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Growing and Going with the Word and Sacraments

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It is our sincere prayer that the Lord Jesus will bless you through the hearing of his word. First Evangelical Lutheran is a Bible-Based, Christ-Centered Church. Since 1849, First Evangelical Lutheran Church has proclaimed great news of free salvation. Our mission is to use this Gospel, found in God's inerrant Word, Baptism, and Holy Communion, to bring Christ's forgiveness to sinners. Learn more about what we offer by clicking the buttons below.

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First Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in downtown Racine, Wisconsin, at 728 Villa Street.

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If you are interested in joining our church or simply would like to know more about what we teach and preach, we offer a Bible Information Class. The class is held at various times throughout the year, lasting 13-15 weeks. For more information or to sign up, contact Pastor Dolan using this form. You can also sign up here.

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Sunday morning worship services take place at 9:00 am during the summer. We also have Monday night services at 7:00 pm (except during Lent)

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Recent Sermon Texts

God's Harvest Continues - Pastor John Roekle

June 4, 2017 [Pentecost] Acts 2:1-21 J.D.Roekle

2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine." 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

God’s Harvest Continues

Dear Friends in Christ,

Do you enjoy celebrating birthdays? The jury is out on that, isn’t it?! It may depend on your age. Children can’t wait for the day as all the attention is on them, and they anticipate gifts being showered on them. As we change, that often changes. Maybe we don’t like to celebrate our birthdays, because we don’t like to be the center of attention. Older adults may not like the thought of another birthday since it reminds them that they aren’t kids anymore.

Whether you like to celebrate your birthday or not, there is one birthday celebration we can all agree on. It’s today. Today we celebrate the festival of Pentecost which marks a birthday. The birth of the New Testament Church. The Old Testament Church looked forward to Christ. As of Pentecost, Christ has already come and he was no longer visibly present. He ascended into heaven. Now the church’s perspective has changed. The church looks back at what Jesus has done, and looks for him to come again.

So what does this all mean? It means that the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church is united. The goal for the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church is the same. The harvest of souls! You and I are a part of this New Testament Church. Just as we have been connected to it through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so it is our work to connect Jesus Christ as the long foretold Savior of the world. It is through us that God’s Harvest Continues.

In Old Testament times, Pentecost was known as a harvest festival. It was held in connection with the harvesting of crops. It was celebrated 50 days after the first sheaf of grain was presented.

This was a big day in the life of an Israelite. In fact this was one of the 3 great festivals of the year. And so Jews from all over the world would make the pilgrimage back to the holy city of Jerusalem to celebrate this festival.

There were certain directives the Lord gave in how they were to celebrate it. The offerings they were to present including new grain, unleavened bread, lambs, and goats. They were to be their ‘firstfruits.’ And in connection with all this, they were to do as Leviticus records (23:16b—21): “On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”

The Lord’s requirements for celebrating this festival were quite ambitious. It brought to mind the importance of what they were celebrating. The fact that the Lord blessed their planting, watering, tending and now harvesting of the crops was something to celebrate. They could plant seed, but it was only the Lord who could make it grow. They were commemorating the fact that God was the vital ingredient to keeping them alive and growing.

It was on the day of Pentecost on which many Jews from all over the place were gathered. In fact, Jews had come from 3 different continents: Asia, Europe and Africa. They had originally gathered to be able to celebrate the harvest of wheat. They were soon about to witness another harvest that was even greater.

Our God is a planner. He planned out our salvation from sin to be won through Jesus at just the right time. It was a time of peace and a time where the Roman Empire controlled most of the world, so the news about Jesus could spread. In his omniscience, he also planned this outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ departure from this earth. What timing! Here were 1000s of Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the harvest festival fresh on the heels of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

This outpouring of the Spirit came in visible extraordinary ways: the blowing of a violent wind, and tongues of fire resting on the disciples’ heads. But perhaps the most impressive sign of the Holy Spirit was the fact that the disciples were speaking in the native tongues of the people gathered there.

The Jews gathered there recognized how impressive this was: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”

They recognized that these men were natives of Israel, from “the Galilee”, the northern region of Israel. If that were the case, how could they know languages that were only spoken 100s of miles away?

Peter was God’s chief spokesman on this day. He stood up and explained what was happening and why. He connected these Old Testament Jews who were celebrating an Old Testament Festival, to the New Testament.

Peter pointed out that it was the prophet Joel who predicted all this. Joel predicted that the Lord would pour out his Spirit on all people so that they would be able to prophesy, to speak God’s Word to other people. The point of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the signs and the prophesying, Joel says, is that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The point then of this new celebration of Pentecost is also a harvest: a harvest of souls. On that day when 1000s gathered to celebrate the Lord’s grace in the harvest of wheat, 3000 souls were harvested into the Lord’s kingdom.

What a remarkable day! What a remarkable harvest! And that harvest yielded more harvests. As those 3000 went back to their homes, they spread the news of Jesus Christ. The church that started in Jerusalem would spread to 3 continents, and eventually throughout the world. In fact, you and I were once harvested. You and I were brought in God’s Church as we came to know and trust in Jesus as our Savior.

But just because you and I have been gathered in, it doesn’t mean God’s harvest of souls is over. It is not over until Christ returns. With that in mind, think about the hymn writer’s words:

“Hark! The voice of Jesus crying, “Who will go and work today?

Fields are ripe and harvests waiting; Who will bear the sheaves away?”

Much work has been and is being done as many souls wait to hear the saving message of the Gospel. There are also many missionaries, pastors, and teachers who have answered the call to go out into the world to be harvesters for the Lord.

But there is a need for more. For more people who are willing to go out into the harvest fields. In the past few weeks teacher candidates from Martin Luther College and pastor candidates from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary were assigned to various places throughout the country. It is exciting to see fresh young men and women go out into the harvest field.

But there is a need for even more. There are many churches who are going without fulltime pastors, and there are many schools making due with being shorthanded. With more people, much more harvesting can be done.

So what can you do? First of all: pray. Pray what Jesus tells us to pray: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Mt. 9:38) Let’s pray for more willing candidates to come forward to be trained for the harvest. You can also support the training of students to be fulltime harvesters. The money you put in the “Synod and Missions” category on your church envelopes go toward the support of the training and sending out harvesters. Another thing you can do is to encourage. Encourage young people to consider training for the fulltime ministry. As family, friends or acquaintances, you can have a big influence on a young person in urging them to at least think about it.

What else can you do? Look around you. The harvest in Racine is huge. Don’t let the appearance of dozens of churches fool you. Many of those churches are shrinking and combining. There are more and more people who don’t know Jesus as their Savior. That being the case, let us all joyfully answer the Lord’s invitation to be harvesters: “Here am I. Send me! Send me!”

It is good to celebrate the birthday of the New Testament Church today. As we do, it should remind us that God isn’t done bringing souls into his Church. God’s harvest continues. And it continues through us, and through all who have been harvested. What a privilege we have as God’s instruments to keep his Church going and growing. Amen.

God's Boundless Grace - Pastor John Roekle

May 28, 2017 [Easter 7] Genesis 4:1-16 J.D.Roekle

Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

God’s Boundless Grace

Dear Friends in Christ,

Perhaps you have heard the saying: “Thank God he does not measure out grace in teaspoons.” You hear the implication, don’t you? The statement implies that we do measure out grace in teaspoons. I’m willing to help, but only this much. I’m willing to give my time, but not too much. I’m willing to give of my treasures, but not too much. I’m willing to forgive, but there’s a limit. And so, we repeat: “Thank God he does not measure out grace in teaspoons.” God’s grace knows no limits and it is on this boundless grace that we want to focus on today. No matter who we are or what the circumstances are, God’s grace abounds. No matter what we have done or left undone, God’s Boundless Grace is evident. Let’s look for it in this well-known account.

“Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.” Here is the record of the first two births in the history of the world. Think about why this is extraordinary. Adam and Eve were given everything. Yet they disobeyed God. Their sin caused devastation to all of God’s creation including them. Instead of destroying Adam and Eve as would have been right and just, God graciously announced his grace through the seed of the woman – through Eve. God now graciously allowed Adam and Eve to have children which was necessary in order for the seed of the woman to be born. God gave Cain and Abel to Adam and Eve. When this happened, Eve recognized that these were gifts from a good and gracious God.

Can’t you say the same? That you have received good and gracious gifts from a good and gracious God? Even if you don’t have children, you can say that. Look at Cain and Abel. God’s abundant grace was also shown to them as they took on noble professions and were blessed through them. Cain as a farmer and Abel as a shepherd. God had surely blessed them since and as a result, they gave some of those blessings back to the Lord:

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.”

Cain and Abel were taught from early on that it was good for them to respond to their gracious God. They were to worship, and that as part of their worship, they were to bring an offering to the LORD. Here we see Cain, giving a portion of his crops, and Abel giving a portion of his sheep.

We respond also to our God’s grace. Whether we were taught by our parents to do that or learned it later on, we are responding now to his love and faithfulness. That’s why we come here. Oh, certainly we receive so many gracious blessing from his hand even while we gather here, but we also have the opportunity here to show our love and appreciation for him who loves us and gave himself up for us. It is here that we offer our gifts of song, of prayer, and of offerings. We are to do this simply in response to the God of all grace and his love for us.

How did God look at the response that Cain and Abel gave to his love for them? “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.”

Did God treat Cain fairly? Or was he playing favorites with Abel? On the surface, their offerings didn’t look like much different. Both brought offerings. Both showed evidence of their hard work in producing good things to sacrifice to the Lord.

No matter what offering or response we might give to God, it is always tainted with sin. It was here too. Abel’s and Cain’s offering were both tainted with sin. So what was the difference? Why did God accept one gift and not the other?

Remember that we use Scripture to interpret Scripture. The writer to the Hebrews explains: “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” Do you see what was happening? Abel was giving by faith. He was giving out of love for his Savior God for being so gracious to him. That wasn’t the case with Cain. He wasn’t giving out faith, or out of love for God. He was giving for selfish reasons.

Would it have been gracious of God to accept his offering anyway? Actually, if he had, it would have been more of a judgment on Cain. It would have meant that he didn’t care about Cain anymore. That he was turning his back on him. But God is a gracious God and wanted things to turn around for Cain. That’s what he wants for each and every one of us. He wants us to turn to him in faith, and act out in faith.

Instead of recognizing God’s grace in his rebuke of Cain and his offering, Cain reacted negatively. “So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” Cain’s response is typical. The Old Adam does not like to be called out! But what Cain failed to remember was the fact that when his parents ruined the Garden of Eden with their sin, they were not immediately destroyed but given a promise of reconciliation instead.

We may not always like the way God deals with us. There are times we pray to him and he answers ‘no’ to us. Maybe we hear ‘no’ from him over and over again. Does that give us a right to be angry with him? Remember, this is the God of all grace who knows all and who has your best interests in mind. You and I are the ones with the shortcomings. Not God.

God certainly does deal with us in a way we don’t deserve. He deals with us lovingly. That is evident in how God continued to pursue Cain even as his heart was in a very frightening place. God asked him: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

God was being gracious in his call to repentance. God knew that Cain was on a deadly path. But instead of heeding God’s call to repentance, Cain let his anger get the best of him. His anger against God which he took out on Abel by killing him.

What horrible things can happen when we too let sin have mastery over us. Remember that it is only a matter of time for us to act out on sin when it rules our hearts. Scripture reminds us that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

When we have gone down that path and let sin master us and we have hurt ourselves and others by our words or actions, God is still there calling us back to himself. Calling us to repentance. Why? Because God is always there to forgive. To remind us that all our sins are wiped out in Jesus’ precious blood which was shed for us.

That’s what the LORD was trying to do with Cain as he approached him again: “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” As a constant reminder to Cain of the seriousness of what he had done, God put a curse on Cain. He told him he would have difficulty producing crops from the ground and that he would be a restless wanderer. His livelihood was now taken away from him. What was Cain’s reaction? “My punishment is more than I can bear.”

Should Cain have been complaining? Remember that God could have simply put Cain to death as a punishment. If he had at this point, Cain would have suffered an eternal punishment in hell. Cain once again failed to recognize the grace of God here that he would still be allowed life on this earth, and time in which to come to repentance.

When God has allowed some affliction in your life, recognize the grace of God even in that. You have heard it over and over again. God is using it for your good. For your benefit. It may be that God is using it to bring you to repentance. To acknowledge your sin before the throne of God so that you can receive forgiveness.

God’s grace with Cain continued even after Cain complained about his punishment. Cain feared that someone was going to take revenge on him and kill him. Was it realistic? Of course it was. But it would have been completely deserved. But God’s boundless grace wouldn’t allow for that to happen. God made sure that he extended Cain’s time of grace by putting a mark on him and telling him that if anyone killed him that person would suffer vengeance seven times over. God wasn’t giving up on Cain.

God doesn’t gives up on you either. God continues to pursue you with his love that knows no limit. You can surely thank God that he does not measure his grace in teaspoonfuls. He lets his love flow. Just as he let the blood of Jesus flow from his body on the cross. There you see the extent of God’s grace. Instead of putting you and me to death, Jesus took our place and died instead. Being alive again and being seated at God’s right hand, Jesus reassures us that God’s grace continues to flow to us throughout this life and in the life to come. Amen.

There Is Only One Way to God - Pastor John Roekle

May 21, 2017 [Easter 6] 1 Kings 18:16-45 J.D.Roekle

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17When 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. 19Now 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."

20So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21Elijah 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.

22Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23Get two bulls for us. Let them 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. 24Then 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."

25Elijah 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." 26So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

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

27At 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." 28So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29Midday 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.

30Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins. 31Elijah 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." 32With 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. 33He 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. 35The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O Lord, 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. 37Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

38Then 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.

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

40Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

41And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." 42So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

43"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

"There is nothing there," he said.

Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."

44The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea."

So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.' "

45Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.

There Is Only One Way to God

Dear Friends in Christ,

Is God exclusive? Will God only accept certain people into his kingdom and into his heaven? A poll question posed by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research to Evangelical Christians is quite revealing on how divided at least some Christians are on this. The question asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.” 46 % - nearly half – of the participants answered that they agreed with that statement. Clearly, not all of Christianity agrees on this statement.

However, God is very clear on the matter. In fact, Jesus’ statement in the Gospel lesson sounds very exclusive: “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That’s a bold statement. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt about what Jesus says regarding the way to God. It must come through Jesus. There is only one way to God.

That truth is reinforced by the account in our text for today. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel had introduced Baal worship to Israel along with the worship of Asherah. They had developed it to such a large degree that there were 450 prophets overseeing the worship of Baal, and 400 prophets overseeing the worship of Asherah. Not only did they promote these false prophets, but they killed many of God’s prophets. Unfortunately, the people took to this false kind of worship. In fact, they wavered between worshipping these idols and worshipping God.

Because the people had largely turned their backs on him, God sent a drought among the people. A drought that had lasted 3 years. With no rain, there was a famine in the kingdom of Israel. No food would grow. This was a serious problem.

It was at this time that God’s prophet Elijah came to Ahab with a challenge. He told Ahab to tell the people of Israel to assemble on Mount Carmel, and to also summon the 450 prophets of Baal. The challenge was this: he, Elijah, would set up an altar to sacrifice a bull, and the 450 Baal prophets would also set up an altar to sacrifice a bull. Each side would supply everything that was needed except the fire. They were to pray to their own gods to send fire. Whichever god answered by sending fire for the sacrifice would be the real god. The challenge was accepted by all the parties involved.

So what was the result of the challenge? No matter how hard they tried, the Baal prophets failed to reach their god. There was no fire that came on their sacrifice. On the other hand, when Elijah called on God’s name, God sent an all-consuming fire that not only consumed the sacrifice but also all the water Elijah had poured on the altar, as well as the stone altar itself. 450 Baal prophets versus 1 of God’s prophets looked like a mismatch. And it was. Only not the way it looked outwardly. It was a mismatch because the Baal prophets were reaching a god with no power. A god that they had made up. Elijah, on the other hand, was reaching the one true God.

The way in which each side called on the name of their god also teaches us some important lessons. The Baal prophets prayed to their god from morning till noon. They danced around the altar. They shouted “O Baal, answer us!” And Elijah egged them on to shout even louder. They also began to slash themselves until their blood flowed.

Contrast that with Elijah. All he did was simply pray: “O Lord, 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. 37Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

The approaches the two sides took should tell us something about each side. On one hand, the Baal prophets were doing everything they could to get their god’s attention. They thought by doing certain things, Baal would be pleased with them and would listen to them, and finally answer them by sending fire. They just needed to find favor in his eyes by what they did!

That sounds a little like people today who are trying to get God’s attention. “Look at me, god, I face Mecca and get down on my prayer mat 5 times a day.” “Pay attention to me, god, because I deprive myself of food or mistreat my body in other ways.” And maybe we fall into that trap too. “Look at me, God! I belong to this church.” Or “Look at me, God, and all the things I do for you.”

On the other hand, you have Elijah. He simply called out to the God of all grace, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. The God of the fathers. The God of the promise. In his prayer, Elijah is simply asking God to glorify his name. To convince people that he is the true God. His prayer was really all about wanting the people of Israel to come to faith in God’s salvation and a knowledge of the truth.

The only way to God, after all, is through God himself and through his appointed plan. The plan that included his only Son Jesus coming into this world in order to rescue the world. Jesus came to live perfectly and die innocently in our place. He tells us that the wages of sin is death so that we will despair of trying to save ourselves, of trying to win God’s favor. He tells us instead that the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Savior.

That’s why Jesus can rightfully say “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the exclusive way to the Father. And he isn’t the way in the sense that he points you on the right path and says God is that way. Jesus is more like a taxi that drives you directly to the Father. You don’t need to do anything to get there. This ride, unlike a taxi, is completely free of charge.

Is God exclusive? In a sense you can say he is. Not all people come into his kingdom. Many will not enter heaven. But it isn’t that God is exclusive in his desire. In fact, he is very inclusive in what he desires. Remember that “God so loved the world” and “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God only becomes exclusive when people reject him. When people deny what Christ has done for them. Then God is simply acknowledging their rejection by not allowing them to enter into his presence either here on earth or in heaven.

There is only one way to God. You know that one way. Jesus is the way. It is now your privilege and responsibility to point others to the way. Does that mean it will be easy? Of course not. Just look at Elijah. When Ahab met up with him, he called him a “troubler of Israel.” The king and queen were dead set against him. There were hundreds of prophets against him. And yet, Elijah knew that the power was on his side. God performed a miracle that day by sending fire. But even more than sending physical fire, he sent the fire of the Holy Spirit. After the miracle, look at the reaction of the people of Israel: “They fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!"”

God has made a believer out of you too. A believer in his promises. A believer in his plan that he executed perfectly. A believer in the one and only way to God: Jesus Christ your Savior from sin. Amen.

Daily Devotion

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