Thursday, 30 June 2016

Trust and obey

He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. He subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city. – 2 Kings 18.5-8

Hezekiah was now king of Judah. He was another example of a good king. He did what was right in God’s sight. He got rid of the false gods. He destroyed Moses’ brazen serpent which had been raised in the wilderness because it had become an object of worship.

Like those we looked at yesterday Hezekiah trusted the Lord. But unlike them he proved that he trusted God because he clave to the Lord, he did not depart from the Lord, and he kept God’s commandments. And because He did that the Lord prospered in all the things he did.

When we truly trust the Lord it ought to always be evidenced in our lives. When we trust the Lord our lives ought to prove it. Trusting God give us the ability to do what is right because we acknowledge that His way is best and then we can obey Him. We have a had time obeying when we don’t trust.

We might even say it with the great little children’s chorus.

O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E – obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

They feared the Lord, but..

They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. – 2 Kings 17.33

There is quite a conundrum here. The people of Judah feared the Lord, but they still had a problem. While they feared the Lord they still held on to their own gods. They were partly there, but they were not fully there.

The problems these people had are not unknown today. The issue is that even those who fear the Lord today can battle with our own false gods. We are new creatures in Christ, but we have the problem that that ‘new Roger’ still has to live in he old flesh and the old flesh is constantly crying out for attention. Sadly, New Roger far too often yields to the flesh of Old Roger and serves instead of truly following the Lord.

Paul wrote about this in Romans 7 where he talks about doing the things he knows he shouldn't do while he doesn't do the things he should.

It's is even worse because our flesh has no power over us. When we sin it is because we choose to do so. There is no one to blame but me. We are dead to the power of sin, yet we still can’t let it go because our flesh still demands gratification.

What’s the answer? Paul tells us at the end – a deep and firm reliance on Christ. Those of us who fear the Lord need to let those old gods go and get on with serving Christ.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

When will they ever learn?

Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. – 2 Kings 17.19

Raising children is interesting to say the least. We raised six so we have seen quite a bit. One of the things that every parent of more than one child learns is the every child is different. Some are strong willed and stubborn. Some are more compliant. Some seem naturally better behaved and some to have a had time getting it. And then there are some who are just savvy. These kids have the ability to avoid trouble by learning from the mistakes of their brothers and sisters.

We all do that to a certain extent. If we are smart we learn how to avoid problems by watching others, or reading history, or figuring out what the results of our actions might be.

Israel and Judah were sister states. Israel had really messed up. Hey never had a good king. They just kept rejecting God’s word and the warnings God sent through his prophets. Eventually God allowed them to be carried away captive by the Assyrians and then dispersed and they eventually lost their identity.

Wouldn't you think that Judah, like a younger brother or sister, would have learned from Israel’s mistakes. But no, they went on their way and keep on rejecting God for their own choices.

Stupid huh, not learning from other people’s mistakes?

And yet here we are with all of the history behind us and all the mistakes of the people of the Bible and we don’t seem to be a whole lot better than they were. We see all the problems caused when people don’t do things God’s way and yet we still do the same things. God has given us plenty of examples of both good and bad and yet we seem more inclined to follow the bad even when we know the consequences.

Like the old song asked ‘when will we ever learn?’

Monday, 27 June 2016

Stiff necks

Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. – 2 Kings 17.13-14

God wanted Israel and Judah to turn back to Him. He begged them to repent and turn from their sin. For many decades God sent prophets to warn them of the consequences of their sin. In His long-suffering nature and because of His mercy He patiently waited for them to turn back to Him.

But they would not hear.
And their stiffened their necks like those before them and would not believe God.

Their stubborn and rebellious spirits kept them from serving God and sealed the fate of their nations. God’s judgement was coming.

When I think of being stiff-necked an image comes to mind. I see someone with their clenched jaws jutting out and their neck muscles taut as they stand opposed to an authority. They will not submit. Their stubbornness reigns over logic or reasoning. Nothing is going to persuade them to change.

Stiff-neckedness was not new then and it did not end then. It still carries on today. All of us are liable to take a stiff necked attitude toward God and plans and direction toward us. This attitude just stands in opposition to God and says ‘I am going to do it my way. I am not going to submit.’

We need to regularly examine our hearts and our lives and make sure that there are not areas where we stand in stiff necked opposition to a work God is trying to do in our lives. If there are sins were are holding on to and refusing to deal with we need to unclench our jaws and let God work.

Stiff-neckedness never turns out well.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Secret sins

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” – 2 Kings 17.5-12

It was the end of the line for the ten tribes of Israel. After being delivered out of Egypt and after having been given the land by God and given plenty of chances to sort things out God was going to allow the Assyrians to take them captive and disperse in other regions of the Assyrian Empire.

The Assyrians were known for their violence and for their mistreatment of their captives. They were greatly to be feared. They had besieged Israel for three long years – but now it was the end.

How did this happen? How did they go from watching God bless them and give them great victories to the point where these ten tribes were going to become forgotten peoples scattered through Asia?

Good question – and here is what they did. Here is how the ‘sinned against God.’

They feared other gods
They obeyed the ways of the pagan nations instead of God
They secretly did things God told them not to do
They set up places to worship the pagan gods
They served idols
They provoked God by doing the things that God told them not to

And they thought they were getting away with it Despite all that God had done and all His blessings and warning after warning from the prophets they would turn from their secret sins.

But God is just and righteous and holy. Their sins were bound to be discovered. They couldn’t hide their sin forever. And now was going to take His hand of protection off and let them suffer the consequences of their choices.

And God doesn't change. We still can’t hide our secret sins from God. He still knows when we sin even if nobody else does. And He still hates sin. While our salvation is secure we need to remember that God may have to lovingly chasten us in order to draw us back into fellowship with Him.

That hidden secret sin is not really hidden or secret - let's deal with those so we can walk in the sweet fellowship of God’s blessings.

Saturday, 25 June 2016


But the children of the murderers he did not execute, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, in which the Lord commanded, saying, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall be put to death for his own sin.” – 2 Kings 14.6

Amaziah was now king. He was a good king, basically following God’s way. He wasn’t perfect, but he generally did right and regained fairly.

When he became king he meted out justice on his father’s murderers. But he did not, as was the practice in so many parts of the Middle East in that time, kill the children of the murderers.

The reason was that God had said that fathers and children should not be executed for each other’s sins. You could only be put to death for your own sins.

This is a matter of laws and justice in ancient Israel, but it is also a lesson for us. The eternal truth is that ‘the wages of sin is death’ and that is meaningful because ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’

All are sinners, there is no one who does not sin. We can’t blame Adam and Eve or our grandparents or parents or anyone else. We are all guilty and we must all pay the price for our sins.

That's really bad news because the penalty is eternal separation from the presence of God. Hell is still real and that is the eternity for those who die in their own sin. Death  is the price of sin.

The good news though is that Someone has paid that price for us. Jesus went to the cross as the sinless sacrifice to die in my place. He took the penalty on His own shoulders. He died for me – but then He defeated death when we rose from the grave to give me victory over death.

Yup, we are all guilty, not of someone else’s sin but of our own sin. But Jesus chose to pay the price. The only question is whether or not folks are willing to take a chance on paying the penalty for themselves or accept the free gift of forgiveness and salvation that comes with accepting Christ’s free gift.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Because of His promises

And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the LORD was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence. – 2 Kings 13.22-23

The whole time Jehoahaz was king of Israel the nation was oppressed by Syria and their king, Hazael. This Syria/Israeli conflict has gone on for a long time. The oppression in those days involved loss of property, slavery, high  taxation, military conscription and many other things. Being oppressed by a foreign power was not a good thing.

But even during their oppression God was still there. He was gracious to them, He had compassion on them, and He regarded them and their needs and their situation. Even in hard times God was still there and He had not changed. He was not going to let them go.

Why? Because God is a God who keeps His promises. He was not going to let them go. They were His and He had long ago promised in His covenants that He would never leave them.

And, though the covenant is different today, the promise is the same. ‘I am with you always’ Christ said before He left. The book of Hebrews records ‘I will never leave you or forsake you says the Lord.’

So even in our tough times we can depend on our Lord to continue to pour out His grace. We can depend on His compassion to carry on. We can depend on the fact that He will regard our needs.

Thank God for His promises and thank God He is a promise keeper.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Faithful workers

But they gave that to the workmen, and they repaired the house of the LORD with it. Moreover they did not require an account from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to be paid to workmen, for they dealt faithfully. – 2 Kings 12.14-15

King Jehoida had set about repairing the temple after it had fallen into disrepair. He set up a collection box to receive the offerings and the gifts poured in. They had plenty of funds and the started replacing the things needed for worship.

There was also physical damage to the building. They had to hire carpenters and lumberjacks and stone masons and metal workers. Everything that has ever been built has required either that we now called blue collar workers. They make up the fibre of every culture. These are folks that provide for the everyday needs of society.

Among all the rest of the reports of repairing the temple these guys stand out to me. These workers had such a reputation that when they were paid or given money for supplies nobody had to check up on them. They didn’t have to turn in their receipts. Long before Paul wrote about workers doing their best because that reflected their relationship with Christ these workers were already doing there best to the extent that they never had to give an account of their actions or purchase of supplies.

What a challenge for us today. How do we do our jobs? Are we so trustworthy that no one needs to check up on us? That kind of reputation only comes through years of hard work and diligence and honesty. These workers ‘dealt faithfully.’ Are we that kind of faithful workers?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Not quite good enough

In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash became king, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba. Jehoash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him. But the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. – 2 Kings 12.1-3

This section of 2 Kings is a whole list and series of descriptions of the kings of Israel and Judah. They kind of jump back and forth with names and dates and parents and ages and lengths of reigns of the kings. We get a brief description of the kind of King they were and what they did as king. I didn’t try to look at all of them, but just picked out a couple to look at.

In Jehu’s seventh year as king of Israel Jehoash became king of Judah to rule from Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah and the chief priest was Jehoiada.

Jehoash was a pretty good king. But pretty good is not enough. He did what was right. He listened to the instruction of the priest. But he did not deal with the issue of false gods and the people still sacrificed and offered sacrifices to the false gods.

The problem all through these years is that most of these kings did everything except one or two things. They left some of the important things undone and therefore there were constant battle and struggles because they left just a little nugget of sin in the land. They did a lot of right, bit their hearts never really changed.

I think a lot of Christians are just like that. We do a lot of good and we deal with a lot of issues, but there too often seems to be that little but of sin that we don’t really want to deal with.

And we don’t deal with it all we too are going to have problems. Lets make sure that when we ‘do right in the sight of the Lord’ we also get rid of our own high places that keep us from perfect obedience.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

My way or God's way?

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. – 2 Kings 5.9-14

Captain Naaman was a great Syrian warrior. He was a good man and a brave man, but he had a big problem – he was a leper. Leprosy was a big issue in those days. There was no way to treat it, all you could do was separate from the people and wait to die.

That doesn't work for a military leader, but there was a young girl from Israel who was a maid in Naaman’s house. She knew all about Elisha, so she mentioned him to Naaman and they sought him out.

Elisha told Naaman that all he had to do was dip himself seven times in the Jordan River and God would heal him. Naaman didn’t like that. Why should he go down to the muddy old Jordan when there were lovely rivers in Damascus?

The problem with that was that that was not God’s way and God’s way is the only way that works.

Naaman’s servants intervened. ‘If Elisha had asked to do some big task to get clean wouldn’t you have done it?’ Dipping in the Jordan seemed too easy.

So Naaman was persuaded to do it God’s way and when he did Naaman was made clean and his skin became as pure as baby’s skin.

The key thing here is simply doing things the way God wants them done. To our feeble limited mind restricted by time and space God’s way of doing things does not always make sense. I can think that my way is surely the best way – I can be a lot like Naaman.

I am not going to make it if I insist on doing things the way I want. ‘I did it my way’ might have been a big hit for Ole Blue Eyes but it wasn't going to work for Naaman and it is not going to work for me. I am only going to see God at work if I am willing to do it His way.

May my song at the end of my days be ‘I did it God’s way!’

Monday, 20 June 2016

God of the mountains?

Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” And they encamped opposite each other for seven days. So it was that on the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed one hundred thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians in one day. But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; then a wall fell on twenty-seven thousand of the men who were left. And Ben-Hadad fled and went into the city, into an inner chamber. – 1 Kings 20.28-30

The Syrians didn’t really understand the concept of the Lord God. The knew a lot about the false gods and pagan idols, but didn’t really know what an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God was.

They thought that Israel’s God, Jehovah, was like their gods. If He was God of the hills He could not be God of the valleys. The Syrians thought they could bypass God is they stayed away from the hills.

But it didn’t work. They were defeated in battle and and God showed that He was Lord of all.

It's not really a surprising story. These folks didn’t have any knowledge or could not accept a God who was God of all. They only knew gods who were limited by time and space and power and knowledge when the Lord is bound by none of those things.

But it is a shame when we see our God the same way. We can see God at work when we are on the mountaintops, but we it is harder for us to see Him when we are in the valleys. Sadly we can limit our omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God by only seeing Him when things are going well and can fail to see Him when they are not. We too can say ‘where is God’ when things are not going so well.

That's a shame. We forget that our Lord is with us wherever we go and whatever happens and however things seem at the moment.

Are we as guilty as the Syrians of seeing God only as the God of the mountains?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Rose up and followed

So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant. – 1 Kings 19.21

Elijah called Elisha to follow him and be his primary disciple. What a shock that must have been! It is doubtful that Elisha even knew who this guy was who touched him with his cloak. That must have been some kind of symbol because Elisha asked to go and say goodbye to his family. He had to have known that this was a real decision with real ramifications.

Hw do we know that? Look what happened next. Elijah killed the oxen, made a fire from the yokes and the plough, and cooked ox stew for the people. The we got up and followed Elijah.

He burned his bridges and he followed.

This reminds of the disciples were going about their own business fishing away like they did every day. Notice that these men too were men who were busy at work. Jesus came along and offered to turn the fishermen into fishers of men. And what did they do? The left their nets and followed him just like Elisha left his work to follow Elijah.

I wonder how many of us are willing to follow Jesus the same way Elisha followed Elijah and the fishermen followed Jesus. When Jesus called they all dropped what they were doing to follow.

How about you and me? Are we willing to follow Jesus the same way today?

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Passing on the mantle

So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” – 1 Kings 19.19-20

God knew the time was coming when Elijah would have to have a replacement. Elijah was battling the battle of aloneness. God knew that now was the time to deal with both of those things.

As soon as he left the mountain after being encouraged by God’s still small voice Elijah came across a man named Elisha who was ploughing with twenty oxen. That must have been some kind of soil!

Anyway, Elisha was hard at work. Throughout the Bible we tend to see that God uses busy people. God wants to use people who are going to work – sure, God can turn anyone into a worker and it does happen – but God tends to use those who are already workers. When He was ready for ‘fishers of men’ he used fishermen.

But I think there are another couple of lessons here. First is that God gave Elijah a co-worker in his ministry, and secondly we see the importance of mentoring or discipleship, or simply training.

Co-workers are important in serving God. Without one it can get lonely. We need someone to stand by our side and lift us up and prayer with us and fellowship with us. When you don’t have one it can be tough to go on.

And the last thing is the importance of discipleship or training. Elisha was going to be the next national prophet. He needed to be taught and trained and mentored. As we get older we need to be praying about and looking for young men to pass of the mantle so that God’s work goes on. Paul mentioned this to Timothy when we told him the take the things he had been taught, teach other men, so that they could teach other faithful men. That's God’s plan for carrying on His work.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Not alone

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. – 1 Kings 19.18-19

So God came and talked to Elijah in that still small voice. No noise, not lights, no fireworks, just a still small voice.

And in that still small voice God reminded Elijah that no matter how he felt he was not alone. God had seven thousand men in Israel who were going to stand won't Elijah.

Those men were there all along. Elijah felt alone because he was all he saw. But God had a mighty army that he didn’t see.

There are some places of ministry where it is easy to feel alone. As we struggle along in our small communities we can feel like we are the only ones around who can stand for God. We can be so overwhelmed by the opposition that we, like Elijah, can be ready to give up.

But no matter how dark and lonely we feel we need to remember that thus church lives on and thievery gates of hell will not prevail. There are Christians like us all over the world standing for Christ and sharing their faith and loving and caring for others.

Elijah’s problem was that he got focused on himself and his woes and threw his own little pity party. That’s natural – but instead of looking to God he dwelt in that despair and lost all hope. That's where we have to turn it around and remember God’s promises and realise that we are not alone.

Then we need to get up and get busy.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A still small voice

Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19.11-12

Elijah was really down in the dumps. That great recent victory had faded into memory. The rain after the drought had paled. All he could think about was Jezebel’s threat to kill him. He didn’t respond to an angelic visit. He wasn't encouraged by God’s words. He was so focused on self he was determined to be depressed.

So God tells him to go out on the mountain and listen.

What happens next would look great in a film.

There was a windstorm so great that it broke the rocks in pieces – but God wasn't speaking through that storm.

Then there was a mighty earthquake – but God wasn't speaking through the earthquake.

Then there was a mighty fire – but God wasn't speaking through the fire.

Where was God? Why wasn't He speaking?

But after the fire was a still small voice – and that is where God was.

I love this image of the still small voice. It reminds me of the Holy Spirit has Paraclete, coming alongside with His voice of comfort. That still small voice can be more awesome and more powerful than all the storms and earthquakes and fires in the world. It is the quiet voice of a patient loving parent encouraging us along our way.

God still uses that still small voice today. He doesn't always act in dramatic ways. Sometimes while doing devotions or praying or just thinking through a situation the Holy Spirit will quietly speak to our hearts and give us just exactly what we need. In order to hear that still small voice though we need to be quiet enough to hear Him.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Poor little me

So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. 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?" So he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." – 1 Kings 19.8-10

Elijah’s depression continued. An angel brought him sustenance. He ate and drank and was strengthened, but he still was in despair. After forty days he found a cave to crawl into and his woes continued.

So ‘the word of the Lord’ (probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus) asked him ‘why are you here Elijah.’

Elijah opened his heart – ‘I served the Lord with all my heart. I’ve tried, but the people won’t listen. They have forsaken their commitment to God, the had torn down God’s altars, and they have killed Your servants. Everyone is gone but me.’

How did this happen? He was no more alone now than he was on Mt Carmel. There his aloneness wasn't a problem. He went out and believed God and defeated the false prophets and everything was grand.

I suspect we all know what it is like to feel alone. We don’t have to be alone to be alone. Aloneness is not dependent of the number of people around you. It depends on that horrible feeling of being alone in your particular situation. You can be surrounded and still be alone.

So Elijah had had enough. He still wanted to die. He had turned away from looking at the Lord and instead was looking at himself and his situation.

This poor little me in pity party pit does not please God. Sure we are going to get down and discouraged, but we can’t stay in that pit. We are not alone. We have God on our side – and more as we will see later.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Depressed, discouraged, disheartened, and defeated

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" – 1 Kings 19.1-4

Did you ever wonder how Christians get down and discouraged with all the promises we have for our lives? Did you ever wonder how you can be on the mountaintop one day and in the valley the next?

Elijah was a man just like us, James says. Here, he had just a great victory in the Battle of the Prophets. Outnumbered 450 to one his faith had won the victory. He ought to have been on top of the world, right?

There was a problem though. King Ahab went home and told his mommy, (whoops, his wife) Jezebel what had happened and she was Not happy. She took out a contract on Elijah’s life. She wanted him dead – now.

After the great victory you might think that Elijah would not have been cowed. But instead of standing in faith he ran away a full day’s journey.

And he went into a funk. A deep funk. A funk so deep that he wanted to die. He sat down under a tree and just gave up.

I’m not sure have been that deep, but there are times when I find myself pretty discouraged. I find myself depressed. I find myself disheartened and defeated. How do I get there? How do you get there? How did Elijah get there?

It's pretty simple. It happens every time we fear man or our circumstances more than we trust God. It happens were say men is stronger than God or our circumstances are too had for God to handle. In other words it happens every time our faith fails us.

Elijah was so bad that he wished he was dead – but God was not done with Elijah. When we get in these depths of despair we need to just hold on. God will come.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Sound of abundance of rain

Then Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain." So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." And seven times he said, "Go again." Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, "There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea!" So he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.' " Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. – 1 Kings 18.41-45

James tells us that Elijah was a man just like us, but when he prayed for a drought the drought came and when he looked for rain there was rain. I like the reminder that Elijah was a guy like you and me. The only difference is the kind of faith he showed he.

The first thing that happened after the battle of the prophets was when Elijah told Ahab ‘get up and get yourself something to hear because I hear the sound of abundance of rain.’ Elijah knew that the drought was about to need. He was so sure that it was as though he could already hear the rain coming.

The Elijah went up on Mt Carmel to wait for the rain. Over and over he sent his servant out to look for rain, but nothing was there to be seen. Finally the servant said ‘I see a little cloud, about the size of a man’s hand.’

He told Ahab to load up his chariot and move – the rain was coming.
And then Elijah proceeded to run to Jezreel and he beat Ahab and his chariot.

There was no rain at all – but Elijah prepared like there was rain.

How often do we, unlike Elijah, pray and not expect results. We can be like the believers who prayed for Peter’s release from jail and then didn’t believe it when he knocked on the door.

If we are going to pray and trust God let's prepare for Him to answer our prayers.Let’s pray like Elijah did wait for the rain.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Powerful prayer

Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!" – 1 Kings 18.37-39

The contest dragged on all day. Baal’s prophets had done all they could do. The prayed and cried out and yelled and cut themselves to try to get Baal’s attention – and nothing.

So then Elijah stepped up. He prepared the altar. Then he had the altar and the sacrifice and then had twelve barrels of water poured on top of the whole thing soaking the animal and the woods and wetting the rocks until a trench of water filled up around it.

And then he prayed this simple prayer. No shouting, no crying, no cutting, no begging – he just prayer a simple little prayer. Twenty-eight little words was all he prayed. He wanted the people to know that the Lord was God and that He turned the hearts of the people back to him.

And God answered in a mighty way. He sent down a fire so hot it burnt up the sacrifice, the wood and the stones of the altar, and even licked up the water in the trench.

And the people acknowledged the Lord as God.

Talking to God doesn't have to be long or eloquent or deep or profound. It doesn't have to be loud or dramatic. Elijah simply talked to his God, and his God answered.

And the wonderful thing is that our God is the same God who answered Elijah’s prayer. He is just as willing to answer our prayers as He was for Elijah. We can pray with the same kind of confidence that Elijah did assured that God will answer.

Saturday, 11 June 2016


Then Elijah said to the people, "I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.  – 1 Kings 18.22

Elijah had challenged the people to shoes whether they would follow the Lord or Baal. They did not answer so Elijah knew it was time to do something to help out them decide.

So he set up a contest between himself and the 450 prophets of Baal. They would join together and pray to Baal and Elijah alone would pray to the Lord. Whoever sent down fire to burn up the sacrifice would prove Himself as God.

The 450 prophets of Baal went first. They cried out to Baal all morning. They tried everything. The cut themselves and jumped around and still nothing. As time went by Elijah began to mock them and their god. ‘Is he taking a nap? Has he gone for a walk? Where is he?’

And then Elijah steps all alone and talks to His God, but more about that anon.

What I want to look at today is the courage that Elijah has now. Never mind what is coming later, but at this point he goes head to head with 450 false prophets. How did he do that? From where did he summon the strength and the courage?

Elijah could stand alone against all the false prophets because He knew that His God was alive and that Baal could not answer their prayers.

We certainly live in a day when we too are outnumbered. It takes great courage and faith to stand in a day when there may be many situations where we are the only ones who will.

Are we up to the challenge?

Friday, 10 June 2016

Time to choose

So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word. – 1 Kings 18.20-21

The people of Israel want the best of both worlds. They wanted to follow the Lord, but they had a hard time giving up their worship of Baal. I guess they wanted to have all their bases covered so they were ‘safe either way.’ They kept jumping back and forth – ‘God, no Baal, no wait, God, no – Baal.’

Elijah had enough. ‘How long are you going to waver back and forth between God and Baal. If the Lord is your God, follow Him. If Baal is your god, follow him.’ And the people said nothing.

Elijah drew the proverbial line in the sand. It is the same line Joshua drew when he said ‘choose you this day whom you will serve. If you don’t want to serve the Lord serve those pagan gods on the other side of the river.’ Jesus drew the same line as well when He said ‘you cannot serve God and your stuff.’

It is way too easy to get caught in the trap of, as Elijah was translated in the King James, ‘halt between two opinions.’ A lot of Christians, and I think all of us at times, are in that position. We really, really, REALLY want to serve God. But then we also really, really, REALLY don’t want to give up our sins.

So we are stuck in the middle. Unable to do either well.

So we have a choice. If we are going to serve God we need to do it. If we are going to serve the world, then we need to just quit playing the game and do it.

Paul gave us the challenge – ‘I beseech you therefore brethren that you submit your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.’

This is a lifetime challenge. But is it also something we need to ask ourselves everyday. Who are we going to serve today?

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Our daily bread

So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ”
So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah. – 1 Kings 17.12-16

This is one of those amazingly wonderful provision stories of God’s word. Because God is God and in control of everything there is not limit to what He can do. If He can create a universe out of nothing, than He can certainly sort out the provision of the things we need.

Elijah was visiting in a widow’s house. It was just her and her son. They were broke and had almost nothing and despite that Elijah asked her to go make him a meal. But she had only enough left to make a small supper for the two of them. ‘That’s okay,’ Elijah said, ‘do that, but first make a meal for me and then go do it. Your flour will be there and the oil will not run out.’

So she did. And when she went back there was oil and flour for another meal. And the next day the same. And the next, and the next, and the next. She had to trust God with each day and each day God provided.

God still provides today. Sometimes He provides in a clear and mighty and dramatic way that excites and stirs us up and gets shouts and praises. That great and He always deserves the praise.

But I know for me that I can forget to praise Him sometimes for the miraculous way that He provides ‘our daily bread’ like He did for this woman. Most of the time when God meets our needs it is not dramatic. Most of the time it is just a daily provision for that day. That last few euro somehow is enough to get through. We are able to squeeze out one more meal from the leftovers or the food in the press. Those tyres last just that few miles more. Our old banger of a car gives us one more year. That's why we pray ‘give us today the bread we need for today.’

That can be a scary way to live, but I think that is what ‘living by faith’ is all about.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

God left a lamp

In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maachah the granddaughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him; his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. Nevertheless for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. – 1 Kings 15.1-5

These were dark days for God’s people. Abijam had become king of Judah and he turned against God. His sins were great and God would have been justified in just wiping out the country.

But it was still God’s land. Jerusalem was still God’s city. And so, for David’s sake, God provided a lamp in Jerusalem. In the darkness God still provided a light. David’s walk after God’s heart had long lasting results. God was not going to let His light go our amongst his people. The light was hidden, it may have appeared subdued, but Gd was not going to leave His people without hope.

It we live a dark world today. It's presence can almost be felt. It seems like the old is winning and darkness is spreading. But God still has left the world with a lamp even in these dark days. We are that light as we reflect Christ to the world.

This little light of mine – am I going to let it shine?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Bad advice

But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”
Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, “Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father's waist! And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ” - 1 Kings 12.8-11

When Solomon died his son Rehoboam became king. When he did Jeroboam and his followers came to him to give him some advice. They asked Rehoboam to lighten the oppressive burden that Solomon had put on them. They wanted the legal restrictions put on the people to be lessened and tax burden on them.

Rehoboam wasn’t sure what to do so he looked for some advice. First he went to the elders in the land and sought their counsel. The elders advised him to take on the role of a servant leader and change the laws and if he did the people would faithfully serve him.

But then Rehoboam went to his young friends and asked for their advice.

‘It’s time to crack down on these people!’ they said. ‘They thought your dad was bad, now you need to show them who is boss. Add to their burden, beat them into submission.’

These young guys were his buddies, the guys he had grown up with. What else would we expect them to say. They figured they would benefit if their mate was a tough and demanding king.

Young Rehoboam chose to ignore the wisdom of the elders and do what appealed to his youthful pride. He followed the young men’s advice and the result was tragic. Jeroboam and his followers rebelled and the nation was split in two. Ten tribes in the north formed their own kingdom and the two tribes left in the south formed their own nation.The relationship that followed was rarely good and often broke out into ugly civil war.

And all because Rehoboam did not choose wisely. Old men are not always right. Old men make mistakes, but it is foolish to just ignore old men because their advice does not fit in with foolish pride.

In the multitude of counsellors indeed there is wisdom. Let's me sure that when we seek advice we seek wisdom and not what suits us. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

His heart was turned

So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. – 1 Kings 11.9-11

Solomon, in all his mighty wisdom, had blown it. God appeared to him twice and commanded him as He told Solomon not to marry these foreign women with their false pagan gods. But Solomon could not contain himself. He had to have these hundreds of women as his wives and concubines. It looks like Solomon and his sexual desires overcame everything else.

And so his heart was turned away from God. There was not room in his heart to follow both God and these pagan women. It had to be one or the other.

It's terrible when sin grabs hold of our hearts. It happens when we don’t guard our hearts against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That ‘little niggling sin’ sets in and takes root and grows and grows until the next thing we know our hearts are pursuing that sin instead of pursing God like we once did. Serving our sin supplants serving our God and we wander in that terrible wilderness of defeat and despair and discouragement.

The solution? ‘Keep, or guard, your hearts with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.’ When our hearts get out of sort it is time to get things sorted before we have a spiritual heart attack which can do serious damage. If our hearts are turning from God or turning from Him now I is the time to treat the problem, repent, and turn back to Him.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Sophomoric Solomon

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 to the children of Israel, “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. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. – 1 Kings 11.1-4

In American high schools and universities where there are four levels of students indicating their year of study there are normally four categories. First year students are called freshman, second year are sophomores, third year are juniors, and fourth year seniors.

It's that second year that interests me – the sophomore year. That's a great word. It comes from two Greek words that literally mean ‘wise moron.’ I can’t think of a better way to describe Solomon here. We have an adjective today that fits here – sophomoric.

Solomon’s decision here was sophomoric. He had all the wisdom God gave him but he still chose to ignore God and take on this foreign wives and concubines and their pagan religions. God had warned him that that would turn his heart away from God, but he didn’t care. His folly overcame his wisdom. His heart was turned away from God (more anon).

Pretty dumb for a smart guy? Ya think?

But don’t you and I do the exact same thing every time we turn aside from the wisdom found in the word of God to do things our own way? Aren’t we just as sophomoric as Solomon? Sin will turn us all into wise morons if we allow it.

Saturday, 4 June 2016


Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day.”  1 Kings 8.61

Loyalty is a treasured and sought after trait. We all want loyalty. We want a loyal spouse and loyal family and loyal friends. We want loyal co-workers and teammates and associates and church family members. We love loyalty because being loyal means you have someone who is going to stick with you.

We have places where we are expected to be loyal, just like the situations above. I need to be a loyal husband and dad and Grampy. I need to be a loyal employee and pastor. I need to be a loyal friend.

Here Solomon points out that there is a most important place for us to be loyal as he prays that the nation would have loyal hearts to God and that they would prove that loyalty by walking in His commandments. God’s desire for us is not that we be a great success or be popular or be well known. It is His desire that we be faithful and loyal to Him and His word. What is required is that we are faithful and faithfulness comes from this loyal heart.

Above all my loyalties may I be loyal to my Lord. A nice result of that is that I am loyal to my God I will be a loyal husband and father and grandfather and friend and church member and employee and all the rest because all of those are ways of showing my loyalty to God.

Friday, 3 June 2016

No one who does not sin

“When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, “We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause, - 1 Kings 8.46-49

As Solomon was praying for his people he mentioned something that we are going to read about all through the word of God. As he prayed he said this ‘When they sin…(for there is no one who does not sin).’ With this he nails it. He points out. A problem that is going to be the problem of problems. And what is the problem? ‘There is no one who does not sin.’ Or, as Paul says later, ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ Or, as John says it, ‘if we say that we do not sin we lie.’

The problem is everyone of ever age and in every place has sinned, sins, and will sin because everyone of every age and in every place is a sinner. That is a true in 2016 as it was in 965 B.C.

So Solomon knew that something else had to be done so he prayed ‘when they admit their sin and repent and turn back to You please support them again.’

That reminds of ‘if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and the cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’

Sinners are going to sin - that's just the way it is. But when they repent and confess our forgiving God is going to forgive.

John Newton had it right when he said ‘Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour’

Thank God that us great sinners have a great Saviour.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Knowing a mother's love

Now two women who were harlots came to the king, and stood before him. And one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then it happened, the third day after I had given birth, that this woman also gave birth. And we were together; no one was with us in the house, except the two of us in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne.”
Then the other woman said, “No! But the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.”
And the first woman said, “No! But the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.”
Thus they spoke before the king.
And the king said, “The one says, “This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.”
Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”
But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.”
So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.” – 1 Kings 3.16-27

When you ask virtually anyone, Christian or non-Christian, churched or unchurched, Bible readers or never picked up a Bible in their lives to tell what they know about the wisdom of Solomon this is the story they would tell.

It happens shortly after he became king. Two prostitutes who lived in the same house came to see him. They both had young babies and one night one of the children dies. One of the mothers had rolled over on top of the child, but both claimed it was the other woman’s baby who had died. They took their dispute to the highest court in the land, King Solomon himself.

They presented their cases and the king had a solution. ‘Bring me my sword! I will settle it by cutting the child in half and giving a half to each mother.’

‘Go ahead and divide the baby and give each of half’ said one.
‘NO! Give him the the other woman – don’t kill him’ said the other.

And wise King Solomon knew who the mother was – the one who said ‘I’d rather give him away than let him be cut in two.’

Solomon knew the extent of a mother’s love. He knew that there is no way she would allow the baby to die. A mother’s love would go far as to give up her own child to save his life.

I can’t imagine that pain that filled that mother’s heart as she offered to lose her child to save him, but her love knew that was all she could do.

What a beautiful picture of the depth of a mother’s love. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Give me wisdom

Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: "Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. – 1 Kings 3.9-12

We have all seen films who read books or stories about someone being given three wishes. I guess the main way we see it is through a genie in a lamp. Someone finds the lamp and polishes it an a genie pops out and offer three wishes.

It rarely turns out well. No matter what they ask for and no matter how much they try to figure it out when all is said and done they are back where the started or worse because they didn't think it all the way through.

This is an interesting incident something like the genie in the lamp, but so much more.

God came to Solomon and asked him what he would like. God would give him whatever he asked for.

What would you say? This wasn't a genie – this was God who really could give him anything. What would you and I ask for (if we didn't know this story). We might ask for wealth or fame or popularity or any number of things.

But Solomon asked for wisdom to rule properly. Though he often is not going to exercise the wisdom God gave him, at least at this point he saw the need for it. He knew that wisdom was the principle thing, and therefore as he will write later, we must seek wisdom.

Of course true wisdom only comes from the God of wisdom. The world’s wisdom has us in a terrible mess. Some of the things that have happened in the last few years have shown just how messed up worldly wisdom is.

But the wisdom we seek, which is foolish in the world's eyes, the wisdom that is from above is ‘first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.’

That's the kind of wisdom we need to handle this messed up world. When we pray let’s be like Solomon is our prayer and ask God for that wonderful wisdom from above. And then let's pray that we avail ourselves of that wisdom better than Solomon does.