The Only God

 “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

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah asks the so-called people of God a crucial question. In verse 21 he challenges them, saying, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” His reasoning is quite simple…”If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god, follow him.” In other words, “Quit straddling the fence and pick a side!”

God has made it clear in His Word that we cannot love both Christ and the world. We cannot claim to follow Jesus and hold onto our former way of thinking and living. This is what the Israelites were trying to do. They wanted to worship both God and Baal. What this really boiled down to was a lack of faith. God’s people were “covering their bases,” so to speak. Just in case God was not who He said He was, they also offered sacrifices to the gods of the world.

Elijah decides to get to the bottom of their unbelief with an amazing encounter with the prophets of the false gods. In doing so, he is forcing God’s people to choose a side. Their back-and-forth lifestyle is unacceptable to a holy God. What happened next was somewhat of a showdown between Elijah and Baal’s prophets…and more importantly between Baal and Jehovah. And God won with resounding victory.

When Elijah prays to God to burn up the sacrifice (which was drenched in water, along with the altar), he asks God to answer, “So these people will know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You are turning their hearts back again.” Think of all God had done for the people of Israel…all of the evidence they had of His existence and His character.

He had chosen them out of all the peoples of the world, by His will and not because of anything they had done (Abram and Sarai). He had made a covenant with them and had never failed to honor His word, even when they were unfaithful. And yet, they still didn’t believe fully in their God.

What about us today? Are we much different? Do we wholeheartedly worship God and God alone, trusting in His character; or are we, like the Israelites, double-minded in our faith? We have the cross and the empty tomb. And that is all the evidence we should ever need.

 Dear Father, I confess that I can be double-minded, trying to follow You with a divided heart. Please forgive me for my lack of faith. Help me to trust You more and to serve You with all of my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Our Great God

“I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.”  Psalm 135:5-6

Did you know that if you put Saturn in water it would float? Its density is less than that of water. Did you know the light hitting the earth now is 30,000 years old? Winds ten times stronger than hurricane-force swirl at the equator of Saturn – and they never stop blowing even for a moment. An average galaxy’s speed is 140 miles/second.

Did you know that humans have explored less than 10% of the earth’s oceans? And the top 10 feet of the ocean contains as much heat as the atmosphere. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on earth and can be seen from space. It is made up of over 400 species of coral, supporting over 2,000 different species of fish and 4,000 of mollusk as well as countless other invertebrates. The architecture and chemistry of coral is so similar to human bone, coral has been used to replace bone grafts in helping human bone to heal quickly and cleanly.

The Lord, indeed, does whatever pleases Him in the heavens and on earth, doesn’t He? It doesn’t take much more than a nature walk or a clear night sky to remind us that God has revealed His glory in what He has made. And to think there is so much of His creation that man knows nothing about. Have you ever wondered why? Why create what man will never discover?

God created a world that was pleasing to Him. And man is part of that creation. All that God has created, and everything that He does, is for His glory, honor, and pleasure. And He put this magnificent earth under the care of His crowning creation, mankind. It did not take long for man to begin worshiping the created, rather than the Creator. How this must grieve the heart of God!

It is so easy to take the beauty around us for granted. The flowers, trees, streams, stars, moon, and sunsets declare the glory of our God. All of creation is evidence of the goodness and power of God. How would it change our lives if we paused to see the small fraction of God’s creation that is visible to us? May all He has made bring us to our knees in humble adoration of the great God who has made it all.

Dear Father, You truly are great. Creation declares Your majesty. Please forgive me for forgetting this truth. Please remind me through Your Spirit to slow down and enjoy Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Thirsty

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”  Psalm 42:1-2

You’ve likely seen it many times…and perhaps remember doing it yourself as a child.  You stand in a long line in a crowded shopping mall. Kids are screaming and moms and dads are losing patience. Cheerful music plays in the background as the chaotic scene plays out. Finally, it’s your turn. After hopping up in his lap, Santa asks the question you’ve been waiting to answer…dreaming of for months…”What do you want for Christmas?”

Your answer spills forth with gusto. You’ve been preparing to meet with this jolly fellow.  You’ve researched and put a lot of thought into what you want this year. And yes, you’ve been good all year long. After you’ve spilled out all the toys and trinkets you want, he hands you a candy cane, snaps a photo, and wishes you a Merry Christmas as he sends you on your way.

How often do we treat God like Santa Claus? We come to Him with our list prepared.  “I’ve been good, God.  Here is what I want from You.” The items on the list may be different as an adult…good health, safety, financial security, peace, etc. But are our hearts any different than the child’s sitting on Santa’s lap? How often do we commune with God for who He is and not for what He gives?

The words of the psalmist in Psalm 42:1-2 are so foreign to most of us, aren’t they? How many Christians can honestly say, “My soul pants for God like a deer needing water?” In verse 2 he asks, “When can I go and meet with God?” The beauty is that because of Jesus, we don’t have to go and meet with God.  He lives in us! There is no line, no waiting, no once-a-year event. You can speak with Him now. Day or night, quiet or loud, church or home…we can choose to crawl in His lap and have a conversation.

This is a privilege that should not be taken for granted. God should not be used for what we want. He should be worshiped for being all that we need. The deep thirst in every human soul can only be satisfied by a relationship with God through Jesus. None of the trinkets of the world can quench a thirsty soul. So let’s throw our lists away and meet with God with empty hands and a willing heart. Only then will we enjoy the true Living Water.

Dear Father, You are all that I need. I don’t always live like I believe that, but I know it is true. Please change my heart so that it is fixed on You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Peace

“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”  Acts 10:36

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God promised His people something new. At that time God’s commandments were written on tablets of stone; but one day they would be written on the hearts and minds of His children. At that time God’s Spirit was with His people; but one day He would be in His people. At that time sacrifices were offered over and over for sins; but one day there would be one sacrifice for all time. At that time God’s people placed their faith in a coming Messiah; but now our faith is in a risen and reigning Messiah.

Jesus, and the message He brought, was the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy. It was a promise kept to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants. As Acts 10:36 says, God’s message in Christ is the good news of peace. Not peace between men, but peace with God.

Peace with God can only come through Christ. There is no other way. God sent John the Baptist to prepare His people for the coming Messiah. And when Christ appeared, John recognized Him as the Lamb of God – the Messiah – who had come to take away our sins.  Without Jesus, God’s Spirit would not live in us. We would still be separated from God by our sins.

What a wonderful Savior! He not only died for our sins, He became our sin so that we might have peace with God through faith in Him. This is the greatest of all mysteries…Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Let us never take for granted that we have peace with God through Christ. For it is one of the greatest miracles of God’s grace.

Loving Father, How do I even begin to thank You for Jesus? I know there is nothing I can say or do to earn this gift of peace with You. All I have to offer is my heart and my life. May You be glorified in and through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

The Blood of the Lamb

 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  1 Peter 1:18-19

John the Baptist officially announced the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. As he saw Jesus passing by he exclaimed, “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” It may be difficult today to understand the significance of this statement made more than 2000 years ago. It did, however, hold deep meaning, especially for the Jews of that time.

It helps to understand the significance of a lamb to the Jews in Jesus’ time, especially one without blemish or defect. It all began when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God protected the firstborn sons of His people from the angel of death if they placed the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes. The blood of the lamb caused death to pass over their homes, sparing the lives of their children.

God instructed the Israelites to celebrate Passover with a feast every year to remember how God brought them out of Egypt. They were to select a year-old male lamb without defect and slaughter it at twilight for the feast. This was a reminder to them…and an opportunity for them to tell future generations the story of how God set them free from years of captivity in Egypt.

For the Jews, the Passover Lamb was a celebration of God, the freedom He brought, and His power to deliver them from death. Fast forward 1,000 years or so and you find John the Baptist, baptizing his disciples in the Jordan River. As Jesus walks by, John shouts, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Can you imagine the shock and awe, maybe even the outrage of that proclamation?

Some time later Jesus said to His followers, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54). Is it a coincidence that the Last Supper was during the time of the Passover celebration? The True Passover Lamb would be slaughtered at twilight for the sins of the world – a male Lamb without blemish or defect. His blood would be poured out and applied through faith to the doors of our hearts so that death would pass over. How precious is the blood of the Lamb!

Holy Father, Thank You for Jesus, our Passover Lamb. I know that my death would be certain without His blood and Your grace and mercy. I am a sinner who deserved death, and yet I stand cleansed and forgiven in Your sight. I praise You for Your salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.