Elijah is Taken up to Heaven / Youths mauled by Bears / Paul Resurrects Eutychus: June 30th 2021

2 Kings 1:1-2:25

The evil king Ahaziah, of Israel, had suffered a nasty fall and sent messengers to ask a Canaanite deity if he would recover. Even when he was mortally injured, the king refused to turn to the Lord.

The angel of the Lord told Elijah to meet the messengers and prophesy to them that the king would die (2 Kings 1:4). They carried this message to the ailing king who recognised their description of Elijah.

The king had to send three squads of soldiers one after the other to fetch Elijah because fire from heaven consumed the first two squads. When the third squad arrived, its captain begged for his life and the life of his men. An angel told Elijah to go with the soldiers (2 Kings 1:15).

Elijah told Ahaziah his prophecy in person and the king died. He was succeeded by Joram. Ahaziah had no sons to succeed him.

Elisha and the companies of prophets at both Bethel and Jericho all knew that Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven. Elisha refused to leave Elijah’s side and went with him everywhere. Elijah divided the water of the River Jordan by striking it with his rolled-up cloak. The two prophets crossed over on dry ground. Elisha asked to inherit a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9-12).

Suddenly, Elijah and Elisha were separated by a chariot of fire and horses of fire. Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah’s cloak had fallen to the floor. Elisha picked this up and found that when he struck the River Jordan with it, the river parted as it had done for Elijah. Elisha had been called by Elijah throwing his prophet’s cloak over him (1 Kings 19:19) and now he had inherited this relic through which God was still working. He ‘took up the mantle’ and became an active miracle-working prophet.

The sign of the Jordan dividing demonstrated to the company of prophets that the spirit of Elijah was now resting on his protégé. The company of prophets asked Elisha if they could send a search party of fifty men looking for Elijah. However, Elisha knew that he would not be found on the earth.

God healed the water of the town permanently by Elisha throwing salt into the spring (2 Kings 2:21). As Elisha walked up to Bethel, a gang of youths jeered him for being bald. Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord and they were mauled by two bears. This wasn’t the New Testament behaviour that we are expected to show, but by disrespecting God’s new prophet, these youths were also insulting God. God also has a thing about hair with Samson’s strength being linked to hair, people taking on Nazirite vows and letting their hair grow in dedication to God and God counting all the hairs of our head. The youths came from Bethel, which was a centre for idolatrous worship. This was the first clash between the new servant of God and the servants of Satan. Elisha was replicating the works of Joshua by crossing the Jordan on dry land. God had sent hornets after idol worshippers in Joshua’s day. Now he used bears.

Elisha would prove himself to be a great prophet. He had asked Elijah if he could inherit a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9), symbolically becoming his first-born spiritual son, and Elisha would go on to do twice the number of documented miracles.

Acts 20:1-38

Luke wrote down in detail where Paul had travelled. Paul was flexible with his travel arrangements, deciding to travel back through Macedonia when he heard there was a plot against him.

Paul had boundless energy for preaching the gospel and encouraging people. One night, he preached until midnight. A young man, Eutychus, fell asleep as Paul talked and fell to the ground through a third-floor window. He was dead. Paul interrupted his preaching to throw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. He declared that Eutychus was alive (Acts 20:11) with the same confidence that Jesus had when he raised the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:52). The people took the recovered Eutychus home and were greatly comforted. I feel that I was dead to the Gospel for many years having first fallen asleep while people were trying to preach it to me. If we remain asleep all our lives to the gospel, we will slip into spiritual death. However, Jesus is always willing to throw himself on us, wrap his arms around us and declare us to be alive when we believe in him.

Paul had faithfully preached that everyone must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Jesus (Acts 20:21). The Spirit compelled him to travel and warned him that prison and hardships were awaiting him. However, Paul didn’t care about his own comfort, he wanted to complete the task that Jesus had given him – testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).

Paul instructed the elders to be shepherds over the church of God and to watch over their flock. Jesus has bought the church with his own blood. Paul predicted that some Christians would distort the truth to draw disciples after them (Acts 20:30).

Paul had supplied his own needs, the needs of his companions and helped the weak by working hard as a tentmaker while he preached. He had not coveted other people’s belongings. He modelled his generosity on that of Jesus who also had a trade as a carpenter to earn his own resources (Acts 20:35).

The Ephesian elders wept as they embraced Paul and said goodbye to him. Paul had prophesied that they would never see him again. It is heart wrenching when Christian brothers and sisters leave a Spirit-filled church. I only began to feel this fully when I started to attend a Pentecostal church where it is so easy for brothers and sisters in Christ to become friends for life.

Psalm 78:40-55

The Israelites rebelled against God repeatedly in the desert despite the ten plagues he had inflicted on the Egyptians (Ps.78:40). He safely led them like a shepherd.

He drove out nations before them and settled them in the Holy Land as their inheritance.

As we are adopted children of God by our belief in Jesus and our baptism, God can perform these same types of miracles for us.

We all deserved God’s wrath, indignation and hostility because of our constant rebellions until Jesus made us at peace with our Father through his death on the cross.

Image: Giuseppe Angeli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Samson Gets Married / Streams of Living Water (The Holy Spirit): May 12th 2021

Judges 14:1-15:20

Samson wanted to marry a young Philistine woman. This was an unusual decision for a Nazirite, set apart for God, who would have been expected to marry a fellow Israelite. However, God had orchestrated this. He ‘was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines’ (v.4). The Philistines had conquered Israel and were ruling over it.

A young lion attacked Samson, while he was on the way to visit the woman, and he tore it apart with his bare hands. The Spirit of the Lord had come upon him and given him supernatural strength.

He visited the woman again later to marry her and noticed a swarm of bees was now living in the lion’s rotting carcass and had produced honey. You can see a picture of this on a Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin – which is a strange logo as dead lion honey doesn’t seem very hygienic.

Samson asked thirty companions a riddle about the honey in the dead lion: ‘Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet’ (v.15). Of course, they had no idea what he was talking about and so they threatened Samson’s wife to find out the meaning of the riddle. She cried and pestered Samson for seven days who eventually told her. He now owed the people who knew the meaning of the riddle thirty sets of clothes, so in fury he killed 30 other Philistines and stripped them to pay his debt. Samson went back to his parental home leaving his wife behind, who was given to his ‘friend’.

To take revenge for the loss of his wife, Samson deployed three hundred foxes tied together in pairs with burning torches attached to their tails. They set the corn fields, the vineyards and the olive groves of the Philistines on fire. The violence kept escalating. The Philistines killed his wife and father-in-law and so Samson slaughtered many of them and then took up residence in a cave. Three thousand Israelites from the town of Judah went to arrest Samson to hand him over to the Philistines. When the Philistines came shouting towards him, the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson in power. The ropes on his arms became charred and dropped off. He grabbed the fresh jaw-bone of a donkey and killed a thousand men. Samson called on God for water and a miraculous spring started flowing. Samson then led the Israelites for twenty years.

What can we learn from this extraordinary story? God can arrange circumstances to that people act as agent provocateur – breaking deadlocks and the status quo, causing a massive upheaval in society. Change might require actual bloody conflict. The Spirit of the Lord can give supernatural strength and release us from bondage. Incidentally, demonic forces can mimic this. Some possessed people have to be held down by up to six strong men, when they are being exorcised, due to their phenomenal strength. When we have served God and won a great victory, he will listen to our prayers and provide the necessities of life.

When we believe in Jesus, ask him to come into our lives and are baptized, the Holy Spirit will take up residence in us. He will free us from bondage the more we turn to him and ask him to lead our lives. God will quench our spiritual thirst with streams of supernatural living water.

John 7:14-44

The Jews were amazed at the content of Jesus’ teaching. This was original teaching direct from God. Jesus was not reciting lessons he had learned from a human at a university. Jesus was quick to give the glory to God, ‘my teaching is not my own’ (v.16).

We need to make sure we are working for the honour of God and not working to gain honour for ourselves.

Jesus pointed out that not a single Jew kept the law. They said they followed the law of Moses but they still carried out circumcisions on a Sabbath day – the day on which no work should be carried out. If they did important religious work on a Sabbath, then Jesus should be allowed to heal a whole person on a Sabbath.

Jesus said he would go to the one who sent him (in heaven). They would look for him, but not find him and where he had gone, they could not come (v.34).

When we believe in Jesus, streams of living water will flow from within us (v.38). The Holy Spirit living within the temple of our baptized body is the stream of living water. As we pray in tongues, his perfect prayer will gush out of us to edify us and intercede for others. It is wonderful to know that God is living within us and to be able to demonstrate this at will.

People were divided about Jesus. Some were confused due to a lack of knowledge. They thought he was just Galilean, ignorant of the fact he was born in Bethlehem in accordance with prophecy. Jesus still divides the world today. Some want to seize hold of the gift of eternal life he holds out to us; others still want to persecute him and his followers. We have to decide which side we are on.

Proverbs 11:29-12:7

‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise’ (v.30).

We all have to be engaged on sowing and reaping, trying to win souls for God.

When people give us constructive criticism, we should embrace it.

We can be justly proud of our husband or wife if they are of noble character. If they aren’t yet, let us pray for them to stop them being ‘like decay in our bones’ (12:4).

Once wicked and deceitful people have been overthrown, they are no more (v.7).

The Lord condemns crafty people (v.2). If we are righteous, our plans are just, we obtain favour from the Lord, our speech rescues us and we cannot be uprooted. Our fruit is a tree of life (v.30). We will stand firm (v.7).

‘The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16).

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/21/Book_of_Judges_Chapter_15-2_%28Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media%29.jpg

Feeding the Five Thousand / Jesus Walks on Water: May 9th 2021

Judges 9:1-57

Gideon had produced an abundance of offspring. He had seventy sons by his wives and an additional son, Abimelech, by his concubine.

Abimelech carried out a bloody coup and murdered his seventy brothers. The citizens of Shechem had funded him and crowned him king. It was an appalling act of betrayal after Gideon had heroically saved Israel. However, the youngest son of Gideon, Jotham, escaped.

Jotham gave a very brave speech – wisely shouting it at the evil citizens of Shechem from the top of a tall mountain before running away. He asked them if they had acted in good faith towards his late father Gideon. If not, ‘fire’ would come out from Abimelech and consume Shechem and vice versa.

God brought justice after three years of Abimelech’s rule. ‘God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech (v.23).

A man called Gaal led the citizens of Shechem, who had become highway robbers, in a revolt against Abimelech. They were defeated and Abimelech captured the city and killed the people. He burned a thousand people alive in the tower of Shechem; people who had previously enabled him to become king (v.49).

King Abimelech then besieged and captured the town of Thebez but they had constructed a strong tower into which all the citizens fled. As Abimelech was storming it, a woman dropped a millstone down onto his head and cracked his skull. He ordered his servant to finish him off with a sword. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Abimelech’s army went home.

God had repaid both the power-mad, psychopathic Abimelech and the disloyal citizens of Shechem for their wickedness. The curse of the one surviving son of Gideon, Jothan, had come upon them. We reap what we sow and God will ensure that justice is served.

John 6:1-24

Jesus fed the five thousand. He was attracting large crowds because of the miraculous healing miracles he was performing, It would have been an impossible task to feed this many people with just the disciple’s resources: ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ (v.7). God loves an impossible task. Jesus asked Philip what they should do just to test him. Jesus ‘already had it in mind what he was going to do’ (v.6).

Jesus took five loaves and two fish, gave thanks, broke them and distributed them. Everyone ate as much as they wanted and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. I like to think this would have been the best bread and the tastiest fish anyone had ever tasted. Just as Jesus produced the best wine from water at the wedding in Cana. Jesus’ body is broken and distributed to us during the Holy Eucharist and he can feed as many people as want to receive him.

These types of food miracles still happen today. Missionaries can find they have nearly run out of flour for bread, only to find that empty storage tins have mysteriously refilled. People catering for large events with seemingly insufficient food pray that it will stretch and everyone is fed. Jesus created all things and can easily make more resources. He will ensure that believers are satisfied. However, God wants to work in partnership with us. Jesus did not create the food from nothing. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, did some research and found a boy had a meagre amount of food with him. Presumably the Holy Spirit had persuaded the boy to pack this food and bring it with him that very morning. He brought this to the party and Jesus was able to use this small contribution to feed everyone else. If everyone in a church community joins in with a project. just imagine what can be achieved when our resources are miraculously multiplied.

Jesus did not want to be made king and so didn’t hang around to receive the praise and adoration of the crowd. He withdrew to a mountain by himself.

The disciples set off across the lake for Capernaum leaving Jesus behind. They were struggling, trying to row in the wind, and the sea was rough. Jesus approached the boat, walking on the water. He might have walked the whole distance (three and a half miles) or the Spirit might have transported him there (see Acts 8:39). As soon as the disciples took Jesus into their boat they reached the safety of the shore as if their boat suddenly shot across the lake at miraculous speed. As soon as we repent of our sins and invite Jesus into our life to be our personal saviour we will reach our destination – eternal life.

How did Jesus walk on the water? Jesus created everything and water is one of his creatures. It would respond to his command. Water can also take on other spiritual forces and become blessed or demonised. It is best to exorcise water before using it in a baptism. One missionary I know once baptized forty people from an African village in an oil drum filled with water. Fourteen women of the forty were heavily demonised and when dunked under the water were unable to surface again. Very strong men had to pull them up out of the water. Either the demons within them were trying to drown them or, just as the water in the presence of the Chief Exorcist held Jesus up, the water used for this baptism may have been extracted from a water source dedicated to a demonic entity and tried to hold the women down.

The crowds found out that Jesus and his disciples had left and so climbed into boats chasing him to Capernaum. Once we have found Jesus and experienced his miraculous healing power in our lives, we don’t want to let him get away either. However, he will never leave us or forsake us.

Psalm 58:1-11

Do our rulers speak justly? No, in their hearts they devise injustice.

In my country, Great Britain, we have a state-sponsored abortion industry killing over 200,000 unborn children a year so of course our rulers are not speaking justly. Their hands ‘mete out violence on the earth’ (v.2).

We go astray from the womb. We have a terrible innate tendency to sin and tell lies termed ‘concupiscence’. We are born with an inclination to evil. However, Jesus has washed us clean through the sacrifice of his perfect blood. We just have to repent and renounce of sin, believe and become baptised.

At the end of days, the righteous will be rewarded for there surely is a God who judges the earth.

Image: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=316645&picture=jesus-walks-on-water

Jesus gives us Living Water: May 4th 2021

Judges 1:1-2:5

The Book of Judges starts positively with all the Israelites consulting God as to who should attack the Canaanites first (v.1). God told them that the tribe of Judah would fight first.

The men of Judah asked the Simeonites to help free their territory and promised to return the favour in the future (v.3). They struck down ten thousand of their enemies and captured the Canaanite king, Adoni-Bezek. They adopted the cruel Canaanite method of crippling high-ranking captives: cutting off his thumbs and big toes (v.6). Adoni-Bezek was philosophical about this: ‘God has paid me back’ (v.7) as he had done the same to seventy Canaanite kings previously. Maybe if he had shown mercy to his captives, he wouldn’t have received the same punishment.

The men of Judah captured Jerusalem and put it on fire (v.8).

The tribes of Israel had notable success against the Canaanites but, in some areas, the Canaanites were determined to cling onto their land. The Israelites compromised and allowed the persistent survivors m to live with them. This was totally contrary to God’s instructions. God knew that these foreign people would be Israel’s downfall and he wanted them all gone. The Israelites would be lured into worshipping their demonic entities. If they couldn’t win the battle through their own strength, they should have prayed to God to prevail.

An angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal – where Joshua had set up the twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan – to talk to the Israelites at Bokim. He told the Israelites they had already broken their covenant with God. God had banned them from making a covenant with the people of the land and ordered them to break down their altars – which they had failed to do (2:2). We have only just started the second chapter after the death of Joshua and the Israelites were already in big trouble. The Israelites knew they had disobeyed God and they wept aloud. God would no longer drive their enemies out before them, ‘they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you’ (v.3). The penitent Israelites offered sacrifices to God. However, God does not want sacrifices, he wants obedience. We are surrounded by similar spiritual snares today from well-meaning friends: offering to take us to yoga (in effect worshipping Hindu deities); suggesting we try reiki healing (the invocation of Shinto serpent demons into us through the kundalini spot at the base of our spines) or karate (channelling the mysterious demonic destructive force of ‘ki’). https://www.chess.com/clubs/forum/view/exposing-the-dangers-of-maritial-arts2. When anyone is depressed or stressed, even an official government health service might suggest mindfulness – which may be appropriate if you are already a Buddhist but not if you are a Christian. All therapies / pastimes developed from non-Christian religions have the potential to lead us down the dark alley of demonic oppression. We need to repent and renounce of any such activities that are coaxing us down the pathway of lost souls, perform a screeching handbrake turn in our lives and start to journey back to God.

John 4:1-26

Chapter 4 clarifies yesterday’s suggestion that Jesus baptized people (3:22). ‘It was not Jesus that baptised, but his disciples’ (v.2). The Pharisees were counting which team of disciples were more ‘productive’. Jesus was not interested in a rivalry with John the Baptist’s disciples. Jesus and his team withdrew from the area and headed for Galilee.

Jesus travelled through Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water. Jews traditionally did not associate with Samaritans and religious leaders did not speak to lone women. However, Jesus was a rule breaker when it came to saving people. He didn’t care about our race, sex or lifestyle. He wants to rescue each individual one of us.

Jesus described how he can provide ‘living water’. ‘Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (v.14). The Holy Spirit is sent to believers by both the Father and Jesus, the Son. If we pray for Jesus to send him, the Holy Spirit will give us his gifts, guide, comfort and console us. He is the living water, residing in us; transforming and empowering us to witness to the world.

Through a supernatural word of wisdom, imparted by the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the woman she had already had five husbands. A word of knowledge like this, if we are brave enough to vocalise what the Holy Spirit has told us about someone can break open a non-believer’s hardened heart making them receptive to the gospel.

Salvation is from Jesus and so ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (v.22). If you visit a thriving Pentecostal church, you will witness what worshipping the Father in spirit and truth looks like. God doesn’t want miserable people in an empty church mumbling a depressing hymn into a hymn book. He wants people to worship him with energy and dynamism with a pure sense of gratitude for all the blessings he has bestowed. After an hour of that you will feel the atmosphere in the church change. Peace will settle on the congregation as the Spirit arrives. Only then is it time for prayer. If you want to ask God to do something, you have to make sure he is in the room first.

Proverbs 11:9-18

Godless people specialise in slandering people (v.1). They can even bring down cities with their evil words (v.11). When such people perish and face judgement, ‘there are shouts of joy’ (v.10).

When righteous people prosper, ‘the city rejoices’ (v.10). The example we provide by living positively can change our entire neighbourhood.

We shouldn’t be hasty to speak. We should gather all the facts before we come to any conclusions about people’s actions. We should demonstrate our trustworthiness by keeping people’s secrets (v.13).

If we are in a position of power, consulting with many different people will help us secure victories (v.14). People respect the kind-hearted (v.16) and giving out kindness benefits ourselves the most (v.17).

Ruthless and wicked men can gain wealth but it is deceptive. It will not profit us after our death. If we spend our life sowing righteousness, we will reap an everlasting sure reward in heaven.

Image: Stefano Erardi, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Up ↑