Tag Archives: obedience

2 Kings 17-20; Cleaning House

When Hezekiah became king he did some housecleaning. He removed the idols the Jews had been worshiping, including the bronze serpent Moses had made while their ancestors were in the wilderness. Hezekiah didn’t want any trace of any false god in the land.

I never really thought about what that must have looked like to the neighboring nations. They were used to worshiping their “gods” at high places that were everywhere. Now here the Jews were demolishing their high places and limiting themselves to worship only one God, and only in one place. Ridiculous.

The Assyrian king interpreted this as vulnerability (chapter 18), and decided it gave him the means to defeat the Jewish nation. He didn’t understand the action taken by the Jews, because he was interpreting it though blind eyes.

The world is still judging God’s people through blind eyes. They see us obeying God as being judgmental, because they are judgmental. They see our stand against homosexuality as hateful because they are hateful. They see hypocrisy in us because they are hypocritical.

Christian, that’s why we have got to show them through our witness, both verbal and life-style, that they are wrong about us. If we hate homosexuals instead of loving them while hating the sin, we prove them right. If our language is as judgmental as theirs, they are right to call us judgmental. If our lifestyle doesn’t match our profession of faith, we deserve the label hypocrite.

When the Assyrian king tried to bully the Jews into surrender, they didn’t get caught up in a war of words. They didn’t return insult for insult. They kept their mouths shut. Then Hezekiah went to the Lord and allowed God to do His thing.

Non-Christians will continue to misunderstand us Christians until they become believers themselves. May we, as followers of the One True God, remove any visible signs of conformity to the world. May we worship God in Spirit and in Truth, and allow Him to do His thing in and through us. My we love people to the Savior at the same time we are standing on the Truth of Scripture.

In other words, may we do some spiritual housecleaning, and let God remove the world from us, so that the world can see Jesus through us.

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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.

I Samuel 28-31; Dividing the Spoils

David and 600 of his men went and attacked the Amalekites who had raided their homes, and taken their families and property. 200 weary soldiers stayed back and guarded the supplies, even though their own families had been captured as well.

David successfully defeated the enemy and rescued the women, children, livestock, and even took plunder from the Amalekites. The 200 men who didn’t fight in the battle were reunited with their families, along with the 600 who did fight.

Now, the 600 men who had gone to war thought they should be able to divide the spoils among themselves. After all, they’d put their lives on the line, they did the dirty work. It seemed right that they should be rewarded more than the men who’d stayed behind.

David didn’t agree. In essence he said, “God gave us all the victory. He’s the one who protected us and handed over our enemies to us. Everyone will share the blessings equally.”

You might be a pastor who puts himself out there every week after hours of study and prayer. Or you might be a song leader, a musician, an elder whose face everyone recognizes.

Or not.

Maybe you’ve never taught Sunday School, or sung in the choir. Maybe you’ve never actually prayed the sinners prayer with anyone, or gone on a missions trip.

Should God give a bit more blessing to one group than another?

If your ministry is public and demanding, do you think you deserve a bit more blessing than those who sit in the pews every Sunday and seemingly ride your coattails? Beware of that attitude.

God would have us know that it isn’t about the ministry. It’s about obedience. Some are called to be obedient to preach and teach, while others are called to encourage others and show hospitality. Some people’s gifts are more easily seen, but they certainly are not more important than the ones whose gifts are used behind the scenes.

I don’t know what spiritual gifts you have. I don’t know what talents you possess. But I know God is calling you to do something to further His kingdom, to fight or support the fight against the enemy.

Let’s remember we are all a part of the same army. As Christians, we are equally blessed because we have all received Jesus the exact same way. Jesus didn’t die more painfully for some than He did for others. He died once and for all.

And He wants to lavish all of His children with blessings beyond what we ask or think.

Be faithful to use what you have been given, and don’t compare yourself with anyone else. If you have confessed your sins, you deserve what Jesus died to give you.

Himself.

 

 

I Samuel 18; Expect To Feel Miserable

Wow. I just had a wrestling match with Scripture. Have you ever questioned something you read in God’s Word that you could not get past? I had that experience in verse 10 of this chapter:

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.

I don’t know about you, but major questions come to mind when the Bible tells me anything evil came from God. Verses like I John 1:5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” and James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone,” come to mind. But here it is in black and white. An evil, or distressing spirit FROM GOD was thrown at Saul.

I went to commentaries on my shelf and on the internet to try to makes sense of this. And  I’m glad I did.

Why would the Spirit of God come upon Saul in a distressing way? I was reminded that Saul had chosen sin over disobedience. He chose his own desires over repentance. And in doing so, the Spirit of God had left Him. (16:14)

Here is what I think God would have us consider today: When we disobey, when we choose sin over purity, and then when God removes Himself and His blessings from us, we should expect to feel crummy about it. We should never imagine that God is going to watch us walk away from Him and not convict us.

Saul was under major conviction. His soul was at war within him. Of course Saul was distressed.

Friend, God does not cause anyone to sin. He is Holy. But He is not going to sit back and watch you throw your life away. Expect conviction. Expect distress. Expect to feel uncomfortable, depressed, anxious, if you are harboring sin in your life.

Saul’s response to this great conviction from God was to pick up a spear and throw it at David. Saul held on to his jealousy and anger instead of repenting. As we read on, we’re going to find out this is not the last time God will send His convicting Spirit to Saul. God is never one and done. (I praise Him for being the God of second and third… chances)

God is working in the hearts of every person on this planet. Don’t think that doesn’t mean you. God loves you enough to make you feel miserable when you sin.

Expect it. Then repent and experience the joy that will follow, the sweet fellowship with the God of the Universe who loves you to death.

I Samuel 17; The Battle Is The Lord’s

You know the story. Little shepherd boy takes on the giant and wins. A boy armed only with a sling shot kills a warrior covered in armor and carrying an enormous sword. On paper, David had no chance. But we don’t live on paper.

It wasn’t that Goliath had been disrespecting the armies of Israel. David was upset that Goliath was dishonoring God. This wasn’t merely a confrontation between two warring nations. This was a spiritual battle at the core.

Saul wanted David to put on his armor and carry his sword to face Goliath. David just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t him. It didn’t feel right.

I was reading what J. Vernon McGee had to say about this in his “Thru The Bible Series Commentary” on First and Second Samuel. He suggests that sometimes we try to be something we’re not while serving God.

“Let’s not try to be something we are not, or try to do something we are really not called to do. If God has called you to use a sling shot, don’t try to use a sword.” (p. 98)

Oh sure, many of us would love to be that soloist whose voice is like an angel, or that teacher who has the ability to make God’s Word come alive, or that seamstress, that carpenter, that baker, that encourager, that hostess who shares God’s love through their abilities. And sometimes we decide we ARE that singer or that teacher, and often that can lead to failure.

David, empowered by God didn’t have to look like a soldier, or even use weapons that made sense to everyone else. I love what David told Goliath right before he threw that stone that killed the giant:

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.  (17:45-47)

Do you want to see victories as you serve your Savior? Then be the person God created you to be. Hear Him call you into service designed especially for you. And remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the God you serve.

The battle IS the Lord’s!

I Samuel 15-16; The Problem With Interior Decorating

Saul was King of Israel. Remember the handsome, tall young man who looked exactly how everyone thought a king should look? The Bible says no one was his equal. (9:2)

Even though this same hunk hid from Samuel because he was afraid. He still looked the part.

But when Saul had an encounter with God,  God changed Saul’s heart. No longer cowardly, Saul prophesied when the Spirit of God came upon him in power. (10:10) Saul became a fearless warrior, a formidable leader of the Jews.

Several times in Scripture we see where the Spirit of God came upon him, and Saul obeyed. But we also see evidence that the change in Saul didn’t go very deep. It didn’t overcome the temptation to feel self-sufficient, and we see Saul’s gradual decline from being God’s anointed king, to being a man who God will reject.

In chapter 15 we read where Saul is given the opportunity to repent of sin. Samuel confronts Saul with the evidence of his sin, but Saul only gives Samuel the lame excuse, “they made me do it.” Then Saul makes matters worse when he says, “I kind of disobeyed, but my intentions were good. I was going to give the best of the spoils to God.”

Neither excuse could balance the guilt of his sin. So Saul, knowing he’d blown it before God, says, “I have sinned. But please, Samuel, honor me in front of the people.”

Oh Saul. That was bad enough. But did you have to go on and say, “so that I may worship the Lord YOUR God”? Wasn’t He your God, too?

I’m going to try not to judge Saul’s heart except through the evidence we see in Scripture. Saul’s heart had been changed, even to the point where the Bible says he was changed into a different person. (10:6) God was with him in a very visible way. But by the end of chapter 13, God had rejected him, the kingdom taken away from Saul because of disobedience.

I like watching renovation shows on TV. Sometimes the changes in the remodeled homes is amazing. Run-down houses get a makeover that transforms them into modern, beautiful homes.

But as I watch these shows I realize that there is a difference between cosmetic and structural changes. You can put paint on rotting wood. It will make it look nicer. But it won’t fix the problem, and the rotting will continue beneath the paint.

Fixing the problem often means tearing down walls and rebuilding from the ground up.

If I can use this analogy in Saul’s life, it would appear that Saul allowed God to do a cosmetic change in his life. The change was real. It just didn’t go very deep. In the end, God turned His back on His anointed one. The Spirit of God left him. (16:14)

I pray that you have had an encounter with God that has changed your life. But I would ask you to consider how that change has effected you. Have you allowed God to get in there and tear down walls, to eliminate the rot, to fix the problem of sin in your life?

Or have you only submitted just enough to God so that you look better to other people?

I pray that all of us will turn ourselves over to God 100%. Because how we look on the outside is meaningless unless we have been changed from the inside. I don’t want God just to be my Interior Designer. I want a total rehab, overhauled, made brand new through the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

I Samuel 13-14; Follow The Leader

If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?

Ever hear that one before? Maybe you’ve even said it to a young person you are concerned is following the wrong crowd. We all want our children to be leaders. But is there a time to teach them to follow?

My church had VBS this week. What a great time we had talking to kids about how much the Creator of the universe loves them, and how far that love goes to save them. We were Galactic Starveyors!

On our last night, when we were having our last practice before the closing program for parents, we had a visitor. An 11 year old boy came with his grandma, who was one of our teachers. I was in charge of music, and encouraged the youngster to practice the songs with us. I tried to assure him I’d help him learn the motions as quickly as possible.

“Just follow me,” I said.

Without skipping a beat the boy replied, “I’m not a follower. I’m a leader.”

I get that. He’s a good looking boy, a good student, a gifted athlete, and an all around nice guy. I hope he’s a leader in his school. I think his classmates would do well to follow his example.

But is there a time when even the best leaders should learn to be followers, too? I will tell you he got up there with the rest of the kids and did a crash course in song motions. Not an easy thing to do in front of peers who already knew what they were doing.

The Israelites and the Philistines were preparing to go to war. Not only was the Israeli army outnumbered by about a gazillion to one, on the day of the battle “not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or a spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” (13:22)

Can you spell “defeat?”

So Jonathan told his armor bearer to follow him and together they’d sneak into the Philistine post. His armor bearer replied, “Do all that you have in mind… I am with you heart and soul.” (14:7)

If your friend jumped into the Philistine camp, would you jump, too?

How do you know when to lead, and when to follow someone else’s lead? In this case Jonathan asked for God’s direction, then followed the Lord into battle – just he and his armor bearer – and defeated all the men at the enemy outpost.

Who do you follow, and why? Maybe you’re a Type A person who feels you’re the only one who can do any job, so therefore people should follow you.

There are so many theologies preached by so many different preachers, so many programs touted by so many “experts,” so many opinions voiced by so many people. Who do you follow?

My prayer is that you will weigh everything and everyone according to Scripture plus nothing. Only that which is grounded in the Word of God is worth following.

Jonathon waited for God. We need to, too. Whether it’s a building campaign, a missions trip, a city project, a Sunday School curriculum, our leader should first and foremost be God.

If God is laying some position of leadership on your heart, go to Him. Test Him. Then obey Him.

And if God is raising up another to lead you, go to God. This might just be a case where God is calling you to follow with your “heart and soul.”