Thursday, May 14, 2015

To Everything There Is A Season

"To everything there is a season
a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace."

King Solomon, son of David, brilliantly contrasts the good and bad experiences of life in the above passage (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). There's a time to grieve, but there is also a time to dance. There is a time to be quiet, but there is also a time to speak. There is a time to scatter stones, but there is also a time to gather stones. There's a time to be born, and ultimately, there's a time to die. It's the big picture of our lives. It's the good times, and it's the bad times. It's simple, but it's perfect. And in the grand scheme of things, it makes us realize one very important truth - we are all alike. 

Life involves change, constant change. Nothing stays the same and one thing always leads to another. These words of Solomon are timeless. They apply to everyone, past, present, and future. His words are just as true today as they were thousands of years ago. They transcend culture, race, and gender. They apply to those who are rich and those who are poor. They describe the basic human condition of every mortal who ever lived and whoever will live.

I find that every time I read this passage, I get a feeling of nostalgia. Nostalgia is both pleasure and sadness that is caused by reflecting on something from the past. And as I read this, I reminisce on things in my life and see that there really is a time and a place for everything. And the older you get, the more you see how the words of King Solomon hold true. No one can dispute them. But how can something so simple be so profound? I suppose because it hits on the basic undeniable experience of life itself.

There is much value in this passage. First of all, I think it brings us hope in bad times. How? Because it makes us realize that during a rough season of life, better times are coming - that the bad times will pass. It makes us understand that bad times are temporary. 

Secondly, I believe it brings appreciation for the good times, that we should enjoy them while they last because they are fleeting. Everything is fragile in life. When we are in a good season of life, we should savor the moment, thanking God for the blessings.

And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, these words of Solomon should make us acknowledge God's sovereignty regarding the seasons of life. "God has made everything fit beautifully in its appropriate time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11a). God's timing is perfect. He is in control, and He has ordained an "appropriate" time for all things.

To everything there is a season - a time for every purpose under heaven."

That's just the way it is.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lessons From Simon The Sorcerer

There was a sorcerer named Simon who once lived in ancient city of Samaria. For many years he claimed to be someone great, and amazed people with his magic. Everyone, from the least to the greatest, called him "The Great One - The Power of God." The problem is, the title was not true. The people may have thought Simon the Sorcerer had the power of God, but in reality, he didn't. However, they would soon meet someone who did - Philip. 

Philip was one of the 7 "helpers" that the Apostles chose in the early days of the church (Acts 6). They were "well respected and full of the Spirit and wisdom." What's significant about these 7 is that the Apostles "prayed for them as they laid their hands on them." It's evident, based on the things Philip did, that this type of laying on of hands by the Apostles transferred miraculous Holy Spirit powers. In those early days, this type of a special supernatural gift was to help jump-start the infant Church. 

This early church was basically centered, at first, in and around Jerusalem. That is, until they were scattered. This happened when another one of the chosen 7, Stephen, was stoned to death (Acts 7). This rattled the church because he was the first disciple to be killed. Some men lied about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God." (Acts 6:11) So they arrested and executed an innocent man.   

A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the Church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the Apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. The good thing is that the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. This is how Philip came to be in contact with Simon the Sorcerer. He ended up in the same city as Simon. "Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:5-7)

Now, a sorcerer may sound fascinating, but to put it bluntly, sorcerers are no-good in the eyes of God. As a matter of fact, any similar types of people face condemnation by God: mediums, fortune-tellers, psychics, as well as those who practice divination and witchcraft are all considered evil in the eyes of God (Deuteronomy 18:10b-12a). That's because God wants people to put their trust solely and exclusively in Him alone, not in some false-prophet or false-god.

Because of Philip's preaching and his miracles, people began to realize that Philip was really the one who had the Power of God, not Simon the Sorcerer. Philip's miracles were the real deal, no tricks, magic, or illusions. This proved Philip's authenticity - that he was truly of God - resulting in many people believing and responding to his message of the Good News of Jesus.

"But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized." (Acts 8:12)

Even Simon the Sorcerer was baptized! "Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed." (Acts 8:13)

However, something happened next that revealed some major doubt about Simon the Sorcerer's conversion. It started when Philip wanted some of the believers to have the same special gifts of the Holy Spirit as well, so when he left, the leaders in Samaria could be empowered. The problem was that Philip couldn't lay hands on any believers to transfer special Holy Spirit power to them. Only the Apostles could do that. Therefore, the Apostles Peter and John had to come from Jerusalem to Samaria for that very reason. What happened next revealed Simon's true heart.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 8:18-19)

Simon still wanted to be "the Great One - the Power of God" - the same title he had as a sorcerer! He was jealous, he was covetous, and he would try to do anything to get his way, even bribe an Apostle of Jesus Christ!

Peter's response to Simon's sin was severe. Fortunately for Simon, not as severe as when Peter uncovered the lies of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), resulting in both of them dropping dead at Peter's feet. Peter exposed Simon's sin, and thus his true heart.

But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin." “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!” (Acts 8:20-24)

That's the last we hear of Simon the Sorcerer in the Bible, so we'll never know from scripture if he repented and prayed for forgiveness. What we do know is that we can learn some lessons from this story.

#1 THE OBJECT OF OUR FAITH NEEDS TO BE JESUS
What was Simon really attracted to? - the miracles of Philip or the Good News of Jesus? Simon was fascinated by the signs and wonders, when he should have been overwhelmed by the cross of Christ.

#2 THERE'S A PROPER ORDER OF THINGS
Simon missed some important steps in the process of becoming a Christ Follower. Someone seeking to be made right with God (RECONCILIATION) starts with acknowledgment of sin (HUMILITY), believing Jesus is the Savior who takes away sin (BELIEF). Then a sorrow for sin and a turning away from sin (REPENTANCE). This leads to uniting with Christ in BAPTISM, and then faithfully following Christ.

It seems Simon's first steps were questionable.  Did he even acknowledge his sin? Did he lay down his pride? Was his belief founded on Jesus? And it seems he missed the very important step between believing and being baptized....repentance. (Acts 2:38). Was he really baptized for the right reasons or was it all a trick, an illusion, a facade?

#3 CHRISTIANITY IS ALL ABOUT DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION
Just as Jesus died, buried, and resurrected, we unite with Him in our own spiritual death, burial, and resurrection at baptism. That's when Simon's old self should have been put to death, and he should have been raised up to start a brand new life, not continue in his old ways.

"Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin." (Romans 6:3-6)

ONE LAST THOUGHT
For those of us who are baptized believers, Peter gives us some really good advice of what to do when we stumble and sin after baptism - repent and pray for forgiveness. If our hearts are sincere, we will be forgiven.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Which Bible Translation Is The Best?

Picture this - someone decides they want to start reading the Bible for the first time. So, they go into a book store, find the Bible section, and whoa!!...all type of Bibles, several sizes, several styles, and most confusing of all, several different translations. They will most likely see King James Bibles, New King James Bibles, New International Version Bibles, New American Standard Version Bibles, Good News Bibles, Holman Christian Standard Bibles, New Living Translation Bibles, The Message Bibles, and on and on and on and on. Just to give you an idea, the YouVersion Bible app on my phone, one of the ones I use, has 42, that's right, 42 different English translations of the Bible to choose from! Mama Mia!

For someone who is trying to pick out their first Bible, their obvious question is most likely, "What's the difference between all these Bibles?" Hopefully, the store clerk would know, but I wouldn't count on it. They might just point you to the "most popular" ones, or to the best selling ones, and not have a clue. But, everyone, not just someone new to Bible reading, should really know the difference. 

First of all, what is a "translation"? By definition, it's the process of converting the text of one language into another. What's the challenge in translating one language into another? It's trying to be sure the exact meaning of one language can be related accurately to the other. And the danger is the possibility that a word, phrase, or thought in the source language has no precise corresponding word in the language it's being translated into, making it difficult to express true meaning. 

The source languages of the Bible- the original languages the Bible was written in - are mostly Hebrew (Old Testament and Greek (New Testament). They are, in original form, very precise languages. Every word has exact and intentional meaning. Every word was meticulously written. Not only that, the Holy Spirit inspired and guided the writers - brought to their minds what and how to express the writings. 

The problem for us who read, speak, and write English is this......the English language stinks! At least when compared to the accuracy of the Hebrew and Greek languages. We have too many words that are spelled exactly the same, but have different meanings. The word "love" for example. I love pizza, I love my dog, I love football, I love my friends, I love sitting on the beach, I love palm trees, I love my wife, I love God. We have one word for different types of love, but the Greek language has a different words for different types of love. So you can see, English Bibles, and for that matter, any language other than the original, will lose something in a translation. But, hey, which one of you can read Hebrew and Greek? No one I know.

So, back to the person in the book store trying to decide what Bible to buy. Well, here is the KEY....understanding that there are 3 general types of Bible translations. You can categorize all Bibles into these 3 types of translations:

1. Word for Word
These types of Bibles are those in which the translators are trying their best to accurately take a word in the Hebrew or Greek to a corresponding word in the English (still considering the limitations of the English language of course). Many call these 'literal' translations. 

Examples: Young's Literal Translation, the King James Bible, the New American Standard Version Bible, among others.

2. Thought for Thought
These types of Bibles are those in which the translators are more interested in the meaning of a phrase or thought in the Hebrew or Greek, expressed in a corresponding phrase or thought in the English language. These types of Bibles are much easier to read because they are written in a modern style. 

Examples:  the New King James Bible, the New International Version Bible, the New Living Translation, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and more.

3. Paraphrase
These types of Bibles are those in which the translator takes a passage in the Hebrew or Greek, and expresses it in his own words, sort of rephrasing it in the English language. Many times these are written by one person, and is not written by a team of scholars as in most of the other types of Bible translations. 

Examples:  The Living Bible, The Message, among others. 

THE GOOD AND BAD..................

1. Word for Word
 POSITIVE:    Accurate; excellent for study; closest to the Hebrew/Greek
 NEGATIVE:  Sometimes difficult to read

2. Thought for Thought
 POSITIVE:    Much easier to read and understand. 
 NEGATIVE:  May use wording that is more general in meaning, although still accurate. 

3. Paraphrase
POSITIVE:    Very easy to read 
NEGATIVE:  May be too wordy and somewhat watered down; sometimes verses are grouped together. Not a good 'study' Bible.

Again, back to the person in the store. My recommendation if I were the salesperson? For a first time Bible reader, I would recommend choosing a "thought for thought" translation. Easy to read, but still retaining the general meaning. The New International Version (NIV) is probably the most readily available, although the New King James Version  (NKJV)and The New Living Translation (NLT) are popular too.

And as far as the question of which Bible translation is the best, it depends. Best for who? For someone who wants to accurately and seriously study, giving up an easier read,,,,,,, a word for word. For someone who wants and easy to understand read......a thought for thought. For someone who wants almost a fun read, but still understanding it's shortcomings..... a paraphrase. 

My current personal choice? I usually read from the New Living Translation, using the New King James and the New American Standard as a reference, and just periodically using The Message just to see what it says. But remember, none of the English translations are perfectly matched to the Hebrew or Greek simply because of the shortcomings of the English language. That doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit can't work through our English translations. So, read and read daily, even if just a couple of verses at a time.

And what if you come across a passage doesn't quite make sense? Then compare translations! It will help. Different translations may use different words, but the meaning should be the same.

EXAMPLES OF THE 3 TYPES OF TRANSLATIONS:

1. Word for Word Translation (King James Bible) - Psalm 6:1
"O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure."

2. Thought for Thought Translation (New Living Translation) - Psalm 6:1
"O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage."

3. Paraphrase Translation (The Message) - Psalm 6:1
"Please, God, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed."

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Bible's Two Most Terrifying Creatures!

Each time I lead a beginners' Bible study, inevitably, instead of some serious theological inquiry, someone will ask, "Does the Bible speak about dinosaurs?" I don't mind their questions, really. I suppose it is a legitimate question. So, does the Bible actually mention dinosaurs?

Well, if you do a search for the word dinosaur, you won't find that word in the Bible. That's most likely because it's a relatively new word, coined in the mid 1800's by Sir Richard Owen. However, even though you won't find the word dinosaur, if you look closely, you will uncover some very intriguing facts - some descriptions of creatures that will raise your eyebrows - huge creatures. Were these creatures that the Bible describes really dinosaurs? Perhaps so! Or perhaps even more dangerous than dinosaurs. Let's look at some really interesting scriptures. 

The book of Job is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible - even written before the book of Genesis. This book reveals some astounding details of what could be dinosaurs. In Job chapter 40, God, in sort of a "who do you think you are, anyway" tone of voice, describes to Job some of His largest living creations. One of them is the called the "Behemoth".

The first time I recall hearing the word Behemoth was way back in the 1970's. It was the name my brother called his well-used, run down, old Chrysler (I think it was a Chrysler). He bought it for $50. It must have weighed a couple of tons, but had a big V-8 engine. If there is one similarity between my brother's Behemoth and the one described in Bible, it's power. 

“Take a look at Behemoth, which I made, just as I made you. It eats grass like an ox. See its powerful loins and the muscles of its belly. Its tail is as strong as a cedar. The sinews of its thighs are knit tightly together. Its bones are tubes of bronze. Its limbs are bars of iron." (Job 40:15-18)

Some have speculated that the Behemoth was simply an elephant. But wait. Look at the description of its tail. Does an elephant have a tail as "strong as a cedar"? No. In the Bible, cedar trees were huge and used for lumber. An elephant's tail is small. As a matter of fact, any large land animal that we know of has a small tail. Think about a hippopotamus, or a rhinoceros, or a giraffe - all tiny tails. There is no large animal I can think of with a large, strong tail - except maybe a brontosaurus!

The Behemoth sure was huge and powerful, but it's nothing compared to another creature that God calls the "King of Beasts" in Job 41. The entire chapter is devoted to this terror called the Leviathan. Unlike the land dwelling Behemoth, the Leviathan seems to be a sea monster of some sort. And could also travel on land.

“I want to emphasize Leviathan’s limbs and its enormous strength and graceful form. Who can strip off its hide, and who can penetrate its double layer of armor? Who could pry open its jaws? For its teeth are terrible! The scales on its back are like rows of shields tightly sealed together." (Job 41:12-15)

The Leviathan seems to have been so dominate that man could do nothing to harm it, let alone kill it. I suppose humans could only do one thing when confronting a Leviathan...RUN!

"When it rises, the mighty are afraid, gripped by terror. No sword can stop it, no spear, dart, or javelin. Iron is nothing but straw to that creature, and bronze is like rotten wood. Arrows cannot make it flee. Stones shot from a sling are like bits of grass. Clubs are like a blade of grass, and it laughs at the swish of javelins." (Job 41:25-29)

The prophet Isaiah apparently knew of such a creature, and even describes it in detail.

"In that day the Lord will take his terrible, swift sword and punish Leviathan, the swiftly moving serpent, the coiling, writhing serpent. He will kill the dragon of the sea."  (Isaiah 27:1)

To me, the most interesting description of the Leviathan reveals that it was a sort of dragon! Is that possible? I sure would like to think so. It would be really cool if a dragon that breathed fire really existed long ago. 

"Lightning leaps from its mouth; flames of fire flash out. Smoke streams from its nostrils like steam from a pot heated over burning rushes. Its breath would kindle coals, for flames shoot from its mouth." (Job 41:19-21)

Whatever it was, the Leviathan was the biggest and baddest when it comes to a terrifying creature.

"Nothing on earth is its equal, no other creature so fearless. Of all the creatures, it is the proudest. It is the king of beasts.” (Job 41:33-34)

What ever happened to these guys? I don't know. I sure wish they were still around to see in person though. At least from a distance. But so far, none have been discovered, alive at least. Maybe they died off and became extinct because of some disease. No one knows for sure. One thing we do know....there were some scary monsters back then. 

However, if you think these are scary, they're nothing compared to the one who is the most terrifying of all time - a spiritual being - called Satan. But he's too scary to talk about for now. Maybe another time. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Top 5 Scariest Verses In The Bible

There are some verses in the Bible that have really put fear in me. And maybe the reason these verses are scary is because I believe they are real and truthful, and can still apply to us today.

Now I know we should not be motivated by fear, but by God's love and grace. And I could certainly list my top 5 most wonderful verses. And no doubt, there are volumes of scriptures that are inspirational, and full of the good news of God's blessings and promises for us.  However, that doesn't mean we should disregard that God is also a God of justice. And just as there are blessings and rewards for our obedience, there are punishments and consequences for our disobedience. The 5 verses below can help each one of us to be on guard, and can help us to get real about our faith.

The Top 5 Scariest Verses In The Bible

1. "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) 

How can you not be scared by this verse? It makes me realize that Satan is real, that he is my enemy, and that he is looking for someone to devour - hopefully not me! And I don't like how he prowls around. Good thing God is more powerful than he is, and that he can't overtake us unless we let him.  "So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

2. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  (Hebrews 10:31)

I don't know about you, but I don't want to fall under God's wrath. To be punished by God'a own hands is the last thing I want. In this verse, God is called the "living God". That means God is alive and He is active and He is aware of what I think and do. And since God is alive, He can withhold blessings and even deliver punishment if that's what I deserve.  And that certainly would be a "dreadful" thing. The New Living Translation calls it a "terrible thing". The New American Standard calls it a "terrifying" thing. Hebrews 10:31 is definitely a scary verse.  

3. "Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins."  (Hebrews 10:26)

This verse is aimed at Christians who know and have accepted the gospel message of Christ, but afterward still keep sinning anyway. None of us are perfect, and none of us will go on living a sinless life. We will occasionally stumble and do something or say something that is sinful. But this verse is not talking about a stumble. This verse is talking about willfully sinning, and doing it with no intention of repentance - either planning to sin, or knowing you are sinning and continuing to sin instead of stopping,  Sinning on purpose after being forgiven through the blood of Jesus is basically a rejection of His sacrifice for sin. In that case,  "There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies." (Hebrews 10:27) Yikes!

4. "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

There is a spiritual reality that is all around us! And it's a good thing we can't see it - we probably couldn't handle it. There is always a battle going on for our souls. And we have everything to do with the outcome. We need to reject Satan's temptations. We can do it - by putting on the armor of God. The very next verse says, "Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm." (Ephesians 6:13). We shouldn't be terrified or feel defeated. On the contrary, "...the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world." (1 John 4:4b)

5. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 7:21)

Why is this scary? It's because so many people fall into this category - people who just talk the talk and do not walk the walk. This verse tells us to take belief to another level - action. These are the words of Jesus, and what He is saying is that He can see through any shallow talk. You can say you know Jesus, but do you have a relationship with Him? Do you really know Him, and does He know you?

If your just pretending to be a Christian and just going through the motions, look out! Jesus addressed these types of people when He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15:8)  The Lord can tell the difference between those who are just pretending to honor Him and those who actually are - those who put on an outward facade of worship but with hollow hearts. Let's make sure we never are in the position to hear Jesus say, "Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:23)

To me, these are the 5 scariest verses in the Bible. I, for one, am thankful for such verses. May we all take heed. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Friday, January 30, 2015

One Of The Greatest Bible Super Bowls

There are many incredible battles recorded in the Bible that are of Super Bowl proportions. And just like there are Super Bowls in football, year after year, there are dozens of Super Bowl type battles in the Bible as well. The one I'm describing below may not be the Super Bowl of Super Bowls, that's described in the book of Revelation. But this one is certainly one of my favorite face offs of all time. 

The Super Bowl battle I'm talking about is a challenge between the home town favorites and the underdog. The good guys, or should I say, the 'good guy', verses the bad guys. It's a head to head contest - a showdown - a culmination of 2 powerful adversaries. It actually happened - a true story, although it was a long time ago - about 850BC.

Here's a little background on the 'bad guys'. They are led by King Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and his wife, Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were evil in the sight of God. As far as King Ahab, he was more evil than any of the kings before him. And as far as Jezebel, she once tried to kill all the prophets of God.

Ahab and Jezebel rejected the God of Israel, and worshiped Baal. They led all the people to do the same. Ahab and Jezebel wanted to eradicate all the Jewish traditions and teachings. 

Now, here's a little background on the 'good guy'. He is the Elijah the prophet, one of the most famous and most powerful of all the prophets. Elijah was absolutely faithful to God. His miracles are some of the most amazing ones that were ever recorded.

At the height of King Ahab and Jezebel's successful reign, Elijah announced that there would be a 3 year drought. It came true. This made the king even more determined to search for Elijah and kill him. 

Eventually, they confronted each other, and Elijah challenged the king to a contest of great proportions. And as with any football pre-game hype, there was pre-battle hype between these two opponents. 

When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. (1 Kings 18:17-18)

Elijah told Ahab to meet him on Mount Carmel with all the people of Israel along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel. For Elijah, the real purpose behind the challenge was not to see who was the greater power, but to persuade the people to follow the only one true God.

Elijah then said, "Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed. (1 Kings 18:23-24)

Then came sort of the coin toss - who was to go first. The prophets of Baal received the kick off. They were first to choose the bull to sacrifice, to build the altar, to place the sacrifice on top of the wood, and to call on their God to light the fire. They called on the name of Baal from morning till noon, but there was no response.

Of course, in football games, there is always jeering and taunting from the sidelines. It was no different with Elijah. "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.” (1 Kings 18:26-27)

The prophets of Baal shouted even louder to their god, slashed themselves with swords and spears as was their custom, and continued frantically until evening, but with no success, no response. The fire still was not lit by their god. It was finally 4th down for them. They punted the ball to Elijah. Now it was his turn to try and score. 

1st down play:   Elijah built an altar, cut up the bull, and placed the sacrifice on top of the wood. Then he had them build a trench around the altar. "Then he said to them, 'Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.'” (1 Kings 18:33b)

2nd down play: “'Do it again,' he said, and they did it again." (1 Kings 18:34a)

3rd down play: “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. (1 Kings 18:34b-35)

4th and goal: "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." (1 Kings 18:38).   WINNING TOUCHDOWN!!!   

As with all touchdowns, especially the winning touchdown, the crowd goes wild. "When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18:39)

Final Score:  Elijah 7,  Prophets of Baal 0. 

Elijah won the battle and accomplished his goal - to show the people who was the real God. And to prove that Baal was a false god, a false idol. 

Thank you Elijah for standing up to the truth and for showing others who the one true God is. 

"And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life." (1 John 5:20)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

10 People Who God Calls Fools

There are those who are wise and there are those who are foolish. God distinguishes between the two. There are tons of examples in the Bible defining who is a fool in God's eyes. Here are just ten:

A FOOL IN GOD'S EYES:

1. One who claims there is no God.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

2. One who disregards the message of the cross

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)

3. One who despises wisdom and instruction

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)

4. One who is prideful

"A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them." (Proverbs 14:3)

5. One who wants to get rich.

"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:9)

6. One who is quick to quarrel.

"It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." (Proverbs 20:3)

7. One who lives just for today.

"The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down."(Proverbs 21:20)

8. One who does not practice what Jesus taught.

"But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." (Matthew 7:26)

9. One who turns from God.

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:21-22)
 
10. One who is selfish and not rich toward God.

"And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)


These are ten types of people that God considers to be a fool. Don't be one yourself!