Revive! Are you ready to come back to life? -Love Deeply!
John Chilcote let the proverbial cat out of the bag. He told me last Wednesday night. “Greg, did you hear about Cedar Point’s new roller coaster opening in 2013?” Well, let’s not just talk about it – let’s live it! Introducing - the Gatekeeper! (Gatekeeper @ Cedar Point Video)
Who wants to go for a ride? Check out this press release. “The GateKeeper will be the world's longest winged coaster. It will also go into the record books for having the longest drop of its type -- 164 feet. Winged coasters feature pairs of riders sitting on either side of a track with nothing above or below them, simulating the feeling of flight. The attraction will feature drops, loops, a 360 degree spiral and a move called the Zero-G-Roll which will take riders through two support towers located near the park's entrance.”[i]
Who likes rollercoasters? Who does not? Truth is Greg the carrousel at the Columbus Zoo makes me nervous! I am partial to the Blue Streak, but truthfully the Blue Steak is nothing compared to the Gatekeeper. God has been speaking to Elijah in 1st Kings 17. Today he’s about to say to Elijah! “Elijah, let me take you for a ride!” If you think fast food bird delivery is special, wait to you see what I’m about to do next!” Let’s find out! Open up your Bibles to 1st Kings 17. Let’s go for a ride! Do you need a Bible?
1st & 2nd Kings are about KINGS! Namely kings who led God’s people either toward or away from God. Most led them away from God. One of those kings was named Ahab! Ahab worshipped Baal. “Baal idols are often portrayed as a man with the head and horns of a bull. His right hand is raised, and he holds a lightning bolt, signifying both destruction and fertility.”[ii] Ahab’s wife Jezebel worshipped Baal. In order to please his wife Ahab constructed a temple to Baal that led the entire nation of Israel to sin!
Do you like contests? I want you to meet 35 year old Tim Janus. Tim Janus won the 2012 World Burping Championship held at Hudson Station in New York City this past June 12th. Janus won the contest with an amazing 18.1 second belch. He said this about his accomplishment, "It's beautiful, really."[iii]Here’s a better contest. God vs. Baal. I used to always think the contest between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal began in chapter 18. Not true. The contest has already begun – it starts right here in chapter 17! Either Baal will make it rain or God will make rain! One will RAIN supreme! Read 17: 1-6. The accommodations are pretty good. Despite the drought, Elijah eats twice a day and apparently can drink water anytime he wants! Plus, God did more than just provide food and water. God gave him protection! I’m speculating here, but at first I bet Ahab did not give Elijah’s words a second thought! But then a week passes by – then 2, then a month, then 6 months! No rain. Don’t you think King Ahab would have sent his soldiers out to look for Elijah? I can see the posters now – “Wanted, Elijah, Dead or Alive”, but preferably alive!
God sent Elijah to this ravine to completely protect him. I wonder what Elijah did? He was all alone, right? Well, yes and no. Physically yes, but no, God was with him! I wonder if this alone time was some sort of training. I imagine Elijah had a lot of time to reflect! Did God speak to him to reassure him or did seeing ravens come with bread and meat every day twice a day do the trick? That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Birds don’t bring people food (they are food) and big fish don’t swallow people alive – unless God tells them to!
Elijah is in a ravine, alone with God! He has time to reflect! If your walk with God has stalled. If things seem dry or dull than I encourage you to do what Elijah did. Find your ravine and get alone with God and reflect! Time passes by. I don’t know if Elijah felt great comfort behind these huge rock walls or if he felt confined by these huge rock walls, I just know God decides to take him on a ride he will never forget. Go to 1st Kings 17:7.
At this point it’s been less than 3 years but longer than 6 months[iv] without rain! My guestimate - 18 months! Crazy question, but could God have kept the brook flowing? YES! But he doesn’t! So is Elijah in trouble? Let’s keep reading. Find verse 8. Read 8-9.
Now two women are involved here. One is a widow and one is married. One has no power and the other has more influence than you can imagine. Let’s take the widow first! Next week we will see her response to Elijah, but for today let’s focus on Elijah’s response to her. I bet Elijah is scratching his head right now. Look at this map.[v] God, you want me to go from here to here. This area to the east is modern day Syria and this area to the north is modern day Lebanon.[vi] And of all the people in the world you are sending me to a widow and worse than that a non-Jew widow? This lady is a gentile.
If you are experiencing drought in your life, consider doing what Elijah did. Take a risk and go help someone who’s not like you! Let me tell you a story about Kary Oberbrunner. Kary Oberbrunner shared a story about his encounter with an older man named Bob. While Kary was at the local gym, trying to stay focused on his exercise routine, he noticed an elderly man fumbling with an MP3 player and headphones. At first, Kary tried to ignore the man, but as the man was becoming more frustrated with the technology, Kary reluctantly introduced himself and asked if he could help. The man dejectedly explained, "Hi, I'm Bob, and I love jazz, but I can't get it on this dumb player." Against his initial wishes, I visited him at his apartment. Turns out his wife had died a couple years before, and all his earthly possessions were crammed into a small apartment. She had been their main breadwinner, so the bank repossessed his house when he was unable to make payments. Bob and I made a makeshift space in his back room near his desktop computer. One at a time I imported his jazz CD collection onto his hard drive, intending to transfer the MP3s eventually to his player. While importing his music, Bob and I talked about life, his wife, and God. The weeks following I checked in on Bob often. Kind of funny how two guys who are complete opposites can become the best of friends, all because of an MP3 player. Bob is 71. Kary is 32. Bob is black. Kary is white. Bob doesn't have much money. Kary is has plenty. Bob is an ex-convict. Kary has never even visited a jail. Bob is a widower. Kary is married. They're opposites. Soon their friendship led Kary to talk to Bib about his faith. Now Bob wants Kary to baptize him. I'm saddened by the reality that I almost missed Bob simply because I was too engrossed in my own little world.[vii] If you want out of the drought – go for a ride by taking a risk and love someone deeply that you just wouldn’t love on your own! PLUS! May I remind you of the words of Jesus! Turn to John 13! This church is all about loving God, loving people and making disciples. Jesus words and actions spoke loudly in John 13. He washes his disciples’ feet as an example of servant leadership. He then predicts Judas as his betrayer and Peter as his denier. Find John 13:34. Read 34-35. Spiritual droughts can come because we’re mad or hurt or offended. You betrayed me! I will never forgive you! According to Jesus that’s not how we demonstrate love! Remember, there’s nothing like a cool drink of water! It revives you. There’s also nothing like drinking in God’s deep love for yourself. But what about others? I accept forgiveness, but I’m not willing to dish it out! Practically speaking, this is what small groups do! You get with people who are like you or not like you and you reflect together on what the word of God is saying!
This widow isn’t the only woman who calls the region of Sidon home. Go back to 1st Kings 16:31. Elijah will leave the comforts of the ravine and literally go behind enemy lines! He’s now going to the heartland of Baal worship – the home of Jezebel. King Ahab is certainly looking for him and now he’s a sitting duck! “God, once again, did I hear you right? What you are telling me to do makes no sense.” Have you ever felt that way before? I am preparing a future message series called, Taking God at his word… But I need your help! I need you to provide the topics by answering this statement. I need to take God at his word when it comes to… you provide the answer! I can think of a few. I need to take God at his word when it comes to my career. I need to take God at his word when it comes to my sexuality! I need to take God at his word when it comes to my marriage - my kids - my thoughts – even death! (Richard Proietti family)!
Now tell me what would Elijah’s answer be? I need to take God at his word when it comes to my life! Look at verse 10! I’m curious. Was it possible for Elijah to say no? Jonah did! I don’t want to go. It’s too far to walk. It’s too dangerous. Jezebel is there. I’ll surely die! Please remember this. The drought is getting worse. Everything is dying. If Elijah doesn’t go there’s no doubt he will die! Call me crazy, but I don’t think Elijah even hesitates in going! Elijah was God’s instrument. Life meant one thing to him – taking God at his word! SO WHAT Greg! Why does this even matter? We get confused and think life is all about us when in reality it’s all about God. Look at this. Aoccdrnig to a rscheerach stduy at Cmabirgde Uinervtisy, it deons't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.[viii]
Look at life the same way. When we see life as a whole we’re better able to cope with what’s in the middle. Jesus brings up Elijah and this widow in Luke 4? Read 4:24-26, 28? Why were the Jews so mad? Because Jesus pointed out that since the Jews rejected Elijah, Elijah went to a gentile widow. And this widow listened and God saved her. God sent his son to save us too. Will we reject his son or listen to him! God wants you to go for a ride. The ride is found in trusting his son, serving his son, loving his son and loving others deeply because of his son!
[iii] http://www.preachingtoday.com/News That Illustrates, June 25, 2012
[iv] Comparing 1 Kings 18:1 with James 5:17 & Luke 4:25
[v] Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps, 117
[vi] Rose Publishing – Holy Land – Old Testament Bible Maps
[viii] www.teachdeep.com Email resource dated August 12, 2012