Category Archives: Christianity

2 Kings 14-16; In Deference

As I continue to read through the history of kings, I notice some repeating themes. Like I said the other day, most of the kings follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Good kings tend to follow good kings, bad kings usually follow bad kings.

It seems those who took on the position of a Jewish king may have had a death wish. Whether they reigned two weeks or twenty years, someone was always plotting to kill them and steal the throne.

Good kings followed God in varying degrees. Bad kings didn’t follow Him at all.

We get to King Ahaz in these chapters today. He was not a good king, even though his father Jotham had been. Scripture tells us Ahaz made a treaty with the Assyrians, sworn enemies of God’s people. We read that Ahaz remodeled the Temple, removed the basins, the canopy, and the royal entryway, he moved the walls and the Sea, “in deference to the king of Assyria.”

“When you show deference to someone, you make a gesture of respect. The noun deference goes with the verb defer, which means ‘to yield to someone’s opinions or wishes out of respect for that person.'” (Vocabulary.com)

Has the Church made a treaty with the enemy? Look at what has been removed from our places of worship: altars, pulpits, Bible reading, hymns, organs, steeples, pews, the list goes on. We’ve remodeled our sanctuaries much like Ahaz remodeled his.

I read this invitation this morning: “If you are looking for a spiritual home that is full of love, acceptance of all, and truly tolerant of all beliefs, ask me about…”

I think too many churches have removed sin from their vocabulary, they don’t talk about God’s holiness and His righteous judgment. They’ve removed so much of what makes the Church God’s house, in deference to whom? Non-christians? Christians who want to feel good about going to a Sunday service without the responsibility of living a separate life during the week? Satan?

It’s time to break our treaty with the enemy, and defer to God instead. God who is Holy, Fierce, Unchanging, who went to the cross because of sin; God who accepts those who accept Jesus, and rejects those who reject Him.

Holy God, I thank you for pastors and churches who are standing on the Truth of Scripture. I thank you for congregations of people who are not afraid to resist trends and political correctness. Bless their fellowships in a mighty way. I pray for those who are caught up in the treaty between your people and the enemy. Convict hearts, Lord. Drive us to our knees. And may Your people worship You in spirit and in Truth, according to Your Word. Then, Father, enable us to get out there and do what You intend the Church to do, introduce lost souls to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

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2 Kings 11-13; As His Father Did

As we are introduced to one king after another in the northern and southern kingdoms of the Jewish nation, we are told whether they were good kings or bad. And very often we find out whether or not they followed in their fathers’ footsteps.

There are a lot of things about my own dad I would like to exhibit in my life. His quick wit and generosity, his love of God’s creation and his sense of adventure. But there are also some things I don’t want to model, like his quick temper and critical spirit.

When I take inventory of myself, I see a lot of Dad in me, both the good and the bad. It makes me stop and consider what influence I am having on the little ones in my life. Would it be a good thing or a bad thing if they did as Aunt Connie did?

One of my nephews has a birthday today. He’s a daddy himself, with four precious children who will have to decide one day whether they want to  follow in his footsteps or not. I hope they choose to be like their father who loves God and follows Him unashamedly. Happy birthday, Ryan. I have tears of joy in my eyes as I remember the past thirty something years, watching you grow into the man you are today. I wonder what kind of influence I have been on you, your brothers and sister, your cousins, and now the next generation of people I love with all my heart.

When I read about Elisha here in 2 Kings I see the kind of influence I’d like to have myself. Elisha was a godly man, a man who never compromised his faith, a man everyone knew as a man of God. And when Elisha died, his influence didn’t die with him. Touching Elisha’s bones brought life.

I have Steve Green’s “Find Us Faithful” running through my head.

You see, this life I’m living isn’t just about me. In fact, it’s not about me at all. As a Jesus follower, my life is about Him, and the impact I have on my world in His Name. It’s living a life that would inspire my loved ones to live lives doing what is “right in the eyes of the Lord” because they saw that in me.

Even after I am gone, I want the fire of my devotion to continue to light their way, my footprints to lead them to believe in Jesus as their Savior.

I hope you’ll go to You Tube and listen to “Find Us Faithful” today. May it be the prayer of your heart, as it is the prayer of mine. And may we live lives that would please God if our children did as their father or mother or aunt did.

My dear Heavenly Father, thank you for my parents and the influence they still have on me today, years after they’ve gone to live with you. God, I want to be gentle like my mom, to pray like she prayed, to love You like she loved You. I want to be self-sacrificing like Dad was, and to be uncompromising in my belief the way he stood firm. God, I want my love for You to translate into something my nieces and nephews want for themselves. And I pray my sweet great-nieces and nephews will see Jesus in me, and be drawn to You. Find me faithful, Lord. Find us all faithful.

2 Kings 9-10; Pride Isn’t Pretty

It is believed Jezebel was a very beautiful woman in her youth. In fact, one source I read said she may have been the most beautiful woman in the world at the time. But let’s face it. Age does something to beauty. Some women age better than others, but we all age; wrinkles appear, skin thins, dark spots pop up, and our hair grays. Not too many of us like what we see. The cosmetic world thanks us for that.

Jezebel may have been beautiful on the outside, but she was a very wicked woman, too. She was a murder, a persecutor of God’s people, and an idolator. You did not want to be her enemy. I’m not so sure you’d want to be her friend.

In the chapters we read today, Jezebel is no longer young. She is a grandmother, a widow, a former queen, living off her son. Kinda a has-been, so to speak. Jezebel knew that Jehu was coming to town, and he wasn’t on a social call. He was coming to make her pay.

So Jezebel “painted her eyes, arranged her hair, and looked out a window,” positioning herself to be seen when Jehu walked through the gate. “Have you come in peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master?”

We, of course, cannot hear the inflection in Jezebel’s voice. One source said the poor old woman thought she could flirt with Jehu, and win him to her side that way. (Norma Desmond comes to mind, and if she came to your mind, too, I know something about your age! or at least your taste in classic films 😉 ) Another said she was playing the innocent, sweetly teasing Jehu out of rendering judgment.

But it does appear the delusional former queen was still thinking she’s got it, made up to look like a clown, and not even realizing it.

I’m not going to pretend I know what Jezebel was thinking. Scripture doesn’t tell us. But it does tell us her tactic: Deflection. She, whether using her feminine wiles, or feigning innocence, in reality attacks Jehu by calling HIM the murderer. It’s a passive aggressive technique intended to remind Jehu that he’s no better than she.

A dear friend of mine shared with me a conversation she had with a co-worker this week. Both profess to be Christians, so very often their conversations center around spiritual things. The co-worker shared a problem he and his family are having, and he showed my friend a text he had sent to his daughter-in-law, telling her how he felt about the conflict. My friend was shocked to read her co-worker used vulgar language toward his daughter-in-law in that text, and she called him out on it. “Do those words represent Jesus?” she asked him.

His response was to attack my friend, and question her faith. Deflection. Later, he texted her and continued to point out every flaw he could think of in her walk with the Lord. He never addressed the real issue, which is his own sin.

When a brother or sister in Christ lays a finger on a sin in our own lives, what is our reaction? Jesus Himself said we are to address the speck in our brother’s eye, once we have addressed sin in our own lives. So, when that person is obedient and holds us accountable, what do we do? Do we humble ourselves, take the correction, and confess our sin to God? Or do we play the deflecting game, and refuse to face the evil in us?

Jezebel never humbled herself. She held on to her pride right to the very end. And she died a horrible death. It was not pretty.

My friend’s co-worker will one day be held accountable for his actions. I pray he will humble himself and ask God to forgive him before He stands before Jesus on that day.

Just like no one really likes looking in the mirror and watching the effects of aging staring back at them, no one enjoys having a sin revealed, either. We can justify, rationalize, make excuses for our sin, or compare ourselves to that sinner sitting in the pew behind us. But until we humble ourselves before our Holy God, and accept forgiveness that is our through the blood of Jesus, we are guilty. No amount of “makeup” is going to fool God, no pointing out the sins of someone else is going to make you innocent.

Has a fellow believer pointed out a sin in your life? Instead of being angry with them, or trying to make them look guilty, I pray you will humble yourself, confess your sin, then go and hug that person.

Because pride just isn’t pretty. And it certainly doesn’t represent Jesus. Isn’t representing Jesus the goal for all of us who wear His Name?

2 Kings 6-8; The “Eyes” Have It

Roman philosopher Cicero said, “The face is a picture of the mind, as the eyes are its interpreter.” The French have a saying, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul.” We’ve all heard it said, “The eye is a window to the soul.” Even Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 6:22&23 when he said, “The light of the body is the eye…”

My dad was a great story teller. But the older I got, and the more I heard his tales, the more I was able to recognize the truth or fiction in what he was saying by the twinkle in his eyes.

Have you ever run into someone and asked the question everyone asks, “How are you,” hear them say “Fine,” like everyone always says, but can see in their eyes they are anything but fine? There really is something about the eyes, isn’t there?

God uses “eyes” several times in the chapters I read today. The first is found in 6:16-17. The king of Aram is out to get Elisha. The prophet and his servant, fearful for their lives, are hiding out in Dotham. When the servant steps out the door, he panics when he sees they are surrounded by the Aramean army. Elisha tells the servant not to be afraid. Then he prays that God would open this man’s eyes. What the servant saw then was God’s own army, horses and chariots of fire, enveloping Elisha, ready to defeat Elisha’s enemy.

Are you facing a battle that threatens to defeat you? Are you panicked at the impossibility of victory when you look at the hopelessness of your situation? Ask God to open your eyes, that you might see glimpses of truth He has for you. He might reveal His Power and Presence in any number of ways. But if you are His child, and if you ask Him, I believe He will give you the assurance you need. He did for Elisha’s servant.

The second time “eyes” are mentioned is in the very next verse. The Aramean army is at the door, unaware that God’s army is also there. Elisha didn’t pray that God would destroy them. He prayed that God would blind them. And He did. As a result, the army was rendered useless for battle.

Then, and I love this, Elisha led them to their salvation. The man they would have killed, took them out of danger (away from the army of God set to do battle – and we know who would have won that one), and led them to dinner before releasing them.

No one died that day.

Friend, non believers ARE blind. Many hate us because of our love of God, and devotion to Jesus. And some would rather see us dead than hear what we have to say.

First of all, I think God would have us know His army is surrounding us, ready to fight our enemy, to give us victory over those who would do us harm. But I also think He wants to remind us that He wants to save them, too, that Jesus died for them as much as He did for us, and that anyone who believes in Him will be saved. God wants us to lead them to the cross.

If Elisha had fought that day, people would have died with no hope. But because Elisha asked God to blind them, he was able to lead them to the place where their lives were spared. Remember Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, turn the other cheek, do good to those who mistreat us, and make disciples (you do know He didn’t tell us to go into the world and pick out just nice people to make disciples of, don’t you?)

Another reference to “eyes” is found in 7:21. This time it’s a sad message. The army officer questioned God’s power. Oh, he eventually witnessed that power up close and personal. But he wasn’t allowed to share in the blessing.

I am reminded that at the Name of Jesus, EVERY knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. For some it will be too late to receive the blessings of heaven. That truth breaks my heart. I can imagine how it effect’s God’s.

8:11 refers to “eyes” again. This time it was a gaze that bore right into Hazael’s soul, and caused him to be embarrassed. Elisha looked deep into Hazael’s eyes and saw the evil there, and Hazael knew Elisha wasn’t fooled by his outward behavior.

I think some people don’t want to get too close to God for that very reason. They’d much rather live their lives concealing the truth within their evil hearts, than looking into God’s eyes and know He sees that truth. They go through life avoiding eye contact with God, as though if they ignore Him, He won’t see what they are hiding. They can fool people into believing they’re ok, but try looking into God’s eyes. That’s a different story.

People who study human behavior say that, generally speaking, you can tell if people are lying by watching their eyes, you can recognize fear, love, anger, joy by the brightness and shape of their eyes. Eyes just might actually be a window into our souls.

So, what are your eyes saying about you today? Have you allowed God to reveal His Presence in your life? Can you see His hand at work, are you praying and seeing answers to your prayers? Are you assured that He is right beside you, ready to help you defeat Satan?

Or are you walking around blind, hoping someone will lead you to salvation? Do you question, or are you rejecting God’s Truth? Understand that rejection, that unbelief may be leading you to an eternity without hope.

Are you avoiding God because you know His gaze will make you face your sinfulness? Dear one, that same gaze will assure you of His love and forgiveness if you ask Him.

This is my prayer for you; that you will look forward to the day when you look into the eyes of Jesus Himself, and see His love and acceptance because you accepted Him as your Savior while you were on this earth.

Those are the eyes I am anxious to see!

2 Kings 3-5; Taking A Knee

Got your attention, didn’t I? This whole protest drama against our flag, our National Anthem, and our country is on the news 24/7. And social media is having a hay day. We Americans just love living with a reality TV show mentality.

I, like everyone else in the world, have an opinion on the matter. But I’m not going to spout my opinion about that here. I’d much rather talk about Naaman and Elisha, and what Naaman had to say about taking a knee.

You know the story. Little Jewish servant girl tells her mistress how the master, Naaman, could be healed of leprosy if he’d ago see God’s prophet, Elisha. Naaman goes. Elisha refuses to meet with him but sends word to Naaman how he could be healed. Naaman is insulted, and turns to go away. One of his men talks sense into Naaman, who then goes to the Jordan River, dips under the water seven times, and is healed.

Now here is what I want us to consider today. Naaman, probably dripping wet, goes back to Elisha. The prophet seems to be waiting for him. Naaman tells Elisha, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (5:15) He promises to never again worship any other god but the Lord. Naaman is not only clean on the outside, he’s a new man from within.

Then Naaman says this:

But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also – when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this. (5:18)

Naaman worked for the king of Aram, a man who worshiped the false god Rimmon. The king sounds like he might have been feeble, because he leans on Naaman to get around. And that would include going into the temple of Rimmon, taking a knee so his master could bow in worship.

Now some of you will say Naaman should have just quit his job, maybe refused to go into that sinful place, or just stayed with Elisha where he wouldn’t have to take a stand at all.

“Judge not,” dear one.

I believe this is the true interpretation of the most misquoted verse in the Bible. Please read Matthew 7:1-5. There is much more to Jesus’ message than verse 1.

Naaman had taken care of the plank in his own eye, the sin in his own life. Then, according to what I read in 2 Kings, he is going back to minister to the king of Aram.

Paul, in I Corinthians 9:19-23 talks about becoming all things to all men. Why? So everyone would like him? So he could get ahead in life? No. He identified with everyone in order to introduce them to their Savior.

In a sense, Naaman is asking Elisha not to judge him if, in his association with the king, he goes into the pagan temple and actually takes a knee. In fact, Naaman is asking Elisha, and God, to forgive him for what will appear to be sin.

“I’m going to be doing my job, Lord, not worshiping that idol.”

And just maybe, the king will notice a change in Naaman and ask him to explain the hope he has, may ask him about Naaman’s God, and may even come to faith in God because of Naaman’s willingness to address the speck in the king’s eye, now that the plank is out of his own.

If God is leading Naaman back to the king of Aram, don’t judge Naaman for not doing what you think a believer should do.

HOWEVER… if you’re using I Corinthians 9 as an excuse to hang out at bars, or associate with dishonest people, or any number of sinful activities stop right there. Because Scripture also tells us to resist evil, live separate lives, not to be linked with unbelievers. It certainly doesn’t give us permission to sin, thinking that is a way to represent God to people who need Him.

Here’s where the “don’t judge” thing comes into play. The only ones who know your heart are you and God. If He hasn’t called you to serve Him by representing Him among the partiers, or the ungodly, or… whoever… then you need to go where He IS calling you. Really calling you.

Can a person associate with sinners and not sin? I believe Scripture is saying exactly that in the verses we’ve looked at today. But I also believe there is a dangerously thin line between associating with sinners for the right reasons, and participating in the sin. Just beware.

I won’t judge your heart. But I will call you out if you are sinning, if that speck in your eye needs addressing. And I want you to do the same for me.

2 Kings 2; The Road To Faith

Elisha saw God’s chariot accompany Elijah into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah skipped the dying and went straight to God’s Presence in a dramatic display. Everyone knew that God was coming to get Elijah. Elijah told Elisha if he was privileged to witness the getting, God would bless him. Elisha saw. And he was blessed.

But not everyone saw what Elisha saw. The men waiting for Elisha to return hadn’t seen the chariot or the whirlwind, and they found it hard to believe. So because of their persistent pleas, Elisha let them search for Elijah, knowing full well they were not going to find him. Elisha let them search because he realized they needed to know for themselves that Elijah was gone.

Reminds me of Jesus’ “doubting” disciple. The other disciples had seen the risen Lord. Thomas hadn’t been there when Jesus appeared to them. So, even though I’m sure he remembered Jesus saying He would rise again, Thomas had trouble believing He’d really risen in the flesh. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Later, Jesus did appear to Thomas. The disciple saw for himself Jesus was alive. And he believed.

I love the way God allows us all to be individuals. He meets each of us where we are. I had a pastor once who became a Christian after reading the book of Revelation in the Bible. It scared the faith into him.

I know others who came to the Lord after a tragedy, some after hearing a sermon, some were drawn to Jesus by love. Some people need to see God’s hand, witness a miracle before they’ll believe. Others believe as soon as they hear what Jesus did two thousand years ago.

After Thomas saw Jesus and believed, Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

I don’t think Jesus was scolding Thomas with these words. And I don’t think Elisha was upset with the men who felt they needed to go looking for Elijah before they’d believe God took him.

Not everyone takes the same road toward faith. It’s personal. It’s intimate. And it’s God-lead. I guess I’m saying if you’re the type of person who needs to see before you believe, God knows you are. Ask Him to show you. Beware that He might show you through hardship, but if you need tangible proof, He can do that. Then believe, and be blessed.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need to be shown anything, but can believe in Jesus by trusting in His Word, God knows that, too. Believe, and be blessed.

Because God wants you to know Him. He is personally, intimately interested in your eternal soul, and He longs to fellowship with you. Seek Him. You’ll find Him on the road you are traveling.

2 Kings 1; Who’s To Blame?

I’ve heard it said a lot lately, that this world is corrupt, and it’s only going to get worse, that evil people will continue to gain momentum. I’m telling you it doesn’t have to be that way.

Did you read about how Elijah spoke to the men King Ahaziah sent to get him? A captain and fifty armed soldiers told Elijah, “The king says, come.” Seems harmless enough. But remember who Ahaziah’s parents were. Ahaziah knew exactly who this man of God was: the prophet responsible for the death of his parents, Ahab and Jezebel. I doubt their offspring wanted to invite Elijah to tea.

Elijah would have nothing to do with Ahaziah or his men. In fact, to demonstrate that Elijah was a man of God, he said fire would come down from heaven and consume them. Fire from heaven came down and consumed them.

Ahaziah sent another fifty soldiers to go get Elijah. They died, too. It wasn’t until the third captain humbled himself before Elijah, and in turn before God, that God told Elijah to go with them. Then, standing before the king, Elijah did not back down. He stayed true to God’s Word. No compromise here!

Thirty or so years ago, there was a trend for churches to hire outsiders to come into their fellowship, survey members, talk to people in the neighborhoods, learn the “demographics,” then recommend changes the churches needed to make to grow their attendance. As a result we’ve got “contemporary” worship styles, the removal of pulpits, altars, hymns, and organs. We’ve come up with clever little names for our fellowships because being identified with a denomination “turned people off.” We’ve adopted a casual approach to worship so everyone feels comfortable, a laid back atmosphere so people don’t feel threatened, entertaining worship services so people go away feeling good, and Starbucks in the foyer.

We’ve also seen the word, “sin” replaced with “lifestyle” or “tolerance,” “acceptance,” and of course, “God’s love.”

Many churches did see a marked growth, more bodies in the chairs each Sunday, or Saturday night if that’s more “convenient.” The mega-church was born. We may have compromised a bit. But numbers don’t lie.

Or do they?

Let me ask you this: Is our world better than it was thirty years ago? Is there less crime, less evil, a mega turning to God since the church implemented these changes? I’m not asking if there are people coming to your church. I’m asking what impact your church has had on our world. Are drug dealers, thieves, child molesters, drunks, soccer moms, and CEO’s coming to the Savior because your church is out there actively winning souls?

I would say, after reading the news, I doubt it. Now, if you are involved in a church that IS making a difference and seeing people repent of sin and come to the Lord, understand I know I’m preaching to the choir. But, from what I see in our country and the world, the Church is failing in our mission to go and make disciples.

Here’s why my thoughts went here today. Read what J Vernon McGee had to say about 2 Kings 1, and Elijah’s firm stand:

There is much talk today about the fact that we should learn to communicate and learn to get along with everybody. May I say to you that this is not God’s method. The compromise of the church and its leaders has not caused the world to listen to the church. As a matter of fact, the world is not listening at all. They pass the church right by. Why? The world will not listen until the church declares the Word of God. If the church preached God’s Word, there would be communication. (p 157, Through the Bible commentary, I & II Kings)

Dr. McGee wrote those words in the middle of the trend I spoke about earlier. His words were prophetic. If the world didn’t listen to the Church back then, it laughs at the Church today.

Do you know why I believe what Dr. McGee said is true? God has said that His Word would not return void. (Isaiah 55:11) Our world is not in the shape it’s in because Satan is so strong. It’s because the church is so weak. We refashioned ourselves to look like the world, to the point they don’t see their need to change. We have neglected God’s Word, and in turn, have harnessed His power to save souls. And we read about the result of this in the news every day.

And don’t even tell me it’s God’s will. Jesus didn’t tell us to go into the world and preach the gospel until things got tough, then sit back and let evil take over because He’ll rapture the church before things get really bad. We’ll dodge that bullet, too bad for everybody else. If that theology makes me mad, I can imagine God’s opinion of it.

Our world is in bad shape. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I pray that the Holy Spirit will revive the Church, that Christians will see sinners through Jesus’ eyes, that we will stand firm on the Truth of Scripture, and proclaim it from the mountaintops, in our churches, and in our neighborhoods. I also pray that Christians will live lives that attract people to their Savior.

Oh, dear Christian. Don’t sit back and blame Satan, or the media, or a president for the state of things in our world. We have the God of the Universe ready and eager to step in. We have no one to blame but ourselves.