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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

MIghty to Save (2 Kings 7)

    One of the songs we worshiped with this morning, Mighty to Save, has a very profound message. When we sing that song, we sing about how every single person, every person, is in need of compassion, kindness, never failing love, forgiveness, mercy, in short…every person is in need of a savior. And what a mighty Savior we have. He can move the mountains. More than that, He can create the mountains just by speaking. One day, His Word will bring the mountains down. He can raise the dead, and He has conquered the grave.
    He takes us as He finds us, everything that we are even with all our mistakes and failures and fears, and He is mighty enough to save us from our sins to give us life again. He is the only hope of nations. He is the only hope of anyone. And the main point of the song is that He is capable and mighty enough to save anyone. Anyone.
    This morning through 2 Kings 7 I want to look at God’s mighty power to save. 2 Kings 7 opens with the Northern kingdom of Israel in desperate circumstances, but particularly the capital city of Samaria. They were under the leadership of Joram or Jehoram, who was the son of Ahab and Jezebel, and the younger brother of the king who ruled before him, Ahaziah, who had died when he had fallen ill and never recovered. Joram also did evil in the sight of the Lord, even though he didn’t worship Baal and the false idols of his parents, he also didn’t do anything to prevent them from being worshiped in Israel. He didn’t tear down the altars or high places or temples. He freely allowed idol worship in his kingdom.
    Because of this, 2 Kings 3:2-3 tells us that the kingdom was in a state of evil and corruption. In 2 Kings 6:24 tells us that the king of Aram rose up against Samaria, the capital of Israel, and laid siege to it. The siege lasted for a long time, and with the armies of Aram gathered all around Samaria, no supplies could get in or out of the city. Before long, 2 Kings 6:5 tells us, the city was in a desperate state of starvation. There simply wasn’t enough food to feed all those who were trapped in the city.
    Without enough food to feed the city, the food that was available was subject to inflation. The cost of food skyrocketed in Samaria, so only the super rich could even afford to buy what little food there was. As less and less food became available and the food became more and more expensive, those who were starving and couldn’t afford food began to resort to cannibalism.
    The city and by extension the nation, was in very desperate circumstances.
    2 Kings 7 starts with the knowledge of how bad things had gotten for Samaria and Israel, and God promising to send salvation for His people.
    2 Kings 7:1-2, “Then Elisha said, “Listen to the word of the Lord; this is what the Lord says: ‘About this time tomorrow a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’” The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning responded to the man of God and said, “Even if the Lord were to make windows in heaven, could this thing happen?” Then he said, “Behold, you are going to see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.”
    This is the promise of coming salvation for the people. Salvation was coming in many ways as well. Most immediately, it meant that salvation was coming in the form of food. By the very next day, God was promising that food would be back in abundance AND that the over-inflation of food would stop. All people in the city, rich and poor, would be able to buy food again in abundance.
    See, a measure of food would have been the equivalent of two and a half gallons of food. That’s an abundance of food. Two and a half gallons of any kind of food is a lot of food. A shekel would have been the equivalent of about 53 cents now. So God was promising through the prophet Elisha, that people would be able to buy flour at the cost of 53 cents per 2 1/2 gallons. Can you imagine going to the store and being able to buy that much flour for 53 cents?
    He told them that the barley, they’d be able to get at the cost of 53 cents for 5 gallons! That’s a lot of food, available for very cheap. With that food they’d be able to make bread, cakes, and any other number of staples to live on.
    This was a far cry from paying $45 for a donkey’s head, which couldn’t have even yielded that much meat! Or $3 for a pint of dove dung which isn’t even food at all!
    But the promise of salvation through an abundance of food wasn’t the only thing God was promising to the Samaritans. See, in order for them to be able to get food, the gates were going to have to be opened. In order for the gates to be opened, the Aramean army would have to be defeated and dispersed. The siege had been going on so long and the Arameans were in a good position to conquer Samaria, so for them to just up and leave would be an act of God’s power and mighty salvation. This was exactly what God was promising.
    He was promising to remove the Arameans from being camped out around Samaria so food could make its way back into Samaria.
    The whole situation would take a miracle to change this much this quickly. This promise of salvation would require FAITH, as it was nearly impossible for a city to believe that they would be rescued and saved in such a drastic way. Especially for people who had spent almost a hundred years not having faith in God.
    We can see how hard it would have been for the people to have faith in God’s salvation through the response of the official. He told Elisha, even if God opened up the heavens and rained down meal and grain, it was impossible. His words not only showed contempt for Elisha as God’s chosen messenger, but the official showed complete disbelief that God was capable or willing to save them in such a mighty way. Because he didn’t believe, he was told that he would not live to eat the food brought by God’s salvation.
    But salvation, any kind of supernatural salvation from God, requires faith. If you look at the story of the conversion of the jailer who was holding Paul and Silas, in Acts 16, verses 30-31 tells us this about how he was saved, “and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
    He was saved by faith, belief, in the Lord Jesus.
    Or Romans 10:9 which Paul wrote about how a person is saved, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Faith in your heart, belief, is what reaches out and takes a hold of the gift of salvation that God freely offers.
    In fact, that’s exactly what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”
    The salvation of God through faith is not just a New Testament concept either. God has always been in the business of saving people. That’s who He is. He is the One who saves. In the New Testament, the salvation He offers is eternal salvation through the shed blood of Christ. Eternal salvation wasn’t offered this way during the Old Testament days, but God did still offer salvation.
    Look at Isaiah 12:2, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” God was Isaiah’s salvation. God was the salvation of many throughout the Old Testament because they made the decision to trust Him. Trust, faith, belief, these terms are all interchangeable, they mean the same thing.
    Hebrews 11 talks about these Old Testament people of faith, who were saved by God and counted as righteous because of their faith in the Lord. People, all people who will ever be saved, even the corrupt and sinful people of Samaria, would be SAVED by faith. We are SAVED by faith.
    The middle part of this story of the Samaritans is that that very night, the Lord had made the Aramean army hear the sound of chariots and horses and the sound of a great army. They became afraid because they thought that the king of Israel, Joram, had hired the Hittites and the Egyptians to fight against them. So 2 Kings 7:7 tells us that they got up, abandoned their tents, their horses, their donkeys, and just fled for their lives. They just left everything right where it was.
    Four lepers who were camped on the outskirts of the city who figured they were going to die anyway made the decision to sneak into the Aramean camp and they found it completely deserted. And because the Arameans had cut off the food supplies to Samaria, the camp was full of food and drink.
    God was mighty to save His people. 2 Kings 7:15-20 tells us this, “They (Samaritan messengers) went after them to the Jordan, and behold, all the way was full of clothes and equipment which the Arameans had thrown away when they fled in a hurry. Then the messengers returned and informed the king. So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in accordance with the word of the Lord. Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to be in charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, “Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, will be sold about this time tomorrow at the gate of Samaria.” At that time the royal officer had responded to the man of God and said, “Now even if the Lord were to make windows in heaven, could such a thing as this happen?” And he had said, “Behold, you are going to see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.” And this is what happened to him, for the people trampled on him at the gate and he died.”
    Salvation requires faith, people are saved by faith. And for those who will not believe, those who have unbelief that they cannot overcome, will not be saved. John 3:36 says this, “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life; but the one who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
    But only unbelief will keep people from salvation. Only a lack of faith will keep people from being saved by God. However, salvation is available to all people. Romans 10:13 says, “for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Salvation is open to all. This free gift of mighty salvation? Anyone can accept it.
    Doesn’t matter what you’ve done, we’ve all sinned! Doesn’t matter where you come from, God has called you from the ends of the earth to be His! In fact, we’re told in Scripture that it is His desire that every single person should come to His salvation. He wants everyone to be saved, and He made His salvation open to anyone.
    That person that you can probably name in your head right now, that person that to you might seem unsaveable, that person who you are tempted to think, “no, they’re too far gone,”…they’re not. Christ died for them, too. God offers His salvation to them, too. God offers His salvation to everyone.
    And so, what is the response for those who have already believed, have already accepted by their faith the gift of God’s salvation? Look at 2 Kings 7:9, “Then they said to one another, “We are not doing the right thing. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent about it; if we wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now then come, let’s go and inform the king’s household.”
    The four lepers found the food and drink and silver and gold and clothes in the camp, along with many other valuables, first. They started taking what they found and eating and drinking, and then realized that there were still people in the city starving to death and resorting to cannibalism. Their response is in this verse. They realized it was wrong to keep such a valuable treasure to themselves, to keep God’s salvation to themselves. So, they went and they told the STORY.
    That should be our response, too. We should treat the salvation we have received through faith by God’s grace as if we had been starving to death and then given a feast. A feast so large that it can be shared with anyone and everyone and there will still be more than enough for us. Share the story. Share with others who you were before you were saved, and share with them what God has done, and share who you are now. Share as if you were giving a person who was on death’s door due to starvation the bread of life that could bring them back.
    God is mighty to save. There is no situation too messed up for Him to redeem. There is no sin too bad for Him to forgive. There is no person too far gone for Him to breathe life back into. He is the hope of nations. Share that.

1. 1 John 5:4 talks about overcoming the world. What role does faith play in this? What hope and encouragement does that bring you about the trials you face?

2. What does 1 Timothy 2:3-4 say about what God’s desire is? Is anyone beyond His saving power? According to Acts 2:21, can the worst of sinners be saved?

3. What prayers is the Spirit prompting you to pray this week concerning salvation and our world?

Three Stories of Trust (2 Kings 4)

    Despite their name, 1 and 2 Kings, these books are not entirely about the kings whose names are written down in the books. These books record the kings names, and some of what they did while they were the king, and also if they did evil in the sight of the Lord or walked in David’s ways. But really, the books of Kings are about God’s power displayed through the lives of two prophets: Elijah and Elisha; God’s power to call His people to Him, His power to save, His righteous might. God did many mighty things through Elijah and Elisha that were meant to show the people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel that He is still God and that He was calling them to leave their lives of sin and trust in Him.
    1 Kings mostly chronicles Elijah’s ministry to the Northern Kingdom. 2 Kings starts with Elijah’s final days and his mentoring of Elisha, who would take over Elijah’s ministry. A careful examination of Elijah’s ministry will show that Elijah walked closely with the Lord. So closely that he audibly heard the Spirit speak to him to guide him and direct him. When we look at stories like Elijah’s big showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, though it’s not stated explicitly, what is implied is that Elijah gave the impossible instructions that he gave because he was being directed by the Spirit on what exactly he should do. This was how he was able to say with great confidence that he knew God would act in that situation, because God had already told Elijah through the Spirit what He would do to show He is God.
    In fact, Elijah walked so closely with God, and heard His voice so clearly that Elijah was given a great honor, an honor given only to one other man in the entire Bible. Elijah did not die. He was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire drawn by fiery horses. He and Enoch were the only two people in the Bible to experience this, and the reason they were given this honor was because of how closely they walked with the Lord.
    Before Elijah was taken up, in 2 Kings 2:9, he asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for him. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit which we know in reality was the Lord’s spirit. 2 Kings 3:15 tells us that indeed, the spirit was given to Elisha. Elisha knew that he would not be able to minister with any sort of power or effectiveness without the same spirit that Elijah had in him. Elisha was indeed gifted with a DOUBLE portion of the Spirit. That is your first blank in your bulletin if you want to take notes and follow along. All that Elisha did was through the power of the Spirit.
    2 Kings 4 gives four stories, and the first three all have a common theme to them. These three stories are all stories of how God took a burden that was really heavy for the persons in the story, and He gave them victory over that burden. They’re stories of how we can trust God with every burden we might carry.
    The first story is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7, the story of Elisha and the widow. Her story starts like this, “Now a woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
    Without her husband, who had been a prophet and man of God, the widow had no way to pay her family’s debts. She would not have been able to work outside the home, unless it was work doing something unsavory. She had no hope, and so she became consumed with anxiety over the situation and fear that she was about to lose her children. This was her burden, rooted in anxiety and fear, and when she cried out to Elisha it was from a place of heaviness and hopelessness.
    But God demonstrated to her that He could be trusted with her burdens. No doubt directed by the Spirit, this is what Elisha told her, “So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow containers elsewhere for yourself, empty containers from all your neighbors—do not get too few. Then you shall come in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour into all these containers; and you shall set aside what is full.” So she left him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they began bringing the containers to her, and she poured the oil. When the containers were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container.” But he said to her, “There are no more containers.” Then the oil stopped. So she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
    She had nothing of value left, no doubt she had sold much of what she already had to pay the creditor, but it wasn’t enough. So with the one thing she had left that would have some value, a jar of oil, Elisha told her to go to all her neighbors houses and gather up as many empty containers as she could. He told her not to get too few! Get many. Then she was to come back home and pour the oil into the empty jars, and keep pouring it until all the containers were full. Elisha assured her it would that the oil would be enough to pay off her debts and live off what was left.
    She brought her burdens, her anxiety and fear over her financial situation, to the Lord, and He blessed her. In this story, the blessing came in the form of a financial blessing that eased her anxiety and fear, but we must be careful not to assume that this is always the case. God finds many ways of blessing us to calm our anxiety and fear, and those ways are limited only by the imagination of the Creator of the universe.
    The words in Psalm 55:2 are probably words that we have all said in some way when we’ve been anxious or fearful, “Hear me and answer me. My thoughts upset me. I’m very troubled.” When things don’t work out the way we think they should, when we’re burdened with worries about tomorrow and fears of the unknown, God urges us to bring these burdens to Him.
    His Word tells us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Cast means that we’re meant to throw them as far as we possibly can. He wants us to trust Him with our anxieties and fears because He promises that He cares for us and can handle our burden.
    The widow learned that as well, that God cared for her and He was capable of handling her heavy anxiety and fear, and to ease her burdens, He blessed her. We read that her blessing was limited only by her FAITH, which is your next blank in your bulletin. The amount of oil she was blessed with to sell was limited only by the number of containers that she had collected in faith that God could be trusted with her burden.
    The second story in 2 Kings 4 you can read about in verses 8-17. It’s the story of the Shunammite Woman who showed kindness toward Elisha. As Elisha would travel throughout the area, the Shunammite woman took not of him and, knowing that he was a man of God, her and her husband prepared a room where Elisha could stay and rest when he traveled through the area.
    Elisha was so touched by the care that she continuously showed him, that he had his servant Gehazi go to her to see what kind of favor he could show her for all her kindness. She wanted nothing in return, no fame, no reward. When Gehazi returned to Elisha, Elisha said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “It is a fact that she has no son, and her husband is old.” (2 Kings 4:14).
    Though the woman asked for nothing in return for her kindness, Elisha’s servant was able to discern what the woman’s burden was: she was barren. She had no son, and her husband was old, so it was not likely that she would ever have a son.
    In our time, this is not as much of a social stigma as it would have been then. We understand today that there are many reasons why a couple may not have children, and none of them indicates that the couple are failures as people. But for the Shunammite woman, a lack of children would have been seen as a failure. She would have been seen as a failure by the society she lived in, maybe even by her husband, or even herself. In this time, her failure to not have a child was her failure and hers alone. Women alone were responsible for child-bearing.
    Along with the Shunammite woman’s failure to have a child would have come a considerable amount of guilt since the fault for her failure to have a child rested entirely on her shoulders. This was her duty, and failure to do so likely left her with feelings of guilt over that failure.
    What happened next shows just how hopeless the Shunammite woman thought her situation was, “He then said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, “At this season next year, you are going to embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, you man of God, do not lie to your servant.” (2 Kings 4:15-16).
    The Shunammite woman had lived with her failure and guilt so long that even when Elisha, a noted man of God told her that she would have a son, she was slow to believe it. In fact, she thinks he may even have been lying to her. Her failure and guilt had long overcome any hope that she had that life might be different someday.
    Who hasn’t felt the sting of failure before, and the guilt that often follows after? I try to teach our kids that many times, failure is a part of learning how to do something, but there are times when I see the look of defeat on their faces.
    The Lord did indeed give a son to the woman, just as Elisha had said, but the Lord gave her more than that. The son He gave her was an extension of His grace toward her. That’s your next bulletin blank, that she was given GRACE. Grace covered her failure and her guilt, and grace restored her hope. Grace restored her trust in the Lord.
    This is what God says to us in our times of failure and guilt, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. His grace is sufficient to cover our weaknesses, our failures, our guilt, and to turn those things into strength.
    Psalm 73:26 gives a similar word to us, “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” He gives grace when we fail and His grace covers our guilt, so we can trust Him with these burdens because His grace will lighten our heaviness.
    The third story is found in 2 Kings 4:18-37, and again deals with the faith and trust of the Shunammite woman. “When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father, to the reapers. And he said to his father, “My head, my head!” And his father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” When he had carried him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.” (18-20).
    She came to Elisha and fell at his feet, “Then she said, “Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not give me false hope’?” (28). Her feelings here are unfortunately, too easy for us to understand. She had been given grace by God, and then felt like that grace and blessing had been ripped away. Her burden became grief and loss.
    This is a heavy burden. The burdens of grief and loss may be some of the heaviest burdens we will ever have to carry. When Jesus experienced the death of his dear friend, Lazarus, it drove him to tears. We get the shortest verse in the Bible when Lazarus died and we’re told that, “Jesus wept.” The word for “wept” is meant to give us the idea that Jesus’ was in pain and anguish because of the loss of his friend.
    In the case of both the Shunammite woman’s son, and Lazarus, the Spirit of God worked to bring the dead back to life. These were extraordinary circumstances where God showed His power, but what it accomplished in addition to showing that God is Almighty, was it comforted those who were grieving from loss. That’s your last bulletin blank this morning, the Lord COMFORTED her.
    The loss and grief may not always be caused by physical death. Sometimes grief and loss comes in other forms: loss of a job, grief over a soured relationship; there are many reasons humans may experience loss and grief. But, if we trust the Lord with those burdens as well, we will find comfort.
    1 Corinthians 15:55 does address death, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” And here the Lord reminds us that even the heavy burden of death loses its victory and sting when we place that burden at the foot of the Cross.
    Matthew 5:4 broadens it a little and Jesus told us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourning, grief, loss, God is worthy of our trust even when it comes to these burdens. He will bring comfort.

1. Read Matthew 17:14-20. How is this story similar to the story of the widow and the oil? How might God’s work be limited in your life by limited faith?

2. God gave grace to several women in the Bible who were considered “failures” by their society. Look at these passages: Genesis 11:30; 17:16-19; 25:21-26; 29:31; 30:22-24; Judges 13:2-5, 24; Psalm 113:9; Isaiah 54:1; Luke 1:5-25. What do these passages tell us about God’s character?

3. What does 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 say about comfort? What are we to do with the comfort we receive? What part does our grief and loss take in our ability to witness to others?

Radical Prayers

    Who has come to the realization that prayer is our life-line? That prayer is our link to a real, tangible relationship with God? That prayer is the necessary and vital key to experiencing the kingdom of God come on earth? I started a journey with the Lord two years ago about prayer, and He began to shake up my view of prayer. It’s a journey I’m still on, and He keeps showing me new things about prayer and what it means and how important it is for those who walk with Him.
    Today, we’re going to do another prayer service, at least in part. These are important for the church as a whole, because prayer is not an individual sport. Prayer is a team sport, and while we can work on that discipline individually, we must have team practices to grow as a body that is meant to be unified in spiritual matters. Corporate prayer together as a whole body is meant to teach us how to pray in our individual quiet times.
    Today, during our prayer service, I want us to focus on radical prayers. There are actually a lot of radical prayers that are talked about in the Bible, but these are five radical prayers that the Lord led me to, that go against what our human comfort and inclination is. These go against what we think the norm should be. These go against what we would prefer to do in our lives. They are challenging prayer focuses that threaten to change us in radical ways. But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He doesn’t call us to stay the same. He doesn’t call us to walk in the ways of the world.
    The first radical prayer I have listed in your bulletin is for humility. I don’t have any blanks in your bulletin this week, but what I want to encourage you to do is to take notes on any point that strikes you as something different than what you have done before. If you think something the Word says about these prayer focuses is challenging, write it down.
    Humility is the first one, like I said. There’s two parts to praying for humility that will radically change us if we let it. The first is to pray for your humility before the Lord. James 4:6 tells us, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” The Lord desires for His people to be humble before Him.
    It’s really the only appropriate heart-posture to have before Him. He is after all, the one who created everything we see and everything we can’t see; the one who knows you better than you know yourself; the one who sees the unseen; the one who exists outside of time itself. If we come before Him full of pride, we come to Him foolishly.
    Micah 6:8 tells us this, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The Lord requires we walk humbly with Him.
    We are to understand that His knowledge is limitless; that His wisdom is infinite. He knows all and sees all. Remember, Proverbs 3 tells us not to lean on our own understanding! In humility, recognize that He has the all the answers we need to anything we might want to know and He invites us to walk with Him.
    2 Chronicles 7:14 also comes with this reminder, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
    Humility is a necessary step in coming to the Lord for forgiveness. Repentance starts with humility before Him. Walking with the Lord starts with repentance of our sins and acceptance of the Lord’s sovereignty over our lives, so without humility, a relationship with the Lord isn’t truly possible. If there’s any one thing that must be constant in our walk with God, it’s humility.
    But there’s two parts to praying for humility, remember? We want to pray for continued and renewed humility before God, but radical prayers for humility also include a prayer for humility before others. All others, not just other believers, or other believers we get along with.
    Look at Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In humility, value others above yourselves. Romans 12:10 says to think of others as better than yourself. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
    This humility before others comes from a deep understanding that God created the other person just in the same way He created you: in His image. This humility comes from a deep understanding that God loves that other person just as much as He loves you. This humility for others comes from a deep understanding that Jesus died for that person’s sins just the same as He died for your sins, and that despite how horrible we might think their sins are, salvation is available to them just the same as it was available to us.
    Praying for this type of humility before God and others is bold and radical, but it has the potential to bring about incredible change in your life and the life of the church. It is one of the most radical prayers the church can pray.
    Here’s another radical prayer for the church: to pray for the Lord’s justice. We have assurance that His ways are higher than our own, and so we can trust that His justice is higher than our own justice. In fact, His justice is perfect. Psalm 94 tells us that it is the Lord who enacts justice, since He knows what justice truly is.
    “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.” The Lord loves justice, He said so Himself as we read here in Isaiah 61:8. He always acts justly. A radical prayer for us to pray is for the Lord to act against the injustices of the world. To right the wrong; to work against evil; to work on behalf of the oppressed. The interesting thing about praying for the Lord’s justice to be done is that His perfect justice doesn’t negate His perfect mercy. Justice and mercy isn’t 50/50 for God, it’s 100/100. He is always just and perfectly so, and He is always merciful and perfectly so, and both attributes of God are in balance.
    Praying for the Lord’s justice will also lead us to pray that we, His people, will act in His justice, too. Micah 6:8 tells us this, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” He requires that we walk in His balance of justice and mercy. To act justly the way He does isn’t always easy, which is why it’s such a radical prayer for us to pray. Especially when we consider this verse from Isaiah 1:17.
    “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” This is part of what the Lord’s justice looks like. Doing right, defending the oppressed, taking up the cause of those who don’t have a voice to speak. See why it’s such a radical prayer? It’s the next logical step after praying for humility, praying that we will regard others more than ourselves, the next step is to act out of that humility by acting justly toward those who have not been treated justly.
    Praying for the Lord’s justice to be done, and for us, His church to be a part of enacting His justice is radical. It’s another prayer that has the potential to shake things up in the church, and to make the church what it was meant to be.
    Here’s another radical prayer: to pray for all leaders. Everywhere, from the leader of each household to the principles of the local schools, to the leaders of churches everywhere, to leaders of governments, regardless of what these leaders may believe or how they may act, pray for them.
    Paul urges us in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
    For all those in authority, all those who lead, pray for them. Pray that they may live peaceful and quiet lives, yes, but that they may live in godliness and holiness, too! Pray for their salvation, those that aren’t saved. Pray that they walk in the Lord’s justice.
    Proverbs 28:2 teaches us this important prayer, “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.” Pray for discernment and knowledge for our leaders, all leaders. This is radical, but there’s more to this radical prayer.
    Both Peter and Paul urged early Christians, who faced persecution and some of the most abominable and corrupt leaders of all time, to be subject to the authority of their leaders. Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17).
    Paul’s words are perhaps even more familiar to us, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2).
    Radical prayer for our leaders, for them to come to salvation and to do God’s will with discernment and wisdom, to act in godliness and holiness, and for us to pray that we, the Lord’s people, will be subject to those who lead is very, very radical. And like the prayer for humility, and the prayer for the Lord’s justice, it has the potential for great change.
    We can pray the radical prayer to know Jesus’ voice. We forget too easily that the Lord speaks in a voice that is audible to those who are truly listening. Abraham was listening. Joseph was listening. Moses was listening; Joshua and Caleb; Deborah; Ruth and Boaz; David; Elijah; Elisha; Esther; Job; Isaiah and Jeremiah; Ezekiel and Daniel; so many prophets of old; Mary and Joseph; Zechariah and Elizabeth and John; Jesus. All were listening and heard the voice of God speak clearly and plainly, whispering to their spirits. This is what we were meant for. We were meant to hear God’s voice speaking to us at all times, guiding us, directing us, comforting us and encouraging us.
    Jesus stated plainly to His disciples, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). One of the most radical, life-altering, world-changing prayers that we can prayer as believers is that we will know Jesus’ voice; that we would know what it sounds like when He whispers to us.
    Not only that we would know what His voice sounds like, but that we would listen, follow through with what His voice says. When we read about Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9:7, God told those who were gathered there that Jesus is His Son, and He gave them one command: listen to Him.
    Oh that we would pray that we would develop a sensitive ear to Him. That we would not only hear Him, but follow His Word. That we would hear Him, and do as He says. That, is a radical prayer.
    And a fifth radical prayer for us today, a prayer for compassion. Again, there are two parts to this radical prayer. We want to pray for compassion for the lost, compassion like Jesus had. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38).
    We are the harvesters, but we need compassion for the harvest. We need compassion to look on the lost and see them as God sees them. We need compassion to work to bring in the harvest when there will be many who do not want to be a part of it. Compassion will drive us and keep us from quitting. When Jesus worked miracles and healed those who were in need, it was always because of His great compassion for those who were hurting.
    We need compassion too, for our enemies. That is a radical prayer. No one likes to pray for their enemies. No one really wants to show compassion to those who have hurt them. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35). Those were Jesus’ words.
    And Peter’s, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
    Radical prayers, you see, are radical because they have the power to drastically change our world, but they’re also radical because the change that they bring about starts with the heart of the believer.

See the Unseen (2 Corinthians 4:15-18)

    In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul calls us jars of clay, and tells us that we hold a treasure within us, a treasure in a jar of clay. It’s a beautiful image for our brokenness and human weakness and frailty, because a jar of clay is not the most durable of jars. Clay is easily broken, and easily cracked. But Paul uses this image to so that even in that humanness and frailty, we are capable of holding the most valuable treasure there is.
    Paul spends most of 2 Corinthians 4-5 talking about the weakness of humanity, with all of our broken cracks and wounds that need healing. This section of this letter came from Paul’s own experiences with weakness and brokenness at the hands of someone in the Corinthian church. See, 1 Corinthians came about because as Paul became aware of the multiple issues that were in that church, he was led by the Spirit to write to them to address those multiple issues.
    It helped them, mostly, and the Corinthian church began to heal, but it seems that at least one person at the church did not appreciate Paul’s correction. We learn throughout 2 Corinthians that someone from the Corinthian church had publicly ridiculed Paul because of what he had written to the church, even though it was from God and it was good for that church. Paul would have had every right to be offended, angry, embarrassed, and hurt. But, Paul saw beyond that. He looked beyond the circumstances of what was happening, and was able to see the unseen. That’s what I want to talk about this morning, this point that Paul makes that even in the midst of our brokenness and our human weakness, even when we face circumstances that can knock us down and put cracks in us like we would find in a clay jar, we are still capable of holding a great treasure.
    I’m going to be in 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 this morning, so if you have your Bible or a Bible app on your phone, I’d love for you to join me there.
    Paul wrote: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
    Paul says here that all this is for our benefit. All of what, Paul? All of our brokenness; all of our weaknesses; all of our human frailty; all of our sufferings and challenges and difficulties; all of our trials and tribulations; all of it is for our benefit. Isn’t that an encouraging thought? It’s not useless pain and suffering, and our brokenness and weakness isn’t a sign that we can’t be used for good. It’s all for our benefit.
    Remember, we are the jars of clay: broken pieces often barely held together, yet still used to hold a great treasure.
    There are numerous places throughout Scripture that talk about the different ways our brokenness is for our benefit. In Romans 5:3-5, Pauls says, “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
    James opens his letter by saying, “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4).
    Our brokenness has a PURPOSE. If you’re following along in your bulletin and you want to take notes, this will be your first blank. One of those purposes, one of these benefits, we see in these passages is to refine our character. This is a great benefit, and if we’re going to start to look more like Christ, it’s a necessary step.
    But, the benefit to us that Paul is talking about here isn’t just the refinement of our character. Paul says that our brokenness, our sufferings are so the glory of God will spread. The way Paul actually phrases here in the Greek is so that we will be blessed by the weight of God’s glory falling on us. Our brokenness, our human frailty and the sufferings we must go through comes with the benefit of experiencing the blessing of God’s glory covering us. We get to share in the same glory that Christ does.
    This is the treasure in these broken and imperfect jars of clay. The fact that we get to receive God’s glory, participate in God’s glory, and share His glory with others through His grace is a great treasure. That we get to do this even in our brokenness and human imperfection is nothing short of miraculous. I am continuously amazed that God chooses to use me, in all my weakness, to display His glory.
    Paul talks a little more about this glory in Romans 8:16-18, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
    His glory will be revealed in us in the same way that it was revealed in Christ. Many times, we think about this glory as something that will happen when we pass away and enter into an eternity with God, but Paul talks about this glory as both a coming thing in the distant future, and something that we can see here on earth, just like Christ experienced.
    I’ve spent a lot of time in the book of Mark in my quiet times this month, and while Jesus didn’t experience the fullness of God’s glory again until He ascended into heaven after His resurrection, there were moments of His earthly life and ministry where we see the glory of God revealed in Him. Moments where the power of the Spirit worked in Him to do something miraculous and God’s glory was shown when the people around Him gave God praise for what He had done. God’s glory is both a present and a coming thing for the believer, if, Paul says, we share in Christ’s sufferings as well.
    Paul continues, “Therefore we do not lose HEART. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Heart is your next blank in your bulletin.
    Who here hasn’t been tempted at some point to get discouraged and disappointed by trials, hardships, suffering, our weaknesses? I know I certainly have. Sometimes I let the seeming hopelessness of situations get the best of me. I wonder if, when he had been publicly humiliated by this church member, if Paul hadn’t been tempted to feel discouraged and disappointed as well. But Paul reminds us of this fact that we get to carry and share the glory of God with others, even in our weakness, and because of that fact, we can’t lose hope. He reminds us that we must look at earthly things a little differently.
    Even as our bodies, or as life seems to fall apart, Paul says wasting away, but inwardly, we know that the Spirit is working to bring about renewal. We’ve talked before about the new man in each believer that is being created. A new person that is filled with the love of God and filled with the power of the Spirit to walk according to the fruit of the Spirit.
    In his letter to the Galatian church he wrote, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:24-26). He reminded believers that living in step with the Spirit, walking in His ways, is what the church is called to do. We are called to let the things of the flesh die, and again, to see earthly things a little differently.
    He assures all believers that that our troubles, whatever they might be, our brokenness, is LIGHT in comparison to the eternal glory of the Lord. That’s your next bulletin blank. He’s not trying to make light of our troubles, our brokenness; far from the opposite. Many times in his letters, Paul commiserates and empathizes with others who are suffering and talks about his own sufferings and trials that were not small by any comparison. Paul was imprisoned in the worst sort of prison, beat and borderline tortured, and so many other sufferings he endured. He had true empathy with suffering. Even in this letter to the Corinthian church, you can see in the words he wrote, the sadness he felt by being publicly ridiculed by someone in the church. But even with as horrible as Paul’s sufferings were, he knew they were nothing compared to the eternal glory of God that he got to share in.
    He compared the Christian’s experience of suffering and brokenness with the weight of God’s glory like two items placed on a scale. He says that yes, our suffering for the sake of the Gospel, our brokenness and weakness may feel heavy, it may feel at times like it is a burden too heavy to carry, but when you put the weight of God’s glory on the other side of the scale, it makes our suffering and brokenness light. Not only is God’s glory this amazing treasure that we get to hold, but when we are holding it, it makes our brokenness and sufferings beautiful.
    Paul was encouraging the Corinthians with his own suffering as well, reminding them that it was not only for the sake of Christ that he was enduring all the suffering he went through, but it was for their sake as well. Paul’s example through his suffering showed the Corinthian believers, and all believers after that would read Paul’s letter, that suffering, weakness, trials and tribulations can be endured. We can go through anything, endure anything, be broken and beat down, Paul says, we can be crushed, because we know that it is for God’s glory.
    Paul ends with this, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The key to enduring the brokenness of this world, the key to being cracked jars of clay still capable of holding a precious treasure is faith. That’s really what Paul is talking about here. He’s asking believers to look past the temporary, look past the things of this earth, and fix your eyes on what is not seen, on the eternal. See the unseen!
    Hebrews 11:1 confirms this for us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We look for what we cannot see. We fix our eyes on the things we know are eternal. We do not fix our eyes on the things of this earth, even the things that bring us pain and suffering. We fix our eyes on the eternal. We look past our own brokenness, but more importantly, we look past the brokenness of others. We see them not as a weak, frail human, broken and suffering and hurting, but as someone that God loves deeply, someone that God desires to reveal His glory through. This allows us to share with them how they can hold the greatest treasure.
    We look past the chaos of the world and the despair that the world has. We see it too as temporary groaning as the earth longs to return to the Lord. We fix our eyes on the eternal kingdom that we know will come, and the full glory of God that will be revealed. We are called to see the unseen, and to act according to what we have fixed our eyes on.

1. What are some temporary things you have fixed your eyes on? Spend time this week in prayer, asking God to help you readjust your gaze and to fix your eyes on things that are of Him.

2. Read Romans 8, another place where Paul talks about walking in the Spirit and suffering for Christ. What five benefits of suffering does he give in verses 28-32?

3. There are some churches that teach that Christians should not experience trials and suffering if they are truly in Christ. What did Jesus have to say about that in John 16:33?
   

How Long? (1 Kings 18)

    Today, we’ll take a significant leap in the timeline of 1 Kings, and we’re actually going to end 1 Kings this morning, but, we should think of this as just a pause between two parts. 1 and 2 Kings were written as one book, and later broken up for the sake of making copying easier, so really this is just sort of part one and then part two will be next. The chapter we’ll look at this morning is one of my all-time favorite passages of Scripture. I love it. It’s full of drama and intrigue, it’s full of sarcasm which I use in increasing measure as I get older, it’s full of supernatural power displayed in the most mighty of ways. It’s just cool!
    But, before we get to the main event, we need to do some catch-up so we can understand where in the story of God’s people this passage fits. When we looked 1 Kings 12 last week, we saw the splitting of Israel into two kingdoms: Israel, made of ten tribes in the north ruled by King Jeroboam; and Judah, made of the last two tribes in the south ruled by Solomon’s son King Rehoboam. Both were remembered only for the great evil that they did in the eyes of the Lord in leading their people into the sin of worshiping pagan gods.
    If you’ll take a look on the screen, and in your bulletins as well, you can see the line of kings for each kingdom. In the first column, you’ll see the southern kingdom ruled by Rehoboam, and then his son, Abijam or Abijah, ruled after him and he followed in Rehoboam’s ways and did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Then came Abijam’s son, Asa, and he broke the mold! We’re told that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. And then next is his son Jehoshaphat, whose name I have to look up every time I need to know how to spell it, and he also did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. These are all kings in the line of David, who God promised would always have a king on the throne as long as the kingdom existed. God was faithful to that, even if Solomon and Rehoboam and Abijam were not faithful to God.
    In the second column is the northern kingdom, and you can see after Jeroboam came his son, Nadab. Because of Jeroboam’s great evil in the eyes of the Lord, he was told that his line would be cut off, and that’s exactly what the next king did: Baasha cut off Jeroboam’s line with Nadab and took the throne for himself. But, he was wicked too, so during his son Elah’s reign, their line was cut off as well. Zimri was the one who cut that line off, and he didn’t last for very long, no more than a few months, before Omri rose up against him, and Zimri committed suicide. Omri reigned for some time, and then when he died, his son Ahab became king. Now Ahab is probably a name you might be familiar with, and he is the king we’re going to deal with today.
    The thing to note about every single one of these kings in the northern kingdom of Israel is that not one of these kings walked with God. Every single one of them is noted for doing evil in the sight of the Lord. The last two we see there, Omri and Ahab, we’re told did more evil and more wickedness than any other king before them.
    And this is where the passage is situated, in the midst of Ahab’s very evil kingdom. Ahab and his wife Jezebel worship Baal and Ashtoreth. Both were fertility gods, and Baal became closely related to the well-being of the land. Baal was the god of storms and lightning and thunder, but also the god of the sun. So if you don’t have his favor, your crops don’t grow because they’re no rain and the sun is too harsh…or so they thought.
    The worship of these false and pagan gods had become so wide-spread throughout Israel that they had all but forgotten the one true God. Baal had at least 450 prophets in Israel, whereas God’s prophets were few and far between and had become persecuted and scattered throughout the land. Since they were in the north and Jerusalem was in the south, there was no temple for the few followers of the Lord to worship Him. The altars that had been built to the Lord had been neglected and torn down. The people forgot that the Lord God is Almighty and He was the one who showed might and power over the all the gods of Egypt, that He was the one who gave them manna and quail in the desert and made water run out of rocks, that He was the one who made David the greatest king they had ever had. They forgot who God was and all that He had done for them. And then God raised up Elijah.
    Ahab, the wicked and evil king called Elijah the troubler of Israel. I am sure he was not the only one who thought that of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet, and if you look throughout the Old Testament, what you see is that any time a prophet spoke about coming judgment upon the people, that prophet was not usually well-received. In fact, those prophets were generally ridiculed and mocked, even though they were not at fault for the trouble the people were in. It’s the old adage of shooting the messenger for the message.
    The message Elijah brought was one that became more and more frequent as the kings of Israel became more wicked: repent and turn your heart back to God. When Elijah entered on the scene in 1 Kings 17:1, he told Ahab, “There shall be neither DEW nor RAIN these years, except by my word.” Those are your first two blanks in your bulletin if you want to follow along and take notes. Elijah, by the power given him by the Lord’s Spirit, told Ahab that the rain would be held back until Elijah called to the Lord for it to return.
    Why? To get across the message, repent and turn your heart back to God.
    James 5:17 tells us that when Elijah prayed for rain to be withheld from the land, that it did not rain for 3 1/2 years! Without rain, the crops didn’t grow, and without crops, the food stores in Israel would have quickly been exhausted. The people would have been desperate, looking for an answer in any place they could find, appeasing anyone they could think of, to get the rain to fall again.
    Then the Lord told Elijah to go back to Ahab, ultimately to deliver the message that the people needed to turn their hearts back to God, and then God would send the rain. Let’s look at 1 Kings 18:17-20, “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.”
    These verses tell us that all Israel was supposed to be gathered, in addition to the many prophets of Baal and Asherah. This was a message to be delivered to the whole nation.
    “Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you HESITATE between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21).
    That’s your next blank in your bulletin. The people had been distracted away from God, led away from devotion to Him. They forgot Him. They became consumed with their need for other gods and other things to fill the void left by the Lord. Elijah calls them out here, “How long will you hesitate between the two?”
    The picture here that Elijah was getting at is the picture of a religious servant on their knees in desperation, desperately trying to serve both gods at once, limping on their knees back and forth, exhausting themselves trying to stay on good terms with both. This kind of charade can only be kept for so long before a choice must be made. That’s what Elijah is saying to them. How long will you let yourself be pulled away from devotion to the Lord? How long will you give something or someone else your energy, love, time, and treasure? How long?
    The people would have to make a choice, and Elijah was going to remind them of why God deserved their undivided attention and loyalty.
    They took two oxen, one for the prophets of Baal, and one for Elijah. The prophets of Baal prepared the sacrifice on one of the many altars that had been built to Baal, but didn’t set fire under it. They were to call on Baal and if he answered by sending fire to burn up the sacrifice, then he would prove he is a god worthy of worship.
    “Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it, and they called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they limped about the altar which they had made. And at noon Elijah ridiculed them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, since he is a god; undoubtedly he is attending to business, or is on the way, or is on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep, and will awaken.” So they cried out with a loud voice, and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:26-29).
    They tried everything. They danced around and shouted and Baal didn’t answer. And when Elijah mocked them, telling them to yell louder, telling them that maybe Baal had gone on a journey or maybe he was in the bathroom or maybe he had even gone to sleep, they became even more frenzied in their attempts to get Baal to answer them. They cried out and cut themselves, all day long. But there was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.
    Of course, we know why Baal didn’t answer. Baal wasn’t real. There was no real power there. No power to bring the rain. Nothing at all.
    Elijah then called the people close to him, and used twelve stones to rebuild the altar to the Lord, an action that was meant to remind the people of the altar Jacob had built to the Lord when He changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Then he had the altar soaked with water until it was so drenched with water that it flowed into a trench around the altar.
    “Then at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached and said, “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that You, Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood, and the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God!” ( 1 Kings 18:36-39).
    God answered because He is real. He is true. He is always near, always listening to His people. He sent fire to the offering and burned it all up, even the stones, even the water, even the dust. With that fire, God reignited the FAITH of Israel. That’s your last blank in your bulletin. With that fire, He proved that He was all that Israel needed.
    This isn’t just a story about how God is mightier than Baal. It’s a story about how God is mightier than anything, and I’m not just talking power. Israel needed rain to grow food, but they forgot that it is God who truly sustained them.
    He didn’t demand perfection from them, He asked for faithfulness. He asked for them to be completely devoted to Him, and He made promise after promise that if they would just turn to Him for everything, He would bless them.
    One of the things Jesus told His disciples was that those who hungered and thirst for righteousness were blessed because they would be satisfied. God has always been enough, for everything we could ever possibly want. He will always be enough. He was enough for Israel, but they still went looking elsewhere for what only God could give them. And that’s what we do, isn’t it?
    Jesus told the woman at the well that if she knew who she was talking to, she would ask Him for living water and He would give her water that would made it so she would never thirst again. He offers us that same living water, but we look elsewhere.
    We look to family, we look to our jobs, we look to friends, we look for comfort, we look for peace, we look for security in the promises of politicians, we look to every other source that we can possibly imagine hoping to get a little taste of what God offers us so freely and abundantly. And all the while, His presence is right here in our midst and He’s just waiting, waiting for us to realize that He is enough. That He is more than enough. That He is everything.
    He’s sending the fire, and He’s whispering, “Don’t you know, I Am? I Am the Living Water. I Am the Bread of Life. Come to Me, and you’ll never need anything or anyone else.”
    He just wants us to realize, He’s enough. He is enough. He is more than enough. He is everything we need.

1. What does 1 Kings 18 reveal about God’s personality and character, especially in contrast to Baal?

2. In Matthew 21:42, Jesus said He is the stone the builders rejected, even though He was the cornerstone. Jesus was rejected as the Messiah by religious leaders of their time, even He wasn’t enough. What were they looking for that they didn’t find in Jesus?

3. Is Jesus enough for you, or do you find yourself drawn to distractions? What items in your life bring fulfillment where Jesus should?

Seeking God's Will (1 Kings 12)

    “The other events of Solomon’s rule are written down. Everything he did and the wisdom he showed are written down. They are written in the official records of Solomon. Solomon ruled in Jerusalem over the whole nation of Israel for 40 years. Then he joined the members of his family who had already died. He was buried in the city of his father David. Solomon’s son Rehoboam became the next king after him.” (1 Kings 11:41-43).
    This is the record of Solomon’s death. It is recorded without any honor, or pride, just a record of the facts and nothing more. His death is the catalyst for the splitting of Israel into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom which was made up of ten of the tribes of Israel; and the southern kingdom which was made up of the remaining two tribes of Israel, and would include Jerusalem in its territory.
    All of this was foretold to Solomon and Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials. Solomon was told that his kingdom would be taken away from him because he built places of worship to foreign gods in Israel and worshiped those foreign gods instead of following the Lord only. Solomon was told that the kingdom would be taken away and given to one of his officials.
    That official was Jeroboam. Jeroboam was put in charge of the northern parts of Israel under Solomon’s reign when Solomon saw that he was an accomplished and hard worker. Then, Ahijah, the prophet, told Jeroboam that the Lord was taking ten of the twelve tribes of Israel away from Solomon and giving them to Jeroboam because of Solomon’s actions and because the people in the northern parts of Israel followed Solomon’s example in worshiping idols and false gods.
    Jeroboam was warned by God though, “Do everything I command you to do. Live the way I want you to. Do what is right in my eyes. Obey my rules and commands. That is what my servant David did. If you do those things, I will be with you. I will build you a kingdom. It will last as long as the one I built for David. I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:38).
    Though Solomon messed up, and the people messed up too, Jeroboam was given an opportunity to set things right, as long as he followed the Lord and His ways.
    This is where 1 Kings 12 picks up, with a kingdom moments away from being divided after Solomon has died.
    Traditionally, the entire kingdom would pass to Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Indeed, 1 Kings 12 opens with Rehoboam going to assume the throne of Israel. He gathered the people to him, including Jeroboam who had been one of Solomon’s most trusted officials, and this is what the people said to Rehoboam, the new king, “Your father made our yoke hard; but now, lighten the hard labor imposed by your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” (v. 4).
    We know from other places in Scripture that Solomon did in fact use slave labor, even Israelite slaves, to build all of his many building projects. He also, we find, raised taxes to help pay for his many building projects. This understandably created a hardship for many people in Israel. So when Rehoboam gathered all the people, wanting to know what would make him a great king to them, it should have come as no surprise that they asked for the slave labor and heavy taxes to stop. The people were crying out for their king to look on his people with KINDNESS. If you want to take notes this morning in your bulletin, that is your first blank.
    It’s not an unreasonable request, either. Rehoboam responded that he wished to take three days to think about their request, and then he would return to them with an answer. Let’s look at verses 6-7 to see what King Rehoboam did, “And King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their request, and speak pleasant words to them, then they will be your servants always.”
    Their advice to him was good, sound advice. In fact, if you’re even in a position of leadership, the advisors words to Rehoboam are wise words to any leader. Serve the people you lead, listen to them honestly, speak kindly to them. It’s good advice. It’s advice Rehoboam should have taken. Instead though, we’re told that he listened to the advice of the young men he had grown up with, men who presumably had never given counsel to a king before, or if they had, they certainly weren’t as experienced in wise counsel as the elders who had served Solomon.
    Here’s the advice he received from his younger friends, “And the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “This is what you should say to this people who spoke to you, saying: ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ You should speak this way to them: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Now then, my father loaded you with a heavy yoke; yet I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions!’” (10-11).
    You don’t need the wisdom of Solomon to know that this is horrible, horrible, terrible advice. No leader ever gained the favor of the people they were leading by being more harsh and more oppressive. It was terrible advice, but it’s the advice Rehoboam took.
    The people rightfully cried out against this increased oppression; the kingdom was broken in two, with ten tribes in the north under Jeroboam’s leadership as the new king, and two tribes in the south under Rehoboam’s continued kingship. We’re told that the only reason that Rehoboam was allowed to continue to be king was because the Lord had promised David that someone from his line would always be on the throne. But, in the end Rehoboam did what was EVIL in the sight of the Lord because he led his kingdom to do more sinful acts than all the generations before them. That’s your next bulletin blank.
    Before I get to my main point this morning, we should know that even though Jeroboam was given the chance to be the king the Lord wanted him to be, he is known for further leading Israel into the sin of idolatry and worship of pagan gods. Like Rehoboam, he is noted for doing EVIL in the sight of the Lord, and not much else. That’s your next blank in your bulletin.
    Let’s go back to the advice that Rehoboam received: good advice from wiser elders and bad advice from younger friends. Listening to friends isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this passage highlights the importance of choosing carefully the people who are close to you who will speak into your life.
    The people you choose to give authority to speak into your life should be people who have proven themselves to be wise; they should be people whose default for problem solving is to go to the Lord and seek Him first; they should be people who would rather wound you in truth than speak what you want to hear and lead you to destruction. These are the people that will bring you good advice.
    I want you to look at Proverbs 3, written by Solomon in part to his son, Rehoboam. “My son, do not forget my teaching, But have your heart comply with my commandments; For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and a good reputation In the sight of God and man.” (vv. 1-4).
    If Rehoboam wanted wise advice, wanted to be a good king, he could’ve taken this wise advice from his own father, one of the wisest men to have ever lived. Even with all of Solomon’s failures, this advice is gold!
    Solomon told Rehoboam to not let kindness and truth leave him. All he had to do was to take this one piece of advice, and it would have guided him to choose the advice of his elders concerning how to be a good king to his people. Kindness would have been lessening the oppression the people were feeling, truth would have been seeing that no man was made a slave by God. Rehoboam was told that by acting in kindness and truth, he would find favor and have a good reputation in God’s eyes and man’s eyes.
    Yes, Solomon’s words to his son would have guided him well, the elders words would have guided him better than the young friends words. But…what would have been best?
    Look back at Proverbs 3, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” (vv. 5-8). And this, “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom, He established the heavens by understanding. By His knowledge the ocean depths were burst open, And the clouds drip with dew. My son, see that they do not escape from your sight; Comply with sound wisdom and discretion, And they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely, And your foot will not stumble.” (vv. 19-23).
    Wise counsel is great, and we should listen to wise counsel with humility and grace, carefully weighing the wisdom given and allowing truth to pierce our hearts. But most important is seeking God’s will; seeking God’s advice; seeking God’s word. This way you know that you will not be led astray, and those who are speaking into your life are truly wise, what they say will line up with God’s will.
    If we are to be wise, God’s wisdom is the first place we should turn. He will always lead us true.

1. The wisdom of elders in 12:7 is contrasted with the foolishness of younger men in 12:10-11. What connection do you see with Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:5? What difference does it make that an “elder” in Peter’s letter refers to someone more mature in the faith? What might that mean for all Christians concerning the wisdom they should pay attention to?

2. What promises do Psalm 1 hold for those who delight in the Lord’s Word? What do those promises mean in a practical way to believers?

Deception of the Heart (1 Kings 11)

    When we look back and remember Solomon, we remember two main things about him: first, that he was the wealthiest and likely wisest man in history; and two, that he went very wrong. So what happened? How did Solomon go bad, what went wrong? Well, that’s what we’ll be looking at through 1 Kings 11 this morning. We’ll look at the path Solomon took where he forgot to use the great wisdom he had been given and forgot his love for the Lord. We’ll also look at what we can learn about the path Solomon took and how we can keep from following that same path.
    As I said, today I’m going to be in 1 Kings 11. Solomon, as we saw last week through 1 Kings 10 and the visit of the queen of Sheba, Solomon had become very famous. His name was known throughout the whole world, and we saw last week that people came from foreign nations everywhere to seek the wisdom of the Lord given to Solomon. Foreign kings sent emissaries with gifts of gold and wealth to thank Solomon for the wisdom he shared with them. This is the state in life Solomon was in when 1 Kings 11 opens. You can see this in your bulletins this morning, that Solomon’s cycle starts with his fame.
    Let’s look at 1 Kings 11:1, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,” and then look at verse 3, “He had seven hundred wives, who were princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.”
    This is the next step in Solomon’s cycle, the next step on his path away from God. His fame had brought him to the knowledge of many foreign kings and queens, and many times, when those foreign rulers would send wealth to Solomon to seek his wisdom, they would also send a wife. A marriage alliance between two kingdoms was pretty common in ancient times, and that marriage alliance would help peaceful relations between the two countries, in addition to assuring trade between the two nations. Marriage alliances were often very beneficial, especially to nations that were smaller and not as wealthy as other nations. Solomon was rolling in the dough, right? He was known world-wide for his wealth, so you can probably imagine that he had many offers from foreign nations for marriage alliances.
    We’re going to pause there for a moment, and look at Deuteronomy 17:17. This passage in Deuteronomy is about the kings that God would appoint over Israel and the commands of the Lord that these kings should follow. “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart does not turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.”
    Obviously there’s a problem here. Solomon would have no doubt known this command, but for whatever reason, he decided that he could justify breaking God’s command here and he acquired many wives for himself, and wealth on top of that.
    What we start to see here with this first step on Solomon’s path away from the Lord, is that Solomon had a desire in his heart. Many desires actually. He had a desire to continue to accumulate wealth; he had a desire to have good foreign relations with other nations; we’re told that he loved these foreign women. Now, these desires are fairly normal desires. Perhaps we even recognize them in ourselves: the desire to have financial security; the desire to be at peace with those around us, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers; and the desire to love. These are pretty normal and common human desires.
    Fulfilling these desires aren’t in of themselves bad things either, except when the fulfillment of one of these desires of the heart is in disobedience to God’s commands. That’s what we find here with Solomon. The desires of his heart, namely wealth and his love of foreign women, were against what God had set as commands for how the kings of Israel were to live.
    What we see Solomon doing though, is justifying his disobedience. With his multiple marriages…well, that was good foreign policy, right? These foreign women…well, he loved them so, what could he do? All the wealth he received from these marriage arrangements…well, it would be rude to refuse a gift, wouldn’t it?
    His justifications don’t end there, either. It wasn’t just the marriage alliances in addition to his fame and wealth. As he married foreign woman after foreign woman, they each made requests of him. Look at 1 Kings 11:7-8, “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abhorrent idol of Moab, on the mountain that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abhorrent idol of the sons of Ammon. He also did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.”
    Each of his foreign wives would have come with her own pagan and false gods and goddesses she would want to worship. The request made by his many wives was that their dear husband Solomon should build a temple or monument of some sort to these foreign gods so his wives could worship their gods in their new home. Now, to any other king, that would be a reasonable and hospitable request. By fulfilling it, Solomon would show the foreign nations he had marriage alliances with that he respected them and honored the alliance. It would show his wives that he was willing to be a hospitable host and a good husband.
    But, then there’s Exodus 34:12-16, “Be careful that you do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their memorial stones, and cut down their Asherim—for you shall not worship any other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they would prostitute themselves with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might prostitute themselves with their gods and cause your sons also to prostitute themselves with their gods.”
    God’s Word expressly forbade building altars, temples, or any sort of monument to foreign gods. They were supposed to be smashed and destroyed. God didn’t want any hint of idolatry in the nation. He certainly wouldn’t have okayed the king of Israel building temples and high places to foreign gods. But Solomon wanted to be a hospitable husband. His heart’s desire was to make his wives happy, to do whatever he could to please them. Again, not a bad desire entirely, it’s not bad to want to please your spouse, but for Solomon, fulfilling it went against God’s word.
    The next step on Solomon’s path away from the Lord is this desire of his to be hospitable to his wives. Out of this desire, he justified the building of a high place, that’s a place of worship, for the god Chemosh of Moab. Chemosh was a major god, and his followers sometimes demanded human sacrifice to secure his favor. The mountain to the east of Jerusalem where the high place for Chemosh was built was none other than the Mount of Olives. A significant place in the New Testament in the ministry of Jesus. It was where Jesus stood as He wept over Jerusalem. It was where He spent much time preaching and teaching. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, which is where He spent some of His last hours, praying and weeping for what was about to come as He faced suffering and crucifixion.
    Because of Solomon’s decision to give into the desires of his heart and build a high place for a foreign abomination, the Mount of Olives for a time became known as the Mount of Corruption. On this same mountain he also built a place of worship for Molech, the god of the Ammonites. Molech was known for requiring child sacrifices from his followers. Mount of Corruption, indeed. And we’re told that Solomon built such high places for the gods of all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and sacrifice to their gods.
    The final step in Solomon’s cycle, his path away from God was to begin to worship the idols and false gods of his foreign wives. 1 Kings 11:4-6, “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been. For Solomon became a follower of Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and of Milcom the abhorrent idol of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as his father David had done.”
    Now, I can’t say which desire of Solomon’s heart this might have been. I have a hard time thinking of any desire of the heart that would lead him to worship these false gods. I can understand to some degree the desire for wealth and prosperity, the desire to have peace with others, the desire for love, the desire to please your spouse. Those desires of the heart I can understand, and I can see how you might be tempted to justify following through with those desires, even at the expense of disobeying God. I don’t understand the desire that might lead you to worship gods that would demand human sacrifices, child sacrifices!
    The only possible conclusion I could come to was that by giving into the earlier, more seemingly benign desires of his heart, Solomon became desensitized to how bad his actions had become. And that right there, is the true danger here.
    The deception of the heart always starts off small. We can find ways of justifying just about any decision we want to make, if we look hard enough. At first it might be the justification to hold back on our tithe, just a little bit because we’re struggling that month. Or the justification to just go ahead and watch that popular movie or tv show because no one will know. Or the justification to speak rudely and unkindly to someone you don’t know online just because they don’t know you. Or the justification to enter into a relationship with someone who isn’t a believer because we really like them and we can convert them before it gets too serious. Or the justification of an extreme action just because it wasn’t as bad as something someone else did.
    We can get really good at justifying our thoughts and actions, can’t we? It’s all too easy! But the thing that we see from Solomon is that any justification of what our heart desires is a deception. Why? Well, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us why, “The HEART is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
    I only have a few blanks for you in your bulletins this morning, and this is the first one: HEART. The heart is more deceitful than all else, it is desperately sick! We can’t understand why it wants what it wants, but we do know this: we can’t just go around justifying the deceptions of our hearts because they are often wrong.
    The heart can be twisted to believe anything, to justify anything, to want anything, even if it is the most abhorrent and horrible thing we can possibly think of! The heart is capable of incredible deceptions that lead to unfathomable evil. Solomon’s heart deceptions led him to justify actions that led to the downfall of his nation!
    What guard is there to this deception that leads to evil? What can we possibly do to prevent justifying things that shouldn’t be justified? There’s a simple answer, Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the THOUGHTS and INTENTIONS of the heart.”
    There are your last two bulletin blanks. The word of God is able to judge the THOUGHTS and INTENTIONS of the heart. That is the only cure for the heart’s deception that leads to justifying things that God has not asked, things that God does not approve of.
    If we want to avoid the same path as Solomon, we must take up the serious task of becoming students of the word of God. We must spend time with Him in His word each and every day, multiple times a day if the circumstances call for it. We must read it, and meditate on it. We must memorize it and know it. We must study it in depth and allow its truth to lead us to conviction, repentance, and change. Not because the book in of itself holds any power or is special on its own, but because the God who spoke it into existence does hold the power and His word is the only way He has given us to know Him! It is He who is speaking through these words. They are life to us! They will feed us, sustain us, challenge us, grow us, and guard us, even from ourselves. Every desire of our hearts should be checked against the word of God to see if it holds up to His truth. If it doesn’t, it’s time to let that desire go.

1. Are there areas in your life, actions, or thoughts when you’re tempted to justify what your heart wants instead of allowing the Word to lead?

2. What does the Word say about those areas, actions, and thoughts? Do an in-depth study to get a full view of what the Bible says.

3. Read Proverbs 4:20-27 about guarding the heart. What are some practical steps you can take from this passage to help guard your heart?

A Fulfilled Life (1 Kings 10)

    Who here would like to have the guarantee that you will live a fulfilled life? You can raise your hand if you want to. I don’t mean that you won’t have any difficulties or struggles, or confusion or disappointment, just that you get to the end of each day, each week, month, year, and you are satisfied by your life. It’s full of all the things that really feed you as a person.
    I think that would likely be most of us. We want to live lives that are fulfilled. Nobody walks around thinking, “I just want more of all the things that make me feel awful! I want all the bad things!” And we generally try to avoid situations and circumstances in our lives that really drain us and leave us feeling useless, don’t we? Yes, I think that most of us want to live lives that are fulfilled.
    This may not come as a surprise to you, but the Bible actually tells us how to do that. It’s not a secret. It’s written in plain black and white for us to read.
    I want to jump back into King Solomon’s story this morning, to talk about living a fulfilled life. We’re going to be in 1 Kings 10 this morning, and this chapter is the pinnacle of Solomon’s splendor and wealth and God’s blessing on Israel. Things were so great for Solomon and Israel, and it really can only be attributed to God.
    1 Kings 10 opens with the queen of Sheba coming to Israel for a little visit. Let’s start with verses 1-5, “Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with difficult questions. So she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and very much gold and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.”
    Solomon was famous! Not just in the region, but he was famous throughout much of the known world then. The queen of Sheba was associated with South Arabia, the area now known as Yemen. She had heard tales of Solomon’s fame all the way in Sheba. The thing about what she had heard though, wasn’t that she had heard all about Solomon, but that she had heard about Solomon’s fame concerning the name of the Lord. All that she had heard about Solomon was because the Lord had given it to Solomon, and it was well known.
    Verse 24 of this same chapter says, “All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” The whole earth was seeking Solomon’s wisdom because really, it was God’s wisdom. We know this from the account given in 1 Kings 3, that it was God who gave Solomon his gift of wisdom.
    It was such an amazing gift, and Solomon, up to this point, had lived in that gift so well that when the queen of Sheba came with all sorts of tricky questions to try to trip up Solomon, after Solomon shared God’s wisdom with her, we’re told that there was no more spirit in her. She came to TEST him, and the Lord, and that’s your first bulletin blank if you want to take notes this morning. But, after she did that, and Solomon answered all her questions, she no longer had a mind to try to trick Solomon or catch him in a situation where God’s wisdom fell short. God’s wisdom was proven solid, and she had no other course of action but than to recognize that the Lord’s gift given to Solomon was real!
    Listen to what she said to Solomon, verses 6-9, “Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard. How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”
    She saw all that Solomon had and realized that it wasn’t even all that she had been told about. He was all that she had heard and had all that she had heard, and more. And she blessed God. She praised Solomon, yes, but ultimately, she BLESSED God because He was the One who gave Solomon everything that he had. That’s your next blank in your bulletin.
    I want to point out part of Solomon’s prayer of dedication in 1 Kings 8 over the Lord’s Temple. Solomon prayed for a lot of different scenarios, scenarios where different kinds of people would come to the Temple to worship the Lord and to pray to Him and for Him to bless them. One of the kinds of people Solomon prayed for was for foreigners who would come to Israel seeking the Lord. This is what Solomon prayed, “Also regarding the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country on account of Your name (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and act in accordance with all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.”
    Solomon, in the wisdom that God gave him, recognized that some day, foreigners would come to Israel because of God’s great name. Solomon prayed that God would even hear those people, and would bless the foreigner and hear their prayer so that God’s name would be blessed all the peoples of the earth would know His name.
    It’s clear to see that Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, and world-wide fame brought Solomon glory, but the point of all of it was to bring God GLORY! That’s your next bulletin blank. All that Solomon had was to bring God glory…and it did, as long as Solomon used what God had given him in the way that God intended.
    So, back to the main thing we’re supposed to be talking about, and I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth this has to do with living a fulfilled life? Well, here it is:
    The key to living a fulfilled life is to use the gifts and talents God has given you to bring Him glory.
    While Solomon does go off track and ends up using his God-given gifts and talent in ways that didn’t bring God glory, we can clearly see from Scripture that he didn’t start out that way. He used what he was given and used it in a way that God directed. This goes all the way back to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, with a promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s descendants.
    Now, we know that the ultimate fulfillment of that was Christ. Through Christ, who is one of Abraham’s descendants, all nations on earth are blessed.
    But, we can see in 1 Kings 10 that Solomon was a part of that blessing as well. Through his wisdom, all the nations that came to seek Solomon’s wisdom were blessed by that wisdom, the wisdom that God gave. We’re told in verse 23 that Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in wealth and wisdom. Other nations valued the wisdom Solomon offered them so much that their gifts of appreciation made Solomon more wealthy than any other king! All those nations were blessed by God’s wisdom through Solomon, and Israel was blessed as well.
    Yes, it’s clear that up to this point in Solomon’s story, the key to his fulfilled life was to use the gifts and talents God had given him to bring God glory. What about the end of Solomon’s life though, after he fell away? Solomon wrote a book that’s included in the Bible that he wrote in his old age, after he had lived his life and seen the difference between a fulfilled life: a life lived for the Lord; and an empty life: a life lived for himself. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about the meaningless and futility of pretty much everything in life: wealth, splendor, pride, people, everything.
    This was his conclusion, at the end of his life, with all that he had done, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
    Nothing means anything at all if it’s not for God’s glory. No ambition can fulfill like a life lived for God. No amount of money made will be enough. No love will be strong enough.
    I want to have a life that is fulfilled. We all do. I want to know that what I do with my days, with my time and energy, will be something that feeds me and is good for me. I know there will be hard days, that’s guaranteed. But I also know that in order for me to have a life that is fulfilled and meaningful, I have to life my life for God. I have to use everything that I have and have been given for His glory.

1. What are some dreams, ambitions, gifts, talents, possessions you have now that could be used for God’s glory?

2. What does the parable of the bags of gold in Matthew 25:14-30 tell us about the importance of using our gifts for God’s glory?

3. Read 1 Peter 4:10-11; what are the ways we can use our gifts to give God glory?

Holiday Greetings

Just for fun!

Kainos (Ephesians 4:20-24)

    This is the time of year when people start to look forward more than any other time of year. We look forward to the newness of a new year, a time of renewal, and change. Many people look at ways that they can change something undesirable in their life: a way of eating, a bad habit, an attitude; and make something better for themselves.
    The reality of these types of New Year’s Resolutions though, is that the majority of them are abandoned by the end of January. However, those who profess to be in Christ, are called to a constant state of renewal, change, transformation, and progress. For those who are in Christ, the choice to be in Christ cannot be separated from change. So, as we look forward to a new year, one that is hopefully mostly free of a world-wide pandemic, let’s look at what we as Christ-followers are called to be, not only for New Years, but for every day.
    I’m going to be looking at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians this morning, specifically Ephesians 4:20-24. If you have your Bible, I invite you to join me in that passage. Paul starts this section of the letter with a simple encouragement, before expanding on what that encouragement means, he told the Ephesian Christians, “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”.
    As I said, Paul then expands upon this idea, calling them to unity in Christ, and to a higher way of living. Let’s look at Ephesians 4:20-24, “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
    Paul told the Ephesian Christians that they did not learn Christ in this way. When he said this, he was talking referring to what he had just talked about before in his letter to them. He talked to them about their unity in Christ, reminding them that there is just one God that they serve, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one hope, and so they should be one body.
    This was what Paul had taught them when he first visited them, which means that because Paul felt the need to remind them of what he had taught them because they were no longer practicing what they had been taught. When Paul corrected a church in his letters, it was because they needed correction. Paul was correcting their sense of unity because they weren’t showing unity in Christ.
    If you are following along in your bulletins this morning, this is going to be your first blank: Paul was telling them that they did not learn Christ in a DISUNITED way. Being a disunited, disjointed, not really body of Christ was not what Paul had taught them.
    He also told them that they did not learn Christ in DARKNESS, which is your second blank. After Paul corrected their disunity, he set out to correct that they had been still walking in darkness, walking in the ways of the flesh that they walked in before they came to Christ. In fact, the word that Paul used for darkness talks instead about being spiritually paralyzed. He told the Ephesian Christians that they had lost their ability to be sensitive to the Spirit, just in the same way that a leper loses sensation in their extremities. Paul reminded them of both these things, to make his main point: they did not learn Christ like this. They did not learn to be disunited and walk in darkness without being sensitive to the movement of the Spirit when they came to Christ.
    Paul then says, “If indeed you have heard Him and been taught in Him.” This is Paul’s tough love here for the Ephesian Christians. He’s saying, “Look, you’re so disunited and you have lost the ability to listen to the Spirit, and that’s not what I taught you. So listen, if you really are in Christ, if you really have heard Him call you, if you really have been taught by Him, knock it off! Because that’s not what you were taught. So if you really are a Christ-follower, here’s what you need to do…”
    “in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
    If you really are in Jesus, lay the old MAN aside. That’s your next blank. The word for self here is kainos, which actually means man, as in human. Paul told the Ephesians, if they really were in Jesus, they were to lay aside the old man. Put aside everything that you used to be. That old human cannot exist anymore if you are in Jesus. Paul says that that old human is constantly in the process of being corrupted by lies. Put that old human away.
    I like this quote I found as I was working through this passage, “We may come to God very much in our old nature, but it must be with a desire to be changed from what we are to what we shall be. This is not a rearranging of attributes, or simply a dusting off and fixing up. This is a complete and total change wrought within the individual which renews and transforms from the inside out, into the holy image of God.”
    Putting away the old human isn’t just a matter of keeping a New Years Resolution. Paul tells us that we are to be renewed in the spirit of your MIND which is your next blank. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul says something very similar, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    Paul says that in order for us to put away the old man, our minds must be renewed, transformed, changed. The word Paul uses here for renew and transform is the word we get our word metamorphoses from. It’s what a caterpillar goes through when it becomes a butterfly. It’s a complete change in form of who we were before into who we will be.
    We are renewed in our minds by completely offering ourselves to God. We hold nothing back from Him. Paul says to put on the new MAN, your last blank in your bulletin. Again, using the word kainos, you are to be a completely new person which God created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. A new human. A human that never existed before.
    I love what Paul is talking about here, when he talks about this new human being in the likeness of God created in righteousness and holiness of truth. What he’s talking about here is that when we come to Christ and we put aside the old man, the old human, and completely give ourselves to God, and allow Him to make us into a new human, what He makes out of us isn’t merely an imitation of Christ, it’s something better.
    Let me explain. I like to bake. I don’t get as much time to bake as I would like, but every now and then, I do get some time and inspiration strikes me and I have to bake something. I don’t like cooking, I like baking, and usually it means baking some sort of dessert. Given the choice between real vanilla extract and imitation vanilla…I would take the real vanilla extract every time.
    Imitation is surface level. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, that’s true, but it doesn’t compare to the real actually thing. At best, an imitation just looks like the real thing, maybe acts like the real thing, but is void of all the richness of the real thing.
    Paul is saying here that if we are really in Christ, we have put the old human away, we have completely surrendered to God to renew us, and the new human that He makes us into isn’t merely an imitation of Christ, it’s a participation with Christ. Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:4, “Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.”
    We become participants with Christ. We become like Christ. Not divine, but getting to participate with the divine as He creates us to be a new human.
    To be a Christian is not simply to learn about Christ, but to learn Christ, to have heard Him, and to be taught in Him, even as the truth is in Jesus. Anything less than such a personal encounter with the living person of the Son of God will leave your soul without the divine power to reject the old way of life and live the new life.
    This isn’t a quick fix. This isn’t a self-help fad. This isn’t a New Years Resolution. This is a way of living each and every day that chooses to constantly put aside the old human and allow the Spirit to work in us to create a new human, each and every day. This is a new life.
    Paul finishes this portion of scripture, which extends all the way into Ephesians 5 by telling them that the fruit of such a life that is new is that they will show the kindness and compassion of Christ, that they will walk in love, that they will avoid evil, that they will walk in wisdom, that they will mutually and humbly submit to one another. But those are all the fruit of staying in Him. Stay in Him, abide in Him, hear His voice, learn from Him, walk with Him. That’s the new life He calls us to.

1. What does Romans 12:1-2 say about how we experience transformation from the old to the new?
2. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” or, outdo one another in showing honor. How might you outdo yourself in showing love to a fellow believer this week?
3. What does Romans 12:14 say about our treatment of pre-Christians?

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