If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fire from heaven

 Elijah returns to face King Ahab as the clouds begin to gather over Israel. The stage is set on Mount Carmel for one of the bibles’ most impressive demonstrations of God’s omnipotence. The nation had turned their hearts and worship towards other gods of wood and stone as an evil king and queen continue to rule the northern kingdom of Israel. In a direct response to the nation’s disobedience God has withheld rain for three years causing one of the most destructive droughts the world has ever seen.

At the pinnacle of this drought we watched as God continued to provide for Elijah, a widow and her son. We witnessed resources miraculously being sustained as a flour bin and oil jar never reached the bottom. God’s power was further demonstrated as the widow’s son dies but at the petition of the prophet is brought back to life!  

Elijah gathers the nation of Israel together on top of Mount Carmel and poses this question to them “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Elijah then proposes a challenge to the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal that they should each prepare a bull for sacrifice then call upon their respective gods to consume it. The god who answers by fire is the real God.

 Jezebel’s prophets go first. Around noon it was clear that their god, Baal, must be sleeping, on a journey or busy on the toilet as he was not around to answer their request. But now it was Elijah’s turn. As the prophet prepared the bull for sacrifice he instructed his helpers to dig a trench around the altar and ordered that water be poured three times over the bull and the wood until it completely filled up the trench.

Elijah asks God to demonstrate his omnipotence by sending down fire to consume the sacrifice. God not only answers his request to accept the sacrifice but in the process He also consumes the wood, stones, dust as the flames lick up every drop of water in the trench. What a display of power that must have been as the loins of the prophets of Baal were obviously loosened.

If I could be anyone I wanted from the bible, you got it; it would have been Elijah all hands down. What faith this man had to put everything on the line and watched as God showed up to defend His name! The text in 1 Kings 18:40 goes on to describe how Elijah then ordered all four hundred and fifty prophets of Jezebel to be executed down by the brook Kishon.

But this mountain top experience is not the end of the story. Soon a small cloud appears and begins to grow in size until the sky is black with clouds and wind and heavy rain begins to fall. But what happens next is so important to the story and all of us to understand. The bible’s transparency, its honesty, is really what makes the words come to life! It is that moment when we take our eyes off of God and begin to focus on our own situation, our failures and weaknesses that we begin to fall away from God.

The king informs Jezebel that Elijah has executed all her prophets. Furious with anger the queen sends a messenger to find Elijah and threaten him that she will execute him by the same time tomorrow. So this brave, fearless man of God having just witness the hand of the Almighty God  sending down fire from heaven, immediately left his servant standing there and ran away in fear of losing his life.

 It’s not our strength that pushes us to do great things for God. It’s never been our own power that draws men, encourages men to turn towards God. He alone is our strength; He alone is our high tower and refuge. It has always been God’s power working through imperfect vessels, literally cracked cisterns, that is always the source for our good works.

God alone is worthy of our praise and worship. There has never been one man born that in his own strength, in his own power that has conquered our mortal enemy, death. That is, not until Jesus Christ was born. God’s own Son came to the earth to show Himself strong, strong even unto death on a wooden cross. The God-man Christ Jesus, in one defining moment, redeemed all of mankind by paying our sin debt in full.
From the words of a famous song “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand all other ground is sinking sand.” Remember to stand firm on Christ who has taken away the sting of death.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Good advice

“Let me give you a nickel’s share of free advice young man” said Mr. Strickland to Marty Mc Fly in the hall corridor of Hill Valley High School (Back to the Future2). Everybody in the world seems to have an opinion, a story or just some good old advice for the man or woman who is being tossed to and fro in life’s turbulent waters. Have you ever stopped to ask someone for directions?  The answer you receive may or may not help you find your intended destination.

Solomon, considered by many to be the wisest man alive, failed to follow God’s directions for his life and ended up being the root cause of God taking away his kingdom. Warned ahead of time not to marry foreign women, Solomon disregards God’s commandments and eventually begins to build the high places to worship the other gods his many wives brought into their marriage.  

God used the prophet Ahijah to tell Solomon’s servant Jeroboam that He would tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand because he had worshiped the gods of other nations. Soon after Solomon’s death his son, Rehoboam, began to reign in his place. Jeroboam and the whole assembly came to speak to Rehoboam saying “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 1 Kings 12.

Now Rehoboam consulted the elders who had stood before his father Solomon “How shall I answer these people?” The men were wise and told the king to listen to his people and to be a servant to them, answer them, and speak good words to them.

But the king rejected the advice which the elders had given and consulted younger men who he had grown up with. These men instead advised him to tighten the yoke further and oppress the kingdom even more than Solomon had done.

This is but another chapter and the real beginning of the divided kingdom that had had its seed sown in the days of King Saul and David. But here we watch as God’s sovereignty is displayed. “So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the Lord, that He might fulfill His word, which the Lord had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” 

I want to touch lightly on the ongoing debate of God’s sovereignty verses man’s free will, but first let’s look at a proverb of Solomon who apparently did not follow his own advice. In Proverbs 15:22 “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.”

So in Rehoboam’s case he had too much advice and eventually chose to follow the wrong counsel that led to the division of the twelve tribes of Israel. So according to this proverb of Solomon getting advice from a multitude of counselors is important but according to our story in 1 Kings it depends on who is giving the advice!

Now back to the sovereignty of God. You know, by definition we can’t even debate this point. God is sovereign. So then let’s look at man’s free will. If God is controlling everything do we have the power to make real meaningful choices? The answer to this age old debate is yes to both questions. One way to think about it is that God exists outside of space and time therefore is able to see the beginning from the end and knows the choices that we will make before we make them. Sounds confusing?

Leaving this idea aside for the moment, what about the advice we get from others? How do we know if their counsel is the correct path for us? God will allow us to make our own decisions even if they are the wrong ones like in the case of Rehoboam.  So what is the very best way to decide on any situation?

While it is wise to ask advice from people who have experience and a good track record concerning their performance, it’s even more important to consult God. Laying our concerns and our problems at the feet of God is paramount to making the right choice. God, because of His sovereignty, is able to guide us onto the right path. He loves us and wants us to choose to follow Him. God is willing to let us stumble if it is our choice to do so but He would so much like to help if we would only ask Him to do so.

So make sure to pray about everything, seeking God’s advice especially when it comes to asking others for their advice. Let your Heavenly Father be the One to guide you into all understanding.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Light !

Solomon’s temple was probably the most beautiful building in the world at the time of its construction even standing up to structures built in more modern times. Most of wood used in the temple construction was ultimately overlaid with gold. When the complex was completed the rising sun would have reflected bright light into the eyes of people walking in view of the magnificent structure. This glare would have caused travelers to protect their eyes or shield their faces from the bright orange hues spilling out and over the white limestone blocks. Like a Devine artist using the earth as His palette the temple complex would have indeed done its best to convey the infinite glory of our Almighty God!

Solomon, like his father David, got a great start out of the blocks. He kept his relationship with God a priority in his life as he jumped over hurdle after hurdle eventually crossing the finish line. Soon he began collecting all the prizes due the winner of a great Olympic foot race. Fame, fortune and an overflowing amount of God given wisdom was earning him honor and prestige around the known Mediterranean world. As the world began to shower Solomon with gifts and praise he began to lose sight of the Almighty God who was the One that was providing for him and his people.

“But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites - from the nations of whom the Lord had said ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.” 1 Kings 11:1-11.

So Solomon did not ultimately follow God. Instead he turned and began sliding away from Him, building high places for the gods of his wives burning incense and sacrificing to them. This truly is a remarkable thing how Solomon was able to forsake the One, True and Living God, the God of his father’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God had even pre warned the fledgling nation of Israel while still living in the desert even before a single step was taken into the Jordan River. In the scrolls written by Moses; Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God warned them that this exact sequence of events would unfold in the lives of Israel’s kings if they did not follow His commandments. He cautioned them to always look to Him, remembering His great deliverance from Egypt and all of His provisions for them while wandering in the wilderness of the Sinai. 

But now, as Solomon is being puffed up by his perceived individual success, pride begins to lure him away; enticing him towards all the worldly lusts that lurked just out in the darkness.  Eventually, God speaks to Solomon “Because you have done this, and not kept My covenant and My statues, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.”

You see, when we don’t follow God’s instructions we end up reaping a cornucopia of heartache, hopelessness and a sense of worthlessness. All the gold in the world can’t buy us God’s favor. A palace full of women can’t satisfy the human heart’s need for true love and companionship. All of mankind desperately needs to be in a loving relationship with their Creator. 

There is actually a hole in our DNA that can only be filled by surrendering our will to our Creator. He alone holds our destiny in His hands being the author and finisher of our salvation. God is light, pure light  and while existing outside of time, He is able to see our universe as a completed thought. He is the beginning as well as the end. Fortunately, we He gave us the instruction book for life complete with all the correct answers to life’s final exam.

The answer, in a word, is Jesus! While Jesus was dying on the cross, our mortal enemy believed that he had finally defeated God at His own game. The truth is the death of Jesus on a cross was God’s greatest triumph. The blood, shed from the spotless Lamb of God, is a gift to us, a cleansing agent more powerful than anything in this universe. So while the glitter of sunlight off the gilded fa├žade of the temple was blinding to all passersby it will be nothing compared to the glory that will emanate and shine from our Father in heaven. Remember, we are the temple of God, so let your light so shine that people will see the glory of God as it shines through you!