07-15-07

The book of Chronicles is unique as a history in that it gives us God’s opinion of people’s lives.  We read about King Amaziah, “And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chr 25:2).  That sounds like he was close to doing the right things, but not in the way God wanted.  What does it mean to not have a “loyal heart”?  Amaziah’s life is instructive.

Amaziah was a fellow who trusted in his money.  When he found himself in a war with the Edomites he wasn’t worried.  He had lots of money in his bank account.  He attempted to buy his way out of the problem by hiring some mercenaries.  God wasn’t pleased because Amaziah’s lack of loyalty led to his trusting in his money and not in God.

After the victory with the Edomites, some of the Edomite trinkets caught Amaziah’s eye.  In fact, some of those Edomite girly statues would look awfully good on the mantel at home.  Amaziah found himself bowing down to foreign gods.  His unloyal heart led to lust and a wandering eye.
After his victory with the Edomites, Amaziah felt he could take on the world.  In fact, that sounded like such a good idea to him that he challenged his neighbor up north to a battle.  The northern king warned Amaziah that his pride was distorting his judgment, but Amaziah didn’t pay attention.  His unloyal heart led to pride, which led to defeat.

As we walk with the Lord beloved, we need to not only pay attention to the things we do, but we need to pay attention to the heart behind the actions.  Problems with money, lust, and pride come from a heart that’s not loyal.

07-08-07

Pride can come in so many forms, and all of them are bad.  We usually think of pride as being connected to the person whose heart is evil and whose life is in rebellion against God.  But pride can easily creep into the heart of a person who is setting out to follow God and do the right thing.  In either case, pride is offensive to God.  Pride leads to only one place, disaster (Prov. 16:18).

King Rehoboam was finally heading in the right direction.  After the kingdom had split, godly people from all over were making their way to Jerusalem in order to continue worshipping God at the Temple.  These godly people brought a time of growth and prosperity in Judah.  But with growth and prosperity comes the temptation toward pride, and that’s what happened to Rehoboam.  Now it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself, that he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel along with him (2 Chr 12:1).  Things began to tumble out of control and a crash appeared on the horizon. God warned the leaders, and the nation was pulled out of a tailspin as they responded correctly by humbling themselves (2 Chr 12:6).

Humility is so important beloved.  Humility is the key to God’s blessing and help (Jam. 4:6).  Humility is the attitude of the person who recognizes that they need God all the time. Humility understands that true value in life doesn’t come from seeking what’s important to me; it comes from seeking what is important to God.  It’s not hard to be humble when things are difficult.  The real test of life is staying humble when the blessings begin to multiply.

07-01-07

Psalm 121 is known as a “Song of Ascents”.  It’s one of those short little songs that the travelers sang as they made their yearly journey to Jerusalem, “ascending” up the hill to worship at the Temple. Though today it takes less than an hour to climb the hill by car, it would take a lot longer walking up the roads winding through the canyons.  It was a scary trip filled with robbers (Luke 10:30) and danger. The travelers would sing, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth” (Psa 121:1-2).  As we look up at the road ahead of us, we too may wonder how we’re going to make it or where our help will come from, but we too can count on the Lord to get us through this journey of life.  Then we go on to sing, “He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psa 121:3-4).  There may be times when the path is a bit steep or too hard to navigate.  There may be times when we wonder if God has forgotten about us, or maybe He’s asleep at the wheel.  But beloved, we don’t need to worry, our God is awake, and He promises to help us.  Then we sing, “The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night” (Psa 121:5-6).  No one enjoys a sunburn when you’re hiking through life, so we appreciate a little shade.  Crazy people were considered “moon struck”, but God promises to keep us sane as we trust Him. Beloved, in this journey we call life, we have much to watch out for, but we also have One we can trust who watches out for us.

06-24-07

Just how far will you go?  As kids, we used to dare each other, double-dare, even double-dog-dare each other to do some outrageous thing.  Most of the dares we made as kids were pretty silly and inconsequential.  But if someone dared you to follow Jesus, just how far would you go?  I think a great test is not about what you’ll do as a response to a dare, but how far you’ll go just out of simple love for Jesus.

David had an amazing group of men around him.  I imagine that at first glance they seemed like a bunch of losers (1Sam. 22:2).  These guys may not have been Harvard trained, but they sure loved the one they followed.  One day as they were sitting around their campsite, David let loose a day dream concerning his old home town.  He said, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” (1Chr. 11:17)  Now considering that Bethlehem was under the control of the evil Philistine army, it seemed like nothing more than a whimsical longing to David.  But for the men who loved and sought to serve their captain, they took it as marching orders.  Three of David’s mighty men broke into the Philistine garrison, filled a canteen with water and brought it back to David.  David was horrified at how they had risked their lives for his whim.  But I see a picture of true discipleship.  How far will we go to please our Captain, the Son of David?  Oh that I might be so in tune with my Captain’s desires that I’d do anything to please Him.  His whims aren’t small inconsequential matters, but things with purpose.  Do you have a clue about what Jesus would like to do today? How far will you go?  I dare you.

06-17-07

When life gets difficult, we wonder why.  Sometimes there is simply no good answer.  Bad things happen to good people.  But sometimes the difficulties we go through do have a reason.  And sometimes the person at fault is none other than me.  Now I don’t always like that approach to life – I’d rather find someone else to blame than to own up to my responsibilities.

In the days of Manasseh, the people certainly had someone to blame for the mess that was coming.  Manasseh was the most evil king there ever was. He wasn’t just the bottom of the barrel, he was the dirt on the underside of the barrel.  Manasseh did much wickedness, but he wasn’t the only one to blame.

Listen to what God said to the people of Manasseh’s day:  “and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers; only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.” But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel (2Ki. 21:8-9). 

God’s call on the people was clear.  He promised them security and blessing if they would simply follow Him.  But they “paid no attention”.  They didn’t think they needed to get so serious about the God thing.  And as a result they were seduced into doing great wickedness and they reaped great judgment.  God is serious about you following Him. Paying attention to God helps me stand against the seduction of the world.  Has God been speaking to you?  Are you listening?

06-10-07

Times were bad.  The Syrian army had laid siege to the city of Samaria.  The people were slowly being starved to death.  The people were even beginning to resort to cannibalism of the worst sort, mothers killing and eating their own children.  It was in this desperate time that four leprous men decided they would try something radical.  They figured that since they were about to die anyway, what would it hurt to try and surrender themselves to the Syrians.  The worst that could happen would be a quicker death.  When they got to the Syrian camp, they found it strangely quiet.  In fact, it was outright deserted.  The tents, treasures, and clothing were all still there.  Even better still, there was plenty of food.  The four men began collecting and hoarding some of the treasures when they began to think of the starving people back in the city of Samaria.  Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (2Ki 7:9 NKJV).  Overnight the city of Samaria was transformed from starvation to salvation.  All because of four leprous men who decided to share their treasure.
It all sounds a bit close to home, doesn’t it?  Some of us may feel that we can relate to the life of those four leprous rejects.  There was a day when we too ventured out of our own city of death and stumbled across the riches and bounty of Jesus Christ.  The question remains, will we share the treasure we’ve found?  There’s a whole city starving to hear.

05-27-07

It’s one of the most emotionally crippling experiences you can go through.  It will devastate the strongest warrior.  It will ruin the greatest hopes.  It will extinguish the best of passions.  I’m talking about betrayal.  David knew betrayal.  He described the experience as causing him restlessness, moaning, severe pain, terror, fearfulness, trembling, and horror (Ps. 55:2-5).  Though David wanted to run away and escape (Ps. 55:6-8), he knew he couldn’t do that. 

The betrayal that David experienced wasn’t just any betrayal, but the betrayal of a close friend.  “But it was you, a man my equal, My companion and my acquaintance” (Psa 55:13 NKJV).  Some of you have been down those horrible but well worn roads in life.  You know too well what it feels like to be betrayed by a spouse, a parent, or a child.  Some of you have experienced betrayal at work, others at school, some from a neighbor, and some from the closest of friends.
David doesn’t just write about the pain, he tells us the way out.  All through Psalm 55, David hints that the way out is through prayer. He starts with, “Give ear to my prayer” (vs. 1).  He doesn’t just pray a single prayer, but many prayers, “Evening and morning and at noon” (vs.17).  David recognizes that the only way out of the agony is by giving it to God. “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psa 55:22 NKJV).  Ultimately, Jesus teaches us that we need to forgive them.  A heart of unforgiveness leads only to further torment (Mat. 18:34).  How could I ever forgive them?  It starts with prayer.  Ask God to help you forgive.  Cast your burden on the Lord.

05-20-07

I’m sure it had simply been a rough year running a kingdom and waging wars.  It seemed like a good time to take a break (2Sam. 11).  Out on his patio one evening he spies a lovely young thing taking a bath.  He ends up inviting her over to his house.  One thing leads to another and she ends up pregnant.  Panic sets in and David starts down the road of covering up his sin.  Covering up is what we think of first because we don’t want others to find out what we’ve done.  We don’t want to have to pay the consequences of what we’ve done, even though the consequences actually start the moment we sin.  David starts by inviting her husband to come back from the front lines.  David says he just wants a report on the war, but he’s secretly hoping that Uriah will spend the night with Bathsheba and David’s sin will never be found out.  But Uriah doesn’t sleep with her and in the end Uriah is sent back to the front lines carrying sealed orders that would end with Uriah’s own death in battle.  David marries Bathsheba and the cover up was complete.  Yet in reality, there never was a cover up.  The Bible records, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2Sam. 11:27).

Beloved, there can never be a true cover up because God sees everything we do.  I like to think that I’m fooling most of the people most of the time, but the truth is I’m never fooling God any of the time. My sin has already produced consequences and I need realize that I can’t run from it.  The quicker I stop trying to hide my sin the better.  He sees you beloved.  Don’t hide from God, run to Him for help.

05-13-07

Anger and jealousy are common to all men, but they come with a terrible price tag.  We see this clearly in the life of King Saul.  It seems that the person that “set off” Saul the most was his young protégé, David.  From David’s very first exploits as a warrior, Saul grew increasingly jealous and angry.  Saul would continually bounce back and forth from trying to kill David and then apologizing for his anger.

Part of the price of Saul’s anger was paid directly by David.  He became a “man on the run”, to the point where he had to run right out of the Promised Land and hide out with the Philistines (1Sam. 27) in order to escape Saul’s wrath.  David was Saul’s best asset, and yet Saul drove him away because of his uncontrolled anger and jealous.

Another cost racked up by Saul’s anger was his own further alienation from God.  As Saul faced his final battle with the Philistines, he tried to ask God for help, but for some reason God wasn’t answering him.  Saul ended up abandoning God’s methods of help and reached out to the devil’s methods by contacting a medium for help (1Sam. 28). Sometimes my own blind rage causes me to do things that are nothing but catastrophic to my walk with God.

Paul wrote, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26).  We can’t always escape being angry, but we do have a choice of what we’ll do with it.  Are you driving others away with your anger? Do you realize how your anger damages your relationship with God? Repent.  Ask God to show you what to do with your anger.  It’s okay to take it out on the tennis ball, but not on your friend.  Study, learn, and practice mercy.

05-06-07

It was a test for King Saul (1Sam. 13), and not one that he passed.  It was early in his career as a king.  After a victory over the Ammonites, he decided it was time to take on the Philistines.  But it wasn’t going too well.  The Philistines responded to Saul with “overwhelming force”.  Saul’s puny little army was outnumbered 10 to 1. And to make things worse, the Israelite army was daily getting smaller as the warriors stopped showing up for work and started hiding in caves.

A protocol for times like this had been set up earlier by the prophet Samuel.  Saul was supposed to go to Gilgal and wait for Samuel.  Samuel would perform a sacrifice and God would give direction to the army.  So Saul goes to Gilgal and waits.  And waits.  After a week of waiting, Saul is in a full blown panic, so he performs the sacrifice himself to hurry things along.  And that’s when Samuel shows up and informs Saul that because of his impatience, his kingdom would not continue. God would now be looking for a man “after His own heart” to replace Saul (1Sam. 13:14).

Beloved, God longs for us to learn patience.  We see the things around us and feel that the circumstances are screaming for us to take action.  But if God hasn’t spoken, we need to wait.  God knows the best way to deal with the problem.  God may be working on things we aren’t aware of.  And God wants to be in control.  He wants to be the Lord of my life.  My own impatience often leads me to do things that only make the situation worse.  Are you taking a test right now?  Wait for the Lord.