, Muskogee, OK

Fort Gibson

August 20, 2013

FORT FAITH: Holy smokes, God is powerful

By Barrett Vanlandingham

So much fun — the other day, I watched from the back of the boat as my two teenage kids and their two cousins balanced on a giant inner tube while my dad pulled them across Lake Tenkiller.  

It was an unseasonably perfect day for August in northeastern Oklahoma — overcast, cool, with occasional raindrops.

But for a few minutes at the end of the day, my good feelings turned to terror. An enormous bolt of lightning shot down through the clouds.

And even though it appeared to strike behind a hill several miles away, I’m sure my heartbeat was pounding double time! The vivid color and booming thunder really were amazing.

And I might have actually enjoyed the brief light show had it not been for the fact my kids were on the water.

My story had a happy ending. The kids got back in the boat, into the car, onward to Sonic, and finally to my parents’ nice, dry, safe, and lightning-free house. Whew!

In the Old Testament days of God’s prophet Elijah, another lightning bolt scenario played out. It ended great for him, but not so well for 850 prophets of the false gods, Baal and Asherah.

In 1 Kings 18:21, God’s people couldn’t seem to make up their mind about who to worship. King Ahab had convinced a lot of folks to listen to false teachers who promoted the worship of Baal and Asherah.

He even blamed Elijah for Israel’s troubles such as the drought and famine they were going through. In time, Elijah had all he could take of Ahab’s belly-aching, so he called for a contest to see who was strongest.

Would it be God, or the gods?

Elijah said he would build one altar with a sacrifice, and another altar and sacrifice would be presented by the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Then, the god who answered by fire would be honored as God.

The outcome was incredibly sad for those who rooted for the wrong team and nothing less than spectacular for Elijah and those who had sided with God.

It was a tragic end that began with a lot of frustration and self-mutilation on the side of the false prophets.

It was their attempt to gain the attention of gods that didn’t even exist except in their imagination. It only went downhill from there.  

On the other hand, Elijah’s altar and prayer to God saw a much different outcome.

And yes, it involved fire from heaven that left no question unanswered. In fact, when the fire of the Lord struck Elijah’s sacrifice, the entire altar was destroyed including the dirt around it!

The people cried, “The Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God! (1 Kings 18:39). Now that was a decisive victory! The evidence was clear then, just as it is today.

So the next time you see a bolt of lightning, just remember the same God who created it is also the One who created heaven to reward those who choose to live for Him and honor his Son Jesus as the Lord of all.

Have a great week!

Reach Barrett Vanlandingham at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ at (918) 478-2222 or

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