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Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Thought Problem

Have a challenge for you.
A Thought Problem

Look at these passages:
How would you summarize the message of those passages?  I will share mine tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bringing our Loved ones and Friends to the Lord

You may remember that the last book in our Bible is Revelation.  You may be put off by its imagery and apocalyptic discourse.  At a significant level, I am.
Bringing our Loved ones and Friends to the Lord
In one of the studies that the Lord allowed me to lead, I was asked several times to cover Revelation.  Each time I was able to deflect the request to another book.  However, at one point I finally gave in.

Typically I do not use commentaries in my study.  Why?  For the most part the commentaries do not address the questions that I bring to them.  I have found that if I invest the time in prayerful observation, that John 16:13 continually is validated as true.

But for this study, Revelation, I acquired multiple commentaries.  Most of them did not help, two did.  But again it was the prayerful observation that yielded most in the study.

With that in mind look at Revelation 9:20 – 21 (here @ Bible Gateway).

I have been in many conversations over the years that went somewhat along the lines of, “If only God would punish __________, people would repent and follow Him…”

However, these verses seems to throw buckets of cold water on that notion.  It seems that punishment for sin, no matter how dire, will not bring men to repentance.  If anything they seem to dig in their heels and fight harder for the right to continue in sin.

Rather, it is the draw and conviction by the Holy Spirit alone that will bring men to dependence on Him.  To accept the lavishly gracious offer of a life free from the reality of the punishment that our sin demands.  To accept life from Him rather from the death that we have purchased with our rebellion.

So, if you are concerned about one of your family or friend’s standing with Jesus.  Rather than continually push them or guilt them toward Christ, pray.  Pray that the Spirit will draw them to the Lord.  This combination is most clearly shared by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway).  We share in kindness knowing it is the Lord that grants their decision to change their mind about Him, to repent.

It is not in our control.  That is a real challenge for most of us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Preface to Distraction – Summary

For the past five days we have been looking at 2 Chronicles 15:2 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway).  The series was called “Preface to Distraction” because I had earlier written about Asa focusing on the end of his life.  To summarize his life, in 2 Chronicles 15 (here @ Bible Gateway) Asa does really well.  In 2 Chronicle 16, not so much (here @ Bible Gateway).
Preface to Distraction – Summary

What is the difference?

In 15 (here @ Bible Gateway) Asa listens to the prophet Azariah, he sought the Lord.  In 16 (here @ Bible Gateway) he chose not to seek the Lord, but rather sought an alliance with Damascus; and he chose not to listen to the prophet Hanani, rather when Hanani confronted Asa, Asa threw him in the clink.

There are a number of lessons here.  Asa listened to Azaiah at the beginning of his reign.  He was relatively new to the job.  He was not too proud to take the advice.  When the problem reoccurred in the 36th year of his reign, he had much more experience.  Rather than seeking the Lord, he figured he could solve this one on his own.

It looks like he became comfortable, over confident, and complacent in his extensive experience.  Thus, he did not need to seek the Lord or listen to the counsel of a man of God.

Scares me.

It is a common tale.  One starts well and finishes poorly.  Why?  Confidence in one’s own wisdom and distancing oneself from godly counsel.  That seems to be a recipe for disaster, or in Asa’s case really bad feet.

What can we learn from Asa?  How can we avoid the downward trajectory of his life?  The first part, seeking the Lord, is really easier for us than it was for Asa.  We have the full text of the Bible, probably on our phones, he had scrolls but those scrolls seemed to get misplaced often.  He was supposed to make his own hand written copy of the first five books, Deuteronomy 17:18 – 20, but there is no indication that he did this.  We have an embarrassing amount of Bibles and Biblical resources there are over 3,000 in my Bible program.  For us it is as simple as a disciplined quiet time.  If you do not know how to do that, let me know, I’ll help.

There are few if, in fact any, prophets wandering around today.  I can say that I have never met or heard one.  So how do we avoid Asa’s second problem, not paying attention to men sent into his life by God?  That again may be simpler than it would seem.  If we look at the New Testament, one of the recurring themes is men encouraging other men.  So it would seem that we all need others around us who are committed to having those men in our lives.  Men who are struggling to walk with God in this life as we are.  Men who are in the Word of God.  Men who will encourage us from their life and their time in the Word.

It would seem to me that not to follow those two suggestions, to do what Asa did at the first of his reign, would insure that we will end up like him at the end of his reign.

I am not interested in that program.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Preface to Distraction – Part 4

We started this journey by stating that Asa did well for a time.  It was a result of his response to Azariah’s exhortation. 
Preface to Distraction – Part 4
Stop and think about that for a minute.  Azariah was not a public official.  He was confronting the king on the basis of the Holy Spirit’s prompting and Asa responded.  That underscores the importance of one individual acting on the leading of God.  It made a huge difference in the life of Asa, as long as he listened and responded accordingly.

But there is more.

Focus on 2 Chronicles 15:7 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Think through the context.  The nation is in distress.  There is no one to teach them the Law.  Yet God allows them to find Him.  Then Azariah encourages Asa that he is to be strong, that there is a reward for his work.  That immediately reminded me of 1 Corinthians 16:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) and 2 Timothy 2:25 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway). 

These passages seem to reveal two sides to the same coin.  We are to depend on God for all that we do.  Thus, the premium put on seeking him before work in 2 Chronicles 15:7 (here @ Bible Gateway), but we are to work, engage, expend effort, knowing that through that dependence on Him, He will accomplish His work through ours.  That is really clear in 2 Timothy 2:24 – 25 (here @ Bible Gateway), we confront those who are in opposition, but it is God who changes their mind.

Think through these last few posts.  I will share some summary thoughts tomorrow.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Preface to Distraction – Part 3

The last couple of days we have looked at Azariah’s council to Asa.  The next part of that council is 2 Chronicles 15:5 – 6 (here @ Bible Gateway).  I am calling this series of posts “Preface to Distraction,” these verses are part of Azariah preparing Asa for what he was going to encounter.
Preface to Distraction – Part 3
We would do well to listen to Azariah as well.  The core of his message is that things have been in the toilet before.  People have abandoned the Lord in the past.  The reality is that they will do so again.  The first part of the exhortation is that even for those people if they seek the Lord he will let them find them.

In our lives, when we are going through difficulty, we can become laser focused on our situation.  We forget, or better, do not consider that others have been through similar or worse and will do so again.  Azariah’s exhortation to Asa would be a good place to turn at times like that.  We should acknowledge that others have had it as bad or worse.  We should take comfort in the reality that if we seek Him, He will let us find Him.

That is really good news.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Preface to Distraction – Part 2

Focus on 2 Chronicles 15:3 – 4 (here @ Bible Gateway) for a minute.
Note how the nation is described:
Preface to Distraction – Part 2
  • Without the true God
  • Without a teaching priest
  • Without Law

This created a situation much like we see today.  Spend any amount of time on a news channel or broadcast and note the number of stories that document despair.  That is the prevailing condition in most of our world.

Notice however the continuation of the theme of seek me and you will find me.  Without a teacher, without a law to draw them to God, Israel sought Him.  In desperation, looking for a solution the Lord allowed them to find Him.

That should give one hope.  The grace and mercy of the Lord is not hindered by the absence of a priest or teacher.  I know a pastor in a predominately Muslim country who, in desperation sought the Lord.  He allowed my friend to find Him.  He is still drawing near and learning more of the Lord on a daily basis.

If we are desperate, if we are seeking, He will help us to find Him.

That is really good news.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Preface to Distraction

Asa, is one of those men who did well – for a while.  For a time, he responded well to the Lord as he was confronted with truth.  But, as I have written before, he did not end well.  It is to our advantage to consider his life and ponder what we may learn from him.
Preface to Distraction
Asa had the advantage of having a man in his life who would encourage him in the Lord.  Azariah was that man. A prophet.  Take a look at Azariah’s message to Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:2 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway).

There is much in these few verses we need to unpack.  For now focus on verse 2 (here @ Bible Gateway).

This first part of Azariah’s exhortation is fairly straight forward.  It is one declarative followed buy two conditional statements.

The declaration:

  • The Lord is with you when you are with Him.

The conditional statements;

  • If you seek the Lord, then the Lord will let you find Him.
  • If you forsake the Lord, then the Lord will forsake you.

Seems pretty simple on the surface.  But, as I reflect on these as I have typed them out, for those of us now it raises multiple issues that in a few sentences are impossible to fully cover.  Before we go further I acknowledge that there are layers here, but for the sake of time and space, let’s stipulate that at a significant level Azariah’s exhortation to Asa is readily applicable to us here and now.

The interesting thing is how Azariah, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, expands his encouragement to Asa in the next few sentances.

We will continue to look at this through the next post or so…

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Value of One Committed Man

Josiah is one of the kings of Judah which I admire.  I have written about him before.  He shows up again in 2 Chronicles 34:2 – 33 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Josiah was the grandson of arguably the worst king of Judah, Manasseh, and the son of Manasseh’s son Amon who was, if possible, worse.  The only reason Amon didn’t out evil his father is the people rose up and killed him after two years.
The Value of One Committed Man
The amazing thing about this is that Josiah was the polar opposite of his father and grandfather.  He was singularly committed to the Lord in all that he did.

The most stunning result of this man is in 2 Chronicles 34:33 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Those who had followed his father and his grandfather in evil, the people of Judah, did not turn from following the Lord all of the days of Josiah’s lifetime.

Leadership is important.  I have enjoyed greatly listening to the late distinguished professor of history J. Rufus Fears.  One maxim that he repeats several times is that a statesman has four essential characteristics:
  1. Bedrock core principles.
  2. A moral compass.
  3. A clear vision.
  4. Ability to build a consensus to reach that vision.

Josiah had those in spades.

That begs another question.  How did a man with both a corrupt and evil father and grandfather turn out so well?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Not of this World

Romans 15:4 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds us that the things that are written in the Old Testament are written for our instruction.  2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway) tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, in the context, Paul is talking there about the Old Testament.  Hebrews 4:12 (here @ Bible Gateway) insists that the Word is powerful, living and active, able to deal directly with our minds and hearts.
Not of this World
With that in mind, look at Zechariah 8:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway).  As you read it note the verbs:
  • Do
  • Speak
  • Judge
  • Devise
  • Love

There are a couple more but focus on these for a minute.  The first one, “do,” suggests that this is a directive, something that the Lord wants us to pay attention to, to actually make a part of our behavior.

The second, “speak,” has the object “truth.”  The Lord expects us to speak truth to one another.  This is echoed, quoted really, by Paul in Ephesians 4:25 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Colossians 3:9 (here @ Bible Gateway).

The next “judge” is interesting.  We are to judge with truth but also with judgement.  This is the second time truth shows up in this passage.  The word translated “judgement” shows up 421 times in the text; 105 of those times it is translated “ordinance.”  The implication is that our judgement is not arbitrary but follows a guide, creed, or standard.  In the use of that judgement there is no room for anything but truth.

The next two verbs are negated.  We are “not to devise” evil.  We are not to think through, plan, scheme, how to do wrong,

“Love” is the next verb negated.  We are not to love perjury.  Lying about someone or something.

So based on these observations the Lord instruct us through Zechariah to:
  • Speak truth
  • Judge with truth and judgement
  • Not plot evil
  • Not love lying

A cursory review of current events in the news (current regardless of when you might read this) will quickly reveal that these four things are not common in the behavior of man.  Rather, in all strata of society nearly the exact opposite is true.

What we hear, read, and experience on a daily basis is more like:
  • Speaking falsehoods
  • Bias and skewed judgements
  • Evil plots
  • Committed Liars

As communities of faith, we are called out to be different than the world.  If we are, people notice.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Avoiding Epic Stupidity

Every time 2 Chronicles 25:2 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway) comes around in my reading or study, I am stunned and challenged.  It is troubling to read that Amaziah sought the Lord, however, there is a “but”.  The writer tells us that Amaziah did not seek the Lord with a whole heart.
Avoiding Epic Stupidity
Then later we read that after Amaziah utterly defeats the Edomites he brings their gods into Jerusalem and bows down and worships the gods that were unable to protect his enemies from his assault.  What?  The Lord God Almighty enables Amaziah to defeat his enemy and then in gratitude Amaziah begins to worship the gods of the ones he defeated.  Not only illogical but epically stupid.

Good thing none of us ever do anything like that.

Not so fast – how about overcoming lust through our relationship with Christ and then choosing to watch movies or programs that promote adultery or focus on physical beauty.

How about – struggling with our tongue, using speech that is not edifying and then reading, watching, or listening to speech that demeans people or dishonors God.

How about – declaring that I am devoted to my relationship with Christ and yet unwilling to spend time engaged in personal time with Him in His Word.

Personally, I would rather that my Lord would not ever say about me that I did not follow Him with a whole heart.  That is my prayer.  Unfortunately, like Amaziah, I struggle with compromising with the world, briefly or unconsciously embracing the world’s standards.

That happens mostly when I am lax in my time with Him in the Word and prayer.  Based on what I read about those whom the Spirit has given us as examples in the Old Testament, that is pretty much normal.  So I need encouragement.  I need others to walk with me through this struggle.  I need to be engaged with men of like heart who are struggling with the same condition.  Hebrews 3:13 (here @ Bible Gateway) reminds me that I need to encourage those men on a daily basis – I need that encouragement as well.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Starting Anew

The Last 18 months have been difficult for our family; we have experienced 4 deaths and three births with the youngest grandchild currently in the hospital with 4 medical issues. 
Starting Anew

When I started this blog in 2011 it was the intention to write each day.  In the last three years that has slipped a bit for reasons some good some not.  This last year was a struggle to make it through each day. 

The last 18 months has been a school of prayer, grace, and perseverance.  It is not my intent in sharing this to curry sympathy, rather to recommit to what the Lord has challenged me to do.  I intend to do my best to write each day again. 

This, by the way, is not for the few that read it, but rather out of obedience.  So encourage me if I miss a day should you feel led. 

The one exception to this rule will possibly be when I am traveling in places where I do not have access to WIFI.