Peace and Mercy

 

Peace and Mercy 

November 19, 2022 

“Lord, how great is your mercy”  Psalm 119:156 

So many Christians struggle with past sins which dilutes their potential joy and peace in Christ Jesus. God’s word tells us that He will give us peace, a peace that passes human understanding. But we must walk in it. We must take hold of it and allow His peace, forgiveness and mercy to bathe us from head to toe, canceling out the past. God’s promises are stronger than our feeble feelings…if we allow them to be! 

Romans 15:13  “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

Psalm 103:12  “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

Isaiah 38:17  “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In Your [God] love you kept me  from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.” 

Hebrews 9:14  “Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.” 

Colossians 3:5-10  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Philippians 4:6-7  “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”

John 14:27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” 

Colossians 3:15  “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” 

Ephesians 2:3-5  “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” 

In a way, our walk with Christ is similar to a skydiver. Before the flight, he checks all his gear, tests the straps, chutes and helmet. As they climb to diving altitude he mentally checks one more time, confident that everything is in place and in working order. 

Standing at the door, he is given the green light—time to jump. And now the heart-pumping thrill of free fall, plummeting toward the earth knowing that when he is ready, he can pull the cord and release his chute, the life-saving device that will prevent a crushing death. 

If he does not pull the cord, all his preparations would not matter. His brand new chute would not be released to spare his life and guide him safely to the earth. He would smash into the earth. He would die. 

In this analogy, God is our ripcord in the form of his forgiveness, mercy and peace. He has done everything necessary for us to live a life of peace, joy and mercy. He sent Jesus and then He gave us His Holy Spirit. He gave us all the gear we need for a safe and wonderful dive. It’s up to us to pull the cord! 

Capitalism & Democracy

Capitalism and Democracy 

October 22, 2022

“…But she, out of her poverty, put in everything…” Mark 12:44 

Do the words capitalism and democracy have any relationship to Christianity? Do any of the Christian tenets align themselves with these words? No. Jesus Christ did not take his last breath (before His resurrection) on Calvary’s cross so we in this country could demand our individual rights and live in materialism. For true followers of Jesus, capitalism and democracy are polar opposites of how we should live. 

When we say something like, “God has really blessed us (our church, family, business)”, what do we usually mean? Most often we are referring to numbers in attendance, material possessions, or special favor. 

Until we realize capitalism and democracy have nothing to do with God’s Word, our understanding will be off center, warped. We must stop viewing the Scriptures through the filter that sees success as monetary gain or employment recognition (raise, promotion). 

As long as we continue viewing the Bible through capitalistic/democratic glasses, our spiritual vision will be skewed in favor of what’s best for us. Self-satisfaction. Remember, the Bible was not written in America. 

Mark 12:41-44  “As Jesus sat near the Temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had–she gave all she had to live on.” 

Philippians 4:11-13  “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” 

1 Timothy 6:6-10  “Well, religion does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires which pull them down to ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.”   

Hebrews 13:5  “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 

Matthew 6:19-21, 24  “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 

 24 No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 

Matthew 5:42  “When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.” 

Luke 6:34-35  “And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get it back, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount! No! Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God. For he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked.” 

Now that we’ve read these verses and are left staring off into space, wondering how we got so far astray from God’s direction for our lives, we must make a choice. Do we give up our worldly goals and desires to be refined by our Lord and inherit the true rewards of eternal life or do we settle in for a reasonable life here on earth. After all, I do give some of my money each month…well, most months. 

James 4:4-8 “You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble.  Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.  Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”  

7 Steps To A Changed Life!

Bucharest Romania 1991

7 Steps To A Changed Life

August 6, 2022

“So be careful how you live” ~Ephesians 5:15

We’ve all seen the book titles; 7 Easy Steps To A Satisfied, Successful Life; 10 Steps To Financial Prosperity, and so on. But what if I could tell you there are “7 Steps To A Changed Life” and they can be found in the Bible? It’s true. Absolutely. Because, through faith in Christ, the power of God in our lives is the supernatural catalyst that propels us onward and upward in a cleansing stream of forgiveness and renewal which leads, ultimately, to eternal life with the King of Kings.

     Unlike other 7 Steps to Success plans, this one is not connected to a cost of hundreds of dollars, conferences and frustrating schemes that most of us cannot seem to grasp. These powerful steps are found in the Book of Ephesians, chapter five, verses 15-21 which follow:

  1. Be careful how you live. 
  2. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
  3. Make the  most of every opportunity in these evil days.
  4. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
  5. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
  6. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
  7. Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

     “But wait,” you say, “This is a fraud, just like all the other 7 Steps to something schemes. I’ve tried to be better, to trust God more, to be thankful for everything. And guess what, in a week or two, I’m right back where I was but with more guilt for failing again.”

     I fully understand  because we all have the same “tried to be better but failed” story. So why is that? How can I be a failure if God says I’m not? And how can I use these 7 Steps without the dreaded guilt of another failure in my life as a Christian?

     The answer comes in two parts. Part One is. . .you can’t! Why do you think we all fail at living better with 7 Steps of change? Because we are weak and addicted to sinful desires. 

     Part Two is. . .our faith in God has equipped us with all we need to overcome those destructive desires that lead to failure and discouragement. And, a list of rules or 7 Steps will never lead to spiritual success by themselves which is what the Law was all about. But Christ fulfilled the Law and brought with Him Grace and Mercy. Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 4-6:

     “We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”  

     There it is. Simple? Yes. Easy? No! God has provided the only plausible, effective, victorious answer in that He’s given us His Holy Spirit who communicates directly with our Heavenly Father. Life is a daily endeavor. The past is gone. The future has not arrived. Unlike any other 7 Steps to Success book, the Bible can revolutionize our lives and bring personal victory as we sail through the treacherous waters of life with the Holy Spirit as our Captain because He receives our daily sailing orders from God Himself.

Galatians 3:2-3 

Tell me this one thing: How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive the Spirit by following the law? No! You received the Spirit because you heard the Good News and believed it. You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now do you try to continue it by your own power? That is foolish.” 

Not Human Wisdom

Not Human Wisdom

July 23, 2022

1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”   

Human wisdom is limited and finite, unable to penetrate the heart and soul or to uplift, encourage, challenge and give hope all at once. Only God in His infinite wisdom, through the Holy Spirit, can teach, encourage, forgive, and heal by divinely inspired words. As teachers and pastors rely on God’s spiritual guidance, His supernatural touch may go forth, penetrating all human hearts, planting seeds of hope and peace.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25  “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
      and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” (Isaiah 29:14)

  20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

The most common attitude toward fundamental Christianity, by those who do not know Jesus Christ, is mocking or condescending. Just as the Bible declares, unbelievers think believers in Christ are foolish or mindless. If a pastor or well-known Christian person speaks publicly on current world issues, they must rely only on the Holy Spirit if their words are to have eternal impact; otherwise, they are wasting their time and energy. As Paul says:

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”

As Christians, we have been given an amazing gift, the gift of a personal relationship with God, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His only Son. Not only that, but with the gift, God filled us with His Holy Spirit; a supernatural link to God Himself. Along with this incredible gift comes supernatural, spiritual understanding the world cannot discern or understand. Quite the opposite, according to this verse:

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 “That’s why only someone who has God’s Spirit can understand spiritual blessings. Anyone who doesn’t have God’s Spirit thinks these blessings are foolish. 15People who are guided by the Spirit can make all kinds of judgments, but they cannot be judged by others. 16The Scriptures ask, “Has anyone ever known the thoughts of the Lord or given him advice?” (Isaiah 40:13) But we understand what Christ is thinking.”

Human wisdom may seem brilliant to our human understanding but in comparison to God, it is primitive and limited. Human wisdom took a bite of the forbidden fruit; human wisdom passed laws in America to stifle worship of God; human wisdom established false religions that deny the one true God, and human wisdom said the earth was formed, with all its complexities, from a collision of errant planets some billions of years ago.

Isaiah 5:21 “Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight.”  

Unseen Enemies

Unseen Enemies

July 5, 2022

“Our fight is not against any physical enemy” ~Ephesians 6:12

She lied when she was called into her supervisor’s office to supposedly give supporting testimony for her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. It worked. He was fired, losing his job and pension. 

Later, in the conference room, Carl was removing the last remnants of his personal belongings, she appeared, smiling.

“Why did you do it?”, he asked. “You exaggerated to the point of lying. You could have easily supported me, Sally.”

Tears streaked down her face as Sally spoke, “Why don’t you ask Terry. Maybe she can answer your questions. After all, you have been sleeping with her behind my back!”, she said as she pulled his ring off her finger and threw it across the room.

How could this scenario take place between two lovers, planning to get married in the near future? Why would Carl even consider bedding down with another woman? Because we are not all basically good. Just the opposite, according to the Bible:

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it? I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.”

Mark 7:20-23 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

We fight invisible enemies, seen only by God and it is God who is victorious in all our spiritual battles. We must arm ourselves with His armor which is also invisible to us.

According to Ephesians 6:12 “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.” Obviously, we are defenseless against unseen, spiritual foes without the Holy Spirit who resides within us. 

We can call out as King David did in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal Spirit within me—Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey you!”

God has given us the weapons we need, the power to defeat spiritual foes and the instruction manual (the Bible). By faith, we must apply our armor daily so we will be prepared to fight the battle in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ! The enemies are unseen but we are victorious!

Ephesians 5:8-9 “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Are You Sanctified?

Are You Sanctified? 

June 6, 2022

Let us prove our reverence for God by consecrating ourselves to Him” 2 Corinthians 7:1 

“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. 

He Is Not Here

He Is Not Here 

April 16, 2022

“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)

Elijah The Prophet

Elijah the Prophet

January 29, 2022

“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.

The Advocate

In the beginning, God created!

“He will give you another Advocate who will never leave you”  John 14:16 
 
The men were wrapping up their weekly Bible study, choosing last minute snacks for the trip home, putting away the fold-up chairs and shifting into another mode of Dad, husband and sports fan. In the midst of this, Norm took Al aside and said, “Do you have time for a question, Al?” 
“Of course. Let me tell John I’ll lock up.” 
Five minutes later the two men sat alone. “I am really confused about the Holy Spirit, Al. Just when I think I understand His purpose, I hear another sermon that sends me in a different direction which makes me scratch my head and wonder. I need some simple guidance to understand the Holy Spirit.” 
“Ok, let’s look at the Gospel of John and follow what Jesus said.” 
John 14:16-17 ~I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 
John 16:13 ~When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 
Acts 1:8 ~But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. 
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ~Now, concerning what you wrote about the gifts from the Holy Spirit. I want you to know the truth about them, my friends. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking God’s message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person. 
“There it is, Norm, straightforward and clear. Jesus told his disciples that He would ask God to send an advocate, a comforter, who would never leave them. Never! And then He tells them He is the Holy Spirit who will lead them into all truth. That is part of His job, leading all followers of Christ, you and me included, into all truth. 
“He goes on to explain that the world, those who do not believe in Christ as Savior, cannot receive the Holy Spirit but you and I know Him because he lives in us! Now that is a mind-bender to think that the Holy Spirit lives in us but it’s true.” 
“When I became a Christian, I was taught to ask God for wisdom each time I opened the Bible, Norm, and I pass that advice on to you. God wants us to know Him, His Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus. I recommend that you take your Bible and read all the verses you can find about the Holy Spirit, ask God for wisdom and believe He will answer you. One day you will be teaching someone too.”