1Ki 18:31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 1Ki 18:38
It was back in the 1960’s. A sunny warm Saturday, and if you remember the times you know what a teenage boy was doing on a Saturday afternoon. Of course, he was washing his Chevy. My two door, 1957, white top and plum body, 283 engine, hardtop Impala Chevy! That Saturday I was almost in tears. I knew that night instead of cruising the streets and enjoying the A&W root beer delivered to your car on an aluminum tray, I was going to a little country church. Something was already working inside me. It was not any one thing, just something churning in my heart. These were not sad tears but tears of relief, tears of Peace and Thanksgiving. I knew that ‘preacher’ L. G. Hartley was not going to be saying anything that was going to increase or decrease what was churning in me, but I knew that when I went to that meeting I was about to explode, come apart in some way that I had never come apart before. I had already been caught but it was a good caught that you want to be captured by. Sure enough, L.G. Hartley spoke and somewhere in that moment, Dale Beasley laid his hand on my shoulder and from then on I only recall the first step of being down front standing/falling in front of preacher Hartley and finally ‘I’m in’, all in, buying the whole farm in, lock, stock and barrel, in!
Now, it’s more than 50 years later and I’m still in. It was a powerful moment for it to hold on to me all those years. I’ve gone through, like most of you, days that stretched it, cracked it, bruised it, wounded it, crushed it, discouraged it, stressed it (well you get the idea). But you see, everyone ‘in’ faces challenges to being ‘in’. Trouble’s always been a part of the deal. The world has tried to take it away, kill it, and for 6000 years, has put all its effort into defeating it. Sometimes violently, sometimes with subtlety. They have humanized it (His Kingdom is of this world, that man can live by bread alone and we should lay up treasures of our own, bolstered by a bit of Wall Street), mixed it with politics (making Jesus a radical freedom fighter) and even pronounced it dead on arrival. It is the Gospel. Yet, for all those years it has out survived its critics, outlived all its accusers. In these days especially, it seems the more we know about Jesus, the less we know of him. We’ve become a generation who are like grandchildren who know about the Faith of their grandparents but possess none of that kind of Faith ourselves, coasting along on the current of their past Church but struggling to assimilate that into our own lives.
It seems to me we’re living in the days of Elijah. The world is pouring everything it has on our Sacrifice to try and destroy our Sacrifice. Yet, Elijah showed no fear; rather ‘bring it on’ might be his call of the day. ‘Pour more, bring more, do it again, my God is able’ was in his heart. This is a day when to believe in a virgin birth is to be considered an idiot, to not believe in the unproven science of human evolution is to be an imbecile. We have a generation that desperately needs a Savior but will not permit the Light of the world to be in our darkness, even as that darkness oppresses Christians to a greater and greater extent. This is a time when the story of Christ’s birth is obviously offensive to the local Family Planning Center, who probably would today simply refer Mary to a local psychiatrist. The world system is eager to crucify this Christ again today in the name of political correctness and tolerance. These are also the days of Elijah because, as I hope we do, Elijah knew and trusted his Lord completely. He was so confident he told them to bring water, lots of water, enough for sure to drown a fire, at the same time knowing that a fire was coming. For Elijah, God was not dead!
No, this Savior did not come to suffer and be raised from the dead to be beaten on the battlefield of the world system. He did not come to be discouraged by the things we see and hear. He did not come to eventually be erased from His-tory. This Creator will not be destroyed by His creation. God is not going away, not going to lose. He is not wringing his hands in fear, not in doubt of what the future might hold.
It has been over 50 years since that Saturday car wash but with all that has come to pass, I’m more excited and more encouraged about the future of Father, Son and Spirit: about the Gospel. I can’t predict the exact future using men as the evidence of that future, but I can predict the future using the Father, Son and Spirit, and I’m convinced they will see this Message through and we will see the manifestation of the Sons of God over all the earth. This world system has always produced bleak stories in people’s lives but there’s a Red Sea in our future. God has not changed. There is a man in a tent sitting in a desert land that will lead us someday, right after his 100 year old wife has a child. There’s a widow with only a mite. It’s always been bleak, always seemingly impossible for God to win. There is a Moses, a Rachel, and a David. There is a Joseph somewhere with a child that appears to not be his own, caring for and preparing for a birth in which he played no part. There is a Mary that simply said ‘let it be unto me as You say’; in today’s ethic she’s a great candidate for a little Planned Parenthood counseling. Jesus was ‘deader than a door nail’, the leader of the new Church was done, the King of the Jews was crucified, the apostles were martyred, but God did not flinch, will not flinch now. We are not losing, but we are winning in the middle of a loser of a world.
I have no hope in men, their hearts are not up to the task to lead us, won’t bring justice, unable to only do good, unable to Love their God, but God is able to do all that and do that in the middle of this mess. In spite of what we see and hear, tomorrow is moving toward a glorious tomorrow. The road is rough and the road is long, but Christ came to make the mountains and valleys level and the roads straight. (Luke 3:5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.) ‘Do not fear, I have come to over-come’ is the Wisdom of God. When Moses asked who shall I tell Pharaoh sent me, God replied, ‘My name is I Am, tell him I Am sent you.’ He is not a God that used to be or will be some day, but a God that is now. He is I Am with us right now.