Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanks for Those Who've Gone Before

READ 1 Kings 1-2

After Elijah is taken up and Elisha succeeds him as God’s anointed prophet in Israel, we see a strange incident involving Bethel boys and the prophet. Though there was a larger group whom Elisha cursed only 42 were killed by the bears who came out of the woods (2:23-24). Then Elisha went to Mount Carmel before finally returning to Samaria (25). My first thought thought at v.25 was, Why Mt. Carmel.” Then an answer came to me quickly. Though I may be interpreting this in light of my own experience, I think it has some merit for us today.

On my recent sabbatical I had the privilege and very moving opportunity to visit several places where some of my heroes of the faith ministered and were buried—George Whitfield in Newburyport, MA; Jonathan Edwards in Stockbridge and Northampton, MA; David Brainerd in Northampton, MA. Each of these men was used of God in mighty ways far beyond what I will ever come close to doing. Learning of there lives and visiting where they were used was a reminder and a challenge for me as I seek to serve the Lord in the ministry of the Word.

Perhaps Elisha, upon taking the reigns of prophecy from Elijah, simply wanted to revisit the site of Elijah’s greatest triumph to be reminded of how God had greatly used this man of God and be encouraged as he embarked on his ministry. The lesson is strong for us that we should never forget those who have gone before us. We should never be so caught up in the here and now that we don’t learn from the there and then. Godly folks who have gone before us were greatly used of God often in very difficult circumstances. May God help us to be faithful as they were.

Prayer: Father, thank you for men like Whitfield, Edwards and Brainerd. Thank you for the grace and power that was evidenced in their lives for you. Lord, help me to trust you and minister in your grace and power as they did. Use me in this place as you used them in those places.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Give Me Ears to Hear

READ 1 Kings 19-20

The story is very familiar. After winning a stunning victory over 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah turns tail and runs from 1 woman. He runs from the north to the south, ultimately to a cave in the mountain of God. Yes, the same mountain where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. God sends a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire but the Lord is in none of those. Then comes (literally) “a voice, a thin silence” (19:12) that is the Lord speaking.

But what about God’s mighty display on Mt. Carmel? What about Isaiah 30:27 “Behold, the name of the Lord comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire?” What about Nahum 1:3-5 “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it?” Doesn’t God always speak and act in mighty, thunderous ways? No, sometimes he speaks in a still small voice.

We must remember that. There are those times when the communication from the Lord is through his Word and thunders into our minds and hearts. Other times, we almost have to strain to know what he is saying to us. We must listen closely and focus intently and seek him diligently. Just because he is quiet does not mean that he is not there.

Prayer: Father, help me to hear you when you speak to me whether loudly or softly. Please give me ears to hear. And help me to obey when you speak.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Am I Elijah?

READ 1 Kings 17-18

Thanks to a man named Dale Ralph Davis I have a question in my mind about today’s passage (and about all biblical interpretation for that matter). As we read of the drought/famine that God brings upon the land and how God cares for his prophet we are encouraged by the ravens and the widows care that God cared for his prophet and he cares for us. But, here’s the question: Why should I so quickly identify myself with the prophet and not with the widow or even all the others who were suffering so under the difficult times? Many were losing their lives obviously.

Yes, it is true according to Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-31 that God does promise to help his people and provide the basic needs of life. But in this story in 1 Kings, couldn’t my reference point just as easily be one of the prophets that was killed by Jezebel as it is Elijah?

So what’s the point? I guess the point that I am personally taking away today is that God doesn’t always promise that continued life and well-being will always be the case for us. Sometimes, in his sovereign will, the Lord allows/brings very hard times. And we know that, ultimately, God brings death for all of us (at least until Jesus comes). The question for me is will I still worship and honor him with my life even if everything doesn’t go as I might want it to go. Prayerfully, hopefully, the answer will be yes.

Prayer: Father, your ways are not our ways and your thoughts are not our thoughts. Help me, Lord, to count it all joy when I encounter various trials in my life. Help me to pray as Jesus did, even though I might want this “cup” to pass from me, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.” Thank you for your steadfast love, O Lord.

Monday, November 17, 2014

One Cry

READ 1 Kings 13-14

The kingdom has been divided into two kingdoms, northern (Israel) and southern (Judah). Rehoboam, Solomon’s son reigns in the south and Jeroboam in the north. Jeroboam turns away from the Lord and completely disobeys his commands. “But you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back” (14:9) So God prophesies through the prophet Ahijah what will happen to Israel: “The Lord will strike Israel as a reed is shaken in the water, and root up Israel out of this good land that he gave to their fathers and scatter them beyond the Euphrates, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger. And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin.” (14:15-16) Because of the sins of Jeroboam God will send Israel away into Babylonian captivity, some 200 years later in 722 b.c. There will be 17 more kings of the northern kingdom (by my quick count), but because of the very first one their doom is sealed.

What a sad and terrible tragedy. To think that one leaders sins can have such far-reaching consequences. If only the people had collectively and continually humbled themselves before the Lord and cried out to him for forgiveness and walked faithfully before him. Would God have relented and allowed them to remain? We will never know, will we.

All of this prompts me to think of the condition of our nation today and the desperate need of spiritual awakening to come to us. We are a sinful nation. The wrath of God is evident in the horrible sins that are taking place continually. It may be too late, but our only hope is to cry out to God for him to sovereignly bring a spiritual awakening to this land…for his glory alone. Brothers, let’s pray. Let’s join our hearts in One Cry with others across this land.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we humbly ask that you send revival. We ask that you burden your people with hunger for spiritual awakening. We pray, Father, that if it could be according to your will that you would turn this nation to you. Help us, Lord, we pray.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Unwelcome Adversaries

READ 1 Kings 11-12

In today’s reading I am reminded again of the absolute sovereignty of God. But there is also a humble reminder for pastors and other Christian leaders. Because of Solomon’s sin in turning his heart away from the Lord, marrying foreign wives and going after their gods, God does exactly what He warned He would do in 9:6-9. He takes the kingdom away from Solomon’s descendants and divides it.

Notice the hand of God in all this. God raised up adversaries against Solomon (11:14, 23). God told Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah that He would divide the kingdom into 12  parts and Jeroboam would have 10 (11:29-39). The Lord did keep the 2 tribes of the Southern Kingdom for the house of David. When this came to pass God made it clear again that He had caused it: “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” (12:15)

Here is the humble reminder for Christian leaders. In our minds we often have the attitude that any opposition against us is not from the Lord but from the enemy. This story shows us that this is not always true. Sometimes, as was the case here and on other occasions in the OT, God is the one who raises up adversaries. God does it to discipline His people. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every adversary is from God and, perhaps, most are not. But it is good for us to be reminded that we are not infallible, only God is. If we do not walk closely with the Lord He will use others to correct us.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you love us enough to discipline us. Help me, Lord, to remember that there are those times where you will use adversaries, even possibly those with wrong motives, as your instruments of discipline and correction. Help me to seek your wisdom in knowing how to respond. And help me to know the I must always walk before you with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that you have commanded and obeying your Word.