2 Kings 2; The Road To Faith

Elisha saw God’s chariot accompany Elijah into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah skipped the dying and went straight to God’s Presence in a dramatic display. Everyone knew that God was coming to get Elijah. Elijah told Elisha if he was privileged to witness the getting, God would bless him. Elisha saw. And he was blessed.

But not everyone saw what Elisha saw. The men waiting for Elisha to return hadn’t seen the chariot or the whirlwind, and they found it hard to believe. So because of their persistent pleas, Elisha let them search for Elijah, knowing full well they were not going to find him. Elisha let them search because he realized they needed to know for themselves that Elijah was gone.

Reminds me of Jesus’ “doubting” disciple. The other disciples had seen the risen Lord. Thomas hadn’t been there when Jesus appeared to them. So, even though I’m sure he remembered Jesus saying He would rise again, Thomas had trouble believing He’d really risen in the flesh. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Later, Jesus did appear to Thomas. The disciple saw for himself Jesus was alive. And he believed.

I love the way God allows us all to be individuals. He meets each of us where we are. I had a pastor once who became a Christian after reading the book of Revelation in the Bible. It scared the faith into him.

I know others who came to the Lord after a tragedy, some after hearing a sermon, some were drawn to Jesus by love. Some people need to see God’s hand, witness a miracle before they’ll believe. Others believe as soon as they hear what Jesus did two thousand years ago.

After Thomas saw Jesus and believed, Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

I don’t think Jesus was scolding Thomas with these words. And I don’t think Elisha was upset with the men who felt they needed to go looking for Elijah before they’d believe God took him.

Not everyone takes the same road toward faith. It’s personal. It’s intimate. And it’s God-lead. I guess I’m saying if you’re the type of person who needs to see before you believe, God knows you are. Ask Him to show you. Beware that He might show you through hardship, but if you need tangible proof, He can do that. Then believe, and be blessed.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need to be shown anything, but can believe in Jesus by trusting in His Word, God knows that, too. Believe, and be blessed.

Because God wants you to know Him. He is personally, intimately interested in your eternal soul, and He longs to fellowship with you. Seek Him. You’ll find Him on the road you are traveling.

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2 Kings 1; Who’s To Blame?

I’ve heard it said a lot lately, that this world is corrupt, and it’s only going to get worse, that evil people will continue to gain momentum. I’m telling you it doesn’t have to be that way.

Did you read about how Elijah spoke to the men King Ahaziah sent to get him? A captain and fifty armed soldiers told Elijah, “The king says, come.” Seems harmless enough. But remember who Ahaziah’s parents were. Ahaziah knew exactly who this man of God was: the prophet responsible for the death of his parents, Ahab and Jezebel. I doubt their offspring wanted to invite Elijah to tea.

Elijah would have nothing to do with Ahaziah or his men. In fact, to demonstrate that Elijah was a man of God, he said fire would come down from heaven and consume them. Fire from heaven came down and consumed them.

Ahaziah sent another fifty soldiers to go get Elijah. They died, too. It wasn’t until the third captain humbled himself before Elijah, and in turn before God, that God told Elijah to go with them. Then, standing before the king, Elijah did not back down. He stayed true to God’s Word. No compromise here!

Thirty or so years ago, there was a trend for churches to hire outsiders to come into their fellowship, survey members, talk to people in the neighborhoods, learn the “demographics,” then recommend changes the churches needed to make to grow their attendance. As a result we’ve got “contemporary” worship styles, the removal of pulpits, altars, hymns, and organs. We’ve come up with clever little names for our fellowships because being identified with a denomination “turned people off.” We’ve adopted a casual approach to worship so everyone feels comfortable, a laid back atmosphere so people don’t feel threatened, entertaining worship services so people go away feeling good, and Starbucks in the foyer.

We’ve also seen the word, “sin” replaced with “lifestyle” or “tolerance,” “acceptance,” and of course, “God’s love.”

Many churches did see a marked growth, more bodies in the chairs each Sunday, or Saturday night if that’s more “convenient.” The mega-church was born. We may have compromised a bit. But numbers don’t lie.

Or do they?

Let me ask you this: Is our world better than it was thirty years ago? Is there less crime, less evil, a mega turning to God since the church implemented these changes? I’m not asking if there are people coming to your church. I’m asking what impact your church has had on our world. Are drug dealers, thieves, child molesters, drunks, soccer moms, and CEO’s coming to the Savior because your church is out there actively winning souls?

I would say, after reading the news, I doubt it. Now, if you are involved in a church that IS making a difference and seeing people repent of sin and come to the Lord, understand I know I’m preaching to the choir. But, from what I see in our country and the world, the Church is failing in our mission to go and make disciples.

Here’s why my thoughts went here today. Read what J Vernon McGee had to say about 2 Kings 1, and Elijah’s firm stand:

There is much talk today about the fact that we should learn to communicate and learn to get along with everybody. May I say to you that this is not God’s method. The compromise of the church and its leaders has not caused the world to listen to the church. As a matter of fact, the world is not listening at all. They pass the church right by. Why? The world will not listen until the church declares the Word of God. If the church preached God’s Word, there would be communication. (p 157, Through the Bible commentary, I & II Kings)

Dr. McGee wrote those words in the middle of the trend I spoke about earlier. His words were prophetic. If the world didn’t listen to the Church back then, it laughs at the Church today.

Do you know why I believe what Dr. McGee said is true? God has said that His Word would not return void. (Isaiah 55:11) Our world is not in the shape it’s in because Satan is so strong. It’s because the church is so weak. We refashioned ourselves to look like the world, to the point they don’t see their need to change. We have neglected God’s Word, and in turn, have harnessed His power to save souls. And we read about the result of this in the news every day.

And don’t even tell me it’s God’s will. Jesus didn’t tell us to go into the world and preach the gospel until things got tough, then sit back and let evil take over because He’ll rapture the church before things get really bad. We’ll dodge that bullet, too bad for everybody else. If that theology makes me mad, I can imagine God’s opinion of it.

Our world is in bad shape. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I pray that the Holy Spirit will revive the Church, that Christians will see sinners through Jesus’ eyes, that we will stand firm on the Truth of Scripture, and proclaim it from the mountaintops, in our churches, and in our neighborhoods. I also pray that Christians will live lives that attract people to their Savior.

Oh, dear Christian. Don’t sit back and blame Satan, or the media, or a president for the state of things in our world. We have the God of the Universe ready and eager to step in. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

 

I Kings 20-22; What We Deserve

Israel’s King Ahab was evil. His wife, Jezebel wasn’t much better. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” (21:25) That’s quite the legacy.

They put a hit out on a guy so they could steal his vineyard. They blatantly worshiped idols. They were evil, and they encouraged evil in Israel. Doesn’t it seem fitting that these two receive their just desserts? Like leprosy or something?

However, God sent a prophet to Israel’s king and told him God was going to help Israel defeat their enemy. Wait. What? God was going to make this evil king successful?

Like it or not, that’s exactly what happened. Israel went to war with the Arameans and soundly beat them. Twice! Why would God give this rotten guy these victories? That’s just not how it’s supposed to happen. It’s just not right when evil people succeed.

Later on, after Naboth is murdered by order of Jezebel, God prompted Elijah to go to King Ahab and tell him he was going to die. His whole family was going to die for Ahab’s sin. From what I know of Elijah, that is probably one message he was more than happy to pass on to King Ahab. And it’s probably a message all of us think was long over due.

How did Ahab receive this message? He tore his clothes, he fasted, he put on sackcloth. And God noticed. 21:28 tells us God saw that Ahab humbled himself before Him. And for the next three years, Israel was free from war with the Arameans. Neither Ahab nor Jezebel died. Once again, this evil king seems to have gotten away with something. Ugh.

Well, old Ahab seemed to have gotten pretty comfortable in those three years of peace. Eventually he defied God again, and this time it cost him, and Jezebel, their lives.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure God out, isn’t it? It just seems obvious that good people should have good things happen to them and bad people should suffer. But if you’ve lived more than ten minutes on this planet, you know that just isn’t how things go.

In 20:13, before Ahab fought any battle with the Arameans, God explained Himself. It’s something I think all of us need to take notice of.

I will give it (the battle)  into your hand today, and then you will know I AM the Lord.

I am reminded that God is not willing that anyone die without him. That includes the terrorist, the child molester, or the neighbor who dumps their yard waste into your yard. (Ok. That last one was a personal note to self)

Your idea of justice isn’t the same as God’s. Your idea of justice is immediate, sometimes emotional, and certainly limited to this lifetime. God’s idea of justice is patient, loving, and eternal. Everything good that happens to a bad person happens to reveal God to them, just like the good things Ahab experienced revealed God to him.

And here’s something we don’t like to think about. Anything good that happens to you… anything good… is God’s grace. I don’t care how good you think you are, you don’t deserve one moment of the blessings that are yours every day. You are a sinner. You deserve God’s wrath as much as that drug dealer or rapist you read about on the news. If you got what you deserved, well, let’s just say I’m glad none of us get what we deserve in this lifetime.

God is full of grace. Every moment of every day He is working in my life and yours to reveal Himself. Sometimes He does it with victories in battle. Sometimes He does it with hardship and pain. But in and through everything that happens, there is one underlying reason: God.

God wants us to know Him. God wants us to love Him, to worship Him, to rest in Him.

The next time you secretly hope someone gets what you think they deserve, pray instead that they receive what Jesus died to give them. Not because they deserve it. But because God does.

Righteous Judge, I have to confess that sometimes I am frustrated that sinners seem to prosper and Christians don’t. I seem to have my own sense of fairness, and wonder why You don’t share my insight. I’m sorry about that. When you told us not to judge, lest we be judged, I think you were talking along these lines. I don’t want to judge You for working in ways I don’t understand. Help me to deal with the sin of my own life, as you reveal it to me, and allow You deal with the sin in others’ lives as You see fit. And, Lord, let me never forget how blessed I am that You don’t give me what I deserve.

 

I Kings 18-19; Where Is God?

Sometimes I can read God’s Word and almost believe it was written to describe the USA in 2017. Did the writer of I Kings watch Fox News before he wrote this?

God instructed Elijah to stand on the mountain and get ready to be amazed “… for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then, a great and mighty wind tore the mountain apart, shattering rocks. But God wasn’t in the wind.

An earthquake hit, shaking the ground beneath Elijah’s feet. God wasn’t in the earthquake, either.

A fire broke out. Was the Lord in the fire? Not even the fire.

Verse 12 tells us: “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” When Elijah heard that still, small voice, he covered his face. That’s where Elijah met the Lord.

In the last few weeks we have been devastated by a great and mighty wind called, Harvey, another called Irma, and now Maria is knocking at the door. Just a few days ago, Mexico was hit with a powerful earthquake, destroying buildings and taking lives. California has been dealing with an uncontrolled wild fire recently. And some people will tell us God is in it, punishing the US for ungodliness.

I don’t want to debate “why” things are happening. If God wants to punish us in this way, we deserve it. But I am not going to read this Scripture, wipe my hands, and say “The end is near,” and leave it at that. I’m just not.

We can, of course, see the Almighty in the fury of a storm, in the shaking of the earth, or the heat of a fire. In fact, I hope we do. Don’t miss the fact that God is very powerful. But I think the Bible teaches us if you want to meet God, if you really want to see Him, just shut up for a minute.

Get alone and open His love letter to you. Let Him whisper how much He loves you, that He gave His life to save you. Quit telling Him what you think you need, or bombarding Him with questions, and thinking you have a right to the answers. Just be still and know that He is God. He wants you to know Him.

HE wants you to know Him.

He WANTS you to know Him.

He wants YOU to know Him.

He wants you to KNOW Him.

He wants you to know HIM.

Shhhhh. God is speaking.

I Kings 17; Empty

I’ve heard the story of Elijah and the widow for as long as I can remember. In my mind’s eye, I can picture the figures on the flannel board in our Sunday School room. (When was the last time you even saw a flannel board? 🙂 ) The lesson we learned from this Scripture was: GOD SUPPLIES ALL OUR NEEDS.

I read what J. Vernon McGee had to say about this passage today, and he reminded me Elijah had just returned from the desert where God used ravens to feed him, a stream to meet his need for water. McGee pointed me to others who had similar experiences: Moses, Abraham, John the Baptist, Paul. Even Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. GOD STRENGTHENS US IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.

Dr. McGee then talked about the miracle of the healing of the widow’s son. The boy had died. But when Elijah went to him, made contact with him three times, the boy lived again. GOD IS THE DIVINE HEALER.

Do you remember Jesus’ first miracle? The wedding in Cana of Galilee, right? He turned water into wine. GOD GIVES HIS VERY BEST.

Then J. Vernon challenged every lesson I thought I’d learned from these stories. While it is true that God provides what we need, that He is our strength, our healer, and that He does all things well, we miss something important if that’s all we see in these passages.

What does the never-ending flour pot, the desert, the dead boy, and the wine have in common?

NOTHING.

Well, not nothing. But an emptiness, a void, nothingness. The lessons are not just that God prepared people for ministry in the desert. It’s the desert.

It’s not only that God didn’t let the flour run out. It’s the empty pot.

It’s not raising a boy from the dead. It’s the dead boy.

And it was never about the wedding, or even just the wine. It was the empty jars.

All which were filled by God Himself. To make his point, Dr. McGee shared a story about Hudson Taylor. It’s lengthy, but I want to quote it from page 107 in Thru the Bible Commentary Series on 1st and 2nd Kings by J. Vernon McGee. (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1991):

It is said of Hudson Taylor that when he prepared young missionaries for service in his mission, he insisted, “Remember that when you come out here you are nothing. It is only what God can and will do through you that will be worth anything.” One young missionary replied, “It is hard for me to believe that I am just nothing.” And Hudson Taylor said to him, “Take it by faith because it is true. You are nothing.” You and I are just dried up brooks unless the Word of God is flowing through us.

You, my friend are nothing. I am nothing. Neither of us has anything of value to offer God who owns everything, and who created everything anyway. And until we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us with Himself, we are worth nothing to Him, we cannot be used by Him.

Sorry if that offends your sensitive sense of self.

Paul said he died daily, that he was crucified with Christ, that he was dead to self. If you think you can effectively serve God any other way, you are wrong.

Empty yourself. Let Him fill you to overflowing.

Then stand back and be amazed at what God can and will do through you, for His sake, and for His glory!

Dear Filler of our souls, I pray that all of us reading this chapter in I Kings today will be challenged to BE that desert, that empty pot, that dead boy. Help us to empty ourselves of our hopes and dreams, our talents and our gifts, our egos and our rights. Then, Lord, fill us with YOU. May we be instruments in Your hands, clay in the hands of the Potter, and may You create in each of us pure hearts. Use us today as we yield to Your will. And may Jesus be glorified.

I Kings 13-16; Ping Pong

Reading these chapters is a bit like playing ping pong. We read about a northern king, then a southern king, back to the north, then the south. Bad king. Bad king. Bad king. Good king. Bad king…

After a while my head spins.

Now you probably know I have a firm conviction God doesn’t include details like these for the sake of the details. It might be interesting to line up the kings of the two nations of Jews. You might even get a sense of accomplishment if you can name them all. But if that’s the only reason God inspired men to include this history, I say skip it and get on to the meat.

But don’t skip over these chapters in God’s Word. I challenge you to read them slowly, and ask God to help you get past the obvious and reveal the Truth within. You’ll find Jesus in these verses. You’ll see that God is serious about sin, that He punishes sin, and that He blesses obedience. You might even hear His heart’s cry that His people repent, turn to Him, and accept His grace. And you might realize He’s wanting the same for you.

As I read these chapters this morning, I thought of my Ohio church family who are conducting Revival Services this week. Will you pray with me for them, that the Holy Spirit will move in a mighty way, that Jesus will be glorified. They are a small congregation with a heart to reach their community. Will you pray that God will draw many into that building this week as the Word is preached and God is worshiped?

Reading I Kings reminds me how faithful God is when we obey. May it be true in Bellville, Ohio. May it be true in me.

Heavenly Father, I do pray for 1st Baptist, Bellville this week as they conduct revival services. First I pray for the faithful few. May they attend with hearts eager to hear from you, to be strengthened in their resolve to follow you. I pray that those in that community who have received an invitation will be drawn to the services this week. May souls be won, hearts changed, and your children strengthened to carry on Your work in Bellville. Bless them, Lord, and continue to make them a blessing.

And I want to thank You for Your Word, even the parts that seem a little dry as we read them. Father, help us to consider why You have included all these verses in Scripture. And may we learn, be challenged and strengthened, and as always, Lord, may You find us faithful.

I Kings 9-12; Golden Calves in 2017

Jeroboam could have been a great king, on the order of King David. (11:38-39) God was giving this son of a slave the kingdom, and would have blessed him… IF.

Jeroboam did become king over ten Jewish tribes. And even though God had handed him the throne and promised to bless him, Jeroboam seems to have doubted God could or would pull through.

Jerusalem was located in a part of the nation still ruled by Solomon’s son, the rightful heir. Now it was time for the people to go to Jerusalem for the feasts God had commanded them to celebrate. Jeroboam was afraid if his people went back to Jerusalem to worship, they would switch their allegiance to King Rehoboam.

So the first thing Jeroboam did as king was to make two gold calves, place them in convenient spots for the people, and declare that the statues were their gods to be worshiped. “Why go all the way to Jerusalem when you can worship in your own back yards? Does it really matter who you worship so long as your worship is sincere?”

Well, for one, God commanded the people to worship in Jerusalem. Two, gold calves never have and never will hear your prayers. And thirdly, the worship of anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a sin.

Now here’s what makes me sad about this story: the people went along with Jeroboam’s plan. They worshiped the idols on the same day, in the same manner God had instituted for His people. Their’s looked like the worship services going on in Jerusalem. But their worship was meaningless. And Jeroboam’s shortcut, and the people’s acceptance made God really mad.

Is this a picture of the church in 2017? The name “Christian” is worn by many who go to a service every Sunday morning. They sing songs and hymns, hear a lecture based on a Bible verse, get a pat on the back, and forget it all until the next Sunday.  Folks, there is no shortcut to God.

Here’s the Truth: Sin is keeping you from God. Sin: anything you think, do, or say that doesn’t please Him, stands between you and a Holy God who demands holiness of us.

Sin and God cannot exist together. It’s like trying to unite two magnets by their north poles. Ain’t gonna happen.

I can say with confidence if you attend a fellowship that doesn’t talk about sin, that doesn’t call sin sin, and doesn’t preach forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, you are looking at a gold calf. Get. Out. Now.

True worship of God was never designed for your convenience, or for your delicate sense of self. Worship is about God, and there are no shortcuts to worship that He recognizes, no shortcuts that He will bless.

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I am back home after Hurricane Irma, and the extent of the damage to my property is a smashed mailbox. I don’t know why God spared me again. I am humbled and grateful, as I realize how many people lost everything, including loved ones. Please continue to pray for those effected by Harvey and Irma, and pray for our country that we might come together, and that Jesus will be glorified.