Blog — May 29

Wow! This section of readings, considered in their greater scriptural context, reveal much about the nature of God, the work of ministry and the emotions of a prophet.  Elijah had shown great courage at Mount Carmel in facing the wickedness of his day. He saw God’s mighty works not only in calling fire down from heaven, but also in sending rain upon a parched nation.  As we enter 1 Kings 19 the courage previously shown by Elijah seems to melt away as he is filled with fear and flees for his life.  In pondering this, one might be left scratching their head and wondering how such a drastic swing could happen within the heart of a servant of God.  Yet, if we are totally honest, we too might be able to identify these swings in our own lives.  Have you ever seen God move powerfully in your life only to be quickly distracted by something else?

Elijah’s enemy (as does ours) wanted to direct the thoughts of the prophet away from his God.  The enemy succeeded momentarily as Elijah took to heart the threats made against him and yielded to fear as he fled and hid at Sinai. The loving and restorative nature of God is seen here as he asks repeatedly: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Has God ever asked you that question?  Discouragement and fear can sometimes lead us into emotional places that God did not want for us.

Between the questions God gives Elijah a tangible reminder that He was not just a powerful God, but also a personal God.  Elijah knew God’s power but, for whatever reason, concluded that God didn’t care about him.  This almost seems crazy to those of us reading about the account, but on closer examination, I think I have done this same thing a time or two.  How about you?

One day we too will be caught up in the heavens much like Elijah in 2 Kings 2.  But until that day, we must recognize or strengths and weaknesses and continue to rely upon God’s grace and daily guidance.  If you’re in a spiritual low spot, know that God will reaffirm His love for you not in power, but in person.

Blog — May 28

After three years of drought in Israel, God told Elijah to go and meet with the king. Elijah was sore afraid but went in obedience to God’s command. Elijah made the king realize he was the cause of the drought because the king served other gods, giving worship to Baal and Asherah. Elijah declared there is only one God, and all of the others are just made up. He made the king gather all of the people and all of the prophets of Baal and Asherah together at Mount Carmel for a contest to see whose god is real.

People from all over Israel watched the contest. It was not a fair contest because it was only Elijah against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the false god, Asherah. Elijah told the people that a decision must be made about which god is real, either Baal or the Lord. The contest would determine the real god. The false prophets agreed to the contest and the sacrifice was made on the altar. The false prophets went first. They cried unto Baal the best way they could, but Baal did not answer. No fire came down to consume their sacrifice. Baal was not asleep neither was he busy; he did not exist.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. He built an altar unto God with twelve stones, placing his sacrifice atop it and soaking it in water. Elijah called upon God; He answered, sending fire down and consuming the sacrifice. The people experienced that the Lord is real, the only true God. They bowed down and worshipped Him. The false prophets saw it and tried to run away but were caught and killed.

Many problems befall our nations today because of the ungodly attitudes of our leaders [Proverbs 29:2]. But Christians can make an impact by standing for the truth. We may be in the minority, and unpopular, but the mighty God identifies with us and resists competition; He is a jealous God. Proclaiming Him as God will be the deliverance for our nations.

Blog — May 27

It was during King Ahab’s reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub. This all happened according to the message from the Lord concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

Joshua 6:26 says “At that time Joshua invoked this curse: May the curse of the Lord fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho.  At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation.  At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.”

God is not slack concerning His promises. Unlike men, when God promises something, it WILL come to pass. Even though 450-500 years had passed between the two events (the curse proclaimed by Joshua and the fulfillment during King Ahab’s reign), God’s promise was kept and the cost of rebuilding Jericho was paid by Hiel as he lost his two sons.

How can we know if someone is a prophet? If their prophecies come true. How can we trust the Bible and its promises? Because so many other promises have been fulfilled! God has promised us many things. However, many of these promises remain yet to be fulfilled. It’s been two thousand years since Jesus taught about the rapture and His second coming; but do not lose heart, His time is not our time and He is never late. God will bring to pass everything He promises because God cannot lie!

Blog — May 26

Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand”  – Jesus the Christ (cf, Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 11).

Over the next few weeks we’ll continue reading the history of a divided kingdom in Kings & Chronicles and we’ll hear from some of the minor prophets as to what is in store for a people that refuse to obey God.  Our readings will first take us to explore the 19 kings that reign over Israel to the north and who each almost to a man “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kings 23:27).  Eventually the people are morally and spiritually bankrupt when Assyria conquers Israel in 722 BC.  We will then rewind the story 200 years and follow the 19 kings and one queen (some good, some not so much) who will rule over Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel) until the people’s sinfulness becomes too great and the Lord allows for Judah’s destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

Jesus’ words in the gospels, of course!, ring true… every kingdom, every city, every household divided against itself will not stand.  Likewise, the principle is true for every believer.  Jesus continued, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.  And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:30-31).

What does an examination of your life, your lifestyle, your household reveal?  Does it reveal you are with Jesus?  Or do some of your lifestyle choices reflect a heart that is not “gathering” with and for the Lord?  A life divided cannot stand.  The Spirit of God will only ever point us toward Jesus, His Word, and our problem with sin (i.e., doing what is right in our own eyes and is evil in the Lord’s sight).  A kingdom, a city, a house, a believer that continually rejects or opposes the Spirit speaking to their own consciences will separate themselves from the only source (the Spirit) that can lead them to forgiveness!

Believer, are you standing with Jesus in all areas, or just where it is convenient?  I plead with you, as the prophets will, “today is the appointed time… today is the day of salvation,” seek forgiveness for the choices in your life that do not reflect Christ!  History bears out that “every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined” but “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he [God the Father] will give you everything you need” – Jesus the Christ (cf., Matthew 6 & Luke 12).

Engage discussion questions for May 27

1. How are spiritual gifts different from talents?
2. What is the promise found in Joel 2:28-29? What does it mean for us?
3. Consider Mark 3:27. How can the Holy Spirit Baptism and gifts help us in this spiritual battle?
4. What does Peter tell us that believers in Christ will receive in Acts 2:38-39?
5. What does Acts 6:8 tell us about Stephen? Do you want to be used in this way?

Blog — May 22

Passing the Test

Sheba is where the country of Yemen is now. Back in biblical times, as it is today, Sheba was a very wealthy place. The first verse says, “When the Queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.” From time to time, people come into our lives simply to test and see if our faith is real. We have to be prepared to pass the test. We must have an answer for that which is inside of us.

I serve in a small country that also has a queen (in Southern Asia). I have had the extreme privilege of speaking with her several times. My visa platform into this country is as director of a youth program; a program that she deeply cares about. At one of the audiences with her, she began asking me questions as a test to see if I was really going to make a positive impact in her country. She wanted to know if I was worthy of the visa her husband, the King, has allowed me to have. I couldn’t tell her I was a missionary, for that is against the law of this Buddhist country. I couldn’t tell her that because of what Christ has done in me it motivates me to share it with others. But I was able to convey my deep love and respect for her young people and answer every question to her pleasure, so much so, that she pledged even more support to our program. Like Solomon, I was able to pass the Queen’s test.

Blog — May 21

David had a problem. His enemies had overcome him. They clothed him in burlap sackcloth and put him in a deep well full of slime. His enemies sought his destruction. As he struggled in the slime to stay alive, he cried to God for help. God heard his cry for mercy throughout the night and raised him up from a potential grave in the morning. Jehovah Rapha healed David of his afflictions. God gave him favor, put him on solid ground as he declared his unshakeable faith in his God, his Jehovah Jireh. David’s cry for mercy was turned into praise for his God. His rejoicing took the form of praise by singing and dancing as God clothed him with joy.

As God raised David from the slimy pit around 600 B.C., so several centuries later He raised Jesus Christ from the grave. And He will raise us also. Realize that your body is a member of Christ Himself. When you unite yourself with the Lord, you are one in the spirit with Him. You are free from the slimy pit of sin and immorality. God has raised you up from your pit and will continue to show you His healing and merciful power. Realize that your payment for such favor is singing and dancing in a spirit of praise to your God, Jehova Jireh, the provider of all good things.

Blog — May 20

“So Solomon overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold” (1 Kings 6:21).  Can I tell you a little secret?  Lean in a little closer because this is not something Hollywood or the world will ever tell you.  Here it is; are you ready?  “What’s on the “inside” of you is much more important than what is on the outside.”  Perhaps you don’t believe this.  Maybe you think this is just something that parents tell their children to make them feel good about themselves when someone at school has made fun of them.  Or perhaps it’s something a friend tells another friend when their self-esteem is at an all-time low.  And, clearly the message of our sex-crazed, materialistic culture tells you otherwise.  For many in the world, looks and money are everything.  But let me tell you another secret…it’s all a big, fat lie.

“A woman who is beautiful but lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout” (Proverbs 11:22).

“…don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Do you know that God put as much thought into how He made you as He did when He made the temple?  Just think of all those intricate details He gave Solomon!  The psalmist put it this way, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalms 139:14).  Take a look in the mirror for a few seconds and say to the person staring back at you, “You are wonderful, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made!”  Do you believe that about yourself?  If not, why?  I know sometimes you don’t feel that way.  Neither do I, but that does not make it any less true.  What kinds of lies have the world and the devil told you about yourself?  Surely you don’t think all that negative self talk, and those self-deprecating thoughts were your own.  Satan is the one who condemns.  How you feel about yourself at any given moment is not truth.  God’s word is truth!  So stop believing the devil’s lies.

Here’s more good news: God also cares about the outside of you as well.  1Kings 6:22 says, “The whole temple was overlaid with gold”.  So the inside was covered with “pure” gold, and the outside was covered with “gold.”  What that says to me is that God loves all of you!  He loves you inside and out, and He even loves the parts of you that you don’t love about yourself.  God is crazy about you, and He wants you to be crazy about Him!  A relationship with God is more than just following a set of rules.  God makes His desires known and very clear in the “Song of Solomon.”  He wants this to be a love affair!

We are God’s sons and daughters.  That makes us royalty!  And let me tell you something else; God is doing something on the “inside” of you.  He loves you too much to leave you the way you are.  He is molding you into the image of His son.  The world may judge you by your physical features or your net worth: (how much do you make? does he have a six pack? how much does she weigh?).  But in God’s eyes, you are unique and special.  And He made you just the way you are, for His reasons and purposes.  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Engage discussion questions for May 20

1. Do Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved? If so, how is this experience different from the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
2. Can a person receive eternal life in heaven without receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit? If so, why should we be baptized in the Spirit?
3. Once a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit, why is it necessary to be refilled later?
4. What is the difference between “speaking in tongues” when one is baptized in the Spirit and “speaking in tongues” publicly? Also, what is the advantage of “praying in tongues” in one’s private prayer life?
5. 1 Cor. 13:8 says, “Whether there be tongues, they shall cease” (KJV). Wouldn’t this indicate the baptism in the Holy Spirit was only for those first followers 2,000 years ago?