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I’ve been thinking about Elijah. I know, I know—who doesn’t? But I’d like to invite you to think along with me.

Elijah shows up in 1 Kings 17 out of nowhere. From this “out-of-nowhere-ness” comes these, um, I guess we could call them challenging words for the king of Israel, Ahab:

“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”*

Okay, Elijah! Was this prophetic word spoken just after Elijah said, “Greetings, King Ahab”? We’re not told whether Ahab knew Elijah before this or not. Regardless, it might be just a bit discomforting, if you’re a leader, to have a prophet tell you that it’s not going to rain in your country for three years.

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As I began to pray this morning, I felt a sudden burden for the Church. Since I usually go through life unburdened, except for the things that selfishly bother me, and because what I was hearing in my heart was, to the best of my knowledge and experience, what the Lord “sounds like” when He has spoken to me, this seemed genuinely to be from Him.

Obviously, you can decide for yourself whether you think this was something the Lord would say.

So, I took to my knees and interceded for the Church. As I prayed, I had the sense the Lord was saying that He had rejected the culture of the United States as well as the many aspects of the Church that had attached itself to it. I had a picture in my mind—I’m reluctant to say that the Lord put it there—of all of us on top of an avalanche. We were sitting on the materialistic detritus of our culture—all the tech goodies and luxuries that we so enjoy—and having a great time, seemingly oblivious to the reality of catastrophically rushing down a dangerous mountainside.

Now, the question is, what should my response be?

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Embarrassing admission: I don’t get fasting–and almost never fast, unless you can call what we are eating here a kind of fasting! Almost no meat, ever! :–)  I haven’t really fasted much because it has always seemed like a kind of religious exercise that I didn’t understand, and one that, when I did it, didn’t seem to see any spiritual benefit from.  Anyway, we know that interesting chapter about fasting is in Isaiah.  And we know–these are all thoughts tenuously connected, and I hope I can connect them–that when we go through some kind of grief and loss in our lives, we lose our appetites–someone dies, a relationship that goes disastrously bad, a divorce–that kind of thing. I think I’m coming to the conclusion that fasting is the result of an inner work of God in our lives where we are so grieved by what we see and know about the world, that we lose our appetites.  The fact that we haven’t lost our appetites over these things speaks volumes about how little we care about these the condition of the world and those who have great need of assistance. So, to me, I’m thinking I should pray that I will be grieved about the condition of widows, orphans, the unsaved, the sick, that I actually begin to lose my appetite. When Jesus said, “This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting,” was He talking about a religious exercise or a heart that was tremendously moved by compassion, grieved, for people who were totally overwhelmed by the devil?

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One of the major problems with the Western church is that there are so few men who are qualified to be fathers in the way Paul outlines, because living a life of sacrifice in Jesus Christ is so uncommon in our culture. We have few men who are likely to love Jesus and others more than themselves, as disciples do; who are willing to run into the conflagration that is our ease-loving society and carry out the limp bodies of slumbering men, saving them from sleep-induced nominalism and praying for them, helping them receive the life-giving, self-denying, empowering breath of the Spirit of God. We have few men who are capable of rescuing others from the disabled wreckage that our society has become; dragging them out, kicking and screaming, from the dangers of what has become a totaled-Yugo, secular culture that deceptively looks instead to us like a dent-free, shiny, eight-cylinder BMW.

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This one of the things Jesus says about wealth:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:32-34 ESV).

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A friend of mine sent this to me today, via Chuck Colson and Breakpoint. I’d be happy to know what you think about what he says here about our country and the Church.

“In my devotions over the last two or three months, I have started my prayer time by concentrating on the Church. I pray—actually, I plead, the Lord would wake us up, cause us to repent, turn from our own false idols. I pray God’s Spirit would fill us with a burning desire to love Him and advance His kingdom.

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