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Confronting the Culture

A government official who is more corrupt than any of his predecessors. A key advisor who wants to do away with religion and replace it with a more secular approach to life. An industry leader who disregards all safety warnings and moves ahead with a questionable project.

Sound familiar? Is this something ripped from today’s headlines? No, these three individuals lived several thousand years ago.

1 Kings 16:29-34 paints a dark portrait of the nation of Israel. A king determined to outshine his ancestors in terms of evil practices. A queen who implements idolatry as the state religion and tries to stamp out those who follow God. Industry leaders who follow along in disregarding God’s instructions and judgments.

Into this arena steps one man with the conviction to speak the truth. Rather than being a super saint, he is described as being “just like us” (James 5:17). Elijah confronts the culture, speaks the truth, and takes a stand for God. His life and ministry provide us with an example of how we can stand for God in today’s culture.

Every generation faces a distinct attack on the truth of God. Will you stand for God against the tide of culture?

We are beginning a new sermon series studying the ministries of Elijah and Elisha in 1 & 2 Kings. We catch a glimpse of the culture and the backdrop of their challenges in 1 Kings 16:29-17:1.

kingdom period

The first king of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam, began Israel’s downward slide. He set up two golden calves in Bethel and Dan so that people did not have to go to Jerusalem to worship God (1 Kings 12:28-29). Not only did he set up idols, but he also ordained priests to lead in idol worship (13:33).

Jeroboam is followed by one murderer after another, one assassin killing another assassin. A line of godless men coming to the throne and incessantly doing evil in the sight of the Lord.

Then comes Omri, who acted more wickedly than all who were before him (16:25). If that wasn’t bad enough, he is followed by his son, Ahab, who was more evil than every king before him (16:30). He considered the sins of Jeroboam as trivial (16:31).

According to the author of 1 Kings, Ahab was guilty of four key sins: (1) He married Jezebel, a Baal worshipper (16:31). (2) He worshipped Baal, and bowed down to him (16:31). (3) He built a temple to Baal in Samaria, the capital city, along with a public altar (16:32). (4) He made an image of the Earth-Mother, Asherah (16:33). Through these actions, Ahab made idolatry the state religion. In so doing, he “did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (16:33).

Ahab also inspired others to disobey God’s instructions (16:34). Hiel rebuilt the city of Jericho, ignoring the curse that Joshua had placed on it (Joshua 6:26).

God sends his prophet, Elijah, into this cesspool with a message and ministry aimed at turning the nation back to God (17:1). Elijah had four primary convictions.

  • Elijah was convinced of his identity. Elijah means “Yahweh is my God.”
  • Elijah was convinced of the reality of God. “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives…”
  • Elijah was convinced he was a representative of God. “…before whom I stand…”
  • Elijah was convinced he had the resources of God. He knew the promise of God (Deuteronomy 11:16-17) and he believed in the power of prayer (James 5:17).

What are the idols that clamor for your attention?

Humanistic

Materialistic Sensual Relational Spiritual
Power Money Sex Family

Experience

Media

Success Pleasure Family time Be good
Education Career Safety Friends

Jesus +

Do you understand your identity in Christ? Do you believe God exists? Do you know that you are Christ’s ambassador? Do you believe in the power of prayer?

According to Ezekiel 22:30, God is looking for men and women who will stand in the gap and call people to repentance. Are you ready and willing to be that person?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 20, 2021. It is the first message in a series of expository sermons on the ministries of Elijah & Elisha. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 
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Gaining perspective about Rest

Challies_June13-19-06

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2021 in Quotes, Tim Challies

 

Become friends with trials

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3 NIV)

We hear much today about the hazards of stress and how it is detrimental to our health.  As a result, most of us attempt to follow the advice and sometimes go to great lengths to remove, or at least, reduce, the strain in our lives. 

But as everyday experience often shows, stress and trials can actually strengthen a person.  A seed that falls into a mere handful of soil next to a boulder can sometimes grow into a large tree by sending its roots down to the earth, roots that firmly wedge it onto the rock.  The mighty sequoia, the greatest of trees, grows best when forest fires periodically threaten its existence.  While the fires certainly scar the tree deeply, they also assure the proper composition of the soil needed for the tree’s survival.

Father, help me to welcome trials as friends, knowing that you allow them for my benefit.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2021 in James, Personal growth, Trials

 

Confronting the Culture – video preview

Do you find yourself planted in a corrupt culture that has turned away from God? How can you have an impact in that type of society? This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will begin a new sermon series on the ministries of the prophets Elijah & Elisha. We start with 1 Kings 16:29-17:1 where we see Elijah “Confronting the Culture.” Here’s a video preview of the series and this week’s message.

 

Are you prepared for the battle?

Be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:1-2, NIV)

Some years ago, Bobby Leach, an Englishman, startled the world by his daring feat of going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Despite the danger of this harrowing experience, he came through it miraculously unscathed and unscratched.  Some time later, Leach was walking down the street and slipped on a small orange peel.  Unaware of the danger and unprepared for the hazard, he fell and was rushed to the hospital with a badly fractured leg.

As Leach found out, we are often brought down by the little things that reach up and nip us in the shins rather than the big things.  In the same way, the apostle Paul cautions Christians to be prepared for spiritual warfare.  We too are more frequently brought down by a minor skirmish than by a major battle.

Do you have your armor on today?

Father, help me to stand firm in your strength and protect me from Satan’s attacks.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2021 in Ephesians, Personal growth

 

Discipline yourself to avoid disqualification

I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27, NIV)

In the 1980 Boston Marathon, a young unknown runner named Rosie Ruiz was initially declared the winner in the women’s division of the 26-mile race.  But there was something that seemed amiss and an investigation followed.  In the course of the search, it was discovered that this was only the second marathon in which she had run, she did not have a coach, she trained on an exercise bicycle while the other runners did 120 miles of road work per week, and she had not been seen by any of the other women runners in the race!

The investigation concluded that Rosie had probably ridden a subway for 16 miles to get near the finish line.  She was disqualified and lost the reward–not just the prize for finishing first, but the more lasting satisfaction of attaining a difficult goal.

As Paul exhorted, we need to discipline ourselves spiritually, not only to prevent from being disqualified by sin, by also in order to complete the race.

Father, grant me grace to stay in proper shape spiritually.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2021 in 1 Corinthians, Personal growth

 

Rely on God’s power

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

Prior to my ministry trips in Russia, I went through various types of preparation. For one trip, I lifted weights every other day, improving my strength so that I might better carry the luggage and boxes necessary for the trip.  When I was recovering from a broken leg, I endured months of therapy and rehab to get back on my feet. I rode an exercise bike three times a week, striving to improve my endurance and stamina for the two week ministry.  Prior to several trips, I spent months listening to Russian language tapes and CDs in order to learn how to communicate with the people.  Granted, there would be plenty of interpreters, but I wanted to demonstrate my desire to communicate.  I read about the politics, history, and culture of the nation, striving to understand as much as possible about the people I would visit.

While I worked feverishly to strengthen myself physically and intellectually, I also knew that all of my preparations were in vain if I did not strengthen myself spiritually.  Ministry in a foreign country would not be accomplished by physical or mental prowess.  It would be done through the power of God.

Father, help me to rely on your power and not on my own.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2021 in Personal growth, Russia

 

Don’t bail out early from the trial you are in

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4, NIV)

The aroma of chili simmering in the crock pot is wafting through the air and the smell is driving you crazy with desire.  Your first instinct is to go upstairs, take off the lid, and sample a bite.  What could it hurt?

But with great restraint and self-control, you resist that urge.  Yes, removing the lid provides immediate gratification.  But it also slows down the cooking process and robs some of the flavor.

During the process of cooking, heat and flavor builds up in the crock pot.  When we take the lid off too early, we release that heat and flavor.  Thus, the heat has to build up all over again while some of the flavor is lost forever.  The process takes longer and the result is not as tasty.

In the same way, when we remove ourselves too early from a trial, our perseverance does not develop and our character is hindered from developing completely.  Our growth may be stunted as a result.

Lord, grant me grace and strength to endure the trials that come my way.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2021 in James, Personal growth

 

Dying to Live

Why do we put an emphasis on baptism? Yes, it is part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Yes, you see belief and baptism linked in the book of Acts (2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 36, 38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). But what does it mean? What is the significance of baptism?

In Romans 6:1-14, the apostle Paul uses baptism to describe how we were united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. As a result, we have been freed from the power of sin. We now serve a new master—the righteousness of God. Paul explains that because we identify with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, sin no longer has claim on our lives.

There are three key terms in this passage—know, consider, and present. We need to know the facts about our relationship to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We need to consider them to be true. Therefore, we must present ourselves to God rather than to sin.

KNOW the facts about your relationship to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1-10). In the previous chapter (5:20), Paul explained that where sin abounded, grace was superabundant. Some may have thought, let’s sin boldly so we can experience more grace. Paul explains that is foolishness because we died to sin (1-2).

When we were baptized, we were united with Christ in his death (3). When we go under the water, it pictures dying and being buried. When we come up out of the water, it pictures being resurrected to new life (4-5).

There is a sense that when Christ died on the cross, we were crucified along with him. In the same way that he died to sin, so we also died to sin with him (6-7). Both the death and resurrection of Jesus were decisive events (8-10). In the same way that death and sin no longer have control over Jesus, they no longer have authority over us.

CONSIDER these facts to be true (11). We need to believe what we believe. Since we are in Christ, we are now dead to sin and alive to God. This knowledge should change how we live.

PRESENT yourself to God rather than to sin (12-14). Sin might try to convince us that it still has power and authority over our lives. However, that is no longer the case. Rather than follow sin’s desires, we can fully present ourselves to God for his service. We no longer live under the constraints of the law. Now we live under the blessings of grace.

Know the facts. We died to sin. In baptism, we were united with Christ in his death and raised with Christ to new life. Sin no longer has power over us. Consider the facts as true. We need to believe what we believe. We are dead to sin and alive to God. Present yourself to God. In light of what Christ accomplished, live in grace and stop serving sin. Serve Christ wholeheartedly.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church on June 13, 2021. It was given on the same day that we baptized three individuals. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Crankshaft on Aging

Nothing like Crankshaft to provide a little perspective on aging.

Aging 1Aging 2Aging 3Aging 4

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2021 in Aging, Crankshaft