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Sunday, July 31, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario"

“The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario”
Family Bible Week Finale :: July 31, 2016
Revelation 21:1-22:21

I invite you turn with me in your Bibles, if you would, to the Book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22.  The “Apocalypse of John,” Revelation (not Revelations), chapters 21 and 22.

The adult class at Family Bible Week spent all our time together studying the wild and wonderful genre of biblical writing called “apocalyptic.”

Apocalyptic literature appears in our Bibles in several places, most notably the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

One night, we studied Ezekiel one together. That’s some pretty far out stuff!

We learned all kinds of stuff in this week–probably too much stuff. It’s so complex and difficult to sort through, I’m sure that I thoroughly confused everybody in the class at one point or another.

At the same time, I think that everyone who came learned a little bit about apocalyptic literature, as well. About how this kind of genre works and what kind of a spiritual effect on us it is intended to create. I hope that we’ve all grow spiritually because we’ve spent some time together in this amazing and crazy genre in our Bibles.

Interestingly, when I started my ministry here at Lanse Free Church, most people in our culture didn’t know that word “apocalyptic.”

But strangely, it’s become popular in pop culture...

...mostly through zombies.

A week does not go by nowadays without my hearing someone say something about “a post-apocalyptic scenario.”

What the world would be like if some apocalyptic or world-ending event occurred and what would happen to the survivors.

What life would be like after an apocalypse.

There are TV shows like the Walking Dead.

There are movies like World War Z or I Am Legend or The Book of Eli or Planet of the Apes or even Wall-E. Right?

And many of the video games the kids are playing these days presuppose a post-apocalyptic scenario.

Well, today, I want to pull together everything that the adult class has been learning this week and study “The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario.”

What God says will certainly happen after the Apocalypse.

Not just a possibility.

Not just a theory or a probability or an hypothetical idea.

But what the real God has really revealed about what reality will be like when the end of the world really occurs.

And to get that, we read the last two chapters of our Bible.

Revelation chapter 21 and 22.

This is the very End of a very long story.

The Great Story began in Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3 on the first two pages of your Bible. God made a very good world and put very good people in it to enjoy it and rule it and to enjoy Him and serve Him forever.

But as we saw back in December, in the third chapter of this Great Story, everything went wrong. The very good people rebelled against their Creator and the very good creation was put under a curse.

And for the rest of 66 books, God has been pursuing a plan to return everything to how it was supposed to be...and even better.

And that plan was focused in Jesus Christ. His death for our sins and His resurrection for our new life–the Gospel.

And Revelation 21 and 22 are the End of the Great Story, the last 2 pages of our Bibles.

Jesus has returned!

Jesus has brought us Resurrection Bodies. He has crushed His enemies.  He has judged all mankind.  He has ruled for a thousand years.  He has tossed the unholy trinity of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet as well as death and Hades into the lake of fire!

And now Jesus is ushering in Eternity!

This is the very definition of “post-apocalyptic” – after the end of the world as we know it.

Revelation 21 and 22 is the Apostle John’s last vision in the book of Revelation.  It was a vision revealed to John by God Himself. It was a vision of New Heavens and a New Earth. The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario.

What I want to do this morning is to slowly read these two chapters and point out many details as we go along.

And then I want to answer three big questions about The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario. I can’t answer all of the questions or point out all of details, there just isn’t enough time, and as we learned this week at FBW, frankly, I don’t have all of the answers to all the questions about these two chapters!

What is our phrase, Class?  “I don’t know, and that’s okay.”

But I do want to push towards answers these 3 questions from the Bible:

1.  What Will Not Be In The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario?
2.  What Will We Do In The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario?
3.  What Should We Do About The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario?

So listen for the answers to those questions as we read God’s Holy Word.

Revelation chapter 21, verse 1.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

This is John’s last vision in the Book of Revelation. It is a vision of a New Heaven and a New Earth. A new creation. A new universe. The old one that we are in now was destroyed, has passed away. The New one has come. We do not just have a new body, but we have a new Heaven and a New Earth, as well. V.2

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

Now, remember, this prophecy is apocalyptic literature. It is full of mind-bending symbols that layer on top of one another and come at you as in kaleidoscope of symbolic meaning.

John is seeing a vision that is full of symbol-laden reality about the future.  He says that he sees a city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride! A city-bride! A bride that is a city. How’s that for mixed ideas?

A New Heaven, a New Earth, a New Jerusalem like a bride–beautiful, radiant, ready–a bride.

Theologians call this the “Consummation of All Things.” All things in Heaven and Earth are being united under Christ (Ephesians 1:10). This New Jerusalem connects a New Heaven and a New Earth so they are now unified.

We don’t just get to go to Heaven. We get to go to a New Earth that is one with Heaven.  The consummation of all things.  V.3

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

Wow! This is what it will be like the real post-apocalyptic situation.

V.5  “He who was seated on the throne [God!] said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ [And now we can read them in our Bibles.] He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’”

For those in my class this week, did a whole bunch of bells and whistles and lights come on when you read that?

We only made it up through chapters 1 to 5 this week, but all of those things were in them, weren’t they?  This is where it’s all headed.

He then goes on with this vision of the New Creation.  V.9

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ [That’s us, brothers and sisters!] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me [...] the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. [We are,  somehow, Jerusalem!]  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.  The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. [12 Tribes, 12 Apostles, the Totality of the People of God in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament together.]”

“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length [1,400 miles!], and as wide and high [!] as it is long.”

This is a 1400 mile cube! Almost 2 million square miles on each floor! Giving 12 feet for each floor, you could have 600,000 stories in this building. Jesus said, “In my house are many rooms.” Billions could live here.  V.17

“He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick [about 200 feet], by man's measurement, which the angel was using [which reminds us of the measuring of Ezekiel’s visionary temple.]. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.”

What does that remind you of? Does it remind you of the Tabernacle from Exodus or Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings? Beautiful, magnificent, mysterious.

Was there a cube in the Temple?

Oh yeah. The Most Holy Place was a cube. This entire city is the Holy of Holies!  And it is precious!  V.21

“The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl [I’d like to see that oyster!]. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.”

The inhabitants of this city walk on gold. That’s how precious the city is and how little gold has value in this post-apocalyptic world.

God paves His streets with it?! It’s just gold! V.22

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. [Notice that it doesn’t say that there is no sun or moon.  Just that they aren’t needed in the New Jerusalem.  Because the Lamb is its lamp.  And the glory of the God gives it light. V.24]
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there [in the city]. [Remember, God is light and in him there is no darkness at all!] The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

Is your name in that book? Chapter 22. Verse 1.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. [The river flows down the middle of New Jerusalem Boulevard.]  On each side of the river stood the tree of life [It looks like it’s a grove], bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month [Apparently, there is time in eternity!]. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. [Just like Aaron the High Priest.] There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’”

[That’s apocalyptic literature right there for you.]

“‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’ I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’”

“Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book [publish it!], because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’ [Time is short.] ‘Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

“‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’”

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.  And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.”

Can you see how this gives us the perspective we need to keep living in our times and to keep living for the Lord in our times?

Now, again, there is no way that we can play out every detail here. I don’t know what a lot of this means. I have ideas. I have studied, it but there’s just too much here.

It invites a life-time of study!

But let’s outline a few answer to our three questions:

#1.  WHAT WILL NOT BE IN THE REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO?

We can get a sense of what will be by what it says will not be.

There will not be (v.1) Any Sea.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

Now, I don’t know if that is literal or not. There are definitely going to be rivers and probably lakes. And maybe oceans. But it says that there will not be any seas.

That’s because the sea was for Ancient Israelites a symbol of chaos and evil. It was an unstable, uncontrolled, chaotic, killer that separated people. We are to think of the sea here as the source of evil. The Beast of Revelation chapter 13 comes out of the sea.

But now, there is no sea.

And there is no (v.4) death.

Death has died. No more funerals! No more funeral homes. No more graveyards. No more sad goodbyes. Death is gone. Can you imagine?

This was the first Family Bible Week without Blair Murray. He loved the Bible and he loved aviation. And I think a lot of us were missing him this week in a special way.

Who else are you missing right now? Who do you love that is no longer here, ripped away by death?

In the world’s post-apocalyptic scenarios, the new world is ruled by death. Zombies roam the world. But in the real one, there is no death.

And there is no (v.5) mourning.If there is no death, there is no mourning. No grieving. No bawling our eyes out that we have lost children or spouses or parents or grandparents.

And there is no (v.4) crying. Can you imagine?

The beginning of verse 4 says that God Himself [!] will wipe every tear from our eyes!

As the song says, “No more crying there, we are going to see the King!”

No more crying because (v.4) there is no more pain, “for the old order of things has passed away.”

No more pain.  Can you imagine?  No more suffering at all?

One year ago, I had just had my surgery and I was in a world of post-operative pain.

Our surgery list in our prayer list right now is so long. And how many are experiencing chronic pain. My wife is learning to live with chronic pain.

Our new resurrection upgrade bodies will not suffer pain! It’s beyond imagining. But it’s true. The old way of things has passed, the new has come. No more pain.

And no more sinners. No more unrepentant sinners. V.8

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place [will not be in the New Heavens and New Earth. It] will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Hell.

There will not be any sinners in the post-apocalyptic world that God’s people will inhabit. No unrepentant sinners that is. There will be billions of sinners saved by grace.

What will not be in the post-apocalyptic situation?

Any sea, any death, any mourning, any crying, any pain, any sinners, any temple.

Verse 22 says that John “did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

Apparently, there won’t be any church buildings either. We won’t need to be drawn into worship. We just will worship everywhere we are all the time with all of God’s people.

And there won’t be anything impure.  V.27

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.”

Nothing impure. None of that bad stuff on the internet will be there.

And there will not, be chapter 22, verse 3, any curse.  “No longer will there be any curse.”

The curse of Genesis 3 will be completely undone and gone!

Everything will be pure and perfect and back to what it was supposed to be...and even better!

No Sea, No Death, No Mourning, No Crying, No Pain, No Sinners, No Temple, Nothing Impure, No Curse.

Wow!

What do you say about that?

In his book, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, Sam Storms writes this, “Think of the implications of what is being said!  When we get to heaven there will be nothing that is abrasive, irritating, agitating, or hurtful.  Nothing harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind.  Nothing sad, bad, or mad. Nothing harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy.  Nothing weak, or sick, or broken or foolish.  Nothing deformed, degenerate, depraved or disgusting.  Nothing polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid. Nothing dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading.  Nothing blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted. Nothing faulty, faithless, frail or fading.  Nothing grotesque or grievous, hideous or insidious. Nothing illicit or illegal, lascivious or lustful. Nothing marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed.  Nothing nasty or naughty, offensive or odious. Nothing rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled. Nothing tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting. Nothing vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton.” (Storms, pg. 178)

That’s what Eternity is going to be for those who belong to Jesus Christ. Amen?

Question #2.  WHAT WILL WE DO IN THE REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO?

Now we've seen what isn’t going to be going on, what will happen?

FIRST, WE WILL SHINE IN THE NEW CREATION.

Did you catch what this city stands for?

It may be a literal city, as well. I am not ruling that out. Randy Alcorn and others have made a solid case for the New Jerusalem being a gigantic capital city of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

But know that this apocalyptic literature! So we know that this city is first and foremost an apocalyptic symbol. Who or what is the city in Revelation 21 and 22?

It’s us!

John tell us that this is that.

We are the city prepared like a bride (chapter 21, verse 2), “beautifully dressed for her husband.”

We are the bride of Christ.  We are the New Jerusalem.  Chapter 21, verse 9.

The angel said, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried [John] away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me...[a bride?] the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God.”

We are the bride-city. And we will shine. V.11

“It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

We could go into all of the details of this city-bride. It is magnificent and mysterious and unimaginably majestic.

And it is, amazingly enough...you and me! Corporately, perfectly knit together in a perfect community, a perfect society, a perfect people for God.

[Many have pointed out that] the Bible began in a garden and ends in a City. A Garden City. Remember the River that runs down the boulevard and the Tree of Life from the original garden that heals the nations? A Garden City.

That shines!  21:11 again, “It shone with the glory of God...”

We will shine in the New Creation. New bodies. A New Heaven. A New Earth. A New Jerusalem. Shining. Glimmering.  Radiant with the glory of God.

21:23 and 22:5 says that God and the Lamb give the City its light.

We will shine with the very glory of God.

It’s too good for mere words!

When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

Second, WE WILL SERVE THE KING OF KINGS. 

We will shine in the New Creation, and we will serve the King of Kings.

Chapter 22, verse 3. “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve Him.”

Heaven will not be passive. It will be eternal rest, yes. But it will be active rest!

We will not sit around for all eternity. We will serve the King of Kings like we were made to do!

Do you remember when we talked about this last Fall during the series we did on work? We will have work to do in the real post-apocalyptic situation.

At least part of our work will be reigning. Chapter 22, verse 5. “And they will reign for ever and ever.” That includes us! Reigning with God over the New Creation!

God has many more plans for us in eternity. There will be stories to write and adventures to have, and places to explore.

We will serve the King of Kings. We will never be bored.

I think there is a Far Side cartoon with a kid who goes to heaven, and he’s sitting there on a cloud with harp (which is not what we’re going to literally do), and the thought-balloon over his head says something like, “I wish I’d brought a magazine.”

No! If you are afraid of Heaven because you are afraid of being bored, you are afraid of the wrong place. Hell will be the most boring place ever imagined. It will be the same terrible punishment day after day forever.

Heaven will be the most exciting place that is conceivable (and then some!).

And the biggest reason for that?

#3. WE WILL SEE GOD’S FACE. Chapter 22, verse 4.

“They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”

Now, that should shock us!  If nothing else in these two chapters shocks you, this should.

Remember old Moses back in Exodus chapter 33?  “Show me your glory!”  And God said, “No one can see my face and live.”

But we’re going to see His face! And we’re going to live forever.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

This is where our relationship with Jesus Christ blossoms into what it was made to be! This is the ultimate life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ!

Theologians call it the “beatific vision.” Seeing God face to face.

And it means the fullest, most awesome relationship possible.

Chapter 21, verse 3 started with this declaration:.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”

This is the consummation. This is where our relationship has been going all along.  Total intimacy with God.

The phrase “dwelling of God” in 21:3 is literally, “Tabernacle.” Now God is tabernacling with men. He will live with them.

He did that in a veiled way that first Christmas, God became man and tabernacled among us.

But this is more like in 1 Kings when the glory of God comes down in His shekinah glory and fills the tabernacle.  And there is no veil here.

Here, the entire city-bride is a Tabernacle. And God lives with us!

God is what makes Heaven Heaven!

And we will see God’s face.

Again, Sam Storms says, “Wherever you turn your eyes you will see nothing but glory and grandeur and beauty and brightness and purity and perfection and splendor and satisfaction and sweetness and salvation and majesty and marvel and holiness and  happiness.

We will see only and all that is adorable and affectionate, beautiful and bright, brilliant and bountiful, delightful and delicious, delectable and dazzling, elegant and exciting, fascinating and fruitful, glorious and grand, gracious and good, happy and holy, healthy and whole, joyful and jubilant, lovely and luscious, majestic and marvelous, opulent and overwhelming, radiant and resplendent, splendid and sublime, sweet and savoring, tender and tasteful, euphoric and unified!

Why will it be all these things?  Because we will be looking at God.” (Storms, pgs. 178-179)

I can’t wrap my mind around it.  And I never will completely.

Even when we are there, we will never reach the end of our amazement at the glory of God. He is infinite. We will never see all that He is!

But we will see Him.

If we belong to Him. That’s question #3.

#3. WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THE REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO?

And the first answer is: Come to Christ.

And come thirsty.  Chapter 21, verse 6.

“To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” That is grace. Salvation is a free gift. “Without cost.”

Jesus died on the Cross to provide “the spring of the water of life” without cost.

And He gives it to those who are thirsty. Those who recognize their need and put their faith in Jesus Christ.

Come to Christ. Thirsty.

And Overcome. V.7 “He who overcomes will inherit all this.”

We learned about that important word in Revelation this week on Wednesday.

It means to persevere in faith under pressure. To not stop believing.  To hang on to Christ. To hold onto Him and overcome or conquer or win by faith.

All of eternity comes down to whether or not (chapter 21, verse 27) our “names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

And the only way to know if you name is there is to turn from sin and turn to the Savior. Putting your trust in Jesus Christ and in His death on the Cross on your behalf. And not stop believing in Him.

Chapter 22 verse 14 calls this, “washing our robes.” It means coming to Christ.  Having Him wash us clean by His precious blood.

If our robes are “washed” then we have the “right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

So that you can enter those gates. Come to Christ.

#2.  Worship God.

My class knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

Humble worship.

In chapter 22, verse 8, John has just tried to absorb all of these visions, and he gets confused and falls down to worship the angel who has been leading him through these revelations. V.9

“But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

I don’t know how someone could read and study these two chapters without worshiping God!

This is our God! This is what our God has planned! Worship Him!

Don’t worship the creation. Don’t worship yourself, your friends, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your spouse, an angel, a false god, Baal, Allah, Science.

Worship God!

You are going to see the Face of God. Start worshiping Him now.

And #3 (and last).  Long for Jesus.

How many times does it say, “Come!” in chapter 22?

Verse 17.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ [We’re the bride. We are supposed to say, “Come!”] And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  V.20

“He who testifies to these things [Jesus] says ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.”

Come!  We long for you, Lord Jesus.

We yearn for You!

We long for our new bodies.
We long for the New World.
We long for the New Jerusalem.

We long for everything to be the way it should be!

We may not long for the apocalypse, but we long for the post-apocalyptic world.

And most of all, we long to see your face!

Come, Lord Jesus.

Amen.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The LORD Is God!"

“The LORD Is God!”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
July 24, 2016 :: 1 Kings 18:1-46  

Last week, we entered into a new section of the books of Kings. You might call it “The Days of Elijah.”

Because right now, we aren’t learning about all of the kings in the North and the South. We’ve already met 13 of them as the book has progressed (most of them thumbs-down guys), but now we’re concentrating just on the northern kingdom of Israel and not so much on its no-good-very-wicked king Ahab, as on the prophet who has burst onto the scene and fired this first salvo in the war against Baal.

“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

The LORD was turning off the faucet. Because King Ahab and wicked queen Jezebel had “considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat” and began to serve Baal and worship him setting “up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.”

So Elijah declared that it was not going to rain.

And remember, that was a direct attack against the glory of Baal.

Because supposedly Baal was the god of rain. The god of fertility and successful crops.

But there was no fertility and no successful crops.

For three years.

Just think about that. We’ve gone, what three weeks without any real rain here to speak of. And how dry it is.

The good side is that you don’t have to mow.

The bad side is that the grass is all brown and dying.

Imagine going three years.

That whole time Elijah is hiding out from Ahab and Jezebel. They have a contract out on him and any other prophets of Yahweh.

Last week, we saw how the LORD provided for Elijah from unlikely sources like dirty ravens and Gentile widows.

Three years the widow’s flour and her oil don’t run out.

And Elijah lies low under the radar. Actually living in Sidon, Baal-territory.

But now, the LORD has a new mission for Elijah. He’s going to send some rain.

Chapter 18, verse 1.

“After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’”

Ok. I’m going to tell you the title of this sermon now.

And after you hear it, you’ll know the whole point of the story.

So, you can go home after you get this title.

Now, I recommend sticking around to see how it plays out.

And if you already know this story, which probably most of you do (it’s one of the only stories most of us all know from the books of Kings, if you know this story already), I encourage you to pretend that you don’t.

Try to read it and listen to it verse by verse as if you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Because it’s a doozy!

Ok. Are you ready for the title? It’s a doozy, too.

“The LORD Is God!”

Okay. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but it is. It’s one of the most important sentences in the whole history of sentences.

“The LORD [Yahweh] is God!”

“Yahweh is God!”

Now, my guess is that everyone here already believes that. Or why else would you have come to church today?

Maybe somebody dragged you here. Or maybe you’re checking it all out.

If so, I’m glad you’re here.

But most of already know this fact, “The LORD Is God!”

But it’s, strangely enough, easy to forget.

Easy to ignore.

That’s what had happened in Israel. The whole northern kingdom had turned to false worship, even Baal worship.

And the LORD will not stand for it.

Yahweh must demonstrate that He is God alone.

So, He shut off the rain.

And now, He’s told Elijah that He’s going to turn it back on again.

But He wants credit for that. He doesn’t want Baal, the supposed rain god, to get credit for the merciful return of the rain. So, He calls a press conference. V.2

“...the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria, and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD's prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) Ahab had said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.’ So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.”

This gives us a little picture of what these three years have been like.

There are still followers of Yahweh, but they have to be sneaky.

Even the guy in the charge of the palace, Obadiah (not the prophet), is a closet follower of Yahweh and he’s been hiding a 100 prophets and supplying them with food and water.

But Ahab doesn’t care about these prophets. He doesn’t mind them dying at the hands of his wife. What he really cares about is his livestock. You can tell what his priorities are.

And everything around him is dying. Baal is not coming through.

So he sends Obadiah out and they separate and scour the countryside looking for water.

But instead, Obadiah finds a prophet. V.7

“As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, ‘Is it really you, my lord Elijah?’ [Where you been?] ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Go tell your master, 'Elijah is here.'’

‘What have I done wrong,’ asked Obadiah, ‘that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? As surely as the LORD your God lives [that phrase should make a little bell go off in your head! After last week’s sermon...], there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. But now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.'

[He’s scared. Not of telling the truth, but that the Elijah may not stick around so that it seems like he’s lying. V.12]

I don't know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth.

Haven't you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD? I hid a hundred of the LORD's prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' He will kill me!’”

This is what it’s been like to live in Israel for the last three years. V.15

“Elijah said, ‘As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.’”

Yes, I’m coming, and you’re really going to see something now.

“So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’

‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals.”

Do you see the face-off here?

Ahab fires the first volley. “You’re the troubler of Israel.”

Look at the death and destruction everywhere around you.

Israel is dying of thirst!

And it’s all your fault.

But Elijah says, “I didn’t bring this trouble on Israel. You did. You brought in Baal. And this is what happens when you serve a dead god. People die.”

That’s one of the major messages of the books of Kings. When you worship false gods, there is trouble and cursing and danger and death.

Idolatry hurts people.

But the LORD lives. The LORD is God.

And He wants to show you this. V.19

“Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.’ So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.”

It’s time for a showdown.

And you probably already know the story.

You know how it ends.

But humor me for a few minutes and pretend that you don’t.

Mount Carmel was apparently Baal territory at this point.

So there was home court advantage to the followers of Baal.

And at this location, Elijah stands up in front of everybody, all these prophets and all of this Israelites and calls them out. V.21

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”

Here’s point number one this morning, of three.

And it’s just what Elijah says here. If the LORD is God, then–

#1. CHOOSE TO FOLLOW HIM ALONE.

Elijah really gets in their faces, doesn’t he?

“How long will you waver between two opinions?”

The word “waver” means to hobble or limp.

How long are you going hobble around choosing what side you’re on?

You know the craziest thing about this contest? It shouldn’t be happening!

This is Israel! They should have decided who was God a long time ago.

And even here they won’t say anything.

What is wrong with you?

“If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters.”

You gotta choose.

Wade Nolan, when he was here back in February, said that a lot of guys like to hang around on the fence and eventually decide to whether or not to follow Jesus.

But Wade says, “The truth is that there is no fence.”

“If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Now, I’m guessing that this is not a hard choice for anyone here today.

Anyone here tempted to follow Baal with your life?

If so, meet me in my office after the service. We’ve got to talk.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem with idolatry.

The Apostle John ended his first New Testament letter with these words, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

And I doubt that he meant the ones made of wood, iron, and stone.

What is like Baal for you?

What false gods are you tempted to worship?

Baal may not be tempting, but I’m guessing there is a false deity or two that is actually appealing.

I’ll give you two of mine. They’re ones I’ve said before.

You probably know mine better than I do because our idols are often more obvious to others than they are to ourselves.

I tend to worship the gods of popularity and comfort.

I love to be liked and approved of by others. The Facebook “like” button can be a drug for me.

And I have an extra plate addiction. My gluttony tends to come not from just enjoying the pleasure of eating too much but looking for satisfaction and comfort in the act of eating.

And when you put the two together, like getting approval for how much I eat, then I can really get into trouble.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking to be liked or enjoying comfort.

But good things can become god things when we allow them to take a place they do not deserve in our lives.

And even though I am a declared follower of the LORD, I can be tempted to waver between the two.

Elijah says, “Choose to follow the LORD alone.”

“You shall have no other gods before Yahweh.”

Decide. And then act.

That’s what follow means.

Don’t just say that you believe in God, live like it.

You can’t serve two masters. Stop trying!

Does that make sense?

This applies to other religions, too, of course.

If the LORD is god, follow him; but if Allah is God, follow Him.
If the LORD is god, follow him; but if the god of the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses, or the Hindus or whatever is god, then follow them.

But choose. There is no fence.

What is like Baal for you?

Choose to follow the LORD alone.

So, Elijah, sets up this famous contest. V.22

“Then Elijah said to them, ‘I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire–he is God.’ Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’”

They like it.

Oh, by the way. Have I mentioned that Baal was the god of lightning?

He was the storm god. So supposedly, he not only brought the rain but also the fire from heaven.

So, you can see why they like it.

Who goes first?  Elijah declines the first possession. V.25

“Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’

So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. [Crickets.] And they danced around the altar they had made.”

They’re starting to get worried that their god isn’t going to show up.

The shot clock is ticking down.

And their god is silent. V.27

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’”

I love it when Elijah does this trash-talking.

“Get out your megaphone.
Try that line again.
What do you mean nobody’s home?
Maybe Baal is busy.  He’s ‘occupied.’
Did you think of that?

You know, he might be sleeping.

Now, catch this. Why doesn’t Baal respond?

Because Baal is not real.

In the words of last week’s message, “Baal does not live.”

They don’t get a busy signal when they call.

It just rings and rings and rings.

Because nobody is home.

Do you know why? Baal is not God.

Yahweh is God.

I almost titled last week’s message and this week’s message and the next message, “The battle of Baal.”

But it’s not really a battle with Baal.

There is no contest.

Baal never shows up.

And the same thing is true of all of the other religions in the world and all of the counterfeit gods that you and I are tempted to give some portion of our lives to.

Popularity or comfort or money or possessions or pleasure or politics or sports or some other person.

End the end, they do no show up. They are not God.

Baal is not God.

But you’d have a hard time convincing these people. They try so hard.

They do whatever they think it will take to get their god’s attention.

That’s religion for you. Beware of religion. V.28

“So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. [Please, Baal, please! We’ll give you our blood!]  Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

That’s the reward for idolatry.

Now, see the contrast with Elijah’s god. V.30

“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’ [Isn’t that dramatic? And symbolic. He reminds them that they should be one unified nation.]

With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.

He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, [Okay! Let’s make it harder!] Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.’ ‘Do it again,’ he said, and they did it again. ‘Do it a third time,’ he ordered, and they did it the third time. [How many jars is that? Four jars three times. That’s twelve again.] The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.”

You got the picture?

Where did they get the water?

There’s been a drought for 3 years, and Elijah wants to pour water over this sacrifice.

So they get this water and they make sure that there is no way on Earth that fire could break out on its own.

And the priest of Baal are limping around, exhausted, and bleeding. V.36

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.

Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!’”

Boom!

They got the point, didn’t they?

Yahweh is God.

And no one else.

You know, I never noticed the rocks and the soil before.

I always thought they were scorched (and that might be all it means), and I was amazed that all that water was licked up.

But if I’m reading it right, the rocks and the soil burned up, too.

My dad has a farmer friend named, Ronnie, who has a saying, “Dirt don’t burn.”

Dirt’s really hard to burn, right? V.38 again.

“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice [which is amazing], the wood [there goes that altar!], the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

That was some really hot fire from heaven.

The LORD is God.
And that has consequences. V.40

“Then Elijah commanded them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!’ They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.”

They will not trouble Israel any longer.

The LORD is God.

Choose to follow Him alone.

#2. CHOOSE TO PRAY TO HIM ALONE.

Did you notice how calm and collected Elijah was when he prayed?

He prayed earnestly and passionately, but there was no jumping around and cutting himself and putting on a big show.

He just prayed a simple heartfelt prayer and the fire fell.

That’s because the LORD is God.

So, now it’s time to pray for something else to fall.

Rain.

Three years and no rain because of the prayers of Elijah.

Time to pray again. V.41

“And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.’ So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.”

It’s time for Ahab to make a decision.

King Ahab has a chance here to make everything right. To turn the nation back to Yahweh.

He’s told to eat and drink and watch and see what the LORD is going to do.

Elijah prays. And he prays. And he really prays.

He’s praying based on the promise from verse 1 and what Solomon said back in chapter 8.

He knows that LORD is God, so he prays a big prayer request.

He prays for rain. And then he watches to see. V.43

“‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’

The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea.’ So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'’ Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

Now, that’s as far as we’re going to read today.

We’re not going to find out what happens with Ahab. He’s got “the Flash” out in front of him.

Maybe Elijah is a forerunner, and Ahab is going to repent and lead the nation into revival.

We don’t know.

But we know one thing. It’s raining.

And raining and raining.

Why? Because Elijah prayed.

And he prayed, not just to any old deity, but to Yahweh.

The LORD is God.

That’s the point that the Apostle James makes in his letter. Chapter 5, verses 16-18?

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. [Why because the man is so special? No, James says...] Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

Why is the prayer of a righteous person power and effective?

Because the LORD is God.

How’s your prayer life?

Don’t forget that you are praying to the God of fire and rain.

You’re praying to the same God as Elijah was.

We’re just like Elijah. We’re just people.

But we know Yahweh! So bring your big prayers to Him.

There’s a song by John Newton that very few people know. It’s not like Amazing Grace, but I think we need to bring it back.

It’s called “Thou Art Coming to a King.”

Listen to this verse.

“Thou art coming to a King.
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such, 
None can ever ask too much.”

The LORD is God. Choose to pray to Him alone.

#3. CHOOSE TO CONFESS HIM ALONE.

We don’t really have time to develop this thought, but what I want to leave ringing in our ears is the cry of verse 39.

“When all the people saw this [when they saw it with their own eyes, when they “got it,”] they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!’”

That needs to be our confession, as well.

Yahweh is God.

And He is our God.

And Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh.

When Jesus was born, it wasn’t just fire and rain that came down.

The LORD Himself came down and gave us the perfect sacrifice.

Not just a bull on an altar, but a Savior on a Cross.

And then a risen Savior, an exalted Savior, and one day a returning Savior.

Jesus is God!  Jesus is God!

Is that your confession?

The Bible says “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

And so many people need to hear it all around the world.

The LORD. He is God.

Jesus. He is the LORD.


***

Messages in this Series:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The LORD Lives"

“The LORD Lives”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
July 17, 2016 :: 1 Kings 17:1-24  

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and we’ve been learning a lot over the last 10 messages in this series about the kings of Israel, both good and bad.

More bad than good, I’m afraid.

When these kings are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.
And when they are at their worst, they reminds us why we need Jesus.

And we’ve already learned about 13 kings so far between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.

David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni (if you count him), Omri, and last and worst so far, Ahab.

A few of those kings were thumbs up guys, at least for part of their life.

But most of them were two thumbs down in the eyes of the LORD.

Now, this morning, we start a new section of 1 Kings that’s a little different from what we’ve seen so far.

Today, the focus shifts a little off of the kings for a while and onto a prophet who bursts onto the scene with absolutely no warning.

And his name is Elijah.

A pretty significant character in the Old Testament!

This chapter, 1 Kings 17, is where he comes into the story.

And I was sorely tempted to title this sermon, “The Days of Elijah: Part One.”

But I didn’t. Because 1 Kings 17 is not at its deepest about a prophet or a priest or a king.

It’s about the LORD.

The LORD is the main character of books of Kings, and He is the main person Whom we encounter today in 1 Kings 17.

So, I actually took my title from a little phrase in verse 1.

Where Elijah says that the LORD (capital L-O-R-D) lives.

“The LORD Lives.”

Yahweh lives.

The God whom the Bible calls Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of David and Solomon. The God over Israel and Judah.

Capital L-O-R-D. That God lives!

And by that, I mean that He exists.

The LORD is real.
He is not fake.
He is not just a myth or a story or a made-up fairy tale.

The LORD lives.

Now, you all have come to church this morning so I could probably guess that you already believe that.

The LORD lives. Amen?

The LORD exists. And not just like a rock exists. He’s alive.

He’s personal. He’s relatable. And He’s true.

The LORD lives.

We believe that. ... Or least we say we do.

But there was a real question about it in Elijah’s day.

Idol worship had crept into Israel.

Remember Solomon fell for it and then his son did, too, in the South.

And they fell for idolatry even worse in the north.

Jeroboam set up those golden calves in Bethel and in Dan. Remember that?

He set up a whole invented religion.

But then it got worse. Because instead of just falsely worshiping Yahweh, they began to introduce other gods.

And the worst at it so far was the last king we met last time.

King Ahab of Israel.

Ahab was not a Arab. He was a Jew. The king of the Jews.

But he worshiped a god named “Baal.”  Or “Ba’al.”

Remember this?  Chapter 16, verse 30?

“Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:30-33).

Ahab acted as if Yahweh did not exist. He treated the LORD with contempt.

And he set up worship of this other god, Baal, in Israel!

And what do you think? Will God let that go?

The true God will not take this lying down.

Chapter 17, verse 1.

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

Elijah just comes out of nowhere, doesn’t he?!

Bam! There is he talking to Ahab out of the blue.

Because more important than who he and where he comes from is the message that he has to present.

“There will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Wow.

This guy means business. And that’s the because the LORD lives, and He means business.

‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

“Shots fired!”

These are the opening shots in a great battle in Israel.

I almost titled this sermon “The Battle of Baal: Part One.”

Because Elijah, in making this declaration, is taking a swipe at Baal.

Do you know what Baal was the god of?

Rain.

He was the god of rain. He was the rain god and the god of fertility, the god of life so they said.

So what was Yahweh saying by sending Elijah?

“I’m turning the faucet off! If Baal is god, if Baal is for real, then he can turn it back on again.”

That’s what’s going on here.

The LORD promised this back in Deuteronomy. He said in Deuteronomy chapters 11 and 28 that if Israel abandoned their covenant with Yahweh, He would withhold the rain.

And now He’s making good on that threat.

How devastating that would be for inhabitants of this land.

No rain, no life-giving dew. Just whatever they can find trickle in or transport in from other lands.

For years.

The LORD lives.

Elijah had to say this up front or they wouldn’t have known that it was Yahweh. They might have said it was a coincidence or tried harder to get Baal to do his thing.

But before the rains stopped, Elijah said they would.

And everyone suffered.

That’s what happens when people give in to idolatry. People suffer. People get hurt.

Idolatry always leads to death.

Idols promise life and blessing, but they always bring trouble and death.

Elijah was in trouble. Ahab didn’t like what Elijah had to say. In fact, he put out a hit on Elijah and any other prophets of Yahweh.

So the LORD placed Elijah in His own special witness protection program.  Verse 2.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’ So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”

Crazy story, huh?

King is such a crazy book and whenever these prophets come on the scene, you never know what’s going to happen.

Here, the “word of the LORD” comes to Elijah. Remember that phrase from a few weeks ago? That’s an important phrase.

The LORD who lives also speaks.

And what He says should be listened to and believed and obeyed because it always comes to pass.

And here the LORD says, “hide.”

“Hide in this ravine. Where there would normally be no food and in drought conditions, there would be no water.

But I’ll make sure there is water in the brook, and I’ll send ravens to bring you food twice a day!”

Ravens!

Those things are unclean. And the LORD is using them?

What kind of meat would they bring twice a day in “Ravine Service?”

I’m not sure I want to know. But if you cook it, it will keep you alive.

Don’t rely on Baal. Rely on the LORD because He’s real. He lives.

He tells the birds what to do!

Here’s application point number one of three this morning.

#1. DON’T WORRY.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

I know I do.

There is so much in life right now that tempts me to worry, to grow anxious.

We all have our list.

When you wake up in the morning, and you start to go over that list in your head.

I’ve got my list. I’m sure you’ve got yours.

What are you worried about right now?

What’s at the top of the list?

Here’s the word of the LORD to us today, “Yahweh lives.”

God is real. And He is able to protect and provide and sustain us in amazing ways.

If we trust Him.

Don’t worry. If God still has a job for you, then He will sustain you until that job is over.

Elijah was on a mission, and he was indestructible until that mission was over.

Are you and I on a mission?

The Challenge Group said last week that we are. We are a family of servant missionaries SENT on a mission.

And the LORD will take care of us.

Don’t worry.

I know that’s hard to do.

Worry is my superpower. I come by it naturally. I am the son of worrier, and the grandson of worrier.

But God can send ravens to take care of me if He wants to.

So what have I to dread? What have I to fear? V.7

“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. [Just like the LORD said. Time for plan B.] Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.’”

Now, that might be even crazier!

Where is Zarephath? In Sidon. That’s Baal territory.

That’s Baalsville.

Move to Baalsville where you are a hunted man, and I’ve got someone to take care of you.

Who is it?

It’s a widow.

What?!!!

Are widows, in the Bible, people with money? People with means? People with stuff to give?

No, widows in Bible times are often destitute and needy.

They are very unlikely benefactresses.

But, of course, the LORD lives and He has a plan. Go and find this widow woman, and I’ll take care of you.

Don’t worry! V.10

“So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’  [Elijah is trusting the word of the LORD. But he may have come to the wrong woman. V.12]

‘As surely as the LORD your God lives,’ [That’s interesting, isn’t it?] she replied, ‘I don't have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.’”

What an incredibly sad story!

She’s gathering firewood to heat their last supper.

She has nothing to offer!

This is the end.

But Elijah knows that the LORD lives and therefore she should not worry. V.13

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. [That’s bold!] 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 gives rain on the land.’”

What a promise!

And that’s exactly what happened. Because the LORD lives. V.15

“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.”

The LORD lives, and when He speaks it comes to pass.

What do we have to worry about?

I love this miracle because it’s a daily miracle. It’s a quiet miracle.

This woman didn’t get a truckload of food.

How much did she get?

A little bit. Every day.

Every. Single. Day.

His mercies were new every morning.

Every day, “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry...”

Do you need to hear that?

That’s a mega-miracle.

And it’s the kind of thing we experience all the time.

God’s daily faithfulness. Amen?

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Don’t worry.

#2. DON’T MISS OUT.

What do I mean by that?

I mean, isn’t it strange that the LORD sent Elijah out of the country to get this help?

Weren’t there any widows in Israel?

Why did Elijah have to leave Israel for this miracle?

That’s what Jesus asked in Luke chapter 4.

He was in Nazareth, his hometown, and the locals were listening to Him preach. And the liked what He said about the day of the LORD coming.

But they didn’t like it when he brought up this story from 1 Kings 17.

He said, “I tell you the truth ... no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.”

And you know how they took that?

They tried to kill Him.

They were so furious, they tried to throw him off a cliff.

He just walked away.

Why were they mad?

Because the LORD who lives is gracious to those who will trust Him but He’ll also pass over those who should trust Him but don’t.

They were mad because Jesus was going to save Gentiles!

Like you and me!

But He was going to allow Jews to die in their sins if they ignored and rejected Him.

Don’t miss out.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and life.

The LORD lives.

There will be many “good,” upstanding, moral, religious people who will perish on the day of the LORD because they had not received the Lord Jesus.

Don’t miss out.

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

I’m not asking, “Are you a good citizen? Do you pay your taxes? Do you obey the law? Do you do volunteer in your community?”

I’m asking is Jesus Christ your Master and Rescuer?

There were many widows in Israel at this time.

And they were, by and large, rejecting Yahweh.

So God went out and found an unlikely candidate to shower His mercy on.

There will be current members of ISIS in Heaven and current members of EFCA churches in Hell.

Because God doesn’t save based on niceness.

He saves based on our reception or rejection of Jesus.

And there are some in ISIS who will truly repent like the Apostle Paul did on the Damascus road.

And there are some I’m sure, hopefully not many, who look good on the outside but have not repented and received Jesus on the inside here in our churches.

Don’t miss out.

The letter to the Hebrews says, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

Don’t miss out.

This widow did not miss out. She trusted in the living LORD.

But then she had an unexpected tragedy. Her son died. V.17

“Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, ‘What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’”

“What good is it to have this flour and oil during this drought if I don’t have a living son to feed it to?”

“Is God just messing with me?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Well, it could just end there and God be justified.

He gives, and He takes away, and blessed be His name.

But there was more going on here. V.19

“‘Give me your son,’ Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’”

The stakes are so high!

Have you ever prayed like this?  Not for a dead person to come back but honestly crying out to God from the depths of you heart? And asking God to do something big? Desperate prayer. V.21

“Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!’ The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, ‘Look, your son is alive!’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.’”

I don’t know why he laid himself out on the boy three times. A lot of times in the Old Testament, the prophets acts out his prophecy. So he’s probably identifying, his life for the boy’s life and pleading with God for the boys’ life.

And I love what verse 22 says. “The LORD heard Elijah’s cry.”

The LORD lives, and He hears.

Dead gods don’t hear.

False gods don’t hear.

Real gods hear!

Living gods hear.

The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.

#3. DON’T DESPAIR.

Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Because the living God can bring back the dead.

He is more powerful than death.

You know Baal supposedly died a little every year.

Their story, the Baal worshipers’ story, was that the rainy season would end because Baal would meet up with the god of death named “Mot” and have give in to him.

And then when the rainy season returned, Baal would start up his work again. How convenient.

But there was nothing that Baal could do about Mot. Mot was more powerful than Baal. Baal had to yield to death.

But death is not more powerful than Yahweh.

Yahweh is more powerful than death.

This little resuscitation was a foretaste of the resurrection.

Don’t despair!

The LORD lives forever, and so will you and I if we belong to Him.

Jesus said in the book of Revelation, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Believe it.

Don’t despair. Even of death.

Believe the word of the Lord.

This Gentile widow did. Verse 24 tells us that she believes that Elijah is telling the truth and giving out the word of the Lord.

What’s sad is that pretty much all of Israel did not.

We’re going to see that next week when we head up for the showdown on Mount Carmel.

There is still no water, no rain, at the end of our story today.

Because God is still showing that He is more powerful than Baal.

More powerful even than death.

So don’t give up. Don’t despair.

Don’t pull out your hair in worry and fright and desperation and lose hope.

Yes, there is trouble and terror in our world. And even terrible death.

But take heart. Jesus has overcome the world.

He has even overcome death!

The LORD lives!


***

Messages in this Series:
01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

#LiveSent :: 2016 Challenge Report to Lanse Free Church

“Live Sent”
Challenge Sunday
July 10, 2016

[On Sunday, our group that went to the EFCA's Challenge Conference shared stories of our adventure there, what we learned and experienced. Afterward, I shared these brief comments]

I told the Challenge Group that if they talked long enough, there would be no sermon.

So there is no sermon today. But I do want to wrap up all of what has been said.

By coming back to this idea of IDENTITY.

We’ve learned all week about Who God is and what He has done and how that shapes who we are and why we are here.

Here again are the three symbols to remind us of that.



1. God is Father. And because of that, we are family.

It was really encouraging to see the students grasp their identity as children of God.

1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

That is what we are!

And we are not individual children. We are gathered together into a family.

And that is the most important family in the universe. The family of God.

More important than the other families the world has to offer, even the good ones.

More important than a brotherhood of bikers, a brotherhood of union workers, a family of firefighters, more important than our national brotherhood.

More important even than our biological families, is the family of God.

2. God is Son, the servant king sent to redeem us.

And because God is Son, we are servants.

It was awesome to see the students assume that identity this week on their service projects.

I was so encouraged to see them walking up and down the urban streets of Louisville picking up trash and making friends with a predominantly black community.

And there was no complaining!  They were servants.

They lived out Philippians 2.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  Who became a servant.

3. God is Spirit, the Holy Spirit. And because of that, we are missionaries.

We are sent ones.

We have the gospel message that the world so desperately needs.

Is there any question, after the week our nation has had, that we need the gospel? And we need people to carry the gospel into the world?

We are sent into this world, into our neighborhoods, into our community, into our workplaces, into schools, into every area of life to present the gospel and to represent Jesus Christ.

We learned that this week.

[Check out all of the teaching on this page of videos. There's some really fun and funny ones in there, too!]

I saw lights go on in our student’s eyes.

Raise your hand if you are a missionary.

Raise your hand if that is your identity.

We are not all called into foreign missions.

We are not all called to go to Rio in Brazil, like we learned about at the conference.

We are all sent.

We are all missionaries.

We are all to LIVE SENT.

Remember when Jesus appeared to the disciples right before he encountered Doubting Thomas? John chapter 20?  [I just talked about this a year ago after the Pittsburgh Ministry Trip.]

They were huddled, too. They were huddled in fear and the doors were locked.

And then Jesus just appeared and they were overjoyed and said, “Peace be with you!” and then He showed his hands and side to the disciples and they were overjoyed.

And then he gave them this commission. “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

And then you know what He did?

He breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Father send the Son, the Son was sending the Spirit, to be received by the disciples and they were then to be sent into the world.

And that’s us, too.

A family of servant missionaries.

That’s us.  That's what we've been learning about all year long.

We’re going to how you one more video that captures what we learned.

It was created just for our conference using the poetry of David Bowden.

He wrote this poem just for us.

And they showed the first half at the very start of our conference and the second half at the very end.

It’s about our identity, and it’s called “Who Am I?”

We’ve given you the words in that handout so that you can follow along if you want.

Who Am I?



Previous Challenge Reports

Restored 2014

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

Saturday, July 02, 2016