Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Morning Light From Heaven Is About To Break Upon Us!

It was Zechariah's turn. Burning incense in the temple's sanctuary was something he must have done dozens of times. It was part of his priestly duties. And he had been a faithful servant of God for years and years. He and his wife Elizabeth had always been careful to obey all the Lord's commandments and regulations.

On this particular day, Zechariah was chosen by lot to be the one to burn the incense. Drawing lots for this duty was the custom of the priests. So you could say it was the luck of the draw for Zechariah to be entering into the inner sanctuary. Or was it?

I think it was God's plan and His providence. Zechariah and Elizabeth's son was to become John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. And what's incredible is that Elizabeth had been barren her whole life, not to mention that she and her husband were old. Her pregnancy was miraculous. 

While Zechariah was inside the sanctuary, God made the first move - a move that would shake Zechariah with overwhelming fear. While he was alone in the sanctuary, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Now that would scare the living daylights out of anybody.

God sent Gabriel with a message - that Elizabeth would give birth to a boy, and they were to name him John (which in Hebrew means "Jehovah is gracious"). Considering the circumstances, God was certainly gracious to Zechariah and Elizabeth. He answered their prayer and gave them a child.

Gabriel proceeded to tell Zechariah all about how great his son John would be. One major problem. Zechariah doubted him. A no-no when talking to an angel sent by God. Because of his attitude, things sort of went downhill from there. Gabriel struck Zechariah mute! 

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

Well, time went on, Zechariah became fairly proficient with communicating on a tablet. Nine months passed by, and a healthy baby boy was born. When he was 8 days old, the relatives gathered for the baby's circumcision ceremony. That was the time when a Jewish baby was officially named. The family members all thought the baby should be named Zechariah after his father. However, Zechariah no doubt remembered what the angel Gabriel told him. And this time, Zechariah pulled through with flying colors. 

"So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God." (Luke 1:62-64)

What happened next was to be one of the great prophecies of the Bible. With exciting anticipation, Zechariah went on a wonderful rant of praise and prophecy as soon as his mouth opened. He began proclaiming how God's promise of a Messiah was about to be fulfilled, how his son John would pave the way, and how Jesus was about to bring salvation to the world. 

And to me, one of the most exciting passages in the entire Bible is Zechariah's words that predict the soon-to-be arrival of the King of all kings. With great anticipation, he accurately foretells the Good News.

"Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

These words of Zechariah are filled with hope and promise. It's about the dawning of a new day. And even though Zechariah was certainly blessed, we are blessed also. That's because for us, the Light of the world has come. And we no longer need to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. The Prince of Peace has arrived! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Real Reason The Earth Is Tilted

The real reason the earth is tilted is's tilted because God wanted it exactly that way. It turns' out that not every planet is tilted the same as the earth. Our planet is tilted approximately 23.5 degrees. Some are similar to ours, such as Mars (24 degrees), Saturn (26.7 degrees), and Neptune (29.9 degrees). However, Mercury isn't tilted at all. And Jupiter is barely tilted (3 degrees). But get this, Uranus is tilted so much (97.9 degrees), it's basically rolling around the sun on its side! Wow!

The tilt of the earth, its distance from the sun, and its orbit around the sun is perfectly positioned to sustain human life! Hmmm. I wonder why? I'll tell you why. It's because there is a Creator God who put it all in place! The degree of tilt is just right. More of a tilt would cause too much of an extreme of winter and summer temperatures. 

Some "scientists" speculate that a Mars-size object randomly crashed into the earth some billions of years ago and caused the earth to tilt on its axis. If that happened, then it wasn't random. It was God hurling it into earth to purposely tilt it. However, couldn't God just tilt it right right from the start? I think so.

For all the scientists who think they have it all figured out, listen to what God sarcastically said to Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?" (Job 38:4-5) 

God placed the earth exactly how He wanted it placed. And He tilted it exactly how He wanted it tilted. By tilting the earth, God could spread out the population of mankind. If the earth had no tilt, humans would no doubt populate the earth only near the equator because most of the northern and southern hemispheres would be in a very cold winter all the time. The tilt, along with the orbit of the earth, was the way God could help disperse the ever-increasing population around the most of the land mass of the globe. Genius.

And of course, if the earth wasn't tilted, there would be no seasons. Because of the tilt, the northern hemisphere experiences summer when it's tilted toward the sun, and then when its tilted away from the sun on the opposite side of its orbit, winter occurs. The same is true for the southern hemisphere. Seasons are really important because without seasons, there would be adverse affects on agriculture in most of the world. The majority of crops need seasons of planting, of growing, and of harvesting, It's all part of God's design to sustain human existence.  

When you think about it, the brilliant architecture of the solar system proclaims God's glory. It's another reminder of God and His incredible design of the universe. 

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)

So many people try to take God out of the picture - try to make a stand against a Creator. For me, even a well crafted TV show with incredible graphics, music, and a persuasive commentator cannot sway me from the truth that there is a Creator God. 

The vast expanse of the universe, and the amazing balance of the solar system, keeps reminding me of God's hand in all things. Gazing into the night time sky prompts me to take a moment to worship an all powerful, magnificent God. So, take time to look up and be in awe of God. 

"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy." (Psalm 65:8)

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Great Providence Of Almighty God

I believe in the Providence of God. What is "providence" anyway? I suppose a great way to describe it is this......the divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things in heaven and on earth by God. In other words, God is able to intervene, alter, and arrange things at will. Things of nature and things in our lives.

The way I look at it is that when it comes to God intervening, a lot depends on "if He so chooses". In other words, God either allows things to happen, or He makes things happen. Things may happen in this life that are bad, but that is the result of the fall of man, not by an act of God. The sin and corruption that entered this world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and the influence of Satan, has consequences. God is not going to fix every disease, every disaster, and make perfect peace rule. That is, not until Jesus returns. 

Can we convince God to act? The answer is without a doubt...yes! However, there are conditions. God, who is sovereign and has all authority, has to choose to act, or choose not to. It's up to Him. In either case, it demonstrates His authority and sovereignty.

What's difficult for me is understanding why He chooses not to act or intervene sometimes. I guess none of us will ever know. Maybe no action on His part is for a bigger purpose that we cannot see. Or maybe no action is simply God saying that it doesn't matter to Him either way in the big-picture scheme of things.

I'm OK with God not answering my prayers as long as I know that He at least hears and considers my requests. That's good enough for me. I'll leave it up to Him to decide the outcome. However, one thing is certain - He wants us to ask. 

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

One thing about the providence of God that I really like is this....He is able to interact with us on a real-time basis. God is truly an interactive God. He is alive and well, and ever-present. And what is so comforting is the fact that, if we are His, He ultimately works everything in our favor, for our good. He is the perfect Father. 

Yes, I believe in the providence of God - that He has the power and authority to control all things. And I believe that His motivation to interact with us is this....Love. That's why He works things in our favor, and that's why He sent Jesus to save us. So, I'll conclude by echoing the words of King David:

 "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The One Who Can Do The Impossible

"That's impossible!"  Did you ever hear that statement? I have. Many times. By many different people. Sometimes I even say it myself when someone declares they have a plan that is unrealistic. Sometimes I say it when I see something happen that's extraordinary. 

One time I had a front row seat to watch a magician perform. I was within a few feet of him. He did some card tricks that I could only conclude, "That's impossible!"  Of course, he must have used a very well practiced slight-of-hand. Still, I couldn't figure out how he did those tricks.

Illusionists can really be fascinating. They use trickery that plays on our visual perception. An illusion is something that appears to be real but it is not. Like an optical illusion. Illusionists present tricks which appear impossible. 

In reality, what is really impossible are actions that defy or contradict the natural laws of nature and physics. For example, bringing a dead person back to life. That's impossible. Or calming a wild, raging sea by simply telling it to stop. Impossible. Or walking on water. Impossible. Someone floating weightlessly and ascending into the clouds. Impossible. Except for God.

A miracle is a deliberate action that defies the natural laws of nature and physics, and is caused solely by the power of God. Only by Divine intervention can a true miracle be carried out. Jesus, God in the flesh, performed countless miracles while He was on earth. He did things that were "impossible". In the Old Testament, God performed dozens of miracles directly or through people such as the prophets. Even today, God can intervene and perform miracles if He so chooses. Prayer can play a huge part in Divine intervention. I love it when doctors are baffled by someone who is terminally ill returns unexpectedly to full health through prayer. 

On a lesser scale, sometimes we deal in situations in which the solutions seem impossible. It may be struggles with relationships, or finances, or circumstances. The so called miracles that we hope for are not in the scope of defying physics or nature, but are simply solutions that we personally can't seem to make happen. We need God's intervention. But here's the good news. He can do it. 

Jesus said,  “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)  In other words, our struggles may look impossible to resolve, and perhaps they are if we try to solve them on our own. But with prayer, and faith in God's power and intervention, He is able to work things out in our favor. And you know something? As faithful Christians, as Christ-followers, God promises this. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Sometimes it's good to reflect on what God has done in our lives. Looking back on things that God has worked out in our past makes us realize that God truly loves and cares for us. And in more cases than not, through His great power, He not only works things out, but He does it beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Gift Of Vision

I had taken time off from blogging for about 8 weeks for one major reason - I couldn't see well enough to read or write. That's because I had 2 major emergency eye surgeries on my right eye that were 3 weeks apart. The first was due to a detached retina. The surgeon basically tack-welded the inside lining of my eye with a laser. For the next 7 days I had to be face-down - sleeping, eating, sitting, etc.  Then, because of complications from the first surgery (bleeding behind the retina), I had to have another surgery. This time, I had to be on my left side for 7 days. No fun. 

Since then, my sight has slowly, but steadily, gotten better and better in my right eye. I'm still in the healing mode, but at least I can function fairly well. But for a while, I don't mind telling you, I was scared - scared that I would go blind in my right eye. But thankfully that didn't happen. 

I had dozens and dozens of people praying for me - family, friends, church family. I received so many cards, emails, texts, and calls that it was overwhelming. I learned many things during this time. Things like patience, the love and concern shared by family members, as well as friends. The value of a caring church family. And especially the power of prayer. 

I also learned there are many more people much worse off then me. This prompted me to write a song called "Somebody's Hurting Today". I am a worship leader and I wanted to remind our congregation that there are hurting people all around us. During the 7 weeks, I wrote 7 songs relating to my experience. I didn't plan to write any songs, let alone 7, but I guess the Lord had different plans. 

I realize more than ever that vision is so precious. I would rather loose a leg, or an arm, than lose an eye. It's hard for me to imagine being totally blind. There are so many people who are. As for me, I was fortunate to have access to great medical care, otherwise it would have taken a miracle to restore my vision. 

Speaking of miracles, from now on, because of the eye issues I have recently dealt with, I will look a little more intently at the miracles Jesus performed in giving sight to the blind. Can you imagine being totally blind and then immediately given the gift of vision? Wow. Jesus gave sight to the blind not just once, or a couple of times, but He gave sight to many, many blind people, as described throughout the Gospels. Just search for the word blind in the New Testament, and you will be amazed.  

Since the beginning of time, it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind (John 9:32). That is, until Jesus. No one before Him, not even Moses or Elijah, gave sight to a person born blind. There were all kinds of miracles by prophets but none involving the blind.  

One of my favorite miracles involves the story of Bartimaeus. He was a blind beggar who heard Jesus was coming by and called out to Him. Jesus stopped and asked Bartimaeus what he wanted.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. (Mark 10:51-52)

These types of miracles involving the blind certainly reflect the compassion that Jesus had toward such people. There is, however, a much deeper spiritual symbolism here. Jesus giving sight to the blind points to the broader concept that Jesus gives sight to those who are spiritually blind. His miracles involving the blind illustrate the point that He came to bring people out of darkness into His light - that He is the light of the world.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12)

Yes, I am thankful that I can see, physically. But I am more thankful that I am able to see the glorious light of the Good News. 

"Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. " (2 Corinthians 4:4)

And as Christians, let's never forget that God has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How the Apostle Paul Got Zapped

It was sort of like a personal lightning strike. But it was much more than that - much more powerful in more ways than one, as you'll see. The light was so intense, so bright, that it actually blinded Saul as he fell to his knees. Not only was there a blinding light, there was a loud voice - a voice from Heaven!

Saul, who was later called Paul after he became an Apostle, was a fierce persecutor of Christians. “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities." (the words of the Apostle Paul in reflecting on who he once was - Acts 26:9-11)

It wasn't that Saul was an evil murderer or a madman. His intentions were actually good, at least that's what he thought. It's just that he was such a zealous Jew, an expert in Jewish law and customs, he thought he was honoring God and defending God's chosen people against those who were supposedly blaspheming God. Actually, Jesus thought Saul's qualifications were perfect  - perfect for the type of man Jesus had in mind for him to become. 

That's why Jesus stopped him in his tracks. As Saul was on the road to Damascus to find followers of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains, he had an encounter with the King of kings. First, Jesus blinded him to get his attention. Then Jesus spoke directly to him, in Aramaic, in a loud audible voice. Jesus identified himself and told Saul that he was His chosen instrument to take His message to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. 

Saul's transformation was a total and perfect 180. He is the ultimate example of someone transformed by Jesus. For the remainder of his life, he was totally sold out, converted, committed, and devoted to the call that Christ gave him. "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." (Acts 20:24)

Paul's life as an Apostle, his perseverance and faithfulness, is proof of his loyalty to Jesus. "Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm." (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)

In addition to his amazing life-accomplishments as an Apostle, Paul has influenced an innumerable amount of people for nearly 2000 years by writing the majority of the New Testament letters. Incredible. 

Even though we, as Christians, are certainly not Apostles, we can correlate some important principles found in Paul's life that can serve as models for our own lives. 

Every human is born with some ability or talent - with a specific personality and passion. Paul's ability was in speech, in law, in debate, all with a zealous spirit. He fully developed his talents, although they weren't initially used for God's ultimate purpose. It reminds me of myself. Although in my early rock and roll days I wasn't using my talents to glorify God, it certainly equipped me to be the worship leader I am now. Of course, ideally, and what I hope for my children, is that people use their God-given abilities right from the start to glorify God - that's the correct way. Regardless, the Lord equips each of us with talents and abilities, desiring us to use them to glorify Him. 

We may not be zapped like Saul was. We may not hear the voice of the Lord, literally. We may not be blinded by a light from Heaven, but we are certainly called. I love the simple plea of Jesus, "Follow me." It's probably the most general and basic call, but perhaps the most powerful. We are also called once we hear the basic Gospel message. And we are called through the Word of God, the Bible, through the influence of the Holy Spirit. The question is, do we listen, and do we respond? It's up to us. It makes you the Lord choosing you to do specific things for Him? Small things? Lifelong things?

Just like Paul turned his life around 180 degrees, that's how it is with many who have become Christians. It's called repentance and reformation. The Lord is able to totally transform lives. That's what Christianity is all life, a transformed life, a resurrected life. And for those who were brought up in a Christian home, transformation may not be so dramatic as Paul's. Instead it's an ongoing process for all of life because, for Christians, we are continually transformed, becoming more spiritually mature, by the renewing of our minds through the Word. 

Paul had a special, specific commission - to preach to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. For us, we have a mission also. It's basically the same as Paul's, although maybe not on such a large scale. Our mission essentially is, In Paul's words, "the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." All of us are ambassadors for Christ. Maybe even some are called to more specific tasks as well. If we sincerely follow Christ, such tasks will be revealed as we go. 

So...thank you Paul, for your teachings, for your example, and for your life.  May we echo your words when our time here is up, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Healed By The Touch Of His Robe!

"Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone." (Luke 6:19)

Jesus obviously had incredible miraculous powers. He healed without failure. And when He healed, the result was total healing, not partial healing, or temporary relief of an issue. When He made the blind see, you  can be sure they had 20-20 vision as a result. And when he made the lame walk, you can be sure they didn't walk with a limp once they were healed. And when He casted out a demon from someone, you can be sure that demon was long gone.

Early on in His ministry, when people got word of His healing power, great crowds gathered around Him. After all, wouldn't you? Some were just curiosity seekers. Others wanted to hear what He taught. And many came who were sick, or brought those who were sick, with the purpose of being healed. It all started soon after Jesus was baptized and went into the wilderness for 40 days, being tempted by Satan. But when He returned from that ordeal, right away He starting picking His disciples, and began to teach and perform healing miracles. 

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people."  (Matthew 4:23)

Of course, He used the miracles to His advantage. They helped to establish that He was sent from God (they didn't realize yet He was God in human form). Miracles gave credibility to His teachings. And teach He did. And miracles He did. As a matter of fact, the Bible gives us only a brief snapshot of the things Jesus did.

"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25)

So many of His miracles are absolutely stunning, but there is one that really has always amazed me. It's the one where a sick woman has a belief and a plan that if she simply gets close enough to Jesus and is able to just touch His robe, she will be healed completely and permanently. Quite a plan. And probably a common plan since people often crowded around Him. "As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him." (Luke 8:42)

So she goes for it. She somehow works her way through the crowd, getting closer and closer to Jesus. If she can just get close enough to reach out and touch a piece of His garment, just the fabric itself, she is convinced she will be healed from a sickness, a bleeding that had not stopped for 12 years! And for 12 years, nobody was ever able to heal her. At least, no one until now. 

She managed to work her way up behind Jesus, and without Him even noticing, and without Him even seeing her, she reached out as far as she could, and for an instant, was able to make contact with the fringe of His robe. The fringe was most likely the hem, or the lower border of His robe. Could she have been stooping, or even crawling? 

In my mind, her fingertips just brushed against it. And guess what? Immediately the bleeding stopped! She was healed at that instant, completely and permanently, and without Jesus even seeing her or knowing she was there behind Him! That's power!  

"Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped." Luke 8:44)

Jesus knew something had happened though. He sensed it. He didn't know who it was that touched Him, but He knew this - He felt His healing power go out! Yes, Jesus not only had the same 5 senses we have, He had an additional one, and probably a few more. When He asked His disciples who touched him, everyone denied it, and then Peter responded in sort of a dry, matter-of-fact way, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” (Luke 8:45)  

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed." (Luke 8:46-47)

I love the response Jesus gave after hearing her explain her story, her sickness, and her belief in who He was, and her confidence that if she just touched Him, she would certainly be healed.

“Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Take The Narrow Road

Early on in His ministry, Jesus gave this crucial piece of advice, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)

I've always loved the imagery in this passage - a narrow gate, a wide gate, a broad road, a narrow road. Jesus is the master of lessons by illustrations. There is no teacher greater, no professor smarter, and no lecturer with more skill or authority than the Lord. He can deliver a simple, brief lesson using everyday, common terms understood by all, but yet have a double meaning. Such is the nature of His many parables - short, simple stories describing a physical scenario but having a spiritual message. 

When we read the above passage, we visualize two contrasting gates, each the entryway to a path or road. Each gate is the same width as the road that follows, however, the two gates are very different. One is wide, and one is narrow. It's interesting how the one that is wide and spacious, and perhaps more inviting, is the one that leads to destruction. Yet, it is the road that more will choose. 

But isn't that the nature of Satan and his ploy? After all, sin is enticing at first. But then it leads to all kinds of consequences. It destroys. It ruins. So it is with those who choose sin and unrighteousness. 

On the other hand, the road that is narrow is the correct road to take. It may be more difficult to walk, it may be more challenging, it may be a more disciplined walk, and certainly it is less popular, but it's the destination in the end that counts. You've probably heard the term, "walk the straight and narrow." Most likely this is where it came from. It means to do what's right and honorable, and avoid what is evil and wrong. We must stay on course and not waver. "Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path." (Proverbs 4:26)

In both the wide road and the narrow road, the reward is not the journey, but what's at the end of the line. However, it is a journey, it is a road, and it is a path to an end. For those who choose the more attractive wide road, it may be short-sightedness that influences their decision. After all, the wide road appears easier and smoother. As for those who choose the narrow road, wisdom and Godly conviction prompts their decision. It's another story of instant gratification verses eternal reward. 

What's interesting about this particular teaching of Jesus is that it basically consists of one simple piece of advice, just five words that guide us, "Enter through the narrow gate." That's really it. Enter through the narrow gate! We may not know what's on the road ahead, and we may not know how long the journey takes or what it entails, but we know one thing for sure, we know it is the gate we are supposed to choose. And we know why. It leads to life. And you know what the opposite of life is. 

Unfortunately, the ratio of good to bad in His illustration is not good. Most people do not choose the road that leads to life. The majority head toward destruction. Less find life than those who find destruction. Since the words and truths that Jesus teaches will never change, this ratio will never change either. Sad.

The bottom line is this - we have a choice. We must choose which gate to enter - which course to take through life. The journey is up to each one of us. The good news is this - we are able to choose wisely because Jesus tells us which way to go. And He will guide us all the way. "The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8) And for those who don't know the way, who are lost, guess what? We need to guide them into the correct path.

The teaching that Jesus gives regarding the wide and narrow gates is surely an important and essential life lesson. And it's one we should take to heart. I'm always reminded of it every time I hear the words of the famous poet, Robert Frost, from his poem, "The Road Not Taken". He talks about two roads as well, and his concluding thought is one I fully share. 

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)     -  Amen!

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.

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.

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?

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)

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.


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)