Passing the Torch

Today marked the end of our sermon series on Elijah as we considered 2 Kings 2:1-22. Have you ever stopped to consider how similar the stories of Moses and Elijah are? Mt. Sinai, parting the waters...

Elisha dreaded being separated from his mentor and wanted to follow Elijah everywhere. He also dreaded thinking about the time when Elijah would no longer be there. His primary wish of Elijah is to inherit a double portion of his spirit. And sure enough, after Elijah is taken up to heaven in the whirlwind, everyone realizes that the Spirit of the Lord is now on Elisha.

This story highlights the truth that ascension is possible. Fast-forward to Jesus' transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah are conversing with God. Moses represented the Law, but what was the significance of Elijah? Jesus as the greatest prophet after Elijah? Jesus the miracle-worker like Elijah? Similar to the Elijah story, Jesus ascends and His Spirit descends.

But are we using this Gift? Are we operating on our own power or His? Using our spiritual gifts, we are to be the body of Christ in this world. Are we just as comfortable with the image of the Spirit as fire, as we are with the peaceful dove or inspiring breath?

Hearing God

This week our sermon considered 1 Kings 19. Most of us have felt depressed before, but in this passage, it's very likely that Elijah suffers from clinical despair, a spiritual crisis. He goes from the exceptional euphoria of Mt. Carmel to the depths of despair, fatigue, poor appetite, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. 

God Himself comes to Elijah and tells him to strike out on a 40 day journey to Horeb. Forty days is, of course, highly significant and signifies an extended period of testing.

Something unholy, unwholesome had slipped into Elijah's thoughts and being. An inflated view of himself turned the saint into a sinner, a backslider. But God is the Great Physician and knows just what Elijah needs. He will pass by, but can Elijah recognize His voice? 

When was the last time you heard God's voice? The ability to hear Him comes with experience. Two excellent resources are Andrew Murray's With Christ in the School of Prayer and Dallas Willard's Hearing God

Elijah didn't accept the invitation to change like David did, and sorry to say, there was no change. He remained unwilling to return to humility.

May we join with St. Ignatius and pray: "Lord, I want Your will, Your way, Your time."

Hope for the Parched Soul

Our consideration of Elijah continued today. 1 Kings 18:40-46 picks up Elijah's story after the challenge of Baal and his prophets on Mt. Carmel. Elijah was spent, exhausted. His posture at this point helps us read between the lines and gain a better understanding of what he was perhaps thinking. His faith was still unshakable, but what does his putting his head between his knees, face in the dust, tell us? After all the taunting of Baal's prophets and God's fiery display, there was still no cloud in the sky, no rain.

Elijah takes on the stance of other greats, e.g. Jacob, Moses, Job, and recognizes his unworthiness and his deep need for God. Elijah reacts with humility and maybe even a little fear. He might be second guessing himself, not unlike John the Baptist, when he sends word to see if Jesus is the One.

Even a devout person's faith can crumble when he has to wait.

Elijah had to have his servant go and check the horizon, but he never gave up hope that God would act; his faith was not misplaced. We can help each other to stay hopeful while we wait, checking the horizon for our brother and sister until the breakthrough comes.

What Would It Take?

We continued our study of Elijah today as we considered 1 Kings 18:16-39. 

In this passage, Elijah invites the prophets of Baal to a confrontation on Mt. Carmel to see whose God is the true of Israel. The prophets of Baal, as usual, put on show of empty, corporal, even carnal entertainment which had nothing to do with true worship. Elijah shows us that worship is not an experience, but rather a response to God's Word by God's people. It is something we do or we offer, but not something we necessarily feel.

How do we apply this story to our situations today? Idols or man-made gods don't really tempt us today, right? Maybe not, but we could, instead, ask ourselves, "What is it that we love most?" "What subtly or not so subtly takes precedence and occupies the place that God should have? Four questions might help us to be honest with ourselves: What do I spend most of my time on? Where do I spend the most money? What do I think about the most? Where is my heart or what do I care about the most?

Elijah admonishes the people the quit "limping along" between two opinions. Who or what is the source of all life, love, joy? God made it abundantly clear that day when he made it rain fire from heaven: "And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God" (1 Kings 18:39, ESV). 

God's Love, Without Boundaries

This morning's sermon continues our look at the prophet, Elijah (1 Kings 17: 7-25). 

After the brook at Cherith dries up, God tells Elijah to make the one hundred mile walk to Zarephath, and without hesitating, Elijah gets up and goes to this village in Sidon, which just happens to be Jezebel's homeland. Elijah's trust is hard as a rock. Once in Zarephath, he meets the widow and her son, whom God told him to seek out. 

God works a miracle and allows their provisions to not run out, but then the little boy dies. Elijah doesn't even have to ask God what to do, he immediately replies, "GIve me your son." The widow was not the only one tested that day. Elijah doesn't wonder if God is there or if God is capable, he's just wondering what God's plan is. This is actually the first resurrection story in the Bible, which points to the importance of the story.

Jesus also includes it in one of his first sermons: "And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow" (Luke 4: 24-26). 

Sidon, the land of Jezebel, the land of Baal, matters to God as well. We need to pray for God's mercy for everyone, not just his "chosen," or those already within his fold. Our prayer should be that God would resurrect all people to new life in Christ.


In God We Trust

Our sermon this morning was based on 1 Kings 16:29-17:6.

Elijah, whose name means "Yahweh is my God," confronts King Ahab and his evil ways, warning him that a severe drought will come over the land. That drought ends up lasting for three and a half years. Can you imagine?

God sends Elijah off to Kerith, where he can drink from the stream and the ravens bring him food. God often calls his servants away for a time of listening and learning, a time of being still and knowing He is God.

In this time of solitude, Elijah learns to trust and obey God's word, to trust in God's complete provision, and to trust nothing is impossible with God. 

"What It Takes To Stand"

In Ephesians 6: 10-20, Paul writes about putting on the whole armor of God, about being strong, alert and always praying. We need the whole armor -- to use the breastplate alone, for example, would leave others parts of the body vulnerable.

Recognizing the enemy is key, if we want to be victorious. We might think certain people, illness, loss of a job, political opponents are our enemies, but in truth, it boils down to Satan's being our enemy, his is the evil that surrounds us. We don't always see him, but we do see his handiwork all around.

Paul also stresses that it is the Church that is coming under attack. The Church is the very heart of Jesus, and Paul's admonition is really to the Church at large. We are to be brave and our prayer for our pastor and ourselves needs to be that we will speak God's truth fearlessly.   

Who We Answer To

If we're not careful, we might miss some of the hugely significant aspects of the Bible. For instance in Ephesians 5 and 6, for Paul specifically to address women, children, and slaves, they had to be members of the congregation already. 

Paul's words couldn't be more timely than today's generation of children. Submission, obedience, duty have all become the exception rather than the norm. These virtues are much easier taught at home than in the civic sphere. Obedience to parents leads to obedience to God.

Some of what Paul says is time-bound and some is timeless. Of course, Paul is not condoning slavery, but all of us answer to someone and most of us have others that answer to us. How we relate to each other is a matter of the heart. But we know that "[t]here is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28, NIV).

Bow to Your Partner

Ephesians 5:21-33 has sadly become a hot topic in the modern church, but it's been more heat than light, with many voices making it more complicated than it has to be.

As we seek to understand the meaning of "submit" in this passage, it really does help for us to go back to the original Greek. In Paul's day, there were two words that meant submit with obedience; Paul used one when he talked about the dutiful relationship children have with their parents and in another passage, he used a similar word when talking to Timothy about our response to civil authorities. Here the word is more along the lines of showing devotion. 

Patriarchy has been the norm of human society practically from day one; why would Paul remind wives to do what they were already doing? Everything else in the passage speaks to going against the norm of human nature or of society.

Jesus is the ultimate example of the voluntary yielding that Paul is getting at. He was God in flesh, but chose to submit to the Father's will over and over again. 

Husbands are to love their wives with an unconditional, self-less love that goes far beyond a lustful, prideful, or selfish love. When Paul uses the metaphor of the head, he is referring to an actual body and how the body and head must work together. It's all a mystery, but through bowing to our partner, through mutual yielding, we, with the Spirit's help, can reach a love that is not of this world.

Children of Light

Paul found himself writing to a society in Ephesus that was, oddly enough, not that much different to our current day's; it was a moral and ethical cesspool, and they, like us, needed a rewiring of imaginations. 

Ephesians 5 is a call to real discipleship. The basic starting place is a change in our behavior.

If you're a Christian, then act like it!

Our tongues will be tamed, our drinking will not go to excess, our greed will be checked, our sex will be reserved for marriage, etc.

We want to clean up our act and imitate God, which we do, by looking to Jesus. The Christian life is measured in light. Our manner needs to be that of our our master and the Hopy Spirit will help us. 


As we continue our study of Ephesians, we come to Chapter 3, where Paul writes about a mystery revealed to him. We all know, he acknowledges, how the Jews have been God's chosen people since Abraham and were crucial to his plan. However, Paul says a mystery has been revealed to him that now the Gentiles are also included as joint heirs, "one body, sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus" (Eph. 3:6 NIV).

At the beginning of Chapter 4, Paul continues his thoughts with a significant "therefore" that bridges the facts he's just explained with what our resulting behavior should be. If you're a new Christian, then you'll find this list of attributes to cultivate invaluable. If you're someone, who has been a disciple for a while, then these attributes should already be manifesting themselves to those around you. 

"I [THEREFORE], a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph. 4: 1-7, ESV)

How are we doing? On our own we will fail miserably. of course, in cultivating these virtues, but with the Spirit's help, our walk and our calling can coalesce. 


Did you ever stop to think how every illustration of the Trinity falls short of capturing its essence? One of the most popular ways of thinking about the Trinity is H20, yet even though it can be water, steam, and ice, it can never be all those things at once. 

Although the actual word, Trinity, does not occur in the Bible, there are, of course, numerous references to the three different aspects of the Godhead. Jesus' baptism is perhaps the clearest depiction we have: Jesus' being baptized with the Holy Spirit descending as a dove with the Father's voice expressing his pleasure.

Consider the Athanasian Creed: "And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite."

Ours is to stand in awe of the mystery, not solve the puzzle, (an idea of Methodist theologian, Justo González.) Our awe will lead to our worship. Paul's marvelous prayer for the Ephesians (found in Chapter 3) hopes for the them to fully know the triune God, that they may "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge [...]" (NIV). God is love.


Third Person

Just as in God's genius Easter completes the meaning of Passover, so does the Coming of the Holy Spirit complete Pentecost's Giving of the Law.

The Jewish Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, marks the gift of the law, which made the people of God a moral and ethical people, mirroring their Creator, separated from the pagans around them. The Holy Spirit was and is, in turn, our ultimate guide, companion, and revealer of the Godhead.   

We can truly know God only through the Holy Spirit. Our senses alone are inadequate in revealing God. 

The Holy Spirit is God's seal on the Christian -- the indwelling of the Spirit marks the true guarantee of our salvation.

If we look to Easter as the happy ending of our faith, we miss essential aspects of what it truly means to be a Christian. Jesus' death and resurrection, YES!, but followed by his ascension, his return to his heavenly glory, and then his sending the gift of the Holy Spirit, our great Comforter, and completion of the Triune God -- are all essential aspects of our theology.  

The Riches of Christ

As we celebrate the Church Year and, in turn, commemorate the highlights of Jesus' earthly life, we often unfortunately neglect the Ascension.

Jesus returns to his heavenly glory in order to make a heaven for us. And with this return to heaven, he takes on his new role of High Priest for us.

As we think about his second coming, Jesus will return just as he left. We look to his second Advent or coming, when he'll return as judge and king, bringing an end to injustice and death.

Who You Are to God: THE PLAN

This Sunday starts a series based on the "heavenly blessings" listed in the book of Ephesians.

Realizing that Paul is writing to Gentiles is paramount to our understanding of this book in the New Testament. In Eph. 1:1-5, Paul stresses to the Ephesians that even before time began, God also chose them, not just the Jews, to be a part of his plan.

Carolina Sandell's wonderful hymn text "Children of the Heavenly Father" echoes this passage: "Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne'er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy. " (Here's Dan Forrest's lovely anthem based on this hymn.)

This beautiful idea of predestination and election has unfortunately turned out to be a point of ugly division in the Church. Calvin believed that election and even the faith granted to members of the elect were given by God. Whereas Arminius, said no, all are called by God, but election was more based on man's response to him. Certainly God is sovereign, like Calvin said he was, but we also have free will, like Arminius stresses. 

Our destiny is death, but God predestines us to be his children! Hallelujah!

Both theologians missed the salient role of the Church as God's chosen way of making us sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ. And the Church is yet to be determined. Interestingly, the Greek can be translated as God chose, God is choosing, God will choose. That's the exciting, Good News of this passage! 

The Aftermath

It's interesting to note how the biblical account of the disciples in the days following Christ's resurrection coincides in large measure to a relatively "new" psychological disorder that is common to people who have experienced great tragedy or trauma in their lives. In contrast to our triumphant celebration, the disciples were sad, fearful and maybe even felt a little angry or even ashamed.

We celebrate the glorious, resurrected Christ, even though we, like they, are not shielded by the wounds that this earthly life can bring. Jesus comes in the midst of our pain, in our ordinary, day-to-day life, but He leaves us with His peace, which passes all understanding. Lo, He is with us always. Even when we fail, we can be confident of God's peace. F. Buechner reminds us, “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.” 

Go and live the new life we have in Christ, peacefully, purposefully, and joyfully.

Blessed Poverty

Several of Jesus' sayings are difficult, but one that is especially perplexing is "love your enemies." What must have been the thoughts of Jesus' listeners?  Love the Romans, the lepers, tax collectors, even Samaritans? 

The difficulty is that we can't love just in theory -- to love we must embrace. 

But Jesus also says: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We want to follow Christ, but we're poor in spirit. Only after acknowledging this state and humbling ourselves can the Spirit's power be unleashed. 

On our own, we are incapable of doing what Jesus asks of us, but with the Spirit's enabling, we can. 

Breaking the Heart of Jesus: Division in the Church

It's especially interesting that when Jesus prayed for his disciples and the future Church, He didn't pray for our health, safety, or daily needs, but for our unity:  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:20-21, ESV). 

Throughout history there have unfortunately been schisms and divisions in the Church and they continue today. How we grieve the heart of Jesus when we choose disunity over unity!

We need to open our eyes to being church the way the Bible describes. More than mere belief in Jesus, loving Him marks the Christian. All those who love Jesus form the one Church.

We also need to consider how Jesus envisioned the Church.  If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.

And we need to focus on what Jesus says is our calling. Our unity will transform the Church into an instrument of evangelism -- when we're one, the world will see the truth of the Gospel.