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).

Consequences

Domino consequenceWhen you’re in the moment of temptation, you don’t often stop to think beyond what is happening at that moment.  All you can think about is that thing that is enticing you.  I’d like to challenge you to think a little further ahead and examine how your choices affect others.

When David first spied Bathsheba taking a bath on a neighboring rooftop, I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about where his thoughts were leading, let alone to the eventual avalanche of pain that would come from his momentary “lapse”. His disobedience led to a chain of events that would harm many for a long time.

I’m sure David’s own lusts influenced his son, Amnon, who would rape his half-sister, Tamar.  David’s son, Absalom, would take revenge for his sister, Tamar, and kill Amnon.  Absalom would eventually lead a revolt against David’s flawed leadership.  Perhaps the most graphic consequence came at the advice of David’s bitter former friend, Ahithophel (Bathsheba’s grandfather)…So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. (2 Samuel 16:22)

I think it’s a healthy thing to take inventory of the things you struggle with.  Look beyond that neighboring rooftop to see the consequences of your actions.

Letting Go

openhandAnd they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son, for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. (2 Samuel 1:12)

David and his men had been on the run for several years.  Even though David was thought of as a hero in Israel for all his victories over the Philistines, King Saul had grown jealous of David and was actively trying to have David killed.  David had several opportunities to retaliate and kill Saul, but David was steadfast in his belief that he should let God deal with Saul.  The apostle Paul told us to do the very same thing when he said we should let God handle the “vengeance” (Rom. 12:19). Letting go of bitterness, especially when we have been unjustly wronged, is quite difficult.  The test of how well you have forgiven is your reaction on the day when God does bring His vengeance.  Solomon wrote that when that day comes, we shouldn’t “rejoice” (Prov. 24:17).

For King Saul, his day came when he died in battle against the Philistines.  When David heard of Saul’s death, he didn’t rejoice that the wicked old man was finally dead.  Instead, David wept.  David saw the defeat for what it was, something to mourn over.  Let go of your grudges beloved.  The concept of “getting even” only causes more hurt and pain. Learn to love those who cause you difficulty.

Next Gen

seedlingKing Saul was on a downward spiral.  He was impatient when it came to waiting on God’s leading.  He was disobedient when it came to following God’s leading.  And now, to top it all off, when he saw the person who did follow God’s leading, he was jealous.

Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” (1 Samuel 18:8)

The more God used David, the more “Angry Saul” threw things.  He threw spears at David.  He threw difficult work assignments at David.  He even threw his own daughter at David.

Saul was worried about keeping his grip on something that wasn’t his to begin with.  Israel was never Saul’s kingdom; it was God’s kingdom.

Even today we can become paranoid like Saul when we are focused on building our own kingdoms.  God wants us to learn to follow His leading so His kingdom is the one that’s built.  Don’t worry if God uses someone more than He uses you.  Stop throwing things.  Stop hindering the work that God is wanting to do on this earth.  If God has raised up a David under you, that’s a good thing. Embrace the next generation.  Support them.  Give them a chance.

Who Do You Trust?

Rabbits FootAnd when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3)

Israel had just suffered a great defeat from the Philistines, losing four thousand in a single battle.  It’s not unusual in those situations to ask, “Why?”  What’s more important than the question, is the conclusion you come to afterward.  The people decided that rather than needing God’s help, what they needed was some kind of a magic rabbit’s foot.  They just happened to have the best good-luck charm to bring them victory; they had the Ark of the Covenant.

Some people trust a church for their salvation, instead of trusting in Jesus.  They figure that as long as they are going to the right church, they are safe. Other say they are trusting in the Bible, but they never take the time to open it and do what it says. Others are looking for a person to help them.  It might be a godly person or a political figure that they hope will fix everything.

Israel would suffer another great defeat that day.  Why?  Because God wanted them to know they were trusting in the wrong thing.  God wants you to trust in Him and Him alone.

Foundations

RaisingKidsThey were dark days indeed.  The nation of Israel kept rebelling against God.  When they got into trouble, God would graciously respond by sending a man to deliver them.  They were in one of those “recessions” when a man named Manoah and his wife were trying to get pregnant.

A common frustration among new parents is the fact that babies don’t seem to come with an instruction manual.  Samson’s parents were blessed enough to be given specific instructions in raising their baby:  “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:4–5). Samson wouldn’t grow up to be a perfect man, yet despite his flaws, God would work through him to bring help for Israel.

Parents, there’s no guarantee that our kids won’t make Samson-sized mistakes.  Yet, Samson wouldn’t have been able to do anything in his life without the foundation he got at home.  The choices you make in parenting are important.  We, too, live in a dark world, and there may be a day when God will be looking for someone to take a stand.  Give your kids the foundation they need to make a difference.