I Believe in the Extraordinary

THE EXTRAORDINARY

Today we struggle to overcome atheism, apathy, and sexual issues, but in Elijah’s day, he fought idolatry. elijah and fire from GodUnfortunately, Israel was worshipping the false God’s Baal and Asherah (Baal’s fertility goddess).  This was because the evil queen Jezebel had promoted idol worship and her husband; King Ahab (king of Israel) allowed it and bowed to the idols too.

Elijah was one of the few in Israel to be completely faithful to God refusing to bow to the idols.  He made a challenge to prove to God’s people who the real and true God was.  So, Elijah, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and the people of Israel assembled on Mt. Carmel for the contest.  The idol’s prophets cried out to their god and he failed to respond.  Their sacrifice lay on the altar rotting.

Elijah built an altar to God, had wood and the sacrifice placed on the altar.  He had a ditch dug and gallons and gallons of water poured over the sacrifice: to make it more difficult for God? No, he did it to enhance the understanding of God’s power when he would burn the sacrifice.  God sent fire from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the altar and licked up the water.  Pretty extraordinary!  1 Kings 18

We expect healing, we expect, the sun to stand still, we even expect donkey’s to talk, but we don’t always expect the extraordinary.  I believe in the extraordinary.

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I Believe in the Overwhelming

THE OVERWHELMING

The battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans held off the Persian army of well over 100,000 is pretty fantastic.  The movie I saw didn’t show the 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans, 1400 in all that fought the battle, but 1400 is nothing compared to a massive army bent on overwhelming and destroying.

Yet, that is exactly how God used Gideon and the Israelite fighters.  There were 300 iimages (30)n all and they saw the army of the Midianites, Amalekites and other peoples from the east, an army of 120,000 beaten.  Only 15,000 of them escaped alive.

God used faith, fear, and confusion to overwhelm and overcome an army that was about to reek destruction on Israel.  Gideon started with 32,000 men.  By most standards, 32,000 is still too small to fight 120,000.  God said, this is too many, send every home that is scared and 22,000 left.  Still too many, so they went down to the water and the ones that drank by putting their face in the water were told to leave.  Only 300 remained.

And God, almost 1,000 years before the Spartans fought off the Persians, thwarted the army of the Midian and her allies.

I believe in the overwhelming.

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I Believe in the Bizarre

THE BIZARRE

Talking dogs are all the rage.  Well, if TV shows and cartoons are any indication, some dogs can talk.  I’ve heard of YouTube videos where dogs are supposed be talking and sometimes it seems like they are speaking English.  I think Mr. Ed’s voice was a human voice recorded to make it sound like a horse talking.  I’m being silly now, but when we think an animal talks, it is probably just the natural aspect of sounds and phonetics coming together to sound like words.  It happens when you listen to a recording backwards, sometimes the phonetics and sounds come together and sound like words (this is without purposeful back masking).

Do you believe that a donkey talked?  There was a bad prophet of God who believes that a donkey talked.  Balaam was a bad boy.  He liked money and Balak the king of Moab hired him to curse Israel.  God wouldn’t let him curse Israel, so whenever he spoke to curse, blessings from God came out of his mouth.  Of course this upset Balak, so Balaam didn’t get paid.

Numbers 22:21ff, record Balaam’s donkey talking to him.  In fact, he responded to Balaam angrily beating him for pinning his leg against a rock wall.  The donkey actually saved Balaam’s life, but what thanks did the donkey get, a beating.

Animals do not naturally speak in human language, but God, being all-powerful has the ability to make them talk if he so desires, Balaam’s donkey talks and makes a fool of Balaam, and Balaam was a greedy fool who helped Balak seduce Israel into sin and then Israel received the consequences for their sin.

I believe the bizarre because God does.

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Where Does Faith Come From?

Ken was from Connecticut, blind, raised in a foster home with a foster dad who abused his wife. He has lived in poverty most of his life. He always wanted to go to Oklahoma, be a social worker and work with native Americans. He was accepted at a junior college in Oklahoma and one day, in the lunch room, the lunch lady who usually helped Ken get to a table was unable to assist him, so she asked a couple of students to help Ken and they gladly did. They were friendly and a part of a Christian campus ministry. They invited Ken to a pizza party and he agreed to attend.

Ken admits that the only reason he went to the party was for free pizza (he believes it is one of the foods on the basic food group). He made some friends, he played volleyballible, pretty good for a blind guy (you should see him play basketball), and agreed to return for their regular Bible studies. After attending several Bible studies and events with the campus ministry, Ken was invited to a weekend retreat and accepted Christ and was baptized.

Where did Ken’s faith come from? Where does your faith come from? Where does faith come from?

I have read and heard countless stories and every one of them has one element that is the same, the word of God. Ken, and you and I and every person encountered God’s word and it effected our hearts and mind and we believed in and obeyed Jesus.

I found an interesting blog relating many stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, http://tony-tate.com/whats-your-story/. The stories with enough detail show God’s word at work.

The word of God is the common denominator in every conversion. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” God’s word produces faith.

Remember the Gideon Bibles you were given in fourth grade at school, or were in the drawer in a motel room. A lot of people picked up the Bible and read some of God’s word for the first time and were brought to faith. Remember the campus ministry Ken encountered. Their goodness and kindness was God’s word in action and coupled to some Bible studies, Ken, like many others came to faith through the word he witnesses in their lives.

God’s word is related in so many ways, reading, hearing, and seeing faith in action.

There are times I want a particular food or flavor and only certain foods provide the taste I desire. God’s word is like that too. When a person that actually wants that taste, and is looking for it, the only thing that fulfills the desire is God’s word, and many times, it ultimately leads to that person’s salvation.

The faith that is produced comes from God’s word being read, spoken, shared, exhibited, felt, experienced etc. That is one of the ways that God’s word is living and active Hebrews 4:12). It is not just words on a page. It is truth that is lived.

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Where Are We Going?

With the advent of the affordable Health Care Act in a week or so, we, as a nation, will quit asking, “Are we there yet?” and begin to ask, “Where are we going?” The whole thing seems to be very confusing and most of us just don’t know what to expect. Please note that I am not endorsing or condemning the new government health care, just noting for the sake of illustration we that we are confused about it.

The books of prophecy in the Bible give us the same uneasiness. Are the prophecies for the people who heard them, or for us today to look forward too. We might ask, “Where are we going?” based upon our lack of knowledge and understanding and doubts.

The books of Daniel and Revelation are probably the most relevant to this question. What do they mean? Who do they affect? How do I understand them? How should I react to what they reveal?

God questions and questions that we can answer. I say that knowing full well that a lot of people believe we cannot understand them completely, that the meaning of their message is hidden to us. But, the fact is, that God gave us his word so that we can understand, so that we will know the truth and ways of God.

There are essentially three views about the books of eschatology. If you don’t know, eschatology is about end times, the final days of the earth. Though the word carries a more present meaning then the future, that is the current definition.

The three main views are:

  1. Post-millennialism (Jesus will return after the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ).
  2. A-millennialism (Jesus will return during the millenium, the Christian age, the era of the church beginning on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2).
  3. Pre-millennialism (Jesus will return before the millennium begins).

The post-millennial view has almost completely been abandoned.  The pre-millennial view is the most common, and there are variations within the pre-millennial view. The a-millennial view makes the most sense to this author. But the point is, not what do the prophecies mean, but how are we take them? How are we to live?

Revelation is a book of encouragement and hope for Christians and the church in the crisis of persecution as the devil attacks it from a social, political, and religious standpoint. God is telling us in the time of eschatology not the events that are taking place and the things to look out for (though we learn a lot here), but that we are to remain faithful to him throughout the difficulty. He will overcome, he will defeat the devil and those the devil has deceived, the cultures we live in, the governments who govern our world, the religious leaders who buy into a gospel that does not honor the revealed word of God, especially the truth about Jesus Christ.

“Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you life as the victor’s crown” Revelation 2:10.

Are we in the end times. I believe we have been since the church began. We have seen the events of Revelation play out in the 350 years after God gave Revelation to John. But, the reality of what happened with the Roman Empire and the church, is replayed again and again as Satan works to destroy the church, to stop its missionary influence and take as many of us with him to hell as he can destroy.

Be faithful to God and you will receive the reward he has in store for the faithful.  Read Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and see the many descriptions of eternal life God uses for those who remain faithful.

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Asking the Hard Questions

A week ago, a teen girl came in a minute late to our Bible study and asked if I would answer her questions. She wanted me to answer them quickly so she could go. She didn’t want to stay and endure a Bible discussion. I looked at her questions which were very personal and full of struggle. Questions written as a letter to God in her diary. She asked why she was the size she is; why some people are successful at suicide but she hasn’t been; if God would let her die; and more like those.

I suggested that the Bible study hour was not the best to deal with these personal questions, and she asked if I would talk to her afterwards. I told her that I would.

I found her upstairs and we sat down and I looked at her questions again and told her that I might not be able to answer some of her questions. She was hurting deeply and wondering about whether she really believed in God and his goodness and justice.

I told her that maybe the best way to answer her concerns was to set the base for understanding God and what happened with creation. God created us with the capacity to make moral choices, choosing to receive God’s love or rejecting his love which also gives the capability to return God’s love or withhold it. God didn’t create beings that would love him without choice because forced love is not genuine love.

Understanding this truth settled some of the questions she had.

The 90 minutes I spent with this young lady was one fo the most important moments in my life. Not because I answered hard questions, but because I was given an opportunity to share God’s love and glory with someone who is searching for his love. Right now, I am certain that a seed has been planted and pray that she will come to faith in God and ultimately in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

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Read This Article from Relevant Magazine online

It is interesting that all at once there are several discussions about Christian -vs- Saints.  Here is a good one. Why-They-Called-Us-ChristiansClick on the link and it will take you to the Relevant article entitled, “Where the ‘Christian’ Name Really Came From.”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/where-christian-name-really-came

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