Have you ever wished you could have a copy of the Psalms small enough to carry with you every day. Now you can. Not only that but included with the Psalms are portions of C.H. Spurgeon’s messages regarding the Psalms: “The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure”
Spurgeon and the Psalmsis a small book bound in imitation leather which gives the comfort and feel of pebble-grained leather. Not sparing any niceties, Thomas Nelson has included a blue ribbon marker to keep track of where you have read.
The paper is thick enough to write notes and make highlights without danger of tearing the pages. If you are a note taker, Spurgeon And The Psalms comes with 18 blank pages for notes in the back.
If you are familiar with Spurgeon’s sermons you will not be disappointed here. Thomas Nelson has included sections from his sermons on Psalms that tie into whichever psalm you are reading. Tapping into Spurgeon’s Spirit-filled messages as you read through Psalms will enhance, challenge and encourage the reader.
I received a free copy of this book as a #BibleGatewayPartner.
“Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his right hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion.”
Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification, as the sweat-drenched pastor walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message. Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation.
This very emotional and dramatic pastor should rather have claimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!”
Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness.
Romans 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
1 Corinthians I:30-31 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Along with the unimaginable grace and mercy of God’s provision for our sanctification, He also expects us to do our part, to work our faith in day to day circumstances. He has already done the impossible and has assigned us the possible such as making choices and slipping on His armor. We’re at war!
2 Corinthians 7:1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.
Hebrews 10:10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
Romans 15:16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 26:18 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
Sanctification is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. Even so, the Holy Spirit enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.
On the surface, Chuck’s life seemed pretty good. Great job, wife and children. He had become a Christian in his early twenties and dedicated his life to understanding God’s will. Most recently, he was honored for his volunteer efforts in establishing a free food distribution system through their church, serving all who need a helping hand. The program grew each year as more and more people and organizations came on board. Yes, Chuck was highly esteemed among men.
“Something is wrong in my life, Bill, I struggle every day with overcoming Satan’s attacks and my own temptations,” Chuck said to his best friend, at their favorite local restaurant. “I feel as though I should have left all this stuff behind and yet the attacks are very powerful. What am I missing?”
Bill was an older man who also loved the Lord and had studied God’s Word intently. “You could be in the same place I once was, Chuck. When I was about your age I had many of the same feelings and struggles with sin and temptation that seemed insurmountable. I don’t mean to say I am never tempted today but there is a major difference now.”
“That sounds encouraging, Bill. What happened to bring about such a change?”
“The answer is simple but the challenge is in obedience and trust. You know what I am about to tell you but you’ve allowed yourself to neglect God’s instructions. You’ve sacrificed many things in your Christian walk, Chuck, but remember that verse in 1 Samuel 15:22, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice.’ And God has taken delight in describing the steps necessary for our victorious position as we fight the spiritual battle daily.”
“I’m on pins and needles, Bill. What am I missing?”
“Ephesians chapter 6! Beginning with verse 10, the apostle Paul, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, writes, ‘A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Tears filled Chuck’s eyes as he realized the simplicity and yet the challenge of obeying God’s instructions in this section of Scripture. Bill had opened a door to freedom and vital victory for him.
“And then Paul gets specific, ‘Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere”
“My friend, God has used you once again to shine His light of truth into my heart this morning. I am so excited to see the changes in my life as I walk in these verses, trusting in my Savior,” said Chuck.
“Praise God, Chuck. I love how God speaks to us through our fellowship. I like to visualize myself putting on the armor of God each morning. The more I take a few minutes walking through the steps outlined in Ephesians, the more powerful and encouraging it seems to be. Let’s pray.
“The heavens will disappear with a roar!” ~2 Peter 3:10
The Bible study group settled in for the weekly meeting. It was a diverse group, ages ranging from 22-82; men, women, married and single. Politically they were mostly Republicans, except for two young closet Democrats. As such, talk radio and TV were quite popular, with the exception of the teacher, Craig. He didn’t subscribe to regular TV nor did he listen to talk radio. When asked why, Craig was fond of replying, “I have enough of a problem overcoming my own skewed ideas, let alone listening to hours and hours of purely slanted opinions. Besides, it gets my blood pressure up!”
So it was with great surprise when, after opening prayer, Craig opened the study with, “How many of you believe in this idea of global warming?”
Silence and puzzled looks. After a few seconds, the group erupted into the latest viewpoints bandied about by the mostly conservative political opinions. Craig brought them back to order before emotions soared too high. “Ok. Ok. I guess I took you by surprise with that question. Now, without quoting any of the popular conservative opinions, would you say that most of us do not believe in what is taught as global warming?” They agreed.
“Well, I have a big surprise for you, then. The Bible teaches the opposite. Some day in the future, the world will experience the most cataclysmic global warming when the current heavens and earth will burn with a fervent heat. The entire earth will perish in flames!”
Once again, silence in the room. Finally Bob Jensen said, “I am stunned, Craig. In the political furor, taking sides with whichever party I consider the most balanced, I’ve lost track of what the Bible says about that very scary subject.”
Craig brought them back to God’s Word; “Let’s look at 2 Peter 3:10-13: “But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
“Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.”
A sense of soberness filled the room. Political opinions had faded, replaced by thoughts of the end of the world and what that really meant to them. “When will all this destruction take place, Craig?” asked Bob.
“There are many ideas and books written about that subject, Bob. My stand on when it will all take place comes from Matthew 24:36-44.
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”
“Since we believe the Bible is God’s Word, that means the world is going to be destroyed. This will happen someday. But, more importantly, we are instructed to live holy and godly lives, looking forward to the end of the world as we know it.
“Jesus died for us, to transform and redeem us. And then He asked God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. That happened. It is a fact; more factual and trustworthy than any human endeavor or political party. We owe total allegiance to our Heavenly Father who spared nothing to give us hope in this life and the one to come.
“So yes, global warming is on God’s list of things to come. As surely as we live and breathe, God’s scheduled events will never be thwarted. In His time and His way, the current earth and the heavenly bodies will all pass away to make room for the new heavens and earth. Praise His name!
“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46
He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done?
Luke 22:41-44 “Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me” (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). “Not my will however, but your will be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet as He was abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, amazingly, forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body.
Luke 23:44-46 “Suddenly God blackened the brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain (approx. 60 feet high) hanging in the temple was torn in two (from top to bottom). Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died.”
“Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground.
“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”
“Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.” (Luke 22:44-46)
The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and is now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe.
Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)
Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”
“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)
“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)
By the third grade, all the students and teachers realized that Daniel always brought an insulated lunch bag to school to keep his milk cool. That in itself, was not a radical thing to do. But in his case, milk was all his lunch bag contained. Finally his teacher met with the principal and they decided to talk with Daniel’s parents.
“This may seem strange to you, Mrs. Phillips but we are concerned about your son’s diet in that he seems to only be drinking milk; no solid foods.”
“Once we realized how packed-full of protein, vitamin D and calcium milk is, his father and I decided there was nothing better Daniel could take in each day.”
“Do you mean to say your son eats no solid food?”
“That’s correct, he only drinks milk. Of course we add little flavor treats at home and on weekends like chocolate, vanilla, and ice cream. We all need a little variety in our diets!”
Fortunately for Daniel, the school provided professional dietary help for the Phillips family which included adding vegetables, grain, and fruits.
Although this fictionalized version of extreme behavior seems silly or worse to us, we are warned by God to move away from a spiritual diet based on milk alone. Specifically, we are cautioned that instead of being able to teach others and understand more of His teachings, we remain as children, with stunted comprehension.
Hebrews 5:7-14 While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. 9 In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. 10 And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. 11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.[a] You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
1 Cor. 3:1-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
Hebrews 6:1-3 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.
It’s easy to keep on the “Milk Diet”. We are familiar with it. We know by default how to respond to most situations. We are not calling attention to ourselves. We blend in. More importantly, we lie to ourselves. Paul tells us that we are actually “still controlled by your sinful nature and living like people of the world.”
Eph. 4:14-16 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Any parent will confirm how sweet and endearing a little toddler learning to walk is. Their life is new and full of adventure. However, at age 23, the former toddler is not quite as endearing unless they have matured and changed. The same is true of our walk with the Lord.
“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15
It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers were crafty and wily.
Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed; except for one man on this day.
Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood, the Lamb of God, was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.
John 2:14-16 In the temple he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and he also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, he drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that he explain his behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19).” They didn’t understand he was referring to his own body.
Jesus broke the religious rules; he challenged the current ideas and demanded action from his followers. Walking along the seashore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.
If Jesus barged into our church-world today, how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We adamantly resist Jesus’ harsh light of truth exposing our easy going style of Christianity
Matthew 4:17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matthew 4:18-22 As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Matthew 8:21-22 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 16:22-23 Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
If an elder scolded a pastor today, such as Peter did to Jesus, the pastor would couch his reply in kind and gentle terms, not wanting to offend. And yet, Jesus pierced Peter’s heart with his words, even calling him Satan! In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me (John 7:16).”
Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Are we willing to look foolish to the world; to the church, to our friends?
Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
“Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever” Exodus 20:4
I’ll never forget the first new car I bought. I was so excited to finally have a brand-spanking new car. Shiny and clean. And I vowed to keep it that way. Even though I had a family and job, my red and white Volkswagen Bus was always clean. Rain or Shine! At a neighborhood meeting, I met a man for the first time who said, “Oh, you’re the guy who washes his bus in the rain. Boy, I thought, he is really dedicated.”
But that was the wrong description of what I was. I was obsessed. I was inching God a little off His rightful place of worship in my life to make room for my vehicle. I loved a man-made, metal box on wheels. I was dedicated to its well being. “See my shiny new bus? See how dedicated to keeping it clean and shiny I am?” God was not pleased.
How hard is it for us to let go of things and people we love? Very! But our Heavenly Father understands, which is why he provided Jesus as our Savior, the One who could overcome all the temptations for us. He knew and decided to commit Himself fully to us by sending Jesus to die in our place. “Amazing Grace, how could it be?” And yet, in the middle of His grace and mercy is our choice to be obedient. His death can only cleanse our sins if we choose to follow Him. Choose to be forgiven. And choose to walk in His way.
Matthew 4:10 “For the Scriptures say, You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.”
Matthew 16:24-29 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
How serious are we about following the Lord? “Here I am Lord, send me!” Is this our stand? Really? Have we counted the cost?
Matthew 10:32-42 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
“Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
If we were in an audience listening to a person preaching on this subject, as they finished with this section of Scripture there would be silence in the room. Instinctively we recoil from these demands. Say it isn’t so, we quietly murmur. Surely not. God is not like this. He is a God of love. Indeed He is but He demands our absolute loyalty and focus if we are to walk on the path He’s set out before us.
Life is spiritual and the battle is intense! We are the messengers of the Lord on earth, carrying out our orders from On High. Soldiers in battle are acutely aware of the dangers and keep their senses keenly alert. A moment of lethargy could spell disaster or—death! And that, dear friends, is our life, until the Great and Mighty God calls us home.
Hebrews 12:1-4 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.”
“You cannot serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24
His dream had come true, Paul won the $202 million state lottery. He opted for the instant pay jackpot of $142.2 million. He was set for life. He promised himself he wouldn’t be like so many other winners who blew through their millions. Wise investments for him he told all is friends. He thought of himself as pretty cagy with investments and money management. After all, how could he blow through $142 million, even after about 24% in taxes? Bright and early Monday morning, Paul was in his company’s Human Resources office, giving his two weeks notice. “Paul, do you realize there is a 20% early withdrawal penalty on your retirement package? It’s pretty hefty on yours because of your years of employment. You can leave it alone and let it earn interest until age 65.” “Thanks, but I won’t be needing it anyway, I just won the $202 million lottery, Jane.” “Wow. How much is that after early withdrawal and taxes?” “Well, I actually take $106 million home. But that’s plenty for the rest of my life. I’m not going to just throw it all away, you know. Investments for me. I’ve always been pretty good with money.” Two weeks later, to mark his retirement and lottery winnings, Paul invited 50 of his friends to a party at the Hilton hotel. Not wanting to be cheap, he hired a band with full catering. He wanted everyone to remember him. The cost was $2,450! He was not going to be like those other losers who threw their winnings away. After their around-the-world tour, purchase of a $4 million house, $120,000 for two new cars, $80,000 for his new pickup, $135,000 for their splendid yacht, $785,000 for that cabin in the woods they had always dreamed of, Paul and his wife settled in for the perfect life of riches that was flowing their way. One year later, Paul and his wife were parting ways. She left with her share of the winnings and things they’d bought. Paul was depressed and lonely now in spite of his money and stuff. Five years later, after several business investment failures and a cheating accountant, Paul had $185,000 in the bank and no future earnings. He was only 52-years-old. The Bible warns us about depending on money, thinking it will bring satisfaction and happiness. It never will because true happiness comes from the joy of knowing the Lord. Worldly happiness is very elusive in this life. Using happiness as a bench mark for contentment will bring disappointment and sometimes, depression. Paul was jubilant when he saw his winning lottery numbers. But a few short years later he was discouraged and depressed. Matthew 6:19-34 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. 20 Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. 21 If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too. 22 “If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. 23 But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be! 24 “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around. 25 “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. 26 Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. 29 Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith? 31-32 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, 33 and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. 34 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time. Worry: Mark 4:18; Luke 10:41; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7; Proverbs 12:25
“The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned” ~1 Kings 17:22
Elijah, whose name means, My God is the Lord, was sent by God to confront, not comfort. And he spoke God’s words to a king who often rejected the message just because it was Elijah who brought it. Elijah was faithful to carry out his ministry for God, and this caused great tension and animosity between him and the king, who wanted Elijah’s loyalty to be directed toward him. As a result, Elijah was on the run at times, having to hide from the angry king who meant him harm. Alone and isolated from the fellowship of others who were also serving God. Elijah sometimes wondered if he was the only person left in the land who was faithfully following his Lord.
During a severe drought (that Elijah predicted), God sent Elijah to live with a widow and her son. She only had enough flour and oil to make one loaf of bread for her and her son before they died of starvation. According to God’s instructions, Elijah told her to make bread for him and her as he told her, “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!” 1 Kings 18:14
Some time later the woman’s son became sick and died. The distraught woman confronted Elijah and said, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” Elijah carried her son upstairs and laid him on his bed, stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out, “O Lord my God please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned!
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!”
16 So Obadiah went to King Ahab and told him, and Ahab set off to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he said, “So there you are—the worst troublemaker in Israel!”
18 “I’m not the troublemaker,” Elijah answered. “You are—you and your father. You are disobeying the Lord’s commands and worshiping the idols of Baal. 19 Now order all the people of Israel to meet me at Mount Carmel. Bring along the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah who are supported by Queen Jezebel.”
20 So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and the prophets of Baal to meet at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went up to the people and said, “How much longer will it take you to make up your minds? If the Lord is God, worship him; but if Baal is God, worship him!” But the people didn’t say a word. 22 Then Elijah said, “I am the only prophet of the Lord still left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal. 23 Bring two bulls; let the prophets of Baal take one, kill it, cut it in pieces, and put it on the wood—but don’t light the fire. I will do the same with the other bull. 24 Then let the prophets of Baal pray to their god, and I will pray to the Lord, and the one who answers by sending fire—he is God.”
The people shouted their approval.
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since there are so many of you, you take a bull and prepare it first. Pray to your god, but don’t set fire to the wood.”
26 They took the bull that was brought to them, prepared it, and prayed to Baal until noon. They shouted, “Answer us, Baal!” and kept dancing around the altar they had built. But no answer came.
27 At noon Elijah started making fun of them: “Pray louder! He is a god! Maybe he is day-dreaming or relieving himself, or perhaps he’s gone off on a trip! Or maybe he’s sleeping, and you’ve got to wake him up!” 28 So the prophets prayed louder and cut themselves with knives and daggers, according to their ritual, until blood flowed. 29 They kept on ranting and raving until the middle of the afternoon; but no answer came, not a sound was heard.
30 Then Elijah said to the people, “Come closer to me,” and they all gathered around him. He set about repairing the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one for each of the twelve tribes named for the sons of Jacob, the man to whom the Lord had given the name Israel. 32 With these stones he rebuilt the altar for the worship of the Lord. He dug a trench around it, large enough to hold about four gallons of water. 33 Then he placed the wood on the altar, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the offering and the wood.” They did so, 34 and he said, “Do it again”—and they did. “Do it once more,” he said—and they did. 35 The water ran down around the altar and filled the trench.
36 At the hour of the afternoon sacrifice the prophet Elijah approached the altar and prayed, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove now that you are the God of Israel and that I am your servant and have done all this at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you are bringing them back to yourself.”
38 The Lord sent fire down, and it burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones, scorched the earth and dried up the water in the trench. 39 When the people saw this, they threw themselves on the ground and exclaimed, “The Lord is God; the Lord alone is God!” 1 Kings 18
God has work for us to do even when we feel fear and failure. And God always has more resources and people than we know about. Although we might wish to do amazing miracles for God, we should instead focus on developing a relationship with Him. The real miracle of Elijah’s life was his very personal relationship with God. And that miracle is available to us.