Killer God

1 Kings 17: 18

So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”

What is that expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same? This might well have been said yesterday rather than long ago. There are two implications in the verse. The first one is that God punishes us for our iniquity by making bad things happen to us. The second is that it is God who takes life from people.

God answered this widow’s prayer when she was at the end of her rope with nothing to feed herself or her child. Elijah showed up, sent by God, and blessed her flour bowl and jar of oil such that neither ever ran empty. She received supernatural provision from God through Elijah. However, when her son died she immediately turned on Elijah and God blaming them for her son’s sickness and subsequent death.

Isn’t that about how we are today? When someone dies we say, “Well, God took them home.” Other people are even worse. When something bad happens they not only blame God, but they say He is punishing them for their sins. Hello!! That is a person who understands nothing about the message of the cross. Jesus took your sin and God said He doesn’t even remember it anymore. So, how is God going to punish you for something He doesn’t remember and that Jesus already paid for?

Elijah took the woman’s son to the upper room and prayed to God for the boy’s life to return to him and the boy was restored. Now, unless God is schizophrenic, it makes no sense to suggest he killed the boy. If He wanted the boy dead, He wouldn’t have brought him back to life. Or is God just a puppet master who sits in heaven playing games with us. “Hey, watch what happens when I kill this widow’s son!” You can’t know God and believe something like that. He is love and further, He doesn’t play silly games with people’s lives.

We forget, I guess, that there is a devil in the world. John 10: 10 teaches that Satan’s aim is to steal, kill and destroy. The verse does not say that God comes to kill. In fact, Jesus was speaking and said that he came to bring us abundant life. That is kind of the opposite of kill, steal and destroy.

It is amazing how twisted around we get but that is why it is called deception. God is a life giver. Blessing comes from the Father. He doesn’t even need to bring you trials. There is already plenty of that in the world. Is there anyone you love? I mean really love. Is there someone you love more than you love yourself? Do you wish to be a blessing to them or do you want to make their life a hardship? What does love do? Trust your Father to be the source of blessing. He is goodness and mercy. He will restore what the devil steals from you just like he did for the widow of Zarephath.

It’s Your Choice

Deuteronomy 30: 19           NOG

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

Are you familiar with this verse? I want you to be. It is so very powerful and can change your life. In fact, this is a great one for you to meditate on. The piece of it I wish to highlight today is the word “choose.”

God has offered us life. He has offered us blessings. Death and the curse entered the earth in the Garden of Eden. So, both life and death and blessing and the curse are out there for the choosing. The interesting aspect is that we get to choose. I always smile when I read this verse because I hear it this way, “I have given you the choice between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Let me give you a hint. Choose life and blessing.” It is like God is trying to clue us in on which one to choose. It seems ridiculous at one level. We should be smart enough that He does not need to give us a hint and yet, it is a forebearer of a truth. We often make the wrong choice. We choose death instead of life and the curse instead of the blessing. Why would we do that?

Let me ask you a different question. Supposing you rather have life and blessing, how do you make that choice? What mechanism is in place for choosing? That is the main issue, I believe. Do folks know how to choose life? In how many ways do we choose the curse instead of the blessing? I believe most Christians do not realize there is a choice, how to make the choice, or how they are making the wrong choice daily.

One of the most poignant events in the Bible is found in the book of Joshua. As the book opens, Moses has just died. He, who was the liberator of Israel, who led them for years through their long sojourn, who importuned God for them, prayed for them, taught them, and cared for them, is dead. Now what? Shall the nation of Israel fall apart right there, having never crossed over into the promised land? It is a climactic moment is Judeo-Christian history. It could have all ended right there, on the wrong side of the Jordan. Instead, God appointed Joshua to be the leader of His people. How would you like that job, following in Moses’ footsteps? It must have been pretty frightening for Joshua. God took him aside, though, to give him the secret of success, to be his coach and mentor. God told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1: 7 – 9).

I know that was a long quote but you need to see it all. Right here God gave Joshua the choice to fail or succeed. He even gave him the crib notes for the test. In other words, God didn’t make success a mystery. Success or failure lay at Joshua’s feet so God showed him the path to success. He gave him all the secrets. That is what God does.

Here is my point. Father wants us to succeed so He has given us the cheat sheet. “Here are all the answers,” He says. All we have to do is use them. How many points do you find in the quote from the book of Joshua? I counted seven. The real question is, how many of them are we doing. This is how we choose life and blessing. Joshua didn’t have to take God’s advice. We know he did because he enjoyed success and led the nation of Israel into the promised land. He chose blessing. He chose life.

Here are two of the big seven. One, do not fear. If we live in fear, we fertilize death and curse. Second, and this is a really big one, meditate in this Word day and night. When we meditate in the Word, we are actively choosing life and blessing.

This passage from Joshua teaches how to choose to live in the blessing. We need to follow where the Lord is leading. We need to communicate with him so that we see his ways generally and the specific path he points out for us. We can choose to be blessed. We can choose the abundant life Jesus said he came here to give us. I think if you will follow the advice God gave Joshua, if you will learn how to commune with Jesus and actually do it, that you will find yourself in overflow of everything good. Please, choose life, choose the blessing. It’s your choice.

Ripe

1 Chronicles 29: 28

Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor and his son Solomon reigned in his place.

Well, if you are following the story this week, our friend, David has died passing, on the mantle of leadership to Solomon. What I find interesting in this passage is that he died at a ripe old age, full of days, full of riches and full of honor. My interest is especially piqued by the fullness of days. There is another passage in the twenty-third chapter that goes along with this. Verse 1 of that chapter reads, “Now when David reached old age, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.” There is a footnote at “reached old age” which tells us that he literally was “sated with days.” He was full of days, satisfied. Of course, that brings to mind Psalm 91: 16, “With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”

You should live on planet earth healthy and prosperous until you are fully satisfied. You aren’t supposed to die because you are sick. You are supposed to lay down your body and move to heaven because you are well satisfied. David was ready to turn over the running of Israel to his son and did. Everything was in place, his work done, his life full and satisfied. He left having fulfilled his mission in life.

Christians need a brain washing and this scripture is good for it. We have been coaxed by the world into sickness and death but Jesus is the life so we must adjust our thinking. Right now, each of us already has eternal life. The only difference will be that we will move to heaven at some point. However, for all we know, we may be back on earth someday. The point is, though, that we have begun to think like the world instead of like God and that is a problem. When people ask what you are going to die of you ought to say of satisfaction. When I am full of what this world holds, I will move on and it won’t be because I am sick or diseased. We’ll just lay down these bodies.

Get this mindset working in you that God has promised to satisfy you and don’t quit, don’t lay down until you are full and satisfied.

Judgment Day

John 5: 24

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

I have already had my judgment day. How about you? Do you hear Jesus’ word? Do you believe He who sent him, i.e. God, do you believe God? Jesus said if you hear his word and believe God then you have passed out of death. You have passed into life. You have eternal life. You have it now. There is another part of this verse, though, and something we need to hear. All you hear Jesus’ word and believe God have already passed into eternal life and do not come into judgment. That is a big statement and a momentous idea. You will not face judgment. Jesus has already paid your way with his blood. Hallelujah!

Many Christians have their eyes focused on judgment day. That is not where our focus ought to be. Our focus is to be on Jesus’ word. Will there be a judgment day? Truthfully, judgment is already in the world which is why Jesus came, to save us from the judgment that was upon the world, but you have passed into life.

The thing which is most troubling about Christians who worry about their result on judgment day, is that they work to earn a good judgment. They believe that on judgment day their deeds will render them either a good judgment or a bad one. Here is the unabashed truth of that. They are hardly Christians because they are not wearing the mantle of Christ. They are actually humanists because they are trying to win God’s favor by their good works rather than the sacrifice of Jesus. They believe there is something they can do to woo God and it is, in reality, a stench in God’s nose.

The only thing that makes any of us worthy of gaining heaven is the blood sacrifice of our beloved. There is nothing you can do to make yourself one bit more saved than you are now. You will not face the judgment seat because you have already been judged and passed onto eternal life. You made a choice. You chose Jesus and that choice is the dividing line. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil,” (John 3: 19). A negative judgment is on those who love and choose the darkness. For those who choose the light, they are saved and passed on into eternal life. So, you have reason to celebrate and praise the Lord for you have been spared judgment.

There is one other thing of note in this verse. It is interesting that Jesus did not say this good news is for those who have “heard” his word. He said it is for those who hear his word. Think about that for a moment. What is the difference. Also, Jesus did not say that eternal life is for those who believe “in” God. That is what we read but not what Jesus said. Jesus said heaven is for those who “believe Him who sent me.”

I believe Jesus is communicating a dynamic relationship to us. He wants us to hear, and continue hearing, his word, the word that he is speaking today. Then we are supposed to believe it. We are supposed to believe what God is saying and believe what He has said. Satan believes “in” God. That is no big thing. We are called believers because we are supposed to believe God. We are to believe His Word and even act on it. We believe He is faithful, kind and that He is present right now in our own environment. We believe He is alive and active. We are believers in all Jesus’ words. That separates us, especially when our actions show our belief. We act on our beliefs. Everyone does, so when we act on Jesus’ words, our belief system shows.

If you believe Jesus and hear his words. If you believe God and all He has said throughout the centuries, then you have already passed out of death and into life. You are already living in eternity. Eternal life is yours. That is some good news and perhaps encouragement too.

Riding Fire Horses

2 Kings 2: 11             Tree of Life

As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.

We have developed what, to me, is a perverted way of thinking about death. Truth be told, even using the word “death” is an admission that we do not understand or do not believe in the eternal life. I say that because we are living our eternal life now. You will never die but you are going to change addresses. There will be a transition from here to heaven. Okay sure, your body will give up its life but your spirit is eternal. Anyway, what bothers me about our concept of death is that we will die of a disease. Not me brother. That is not God’s will for me so I don’t accept it. Neither should you.

Why don’t we just ride out of here on a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire the way Elijah did? We actually see that happening in scripture, therefore, it is scriptural and you cannot say it isn’t. We didn’t see it happen often, in fact this is the only example exactly like this, but that is not to say it didn’t happen more than once. Whatsmore, Enoch went up to heaven without “dying.” “And Enoch continually walked with God—then he was not there, because God took him (Genesis 5: 24 TLV). So, who is to say this isn’t God’s preferred way of moving us from earth to heaven? Personally I would rather ride in a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire than to get sick to the point of death.

If God is the great healer, why are we all expecting to get sick and die? Does that really make any sense at all? What a lack of faith we demonstrate when it comes to life and death. We have been so molded by an unbelieving generation that we no longer think as Godly people in this area. Today is a new day though. Let’s shake up our thinking.

You should intend and expect to live a long life and be strong and able bodied for the entirety of it. Then, at a ripe old age, 120 or more, just walk out of this body and into heaven. I am not using my faith to believe for you or myself to be sick one single day of our lives. Does it happen sometimes? Yes, sometimes it does but that is the anomaly. Every once in a while the world sneaks up on us, doesn’t it, but we are people of faith, believers in the God of power and righteousness. We need to shift our minds to where our hearts reside and get our mouths in line with the Word. Then we will live a different existence here on earth and go out riding on God’s glory. That is His will for you.

Manifested Life

2 Corinthians 4: 11

For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

As we have seen all week, death is life. In order to live, we must die. Scatter the ashes of your old self at the feet of Jesus and live the abundant life Jesus came here to give you. That was his mission, you know, to bring you abundant life. Consider John 10: 10, “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” What does abundantly mean but plentiful supply; more than sufficient; ample. Another definition says: abounding with, rich. This definition as well as Jesus’ use of the word abundant puts me in remembrance of the 23rd Psalm where our cup “overflows” or as it says in the King James version, “Our cup runneth over.” This is the picture of the life Jesus came to give us. Or I like what God said to tithers in Malachi 3: 10, “I will . . . pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (NIV).

My point is this, from the beginning God had a plan to pour out upon us abundant, rich life. When we couldn’t receive it through the old covenant, He sent Jesus to earth to gain that abundant life for us. Still, many of us, though we confess Jesus as Lord, fail to receive cup runneth over life. The reason why, perhaps, is that we have failed to die to self and live to Christ. We are trying to live to Christ, I appreciate that, but we cannot live in the newness of life until we crucify and bury the old life. So we try and try to live the saintly life; we pray for the abundance promised us but we never seem to move into the richness of life promised us. The reason is that although we are sincere in our endeavors, our reasoning is faulty. We can never receive the new life of Christ and the richness of blessing that come with it until we put our self-absorbed old man in the graveyard. When we do, though, all of the life of Christ is able to rush in and fill us. Then the life of Jesus will be manifested in us.

Say “Yes”

Galatians 2: 20

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Here is the result of our death and burial. We have a new life. This newness of life came with our communion with Jesus in his resurrection. What, though, makes our new life any different from our old life? I mean, what is the point of a new life if it looks like the old one that we buried? Paul points out the way. This new life, the life that Jesus bought for us but that we are living out in our mortal bodies is not one of solitude, isolation or independence. The life we now live is the life of Christ within us. We live by faith and in the love which he showed when he gave up his life for us. Now, we give up our life for him. Our lives, these lives which we have dedicated to the Lord, this life which he bought for us at Calvary, we live intertwined in the Christ who loves us and gives us life. We live his life because he is alive within us and we are renewed. We say, “Yes,” to Christ and he fills us with his resurrection power of life and liberty.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,” (Colossians 2: 6 NIV). These verses make sense on the surface of our brains but when we really consider them, they are much more complex than we may first appreciate. However, this verse really is at the heart of the Christian message. This life we live we live in and through him. Doing just that makes all of the difference in our existence.

I was thinking yesterday about raising teenagers. There are so many things that you want to caution them about; drugs, sex, alcohol. I found myself thinking that loving them could end up sounding like a litany of “don’t’s.” How effective is it, I wonder, just telling children not to do this and not to do that. There must be a better way. Then I thought, maybe they need to understand that they are too valuable, too prized to damage their lives with things that will hurt them. Then I realized this is the same message that pastors must consider.

It is no good for pastors to spend Sunday after Sunday telling their congregations what not to do. Besides, we all know the list of the things we ought not be doing. The real message is you are too beloved to do these things. I want you to say, “Yes,” to Christ, to living in him. Christ is true liberty. He is true peace and happiness. When we focus on loving him and, just as importantly, his love for us, then we don’t need those things. We don’t even want them. In truth, they become repugnant to us. And if you want to know the whole truth, they are weak copies of the true pleasures in life. Getting drunk or high will never give a person the high they can experience in the presence of God. If one ever experiences being in the manifested presence of God, then alcohol and drugs lose their attraction. All of the world’s pleasures attempt to mimic the exultation we feel in Christ but they always fall woefully short.

So, my plan is to continue to encourage you into an ever deeper relationship with Christ. Crucify and bury the old man with his fleshly desires. Receive the fullness of the renewed life that you have in Christ. It’s not about saying, “No,” to sin; it’s all about saying, “Yes,” to Christ. If you do and if you continue to, then you will not have a sin problem. Those things will just lose their hold over you.

Christ is calling. What will you say?