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.
‘And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make.’ (Exodus 26:7)
At one time my father-in-law and I ran a mobile home business. People used to accuse us of being in the ‘trailer’ business, but we always levied a 25 cent fine on people that said that. Trailers were for hauling things, transporting something from one place to another. We were in the home business. Sure, you could, if you wanted to, move those 14 x 80 foot babies around, but in our mind we provided people a place to stay, a residence, a roof over their head, simply a dwelling place. I did that for about 6 years and he continued for 28 years, working in that business until he was 80 years old. His numbers, although relatively long, are not the longest for being in the mobile home business. The Father, Son and Spirit holds that record.
I am reminded from time to time of the scripture written above and its association with God’s plan for man. You see, creation was not the beginning of how God thinks about us. Genesis is the record of this creation and the fall of Adam, but long before Genesis The Father, Son and Spirit imagined Adam and amazingly imagined you in a Story that precedes that Genesis beginning. To discover the purpose and intent of God you have to go back to before time, a place outside the universe, where God being Love (the three in one God) searched their hearts about how to live out Their most intimate desires and expressions. The first Chapter of John recites it best. (along with Colossians 1). I won’t go into every detail stated there but the final sum of Father, Son and Spirit was not just to be the God over man but the God with man, and in the most intimate way, dwell in man. Yep, a dwelling place.
Even from the earliest scripture, God is teaching that to make Him a tabernacle, make it and cover it with skin. (Exodus 26:7) The Old Testament was a hint of things to come, when he would not dwell in a tabernacle made with human hands, but one no man had built. (Heb. 9:11) At some point Jesus was going into the mobile home business because this mobile dwelling place is you: a tabernacle, a temple, covered with skin. A mobile home to be used as a tool to love people. Like the first, this one is sprinkled with His blood and sanctioned for ministry. It was and is God’s plan to express and live the God kind of Life not only in you but through you. The old saying, ‘we are His hands and feet’ is truer when understood that The Father, Son and Spirit have come to embrace, to encourage and to build up the Body of Christ through believers. It was never enough for miracles to merely demonstrate God. The Israelites believed in God, they experienced Holy Provision with the parting of the Red Sea, smoke by day and fire by night, manna new every morning, miracles galore and still they wandered around in the desert for 40 years because they failed to recognize the truth about themselves, seeing themselves as grasshoppers instead of people empowered by God.
God has taken the initiative to come to us; even after rejection and sin, He approached and offers to be with us, stay with us, live in us, and that we would be His people. He has approached us and prepared a way for us to know Him, now, all we have to do is simply respond. ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:12-14) In 1 John 5, scripture states that it is the purpose of God for us to ‘know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and (knowing Him is) eternal life.’ John 14:19-20 says, ‘Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me: because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.’
I’ve written quite a bit about Jane’s health issues while hospitalized in Chicago in 2012, but let me add just a footnote to all that’s been shared. I’ll perhaps oversimplify, but let me just say that God was with us as we processed through the emergency room in Carbondale. After many hours of treatment, we moved her to an ICU unit in Chicago. When we arrived He was waiting for us there. He was present with us. Had taken up residence with us. Never left, never forsook, never wavered on the embrace for the full 4 months of treatment. God is at home with you. He knows something that I think we don’t know sometimes. We are made in His image and as such He has a confidence in who you are when you have lost confidence in that fact yourself. As with those Israelites, it’s not just about what we believe about God but also what God believes about us. There is an embrace in the Gospel that holds on. At the Big Daddy Weave concert we were telling all the guys good-bye and I noticed that I was not ‘hug and three patting’ the guys, I was holding them in a truthful embrace that released respect and appreciation in me and them. God does that to us. God’s embrace is not three taps and gone, His is holding on to us in such a way that releases life in us.
One of my favorite scripture portions is John 17. I won’t include it all but just read this part:
And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have glorified You on the earth: I have finished the work which You gave me to do. That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that You have sent me. And the glory which You gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them, as You have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom You have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which You have given me: for You loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known You: but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent me. And I have declared unto them Your name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith You have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
That is so profound it’s hard to type. He has found a dwelling place, a mobile home if you will, and he is perfectly peaceful with that decision and perfectly at home in you, and you in Him.