ESTHER #4

08/10/21

Esther. 2: 2, 4   “Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, ‘Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king… Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.”

Because she refused the king’s invitation to come to the banquet  being held in her honor, there’s going to be a new Queen to replace the Ex Queen Vashti. The king is going to decide; the king is going to choose the one he wants to be his new bride. This process will introduce us to more of the personalities in this story.

Esther 2:3  “Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who is in charge of the women and let beauty treatments be given to them.”

Let’s begin with Hegai; the one who’s in charge of the king’s harem and who oversees the beauty treatments.  Hegai would represent – me.  I didn’t apply for the job, God asked me to do it.

 Actually, Hegai represents everybody in Ephesians 4:11; all the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers; everyone who’s been called; everyone who’s been commissioned and entrusted with the care, the keeping, and the preparation of the Bride; all those the Lord has called and ordained to oversee the beauty treatments; to equip His people for works of service and help them reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God; everyone who’s responsible for getting the Bride ready to meet the Groom.  

Esther 2: 5   “Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai…who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar…”

Next, we come to Mordecai.  Technically, he’s Esther’s cousin, but he raised her as his own daughter after her parents died.  He became her guardian, her protector.  Mordecai is an excellent example of the Holy Spirit at work.  The Holy Spirit is the one who brings us into the presence of God.  He’s the Comforter, the Counselor, the One sent by the Father to come along  side to help us.

Like the Holy Spirit, Mordecai works quietly behind the scenes without drawing any attention to himself.  Mordecai is coaching Esther; telling her what to do and what not to do; what to say and what not to say. 

The Holy Spirit has come to us to counsel us with God’s wisdom; advising us when to speak and when to be silent; when to act and when to wait.  The Holy Spirit is with us to guide us through dark, confusing and uncertain times; to warn us of danger; to assure us of God’s presence and reassure us of God’s love; to help us overcome whatever the world, the flesh and the devil may throw against us and help us live a joyful, satisfying and productive life; to be all God created us to be and accomplish everything God is calling us to do. 

Esther 2:7  “Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, who he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

Hadassah was her Jewish name.  Esther was her Persian name.  She was “lovely in form and features.”  Now, I’ve been a Baptist most of my life, but even I know what that means; in any translation.  She’s the title character and central figure of the book and we’ll keep learning more about her as we move through this series. 

Esther 2: 8 – 9   “…Esther…was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. The girl pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven maids selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her maids into the best place in the harem.”

As soon as he saw Esther, Hegai knew there was something special about her.  She stood out from all the rest.  She was uncommonly beautiful to begin with, but he provided her with additional beauty treatments because the king expected to marry the most beautiful woman on the planet.  She was given special food to keep her looking lovely and to give her skin that healthy glow.

“I am the bread of life.  Anyone who comes to me will never go hungry. No one who comes to me will ever be thirsty.’ (John 6:35 )

God provides us with special food to nourish our spirits; to make us beautiful and complete on the inside. Like Esther, the confidence, the love, and the joy of truly repentant believers makes a noticeable and outstanding impression in the midst of a dark, depressed, anxious, hopeless, and sinful world.

Esther 2:10    “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.”

If Esther had revealed her nationality and family background from the beginning, it would have greatly affected the outcome of this story. God’s timing is perfect. Jesus was also fully aware of when He could and could not reveal who He truly was.

Esther 2:11  “Every day he (Mordecai) walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her.”

Esther might not have been aware of it, but like the Holy Spirit, whether she saw him every day or not; whether she talked to him every day or not, Mordecai was always there and fully in control.   

Just like Mordecai, the Holy Spirit is always with us..  He knows exactly where we are at all times. He knows everything that’s happening to us; everything we’re going through.  He’s there making sure that nothing coming against us will be able to defeat us.  

Let’s stop for now and meet here again next Tuesday when, Lord willing, we’ll get back into God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ESTHER #3

08/03/21  

Esther 1:16, 19   “’Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes…Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her position to someone else who is better than she..’”

According to a proposed law that her husband is about to pass, because Queen Vashti refused the king’s invitation to come to his banquet that was being held in her honor, she will be banished from the king’s presence forever and her royal position as the queen will be given to someone else “who is better than she;” someone who is willing to obey the king.

Esther 1:21  “The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed.”

The proposal becomes a law that can never be repealed. Vashti can never be in the presence of King Xerxes again and her position as queen will be given to someone else who is considered to be “better than she.”   

What about that other Banquet that Jesus was describing that we looked at last week?  

  “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”   

(Luke 14:24)

Find someone else to take their place. Refusing God’s invitation to come to Him when He’s calling us is a very big deal.  Hearing God’s invitation to come to Him and shrugging it off is seriously offensive to God.  Refusing God’s invitation to come to Him on His terms when He is lovingly calling out to us, results in eternal separation from God. 

That’s really what heaven and hell are all about.  Heaven is living forever in the loving presence of God and hell is being banished forever; permanently cut off, eternally separated from the mercy, love, and grace of God. 

Heaven is better than anything we could ever possibly hope for, imagine or dream about because God’s love is always there.  Hell is much worse than anything we could possibly imagine or dream about because God’s love and mercy are never there.  The full wrath of God is the only thing that will be present in hell.

1 John 5:16 says, “There is a sin that leads to death.” 

Mark 3:29 [CEV] says “But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven.  That sin will be held against you forever.” 

The only sin that leads to death; the only sin that will result in our being eternally banished from God’s mercy, love, and grace; the only sin that will not be forgiven is the sin of refusing to come; the sin of saying, “No,” to the Holy Spirit who is drawing us to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ alone; the sin of hearing God say, “You have sinned;” and responding, “No, I haven’t;” the sin of hearing God say, “You cannot save yourself;” and responding, “I’m certainly going to try;” the sin of hearing God say, “Accept heaven as my free gift and become my child by grace;” and responding, “Thanks, but no thanks.  I’ll do this my own way.” 

God will continue to invite us.  He’ll continue calling out to us; but not forever.  This is definitely a limited time offer with a predetermined expiration date.  Time will definitely run out.   God will continue to honor and bless those who say, Yes” to His invitation and are willing to come to Him on His terms.  If God is calling you and inviting you right now, please don’t refuse Him.  If God is speaking to you right now, don’t harden your heart against Him.  Don’t dismiss the words He may be saying to you right now just because I happen to the one writing them.

Esther 2:1   “Later, when the anger of King Xerxes had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what he had decreed about her.”

Numbers 14:18 says, “God is slow to anger.”  “The Lord doesn’t become angry quickly.” (NCV)  He’s not a hothead.  It takes a lot to make Him angry, but God does get angry.   

“Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made…”   (Jeremiah  25:6)

  We can make God angry.  Following other gods; loving other things more; putting other things first; making ourselves or other things the gods of our lives, will break God’s heart and provoke Him to anger.  If we persist in doing it; if we keep saying “No” to the drawing of His Holy Spirit, it will lead to irreparable harm and eternal damage. 

Thankfully, the Bible also assures us that, even though God can get angry, He is also “abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished,” (Numbers 14:18)  God is overflowing with unconditional, unfailing love but because of His holiness, He  will not, because He cannot, ignore the seriousness of sin.     

God has provided a way for all sin to be forgiven.  But He will not let sin go unpunished.  If we keep saying, “No;” if we continue to refuse the mercy, love, and grace He has provided for us through Jesus, our sins will all be judged and found guilty. 

Psalm 86:5– God is “rich in unfailing love to all who call on Him.” to everyone who repents; who turns away from his own sinful, selfish ways and accepts and trusts in Jesus alone as their Savior. 

“The anger of King Xerxes had subsided.”  After a while, he cooled down and was no longer angry at her. 

God’s “anger only lasts only a moment, but His kindness, His favor lasts a lifetime.” (Psalm 30:5).   

Come back next Tuesday and spend some more time in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

ESTHER #2

07/27/21 

King Xerxes has spent the last six months displaying “the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty” (Esther 1:4) trying to impress all of the nobles, the officials, and the military leaders of his kingdom.

Esther 1: 5-6    “When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed gardens of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the city of Susa.”

What a magnificent sight that must have been. King Xerxes gave a lavish banquet lasting seven days in the enclosed garden of his palace.  He invited all the people, “from the least to the greatest.”  There were no words to describe the beauty and the splendor of those royal gardens, the furnishings, the mosaic pavement; the table settings.(Esther 1:6) It was all too awesome to accurately describe with words. 

Ironically, in Luke 14, Jesus also talked about a banquet. Like King Xerxes, this man prepared a great banquet and invited many to attend.  (Luke 14:16)  

Esther 1: 7-8  Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.”   

The “royal wine,” the King’s own, personal wine was “abundant and in keeping with the King’s liberality.”  The King’s generosity was even more extravagant than his palace. 

Wine is often used in the Bible to represent the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is referred to as “the new wine.”  Have as much as you want.  The supply is unlimited.  Keep refilling your glasses..  If you have too much, you’ll start acting crazy for Jesus.  Our God is a generous God; continually providing for His people out of the abundance of His riches.  

Esther 1:9  “Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.”

Enter Xerxes’ wife, Queen Vashti; soon to become known as his first wife, the Ex Queen Vashti; his wife under the old contract, the old covenant.   

Esther 1: 10-11   “On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him… to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and the nobles, for she was lovely to look at.”

King Xerxes gave a special invitation to Queen Vashti to come to his banquet.  “She was lovely to look at” and he wanted to show off in front of his friends. He wanted to put her amazing beauty on display to impress all his guests.   The King always got the best of everything and like his palace with its gardens and furnishings, Queen Vashti’s beauty was greater than mere words alone could describe.   

`           Esther 1:12a  “But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come.”

Queen Vashti refused the King’s invitation to come to his banquet.  Ironically, the same thing happened to the man who gave the banquet Jesus was talking about.  

“At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’”  (Luke 14: 17-20)

 Like Queen Vashti, they all refused to attend the Banquet.   

Esther 1:12b   “Then the king  (Xerxes) became furious and burned with anger.” 

Again, the same thing happened to the man Jesus was talking about.

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry.” Luke 14:21a

The owner of the house became angry because his invitation had been rejected. King Xerxes was furious when his wife, Queen Vashti, refused to attend the banquet he had given to impress everyone in his kingdom.

Esther 1: 13-15    “Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in the matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times and were the closest to the king…who had special access to the king and were the highest in the kingdom. ‘According to the law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?’ he asked. ‘She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.’”

“According to the Law, what must be done?”  The marriage of King Xerxes and Queen Vashti was built upon and was governed by Law. In Babylon, King Xerxes’ word was the Law.  Everything he said had to be done.  Every command he gave had to be obeyed.  Every one of his orders had to be carried out, even the commands that were given to his beautiful and loving wife. 

When the King said, “Come to my banquet;” Queen Vashti was obligated by law to be there.  But she said, “No.”  She rejected the king’s invitation.  She outright refused to come to His banquet.  Because she refused to carry out the command of the king, she was guilty of breaking the law. 

Israel’s relationship to God was built on and governed by the Old Testament Law.  In order to be in a right relationship with God, everything God said had to be done exactly as the Law required.  Every command God gave had to be obeyed completely. If you disobeyed one commandment, you were guilty of breaking them all.  

According to Romans 2:12 “All who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” So, according to the law of Babylon, what must be done to Queen Vashti?  What is the penalty for saying, “No” to the king?

Lord willing, we’ll see how this all plays out next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ESTHER #1

07/20/21

We’re going to be spending some time in the Old Testament Book of Esther.  Most of us, including us preachers, don’t really know what to do with the Book of Esther. It’s an interesting book with some pretty colorful characters and an intriguing plot that has all kinds of twists and turns.  It’s a true story and a very important piece of Jewish history. 

If it hadn’t been for Esther, there might not be a Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah probably would not have gotten to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. In fact without Esther, Israel might have been destroyed as a nation. But if you’re not a student of Jewish history, you might be tempted to ignore the Book of Esther completely. 

God’s presence, God’s love and grace; His wisdom, His protection and His power are all brilliantly displayed through the entire Book of Esther. But Esther is the only book in the Bible that never mentions God’s name. So why are we bothering to study it? I can think of two reasons.  

(1) Jesus said: 

“You diligently study the Scriptures (specifically the Old Testament) because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39)

They “testify about me.”   We’re going to be taking a closer look at the Book of Esther over the next several weeks because, like every other Book in the Bible, The Book of Esther points us to Jesus.  It tells us about Jesus.  The Book of Esther is all about Jesus. 

(2) The second reason I’d like us to be studying Esther is:  

“From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures (specifically the Old Testament) which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”  (2Timothy 3: 15-16)

The whole Bible, including the Book of Esther, has been inspired by God.  Esther gives us wisdom to recognize our need for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  And it’s vital for teaching us, for correcting us and showing us how to live a life that is pleasing to God.  It’s designed to equip us for whatever God is asking us to do.  Its’ message is relevant to the needs of the world we’re living in today. 

Throughout the book, God is teaching His people about their relationship to Him and their purpose as His people. He’s teaching them about His perfect plan of salvation and deliverance that was coming through Jesus, the Christ; their promised Messiah. 

 But first, let’s take a look at the historical background of this story.   As the Book of Esther begins, the nation of Israel has been conquered, taken off their land and forced to live in Babylon for 70 years.  Ancient Babylon is modern day Iraq.  Israel was living in what is now called “Iraq” for 70 years.  After 70 years, Babylon was conquered by Persia, (now known as Iran.) 

Finally, Cyrus, the king of Persia gave the Jews permission to return to Israel.  Most of the Jews decided to stay in Babylon. They had no Temple there, so they couldn’t worship the Lord or offer sacrifices for their sin, but their life was so much easier and more comfortable for them in Babylon. 

The city of Jerusalem had been destroyed.  They felt there was nothing to go back to.  God was not pleased with their decision to stay in Babylon, but the Book of Esther shows how God continues to protect and care for His people even though they choose to live in voluntary exile.

Let’s begin to get acquainted with the personalities in this Book.      

Esther 1: 1-2    “This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa,”

King Xerxes was the king of a very large Kingdom.  The capital city of his Kingdom was the city of Sousa.  We’re going to see how God was able to use Xerxes to accomplish His will for His people.      

Esther 1: 3-4   “and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all of his nobles and officials… For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor  and glory of his majesty.”  

For six months, King Xerxes displayed the opulent wealth of his Kingdom and the splendor and majesty of his Empire.  He gave a few select people a brief glimpse into his world, into his palace and into his lifestyle.  Nothing else on earth even came close to matching it.  There was more beauty and more wealth on display than the human mind could even imagine; more than anyone else’s eyes had ever seen.  Nobody else lived the way King Xerxes lived or had the things he had. 

We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  God and Heaven are far greater than anything this world has ever seen or any human mind could possibly imagine. 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  (1 Corinthians 2: 9-10)     

God displayed Himself and the magnificence of His Kingdom through Jesus Christ.  For the three brief years Jesus was on earth, He taught us that God’s Kingdom was like a mustard seed; like a treasure hidden in a field; like a net thrown into a lake that caught a large number of fish. 

He healed the sick.  He raised the dead and caused the blind to see.  For three years, through Jesus, God graciously and lovingly gave us a brief look into His world, into His palace and into His lifestyle.  Those who wanted to hear it could hear it and those who wanted to see it could see it.

Lord willing, we’ll come back to this next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH#27

07/13/21

Elijah has asked Elisha to tell him what he can do for him before he is taken from him.

Elisha’s answer is:

2 Kings 2:9b – “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.”

2 Kings 2:10a    “’You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said.”

It’s “a difficult thing” because our human nature tends to process and interpret everything around us with our five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.  Our human, natural minds can only recognize and accept physical things.  The “flesh,” as the Bible calls it, is blind to the things of the spirit.  

2 Kings 2:10  “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise not.”    

“If you see me.”  Something’s about to happen that the physical eyes won’t be able to see.  Something is about to happen that the natural mind will never be able to understand, something human reason will refuse to accept.  A heavenly event is about to take place and the earthly mind is not equipped to deal with it.  

“Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”   (John 14:19)

“The world will not see me.”  That’s because the world has mono vision.  It can only see one thing at a time.  The world can’t see past the obvious, the superficial,  the temporary.  The world can’t see spiritual things.  The world can’t see God.  It can’t see what God is doing in the world today.  The world has mono vision, but repentant believers have double vision. 

If we’re trusting in Jesus Christ alone to make us right with God; if we’ve asked Jesus to come into our hearts; if we’ve fully surrendered our lives to the Holy Spirit’s control, we can see two things at once; one on top of the other.  We can see what the world sees, but we can also see what God sees. We can see twice as much with double vision.  It’s simply a matter of which one we choose to focus our eyes on. 

The company of prophets who were standing at a distance could only see Elijah, the man, the prophet.  But then he disappeared and they thought he must have died.  “If you can see me when I am taken from you;” if you can look at the physical and still see the spiritual; if you can look beyond the temporary and see the eternal; if you can look at what is – in the flesh and see what’s coming – in the spirit, “it will be yours.”  Everything you’re able to see in me will be living in you.  “otherwise not;” 

If you can’t see truth in the things of the spirit, if all you can see is the temporary and the obvious, you’ll be just as unhappy, just as hopeless as the unbelieving world you’re living in. 

  “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than anyone else,” (1Corinthians 15:19)

2 Kings 2:11-12   “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horseman of Israel. And Elijah saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.” 

“If you can see me…”  Are you kidding?  A chariot of fire being pulled by horses of fire, a whirlwind, how could you possibly miss something like that?  You won’t see it without double vision.  You won’t see it unless you’re looking through the eyes of faith. 

Those weren’t earthly horses and chariots.  They were heavenly horses and chariots.  That wasn’t an earthly event.   That was a spiritual event.  That was something that can only be seen in the Spirit.  We have to be looking at our circumstances, we have to be looking at the future through the eyes of faith.  If we’re not, we won’t see it and, like the rest of the world, our grief will have no hope. 

There were fifty prophets watching this from a distance.  They couldn’t see the horses or the chariots. They could only see Elijah leave but Elisha could see Elijah being taken up to heaven and it gave him the courage to keep on living.  Elisha tore of his clothes because of his grief. But he was not grieving as someone who had no hope.

When Jesus hung on that cross, as blood was flowing down from His head, His hands, His feet, and His side, as He whispered, “It is finished,” as He cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,” as He breathed His last breath, what did everybody see?  What did His disciples see?  What did the crowd see?  What did those Jewish Rulers see? 

When you enter a funeral chapel and walk up to the front, what do you see?  Do you see death or do you see life?  Do you see defeat or do you see victory?  Do you see the end or do you see the beginning?  What do you see?  If you can look at death and see the face of your risen Savior, it will all be yours. 

If it looks like it’s over but you can see it’s just getting started, it will all be yours.  Everything Jesus has will be yours.  All the comfort, all the strength, all the peace, all the hope, all the joy, all the love, all the power that heaven can produce will be yours to help you get through it.  If you can look at death and see Jesus, it will all be yours.  Not everybody can see it.  It takes double vision.  

2 Kings 2:13-14   “He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood  on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”

Elisha picked up the cloak, struck the water and the Jordan River divided for him just as it did for Elijah.  That’s when he realized that the God of Elijah was now his God too. The things Elijah had done – he would do also because Elisha had gone to be with his Lord

He asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and God provided it.  Elisha picked it up and used it.  We ask for the power of the Holy Spirit and the Lord has provided it.  “The promise of the Father” has been kept.   We have His cloak, His Holy Spirit. 

But most of us leave it lying on the ground and try doing His work without ever picking it up.  We might be afraid of it.  Maybe we don’t really know what it is or how to use it.  Maybe we think it’s for someone else to use.  We might not be planning to do any work.  But it has been given to each of us and the work is impossible to do without it.

Lord willing, next Tuesday we’ll begin to take a look at Esther. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #26

07/06/21

Elisha was determined to follow Elijah as far as he could for as long as he could. The two of them have just crossed the Jordan River together.

2 Kings 2:9a – “When they had crossed (the Jordan River) Elijah said to Elisha, ‘tell me what I can do for you before I am taken from you..’”

Before Jesus returned to heaven, He said to His disciples (i.e.  repentant believers),

“Until now, you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)

Many of us are very uncomfortable at the thought of asking Jesus for something for ourselves.  Usually, we don’t even bother to ask because we don’t know our Bibles well enough to know what we can and cannot ask for and we’re afraid that if we do ask, we won’t get it.  So, if we do ask, we don’t ask for much or we don’t ask for anything too specific because we don’t want to be embarrassed or disappointed when we don’t get it. 

But Jesus wants us to ask just like Elijah wanted Elisha to ask. Maybe this will make it easier for us.  There are five things we need to be sure of before we ask the Lord for anything. 

(1) We have to know who we are. 

(2)  We have to know where we are. 

(3)  We have to know what we’re doing

(4)  We have to know what we want.  Specifically, what do we actually want the Lord to give us or to do for us? 

(5)  We have to know why we want it? What is our motive for asking?

When we fully understand those five things, we can ask for anything in His name and know we’ll receive it just as He promised.  

The Lord told Solomon to ask.  

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask whatever you want me to give you.’”   (I Kings 3:5)

    King Solomon had it pretty well sorted out. 

“But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.”  (1Kings 3:7b)

(1.)  Who am I?   I’m just a little child who doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.”  (1Kings 3:8)

(2)  Where am I?    I’m here among the people you have chosen and only you know how many

there are.

(3)  What do I want?

“So give your servant a wise and discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong.”  (1Kings 3:9a)

(4)  What am I doing? – I’m governing your people.

“For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1Kings 3:9b)

(5)  Why do I want this?  

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father.”

(1Kings 3:7a)

   You have made me king.  This was your idea, not mine.  

“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ’Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.’”  (1Kings 3:10-12)

“I am pleased that you asked me for this.” You were thinking about my will when you made your request. You didn’t ask me to make your life easier.  You ask me to help you do your job better.  Because of that, I’ll give you what you asked for.  

Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both riches and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.’” (1Kings 3:12-13)

Because you put my work first, because you were seeking the Kingdom of God first, (Matthew 6:33), I will add a lot of other things to your request.  I’m going to give you things you didn’t ask for.  I’m going to give you more than you could ever ask for or even imagine. 

Now back in 2Kings 2:9a    Elijah says to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken from you.”  In order for this to work, Elisha has to ask himself: 

(1)  Who am I?  I’m your disciple, Elijah. 

(2)  Where am I?  I’m in a hostile and unbelieving world.

 (3)  What am I doing?  You want me to keep doing the things you’ve been doing. 

(4)  So what do I want?  I want what I need to do this job better.   

2Kings 2:9b  “’Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.” 

I’m not even half the person you are, Elijah. So I’m going to need twice as much of whatever it is you have – to make it possible for me to do what you’ve called me here to do. “Let me inherit,” (pass on to me) “a double portion of your spirit,” a double portion of the power that makes it possible to do what you have done.

We’re disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We live in an unbelieving world that is hostile toward the things of God. We’ve been called to preach the gospel, to be witnesses and to make disciples. Everything we ask for has to be designed to help us do that job better; help us to be more effective witnesses for Christ.  If we’re only interested in making our lives easier, we probably won’t get what we’re asking for. Lord willing, we’ll take a final look at Elijah and Elisha next Tuesday. Thanks again fir being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #25

06/29/21

Elisha has expressed his determination to follow Elijah regardless of where his journey may take him.

2 Kings 2:7   “Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan.”

Elisha and Elijah are the only ones standing at the edge of the Jordan River right now.  There was a company of prophets at Bethel and a company of prophets at Jericho.  But, this time, there was no company of prophets at the Jordan River.  All the other prophets “stood at a distance” and watched. 

Before you say one more word Elisha, I want you to think long and hard about this because there won’t be any more chances to change your mind.  This is your last chance to say, “no.”  Once I leave here, there is no turning back.

The Jordan River is the dividing place. It’s a place of total separation.  In Jewish history, the Jordan River represents a boundary, a border between two worlds that are in conflict with each other.  Israel finally ended their forty years of wandering in the wilderness and entered the Promise Land by crossing the Jordan River. 

On the one side, you have the safety and comfort of the Promise Land where everybody’s a believer just like you.  But on the other side, you have a hostile and unbelieving world that attacks and ridicules everything you believe in and stand for.  This time they’ll be coming out of the promised land, not going into it. Elijah is preparing to leave the comfort and safety of the promised land to go back into a hostile, unbelieving world.

Once we cross the Jordan, we will be there.  It’s my final destination.  That’s where the Lord has sent me and that’s where I’m sending you.  If you stop now, if you don’t come with me now, you’ll start sliding backwards in your relationship with me.  This is where I wanted to bring you from the day we first started back in Gilgal; the day you first got saved.  This is where I want all  those who follow me to come. 

I have been sent here to bring the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sin.  I want them to hear about Bethel and the blessings that come from God’s promises.  I want them to have the confidence of Jericho that demonstrates the victories that result from God’s overcoming power. 

I’ve been sent to bring it all into an unbelieving world that doesn’t want to hear it; a world that will do everything in its power to silence it and stop me from saying it.  Everything you’ve experienced in the Promised Land, the blessings and the victories, was never meant for you to enjoy by yourself. I want you to go out into the whole word and offer it to them. It may cost you your life. It may even put you on a cross. 

But it’s the work I was sent here to do.  It’s the work I put my Church here to do. Do you go to church just to hear the pastor talk about Jesus or do you go there to be with Jesus and to strengthen your walk with Him? 

We all start out at Gilgal by acknowledging our sin problem and asking Jesus to come into our hearts and take over our lives.  Have you ever done that? We all have to start there.  We can’t go any farther until we invite Jesus into our hearts.  

How far are you planning to go with Jesus?  How much more of what He is offering to you do you want to have?  How much more of yourself are you willing to let Him have?  How much more of yourself are you willing to lose?  Jesus said that only those who were willing to lose their lives for His sake would find them.    

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not fist sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough to compete it…Any of you that does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:28, 33)

Is that a little more than we were planning to spend?  Is the joy of being with Him still greater than our need to get something from Him?

2Kings 2:8  Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left , and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

There’s no turning back now for Elisha. Elisha thought it over, counted the cost and made the same commitment as the Apostle Paul who said:

“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, 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)

The joy of being with Him is much greater than anything I could ever get from Him. My life has no meaning and my life has no purpose apart from doing His will. Only those with the heart and mind of Paul and Elisha will get to experience what comes next.

Lord willing, we’ll pick this up from here next week. Thanks for being in God’s word with pastor Buj.

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.

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