Archive for February, 2019

1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 3 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

God will provide. It is a saying that you here us Christians bandy about to one another quite often. Sometimes, it is our fallback response when we can’t think of anything else to say. If you have a friend who is going through a crisis of need and you can’t really help them, we sometimes throw out this saying, “God will provide” but how often, when we say it, do we really believe that it is true.

In today’s text, we see God provide miraculous help to Elijah as evidence that God is the real God and that He is the one who controls the universe and all that is in it. Elijah, maybe had doubts, but he had faith to proceed with what God commanded him to do. How often do we have that kind of faith? How often do we have that kind of faith when people we know are going through uncertain times? Do we tell them that “God will provide” as a cop-out because we don’t know what else to say or do we have faith that God, indeed, will provide?

Have you lost your job or are you going through a seemingly insurmountable financial crisis or anything that seems too big to overcome? That’s where we encounter real faith ourselves. That’s where we encounter real faith when we intercede in prayer for others who are going through some insurmountable thing. Do we really believe that saying, “God will provide!”

I think that there are four things that we need to learn about God’s provision. First, God may provide differently than we expect. The Israelites escaped captivity in Egypt only to face the challenges of the desert. One of the biggest challenges for such a large group of nomads was enough food to eat. Over and over again God provided supernaturally for his people. If God could provide for many thousands of Israelites in the middle of a desert, he can surely provide for you and your family’s needs. Sometimes, though, we do not recognize how God is providing for us because it is not in the manner that we expected. Just think about the Israelites in the desert. They grumbled and complained about have to eat miraculously provided food because it was the same thing every day. God was literally providing bread from heaven — enough for each day — but they wanted his provision a different way. They wanted it their own way.

Second, God provides more of Himself to us in times of distress. It is during times of distress and hardship when we need provision that we find ourselves at the foot of the Creator. It is in times of distress that we often grow the most in our learning to be dependent on the Lord. Sure, we worry. We are human. We’re just going to do that. However, when your worry becomes all-consuming and it becomes your god instead of resting in the arms of God then that’s when we falter. It’s OK to have that tension between worry and dependence. However, it is our faith in God that gives us even that smallest flicker of hope that He will provide a way, a path, a solution. We learn this most in times of distress.

Third, we ask God for many things, but the greatest thing we could ever receive from him has already been given. What God has given us in the gospel is light-years ahead of every other provision and care we could ever seek from him. When we trust in Christ, we have decisively secured for us every ultimately good thing from him. It’s just a matter of time. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Every truly good thing in our lives comes straight from the Father. The ultimate good he provided us, through whom much of the other good things come to us, is Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate treasure. Thus, whatever we are going through, even when it is the hardest thing ever in our lives, we have assurance that this is just temporary. We have peace in knowing that God has us covered in Jesus’ arms. That is assurance that we can rely on no matter what we face. We are not failures. We are not defeated. We are a child of God and He will bring us through the valley and set us on a high place.

Fourth, God provides for us ultimately in eternity. No matter what you are going through, you can be assured that your ultimate victory awaits us in heaven. Life on earth is just a mist, a vapor, a flash in the pan. It sounds trite to say that if you are reading this and you are not a believer. However, for those who have assurance through their salvation in Jesus Christ, heaven is the ultimate reward. No matter what we are going through we can cling to the fact that God will richly reward us in heaven. You are not a loser. You are not in the valley forever. You are a child of God. He will provide richly for you in heaven. So, keep pushing, keep struggling, keep climbing, God loves you so much that He has a rich storehouse awaiting you in heaven. While you are here on earth, though, know that God is with you and He will provide a way out of your current troubles. If He loved you enough to send His Son to die for your sins and assure you of an eternity in heaven with Him, He will provide a way out of your current situation – it may not be exactly the way you had planned it yourself, but He will provide.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 – about how God will provide. I thought about how much faith Elijah had to have to do what He did. He fully believed in God’s provision. That got me to thinking about how often we forget to have the faith that Elijah had:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that God flashed fire from heaven for Elijah. He will also help us accomplish what He commands us to do. The proof may not be as dramatic in our lives as in Elijah’s life, but God will make provision available to us in creative ways to accomplish His purposes. Like Elijah, we can have faith that whatever God commands us to do, He will provide what we need to carry it through.

How often do we doubt God? How often do we say God will provide but not really believe it and go back to wallowing in worry to the point that we can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t really function. Are we so like the Israelites after leaving Egypt? Time after time, God provided miracle after miracle to provide for them. However, in very short order, they would forget about God’s miraculous provisions in the past and begin to grumble and rail against God. How often do you and I do that?

When I look at Elijah here, I think of how many of us would NOT step out in faith as He did. However, Elijah had the faith. He stepped out and did what God directed Him to do. There was no visual evidence that He should trust God. He heard from God and followed. He had faith. He had faith in God’s provision to Him as He stepped into the unknown future. He really did believe that God would provide. That’s the thing that you and I must take away this morning – really believing, really trusting that God will provide. Let us have the faith to believe that God will make a way for us – no matter how bleak a situation may be.

We must have the faith to see the provision too. We must not say God did not provide a way because we wanted the provision to come from the west, so to speak, and not see the path that God provided to the east or north or south, figuratively speaking. Sometimes, we miss God’s miracles because we are looking for what we want the provision to look like or where we wanted it to come from. Let us be aware of God’s provision and not demand that He do it a certain way.

Father, help to really believe it when we say, “God will provide!” Let this no longer be a default response, an empty saying, a saying with no guts to it. Let us fully believe and be aware of how you provide for us daily and in eternity. Let us live our lives trusting that you have got this. Let us live our lives in full dependence on you and grow in boldness as a result. Let us be an example to the world of the joy that you can have even in the toughest situations because “God will provide!”

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 2 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

For the last few weeks, we have had a group of friends/couples over to our house that we have grown to love deeply over the past year. These are couples that we have forged some deep connections with because we have been part of significant events in their lives over the past year. In these first three weeks we have gotten together, we have shared our journeys to the cross with one another. Since we were the common bond among these couples that we were bringing together and the other couples did not know each other beyond knowing that we all go to church together, I felt the best way for us to get to know each other was to share our salvation stories with one another as we shared meals and conversation.

What a better way to get to know one another than to share your life story of how to got to the cross, how Jesus saved you, and what life has been like since! We have shed tears together over the last three weeks that we have been together. We have shared laughter. We have seen each person let down the masks that we often put up to the outside world. As a result, the bond that was through getting connected with one another through God’s local church has grown deeper. The couples that did not know each other have forged instant bonds with one another because the honesty required by sharing your road to the cross with another person. The common thread in each salvation story shared among the four couples in these three meetings is a term that probably someone else coined but true nonetheless is “the God-sized hole”.

We all have the “the God-sized hole” in our soul. Some people are lucky and get it filled with the right thing at an early age and I thank God for those people. They don’t have to go through the struggles that most of us do. Many people are not so fortunate. Many, including myself, have lived a large portion of our lives seeking to fill our God-sized hole with other things that do not fit. All the stories shared during our first three meetings of these couples are individual stories and sometimes couple stories of trying to fill our God-sized hole with other gods. In the 21st century, we may not worship Asherah poles or images of Baal like they did in the Old Testament but we are often no different that ancient people. We stray from the one true God to find and fulfill our desires of the flesh and hope that those desires fulfilled will fill the God-sized hole. It may be our jobs. It may be our relationships, even bad ones. We may use drugs or alcohol to attempt to fill the God-sized hole. It may be defining our self-worth through approval of others. It may be defining our self-worth through sexual conquests. It may be trying to fill the hole with money and property. It can be so many things. But as God’s Word tells us in so many ways and so many times, that worshiping something other than God always leads to destruction.

We always come up empty in the God-sized hole when we try to fill it with gods that are man-made. It may not be an elaborate religion such as we see here in this text from the Old Testament but our gods are no less elaborate and man-made and ultimately useless in today’s world. That’s the come thread to all the stories shared so beautifully over the last three meetings is coming up empty in the God-sized hole.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 about how the elaborate but false religion of the people of the northern kingdom failed when it counted. It reminded me of the common thread of the salvation stories of many, many people is that when it comes down to it we come up empty when we try to fill our God-sized hole with something other than God:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that, although the prophets of Baal “raved all afternoon” no one answered. Their god was silent because he was not real. Baal was a man-made creation. It may have had all the trappings of something supernatural with trinkets and physical representations of what this “god” looked like, but it was fully unreal. The gods of our day may not have idols in the same sense as ancient man-made religions but they are just as false and dangerous because they cause to depend on something other than God. Power, status, appearance, material possessions, drugs, alcohol, sexual validation, all of these things can become our gods if we devote our lives to pleasing those desires in our lives. However, in times of crisis, and we desperately call out to our gods, they will only be silence. We are all built with a God-sized hole in our soul than only God can fill. Our gods of our mind and flesh can offer no true answers, no guidance and no wisdom.

Whether we believe it or not (and if you do not believe in God that belief does NOT make Him NOT exist), we are born to seek after and worship God. He, the Creator of All Things, designed us to worship Him. He wired us that way, plain and simple. Satan may deceive us into believing that God does not exist or that we have evolved beyond the myth of religion and God. We may pride ourselves in our “evolution” and may even ridicule those who still believe in all that God stuff. However, convincing yourself that God does not exist and that you have evolved beyond “the myth of God” does not make Him stop existing. It does not make Him not exist. God designed us to be worshipful creatures toward Him. However, in Sovereignty as God, He chose to give us free will. He wanted us to worship Him not as robots but rather as free will beings who worship Him from the heart, soul and mind.

In that free will and because of the sin of Adam and Eve that we have inherited through the generations since, we choose to sin and walk away from God. We try to fill the God-sized hole with things that give us pleasure. We worship our own pleasure. We try to fill the God-sized hole with the things that we like and that we begin to worship. We worship money, power, position, drugs, alcohol, sex, and all sorts of pleasure giving activities instead of God. The path that these gods lead us down is one that leads to destruction. Why are we so hard-headed? Why does it take being brought down to our knees by the emptiness of the pursuits of the flesh before we cry out to God? Why is it that we try to fill the God-sized hole in our soul with something other than the one true God? We come up empty in the God-sized hole because our gods do not fit and are not intended to fill the God-sized hole.

Just that hundreds of priest of a false and empty religion came up empty when it came to bringing the rain so, too, do we come up empty when it’s crunch time in our lives and our gods of our own making fail us. Only God can fill the God-sized hole. Only God can bring the rain we cry out for. Only God is real. We are programmed by Him to worship Him and Him alone. Stop trying to seek the gaping hole in your soul with false gods of your own making and come to the Lord. Only He is designed to fully fit the hole in your soul. He will bring the rain which you seek. When you seek after Him you will begin to see the promise that you seek. You will see deliverance from the drought of your life. You will see a cloud coming that brings the promise.

The cloud is coming with promise to fill the hole in your soul. I think Elevation Worship says it best when they penned the song, There is A Cloud, and it goes like this:

Hear the Word, roaring as thunder

With a new, future to tell

For the dry, season is over

There is a cloud, beginning to swell

To the skies, heavy with blessing

Lift your eyes, offer your heart

Jesus Christ, opened the Heavens

Now we receive, the Spirit of God

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Every seed, buried in sorrow

You will call, forth in its time

You are Lord, Lord of the harvest

Calling our hope, now to arise

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love!

And with great, anticipation

We await, the Promise to come

Everything, that You have spoken

Will come to pass, let it be done!

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 1 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. that once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” He also said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” These words ring no less true today than they did during Dr. King’s ministry during the 50’s-60’s.

During the civil rights movement in the South in the 50’s and 60’s, there may be a perception that every white person in the South was a bigot. However, the lasting of the separate societies of blacks and whites well into the 20th century did not really change until white men and women of the South who had been silent for centuries began to speak out against the institutions of the South. Sure, assistance from the federal government was critical and well-meaning northern volunteers who can down to help was helpful, but it was not until the reasonable men and women, the honorable men and women, of the South en masse decided to question their society’s institutions. A society can have change forced upon it but it will not last. However, when change comes from the inside, fundamental change from the core, that’s when change lasts. It was the end of the silence of the good people, of which Dr. King spoke, that changed the South. We still have a long way to go in the South in race relations not to mention elsewhere in the United States (just look at the large cities of our nation and the race relations in each one). It is the silence of good men that allow evil to flourish. For example, we will never free North Korea by force. It will only come when the people of North Korea themselves become so fed up with the dictatorship of their country that they overthrow their oppressors. The end of the silence of good people will produce change from within.

Currently, we as Christians in the United States often bemoan the state of our culture. We reminisce about the culture of our country once being wrapped around the church. We cry among ourselves about what is happening in our culture. Yet, we do not engage the culture often enough. We drift along with the culture as it drifts away from God. We quietly drift with the river’s flow. The silence of good people. We must decide en masse to engage the culture. We must engage the culture in loving ways and reasonable ways. Spewing hate and moral superiority messages to the culture will only serve to push the society further away from God. We must engage the culture in love. We must engage the culture in reasonable discourse. We must engage the culture realizing that the society is now entering 3rd generations of people who have never been to a church and see the church as “they” and see the church as out of touch with the “me” that they worship. We must engage the culture one person at a time. We must make friends outside our Christian circles. We must get to know people who live around us. We must get to know people that we work with. We most of all must be willing to speak of what Jesus Christ has done in our own lives. It is only through engaging the culture directly one on one, person by person, that we change the drift, that we stop the drift away from God.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 about how the people were unsure who to follow because for generations, the good people had been silent. Let’s read about it now:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that Elijah challenged the people to take a stand – to follow whoever was the true God. Why did so many people waver between the two choices? Perhaps, some were not sure. We are talking several generations past the split between the northern and southern kingdom. The northern kingdom had strayed from God from almost the very moment of the split. Thus, it may be possible that many of the people gathered there just did not know the one true God because of the idolatry that was so now prevalent in the northern kingdom. Equally, maybe many of the crowd knew that the Lord was God but they enjoyed the sinful pleasures and other benefits that came with following Ahab in his idolatrous worship. As Christ followers in the “post-Christian” world in which we live, we must be willing to stand up and stand out against the commonly accepted beliefs of the culture and take a stand for the Lord. If we just drift along with whatever is pleasant and easy, we will someday discover that we have been, in fact, worshiping idols – ourselves.

Let us resolve as Christians, each one of us, over the next year,  to get to know someone on a deeper level than an acquaintance a person that is outside of the church. Let us resolve to change the world from the inside out. Let us resolve to speak of Jesus Christ on a one-on-one personal level so that we can change the society from the inside out. Let us resolve to make that our action rather than have some Christian historian centuries from now bemoan “the silence of the good people”.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-24 (Part 3 of 3)

The Widow at Zarephath

Back in the day, when Hee-Haw was a country themed variety show on the CBS television network, there was not a whole lot I remember about the show other than the skit that occurred weekly that featured the song, “Gloom, Despair & Agony on Me” sung by Buck Owens and Roy Clark. As they would sing the song, they would stop singing and exchange sad stories of bad things that had happened to them and then go back into the song. They would repeat that process for the usual 3-4 minutes of the skit. It was corny just like everything else on the show, but the chorus of the song always stuck with me over the years. The chorus of the song went like this:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair, and agony on me

That idea of gloom and despair is what struck me this morning. The first thing that happens as the widow and Elijah have their first encounter is that she has enough faith to follow his instructions about the food. And, yes, they end up eating for many days because of the miracle provided by God. There was always enough flour and olive oil in the containers just as Elijah had promised (1 Kings 17:16). Then, in the very next verse, we see that the son of the widow woman became sick and died.

Wow! Talk about your excessive misery. In the 21st century with marital inheritance laws protecting particularly the female spouse, we may not gather in the plight of widows in the ancient Middle East. The loss of a husband in ancient Israel was normally a social and economic tragedy. In a generally patriarchal culture, the death of a husband usually meant a type of cultural death as well. Although the denotation of widow referred to a woman whose husband had died, because of the social context the word quickly acquired the connotation of a person living a marginal existence in extreme poverty. Her crisis was aggravated if she had no able-bodied children to help her work the land of her dead spouse. To provide for her children, to maintain the estate, and to continue payments on debts accrued by her husband imposed severe burdens. Since she was in an extremely vulnerable economic position, she became the prime target of exploitation. The fact that she was classed with the landless stranger and Levite indicates that she was often unable to keep her husband’s land.

So, as we see here, the widow when Elijah meets her is on the edge of economic disaster. Enough food for one last meal and that was it. She had resigned herself to the fact that she and her boy were going to die of starvation, plain and simple. She then obeys the Lord by obeying Elijah’s request. She and her son receive a miracle as a result of her obedience. Then what happens next, you would think that everything is gonna be cool for the rest of her life. Her obedience, one would think, would lead to a life on an easier street. However, that’s not the case. Shortly after her obedience to Elijah’s request, the have food for a while but then, BAM!, her son gets sick and quickly dies. Talk about your bad luck, your gloom, your despair and agony. Now, she’s got a real mess. She’s a destitute widow and now her only hope for the future, a son to take care of her in the patriarchal society of the ancient Middle East, dies suddenly.

That got me to thinking about how often we get derailed as Christians because bad things continue to happen to us even after we have been obedient to a call or request or command from God. The widow feels like we feel sometimes when we have been obedient but trouble comes to us again even after that. The widow confronted Elijah: “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18). She is basically saying, “why me? Haven’t I had enough misery – losing my husband, and now, my son!” All of us as Christ followers have had those moments in life. You are doing what God asked you to do and you were obedient, had faith, and proceeded with it and now…now…there is hardship, pain, and suffering that follow the obedience.

What should we say to others when they have had tragedy after tragedy, hard times after hard times, things looking bleak even after they have been obedient to the Lord? That’s the thing that I thought about today as I read 1 Kings 17:8-24 for a third time before we move on to the next passage. Let’s read it now with special attention to the last 7 verses of the passage:

8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

17 Sometime later, the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”

21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”

24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”

In this passage, we see that, even when God has done a miracle in our lives, our troubles may not be over. The famine was a terrible experience for everyone, but especially for those on the margins of society such as a widow and her fatherless child. God’s provision is never given so that we can rest upon it and stay there. The Bible tells us that we are going to have troubles in life as we live in a fallen, sinful world. It tells us that it is a matter of timing rather than whether we are going to have trouble or not. The Bible says “when” you have trouble not “if” you have trouble.

So, that’s the thing that we must see here in this passage is we should have confidence that God will provide for us and get us through every troubled situation using the evidence that we have seen in the past. Sure, in this same situation, we would probably have a similar attitude. Why would God feed them in the first place? If God wanted to take her son, why did He not just do it before even meeting Elijah? They would have died long ago, without Elijah’s visit. I am not shocked by the widow’s response. We often, even as Christ followers, get angry with God. You called me to do this, and I was obedient, and now this? What point are you trying to prove God? Why? Why me? Where was Elijah in all this while the kid got sick? What’s up with that? It reminds you of the Lazarus incident with Jesus. Jesus was told 2 days before that Lazarus was dying. Why did he not intervene then? You know, you’ve been there so the widow’s response is a typical human response. Death as far as we know and have experienced in our lives is pretty doggone final and irreversible. However, in this situation, God was demonstrating his ultimate power over death as an example to the widow that no matter what we can trust God to get us through whatever we are going through. Jesus did the same with Lazarus.

We each have evidential stories of how God has provided for us in the past, even when we reflect on our pre-salvation days. There we can see God’s hand in pointing us to the cross, through his protection from our own stupidity an stupid acts. And, in our days since salvation, we should be even more attuned to the fact that God has seen us through some hard times before…AND HE WILL DO IT AGAIN! Because of Elijah faith in God and His willingness to go forward with God no matter what, God works through Elijah to raise the widow’s son from the dead. Now, there’s some evidence for you. Can the widow be doubtful in the future?

Here we have two people going through a rough time? Elijah bursts on the biblical scene and predicts famine and then he must then go live by a river and have unclean birds bring him his daily food. He was obedient but immediately found hard times. We have a widow who is going through a rough, rough existence without a husband to the point that that she had gotten down to her last meal for herself and her son. Sure, we can have questions for God as to when He will provide and we can earnestly cry out to Him for His help, but we cannot lose faith that He WILL PROVIDE for those who love Him and honor Him. No matter what you are going through, yes, you can question. Yes, you can’t cry out to God with pain, anguish, and hurt! But how often has God NOT provided you what you needed (not what you wanted but what you needed)? How often has God NOT seen you through your troubled waters? How often has God NOT made a way for you even when you did not ask Him for it? NEVER. God always provides. It may not be in our way, our timing, our preference. But HE DOES PROVIDE. Even in the death of a loved one, we may not get the experience of a resurrection of that loved one (although modern science may call it a recovery instead of a resurrection – it still sometimes happens at God’s hand alone), but we can have full assurance that God will line our steps ahead of us and He will use our pain, our experience, our heartaches for His glory through our story – of how trusting in God even in the hardest times will lead to the miracle of provision for our lives that can only be explained as a GOD THING!

I began with a hopeless song from Hee-Haw so I think it is fitting to end with one as well that speaks of trusting God because we know He will provide, we have faith He will provide, so we live knowing and trusting it. It is a song by Elevation Worship called “Do It Again”

Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall

But You have never failed me yet

Waiting for change to come

Knowing the battle’s won

For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet

I know the night won’t last

Your Word will come to pass

My heart will sing Your praise again

Jesus, You’re still enough

Keep me within Your love

My heart will sing Your praise again

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You never failed

Your promise still stands

Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness

I’m still in Your hands

This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

You made a way, where there was no way

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

You made a way, where there was no way

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

You made a way, where there was no way

And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-24 (Part 2 of 3)

The Widow at Zarephath

From the time I accepted Christ as my Savior back December 2001, he had been working in my heart to go into the ministry. I always had excuses as to why I could not. Slowly but surely over the next 9-10 years, he eliminated all of the obstacles that I had thrown up. Even then when I accepted the call on my life, I had time to not go directly in the ministry by going to seminary. Don’t get me wrong, the time in seminary was necessary and it deepened and strengthened my faith. Then, I was ready. But the Lord made me wait for about 3 ½ years before the first offer of full time ministry came here in Illinois. All during those times, the wait was frustrating, but it was also safe. I could continue with my secular career and continue to simply dream of the day I would be in full-time ministry.

Then, the day of faith came when the job offer was made here. That was when faith had to be exhibited. We were set where we were. In South Carolina, we were doing quite well financially and I had been in my job at Fujikura for a decade. At church, we were leaders in the church. I was not only supervising the church’s financial reporting but I was also teaching classes and was involved in so many things there. We were set. Then, when the call came to accept or reject the offer from Calvary, that was the real faith test. Many people thought we had lost our minds to give up what we were giving up – especially in our mid-fifties. It came down to faith. We were called by God to pursue this path that we find ourselves on and though we had been preparing for it spiritually, emotionally, financially, still it came down to faith. Leave the known, the comfortable, the easy for the unknown, the uncomfortable and the hard. That takes faith. Even now, the call to ministry continues to take faith. We must trust the process to the Lord as I grow and learn about full-time ministry.

Sometimes, we just have to go for it. We have to quit talking about our faith and live it out. It is similar to my senior pastor here at Calvary. When God called him to plant this church almost 25 years ago, he had a prosperous career with his family’s Christian singing group and had a prosperous business in developing sound systems for large venues. He had it made. But God called him to plant a church. The world told him that he was crazy to walk away from his prosperous hand in the music and sound industry. But sometimes, you just gotta follow what God puts on your heart. Is it going to be easy? No, it’s probably going to be hard. It’s probably going to make you question yourself and your own intelligence and the world is going to tell you that you are nuts. It is at these times that real faith is all we have – to do what God called us to do and to keep doing it when things are tough.

That’s the thing that I thought about today as I read 1 Kings 17:8-24 for a second time was how the widow who was down to her last meal had no earthly reason to trust Elijah, but she went ahead on faith and gave Elijah what she thought was her last food. That’s the thing. Believing in God sometimes requires faith and trust even in the face of everything else in you and around you screaming no:

8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

17 Sometime later, the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”

21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”

24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”

In this passage, we see that, when the widow of Zarephath met Elijah, she thought she was preparing her and her child’s last meal. However, a simple act of faith produced a miracle. She had no earthly reason to trust Elijah. Based on what we see in the biblical record, there is no mention of Elijah and the widow having previously known each other. Though she probably did not know Elijah, she trusted him and gave him all she had to eat. Faith is the step between promise and assurance. Miracles seem out of reach for our feeble faith. But every miracle, large or small, begins with an act of obedience. Such an act of obedience requires us to overcome doubt and maybe even hardships that result or maybe even ridicule from others. Sometimes, the only thing that we have to go on is faith in the Lord when all earthly indicators are that we should not proceed. That’s when real faith kicks in – to do what God has called you to do when everything fleshly and temporal tells us we should not.

So, that’s the thing for today, have faith, real faith. Let’s not just talk about it and stay in the safe end of the pool. Sometimes, God calls us to jump into the deep end of the pool so that we will learn to not just give mental assent to faith but really live it out. If you have followed a call by God, keep the faith. Cling to God and know that in your obedience, He will provide for you. If you are being obedient, have that real faith and trust that God will make a way for you. Trust in Him to provide for you even when everything and everyone and earthly logic would tell you a loud no. That’s real faith – to trust God when the world tells you that you should not.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 17:8-24 (Part 1 of 3)

The Widow at Zarephath

When we are faithful to God even when our circumstances seem hopeless, He will reward our faithfulness. Have you ever been in the midst of time where everything seems to be going wrong and everything you do seems to lead to more hopelessness? We have all been there at one point or another in our lives. Those days where you are in the midst of a trial and you just don’t want to get out of bed! Yeah, many, if not all of us, can relate to that. It may be your personal life. It may be something going on with work. It may be something with your children. It may be a combination of all those things and more.

There have been times in our lives where we have been there. I have been there at times in my life. There are trials in life for all of us. It’s not a matter of if but when and for how long. As I sit here today on the first anniversary of going into full-time ministry it is a time to reflect. This past year has been a difficult one – transitioning from my full-time job in the corporate world to the church world, transitioning from a job that I had held for 10 years and knew everything about it inside and out to a completely different world of non-profit and church accounting, transitioning from being responsible for much to being responsible for much more. I would love to say that it has been an easy transition but it has not. It has been difficult at times. It has made me question myself to the core at times. It has made me wonder why I followed God’s call into ministry. It has been rough adjusting to a different office style and management styles. But the Lord has said to me many times, keep plowing, keep plowing, you will get a handle on it but this time where you are going to have to learn to fully depend on me so that you can see what I want you to see.

It is in the midst of tough times that you have to keep your eyes open. You cannot withdraw into yourself. You must keep your eyes open as to what God is doing and how he is providing. The thing that keeps me fueled as I learn new things, relearn things in a different way, and as the Lord humbles me about the things that I don’t know and learning about my own flaws during this time is the people that God has brought in my and Elena’s life.

That’s the thing that I thought about today as I read 1 Kings 17:8-24 was how Elijah kept plowing even though his circumstances were dire and he kept his eyes open and attentive to what God was doing in his life. Without the faithfulness and openness to what God was doing, he would have written off the widow and not had the encounter that he had:

8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

17 Sometime later, the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. 18 Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”

19 But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. 20 Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”

21 And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 23 Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”

24 Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”

In this passage, we see in a nation that was required by God’s law to care for its prophets, it is ironic that God turned to ravens (unclean birds) and a widow (a helpless person herself in the culture of ancient Middle East) to care for Elijah. No matter how bitter our trials may be or how seemingly hopeless our situation, we should look for God’s caring touch. We may find his providence in some unexpected ways.

It is the same for Elena and me. There are some amazing people that have come into our lives over the past year but they would not be there unless we had followed the call into ministry and to Calvary Church of The Quad Cities. Even though the first year has been a steep and humbling learning curve, without it, we would not have met some truly important people in our lives that are members of this church. These people have loved on us, blessed us, allowed us to help them through some tough times, and taught us things as well. The love of the people of this church is the fuel that keeps me going every day. We have to keep our eyes open to the blessings that God has bestowed upon us even when we are going through a tough time.

All of it is for God’s purpose, that keeps me going to. When we keep that in mind, we can open our eyes to the blessings and the provision God has around us. Don’t close your eyes. You will miss what God is doing. You will miss His blessings. And that is why we are here, to keep plowing, keep being faithful, keep doing what God directs and when we trust in that, we can open our eyes to the mighty blessings that we do already have right around us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 17:1-7 (Part 2 of 2)

Elijah Fed By Ravens

Do you remember right after you accepted Christ as your Savior that there was this “perfect time”? It is right after salvation that we find that we are on fire for the Lord. We love everything about the church where we came to know the Lord. We love everything about the people there. We want to serve as much as we can and in as many ways as we can.

Then, real life happens. Hard times come. Something happens that, as the old Southern saying goes, “licks the red off our candy.” We experience a hardship whether its emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, it happens to all of us as Christ followers. Those euphoric first few months and maybe even a year or two after salvation, everything is going great and we are thankful to the Lord for changing our lives. That part is true enough for all of us no matter where we are in our walk – we should always be thankful for what God has done in us and continues to do in us and through us. However, when we are young babes in Christ, that first crisis in life after salvation can sometimes throw us off our feet. Naively, we think that nothing is ever going to go wrong again and that we will remain in this state of post-salvation bliss forever. Then, trouble comes.

It is in that first crisis that we begin to learn to put wheels on our faith. It is in the times of crisis after salvation that we begin to learn about depending on God more and more. It is in the fires of a crisis that we learn that faith is a choice and not always a feeling. It is great when we have those mountaintop experiences. Don’t get me wrong. But faith in God is often best taught to us in the hard times. It is then that we simply have to hold on to our belief that God has “got this.” It is in the crisis time that we must make the choice to hold on to God when everything in your flesh and everything that Satan can get you to think, “this Jesus stuff doesn’t work!” If you are there right now, join the club. Each one of us who have been Christ followers for any length of time will experience times of crisis. This may be your first experience with a crisis since accepting Christ as your Savior, but it will not be your last.

It is in the crisis times that we quit riding the emotion train that comes with our salvation experience and for months afterward. When we are on the emotion train, we think that we have to feel that feeling all the time, that euphoria. However, it was Paul that told that we must “renew our mind.” That requires choice and dedication. To be a Christ follower, we must learn to choose Jesus everyday even when things are tough and are not going the way we want. To be Christ follower, we must hold on to our faith by choice even when everything is screaming not to have faith.

We all have been there. It is not a matter if you have trouble in life after salvation, it is a matter of when. Often when we are Christians and we are seeking to serve the Lord with all our time, talents, and resources, Satan comes after us to dismay us. Satan wants us to be frustrated with God. Satan wants us to give up or give in. It is in these times that we must hold on to Jesus more tightly than ever. It is in these times that we learn about trust in God. It is in these times that the trust in God that we have and are clinging to is the only way to get to the other shore. Sometimes, the hard times teaches something we need to learn because God is preparing us for what’s next in His plan for us.

Today, we remain in 1 Kings 17:1-7. This time, let us look at this passage from the perspective of Elijah’s circumstances after he enters into his ministry. Let’s read now about what happens to Elijah after he makes his first prophetic announcement:

Chapter 17

1 Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”

2 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 3 “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 4 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”

5 So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.

In this passage, we see that after giving his first prophetic announcement, the first ministry activity of Elijah, he finds that God has directed him to the wilderness. There, he only has the food that the birds God has directed to provide. There, he only has the water from the river to drink (and it eventually dries up). In other words, following God made his circumstances immediately more difficult from a human perspective.

Here, Elijah’s circumstances got worse after entering into his ministry. He is down by the river and eating whatever the birds will leave him. Not exactly the best of circumstances! But as you shall see, Elijah continues to trust in the Lord. Sure, he has times where he cries out to God about his circumstances, but ultimately his has this thread of hope in the Lord that He clings to. He keeps being obedient. He keeps trusting in the Lord. Sometimes, we have to do that too. We have to trust in the Lord that He has this situation under control. We have to trust that He is working it out the way He wants it. He have to trust that His way of working it out is better than the plan that we had because…well…He is God after all. We must trust in the Lord that whatever circumstance that we are in, He has a purpose in it. He is preparing us for what’s next in our lives. We are conditioned by culture to want what we want and want it now. However, when it comes to the perfection of our salvation, we must have trust, hope, and patience with the Lord. Even if the current situation seems so unbearable, trust in the Lord to work it our for what He has in store for you.

The hardship that you are going through now will become part of your testimony of how beyond all circumstances that you trust in the Lord and that He delivers. He may not do it the way we want or when we want but we always learn that His way was best. The hardship that you are going through now can be an inroad with someone else who does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. The hardship that you are going through right now will be your testimony to them of how God changes lives, how God gets us through hard times through his faithful provision for our lives. Your testimony can demonstrate how faith in the hard times is why you are standing here today. Trust that God will use what you are going through right now for His glory in the future.

Amen and Amen.