June 14 – Wait, who? – Elisha

Read 1 Kings 19:1-21 and 2 Kings 2:1-25, 6:8-19

Being the youngest, I often was called by one of my sisters’ names. In fact, truthfully, I felt like I grew up in the shadow of my two older sisters. Perhaps that’s how our biblical character we read about today felt. Many people get the stories of Elijah and Elisha confused because their names are so similar. Elisha definitely had big shoes to fill in the shadow of his mentor, Elijah, but we will see today that Elisha, although he may not be as well known, was just as prominent.

Our character, Elisha, enters the scene in 1 Kings 19 after Elijah, a great prophet of God, was burned out from ministry. Elijah fled from wicked Jezebel, who sought to kill him, hid under a tree wishing to die, ate breakfast made by an angel, heard God’s voice in a gentle wind and was convinced he was the only one left on God’s side.

He was done.

So, God told Elijah that another prophet would take his place. Elijah first found Elisha plowing a field but Elisha quickly left his family, the oxen and the fields behind and followed Elijah. Elisha was Elijah’s right-hand man who did not leave his side. He was dedicated to minister to Elijah and learn from him before God miraculously took Elijah in a chariot of fire right in front of Elisha. Wow! Can you imagine seeing that?! Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And whoosh! A whirlwind took Elijah to heaven!

Before God whisked away Elijah, Elisha asked Elijah to give him a double portion of his spirit and he was granted that request. 2 Kings is full of story after story of the miracles God performed through Elisha. Oil was multiplied for a widow, a boy was raised from the dead, an iron axe head was caused to float. Elisha was no doubt a man of God, full of compassion for others.

One of my favorite stories of Elisha is found in 2 Kings 6:8-19. The king of Aram was at war with Israel and, because God gave Elisha the ability to supernaturally know where the enemy camped, the king of Aram was enraged and sought to take Elisha. At night the Arameans surrounded Elisha’s city with chariots. In the morning Elisha’s servant was shocked at the scene-completely surrounded without an escape! Elisha comforted him and said, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” God permitted Elisha to see the unseen spiritual battle! He saw that God’s forces outnumbered the enemy’s’. Elisha then prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see the same thing and they were!

This reminds me of Ephesians 6:10-18 where Paul writes that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Paul continues with instruction to put on the full armor of God- the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The unseen battle is real.  What are you fighting? Rest assured that, although we cannot see the spiritual forces at war, God’s forces outnumber Satan’s and the victory is God’s! Oh, that we could see, like Elisha, that those who are with us are more than those who are with them.

Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. You are on the winning side.

Charline Engle

July 15 – United: Country – 1 Kings 11 & 12

Read 1 Kings 11:26-12:33

The Old Testament nation of Israel is different from our nation. It was the result of the promise of God to a man and his wife. He promised them land and progeny. God’s intentions were that theirs would be a theocratic nation, over which He would reign. He gave to them laws that were to govern their relationships with Him and with one another. Even though they would, at times, reject His leadership and rebel against His laws, they are His chosen people. The United States, meanwhile, is different. In spite of claims of some to US “exceptionalism” or our past expansion influenced by a sense of “manifest destiny,” we are unlike the nation of Israel.

Still, there are parallels between Israel of the past and the United States of the present that can be identified. One of those similarities is illustrated in today’s reading…division. For God’s chosen people, that was felt at an extreme level. For them, it was a geographical division between north and south. The ten northern tribes grouped together and were called “Israel.” Meanwhile, the two southern tribes remained together and were called “Judah.”

Beyond geography, they also experienced division in their allegiance. The northern tribes were led by Rehoboam. Jeroboam ruled over the southern tribes.

What Israel (ultimately Israel and Judah) experienced was division in its extreme form. I don’t envision that for our nation. But neither do I desire any kind of divisive tension for our nation.

Given our differences and our shared experience (at different levels) of division, are there Biblical principles that guide our personal responses today? There are two that are touched on in other devotionals this week. Let’s remind ourselves of them here.

  1. We are to submit to and honor the leaders over us (Rom. 13:1-7; 2 Pet. 2:13-17). Both Peter and Paul wrote those principles at a time when it was not easy to live as a Christian under the Roman government of the day. Still, they recognized the government’s God-given role (practiced albeit imperfectly) to punish and protect. They pointed God’s people to obedience and respect.
  2. We are to pray for the leaders over us (1 Tim. 2:1-7). Once again, as Pastor Dave recently pointed out, Paul wrote this at a time when the Roman government was overbearing. Keep in mind, God uses leaders to accomplish His will (Prov. 21:1). Somehow, prayer plays an important part in seeing His will accomplished (Matt. 6:10) and in our experience of personal peace (1 Tim. 2:2; Phil. 4:6-8).

Submit, honor, and pray!

Steve Kern

April 10 – Jesse Tree – Elijah

Read: I Kings 16:29-3317:118:116-45

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’”  I Kings 18:26

Here they go again?  Worshiping Baal, setting up altars to false Gods, forgetting about the one true God who has brought their people through so much over generation after generation.  Won’t these people ever learn?

It is so easy to point fingers at the Israelites and think how foolish they were.  What were they thinking?  Yet aren’t we guilty of the same thing?  We might not worship wooden or stone statues, but we let our own “false gods” come between God and us.  Be it money, friends, sports, family, fame, jobs.  What is keeping you from worshiping God alone?  What do you depend on when faced with difficulties?  Who do you rely on day by day to help you make the right decisions in life?  Is your job or your favorite sport keeping you from attending church?  Is your schedule too busy to fit in visiting a friend or helping with a charitable project?  Is your life so full of STUFF that you don’t have time for daily Bible study?

“How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

February 22 – People of the Earth – So that He may be known

Read 1 Kings 8: 41-4360-61

Outside of the first century A.D., in today’s day in age, Christianity has been looked down upon more than any time before. When you say the name of Jesus, people look at you differently. If you take the time to think about it, our world is full of people who speak out against anything that they disagree with and many Christians are just like that. The problem is we speak out to the point of judgment and condemnation. People look at us and judge us because we can be so hateful with our words and proclamation.

We are called to love people, not hate them. Our call is to be a people that attract others to Jesus, not deter from Him. As we look through Scripture, we see that this is a common theme throughout the book of 1 Kings.

In chapter 8, Solomon dedicates the temple to God. He speaks to people outside their nation that came to the temple and prays that, when they come to this holy temple, they would meet God. He prays that they would be amazed by the answering of prayers from Heaven and that, through this answering of prayer, people will know that this temple was built in the name of God.

As Christians, it is our job to create an environment worth visiting. It is God’s job to work through them for life change, but it is our job to be attractive. Are we acting in a way that invites people to visit our church? Are we acting in a way that shows people we are different and that difference is Jesus?Are we acting in a way that causes other people to want the hope that we have?

So what are we supposed to do? Verse 61 gives us a pretty good idea; we need to let our heart be fully devoted to the Lord and fully committed to His plan for humanity no matter what walk of life they are in. Also, it tells us that we need to continue to have a favorable walk with God. We need to be an example to people of what it looks like to love God and love people, so that we may have the opportunity to lead them to salvation.

A good next step is subscribing to www.everydaywithgod.com so that you may be spiritually fed and can then impart that on others. If you haven’t been plugged into a Grace Group, it is a perfect way to grow closer to God while also growing closer to others.

Jake Lawson

April 8 – Life from Death

Read 1 Kings 17:17-24

As a parent, I find myself so drawn to this widow at the beginning of the passage. Whether you’re a parent or not, many of us have faced heart-breaking, gut wrenching circumstances in life that have left us in a state of complete helplessness.

There is a saying that goes, “God will never give you more than you can handle”.  The very passage of scripture in 1 Kings proves that the previous saying couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only does the widow face starvation for herself and her son, she goes on to watch her son take his last breath. This is, by far, more than this woman can handle.

I don’t believe there is any way to prepare ourselves for difficulties in life like this widow faced. I do believe, however, that God shows us a way, through His word, to prepare ourselves for complete reliance on Him in the midst of life’s deepest hurts.

Today, I need to start by praying and asking God to know Him better. The more I know the very character of God, the better I will be at seeking His will over my life. As Paul said in Philippines 3:10, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”  Most of us want to know the power of His resurrection and to become like him in His death but we skip over the middle . . .  to participate in his sufferings. To fully know Christ, I need to know His hurts, too, and that is a very tough prayer to pray.

Lord, if your will is for people to see me walk through brokenness, to be able to see the hope that only You can give, I need to be all in! Help me to focus more on Your purposes and less on my plans. Lead me in pursuing more of who You are and less of what You can do. Align my thoughts on all You have given and not on what I have lost. In the precious name of Jesus, I cry out to You. Amen.

Rayonna Miller

 

March 30 – Mountaintops – Mount Carmel

Read 1 Kings 18:16-40

Needless to say, this is how I’ve pictured Mount Carmel since my Sunday school days. carmelUnfortunately, the real Mount Carmel is a regular mountain made out of rock, but what took place on it was one of the sweetest victories for God! (Please excuse the cheesiness).

The prophets of Baal spent all day praying, limping around, and abusing themselves to get their god to respond and he didn’t. On the other hand Elijah prayed two sentences and God responded by burning up the sacrifice, the rocks and the water. The clear difference is the one to whom each contestant prayed to.

People are often taken aback and even angered when God asks for our everything, for us to love nothing more than Him and for us to surrender completely for Him. It’s interesting to note that we seem completely fine with everything else in our lives requiring the same thing. In order to find fulfillment and satisfaction, a husband is willing to give up his wife and kids to have an affair, a teenage girl is willing to give up her body and purity for a boy, and a parent is willing to sacrifice family for the pursuit of money.[1] We will never find fulfillment or satisfaction in these places. Just like Baal, they will never be able to give us what we are asking for.

All humans have innate desires to have a purpose in life and fulfillment. All people long for true joy, justice and love. Pastor Tim Keller writes, “We have a longing for joy, love and beauty that no amount or quality of food, sex, friendship, or success can satisfy. We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill.”[2] If we “want something that nothing in this world can fulfill,” then it points to something more beyond this world.

Only a surrendered life to God can give us a pure purpose and satisfaction while here on the old earth and the perfect new earth will finally bring absolute fulfillment of everything we long for.

The band, Ascend the Hill, produced a rendition of the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” to which they added their own chorus. I think that these words are the perfect prayer for your heart that is always looking to places other than Jesus for fulfillment. Pray, “Oh God be my everything; be my delight. Be Jesus, my glory, my soul satisfied.”

Nate Harley

To listen to the song, click here.

[1] Young Man Gives an Unforgettable Speech About Jesus. Produced by Jefferson Bethke. 5 October 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pqYsZoH8IM.

[2] Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.

January 27 – Meeting the Teacher

Read 1 Kings 3:1-28

As our kids were growing up, meeting their teachers every year was a tense time for them and for us.  “Who is she?”  “What is he like?”  “Will the person be a good match for our kids?”  “Will he set the bar too low?”  “Will she be too demanding?”  Those were just some of the questions we found ourselves asking internally each year.

As we launch this new series focused on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, we find ourselves needing to “meet the teacher.”  “Teacher” is the way the NIV Bible translates the word “qoholeth,” the word the author, Solomon, uses seven times in the book in referring to himself.

So, who was this “teacher,” Solomon?

  • He was a son of David, born to him through Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:24).
  • He followed David on the throne over Israel (1 Kings 2:10-12).
  • He had been promised the privilege of building the temple that David envisioned (1 Chronicles 17).
  • He walked with God and loved Him (1 Kings. 3:3).
  • He was a man of compromise as he married foreign women and sacrificed on pagan altars (1 Kings 3:1-4).

While all of those describe who this “teacher” was, there was still a moment in his life that came to define him.  Early in Solomon’s reign as king, God made to him an amazing offer not unlike that of the mythical genie in a bottle, “Your wish is my command.”

So what did Solomon request?  What would you have requested?  Knowing the humanly impossible task before him of leading a nation, the new king asked for wisdom.  And, true to His promise, God gave that to him…and more.  He gave Solomon unsurpassed wisdom and wealth, honor, and a long life.

In spite of all that Solomon had at his fingertips, Ecclesiastes is a poetic account of this man’s search for and pursuit of true purpose and satisfaction in life.  Where is that found?  “The teacher” researches that for us and, in these twelve chapters, reports on his findings.

Have you found real purpose and satisfaction in life?  Join us as we disclose what Solomon discovered.

Steve Kern

November 21 – 35 Prayers in the Bible – Elijah

Read 1 Kings 18:17-46

Elijah was a prophet of God.  Prophets had the difficult task of speaking God’s truth to people that didn’t really want to hear it.  It’s fascinating to read their accounts in God’s word and see their faith and courage in action.  Sometimes questioning God themselves, they kept taking steps of faith, waiting on God to come through.

The king, at the time of our passage, was Ahab.  I Kings 16:30 tells us he ” . . .did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of the kings before him.”  I wouldn’t want to tell him anything he didn’t want to hear, but Elijah did.  Ahab, his wife, Jezebel, and his family were worshiping Baal instead of God and it was causing Israel a ton of problems.

Elijah sets up a ‘battle of the gods,’ if you will.  He presents the opportunity for God to show up in undeniable ways, and He does.

The thing that stands out to me is how the prophets of Baal prayed.  They cried out to Baal from morning until night.  They danced, they shouted and shouted some more, they slashed themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed.  They were frantic, yet nothing happened.

Elijah prayed and boom…God answered immediately!  His fire consumed,  not just the sacrifice, but also all of the water, soil, wood, and stones on the altar.

Has God ever answered a prayer like that for you?  You aren’t even sure if you fashioned a legible prayer and boom…it’s taken care of?  And then there are times when you pray and wait. Nothing happens.  You pray and wait some more.  Nothing happens.  What do we do then?  Do we begin to look like Baal worshipers…dancing around?  Worrying ourselves frantic?  Do we think God is sleeping or doesn’t care?  Do we resort to doing all WE can to make things happen because God just isn’t doing what we want?  That’s idolatry, my friend.

God is able.  God can move faster than lightning and use it for His glory.  He can move like a snail and use it for His glory.  What do we do in the meantime?  We wait on the one, true God.  We walk in obedience and wait on the one who can do anything.  We trust that, even in the waiting, He is good.  He’s good when He acts quickly, and He’s good when nothing seems to be happening.  Rest, my friend.  Cry out to Him…lay your burdens at His feet, and rest.

“Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”  Isaiah 64:4

Shelly Eberly

November 6 – 35 Prayers in the Bible – Elijah

Read 1 Kings 18:17-46

Elijah was a prophet of God.  Prophets had the difficult task of speaking God’s truth to people that didn’t really want to hear it.  It’s fascinating to read their accounts in God’s word and see their faith and courage in action.  Sometimes questioning God themselves, they kept taking steps of faith, waiting on God to come through.

The king, at the time of our passage, was Ahab.  I Kings 16:30 tells us, “He did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of the kings before him.”  I wouldn’t want to tell him anything he didn’t want to hear, but Elijah did.  Ahab, his wife, Jezebel, and his family were worshiping Baal instead of God and it was causing Israel a ton of problems.

Elijah sets up a ‘battle of the god’s,’ if you will.  He presents the opportunity for God to show up in undeniable ways, and He does.

The thing that stands out to me is how the prophets of Baal prayed.  They cried out to Baal from morning until night.  They danced, they shouted and shouted some more, they slashed themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed.  They were frantic, yet nothing happened.

Elijah prayed and boom…God answered immediately!  His fire consumed,  not just the sacrifice, but also all of the water, soil, wood, and stones on the altar.

Has God ever answered a prayer like that for you?  You aren’t even sure if you fashioned a legible prayer and boom…it’s taken care of?  And then there are times when you pray and wait. Nothing happens.  You pray and wait some more.  Nothing happens.  What do we do then?  Do we begin to look like Baal worshipers…dancing around?  Worrying ourselves frantic?  Do we think God is sleeping or doesn’t care?  Do we resort to doing all WE can to make things happen because God just isn’t doing what we want?  That’s idolatry, my friend.

God is able.  God can move faster than lightning and use it for His glory.  He can move like a snail and use it for His glory.  What do we do in the meantime?  We wait on the one, true God.  We walk in obedience and wait on the one who can do anything.  We trust that, even in the waiting, He is good.  He’s good when He acts quickly, and He’s good when nothing seems to be happening.  Rest, my friend.  Cry out to Him…lay your burdens at His feet, and rest.

Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.  Isaiah 64:4

Shelly Eberly

21 DAY PRAYER CHALLENGE

For the full challenge, go here!

Day 17: Pray for our “5”

Read John 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 3:8-9. We can’t make people respond to the Gospel, but we can invite them to hear it, serve them so they can see it, and pray for them to receive it. Ask God to provide an opportunity to invite someone to join you for church this week.

November 5: Elijah and Prophets of Baal

Read 1 Kings 16:29-19:18

“…one nation under God…”  That familiar phrase from our Pledge of Allegiance described the original author’s perspective of and, I trust, every Christian’s desire for the United States.

There was a day when that phrase also described the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  They had become a people identified by their submission to Yahweh God.  But, as we read today in 1 Kings, a day came when it seemed they were no longer  “one nation” nor “under God.”

After the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, this one nation split into two.  Ten of the twelve tribes located in the north rallied together under one banner and around common kings.  They retained the name “Israel.”  Meanwhile, two southern tribes, referred to as “Judah,” banded together under different kings.  The descendants of Jacob were no longer “one nation.”

And could it be said anymore that they were “under God?”  After all, Ahab turned his back on God, married Jezebel, and invited the worship of Baal to have a primary place in the “spiritual life” of the nation of Israel.

But wait a minute…is it possible that Israel, even in her pagan pursuits, was still “under God?”  For that matter, is America, in spite of her politically correct “don’t exclude any religious or atheistic leaning” approach to life, still “under God?”  Is it possible that Israel was, America is, and all nations are “under God” whether that nation recognizes it or not?

That’s where Elijah enters our story.  Even though the people in his day gave more attention to Baal than they did to God the Creator, God demonstrated His sovereignty over the nation by withholding rain…for three and a half years.  Yep, they were under God!  At the end of that time, rains came as God responded to Elijah’s prayers.  To be sure, the nation was under God.  When faced with a showdown between Baal and God on top of Mt. Carmel, Elijah made a laughingstock of Baal’s prophets and a spectacle of God.  Indeed, Israel was under God.

Certainly, there is a difference between reality and recognition.  You need not fret that America is no longer “one nation under God.”  He reigns supreme.  You can pray, however, that more Americans will acknowledge and submit to His supremacy.

sbk