Healing by Whose Power?

Let me preface this by saying I believe in healing, but I do not believe in “Healers”. The following is from a popular preacher regarding “HIS” healing ministry.

Quote #1

“It’s God’s will to heal every single person every single time.” Healing is a done deal. It’s part of the salvation package. Look at the meaning and use of the word “saved” (sozo) in the Bible and you will find that it covers forgiveness, healing, and deliverance. It means to be “made whole” in every aspect of life. In Psalms 103:3 and 1 Peter 2:24, the benefits of salvation are described as the forgiveness of sins and physical healing. You cannot separate one from the other. It is offensive to Jesus and His finished work to treat healing as merely a fringe benefit. There are at least 17 occasions in the Gospels, where Jesus healed everyone who came to Him sick. It was His habit to heal everyone!

The problem with the quote above is that none of those people are alive today. THEY ALL DIED LATER.

Now I am not saying God does not heal. I have seen and been part of a miraculous healing before. But I take exception to the idea that healing is an absolute right and a given if we have enough faith.

And I question the quote; “It was His habit to heal everyone”. Jesus did not automatically heal everyone in the room, town, or countryside just by being there. He did not walk into a village and everyone suddenly got up from their sick beds.

Those who have a “healing” ministry would do good to ask “What was the purpose of Miracles in Jesus’ ministry?” What was the purpose of healing? Especially if you consider that eventually everyone got sick or old and died.

Consider the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”. Although there is no Biblical proof what it was, many think it was cataracts or another sort of blindness. But by Paul’s own writings, he was never healed of it.

Quote #2

“I’ve failed. I don’t see healing come to pass. I’ve seen some people very close to me die, family and friends I’ve loved with all of my heart. I’ve had to accept partial responsibility. It’s a complex issue. I’m not saying that it was all my fault, all their fault, or anybody’s fault. We’re still learning… (On one occasion where a girl died) I believe I did fail… But am I condemned by that? No, I’m not condemned at all. I believe that God loves me.”

Healing because of something I do or say? This puts the power in me, not God. It obligates God to act or react to me, my faith, or my prayer. The idea that the responsibility for sickness or death is mine by obedience or lack thereof, is elevating the believer to the state of god-head.

Quote #3

Jesus said you need to exercise your God-given authority and speak to your mountain (Mk 11:23). In a manner of speaking, this is His law for dealing with mountains. You don’t have to understand how that works anymore than you need to understand how electricity works in order to benefit from it. Another law connects faith with action – you need to act on your faith. If you believe that you’re healed, but “continue to think sick, talk sick, and act sick,” then you won’t see the manifestation of your healing.

This is from the belief that the spoken word of the believer can create. As far as I can understand the Bible, only God has the power to create. There are nuggets of truth in this preacher’s teachings. I am not at all saying that everything he has said is totally wrong. I just believe that the scriptures are being twisted and “proof-texted” to fit his agenda and belief systems.

It is true that our attitudes do affect our health. Modern medicine, especially in the treatment of cancers deal with this. Most of us can think of the person we know who is the perpetual sick who seems to revel in their infirmities. And conversely we might know the person who is always upbeat and positive and does not let illness slow them down. But to make this a spiritual truth that leads to guaranteed healing?

Personally I like the verse in John 15:16 You should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16b

From the sermon last week in Church, we were taught to look at the phrase about fruit. What fruit? The list is in Galatians. “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Joy

“For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Can you have joy in the chaos? Or does your moodiness hover over everyone like a cloud? Not that anyone should be joyful about the hard times, but rather your joy comes from #1) God is with you through it and #2) God uses every trial to help you become stronger in the faith.

Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-8).

Is your inner person wrecked with anxiety and worry when everything falls apart? Or can you rest in God’s peace? There is no peace for the wicked; however, for believers it is available every time you pray and leave your concerns with God.

Forbearance

“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).

Can you be still and wait on God? Or are you tempted to always move ahead so you can stay in control? Forbearance is a fruit that will grow with your experience of being stretched in faith especially in times of trial.

Perhaps when our prayer life seems powerless, we need to inspect out fruit, and its quality. We might look at our sincerity of each fruit. God knows our hearts, and our motives. Perhaps the healing we so desperately want or need is to teach us and refine the fruits in our lives.

We have the promises from Jesus that whatsoever we ask, it will be given. I can quickly list 7 times Jesus told his disciples that the last night they were together before the crucifixion. But each time Jesus said it, there was a qualification.

John 14:13, 14:14, 15:7, 15:16, 16:23, 16:24, 16:26.

In my name, abide, bear fruit, doing greater works… these were the qualifiers for the promise. Exactly what do they mean? I understand them to mean that when the believer has shaped his/her life to be like Jesus, we will see power in our prayer life. It is the result of close fellowship and walking with the Master. Asking “in Jesus name” means in His attitude, His likeness, His mentality regarding the object of prayer. It is not a set of magic words to be tacked onto any prayer we might sputter. Is not a magician’s formula to move God into doing.

Abiding, bearing fruit, and doing the will of the Father, does not leave room for spurious prayers. When we are in close fellowship with Jesus, we will not pray for the lottery, winning the sports game, and other frivolous requests.

Health and healing? When we are abiding in that closeness, if the Spirit places the desire into our hearts, it will be done.

Christian Cruise Control

There is a mindset that is pervasive among many Christians today. It is the idea that the Christian life is a life of bliss and easy going. It is my humble estimation that nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, this mindset is becoming entrenched as the new “normal” among many evangelicals. God didn’t seek us out and save us so that we can sit back and rest on the way to heaven. God saved us because He loves us and so we can bring glory to His Name.

Why is it that so many believers are content with coasting to the finish line? Why is it that so many professing Christians are living for the here and now?  It is because of this false notion of what a Christian life should look like. I find the notion of the “ideal Christian life” nowhere in the Word of God. Let’s look at the believer’s life under God’s control as opposed to a life of coasting on Christian cruise control.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:20 ).

It’s not my intent in this article to write about the prosperity gospel or dominion theology because the lack of biblical grounds for both is well-documented. What I want to focus on today is the idea of the Christian life being an easy coast on the way up to heaven. With that thought in mind, I want to share an image with you that I believe many people have of the Christian life. It is an image that a pastor described in a sermon a few weeks ago and I’ll paraphrase:

Many believers have an image of the Christian life that is coasting along on an escalator going up. The Christian life is not a reverse escalator.  The Christian life is a walk up on…a down escalator. We are creating an unrealistic world if we think we are coasting on an up escalator. The escalator we are on is the world system that’s going down. The reality is that we are on an escalator crammed with people all partying, laughing, and oblivious to the fact that God’s judgment waits at the bottom. Believers are the ones moving briskly upward in the opposite direction as we struggle past the masses riding the escalator downward. Along the way we will see other believers barely making it and perhaps stopping because this life is hard. We need to encourage them and continue upward together.

The image of the crowded downward escalator so vividly portrayed above is very different from the notion of a blissful ride heavenward that many have. As believers we must guard against spiritual apathy. Is it possible to surround ourselves with the right radio stations, Christian book stores, and upstanding people? Is it possible to become jaded because we have created a world made of (seemingly) perfect people, polished lives, and pious platitudes? It certainly is possible but when the layers are peeled back we quickly realize that Christians are not perfect nor can we expect perfect lives. We live in the same world that unbelievers live in…a world full of pain, trials, and luring temptation.

Here is the difference with the Christian life:  Unsaved people can try to manufacture goodness and so can believers. Just observe people during the Christmas season. There will be fake smiles, charity driven by guilt, and the sounds of Merry Christmas being heard in the shopping malls.

But watch what happens when the footage is shown from a predawn black Friday scuffle for laptops, or you didn’t realize someone else was waiting for that close parking spot, or perhaps your child didn’t get the big role in the church musical. Isn’t it amazing how quickly our old nature comes right to the surface? I don’t mention these things to place blame because I can recognize this in myself at times.

So here we are on this escalator and we are living this Christian life. How can we expect to make it to the end and finish well when everything around us is going in the opposite direction? We know creating a world of people, places, and platitudes around us that resembles more of a “precious moments” catalog than the real world isn’t the answer. The only answer is to be in “this world” and not of it.

We can only walk in the opposite direction by the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of us…not by our own strength.

Jesus is coming back soon and time is short. We are walking through this life and we are surrounded by masses of people going down, brushing past us, smiling, joking, and completely unaware that they will stand before the holy God of the universe as judge. We can’t just excuse ourselves as we fight our way up in the other direction. We must tell them that there is a way that leads to life. We have to tell them that Jesus loves them, He died for them, and He wants to save them. They have to know that without Him…they have no hope of going to heaven.

As we are going in the opposite direction we are bound to attract attention. A life on Christian cruise control won’t be noticed…it’s what the world expects. On the other hand, a life that has been broken, remade, and is a reflection of Jesus Christ—will be noticed.

Authentic Christianity is salt and light in this dark world. It is joy and peace in the midst of turmoil. Even when the bottom falls out it is a life that shouts, “God is in control.” This is an authentic Christian walk that will speak volumes about who God is. What an opportunity we have to share the gospel.

Matthew 5:14:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Not only that, but  as we press on toward finishing well, we have the chance to take other believers by the hand and encourage them to press on. With the Spirit’s leading we can encourage them through prayer and of course by reaffirming the promises and truths found in  the Bible. Far from the world of Christian cruise control, you will find people who are a living testimony of God’s love, mercy, and word.

Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

I cannot thank the Lord enough for the people who have been there when I needed godly encouragement. They are military chaplains, dear friends, a neighbor, or maybe a pastor who is simply there to stand with you in very difficult times. Do you remember how you felt when a dear believer prayed for you, read the Word to you, or was just there with you? To me, that is the essence of what we should be as believers in one Body.

My hope in writing this article is to encourage you to look for opportunities to glorify God before fellow Christians and non-Christians, by living a life that is going in the opposite direction of this world’s broken system. Be the one pushing past the masses going in the other direction and take as many fellow travelers with you (as this short window of time allows) before the Lord’s return.

 

Author unknown.

Think It Over

by Charles R. Swindoll

Mark 4

The bad news is this: Listening won’t make the thorns go away, no matter how much we concentrate and welcome Jesus’ teachings. Thorns come with the territory called depravity.

But the good news is this: Listening—I mean really giving heed to the seed—results in deeper roots and greater fruit . . . and thorns can’t strangle such healthy growth.

Jesus is still communicating, but if we’re not careful, we’ll let our mental strangulation drown out His voice. Things that strangle us grow well in comfortable surroundings even when we look like we’re listening.

In what ways might these thorns be encroaching in your life?

Worries?

The deceitfulness of riches?

The desires for other things?

False Teachers – Wolves Among us

I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

The Lord said even though they will claim to have prophesied in His name, and in His name driven out demons and performed many miracles, He will deny them entry into the kingdom saying, “I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers” (Matt. 7:22-23).

You would think with the advent of the written word, all this false teaching would have stopped, because believers could check what they were hearing against what the Bible says to see if they were being told the truth or not. But the reality is that even in countries where the Bible is readily available most believers simply don’t take the time to read and understand it. A great majority seems to be content with having someone else read it for them and then tell them what it says. These believers have always been fair game for the false teachers.

Even today, when information abounds, average Christians know very little about what the Bible really says. Many are more familiar with what false teachers tell them it says than what they know from their own study.

Keeping The Wolves At Bay

What’s the remedy for this, you might ask? How do we avoid being deceived by these savage wolves? The answer comes in just one word, wisdom.

James 1:5-8 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

It’s sad that so many believers who do read the Bible don’t ask the Lord for the wisdom to understand. But even among those who do ask not everyone receives it. This is because deep down most people have doubts about whether the Bible is the actual Word of God. They see conflicts between Biblical descriptions of certain events and what they have come to believe about these events from other sources. They are caught between the claims of an infallible God and the opinions of fallible man.

According to James, this makes them double-minded. He said they shouldn’t expect anything from the Lord. The only ones who ask for and receive wisdom are those who believe wholeheartedly that God is all that He claims to be, has done all that He claims to have done, and will do all that He has promised to do.

The Bible is a supernatural document that can only be understood by those who have been given supernatural ability (1 Cor. 2:14), but all true believers have access to this ability. It comes from the Holy Spirit who is sealed within us (Ephes. 1:13-14). Faith is the key that unlocks this ability because it takes faith to put aside our human understanding and accept God at his word. As you increase in faith, you will increase in understanding His Word, and as you increase in understanding His Word, you will increase in faith. It’s a never ending cycle.

What Would You Trade for Jesus?

Author Unknown

Centuries ago, ancient merchants originated a phrase which came to serve as the universal rule for trade and commerce: “The value of anything is determined by how much it can be traded for.” Ironic as it may seem, one of the greatest illustrations of this principle comes from the tragic story of Christ’s betrayal by one of his own disciples. Judas, who was also the treasurer for the twelve, traded his loyalty to Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas simply traded Christ for something which was of higher value to himself. What a shame, that after being with Jesus daily, witnessing the miracles and the wonders, to Judas the Lord of the universe was only worth a mere 30 pieces of silver! The infamous downfall of Judas, is really a story of warped values — he simply didn’t recognize the true worth, the vast preciousness of Jesus Christ. “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced” (Matt. 27:9).

Twisted values are not uncommon in other Biblical accounts, such as in the story of the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25). A special blessing and inheritance from their father Isaac belonged to the first-born son, Esau. But Esau lacked a full appreciation for his inherited birthright. In contrast, Jacob realized its astronomical value and coveted his birthright. He eventually found a scheme to transfer its rights to himself. At a time that Esau was famished, Jacob offered him a bowl of lentils in exchange for the birthright. Although this offer was in no way equitable, yet amazingly, Esau agreed to trade his birthright for a single meal. What stupid, distorted values Esau had! But is this any different than the petty, inferior things that many people trade for spiritual things?

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. What if Jesus sent you a letter and promised to personally meet with you and His other followers at a restaurant on Sabbath morning. But let’s say Sabbath comes, and you feel like sleeping in instead. Or maybe it’s such a beautiful day, you prefer to go on a picnic, or perhaps there’s a football game on TV you don’t want to miss. Wouldn’t you say that whatever you selected to do, instead of meeting with Jesus, would say something about the insignificance of your relationship with Him? Wouldn’t it mean that, like Judas, you have established your value upon Christ? Wouldn’t it mean that a TV show has higher worth, that a picnic is more important, or a little extra sleep means more to you than meeting with Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe?

But you may say, “Jesus hasn’t sent me such a letter. He’s in Heaven and won’t be at a restaurant!” However dear friend, Jesus promised that whenever believers gather in His name, He will always honor that gathering with His presence. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). In other words, He gave His word to be present whenever two or more believers come together in His name.

So do Christians really believe His Word? Many must figure that Jesus doesn’t tell the truth, because week after week, many professing Christians snub the Lord Jesus by not showing up where He promised to be. Either they must figure He lied and won’t be at church, or else they have simply established a low estimate of Jesus’ worth. Yes, that’s right! The things that keep you away from church is the value you have placed on the presence of Jesus — they declare what spiritual things are worth to you.

Thank God there are believers who have such a high value on their meeting with Jesus that it takes something urgent or awfully important to pull them away. Some have no choice but to work at their jobs during the times that some church meetings occur. Some might not come meet with Jesus because of an emergency, sickness, road conditions or car trouble, etc. Although nothing in this world can assume a higher priority than our relationship with Jesus, at least the Lord understands our situations and knows our heart — that we rather would meet with Him and our brethren if it weren’t for similar urgencies.

However, how could we expect the Lord to be pleased if we stay away from His meetings for less serious excuses? What does it say about our spiritual values if we’re absent due to the special sale at Sears, the football game, watching the late show, or are simply too lazy to get up on time? Remember, the reasons which keep people away reflect the value that they take place upon the Lord, spiritual things, their brethren and the church.

Why does the scripture connect the neglect of church attendance to sin? Mere absence from a church meeting is not in itself a sin, however a pattern of absence from church always leads to, or has a relationship to sin and displeasing God. “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:25-26).

Why Unfaithfulness to Church Displeases God

(1) It keeps us away from a spiritual influence that would encourage us and keep us from falling away from the Lord (Heb. 3:12-13).

(2) It keeps us away from encouragement toward repentance and reconciliation should we fall into sin (1 John 1:9, Gal. 6:1).

(3) Prevents our faith from being built up by hearing the Word preached (Rom. 10:17).

(4) It keeps us from obeying the Lord’s command to demonstrate love for our brethren, which keeps us from falling (1 John 2:10, John 15:12).

(5) It prevents us from receiving correction or submission to spiritual authority (Heb. 13:17).

(6) It expresses unbelief and disobedience to God’s Word which tells us to fellowship and assemble together (1 John 1:7, Heb. 10:25).

(7) It shows disregard toward the call to worship the Lord collectively as His body (Psa. 22:22, 35:18, 107:32).

(8) It shows our lack of discernment of the Lord’s body (Matt. 25:14, 1 Cor. 11:29).

(9) It demonstrates a lack of self-sacrifice and discipline (Luke 9:23).

(10) It shows a disregard for the Lord’s presence (Matt. 18:20).

(11) It is a sin of “omission,” in that we know it’s “good” to be faithful to church (James 4:17).

As for Esau, the value he placed on the things of God was only worth the price of a bowl of lentils which he traded in exchange for his birthright to his brother Jacob. For Judas, the things of God were worth only a slightly higher price — thirty pieces of silver which he exchanged for the betrayal of Jesus.

How about you? What is your worth you have placed upon the things of God? What price will it take to keep you away from your church or spiritual things? A favorite TV show? A sale at the shopping mall? A mosquito bite? A boo-boo on your little toe? What do you suppose that God thinks about the value you have placed upon His church and His fellowship?

If you ever thought that being a Christian was something that you could do out of “convenience” you were greatly mistaken. God isn’t interested in your “leftovers.” He must be the highest priority in your life, or else He becomes worthless. In order to serve Christ it will require sacrifice on your part — sacrifice of your time, money, convenience, popularity… and even your life. “…nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing…” (2 Sam. 24:24).

A Test for You?

By now perhaps you’ve realized that most of mankind has failed to obey God when it comes to His Sabbath day. Much of humanity ignores God altogether and couldn’t care less about setting aside a day to honor and worship Him.

Maybe you’re one of the many who have been told that the Sabbath command has been transferred from the seventh day of the week, Saturday, to Sunday, the first day of the week. Or maybe you’ve been told that it’s no longer necessary to keep it at all.

Sadly, traditional Christianity has for the most part turned its back on the Fourth Commandment—considering the Sabbath obsolete, fulfilled by Jesus Christ, replaced by Sunday or somehow negated by the dozens of arguments that have been marshaled against it over the centuries. However, we shouldn’t be surprised at this widespread disdain for the Sabbath day, since God’s Word tells us that “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law” (Romans 8:7).

What about you? What’s your view of God’s most ignored commandment in light of the clear instructions in His Word? The simple fact is that nowhere in the Scriptures will you find that the day God established at creation as the proper day of rest and worship has been changed or abolished. Most religious groups don’t have a problem with the other nine commandments, but few are willing to submit to God’s will on the Fourth.

it’s instructive to note what God said when He revealed His Sabbath to the Israelites in Exodus 16 through the miracle of the manna to feed them in the wilderness. Unlike on other days, the people were not to go out to gather on the Sabbath, as there would be none. Rather, they were supposed to gather double the day before to prepare for the Sabbath.

Notice God’s intent: “that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not” (verse 4). Indeed, the Sabbath was a test commandment—and remains so today. While the rest of the Ten Commandments are generally acknowledged as right and proper, keeping the Sabbath commandment often brings ridicule and even ostracism. So this command can reveal who is willing to go the distance in obedience to God. Will you?

Rarely will a church organization change its beliefs. But with God’s help and guidance, you as an individual can change yours and begin patterning your life according to His instructions. You would do well to ask yourself: If God made the Sabbath holy at creation, if He made it a part of the Ten Commandments, if Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early Church kept it (as the New Testament and history shows they did), doesn’t it make sense that He would want you to keep it?

Will you pass the test? Are you willing to surrender a portion of your time to build the kind of relationship God wants to enjoy with you?

Excerpt from book; Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest

 

No Way Out But God

This is a Bible story of a widow woman in the Bible. This woman lived in obscurity to all but God; in fact, we do not even have a record of her name. But God saw her and her situation and took note. As a result, she made an impact for eternity. She is what I call the “no way out” woman. In her desperate situation, she truly had no one to turn to for help, and no hope that anything would change.

Now who was this widow? She was apparently a gentile, not a Jew. She lived in Jezebel’s home territory of Sidon, not in Israel. She showed herself a believer in the true God when she swore by His name to Elijah. Look back at v. 12. She said, “as certainly as Yahweh Elohim lives.” An unbeliever would not have said such a thing. I read this: “In a heathen, idolatrous land Elijah finds in a poor widow what he had sought in vain in Israel: faith in the living God of Israel.”

In order to understand how desperate her condition was, we have to look at the state of her world.

Read 1 Kings 16:29-33.

Remember that the Jewish nation was divided at this time. Israel was the larger nation in the north, which included 10 of the twelve tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom was that of Judah, with only two tribes. The widow’s circumstances were brought on by the situation in the northern kingdom.

Samaria was the capital of Israel. At this point in the text a new king came to rule over that land. His name was Ahab, and he had the notoriety of being the most evil of all the kings that had led that nation until this time. And it had not had any good kings. They were all evil!! Anyway, Ahab was bad and then became worse when he married Jezebel, whose father was the king of the Sidonians, or the Phoenicians, as you may have heard them called. Their kingdom was on the coastline and they were known as great traders.

Jezebel and Ahab solidified the worship of Baal as the state religion of Israel. Baal was the pagan god of storms and fertility, whose name means “master” or “owner”. The fertility goddess Asherah was often associated with Baal, and their worship involved self-mutilation, ritual prostitution, and infant sacrifice.

With Ahab leading God’s people into that sort of idolatry, you can understand why God called him the most evil of Israel’s kings.

This was the religious situation at the time our story began.

Read 1 Kings 17:1.

The Bible suddenly introduces Elijah at this point. When the situation was at its worst, when the most evil king reigned, when the worship of the true God was most threatened, God raised up Elijah as His prophet. Elijah’s name means “My God is Yahweh.”

The text tells us that Elijah was a Tishbite, or from Tishbe in Gilead, which was on the east side of the Jordan River.

As far as we know, this was Elijah’s first appearance before Ahab. He introduced himself as one who stands before the LORD God, or Yahweh Elohim, the God of Israel. To stand before God meant that He was His servant and ambassador. Elijah also mentioned the certainty that the LORD God lives. What a contrast to a god of wood and stone!

Imagine Ahab’s surprise when suddenly, one of Yahweh’s prophets appeared and announced that there would be no rain or dew in the land until he said so. Remember that Baal was the god of storm, generating the rains and controlling nature. As one commentator put it, “lack of rain was tangible proof of Baal’s impotence.”

I’m sure that Ahab wondered what kind of joke Elijah thought he was trying to pull since Baal was the one who determined whether it rained or not, not this prophet of Yahweh!

God clearly threatened drought as a form of judgment on the Israelites hundreds of years before this event.

Read Lev. 26:1-5, 14-15, 19-20.

Through Moses God promised to bring drought if His people turned against Him. Here He was making that promise good. We have seen some of the effects of drought these past months. Imagine being totally dependent on the rain for food and water. That was why droughts were so serious!

Elijah told Ahab that there would be drought until he prayed otherwise. Notice that Elijah was a man of his word.

Read James 5:16b-18.

Here we see that this drought lasted 3½ years in all. God appointed Elijah to pray for drought and then to pray for rain.

James’ point was that prayer of ordinary people who follow God is effective, even as Elijah’s prayers were. I find this an amazing statement by James. After all, God specifically called Elijah to be His spokesman to Ahab, and God specifically called him to pray for the rain to stop and then to start again.

It makes me wonder how many answered prayers we could see if we just stopped and really listened to God to see how He wants us to pray. What is His will? What is He trying to do in His kingdom program? It may look very different from the way we would pray otherwise. Our tendency is to pray for rain in a drought. We are likely to pray for deliverance in the tough situations. What if we heard God tell us His will in the matter because we really listened? James says that we would see the answers to our fervent prayers if we pray as Elijah did.

You know the rest of the story of the drought. When God was ready to end it, Elijah told Ahab to call the prophets of Baal to a contest between Baal and Yahweh on Mount Carmel. At that competition the LORD God of Israel won hands down. Then, Elijah prayed for rain and the rain came.

But in the meantime there were 3½ years of drought to go through. Not only did those worshipping idols go through the drought, but Elijah and our widow did also.

Makes you wonder how many “churches” were praying for the drought to end? (I know there weren’t churches in that time!) But if it happened today, many of our churches would hold prayer vigils for the drought to end. They would be clueless that the drought WAS God’s will.

Bad things affect God’s people. Sometimes God’s people are caught in the effects of living in a fallen world. In this case God was judging His people for their idolatry, but there were still faithful men and women among them who had to live with the drought. In fact, after the drought was over and Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal, he ran for his life from Ahab into the desert. While he was hiding, he and God had a conversation.

Read 1 Kings 19:13-14, 18.

Although Elijah felt totally alone as the last of God’s faithful followers, God let him know that there were actually 7,000 who had not worshipped Baal. All of these went through the drought also. All of these must have suffered in the same ways that the idolaters did. Speculation says, many faithful believers may have died because of the effects of the drought.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana coasts, believers were affected, just as unbelievers were. Their homes and churches were destroyed and many were killed. We live in a fallen world. Some of the things that happen may be God’s judgment on specific sin, but some are simply what happens when there is sin in the world. The consequences of the fact that our world is now fallen include disasters and illness, which impact all of us, whether we are believers or unbelievers.

I do not claim to be able to say what God is doing in such situations. I know there have been very public statements by certain Christian leaders saying that the destruction of New Orleans was God’s judgment on the sin of that city. I don’t know that and think we are on thin ice when we proclaim such things. We are not Old Testament prophets. There are no such persons at this point in time. I know that God is at work, whatever happens. In the midst of these difficult disasters and personal hardships, He can work. But I cannot pronounce the mind of God.

We do know that both the righteous and the unrighteous are affected by living in a fallen world. Elijah and the widow both dealt with the effects of God’s judgment on Israel.

 We also know that in the midst of such situations, when there is really no way out, God is there, caring and providing. When you are in a situation where there is no way out, remember that God is there, caring and providing so trust and obey Him, dying to self.

Movie-makers love the no way out situation. Movies are full of them. But they always end those scenes with some sort of miraculous deliverance. That is how the widow’s story ends, but it does not happen in every situation.

Sometimes the real-life hero dies. Sometimes she loses her job and her home. Sometimes she lives with a debilitating disease. There is truly no way out. But God is there, caring and providing even then.

If you face that kind of situation, know that He will not abandon you. He gives you grace and strength to make it in that place that you can’t escape. Cry out for help and obey what He tells you to do, dying to self.

And only God knows what your resulting impact will be.

Remember the Sabbath

God says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

First let me say I am not trying to cause division, nor am I trying to be legalistic. I am simply trying to state and teach what God says, even if that means saying some things that are a little uncomfortable to me.

I was basically born and raised in a Christian church, a Christian family, went to a Christian college and began a Christian family of my own. In all that time I have heard people defend Sunday worship in favor of Sabbath worship quote from Romans 14:5, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” If they would go on they would see that those esteeming one day above the others were the Jews who persisted in lifting up Sabbath worship, and that those who did not accept this law of Sabbath worship did so only because everyday was as a Sabbath. There is no mention of worship on Sunday replacing worship on the Sabbath.

Some historical/Biblical references to Sabbath worship show us that Jesus worshiped on the Sabbath, as did His disciples. Paul also worshiped on the Sabbath. Look through the Book of Acts and you will see that “the day of worship” was the Sabbath. We get confused because we have been taught confusion. God is not the author of confusion. Did the first church meet throughout the week? Yes they did. In fact we are told in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The Sabbath is mentioned not only in the Law of God, but in the prophets, and the New Testament writers as something that will be observed in the end times. Jesus also spoke of the holiness of the Sabbath, saying, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:” (Matthew 24:20) He also defended the Sabbath when others accused Him of breaking it.

What is the Sabbath? Many Christians will say it is Sunday. They will usually be quick to say that the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, but the Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the “Day of the Lord”, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Now I’m all FOR celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Without it there could be no real salvation, no true gospel message. Yet, GOD defines the Sabbath this way, “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God:” and the reason God gives us for doing so is this, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

The Sabbath worship is intended to help refocus our minds on the Lord, to remember that He alone is Creator. Jesus says that He is Lord of the Sabbath. God says that He set aside the Sabbath and “hallowed it”, that is God made it holy. When we do not keep the Sabbath we are not following the example given to us by Jesus, we are not allowing God’s blessings to fall upon us because we have created our own Sabbath, which is at odds with the one God, through Jesus, created and made holy. If you wish to use the argument that all days are holy, do you work on these other days? We are not to work on the Sabbath for it is holy.

I will openly admit to weekly breaking this commandment. Even though I don’t work on the Sabbath, I find that I do not know how to keep it holy. Nor do I know how to keep any day holy. Perhaps that is the whole point. Keeping the Sabbath keeps us on track with God. He makes holy those who receive His holiness.

As to Sunday being the Sabbath, it isn’t, but even if it was, most churchgoers are still not keeping that day holy. Most are just putting in their “hour a week” with God. For many it’s a time of showing others how spiritual they are. Because of this we dishonor God, who gave us the Sabbath to both honor Him and to be a rest for us.

 

Living in Freedom

Freedom. The very word arouses strong political passion and conjures up a collage of patriotic imagery. We all agree that it is something worth fighting for, and many have laid down their lives to defend it. In his letter to the Galatians, however, the apostle Paul was concerned about an issue of even greater consequence; ­our freedom in Christ.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

In recent years Christians have began to mobilize politically to counteract the secular forces that have steadily eroded our religious freedom in America. And that is all well and good. Nevertheless the apostle Paul’s warning should give us a reason to pause before we jump on the bandwagon: the greatest threat to our freedom as Christians is not external but internal.

The central theme of the Gospel is freedom (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18). Our freedom in Christ involves two aspects: (1) Freedom from the guilt of sin (Col 2:13-14, Heb 10:11-18) and (2) Freedom from the power of sin (Rom 8:2,12; 6:17-18;8:15). Both aspects of this truth are foundational to our Christian experience.

Freedom from guilt.

Forgiveness is an issue many stumble over. Long after we have come to Christ by faith, some of us continue to struggle with assurance of salvation because of a failure to recognize the fact that Jesus paid the full penalty for all our sins­ past, present and future (Heb 10:12-14). Failure to integrate this truth into our understanding of why God accepts us is also at the root of much of our driven behavior. There is nothing we can add to what Christ has already accomplished on the cross. Dick Halverson, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, said it well: “There is nothing I can do to make God love me more; there is nothing I can do to make God love me less!” This is liberating truth which must be personalized and internalized if we want to move on to maturity in Christ.

Freedom from the power of sin. Before we came to Christ, our old self was dominated by the flesh and we were slaves to sin. When we came to Christ, this old self was crucified and buried with Christ (Rom 6:6-8), we put on the new self (Col 3:10) and became a new creation (II Cor 5:17). We also received His Spirit, who was given to fill (control) and empower us, and who works to conform us to the Image of Christ.

It is important to realize that even though we have become a new creation in Christ, we still have the flesh whose innate desires are in opposition to life in the Spirit (Gal 5:17). The BIG difference is that we no longer have to be controlled or enslaved by it. By His Spirit, we have been set free from its power. However, the practical experience of freedom from the control of the flesh requires a daily choice to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16).

The apostle Paul points out that it is possible for us to become enslaved again after we have been set free. How does that happen? Whenever we add an element of self-effort (works or faith plus works) as a basis for gaining God’s acceptance (the essence of legalism), we subject ourselves again to the yoke of slavery. And any time we choose to gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16), we are offering ourselves as an instrument of unrighteousness and this always leads to slavery (Rom 6:13,16).

Perhaps a more subtle form of slavery occurs when we make the pursuit of personal ambition a focal point of our life. In fact, some of our seemingly inescapable “obligations” in life may stem from a need to protect our self-interests. Life becomes a game of contortions; we strive to hold on to all the cards by stretching and twisting ourselves into the most awkward and compromising positions. Eventually we find ourselves totally immobilized for fear of dropping one of the many pieces. This is one of the Enemy’s most effective strategies for neutralizing the Christian.

Like Saul, we may rationalize (or “rational lies”, as a friend put it) our disobedience by claiming that we fully intend to offer what we have obtained as a sacrifice to the Lord. But God’s reply echoes through the centuries: “To obey is better than sacrifice.” (I Sam 15:22).

I’m sure no sincere Christian starts out wanting to become one with the world. It is an intimacy that would make most of us cringe if it were to happen all at once. Instead, we gradually become attached to the world by initially presenting just a part of ourselves in exchange for what it has to offer. We tell ourselves that it is only a small part, that we are in control of the situation, that it is possible to romance the world without being overcome by it. But the Bible warns us otherwise (Rom 6:16).

Once we recognize what is truly happening to us, we are immediately confronted with a crisis of the will: What are we going to do about it? Perhaps we see ourselves as a victim of circumstances beyond our control; e.g., the nature of our practice. But we must be careful not to buy into the “victim mentality” in spiritual matters. Whatever may have kept us from first seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, God never intended for us to live that way.

The truth is that He has set us free, and this freedom is ours to claim regardless of our situation in life. Don’t wait for a moment of great inspiration, or for God’s supernatural intervention to extricate you from a bondage of your own making. Take a bold step of faith, turn away from whatever may have captured your heart and bound you to the world, and from here on out make a holy determination to walk in the light of freedom!

“You were bought with a price, do not become slaves of men”

­The Apostle Paul

A Testimony Concerning Your Language, Your Life

Often times we as Christians fail to realize just how important our words are. The words that come from our mouths, our hearts. People are watching us, wondering what makes us different. Do our actions point them to Jesus?   Would Jesus be proud of us, or embarrassed & hurt by the things we say? Am I hitting a sensitive spot on your conscience yet? ‘Cause I know it’s tugging on mine…..

Jesus never said we had to be perfect. But we do have to be careful. Very careful. We carry His name everywhere we go. CHRIST-ian. CHRIST-like. We must wear it well. Because someone’s eternity may depend upon what they see in us. To them, we are “Jesus with skin on”. Jesus warns us about being a stumbling block to others (Luke 17:1-2). If He chose to address that subject, it must have been pretty important to Him, don’t you think?

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Speaking ungodly things out loud doesn’t make it worse in the eyes of God. He already KNOWS your heart (Ps. 44:21), & all sin is the same in his eyes… disgusting! However, speaking those ungodly thing out loud makes them available for all to hear, doesn’t it? Therefore, we become a stumbling block to others, perhaps turning them away from Christ. What a tragedy. The apostle Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” (Col. 4:6) He reminds Timothy in 2 Tim.1:13 to “retain the standard of sound words you have heard from me.”

And what about swearing? Or using God’s name in vain.   When Moses came down off that mountain with the 10 Commandments, one of those commandments were “Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord thy God in Vain.” (Exodus 20:7) Many do not realize that the rest of that verse reads “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” You see, God’s name is above every other name. When we use it lightly, flippantly, or during times of anger, we are trampling on the highest, most important name that will ever exist. We are trampling upon the very God of creation, spitting in His face & telling Him that He means absolutely nothing to us. Surely there will be retribution for that, just as His word says.

Jesus speaks to His followers, & says: “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matthew 5:13) It is a very dangerous thing, my friend, when you & I take the power of the tongue and use it for anything other than good, to bless, or to praise. We will become useless, good for nothing anymore, in the sight of God.

One of my friends whom I sing with has a favorite verse: “Let the words of my mouth & the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, oh God.” (Psalm 19:14) It isn’t an easy thing to do in this ol’ sin-riddled world we live in. But it’s possible. With God, it’s possible.

I am persuaded that man’s word is a reflection of himself. People will only know you by how you speak. I don’t know about you, but I want to be known as a godly person, full of grace & mercy, pleasing to God, & easily recognized by others as a Christian, someone who’s different. I want people to look at me & say, “I want what they have.”

Let’s live out a pleasing testimony concerning our language, concerning our life. Let’s wear the name of Jesus well. Agreed?

Heather