Monday, February 27, 2012

A PROPHET'S SAD STORY: FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY IN JUST ONE DAY.

A PROPHET’S STORY:
FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY IN JUST ONE DAY
A. Brother

TEXT:  1 KINGS 13

This is about a man of God.  An unknown man, whose name is not even recorded in Scripture, yet who was given an important task in the Kingdom of God

This man of God went from his small town up to Bethel, a center of business and idol worship in Israel.  He was given a message, and he was to deliver it to the King, who was busy sacrificing animals on the large altar there.  The man of God stood in front of the most powerful man in the country, with all his soldiers and attendants, plus a large crowd of people there to witness it, and cried out against the altar and proclaimed God’s judgment on the King and all those who participated.

The King tried to have the man seized, but his hand shriveled up in midair, and the altar fell apart in front of his eyes.  The King was terrified.  King Jeroboam then sought the prayers of the man of God and his hand was restored.  Suddenly the contrite King was offering gifts and a meal to this unknown man, and trying to bribe his favor. 

“But the man of God answered the King,
‘Even if you were to give me half your possessions,
I would not go with you, nor would I
eat bread or drink water here. 
For I was commanded by the word of the Lord:
‘You must not eat bread or drink water
or return by the way that you came.’”
1 Kings 13:8,9

Yet the man of God stayed true to his instructions from the Lord, and refused, and even followed God’s Word to go back to his town by a different way, avoiding his usual route.

Here was a man of courage and determination.  Here was a man who stood the test.  This man of God came through when confronted with evil and power, and never backed down.  He delivered the message.  He didn’t run away from the King’s anger. 

Yet this man was dead in the road by the end of the day, his stellar prophetic career over.  And it was disobedience in the small things that did him in.  It was deception from the most unexpected source that derailed his calling.

There was an old prophet in Bethel.  A true prophet, who worshiped God, and not pagan idols.  This old man found out what had happened, climbed on his donkey, and went to find the man of God, who was sitting and resting by the roadside under a tree. 

The old prophet I’m sure embraced the man of God, and as fellow prophets they knew the common bond of comfort between them.  I’m positive that the old prophet gave the man of God praise for the day’s events, for standing up to the King, and was very kind and gracious to the bone-weary traveler, who had just accomplished the biggest task God could give a man.  He had stood up to the King, and delivered God’s full message.

So, the old prophet then said, “Come home with me and eat.” (13:15) The man of God was still on task.  He declined.  Can’t do it.  God said not to eat or drink here. 

The old prophet then pulled out all the stops.  Using his most prophetic face, and his most holy voice, he said:

“I, too, am a prophet, as you are. 
And an angel said to me…”
1 Kings 13:18

Oh no—it was the old “an angel said to me” ploy.  And the old prophet plays it to perfection.  He probably had tears in his eyes, and one of his sons might have been playing the piano softly in the background, while his other sons hummed one of the man of God’s favorite spiritual songs, moving artfully side to side in the latest choreographic moves.  The townspeople were probably there, too, watching breathlessly to see if the man of God would rudely turn down this rare invitation from their famous old prophet.  What a show.

The prophet continues, and I can imagine him waving his Old Testament scroll.

“And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord,
‘Bring him back with you to his house
So that he may eat bread and drink water.’
(But he was lying to him).”
1 Kings 13:18

Wow.  The old prophet was lying.  Why?  We don’t know.  Maybe he was just a frustrated old man who’d never been given the kind of glorious task the unknown man of God was given and he was jealous.  Maybe he was assigned the deception by God himself, to test the man of God.  Maybe he was a tool of Satan.  We aren’t given that information, and so it is not important.

But what is important is that the man of God believed the angel story, and returned to the old prophet’s home (after all, he was hungry, and the old prophet was a man of God, too).
They were at the table, eating and drinking, when God spoke to the old prophet, and gave him a word for the man of God that must have turned his blood to ice water with fear. 

“You have defied the word of the Lord….”
1 Kings 13:21

This is the warning to us today.  As Paul teaches us in Galatians, in one of the most forceful passages of the New Testament, we are to follow the Word of God, the true gospel, the full message of this new life, no matter who tells us God has some different message.  No matter if a wise, respected old prophet tells us he saw an angel.  No matter if the pastor teaches something we don’t see or hear clearly in Scripture.  No matter if a television evangelist, with music playing softly, and tears in his eyes, preaches a different gospel.  No matter if our best friend, our most trusted ally, our wife, our husband, our son, our daughter, our parent, or the pope tells us anything out of line with what we know is the truth of God’s Word.  No matter who, what, why, when or where it happens, we are to hold firmly to Christ, and His Word, and obey only His voice.

Paul warned us in this harsh and uncompromising Word from God:

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven
should preach a gospel other than the one
we preached to you, let him be
eternally condemned.”
Galations 1:8

Not even an angel is to be trusted if he strays from God’s Truth.  Even stellar prophets and old, seasoned veterans in the Word of God can be led astray and can lead others astray.  In fact, in our day, we have many who are celebrity figures in this man-made ‘Christian subculture’ who are leading hundreds of thousands astray, and building kingdoms for themselves, instead of the Kingdom of God.  Easy words, smooth preaching, mesmerizing shows, fancy cathedrals, comfortable music, and the velvet-coated offering plate that symobolizes the altar at Bethel in this story.  We give ourselves wrongly to ideas and programs of men that lead even God’s own astray as the man of God was led astray.  We forsake the simple Christ-life for the glitter and glamour of the Hollywood lifestyle, instead of walking in love, humility, and forsaking the world to be with Jesus.

The end of the story is as interesting as the rest.  After pronouncing God’s judgment on the man of God at dinner, the meal is completed, and the man leaves.  A short time later, a lion kills him and his donkey on the road home.  The old prophet then has the man’s body brought to him, and he weeps over him, and buries him in his own tomb, mourning over him like a brother.  What a guy this old prophet is.  Like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.

The point:  We put our whole trust in the One and Only Son of God, Christ Himself, and we cling to Him and the simple, full message He brought us, and as was handed down to us by the apostles.  We follow Christ alone, not men. 

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes
and innocent as doves.
Be on your guard against men…”
Matt. 10:16,17




Sunday, February 26, 2012

WHATEVER YOUR HAND FINDS TO DO, DO IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT.

 WHATEVER YOU DO
A. Brother

“The Spirit of God will come upon you in power…
and you will be changed into a different person.
Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand
finds to do,for God is with you.”
1 Samuel 10:6,7

There is an abandonment, a spontaneity, about those who have the Spirit of God.  They know the freedom of the Spirit of Christ in them, that same freedom that gave our Lord Jesus’ ministry and life its great spread over people and places.

However, many of us have learned a dangerous game.  We know a little of Christ, and are busy “churchpeople” with our activities and our need for speed, and our hunger for achievement, and we take that with us into our Christianity.  We get some belief, some buy-in into this “I’m a Christian now” thing, and we immediately start making plans and building things, and going-going-going for God.

There is a vast difference between this religious drive and the Spirit of God’s power in a man’s life once he is “changed into a different person.”

Samuel anointed Saul as King, secretly, not in public (see 1 Samuel 10).  God was showing us that the secret seeking required of a man is all-important.  This secret seeking is us, not in public, but in private, going to our knees and getting with the Father, and with His Son Jesus, and waiting for the Holy Spirit to be given us in greater and greater measure.  Even Jesus Christ, our Lord, spent much time in these secret sessions with His Father, waiting for power from Him, so that He could go out and be the powerful, spontaneous Son He was called to be.

So you and I must wait upon God before leaping.  Before we can “do”….we must live in the  Word of God, and be filled with the Spirit of God, and learn the power that comes from obedience, and this often only comes through suffering and difficulty.

In the letter he wrote to the Colossians, Paul repeated the phrase “whatever your hand finds to do”.  In chapter 3, Paul has just admonished the believers to put on Christ, and put off the old man.  He has just laid out the incredible power of the Spirit in the life of the disciple of Jesus Christ.  He has just put our minds completely in heaven, on Christ, and told us to dwell there.  He had just described the life of the Spirit of God in us, with love, and forgiveness, and brotherhood, with peace and unity.  All these things are fruits of the Spirit of God in us, as new men and women in Christ.

Then, as God told Samuel, Paul tells us as well:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed,
do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus…”
Col. 3:17

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men…”
Col. 3:23

It is only after receiving the Spirit and walking with Christ that we can begin to live and work with spontaneity, and with power.  This great freedom only comes through hard-learned obedience, and so we avoid the error that comes from being shallow, and just running off and doing our own things for ourselves and for God.

Much of our restlessness and our drive as worldly men and women comes from NOT having given up the old man, and NOT having been filled with the Spirit of Christ.  We work with all our energies, all our drive, all our ideas and plans and goals, and it is the old man at work, building something or other that the Lord God will not sanction.  It is us, brothers, not God.

Today, let us go to our knees and repent of this attitude, and this willfulness, which in the end brought the sad story of Saul’s Kingship to an end.  (See 1 Samuel 15)  Saul left behind the anointing of the Spirit of God and worked for his own ends, though claiming it was for God.  He disobeyed and lost his calling. 

All encouragement to secretly seek the Lord Jesus today, and to become men and women of the Spirit of God, spontaneously living that life of freedom and power we are given in Christ.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

UNLESS A SEED DIES




UNLESS A SEED DIES IT REMAINS A SINGLE SEED
A. Brother

“The hour has come for the Son of Man
to be glorified.  I tell you the truth,
unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground
and dies, it remains a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
The man who loves his life will lose it,
while the man who hates his life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.
Whoever serves Me must follow Me;
and where I am, My servant also will be.”
John 12:23-26

Are you seeking Christ for His will in your life?  Are you anxious about your life, and what you will drink, what you’ll eat, what you’ll wear, where you’ll live, when you’ll get that job, how you’ll survive?  Are you constantly worrying?  Are you stressed inside, and can’t seem to find peace?

Jesus speaks to us constantly of death bringing life.  It is a principle in the physical world, and is given us so that we will understand the spiritual realm.

There is no life without death.  Each day when farmers go out to farm, they are dealers in death.  They throw the poor little seeds out onto the earth, cover them with dirt, allow them to be without comfort, without shelter, left alone to die in the soil.  But what happens next is amazing and miraculous. 

The seed dies, and from within its dying, it produces a seedling.  This tiny seedling is alive, and begins to grow.  It draws its nutrients and moisture from the very soil that killed the seed.  It thrives on the rain, the storms, the hot sun, the dew, and the chemicals that it draws from the earth that surrounds it.  This new life bursts out of the soil, seeking the sun, seeking to enlarge its place, its own structure, its stem, its leaves.

Eventually that one plant produces not only food for the sustenance of others like ourselves, but it produces many seeds, sometimes hundreds and thousands per plant, so that these other seeds may die, so that other plants and other edible produce may be realized for the world.

So in the spiritual realm each who follows Christ must die.  Jesus told us here plainly.  If you want to serve Christ you must follow Him.  Where He is, you will be.  Just as He willingly died so that we might live, so you must die so that others might live.

Many of us say we want Christ, yet we are unwilling to follow Him. 

Gethsemane leads to Golgotha.  The prayer garden leads to the hard, ugly cross.  And the ONY WAY TO THE EMPTY TOMB IS THROUGH THE CROSS. 

Being a seed means being willing to let our great Master Gardener throw you upon the ground, and be cold and wet and hungry and tired, and to experience many difficulties, and go through hardship for Christ’s sake.  If you follow Jesus, you will eventually suffer “many things for His sake”, as Paul was told he would when he came to Christ. 

You will be alone at times, and sad at times, and yet learn the gracious provision of our Gardener God, who allows us to die so that we will know the joys of being the producer of many seeds, much fruit, and a bounty of spiritual blessings for others.

The Kingdom of Heaven is produced this way.  By being like Christ in our dying, we attain to the resurrection of the dead, and live beyond our fears, our hungers, our desires for comfort and security and pleasures in this life.  The worldly man lusts after all these things.  Unfortunately, many of us who claim Christ Jesus are living just like the pagans do, chasing
after what Christ forbids us from chasing after.

If you would follow Jesus, you must lay down and die.  What that means in your life, only you and Christ may work out together.  No man can tell you what your dying is to be.  You must enter Christ’s rest (Hebrews 4) in order to know.  You must give up your own life in order to know what Life Christ will give you.

Dying comes before living, brethren.  If we ignore Christ in this matter, He will not know us, we will not know Him, and so on the final day we will be lost.  How wonderful that day will be for some.  How terrible that day will be for many.

Be among those who take Christ seriously, and heed His Words.

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