of God’s children. 

If you, like I, find God’s willingness to respond to simple prayers amazing, we’re not alone. The prophet Amos also marveled at how available and accessible God is. “He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man” (Amos 4:13). 

He is here. 

Think on this for a moment. The God who forms the mountains and creates the wind . . . is here. Where we are. With us

But it gets better. 

Have you ever sat in a room with someone who is physically here, yet a thousand miles away? Shrouded in mystery and silence, their thoughts were as incomprehensible as a Supreme Court brief to a first-year law clerk. 

But, wonder of wonder, our God isn’t like this. He doesn’t require us to employ dramatic and extreme measures to get his attention or discern his thoughts. Our mighty, all-powerful God is not only with us, but also, in the words of Amos, “longs to reveal his thoughts to us.” 

What other god is like this? 

If you, like Elijah (not the prophets of Baal) would like to experience God’s power, and if you, like Amos, want to understand God’s thoughts, it’s not hard. 

First, seek God earnestly. 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). 

Second, talk to him in prayer. Prayer isn’t elaborate or ostentatious. It’s a conversation. Moses talked to God “face to face,” and we can, too, (even though, for a time at least, we’ll have to imagine God’s face). 

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:18-19). 

Third, allow God to speak to you through his Word, the Bible. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). 

As we approach God earnestly, talk to him in prayer, and allow him to speak to us through his Word, we’ll come to understand his heart and mind. No shouting, dancing, or bloodletting. Just a conversation with the God of the universe who longs to reveal his thoughts to us. 

Imagine that.






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Sunday

Are "Ordinary" Christians Exempt? What Qualifies Us to Speak for God?"



Imagine this – you’re in the Jeopardy hot seat, and the Daily Double flashes onto the screen. 

The category? Men God Used to Write the Bible. Wager everything and produce the correct answer, and you win it all. Flub the question, and you go home broke and ashamed. 

I’ve got this, you think, scrolling through the Who’s Who of Biblical Authors: Maybe the answer is a prophet like Moses or Elijah, or a king like David. Or maybe they’ll ask for a scribe like Ezra. This is Jeopardy, and it’s the DAILY DOUBLE. The answer has to be someone important.. 


“Contestants, here’s the question: Name the fig farmer/shepherd who wrote a nine-chapter Old Testament book of the Bible.” 

Dee dee dee dee Dee dee dee Dee dee dee dee DEE dee dee dee dee dee Dee dee dee dee dee dee dee DEE dee dee dee dee dee dee. 

“For the Daily Double and the win, your answer please?” 

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . .” 

I’m sorry. The correct answer is, ‘Who is the prophet Amos?’” 

Amos? Amos? A fig farmer/shepherd wrote a book of the Bible? Who ever heard of such a thing? God uses big name stars, not nobody shepheherds. And a FIG FARMER? Named Amos? You’ve got to be kidding me.

But it’s true. 

Backstage you scroll through your Bible app on your phone and read the truth in the prophet’s own words: 

"I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15). 

The Daily Double notwithstanding, Amos’ story is our story, too. 

“Think of what you were when you were called,” the apostle Paul reminds us, 

“Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-- and the things that are not-- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). 

Many of us think, because we haven’t been to seminary, earned a Bible degree, or have a ministerial title behind our names, we’re not qualified to share God’s words with others. But Amos (and believers from the dawn of time) prove this thinking wrong. 

Most of God’s ambassadors were minding their own businesses living quiet lives until God tapped them on the shoulder and said, “It’s time. There’s a person who needs to hear the message I’m going to give you, and you’re the one to deliver it.” 

That co-worker who opened up last week in the break room? It’s not a coincidence that she talked to you. 

That curious teenager sitting across from you in Sunday School who finally dared to say out loud what he’s been thinking for months? Not an accident that he chose you to unburden his heart. 

That young mother struggling to believe that God can change people when her husband disappoints her day after day, week after week. Not a random event. 

Just like God used Amos the fig-farmer/shepherd to deliver his words of love and warning to the nation of Israel, so God uses us, wives, mothers, nurses, teachers to share words of hope, faith, and beauty with those in our circles of influence. 

With a few exceptions, most of the people God used to write and speak his words were untrained people who said yes to his call. 

The result? They delivered God’s message to the people who needed it at just the time they needed to hear it. 

With the exception of Jonah. He said no at first and had to spend three days in whale jail before he repented. Thankfully, God gave him a second chance. 

Slinging whale slobber and seaweed, he reluctantly marched himself into the city of Ninevah and delivered the message that brought about a city-wide revival. 

Imagine that. Only God. 

So how about you? Who is God calling you to share his words with? 

Don’t look to your credentials to decide whether to obey. Look to God’s call – that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit that nudges your heart and makes you aware of the spiritual needs of those around you. 

Then open your mouth like Amos the fig-farmer/shepherd and watch what God will do. 

“Seek good and not evil so that you may live,” Amos proclaimed, “and the Lord, the God of Hosts will be with you, as you have claimed. Hate evil and love good; establish justice in the gate. Perhaps the Lord, the God of Hosts, will be gracious” (Amos 5:14-15). 

Now it’s your turn. 

When have you sensed God calling you to speak out in his name? Did you obey? What happened? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below and share with us all. If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and comment.



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Wednesday

Running from Sin Like We're Running from Samson


The first inkling I had of my future as a track star was the day I sprinted across the yard with Samson close at my heels. 


Samson was every newspaper delivery girl’s nightmare. His shaggy black fur made the perfect backdrop for his pearly white fangs. Kinda like diamonds on black velvet, except much scarier. 

And he snarled. Samson sounded like a cross between a pig in a food trough and the Tasmanian devil. He was so mean his owners kept him in a pen with a latched lid. 

The lid, unfortunately, was secured with a simple eye hook, which meant if he lunged against the top hard enough and angrily enough, he could sometimes work the hook loose. 

And chase the paper girl, who infuriated him by coming onto his property every afternoon at 3:30 pm. 

As soon as I’d turn the corner onto Oliver Street, I could hear him barking. The knot in my stomach formed. The closer I got to his house, the tighter the knot would grow. And when I’d round the corner of his house for the long walk to the back door, a mere 20 feet from Samson’s pen, the knot became an icy hot poker that didn’t melt until I was once again safe on the sidewalk. 

On that particular day, the day I tried out for the track and field Olympics without planning to, I rounded the corner cautiously. Don’t let him see your fear, my Dad’s voice rang in my head. And whatever you do, don't run. 


Resisting the urge to bolt down the driveway, fling the newspaper into the space between the storm door and the inside door, and run back, I sauntered instead. At the first glimpse of me, Samson erupted into a slobbering, demonic rage. Crazed that I would dare set foot on his property, let alone approach him, he lunged against the top of the pen. 

BAM. His head crashed against the lid as it lifted. 

BAM. The hook held, and the lid crashed back down.

BAM. His head crashed against the lid again. 

BAM. The hook held, and the lid crashed back down. 

BAM. His head crashed against the lid as it lifted. 

Click. The hook slid from its hook. 

Squirm. Slither. Grunt. Snarl. Samson wormed his way out of the pen and lunged for his prey – ME! 

That’s when I accomplished my record-breaking 20-foot dash. Knowing speed was my only defense, I cast Dad’s advice to the wind and ran with all my might toward the apartment door. I knew if I could beat Samson to the door, I might live to run another day. 

And I did. 

But there was a flaw to my desperate plan. As soon as I flung the screen door open and reached for the inside knob, I knew I was in trouble. 

The door was locked. 

I was 12 years old at the time and skinny as a branch on Auntie Bea’s weeping willow tree. My middle-school classmates teased me mercilessly. Even my dad called me String Bean. Usually I hated my figure-less figure, but that day, I was thankful to be skinny. 

In a final, feeble attempt to escape Samson’s snapping jaws, I turned myself sideways, tucked my newspaper bag between me and him, and shut myself into the minuscule space between the two doors, yelling like I was about to be devoured – which I was. 

Samson’s barking and my screaming attracted quite a crowd. One neighbor grabbed him by the collar and pulled him away from the door. Another slapped a leash on him and dragged him back to his pen. The homeowner finally opened the door from the inside, causing me to tumble backward and land in a blubbering heap at his feet. 

I was safe. 

My only regret is that this event happened during the era before security cameras. I sure would have liked to watch a replay of the best race of my life. 

I thought of Samson recently. Nightmare experiences never vanish completely, I guess. But unlike the walking-up-screaming-drenched-in-a-cold-sweat replays I sometimes experience, this reminder came in the daylight – during my quiet time. 

I read 1 Corinthians 10:13, one of the first verses I memorized as a young believer: 

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 

This verse continues to remind me that God doesn’t send us into each day without protection. Instead, he always provides a way of escape. We don’t have to sin. 

Thankfully, most of us won’t face a snarling, slobbering threat like Samson, but sin and Samson are a lot alike. 

We can sometimes grow complacent or overconfident about our vulnerability to sin, thinking we’re immune to its destructive nature. 

Sin can catch us unprepared, without a plan to protect ourselves. 

If we fail to prepare, sin can injure, scar, devour, and destroy us. 

Samson taught me several valuable lessons that day. You don’t have to be a newspaper delivery girl to benefit from them: 

1. Know your enemy. What’s your weakness? Your besetting sin? Sexual temptation? The tendency to abuse alcohol? To go along with the crowd? To gossip? To lie? Knowing Samson was always waiting for me helped me be ready when the threat came. 

2. Know when to call for help. We can fight some battles alone, but others are too big. Don’t be prideful. Ask a godly friend to pray for you and hold you accountable. 

3. Avoid temptation whenever possible. Put hedges of protection around your vulnerabilities. 

4. Look for the way of escape and take it. God promises it is always there. 



Three years after my foot race with Samson, I joined the high school track team and lettered in hurdles. I never again came close to my personal best time that day at Samson's house. But then, he never chased me again. You'd better believe, though, every time I rounded the corner to his house, I was 
watching and ready to run. 

May we be similarly ready for whatever danger comes our way and run from sin like we're running from Samson.












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Sunday

When You Feel Insignificant

The world is very big, and sometimes I feel very small.

Scientists estimate there are seven billion people living on the earth today. Walk through Manhattan or Tokyo at rush hour, and you’ll have no trouble believing this.

“Scramble Crossing” in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan, will convince you if you need further proof. Dubbed “the world’s busiest intersection” for pedestrian traffic, Scramble Crossing can reportedly accommodate as many as 2,500 pedestrians with each rush-hour traffic signal change.






I sat at this intersection several years ago when I visited my daughter in Japan. As I watched people scurry from one side of the street to the other, I gained a greater understanding that the world is very big, and we are very small.

It’s easy sometimes, in light of the world’s great expanse, to sometimes feel insignificant and overlooked. Does God see us, single souls among billions? And if he does see us, do we matter at all?

Then I read Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

“Even the very hairs of your head are numbered.” God knows everything about me.

“You are worth more than many sparrows. . .” God treasures me.

And because God knows everything about ys, and because God assigns value to us (wonder of wonders!), we have no reason to feel insignificant. 

Think on this today.




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Wednesday

Are You Afraid of Failing God?

When was the last time you cried over another Christian’s moral failure? 

I cried today. 


But I wasn’t crying over the mega-church pastor from Georgia who resigned his church over an emotional affair, even though that hurt my heart. Or the local leader who was arrested on child pornography charges. I wasn’t even crying over the associate pastor who’d discipled my neighbor – while embezzling thousands of dollars from the church’s bank account. 

Today I cried for one of the most well-known leaders of the Christian (and Jewish) faith – Aaron the high priest. 

The owner of an impressive pedigree, Aaron was an unlikely candidate for spiritual and moral failure.

He was: 

A Hebrew born into slavery in Egypt. 

The son of Jochebed and Amram and brother to Moses. 

The primary spokesperson for God (and Moses) as God prepared to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. 

He’d been Moses’ COO, the media specialists for the greatest escape of all time, and the voice that spoke God’s words to Pharaoh. He’d heard God speak, bridged the gap between Moses and the Israelites, and stood beside his little brother on the scary walk to Pharaoh’s throne room. 

He’d held the rod that became a serpent, seen the death angel pass over the Hebrew camp, and stepped onto the dry riverbed of the Red Sea. He’d eaten food that came from God’s hand, drank bitter water turned sweet, and witnessed the glory cloud of God descend upon the mountain. Most miraculous of all, he, his sons, and 70 elders had seen God – and lived. 

Yet while Moses and God transcribed the Law onto stone tablets on top of Mt. Sinai, Aaron descended into idolatrous worship at its base. Sucked into doubt, fear, and disbelief, he caved to the pressure of the crowd and turned his back on everything he believed. 

How can a man who has known God so intimately fail so profoundly? And how do we – frail humans who won’t see God face to face until heaven – have any hope of standing firm until the end? 

Do you ever fear you might behave so faithlessly that you bring shame to yourself, your family, and your ministry? Even worse, that you might fail so profoundly that you drag God’s name through the muck of sinful choices and give God’s enemies reason to rejoice? Or that the saved and the unsaved might have to stumble over your soiled example on their path to Jesus? 

I don’t normally ponder these dark, sobering thoughts. But Aaron’s failure, right there on the pages of Scripture, paired with recent accounts of godly men turning their backs on God brought me here. It comforts me to know the great apostle Paul feared the same things. 


In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he confessed to being afraid, after having preached to others, that he would be “disqualified.” Set aside. Hamstrung in his spiritual race to finish well. 

But Paul’s fear didn’t paralyze him, and our fears don’t have to, either. Instead, it fortified his determination. And it led him to take concrete steps to guard against moral and spiritual failure. 

“I beat my body and make it my slave,” he declares. My desires won’t rule me. With God’s help, I’ll rule them. 

He, too, remembered all the reasons Aaron and the children of Israel had to stand firm in God. “They walked through the sea on dry land. Followed the cloud in the desert. Ate manna from heaven and water from a rock.” 

But just experiencing God’s power isn’t enough, he says. We must intentionally guard ourselves against loving the things of this world more than the God of the heavens. Against sexual immorality. Against our tendency to test God’s patience and grumble about what we don’t have instead of expressing gratitude for what we do (1 Cor. 10:1-10). 

Take heed, he warns, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (v. 10:12). 

And then he tosses the rescue ring of hope: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (v. 10:13). 


The devil be damned! Christ in us IS greater than the greatest temptation. We don’t have to fall victim to Satan’s schemes and the Siren’s song of the world and the flesh. We have a race to run. A prize to claim. A Savior to honor. And a declaration to hear – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” May it ring in our ears for all eternity. 

Every time we say no to sin, we say yes to Jesus. 

Every time we erect boundaries to protect our purity, we say no to sin and yes to Jesus. 

Every time we change the channel, close the account, or delete the email, we say no to sin and yes to Jesus. 

Every time we give ourselves to God’s kingdom instead of our own, we say no to sin and yes to Jesus.

We’re not doomed to fail because other mighty men and women have failed. We are positioned to succeed because God promises a way of escape for every temptation we face. 

And He will give us the courage to take it. 

If we want to guard ourselves from being disqualified, we should: 

1. Never think we’re above moral or spiritual failure. It could happen to anyone. This is why we must remain vigilant. 

2. Check our hearts regularly. What do I love? Where will my current path lead me? Where do I spend the majority of my time, energy, and thoughts? 

3. Erect boundaries around everything we hold dear: our spiritual lives (are we spending time with God every day?), our physical lives (are our habits healthy and holy?), and our relationships (if God was an unseen guest in this relationship (and He is), would he be pleased with what he saw?) 

4. When temptation comes, look for the escape. Then take it. Like Joseph did. And Daniel. And Paul. These men are inspiring examples of people dedicated to “Well done” living. 

And if you blow it like Aaron did? Confess. Repent. Forsake. 

While the consequences of spiritual and moral failure are great, God’s forgiveness is greater. First John 1:9 points to the way back: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

We are never out of God’s reach of forgiveness and restoration. When Aaron followed the people in sin instead of taking a stand for righteousness, he brought great harm to many. But when he and the people humbled themselves, grieved over their sin, and wept in prayer, Moses interceded for them, and the God of mercy and grace gave them all a second chance. 

He renewed his covenant with the nation, promising to go ahead of them into the Promised Land and deliver them from their enemies. The Israelites recommitted themselves to the Lord, with Aaron, their high priest, leading the way. 

Today, ministers or Christian leaders who fall can’t and shouldn’t immediately be allowed back into leadership simply because they’ve confessed and repented. This isn’t the point of this post. The point is that we can never out-sin God’s grace and his willingness to forgive. When one of his children sincerely repents, he will always forgive us. We may have to live with the consequences of our sin for a lifetime, but we can forgive ourselves and move forward, knowing God has forgiven us. 

How about you? Do you fear failing the Lord? Which protective suggestions mentioned above can you put into place to guard yourself? Or maybe you feel like you’re not likely to fall? That temptation is something other people struggle with? Has Aaron’s example caused you to reconsider this? 

Or perhaps you’ve already failed. You assume there’s no hope that God would ever want to use you again in his service? Does 1 John 1:9 give you hope that perhaps there’s a way back after all? 

Wherever you find yourself today, talk to God about it. Take the necessary steps to move forward, and watch what he will do. 

And my tears over Aaron this morning? 

While they began with sorrow over his tragic sin, they ended with gratitude over God’s forgiveness and restoration. What a God we serve. 



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