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Elijah Stands Before the Lord – 1 Kings 19:11-18


The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “A Gentle Whisper” and was created by Justin Sorensen.

1 Kings 19:11-18

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet. Anyone who escapes from Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and those who escape Jehu will be killed by Elisha! Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

Dear God, Bustard didn’t include verse 10 in this lesson, but I think it’s important because it starts with you asking Elijah a question and then Elijah answers. It is after this exchange that you decide to “pass by.”

There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

Elijah passively accuses you of the same thing I have accused you of. He feels like you have let him down. You have disappointed him. I have felt disappointed by you too. For Elijah, I think he felt like he “zealously served” you and you still didn’t come through with the people falling into line. After he did such a great job, why should his life be on the line?

Then you told him to get ready because you were going to come by. And you did some things that would physically scare him. A huge wind that crumbled rocks. An earthquake. Fire. Were you showing him that you could take his life in a minute? Were you making that point to him?

What I’ve always liked about this story is that when you showed up you were gentle. A gentle whisper is what you used to once again ask your question of Elijah: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” His answer didn’t change, but I wonder if his tone of voice did. Was there anger in his first answer? Were there tears in the second?

My wife and I were talking this morning about the fine line we often cross between feeling close to you and living in the Spirit and being completely fallen. Thank you that you give us people like Elijah who experienced the same thing.

Now, regarding this image, here we have Elijah with the cloak he put over his own eyes, and I assume that is your presence approaching his face. Is that a knife? A claw? A feather? I don’t know. Here is what the artist, Justin Sorensen, says about this story:

I’ve always been interested in how the specs tackle of the fire or earthquake didn’t touch Elijah at his core the way the gentleness of a whisper did. The ordinariness of the whisper really strikes me. My tendency is always to look for God in the places I expect to find him. The whisper seems always to suggest that God can’t be controlled, and that he can manifest himself however he likes. I think the whisper is God’s way of saying to Elijah that he is everywhere, and that he is moving in ways we can’t see. It’s not that God wasn’t whispering up until that point, it’s that Elijah then became aware of it.

Father, help me to consider my life worth nothing to me. Help me to simply finish the race and complete the task you have given me–the task of testifying to your grace.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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The Mockery of Baal — 1 Kings 18:25-29, 36-39


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Prophets of Baal” as was created by Diego Jourdan Pereira.

1 Kings 18:25-29,36-39
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response. At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord , are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord —he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

Dear God, before I get into the image the Pereira created to go with this story, I want to focus for a minute on something that struck me while I was reading it. The prophets of Baal went to the links of cutting “themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.” The thought that I had that I don’t think I have had before is, how many times have I sacrificed myself waiting for an idol to pay off? Yes, looking back it seems like their custom was ridiculous, but is it any different than what I do when I expect my money, my job, my marriage, or my kids to do something for me. When I give and give and give to them not out of love but out of expectation of them, isn’t that just as foolish?

Now, back to this image, I’ll be rank and SA that I cannot make heads or tails of it. Is the large man in the picture Elijah? Are those images of Baal or the prophets of Baal under his arms? I see the bull’s horns on the bottom right. I see the Sun. But I’m not sure what else it is I’m seeing.

Father, at the end of the day, I just need to be reminded that It is easy for me to make idols–even an idol of you. Not the real you, of course, but of the you that my mind wants to create. The you that I expect to give me what I want and do what I want you to do. Making an idol of that image of you is as bad as making an idol out of anything else. I want to worship the real you. The powerful you. Not the you that does what I want you to do. I certainly need a God whom I serve, not one that serves me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Peter & John — Luke 9:28-36

Luke 9:28-36 NASB
[28] Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. [29] And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. [30] And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, [31] who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. [32] Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. [33] And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”-not realizing what he was saying. [34] While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. [35] Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” [36] And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.

Dear God, it seems like this telling of the transfiguration is a little more detailed than the others. I’d need to go back and check to see if the others do this, but I don’t remember the little details like eight days later and being afraid walking into the fog. I don’t even remember the part where they fell asleep and woke up to see everything happening.

It says that “they were afraid” about the cloud. Did that include Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, or was it Just Peter, James, and John? I would imagine at that point that Jesus, Moses and Elijah knew what was happening and were at peace.

I wonder if this felt like a dream to the three disciples. To wake up and see such an extraordinary sight. I’ve talked about Peter’s response before so I don’t know that I need to cover it again. It’s just an amazing thing that I’m convinced was meant to strengthen Jesus for the home stretch leading up to the crucifixion.

Father, give me what I need so that I can be strengthened to do your will. Give me courage. Give me strength. Give me love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, and self control. Let your fruit come to bear in my life.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Luke, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Mark 9:2-8

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

Mark 9:2-8

Dear God, as I try to compare the differences between Peter and John, as I can discern them from the New Testament, I notice in this passage that “they were all terrified,” and yet Peter was the one to speak. In this case, we aren’t told if they were part of the conversation or were observing them from a distance, but in the moment Peter broke and just could sit with his fear.

I’m a subscriber to the Mark Twain saying, “Better to remain silent and appear foolish than to open your mouth and remove all doubt,” but I can still tend to talk too much in a group setting. I can also talk too much in a one-on-one conversation. My listening skills can be very poor. I really admire my wife’s listening skills. People feel comfortable with her and they are able to open up to her. She will allow for silent moments. She will ask a question and wait for the answer. She will draw people out and make them feel heard. Had she been there with Jesus that day, I am sure she would have been terrified, but also taking it all in, learning, and trying to figure out what it means.

Father, I give you my thanks for giving me such a great friend in my wife. I worship you in this silent moment. Help me to hear you today. Help me to be a great listener for those we will see today. Make me better than I am for the sake of your kingdom and others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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Peter and John — Matthew 17:1-13

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Matthew 17:1-13

Dear God, in my series on Peter and John, here’s a story that specifically contains both of them (plus James).

I love that Peter can’t stand an awkward moment without just saying something. Previously, we saw Jesus walking to them on water, but instead of just watching everything play out he decided he needed to get out there too. In this case, he couldn’t just sit there and wait until he was needed. He couldn’t imagine that he was there to just take it in and use the knowledge and experience later. He figured he and the other two must be there for physically utilitarian purposes. He didn’t understand and couldn’t imagine that you were using this as a moment to be leaned upon later in his life.

Of course, I’ve always thought that the main reason for the transfiguration experience was to encourage Jesus as he continued his road to Jerusalem. I would love to have heard that conversation. I’m sure it focused around Jesus hearing affirmation and encouragement from them. I wonder if Peter, James and John were truly able to keep it a secret until after the crucifixion.

Then there is John in this story. We aren’t told that he says anything while Moses and Elijah are there. He was probably in awe. Maybe he was talking with Peter and James. Maybe that’s where the shelter idea came from, but Peter was the one who said it. Either way, he was certainly more reserved in his response than was Peter.

Finally, in the trip down the mountain they asked about Elijah. It doesn’t tell us who actually asked it. It probably wasn’t Peter since Matthew seems to like to tell us when it’s Peter talking. Presumably it was either James or John who asked it. But this shows thought of trying to make sense of all of this, connect the dots, cross the t’s, and dot the i’s. While Peter is seemingly completely in the moment, the asker of this question is trying to step out of the moment and look at things from a big-picture point of view.

Father, I am interested to see how all of this plays out. What is it about Peter that I need to look at adding to my life? What is it about him that I already have that I need to discard? The same for John. What can you teach me about my place in the body of Christ by studying these two men and contrasting them against each other? Teach me through this process so that I might become the man you need and want me to be.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Funeral Songs (Part 1) – “Elijah” by Rich Mullins

Dear God, I was talking with a friend recently about the songs I would want played at my funeral. I have a couple in mind, but as I woke up this morning and thought about praying to you in this journal, I got to wondering about those songs and what they say both about my relationship with you and what they reveal about what I want to say to others in one last message to them.

So, first, I need to look at the songs. Here is what I have:

If I can’t speak at my funeral, and I won’t get to write the eulogy, these will be my words to the people there. What am I trying to say with each one?

Elijah

The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging, I can tell
So, Lord, I’m begging for one last favor from you
Here’s my heart, take it where you will
This life has shown me how we’re mended and how we’re torn
How it’s okay to be lonely as long as we’re free
Sometimes my ground was stony, and sometimes covered up with thorns
And only you could make it what it had to be
And not that it’s done, Well, if they dressed me like a pauper
Or if they dined me like a prince
If they lay me with my fathers
Or if my ashes scatter on the wind I don’t care!

When I leave I want to go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the starts
Well it’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye

There’s people been friendly, but they’d never be your friend
Sometimes this has bent me to the ground
Now that this is all ending, I want to hear some music once again
‘Cause it’s the finest thing I have ever found
But the Jordan is waiting, Though I ain’t never seen the other side
They say you can’t take in the things you have here
So on the road to salvation, I stick out my thumb and He gives me a ride
And His music is already falling on my ears

There’s people been talking, They say they’re worried about my sould
Well, I’m here to tell you I’ll keep rocking, ’til I’m sure it’s my time to roll
And when I do

When I leave I wan to go out like Elijah,
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
Well, it’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye

I think I want this song to kick off the slideshow (is this prayer too morbid?), but I think I’ll need to make sure the lyrics for all of these songs are provided for people to at least look at later.

Rich died in a dramatic car accident about one month shy of his 42nd birthday, but then I guess you know that. But I think he wrote this song in his 20s. I try to imagine him reading the story of Elijah and putting himself in Elijah’s position, but I’ve always found it interesting that someone so young could write the lyrics, “my heart is aging, I can tell.” I think there are moments, no matter how young we are, when we feel beaten down and our hearts feel old. Even a 15-year-old can experience an old-feeling heart. But there is something about this song that just feels hopeful. It speaks a message to me that says, “Yes, you can get tired on this journey, but there will be some goodness and some respite on the way–and believe me, there’s something amazing to come.

I really like the second verse when it talks about the music: “Now that this is all ending, I want to hear some music once again/’Cause it’s the finest thing I have ever found…So on the road to salvation, I stick out my thumb and He gives me a ride/And His music is already falling on my ears.” Obviously as a musician, Rich loved music. But I think most of us do. You built us to love music in a special way for some reason. Words put to a tune are even easier to remember than words without a tune. I like how he mentions here that he can imagine something that he loves this side of the Jordan is provided for, and even more so, on the other side of the Jordan.

Father, I think I’m going to spend the next few days going through these songs and thinking about why they touch me and what I hope they say about me and about you to those who are gathered to look back on my life. If nothing else, my desire is that they will see someone with flaws–many, many flaws–but who earnestly loved you and did his best to get over himself and point others to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2018 in Funeral Songs, Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – Finding Comfort in Peter’s Weaknesses (Matthew 16:13-20)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Dear God, what I love about verses 18 and 19 is that they are about a man who is so flawed and made terrible mistakes, up to and including denying Jesus on the night of his betrayal. Peter didn’t have to be perfect to get this blessing, proclamation, or position. From what I can tell, he just had to be earnest and have a little bit of faith (see walking on the water a little earlier).

There are times when I know that you love me, accept me, and have saved me. But I do often wonder if you can really use me. Can you use someone who can be so timid? Can you use someone who has vices? Can you use someone who forgets to love when he should, judges others too readily, can be so self-centered? In looking at this story with Peter, I think the answer is, “Yes, I can. Just be earnest about loving me and I will use you in spite of yourself.”

Father, I lay my life before you. You have put me in a position of influence, and I want to strongly influence the events that surround me with your wisdom and for your glory. Give me the wisdom to make the right decisions and the courage to use the influence I have to see that those decisions come to pass. Love others through me. Forgive me of my sin. Be glorified in all that I do, even when I fail.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Matthew

 

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