Monday, April 30, 2012

Where Exaltation Resides

1 Kings 21:29 KJV
Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.

Perhaps in the history of Israel there was no king so wicked as Ahab. Certainly if he was not the contribution of his wife made his reign infamous.

Israel a rejection of the Temple in Jerusalem reached new lows under Ahab as the worship of Baal dominated the nation. The killing of the prophets, the murder of Naboth and the imprisoning of Micaiah highlight how horribly wretched was this man.

Yet when Elijah pronounced judgment against him so that his family would be slaughtered as was the family of Baasha before him, Ahab humbled himself and went softly and God declared that because of his humbling the judgment would be postponed until his son was on the throne.

It was not like Ahab then became a follower of the Lord. His imprisonment of Micaiah happened after this (though he did become friendly towards the king of Judah and he did tolerate some prophets - though they were phony's. They remind me of so many in politics who want a Christian influence but not a real preacher around them.) But Ahab's humility at this moment did prevent the immediate judgment of his family and I am of the opinion that, had his son humbled himself judgment would have been delay for him as well.
Humility before God always serves us well. To take the humble road is to always take the higher road. God will do what must be done. Our place is to always humble ourselves and to submit to his almighty hand.

That is where exaltation resides. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

When We Least Deserve It

1 Kings 20:27-28 KJV
And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country.
And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

I find it amazing that during what it was in the rebellious land of Israel and during the  reign of one of their most ungodly kings God gave men such as Elijah and Elisha and that God wrought some of the greatest victories for His people. There will be times that the battle will be between Israel and Judah and God will do marvelously for Judah but some of the greatest illustrations of victory are in favor of Israel against Syria.

God's grace toward his people is so clearly seen in this. We tend to think God can only bless us (or that God is only blessing us) when our government is godly. I am not suggesting that it is all right for them to be ungodly, but God can and often does provide us with His best preachers and most needed victories under those circumstances when we deserve it the least.

Christians need not hang their heads today. This is the time when we who believe the Lord need to be the most focused and anxious for the blessing of the Lord. If our government won't point our nation toward righteousness then surely we who claim Christ should do it. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Super Man?

1 Kings 17:9 KJV
Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

Elijah is one of the most intriguing characters of the Old Testament to me. Nothing is told us of his early years or rise to such influence. Those ordained of the Lord need not climb the ladder of success. God will place them where He wants them without such human manipulations.
When we first find Elijah he is doing powerful things; the last we hear of Elijah he is riding a chariot to glory. It would not be impossible to view him as sort of Super human.

But there are indications of his humanity in this first account of him, such as his prayer for the widow's son when he is taken ill. Gill sees in this verse a trial not only for the widow woman but for Elijah.

  • She is a Gentile. He will be sustained by one whom the Jews would have not stayed in their home
  • She is a widow, there are questions of propriety here.
  • He is assured she had been commanded to care for him but She does not know it. God has determined that she provides for him but he has to tell her that
  • She is about to starve. To instruct her to feed him first was a surely a step of faith for him as obedience was for her

I wonder how often it is that the congregation who hears the preacher realizes that to preach the message he brings them is as much a trial of his faith as their submission and following that message will be for them? Years ago one of the newer Christians in our church volunteered as my secretary a couple of days per week. After a bit she approached me and suggested that everyone should do that once in a while to find out that I am just a regular guy. (She specifically mentioned that I whistled when I worked and made up my own words to the songs that I sang.) Comments similar to that make me to know that sometimes the congregation doesn't see the pastor as having "like passions."

But Elijah was a man of like passions. Though God used him he was merely a man. And that God used him, or any of us who are preachers, is not an indication of our super humanity but of God's sovereignty. He is great, not those He is pleased to use. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

For David's Sake

1 Kings 15:4 KJV
Nevertheless for David's sake did the LORD his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem:

Chapters fifteen and sixteen of first Kings presents a contrast between the legacy of David and that of Jeroboam. Because of David's faithfulness before the Lord (not perfection, he was not that) God preserved his family for David's sake even when a particular offspring departed from the faith. David's legacy protected his lineage for generations, even centuries.

On the other hand, Jeroboam's sin resulted in not only his own demise but that of his offspring. Just one of his sons sat on the throne and he was killed along with all of his family and friends. God's hand protected David's family for David's sake but was removed from Jeroboam's family for Jeroboam's sake.

We never fully see the rewards of a heart after God.
  • There might be, perhaps a child who goes off into worldliness or worse
  • There could be a generation that has apparently forsaken the Lord
But I am reminded that the records aren't tallied yet. The Bible says that our faithfulness to God sanctifies the home. Perhaps a generation or two later, as in the case of Asa, we find the fruit of righteousness spring up in the family once again.

Faithfulness to the Lord never goes unrewarded. The reward may not appear plainly to us this side of eternity but that is all right. When we have a heart after God we aren't really seeking any rewards this side of heaven anyway. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Was Jeroboam's Rebellion Right?

1 Kings 14:2 KJV
And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people.

It has always been pointed out to me that the northern kingdom's rebellion against Judah was never justified, no matter what the circumstances that led to that rebellion. The proof of that assertion is that they never had even one godly king and when they were defeated by the Assyrians, three hundred and sixty years after the original rebellion, they were so decimated that there was no record left of them. Those Jews who are of the northern tribes have no way of knowing what tribe they are from because the record of their lineage was destroyed. (Of course God has kept His own record).

But a man asked me recently about Jeroboam;
  • Wasn't he instructed of the prophets to lead the northern kingdom?
  • Couldn't he have been a good king?
  • Wasn't his sin not originally in leading the rebellion but in turning from God after the rebellion?
First, God's promise to David held despite the sin of Solomon
The royal family was the Davidic family. The lineage from which Christ would come was the Davidic line. Jeroboam was used of the Lord to chasten Solomon's disobedience in a manner similar to the Lord's use of Nebuchadnezzar to chasten Jerusalem. In neither case was the man right in his actions. His unrighteous act was simply used for God's good purpose. Perhaps the most remarkable and most misunderstood quality of God is His turning what men meant for evil into His meaning for good.

But Jeroboam was offered grace even despite the rebellion.
He could have chosen to serve the Lord in his new found kingdom. He didn't have to rebel against God in his rebellion against the Davidic kingdom. I suspect that God warned him not to rebel in the same fashion as He warned Solomon not to turn aside from God; knowing that was what he would do.

God's grace is available to anyone in any circumstance. We may have done terribly wrong. We might look back and think we have tragically blown it. But
  • There is always a preacher placed in our way to set us on the path of righteousness
  • There is always a Bible available somewhere to light our way back to God
  • There is always a church whose doors are open to provide us a means of serving and worshipping the Lord
If we will but obey the Lord we may be blessed of the Lord regardless of our past sins. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

But Solomon...

1 Kings 11:9-10 KJV
And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,
And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.

Verse one begins, "But Solomon…." My how just one word can change the direction of the story of a man's life.

God had appeared twice to Solomon. He had received both blessing and warning from the Lord. Those warnings had included that he not turn away from the Lord. I am convinced that God gave him such explicit warning because
  • He knew the heart of Solomon
  • He knew that his tendency would be toward women who would tempt him away from God

God knows our hearts so much better than we do that we would always do best to listen to the Word of God and believe it, even when it warns us against something we think we are free of. The sin that lies dormant in our hearts would shock and horrify us but is no surprise to God. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

After almost a full week away from an internet connection or involved in matters that kept me from the internet, I am able to update my blog with a record of those visits I have had with God while I was away.

I had the privilege of preaching at a men's retreat for the Oregon Northwest Independent Baptist Fellowship. These are the churches I cut my teeth in the ministry with and I always feel at home with them. I hit the ground running upon my return, with just a two hour window before I preached at the Regional Correction Facility at JBLM. I always love having a part in the annual revival there.

I trust the Lord will bless you who take the time to read what God has been speaking to me about this week.

Hard Questions

1 Kings 10:1 KJV
And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

As Solomon's wisdom spread throughout the world people began to come see for themselves. The Queen apparently was only one of a number who came to see if what they had heard was true and to test him with "hard questions."

Even so the believer may expect that the more wide spread his faith becomes the more he will have to meet with the "hard questions" of those who approach him. Challenging questions are part and parcel with ministry and the larger the circle of the ministry
  • The more challenging questions will be asked and
  • The more challenging those questions will become
The sign of grace in our lives is not merely that we have wisdom but that we have the spiritual wherewithal to handle the pressure of those "hard questions" without bursting. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Christ's Righteousness Declared in Our Salvation

Romans 3:25 KJV
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

  • Salvation is a declaration of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  • We might often become confused in our own minds concerning who is honored in the change that takes place at salvation.
  • We might want to honor the person whose life is so dramatically changed
  • We might put our focus on the church, the ministry or the preacher who was so instrumental in guiding a person to such change.

But God declares and declares again that salvation is a declaration of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

No wonder then that God is so jealous of those who attempt to climb in some other way. It is not only defiance against the plan of God and an unjust method or trying to attain justification, it is primarily an attempt to circumvent the declared righteousness of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Of the Heart, In the Spirit

Romans 2:29 KJV
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

The work that God seeks in us is an internal one and thus not one we may do of our own accord. 

God seeks the circumcision of the heart. 
It is a cutting away of the affections that are worldly and opposed to the Lord. Friendship with is world is enmity with God.

And this heart is in the spirit. 
The lost man has a dead spirit so this is a reference to the new heart that belongs to the Christian.

  • Step one is new birth
  • Step two is the circumcision of the heart

  •  Step one is justification which happens in a moment
  • Step two is sanctification which is happening the rest of our lives

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Concerning His Son Jesus Christ

Romans 1:3 KJV
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
Paul wrote to the Romans in anticipation of his own journey there and to introduce (or announce) in advance the message God had given Him to preach. That message was "concerning His Son Jesus Christ."

The whole of the life of the believer ought to be "concerning His Son Jesus Christ."
  • Every event we involve ourselves in
  • Every interest we allow ourselves to have
  • Every occupation we engage ourselves in
It all ought be "concerning His Son Jesus Christ." I can't see where the Apostle involved himself in anything else.
  • He was interested in the Jews and
  • He did raise money to relieve the poor saints in Jerusalem
  • He appears to have employed himself in tent making at one time
But in each case the larger purpose was "concerning His Son Jesus Christ."

I would not want to imply that the Christian have no interests outside of church but that each of those interests would have an objective that was ultimately "concerning His Son Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Love, Wisdom and Fear

1 Kings 3:28 KJV
And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.

There is a relationship that exists between love, the wisdom of God and fear.

Though I cannot recall a passage that speaks of the people loving Solomon and though I can't now recall a passage that speaks of the people fearing David. This passage definitely associates wisdom and fear.

Fear came because of wisdom.
Solomon demonstrated wisdom in the matter of the two babies. The news spread and the people knew that he would be able to judge fairly and justly.

Love for God then follows our fear of Him
As our relationship with Him develops and we experience
  • His wisdom
  • His justice
  • His handling of the circumstances of our lives bringing chastening as is needed but new mercy each morning,
Our love for the Lord grows.

Our relationship with God is not static as each day brings
  • New mercy
  • New grace
  • New evidence of His wisdom and
  • New chastening to mold us into the image of Christ. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sin Come to Roost

1 Kings 2:28 KJV
Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.

I can never read this chapter without remembering that God does not hold a man guiltless. Adonijah, Joab and Shimei were given much grace.
  • David was gracious and long suffering with them.
  • Solomon demonstrated that same grace.
But they took that grace as permission to carry on in sin and rebellion. And in every case, judgment was eventually meeted.
  • Joab may have thought he had gotten away with the murders of Amasa and Abner. Not so.
  • Shimei may have believed that keeping his word for three years was long enough. No true.
Be sure your sin will find you out is a biblical principle of immense proportion.

But there is absolute and final forgiveness available. God has provided one and only one way that our sins may be absolved, removed, never to be mentioned again. Faith in Jesus Christ is the complete satisfaction of God's demands against sin. To come to Him in repentance and humility glorifies God and satisfies the judgment for sin.

To try to carry the burden of unrepentant sin as Joab did or to try to remember to constantly keep up our own good works as Shimei did only results in spiritual failure and ultimately to be eternally lost in hell. Our only hope is to commit fully the safe keeping of our soul to Jesus Christ. And He never fails. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Royal Offer

2 Samuel 24:23
All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee.

David's sin has left a huge mark in the land. There is no question but that God has judged his sin and it has hurt his nation. But now the opportunity to stay the plague has presented itself. The angle of the Lord has made himself apparent at the threshing floor of Araunah. David, obedient to the command of the Lord approaches 
·         To purchase the threshing floor 
·         To build an altar and 
·         To make an offering
Araunah, who is not a Jew but one of the conquered Jebusites, "as a king" gives the floor to David.

Some have suggested that he may have been of Jebusite royalty. I do not know that but I do know that the Bible describes his gift as of royal virtue. Generosity is regal. To be a giver is a trait that is kingly and indicative of great character and I think that stems from at least two reasons:

First, royalty is trained in generosity
Those raised in families of influence are very often trained as youth to see their fortunes as having with them the duty of caring for those who are less fortunate. 
True Christians should like wise be trained in generosity, both material and spiritual. 

Second, royal generosity is indicative of the resources they have from which to give
They may be generous because they have confidence that even their generosity will not endanger the stores from which they give. 

Christians may be generous people because our stores are unlimited. It is impossible to give away even a noticeable dent in the treasures of the heavenly storehouse

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nothing in the Corner

Acts 26:26 KJV
For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

This passage is a key text in the Bible. Paul asserts that both the teaching of Christ and His death burial and resurrection are known events to Agrippa because these things were "not done in a corner."

The life, death, burial and resurrection were not some secretive initiation that only a handful of privileged people were privy to.
  • Even though Christ had His twelve and from time to time sought to get them away for private teaching, crowds of people followed and were instructed fed and in other ways ministered to.
  • Christ was tried publicly.
  • He was crucified publicly.
  • There were gentile soldiers at his tomb so He was buried publicly.
  • When He resurrected, He did so publicly and showed Himself alive to the public.
  • The persecution of His followers has been public.
  • Their faithfulness and their frailties have been well publicized.
  • Our services are all open to the public.
There is nothing about Christianity that is "done in a corner."

And yet, despite the attacks of the devil and the frauds and phonies, there continues to be new believers in the death burial and resurrection; a testament to the veracity of the fact and it's efficacy in redeeming the soul. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Festus the Leader

Acts 25:1 KJV
Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Festus arrives to replace Felix and after just three days travels to Jerusalem where he is at once confronted by the Jews about Paul.

First, the grudge of the Jews
It has now been years since he was originally captured and they still have men willing to lie in wait to kill him treacherously.

Then, there is Festus
I am impressed at how quickly he got busy in his administration. He had barely arrived in the province before he makes the trip to the hot spot of the region, Jerusalem. I would have thought that he would have wanted time to get settled in to a routine and to acquaint himself to the peculiarities of the position. And then arriving in Jerusalem he is accosted with the case of Paul. But he was not pressured or swayed by them. He was completely in control and handled the early confrontation with professionalism and confidence. I would have thought that the pressure could have gotten to him. He is not one such as Pontius Pilate, who tried to wash his hands of the Jewish uproar. He is a leader.

I imagine Festus as a well trained and experienced leader. He has, I imagine, developed his skills in dealing with these sorts of pressures working his way up in administrative offices. Pilate seems to me to have climbed one step higher than he was capable of. Rather than taking charge of in Jesus' situation he allowed the situation to take charge of him.

Festus still was "willing to show the Jews a pleasure" but even that would have been a reflection of the purpose of his office. He is to maintain the peace in the land.

The fact is that God superintended in this whole affair to bring Paul into the court of the Caesar. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Loyalty to Christ is to Know and Honor His Heart

2 Samuel 18:14 KJV
Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.

Joab is an interesting character of contrast. One the one hand he appears to be intensely loyal to King David. He follows him through thick and thin and even during times when he disagrees with him and could defect to another camp. On the other hand, he frequently disobeys David's most earnest and heartfelt orders. His loyalty is not true or else he would honor the heart of his king as well as his authority.

And he is an example of what we find in so much of today's type of Christianity. We have Christians so called that claim to be followers of the Lord and make a show of it in church attendance and perhaps some forms of ministry, but when push comes to shove, they do not understand the heart of their King and do as their own heart pleases; probably justifying themselves that their plan is better anyway.

Their loyalty to Christ is not true or else they would discover His heart and honor and obey it. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Confess

Acts 24:14-15 KJV
But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

This is a wonderful position for the Christian who is in any way persecuted to find himself: having to confess only that they believe what others would call heresy
  • That Jesus Christ is God
  • That Jesus died for our sins and arose with our victory
  • That faith in Christ is the sinner's door into eternal life.

Paul challenged them to find any true accusation either of those present or those throughout Asia where he had ministered the gospel other than this one thing. He did not need to confess of any crime or other wicked deed because there was none.

Not that his case was fairly treated anyway. God had other plans for Paul in Rome, plans that even this imprisonment could further. Christians ought to occupy themselves
  • To have a conscience void of offence
  • To worship God as His Word teaches them, and
  • To have no other accusation that may be laid to their charge

Friday, April 13, 2012

What David Did When Attacked

2 Samuel 15:26 KJV
But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.

David's response to the events surrounding Absalom's rebellion serves two purposes:
First, it places God as sovereign.
David glorifies God despite the difficulty.

Second, it establishes David's personal peace.
He could refuse anger and vengeance because he trusted God's reign.

Whenever we find ourselves attacked, either justly or unjustly, we would do well to take David's position here. To surrender to the pleasure of God brings glory to Him. To refuse to seek revenge or retribution on our accusers builds trust in relationships. David's men were loyal to him because they knew him to never defend himself.

Mind you, this does not mean that David was afraid of battle. He had retained his testimony as a soldier since the days of Goliath. But David fought for the glory of God and the defense of his country; never for his own advancement.

We could all do well to do the same. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Free Born

Acts 22:28 KJV
And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.

I find in the contrast between the citizenship of the captain and of Paul a parallel between those whose religion requires they earn their way to heaven and the faith of the Christian who receives his heavenly citizenship freely through the new birth.

The captain says he obtained his freedom or citizenship through a great price. There are a variety of things he could have meant by that and we are not familiar enough with the culture to know which it might have been.
  • He could be referring to a great sum of money. Some have put forth that as the Roman Empire began to wane in its last years, it sought means to finance its opulence. Requiring those who lived in Rome, though not born a Roman citizen to pay a hefty price for that citizenship would be one way to increase the income of the government.
  • Others have said that he could be referring to the tedious nature of paperwork and other requirements that might have been necessary for citizenship.
  • Still others suggest that he may have earned his citizenship through his exploits as a soldier, receiving citizenship as a reward for his years in the military or for some action he had been involved in as a soldier. In any case, he knew his citizenship had come at great price.

Paul, on the other hand, declares that he had been free born. Though a New by blood, the location of his birth provided Roman citizenship and all its benefit automatically and freely.

But then my parallel breaks down because in the case of the captain and Paul, both were equally citizens of Rome whether by purchase or birth. That is not so with a heavenly citizenship. Jesus said that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. The Bible repeatedly expresses that eternal heaven cannot be purchased. It is obtained through the new birth which is by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ or it is not obtained at all. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seasons of Rest

2 Samuel 11:1 KJV
And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.

The commentaries all say that the time the kings went forth to battle was the spring, when
  • The grasses were growing to feed the animals
  • The ground was dry for the soldier's marches and
  • The food was more plentiful to meet the needs

Times have changed in battle strategy. Technological advances unfortunately allow battles to be waged year round contributing to post traumatic stress and other serious problems among military personnel. But I see this natural break in battle as a grace of God. Even with today's advances I am thankful that there are some seasons of rest from combat. Those breaks in conflict that have allowed us as a nation to ratchet down a bit before the next season of battle has come.

In the spiritual world we also face combat. Our enemy is very real and very present. But I am thankful for those seasons of rest from the conflict and times of rejoicing as believers. How gracious God has been to design into our lives, not abstinence from trials, for they serve to build and strengthen us, but seasons of refreshing to restore and revive us.