ELIJAH #24

06/22/21

Elijah’s earthly ministry is now complete and Elisha will be carrying on the work. Notice the conversation that took place between Elijah and Elisha every time Elijah was planning to leave and move on.  

In 2 Kings 2:2a, 4a, 6a, Elisha kept saying, “Stay here Elisha.”  It sounds like Elijah is saying, “Don’t come with me, Elisha.  I want you to stay here.” But Elijah is saying, “It’s OK if you stay here.  You don’t have to keep going.  This is my journey, not yours.” 

But, every time, Elisha keeps responding, “Are we there yet?”  (Where?)  “Is this as far as you’re going?”  (No, the Lord is sending me farther.) 

2 Kings 2:2b, 4b, and 6b –As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you,.”

 Well, if you’re going farther, so am I.   I’ll go as far as you’ll let me go.  I want to go as far as you’re going.  I don’t even care where we’re going as long as we get there together.

After we decide to walk with Jesus and live for Jesus, we have to decide how far we’re willing to go with Jesus.  How much of our time; how much of our money and our talent are we willing to let Him have?  How much of ourselves are we willing to give Him?  How much of ourselves are we willing to lose?  How much of me is willing to die for Him? 

Elijah is saying, “The Lord is sending me to Bethel.  He’s sending me to Jericho.  He’s sending me to the Jordan River.  I have an ultimate goal.  I have a specific purpose.  I have a final destination.  If you keep walking with me, Elisha, eventually you’ll come to the place where there’s no turning back.  You’ll completely lose your own identity.  My purpose will become your purpose and my goal will become your goal.  Are you sure that’s what you want? 

Leaving here means moving on to a deeper commitment, a deeper level of service that will require more of your life.  Wouldn’t you rather just stay here in Gilgal?”

Gilgal was the starting place. Elijah and Elisha started walking from Gilgal.  Elijah’s final journey began in Gilgal.  Gilgal was the gateway to the Promise Land.  It was the gateway to a second chance, a new life.  Gilgal was the first place the Israelites came to when they finally walked out of the wilderness.  One of the first things the Israelites did when they arrived in the new land was celebrate the Passover together.  They remembered and gave thanks to the Lord for saving them and setting them free from their bondage in Egypt. 

Wouldn’t you be content to stay in Gilgal, Elijah?  Spend your days being thankful for your salvation and doing the best you can to live a Christian life until the Lord finally calls you home?  “Stay here,” Elijah.  (“Are we there yet?  Is this as far as you’re going?”)  No, “the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” 

Bethel is the blessing and promise place. When Jacob was running from his brother, Esau, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said:

“ I am the Lord, the God of your father, Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”  (Genesis. 28:13-15)

 Bethel is the place of visions and dreams. Stay in Bethel enjoying the blessings and claiming promises of God in your life. Others have chosen to stay here and they offer some pretty persuasive and tempting reasons for doing it.  

In 2 Kings 2:3 and 5,   The company of the prophets who HAD decided to stay in one place, kept telling Elisha, “Don’t you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?’ Your life will become much harder.  There’s a lot of pain and suffering ahead.  There will be much heartache and disappointment in your life if you keep walking. It’s easier and much safer here.

Elisha kept saying, “Yes I know, but do not speak of it.” He had to keep asking himself, “Do I listen to them or keep walking with him?” 

Are you staying here, Elijah?   2:4b – No, “the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”  Well, if you’re not staying here, neither am I. So the two of them walked on to Jericho together.  Why don’t you stay here in Jericho, Elisha? 

Jericho is the battle place.  Joshua and the children of Israel marched around the city of Jericho for six days.  On the seventh day, they marched around it seven times.  When they blew the trumpets and shouted, the walls of the city collapsed and they marched right in and conquered it.  Why don’t you stay here and keep marching and shouting, Elisha?

Devote the remainder of your life engaging in spiritual warfare. Put on the armor. Take authority over the devil.  Keep rebuking him. Experience the thrill of spiritual victory and the agony of emotional defeat. 

If I do that, will I win?”  (Yes, you will, every time.  I guarantee it.  You’ll be more than a conqueror.  You’ll be an overcomer.  The battle is not yours, it’s mine.”)

Once again, those prophets who’ve chosen to stay here present some pretty compelling arguments. (2 Kings 2:5)  “The Lord is going to take your master away from you today,” If you keep going, you’ll end up alone. 

Once again, Elisha has to ask himself, “Do I listen to them or keep walking with him?  Have I gone far enough?  Am I getting too old to be going any farther? How much more of myself am I willing to lose?  How much more of myself am I willing to give him? Are we there yet?”

“Is this your last stop, Elijah?”  (No, we aren’t there yet.) “The Lord has sent me to the Jordan” (River.)

            Lord willing, we’ll cross that river when we get to it next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.   

ELIJAH #23

06/15/21

2 Kings 2:1   “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal”

Obviously, we’ve jumped ahead in our study of Elijah and Elisha.  We said that the relationship between Elijah and Elisha is teaching us about discipleship; what it means to be a follower, a student, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now, as Elijah and Elisha are walking along together, I’d like us to be thinking about our walk with Jesus. 

There was only one reason for Elisha to be walking with Elijah.  Elisha kept walking with Elijah so he could learn from him.  Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven leaving Elisha behind to carry on his work. 

When Jesus went back to heaven, He left us behind to carry on His work.  He said we’d be doing the things He did.  In fact, we’d be doing even greater things that He did because He was going back to the Father and the Holy Spirit was coming to help us.  He said we’d be His witnesses when the Holy Spirit came upon us with power. 

In order for that to happen, we need to be walking with Jesus every day.  We need to be developing that close, personal relationship with Jesus throughout the week.  We need to be walking with Jesus like Elisha was walking with Elijah so we can learn from Him too. 

It’s very exciting when we meet Jesus for the first time. Everything starts off with so much joy and enthusiasm.  But, over time, we begin to ask ourselves, “Have I gone far enough?  Is this as far as I need to go?  Where is all this taking me?”

2 Kings 2:2  “Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here, the Lord has sent me to Bethel. But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel.”

2 Kings 2:4   “Then said to him, ‘Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ And he replied, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So they went to Jericho.”

2 Kings 2:6  “Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ And he replied, ’As surely as you live and as the Lord lives, I will not leave you.’ So the two of the walked on.”

At every turn, Elisha was given the opportunity to stop walking, AND

2 Kings 2:3 & 5  “The company of prophets at (Bethel and Jericho) came out to Elisha and asked, ‘Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?’

In essence, those prophets were saying, “Don’t be so fanatical and so hyper-religious. Leave some room in your life for other things. Choose one place, pick one cause, and stay with it. You don’t have to walk all the way with him. You’ll be just as much a prophet as we are if you just stay here with us. But in each case, Elisha responded:

‘Yes, I know,’ Elisha replied, ‘but do not speak of it.’” I have decided to follow Jesus and there’s no turning back.

Here in 2 Kings 2, it’s obvious that Elisha is determined to follow Elijah all the way to the end.  Elijah had given Elisha no other reason for walking with him.  As they walked together from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho and from Jericho to the Jordan River, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED!!!

Elijah didn’t speak any anointed, prophetic words from the Lord.  He didn’t perform any miracles. If he had, the Bible would have recorded them.  But nothing like that is ever mentioned.  Overall, the time Elisha spent walking with Elijah seems to have been rather boring and uneventful, except for the fact that he was walking with – ELIJAH!!!                                             

Elisha kept walking with Elijah simply because he enjoyed being with him.  He admired Elijah.  He respected Elijah.  He patterned his life after Elijah.  He wanted to be just like Elijah.

Our love for Jesus is the only thing that will keep us walking with Jesus. 

Large crowds followed Jesus wherever He went because they loved His preaching.  They marveled at the miracles He did, especially when He did one for them.  But, if they didn’t like what He said or after their immediate, temporary needs had been met, they’d turn around and go back home.  Jesus kept telling these disciple wanna-be’s that if they wanted to be one of His disciples, they’d have to put Him first.  They’d have to love Him the most. 

Well never walk very far with Jesus until the joy of being with Him becomes greater than our need to get something from Him. It doesn’t matter how busy we are or how complicated our lives and our circumstances have become.  It doesn’t matter how dry our quiet times may have gotten.  It doesn’t matter if He never answers another prayer. 

It’s OK if He doesn’t perform any miracles for us because the sheer joy of being with Him is much greater than our need to get something from Him. Like Elisha walking with Elijah, we just want to be with Him so that, one day, we can be like Him, doing the things He does.

Lord willing, we’ll continue this walk next Tuesday. Thanks for being on God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #22

06/08/21

  Elisha has met Elijah. He’s been given an invitation and the cloak has been offered to him.  Now he has to decide if he’s going to accept it or reject it.  What happens from here is all up to Elisha. But there was no way he could pretend he didn’t know about it.  

1 Kings 19:20a    “Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah.”

It looks like Elijah didn’t decide right away.  If he had, he would have been walking with Elijah.  But the Bible says, “Elisha… ran after Elijah,” trying to catch up to him.  After putting his cloak around Elisha, Elijah moved on while Elisha stayed back thinking about it.  

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28-33)

Elisha had to decide if he was willing to give up everything to follow Elijah.  “My future seems pretty secure.  So why do I feel like everything he’s offering to me is worth more than everything I already have? What is it that’s been missing from my life?  Why does he make me feel so complete, so perfectly satisfied for the first time in my life? 

It didn’t take Elisha very long to decide what to do with the invitation he had just received.  Jesus found us.  He called us.  He’s placed His cloak around us.  The cloak fits, but will I wear it?  We either have to wear it and follow Him or give it back and stay home.  We each have to make a decision and then act on it.

1 Kings 19:20b   “”’Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,’ he said, ’and then I will come with you.’ ‘Go back’, Elijah replied, ‘What have I done to you?’”

This Hebrew sentence structure is a little awkward to translate into English, but Elijah is actually saying, “Go back home and say good-bye.  That’s the right thing to do.”  The Lord’s not trying to separate us from or turn us against our families.  But we can’t use family as an excuse for not following Him. We’ve got to decide for ourselves whether we will or will not follow Jesus regardless what the rest of our family may choose to do. It may have taken Elisha a little time to decide, but once he made up his mind, there was no stopping him, no turning back.  

1 Kings 19:21a    “So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate.”

Before Elisha met Elijah, he was plowing a field with his twelve pair of oxen.  After he decided to follow Elijah, he slaughtered the oxen, burned the plow and ate the meat.  That’s a perfect example of total consecration, complete surrender.  Elijah completely got rid of, in fact he totally destroyed, everything his old life stood for.  He couldn’t go back to his old life even if he wanted to because it wasn’t there anymore.

“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:7-8)

If we don’t like church and we don’t like Christians, we don’t want to fully surrender, because we’re afraid we’re going to have to give up too many of the things we still love to do, we’re never going to be His disciple.  If we’re still in love with our old life, if we’re still content with who we are and satisfied with what we have, if someone has to make us give up the things we still love, we’re never going to be His disciple. 

Elijah didn’t tell him he had to do that. No one made him do it.  Elisha slaughtered the oxen and burned the plow because he didn’t want them anymore. He didn’t need them anymore. That part of his life was over.  That part of him was dead now.  He traded it all in for a new life, a fresh start, a new outlook on life and a new future. 

Sadly, unlike Elisha, many people are coming to church and saying, “Yes, I’ll follow you Jesus.  But do you mind if I go home and pack a bag?  I want to be a Christian; I want to follow you but I want to bring some of those old things with me.  Is that OK with you, Jesus? The problem with trying to drag those old treasures behind us is that, after a while, the bag gets so heavy we can’t keep up. 

Jesus and His other disciples get so far ahead of us that, before you know it, we’re lost again.  Our bag of old pleasures, old habits, old desires and old attitudes became too heavy to drag along.  We expected Jesus to walk with us.  We thought we could set the pace.  But we soon learned that it doesn’t work that way.  If we want to be one of His disciples, we have to keep up with Him.   Here’s another important element of discipleship. 

1 Kings 19:21b  “Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.”

 When Elisha decided to follow Elijah, he became Elijah’s attendant, Elijah’s servant.  Often Christians make the mistake of thinking that once we decide to follow Jesus, He becomes our attendant, our personal servant, someone whose job it is to take care of our needs and serve us night and day; to make sure we always have something to eat, a nice place to live and keep us safe and  healthy. 

In all of the times the Apostle Paul wrote letters from a Roman jail cell, he never once referred to himself as a prisoner or a slave of Rome.  He always referred to himself as a prisoner and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Fulfilling Christ’s desire and carrying out His commands was the whole reason Paul was alive.  He said, “For to me, living means living for Christ and dying (for Christ) is even better.”  (Philippians 1:2 NLT)

“Though I am free, and belong to no one, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (I Corinthians 9:19)

That’s probably why the apostle Paul reached so many people for Christ and started all those churches.  Maybe it wasn’t his preaching or his personality.  It certainly wasn’t because of his good looks because history records Paul as being a strange and unattractive man. Maybe it wasn’t because of the miracles, maybe it was because Paul lived to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and he made himself a servant to everyone else in order to win them for Christ.  I wonder what would happen if we all decided to do that? Lord willing, I hope you’ll join me here again next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #21

06/01/21

Elijah went into a cave and the Lord told him to come out.  The Lord told Elijah to return to Israel because things were about to change.  King Ahab’s days were coming to an end.  Hazael, the next king of Syria, would destroy the household of Ahab and Jehu would take over as the new king of Israel.  Elijah is also going to be replaced by Elisha. 

When Elijah meets Elisha, the story goes off in an entirely new direction.  Elijah, by himself, is an example of someone who is “just like us,” (James 5:17), someone just as insecure and unsure of himself and his relationship with the Lord as we are; someone just as weak, just as imperfect as we are, living proof the without the Lord we can do nothing but we can do everything through Him who gives us the strength.  That’s what we see when we look at Elijah by himself. 

But when Elijah meets Elisha, he becomes a “type;” he becomes a representation, a prototype of Christ.  He’s no longer just like us. From now on, he’s just like Jesus. The relationship that develops between Elijah and Elisha is the kind of relationship the Lord wants us to have with Him.

The relationship between Elijah and Elisha teaches us about discipleship.  It’s an example of what it means to be a follower, a student, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ; a clear picture of who is and who is not a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

First of all, their names are so similar: Eli-JAH… Eli-SHA.  Even when you take the time to learn who they are, it’s still hard to keep them straight. It  takes a lot of effort and concentration for me to keep from saying one when I mean the other. The mark of true discipleship is when people start getting us confused with Jesus; when people start having trouble telling the difference between Him and us. Wouldn’t that be great?  Was that Allen or Jesus?  I can’t keep them straight.   

1 Kings 19:19a   “So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat.”

  In chapter 19:15-16, the Lord said, Go back the way you came and… anoint Elisha… to succeed you as prophet.”   So, “Elijah went… and found Elisha.”  That’s how it all started.  God, the Father, sent Jesus, God the Son, into the world to find you and me.  Nobody finds God on their own.  The Lord cannot be found.  He finds us.  He’s not lost, we are.  Jesus went into the world and found us like Elijah found Elisha. 

1 Kings 19:19b    “He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.”

It started out like just another ordinary day for Elisha until Elijah went up to him and threwhis cloak around him.  That must have been quite a shock for Elisha.  He never saw it coming.  He probably heard stories about Elijah.  Everybody in Israel knew about Elijah. They all knew about the things he had said and the miracles he had done.  But Elisha had never personally met Elijah.  He didn’t really know him and I doubt he was expecting Elijah to come up to him one day and introduce himself to him. 

Elisha knew about Elijah, but Elisha had no idea that Elijah knew about him.  He was shocked to learn that Elijah knew his name.  We’ve all heard stories about Jesus, stories about the things He said and the miracles He did.  Everybody knows about Jesus, but nobody ever dreams that Jesus knows them. Nobody expects Jesus to come up and grab our attention one day. 

People may have tried to tell us about Jesus, but we really didn’t want to listen.  We figured they’d get the hint and let us alone.  But Jesus will never let us alone, not as long as we’re alive anyway.  Jesus finds us and He comes up to us as close and as personal as Elijah came up to Elisha.  Elijah threw his cloak around Elisha. 

In the Old Testament Hebrew culture, when a woman became a widow or when a child became an orphan, when there was no one in the immediate family who could protect them, provide for them or love them, the closest male relative would “redeem” them.  He would come up to them and throw his cloak around them.  Covering someone with a cloak was an Old Testament. act of “Redemption.”

We’re all familiar with the story of Ruth found in the Book of Ruth.   After Ruth’s husband died, Ruth went to Boaz who was actually a relative of her mother-in-law.  But he was the closest thing to family Ruth had.  Ruth went to Boaz and said: “I am your servant Ruth… Spread the corner of your garment over me since you are my kinsman-redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9)  

Redemption involves paying a price for someone to become adopted into the family.   Jesus became our redeemer.  He paid the price for our redemption when He shed His blood for our sin on Calvary’s cross. 

“He  predestined us to be adopted as His children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.” (Ephesians  1:5)

 Because He is sovereign, the Lord decided, before he created us, to adopt everyone who would trust in the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and accept His free gift of everlasting life.  It was His way of declaring “You belong to me now.  You are a member of my family now.  I’ll protect you.  I’ll provide for you.  I will love you as much as I love everyone else in my family.  I want to share everything I have with you.”   

As soon as Elijah threw his cloak around Elisha, everyone else immediately knew who Elisha was.  That’s Elijah’s cloak and it’s been placed upon you. It gives you the authority to be a prophet and to speak God’s word. Elisha would use that cloak to demonstrate God’s power and confirm that the words he was speaking were God’s words, not his. 

Jesus has given us His cloak, His authority to accomplish His Father’s will.  We’re able to use His cloak, His name, His authority the way He’s used it to accomplish the will of the Father.  Things will not be done by our own strength or our own power, but by His Spirit.  The Lord sent Elijah to find and anoint Elisha.  Elijah went out; he found and he anointed Elijah just as the Lord had commanded. Lord willing, we’ll be back here again next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #20

05/25/21

The Lord told Elijah to return to Israel and go to the Desert of Damascus.

1 Kings 19:15b   “’When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.’”

History records Hazael as being one of the greatest kings Syria ever had.  He’s credited with building up and modernizing the city of Damascus.  But he also turned out to be a serious threat to Israel.  He captured a lot of Israel’s land and he killed thousands of Israeli soldiers.  The Lord is instructing Elijah to anoint a new king of Syria.  Ahab is the king of Israel, which is currently located in Syria, but Hazael will be the new king of Syria– in Syria. 

Two separate kingdoms are occupying the same space.    Damascus is the capital city of both Israel and Syria.  Israel is in a state of rebellion against the Lord.  They have rejected His laws, mocked and killed His prophets because they refuse to accept His word.  They’re worshipping and serving other gods. Up until now, Ahab has been able to have things his own way. 

By anointing Hazael as the King of Aram (Syria), the Lord is making it perfectly clear to Israel that He will not allow them to keep doing what they’ve been doing.  He will not ignore their behavior forever.  There are consequences, good or bad, for every decision we make, for every course of action we take.  Wrong choices produce deadly consequences. 

By anointing Hazael as King of Aram, the Lord is making it perfectly clear to Israel that as long as you ignore me, as long as you defy me, your enemies will continue to have my blessing.  I won’t interfere with anything Hazael tries to do to you until you’re ready to turn back to me and love me with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind. 

In the same breath, the Lord says, “Also…”  I’m so glad the Lord says, “also.”  I’m so glad the Lord’s not going to leave it this way.  I’m so glad there’s more to look forward to.  I’m so glad the Lord doesn’t treat us the way our sins deserve to be treated.   

1 Kings 19:16a    ‘”Also, anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi king over Israel.’”

I will not allow Ahab to sit on that throne much longer.  Ahab is as bad as I’m willing to let things get.  The Living Bible says, “No one was as sold out to the devil as Ahab.”  When Jehu became the new king of Israel, he would completely destroy the household of Ahab.  Ahab would teach Israel that deadly consequences come from sinful choices.  Jehu was God’s way of saying, “Grace is on the way.” Along with justice, I’ll deal out mercy. 

King Jehu not only eliminated the household of Ahab he also put an end to the worship of Baal.  He killed all the prophets of Baal and destroyed the Temple of Baal.  Do you know what they did with the Temple of Baal?  (I don’t want you to think I’m making this up.) 

 “They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and the people have used it as a latrine to this day.”  (2 Kings 10:27)

That “sacred pillar” had Baal’s image carved on it.  Don’t get discouraged, Elijah.  Don’t give up.  Don’t get tired of doing the right thing.  You will reap a great harvest if you don’t get discouraged and quit.  Just “go back the way you came.”  Do it again and watch the Lord produce a different result.  The devil’s never going to win.  Things are going to get better.  Things are going to change, I promise.   There’s just one more thing. 

1 Kings 19:16b   ‘”and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed as prophet.” 

There’s good news/bad news.  The good news is that Israel is going to experience a revival.  Israel is coming back to the Lord.  The bad news is that you won’t be around to see it Elijah, because it’s not going to happen in your lifetime. Before Jehu gets to sit on the throne, Israel will have to suffer through two more evil kings, Ahab’s two sons; Ahaziah, who will provoke the Lord to anger as much as his father did, and Johore, who’s not quite as bad as his father and brother, but he’s not exactly a saint either. 

Things are not going to change overnight.  The road to recovery can be long, slow and painful.  Rehabilitation can be a hard and often discouraging process with many frustrating setbacks.  But there’s hope for the future if you keep walking on that path  Are you OK with that, Elijah?  Can you rejoice in the hope for a victory, in the promise of a victory? 

Can you rejoice in a victory that you won’t personally be around to see?  Your service to me has been faithfully fulfilled and I’m calling someone else to lead my people forward from here; someone with a different personality, someone with a different abilities and talents.  It’s a new beginning for my children.   

1 Kings 19:17     “Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.”

King Hazael will deal with the people who insist on worshipping Baal.  King Jehu will deal with anyone who managed to get away from Hazael and Elisha will deal with all those who are left.  I will use all three of them to reconcile my people and accomplish my purpose.. 

1 Kings 19:18     “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

There are seven thousand more in Israel who are just as faithful and devoted to me as you are, Elijah; seven thousand more who’ve refused to compromise their faith, who refused to worship Baal, who’ve refused to deny me.  Do you see any of them up here hiding in their caves and wanting to die?  I suggest you go back the way you came and find out who they are.  Come out of your cave and start living again. 

You need to live in a larger world.  You’ve been alone too long, Elijah.  You need some positive fellowship, godly friends you can be accountable to.  Stop dwelling on yourself and start bearing someone else’s burdens.  Intercede for someone else’s need.  When we remove ourselves from Christian fellowship, the devil will convince us that we really are all alone. 

Lord willing, we’ll start from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #19

05/18/21

The Lord revealed His presence to Elijah as “a gentle whisper.”(1 Kings 19:12b)

1 Kings 19:13a     When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”

Elijah covered his face in shame before God.  It’s a spontaneous reflex, a natural reaction.  It’s what someone automatically does when they realize they’re in the presence of a perfectly sinless, almighty, and holy God. 

 1 Kings 19:13b  “Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

Standing at the mouth of the cave is not exactly what the Lord told him to do.   Actually, the Lord told him to stand on the mountain.  But it’s a start.  It’s a step in the right direction.  Come out of your cave.  Move beyond your fears.  Open up and begin to live a full life.  Begin to experience the satisfaction of knowing what God has called and created us to do.  The Lord want to take us farther.  He wants to lift us higher.  He wants us to become bolder and more confident in who we are because of who He is.

After seeing that earthquake, wind and fire, after hearing that gentle whisper, the Lord asks Elijah again…   “What are you doing here?”

1 Kings 19:14   “He replied, ‘ I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too.’”

We can spend hours talking to someone who’s depressed and hiding in a cave; someone who’s tuned out and shut themselves off from everyone who loves them and is trying to help them, and we honestly believe we’re making progress.  We think we’re getting through to them.

They seem to agree with everything we say.  It looks like they’re just about ready to come out of their cave, but the next time we see them, it starts all over again and we’re back to square one. “I am the only one left.”  “Let’s not talk about what I’m doing here.  Let’s talk about what’s happening to me.   Let’s talk about why I deserve to be here.  I’m here because no one cares.  No one listens.  No one understands.” 

It’s not easy talking to someone who’s hiding in a cave.  There’s nothing harder than trying to talk someone out of their cave, their house, their work or wherever they may be hiding themselves.   I’m sure all of us, at one time or another, have either tried to talk someone out of their cave or someone has tried to talk us out of our cave. 

Probably the most frustrating thing about talking to someone who’s depressed and hiding in a cave is finding out that, after talking with them for several hours, they haven’t heard a single thing we’ve said to them.  When someone has gone into their cave, closed themselves in, pulled away from people and shut out the world, they are only interested in what they think and can only hear what they are saying to themselves.  They are not interested in hearing the truth or in dealing with reality.  They are fully convinced that they have every right to feel bad and they want us to agree with them. 

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about a more serious, diagnosed form of clinical depression that may have various mental and physiological causes  That is definitely a lot more complicated to work through and requires professional help.  I’m talking about the more common form of depression that we all experience at various times in our lives, even the strongest believers like Elijah.

1 Kings 19:15a   “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came.’”

“Go back the way you came.”   When you left Samaria, you said, “I have had enough!”  But I’m giving you more.  You said, “Never again.  I quit.”  But I’m saying, “Don’t quit.  I want you to do it again.”  It’s time to let go of the past.  It’s time to get back to where you belong, the place I want you to be, and the work I’ve called you to do.  You’ve had enough time to recover from your hurt.  I’ve given you time to talk out and release all your frustrations. It’s time to put your life back on track again.  My grace is always sufficient for you.  My power works best when you realize you’re the weakest.  

“But Lord, it won’t work.  It won’t do any good.  The people won’t listen to me.  Jezebel and Ahab want to kill me   Please don’t ask me to do it again. “But I need you to do it again.  You need to do it again. You’ll never be happy, you’ll never be at rest, you’ll never have peace in your heart or your mind, you’ll always be angry and frustrated with yourself and with others until you are where I want you to be, dong what I’ve called and created you to do.” 

You are absolutely right, Elijah.  After going three and a half years without rain and then finally receiving a heavy rain, nothing has changed.  Ahab is still one of the worst kings Israel has ever had.  He’s never going to change.  Jezebel still wants to kill you and the people who think of themselves as my people are still worshipping the gods of this world. 

Things haven’t changed, Elijah, but you have.  You’re not the same person who came here.  No one can stand in my presence like you have without being changed.  You’ve been strengthened by my power, a power greater than all the powers of earth and hell combined. “Go back the way you came” with my peace inside of you.  “Go back the way you came” with my strength inside of you.  But most of all, “go back the way you came” with a fresh hope for tomorrow.

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different result.  But Einstein was wrong. It is possible to do things the same way and experience a different result when the Lord is the one doing it. And it’s possible to keep doing things differently and experience the same result if the Lord is left out of it.  It’s not insanity when the Lord is the one asking us to do it. 

True insanity is trying to do something in every way we can think of without the Lord and expecting it to work, expecting it to last; expecting it to matter.  The Lord is still on the throne.  He is still the “I am.”  He is still the sovereign Lord of all.  He is causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.   

Lord willing, we’ll take it up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #18

05/10/21

Elijah is standing on Mt Horeb waiting fir the Lord to pass by.

1 Kings 19:11b  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.” 

The Lord often uses THE WIND to make us aware of His presence.  Wind is translated “breath” or spirit.  In the Bible, the wind often represents the life-giving breath of the Lord.  The wind often represents the presence and the working of the Holy Spirit in a situation.  When the Israelites stood at the edge of the Red Sea and the entire army of Egypt coming to take them back into slavery, a great and powerful wind tore the waters of the Red Sea apart so the Israelites could go across on dry ground.  A great and powerful wind filled the upper room on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-2 )  

 But this time is not like the other times because, this time, “the Lord was not in the wind.”  When we’re looking for God, when we’re trying to determine who God is and where God is, we can’t rely on the wind.  We can’t be distracted by the wind.   There appears to be a lot of wind blowing in churches today, a lot of singing, shouting, laughing and dancing going on for hours in churches today, but the Lord may not be in any of it.  He may be.  He may be in all of it.  So, we’ve got to be careful not to be too critical of it or too quick to dismiss it because we don’t like it, don’t agree with it or may even be afraid of it. 

The Holy Spirit is still working, the wind is still blowing in His church today just as powerfully as it was on the day the Church began.  But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that the Lord must be in a certain place because it’s so windy and He must not be where we are because the wind is hardly blowing at all.  We can’t determine, we can’t judge the presence or the absence of the Lord solely by the amount of wind that seems to be blowing.  It may seem windy, but the Lord might not be in it.  It may just be a lot of hot air.  

1 Kings 19:11c   After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.”

 Earthquakes in the Bible are often used to demonstrate the awesome power of God; earthquakes that occur to advance the Gospel.  In Acts  4, the disciples prayed that the Lord would protect them from a hostile world as they attempted to preach the word of God.

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. Nd they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31)

 When Paul and Silas were thrown into a prison cell in Philippi, the foundation of that prison was shaken by a massive earthquake. (Acts 16:26)  The prison doors flew open and the prisoners’ chains fell off.  The Philippian jailor fell down at Paul’s feet and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” 

Earthquakes reveal that the Lord is definitely in charge of that particular situation.  But, this time is not like the other times because this time, “the Lord was not in the earthquake.”   When we’re trying to determine if the Lord is involved in something, we can’t let ourselves become distracted by the earthquakes.  We can’t depend on and we can’t draw any conclusions from an earthquake.  We can’t keep looking for signs and wonders.

 We may want the Lord to come and shake things up. In fact, we may be fervently praying for the Lord to come and shake things up because we believe things badly need to be shaken.  We may be getting discouraged because the Lord is not shaking things up and things seem to be getting worse instead of better.  But the Lord is so much more than an earthquake.  He may be in the earthquake, but we can’t assume He is and we can’t make the mistake of thinking that’s all He is.  

1 Kings 19:12a   “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.”

Fire is evidence of the sovereignty of God.  Our God is a consuming fire. (Deut. 4:24)  He’s like a refiner’s fire. (Mal. 3:2) Like gold, believers are cleansed and purified by fire.  (Is 48:10)

Someday, the earth will be destroyed by fire.  Unrepentant sinners will be judged and thrown into a lake of fire.  A believer’s good works will be tested by fire.  We are called to endure many fiery trials.  Fire says a lot about the sovereignty of God who will have the last word on sin and death. 

But this time is not like the other times because, this time, “the Lord was not in the fire.”  We can’t let ourselves become distracted by the fire.  We can’t determine the presence or the absence of the Lord solely by the fire.  We can’t keep telling ourselves that the Lord must be punishing us or blessing us through the things that are happening to us.  We’re not suffering because we’ve done something wrong and we’re not being blessed because we’re doing things right.  The Lord is so much more than the fire.  The Lord may be in the fire.  He may or may not be blessing us.  

1 Kings 19:12b   “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

“a gentile whisper,” the absolute truth of God’s word.  We can’t rely on outward appearances, on what things look like to us.  We can’t draw conclusions or form opinions based on what we think we see.  Instead of looking for what the Lord is doing, we need to be hearing what the Lord is saying. The way to a believer’s heart is through his ears. We’ll never recognize anything the Lord is doing unless we’re reading the Bible. 

God’s word comes to us as a gentle whisper.  His voice is calm.  His voice is soft.  His voice is subtle.  We’ll never be able to hear it unless we’re listening for it.  The Lord won’t speak while we’re talking and the Lord won’t answer while we’re whining.  We walk by faith and not by sight.  The Lord is asking for our trust.  He may not always be in the wind.  He may not always be in the earthquake or the fire, but the Lord will always be in His word.

 We need to find God in what we hear and not in what we see.  The Bible doesn’t tell us what that gentle whisper said to Elijah.  It was a very special moment between Elijah and the Lord.  It was exactly what Elijah needed to hear.  Whatever it was, whatever God said, whatever Elijah heard…

Lord willing, I’ll meet you back here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #17

05/05/21

When we left off last time, Elijah had spent the night in a cave. An angel of the Lord came to get Elijah moving again.

1 Kings 19:9b   “And the word of the Lord came to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

That’s a very good question. What ARE you doing there?  Did the Lord send you there?  Did the Lord put you there?  Does the Lord want you there?  Oh, that’s right!  You brought yourself here, didn’t you?  You got scared because Queen Jezebel threatened to kill you so you ran for your life.  You ran out of Israel and fled to Judah. 

You made your servant stay back in the city of Beersheba.  You ran into the desert alone and sat down under a Broom tree because you needed to sweep.  Then an angel woke you up, served you some breakfast and told you to get moving.  You travelled forty days and forty nights until you reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 

Mt. Horeb is better known as “Mt. Sinai,” the place where the Lord spoke to Moses from the burning bush and the mountain where the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments. 

 Is this where you really want to be, in a cave, all alone?  Do you know where you’re going next?  Are you going to try to keep going your own way or are you finally ready for the Lord to take over your life and give you some direction?  

1 Kings 19:10a    “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God, Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.’”

Here we go again. How quickly we start defending ourselves and justifying our behavior when the Lord brings us under conviction.  The problem’s not me, it’s them.  

1 Kings 19:10b   “’I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’”

Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.  But give me a couple of hours and I’ll bring you up to date. Whining may help kids get what they want from their parents or grandparents, but whining never gets us anything from the Lord, at least not when I do it anyway.  Has anyone ever gotten something from the Lord by whining?  “I am the only one left.” 

Is that right?  What about your faithful servant and friend who’s waiting for you back in Beersheba?  What about Obadiah, the devout believer who’s in charge of King Ahab’s palace?  What about those 100 prophets that Obadiah has been hiding in caves, risking his life by keeping them alive and feeding them from the King’s private supply of food and water?  Off the top of my head, I can think of more than a hundred others who are just as faithful to the Lord as you are, Elijah.  Whining doesn’t work with the Lord, but He let us keep doing it anyway.  He just doesn’t respond to it.  The Lord continues to ignore it.  

1 Kings 19:11a    “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’”

If you had a chance to watch the Lord pass by, would that get you out of your cave, out of you hiding place, out of your comfort zone?  Before you jump up, listen to this.   

“But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears?”

(Mal. 3:2a)

In Psalm 76:7, David asks, “Who can stand before you when you are angry, O God?”  David asks again.  

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy presence? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up their hands to an idol or swear by what is false.”  (Psalm 24:3-5)

Who can stand when He appears?  Who can stand before the Lord when He is angry?  Who can stand in His holy presence?  Nobody!  Absolutely nobody?  Nobody is good enough.  Nobody’s hands are clean enough.  Nobody’s heart is pure enough to stand in the presence of a perfectly holy God.  Only a fool would try.  No one can stand in the presence of the Lord unless He allows it, unless He makes it possible, unless He provides a way.  And the Lord did provide a way for us to stand in His holy presence. 

It’s called Grace. Grace is God doing what was necessary so we could stand in His presence.   Hebrews. 4:16 encourages us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence.”  We can stand in the presence of the Lord because Jesus made it possible.  Jesus died on Mt Calvary with clean hands and a pure heart.  He shed His blood on that cross so that, if we repented, our sins would be forgiven.  Jesus is the only way we can stand before the Lord.  He invites us to come out of our caves and stand before Him with confidence. 

When we’re ready, because of Jesus, because of God’s grace, we can stand before Him and not be afraid.  We can stand before Him and know that we are loved.   “for the Lord is about to pass by”  How will I know when He does?  How will I know what to look for?  How will I know it’s Him?  What does the Lord actually look like?

We’ll stop here and, Lord willing, we ‘ll answer those questions next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj. 

ELIJAH #16

04/27/21

Elijah is running from Queen Jezebel who is trying to kill him. He’s frustrated, tired, and depressed but the Lord has been reaching out to encourage him.  An angel has come to refresh Elijah and getting moving again

1 Kings 19:7   “The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’”

“Get up and eat.”  I’m not taking your problems away and I’m not taking you away from your problems.  But I am going to give you the strength you need, the courage and endurance you need to face and overcome those problems.  It just won’t be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight.  It’s going to take time, more time that you are willing to spend by yourself. 

“The journey is too much for you.”  “Journey!  What journey?  I’m not going anywhere.  Weren’t you paying attention, Lord?  Didn’t you hear me?  I’ve had enough.  I quit.”  How many of us are thankful that the Lord doesn’t listen or take it personally when we get angry or upset?

The journey may be too much for you, Elijah, but not for the Lord.  Your “journey,” your life doesn’t end with you here alone in this desert. The Lord still has plans for your life.  The Lord still has a purpose for your life.  He’s going to bring you through this but it’s going to take more strength and more faith than you have left inside you. 

In order to win this battle, you’ll have to trust in and depend on the Lord more than you ever have before.  You’re going to make it all the way.  I didn’t bring you into this desert, but I will certainly bring you out of it.  I’m going to bring you out of this desert, out of this self-imposed “funk” you’ve put yourself in. You’re going to want to live again and I’ll make sure it’s a fruitful, productive and joyful life that you’re living. 

The Lord has come.  The word of God has come.  The Lord is with you to make sure you win the good fight you’ve been fighting and finish the race that’s been set before you.  The Lord will provide everything you need for your life’s journey.    

I Kings 19:8a“So he got up and ate and drank.”

  No arguing.  No stalling.  No resisting.  The anger and frustration inside him was gone.  Elijah is ready once again to do whatever the Lord wants him to do.  Instead of wanting the Lord to take his life, Elijah’s ready for the Lord to take over his life so he can get back to truly living again. What does it take for us to get to that point? 

1 Kings 19:8b-9a    “Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forth nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.  Then he went into a cave and spent the night.”

The strength Elijah received from that fresh baked bread and cool jar of water the angel prepared for him, gave him the strength to travel forty days and nights until he reached Mt. Horeb, “the mountain of God.”  When Elijah ate what the Lord provided for him, he didn’t need anything else.  He didn’t want anything else.  

“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John. 6:35

Nothing Satan promises, nothing this world tries to offer us can ever come close to matching what Jesus alone is able to provide for us.  This world can’t give us what we need. This world can’t give us what our hearts are searching for.  It can’t provide the love we need, the confidence we need, the safety and protection we need.  It can’t provide the peace or the joy we need.  It can’t give us the hope we need to finish our journey. 

Jesus alone is able to give us the reason and the desire we need to keep on living.  Jesus alone is able to give us a purpose for living.  Jesus alone is able to help us understand why we need to keep on living. The world will never provide the abundant, victorious life, the everlasting life we can only find in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Lord willing, we’ll be back here again next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #15

04/20/21

Elijah is in Judah, hiding from Jezebel who wants to kill him. He’s sitting under a tree praying for the Lord to call him home.

1 Kings 19:4c     “’Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’”

Elijah didn’t really want to die.  If he did, he wouldn’t be sitting in the shade of that Juniper tree.  He’d be laying out in that hot desert sun waiting for the heat to do him in.  If he had really been serious about wanting to die, he would have stayed back in Samaria and Jezebel would have gladly answered his prayer. 

“He ran for his life” remember. Dying is easy.  Living is hard.  It takes a lot more effort and a lot more courage to live than it does to die.  Elijah’s not suicidal, but he is depressed.  Even prophets, even pastors, even the strongest and most faithful believers get depressed.

When we’re around someone who’s depressed, try not to be offended by the things they say.  Don’t take it personally. When we’re depressed, we don’t make a lot of sense.  We are absolutely convinced that our thoughts and feelings are correct.  We’re not listening to reason and we don’t really know what we’re saying. 

Elijah is frustrated and discouraged because, after going three and a half years without rain, after the fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice and the altar, after a soaking, drenching rain, absolutely nothing has changed.  In fact, things may have even have gotten worse. 

Israel still hasn’t turned back to God and Jezebel and Ahab are more defiant than ever.  “The past three and a half years I spent praying were wasted.  Nothing I do, nothing I say, nothing the Lord does makes any difference to these people.  So why even bother?  That’s it, Lord.  I can’t do this anymore.  I’ve had enough.  I quit.”  Elijah is not the kind of person you think would ever have this problem.  He’s always seemed so strong and confident in the Lord.  No one knows he’s out in the desert alone, sitting under a tree wishing he were dead. 

 1 Kings 19:5a    “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.”

Elijah is alone.  He’s discouraged.  He’s depressed.  But, most of all, Elijah was just plain tired.  He was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.  This may have been the first decent night’s sleep he’s had in over three years.  That’s the main reason he wasn’t thinking straight or talking right and the reason you couldn’t take anything he said personally.  He was just plain tired.  

1 Kings 19:5b     “All at once and angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’”

Elijah is sound asleep and suddenly, “all at once” an angel touches him, probably shook him a  little, and says, “Get up and eat.”  It must have startled him.  He’s alone in another country in the middle of the desert.  He’s groggy.  He’s confused.  He’s probably thinking his prayer’s been answered.  The Lord must have taken my life and I’m waking up in heaven.  Who has the heart to tell him he’s still back on earth? 

1 Kings 19:6    “He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.”

 Have you ever been depressed?  Probably not in public anyway, right?  We’re always smiling and looking like we have everything under control when we’re with other people.  We don’t want them to know how we really feel inside.  We tell ourselves that we don’t want them to worry but, the truth is, we’re just too proud to admit we’re weak and sometimes we need help.

He’ll always send someone into our lives to help us in His name.  No matter where we try to make our bed, He’ll always be there.  Someone will always be there for us even when we’re trying to be alone. He will never abandon us or give up on us.  He’ll make sure that someone, somewhere, is always praying for us and reaching out to us with love in His name. Somehow, the Lord will find a way to provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.  The Lord knows when to butt in and He knows exactly when to back off.

Let’s give Elijah some time to drink his second cup of coffee so he can figure out where he is and what’s going on. Lord willing, we’ll start from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj. 

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