Monday, November 30, 2015

Love is Pragmatic in Nature

Scripture: Ruth 2:1-2
Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.  And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”

Insights:  As we look at today’s verses keep in mind what we have learned these past two weeks about Moab and Israel.  Also keep in mind the fact Naomi and Ruth are widows and do not have anyone to take care of them.  These truths set the scene for today’s verses.  These women are desperate for food.  Now levitical law instructed the Israelites to not harvest everything thing off of the crops.  The reason God gave this provision was to help take care of the poor and sojourners.  Ruth pragmatically approaches Noami and tells her, “Mom, I am going into the fields because if I don’t we are going to starve to death and that won’t be a good thing (poetic license).”  Those words were not what the Scriptures record, but in essence this point is the gist of their situation.  There are some who are negative toward a pragmatic approach to life.  They often quote the phrase, “The end justifies the means,” which is not at all what pragmatism means.  For example, Hitler stated the aryan race was his end and the means by which he was going to justify his effort was through the extermination of the Jews.  This kind of logic is sinful and not pragmatic, but rather psychotic.  One who is pragmatic is capable of assessing the situation and making a logical decision to help advance the cause, mission, objective or need.  Pragmatic people are not content to just sit around and do nothing as situations begin to deteriorate around them.  We at FBCBG are also not satisfied with the status quo of our current situation.  As a result, the Strategic Planning Team has submitted to you a vision which is pragmatic in nature to lead us into better days of ministry.  It is my prayer we at FBCBG will take the same honest evaluation of our situation as Ruth did with hers.  I also pray we will have the same kind of boldness as Ruth to act on our convictions in order to usher in these better days.

1.  What is the objective for which you are working?
2.  What is your commitment level toward your goal?

Prayer: Father, You tell us in the gospels that the one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for Your kingdom.  May I be resolute to press hard after You and Your will.  Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Love does not ALWAYS Respond Appropriately, Part 2

Scripture: Ruth 1:19-22
So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  “I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”  So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Insights:  Yesterday I told you we would specifically be looking at FBCBG and the vision proposal as it relates to this subject of not always responding appropriately.  The Strategic Planning Team (SPT) presented a very thorough presentation regarding our future.  As far as we can tell it is biblically grounded and kingdom motivated, but as I shared Sunday there are four groups of people in any change environment.  Technically, there are five groups, but the first group is the SPT which was the innovators who join when it is new, and we represented 2.5% of the people.  The second group are early adopters who join when they perceive a benefit and they represent 13.5% of the people.  The third group are the early majority who join when there is a productivity gain and they represent 34% of the people.  The fourth group is the late majority who join when there is plenty of help and support and they represent 34%.  These first four groups represent 84% of the people and most of these willfully join the vision at varying times.  There is a fifth group known as the laggards who join only when they have to and they represent the remaining 16%.  Of these laggards about 6% will join with great reluctance and a good bit of kicking and screaming, but there is about 10% who adamantly refuse through the entire process to jump on board willingly.  These are literally drug to join because they have no choice.  The majority has moved them to adopt this new initiative.  It is my personal opinion those who fall into the laggard group are acting like Mara.  They do not want to work for better days and more fruitful ministry, and as a result, they make quick and rash statements that become attached to their very identity and are unwilling to relinquish that poor attribute.  These laggards can even at times become hostile or intentional about trying to sway people to their line of thinking.  When it comes to our vision and direction, the reason I am bringing this up in today’s blog is because I want to encourage you to go home and pray about the vision the Lord has set before us.  Let FBCBG be the exception to the laggard role of adoption.  May we all desire to be a Ruth and be determined to see God do great things in our midst.

1.  Which of the four adoption categories do you fall under?
2.  What will it take for you to become an early adopter or majority and will you tell the Strategic Planning Team?

Prayer: Father, I pray you will bless the vision we since You have given to FBCBG.  May we quickly join You in Your work and may You be brought glory.  Amen.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Love does not ALWAYS Respond Appropriately, Part 1

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Scripture: Ruth 1:19-22
So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  “I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”  So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Insights:  Over the next two days we will see love does not always respond appropriately.  In our verses today we see Naomi and Ruth arriving back in Bethlehem.  Notice the passage states the city was stirred because of them.  This concept of one being stirred in this context is one of excitement.  In other words, there are times people are stirred to anger or rage, but that is not the case here.  These women had not seen Naomi in ten years.  These were childhood friends and relatives.  They were excited Naomi had returned home.  Naomi, however, puts an abrupt halt on the fanfare of the town.  She declares her name is now Mara, which means bitter.  I would say to you this statement was an inappropriate response to the women because it cast blame and perpetual indictment on her situation.  She does not know the future, but she has banished herself to this life of pain and depression and it did not have to be this way.  I think the writer of the book of Ruth also understood this reality because this sentence is the only time in which the writer calls her Mara.  From that point to the end of the book Naomi is always called Naomi.  Beloved, everyone of us make inappropriate decisions to varying circumstances in our lives.  Ever since sin entered the world, we are a people prone to short sightedness and rash decisions.  The truth, however, is we don’t have to be subject to this reality.  We can choose to respond like Ruth did in the preceding verses and say, “I am determined to walk with Jesus” (obviously Ruth did not know of Jesus at this time in history and I am being figurative in nature).  Tomorrow, we will pick this theme back up and see how it relates to our vision proposal at FBCBG.

1.  When was the last time you responded to a situation in a less than stellar manner?
2.  As you have reflected on that situation, was there any way you could have prepared yourself in advance to have responded in a more positive fashion?

Prayer: Father, forgive me of those times in which I have responded inappropriately.  Help me spirit to fully walk and trust Your Spirit’s guidance.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Love Determines to go through Tests, Part 2

Scripture: Ruth 1:14-18
And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.  Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”  But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”  When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Insights:  On Monday you may have read the blog post title, Love Determines to go through Tests and then read about Ruth’s conversion and said, “Where is the test?  To what did she determine to do?”  Well, you will also notice it was listed as part one.  It is my faith presupposition we cannot holistically pilgrimage through this world without the Lord God.  The only way to walk with God is to know God and to have a personal relationship with Him.  This relationship comes through receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  Once you have entered into this love relationship, then you are equipped by Him to walk this journey out.  Keep in mind all we mentioned Monday about Ruth’s conversion.  She was walking into enemy territory, but as the passage states, she was determined to go with Naomi.  I shared with our church when we make this kind of decision it does not mean it is going to be safe or easy, but it is going to be worth it.  FBCBG is presently praying over the vision which was presented to them on November 15.  They are in the process of deciding this very concept in their lives.  They are asking themselves if they are determined to walk this journey of faith out no matter what may come.  It is my personal prayer FBCBG will surrender with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength to the vision presented to them.  I pray they will have the determination of Ruth.  I pray we will share Jesus no matter what happens to us.  I pray we stop losing ground to the enemy and begin shining the light of Christ to our community to such an extent we are radically affecting lives.  May God be brought glory for our determination to follow after Him.

1.  Are you determined to follow after the Lord?
2.  What is the one thing that would prevent you from fully turning things over to the Lord?

Prayer: Father, following You is scary.  I also know whatever the future may hold, whether good or bad in this life, it is worth it to walk faithfully with You.  Grant me courage and faith to say yes to You.  Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Love Determines to go through Tests, Part 1

Scripture: Ruth 1:14-18
And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.  Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”  But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.  “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”  When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

Insights:  REAL worship is driven by our love for God.  As we work ourselves through the book of Ruth we are going to see characteristics and attributes about love.  This week we are going to look at a high form of love and a low form of it as well.  The high form is seen in two ways as it pertains to Ruth and can be observed in today’s verses.  These verses are probably the most famous portion of the book of Ruth because they are so often used in wedding services.  These words, are in my opinion Ruth’s conversion experience or testimony.  She is telling Naomi she is willing to go wherever she is called to go.  She is willing to stay wherever she is told to stay.  In many ways this thought pattern is descriptive of the children of Israel’s wilderness journey.  When the cloud or fire moved, the people moved.  When the cloud or fire stopped, the people stopped.  It was a sign of true dependence on the Lord.  We can see this pattern also exemplified by Paul on his missionary journeys.  The true characteristic of conversion is seen in the next two parts of Ruth’s speech to Naomi.  Naomi’s people were to become her people.  This statement is an allegiance to the Israelite nation.  In our conversion we become citizens of heaven.  We are only strangers and sojourners here on earth.  The next sentence declares Yahweh is going to be her God.  When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are saying the very same thing.  The final part of Ruth’s declaration is her willingness to die for this faith.  She will be buried with Naomi.  We must be willing to give our very lives to for our worship to Jesus.  Tomorrow we will look at a second aspect of this high form of love.

1.  Have you received the free gift of salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ?
2.  If you have not, what is holding you back from receiving this amazing grace?

Prayer: Father, thank You so much for saving me from my sin.  I long for the day when I will see You face to face and say, “Thank You!”  Amen.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Love Makes Hard Decisions

Scripture: Ruth 1:11-13
But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?  “Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me.”

Insights:  Up to this point in our journey through this passage we have been looking at the difficulty of loving from one side of the equation.  There is another side as well and it deals with hard decisions we have to make in times of risk.  Notice with me in today’s verses Naomi makes the hard decision to send her daughter-in-laws back to their home land.  Now we know Ruth does not go back home, but in our verses today we see Naomi make very good arguments as to why she and Orpah ought to return.  If you think about this story, would it have been easier and better for Naomi to have let these two women join her back in Bethlehem?  The answer would have been yes.  They could have both gleaned fields.  They both would have been present to help comfort Naomi.  Naomi knew, however, it would not have been best for the girls.  We know the story, but at this moment in time, there was no guarantee Ruth would have found a husband.  She was a foreigner after all from a country that was often hostile to Israel.  Who would have wanted to marry these ladies?  As a result of all this information, Naomi makes the hard and sacrificial decision to have her daughters return to Moab.  Beloved, we must be willing in our lives to look at the evidence and make the hard decisions at times in life.  From a leadership perspective, sometimes these decisions are not going to be well received by the masses.  If they are the right decision, then you must, because of the compelling nature of love, make that hard decision.  It is not easy.  If it were easy, then everyone would be known for making these hard decisions.  Let us strive to seek after the Lord and to hear His voice when it comes to the decisions we need to make in life.  Then, let us make wise and godly decisions no matter what and honor the Lord in the process.

1.  Have you ever had to make a hard decision and knew others would not like it?
2.  Are you willing to make hard decisions no matter what the ramifications may be if it is the right decision?

Prayer: Father, the world is desperate for leaders who will follow hard after You and make hard decisions.  May You grant me the courage to be one of those leaders.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Love Walks through Grief

Scripture: Ruth 1:6-10
Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people in giving them food.  So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.  And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.  “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.  And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.”

Insights:  When we are in pain we walk through the journey of grief as well.  The first stage is denial.  You are just numb to the reality of the situation and you can’t believe the person is gone or the situation has occurred.  The second stage is anger.  You become angry with the person for dying or with God for “taking” the person.  Your anger may even get vented toward other people.  You may be angry you are having to walk this journey.  The third stage is bargaining.  In this stage, we get lost in the “If only . . .” or “What if . . .” kind of self-conversations.  We are trying to figure a way to get the person back or to reverse the circumstances of our pain.  The fourth stage is the longest phase and it is depression.  In this phase it feels like the pain will last forever and there is no way out of the pit of despair, but let me tell you there is a fifth stage.  The depression will get better and you will finally reach the stage of acceptance and from here you will be able to move on with your life.  Beloved, one of the biggest keys to this cycle of grief which comes from the pain of loss is to have someone walk the journey out with you.  In Naomi’s case, her two daughter-in-laws literally walked with her back toward Judah.  The wept with her.  They sought to go the distance with her through her pain.  As I have stated the last two days, this grief is not always just with the loss of a loved one.  In our Vision illustration we have been using, there will come a time when we may get depressed because we have lost people who have not chosen to walk this journey with us and we begin to seriously question if this journey is worth it.  It can lead us to a point of depression.  Remember, however, what I wrote yesterday, it is worth the price we pay to see the journey come to pass.  Walk through the grief cycle and reach the stage of acceptance and let God be glorified in your life.

1.  Who has walked the path of grief with you in the past?
2.  Are you willing to walk with someone else through their time of grief?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the people in my past who have walked the journey of grief out with me.  Grant me Your grace to walk such a journey out with others.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Love Experiences Pain

Scripture: Ruth 1:3-5
Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years.  Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband.

Insights:  Yesterday we learned love takes risks.  One of the other truths about such a risk is it also causes pain.  Very specifically in today’s verses we see Naomi have to bear the pain of losing her husband and two sons to death.  I am really not the best person to discuss this subject matter.  I hurt and I bear pain when a loved one dies (I am specifically thinking of my father), but I am not the most emotional person and don’t walk the pain journey like I observe others.  I more intellectually understand it than I do experientially.  What I understand, however, is loss hurts.  Naomi experienced it three fold.  The pain we experience is not always related to the loss of life.  In this weeks history it is literally related to a loss of life, but not always.  The example I shared with the church is we were going to present a vision to them that evening at the vision workshop.  I informed the church if we adopted the vision, then quite frankly, there would be some who would not join us on the journey.  They will leave our fellowship.  When they leave, it will hurt.  It will cause pain.  I told them to remember this sermon when that day comes because they will begin to question whether the vision is worth the pain.  Beloved, regarding our vision, let me tell you it is worth the pain.  We will usher in a new day and will experience God doing great things through us if we remain faithful.  Tomorrow we will look at what we are to do when we see another person in pain.  Until then, God bless and have a wonderful day.

1.  What pain have you experienced in your past because you chose to love?
2.  As you project forward in you life, in what areas might you experience pain for risking to love?

Prayer: Father, Your love for me cost You Your Son.  May I risk as it all for You because of the amazing grace You have given to me.  Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Love Takes Risks

Scripture: Ruth 1:1-2
Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.  The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there.

Insights:  At FBCBG we have been working through a sermon series this year titled REAL Worship.  Each letter of the word REAL stood for an attribute of worship.  Worship is to be Relevant in our every day lives.  Worship is to be Exciting and by that we meant joy-filled.  Worship is also to be an Adventure in which we are going someplace with the Lord.  This past Sunday we moved into our final sermon series for the year and are looking at how worship is to also be driven by Love.  One of the best histories in the Bible that paints a vivid picture of love is the book of Ruth.  We are, therefore, going to journey through this amazing book through the remainder of this year and watch love unfold before our eyes and I personally think this is appropriate as we move into the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Is there a better subject with which to examine during this part of the year?  I dare say the answer is no.  So, in today’s verses we see that Elimelech loved his family so much he was willing to risk moving into hostile territory in order to feed them.  Israel and Moab had not always had a good relationship with each other, but the famine was so severe that Elimelech thought to himself, “I have to do something.”  He loaded up his wife and two boys and headed to a land in which he could potentially be mistreated, but he knew they at least had food in that land.  So, he risked it all for the sake of love.  Love is not just a subject for married people and family.  For example, we had our Vision Workshop Sunday afternoon.  If FBCBG decides to adopt this Vision, then it will cause us to take a step of faith and that means a risk.  It is not safe to walk by faith, because faith always presses us outside of our comfort zone.  It is, however, in this place of discomfort God does His greatest work of love in our lives which makes the risk all the more worthwhile.  Beloved, let us risk it all for the sake of Christ.

1.  What risks have you taken in the past to demonstrate love?
2.  Are you willing to continue to take risks in the future to demonstrate love?

Prayer: Father, I often times get scared to risk when it comes to showing love.  Yet love is really the motivation behind the worship I bring to You.  Help me to risk and to be vulnerable in order to love.  Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2015

When we do a Legacy is Passed On and Picked Up

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:13-14
He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan.  He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.

Insights:  Throughout this week we have looked at the four traits required to pass a legacy on to the next generation.  As a way of review, let me list them here in bullet point.  We have to . . .

1. . . .  be Faithful to the End (vs 1-6)
2. . . .  Model for Others (vs 7-8)
3. . . .  Encourage People Specifically (vs 9-10)
4. . . .  Let it Go (vs 11-12)

As we approach today’s verses we learn the final truth about legacy.  This truth is when we do the previous four things, then a legacy is passed on and picked up.  Elisha had the choice to watch the mantle fall to the ground and to leave it where it lie.  He also had the choice to reach down and pick it up and walk into a new realm of leadership and growth.  Elisha choose to pick it up.  There is another aspect of Elisha that must be mentioned here.  He not only picked it up, but he understood by picking it up, it required him to act.  He approaches the same water Elijah had parted earlier and now he must show his own faith.  He cries out to God, because he knows only through the Lord is there true power, and then he acts by touching the water.  God, as always, shows up and showers grace and favor on Elisha for his obedience and the waters part.  He walks across for the second time in hundreds of years on dry ground.  Beloved, what an amazing picture of legacy transference.  If you are a seasoned saint and you picked up the mantle years ago, I want you to think back to that day and remember the fear and excitement you once had.  It is my prayer you are willing for the next generation to experience this same feeling as you pass on to them this mantle of leadership?  If you are younger in your walk with the Lord, it is my prayer you are willing to follow and be mentored by a seasoned saint until the mantle is passed to you.

1.  If you are a seasoned saint, are you grateful you picked up someone else's mantle years ago?
2.  If you are younger in your walk, are you willing to bend down and pick up the mantle and take the gospel into a new era?

Prayer: Father, Your will is going to be accomplished.  Nothing will thwart Your plan.  Guide me and prick me to pick up the mantle before me and run with the vision You have given to me.  Amen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

We have to Let it Go

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:11-12
As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.  Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Insights:  Elijah is taken up to heaven in our verses today.  In the next verse we are told his mantle fell to the ground.  In Elijah’s life he literally had to let it go.  He had not option because he was being taken to heaven.  In our day and time, I think this subject is one of the absolute hardest things to understand.  We have observed leaders who have just ended and left.  In this kind of action, a leadership void is created.  We have observed leaders who refuse to let go and stay on far too long and the organization suffers for their refusal to pass on the mantle.  We have also observed leaders who have passed the mantle of leadership on to the next generation and then stuck around and mentored them affectively.  This final scenario is the best and most ideal form of the transition process.  The hard part is to know and discern when the right time of transition ought to take place.  Beloved, we need to pray for wisdom and guidance in regards to the specifics related to this subject.  May the Lord grant us wisdom as we strive to let it go to the next generation and may we transition well for the glory of God.

1.  Are you holding on to your authority and responsibilities to the detriment of the next generation?
2.  Are you letting go your responsibilities and taking on a more mentoring role with the next generation?

Prayer: Father, grant me the wisdom to know when I need to let go of my authority and responsibility to the next generation.  Let me take on a role of mentorship and help them to run with the vision.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We have to Encourage People Specifically

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:9-10
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”  He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.

Insights:  I think the modern church has truly lost the importance of mentoring younger believers in their walk with the Lord.  It is my faith presupposition best practice discipleship happens in the one on one level and there are four levels of this discipleship process.  Ken Blanchard wrote a business book titled Leadership and the One Minute Manager.  Event though this was a business book the principles Blanchard shares are true of biblical discipleship.  The first quadrant is titled delegating, but it really means observing and monitoring.  In other words, I as the mentor, do the work and the disciple watches.  The second quadrant is titled supporting.  In this level the mentor does some of the work and the disciple does some of the work with the mentor giving encouragement and suggestions.  The third quadrant is titled coaching and the disciple is doing most of the work, but the mentor is still coming in and giving advice and helping explain things.  The mentor may also make some course corrections at this point.  The final quadrant is titled directing and the mentor is really not much involved any more.  The mentor only comes by and gives guidance in course direction, but really leaves the work to the disciple.  If the process was done well, then the disciple now becomes a mentor and he/she takes another person along this growth journey.  In many ways, this cycle is what we observe in the life of Elijah and Elisha.  Elijah is getting ready in a one on one situation to send Elisha off in the fourth quadrant and allow him to become the new mentor to others.  Elijah is asking Elisha if there is anything else he can do for him to make him a better leader.  Beloved, Paul did this kind of work with Timothy, Titus and Silas to name a few.  We need to be about this kind of work.  No matter where you are in your faith journey let me encourage you to be mentored by someone and then as you have grown to mentor someone else.  Let biblical discipleship pass on from one generation to the next.

1.  Have you ever had someone mentor you in a one on one situation?
2.  Pending on your stage of life, would you be willing to be a mentor to someone or be mentored by someone?

Prayer: Father, the godly people You have placed in my life are invaluable.  Thank You for them.  May I pass on the wisdom they have entrusted to me.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

We have to Model for Others

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:7-8
Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.  Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

Insights:  In today’s verses we see the second thing we have to do if we are to leave a legacy.  Notice the fifty men stood opposite them at a distance.  The indication is they are beyond speaking distance, but not visual distance.  They are watching Elijah and Elisha walking up to the Jordon River.  They are watching Elijah model faith for them.  Think back just a little bit in the Old Testament.  When was the last time the Lord had parted waters and let people walk through on dry ground?  It was with Joshua and the children of Israel entering into the Promised Land.  Now, hundreds of years later, we see two men walk up to the water and display faith by dropping the prayer mantle into the water.  Though the text does not explicitly state it, we know the Lord is the One who has prompted Elijah to perform this act of faith.  He had a choice at this moment.  He could have ignored God and walked down to the closest ford in the river and crossed there.  He could, as he did, touch the water with his mantle and watch the rivers separate.  Beloved, there are fifty people watching this event transpire.  How foolish would have Elijah looked if the waters had not parted?  God always calls us outside of our comfort zone when He calls us to faithfully obey Him.  Often times the request of the Father seems silly or even unwise in the eyes of the world, and if we are honest, even with our very selves.  Let me encourage you to model faith before people.  Let me specifically ask you to intentionally model faith for younger believers and inspire them to walk in obedience with the Lord.  If we live life this way, we will honor the Lord and bring His great name praise and glory!  All to Him, let us model faith.

1.  Who model for you the way a Christ-follower ought to live life?
2.  To whom are you intentionally showing the way to demonstrate and live out faith?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the godly individuals with whom You have put in my path that have helped guide and direct me.  I am a stronger follower of Jesus because of their example.  May I model such faithfulness to others by Your grace.  Amen.

Monday, November 9, 2015

We have to be Faithful to the End

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:1-6
And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.  Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.  Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.”  Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho.  The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.”  Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

Insights:  This weeks sermon was titled Adventures Leave a Legacy and we looked at four elements required of us in order to leave a legacy.  The first point found in today’s verses is in order for us to leave a legacy we have to be faithful to the end.  Notice Elijah goes from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan.  Also notice at each of these locations there are prophets present speaking with Elisha and though the text does not specifically mention it, they were talking with Elijah as well.  Each of these conversations show us the prophets knew Elijah was about to be taken to heaven and later we learn Elijah himself also knew he was being taken by the Lord.  Even though the passage does not say it explicitly, it is my opinion Elijah is going to these prophetic schools giving them his final words of encouragement and counsel.  He is demonstrating before these prophets and Elisha the proper way to serve the Lord faithfully to the end.  Beloved, we have too many people that check out of serving the Lord as time progresses.  Let me encourage you to follow the example of Elijah of the Old Testament and Paul of the New Testament.  Using Paul’s language, he finished the race and he ran the course faithfully to the end.  Let us live our lives with this same kind of tenacity and faithfulness.

1.  Have you stopped serving the Lord?
2.  Are you running faithfully to the end?

Prayer: Father, may my life exhibit the qualities of Elijah and Paul who both ran their race to the very end and received Your reward to them.  Amen.

Friday, November 6, 2015

God Dictates the Future

Scripture: 2 Kings 1:16-18
Then he said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’”  So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.  Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

Insights:  We conclude this week with an understanding that God is the One who dictates and holds the future.  In today’s passage, Elijah gives a future prediction regarding Ahaziah and then in a few verses we are told this prophetic word came to pass exactly as Elijah had stated it.  God holds the future and in the paraphrase of the psalmist, I believe God has good for us in the land of the living (27:13).  The issue at stake is who is going to be in charge of my life.  In other words, am I going to live life like Ahaziah and believe I am the dictator of my future or am I going to live life like Elijah and understand God is the dictator of my future.  We as a people need to seek the Lord out and ask Him what the future holds and when He answers, we need to set our course deliberately after Him and His commission in our lives.  So, for example, I shared with FBCBG we have a Vision Workshop coming up on November 15.  I encouraged them all to attend and come and see the vision the Strategic Planning Team senses the Lord is telling us.  It gives us a picture of where we sense God is telling us to go.  We need to walk in obedience with Him now and watch Him do amazing things as He clears the path for which we are to walk.  This path is a faith journey.  There are going to be times in which it is scary, but we know the One who is clearing the path already knows and hold the future in His hand.  We can trust Him for His goodness.  Let us walk with Him and see Him bring good to us in the land of the living.

1.  Do you understand your future is in the hand of the Lord God?
2.  Who is the boss of your journey, God or you?

Prayer: Father, it is my belief You have great days in front of me.  Help me to walk humbly with You and experience Your goodness in the land of the living in which I presently dwell.  Amen.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

God is Merciful

Scripture: 2 Kings 1:13-15
So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, “O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.  “Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.”  The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king.

Insights:  Yesterday we observed God’s display of power as He consumed two commanders and their groups of fifty.  In today’s verses we see a third commander over fifty more people show up and his response is different than that of the first two commanders.  Instead of being arrogant and full of self-pride, this third commander humbles himself before God and bows to Elijah and asks for mercy to be extended to him and his men.  This third guy understands Elijah is not the one with the power, but God.  He is only using Elijah’s name because he is the mouth piece on the hill that he can see.  Has this third commanders job changed from that of the first two?  No, he is still supposed to get Elijah and bring him back to be put to death.  In that sense of the command, is he deserving of any more mercy than the first two commanders?  The answer is an obvious no, yet, mercy has been granted to this man.  Why?  The answer is because God is a merciful God full of grace and compassion.  This commander humbled himself before God and this stirs the heart of our God.  He is quick to show loving kindness to the humble of spirit.  Beloved, I fear that all too often we are like the first two soldiers.  We are full of our personal power and might.  We think we can really do something because we are hot stuff, but before an almighty God we are truly insignificant and we need Him.  It is not the other way around, He does not need us.  Let me encourage you to face life and our Lord with this proper attitude of humility and then experience God’s mercy on your life.

1.  When was the last time you recognized God displaying mercy to you?
2.  In what way did He show Himself merciful by extending to you His grace?

Prayer: Father, I am so unworthy of your mercy and grace.  Yet, I am so thankful You dispense it to me.  Help me to be aware and sensitive to Your gift of love in my life and let me walk in the warmth of Your embrace.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God is Powerful

Scripture: 2 Kings 1:9-12
Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”  Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.  So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, “O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’”  Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

Insights:  I want you to keep the whole picture of this history in your mind.  Ahaziah has had an accident and has sent messengers to Ekron.  While they are on the way, Elijah stops them and tells them to go back to the king and tell him he is going to die.  Now, keep in mind this is the son of Ahab and Jezebel.  He is hot tempered and not afraid to have people executed.  Would you like to go back and deliver this message?  I doubt you would volunteer.  After Ahaziah discovers who gave the message, however, his attentions of revenge fall on him.  He sends a commander with fifty men to bring Elijah back with the intent, in my opinion, to kill him.  These men arrive and Elijah calls fire down from heaven and they are consumed.  Ahaziah sends a second commander with fifty men and they are also consumed by fire from heaven.  I believe what you see happening here is God preaching in a very literal sense to Ahaziah that He, God, is truly powerful.  He is telling Ahaziah, I am the supreme sovereign of the universe and I could have healed you if you had turned to me, but because you did not, you will die.  I think God is shouting through Elijah to Ahaziah, I AM GOD, NOT BAAL-ZEBUB.  Beloved, God desires to work powerfully in your life as well.  Our questions below are designed today to have you reflect on your understanding and relationship with the Lord God.  I pray you will take a few moments to truly contemplate the questions.  If after thinking about number one, you discover that it has been a while, then let me encourage you to run to Him and spend time with Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a powerful way.  He will and you will have this truth of His power rekindled in your soul.

1.  When was the last time God displayed His power in your life?
2.  In what way did He show Himself to be the supreme sovereign over the universe to you?

Prayer: Father, thank You that You are indeed the most powerful.  Please display Your favor and might in my life and let me point people to Your glory.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

God Ought to be Our Refuge

Scripture: 2 Kings 1:3-8
But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’  “Now therefore thus says the Lord, ‘aYou shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” Then Elijah departed.  When the messengers returned to him he said to them, “Why have you returned?”  They said to him, “A man came up to meet us and said to us, ‘Go, return to the king who sent you and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’”’”  He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?”  They answered him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Insights:  Elijah shows up on the scene and stops the messengers who are on their way to Ekron to inquire from the false god for Ahaziah.  Elijah’s singular question is the same question God is asking of us today.  He asks, “Is it because there is no God in Israel…?”  Is there no God in the United States?  When we are desperate due to our crisis, we ought to turn immediately to the Lord God.  All too often, however, we chase after everything in this world.  God ought to be our refuge.  We ought to be in an abiding relationship with Him everyday, but especially in times of crisis.  In essence that fact is exactly what Elijah is asking of the king.  He is asking do you not find your refuge in the Lord and the unfortunate answer for king Ahaziah is, “no.”  Beloved, let me encourage you, in your crisis, to turn to the Lord.  Trust Him in your pain and difficulty.  He is your best choice and He cares about you immensely.  

1.  Is God your refuge?
2.  If not, why not?

Prayer: Father, You have proven Yourself time and time again in my life.  Why do I so often faulted in my faith.  Let me find new courage in Your refuge and restore the peace to my heart. Amen.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Crisis Drive People to Desperation

Scripture: 2 Kings 1:1-2
Now Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.  And Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber which was in Samaria, and became ill. So he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this sickness.”

Insights:  Ahaziah faced a situation due to an accident.  As a result of this accident he is brought to a point of crisis in his life and he is desperate for an answer.  In our modern world we also face crisis which lead us to a point of desperation and we are faced with the same options as Ahaziah.  He chose to inquire from the things of this world.  He chose to ask the gods of this world for help.  In modern day times most of us don’t turn to false deities, but we do turn to human methods or efforts.  For example, we know the average household in the U.S. has $10,000 in credit card debt alone.  Why do you suppose this figure is the way it is?  I would tell you because when a “crisis” came up in a persons life, they charged the solution just “this one time” and before they knew it they were $10,000 in debt.  Beloved, tomorrow, I am going to speak as to whom Ahaziah ought to have turned, but until then, let me encourage you not to follow after the path of Ahaziah.  Do not let Satan trick you into believing the worlds plans are best because this allure is only a lie.  Satan does not have your best interest at heart.  He did not with Ahaziah and he certainly does not with you either.  Come back tomorrow and learn what we ought to do.

1.  Are you facing a crisis in your life?
2.  To whom are you turning, the world or the Lord?

Prayer: Father, all too often I try and fix my crisis situations on my own.  Forgive me for my arrogance and prompt me to seek You and follow Your council. Amen.