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Preaching To The Choir


Maybe you’ve heard the idiom ‘preaching to the choir’. It
means:

 

To (pointlessly) try to convince a person or group to
accept an opinion that they already agree with
‘Preaching to the choir’
originated in the USA in the 1970s. It is a variant of the earlier ‘preaching
to the converted’, which dates from England in the late 1800s and has the same
meaning
.
[1]

 

One of my personal pet peeves, is when I hear preaching that
is an echo chamber of what we already know to be true. It’s good to be
reminded, but I hunger for the Spirit’s voice illuminating the Word of God in
ways that stir me to repent and believe with fervency. It is a sad reality when
a church is known for its beautiful sanctuary that comfortably sleeps three
hundred people. May the Sunday nap only ever be on your own time at home.

 

People will go to sleep if they only hear the lull of a
preacher’s voice and the drone of a worship band without hearing the call of
God to something higher. This can happen when we try to convince people
repetitiously of what they already agree with.

 

Let me ask a personal question. Have you been lulled to
sleep by hearing the same old, same old? Have you taken a spiritual nap when
you would be better off taking a spiritual walk? Hear your high calling in
Christ Jesus!

 

 

Hebrews 5:

11 We
have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you
no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time
you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths
of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone
who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching
about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who
by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

 

 

The call and response ideas are musical ones. It’s the
gospel singer who belts out a line of truth and the choir echoes back in a
heartfelt way to restate that important truth. If the responders are
half-hearted and off key, the director may need to go back to rehearse that
number again until the choir owns it.


 

 

In this regard, preaching to the choir is not pointlessly
trying to convince the team of what they already know. There is another
preaching to the choir where direction is given to help them own the song for
themselves. Not just hiding in the baritone section, but consciously embodying
the truth being sung.

 

If God is the director, he hands out a few solos and a
larger number of part singers and responders.

 

 

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From A High Calling To A Humble Response

 


What is the call of God?

 

It is the lifelong
journey in which each believer is called to know Christ in His fullness and to glorify
God through responding to that Heavenward pull.

 

The highest possible call for any Christian is our high
calling to come to Jesus and follow Him. Being called to be a pastor or the
head of some great ministry endeavour is not the top of the heap. You can have
a title and be well known for things that you do, but it means nothing without
a personal surrender to your high calling.

 

When Paul did a fearless, moral inventory of his career as a
religious teacher and apostle, he confessed this to the Church at Philippi.

 

 

Philippians 3:

But
whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What
is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider
them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not
having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is
through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the
basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power
of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in
his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection
from the dead.

12 Not
that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers
and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one
thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I
press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Paul was not interested in playing it safe and leaving
behind a personal legacy. He only wanted to know Jesus more and more. That was
his high calling, and we are invited to hang on loosely to our resume of
accomplishments and bragging rights.

 

Deep down, Paul knew that his greatest accomplishments were
garbage compared to the excellency of knowing Jesus.

 

Paul did not put any confidence in his own arm of flesh. He
could work hard like anyone else and take personal risks, but always in the
context of knowing Jesus and making Him known to a lost and dying world that
was not listening to the Father’s voice.

 

 

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Call And Response


Something that is essential in the life of every believer is
learning to hear God’s call and knowing how to respond. We will be exploring
that for a while. Who knows, but maybe God is calling you in some way and
together we can become better listeners to the One that calls.

 

So, call and response?

 

One, two, buckle my shoe…

 

Three, Four (fill in the blank)…

 

Five, Six…

 

Seven, Eight…

 

Nine, Ten…

 

Do you see what we did there?

 

Call-and-response has its roots in traditional African
music, which largely employed a vocal version. If you think of gospel music,
for example, you will immediately recognize the technique: it’s when the pastor
or song leader calls out or sings a line, and the congregation or choir
responds. In other styles of music, call-and-response is used as a form of
experimentation, as well as a way to speak directly to the listener. In live
performances, for example, some performers use call-and-response as a way to
connect with their audience
.
[1]

 

In the Christian life, God is the caller, and we are the
responders. We listen to God’s voice and reply with an echo, an answer, or an
affirmation.


 

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Baptism Of Water, Fire And Spirit


 

We need to always pay close attention to the symbols we see
in Scripture. God uses learning aids to help us remember his nature. On the
Mount Carmel showdown, we see the symbols of the altar, the sacrifice, the
water, and the fire.

 

The water-drenching perhaps foreshadows the coming rain
and also assures the crowd that what follows is no prophetic trick by Elijah
.
[1]

 

We see that God acts in response to simple and sincere
prayer from those who are in the right relationship to himself.

 


1 Kings 18:

36 At
The Time Of Sacrifice, The Prophet Elijah Stepped Forward And Prayed: “Lord,
The God Of Abraham, Isaac, And Israel, Let It Be Known Today That You Are God
In Israel And That I Am Your Servant And Have Done All These Things At Your
Command. 37 Answer Me, Lord, Answer Me, So These People Will
Know That You, Lord, Are God, And That You Are Turning Their Hearts Back
Again.”

38 Then
The Fire Of The Lord Fell And Burned Up The Sacrifice, The Wood, The Stones,
And The Soil, And Also Licked Up The Water In The Trench.

39 When
all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God!
The Lord—he is God!”

 

 

Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there? In Elijah’s
simple prayer there is an appeal for God to show the people what is right and
that they still belong to Him. And in God’s answer to prayer, there is a
thoroughness here that removes any doubt about the power and nature of God. The
people are reminded of God’s covenants with them, and their hearts are set
aflame with recognition.

 

It’s interesting that there are three baptisms described in
Scripture. Baptism in water, baptism in fire and baptism in the Spirit.

 

The Orthodox Church has an interesting perspective on what
happened here on Mount Carmel. They say:

 

Fire and water are obviously opposed to one another. So,
if the Lord makes them operate in harmony and friendly cooperation, He is
clearly the true God. The water filled the furrow, then the fire fell from
heaven. In all this, Elijah proclaimed Christian baptism. “Now in this, by that
marvelous sacrifice, Elijah clearly proclaimed to us the sacramental rite of
Baptism that would be instituted by Christ. For the fire was kindled by water,
poured out three times upon the sacrifice. Thus, it is clearly shown that where
the mystic water is, there is the kindling, warm, and fiery Spirit of God, who
burns up impurity, and illuminates the faithful”.
[2]

 

The point of baptism is to signify that a person becomes
completely immersed and consumed in the act. God does the work in our spirit as
we enter in.

 

Have you been baptized into Jesus through the symbol of
water?

 

Have you been baptized in fire as the Spirit purifies and
consumes you?

 

Have you been baptized in the Spirit so that you may live a
Spirit empowered life?

 



[1] NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible ©2019 by Zondervan

[2] Orthodox Study Bible ©2008 by St. Athanasius Academy
of Orthodox Theology

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Repairing The Altar


 

If God is going to reveal himself, it will be on the basis
of his relationship to his people. There was a great deconstruction happening
in the land. Under Jezebel’s influence the sacred things to Yahweh must be
dismantled. Any unauthorized altars would be torn down, and new altars of
idolatry would take their place.

 

1 Kings 18:

30 Then
Elijah Said To All The People, “Come Here To Me.” They Came To Him, And He
Repaired The Altar Of The Lord, Which Had Been Torn Down. 31 Elijah
Took Twelve Stones, One For Each Of The Tribes Descended From Jacob, To Whom
The Word Of The Lord Had Come, Saying, “Your Name Shall Be Israel.”

 

 

Elijah rebuilds what the people had known previously to be
true. Twelve stones were a sacred reminder that the twelve tribes belonged to
one family. The identity of the people was their union as Israel. The altar was
the place of worship to Yahweh. Then Elijah does something surprising with the
altar that is supposed to set ablaze by God.

 


1 Kings 18:

32 With
The Stones He Built An Altar In The Name Of The Lord, And He Dug A Trench
Around It Large Enough To Hold Two Seahs Of Seed. 33 He
Arranged The Wood, Cut The Bull Into Pieces, And Laid It On The Wood. Then He
Said To Them, “Fill Four Large Jars With Water And Pour It On The Offering And
On The Wood.”

34 “Do
It Again,” He Said, And They Did It Again.

“Do It A Third Time,”
He Ordered, And They Did It The Third Time. 35 The Water Ran
Down Around The Altar And Even Filled The Trench.

 

 

This is a time of famine and draught. Water is scarce and he
pours it out all over the sacrifice and the altar. It’s as if worship requires
us to give what is in short supply. There is a cost to worship and that which
is most valued is given up.

 

There is a touch of chutzpah here in the ridiculous idea of
dampening your firewood. It’s already a test to say that God is going to send
fire from Heaven to set the fire. But now the implausible moves to impossible.
Elijah is not only repairing the altar, but he is also preparing the faith of
the people.

 

Elijah has faith in this moment to know that God himself is
ready to act. This is not a psychological wish fulfillment, but it is resting
in the certainty of what God has already committed to do. You don’t get that
kind of faith unless God gives it to you. We find it in our communion with Him.

 

 

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One Who Answers With Fire


Elijah lays out the terms of the test and gives first
options to the priests of Baal and Asherah. In the events that follow, we will
see that Elijah gives them every advantage to rule out any disclaimer of him manipulating
the conditions in his own favour.

 

1 Kings 18:

22 Then
Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal
has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us.
Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves and let them cut it into pieces
and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull
and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call
on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who
answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people
said, “What you say is good.”

 

 

The Lord is often associated with fire in the OT. Other
ancient sources suggest that Baal was thought to control fire and lightning.
The question here is, who really controls the fire?
[1]

 

To make a comparison between Yahweh and Baal, the people
would have two sides both making the same claim. So how do you prove which god
is the true one?

 

1 Kings 18:

25 Elijah
said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first,
since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light
the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the
name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there
was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had
made.

27 At
noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely, he is a god!
Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and
must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed
themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood
flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic
prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no
response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

 

 

What an exhausting attempt by the priests to summon Baal.
But that is the nature of false religion. When you are committed to falsehood,
you will double down out of blind commitment to your ideology.

 

So, what can we make of Elijah’s provocation? Why does he
taunt them and make suggestions of why Baal wasn’t answering?

 

The gods of Canaan, Mesopotamia and Greece were
understood to possess many human characteristics, including vices and some bodily
functions. Elijah was therefore taunting the prophets with their own possible
explanations for Baal’s indifference. A passage in the Baal Cycle from Ugarit
describes the challenge of finding Baal when he is not in his house, and
another text describes his death, an integral part of the annual cycle
.
[2]

 

But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid
attention. Eventually bad ideas can lose their attractiveness. The people have
been watching this drama unfold without any results except priests hurting
themselves. These same people had believed the lie about Baal being able to
bring the rain and fertility, but now they had to wonder.

 

 



[1] The ESV Global Study Bible ©2012 by Crossway. All
Rights Reserved

[2] NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible ©2016 by
Zondervan

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Showdown At The Summit


There have always been meetings between religious leaders
and political leaders. It is imperative that godly leaders be ambassadors of
another Kingdom and not be used as political pawns or propagators of the king’s
ideology.

 

So, we have a meeting between King Ahab and Israel’s most
wanted man Elijah.

 

 

1 Kings 18:

16 So
Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When
he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I
have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s
family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the
Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me
on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the
four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

 

 

Ahab’s first line is to accuse Elijah of being the troubler
of Israel. Elijah fears God more than the king and retorts that Ahab and his
father are the ones that have brought trouble to the nation.

 

Baal was the storm god leading the pantheon of lesser gods
and it was his responsibility to bring rain to the land. Elijah had prophesied
that it would not rain for three- and one-half years because of the idolatry
and it was so. God was sending a message to Israel about their spiritual
adultery.

 

When people assume to have a better idea than God, they
become prideful and project the blame for their consequences on the godly. ‘We’re
not the trouble, you are.

 

Elijah calls Ahab to assemble the 450 priests of Baal and
400 priests of Asherah on Mount Carmel to have a summit on who controls the
weather. Ahab does not dismiss this, because Elijah had prophesied this
draught. The political agenda depended on continuing to promote the Baal
worship that people wanted and surely this was an easy win to upstage the
judgmental intolerance of the lone prophet.

 

 

1 Kings 18:

20 So
Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount
Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long
will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if
Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said
nothing.

 

 

The people were indecisive about the true God, and their double
mindedness was destroying their souls. Is the true God Baal or the Lord? Baal
was the name of a presiding deity in a community of deities; therefore, the
worship of Baal included that of many gods. But if the presiding deity were
overcome, so would all the rest be. The people would soon discover anew that
the Lord is the one true God
.
[1]

 

Here we see a lesson about true faith. While others think
that ambiguity is a virtue and it’s safer to keep your options open, the true
believer possesses a degree of certainty that calls for exclusive commitment.
It takes faith to hope and to believe in evidence that has not yet appeared.

 

Anything less than that may not be faith at all. It might be
a wishful calculation or an idea that bolsters our ego, but real faith calls us
to God.

 

 



[1] Orthodox Study Bible ©2008 by St. Athanasius Academy
of Orthodox Theology

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Archaeology or Politics: Does Newsweek Question the Existence of the Jewish Temple?

image

It should have been a straightforward journalistic report on an archaeological find in Jerusalem.

Yet some media outlets needlessly managed to cast doubt on basic facts while covering it, thus undermining the validity of Jewish history.

The reports  – by Newsweek, the Science Times and two archeological journals – generally follow a statement by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announcing the discovery of mysterious, three-millennia-old structures just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls last week. According to experts, the structures date back to the period of the First Jewish Temple which stood nearby.

Yet for some reason, these outlets decided to add a sentence questioning this Temple’s very existence – an undebated historical fact (here is a Britannica entry detailing its history from construction to destruction).

Related Reading: Israeli Archaeological Treasures Align With Hebrew Bible Accounts

This is Newsweek’s version:

The structures were in use when the city’s First Temple was thought to have existed, researchers said.

The attribution to researchers is puzzling and was obviously not included in the IAA announcement. It is doubly suspicious, because the next paragraph accurately paraphrases the IAA press release, from which one can clearly conclude that there is no scholarly question whatsoever regarding the existence of the Temple; it says that the location of the structures near the site of the Temple or Palace suggests it was connected to these prominent institutions.

It is unclear, then, what Newsweek’s source was for their mistaken historical caveat.

The Science Times goes further, using words like “claimed” and “believed,” which cast doubt on the very existence of the bedrock of Jewish heritage:

The scholars claimed that the buildings were used throughout the time that the city’s First Temple is believed to have existed.

And two archaeology publications, which are expected to be a bit more knowledgeable on the subject – Arkeonews and The Archaeologist (the latter seems to have relied on the former), made the same mistake while adding:

The structures were in use when the city’s First Temple was thought to have existed, researchers said.

And:

According to scholars, the buildings were in use throughout the time that the city’s First Temple is believed to have existed.

Was it all just poor phrasing, relating to the period of the Temple’s existence rather than to its actual existence? Hopefully.

Either way, it is poor journalism raising irrelevant and mistaken doubts that can only serve anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli agendas.

Liked this article? Follow HonestReporting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to see even more posts and videos debunking news bias and smears, as well as other content explaining what’s really going on in Israel and the region.

Credit image: Tombah from Wikimedia Commons

Honest Reporting is a website that seeks to bring balance to the left slant in the major news media.

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Confronting Wishy-washy-ism


There are some people that live a very prayerful life and
are consumed with the state of God’s people. While it easy to assume that they
are a special kind of Christian, the truth is that they are usually made from
the same stuff as the rest of us. Where they may differ, is in their ability to
live in a state of listening and obeying God continuously. They are not easily
moved away from the securing presence of God. We need a few people around us
like that to set an example for what we may be growing toward.

 

 

James 5:

17 Elijah
was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain,
and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again
he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

 

 

The story of Elijah on Mount Carmel has much to teach us
about being courageous in the face of widespread apathy and wishy-washy-ism.
The ancient high places were places of worship both to the true and living God
and often to others as well—a pantheon of demonically inspired ideas personified
into idolatrous representations.

 

The book of Kings tells us the story of King Ahab and Queen
Jezebel of Israel. Through their leadership the worship of Yahweh was replaced
with worship of Baal and Asherah.

 

Baal was the storm-god of Canaanite mythology, whereas
Asherah was the consort of the patriarchal deity El (see the article “Baal”).
In Ahab’s day, Asherah was recast as Yahweh’s consort, a syncretistic approach
that opened the door for Baal worship as well… Ahab and Jezebel had chosen prophets
of Baal and Asherah to be their official advisors. Just as these prophets were
identified as those “who eat at Jezebel’s table,” prophets in the ancient world
often enjoyed the patronage of the king… A study of the prophetic texts
available from the ancient world has shown that these sponsored prophets rarely
had anything negative to say about the king or his policies… In contrast we
find Elijah offering no support at all of the king’s policies. Instead, he has
stinging indictments and horrific judgments that he pronounces on the royal
house
.[1]

 

The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your
God with everything that you are. And it followed closely that you should not
settle for a graven image, or man-made idea of what you think God is.

 

Contrast God’s Law to the Canadian idea of a spiritual
buffet. You decide what you want on your plate and what you reject. Perhaps a
little bit of Jesus next to a generous helping of Buddhism with some Norse
mythology on the side. Wash it all down with a tall glass of pop culture and
some cannabis for dessert. That is Canadian spirituality for some.

 

The Baal and Asherah worship were being promoted by the
royal couple as valid alternatives to the worship of Yahweh. Or, if you like
you could mix them in to your current relationship with Yahweh. Perhaps that
would appeal to you if you no longer believed as wholeheartedly as you once
did.

 

Incense and sacrifice—even human sacrifice—were offered
to Baal, but the worship of Baal was chiefly marked by fertility rites. The
main function of Baal was thought to be to make the land, animals, and people
fertile. To prompt the god to perform these functions, worshipers themselves
performed human sexual acts of fertility, and the Baal shrines were staffed
with male and female attendants for this purpose
.
[2]

 

What a way to increase failing attendance at the Temple.

 



[1] NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible ©2016 by
Zondervan

[2] Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary ©2011 by
Zondervan

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