If any of the readers could add some more of what prophet Elijah would have said, you are most welcome!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The days of king Ahab of Israel should be days of celebration as peace and prosperity had largely returned to the northern kingdom. But it was calamitous as far as Prophet Elijah was concerned. Apostasy was at its heights, exacerbated by the murderous campaigns to exterminate the prophets of God!
There was never a time where God had raised up so many prophets for his beloved nation as in the reign of King Ahab. Kings were anointed by God to unify the nation under his covenant and to shout his fame! They were to be guided by voices of the prophets, assigned to spell out wisdom from the Word of the living God. Therefore, a vital connection between God and his kings through these voices ensured victory, both physically and spiritually.
But alas, it was not to be in Ahab’s kingship. His marriage and subsequent delegation of religious authority to his Baal-worshipping wife, Jezebel, caused a severe dent to the nation. Slowly but surely, she gained the upper hand in running his kingdom, climbing over his head. King Ahab should have learned from Adam, the first husband on earth, how he relinquished his headship to his wife to disastrous consequences. Adam stood in complete silence when Eve did wrong and more than that he participated.
Jezebel’s ultimate plan was to establish Baal’s worship in the whole of Israel. Her relentless campaign included murdering all prophets of Yahweh or anyone that stood in her way. The towering Jezebel sent the prophets of God into hiding and King Ahab into submission. One time, even the fearless Elijah was cowed with her wicked growl.
Eventually and unfortunately, Baal’s name got greater publicity than Yahweh’s in the promise Land. The messages of the prophets of Baal rang louder than the prophets of Yahweh, drowning out the voice of God. It was like gibberish noise of Baal overwhelming the music of God.
Obviously, prophet Elijah was furious. It was not a coincidence that his name struck a right chord for change! Elijah’s name hollered loud and clear, “My God is Yahweh” or “I, whose God is Yahweh”! He was willing to fight the devil alone if he had to.
The urgency to get Ahab to tow the line intensified when the southern neighbour under King Asa had rebuilt much of Judah including its spirituality to the delight of God. Although Asa eventually sinned and became hardened in heart, God raised up his son, Jehoshapat, a great king in their midst.
The lackadaisical attitude of Ahab towards the things of God meant an inevitable confrontation with the prophet who bent on nothing else but restoration of all things Yahweh. Second best was no option. It was either Yahweh or perish.
The first salvo from heaven was famine, a severe drought that had caused panic in the land. Prophets were both voices and instruments of judgment of God. The rainless heaven was just a wake-up call for King Ahab. Arousing his anger at Elijah was in the plan of God. Something major was needed to wake this fellow up from spiritual slumberland. To King Ahab, the prophet was a troubler. He was spot on. Elijah was a troubler to anyone who opposed God! As a prophet, he should be!
The challenge was on, once and for all, at Mount Carmel against Baal and to restore the supremacy of Yahweh. The undisputed Champion of the Universe, Yahweh, must not allow anymore a foreign false idol, Baal to deceive or a foreigner, Jezebel to rule the land.
All Yahweh needed was a man to defeat the many hundreds of prophets of Baal. The extreme noise they shouted of course could not wake up a man-made statue. But a simple sincere prayer from the heart of a prophet tore through heavens and sent down fire from the sky! God’s fire not only consumed the sacrifice, it cleansed the hearts of the people. The spiritual fire that engulfed the people got them to rid of all the prophets of Baal, thus healing of the land as well. Precious rain fell again after three solid years, signifying a restoration of God’s favour.
But there were things yet to be fully settled. Wickedness could never escape God’s judgment especially when it was done to his nation. Disgraceful deaths awaited both King Ahab and Jezebel.
Prophets like Elijah would continue to be assigned by God, a crucial ministry for a crucial time.
What would prophet Elijah say to us if he were still alive today?
1. Do not marry a non-Christian as the unbelieving spouse may cause you to turn to a different direction, thus not fulfilling God’s best for you.
2. Husbands, take charge of your home as head of the family especially in spiritual direction.
3. Watch out for ungodly messages that may have overwhelmed you today.
4. Do not go for anything that could cause you to turn away from God no matter how many of your friends believe in it.
5. Understand that the gospel that we preach may trouble people. If it doesn’t trouble them and turn them toward God, we could have watered it down.
If any of the readers could add some more of what prophet Elijah would have said, you are most welcome!
If any of the readers could add some more of what prophet Elijah would have said, you are most welcome!
Next: Prophet Elisha
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
“You may never see me again,” Paul spoke with a heavy heart.
The great evangelist had travelled thousands of miles to faraway lands way beyond his hometown, Tarsus, furiously preaching the gospel of Christ like there was no tomorrow. At the port where Paul was to travel to Jerusalem, the elders of the church in Ephesus were already sobbing even before they heard this shocking remark. Somehow they understood their beloved apostle, who never let opportunities slip without a fight. He had to go where the Holy Spirit led him, no matter what!
Churches endeared to the apostle sprang forth, like this one in Ephesus, all across Europe and Asia Minor where his anointed gospel feet trod. His first concern was always the proclamation of the gospel, his last, building strong churches. Consolidating and mobilising Christians were the two-pronged strategy of Paul in order for the gospel to reach even farther and with a wider “fishing” net!
The Gentiles-reaching call of Paul was the turning point of the gospel, thus fulfilling the promise of God to Abraham many thousand years ago, that all nations will be blessed through him. Abraham’s name itself conspicuously reminded of that great promise, the father of many nations. ‘Salvation came from the Jews’ was depicted not as a favouritism from God but a source of God’s miraculous working out of His promise. Anyway, the sovereign God constantly chose servants for his ongoing redemptive plan. When Paul became a disciple of Christ, he could never contain the good news to Jews alone. As far as he was concerned, Paul had a universal dream, as long as there were humans at any place on the planet, the gospel must be preached.
“I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace,” the apostle to the Gentiles spoke with steely passion. From the time he fell from the horse to rise up in faith in Christ, Paul did not escape hardships from all sides. Nor did he run from them. He confronted them head on. There was once right here in Ephesus, he had to be pulled away from the mob that prepared to lynch him to pieces. The gospel of God became like his staple diet of life, a cause he was willing to die for. His motto, “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all”. His religious passion never left him, from the days of persecuting the church as a non-Christian to a high-riding apostle to the Gentiles. Even while he was in prison, Paul never stood watching from afar, he was busy writing to and praying for the saints.
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock,” Paul spoke with a tone of urgency. The fight for Christian followers had also begun with false teachers rearing their ugly heads. Obviously the main concern of this great evangelist would be the narrowing flow of rapid evangelisation if the churches were to be disrupted. He knew he would be stopped too on his way to Jerusalem. Never the one to fear anything, Paul continued his journey. His life was not life if it had not lived for God’s glory!
Knowing the end might be near for him, his concern turned towards the churches. He envisioned attacks would come from within and without. To Paul, the gospel must never be altered nor adulterated. He defended the gospel so fervently that he even rebuked Peter, his immediate leader in Christ. He wrote that even angels who changed the gospel must be condemned severely by God. Such was his fire for Christ and for his good news, igniting the churches, fanning their flames even brighter.
The day at the port where Paul bid farewell, the elders were deeply moved. They were powerfully impacted by his ministry, but more than that, they would never forget a life that lived out so fully for Jesus Christ right before their very eyes.
This article ends the Bible Actors’ Series. From the day when Adam and Eve sinned against God, God promised the world a Saviour. Redemption’s plan was thus in place and carried along throughout every book of the Bible. The miracle of the Bible was that it was written by more than 40 authors (Most of them did not know each other) spanned over so many thousand years, yet it has only ONE THEME – that mankind has fallen and God will save the world!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Question: Pardon us for asking you this question, after you betrayed Jesus three times, what went through your mind?
PETER: I felt like the whole world came crashing down on me. I was a total wreck! Completely devastated!
Question: I know this is hard for you, why did you betray Jesus, your master and God who loved you so much?
PETER: I need to be honest with you. I was scared to bits when I saw Jesus being so easily taken over by men. At that moment, I so much wanted him to show forth his power and turn things around. All the confusion and commotion at that time had caused me to act stupidly. All I can say was that I sinned against God. It’s terrible!
Question: Jesus had foretold about your betrayal. When he first spoke those chilling words to you, did you believe him?
PETER: Not at all. I was so full of myself and I thought I could do anything for Jesus. Before Jesus was arrested, I believe he came to destroy the domination of the Romans and restore Israel with his godly might and power. How wrong I was! I was completely ignorant of what he really came to do.
Question: Tell us what Jesus really came to do.
PETER: Instead of destroying the domination of the Romans and restoring Israel, he came to destroy the domination of sins of mankind and restore them back to God. Jesus’ death on the cross has far-reaching effects than my puny mind could comprehend for some time. God is interested in the whole world and not just Israel.
Question: Was it the time when you saw a vision of unclean animals where God asked you to eat that changed your narrow perspective?
PETER: That was the vision that started it all. But when the gentile Cornelius received the Holy Spirit, together with his family and friends, I was utterly convinced.
Question: Why did you hold on so much to Israel before that?
PETER: I love my people very much. I always taught to remember God’s promise to my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Israel. And that the Messiah from the House of David will rule the earth from Jerusalem, where the Davidic kingdom was promised to reign forever. I did not understand then that the Messiah needed to go to the cross first! Even in Isaiah’s time, the prophet prophesied about the Suffering Servant!
Question: Will the Messiah rule the earth from Jerusalem some day?
PETER: Absolutely! When Jesus, the Messiah comes again, he will rule the earth from Jerusalem. His kingdom will know no end. Jesus Christ will be the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords!
Question: Back to your fall and then your subsequent restoration. Right after Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, what were you thinking?
PETER: I was actually so depressed that I sort of thinking maybe everything that happened to me was a nightmare. I went back fishing like I always used to. But at the back of my mind, I could never erase off the memories being with Jesus, the greatest Man who had ever walked on this earth.
Question: How did you take it when you saw the Lord again?
PETER: I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t even lift my eyes to see Jesus. I had this thought that Jesus would be very angry with me and he didn’t need me anymore. It was definitely the broken pieces of my heart that distorted my view of Jesus.
Question: When was the turning point?
PETER: When Jesus prepared breakfast for us, he lighted up the tense atmosphere surrounding us. Then after breakfast, it happened. Jesus spoke directly to me for the first time after his resurrection. He asked me three same, simple questions and in each time, the question became more intense. Why three times? I then figured out it was also three times I betrayed him, and each time it was with increasing intensity.
Question: Right after that fantastic restoration, how did you feel?
PETER: Totally free! I was overjoyed that Jesus still gave me another chance to serve him even though I fumbled big time. I leave with you these words, “Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Question: You don’t mind dying for Jesus now?
PETER: By God’s grace, bring it on!
Next: Paul, The Greatest Evangelist
Monday, September 14, 2009
(The Woman: Taken from Luke 7:36-50)
Question: How did you take the courage to go to the Pharisee’s house just like that?
WOMAN: Two reasons. Jesus was there and I was desperate.
Question: What was your desperation during that time?
WOMAN: I had lived a very sinful life and I considered myself a walking dead. Alive on the outside but dead completely on the inside. (Hitting softly on her chest and wiping away tears)
Question: The Pharisees are angry with women like you and sometimes they are quite hostile to them. Did you envision that you would be harassed by them during that time?
WOMAN: I don’t care anymore. Remember I was dead. I was already numbed at all the verbal and physical abuses by men and women alike. But I went with one thing on my mind. I wanted a complete overhaul to my life.
Question: Did you think during that time, Jesus could really change everything for you? Remember you were in deep waters.
WOMAN: I really don’t know. But I could sense Jesus’ love from afar every time I watched Him performing miracles. In my head, there was always this thought, “I need a miracle too!” But the struggle was that I don’t deserve to be with the Son of God. But somehow that day, when He was eating and drinking with those Pharisees and I was thinking, if Jesus could be with them, why not me.
Question: Were the Pharisees surprise at your barging into the house?
WOMAN: Quite a commotion. Yes. All of them except Jesus! It was like Jesus knew I was coming.
Question: When you did all those things for Jesus, cleaning his feet by your tears, wiping them with your hair. You then kissed his feet and most surprisingly, pouring an expensive and sentimental perfume on those feet. Most people would do something like that on loved ones’ head instead of their feet. What were you thinking?
WOMAN: I don’t even deserve to have Jesus looked at me. Therefore, I bowed at his feet and doing my very best for him, praying that he would have compassion on me. Although the perfume in the alabaster jar was the only important property I had, I rather used it on Jesus than anyone else. I believed Jesus is God in the flesh!
Question: What was the turning point for you in this dramatic encounter?
WOMAN: (Wiping away tears) Jesus noticed even me. Not only that, he was so full of love for me. He accepted my small gestures with so much gratitude. Jesus even chided the Pharisee for his rebuke on me. But most of all, He forgave all my sins. And when I heard that, there was this inexplicable peace surging into my soul. I never felt so refreshed and renewed as if I was being born again.
Question: Last question. What’s next?
WOMAN: First of all, I want to turn away from all sins in my life. Then I want to follow Jesus wherever He goes and do what He tells me to do. Whew, I never felt so free in my life! Thank you, Jesus!
(The Leper - Taken from Matthew 8:1-4)
Question: How long have you had this devastating disease?
LEPER: I think it had been more than 20 long years.
Question: How did you cope for being an outcast and shunned by society for so long?
LEPER: It was terribly frustrating. I had contemplated suicide many times before. The most difficult part was my family kicking me out of the house.
Question: What was your reaction when you heard that Jesus was actually God and He had healed many sicknesses?
LEPER: At first I did not know what to do. I was so embarrassed to face anybody after being abandoned for so long. Then suddenly I thought of just giving it a try since I had nothing to lose. If Jesus was willing, then I would be healed, if not, so be it.
Question: Did you believe Jesus would heal you before you went to Him?
LEPER: I really don’t know. I just heard of His miracles and to me, He was my only hope.
Question: How did you feel when Jesus touched you? I mean, this was your first contact with someone after 20 years.
LEPER: I felt great! Now I know God loves me so much. He loves me and notices my need even though nobody cares for me.
Question: What is your advice to those who feel abandoned and live in hopelessness?
LEPER: Turn to Jesus! There is hope in Jesus. God loves us all without favouritism! And most of all, He has the power to heal!
Next: Interviews about Jesus: Peter
Friday, September 11, 2009
Question: We heard that you met Jesus late at night. Why hide?
NICODEMUS: Truth be told, I was afraid of my peers. They hated Jesus. I figured the best if no one knew I was with Him.
Question: Would it affect your position if they knew?
NICODEMUS: I came a long way in the Pharisee’s sect and accepted by large number of my colleagues. As I am part of the ruling council, I wouldn’t want to risk my position. I know I was being selfish.
Question: What made you want to see Jesus?
NICODEMUS: All this while I believe in God and my line of duty but my curiosity of Jesus being God-sent got the better of me.
Question: After you spoke with Jesus, who do you think he is?
NICODEMUS: God! No doubt about that.
Question: What made you so sure?
NICODEMUS: You see, I am a lawyer, expounding laws of Israel but what Jesus said totally spell bounded me. The things he said were so simple and yet profound that caught me off guard. He spoke about Moses and heaven like he was there and not only that, he spoke with such authority. Whew! When I heard of Jesus doing miracles and all that, I already knew that God was with him but now, I am absolutely sure Jesus is God.
Question: What was the best thing that came out of the conversation?
NICODEMUS: Two words, “Born Again!”
Question: Can you elaborate?
NICODEMUS: We Pharisees always believe in following all the laws set out by Moses to get God’s approval. We thought that everything is under our control and we are the only approved people of God. But no, we are all sinners in the eyes of God. “Born Again” means the Spirit of God breathes life into my spirit, making it new. It is like God recreating us anew. It is God who forgives and transforms us, not by our works. That’s where God accepts us back as His children when all our sins are wiped away. That’s why Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Question: Can everyone be born again?
NICODEMUS: No. Okay, I was only joking because when I first heard this phrase, I was thinking of that ludicrous idea of going back to my mother’s womb the second time. Anyway, I was being sarcastic to Jesus. I apologise. Yes, everyone can be born again. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Question: Last question, what’s next?
NICODEMUS: I thank God I went to see Jesus, albeit suspiciously at night. Right now, I want to shout it out to everyone anytime, day or night!
Next: Interviews about Jesus: The Woman and The Leper
Thursday, September 10, 2009
MARY, THE EARTHLY MOTHER OF JESUS
Question: What was your initial feeling when you first heard of the news that you would be pregnant even though you were not married yet?
MARY: The first feeling that came was fear. I was really troubled. Would anyone not be troubled?
Question: You mean the angel’s presence did not calm you?
MARY: Initially it was the angel that startled me and later, it was the message more than the messenger.
Question: When did you start to calm down?
MARY: The first thought was “O My God, I am a virgin, what will people say?!” I confessed it was a little bit selfish then. The angel spoke many words but when he mentioned about the continuing reign of King David and that his kingdom will never end, I remembered the prophecy concerning that. I was still afraid but when I thought I was chosen to be a servant for that, I started to calm down.
Question: Do you believe during that time that God can make you pregnant without the help of your future husband?
MARY: I was sceptical at first but when the angel spoke about the Holy Spirit’s power, I began to think everything is possible with God. Then there was the Elizabeth Factor. The angel told me she was pregnant even though she was very old. I think you should know of Abraham and Sarah’s story, right?
Question: Many people now believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. Do you really know that when you got the message then?
MARY: Not fully. I knew He would be a King and that He would rule forever. I know now I was carrying someone HUGE, if you know what I mean.
Question: How do you feel to be chosen as the servant for this huge task?
MARY: (wiping away tears) When everything started to settle down, there was this unbelievable joy that filled my entire being. This mission that I am carrying is obviously bigger than my life and deep within, I believe it is even bigger than Israel! I also want to thank God for a great husband who supported me all the way.
Question: Last question. What will be your next step?
MARY: To keep the baby healthy and safe, more importantly, to release Jesus, the Son of God, to do what He came to do.
Next: Interviews about Jesus: Nicodemus
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
“Son, I am dying. It’s your turn now to rule this great nation,” King David spoke in between pauses.
He could never forget the story of his predecessor, King Saul, and how he denied God’s rule and covenant. Solomon, his beloved son and successor, must now carry the torch to shine God’s name throughout the earth. The young Solomon listened intently as his famous father spoke. The lad knew the circumstances surrounding dad’s adulterous relationship with mom. King David had openly and often with tears, shared vividly the consequences that befell him. Occasionally, he would burst into deep anguish while warning his loved ones not to sin against God. In his last days of life, many close to him had witnessed his old godly, cheerful self again. They would smile when they saw him humming and lifting his hands to praise God. Solomon himself was set free by David’s rejuvenating spiritual life knowing God had not only forgiven his dad but had relieved his pain.
“Follow the Laws of Moses and you will prosper,” David continued, a sudden burst of excitement came searing through his frail body. That Goliath-slaying “boy” might have lost his strength but never his enthusiasm. Not one time had he seen God forsaking him even when he was on the wild goose chase with King Saul. Samuel, the prophet priest and king makers, constantly assured him that God was grooming him to become a great king.
But when he was winning wars and terrifying opponents, pride entered his heart like a deadly weapon. That fateful day, when he was called to lead a fight, he delegated. It was abnormal for him to stand idle, wanting rest from duty. Some said it might be due to mid-life crisis but no one knew how it turned his life around. A lapse of concentration snowballed into endless suffering and constant heartbreaks. Sin could promise David’s immense pleasure for a short time but would never able to deliver him out of his consequences. One night in bed with Bathsheba, albeit forcefully, had turned into endless nights of nightmare. Even before prophet Nathan revealed his big secret, David was in constant pain. Consequences flowed like streams of water as God used them to clean and wash. The period of rebellion must end. God’s covenant must be revived. A great king come great responsibilities.
“If your descendants walk faithfully before God, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel,” David continued. He spoke slowly but clearly. It was always that inspiring story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the promise of God that was carried unbroken, that helped him stayed focus. As a good father, he would never want his son to sway away from God and His Word. He wanted Solomon to continue to shout God’s fame! Tears rolled down his sunken cheeks as he was reminded of the rebellion of Absalom, another beloved son of his. It was much more easy to have a spear pierced his heart than Absalom betraying him.
“Lord, this one will be better than me!” David prayed, crying as he hugged Solomon. He prayed that his son would eventually fulfil God’s promise given to Abraham in regards to the land of Israel.
King David knew very well of the promise of God, given first to his fore father, Abraham. That kings would eventually be a reality in the land of promise. Kingship was always in the mind of God although His people wanted kings like other ungodly nations had theirs. In fact, kings were God’s leaders to ensure keeping of His sacred covenant. The first king of Israel failed miserably. Although king David was not a perfect king of Israel, it was his intense focus on God’s covenant and Laws that made him an exemplary king for all generations. David was the apple in God’s eye. His reign set the benchmark. Solomon understood his dad’s undying devotion for God and he knew of the grave consequences of any deviation. (Ironically, it was king Solomon whose sins had broken the nation of Israel into two factions)
God promised that Davidic kingdom would reign forever. The stage is set. God’s redemptive purpose would culminate in the eventual rule of King Jesus!
Next: Interviews about Jesus - Mary