Category Archives: The Gospel

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 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 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.

 

I Kings 20-22; What We Deserve

Israel’s King Ahab was evil. His wife, Jezebel wasn’t much better. “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.” (21:25) That’s quite the legacy.

They put a hit out on a guy so they could steal his vineyard. They blatantly worshiped idols. They were evil, and they encouraged evil in Israel. Doesn’t it seem fitting that these two receive their just desserts? Like leprosy or something?

However, God sent a prophet to Israel’s king and told him God was going to help Israel defeat their enemy. Wait. What? God was going to make this evil king successful?

Like it or not, that’s exactly what happened. Israel went to war with the Arameans and soundly beat them. Twice! Why would God give this rotten guy these victories? That’s just not how it’s supposed to happen. It’s just not right when evil people succeed.

Later on, after Naboth is murdered by order of Jezebel, God prompted Elijah to go to King Ahab and tell him he was going to die. His whole family was going to die for Ahab’s sin. From what I know of Elijah, that is probably one message he was more than happy to pass on to King Ahab. And it’s probably a message all of us think was long over due.

How did Ahab receive this message? He tore his clothes, he fasted, he put on sackcloth. And God noticed. 21:28 tells us God saw that Ahab humbled himself before Him. And for the next three years, Israel was free from war with the Arameans. Neither Ahab nor Jezebel died. Once again, this evil king seems to have gotten away with something. Ugh.

Well, old Ahab seemed to have gotten pretty comfortable in those three years of peace. Eventually he defied God again, and this time it cost him, and Jezebel, their lives.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure God out, isn’t it? It just seems obvious that good people should have good things happen to them and bad people should suffer. But if you’ve lived more than ten minutes on this planet, you know that just isn’t how things go.

In 20:13, before Ahab fought any battle with the Arameans, God explained Himself. It’s something I think all of us need to take notice of.

I will give it (the battle)  into your hand today, and then you will know I AM the Lord.

I am reminded that God is not willing that anyone die without him. That includes the terrorist, the child molester, or the neighbor who dumps their yard waste into your yard. (Ok. That last one was a personal note to self)

Your idea of justice isn’t the same as God’s. Your idea of justice is immediate, sometimes emotional, and certainly limited to this lifetime. God’s idea of justice is patient, loving, and eternal. Everything good that happens to a bad person happens to reveal God to them, just like the good things Ahab experienced revealed God to him.

And here’s something we don’t like to think about. Anything good that happens to you… anything good… is God’s grace. I don’t care how good you think you are, you don’t deserve one moment of the blessings that are yours every day. You are a sinner. You deserve God’s wrath as much as that drug dealer or rapist you read about on the news. If you got what you deserved, well, let’s just say I’m glad none of us get what we deserve in this lifetime.

God is full of grace. Every moment of every day He is working in my life and yours to reveal Himself. Sometimes He does it with victories in battle. Sometimes He does it with hardship and pain. But in and through everything that happens, there is one underlying reason: God.

God wants us to know Him. God wants us to love Him, to worship Him, to rest in Him.

The next time you secretly hope someone gets what you think they deserve, pray instead that they receive what Jesus died to give them. Not because they deserve it. But because God does.

Righteous Judge, I have to confess that sometimes I am frustrated that sinners seem to prosper and Christians don’t. I seem to have my own sense of fairness, and wonder why You don’t share my insight. I’m sorry about that. When you told us not to judge, lest we be judged, I think you were talking along these lines. I don’t want to judge You for working in ways I don’t understand. Help me to deal with the sin of my own life, as you reveal it to me, and allow You deal with the sin in others’ lives as You see fit. And, Lord, let me never forget how blessed I am that You don’t give me what I deserve.

 

I Kings 18-19; Where Is God?

Sometimes I can read God’s Word and almost believe it was written to describe the USA in 2017. Did the writer of I Kings watch Fox News before he wrote this?

God instructed Elijah to stand on the mountain and get ready to be amazed “… for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then, a great and mighty wind tore the mountain apart, shattering rocks. But God wasn’t in the wind.

An earthquake hit, shaking the ground beneath Elijah’s feet. God wasn’t in the earthquake, either.

A fire broke out. Was the Lord in the fire? Not even the fire.

Verse 12 tells us: “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” When Elijah heard that still, small voice, he covered his face. That’s where Elijah met the Lord.

In the last few weeks we have been devastated by a great and mighty wind called, Harvey, another called Irma, and now Maria is knocking at the door. Just a few days ago, Mexico was hit with a powerful earthquake, destroying buildings and taking lives. California has been dealing with an uncontrolled wild fire recently. And some people will tell us God is in it, punishing the US for ungodliness.

I don’t want to debate “why” things are happening. If God wants to punish us in this way, we deserve it. But I am not going to read this Scripture, wipe my hands, and say “The end is near,” and leave it at that. I’m just not.

We can, of course, see the Almighty in the fury of a storm, in the shaking of the earth, or the heat of a fire. In fact, I hope we do. Don’t miss the fact that God is very powerful. But I think the Bible teaches us if you want to meet God, if you really want to see Him, just shut up for a minute.

Get alone and open His love letter to you. Let Him whisper how much He loves you, that He gave His life to save you. Quit telling Him what you think you need, or bombarding Him with questions, and thinking you have a right to the answers. Just be still and know that He is God. He wants you to know Him.

HE wants you to know Him.

He WANTS you to know Him.

He wants YOU to know Him.

He wants you to KNOW Him.

He wants you to know HIM.

Shhhhh. God is speaking.

I Kings 13-16; Ping Pong

Reading these chapters is a bit like playing ping pong. We read about a northern king, then a southern king, back to the north, then the south. Bad king. Bad king. Bad king. Good king. Bad king…

After a while my head spins.

Now you probably know I have a firm conviction God doesn’t include details like these for the sake of the details. It might be interesting to line up the kings of the two nations of Jews. You might even get a sense of accomplishment if you can name them all. But if that’s the only reason God inspired men to include this history, I say skip it and get on to the meat.

But don’t skip over these chapters in God’s Word. I challenge you to read them slowly, and ask God to help you get past the obvious and reveal the Truth within. You’ll find Jesus in these verses. You’ll see that God is serious about sin, that He punishes sin, and that He blesses obedience. You might even hear His heart’s cry that His people repent, turn to Him, and accept His grace. And you might realize He’s wanting the same for you.

As I read these chapters this morning, I thought of my Ohio church family who are conducting Revival Services this week. Will you pray with me for them, that the Holy Spirit will move in a mighty way, that Jesus will be glorified. They are a small congregation with a heart to reach their community. Will you pray that God will draw many into that building this week as the Word is preached and God is worshiped?

Reading I Kings reminds me how faithful God is when we obey. May it be true in Bellville, Ohio. May it be true in me.

Heavenly Father, I do pray for 1st Baptist, Bellville this week as they conduct revival services. First I pray for the faithful few. May they attend with hearts eager to hear from you, to be strengthened in their resolve to follow you. I pray that those in that community who have received an invitation will be drawn to the services this week. May souls be won, hearts changed, and your children strengthened to carry on Your work in Bellville. Bless them, Lord, and continue to make them a blessing.

And I want to thank You for Your Word, even the parts that seem a little dry as we read them. Father, help us to consider why You have included all these verses in Scripture. And may we learn, be challenged and strengthened, and as always, Lord, may You find us faithful.