Kid City: The Refinery by Charles & Melynn Bowen

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The Bowens have been members of Calvary Baptist Church for decades; Melynn for 55 years and Charles for 38 years. They have served in various areas over the years including the bus ministry, Sunday school teachers for middle school, junior high youth, and high school youth with the elementary school age ministry (Refinery) of Kid City being the most recent.   The Bowens say their best times seem to be around the dinner table.  They say if you’ve seen their boys, you’d understand. 

Kid City: The Refinery

Over the years we've worked within several ministries.  All have involved working with children and teens.  God has given us a desire to work with kids, regardless of age.  When it comes to the kids in the Refinery, innocence is a wonderful character trait.  Working with them, we are able to see Psalm 127:3-5 and especially Psalm 8:2 "out of the mouth of babes" spring to life.  God has used our service in the Refinery to show us the true simplicity of the gospel as well as Patience, Patience, and Patience.

We know we have to be prepared every week to show Christ as our Savior and Redeemer to kids who may be struggling with situations beyond their control and understanding.  What we would tell people about serving in the Refinery is Volunteer. Volunteer. Volunteer.  The children we work with give us so much more than we could ever give them.   We're reminded of the quote by Jim Elliot who gave his life as a missionary serving in Ecuador:
"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
To learn more about our children's ministry, please visit the Kid City section of our website at http://calvarygp.net/kid-city.html

Psalms - Jesus’ songbook

10:31 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

Kindergarten graduation for Joshua, Jessica, and Brandon Hochstetler.
I don’t remember much when I was five, but one thing I do remember was my kindergarten graduation. I remember putting on my extremely large white graduation robe, the nervousness of speaking in front of my family and friends, and how much fun it was to play with the tassel on my cap. In preparation for the graduation, I had to do a lot of memorizing. There were a few songs that I vaguely remember memorizing and I remember memorizing the poem “What Can I Give Him”. There is one thing that stood out from this graduation that has stuck with me ever since, and that was memorizing Psalm 23. As a five year old, I was extremely nervous about reciting the Psalm, but I had gone over it so many times. I remember putting the Psalm to music and rehearsing it over and over again. So, with an extremely high and "chipmunk like” voice, I quoted all of Psalms 23 in front of all those people and didn’t even mess up!

Twenty years later, I have never forgotten that Psalm. It has often been a source of encouragement to me when going through difficult times. For me, and I can assume that for many of you, the Psalms hold a special place in your heart. The reason for this is that the Psalms were not written just for theological instruction; "they were written to be prayed, recited, and sung- to be done, not merely read.” There is a certain poetic nature to the Psalms that penetrates deeper than mere theological facts. The Psalms help us see God in a rich and real life way. They lead us to commitment and not just understanding about God, but having a relationship with Him. When read in the context of the entire Bible, the Psalms point us to Jesus. The Psalms were, in a way, Jesus’ songbook. Even more significantly, Jesus not only sang and recited the Psalms, they were about Him.

With the understanding of why the Psalms were written, we should be challenged to included the Psalms in our daily life as Christians. We have examples going back to the Israelites of how they were used. The Psalms were the hymnbook for the public worship of God in ancient Israel (I Chronicles 16:8-36). The early Christians sang and prayed the Psalms (Colossians 3:16; I Corinthians 14:26). Theologians and and church leaders have always advocated that Psalms should be used and reused in the Christian’s daily life.

I have been challenged this week to make the Psalms a daily part of my life. I don’t want to just read the Psalms. I want to mediate on them, sing through them, memorize them, pray them, and commit to acting out on the truths they convey. I have included a few resources that I have used in helping to do this. I believe it is Biblical and important to do this. As Timothy Keller says, “Psalms, then, are not just a matchless primer of teaching but a medicine chest for the heart and the best possible guide for practical living.”

Resources: “The Songs of Jesus”: A year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller.

Psalm Songs, Vol. 1 by The Corner Room. https://open.spotify.com/album/4yYPJ5dAnpHHpSuuM4BwEC

In Christ,
Brandon H.


The Only Thing We Have To Fear

12:31 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

Thank you choir, thank you Jenny; take your Bibles, turn to the book of 2 Timothy, chapter number one.  To our kiddos who are heading back for their lesson: thank you for being with us for our worship portion.  I wanted to make an announcement that I just got so we weren’t able to get this on the bulletin, but I think it’s a great thing.  This Tuesday at 9 am, a number of ladies (I would assume this isn’t just confined to the ladies) will be meeting at 9 am on Tuesday in our Family Life Center to bake cookies, cakes, and a number of little expressions of love for our Police Department.  They are going to take them over to them as a show of support at a difficult time.  So if you would be interested in coming up at 9 am and bringing something already baked or bringing the ingredients and baking with a group of folks.  If you have any questions about that, Pat Ritchie will be back in the foyer after church and you can get back there and talk to her.  I think it’s a beautiful thing for some good folks to be able to show our support at this time. 

My original intention this morning was to start a series.  I love to do this topic every four years when we come around to the Olympics.  I think that is such a metaphor for running this Christian race, for spiritual disciplines, for having a target in sight when it comes to living for Jesus.  God willing, we are going to get to that.  August 5th, the Olympics start up with all the fanfare and that stuff, but frankly I just could not preach that today.  For these next two weeks, God willing, I just want to settle into what the Lord’s put on my heart for today. 

I was wondering about y’all this last Thursday night.  Wondering how you were doing and wondering how you were feeling.  You know, the most important question about us at any given moment isn’t really “what do you think” it’s “how do you feel”?  If you want to burrow down to where you heart really is, the door to an accurate barometer of your heart situation is normally your emotions.  I know sitting there on Thursday night, when I got word about the shootings and the turmoil and all that’s unfolded this week with so much tension, pain, and foolish, foolish things said on polar extremes of the case.  I felt so many different emotions.  I definitely felt a real measure of sadness for our country, the turmoil, tension; sad for those officers and their family that lost their life.  Felt a fair measure of anger, but I tell you an emotion I imagine many of you felt this week, and maybe even feel today, is fear.  

I love that our congregation slowly, surely is becoming a more diverse congregation.  I told our men back in our prayer meeting, I love the fact that we are becoming more of a representation of heaven.  Heaven won’t be all one race, one language, one type.  It will be all God’s people that know Jesus Christ; black, brown, white, and all of us together.  No doubt, whatever your background or race, wherever you’re at, it is easy at a moment like this to feel afraid.

David Jeremiah wrote a book that I think is very appropriately titled “What in the Word is Going On” and this is a quote from that book from some years ago, but I find it awfully pertinent this morning:
What in the world is going on?  Never before in my lifetime have I read such jarring headlines, distressing news analyses, or dire predictions for America and the world.  Things are getting so chaotic...  The events unfolding in today’s world are ominously threating to unsettle institutions, reorder national political alignment (boy ain’t that the truth?), change the balance of world power, and destabilize the equitable distribution of resources.   People everywhere are beginning to live in a state of fear and anxiety.  Serious people are asking, “If these things are happening today, what will the future be like for my children and grandchildren?”
I think it’d be awfully easy to conclude in times like these that “Hey man, fear is just an unavoidable human emotional reaction.”  When you look around and we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, and we send our kids off to school, and we wonder about the future, and all these things seem imminent.  Always wondering, what’s the next headline going to be?  What’s the next Orlando going to be?  What’s the next Dallas going to be?  What’s the next Middle East going to be?  What’s the next Iran going to be?  What’s the next North Korea going to be?  I think it’d be easy to settle into “Hey man, there’s no way around just living in a state of fear.  We can’t help it.” but our text says differently today.  THANK GOD! I’m telling you, I found this so comforting this morning, that we can gather together and sing “amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” on days like this.  That we can come.  Our future is not up in the wind somewhere.  Christian, there are certainties; there are anchors for our soul that we get latch onto this morning.  Praise Jesus! Second Timothy 1:7, this was written to an anxious, scared Preacher, but I think it sure applies across the board and can apply to us today. 
2 Timothy 1:7 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear [so what has he given us?]; but of power, and of love, and of a sound [some translate that as self-controlled] mind.

God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear.  He didn’t say you won’t be afraid at times.  That is a normal human reaction.  God says, "I don’t want you to live in the spirit of that.  I don’t want you to let that cloud hovering in your life and stay there."  The word fear here in Greek is deilia it means one who flees from the battle.  God hadn’t given us a spirit to run away from the battle at times like these.  He’s given us a spirit of power and love, and of a clear sound mind with self-control.  Some 365 times in the Bible, that’s one for every single day of the year, and I don’t find that a coincidence.  The Living God tells you and I “don’t be afraid, be not afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t fear” 365 times! 

In Matthew, chapter 14, verse 31, Peter’s walking on the water.  You remember that? He’s going to Jesus, he’s doing the supernatural, but he sees those waves coming.  He get his focus off Jesus and onto the circumstances. Whenever you get your eyes off Jesus and onto the circumstances, you're in for a fall.  Peter starts sinking, you remember the Bible says immediately Peter says Lord save me and immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him and said unto him “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31b).   Jesus says listen when fear comes in, faith goes out. When faith goes out fear, comes in. 

Luke 8:24, the disciples are in a storm and Jesus is asleep in like the bow of the ship on a pillow, and they're thinking “Jesus don't you care? Don't you see? How could you let this go on if you’re sovereign? How could you let this go on if you're really in control? How could you allow this to happen to us if you're really...?” All the same stuff we asked at times today.  They came to him and awoke him saying “Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.” You know what, the moment Jesus says stop,  it all stops.  

Jesus “said unto them, Where is your faith?” When faith goes out, fear comes in; when fear comes in, faith goes out. Next week, God willing, I want to talk more nationally, more what can we Christians do in this country that is being so ravaged by hate, sin, problems, and pain. How do we react? What do we do? But this morning I can't do it y'all.  This is so much more personal than that.  I want to talk to you. I want to talk to me. What happens when we yield to fear? What happens when we let that cloud settle down over our life and we wake up with it,go to bed with it, and we live in that state of anxiety? What happens when yield to fear and how do we make the journey from fear back to faith?
If that's where you're at today, “Preacher I'm scared. I'm scared and I'm having reactions in my life and in my mind and in my mouth and on my Facebook because I'm scared.” Then how can you make the journey from fear back into faith? 

FDR, back on March 4, 1933, gave a quote in one of his speeches I believe is his inaugural address. He said “the only thing we have to fear...” finish it for me “...is fear itself.” I kind of disagree with him. There's a whole lot of stuff to be scared of, but the worst thing we have to fear, the only one that can mess you up to the point you will live like a lost person, the only one that can mess you up so bad you live like an unbeliever, is fear.

I want to introduce you today to a hero of the faith named Elijah, who got scared.  Turn back with me 1 Kings 16, if you can't find it, it’s right next to 2nd Kings. [Laughs] That one's gotten so much mileage through the years. Let's just say this is as we begin: our story begins in troubling times.

1 Kings 16:29- 29 And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. [If you’ve read the Chronicles and the Kinds, you know that’s saying something if this guy did more evil than anyone before him.] 31 And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [by the way that's the guy who set up these golden idols and told Israel “hey y'all, that's your God, don't worry about the temple, go worship there. If that was wouldn't heavy enough...that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. [this Baal being spoken of was... The word “baal” means “lord” and Baal Haddad (which is this particular false god) means “storm God”. His weapons were thunder and lightning. The fertility of the land depended on Baal Haddad sending rain.  Ahab,  his wife Jezebel pulls him over into that religion where he is openly, plainly worshipping this false God, and saying if we're going to have productivity if we're gonna have economic success, its not going to come from Jehovah is going to come from Baal Haddad.] 32 And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. 
Now go down 1 Kings 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 

God had His Prophet. God sends His profit to the king and Elijah says you worship Baal Haddad, you worship the storm God, let me tell you what Jehovah just said; no rain. No economic prosperity. It’s all stopping right this second. The Bible says that for three years Elijah leaves that pronouncement, he goes into hiding. He lives by a brook, he's fed by ravens. When the brook dries up, God sends him to a widow; He allows them to be nourished there. It's a hard sustenance, it's a hard existence, but God takes care of him.  All the while Elijah’s thinking: and praying, “I know you're going to do something for our nation. I know you're going to do something to rescue. This drought is killing everybody, but I know you're bringing our country to a state of desperation. You're bringing it to its knees so something good can happen.”

After all these years, after all this tension, after all this thirst and hunger and problem God finally says “all right Elijah, today's the day.  Go see Ahab and set up a contest. I won't belabor the details of the contest, most of you in this crowd know the details of how Elijah says “gather the prophets of Baal.  Have them build an altar. I'm going to build an altar and whichever God can send down fire from heaven let him be God. Bring all the people out bring all the people to watch the contest.” All the people come and they say “yes which ever one can send down fire from heaven let him be God.”  So the prophets of Baal, when it comes their turn, they start praying. They start dancing around the altar.  They start doing occultic gyrations and incantations, calling on their gods; the back of which were very real demons, but God had apparently stayed their hand to do anything because they’re dancing, chanting, praying, and they begin to cut themselves in a way that they thought would appease their god.  Blood’s flowing all over that ground and all over that altar but no word from Baal. 

Elijah has them wet his altar again and again and again with salt water; to where there's no chance that the sacrifice on that altar can be consumed; everything is so saturated, a trench forms around it. He prays to God and God sends down fire from heaven that licks up not only the sacrifice but burns down all the stones. The people hit their face saying,  “Jehovah’s God!” The prophets of Baal are killed, God sends rain, and Elijah thinks it's over.  Mission accomplished.  National revival. We're back and they have surely seen the error of these ways and I’m going to have an easier time of this now.
1 Kings 18:45 45 And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.  46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins [that means he got all those loose flowing robes and gathered them up in his hands so he could just move] , and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
1 Kings 19:1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.
You might have killed a bunch of mine, but I bet I’ll kill you. By tomorrow this time, I will have your head.  Can you imagine the disappointment?  By the way, in our class one time we actually just dissected that word, disappointed, we put it up on a dry erase board.  I think it's kind of stark to think that in that were disappointed is the word appointed.  Appointed means to determine by authority; to fix. Hebrews 9:27 “it's appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment”. When you think something's appointed, you just take it to the bank.  This is the way life works. This is the way my marriage is going to turn out. This is the way my kids are going to turn out. I'm gonna have enough money. My kids are going to be raised and basically a safe society. I'm not gonna be threatened. The institutions are going to hold solid. I mean that's just appointed.  When what's appointed doesn't go like that and you get rocked, you are DIS-appointed; to fail to fulfill the hope, desire, or expectation of someone. Make no mistake, Elijah is disappointed!  He's tired, he's hurt, and he is scared. 
There are three things that tend to happen when we get scared. The first one is not included in our text but i guarantee you it's the case.  Number one: we stand still.  Thursday night, you know what happened? A bunch of us stood still. How could this be happening?  We human beings are meaning makers, we’re always processing. We're always thinking through. We're always trying to say two plus two equals four. We're always trying to “fortune cookie” every event in our life; crack that thing open, pull that tag out, and say “oh ok that's why that happened”.  Elijah, looking at this “God I thought you were with me, and you made me wait, and now there's a revival, but there's not a revival?  Now you're with me, but now you're not with me? Now you you've crushed them on one hand but you're going to lift this woman up on the other? God you'd let this happen?” He's making meaning and make no mistake there is an enemy talking in his ear the entire time.  God doesn't love you! He's not for you!  You’ve been imagining a whole lot of this! When we're scared, the first step of it is we stand still in our mind. We're making meaning, judgment calls, trying to figure it out.
Here's the second thing that happens when we get scared: we strike out.

1 Kings 19:3 And when he saw that [What? Jezebel's going to kill him or he thinks she will], he arose, and went [and ran] for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

Interesting. He thinks, “where I'm going, I'm not coming back.  I'm gonna leave him there.” Elijah runs for his life. Does he know where he's going exactly? No, not yet. He's just running. He strikes out. He's hurt, he's scared, he is angry.  After the offense has had time to sink in, after the shock has been ingested, our fear often gives way to anger. Here's the thing, fear is a helpless feeling. We human beings love to be in control, don't we? We love to feel like, “I got a grip on this okay? My life basically runs like this. The country basically functions like this. I get my paycheck here. I go to work...” We basically like to control things and when we're scared, we feel out of control. Anger gives us the illusion of regaining control. “I'm going to manipulate the situation. I'm going to intimidate you in this situation. I'm going to take the situation back in hand.”

This anger might express itself in some violent outward display such as verbal confrontation, physical aggression, or revenge.  That's what happened with the gunman; but among Christians I think it's far more common that anger expresses itself inwardly.  It turns to malice, hatred, bitterness, racism, resentment.  We fight, run, medicate, or we write stupid things on Facebook.  Never before in history has every single human being been able to publicly voice the deal in a format like that.  On either side of the issue some foolish, foolish, hurtful things.  You know what happens? When we’re scared and we're angry, we make blanket judgments. We make blanket statements. Here's the thing, whenever you say “all black people or this”, ‘all white people are that”,  “all police are this”... My friend you're off.

The truth is there are differences, there is every shade! There are good preachers and there are terrible preachers. There are amazing policeman and there are bad policeman. There are good white people in there are bad white people.  There are good black people, there are bad black people. It runs the gamut and listen, in emotion and anger when you throw out blanket coverages; you're going to get it wrong! 

Let me just say something, the institution of government, the institution of police departments, is ordained by Almighty God. He gives derivative authority. That means God literally vested in human government a measure of His authority. He vested in police departments a measure of divine authority. That's why the Bible says pray for the police, support your leaders. Does it mean you agree with them on everything? No! Does it mean they're not challenged in right proper ways when there is corruption or wrong doing? No!

We Americans have got a God-given right to peacefully protest, but the bottom line is God ordained authority. To kill authority is a sin.  Let me tell you something else, you can't believe this book from cover to cover, you cannot read about the life of Jesus Christ and what He did and what He said and still be a racist. You run polar opposite to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who spread out His hands on the cross when you do that.  

When we get scared, and when we need to get a measure of control back, we strike out. Here is the third thing; we step back.  Elijah leaves his servant. He launches out. He's upset, angry, scared...
1 Kings 19:4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. [“I'm done, I'm done. If this is the way it is, way it works: God... humanity... I'm done.” When you reach that step, and once bitten twice shy becomes your life motto you cautiously remove yourself from the presence of any perceived thing that can hurt you. 

Chuck Swindoll said this: 
Disillusionment is a dangerous, slippery slope. First we become disillusioned about our fellow man. Then we move on to cynicism. Before long, we trust no one, not even God. We’ve been burned. We’ve been taken advantage of; we’ve been mistreated. I have never met an individual...” Swindoll writes, “...who was truly disillusioned with mankind who has not also become disillusioned with God. The two go together. Cynicism is spawned in such a context.
So here's the deal, fear gets the best of him. Fear starts to control him. Fear comes in, faith goes out. Here’s this guy he's just done, he can't take another step. I want to tell you if you're scared, afraid this morning, if your dwelling on the news, culture, politics, and the crime, I want to encourage you friend God loves you! He has something more for you than fear. Here's what he has for Elijah.  He's going to use three things to bring him back from fear into faith. First of all simplicity...
1st Kings 19:5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
Man that's tender isn’t it? I mean, the way I think of God sometimes, I'm terribly sorry to have to tell you this, is God coming along and kind of giving me a kick in the ribs. “What are you laying down there for? I told you this would go like this.  Are you my servant or what? Get up!” That's not God. He comes and says “I know you're scared and I know you’re beat. I know you're exhausted.  When you're tired everything is magnified. Drink a little water, have a little angel food...” I don't think it was angel food cake, I think I think it's better than that, had a little more fat in it than that.  I think the point is this, Psalm 46 “be still and know that I am God”.  “I'm still God. You're so worked up, you’ve forgotten that I’m still on the throne. That hasn't changed.” 

I was talking to a preacher friend of mine.  We called each other on Friday and we're both just sad.  He said “you know what Brian; desperation is the fertile soil in which the gospel thrives.” You know what?  In our country the truth is we're just not really desperate. I don't really need to pray. I don't really need to witness. My life is about activities and finances and homes and cars with a little bit of Jesus sprinkled in on the side. Things like what we saw on Thursday begin to drive us out of that to “oh god, I'm missing something here.” It starts unsettling us and I'm telling you as bad as it is on the surface it is creating the fertile soil in this country, and in the city, by which we may see multitudes won to Jesus!

“Be still and know that I am God” I would encourage you, if you've been fearful this week, you may have to take a little stretch where you turn off the news.  Where you turn off the cell phone and the Facebook and the like; (I rag on Facebook a lot, i think it's a fine tool, but it can be destructive tool) where we get quiet for a season. 

Silence is the second thing: (1) simplicity, (2) silence.
1st Kings 19:8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. [Interesting that he goes to Horeb. I believe God led him to Horeb and I believe the fact is Elijah and another guy are constantly linked in Scripture: Elijah and Moses. In Matthew 17, the Transfiguration of Jesus, when Jesus puts on his glorified form and shows Himself to the disciples Moses and Elijah appear there speaking with Jesus. In Exodus 33, remember that section where Moses stood on Mount Sinai, in the cleft of the rock and said “Oh God show me your glory. Please show me who you really are. Your weight, majesty, and wonder. I want to follow you more. I know if I just see your glory, I'll follow you more.” God says “All right. I can't show you me face to face it’ll kill you. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to pass by you with my glory. I’m going to proclaim my name. you're going to see the back of me.” He covers them there in the cleft of the rock and Moses sees the glory of God to the point that he's like “oh god, I'm yours! Whatever you want to do with me I’m yours!” Horeb is Sinai. I believe the picture is God is telling Elijah “meet me up on the mountain I got something to show you.”  He wanted answers. He needed to see the glory of God. You know what? A lot of us when we're scared when were hurt we want answers. You know what we really need? To see the glory of God.
The last thing (1) simplicity, (2) silence [we're going from fear back to faith], (3) sovereignty.  That means God's absolute power and rule over his creation.] 

1st Kings 19:9  And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.  
The implication is God was in the Whisper. So often we just want Him to swoop down and fix it all. “Come burn it up man.  God just do something big for us.” God’s like “No, you come aside and let me show you my glory. When I do a work in you, you'll do a work in this broken world. Maybe that's what I wanted all along.”  Y'all maybe it's not God's intention to bandage up our broken American prosperity. Maybe it's his intention in our brokenness for the gospel in Jesus to shine through people that see God. Now on the sovereignty, verse 13 ...
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it [the still small voice], that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.  [I’m not real interested in seeing Your glory right now, Lord, but I'd really like You to fix things.  By the way we always quote, “if my people which are called by my name shall pray and seek my face I'll heal their land”. That is scripture, that is beautiful, that is true that is marvelous, but heal their land may mean in the middle of pain, adversity, and persecution see multitudes come to Jesus.]
15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. [In other words, all this stuff you're so worried about I got it well in hand. I know exactly what I'm doing. All the people in authority, they're under My authority. God is in control of who is in control.  Can I say that again? God is in control of who's in control. I'm gonna take care of that, you don't worry about that. I'll take care of that.  Then look He says:
18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.  [Elijah, you think you're the only one.  You're not. I got 7,000 like you.]
I don't want in any way be trite about the fact that we're living in troubling times. What I do want to say, before you put your feet on the floor tomorrow morning, before you pillow your head in bed tonight, what a thing to look up to the heavens, to look up to your ceiling and say “God I believe that You are in control. That nothing escapes you. That you're working beauty even through the ashes. That you're working good even through the evil. That we are working blessing even through the pain. God if you sent your Son to buy me back from my sins, I can trust you with my one little life.”
Habakkuk in the Old Testament came to the point where he saw such unrighteousness, evil, and terrible stuff in his nation he started questioning God. He got discouraged, “I just don't get it. I don't understand. What are you doing?” God leads him to the temple one day and Habakkuk gets his answer.  Here's what he comes to the conclusion of:
Habakkuk 3:17 17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: although the fig tree shall not blossom neither so fruit being the vines the labor of the oil so fail and the field shall yield no meet the flock shall be cut off from the fold and there shall be no heard in the stalls [if there's a total visual meltdown of our society God]
You know you can only live there, if you're not too attached down here. For a lot of us, and I got to confess in in some real sense it’s me,  the threat we feel is to our lifestyle, possessions, plans,  future. It's in moments like these that Jesus will remind you this is not our home. Real life hadn't even started yet. This life down here is for one thing and one thing only - to shine the light of the gospel of Jesus to as many lost and broken people as we possibly can! Let me suggest you friend listen if you're not sharing Jesus with the people around you, could it be you've gotten too comfortable down here?

Thank you Lord, that there is something good and lasting and true and better waiting for us that we can live for now.

 

"The Only Thing We Have To Fear" Brian Loveless Sermon on July 10, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.

Jonah Chapter 2: Repent (Part 1)

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So there he is; squeezed into the stomach of a giant fish that God had prepared for him. He had been running from God, but all along, God was running after him. He sent the great fish (representing grace) to save him from the storm (representing God’s wrath.)

This is phase #2 of the story. Repentance is the theme of the chapter as Jonah moves from religion and rebellion to repentance.

Now, repentance is the first step of a bigger process called spiritual breakthrough. It’s best described as moving to a new level of relationship with God. You might have experienced this very thing at summer camp as a teen, a holiday service, or a spiritual retreat. Maybe you were convicted. You knew what you needed to stop doing and what you needed to begin doing instead. Jonah had that moment here.



But it wasn’t a walk in the park. This breakthrough came as a result of a seriously painful, even life-threatening, experience that brought about repentance. Don’t be fooled by the cartoon depictions of this moment. Jonah wasn’t walking around inside a stomach. He wasn’t playing on the ribs like a xylophone or playing with the others fishies in there. He was more likely squeezed inside this disgusting, wretched smelling digestive system. Literally being burned by the stomach acids as it tried to digest him. He was raw, he was slimy, he was stinking horribly, thirsty, hungry, lonely, awkward, and broken hearted.

There is a week in the Navy Seal training known as, “Hell Week.” On average, only 25% make it through this part of training. Imagine, on the first night, you are awakened from your sleep with guns firing inside your bunker, and concussion grenades exploding to make your head spin. All that can be made out in the yelling is orders to crawl on your belly across pavement and sand into the ice-cold sea. Thus begins Hell Week, and from that moment on you’re given only minutes of sleep at a time for the rest of the week.

You are ordered constantly to perform hundreds of pushups, sit ups, and pull ups. You are made to perform torturous water training for hours at a time. Swimming. Army crawling. And more swimming. On the first day of Hell Week the sergeants make you take all of your clothes from your suitcase, soak them in the ocean and drag them through the sand and neatly put them back in your suitcase, so your skin is rubbed raw by the sand and water. You’ll have blisters, scabs, and open wounds the entire week and just when it couldn’t get any worse, you’re thrown into the salty ocean for the thousandth time.

There is a constant yelling, whistling, shoving, insulting, and testing to build your commitment. Soldiers are made to carry boats and huge logs and even each other with literally no sleep in days. Several men have actually died during this training week.

But what makes all of this unbearable is the constant temptation of donuts, coffee, and blankets offered to you if you just quit. Basically, Navy Seal training is created to make the strongest men cry. They want to weed out the weak links. But in reality, what they’re doing is strengthening their soldiers. Because the drill sergeants know that if these soldiers are going to be effective in combat, they have to be strengthened. They must be brought to a point of breaking, so they can be built back up.

Sometimes God allows us to go through extreme circumstances to break us. And we’re given a choice. Choice #1. Quit on God. Which usually involves getting angry, getting depressed, getting deeper into sin, and therefore staying broken. Or choice #2. Have an experience of repentance where God is allowed to build you back up the way He wants. See, God was preparing Jonah in the belly of the fish. He wanted to break Jonah, not so that he would quit and give up, but so he would repent and have spiritual breakthrough.

Sometimes God puts us through terrible circumstances to bring about spiritual breakthrough, starting with repentance.

There were some lessons that Jonah learned in the belly of the whale that radically changed his life and moved him to a new level of spirituality. In my next few posts I’m going to investigate the lessons learned in the digestive system of a fish.