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. 

ELIJAH #14

04/13/21

1 Kings 19:1   “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.”

King Ahab comes rushing into the palace soaking wet.  It’s raining in Israel for the first time in three and a half years. Ahab tells his wife, Queen Jezebel, everything Elijah has done.  Actually he tells her everything the Lord has done through Elijah. He tells her about the showdown on Mt Carmel between the prophets of Baal and the God of Israel.  He tells her how the prophets of Baal prayed and shouted, cut themselves and danced around the altar from sunrise ‘til sunset and nothing happened. 

Then Elijah poured twelve huge jugs of water on his altar, called out just once to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel and fire fell from heaven totally consuming the sacrifice and the altar.  He tells Jezebel that when the people saw the fire, they fell to the  ground and started shouting, “The Lord, He is God!  The Lord, He is God!”  Then, on Elijah’s orders, the people seized the prophets of Baal and killed them with swords. By now, Jezebel and Ahab should both know who the real God is.  They both know what the God of Israel can do. 

Once the Lord has gotten our attention, once we become aware of who God really is, what He can do, what He requires from us and what He’s offering to us, we each have to decide for ourselves what we’re going to do about it; what we’re going to do about Him and our relationship with Him. 

Once we’ve been confronted with undeniable, indisputable truth about how holy and mighty the Lord our God is and how completely helpless and sinful we are, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to love Him, worship Him, serve Him and start living for Him or will we continue to ignore Him, stubbornly defy Him and keep trying to run away from Him?  

1 Kings 19:2  “So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’”   

Obviously, Jezebel still doesn’t get it. She’s still refusing to accept it. Instead of acknowledging the sovereignty of God and giving Him control of her life, Jezebel decides to do unto Elijah what Elijah had done unto her prophets. She makes it her life’s mission to destroy him.  

1 Kings 19:3-4a    Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert.”

He may have been able to make the fire fall, he may have been able to hear it raining before anyone got wet. He knows better than anyone else what the God of Israel can do but, right now, Elijah is afraid.  The Bible says Elijah was just like us.  So, like us, He ran for his life.  He left home and went to Judah. 

Judah is a different country.  Israel is a divided nation.  Elijah had been living in Samaria.  Samaria is the capital of what’s called the Kingdom of the North,”  Judah is known as “the Kingdom of the South” and Jerusalem is the capital city.  Ahab is not the king of Judah.  Elijah ran off to Judah but he made his servant stay back in the city of Beersheba.  Then he travels a whole day into the desert and doesn’t take his servant with him. 

Why did Elijah do that?  His servant was with him when the fire fell on Mt Carmel.  His servant was the one who kept looking on the horizon for signs of rain.  He was much more than just a servant.  He was the closest thing to a friend that Elijah had. 

Why do we do that?  Why do we push people away and shut people out when we need them the most?  Why do we close ourselves off from people who care about us and are trying to help us?  Why do we act like we don’t need anybody and we don’t want help?  Why won’t we let those who love us get near us when we’re hurting inside?  Sometimes we’re not happy unless we’re miserable. 

Pride doesn’t want to be cheered up.  Pride always tries to look happy.  Pride refuses to ask for and pride refuses to accept help from anybody.  Pride neve admits it needs anything.  Pride prefers to be miserable all by itself.  Pride loves to think of itself as the victim.  

1 Kings 19:4b  “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life: I am no better than my ancestors’”

Elijah sits down under a “Broom Tree,” actually a Juniper tree, and he ask the Lord to let him die.  Today, Elijah would have locked himself in his trailer, turned off his cell phone, refused to answer the door, stayed in his pajamas staring at a flat screen TV with a couple boxes of pizza, a gallon of ice cream and a large bag of Doritos in his lap not really caring if he lived or died. 

Some of us are like Jezebel, refusing to surrender, refusing to bow down.  But some of us are like Elijah, pushing ourselves away from the people who love us and are praying for us.  We sit in a lump sounding just like Elijah.

We’ll let him sit there and whine for a while and, Lord willing we’ll pick it up from here next week. Thanks again for getting into God’s word with Pastor Buj. 

ELIJAH #13

04/06/21

Rain is going to fall in Israel again. Revival is on the way. Elijah is on his face before God in repentant prayer

1 Kings 18:43  “’Go and look toward the sea,’ he (Elijah) told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he (the servant) said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’”

“What did you see?”  “I saw the sea.  There’s nothing else out there.”  “Well, go look again.  Keep looking.”  Elijah made his servant go back seven times and each time the servant kept saying, “There is nothing there.  Nothing is happening.  Things just keep getting worse.” 

After two or three times, we start to get discouraged and filled with all kinds of doubt if we’re not seeing any results from our prayers.  We’re doing the right thing.  Why isn’t it working?  We want the crisis to get over with quickly so we don’t have to deal with it anymore. 

But the Bible tells us not to become tired of doing what His word tells us to do.  We’ll see awesome results if we don’t get discouraged and quit.  Elijah refused to give up.  

1 Kings 18:44a  “The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’”   

At first, the servant didn’t see anything so he didn’t think anything was happening.  Now he finally sees a small cloud, but he still doesn’t think it means very much.  The servant saw a small cloud, but Elijah heard the sound of a heavy rain.  Elijah could hear the rain long before his servant could see the cloud.  Our faith doesn’t come from what we see or what we think we see.  Our faith comes from hearing the word of God.

1 Kings 18:44b  “So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, ‘hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”  

Elijah didn’t have to get wet to know it was raining.  He didn’t even need to see the cloud.  The Lord said it and Elijah could hear it. Faith comes from what we hear,  not from is, what we see or think we see.

Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10 17)

Elijah felt wet as soon as the Lord told him He was going to send the rain.  Like Elijah, weneed to stop looking and start hearing.  Stop looking at what we have or don’t have and begin praising the Lord for “the sound of a heavy rain.” We’ll never become discouraged by what we’re seeing as long as we keep hearing, keep believing and keep trusting in what God’s word is saying.

1 Kings 18:45  “Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel’”

“Meanwhile.” as they were speaking –  It happened so fast, the rain came so quickly, the servant never got the chance to leave.  God keeps working as time keeps passing.  It may seem like the Lord is never going to answer prayer, but when the Lord moves, He moves quickly and we need to be ready to move with Him. 

1 Kings 18:46   “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and , tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

There are two ways to travel, two ways to live our lives.  We can make our own way through life relying on our own strength, our own determination, our own understanding and our own abilities like King Ahab did or we can depend on the power of the Holy Spirit like Elijah did.  Why ride when we can fly?  Ahab rode in a chariot.  Elijah ran on foot and he got there ahead of Ahab.  Depending on the Holy Spirit is so much easier, so much quicker, so much more effective  and so much more reliable than anything we could ever design or imagine on our own. Lord willing, we pick it up again from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #12

03/30/21

Elijah hears the sound of a heavy rain.  The Lord is ready to send revival. After witnessing the weaknesses of the gods they’d been trusting in and seeing a demonstration of the Lord’s mighty power on Mt Carmel, (18:39) the people fell on their faces and cried  – “The Lord – He is God!  The Lord, He is God!” It’s going to rain again.  Crops are going to grow again.  People are going to feel clean again.  Thirst will be quenched. The nation has a chance to prosper again.  But, before any of that could happen: 

1 Kings 18:42b   “Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.”  

Elijah climbed back to the top of Mt Carmel, put his face between his knees and prayed.

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  (James 5:17

“Elijah was a man just like us;” an ordinary, imperfect human being, at times feeling helpless and unsure of himself just like us.  But he was someone the Lord could use, someone who was willing to do whatever the Lord asked them to do.  

“Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:18(

“Again he prayed.”  The first time he prayed “that it would not rain.”  But when Elijah prayed again, the Bible doesn’t say he prayed that it would rain, that the Lord would make it rain.  Elijah already knew it was going to rain because the Lord had told him He would make it rain.  Elijah could already hear it raining.  He just wasn’t getting wet yet. 

We can tell what Elijah was praying by looking at the way Elijah was praying.  Bending down to the ground and putting your face between your knees was the Old Testament posture of repentance. When he heard the sound of a heavy rain, Elijah climbed back to the top of Mt Carmel and started repenting of his sin. 

The Lord is going to forgive Israel and send the rain again.  But Elijah is on his face before the Lord saying, “We don’t deserve it Lord.  We are a sinful people.  We have angered you.  We have broken your heart.  We have disobeyed your word and followed after other gods.  We are selfish.  We are stubborn.  We are a rebellious people.  We will always be this way.  We have short memories.  It’s just a matter of time before we do it all over again.  Thank you for your grace and mercy, Lord.  We desperately need it but we certainly don’t deserve it.” 

Wait a minute!  What’s going on here?  What’s Elijah doing?  Elijah was a righteous man, a godly man.  He was one of the few men who refused to bend their knees to worship Baal.  Why is he on the ground with his face between his knees repenting of sin?  Why is he the first one, maybe the only one, who’s repenting of their sin?  King Ahab should be doing this.  He’s the one who sinned the most.  If that’s what we think, if that’s what we believe, we don’t understand the heart, the core of true repentance. 

True repentance acknowledges that my sin is every bit as bad, every bit as offensive to God as anyone else’s sin. We can’t accuse or judge anyone else of sin until we’ve completely dealt with the seriousness of our own sin.  True repentance acknowledges that all sin is my sin.  All sin in my home, all sin in my church, all sin in my nation is my sin. 

It’s never going to rain, we’re never going to get wet as long as God’s people keep insisting, “It’s not my fault, Lord, it’s theirs.  I’m not the one who’s sinned, they are.”  Pride holds back the rain.  Pride delays the revival.  Elijah isn’t blaming Ahab or anyone else for the trouble Israel is in right now.   He’s on his knees before the Lord saying, “I’m the problem, Lord.  I’m the one who’s sinned.  Please forgive me.” 

That’s the secret.  That’s the key.  That’s the heart of true repentance.  Revival comes and the rain begins to fall when God’s people learn the secret of true repentance.  We can’t continue to be right in our own minds if we ever hope to see revival.  As long as we continue to believe that someone else’s sin is the problem, we’ll never see revival.  

Elijah wasn’t on the mountain praying, “Lord, please make it rain,” He was up there praying, “Lord, please forgive me.”  Pride holds back the rain but repentance brings on revival.

Lord wiling, we’ll pick it up again from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.  

ELIJAH #11

03/23/21

1 Kings 18:41- 42a  “And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go, eat and drink, fr there us the sound of a heavy rain.’ So Ahab went to eat and drink.”

After three and a half years without rain and proving beyond any doubt who the real God is, Elijah is telling King Ahab to “Go, eat and drink.”  The water restrictions are over.  You don’t have to ration your food and water anymore.  The Lord is setting you free.  Crops are going to start growing again.  Enjoy your meal.  Quench your thirst “for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 

It hadn’t actually started raining yet, but Elijah could hear it.  Elijah was the only one who could hear it.  He knew the rain was coming because the Lord had already told him  “Go and present yourself to Ahab and I will send rain on the land.”(18:1) The Lord made that promise to Elijah before the confrontation with the prophets of Baal took place on Mt. Carmel   

Ahab was, without question,  the worst king Israel ever had.  As a result of their sin, as a result of the consequences and choices they had made, it hasn’t rained in Israel for over 3 years.

It’s important for us to understand this.  The Lord did not deliberately hold back the rain because He wanted to punish Israel for turning away from Him.  The lack of rain was not God’s judgment; it was not God’s punishment for their sin.  It’s not even close.  Sin has not been judged yet.  Our minds can’t even begin to comprehend what God’s judgment for sin is going to be like for those who insist on receiving it. 

The truth is that the Lord continued to love Israel even when they were sinning.  He loved them in spite of their sin.  But, because of their sin, He was unable to bless them.  Sin is hostility toward God. Sin causes us to treat God as our enemy instead of our friend. Sin made it impossible for the Lord to provide for them; impossible for the Lord to protect them or to deliver them from their enemies. 

When we sin,  we turn away from God.  We turn away from the light and start walking in darkness.  We walk away from wisdom and start living in ignorance.  We remove ourselves from God’s protection and expose ourselves to danger.  We turned away from freedom and place ourselves in bondage.  We turn away from the truth and open ourselves up to all kinds of dangerous, demonic lies.  Deliberately choosing to sin makes it impossible for God to bless us but it makes it very easy for Satan to deceive, manipulate and abuse us.

 Israel is suffering and the land is dying because sin produces its own set of deadly consequences and these consequences are our fault, not God’s. The world is experiencing devastating drought right now that is getting more severe every day.  I’m not talking about the severe weather conditions brought about by climate change producing extremes of both flooding and dryness, intense heat and frigid cold.  I’m talking about the kind of drought that was described in the book of Amos in the Old Testament.  It’s not the physical droughts and famines we should be worried about, it’s the spiritual ones that should trouble us the most. 

“’The days are coming’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.’”  (Amos 8:11)

“a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” It’s not a famine of God’s word.  It’s not a lack of God’s word.  The Holy Spirit is still providing the words of the Lord.  Preachers are still preaching the words of the Lord.  It’s “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”  The word is available but people are choosing not to hear it.  They’ve developed an appetite for other kinds of food.  People are still eating.  Their minds are being fed but their spirits are starving and their souls are thirsty.  The words they’re hearing can’t satisfy the hunger  growing inside them and what they’re listening to won’t keep them alive.  

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desire, they will gather around then a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

“A time is coming.”  My friends, that time has come.  That time is now. 

“Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:12)

They will “stagger” under the intoxicating influence of all the false teachings being passed around.  They will continue to “wander”, lost, searching for truth but never finding it.  They’re filling up on other words, empty words, powerless words. 

“In that day the lovely young women and the strong young men will faint because of thirst.” (Amos 8:13)

The youth love to drink at the fountain of contemporary thinking, but it leaves their mouths so dry.   Drinking what they’ve chosen to drink keeps making them more thirsty.

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

ELIJAH #10

03/16’21

Israel is about to find out which god is the true, the real and the only God.

1 Kings 18:31-33a  Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’ With the twelve stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs (about thirteen quarts) of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood.”  

Elijah reminds Israel why it is called the altar of the Lord and what that truly means.

1 Kings 18:33b-35     “Then he said to them, ‘Fill the four jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood. Do it again,’ he said and they did it again. ‘Do it a third time,’ he ordered and the did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.”

There were two altars and two bulls, but only one altar was soaked with water. Water will either put a fire out or prevent a fire from starting. “The God who answers by fire – He is God.”  He’s the real God. 

Fire represents God’s assessment of our lives; the Lord’s judgment of our work.  When the animal was totally consumed by the fire, when there was nothing left but ashes, I’d know that God had accepted my offering. In this case, the water that Elijah kept pouring on the sacrifice was an attempt to stop God from judging sin. 

It was a way of confronting the idea that we don’t need to worry about a fire.  We don’t need to repent.  We don’t need a savior.  We’re acceptable to God just the way we are and we’re not worried about any judgment.  Water was one last, desperate attempt to stop the judgment of sin and Elijah wanted the Israelites to see that, regardless of what we try to do to stop it, it doesn’t work. 

1 Kings 18:36-38  “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench’”  

The other prophets had cried out all day long.  “O Baal answer us” and nothing happened.  Elijah cried “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” and he only had to say it once.  Not even all that water could stop the fire from falling.  It completely consumed the sacrifice and the altar.  It pulverized the rocks, scorched the soil and vaporized the water.  Are you still wondering who the real God is?  

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver ,costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of everyone’s work. If what is built survives, they will receive their reward. If it burned up, they will suffer loss; they themselves will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) 

Our good works, our sincerest efforts to make ourselves right with God, to become acceptable to God will not be able to prevent God from judging our sin any more than hosing down the altar with water could prevent the fire from falling. 

But if we still don’t think we need an altar, if we’re completely satisfied with our own understanding about life and death, if we’re perfectly content to deal with and relate to God on our own terms, there’s nothing more anyone can say to us. 

But if we want to discover who the real God is; if we need a place to make things right, to ask for and to receive forgiveness of sin; if we need a place to do what God requires for sin to be removed from His sight forever and to have all our guilt and shame completely taken away, if we believe we need a savior, there’s only one place to go.  There’s only one altar to turn to. 

All the gods human minds have created require us to make sacrifices for them.  Our God is the only God who became a sacrifice for us. There’s only one altar that produces results.  There’s only one God who answers by fire.  That altar is the cross of Calvary where Jesus Christ, where God Himself became the sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, the final sacrifice that was willingly and lovingly placed on the altar for all who would accept it.

 Our God became sin for us.  He took all our sin on Himself and died in our place,  He became our substitute.  He became flesh and blood so He could shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sin.  Then He rose from the grave so that all who trusted in Him alone, would not perish but would receive everlasting life.  No more wavering between two opinions.  No more questions about who the real God is.  The Lord is God and Jesus Christ is Lord.  Love Him.  Serve Him.  Worship Him.  Live for Him.

Lord willing, we’ll pick it up again from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting into God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #9

03/09/2

Elijah has challenged the prophets of Baal to prove they worship the true God. He says, “You go first.”

1 Kings 18:25-27   “Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’ So the took the bull given them and prepared it. ‘ Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ the shouted.’ But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon, Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’”

Elijah starts getting sarcastic and it’s something every preacher and prophet has to watch out for.  There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, between faith and pride and it’s so easy to keep crossing over it  

1 Kings 18:28-29    “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.  Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

I just hate when that happens, don’t you?  When we’re going through a very difficult crisis and we can’t seem to get the Lord’s attention; when we’re worried and afraid, when we’re desperate; when we humble ourselves;  when we fast and pray with boldness and confidence; when we shout to the Lord, when we shout at the Lord; when we sit quietly and wait and when we get up and act with faith.  We do everything we can think of, everything we’ve been taught to do, everything we’ve always told others to do and nothing seems to work. 

There is no response.  God does not answer and He doesn’t seem to be paying attention.  It must not be His will. Maybe I don’t have enough faith. Eventually we start asking ourselves, “Why even bother to pray?” 

Whenever we find ourselves in a situation like that, where our prayers don’t seem to be getting through, there are two possible explanations for it. Either we’re praying to the wrong god, or we’re praying at the wrong altar.  Either the god we’re praying to can’t give us what we’re asking for or what we’re asking for is not available at the altar we’re praying from. 

We might be kneeling at the altar of faith where without faith it’s impossible to please the God of this altar; where nothing is impossible if we’ll keep trusting the God of this altar and use the faith He’s given us.  We might be kneeling at the altar of faith fervently demanding visible proof.  Lord, please do something!  Show me that you’re really there.  Convince me that you still love me. Give me what I’m asking for. 

When we’re kneeling at the altar of faith praying for visible proof, the God of that altar can’t give us what we’re asking for because what we’re asking for isn’t available at the altar we’re praying from.  We can’t hear Him saying, “Just keep trusting me and let me do this my way.” 

We might be kneeling at the altar of self-sacrifice, where the God of this altar demands that we give up everything, let go of everything that used to be so valuable and important to us, the things we think we know, the things that come first in our lives. We might be kneeling at the altar of self-sacrifice praying for self-gratification. 

Our prayers might sound a little like the prodigal son who said, “Father, give me my share of the estate.”  Your word says I’m a joint heir with Jesus so give me what is rightfully mine.  Give me what you’ve promised.  Heal me.  Provide for my needs. Do all those things you said you would do for me.  When we’re kneeling at the altar of self-sacrifice praying for self-gratification, the God of that altar won’t give us what we’re asking for because what we’re asking for isn’t available at the altar we’re praying from. 

We might be kneeling at the altar of unconditional surrender where the God of this altar has said that anyone who wants to be a disciple must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him.  We might be kneeling at the altar of unconditional surrender placing all kinds of conditions on how much surrender we’re willing to give; how much of our time, how much of our money, how much of ourselves we’re willing to let Christ have; how much is His and how much is ours.  How much commitment is enough commitment to satisfy the God of this altar?

When we’re kneeling at the altar of unconditional surrender placing all kinds of conditions on how much surrender we’re willing to make, the God we’re praying to won’t give us what we’re asking for because what we’re asking for is not available at the altar we’re praying from. 

We can pray.  We can fast.  We can dance.  We can shout.  We can praise or we can weep but there will be no response, no one will answer because no one is paying attention because no conditions are acceptable at the altar of unconditional surrender.  In order for our prayers to be heard, in order for prayer to be answered, we need to be aware of the God we’re praying to and the altar we’re praying from because THE ALTAR IS THE ONE PLACE WE CAN’T HAVE OUR OWN WAY. 

1 Kings 18:30   “Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him and he repaired the altar of the Lord which was in ruins.”

What those prophets told you was wrong.  What you’ve always believed isn’t true.  What you’ve been trusting in isn’t working for you. If you’re not getting results from where you’re standing; if the foundation of your life keeps shifting and crumbling, if it can’t give you what you need, if it can’t save you; if the emptiness inside you is not being filled, you need another altar.  Your life needs a more solid foundation.  “Come here to me.”  Come to the Bread of Life.  Come to the solid Rock. 

There is another altar.  By grace, we’ve been given another way.  There is someone who will hear and answer your prayers; someone who will always be there for you and will never fail or disappoint you.  There is someone who loves you with a love you’ve never experienced before, a love you never even imagined was possible. 

It’s a love none of us deserves or could possibly earn.  There is someone who can help you discover why you’re alive and make you thankful that you are.  There is someone who wants you to live a productive and satisfying life, life with a purpose, a life filled with joy;  someone who wants you to live with Him forever.  His name is Jesus and He is Lord of all.   

ELIJAH #8

03/02/21

Elijah has just challenged Israel to decide which god they are going to worship and serve. The showdown is taking place on Mount Carmel.

1 Kings 18:20-21a    “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god, follow him.’” 

“How long will you waver?”  Remember who Elijah’s talking to right now.  He’s not talking to the Philistines or the Babylonians, to the Canaanites or the Egyptians.  He’s talking to the Israelites, to God’s chosen people, to the heirs of the Covenant.  Does it really matter what we believe about God?  How long will you keep believing whatever you want to believe about God?  How long will you be content to be “in Christ” on Sunday and in the world the rest of the week.  When are you going to choose?  When are you going to decide?  When are you going to commit? 

Let’s settle this thing once and for all, right here, right now.  If Baal is god, if there is any other god, serve him with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind.  But if there is no other god, if the Lord is the only true God, follow Him, worship Him, and serve Him.  Give yourself completely to Him and stop playing games with your spirituality. 

Let’s go to the altar and figure out what we believe and who we believe in.  The altar is where we take care of business between ourselves and our god.  Having an altar indicates that we know things are not right between our god and us.  Things are not equal.  We’re not in control. 

Having an altar indicates that we believe in someone greater, that we depend on someone greater than ourselves.  It indicates that we believe there’s a power, there’s a wisdom that’s beyond any human wisdom or power.  Having an altar indicates that we don’t make the rules, our god does.  Having an altar indicates we believe we need a god. 

But if we don’t know what we believe about God or if we act as our own god, if we’re not too concerned with being accountable to any god, then we don’t really need an altar.  If we don’t believe we need an altar then all we need is an explanation to keep ourselves from going crazy.  We have to come up with some kind of answer for how we got here and where we’re going, what are we doing and why are we doing it and what comes next.

Those are all the questions a god is supposed to answer and all of those answers have to be 100% correct.  They need to be the truth.  Believing in God is not helping us to overcome our fear of dying,  it’s helping us to clear up our confusion and uncertainty about living.  If we’re acting as our own god and we don’t believe we need an altar then we have to figure out what we’re going to do – to use up all the time we have – before all the time we have is used up and why it’s even necessary to try.

 If we don’t believe we need an altar, it doesn’t matter how we live or when we die.  In fact, it doesn’t really matter if we live or die.  If everything is a result of a random, cosmic accident instead of being divinely and purposefully created, if there truly is nothing better or greater in store for us after this brief, temporary, earthly existence is over; if we know we’re going to die and we can’t do anything to stop it, if we really do know it all and there is no god, we already know too much.

We’re the most pathetic and miserable creatures on earth because no other animal has the ability to think about or to worry about things like mortality or eternity or about a purpose for their existence.  Knowing it all isn’t really that bad as long as we don’t think about it too much.  Without Jesus, too much knowledge will make us miserable. Without Jesus, too much knowledge will drive us insane. 

I just love Israel’s response to what Elijah just said.  It’s so typical of our sinful, human nature.  

18:21b  “But the people said nothing.” 

What can we say when we know something’s true, when we know something’s right, but we don’t want to change?  What can we say?  Nothing – there is nothing we can say.

1 Kings 18:22  “Then Elijah said to them,’ I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.’”     

We’ve talked before about Elijah being clueless and it looks like he’s still having a problem with that here.  He’s not the only one of the Lord’s prophets left.  But sometimes, to him, it seems like he is.  Obadiah told Elijah that he had been risking his life by hiding one hundred of the Lord’s prophets in caves and supplying them with food and water from King Ahab’s personal supply.  Evidently, Elijah wasn’t paying attention.

  1 Kings 18:23-24a    “Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The God who answers by fire – He s God.”

“The god who answers by fire;” the god who actually does something; the god who answers prayer, who comes through for His people when they need Him the most – “He is God.”  He is really God.  He is the only God and when we find Him, let’s stop playing games and devote our lives to Him, let’s start loving Him and serving Him with all our hearts.   

1 Kings 18:24b  “Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’”  

When Elijah told them to decide between the Lord God, Almighty, the I Am that I Am, they had nothing to say because they had no excuse for not doing it. Now, all they can say is, ‘We don’t know what to say, but “what you say is good.’”  Those were good words and that was good preaching, Elijah.  It just wasn’t good enough to change anything.

Lord willing, we’ll continue on from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting into God’s word with Pastor Buj.

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