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Elijah’s Preparation and Release of Elisha

December 15th, 2009

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Transition is a popular theme at the moment as certain people reach a certain stage of maturity! So it was fascinating on Sunday to speak on the theme of Elijah’s preparation and release of Elisha as the one who would take on his mantle.

I have been occasionally speaking at CCK on the life of Elijah over a two-year period, and began on Sunday by pointing out that, though individual life stories can be fascinating, in reality they are not the whole story. Though one life or ministry comes to its conclusion, God’s story, the one that really matters, continues.

As a nation, Israel gave high priority to passing on its heritage to the next generation. Honouring your parents and being wise sons who obey parental counsel was hugely significant. Their world view was shaped by the rehearsing of their history and anticipating their future inheritance.

So Elijah’s disciple needed to be equipped for a ministry that would be wholly consistent with what went before while also developing new dimensions.

Elijah responded to God’s command and initiated what proved to be a loving, open-handed and respectful relationship. Elisha was wholehearted in his response, ‘burning his bridges’, saying goodbye to his past and throwing himself unreservedly into his God-appointed training programme, which proved magnificently fruitful as he ultimately entered into his own particular God-given role, similar yet different, discipled but not cloned.

Jesus told his disciples, ‘go and make disciples’. The apostles obeyed by starting churches, not for mere ‘church-goers’ but where individuals could be ‘apprenticed’ by others who lovingly accept them because Christ has, yet also take responsibility in ‘one-anothering’, mutual discipling, encouraging, admonishing, restoring and equipping.

Maturity and fruitfulness are the goals of a discipling relationship. We need to emulate Elijah’s and Elisha’s great example by embracing life-imparting friendships in local church life that develop us into our full potential in God.

Elisha’s final request, namely a passionate appeal for a double portion of the Spirit that was resting on Elijah, is a great reminder to us that we will never fulfil our Master’s ambitions for us without the same promised outpouring of the Spirit on our lives.

How can we continue the work that our Master started without the power that He enjoyed? Praise God that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for us and for as many as the Lord calls to be his disciples (Acts 2:39).

Elijah: The Ravages of stress and the restoration of grace – 1 Kings 19:1-16

November 3rd, 2009

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We tend to think of stress as a modern problem but Elijah, a man just like us, certainly knew what it was to run out of gas.

Suddenly a fiery dart from the enemy penetrated all his defences, and yesterday’s zeal was not enough to take him through today. He collapsed in the pressure and ran away. This rock-like figure who was able to withstand a whole nation suddenly had nothing more to give.

After encountering God’s incredible mercy, his running away becomes more purposefully focused on running to the rock Horeb where God had previously revealed His faithfulness to the nation. Believers need to be reminded not simply to seek ‘escape’ from their difficulties but to run with purpose to the covenant God who loves them and will reveal His faithfulness to them.

Elijah’s fresh meeting with God, like Simon Peter’s on Lake Galilee with the resurrected Christ, leads to total reinstatement, refreshment and fresh commissioning.

God’s covenant love never fails. The redeemed know who to run to. But what of those who don’t know Him? They can only try to escape the pressure. How they need also to find the rock of safety.

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Elijah Prayed for Rain – 1 Kings 18:41-46

June 15th, 2009

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Elijah withdrew from the crowd, as did Jesus. Do you get closed in with God?

Our prayers, based on God’s promises, give us great grounds for asking! Are you laying hold of His promises? He has appointed us to be askers! Be specific.

Elijah prayed fervently. Do you? Don’t lose the reality that prayer is the active exercise of a personal relationship.

Elijah prayed with importunity. Although our requests may not receive instant answers, He knows what we need and what we can handle. Stay tenacious!

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Mount Carmel – Gunfight at OK Corral

April 19th, 2009

Elijah arrived at Mount Carmel for the showdown with the prophets of Baal. This represents the climax of Elijah’s ministry.

God often allowed Israel to be up against overwhelming odds where his hero stands virtually alone so that God can break in and demonstrate that salvation comes ultimately from God.

Moses stood against mighty Pharaoh and his army. David stood against Goliath and the Philistine army. Each of them stood virtually alone. Gideon had to cut his army down to only 300 to stand against the tens of thousands of Midianites. Each time God wanted to demonstrate His own power to intervene with salvation.

God always needed a mediator who would represent Him through obedience and faith so that He could work through His agent to bring deliverance.

Elijah represented God on this occasion. He showed complete contempt for the false religion represented by Baal. The Bible never suggests that all religions ultimately lead to God. False religion is despised (Romans 1:21-23).

The exposure of false religion
The prophets of Baal begin their ritual leaping around the altar.

They move on to ‘cutting themselves’ and displaying the kind of self-harm sometimes associated with religions that try to rid themselves of guilt through asceticism, special washings, pilgrimage etc.

Thirdly, they raved, moving into a frenzy totally unrelated to life.

Some reject Christianity because of its outrageous claim to be uniquely right. Many would argue, ‘How can only one religion be the right one?’ but this is not a scientific reason to question but rather an emotional response of rejection. It is not logical.

Not all religions lead to the same conclusion.

Restoring the covenant relationship
Elijah invited the people to draw near and rebuild the altar with its reminder of the twelve tribes and God’s covenant relationship to them, as reflected in Exodus 28:17-21 by the twelve beautiful gems on the High Priest’s chest, each expressing God’s tender love towards His people.

Elijah, the obedient servant, prays according to the will of God and fire falls.

Jesus said, ‘If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it will be done for you’ (John 15:7).

Another greater showdown

Before we close, let’s remember another hill where another encounter took place, another crowd stood against a single mediator.

On this occasion, instead of the mediator taunting like Elijah did the prophets of Baal, he himself is being taunted.

‘He trusts in God let Him rescue him if he delights in Him.’

‘If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.’

‘He is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in him.’

No fire falls from heaven. No answer comes from the sky. They cry, ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself.’

If Jesus the great mediator of God is going to save us, he cannot save himself. There can be no answer from heaven. There can be no miraculous escape. He must endure the suffering that others might be saved.

Later, Paul explains, in Colossians 2:14, ‘He cancelled the writing that stood against us with its legal demands. He set it aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open shame by triumphing over them.’

He could not save himself because he was saving us.

This is the greatest showdown of all time. Salvation is from the Lord. He must save. He must deliver.

This is Jesus in his glory
King of heaven dying for me.
It is finished, he has done it.
Death is beaten
Heaven beckons me.

You can watch or listen to this sermon here

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If the Lord is God follow Him

February 16th, 2009

After 3 years’ drought God is ready to speak to Israel again. Elijah who is qualified to represent God because he has continued to stand before God throughout the testing time is called to a fresh encounter with Ahab. On encountering him Ahab calls him Israel’s Troubler. He offers hope but is regarded as trouble. Similar for Jeremiah.
 
Paul & friends are also seen as people causing trouble in Acts 17:6 (NIV) though in reality they were recorded in Acts 17:2-3 as reasoning, explaining, proving, explaining. We must not be surprised if misrepresented.

Elijah challenges their divided hearts. He draws near to them. Like Jesus he says you cannot serve two masters. We can easily drift into serving two masters. Paul says 1 Corinthians 7:12  All things are lawful but I won’t be mastered by anything. God blesses us with many things but we must beware that none of them begin to master us. We may suddenly discover that we have allowed an idol to grow that now dictates our decisions so we are no longer free to serve Jesus.

Jesus is our model. He always kept the Father central in his thoughts. He always pleased him. His devotion to the Father’s will meant that he embraced the cross. He deserves our unmixed devotion.

You can watch or listen to this sermon here

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