Sunday, June 30, 2019

One Way ...

“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name." ~ 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 
From the American ideal of religious diversity comes the false conclusion that all roads eventually lead to heaven. It's one thing to be acceptant of one another in the neighborhood, but to shift our creeds to embrace a "whatever works for you" approach to God, takes us down a very slippery slope. From the earliest of time the Judeo/Christian faith clearly espoused one God and only one way to seek Him.
How refreshing to read the prayer above in a day when so many are seeking asylum from abusive situations. Will God accept anyone who comes to Him? The answer is a resounding YES! Solomon prayed for anyone to be received who sought the God of Israel by His name and worshiped Him as did Israel. It wasn't a request that the foreigner be accepted by any other approach or any other name by which they chose. The words were an open door, but specific... there's only one way to seek God.
When the God of Israel sent His only begotten Son into the world, nothing changed in the open invitation to all peoples. Anyone can seek and find their way to God, but Jesus made it clear once again in John 14:6 ... "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And the apostle Peter understood this without confusion as he stood before the Jewish leaders of his day and said ... "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)  There may be many religions, but only one way to seek God.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Darkness hates light...

"And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, 'Let not the king say so.'" - 2 Chronicles 18:7
According to one recent study, the twentieth century saw approximately 45.5 million Christians martyred for their faith. Other studies have current numbers at almost 100,000 Christian deaths per year, worldwide. Why are Christians so hated by so many? When truth is both proclaimed and lived out, evil is greatly hindered. Darkness hates light.
Micaiah proclaimed truth and was placed in prison for his trouble (vs. 26). The life of  a Godly prophet was a hard and persecuted experience. Evil kings and other leaders never wanted to hear their message. When possible, these men of God were imprisoned or killed to silence them. In Ahab's case, Micaiah was usually avoided at all cost. Darkness hated light.
Do you expect sinners and evil people to gladly welcome your Christian testimony? Are you surprised when your old friends avoid you like the plaque, now that you have trusted Christ? Jesus warned us in John 15:20 ... "Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you..."  So, press on my friend, spread the truth every day, but don't be surprised when darkness hates light!


Friday, June 28, 2019

Soon to stumble ...

"When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him." - 2 Chronicles 21:1 
It has been said that we are most vulnerable when we have been the most successful. Our accomplishments often lead us to self praise and arrogance. After all, who achieved all the great things, if not us? When we fail, it's the fault of others, but when we succeed, it's all our doing. We tend to forget the source of our strength (God) and the resources that made it all possible (the team). Some wisely warn not to get a "big head", because when it's all about us, we're soon to stumble.
No matter how the chips fell, Rehoboam was established and he was strong as a ruling king. He was confident in his abilities and sure of his future success. Nothing could stop him, so he thought, and he came to the place of abandoning his source of strength (God), and led an entire nation down the wrong path. It's a sad fact that the crowd tends to follow successful people, wherever they go. In this case they followed their king away from the Lord and into trouble. When it's all about us, we're soon to stumble.
When you make it big, or succeed in work, family or church, be careful my friend. The temptation is stronger then than any other time. Pride is a formidable foe and it has taken down many great men and women. Never forget the words of the Lord Jesus in John 15:5 ... "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." It's never all about us, and when we remember, it's all about Him, we'll never stumble.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

The wisdom of age...

"But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him." - 2 Chronicles 10:8
I purchased my first motorcycle from an older and well experienced shop owner. He was wise, and understood youthful abandon quite well. He gave me various instructions for riding safely and a gentle warning. For a few years I practiced his good counsel, but the day came when a young and wild companion challenged my habits. I chose to follow his lead and ended up in the hospital. The wisdom of age can be priceless.
I have always considered this verse to be worth it's weight in gold. Rehoboam had a shot to win the hearts of the people and have a rich and successful reign. The old men knew the people all too well and their counsel came out of years of leadership experience. But, the prodding of young and tenacious peers won the day. Or, shouldn't we say "lost" the day for Rehoboam. He learned far too late that... The wisdom of age can be priceless.
In a day when youth is all but worshipped, great care should be taken before we cast aside the counsel of experience. Those who have walked ahead, know the way far better than those who have not yet traveled. Those who have suffered from the pitfalls of life, best know how to avoid them. It was said by Rehoboam's father Solomon, ... "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7) A gentle warning my friend... The wisdom of age can be priceless. 



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Humility...

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
When we're on a trip and we end up lost, what do we do? There are a few of us that are too proud to seek advice. We are determined to find our own way back to the main road if kills us. In the end such pride leads us even farther away from our destination. Finally, we come to the breaking point and ask for directions. Without humility, there's no hope.
The Lord spoke of future days when the people of Israel might lose their way and drift away from Him. He warned them of rough days that would come as a result. Instructions were then given on how to find their way back to Him. Prayer, seeking, and turning were necessary, but these were preceeded by the most important attitude... Humility must come, or there is no hope. 
When you find yourself in a desert place, far from God, what do you do my friend? Before you make efforts to change your behavior, consider the importance of changing your attitude. Our Lord is all about mercy and grace. But, to receive His forgiveness and healing... Humility must come, or there is no hope. 




Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Honoring father and mother...

"And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O Lord God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth." - 2 Chronicles 1:8-9
Historically, many Asian cultures have shown great honor and respect to fathers. These men were considered to be processors of great wisdom. They were acknowledged through the latter years of their life and even into death. Their memory was an ongoing phase of recognition by the next generation. Apart from culture and customs though, there is a word from the Lord... Honor your father and mother.
Solomon was finally seated on the throne as king. He had the hearts of the people and favor of God. In addition he was invited to ask anything he desired from the Lord. We often labor the point of his request for wisdom, but there's another important part of his request. Solomon showed continued respect for his father David with his first words. He understood and obeyed the word from the Lord... he honored his father. 
It's quite interesting to see how the Lord richly blessed Solomon. Was it solely due to his sincere and humble spirit? Or could it also be his obedience to the first commandment with a promise? "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." - Deuteronomy 5:16  How faithful are you to honor your father and mother my friend?... In life and in memory?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Our Plans ...

"Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’" ~ 1 Chronicles 28:2-3
I came to the Lord in my teen years. Sometime afterward the Lord called me to full time ministry. At that time, and for some years, I had it in my heart to be an evangelist. I attended Bible College and regularly preached in evangelistic settings. Then, the day came when God made it clear that I wasn't to be an evangelist, but a Pastor. Over forty years later I can say ... God's plan was best.
David had it in his heart to build a house for the ark. This was a very commendable desire and certainly worthy of consideration. He loved the Lord and wanted to provide a place for the people of God to worship in the right way. What could be wrong with this plan? David failed to see anything out of order with his desire, until God said no. In time he discovered ... God's plan was best.
Have you had plans my friend? Were they worthy plans that would certainly honor the Lord in many ways? Did you take the time to pray and listen for the Lord's direction? Did you possibly hear a gentle "no" to your plans? Were you discouraged and just wanted to give up? Remember, there are good plans and better plans, but... God's plan is always best.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

God's decision ...

"So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel. " ~ 1 Chronicles 11:3
A ship doesn't sail under the command of the crew. An orchestra doesn't perform under the direction of the players. An army doesn't march under the orders of the soldiers. Captains command ships, Conductors direct orchestras and Generals order armies. Leadership decisions come from the top.
The process of anointing David King over Israel wasn't an easy process. It involved the unifying and approval of the twelve tribes and their elders. A covenant was made and accepted with distinct expectations. One might conclude that the decision was clearly made by men alone. But, when all was said and done, this anointing was "according to the word of the Lord". Leadership decisions must from the top.
We read the following in Romans 13:1...For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.“ Before we think that mankind controls the world, think again. People are mere players, but the Lord alone calls the plays. If you want change... pray to the One who alone is King of kings and Lord of lords. Leadership decisions come from the top. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Good Stewardship ...

"And of the Levites, Ahijah had charge of the treasuries of the house of God and the treasuries of the dedicated gifts." ~ 1 Chronicles 26:20 
It's been well said, "You can't live on love". But, I've seen many couples end up on the street because they tried it. Money isn't everything, but without it your going to be in serious trouble. Furthermore, if you have money and don't use it wisely, it tends to sprout wings and fly off into oblivion. The record of lottery winner mismanagement verifies this small bit of wisdom well. Money without good stewardship isn't worth much.
The need for financial support in the work and worship of God dates back to the days of David and before. God's people were often quite generous toward the house of God in these days. But, what would be done with the gifts that were given and how would these gifts be parceled out? It was just as possible for mismanagement in the house of god as in the family setting. So, certain responsible individuals were appointed to oversee the treasuries. Money without good stewardship isn't worth much.
I've seen people work themselves into circles to get a few extra bucks. I've seen families break apart, arguing over an inheritance. Money can be a cruel master and an evasive pursuit. But, when properly obtained and used, it can be a provision of great blessing. Yet, the blessing can only be found when prayerful and thoughtful care is exercised. Don't blame God when you lose it all to poor planning. Just remember, money without good stewardship isn't worth much.


   
  

Friday, June 21, 2019

The gift of Organization ...

"And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari." ~ 1 Chronicles 23:6
In recent years we have seen numerous retail chains and fast food chains close their doors. There are different reasons why this had taken place, but in many cases poor organization has contributed. Before I entered the ministry, I worked in five different retail stores. Those that made the most profit and lasted the longest were well organized. The rest are gone today. Organization is a necessary tool for success.
Imagine the size and complexity of 38,000 men providing leadership for the worship of an entire nation. I'm sure that everyone had good ideas and often thought that their way of doing things would be better. But, with clear direction and good organization things ran smoothly, like a well oiled machine. Some people may have said, "let's just let the Spirit of God lead the way." The answer to that proposal is simple. He did. Through a prayer covered and well planned system. Organization is a God given tool for success.
Too many ministries flounder due to poor planning. There seems to be an over-emphasis on spiritualizing everything. But, where spirituality and organization meet, there is great blessing. I point the reader to  Acts 6:1-6, where the early church met a pressing need with organization. As a result we further read in verse 7... "And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly..."  Organization is a God given tool for success.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The "regift" ...

"Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  ~ 1 Chronicles 21:23-24 
Have you ever "regifted"? Or have you ever received a gift and wondered... "Is this a regift"? Well, does it really matter? You might ask, "Is this a gift out of real love, or just out of obligation?" The next question might be, "Was I not important enough for them to take the time to shop and buy something personally?" Without the heart, the gift is just an empty expression.
The King approached Ornan and asked for a place to build an altar to the Lord. Ornan was honored and so happy to oblige that he offered everything as a gift. This was unacceptable to David, because he wouldn't bring a "regift" to God as a sacrifice. After all, what is a "sacrifice" if it doesn't cost the giver something? Without the heart, the gift would just be an empty expression.
How about your gifts to the Lord my friend? I mean your gift of time, talent and treasure. The gift of time when nothing else is on the calendar. The gift of talent when nobody else needs you. The gift of treasure, only when there's something left over. To one degree or another, these all qualify as "regifts". A "regift" is something you have no desire to keep and is no sacrifice to give it away. How do you think the Lord feels about it?? Without the heart, the gift is just an empty expression.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Recommending God ...

"Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!" - 1 Chronicles 16:23-24
My email is inundated weekly with requests to recommend to friends, products that I have purchased. I'm offered future discounts, free shipping on future purchases, additional warranty coverage and many more perks. All I have to do is recommend or share my experience with friends and basically "sell" the product. But, here's the question... why do I need to be paid off to convince others to buy something? If I really appreciate and enjoy the product, I will recommend it quite often. It's just natural to recommend something that's good.
The call of David was to tell of the Lord's salvation and declare his glory with the whole world. Why? Because the Lord had done great and marvelous works for his people. But, is it really necessary to provide this motivational thought in his psalm? Yes it is. David was seeking to encourage his people to share the good news and he gave plenty of reasons why they should do it day by day. Apparently, people would naturally recommend things that were good, but for some reason they fell short of recommending a God that is good.
How is your "sharing" quotient these days my friend? Have you recently signed up to tell your world all about that new vacuum cleaner or coffee maker? What about your faith? Do you need to hear another top notch motivational speaker on the subject of evangelism? Hasn't the Lord saved you and done great and marvelous works in your life? Well, don't fall short; get involved every day by recommending a God that is good!




Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fans ...

"So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres." - 1 Chronicles 15:28 
I've attended many football, baseball and basketball games over the years. The excitement and shouting for the home team was, both loud and normal. People are all about supporting their sport teams with all the energy possible. There is a spirit of participation that comes when they cheer on their team. The excitement overflows during the games and lingers for days afterward. All of this passion comes from those we know of as  "fans".
After years of the ark of the covenant being absent from it's home, this moment was momentous. The ark represented the very national presence and blessing of the Lord. People were excited, shouting and playing instruments with a fervor. Their joy was much like the father who welcomed his wayward son, who had been gone for many years. They pulled out all the stops and made and incredible number sacrifices as well.They would be talking about this day for months, because they were "fans" of the Lord.
When you attend church on the Lord's day are you excited? Do you sing at the very top of your lungs? Do you pour out all your energy giving praise and thanksgiving to the Lord? Are you downright happy to meet with the Lord and fellow believers every week? Is your time at church better than any ballgame you ever attended? If not... Are you really a "fan" of the Lord??

Monday, June 17, 2019

Apart from HIM.

"And David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts was with him." - 1 Chronicles 11:9
Graduations and award ceremonies will often include words of gratitude and praise for those who made the accomplishments happen. In like manner, I must say that ministry success didn't come to me without the help of others. My parents instilled qualities into me, many seminary professors sharpened my thinking, my pastoral mentor showed me the ropes and my dear wife has been a profound support and encouragement all along the way. But, over and above all those mentioned, without the Lord I couldn't have accomplished anything.
The verse above may seem short and shallow, but it is the heart and soul of David's life and success. When the Lord is with someone, whatever their hand touches will be successful. Sometimes the process may seem to take more turns than expected. But, when God is in charge, even the little steps lead to greater and more meaningful achievements. While David had many helpers, as listed in the chapters for today's reading, without the Lord he couldn't have accomplished anything.
What about you my friend? Do you pay compliments to the many people who have been at your side on the journey? Are you quick to recognize that "no man is an island"? While you may be willing to acknowledge this truth, are you honest enough with yourself to say... without the Lord you couldn't accomplish anything?


Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Big Stuff"

“So they and their sons were in charge of the gates of the house of the Lord, that is, the house of the tent, as guards. The gatekeepers were on the four sides, east, west, north, and south." - 1 Chronicles 9:23-24
In my younger years of attending church, I was often mesmerized with the men who handed out the bulletins and took the offering. To little eyes, these were the "cool guys" who were really in charge. They were on top of everything and called the shots. Years later I entered seminary and was unable to find an "Usher" ministry major. But, I still believe that such little jobs in the kingdom of God are "big stuff".
From the days of the tabernacle to Solomon's temple, there were great ministries to carry out. Yet, along with the priestly worship and daily sacrifices we found a detailed listing of those "cool guys" that were called "gatekeepers". These were the ones that covered every gate, from east, west, north, and south. Nothing got by them. Their job was just as important as all the rest. You see, little jobs in the kingdom of God are "big stuff".
After forty years of being the pastor, I have been serving the Lord at our new church as a "gatekeeper". I have finally made it... I'm a "cool guy". It's funny that of the many church members I have known, most have turned down the incredible opportunity to be a "gatekeeper" in the house of the Lord. That's too bad, because little jobs in the kingdom of God are "big stuff".



Saturday, June 15, 2019

Seek HIS guidance ...

"So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse." - 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 
A recent study revealed that 58 percent of 18-24 year old Americans actually believe astrology is scientific. The same study states that skepticism of astrology is decreasing.  In addition, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed that 26 percent believe in "spiritual energy" and 15 percent reported seeing a psychic in the past year. If you live in the greater Philadelphia area you can visit any one of over 70 spiritual shops to get a read on your future. For many people, guidance from the Lord is out of the question. 
Saul certainly knew better. He was mentored by Samuel, a great man of God. He observed the regular intervention of God throughout his life. Finally, the time arrived when his sin and rebellion got in the way of God's blessings. His pleas for help were unanswered because he refused to offer up prayers of confession and repentance. So, in desperation, he broke faith and sought the guidance of a medium. For Saul, guidance from the Lord was out of the question.
The matter of "where do I turn" when trouble brews is rather simple. But, if the answers don't come as quickly as we want, or in the way that we want, we struggle. Rather than ask why, we all too often turn to other sources for help. We look for someone who will tell us what we want hear. We look for answers that will satisfy our desires without any accountability. But, God really wants to be a helpful part of our lives and his ways for us are always best. So, guidance from the Lord should never be out of the question.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Our healing presence ...

"And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him." - 1 Chronicles 7:22  
Over the years I have observed many health care professionals at the bedside of church members. On occasion, those moments have included informing the family of the death of their loved one. Initial grief and ongoing sorrow differs with individuals, but the need for gentle and comforting words is always needed. Some doctors have an incredible bedside manner and others are just cut and dry. No matter how the professionals conduct themselves, broken hearts need a dependable healing presence in the time of loss.
Ephraim was suffering an incredible loss. The reasons for the death of his sons may have been a great issue, but the loss itself was overwhelming. The passage tells us that he "mourned many days", but his brothers came to comfort him. The investment of time and care into the life of a loved one or friend during grief is one of the greatest gifts and expression of love that we can give. When all others move on to other life requirements, the broken heart still needs a dependable healing presence in the time of loss.
May we take a close look at this short, but poignant moment my friend. We go to the funeral home to comfort a family member, friend or neighbor. But, will we reach out to them "many days" afterward? Grief lingers far longer than we realize. Show grace and kindness when the crowds have been long gone, and you can be that dependable healing presence in the time of loss.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tunes for Jesus ...

"These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the LORD after the ark rested there. They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order." - 1 Chronicles 6:31-32 
It has been said that the Boomer generation would never go anywhere without their tunes. They had love songs, folk songs, anti-war songs, and heartbreak songs. The tunes went everywhere ... by way of radio, 45s. LPs, 8-track players, walkmans, boom-boxes, CD players and then the iPod.  The seasons of their lives were marked by tunes. I guess the old adage is true ... music makes the world go round.
In 2 Samuel 23:1 David was referred to as the sweet psalmist of Israel. He was a man of music. Saul was soothed by David's music and the growing worship life of Israel was well fed by his music and psalms.  He didn't pass from the scene without assigning men to carry on the ministry of music, because it exalted the Lord and was a means to express praise. This was only the beginning of tunes that made the world of worship go round.
How sad that we live in a day of "worship wars". The Lord has been exalted and praised for centuries by tunes. Every generation and culture has had its own expression, but each came before the Lord with sincere worship. It's quite amazing to read about a tune sung before the throne of God in Revelation 5:9 ... "And they sang a new song..."  May we rejoice in the thrill of tunes for Jesus, and lift Him up in praise every day with a new song in our hearts, because... music makes the heart of worship go round.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bold Prayer ...

"Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked." - 1 Chronicles 4:9-10
George Muller of Bristol was once on a ship to America. A thick fog was going to prohibit the ship from arriving on time. Muller announced that he would pray for the fog to clear so they could arrive on time. The Captain thought he was quite mad, but Muller prayed and the fog lifted. Bold prayer can truly move mountains.
In the midst of a lengthy genealogy, a short, but interesting account is recorded for us. A man named Jabez called upon God to enlarge his border and keep him from harm. The prayer is short, yet quite powerful. Jabez saw the God of Israel as the source of blessing and he understand that Jehovah was personally involved in his life. With such a simple and yet profound faith, this otherwise unknown man offered up a bold prayer that could move mountains.
This type of prayer is ours to pray as well. We are invited by the writer of Hebrews with theses words ... "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) The Lord is still the source of blessing and personally involved in our lives. So, let us offer up bold prayers that can move mountains.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Your Legacy ...

"The son of Carmi: Achan, the troubler of Israel, who broke faith in the matter of the devoted thing; " - 1 Chronicles 2:7
Legacy... How will you be remembered after you have stepped off this globe? Not many are kings, queens, presidents or power brokers. Most people will be best remembered by isolated events... a kind word here or a random act of kindness there. Then there are those who will be remembered for a moment of treason like Benedict Arnold, who sought to sell West Point to the British during the Revolutionary war. What will be your legacy?
Achan was a simple man who entered the city of Jericho after the walls fell. He wasn't known as a great leader or general. He was just a regular guy, trying to start a new life in the promised land. Then, in a moment, without any thought of the ramifications, Achan made a poor decision and took what was to be dedicated to the Lord for himself. The result was a lost battle and the loss of lives. He would always be remembered as "the troubler of Israel". This alone would be his legacy.
Up until now, your life may have been fairly mundane. You have tried your best to honor the Lord in your family, work and church. Occasionally, you have shown great generosity to a ministry or a needy family. But, life rolls on and many decisions are yet to made. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23 ... "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."  Take counsel my friend... be careful and prayerful before every decision is made. Because, it might end up being your only legacy.


Monday, June 10, 2019

The wages of sin ...

"... So Judah was taken into exile out of its land." - 2 Kings 25:21
Moral failures, financial improprieties and abuse of power have led to a number of my pastoral colleagues being removed from church ministry. I have watched them languish afterward, while they tried to rebuild their lives. Some of them never quite made it back to the church, while others lost their families and all that was precious to them. We don't like to read about it, and we don't want to acknowledge the truth of Romans 6:23 in everyday life, but ... "the wages of sin is death".
Long before Paul the apostle wrote to the Roman believers, the two southern tribes of Judah suffered the destructive results of rebellion and disobedience. Warnings were given over and over again. Jeremiah spent his entire life of ministry in tears, pleading for repentance and a return to God. The exile of seventy years was clearly forewarned and now the day had arrived. The land of milk and honey had become just a precious memory. "the wages of sin is death".
The last few pages of 2 Kings are very dark. It's never inspiring or uplifting to read about the ultimate heartbreaking end of a promising story. But, the lessons are many and can be most beneficial if we will reflect and take inventory of our own lives. Have we allowed ungodly practices to become daily fare? Do we excuse such conduct and rationalize it by comparing ourselves to those who are much worse? If we choose to ignore the obvious, we will wake up one day to this reality ... "the wages of sin is death".


Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Complete Cleaning ...


"And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel." - 2 Kings 23:4 
After we purchased our current home, we discovered that the previous owner had installed new cabinets and appliances over old decay and mold. At the beginning it wasn't visible or obvious to anyone, including the home inspector. But, over time the situation was discovered and dealt with. If we hadn't done a thorough cleansing and restoration, we would have lost the entire house. New beginnings require a complete cleaning.
Josiah was all about starting over again. He wanted to bring the nation back under the teachings of God's Word and begin practicing biblical worship. He restored the observance of passover that had not been kept... "since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah." ( vs. 22) But, one of the very first steps he took for this new beginning was a complete cleaning.
New believers are grateful and excited over their new found faith. They have a new heart and a fresh relationship with the Lord. But, what about their home, car, garage, office and other haunts? If the tell-tale baggage of the old life is spread out from corner to corner, it will eventually work its way back into the believers life. Many backslidden Christians testify that it all started with a little taste of the old life that was still in the closet. New beginnings require a complete cleaning.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Our Instruction Book...

"When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” - 2 Kings 22:11-13
Have you ever assembled a bicycle, lawn mower or snow blower? Did you just put it together without reading the instruction booklet? Were the results less than successful? Sad to say, I have personally experienced this issue. If you don't want problems later on, it's best to read the book from the start.
Many years and generations had passed since any king had opened God's spiritual instruction book. The national scene had drifted far from God and deeply into evil. Practically everything that Josiah read had been disobeyed. God's wrath and corrective measures were long over due. They should have read the book from the start. 
Most believers have a good number of Bibles in their home. Today, you'll find Bible software on our phones, tablets and computers. But, if we don't open the pages and read God's spiritual instruction book, we too will be in for a rude awakening. Don't put it off any longer my friend. If you don't want problems later on, it's best to read the Book from the start.



Friday, June 7, 2019

Character or Cash Flow?

"So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.”  - 2 Kings 19:19
Imagine that you have been stopped by the police for speeding. As the officer is about to write you a ticket, you ask for a warning instead. What is your primary reason for the request? Do you want to avoid points on your license,the cost of a ticket, an increase in your insurance premium, or a tarnished reputation as a good driver? You can't choose "all of the above". Which reason is most important to you? I wonder how many people would be most concerned with tarnishing their reputation? Isn't our "character" more valuable than our "cash flow"?
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, threatened Hezekiah and the cities of Judah with complete loss and relocation. (2 Kings 18) The people would lose their homes, land and wealth in one swift blow. Their faith in God's ability to deliver them was also challenged. Hezekiah placed the letter of ultimatum before the Lord and prayed. His primary reason for deliverance was most interesting and revealing ... "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone."  This king valued the "character" of God far more than his own "cash flow".
From week to week you fall on your knees before the throne of grace. You ask for health, financial, family, and work needs to be met. The question stands here as well as earlier... "What is your primary reason?" Do you want physical health, financial stability, family peace, work success, or God's glory? You can't choose "all of the above". Which reason is the most important to you? Isn't the "character" of God more valuable than your physical, financial, family, and work "cash flow"?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sowing the wind ...

"And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced." - 2 Kings 17:7-8 
In the very early years of my serving as a church pastor, I was asked to lend money for bail. One of the young men in our church had been arrested and needed to be bailed out of jail to be re-arrested by the military police for being AWOL. After growing up in a good home and church, being blessed with godly friends and discipled by this pastor, he chose another path. I have watched too many young people start strong and finish broken... "For they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind." (Hosea 8:7)
The sad and devastating end for the northern tribes of Israel didn't occur by accident. God had been incredibly merciful, gracious and poured out steadfast love on his people for generations. From start to finish, they experienced great deliverances from Egypt and other enemies, and were blessed with a land, not their own, that was filled with milk and honey. So, how could such a thing happen when Israel had it all? "... they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind." (Hosea 8:7) 
Paul the apostle put it this way ... "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption..." (Galatians 6:7-8) Life never turns into a train wreck without reason. It just might happen because ... "... they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind." (Hosea 8:7)
  

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

No limit...

"Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel." - 2 Kings 16:2-3
One Monday in February, 2006, Pastor Sam White and his wife returned home from a short trip. They found the body of a dead woman and their unconscious son. In November of the same year their son, Andrew David White, was sentenced to life in prison for murder. How could a man whose father and brother were ministers perform such evil? There is no limit to unchecked sin. 
Ahaz came from a royal family. He also grew up under the influence of a godly father and grandfather. Those two kings did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. But, when the day came for Ahaz to take the throne, he followed another path. He not only chose to rule like the evil kings of Israel, he also burned his own son as an offering. There is no limit to unchecked sin. 
You may be the child of godly parents and grandparents. You may have had a highly moral upbringing. Yet, when you choose to ignore the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit, it's downhill all the way. You may tell yourself it won't happen to you. But, there is no limit to unchecked sin.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Steady Instruction ...

"And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him." - 2 Kings 12:2 
We highly value those in the medical field who regularly study new information for their jobs. Some positions even require a formal re-certification to continue in practice. In every sense, they are only as skilled as they are well taught. The process goes far beyond information, to always being fresh and on point. Right action is deeply rooted in steady instruction. 
Jehoash was well taught in the years leading up to his becoming king. He would have studied the Scriptures and poured over the history of Israel. Having a knowledge of God as well as the false religions of the day would have been critical for his role as a national leader. But, Jehoash needed to be regularly refreshed in the things of the Lord by Jehoiada the priest. Throughout his life, right action was deeply rooted in steady instruction.
The greatest error in our careers, as well as our spiritual lives, is to believe we have arrived. To take this view in life has a stifling, hardening and deadening effect. If I plant a fruit tree and fail to feed and water it, there will be no fruit. If we, as believers, walk through life failing to feed and water our souls by godly, Biblical instruction, there will be no fruit. Right action is deeply rooted in steady instruction.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Drive Furiously ...

"Again the watchman reported, “He reached them, but he is not coming back. And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.” - 2 Kings 9:20 
We moved from New Jersey to the Poconos last year. I was relieved for a short while, since the area is much more laid back and easy going. Then summer came. With the warm weather and vacation attractions available, visitors from the Metropolitan area have come with a vengeance. Rather than driving slow and easy, they are constantly on a mission. They have a schedule to keep and they drive like Jehu ... furiously.
When the Word of the Lord came to Jehu, the challenge was gerat. It was far more than a simple promotion. The time had come for the wrath of God to fall on the house of Ahab. An all consuming charge was given to Jehu and he received it with total commitment to fulfill the will of God. At this point in Jehu's life, whatever he did for God, was an unrivaled mission. He had a schedule to keep and he drove ... furiously.
How do you receive the commands of God my friend? Do you read the great commision as the Lord's personal charge to you? If you do, are you fired up and all consumed to fulfill the will of God in your life? Are you committed to God's call, as an unrivaled mission? If so, do you have a schedule to keep and are you driven to keep it ... furiously?
  

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The right place ...

"So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook." - 1 Kings 17:5-6 
I well remember my first exposure to the military. It was two days after high school graduation and I found myself at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. On the first morning I obeyed orders and marched to a building some distance from our barracks.  This building was the only place to be if I was to ever have a meal. Following instructions had a rewarding benefit.
Elijah was a prophet of great renown in Israel. He came and went as the wind blew. Obadiah testified to this in 1 Kings 18. The question may be raised as to the motivation for this prophet's movements. The answer would be simple  ... "he went and did according to the word of the LORD."  As a result, Elijah was well fed every morning and evening. Following instructions had a rewarding benefit.
Are you where the Lord has called you? Have you been obedient to His leading, even when it seemed quite challenging? Quite often we are led into difficult settings, just as Jesus in Matthew 4:1 "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."  But, when we are in the right place, for the right reason, there are very rewarding benefits.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Open eyes ..

"He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." - 2 Kings 6:16-17 
Occasionally, the very best place to hide something is in plain sight. It's always frustrating to lose something, only to eventually find it setting right in front of you. The first thought might be to clean your glasses. If that's not the problem you might run out to have your eyes checked. But, it's really not a matter of poor eyesight; it's more about observing the whole picture.
In the case of Elisha's servant, he had poor "faithsight". What he saw when the Lord opened his eyes had been there all along... he just couldn't see the forest for the trees. He was, to a certain degree, blinded by fear.  All he could see were horses and chariots and that overwhelmed him. With his eyes wide opened ... he could could finally observe the whole picture. 
What do we mean when we sing "Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus"? What are we looking for exactly? Maybe we have become so absorbed with the things of the world that we've lost sight of His living presence. It's also possible that fear has blinded us, as it did Elisha's servant. Why not start every day with those words "Open our eyes Lord", so we can observe the whole picture.