Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 1:1-2:25 / Acts 20:1-38 / Psalm 78:40-55
Elisha asked the prophet Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. (2 Kings 2:9) His desire was to walk in the ways of Elijah and be used by God in a greater degree. Elijah told Elisha that he had asked for a difficult thing yet said it would be granted if he saw Elijah when he was taken away. (vs.10)
As they were walking, God sent a heavenly chariot of fire and took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind. As he was taken up, his cloak fell and Elisha picked it up. This was a proving time for Elisha…did Elijah’s spirit rest on him? He took the cloak, struck the Jordan River and asked, “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” God responded by parting the Jordan and Elisha crossed over.
Faith…Elisha stepped out in faith and believed God was going to show up.
Faith…Elisha stepped out in faith and knew God had to show up.
Faith…Elisha stepped out in faith and saw God show up.
If Elisha didn’t act in faith, he never would have discovered the anointing that was on his life. So where is our God? We will never know until we take hold of His Word, follow His Spirit and walk in faith. Doubt and fear stops us in our tracks, faith opens doors and gives direction to our paths…God always shows up in response to our faith!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 22:1-53 / Acts 19:14-41 / Proverbs 15:31-16:7
We often find security in numbers because we believe there is strength in numbers. The 7 sons of Sceva, assumed their power was greater than 1 lone man. Sceva’s sons were part of a group of Jews who went around driving out evil spirits by invoking the name of Jesus over the demon possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13)
These brothers attempted to cast out the spirits in a man but discovered they were not effective against this demonically controlled man. The evil spirit answered the brothers, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (vs.15)
They did not have the authority to “use” the name of Christ or Paul. Jesus was just a name, they used. They knew Christ only by His name; they did not have a personal, redemptive relationship with Him. Their own names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life nor were they found on hell’s list of enemies. Hell would not bow to their command, evil only relented control to those who had authority as the children of God.
The possessed man jumped on them and gave them a severe beating. They ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (vs.16) These men stirred up more demons than they could whip! It may seem that the power of satan was victorious but that is not the case…yes the brothers were defeated but Christ wasn’t defeated and the power of His name gained greater recognition.
When this story was told throughout the Jewish and Greek circles in Ephesus, “they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.” (vs.17,18) This story ignited a revival that was so extensive that sorcerers publicly burned their books. The value of those books…equivalent to 50,000 days of wages! (vs.19). Is there power in numbers? That depends upon what side God is on because He is always the majority…one God is greater than all the hosts of hell!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 20:1-21:29 / Acts 18:9-19:13 / Psalm 78:32-39
How far reaching is the mercy and grace of God? Farther than we would ever reach or imagine. Mercy is not giving us what we deserve and grace is giving us what we do not deserve. We deserve judgment but God in his mercy forgives. Because of our rebellion, we do not deserve His love but God gives us His love anyway.
Our mercy and grace is often limited and measured. We often regulate mercy and grace to those whom we feel are deserving or worthy of it. If the individual is a “good” person, we are favorably inclined to forgive. If the individual is a “bad” person, we are stingy with forgiveness believing they should pay for their “badness”.
Ahab is described as a vile and evil man. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.” (1 Kings 21:25,26)
Ahab would be an object of our righteous indignation, not our grace and mercy. God sent Elijah to pronounce judgment upon Ahab after he and Jezebel murdered Naboth. God promised to bring disaster on him, to consume his descendants, and to tragically destroy him and Jezebel. He deserved everything God was giving him! But he did not defy Elijah’s message, “When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.” (vs.27)
Ahab responded in humility and repentance…and God responded in mercy. “Because he humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” (vs.29) God did not remove His judgment but delayed part of it because of Ahab’s humility. Why? Because God responds to a broken and contrite heart...no matter whose it is – good or bad. His grace and mercy, where would we be without it…while we were yet sinners He Died For Us!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 18:16-19:21 / Acts 17:22-18:8 / Psalm 78:17-31
“I see that in every way you are very religious.” (Acts 17:22) Paul spoke those words to the Athenians as he noticed the numerous idols, objects of worship and even an altar inscribed with “To An Unknown God.” (vs. 23) He then told them about the One True God who not only made heaven and earth, but also gave life to all men. When he spoke of Christ’s resurrection, the coming judgment and the need to repent, some sneered, some wanted to hear more and a few believed. But those who did believe became strong followers and witnesses of Christ!
Remarkably, Athens was a godless reflection of Israel during the time of Ahab. Israel had become a very “religious” nation, adding foreign gods while treating the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob like an “unknown god”. Elijah stood against the evils of King Ahab as he introduced Israel to “other gods”, most notably Baal. God desired to turn the hearts of His people back to Him and He used Elijah for that purpose.
Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to sacrifice to their god and pray for him to answer by fire. They frantically called upon Baal and of course there was no response. Elijah stepped forward and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
(1 Kings 18:36,37)
The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up Elijah’s prepared sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil and even licked up the water. (vs.38) God responded to validate Elijah’s message, to display His sovereign power, to defeat Baal and his prophets, and to turn the hearts of the Israelites back to Himself. When the people saw God’s fire, they fell down to the ground and cried, “The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!” (vs.39)
God desires to reveal Himself to a confused and searching world. He is not “another god” but the One and Only God! He manifests Himself in miracles to display His power and presence. Let every unbelieving heart encounter the divine display of God’s fire…and let every lukewarm heart be ignited by the divine conviction of God’s fire! Let God’s glorious fire fall… The Lord – He Is God!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 16:8-18:15 / Acts 17:1-21 / Psalm 78:9-16
Abraham was a man of faith, David had a heart for God, and Esther was used by God to save Israel. These character descriptions and summaries were not made by man, but made by God. The Bible is filled with individuals whom God praises and exalts, but there are also those whom God condemns and rebukes…like Ahab.
Ahab completely rebelled against God and is described here in 1 Kings 16 as a man of great evil. It is said…
1. He did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any king before him. vs.30
2. He considered it a trivial thing to commit the idolatrous sins of Jeroboam. vs.30
3. He married Jezebel. vs.31
4. He served and worshipped Baal. vs.31
5. He set up an altar and built a temple for Baal in Samaria. vs.32
6. He made an Asherah pole. vs.33
7. He did more to provoke the Lord to anger than all the kings before him. vs.33
Ahab’s heart was hard and his conscience was seared. He was more evil than any king before him and led Israel into apostasy. He married a vile and evil woman, Jezebel who introduced him to the repulsive god Baal. He served, worshipped, sacrificed and built a temple to his evil god. Ahab also made a vile Asherah pole and like none other before him, provoked the Lord to anger.
It’s hard to imagine anyone as corrupt and defiled as Ahab. His mission in life was to extinguish the name, presence and power of the One True God. Ahab was quite successful but God raised a prophet who stood against Ahab’s intimidation and power. Elijah boldly prophesied against Ahab, Jezebel, his idolatry and his gods.
Today, man hasn’t changed and neither has God…. for every Ahab, God had an Elijah and for the enemies of His Kingdom today, God has us! “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world!” 1 John 4:4
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 14:21-16:7 / Acts 16:16-40 / Proverbs 15:21-30
Paul and Silas had gotten themselves in trouble when they interfered with the revenue of an owner who had a fortune telling, physic slave girl. She followed Paul and Silas around shouting that they were from God and knew the way to be saved. After many days of this, Paul got disgusted with her “noise” and cast the demonic spirit out of her.
Since the owner could no longer make any money from her fortune telling, he accused them of uncivil and unlawful practices. Paul and Silas were flogged, imprisoned, placed in maximum security and put in stocks. (Acts 16:23,24) Remember, the world may be neutral or passive towards the gospel message but when the gospel affects their lifestyle and financial welfare, they are quick to attack.
Paul and Silas were unlawfully tried, severely beaten and Roman citizen rights ignored. Instead of filing an appeal or lashing out at the authorities, they began to pray and sing out praises to God. Their bodies were bruised and hurting but their spirits were not crushed. They rejoiced in God and His favor! It’s easy to sing when all is going well yet praise is not founded upon circumstances but upon His grace, mercy and love.
God responded to their prayers and praise. A divine earthquake shook the prison doors open and their chains fell off. Yet the greatest part of the miracle was the jailer’s request, “Sir, what must I do to be saved?” (vs.30) He was told to simply believe on the Lord Jesus and he and his household would be saved…everybody was singing then! So warm up the vocal cords – it’s time to sing!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 12:25-14:20 / Acts 16:1-15 / Psalm 78:1-8
We often associate opportunities in life, as “open doors” while rejections and denials are known as “closed doors”. Jesus instructed the disciples to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations. The early church began to preach the gospel in Jerusalem and expanded their outreach to Judea, Samaria and beyond. The disciples went wherever they had invitations, opportunities and “open doors”.
Peter was the first to take the gospel to the gentiles and many believed on Christ. Paul followed and took several missionary journeys to gentile nations and cities. They did not have the advantage of technology and modern communication. Their dependence was upon the direction of the Holy Spirit and the doors of opportunity He opened for them.
In Acts 16, Paul and his companions experienced tremendous response wherever they went because the Holy Spirit clearly directed them. The Holy Spirit led them through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia but restricted their travel to Asia. He also would not allow them to enter Bithynia so they traveled to Troas. During the night, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9)
We should not consider it unusual when God gives us direction through Spirit empowered dreams or visions. The Spirit still speaks today in supernatural ways so we can walk in supernatural power in order to see supernatural wonders. Our dependence is not found in our ingenuity, wisdom or technological advancements, but upon His divine plan and favor.
When Paul went through the “open door” to Macedonia, God used them mightily to touch lives and cities with the gospel. Many were converted and discipled. Why? Because Paul had a vision, the Holy Spirit opened a door, and the fields of Macedonia were ripe unto harvest. What open doors does God have for us? May our hearts be quiet before Him, He will give us direction. After all, it is His work and He is the one who opens doors…even prison doors! We will read about that tomorrow…
Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 11:14-12:24 / Acts 15:22-41 / Psalm 77:10-20
Do you like thunderstorms? Some enjoy the dancing rain while others are filled with anxiety from the billowing thunder. It seems that powerful storms are typical for this time of year and can create considerable damage. Excessive water, hail and high winds cause flooding, uprooted trees, damaged homes, downed power lines and electric outages.
The Psalmist speaks of nature’s response to the presence of God. He says, “The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder, your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.” (77:16-19)
Nature is a powerful force yet is subject to God’s dominion. The Red Sea churned in fear as God told it to part, allowing the children of Israel a passageway to safety. Lightning, thunder and violent winds were obedient to God’s voice. All nations knew nature yielded power and control to the God of Israel.
As we were sitting in our living room last week, the thunder rumbled loudly and the house began to shake. Lightning bolts lit up the sky and the lights flickered. We were at the mercy of nature…we were helpless to it’s will. But consider the power of God…nature bows to His mercy and will! The next time you feel the intensity of the thunder and see the brilliancy of the lightning, remember they are just a small display of God’s power!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 9:10-11:13 / Acts 15:1-21 / Psalm 77:1-9
God blessed Solomon with overabundance! He received 25 tons of gold every year plus revenue from trades and gifts from kings. The shields he made were of pure gold; his ivory throne was overlain with gold and was encompassed by 12 lions. Solomon had an abundance of pure gold goblets, trading ships, exotic animals, chariots and horses. “Nothing was made of silver because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days.” (1 Kings 10:22)
He was respected and revered. All nations and kings came to visit and pay him homage. In fact, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” (vs.23,24)
We would think that a secure, wealthy, successful and powerful life like Solomon’s would more than satisfy our lives. Yet, there was one particular thing that Solomon failed miserably in…he loved women! It says, “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women…He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines and his wives led him astray.” (11:1,3) When he grew old, “his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” (vs.4)
Solomon had everything he needed in life “however” dismissed God’s command and his heart was led astray. Adam enjoyed the paradise of Eden “however” chose to rebel and lost relationship with God. There is a great danger in the “however”... those things of desire and want that lead us away from God and into sin. There will always be temptations and the allurement of sin. May we resist the “however” of life and stay true to the “forever”!
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 8:22-9:9 / Acts 14:8-28 / Proverbs 15:11-20
Solomon pens 3 consecutive proverbs here in chapter 15 that speak of the condition of the heart. Our physical hearts directly affect our bodies…the heart of our spirits and souls affect our entire being. Here’s what Solomon has to say…
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” (vs.13) This proverb reminds me of the song, “If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it, if you're happy and you know it say Amen.” Our faces are connected to our hearts and reveal our disposition.
“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” (vs.14) Discernment is the ability to sort through life and determine truth from error. The foundation of discernment is knowledge. A discerning heart gives us solid and sure direction in life.
“All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” (vs.15) Solomon knew about feasts…everyday his table was filled with fine delicacies and overabundant portions. A cheerful heart looks at life with delight, no matter life’s circumstances.
What about the other part of these verses? Heartache, foolishness and oppression are countered by the happiness, discernment and the cheerfulness of our hearts. Disposition, direction and delight are not controlled by our outward circumstances…but by the condition of our hearts!