Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Call of God

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “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?”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. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.
I Kings 19.19-21

Abrupt, unsuspecting, in the middle of things. Sometimes God calls that way.
Others times He slowly works on hearts. My testimony. He may have been working on Elisha for a long time. Plowing the fields, like mowing grass, gives you time to think, time alone. I am sure Elisha was doing thinking, lamenting and praying.

God's call of Elisha came and  Elisha's response is wonderful. 
Much is wrapped up in this call of God. It is a mystical thing. Thank God we believe in pastors being called by the LORD. 

1. God calls people to special service but everyone is called to be a servant.

He choses them.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you. 

He anoints them.
1 John 2:27 As for you, the anointing you received from Him  remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. 

The LORD calls them to a close relationship with His family.

Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you." The beginning of Israel.

Luke 11:27-28 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.” 

Matthew 12:48-50 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, He  said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Followers of Jesus
Mark 10:28-30 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 

We have a different relationship with believers.

To live above with saints we love, O that will be glory.
To live below with saints we know, well that's another story!

Getting used to the family I'll spend eternity with.

So God calls people to salvation and to service and special relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. He works through our gatherings, through our caring for one another. We pray for one another. We help each other. We really do need each other.

In this call of God there is...
2. The Cost In Following Jesus

Luke 9:57-62 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.”But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” 

Elisha's desire to bid his family farewell was not the same as this man who wanted to bury his father. In fact it was quite opposite. The man Jesus spoke to wanted to wait around for his father to die, inherit some money then come after Jesus. It was a delay and  desire to get his inheritance.

Be careful if you are waiting for all your eggs to be in a row so you can serve the LORD. Do it now! If you wait you will never get to it. This man wanted financial security. Be careful of waiting until you can afford to give!

The people in Bible College who said they wanted to pay off their debts before going into the ministry are still out in Colorado Springs 35 years later.

Elisha was not looking for any of that. He burned his equipment. Like Jesus' disciples left their nets so Elisha killed the oxen and had a farewell feast.

Elisha wasn't going back to put his hand to the plow. He was going back to burn it.
It was a brave thing.
It was an appropriate thing.
It was a bold thing.
It was a statement of his faith and complete surrender to the call of God.
There is no turning back from following Jesus.

3. The call of God  is irrevocable.
Romans 11:29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 

His gifts- once given  are not taken back.
Romans 11:29 God’s gifts and calling can’t be taken back. 
Romans 11:28 For once they are made, God does not withdraw his gifts of his calling. 

His spiritual gifts can still operate and do in those who are not walking with him. Very scary. 

His calling is for a lifetime. If He has called you to something or some place, you will never will be satisfied unless you are doing it.

What is God calling you to do? He has been calling me to speak to people about Him. He has been stirring my heart and letting it break over children in our community.

Passing the mantle/ receiving the mantle. The general superintendent who ordained me is in heaven, as are my first two District Superintendents and a number of pastors I knew and looked up to.  They are gone. I am here to continue.

All my pastors are either in heaven or are retired. The men who were there in my formative years have passed the mantle onto me.

We hand off mantles. 

We receive them.

God is calling people today. Primarily the youth but not exclusively. Dr. McCoy

Where is your heart today? Where is the tug? What stirs you? When the time comes who will you pass the mantle onto?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Giving to the LORD inTimes of Famine

1 Kings 17:7-16

1 Kings 17:13-16 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah. 

In His Word, the LORD has directed us to be givers of what He has blessed us with.

Malachi 3.10

Matthew 6.33

God taking care of our needs if we give to Him, if we seek His Kingdom.

Oswald Smith and Faith Promise
"How God taught me to give" tract

Nana and the second part of the verse back in 1974. The promise.

It is noteworthy that times of abundance and times of scarcity are both fraught with temptations and challenges.

When we have much we can forget about where the blessings came from.

Grandfather at the pool with grandkids this week, "Trust me. I will not let you go. I will hold you. You will be safe in my arms."

So how about it? Does God exempt His people from giving when facing scarcity? Should our giving to the LORD be influenced by difficult economic times? What does His Word say?

1. Famines come to everyone.

There are times when through no fault of our own we find ourselves in want. I am not talking about irresponsible credit card use. If you have a problem you need to get help. I am not taking about the lack of planning. I am talking about when we live within a budget and have our finances in order and we find ourselves facing a famine. It happens.

Elijah was a man of God, yet the brook in the Kerith Ravine dried up. Sometimes the income sources dry up. Not from overspending but in our daily lives... Give us this day our daily bread...
Man's extremity is God's opportunity.

A widow in Biblical times was the epitome of destitution.  There were no life insurance policies, no pensions, no 401Ks, no Social Security. They were often at the mercy of people of compassion, particularly if they had  no extended family and young children of their own.

Zarephath means a smelting pot, a place of fiery trials.  2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, It was a Baptism of Fire.

This was going to be baptism by fire for the widow. Elijah was being hunted and now the brook has dried up so it would be one for him as well. 

About this widow of Zarephath...
She was destitute.
God through Elijah asked her to give.
It was not so he could buy a Leer Jet or a vacation home in Palm Springs or so that he could dress in expensive clothes.  It wasn't so he could build a mansion.
It was for food and water.
She gave to this man of God, and this widow was used by the LORD to preserve the mouth piece of the LORD for that time in Israel. Incredible!

There are National Famines
Usually national famines are the result of the LORD getting the nations attention. This one if I Kings was.
In National famines there is also what Amos spoke about: 
Amos 8:11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Not in it being spoken but in people hearing it.

Worldwide Joseph's time
This worldwide famine (Genesis 41) as a big part of God's plan for Joseph and Israel

2. Our Faith Is Tested During Famines

Sometimes severely. Been there.

Do we believe or not- that is the issue.  Are we trusting in the LORD and His Word or are we leaning on our own understanding.

Faith without works is dead.

This widow had faith in the power  and the Word of the LORD. This nameless lady, we know her only as the widow from Zarephath, had more faith than everyone in Israel, save 7,000 who not bowed the knee to Baal.

When the Elijah asked her for a meal her faith was on the line. She was nearly destitute. Sometimes our giving to God is like that.
Our money.
Our strength.
Our abilities.

Come back to the giving of our means. Hudson Taylor was tested like this.

The widow giving the temple offering.
Mark 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” 

Our giving to the LORD can take us there. What do you think happened to this widow? 
We know this:
She put in all she had to live on.
Jesus saw it.
Jesus knew it.
So it is with us. So often we look at the check book and say, "I can't give to God. I have no money left. Guess what if you don't give to Him first you never will.

3. The LORD Rewards Those Diligently Seek Him

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 

The meal was always at the bottom of the barrel but it was there!

Elijah was a man just like us! 

When Jesus fed the 5,000 He had them gather up the leftovers. Let nothing be wasted. Sometimes God overwhelms us in our need with blessings so there are leftovers. Even in abundance we are to be frugal. 

He had faith in the LORD during the time of national famine.

All the time

God Will Take Care of You

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Reform In A Nation Which Has Rebelled Against God

I Kings 15.9-14

Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done. He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 

Asa was a good king. He did what was right.

Judah needed a reformer, a leader who would stand for what is right and rid what is wrong and godless from the land. They had that in Asa.

The nation of Judah was in big trouble. It was in rebellion. Since the temple and palace were completed by Solomon things began a slow slide.  It is interesting to me how often this happens even today. Many churches enjoy blessings from heaven, then the building program seems to distract from the focus that was once on the LORD. How many times have I been to a new church building where the congregation can look back on better days, in cramped quarters and insufficient parking.

Solomon's marriage to women of other nations who brought their idols into the land led to a proliferation that he could never have imagined. By the time Asa, his great grandson, came to be king the nation had split into two separate kingdoms. Under his grandfather Rehoboam and his father, Abijah,  the nation of Judah went further into idolatry. 

I Kings 14.22-24
Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD.  By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.

The nation was in deep spiritual need. Having kings proved to be disastrous. God gave the people what they wanted, instead of the people seeking what the LORD wanted. His will was for Him to be their king with a spiritual leader like Moses or Joshua. But they went their own with everyone doing what was right in their own eyes which was in the time of the Judges, then finally in that low spiritual time they asked for a king. The Word of the LORD was exchanged for their own opinions. Instead of closely adhering to the Book of the Law, they began to be influenced by the other nations around them as they drifted further and further away from God. 

The last three kings had led the nation into idolatry and some other wicked things that were heart breaking. They were in great need of reform.

When Asa became king he went to work to restore moral sanity in the land, among the people.

1. A Reformer Is One Whose Heart Is Right With the LORD.

His heart is right.

Law School to be a lawyer. Caught in a lightening storm, cried out to God to save him. A a result he felt the best way to serve God was to go into the monastery. He wanted to be sure God forgave his sins. He walked from Germany to Rome to please the LORD. He saw the indulgences and abuses in Rome. He had no peace. He went to the superior. He told him, "Keep you eyes totally on Christ." He earned a doctorate in Hebrew and Greek. As he began to read the scriptures, particularly Romans, he said the heavens opened up for him and the God he saw as an angry judge became his savior. 

In his 95 Thesis he was calling for a scholarly discussion and the reformation was born. At the end there was the Lutherans, the Lutheran Church.

Calvin and the Presbyterians

Wesley and the Methodists
Felt his heart strangely warmed at Aldersgate while reading Martin Luther's preface to the book of Romans.

All reformers see what is wrong and seek to correct it. They don't seek to break away. They are usually thrown out.
In their lifetime they are often misunderstood.

But their heart is troubled by things that are wrong in God's government on earth due to man's sin.

American history:
Independence was not our first goal. Representation was.
Hobby Lobby decision among other things shows there is still some good left in America. But it also showed our sins in the anger and hatred toward Christians.

You think the  founding fathers were reformers? Of course they were. They didn't try to start a new country. They tried to work with England, no taxation without representation. Thus New England, New London, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York.

But we saw their hearts when the reformation turned into revolution:
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” -George Washington

We have this day [Fourth of July] restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.
- Samuel Adams

The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.
- Samuel Adams

The rights of the colonists as Christians…may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament. SA

Congress printed a Bible for America and said:

“The United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States … a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools.”
- United States Congress 1782

Congress passed this resolution:

“The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”
- United States Congress 1782

By Law the United States Congress adds to US coinage:

“In God We Trust”
- United States Congress 1864

The Church

Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD as his father David was.

2. A Reformer Takes Action.
Sometime drastic action

A reformer is upset with the current and upsets many by his actions.

Asa turned Jerusalem upside down (nearly).

He had his grandmother disposed from her position. Sometimes a reformer upsets family members! He doesn't stop. The zeal of the LORD consumes him.

3. A Reformer Brings Hope And Leaves Better What He Found.

Asa ridded Judah and particularly Jerusalem of idol worship and immorality. He brought the nation back close to the time when David ruled during his lifetime.

We need a reformer today in America and in the Church in America. It could be the same person. Wesley was that kind of man.

Elijah was a prophet of God in Israel.  We'll read about him this week in our Bible  reading. He came, as Asa did, to a time of national crisis in the land. Asa in Judah, Elijah in Israel. Both of these men took on the organized wickedness of their day in a nation once under God. God spoke through them and worked through them.

We need a man like that today! Let's pray for that!

Pray God Bless America with a Reformer, with a prophet who will proclaim, "The Bible says..."