Tuesday, July 25: 2Kings 13- God the 'fixer'.

Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before (4-5).

‘Good enough for times of trouble,’ that’s the thought that crossed my mind as I read these sentences. The Lord is good enough to call out to in times of trouble, but once the crisis passes (because the Lord helps you) you return to you old ways. This almost sounds like the times of the Judges.

The northern kingdom of Israel never learned her lesson. She never was able to get out from the error Jeroboam laid upon her when he set up a rival priesthood. Even though the Lord kept calling out to Israel, sending the prophets Elijah and Elisha, Israel never turned away from her idolatrous ways.

I find it curious that Jehoahaz turns to the Lord when everything else fails him, but apparently he only wants an escape from the present pressure. He is not willing to begin serving the Lord.

I see this in contemporary life as well. In a time of national crisis, 9/11 for example, church attendance swells.  However, as the weeks and months go by and life returns to normal, people return to their old habits and church attendance returns to what it was before the crisis.

Similar things happen on a personal level. A family crisis occurs, cancer, finance, etc.,and people reach out to the church prayer chain or show up in worship. But, again, when the crisis passes the old ways return. God is the great fixer but the idea of truly worshipping Him rarely enters the picture.

Now of course there are exceptions but in the main, this scenario proves true over and over again.

Even believers are susceptible to ‘increased devotion’ during times of crisis, which does not last after the crisis abates.

God is pressing me this morning to look at my own life. Do I do these things? Do I treat the Lord as a ‘fixer’ or ‘blessing back’ someone I turn to when I need a blessing but the rest of my time God is somewhere relegated to the back of my mind?

Lord, I don’t think this is the case, but I don’t want to be too presumptuous… Search me, show me, reveal to me any places or situations where I treat You less than Your Sovereign Majesty deserves.

Lord, I love You.  Direct my ways that I might serve You effectively. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Monday, July 24: 2Kings 12- Accountability.

Corruption… it is everywhere. This summer while in Nigeria I heard two sermons warning of corruption that is rampant here in Nigeria. The church was calling her people to a higher standard, while at the same time, noting that corruption is everywhere and we must constantly be on our guard.

Corruption, it seems, appears in this morning’s passage. The priests when left to themselves were not able to complete the repairs on the temple. Joash said to the priests, “Collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the LORD—the money collected in the census, the money received from personal vows and the money brought voluntarily to the temple. Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.” But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple. Therefore King Joash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and asked them, “Why aren’t you repairing the damage done to the temple? Take no more money from your treasurers, but hand it over for repairing the temple.” (4-7).

Where was all the money going??? Was it corruption? Graft? Theft by others?

So the priests devised a plan to put the money in a sealed box.  When enough was there it was given to workers to complete the work and this plan worked.

The human heart is wicked, even the best of us. To combat our natural tendencies to selfishness, we can learn from the priests and put checks and balances on ourselves to protect us from ourselves.

I am not above corruption. I am not above sin. I need to welcome accountability to help me live a true and faithful life before the Lord and others…

What checks, balances and accountability do you have in your life to help you live faithfully before the Lord?

Lord, give me honesty with myself to see my weaknesses and to confront them so that I live faithfully before you and people of this world. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, July 22: 2Kings 11- Who do you turn to when you need advice?.

How can one possibly reign as king over a land when you are only 7 years old? Answer. A person cannot truly reign at age seven, unless you have a trusted advisor, who can counsel you and guide you as you lead the people.

Joash’s story shows me two things. One, God is faithful. God said that there would never cease to be a king in the line of David on the throne. Athaliah thought she had destroyed all the heirs, but God preserved one, Joash. Through the faithfulness of Jehosheba, daughter of the former king and Jehoida the priest, Joash was hidden in the temple for six years. For six years these two hid the young crown prince from his grandmother who usurped authority. These two leaders, and those who cared for the infant prince, risked their lives daily to preserve the Davidic lineage. The Lord preserved their labors, protecting them and hiding Joash from his power hungry grandmother. Through all of this intrigue, God remains faithful to the promise He made to David.

Two, the value of a wise advisor is incalculable. Jehoida, the priest, was a wise man who used his wisdom for the nation’s good rather than personal gain. There is no way that a seven year old could reign by himself, but with Jehoida at his side the nation was in good hands. Young or old a wise advisor is as valuable as pure gold.

Sliding across the centuries to today… the same two points from the text remain true. God is faithful. What He says in His Word will come true. God’s Word is solid and strong and I can build my life on the promises of His Word. Wise advisors are just as important to me at age 61 as they were for Joash at 7. None of us has all wisdom. Having people who can help me discern truth from error, the best from the good, etc., is a life saving gift.

Who do you turn to when you need advice? This is my question of the day…

Lord, thank You for the people You put around me. The elders at my church, the board members at PRMI ministry, my trusted friends and confidants who want me to succeed in the way of Jesus. Bless these people and give me a heart to listen to them and discern with them. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, July 21: 2Kings 10- Careful or careless?.

Jehu’s story is one of faithfulness and carelessness. Jehu is zealous for the Lord executing all of God’s judgments upon the house of Ahab. Jehu used cunning, wisdom, raw might and ruthlessness to see that he followed the Lord’s decrees against Ahab.

However at the same time he was careless religiously. According to verse 31 we are told, Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.

The sin Jehu fell into was set way back at the founding of the northern kingdom, Israel, when Jeroboam established an alternative priesthood and sanctuary in Samaria. We are always culpable for our actions, so Jehu is culpable of this idolatry –serving a false god.

What came to me as I pondered this was the role of the teachers/priests. In one respect Jehu was following the teachings passed down to him. Sadly, they were false teachings. I don’t mean they were a little off here or there. no, the teachings of the priest of Samaria were an abomination to the Lord. They were heretical and idolatrous, so that the people who followed them were duped. They were not worshiping the Lord of the Universe, Yahweh, but a false and rival god!

Jehu seems to be sincere in his carrying out the word of the Lord that came to him through the prophet of the Lord, but his general worship practices were opposed to the Lord.

As I pondered this it caused me to realize the importance of teachers, preachers, priests and religious instructors. When they teach heretical and false doctrine, they lead people astray. Like sheep, the people are being led to the slaughter. It is no wonder that New Testament writers regularly warn us against false teachers, people who use the name Jesus but yet teach a different gospel. Maybe it is a gospel of human works or a gospel filled with pride, arrogance and promises of prosperity. Whatever the falsehood, people who follow these false teachers rather than the orthodox truths of Christianity are in spiritual peril.

No wonder James explains that teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).

Are the truths you are building your life upon and the spiritual practices and disciplines you follow built on the foundation of the Word of God, the Bible?

Think about this… you won’t want to be deemed careless like Jehu.

God keep me planted in Your Word, rooted to You and the plain truth in Your Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Correct me when I am wrong and encourage me where I have things right, so that as a teacher I might give Your people Your Word and nothing less than that. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Thursday, July 20: 2Kings 9- The vengeance of God.

Accounts of vengeance and destruction are never pleasant to read. People being shot with arrows and being tossed aside like road kill. Jezebel being tossed out a window and splattering to the ground only to have her body eaten by roaming dogs. These accounts are not for the faint of heart.

In a world where we sanitize everything, these stories are horrific and then add to this, they were carried out by the word of the Lord.

How do I process stories like this?

For me they are a stark reminder that God will execute His judgment in His time. God decreed that Ahab and his family would meet an end like this. Now is the time for God to bring His judgment on Ahab to pass. As horrific as Jezebel’s end may be, it is just retribution for the life she lived and the evil she did as queen and queen mother.

Sin has its consequences. The consequences of sin are not pretty or sanitized. The penalty for sin is death and destruction. As horrific as these earthy consequences might be, the spiritual consequences of sin, hell, eternal destruction, are far worse.

Accounts like the one I read today, remind me that every human being is on the road to destruction unless she or he steps off that road onto the way of Jesus. Believing Jesus to be Lord and God and following Him as his disciple is the only road to salvation.

Are you on the roadway of Jesus? Are you His disciple?

Consider your life… who is your God?

Oh, Lord, thank You for opening my eyes and heart to Jesus and His message of reconciliation, forgiveness and redemption. I love You, Lord. Help me to share Your way with others effectively and lovingly. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, July 19: 2Kings 8- Curiosity but no faith.

Curiosity but no faith, that seems an apt description for Joram, King of Israel. He wanted to know about Elisha and his exploits, but he had no honest interest in the God Elisha served. He entertains Gehazi, servant to Elisha, to hear wonderful stories about the man of God, but one never gains a sense that he is willing to trust in the Lord. I suspect he may have been willing to entertain stories of other gods as well, but this hunch cannot be confirmed.

Today, too, there are people who are curious about God; they dabble in this and that. They attend churches, listen to sermons and podcasts, and read books on spiritual topics. They love testimonies about what God or spiritual forces have done and can do.However, they don’t give themselves to any one religion or philosophy, much less to the God of the Bible, Father, Jesus Holy Spirit.

Sometimes they even talk about God as if they know him but there is no evidence of Christ-honoring discipleship in their lives. They dabble where it suits them, but never pick up the torch of faith and truly believe.

One of the sad facts, in my opinion, is that the person they are fooling most is themselves. Some of them truly believe they believe in God but whoever or whatever this god is, it most certainly isn’t the God of the Scriptures.

Curiosity can only take us so far. It can open the door and encourage us to begin listening to and exploring who God is, but there comes a crucial time when curiosity must give way to heartfelt faith if we are truly to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Have you moved from curiosity to faith? Joram, King of Israel, never did. I hope the same is not true for you.

Lord God, I thank You that Your Holy Spirit prompted me to cross the line of faith and to believe. My life has been changed.  I am a new creature and I am Yours… Blessed be You name, Oh God, Father, Jesus, Spirit. I pray in Your name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, July 18: 2Kings 7- Stubborn kings and hardened hearts.

Elisha predicts and God executed an incredible miracle that saved the life of the people of Samaria.  However, where is the repentance? Where is the return to the Lord? Nowhere to be found.

I continue to be dumb founded by Israel’s lack of response to the Lord’s graciousness. Why can’t the leaders see what the Lord is doing for them?

I have no adequate answer, at least from the human plane, why some believe and some do not. Whether it is in the Old Testament or New, the first, second or third millennia following Christ, responses are the same. Some turn to God in belief and others do not. Why I do not know.

I am left to fall on the mercy of God. The most outstanding preaching and the most wonderful miracles do not guarantee people will repent.

I am left to fall on the mercy of God and pray for God to soften hearts, to open eyes and ears to the wonder of Jesus and God’s invitation to reconciliation through faith in Jesus Christ.

I will continue to preach and teach for that is my calling from the Lord and I will pray that the Holy Spirit opens hearts to the saving work of Jesus.

I challenge every reader to do likewise. Do whatever it is God is calling you to do and to pray…  pray that the Holy Spirit opens hearts to the saving work of Jesus.

Oh, Lord, day after day remind me to pray for open hearts and lives receptive to Jesus. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Monday, July 17: 2Kings 6- Using gifts to serve.

Elisha is quite the miracle worker. The stories continue to compound regarding his miraculous exploits but none are for his personal benefit. In fact only the time he acted in his personal interest was way back at the beginning of his ministry when he called a curse on the young boys making fun of him. That sad exploit has never been repeated and from that time his miracles have been to help others.

This launched my devotional thought into contemplating God’s gifts given to people. In 1Corinthians 12 we are told that spiritual gifts are given for the ‘common good’. In other words, God gave them for the growth and care of believers, not simply for the enjoyment of the individual. Like Elisha, the gifts God gives are to help others and extend His glory, not one’s own.

I think by extension we can apply this principle to our natural gifts as well. Are we using them to help others as well? Obviously, natural gifts are also used to provide for our family and self.  However, do we horde them, thinking only of self or are we generous with the natural gifts God has given us, using them for others as well?

Elisha lived to serve God, which meant he needed to serve God’s people. Do I live as magnanimously as Elisha did? Do you?

Think about it…

Lord, so many of the saints in the Old and New Testaments lived for Your glory and the betterment of Your people… Elisha, Paul, Peter, Lydia, Timothy, Elijah, Samuel, Moses and Joshua to name a few. Help me, Lord, to follow their lead, to live for You and Your people, to advance knowledge of Your name and fame around the earth until the glory of Your name covers the earth as water covers the sea. I pray this in Jesus’ name and for the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

Saturday, July 15: 2Kings 5- .

The contrast between Naaman and the king of Israel jumped off the page at me. Israel’s king was skeptical and saw the request for healing as a ploy to start a war. He never displays even a momentary sense that God could actually heal Naaman. Naaman, on the other hand, was in need and looking for a miracle.

Yes, Naaman has a ‘faith’ hiccup. I might have had one, too. The prophet never even came out to meet him. All he did was send his servant who said, ‘Bathe in the Jordan.’ I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect to see the prophet and that he might do something dramatic, but that was not God’s way this time. A simple command to bathe was what God was going to use to heal Naaman. After a short time of insolence, Naaman’s servant talked some sense into his master and he did as the prophet directed and was instantly and completely healed. From start to finish –excepting the faith hiccup –Naaman believed God could and would heal him.

Even more, so convinced by the miracle was Naaman, that he chose to put his faith in Yahweh as his God. Seeking a healing led to a confession of faith in the Lord.

Surely the king of Israel heard about this miracle, and yet even after the miracle he didn’t have a faith moment.

It never ceases to amaze me how different people can have such different responses to a move of God’s hand! Israel’s king remained faithless; Naaman discovered faith. Absolute opposite responses.

What is your response to this account from the Bible? Does it draw you to or deepen your  faith in the Lord or does it have no faith effect on you?

Think about it…

Lord, I smile, the story of Naaman reminds me that You are a miracle working God and that You are calling people near and far to come and walk with You. You healed a foreign general and drew him to Your side. You are calling people of every tribe and language and nation to Your side to this day. Use me, Lord, as an ambassador of Your work. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, July 14: 2Kings 4- What do you have?.

Elisha as a miracle worker is certainly established in this chapter. I was attracted to verse 2. The woman is in need, her sons are to be sold as slaves to pay off her debt after her husband’s death.  She comes to Elisha for help.

He asks her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil” (2).

I love the question, what do you have in your house? God is going to help her. Elisha will do something, but he begins with what she has. There is something powerful about that for me. The idea that the Lord begins with what we have blesses me. It seems to be an illustration of how God often works… He takes our meager portion multiplies and/or refines it and then uses it for kingdom success.

I find myself being asked by the Lord, “What do you have, that I might use for kingdom advance?” Sometimes our simplest responses become just what God uses.

Years ago I attended a midweek service to interview a potential speaker. The service was packed, there were even chartered busses from another state bringing people to the service. After the service they served a simple meal. The pastor told me the meal was added to the morning events after he asked a woman what she could offer the Lord. She responded, I don’t have much but I love to cook. Thus a meal ministry was born which serviced the Tuesday crowd but more importantly, the elderly who needed a good meal, and others.

What do you have that you might offer to the Lord?

Only God knows what He can do with that. After all it was a partial jar of oil that saved those two boys from slavery and provided for this family for years to come.

Oh, Lord, I offer you my love of woodworking, teaching and preaching, a heart for the underdog… Use any of these or anything else I have for Your glory and honor. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Thursday, July 13: 2Kings 3- Respect.

Never underestimate the power of respect.

When we respect someone we are inclined to their wishes should they ask something of us. When we respect someone we want to work with them, help them and bless them. Respect is a powerful connection between people.

Elisha respect King Jehoshaphat so when he and his men, plus the men with King Joram, found themselves in dire straits with no water, Elisha came to the rescue providing a miracle through the power of the Lord. The account makes it clear that had there been no respect for Jehoshaphat there would have been no consideration of a miracle for King Joram.

True respect is earned. A certain office might command a level of respect, but if personal respect is not earned through integrity and effectiveness, for example, even respect of the office will wane.

Now respect isn’t only for governmental leadership. Respect cuts through all relationships. Healthy friendships are built partially on respect.

Not surprisingly God’s whisper begins to blow, “Bill, are you a person people respect?”

I began to consider what personal traits I look for in people I respect.

      Personal integrity

      Treating other people with dignity, kindness and humanness

      Genuine faith

      They have the capacity to respect and honor others.

There are other traits I am sure.

Then there are traits that dismantle respect for me:

      Arrogance, tops my list

      An attitude that dismisses others

Hypocrisy… you tell me what you think on a matter –I may disagree. However when you say one thing but your life tells a different story, respect disappears in me.

Again there are other respect-killers in my book.

Finally God asked me if I live the respect traits and avoid the respect-killers.

How about you, are you a person others respect?

Lord, as I begin to pray about this, it occurred to me that being a person who exhibits the fruit of the spirit also garners respect. Help me to grow in traits that make me a man others respect. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, July 12: 2Kings 2- Passing the baton.

Today’s reading follows the passing of the prophetic mantle from Elijah to Elisha. It is a story rich in inspiration for me.

For instance, Elijah tried numerous times to shake off Elisha so that he would not be there when Elijah departed. Why, I wondered. What was that all about? Of course the text does not explain which simply invited me to ponder and meditate.

Maybe it was a way for Elijah to determine if Elisha was hearing from the Lord directly? All the prophets along the way clearly understood that Elijah was going to be taken that day. Maybe this was Elijah’s way to see if Elisha had the primary gift -hearing clearly the voice of God- necessary to take up the mantle of lead prophet.

When it comes time to pass the mantle of leadership on to the next leader it is important to know that the new leader has the primary gifts necessary for the task ahead. Maybe Elijah was making sure Elisha had the metal for the job as lead prophet. Such a mantle was a difficult and lonely position taking a huge amount of internal integrity and fortitude. Maybe all the walking here and there with constant offers or directives to stop and stay along the way was Elijah’s final test to see if Elisha had the personality and grind to fulfill the calling as lead prophet of the Lord.

Having the right gifts for a leadership task is one aspect; having the internal fortitude or calling for the pressure demands of the position is a second important facet of the position.

Then finally Elijah puts it directly to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied (9). This seems to be a final check, do you really want the position. If you can have anything what is it you want?

Elisha wants it all… double portion is what was given to the #1 son who inherited the father’s ‘estate’ and along with it the responsibility to care for the family. In simple terms, Elisha said, ‘I want to be Israel’s prophet, to follow in your footsteps, my father.’

‘Ok, then one last thing you must do… see me go.’

Having the gifts/skills and fortitude, does the person truly want to put on the mantle of leadership with the joys and hardships involved?  Determining this is important, too.

And Elisha succeeds Elijah.

I had one final thought from the closing 3 verses, the strange incident of calling down a curse on those 42 boys… No matter how prepared we believe someone is for the position of leadership, there will be growing pains. Mistakes will be made. It occurred to me today that Elisha may not have fully understood the anointing of God that rested on him… that when he speaks in the Lord’s name it will happen. Note how he called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD (24). He didn’t just speak; he spoke in God’s name.

Just imagine how careful you must be if everything you spoke in God’s name came true.

I sense Elisha was learning the responsibility of his office…

These are some of the places the Lord took me as I pondered His Word today.

Oh, God, when it comes time for me to pass the mantle of leadership on to someone else, may I do it with the wisdom of Elijah. In Your name, Oh God, I pray. Amen.

 

Tuesday, July 11: 2Kings 1- Who do you turn to?.

Ahaziah doesn’t get much ink in the Old Testament and the one story about him is contained in this chapter and is pretty bleak. He has an accident and fears for his life. He wants some answers; he wants a word from God. The sad part is, even though he is king of Israel -10 of the 12 tribes descendent from the patriarch Jacob –he has no idea who the Lord is. So desiring a word from God he sends messengers to a neighboring country to inquire of their god? It staggers me that Israel has fallen so far so fast. He doesn’t even attempt or think of inquiring of the Lord. He goes immediately to a false foreign god.

I have heard it said that faith is always one generation deep. If we steward faith well we can pass it on to the next generation but all it takes is for one generation to sever that chain and there is no faith to pass along.

Ahab, Ahaziah’s father, refused again and again to turn to the Lord despite the Lord’s repeated beckoning. In doing so he not only doomed his own fate, he severed any sense of or desire for the Lord in his son.  Ahaziah pays dearly for his lack of faith (as all people without faith will do).

These thoughts prompted me to consider my faith, not so much for myself, but as a lens to the next generation. Am I living my faith in such a way that the generation after me sees my faith as genuine and authentic? Is my faith a living witness to Jesus and filled with such love and good character that it shines as an invitation for them to believe in Jesus, too?

There are no guarantees that the next generation will pick up the faith, but I want to live in such a way that I give them no excuse not to follow Jesus.

How about you???

Lord Jesus, Holy Father, please send the Holy Spirit to guide me into living an authentic and genuine faith in You. I pray this so that my life might be a living testimony to You. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, July 10: 1Kings 22- There comes a day of reckoning for every person.

Kingly alliances are a funny thing. Generally there is some benefit for each party in the alliance. This is true to this day. About 6 weeks ago all the ministers of NATO met in Europe. With a new president in the US and changes coming in the UK, the ministers wanted to make sure their alliance was strong because each member nation receives a benefit by being part of NATO. Does every nation agree with every policy of the other member nations? No, but they set aside differences for the sake of security that NATO brings to its member nations.

Israel and Judah had an alliance. Jehoshaphat didn’t follow the religious practices of Ahab and Israel, but they were stronger and more secure together.

The differences between the two kings could not be more obvious than in today’s chapter. Ahab ridiculed the prophet of the Lord and when Micaiah spoke an unfavorable word from the Lord, Ahab had him jailed. Given all the ways the Lord has tried to get Ahab’s attention, Ahab still rejects the Lord.

There comes a day of reckoning for every person!

Ahab’s day had come. The Lord called and called but Ahab never answered. He steadfastly followed his own heart rather than following the Lord.

I wonder if Ahab had an inkling that Micaiah spoke correctly. Why else would he go into battle in disguise while encouraging Jehoshaphat to enter battle in full kingly regalia? Whatever Ahab’s reason, a disguise didn’t protect him.

When God deems our time has come, it has come and no human ingenuity can extend our time against the Lord’s decree. Ahab paid with his life that day, going to the grave at enmity with the Lord. That is a frightening thought. 

The contrast of this chapter could not be more obvious… each person is either living in relationship with the Lord (Jehoshaphat) or is living at enmity with the Lord (Ahab). There is no middle ground. It is one or the other.

Do you stand with the Lord or against Him?

Think about it…

Oh, Lord, I profess again my love and obedience to You. As Joshua said a millennia ago, ‘As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!’ May it be so Lord. May it be so… Amen!

 

Saturday, July 8: 1Kings 21- Leadership at its worst.

 

Ahab, oh Ahab, how terrible a scoundrel you were. You were the antithesis of David, the great king of Israel. Where David was a servant leader, you were a whining despot under the thumb of your vile wife Jezebel.

Your dealings with Naboth, reveal so much about what NOT to do as a leader, asking for his vineyard was fine, but everything after that reveals your vile character.

When Naboth, a man of character, says ‘no’, you whine and sulk. Some leader you are. You act like a little child who doesn’t get his way. Lead, make a counter offer, or look for another field but don’t whine! Babies whine, not leaders.

Next it is almost like you whine so that your wife takes notice, because you know she will do something.  You allow her to work her plan, knowing it will be devious and vile. She is acting in your name so all she does reflects on you and by allowing her free reign you are complicit. As a leader, you bare responsibility for all who are under you. You, oh king, do not get a free ride. You are a murderer for personal gain!

Worse yet, when the Lord sends Elijah to call you on your actions, you never own your guilt. You continue your whining charade.

David was not perfect but when confronted by his sin he admitted his guilt and accepted God’s judgment. Not you, there is not one indication in the text that you admit anything or even speak directly to the Lord or his prophet about your guilt. Yes, you take out the sackcloth, as one caught, but where is your confession, your admission of guilt?

You are a man who will do anything to save your skin and get your way, but as far as a change of heart, NOTHING! You are the kind of leader who throws his subordinates under the bus to protect self. Despicable.

Ahab is a man of unprincipled character… but who, asks the Lord, am I? God’s Word is meant to teach and train me and all people of faith. How will I allow Ahab’s story to speak to me?  This is where I spend my quiet time with Jesus this morning.

Form in me, Jesus, the humble, Father-honoring character that David displayed. Purge out my selfish traits and train me in godliness. As a leader let me lead with integrity and a servant’s heart. Yes, that is my prayer, but Lord, even more I pray that my entire life be built on humility before You and a desire to serve You and model Your character in everything I do, in every sphere of my life. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, July 7: 1Kings 20- Ahab and deep seeded sin.

I can certainly understand why some people do not honor and follow the Lord. Many have not heard of Him and many others may have heard only a bit about the Lord but have no meaningful connection and no interaction with Him.  However, I struggle wondering why someone like Ahab who has seen the Lord work countless times and ways doesn’t believe the Lord.

I guess I don’t understand a hardened heart?!

Ahab witnessed Mt Carmel, lived through the drought which was spoken and then the rains which were predicted. Now in his battles with Ben-Hadad, the Lord has proven himself faithful twice.  Yet the moment he receives an offer of tribute and pledge of a treaty that provides him with trading access and wealth, Ahab says, “Yes.”

Yet another example of Jesus’ line, “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13). Apparently the pull of money, riches and power were so strong over Ahab, they blinded him from seeing these great and obvious works of the Lord.

Ahab’s story begs the question, “Is there anything blinding you from seeing works of the Lord and following Him?”

Like Ahab it could be the pull of money, fame and power or it could be a more subtle version, ‘comfort in life.’ I have met people who have varying decrees of wealth, on some scales some of these people might be considered at or near poverty. But they are comfortable. They know what they have and are ‘enjoying’ their life and they do not want to change. Personal comfort hides the call of the Lord to faithfulness.

For others, family could be the pull. Giving themselves and children opportunities in life crowds out room for the Lord. Sport activities happen 7 days a week and it is more important for children to participate than worship or go to youth events. The ultimate prize might be ‘greatest parent’ award or building your child’s resume so they get into the best college and become successful –i.e. make lots of money. There’s that mammon again!

It could be simply fun… filling life with all things fun –toys, hobbies, travel, you name it –that any desire for God or things of the Spirit are crowded out.

I walk past a small patch of lawn. It was sodded beautifully six or so years ago, green and lush. Weeds eventually found their way, but could be controlled by pulling one here and one there. Over time more invasive weeds came. A pull here and there sort of worked; nothing systemic was every used. Apparently in the soil the weed roots were gaining strength starving off the lawn roots. And the weeds are green so driving by one can’t really tell.  I don’t know if the mildness of this past winter was the final blow or not but this spring there is virtually no grass. It is all weed! It is too late for systemic weed killer, there is no grass left.

If we don’t deal with the early signs of mammon worship or fun worship or resume building worship or any other worship it will eventually kill off any vestige of God’s work in our lives.

Am I, are you, allowing any weeds of sin to linger and live in our lives? If so we better deal with it now before it becomes too strong and like Ahab, we cannot see the obvious works of God around us…

Oh, Lord, do the interior work in me. Spread Your Holy Spirit through me so that His light and life kills off every vestige of original and embraced sin in me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, July 6: 1Kings 19- Move past fear and do.

As a continuation of the Mt Carmel story, the miraculous nature of this account continues. Elijah travels by foot from Mt Carmel to Jezreel about 15 miles. After learning of Jezebel’s intentions, Elijah flees 95 miles to Beersheba, and then another day’s journey into the Negev wilderness. After a bit of refreshment by the Lord, God directs Elijah on a 40 day journey to Mt Horeb where the Lord meets him.

I love the accounts… God is not in the wind. Then came an earthquake… God is not there either nor is God in the fire, finally God arrives in a gentle whisper (12). The Lord could have been in any of these… but in this instance He chose the whisper.

I pondered why… I cannot be certain, but these thoughts emerged.

God had shown up in power on Mt Carmel. Elijah knew that side of the Lord. I wonder if it was the contrast. As if the Lord was saying… Elijah I am… everything. I am strength and I am in the quiet. I am who I need to be so that you will see ME and worship Me and follow Me.

The Lord had things He needed Elijah to do.

God has things He wants me (us) to do as well. People to witness to, injustices to speak out against, hurts that need healing and lives that need touching. To do God’s bidding we have to be connected to Him. God needed Elijah to let go of his fear and embrace once again His Lord. God needed Elijah’s attention and God got it by revealing Himself in the quiet whisper.

How is God revealing himself to you today?

I saw God today in the smile of a little one, an upgrade on a long flight and deep rest in the afternoon.

God is good and always there…

Oh. God, thank You for revealing Yourself to me today in many ways. I love You and I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, July 5: 1Kings 18- What's my assignment for today?.

This is one of the fantastic stories and amazing miracles in the OT. The Lord shows himself to be God, God above all gods!

It amazes me that Ahab does not immediately repent of his ways, which is a reminder to me that a hardened heart is a stubborn thing!

It is time to do a heart check… It is time to look inward and be honest with ourselves. Is your (my) heart open to the Lord or not?

If it is, how is God leading you these days? What is the Lord revealing about your life? Where does the Lord want you to grow? Being open to the Lord isn’t just a matter of having prayed a prayer sometime years ago. It is about rising each day and asking the Lord what’s my assignment for today. It is serving and loving in Jesus’ name routinely as part of life.

Think about it… I am.

Oh, Lord, show me what You have for me today and tomorrow. What big things would You like me to do for You, Your people and Your world?  What small ways can I shine the light of Jesus into my world today?  Reveal Yourself to me when I am faint… I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, July 4: 1Kings 17- What are you doing for the Lord?.

Elijah bursts on to the scene speaking prophetically to Ahab king of Israel. No rain for years… (1). Ahab must have thought Elijah was a nutcase. Immediately the Lord whisks Elijah to places of safety to care for him. First he is fed by ravens then miraculously by a widow. Miracles begin to flow through Elijah.

We know nothing of his back story. Did he realize he had prophetic gifts and was to be used mightily by the Lord, or did he grow in his giftings as the account unfolds? We simply do not know. One thing we do know, by the end of the chapter, the woman knows Elijah is a strong man of God. The chapter ends with these words, Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth” (24).

In the narrative of the text this statement functions as a declaration of Elijah’s calling and position.

Thinking about Elijah, his gifts and calling pointed me to think about my gifts and callings. I am certainly not an Elijah, but the Lord has endowed me (and you) with my own gifts and abilities. For me to be faithful I have to grow into using them for God’s honor and glory. Am I doing that? Do others see God’s gifts in me… not because I am showy, but because I am using them to further God’s agenda and kingdom?

This morning is one of those mornings where I am asking myself if I am doing enough for the Lord with what God has given me…  How about you? Are you serving faithfully for the Lord?

Lord, I begin by offering me today. Use me today to make a difference in my world that honors You. As today blends into tomorrow may the same thing be true. May I make a difference for You in my world. In Jesus’ name,1` I pray. Amen.

 

 

Monday, July 3: 1Kings 16- From very bad to much, much worse.

The chapter begins with a word from the Lord. Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu son of Hanani concerning Baasha: “I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat (1-3).

Ok, it is a word of judgment, but the Lord is still speaking with Israel and maybe I am overly positive in my assessment but it seems if I read behind the lines.  The Lord speaks, there was a glimmer of hope for Israel if Baasha chose to follow the ways of the Lord rather than the ways of Jeroboam. However, the glimmer is moot since Baasha followed Jeroboam.

This is the only word from the Lord in the chapter, from this point forward things spiral out of control with murders and assassinations. Israel is a real mess careening further and further from the Lord. The result in this one chapter is Ahab of which it says, Ahab son of Omri 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 he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him (30-33).

It is as if the Lord withdraws His hand and the kings of Israel left to themselves grow worse and worse.

This causes me to wonder how elite thinkers of the world today can still believe that humanity left to itself will ‘grow better and better, kinder and kinder’? With all our sophistication and advancements the 20th century was the bloodiest and most murderous in recorded human history. And the 21st century with all the terrorism and regional skirmishes is not looking any better!

Left to ourselves the world, like Israel, is in trouble.

The only answer is renewed hearts through faith in Jesus!

The history of Christ followers is certainly not perfect.  There have been times when we Christians have gone off the rails and acted little if no better than non-Christ-followers but there is no other solution to the human sin problem than Jesus.

Let’s pray for an outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, squelching our blood lusts and bringing peace and hope where there is little today…

Come, Lord God, come. Pout out Your Spirit, draw all people to You. Come, Lord Jesus, restore Your kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. I pray in Your name, Jesus. Amen.

 

Wednesday, June 28: 1Kings 12- Many thoughts.

So many thoughts, observations and musings… here are a few.

Golden calves. Jeroboam made golden calves for Israel to worship. This was reminiscent of Aaron in the desert. Did Jeroboam choose a calf because of the ancient sin of Aaron or was it something to do with calves? Was it something in their culture? Interesting how sins of the past seem to rear their ugly heads.  Is it generational or cultural or a piece of both?

What are the generational and cultural sins I need to wage war against??? Wealth and greed? Independence? Selfishness with regard to my time? Life of ease rather than service? Oh, the thoughts that spin in my head.

The role of Egypt. Solomon married a daughter of Pharaoh and now Egypt is harboring a fugitive from Solomon, Jeroboam. Egypt was never an ally of Israel, but they offered ‘friendship’ and alliance when it benefited themselves. And even as they offered a hand to Solomon they were also willing to offer another hand to Jeroboam. Who really are our allies?

Listening to the news this kind of thing happens all the time in world politics, but if I personalize it… who really are my allies? Who can I trust to have my back, to help me walk faithfully with the Lord? This takes discernment and prayer…

Advisors. On an earthly plain, Rehoboam failed because he listened to the wrong advisors. He chose to listen to young unseasoned voices, sons of privilege who didn’t have the wisdom of service and years. Now certainly God was behind all this this. He was splitting the kingdom due to Solomon’s sin, but there is wisdom in considering one’s advisors.

Don't choose only “Yes voices.” People we trust but who have a different perspective are essential. And don't forget prayer. There is not a single word about Rehoboam consulting the Lord on this matter.

Lord, help me to continue to chew on this chapter in Your book. Teach me I pray. Through Jesus, my Savior. Amen.

 

Thursday, June 29: 1Kings 13- Who is your God?.

Did Jeroboam believe he was worshiping the Lord just at a new location or was he deliberately setting up rival worship?

If there was any question about the answer, Jeroboam appears to settle the question when he answered the ‘man of God’ who is the central focus of today’s chapter. In verse 6 the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the LORD your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.

Jeroboam does not call the Lord his God. There is our answer… over the last two chapters we have watched Jeroboam set up rival worship for the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom.

God gave Jeroboam an opportunity to be faithful but he ‘spit in God’s face’ and rejected the Lord. How sad…. how sad for himself and for all the people of Israel who followed his lead.

The whisper of the Lord as I sit with Him today goes like this. “Be honest about who you worship.” The feasts looked the same, many of the practices looked the same, but Jeroboam was honest with himself. He was not worshiping the Lord God. He had established a rival god.

The Lord reminded me that if I am going to worship Him I must follow His Word and ways as given to us in the Bible. I am not free to make things up for myself as Jeroboam did.

Faithfulness to the LORD is essential…

Lord God, keep me close to Your Word. As my world changes and general behavior of my culture strays further and further from Your truth, help me to remain faithful to You and Your Word. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Monday, June 26: 1Kings 10- Is wealth seducing you?.

Opulent and extravagant wealth… such is the picture that emerges from this chapter of Kings. Israel was at her zenith in wealth, prestige and world acclaim. King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart (23-24).

But where is the Lord? Yes, He had done this, but nary a word about the worship of the Lord is presented in this chapter. The only reference comes in the opening verse when the writer notes, When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.

The wonderings I have are about Solomon’s relationship with the Lord. Yes, God is extravagantly blessing him but what about his devotion to the Lord? All the fineries mentioned were his… chariots and horses, gold almost beyond measure, shields of gold and goblets of gold.

I’m wondering if Solomon is being seduced by his fame and wealth. Maybe it is just a lone chapter and God doesn't figure prominently in this one chapter. This has happened before in the story of God’s people. But I am also wondering about Jesus line, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).

Wealth has a seductive power to it. I am wondering if Solomon is falling prey to it.

A person doesn’t have to have the wealth of Solomon to be under money and riches spell.

The Lord begins to probe my relationship with wealth.  Is the basic comfort and security I have undermining my reliance on the Lord? This is a deeper question than it appears and I need to sit with it for a while allowing it to soak into private places of my inner life…

After all, according to Jesus a person cannot serve both God and mammon (money, wealth, riches) (Matthew 6:24).

Lord, look into me and show me who I truly am. I need You, Lord.  I love You, Lord. Amen.

 

Tuesday, June 27: 1Kings 11- All in all of my days.

Today we learn of Solomon’s divided heart. His downfall comes through women. They seduce him away from the Lord.

We find ourselves in trouble when we think we know better than God, picking and choosing which God-ordained rules we are going to follow and which we are not.

Solomon chose not to follow God’s marriage regulations by marrying women from nations God specifically told Israel NOT to intermarry with (2). Over time their worship habits influenced Solomon who joined them and so his heart was separated from the Lord. Solomon even went so far as to establish altars for foreign gods in Israel (4-8).

How sad. A blessed and promising life destroyed by sex and disobedience.

Two thoughts bounced in my head. One is that God’s rules are all or nothing. I know as humans we cannot live up to God’s rules fully. We are filled with sin and need a savior, but the thought that keeps coming to me is that I cannot pick and choose what aspects of God’s laws I want to follow and which ones I want to avoid. Solomon disregarded marriage regulations.  By placing himself above God he set in motion his down fall. It is idolatry to place myself above God.

The other thought is about going the distance. In verse 4 it says, “As Solomon grew old…” Jesus often said the one who stands firm till the end. God calls us to follow all the days of our lives. Solomon did not. I’m guessing that he made small steps away from the Lord and over time found that he had stepped away from the Lord. Diligence in examining our lives and constantly returning to and re-confessing our love for and obedience to the Lord helps keep us on track.

When David sinned, he repented and returned but apparently Solomon did not. As a result of his faithlessness God raised up adversaries reminding Solomon that he needed the Lord. These reminders didn’t work.

‘All in all of my days…’ that is God’s call to me this morning as I sit with the Lord.

Will you join me?

Oh, God, I cannot do this on my own. I confess I need Your help to walk with You. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide me. Open my ears to His voice. Strengthen my heart to desire You and my will to follow You all the days of my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, June 30: 1Kings 14- Sin carries consequences .

Both Jeroboam and Rehoboam lives end badly. The Lord did not allow their sins to go unpunished.

Sin carries consequences.

Immediately as I began typing the above sentence,  I knew it was the Lord’s key thought for me this morning.

Sin carries consequences. Sin brings judgments. Whether in this world or at our death, we will all answer for our sin.

Jeroboam paid dearly for his sin. We all will… unless we make peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith in Jesus is the only answer for our sin…

Jesus, I bow to You. I confess You are God, my God. I will follow You. Without You I have no way to stand before the Father except as condemned sinner. Thank You for the cross and my forgiveness. I pray in Your name. Amen.

 

Saturday, July 1: 1Kings 15- What would an exposé reveal about you?.

As the parade of kings from the Northern Kingdom –Israel- and the Southern Kingdom –Judah- cover the page of this chapter and the succeeding chapters of the books of Kings, the defining feature of each king is whether he does evil or good in the eyes of the Lord.

Were they faithful to the Lord or not? That is the concern.

And that in reality is the issue for everyone. Are we, am I, faithful to the Lord or not?

What will people write about you when your days are ended? Will it be obvious that you have been faithful to the Lord?

If a news personality was assigned to write an exposé of your life and she followed the trail of your life’s footprints… hobbies, work history, associations, etc. If she investigated your social media footprint, browser history, bank records and interviews your neighbors, friends, associates and ‘enemies’ would the evidence label us as faithful to the Lord or not?

Oh. Lord, You know. You know my heart. You know the true inner person me. Forgive my evil, redeem my life that I might follow You all the days of my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.