Just Names

Names

Also in Jerusalem dwelt some of the children of Judah and of the children of Benjamin. The children of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the children of Perez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of Shiloni. All the sons of Perez who dwelt at Jerusalem were four hundred and sixty-eight valiant men. (Nehemiah 11:4–6)

Every once in a while, you come across a chapter or two in the Bible that is filled with names.  It might be a genealogy.  It might be a list of people who sinned.  In Nehemiah, there is a list of people who were chosen to live in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.

I know it’s tempting when you come across a list like this to just skip through it.  Some don’t want to try and tackle the pronunciation of all these Hebrew names.  I would encourage you to consider giving it a try.

Are you a person who cares about the things of God?  Then you are a person who ought to care about people.  People are God’s highest priority.  And people are represented by names.  You can bet that your name is on God’s reading list.  He cares for you.  He also cares for the people around you.  Every one.  Every name.

Not Alone

WalkAlone

The idea that God no longer favors the nation of Israel has been around a long time.  In the apostle Paul’s day, people had conjectured that God had rejected His people, the Jews.  To this, Paul responded with a resounding, “By no means!”  Paul then went on to pull from a story concerning the prophet Elijah when he was fleeing for his life from wicked Queen Jezebel. “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Romans 11:3–4)

There are times in my life when, like Elijah, things have gotten very difficult.  I might mistakenly think like Elijah, that I am the only one that has a passion for God and everyone else must be off on some beach somewhere sipping iced tea.  Sometimes I see so many flaws in the people at church, that I think that no one is taking God seriously, or at least as seriously as I am.  I conclude that I am the only one with a heart for God. My friend, that’s what Elijah was thinking, and he was wrong.  God had not abandoned Israel.  God has not abandoned the church. Elijah needed a fresh vision of God and a commitment to serve Him whether or not he saw anyone else serving Him.  The truth was, Elijah was not alone.  Neither are you.

A World of Hurt

RiotsWhen I read about the condition of the nation of Judah that Hezekiah inherited from his father Ahaz, I can’t help but think of the parallel with our own United States of America.  The nation of Judah had fallen into a world of hurt, and there was a reason for the trouble. Hezekiah recognized the problem and dealt with it by working to restore Temple worship in Jerusalem.  His father Ahaz had closed the place up while promoting the worship of just about every god under the sun.  Hezekiah spoke to the Levites heading up the restoration project, “For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him. …Therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes” (2 Chronicles 29:6,8).

Our nation, too, has fallen into a world of hurt.  Like our politicians, we tend to respond by pointing fingers at each other.  The problem is, we are all to blame.  When we as a nation have turned our back on God, we are like a ship without a rudder.  We sail in circles and act surprised when we run aground. Look at each problem in our nation and you can trace it back to man’s sinful nature. We need new hearts. We need to turn back to God.

Good Listener

Listen

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dave Dunagan:

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way to visit my mother. We had made plans for lunch. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I was just going about my business driving down the road with not a care in the world. All of a sudden, as I looked into my rear view mirror, I noticed that I was being followed by a police car with its red lights flashing. As I pulled over to the side of the road, I wondered what it was that I had done. The officer informed me that I had entered an intersection after the light had turned red. I was not happy. I mentioned to the officer that I thought the light had not turned red, but my plea fell on deaf ears. At the present time, I am in the midst of paying for my violation in the form of a ticket and traffic school. I suppose that if I had a policeman following me around daily as I drove, I would have many, many tickets.

Psalm 130:1-4 tells us “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

It’s a wonderful thing to know that with God our pleas never fall on deaf ears, and our sins, which are many, are never counted against us. When we cry out the Lord, there are no “tickets”, no guilty verdicts, only forgiveness. Beloved, call on Him and you will find forgiveness.

May I take your order?

waitressThe waitress comes up to your table.  You’ve been looking over the things on the menu and have been contemplating each item carefully so you can be ready for this moment.  And then comes the words, “May I take your order?”  Lately, I’ve been ordering with the advice from my cardiologist in mind.  I’m trying to learn to order what I need and not always just what I want.

Solomon wasn’t in a restaurant when His Waiter appeared, he was asleep.  On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (2 Chronicles 1:7)

We’ve all heard the jokes about a genie granting three wishes, but this was no genie.  This was God Almighty offering to give Solomon whatever he wanted.  Have you ever thought how you would respond if God appeared to you with the same question?  I might respond with requests for fast cars and lots of money, but that’s a little like me ordering steak and ice-cream at every meal … not good for the heart.  I might respond with asking God to take away all my problems, but again, is that what I really need? Solomon responded by asking God for wisdom to rule over the people of Israel.  That’s a pretty wise choice. Beloved, we get sidetracked by so many things that ultimately aren’t all that important.  Focus on what’s really important.  Perhaps it starts with a request to go deeper with God.

False Help

Golden-CalfIn the ancient days, when men felt that they needed help, they made idols, little figures of a “god” they would cry out to for help.

The Psalmist wrote, “Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see;” (Psalm 115:4–5)

Of course, nowadays in our advanced scientific culture, we laugh at the idea of making little statues and offering a sacrifice to invoke the help of this “deity”. But even today, the principle is the same.  When men need help, more often than not they will turn anywhere they can for help rather than turning to God.

Some turn to the god of money: If only we can put enough money into this project it can be saved.  Some turn to the god of knowledge:  With just a little more intellect, I might find an answer to my mess without having to admit my responsibility to the Creator. Others turn to the gods of sex, alcohol, and drugs:  If I can’t solve the problem, at least I can escape or perhaps dull the pain.  Like the ancient idols of history, these gods do not speak and they do not see.  Their answers do not assuage my guilt nor do they comfort the afflicted.

Beloved, there is only One God.  He is the Creator of the heavens and earth.  He sent His Son.  He’s spoken His Word.  Look to Him.

Where It Starts

Closed DoorPreachers often talk about the need to “repent”, the need to change.  The question I want to ask is, “Where does it start?”

David the Psalmist wrote, I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (Psalm 101:2)

The Hebrew word translated “perfect” carries the idea of being “complete” (as in maturity) and has been translated as “blameless” or “integrity”.  David was wrestling with living a life that was pleasing to God, and he makes it clear just where it starts:

Maturity begins at home.

Too often we work on the areas of our lives that others see when we’re out and about.  When I’m at church, I’m particularly careful to be sure to behave and watch what comes out of my mouth.  If people at work know I’m a believer, then I work hard to be a good example.  If the friends I hang out with are believers, I try to put my best foot forward.

Though those are all good things to be concerned about, God is concerned about what goes on at home when you let down your hair and lower your guard.  God cares about what you do when He is the only one watching.  Real maturity begins behind closed doors. If you take care of the heart first, the other problems will fall into line.

Hold On

Joash boy kingIn the seventh year Jehoiada …showed them the king’s son. (2 Kings 11:4)

It was seven long years of crazy, wicked, madness for the godly living in the nation of Judah. Wicked Queen Athaliah seized control of the government and killed off all other heirs to the throne of David, or so she had thought.  Athaliah was from a long line of Baal worshippers, learning her evil from her mother, Queen Jezebel.  Athaliah promoted her evil ways and was leading the nation of Judah into the pits of hell.  The one thing she didn’t count on in her schemes was the sovereign work of God.

In the early days of her coup, Athaliah didn’t know that one baby had escaped her murder squads.  Baby Joash, of the line of David, would be hidden by the priests for seven years until the day came that it was time to make things right in the kingdom.  Jehoiada would show the nation the young boy, declare him king, and Athaliah’s reign of terror was over.

Even in days when it seems that evil is increasing exponentially, God is still on His throne.  He sees what is going on.  For you who love God, He promises to make it all eventually work for the good.  You need to trust Him, keep doing good, and hold on tight.

Show No Mercy

Hunter Willits of Pueblo County and Erik Lobato-Contrera of Mountain View wrestle in a 4A 138-pound semifinal during CHSAA state wrestling, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015, at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. (Kai Casey/CHSAANow.com)

King Ahab of Israel was under siege by Ben-hadad, king of Syria (1Kings 20). Ben-hadad was a bit of a bully.  He wanted to exert his authority over the Israelites, and he did this by demanding that Ahab give up all his wealth, as well as his wives and children.  When Ahab refused, the war was on.  Now you might recall that Ahab himself was a fairly wicked man, yet God determined to allow Ahab to defeat Ben-hadad.  Several battles ensued and Ben-hadad found himself trapped in a tower. When Ben-hadad’s ambassadors tried to negotiate a peace settlement with Ahab, they were surprised that Ahab actually allowed Ben-hadad to live. They even created a mutually beneficial trade deal in the process.

While Ahab might have thought that he got the better end of the whole episode, a prophet showed up (1Kings 20:42) to rebuke Ahab for allowing Ben-hadad, Israel’s sworn enemy, to live.

Before you get all sidetracked with thoughts of grace, forgiveness, and peace, listen up.  We, too, face an enemy that is out to destroy us.  Your very own sin nature wants you enslaved to sin.  Like Ben-hadad, we can’t negotiate a peace deal with an enemy like this. We must pursue the spiritual battle and only settle for complete victory. When under siege, your flesh will want you to go easy and ask for a break.  Don’t do it.  Show no mercy.

The Inner Life

Temple StonesThe inside of the temple was cedar, carved with ornamental buds and open flowers. All was cedar; there was no stone to be seen. (1 Kings 6:18)

Solomon was building the temple.  It was all to be done according to a specific plan that God had given to David his father.  The construction of the temple began with laying a foundation of large, costly stones.  The walls of the temple were likewise constructed with stones.  The stones were then covered with cedar and sometimes even gold, combining all sorts of artistic designs and patterns. When people looked at the temple, they didn’t see the stones.  They only saw gold and cedar, but the stones were still there.

Beloved, the Bible says that we too are temples (1Cor. 6:19).

Too often we focus on the outside, the things that people see.  We might dress a little differently when we go to church, put on a smile for others, or try to say the right things.  It’s not that those things aren’t important, but it’s what is underneath that really matters.  It’s the unseen stones that form the structure of the temple.

Be careful to not ignore the inner life.  God cares about the condition of your heart and your mind.  He cares about what you think about.  He wants the inner you formed like Christ. He alone is the “rock” we build upon (Ps. 62:2).