Tuesday, August 31: 2Kings 8- Your fortune-teller or your God?

Verses 7 and 8 whirled in my mind. Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. When the king was told, "The man of God has come all the way up here," he said to Hazael, "Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the LORD through him; ask him, 'Will I recover from this illness?'"

I was struck by Ben-Hadad’s actions and apparent motivations. When he learned that a prophet of the Lord was in town, he immediately sent his lieutenant to inquire about the prognosis of his present illness. Ben-Hadad was not interested in learning more about God or learning how to live in order to please God. No, Ben-Hadad’s desire was to learn the future from God. Plain and simple, God provides information. God was nothing more than a fortune-teller at Ben-Hadad’s disposal.

As sad as this may be, I began to wonder if I (we) aren’t still tempted to fall into this or similar traps.

  • God as fortune-teller… God tell me my future. Will I fall in love, with whom will I fall in love? Should I invest in this or that? Show me the way to my future. The primary concern is for God to tell us the next steps toward the future we want.
  • God as fairy-godmother or Santa Claus…..Bless me God. Wave Your hand and send blessings from heaven upon me. Visit me with your bag of goodies. God, I will even give you X-amount of money/time but then you need to give me X-times more money.
  • God as doctor… O, God, I have this, that and another ailment… fix me so I can live my life how I want to live it.

It is not that God doesn’t do these things. I believe God does. I pray for healing. I pray for God’s blessing. I seek direction from the Lord.

The problem I see is that we can easily succumb to a confusion of priorities.  First and foremost, the Lord God is to be worshiped, adored, venerated, praised, and obeyed. God is God, I am not. Now the wonderful thing about the Lord God is that He delights in giving gifts to His children. Problems arise, however, when the seeking of God’s gifts and blessings becomes my aim and goal displacing worship, adoration, praise, and obedience as my primary purpose.

Ben-Hadad had no interest in subjecting himself to the Lord in praise and obedience.  He just wanted to know….will I get better?… tell me my future, God…

The Spirit is reminding me this morning that I can fall into that trap, too, and I do whenever I forget worship, adoration, praise, and obedience are my highest callings and responses to the Lord.

O, God, today I ask for nothing, I simply want to linger in the opening and closing refrain of the prayer Jesus taught:

My Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven… for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.

 

Monday, August 30: 2Kings 7- A godly conscience.

I never cease to be amazed how God works in bringing about His word, causing an army to flee leaving Israel with more plunder and food than they can imagine! What a creative miracle.

Yet, it was a lone comment that one leper made to another that sparked my God-thoughts today. Verse 9: Then they said to each other, "We're not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace."

I am in the middle of doing something when a spark flashes in my mind, synapses begin to fire, and I think, “What I am doing is not right.” Conscience.

Do we listen, especially when our conscience warns us that what we are doing is not right or do we disregard and push on disobeying that ‘word from within’?

Those lepers listened and became the heralds of great news. God miraculously triumphed, the city was saved. What they discovered was news to be shared not a prize to be horded!

My conscience isn’t perfect. In some areas it is a good indicator that I am moving beyond the bounds of God’s law.  In other areas I have disregarded my conscience so often that it doesn’t always advise me accurately. And yet in my life my conscience has often steered me correctly, when I have listened. And for me, it is often my conscience that calls me to confess or repent of something…

When your conscience speaks, do you listen?  That’s what I am hearing from the Lord this morning. God is reminding me that conscience, though not perfect and needing to constantly be trained and submitted to the word of God, is a good thing…

·         Do I follow its lead?

·         Am I training it according to the word of God?

Good questions and worthy of consideration as I move through this day.

Lord, thank You for the example of these lepers who changed course and did what was right in Your eyes because their consciences spoke up and they obeyed. May I be as faithful to Your correction as they were. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Saturday, August 28: 2Kings 6- If God be for us.

I certainly do not want to ever presume that God must help me. But as Paul writes, “If God is for us who can be against us” (Rom 8:31). Paul’s line is certainly demonstrated in today’s chapter.

Elisha is surrounded by the enemy but he fears not because God has granted Elisha eyes to see the protection God has for him. I love verse 17.  Elisha prays for his servant’s eyes to be opened to see into the spirit realm where God has His forces stationed.  And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

God has never allowed me to see into the spirit realm but I believe this account. I believe God posted angelic hosts around Elisha to protect him.

This story gives me courage to step out in faith when I believe God wants me to do something. When God wills something, He will see it to conclusion. Could something bad happen to me when I am faithfully following the Lord? Absolutely! But nothing bad will happen to me that has not passed through the sovereign hands of God, my Lord. And as His servant I accept what He ordains. I believe God is in absolute control and I feel safe there.

Lord God, I surrender to You. Use me, lead me, guide me and send me as You see fit. And, Lord, give me strength to trust You absolutely, like Elisha apparently did. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Friday, August 27: 2Kings 5- Choices.

Gehazi is a tragic figure.  For two talents of silver and two sets of clothes, he lost his health and a potential calling.

Gehazi was Elisha’s servant, which sounds like the lowly position it is. Serving someone is often tedious. “Gehazi run my staff and put it on the boy (chapter 4). Gehazi prepare dinner, Gehazi do this, Gehazi do that.” But consider the prophet’s servant’s life from another angle. Gehazi saw the boy raised from the dead. Gehazi heard the instructions and witnessed the widow’s oil multiplying; saw the 100 men fed on one man’s offering; and tasted the poison-soup turned delicious and healthy. Gehazi stood there as Elisha spoke to Naaman and was present when Naanam returned healed. The wonders he saw.  One can only guess at the conversations he had with Elisha about the Lord and hearing from the Lord. Yet, inside Gehazi lurked a desire for wealth and the finer things of life.

What would a poor widow have?  Nothing besides the oil in her jars. What would 100 prophets who didn’t even have enough food to eat have? Nothing. What would an aged Shunammite woman and a young son have?  Little if anything. Yet, the desire lurked in Gehaza and when a wealthy military general came seeking healing, Gehazi saw his opportunity. What Gehazi took from Naaman was pocket change for Naaman, however, what his deceitful actions told Elisha and the Lord brought ruin to his life.  Gehazi is now leprous for life And there is even a possibility that he obliterated a potential calling. Remember Elisha was Elijah’s servant, just as Gehazi was Elisha’s...

Some say everyone has a price. Gehazi ‘sold his soul’ for two silver coins and two sets of fine clothing.

Whispers the Holy Spirit, “What about you? Do you have a price?”

O, Lord, I hope, I pray, that my fidelity is greater than any temptation, but I dare not grow cocky or prideful. Lord, please lead me not into temptation and deliver me from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 


Thursday, August 26: 2Kings 4-Do you believe in miracles?

Writing the title for this devotional, I could hear Al Michaels calling out those words as the US defeated Russia in Olympic Hockey in 1980. “Do you believe in miracles?” Michaels announces as the United States’ improbable victory goes final.

That line fits today’s chapter. “Do you believe in miracles?”

At some point every Bible reader has to decide his or her answer to that question. The Bible is full of miraculous accounts –honest to goodness miracles. Events that are more than improbable; they are beyond natural… they are miraculous.

Question is, “Do you believe in miracles?” Or do you dismiss miraculous accounts as fables, fiction or ancient superstitious people who didn’t understand and assumed some miraculous conclusion that a modern person would know has some ‘natural’ explanation?

Do you believe in the miracles reported in the Bible or not?

If you don’t, then you had problems with today’s chapter and you are working to choose your reason for discounting the four miraculous accounts in this chapter.

I doubt there is anything I can write that will convince you.  For most of us, our worldview is at stake. What I will do is share my belief on the matter.

Yes, I believe in miracles. I believe the four miracles presented in this chapter and I believe the other miracles presented throughout the Old and New Testaments. Some likely consider me na├»ve.  Some may even think me foolish. So be it. I believe that God is capable whenever He wills to suspend, disregard or override natural law which He instituted, by the way, to bring some event about that otherwise would be impossible (not merely improbable).

I believe the widow’s oil multiplied until all the jars she gathered were full and then it stopped.

I believe the woman’s son died and Elisha, empowered by God, brought the dead boy back to life.

I believe, by a miracle of God, Elisha turned a pot of poisonous stew into a fine meal by adding ordinary flour.

I believe 100 men were fed by 20 barley loaves and some roasted grain with extra left over. Lest you not think of this as miraculous, remember one person carried the thank offering. Could you carry enough food for 100 people???

For me miracles are part and parcel of biblical faith. God becoming man (Jesus’ birth) and the resurrection of Jesus are central to the Christian faith and they are miracles! In fact, I think it is fair to say that without the miraculous, there is no Christian faith. That, at least, is what I believe.

Do you believe in miracles?

O, Lord, I believe miracles not only happened back in Bible days but continue to happen today as Your Spirit works in our world and as You bend an ear to Your people and here our cries for help. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 25: 2Kings 3- Mid-course corrections; checking in with God.

When we sent Apollo astronauts to the moon, there was a critical time in their journey when they undertook mid-course corrections. During the first Apollo flights I remember Walter Cronkite reporting, with all seriousness and gravity, the importance of those corrections. If the correction burn was too long or too short, the spacecraft would slingshot off the moon’s gravity and out into the abyss of space. And so the nation sat glued to the TV or radio waiting, wondering, some praying.

Mid course corrections are an important aspect of life. Have I made the correct decision, are their corrections, alterations, or changes I should make to my present life, business, academic, relational trajectory? And whose advice will design and designate the alteration to be made?

Often these times of correction come because something doesn’t go as planned or we bump into an unexpected hurtle. Such is the case for the 3 kings.  As they near the land they will invade after a long march, there is no water for men or animals.  A big problem for an army about to enter battle. So they stop and inquire… what should we do?

Fortunately, Jehoshaphat is present. A man of faith, he demands that they inquire of the Lord through God’s prophet, Elisha. The Lord not only provides a miraculous provision of water, He gives detailed instructions about the campaign they will wage and the victory that is theirs, if they follow God’s direction. They obey and things turn out as God said.

The idea of mid-course corrections stuck to my thinker as I mused on the text today. They are important, especially the part about checking in with the Lord. He is our truest source of strength, direction and counsel. “Be wise,” the Spirit whispers, “Counsel with Me before you set out and as you travel the course you set yourself, too. Counsel with me, I am always available and my ‘phone’ never kicks to voicemail.”

Lord, I can get so focused on the destination I believe you have set that I forget to check in along the way. Forgive me and even more, help me to learn the art of checking in along the way. Lor,d life is long and the road filled with twists and turns, sometimes an issue, forces me to consult with You along the way. However, Lord, help me to check in even before a problem surfaces…

As the song goes… ‘ Be my source, be my guide, Jesus, Jesus’… Amen.

 

 

Tuesday, August 24: 2Kings 2- A double portion.

Elisha requested a double portion of the spirit that was on Elijah. This has been often miss-understood. Elisha was not asking for twice the spirit of Elijah, as if he would be twice as great or twice as powerful as Elijah. That interpretation misses the connection with Deuteronomy 21:17 and the granting of 2x the inheritance to the first born son. Elisha was asking to become heir of Elijah’s prophetic mission to Israel, leading to Elijah’s response, "You have asked a difficult thing" (10).

Elisha was asking for the empowerment to take the mantle as principal prophet to the nation. Elisha was asking to be God’s ambassador to bring God’s word to God’s people and beyond.

Would that I (we) would seek ‘the double portion’ for today. God continues to use people to be His ambassadors, bringing His word to His people and beyond to the world.  Would that we all pray to be God’s person to do that in our home towns, in our universities, our places of work and with our friends…

The Lord’s challenge today is simple this, “Will you pray to be a ‘double portion’ disciple?”

Yes, Lord. I answer, ‘Yes I will.’ Grant me a double portion to be Your ambassador, speaking your Word to Your people and beyond. Amen.

 

Monday, August 23: 2Kings 1-Who am I listening to?

This short account of Ahaziah sparked the question, “Who am I listening to?” Ahaziah was blatant when he sent messengers to consult a pagan god about his life crisis.

Through Jesus and the Holy Spirit we have God with us.  The question of the morning is, “Do I rely on God, self, or worldly wisdom when facing life issues?”

Ahaziah turned his back on God and directly consulted foreign pagan gods. A comparable sin would for me (you) to consulting a horoscope or a medium of some sort to get advice. Honestly, that is not an issue I face. Hopefully, you don’t either.

But as I pondered the question further, I realized that I (we) do not need to be that blatant to stumble. I (we) face all kinds of pressure to consult with all manner of pundents on all kinds of issues. The question that fired in my thinking was, “Do I seek advice from friends and experts rather than the Lord?” The key word is ‘rather.’ I absolutely believe that God works through the advice of others and principally through wise brothers and sisters in the Lord. But do I run there and then act without seeking God’s will on the matter as well?  Here is my wrestle point.

Through faith in Jesus, I have access directly to God in prayer. And who knows better than the Lord? Do I live this reality? Do I truly seek the Lord in those times of crisis or do I seek only the advice of friends, experts and confidants?

Here is where I linger in my time with Jesus this morning…

Jesus, Lord, and Master, do I consult You in prayer? Do I lean on You as I live my life? Do I? Let’s discuss this, this morning… Amen.

 

Saturday, August 21: 1Kings 22-God is sovereign

The word against Ahab had been decreed and this chapter reveals how God worked out the plan He determined to bring Ahab down. For a while I sat and mused on the particulars.  After a time of rest, Ahab itching for battle, placed a lying spirit in the false prophets of Israel. Even the alliance with Jehoshaphat gave Ahab a false confidence about entering the battle and a random arrow striking through Ahab’s battle armor.  Hhmmm, God is in control.

Then I stepped back from the particulars and considered the bigger picture. What God decreed is established,  This is the thought that carried me into my day. The Lord God is sovereign! Sometimes I can get bogged down in how God works but today I thought mostly that He works to bring about His decrees in His time (remember Ahab repented in sackcloth and ashes so God held back his judgment for a time).

This led me to search my life asking if I am abiding in and cooperating with God’s will as He has revealed it in Scripture.

Lord, You are sovereign, Your will prevail. By the grace and voice of the Holy Spirit, show me what parts You would have me play in bringing to pass Your will. Lead me to people with whom I can share Christ or ways I can move Your will down the pitch toward Your ultimate or intermediate goal. Like Jehoshaphat, I want to do what is right in Your eyes.   Lord, I want even to remove any ‘high places’ (seeds of idol worship) in my life and in the life of the community of faith in which I live… to Your honor and glory. Amen.

 

 

Friday, August 20: 1Kings 21- Complicit.

Ahab and Jezebel are the central characters in this chapter but other unnamed people carried out the vile plan. Ahab was greedy but inept. Jezebel schemed and plotted and others executed the plan. It is the others who caught my attention. Verses 8-11:

Jezebel wrote letters in Ahab's name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city with him. In those letters she wrote: "Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death." So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them.

Few vile people work alone.  History records the most vile people manipulating others to do their bidding by either force or persuasion.

These unnamed ‘elders and nobles’ were complicit in carrying out Naboth’s murder and property seizure.

Few in the world are truly evil or vile people.  Ahab was but floating in my thoughts is complicity. Am I aiding and abetting injustice by my actions?

Our lifetime has seen its share of self-seeking evil people; Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Omar Kaddafi, Idi Amin, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones. But not all evil kills. Bernie Madoff and various financial scams represent another kind of self-seeking evil, crime syndicates another, drug cartels and drug lords another. In each case there is a mastermind bent on self-seeking evil or greed or power, and hundreds of “lesser lieutenants” -elders and nobles- who carry out the atrocities, the ‘business’ and the scams.

God’s poke is about being complicit. Do I turn a blind eye or aid and abet someone who is out of line? Do I tow the line in a business that is crossing into the unethical, if not illegal, to save my job or reap a personal reward?

The list of possible questions are endless. Am I knowingly complicit?  That is what the Spirit is asking of me and revealing to me this morning. How about you?

Lord, show me if there be any wickedness in me and if so lead me to repentance and confession, that my guilt may be nailed to the cross and covered by the blood of Jesus. Amen.

 

Thursday, August 19: 1Kings 20- Expedience or fidelity?

Ahab may be the worst king in Israel history… over and over he weighs decisions and does what he believes best profits himself. He has no fidelity to the Lord (none) and no fidelity to the nation as a whole. He is out for himself.

Here again he chooses expedience over fidelity to God and nation. After the Lord prophecies and then gives him a great victory over his enemy to the north, Ahab, instead of finishing the job, lets the king go,  settling for a pittance commerce treaty when he had been given the position of strength. It was easier to accept the bribe than finish the job.

A weak leader and man of no faith, Ahab is the anti-hero; an example of what NOT to be or do.

“Don’t be like him,” God nudges “Follow Me, live for Me and accept My direction and leading,” whispers the Spirit. “And finish what I give you to do. Don’t stop when you have an ‘easy out.’ Finish what I have you do.”

Well, Ahab is no person to emulate but I can certainly learn from his life how not to live!

Lord, help me to emulate the likes of David and Daniel, Peter and Paul; men willing to go and do whatever You ask and direct. They are men after your own heart.  Lord, help me by the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit, to be a man after Your heart, too. In Jesus name and for Your glory. Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 18: 1Kings 19- How human we are

I couldn’t escape the thought of how human we are. Amidst the amazing provision and revelation God provided Elijah in this chapter, I was griped by Elijah’s humanness. Yesterday was an incredible day of victory. Elijah was God’s man. Faithful and bold he challenged and ‘stared-down’ 400-false prophets and their god Baal. In a ‘war’ of gods, the Lord and Elijah stood. Immediately following his stand against the prophets of Baal, Elijah prophesied rain after 3 years of drought and the rain came. It was an amazing day of incredible faith and faithfulness.

Now in today’s scene, the next day or so, Elijah cowers at the threat of the Queen Jezebel and he runs for his life. Revealing the depth of his despair and depression, the day after a 24-hour trek into the desert to hide, he finally sits and whines to God, “I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors" (4).

Mighty man of God reduced to a cowering puddle of fear. So human is Elijah: strong one day; weak the next. Faith-filled one day; faith-empty the next. My God can and will do great things one day; God who, get me outta here the next.

Elijah is a mixed bag of strength and weakness… how human we all are…

O, Lord, help me to use my strengths for Your glory and to turn my weaknesses over to You that You may help me grow in my areas of need. Lord, I see many days of weakness in my life. Propel me forward to days of great strength, too. In Jesus name and for the sake of His church, I pray.  Amen.

 

Tuesday, August 17: 1Kings 18- Clash between good and evil

Elijah against the prophets of Baal. The Lord God verses false gods… the clash between good and evil and God wins. Honestly, it isn’t really a contest.  When the Lord God steps on the mat, the match is over. Evil may bluster and blow and talk a good game but when the battle begins, evil is defeated from the start.

This is the message of Elijah on Mt Carmel, Jesus at Calvary and the book of Revelation. God wins and ultimately it is not even a contest. God is God and posers aren’t.

It feels safe to say this after having read this amazing account, which I believe is literally true. It feels safe to hear of it when a friend like Jackson Senyonga tells his story about confronting the powerful witchdoctor in his Ugandan village.

The question of the morning is would I have the faith of Elijah were I standing there face to face with 400 prophets of Baal?

Would I have the faith to take on the witchdoctor who has the village wrapped in fear and I am God’s representative to take him on… the Lord God against the demonic powers for which the witchdoctor is the channel?

Do I have the faith to stand for the Lord in the face of all manner of evil, demonic powers that keep people in bondage (like Baal and the witchdoctor) and systemic evil that encases people and people groups in the grip of oppression? William Wilberforce stood his ground against the evil of the African slave trade propelled by Christ his Savior. Gary Haugen daily stands in the gap for those held by the evil of sex-slave trafficking with the International Justice Mission.

When asked by the Lord, would I, do I, will I, stand against evil demonic and personal and/or systemic and oppressive in the name of the Lord? Would I? Will I? Do I?

Such is my day’s devotion…

Lord, I pray so… I pray so.

 

Monday, August 16: 1Kings 17-A step of faith.

With a sudden jolt, a new character is added to the storyline of the text, Elijah, the Tishbite. Elijah, we will learn over the coming chapters, is a mighty prophet of God. The woman from Zarephath was apparently the first to learn of Elijah’s close connection to the Lord.

It is unknown whether Elijah has a reputation for being a prophet prior to this account. My assumption is that he did not.  The introduction of his name and town tends to be an initial introduction in the Old Testament.

Contemplating this, I put myself in the life of the woman from Zarephath. What faith she showed in Elijah.

In a time of drought, Elijah meets her at the town gate and asks for water and some bread to eat. Israel has a strong hospitality ethic, but consider the circumstances, the woman down to her last meal was asked to share it. Honestly, and seemingly without bitterness or malice, she explains her plight.

Elijah reveals what the Lord has said to him, that her oil and flour will not run out, “Now please make me my bread first and then bake what you and your son need”. She complies.  Is it an amazing act of faith or desperation?  I believe faith.

Something inside told her this man was a prophet not a charlatan. Something inside said God honors hospitality, so she takes this incredible step of faith using her last oil and flour to bake this stranger a cake.  However, it is not her last and she bakes bread for her son and herself… and continues to do so for some time.

The account continues with other steps of faith and miracles of God but I find myself considering the faith of this woman.

What conviction she displayed, truly putting her faith on the line and stepping out to trust God through this man of God, Elijah.

Lord, grant me the faith of this woman from Zarephath.  Grant me the faith to believe and follow You without reservation. In Jesus name, Amen.

 


Saturday, August 14: 1Kings 16-A legacy of sin.

The sad spiral of this chapter travels from bad to worse. It begins with Baasha who is judged for continuing the ways of Jeroboam and ends with Ahab who “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but” did even more evil (30-31).

It is not pleasant to admit but sin has a way of growing worse and worse. The sad tale of drug use shows that drug dependencies often grow to use of harder and stronger drugs. The same negative spiral can be shown for pornography. Sadly, our lives as humans are marred by the stain of Adam.  Sin comes naturally to us and if not checked, sin grows. One lie becomes 2, then 4, then a habit of lying.

What I see in this chapter is that a legacy of sin can be passed along as well. Even with regime changes, the new leaders continued in the sins of the previous regime. The real losers are the people ruled and directed by these men bent on sin, faithlessness, greed and all manner of godlessness.

My first thought is that we see shades of this travesty in various African and other countries which can never seem to climb out of the cycle of corruption leading to impoverishment of the people.

My second thought is that I need to guard my faith-life fiercely because my life legacy -good or bad- can, and likely does, impact others. How often we find in counseling rooms world wide, the sins of the fathers and mothers passed along -as if by heredity- to sons and daughters. And this chapter alerts me to the fact that my example can affect those beyond my family as well.

How I live matters.  It affects my life and through example and connection, others as well.

Lord, for the sake of my family and others. guide me into Your ways, lead me to Your paths, instruct me in Your ways… this I pray in the my Lord’s name, Jesus… Amen.

 

Friday, August 13: 1Kings 15- Am I doing right in the eyes of the Lord?

With the naming of each king, there follows a tag line, ‘so-and-so did evil (or ‘what was right’) in the eyes of the Lord’. The chronicler of the lives of Israel’s kings states their fidelity to the Lord, front and center.

In our chapter 4, kings are introduced and only Asa, king of Judah, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (11). One in four is not particularly good odds, only 25%. Only time will tell if this ration improves or declines.

Considering this summary statement, caused me to contemplate my life.  What would be said of me? It is easy to be cavalier and say, “Hey, I am a good person”, but true introspection takes thought and time. A Greek philosopher once noted, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” An interesting thought indeed.

As I contemplated, I thought, maybe I would be better served asking myself, “Am I doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord, right now in this particular phase of life?”

·         Am I parenting rightly in the eyes of the Lord?

·         Am I acting rightly in the eyes of the Lord in my job/profession

·         If married- in the eyes of the  - am I living faithfully and lovingly toward my spouse?

·         If presently unmarried- in the eyes of the Lord - am I sexually pure in my dating relationships?

·         Do I handle my finances rightly in the eyes of the Lord?

True self-examination moves from the center to the corners of my (our) lives…

Lord, as I walk through my life, please travel with me. Shine Your light on issues and behaviors which need to be exposed. Help me to see areas that need cleaning and areas that are solid and healthy. Lord, it is my desire to have the words “Bill did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”, an epitaph of my life. And that, Lord, will take work on my part and the guidance of the Holy Spirit along the road of life… in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

Thursday, August 12: 1Kings 14-Glories gone in a twinkling of an eye.

As I read the disastrous reigns of Jeroboam in the north and Rehoboam in Jerusalem, I realized how quickly a mighty empire can fall. It took less than 17 years for the wonderful and God-blessed empire of Solomon to be dismantled. Within that time, the kingdom divided and both portions deteriorated. Judah became so weak that Egypt, the former ally, attacked and took as ransom, the gold articles from the temple. The former nation withered to a mere shell of itself…in less than 2 decades and probably less than one.

How could this be… inept leadership? Yes.

Was it a costly civil war and continued fighting between the two? Yes. again.

But at its root, the cause was faithlessness to the Lord. God had promised providential care, protection and provision, if Israel remained faithful. When Solomon, lured by his many pagan wives, began to live a divided life, seeking after other gods, Israel’s demise was initiated, a judgment for her sins…

How easy it is to slip into sin and bear the consequences as a result.

This word is a stark reminder to me to remain vigilant. David was anything but perfect but he remained faithful to the Lord. I am reminded of the devotional from August 6 and God’s offer to Solomon, walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did.

Integrity of heart and uprightness, that is the legacy of David’s life. That’s the legacy I want to cultivate. That’s the life I pray I can live all the days of my life. Solomon lived well for a while but turned away from the Lord toward the end of his life. Rehoboam never lived faithfully. I want to be a David.

How quickly the glories of God can fade when we become unfaithful…

Lord God, I want to be a David… faithful till the end. Lord, I know I am far from perfect. I need Your forgiveness and mercy regularly. Despite my sins, I pray, Lord, for Your strength and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. I want to live before You in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David, your servant, did. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Wednesday, August 11: 1Kings 13- Follow God's voice to the letter

In this chapter of judgment against Jeroboam, for the things we discussed yesterday, we meet a young prophet of God who is specifically directed by the Lord to speak the word of judgment against Jeroboam. The prophet executes his mission flawlessly on his way home until an older prophet stops him, saying, "I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water'" (18). The Lord had specifically forbidden the young prophet to eat with anyone in the region. Sadly, the young prophet listens to the old prophet, returns and eats.  God judges him when he leaves and he is killed by a lion. The text inserts a parenthetical remark to make sure we, the readers, know what the old prophet told the young one was a lie.

This story speaks volumes to me. As one who lives believing that God still speaks to us today, I hear huge warnings in this text. A few warnings that fire synapses in my brain are:

·         When God speaks we must follow His directives and not be enticed away from what He has clearly spoken to us.

·         We cannot blindly trust someone, who may even have a proven record of hearing from God, but must test everything anyone says is “from the Lord.” And the principle test ... Is it in accord with the revealed will of God expressed in the God-inspired words of Scripture?

·         Paul’s words to the Galatians 1:8-9 comes to mind here: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

The whisper of the Spirit to me this morning reminds me, “Yes, I still speak”, says the Lord through scripture and the Spirit. Handle what I say with full faith, change nothing from My revealed Word, and test everything people say is from me lest you, like this young prophet, be lead astray.”

O, God, give me a discerning heart, mind, and soul so that I might hear Your word and leadings correctly. And, Lord, when you do nudge and speak, give me faith to follow You obediently. Amen.

 

 

Discerning the Voice of God

I am part of a renewal ministry that teaches four checks to test the validity of words that are purportedly from God. I invite you to use these test against things you might here me say, whether in devotion or sermon:

1.      Does it give glory to Jesus Christ in the present and in the future?

2.      Is it consistent with the intentions and character of God as revealed in scripture?

3.      Do other mature believers have a confirming witness?

4.      Is there confirmation in objectively verifiable events or facts?

 

 


Tuesday, August 10: 1Kings 12- Worldly wise but Godly poor

A sad day for Israel comes when God rips the nation apart as a judgment for the sins of Solomon (11:11-12). Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s advisors, became king of the 10 northern tribes as prophesied in Chapter 11.

Jeroboam, after assuming the kingdom, had a choice to follow the Lord or to depart from the Lord. Sadly, he chose the latter, choosing worldly wisdom over faithfulness to Almighty God.

Jeroboam realized that religious festivals (like Passover), which require people to travel to Jerusalem, might draw people back to the King of Judah, so he made a decision.  He created his own parallel worship system… with his own priests, altars, feasts, plus his own god, 2 golden calves. Unfortunately, in doing that, he totally abandoned the Lord and established false gods in the place of the Lord… an act of ultimate idolatry. And Israel, the northern Kingdom, lived in rebellion from the Lord from that day forward.

As I contemplated this, I thought there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Pr 14:12)… sometimes we can make the expedient and even wise decision (wise in the world’s eyes, that is) but if it is not faithful to the Lord then it is the wrong decision. God seemed to be reminding me that faithfulness to the Lord is always right.  The best of man’s wisdom can be wrong!

Lord, I ask You to help me be true to You. Help me to make my decisions based on faithfulness and fidelity to Your word, Your character and Your Son, as I seek to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me to know when to ask for Your wisdom (James 1) and then to follow as You lead. Jesus, I pray this in Your name… Amen.

 

 

Monday, August 9: 1Kings 11-Diligence and discernment

Two thoughts swirled as I read this chapter…

First, Solomon and all his wives. How did this man whom God spoke with on two occasions slide so far from faithfulness to God? It seems his slide began with him pursuing natural passions outside of the bounds God has set.  In Solomon’s case his downfall was sexual passions. He married women from forbidden people. He allowed them to continue worshipping their false gods, he built shrines for their false gods and eventually he fell into worshipping these false gods himself. O, how the mighty have fallen.

God’s single word for me is Diligence! Be diligent in my pursuit of God and my restrain of natural desires which war against my soul. Peter warns of this very thing in 1Peter 2:11… be diligent.

Secondly, how Solomon seems to have been played by Pharaoh. A few chapters ago we are told that Solomon took Pharaoh’s daughter in an alliance (3:1).  Yet throughout this chapter I read how Pharaoh (sometimes in David’s, reign, his father, and sometimes in Solomon’s reign) harbored fugitives and enemies of Israel (see vv 17-ff and 40). Solomon may have been exceedingly wise but apparently he was used by Egypt and her kings.

A second single word came to me… Discernment.  Be discerning about the friends and associates you keep. Not everyone who purports to be a friend or ally is,  Be discerning.

Such was my morning in God’s word…

Lord, I pray for diligence. I pray for it when it comes to my walk with you. I pray that your Holy Spirit develop diligence in my life, that He shows me when and where I grow lax and compels me to deal with those areas. Lord, to allow me discernment in my life, to know how to use the gifts you have given and to be wise in the relationships I develop and foster, that they will lead me closer to You, Lord Jesus, closer to You. Amen.

 

 

Saturday, August 7: 1Kings 10-What's your reputation say?

Solomon’s life, like most of ours, is jammed packed with mixed motives. We are not perfect and that is why we need the redeeming love of God and the atonement of Jesus to save us.

Reading my chapter today, verse one leapt off the page… When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. It was the words I underlined that particularly caught my attention. Why did the Queen of Sheba want to meet Solomon? Was it His fame, His wisdom? Yes, but also His relation to the name of the LORD!

What a great thing to be known for… Solomon was known for his relations to the name of the Lord. I began to think about my own life.  What am I known for, what will I be known for? Reputations are largely built on the things we have done and continue to do throughout our lives. The question this text asks of me is, “Is there an element of my reputation that is built on my relationship with the Lord?”

It is one thing to do good works, even God-exalting good works, but it is another to be known for your relationship with Jesus.  That’s what the Spirit is whispering to me as I meditate and pray on this passage…

Lord, may the character of my relationship with You be honoring of You. May it be seen by others, not in any arrogant way, rather simply as a deep and abiding connection with You. May others see You through the way I live… I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Friday, August 6: 1Kings 9- Integrity of heart

Today I read how the Lord reestablished His covenant with Solomon.  If Solomon and the kings after him, stay faithful to God, God will watch over them and bless them. If they prove faithless, God will reject the temple. As the Lord was explaining the covenant, He makes this statement: if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever … (4-5).

The words integrity of heart and uprightness captured my attention. As I pondered this, I thought David sinned- even grievously sinned, so integrity of heart and uprightness cannot mean be perfect. David was far from perfect. So I pondered some more. David sinned, Yes, but David never ran after other gods.  He was always faithful to the Lord and when the Lord sent someone to confront David of his sin, David never shrank away. David never tried to justify himself or blame someone else. David’s reaction was always humble submission to the Lord. And when given a choice, David threw himself into the arms and discipline of the Lord, knowing God is merciful.

Integrity of heart and uprightness pictures a person who does not chase other gods and when confronted by his/her sin admits, confesses and accepts the Lord’s discipline with humility. Integrity of heart and uprightness speaks of a person who remains faithful to the Lord, imperfect though he/she might be…

Lord, create in me integrity of heart and uprightness… Lord Jesus, I surrender to You and serve only You and when You see sin in me, discipline me according to Your mercy.  Please will that my life will become more faithful to You. Lord, I desire to have it said of me, ‘he lived with integrity of heart and uprightness’… Only by the strength given by Your Holy Spirit will this be true… I pray it so. Through Jesus, my Lord,I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

Thursday, August 5: 1Kings 8- What a day, O what worship.

Chapter 8 retells an incredible day, the day of the dedication of the Temple Solomon built for the Lord. One day of dedication spread to 7 and then 7 more.  For 12 days all of Israel celebrated all the Lord had done through David and established Israel’s kingdom and fulfilled all the promises of the Lord.

What a day, week, 2-weeks, it must have been!

More than the pageantry and the prayers, it was the final sentence that captured the attention of my heart and mind as I read this account. Verse 66 They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done for … his people Israel.

The lasting memory, the lasting thought of all the people was of the Lord God. Joy and gladness filled them as they marveled at all the Lord had done for Israel.

It struck me that this was worship… people fully engaged in the wonders of the Lord. Their last thoughts were not of what they offered or of the terrific work of the Levites and Priests (consider all the work they had to do to sacrifice all those animals). Oh, they blessed the King for arranging the worship but their thoughts and meditations were on the Lord.  Not any people or performances or this or that, no, they were joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done.

And it wasn’t even that God manifested His presence in miracles and signs and wonders… aside from filling the holy of holies. It was that the manifest presence of God touched them with reminders of His faithfulness throughout the generations. God had done what God had promised (!) and that filled their worship and brought forth joy and gladness in their hearts.

It occurred to me that as the people of God, we, at least in principle, should find this same joy and gladness of heart each week when we gather for worship remembering what Jesus Christ- the Lord of lords and King of kings- did for us and all humanity in His death and resurrection!

May our worship be so God-focused that the work of any person be forgotten as the glories of the Lord are remembered, rehearsed, and relived worship after worship, until we meet our Lord in glory face to face.

O, God, my only prayer is … may it be so Lord, may it be so…!

 

Wednesday, August 4: 1Kings 7- A subtle blemish

Chapter 7 opens with an interesting insertion into the Temple building/dedication story. The inserted story is the building of Solomon’s palace, which the recorder deftly notes, took almost twice as long as building the temple. Verse 1, It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. The ‘however’ seems to portray the building of the palace in a subtly negative light, inferring that Solomon’s attention was diverted from the things of God to the things of self. This understanding seems to be corroborated by its omission in Chronicles (see tidbit below).

This subtle insertion, about the interests of self invading our work for God, sparked my devotional meditations this morning. How easily sin and selfishness can creep into our lives. I (we) can even be in the midst of a great work for God when selfishness sneaks in through a crack and begins wedging its way into our life. The results of these subtle failures may not become evident for some time but the seeds of trouble have been planted.

The Lord is reminding me to look inside regularly, to see if I have allowed sin or selfishness to enter my life. Hmmm, this will take some meditating.

O, God, I am thankful for forgiveness. The writer of Hebrews urges, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1). Sin does so easily entangle me, and I am grateful that when You, Lord, bring it to my attention, I can be forgiven because of the atonement of Jesus, my Lord… blessed be the name of the Lord…

Lord, expose my sin that I might have no blocks between You and me… In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

Interesting Tidbit

1 & 2Chronicles records the period of Israel’s kings from Saul through the divided kingdom. This is essentially the same time period covered in the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings. Chronicles, however, seems to be recorded from a perspective emphasizing the greatness-of-David-and-his kingdom. David is clearly the major focus of Chronicles, filling most of the chapters of 1Chronicles. Chronicles has an intense interest in the Temple including the many preparations David made for its building. Chronicles also leaves out a number of the unpleasant episodes of David’s life, like Bathsheba and the rebellions of sons Absalom and Adonijah.

In reading 2 Kings 7, the insertion about Solomon taking almost twice as long to build his palace as he took to build the Temple, seems to have a gentle negative to it.  Interestingly, the length of time to build the palace verse the Temple is also omitted in Chronicles.

 

 

Tuesday, August 3: 1Kings 6- Magnificence.

What strikes me in today’s reading is the magnificence of Solomon’s temple… all the gold, the carvings, the types of wood, and the detail. Solomon built a magnificent temple for God ; he held nothing back and spared no expense. The building took incredible planning and thought. Astonishing significance was attached to certain structures of the building and its arrangement. There was artistic beauty and attention to detail.

Solomon gave his God, the God of the universe, the very best he could, in thought, planning, execution, and detail in building the temple.

Solomon’s example strikes me.  Do I give God truly the best in what I am doing? When I build for God, do I build with distinction? Oh, maybe I have a different theology of opulence but what I build and make for God, is it done with excellence? Do I give God my best in all I do?

O, God, may my hands give You my best all the time and particularly when what I am doing or building bears Your name and points others to You… In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Monday, August 2: 1Kings 5- God-honoring service

When we were last in the Word, God addressed whether or not I (you) was managing my life well. Today, for me, God pushed that envelope and probed if I (you) was engaged in God-honoring service.

The first specific task mentioned about Solomon’s rule is the building of the Temple. This was a dream of his father’s which Solomon was now executing. He set to the task straight away and gave enormous resources to the task. Certainly the building of the Temple was a priority for Solomon.

The word ‘priority’ burrowed its way into my meditations.  Is ‘God-honoring service’ a priority in my life? Am I willing to take on tasks of any magnitude should I believe God has ask it of me? I have missionary friends who came up with an incredible idea to build greenhouses that could provide a revenue stream for orphanages that they manage, plus provide a consistent source of income for the people they hire to work it. The deal is they had the idea, believed it was from God, but had no startup capital to seed the concept and find out if it would work. What did they do? They financed the initial greenhouse with their personal retirement money!

This is an example of ‘God-honoring dedication’ that God is presenting to me (and possibly to you) through Solomon’s building of the temple.

Am I, are you, giving priority to engagement in a God-honoring service?

O, God, this is a big question.  It cuts to questions of… how I am using and willing to use finances, time, effort for kingdom service? It challenges me to explore the gifts with which You have graced me.  Am I offering them to Your service? Let me not dispense with contemplating them when I close my Bible and move into the remainder of today… In Jesus’ name, I meditate and pray, Amen.