Tag Archives: Ahab

Christians are never alone 1 Kings 19 First St Johns June 26, 2016

[for the audio click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know they are never alone when they are in Jesus said … AMEN!

This Sunday is to recognize Lutheran Church Extension Fund. In respect to that I do want to talk about what LCEF does in respect to supporting local churches specifically in terms of stewardship. We have really great resources associated with the LCMS, all are very local and sources of funding and support for local congregations. LCEF offers various investment vehicles that are also utilized to provide programs like Consecrated Stewards a program that will help us to grow in our stewardship in a more intentional and regular way. We do have very good resources that I think aren’t really utilized as much as they should, another being Thrivent Financial. Thrivent offers action grants that are available to members to help support outreaches here at First Saint Johns. We have benefited from those programs, if you are a member of Thrivent and haven’t used these programs, please let me know and I will be happy to help you access these programs to benefit the ministries we’re doing here. If you don’t use those gift opportunities, it will be a lost benefit, money left on the table.

The President of Thrivent, Brad Hewitt, wrote a book on stewardship and there is a lot of good advice and insights into our relationship with money. But remember, stewardship is not just about money, it is also about your time and talents too. In this day and age, time is a scarce resource. I’m having plenty of days when I just drag myself home and I can empathize with those who find themselves just running out of time. Having said that, your investment of time and talents, to support the different outreaches we are doing is huge and I pray that in addition to considering increasing your financial support, that you also consider looking at ways that you can invest your time into church activities. Often the return on time and interaction of church members in ministry results in a huge return in terms of helping new members to grow, helping to reach out to prospective church members and in general helping us to benefit and serve those around us.

Mr Hewitt notes that it is often our state of mind, trust issues between us and God about our resources, he writes: “…our research suggests that people are more likely to enjoy a sense of freedom regarding time, energy and money the more they buy into these positive statements: – God meets my needs  -I don’t think about money unless it’s running short. – I don’t often worry about the future, I take each day as it comes. – I give to people in need, even if I barely have enough myself. – I pray about the big decisions in my life. – Deepening my relationship with God helps me feel peaceful about my future.”[1] Mr Hewitt notes “…these attitudes are a gift of God, a sign of His transforming us and building our trust in Him to use His gifts to us to support what the church of Jesus does in the world and to rely on Him to provide for our needs.” Having trusted God myself to go to seminary, where we spent a whole lot of money, God has continued to provide for us even as Marge and I are getting into the later stages of life ourselves. LCEF is very much a ministry of the Lutheran Church and offers many ways, Consecrated Stewards, is one that helps us to be much more intentional of sharing our resources. Dave Stambaugh is our LCEF rep, you can ask one of us for further information.

There are times when it just seems as if things don’t work out as you expected God to do, ministry wasn’t really on our radar and yet God provided for that for Marge and me. The Bible is full of times, where God kind of sprang trust issues on His faithful. When it seems as if God has just left the building and you feel like Wile E Coyote going over a cliff, thinking you’re hanging onto something and then feeling as if the world has just opened up and swallowed you. There are trust issues. I’m sure we’ve all had those times when you’ve put a lot of trust in someone and then they’ve just deserted you and for no apparent reason. We, sinners, we are going to do that, leave someone holding the bag. And while it seems as if God does it to us, He really doesn’t. You needed to be in a situation, played it out to the best of your ability and then realize God really has been in control and is guiding the situation. Like Elijah you’re standing there looking up to heaven, your arms spread out, your mouth kind of hanging open, your heart in your mouth and then…

More and more I’m finding as a pastor the world is intent on ignoring anything God has to say, and expects that whatever they chose to do, God is supposed to bless it and in the end reward them for making themselves their own idol. Hey we all do things that we know, by any standard, is wrong, it’s called sin. But while others make excuses or, worse, justify ungodly behavior, we who are Christians, who know that we are saved by the sacrificial death of Jesus, who are saved to new life in our baptism, who take the true body and blood of Jesus to deliver us from sin, bring us closer to Him and feed our body and soul with the nourishment that we need to be in communion with Him, we know that we cannot make ourselves an idol of worship. We know that we cannot decide what is right and wrong. We know that we can only worship God the Son and not make ourselves our own idol, worshipping our desires and agenda and expect that will be blessed by God the Father. Paul tells us that Christ has set us free, we are not condemned and lost in the yoke of slavery, that is the sin we become enslaved in. Whether it’s our lust that we’ve become subjected to, or the agenda that we’ve decided is the right course of action, but can’t reconcile our agenda with Jesus’. Paul writes: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit are against the flesh …” To make sure there’s no question, Paul lists out our idolatry, our lusts and be sure this list is not exhaustive: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies…” But we are expected to just ignore that, when people and even churches, look us right in the eye, tell us that we should be more “tolerant”, more “Christian” and accept that these things are just OK. We can’t, and in a world where faithful Christians are dwindling into a remnant, as in Elijah’s time, we are pressured by the world to conform to what others tell us we should do, to ignore what genuine Christian brothers and sisters are coping with and follow our own agenda.

Elijah was really at the end of his rope. In 1 Kings 15:29 Ahab has become King of Israel: “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:30) And the previous kings of Israel had done some real evil. If that’s not enough, of all the women he could have married and according to God’s direction he was supposed to marry an Israelite woman, he goes out and finds a woman who is the daughter of the king of the Sidonians, named Jezebel, who doesn’t worship Yahweh, and managed to pick the worst of the pagan “gods” Baal. To top it off Ahab supported Jezebel in her worship. We have plenty in the liberal church who, like Ahab, continue to talk Jesus, but are much more concerned with the world’s agenda, their own Jezebel, than Jesus’ and whether they admit it are worshipping their own Baals. It is hard as a faithful, Bible teaching/believing Christian to stay strong in what the Lutheran Church teaches, Law and Gospel, and to feel, like Elijah that you are a remnant. Elijah has picked up and run off to hide. Jezebel has made it perfectly clear that she is going to do what Elijah was led by God to do, to kill the priests of Baal that Jezebel had brought into Israel, a straight out violation of God’s covenant with Israel “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” There are a lot of caves in Israel, if you want to hide, you can find a place in Israel to do it, if you’re living in a cave as Elijah’s done, he is clearly hiding in fear. While he is cowering in his cave, in fear of Queen Jezebel, God calls him, “what are you doing here, I didn’t tell you to run off to here.” Elijah is convinced that he has been left completely on his own and tells God: “ESV 1 Kings 19:10 “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life…” God answered him in one of the most poignant verses in the Bible, a demonstration of His power, but in “the sound of a low whisper” God asks Elijah again and Elijah gives Him the same answer. God is not going to let Elijah just cower in a cave, Elijah, as all of us, has a responsibility to stand up to the evil that we see all around us. God gives him an assignment to carry out, booting Elijah out of the cave and focusing him on the fact that he, and all of us, are responsible to stand strong for God and carry out the responsibilities He gives us. But God also gives Elijah reassurance: “ESV 1 Kings 19:18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Seven thousand men is not very many in a nation that had at least hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million. But it is still a faithful remnant.

In the theme of stewardship and Elijah we can feel as if we’re being minimized and marginalized in our society today, feeling as if there are fewer and fewer genuine Christians, as if we might somehow be out of step. But we have to go back to our baptism, to the vows we took as members of this church and for your pastor the additional vows he took to be a minister of the Gospel, that we take the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to strengthen us in our body and spirit, to strengthen our relationship with God the Father, to trust in the preached word of Scripture. It is difficult and will cause us to feel like we want to run and hide, or accommodate those who want us to accept a false gospel, a humanist paradigm. We have to keep focused on God’s power and  “… the sound of a low whisper” “the still small voice” in the KJV version, that is God telling us that we aren’t alone, that in Jesus the Holy Spirit is always watching over us and guiding us even when we feel like Elijah “…and I, even I only, am left and they seek my life…” We aren’t, we are in the presence of the all powerful Creator, Sustainer and Savior of all creation.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Brad Hewitt CEO Thrivent Financial Services “Your New Money Mindset” p 79

The Lord is always encouraging us 1 Kings 19: 1-8 First St Johns August 9, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon please click on the above link)

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who make a faithful witness to Jesus said … AMEN!

My last sermon I talked about Noah, how God destroyed all the living creatures. Man had become entirely and irredeemably wicked and God had had enough. These people had gone over the top and God, unlike the world that is just in love with “tolerance” which it very loosely applies, God’s tolerance was exhausted. In today’s Old Testament reading we see the same thing on a lesser scale. Quick back story, Jezebel had become Queen of Israel. She was pretty obnoxious and over the top and her husband Ahab, was pretty much of a milk toast, “yes dear, no dear”. In direct defiance of God, Ahab allowed Jezebel to maintain a staff of 450 priests of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. The Jewish Encyclopedia describes some of this “religion”: “there was placed side by side with the Ba’al a corresponding female symbol, the Ashtoreth (Babyl. “Ashtar”) and the relation between the two deities was set forth as the example and the motive of unbridled sensuality. The evil became all the worse when in the popular view Yhwh himself was regarded as one of the Ba’als.”[1] Of course this violates the first two of the ten commandments, you shall worship God and you shall not worship idols. Baal and Asherah are idols, they aren’t “gods”, some evidence would be that no one worships either of them anymore. If they were truly “god” they would certainly be powerful enough to assert their worship. Baal worship is described as: “This pagan nature worship was purposefully described with such graphic sexual language precisely because cult prostitution and sexual mysticism was a big part of the nature worship process. Sexual fertility cults and the desire for a corresponding agricultural fertility were weaved together into a pornographic nature worship scheme that corrupted the entire nation and its people.”[2] Sound familiar? Sound like the world today? It was, straight up, worship that not only allowed, but encouraged any sort of sexual practice. “in addition to sexual abandon, the worship of Baal also incorporated harsh ascetic practices into their nature worship as well. Ecstatic pleasure and bloody pain were used to propitiate the nature gods for the sake of fair weather (1 Kings 18:25-29). Thus, Baal nature worship was completely indulgent with regard to sexual mysticism on the one hand, but overly strict, harsh, and severe on the other hand with regard to ascetic practices, with occasional bouts of human sacrifice along the way (2 Kings 17:28-41).”[3] Obviously this is a violation of the seventh commandment, thou shalt not commit adultery. The commandment is about marital faithfulness and also about fornication, sex between two unmarried people. Obviously in our day and age, there isn’t a “church of Baal”, but the practices of our age are certainly all about what was practiced in Old Testament times by Baal worshippers.

God gave us the ten commandments. He wasn’t mumbling when He put them on stone tablets and gave them to Moses. God, Yahweh, God the Father of Jesus Christ is unequivocally perfect, perfectly holy and will not tolerate sin. We are all sinners, we all have our personal violations of the ten commandments, but we who are in Christ are forgiven, Jesus died for our sins and when we confess and repent of those sins, we are absolved of those sins, we have forgiveness because Jesus died to pay the price for those sins. But while there are those in the world who feel that any and everything should be tolerated, should be allowed, we who are Christians know that while there is sin, and there is forgiveness, that we also offend and fail God the Father when we commit these sins. God will not tolerate anyone who simply flouts His commandments and chooses to do whatever he or she pleases to do. The world around us, tells us that’s silly, but the world has no hope, no promise, no other way to deal with it’s sin and those in the world die to those sins and are eternally condemned.

So we can wag our finger and cluck our tongue and presume to chastise God when He destroys the world because it has become so consumed with its sins, or we can take Him at His word. He gives us the hope and promise of eternal life, the world simply tells us to do what makes us happy and that’s just ok. When you die, you’re dead whatever happens then, well tough luck! A little back story, you might remember, how Elijah set up a challenge with Baal’s prophets? We each sacrifice an ox, I’m sure you’ve seen how huge an ox is, we lay it on the altar and whichever God completely consumes the ox with fire, then that God must truly be God. Well Baal’s priests dance around for hours, finally drop from exhaustion, and nothing, big old bagel, zero, nada. Elijah had a great time just kicking back and telling the priests of Baal how messed up this is. Hey! Baal’s so great, what’s the problem? How come he can’t just burn up an ox? Finally Elijah takes his turn, says a short prayer of about fifty words, then woosh “…Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil and also licked up the water in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38) Kind of God’s way of putting an exclamation point on the whole event. Then Elijah, following God’s directions, I’m sure with his own men, drives about 990 priests and prophets of Baal and Asherah down the mountain they were on to a creek and kills them all. A little harsh? Not really. These priests along with the queen Jezebel are determined to impose these enormously sinful practices on Yahweh’s people, the people of Israel, essentially condemning them to eternal death and Yahweh will not tolerate it! No more than He tolerates the same behavior today. But, praise God, we have salvation in Jesus, He is our strength, our power, our Elijah who keeps His people away from these grossly immoral practices. He is our redemption, the One who paid the price for our sin. For homework this week, read 1 Kings 18:16-40.

But it does show what a gross biblical ignorance and illiteracy there is today, when you have people, who probably aren’t Christians, making up stereotypes about Christian pastors and Christians in general. Furthermore you see how they are treated by the world in today’s reading. We aren’t to tolerate the gross immorality that we see around us today, we are to speak out. When non-Christians try to stereotype you and basically tell you to shut up, keep it to yourself, they say Christians are supposed to be meek and humble. Well first off they don’t know what they’re talking about. Jesus had no problems holding people accountable for sexual and other sins. John the Baptist called Herod out for marrying his brother’s wife. Heck by today’s standards, that’s a pretty venal sin.  John the Baptist had no problem calling out one of the most powerful men in the country and he lost his head for it. Paul certainly didn’t pull any punches with churches like the Corinthians.

Elijah was faithful to God and His direction, not to the world’s opinion. Elijah was driven out by the world, harassed by the world, and Christians are and will be today. Not because the world is right, but because the world is hateful and ignorant and will do whatever it takes to shut a faithful person up. But God strengthens and encourages us. Can you imagine how Elijah felt? He had been hounded, driven away, threatened with death. He feels abandoned, alone, feels as if he is the only one of Yahweh’s people left. An angel wakes him up, one of Yahweh’s powerful warrior angels, provides him with food and water and rest, and also to remind him that God is watching over him, just as He watches over us when we take an unpopular stand for His Son Jesus and Jesus’ church. The world loves drama, it loves to spite God, it loves to have its own way and it hates anyone who is faithful to the Lord Jesus. We have to accept that, deal with that and trust that God will provide and protect us as He did with Elijah and continue to be a faithful witness to Him in a world that is increasingly hostile to Jesus.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2236-ba-al-and-ba-al-worship

[2] http://www.theignorantfishermen.com/2010/12/baalisms-suicidal-nature-worship-and.html

[3] Ibid