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!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Fall has finally arrived! And with it come cooler nights and a much awaited reprieve from summer’s heat.  There is something inside of me that awakens during this time of year. It’s hard to explain these feelings but they are a welcomed friend, very comforting and they help me to slow down my pace and rethink my busy life. Maybe it’s the idea that life has a cycle and a rhythm to it, that we need “down time” to regenerate ourselves. If you take it to the extreme autumn reminds us that things are born, they grow and eventually die.

As we follow the last days of Elijah we find him running away from Jezebel who has just threatened to kill him. Elijah just had one of the most impressive mountain top experiences in the history of the world. We watched as he called down fire from heaven and then slathered four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal.

Now he has taken his eyes off God and is on his way to hide in a cave. I find it very refreshing that the men God chooses act the same way all of us do, that is, that they are not super human. In fact, they are only strong when they allow God’s Spirit to control them, guide them and ultimately protect them. Once they try to engage the enemy in battle in their own strength they fall flat on their face.

“And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’” 1 Kings 19:9. Now, the prophet begins to explain his hopeless situation to God, as if He didn’t already know why Elijah was running scared from Jezebel. 

God tells Elijah to stand at the mouth of the cave. As he is standing there the Lord passes by; a great and strong wind tore into the rocks of the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

I love the fact that our God as mighty as He is, the One who called the universe into existence just with His voice, chooses to speak to us with a still small voice. He’s not a “helicopter parent” but allows us room to make mistakes. It’s His desire that we have an intimate relationship with Him, coming to Him every day for guidance.

God  had a plan from before the foundations of the earth were formed. It is written in 1 Peter 1:19-20 “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

God is still on His throne, He has a plan and that plan is still on track. Our Heavenly Father could see all the bad choices that man would make and pre arranged a solution to redeem us from our sin-debt.  While He allows us to make wrong and often painful choices, He is always right there to catch us when we fall.

God speaks to us by using a still small voice that can be heard only when we take time to listen to Him. Sure the mountain top experiences are wonderful but God chooses to guide us on a daily basis in a more subtle way. Just as in Elijah’s case it’s usually the great winds, earthquakes or fires in our lives that get our attention but God really prefers that we simply just walk with Him.

The grand designer created us in a way that we need to be in community with each other. Fellowship with each other prepares us for eternity with Him. The first step is to believe in Him and the gift of life through the blood of His Son, Jesus. Once we are born again, He gives us spiritual gifts and seals us with His Holy Spirit as a pledge of our future inheritance. Then while we wait for the return of Jesus Christ we have an opportunity to encourage and help each other by using our spiritual gifts.

Life here on earth is all about relationships. God designed life in such a way that we would never be complete without a relationship with Him and each other. Make the time to listen to God and begin reaching out to others by using the spiritual gifts God has given to you. Be still and know that I AM God!

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.