Friday, April 29, 2011

2 Chronicles 18-20

These stories may also be found in 1 Kings.  Jehosaphat is a good and Godly king of Judah.  Ahab is perhaps the most evil of the kings to rule Israel.  The make an alliance to go to war against Syria to take Ramoth Gilead.  Jehosaphat suggests that they counsel with God before entering into war.  Ahab calls in his 400 (yes men) prophets who all encourage him to take a mighty victory at Ramoth Gilead.  "Is there no other prophet?" was Jehosaphat request.  There was one other, Micaiah, but Ahab disliked him because he spoke God's truth rather than what the King wanted to hear.  He, too, prophesied a victory, but a victory that would include Ahab's death.  Micaiah was abused and imprisoned because of his truth telling, but we are reminded that it is better to endure the slings and arrows of human torment than to encure the wrath of our eternal Heavenly Father.

After the Judean/Israeli victory and the death of Ahab, Jehosaphat's on prophet chastises him, "should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?"  It is a difficult thing for the Christian in this modern age.  Evil is all around us and much of it is socially acceptable in our politically correct and inclusive culture.  We are reminded that we are not to hate the sinner, but we are not to become partners in their sin either.  Tough we miss church to attend a professional sporting event or to allow our children to be in a tennis, volleyball, baseball tournament.  Do we sacrifice the tithe in order to own a bigger house, better car, enjoy a nicer vacation.  Do we use our expendable income participating in activities that are in violation of God's will for the Christian life?  Should we help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?

Jehosaphat heard God's voice and did a couple of remarkable things in his remaining years.  He set up a system of Judges who would insure that every person in Judah would be treated fairly and have access to justice.  He also set up a set of itinerant (this is a very Methodist concept) priests/rabbis who traveled the country teaching God's word to all the citizenry.  Is it any wonder that God favored Judah over it's rebellious cousins to the North in Israel?

Finally we have the account of a great miracle as the Ammonites, the Moabites and others gather their armies to conquer Judah.  Jehosaphat recognizes that the Judean armies will not be able to defeat this combined enemy force.  He calls all of Judah to pray and fast and to call upon the name of the Lord their God.  God responded to this national prayer through his prophet and assured Jehosaphat that this battle 'belonged to the Lord'.  Jehosaphat sent the army out to meet the enemy with singers leading the way praising God for the victory that he had promised. "Praise the Lord, for his Mercy endures forever" was the cry of the singers.  The great miracle was that God caused the Moabites and Ammonites to turn against each other and by the time that Judah's army arrived on the scene, the fight was already over.

It is always better (from an eternal perspective) to be obedient to God's call on our lives and to his edicts than to compromise with evil and seek momentary peace and/or gain.

It is beautiful out there!!  Hope you get to catch a few rays and while you are doing that don't forget that, God's mercy does, indeed, endure forever.

Church rummage sale tomorrow (Saturday).  Come by and check out somebody else's cool stuff.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2 Chronicles 15-17

Great stuff, although we have read these stories earlier.  The story of Asa and Jehosaphat, two good kings who ruled in Judah.

Asa is reminded in Chapter 15 that "the Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you."   This is always true.  God promises to be available to all who seek him (knock, seek and find in the New Testament).  When we walk away from God it will seem that he has abandoned us, but in reality, we have moved away from God and walk in the darkness of our own creation.  Later in Asa's rule when he trusts in the power of Ben-Hadad and the Syrian forces rather than trusting in Jehovah, he endures hard times.  When Asa fully depended upon God as Jehovah's protector, he crushed the threatening armies of Cush.  Peace reigned for 35 years.  When he trusted in a human alliance with a foreign King, Ben-Hadad, he was successful in a human sense but was told by a prophet that Syria was the greater enemy than Israel.  Some years later, the truth of the Prophet becomes obvious when Syria becomes both Israel's & Judah's nemesis.

By and large Asa was a Godly man and sought to obey God's edicts.  He tore down the Asherah's and destroyed the Baals.  This was an act of courage on the part of Asa.  Imagine how difficult it would be in America to outlaw gambling, to destroy the riverboats and casinos.  That would be pretty tough because sin has become entrenched in our society.  We have become accustomed to having the sin taxes to pay for our schools and other government purposes.  These establishments provide jobs to many.  So were the Baal temples.  Priests served them.  Craftsman sold idols.  It was a religious industry.  There was opposition to there destruction.  Doing God's will is not always humanly popular, but it is still God's will.  Being Christian and speaking against sin in our culture will cause some heartburn, but it will also lay up treasure in heaven.

I particularly like the verse found in 16:9 "The eyes of the Lord are continually searching the earth seeking those whose hearts are fully committed to him that he might strengthen and encourage them."  That should be an ecncouragement to walk faithfully, to seek God in all our going out and coming in. 

Asa's Son,Jehosaphat, continued and improved his father's reforms and was blessed by God for his obedience.  He returned to a practice that God had intended when Israel first became a nation by distributing the Levites and Priests throughout Judah with a mission to teach God's word and be and illustration to the people of God's will and way.  This was a great encouragement to the people to live faithfully and God blessed Israel while Jehosaphat was their king.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2 Chronicles 10-14

You've read this story before, but notice as you read this time that Ezra (the writer) ignores the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the split between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  Remember that Ezra is writing to the Jews returning from exile from Babylon.  He is using the Temple as a unifying tool.  The Temple is located in Jerusalem.  It was the crown Jewel of unified Israel and proof of God's presence among them.  He writes of Judah because that is where Jerusalem and the ruined temple are.  As he calls Israel back to their roots and service to Yahweh, the temple is his unifying instrument.

Another note relative to Rehoboam and Jeroboam; what would have happened if Rehoboam had listened to the elders?  I realize that youth has energy and idealism galore, but listening to our elders gives us experience and tradition.  Some experiences are bad and some traditions should be changed and we should not do something just because that is what we have always done before.  Nevertheless, some of the wisdom of our elders; sprinkled with the enthusiasm and idealism of youth would make a powerful force.  Israel might have avoided a lot of misery had Rehoboam honored the wisemen who had served his father Solomon and the God that his grandfather David had loved so greatly.

As we seek to build up the Kingdom of God in the places where we live, work and serve; we should remember that each of us is gifted in different ways.  Combining the gifts is the secret to a healthy church.  This requires that each of us come with a spirit of unity to our labors.  We listen to all voices and then seek God's inspiration (another error made by Rehoboam that led to the division of Israel).  The result will be that God gives us victory as we walk together in pursuit of His more excellent way.

God bless you this week in your work and in your play that you will be a Godly example to those who look to you for an example of Christianity.

Monday, April 25, 2011

1 Chronicles 3-9

Sorry to be late with my post.  I spent all day yesterday celebrating the Good News of Easter....Jesus conquered death and made a way for a sinner like me to live eternally.  That is incredible news!  I hope you had a most blessed Easter.  We had nearly 500 in worship....a new record for Faith UMC.  Our prayer will be that some of those who heard will return to claim the name of Jesus for themselves and become a part of the Body of Christ.  My thanks to all who made Sunday's services possible, including the star of the show, one Jesus of Nazareth.

Spent the afternoon and evening with my family, Easter egg hunt, cook out, family pictures, and an evening around our new fire pit telling stories and playing games.  It was a very nice day and the ran stayed away.

Our Bible reading is largely a repeat of the story that we read in 1st Kings as Solomon builds the Temple in Jerusalem and then a short account of his 40 year reign.  Just a few thoughts about the story.  Number 1, the temple is built on Mt. Moriah.  This is thought to be the same place that Abraham offered his son, Isaac, to the Lord.  The same place that was the threshing floor upon which David made his offering to God.  the same set of hills upon which the story of Easter plays out in the crucifiction of Jesus on Golgotha.  Strange that same hill is a place of adoration for Jew and Gentile alike. 

That temple would have been an awe inspiring place to see with all the gold, silver and precious stones used in its construction.  the inscribed pieces, the gilded artifacts, the awesome columns and statutes would certainly inspire a sense of worship.  The Altar would have been a hugely ornate piece to recieve the sacrifices of the people.  The numbers of animal sacrifices would have meant that it was, at times, a very bloody place.  In a sense, it was a killing place.  This was required since the early biblical times.   A blood offering was needed to cover the sins of the people and since sin was always among them, it was necessary to offer repeated blood sacrifices.  what an appropriate time to link this killing place with the altar that serves all of Christianity.....the altar that is the cross, the place of the sacrifice of the one perfect lamb that covers the sins of all human flesh.  this offering was sufficient for all of humanity for all time!  How good and gracious was our God to remember us in the time of our need.  In the words of Solomon and the Priests as the new temple is dedicated, "He is good; his love endures forever."

The Ark of the covenant is brought into the temple.  All the priests are present.  The music fills the air.  All who are present give thanks to God and in the midst of their worship, the Shekinah Glory (God's presence in the form of a cloud) fills the temple.  God is in the house!!!  the Glory of God fills the place.  Wouldn't that be a marvelous thing to behold.  Perhaps, one day, our worship could be so sweet, so pure, that God would bless us with a manifestation of his presence.  Now wouldn't that be a most blessed of occasions.

Fire from heaven descends and consumes the offerings.  Does that remind you of the day that Elijah aligned himself against the company of 400 agents of evil in the priests of Baal during the days of Jezebel?  That fire is purported to have remained on the altar of the temple until Israel was taken into exile by Babylon.  Perhaps this is the same fire that visited the disciples on that great day of Pentecost. 

Interesting note in the 8th chapter when it speaks of Solomon bringing his wife from Egypt but would not put her in the house that had been consecrated unto the Lord.  Is that not evidence that Solomon knew that what he was doing was counter to God's will?  Isn't it interesting and scary how often when know the right thing to do but do not do it even though we know that we are sinning against God and living counter to his will and his way?  Maybe we are not so different from those sinners that we are reading about.

chapter 9 reminds us of how vast Solomon's wealth was.  His annual income from the gold that he recieved in homage was nearly $300,000,000 per year.  Proof that great wealth will not necessarily lead us to a life that honors God.  Pray not for wealth but that we would walk faithfully with the God who has honored us with a Savior and who has made a place of perfect bliss for our future habitation.

Have a great week.  I know I am a chapter short on my reading, but I thought the end of Solomon's life was a good place to quit.  I'll try to catch up tomorrow.  God bless you!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

1 Chronicles 29-2 Chronicles 2

Much of what we are reading is a parallel account to what we previously read in 1 Kings.  But let me highlight a couple of things.

David tells the people of Israel that the work of building the temple is a GREAT work not because of its size or its grandeur but because it is for the Lord and the Lord is a great God.  The house of worship built for him must be something never seen before.  to this end he gives vast amounts that he has accumulated from those that he has conquered.  This is added to great amounts that he has in his personal treasury.  Then, because he knows that if this is to a temple for the people, he asks who will join him in this great endeavor.  The scripture says that the people offered vast resources for this great work as well.

David offers a mighty prayer of Thanksgiving to God.  Note in the middle that he confesses his belief that God is pleased when his people operate out of sense of integrity.  As he ends his prayer he asks that God will grant that his son will have loyal heart and serve the Lord as had his father.  As we move forward into the story of Solomon and the repeated revelation of God granting great wisdom to Solomon, let me suggest That perhaps Solomon suffered from both a lack of loyalty to God and integrity.

You only catch a glimpse of it in these beginning chapters but it accumulates as he grows older.  Note his passion for have a great stable of horses and that he imports horses from Egypt.  Listen to God's directions to future kings that we read in Deuteronomy 17:16 The king must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself.  Is this the beginning of Solomon's failure.  Does his trading with Egypt lead to his liaison and marriage with an Egyptian wife and then to other foreign wives.

Sorry to short on my post, but Easter is almost here and I need to make sure that I am ready in the morning.  I hope to see you at one of our celebration services.  If you can't make it, the sermon is about one of the great truths of all times......Jesus lives!!!  God Bless You as your celebrate the goodness of our God.  Remember....God does value the integrity of our lives.

Friday, April 22, 2011

1 Chronicles 26-28

David continues to order the life of the temple that is yet to be built and his kingdom:
Gatekeepers are appointed.  these men have responsibility for the safety and security of the temple and those who enter (think ushers, greeters, etc.).  Remember that it was forbidden for someone who was unclean to enter so their task was more than saying hello to those who came to Temple.

He appointed overseers of the treasury to insure that all which was given to God would be appropriately cared for and dispersed.  Fiduciary responsibility has been important long before there were banks and the FDIC.  We are caretakers of God's great world.  We will be held accountable for that which God has intrusted to us for the use of his kingdom.  Pray that we will be good stewards in all things.

David's 12 divisions of his army are interesting.  Each tribe is responsible for the security of the nation 1 month of the year.  Each tribe has 24,000 trained soldiers at the ready. 12 x 24,000 = 284,000 trained soldiers in the time of a national emergency without going to the expense of so vast a standing army.  David was a great military leader without breaking the nation's bank.

In addition, David had other overseers to insure that Israel was productive and continued to be a "land of milk and honey".  He appointed wise and talented men to oversee the farming, the vineyards, the olive groves, the herds of camels, donkeys and other flocks.  All of the nation was blessed by the wise use of the nations resources.

Finally, as David nears the end of his life, he calls the nation together and he passes the baton of leadership to Solomon.  He calls upon all of the nation's leadership to be careful to obey all that God had commanded them.  He tells his son, Solomon, to know the God of his father and to serve him only.  He gives the plans for the temple to his son.  Isn't that a wonderful legacy for David?  Even though God had not allowed him to build the temple, he did everything necessary to insure that Solomon would be successful as a builder.  He surrounded him with resources and wise men who could assist him to be the great king that God called him to be.  And then he gave him a great piece of advice that would serve as as well, "be strong and of good courage."  We serve the same God that blessed David and if we are obedient to that which God has commanded of us, we too, will be blessed.  So, good people of Faith, be strong and of good courage, be obedient to the word of God that is being planted in your heart.  Serve faithfully and confidently.  Our God is for us and none can can stand against him.

Blessings to you this Easter season!!! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

1 Chronicles 23-25

Tonight's Maundy Thursday worship was simple and worshipful.  It was good for me and I hope good for those who participated in the sacrament of Holy Communion and in the hand washing service.  Tomorrow evenings' Good Friday service will include special music and readings.  I hope you will be able to participate in this service that asks us to consider how our sin would have nailed Jesus to the cross just as the sins of 1st century Palestine and Rome did.

Our reading today from the Chronicles is obviously about the temple worship that is yet to be.  David is preparing for the Temple that he will not see.....the one that God would not allow him to build, but has promised that Solomon will build.  You will remember from yesterday that much of the spoils of war and homage that David collected as a man of war has now been set aside for the temple construction.  Today's reading tells of how David organized the Levites for worship and the care of the future temple.  He lowered the age of service for Levites from 30 to 20 in anticipation of the increased numbers that would be needed in the larger temple of the future.  He organized courses of service that would allow all of the Levites opportunity to serve in every capacity including preparing of the offerings, serving as gatekeepers, musicians, and more.  Again we see David's love of music in worship by the number of Levites that are set aside expressly for the purpose of worshipful song and instrumental music.  This perhaps shouldn't be a surprise to us since David was skilled as a muscian, playing the harp. (remember how his music soothed the anger in Saul's heart.)

One of the practices that David installed that remained to the days of Jesus was the practice of casting lots to determine who would minister to God in the holy place.  Remember that the lot had determined that Zacariah would be there when the angel announced to him that his wife would give birth to a son, John the Baptist.  This practice was intended to allow God to determine who would serve in the holy of holies.

We should be as careful in our worship as David was in planning for the Temple to be.  His care in organizing was intended to insure that someone was always attending to the Temple....some in prayer...some in song.....some in other forms of worship.  Just as he understood God was always present (omnipresent) so too should the worship of the people be lifted in grateful praise to the God who blesses us abundantly. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1 Chronicles 20-22

These should be familiar stories to you.  I have mentioned this before, but I will do so again.  Chronicles is written for a different purpose than Samuel and there will be some differences.  One author will stress one thing and the other another.  In today's reading there are two significant omissions.  One is the absence of the Bathsheba story and the other is the absence of Absalom's rebellion against his father.  Both of these had prominent places in Samuel's history, but they are absent from Ezra's story.  The reason is that Ezra is writing about the centrality of the Temple in Israel and to extol its significance.  The stories of David's failures are of less importance to his reason for writing.

The census that David commands to be taken of all men suitable for the army is mentioned again as a great sin.  The sin is not that the census is is the motivation for the census.  David is taking undue pride in his army and their victories rather than continuing to praise God for his presence and his giving them the victory!  It was David's motivation that was sinful.  What is our motivation for the things that we are doing?  Is it personal pride?  Is it greed or vanity?  God wants us to trust in him for all of our needs.  He wants us to rely on him as our primary source of strength, hope and joy.  All that we experience that is good is ultimately a gift from God.  We are better than we deserve because of God's influence and it is to him that we owe our praise and thanksgiving.

The consequence of David's sin was a plague on the people of Israel.  70,000 died because of his arrogance.  We should never forget that our sin always affects others.  When we repent of our sin and ask God for forgiveness, he forgives quickly; but the human consequence continues.  An accident caused by our carelessness results in property or human loss.  God will forgive our error, but the consequence continues.

And then another mention of David's building of the altar on the threshing floor of Araunah.  David offers to buy the threshing floor to build the altar on but Araunah seeks to make a gift of it.  David insists on paying explaining, "I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing."   Our sacrifices (offerings) have little meaning to God unless they cost us something.  If we are only giving our left over time, talent, money; it counts for little.  God wants our best and our first fruits as evidence of our trust in him for our every need.  What are you sacrificing as proof of your love and trust?

The Logos Easter program is this evening at 7:00 p.m.  Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday with it's special service also at 7 p.m.  Friday will be marked with our Good Friday worship service.  Hope you will be able to include one of these in your Easter celebration.  Each one tells a piece of the story of God's great love for us as Jesus makes his journey to the cross, the tomb and the resurrection.  Hope your Wednesday is a blessed day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

1 Chronicles 17-19

Much of this material is found in our previous reading from the books of Samuel.  Remember that Ezra is writing from a different perspective.  Samuel was writing as an observer.  Ezra is writing from the future looking back.  he is writing to encourage the exiles who are returning to a land that is now foreign to them.  He is writing to remind them that this land was given them by our sovereign God for an eternal possession.  he writes to remind them that their history is a proud one filled with wonderful tales of might and grandeur.

Chapter 17 and 18 are reversed in Ezra's writings.  The wars of conquest occurred before David began to think about a permanent dwelling for Jehovah.  The story of David wanting to build the temple should be familiar to you.  When Israel was a nomadic people, the tabernacle (tent of meeting) was a perfect dwelling place, but now they have a permanent dwelling and are a nation that is gaining respect and prestige.  They want their God to have a permanent dwelling place that is befitting so blessed a nation.  Kind of makes sense, but God says no to David while promising him that a temple will be his, one day built by one of David's sons.  David is content with God's answer and responds to him with a classic statement of humility... "who am I to contest the will of a God who has blessed me so abundantly?"  that should be our cry as well.  We are a people who live in a land that was built by other hands, we enjoy a status that has been handed to us by other generations, we enjoy a faith that was built on the sacrifices of saints who came before us.  who are we to complain when God says wait?  We are a most blessed people and ought always to be ready to sing the praises of a God who has showered his love upon us and who has saved us from ourselves.  Saved us for an eternal life of joy that we did not earn by our own deeds.  All we need do is say yes to the Lordship of Jesus and then follow in intentional obedience and heaven is ours.  We are, indeed, better than we deserve!

I think it is also interesting to think about how David wanted to do more than God was asking of him.  We, on the other hand, often want to know what the least is that we can do to inherit eternal life.  How many Sundays must we attend?  How much must we give?  Do we have to love those people who are not like us?  And on and on and on.  would that we would be ready to give our best and more how much more might God shower himself upon us in lavish blessings for both us and our posterity.

Two other thoughts.....much of what David captured as loot in his wars of acquisition was later used to build God's house by Solomon.  We need always to be preserving some of our blessing for the use of future generations. 

Chapter 18:15-17 names some of David's key leaders.  No person ascends to a position of authority without others having helped to make the way.  I think of the successes that we have enjoyed at Faith and I remember Sam Packham who chaired a building committee, I think of Jim Jacobs & Don Smith and Sonny Lunsford and Louis Billups who work tirelessly and unseen in caring for our grounds.  I think of the kitchen crew who feeds our Wednesday night troop of children.  I think of Reva Lynch and now Kim Compton who prepare communion elements so faithfully for our worship.  I think Jack & Dolly Ann and now Alice Gott who schedule ushers and greeters.  I think of Kim & Ken Howard who clean the building each week and the list of names goes on and on and on.  I receive undo credit for the marvelous work that so many perform so faithfully.  What was it that David said, "Who am I, O Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me so far?"  God is generous beyond my ability to calculate.  He alone is worthy of our praise.

It is Holy week.  Jennifer Bell and others are busy helping me get ready for our special services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning.  I hope you will be able to celebrate God's eternal goodness with us on this most blessed of week ends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1 Chronicles 14-16

The story of David is important to the writer of Chronicles.  It was David that God blessed in the establishment of the nation of Israel.  It was David that the writer wants the exiles to identify with.  David is given much attention in the Chronicles and much of the material is a repeated story that we have already read in Samuel.  But there are some points that ought to be emphasized.

In the 14th chapter we see a point of emphasis; when David seeks counsel with the Lord he is victorious.  We too often wait until we are in trouble and then ask God to save us from the consequences of our decisions.  How much better it would be if we sought counsel before starting on a journey or making a big decision.

Secondly, notice when David decides it is time to attack the Philistines.  He senses God's presence and hears him at work in the treetops.  At that moment he presses in seeking the victory.  When we sense God at work, that is the time for us to push in and make advances against the enemy.  When God is in the house.....the light is green for those who follow him to make strides and inroads against the enemy.  Don't sit back waiting for God to deliver the miracle, get up and get busy and be a part of that miracle.

David brings the ark to the city of Jerusalem.  Unlike the failed attempt, this time everyone who is part of the moving is sanctified.  Time is set aside to consult with God and to prepare those who are participating in the move.  Singers, dancers, people to play the lyre, the cymbals, the trumpets and the harps are gathered.  A great worshipful band is assembled to accompany the ark with songs of highest praise for God.  David expresses his great joy with abandon.  That abandonment in worship and celebration pleases God.  We need not hide our tears or our laughter when they are the result of our worshipful interaction with the most high God.  Our emotional response to God's goodness is part of our worship and thanksgiving.

David's Psalm of thanks is found scattered through a number of the Psalms, but for now just hear the words...."Give thanks to the on his name.....make known is marvelous deeds." of these verbs call us to action in praising and telling of the marvelous goodness of our God.

He is the Lord....he is our God!  Our good is that!
Let the heavens rejoice...let the earth be glad...let the sea resound....let the fields be jubilant........let the trees of the forest sing....All of creation praises God and so should we!!!  We should give thanks because God is good; and his love endures forever!

It is the Easter season and the proof of God's goodness is all around us.  That goodness should inspire our songs of praise and the deeds of our lives.  Come on Christian.....speak the good news of God Almighty......Jesus saves...Jesus saves.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

1 Chronicles 9-13

What a great day!!  The choir was wonderful with their Easter cantata.  the kids had a wonderful time with the Easter egg hunt and pictures with the bunnies.....thanks to the Valley 4-H club for their kindness in providing for our children.  The fellowship luncheon was extremely well attended.  The food was good, I ate to much, the decorations where inspirational.  Thanks to all the cooks, the decorators, the furniture movers.  Confirmation class concluded this evening.  We have 8 beautiful and bright confirmands to welcome into the Body of Christ on the 1st Sunday of May.  Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Confirmation Sunday, Mother's Day, and the hits just keep on coming.  God is so good to us!!

Just a couple of thoughts about today's Bible reading.  It seems to me that Ezra (the writer of the Chronicles) is making a big deal about the genealogy in order to establish the legitimacy of those who are returning from the exile.  God had established an order in Israel; an order for the tribes and clans and an order for worship that included Priests and others who served.  If Israel was to honor God in the future, it was important to remember what God had called them to be and to re-establish that which God intended.  Perhaps this is the work that we are called to as well.  How do we practice Christian dominion in a world a complicated as the one that we live in?  Do the mandates, the rules, the edicts of God still mean the same for us as they did in the days of Israel?

Much of the story of Saul and David was read in the book of Samuel, but there is a great deal of attention given in this writing of the "mighty men of David".  Part of this is to illustrate the popular support that David had from all of the tribes and even from those who were not a part of Israel.  This is a unification them that runs throughout the Chronicles.  There is no longer a Judah and an Israel there is one body and that body is Israel.

there is something there for us as well.  David was made great because there were so many that believed and supported.  The church is made great because of the faithful works of the many who make up the body.  Throughout the testimony of the scriptures there is a call to unity with God.  For the Christian that is a call to unity with Christ and his work.  One Savior.  We have divided the church with our quarrels and spats.  Christ calls us to honor God with our work that Glorifies the one God.  We honor God when we are unified......each bringing the gift of their particular calling and together it is a mighty work.....their is unity, harmony and a pleasant song rises to the heavens.

It is the Beginning of Holy Week.  Let us honor God with the praise of righteous lives that are lived in unity with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Have a blessed week.  Hope to see you at one or our services this week.  Logos children's Easter program on Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Easter Friday.  Love to you all!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1 Chronicles 6-8

More genealogy with a couple of things to take notice of.  First the genealogy of Levi and Aaron.  The writer of the Chronicles is probably Ezra who is a priest and he takes more time and space to delineate the priestly line.  This is also important to the exiles as they return.  Babylon is in charge of the government, but the priests can maintain a spiritual and personal order.  Reestablishing the priests is important to the history, the culture and the future.  remember that the tribe of Levi had no ancestral allotment.  They were scattered throughout the 12 tribes to be a constant reminder of the presence of God.  So should we be as well as we seek to be salt, light and yeast to a world that is atilt and cannot right itself until God is back on the throne.

Note that David also installed temple musicians.  Music is an important part of worship.  it speaks to the hearts of many.  A thing that is harmonious reminds us that God calls us to harmonious living.  Asaph and Heman are listed in this genealogy.  They will be mentioned other times in the Chronicles and in the Psalms illustrating that their gift of music was important in the Temple worship.  Our songs of praise should be sung and played as gifts to God and as a blessing to those who hear. 
Sing a new Song unto the Lord.  Lift your voices in praise to the God most High!

The cities of refuge are listed again, perhaps with the intention that they will continue to be places where comfort, solace and safety can be found.

It is a great day and tomorrow is the sabbath.  I hope you will be present to hear the Choir's Easter tribute.  It promises to be another great time of blessing for a people called Faith.  I look forward to seeing you.   God bless you in all of your endeavors.

Friday, April 15, 2011

1 Chronicles 3-5

You may be tempted to say that this is boring reading ( I might agree) but remember the purpose of the Priest Ezra who is writing.  This is written after the exile in Babylonia and is intended to remind Israel that they have always and continue to be a part of the family of God.  Just as it is important in our families to know our is important to know our spiritual heritage as well.  Ezra begins at the beginning (Adam and Eve) and tells the story of God creating a people that will be blessed to be a blessing and despite their spiritual failings, God does not abandon them.  He links the returning exiles back through the lineage of David, citing those who failed as well as those who honored God.  He names the 12 tribes and reminds the exiles of times when failures became curses as in the case of Reuben who lost his birthright as the 1st born.  Remember at the time that the tribes entered into the promised land, the tribe of Reuben was among the largest, but they decreased in population and importance as they failed to measure up to God's standards.

The story of Jabez has been written about (the prayer of Jabez) and been used as an illustration of how we should seek to serve.  Jabez's story is just a little footnote in the annals of the Old Testament, but is thought to be an illustration of what God intended as the tribes took the land that had been assigned to them by God.  "O, Lord, bless me and enlarge my territory!  Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain (sin)!"  Jabez was among the early settlers and he was commanded by God to force out the pagan influences.  That is our charge as Christians as well.  Our prayer should be that God would increase our influence and keep us from sin that we might glorify him and increase the borders of Faith farther and farther as we influence the world for Christ!

At the close of Chapter 5 the names of the heads of the tribe of Manasseh are named and recognized as brave warriors and famous men.  But they failed to pass their faith down to those who followed and they became unfaithful.  The result was that God could not bless the evil that became integral to their lives.

Do you see what Ezra is recording for the people of his day and for us?  God is always present, but day by day we chose, as did the people of Israel, will we be a blessing or a curse?  God promised that the blessings would be present for many generations and the sins would be a curse to the 3rd and 4th generation.  I want my children and my children's children to be blessed by God because I have walked faithfully.  What do you want your legacy to be?  In this season of Easter, let us pray that the generations that follow us will have faithful footsteps to follow.

God bless you this weekend.  I hope that you will have an opportunity to come to one of Sunday's services.  The choir has worked hard on their Easter presentation.  I am praying right now that their voices will be a blessing to you and to all who will hear the joyful noise of praises be sung to almighty God.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2 Kings 24-1 Chronicles 2

We finish the books of Kings and what a dismal finish it is.  As I grow older I think about my legacy and I want to finish strong, but the record of the kings is a very sad, sad story.  Nebuchadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem having conquered much of the Judean countryside.  The siege lasts for one and 1/2 years.  Starvation is beginning to set in.  King Zedekiah makes a break for it along with much of his army.  He makes it almost to Jericho when some of Nebuchadnezzar's army captures him.  He is returned to the care and custody of Nebuchadnezzar (think Daniel and the Lion's Den) who forces him to watch the death of his sons, then has his eyes gouged out before he is taken to Babylonia as a prisoner of war.  All of the best and the brightest of Judah are taken into exile to Babylonia ( think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).  Only the poorest of the poor are left in Jerusalem and Judah.

God's chosen people had possessed the land of milk and honey for 860 years.  The took the land, led by Joshua, by faith.  they lost the land because they lost their faith and practiced idolatry and disobedience.  the wages of sin are high, pray that we would be faithful followers of the one who can bless beyond our capacity to understand blessing.  The temple is ransacked and utterly destroyed.  The place that had been created for God's habitation is no more.  Some Jews fled to Egypt.  How ironic that the place that had been their home by forced servitude now becomes a haven to the fleeing refugees.  By the time of the New Testament it is estimated that as many as a million Jews lived in and around Alexandria.  Zedikiah's predicament is the fulfillment of Ezekial's prophecy found in Ezekiel 12:13, "I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare; I will bring him to Babylonia, the land of the Chaldeans, but he will not see it, and there he will die."

What began with such passion and purpose ends in a whimper and a cry of mourning.

The Chronicles were probably written by the Priest and scribe Ezra, whose book will be found later in the Old Testament.  It fleshes out some of what we might have thought was missing in the books of Kings.  The first two chapters are a partial genealogy.  Chapter one begins with Adam and includes what is commonly referred to as the Patriarchs including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Some biblical scholars trace the beginning of many world populations from the sons of Noah, but that is a story for another day.

The 2nd Chapter begins with Jacob's sons and continues through the tribes and clans that possessed the promised land.  this is a very important piece of genealogy for the Jews who will return from the exile.  Ezra writes in the time when Israel is being released from their bondage to return to the land that had once been theirs.  Where will they go?  where will they settle?  This genealogy reminds them of the ancient tribal lands and helps them to return to the place of their fathers and gives and sense of order as they seek to habituate the land. 

It is raining outside as I write these.  It is a refreshing sound and I know that it promises new growth in my garden and in all of God's creation.  My our faithful reading of the scriptures be as a spring rain to our souls and cause God to bless and encourage us out of his great Easter love for his creation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2 Kings 22-24

We come close to the end of the nation state that was once called Israel.  The northern portion was conquered and began to be carried off into exile about 740 b.c. by Assyria.  Now only the southern kingdom called Judah remains.  It contains the city of David called Jerusalem.  Its end is near as a series of evil kings have allowed and promoted all of the evil that had once been practiced by the Philistines, the Amorites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites and all of those pagan people who had once inhabited this land before God gave it to the descendants of Abraham after God raised Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.

Now comes the boy king to Judah, the last of those who walks in the way of the Lord, but even he did not rule wisely in the early years until a copy of the book of the law was found in the temple and brought to Josiah.  When he had the book read to him, he ripped his clothing and wept because he now knew how far Judah had strayed from the path of righteousness.  In the New Testament book of Romans it says, "how can they know unless someone tells them".  Josiah that he was doing right, but he was far from right because he had not been told what right was.

when he learned he called the people together and had the law read to them that they, too, would know.  Now let me point you back to something we read a while back.  Deuteronomy 17: 14-20 predicts a time when Israel will have a king and commands that each King have a personal copy of the law.  How could a king know unless someone taught him?  Deuteronomy 31:9-13 instructed that every 7 years the people would gather for a public reading of the law.  How long had it been since kings and the people had been instructed by the law?  Now it is too late.  Israel is gone and even though Josiah labors hard, Judah is close to exile as well.  Sin will extract its wages.  May we lean every day upon the Christ who has paid the price for us that the wrath of a righteous God would not exile us from his face as he did his Old Covenant children.

What you are doing as the family of God in reading the scriptures is vital to you, your family, Faith UMC and to our nation.  How can we measure righteousness unless we hear God's voice instructing us.  Do not, please do not rely only on the pastor or the Sunday school teacher for your word of knowledge.  What if the fail?  Could you be lost as was Israel, Judah and Josiah.  God's word was given to the world and we who possess it must remember that we carry the hope of the world within us.  Share, share, Share!!

What remains in Judah's history is only sadness.  Josiah removes the baals, the asherahs, the temple prostitutes, the idols, pulls down the false altars, exiles the mediums.....does his very best, but evil is ingrained into the heart of Judah.  At his death they crown another evil man.  By 600 b.c. the Babylonian king Nebachadnezzer is beginning to carry the best and the brightest of Jerusalem off to exile in Babylonia.  Judah outlasts Israel by 140 years or so, but what is that when compared to what God had intended for them.  They were blessed to be a blessing for all of eternity.  would that we would not forget the lessons of our reading in 1 & 2 Kings.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

2 Kings 19-21

Hezekiah has made a huge mistake.  It was the same mistake that caused Assyria to carry Israel into exile.  He had aligned himself with Egypt.  Sennacherib, King of Assyria, brings his vast military might to bear against Israel and finally comes to Jerusalem and begins a siege of the capital city, the city of David.

Hezekiah rues his political and spiritual blunder and he mourns his stupidity.  Having recognized his error he does some things right.  1. he does not deny his error, he puts on sackcloth to announce to the world...."I was wrong".  this is a sign of humility......God desires that we would be a humble people.  2. Hezekiah goes to the temple to beg God's forgiveness for failing to trust in him.  3.  He consults with folks who walk with God and in the days of Hezekiah, Isaiah was at work.  Isaiah is among the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets.

Isaiah prophecies that God will protect Israel from the impudent Sennacherib who is claiming his great military prowess on his own ability.  God reminds Hezekiah and us that he is more than able to shape the events of the world using both the righteous and the unsaved.  Assyria has been allowed by the immutable God of Creation to accomplish its victories and now all the world will know that the God of Judah is indeed God. 

Hezekiah prays to the Lord of Hosts and in the night God sends the Angel of death to visit the Assyrian troops.  185,000 die during the night (shades of the passover and the death of the first born).  Sennacherib withdraws from Jerusalem and Judah is saved, not by the power of man but by the power of our sovereign God.

Hezekiah grows sick unto death. (Sara Howard used this scripture Sunday in her presentation)  Isaiah tells Hezekiah that he will die.  Hezekiah weeps and mourns and pleads with God to spare him from death.  God hears his prayer and gives Hezekiah 15 more years.  What do we learn from this?  Pray, brothers and sisters, pray, pray, pray.  We have several examples including this one in which God seems to change his mind (that is a poor choice of words), but God hears our prayers and miracles occur...pray, pray, Pray!

Manasseh is the son of Hezekiah and he comes to the throne following Hezekiah's death.  Hezekiah was a good king.....Manasseh is awful!  Hezekiah tore down the high places, removed the Asherah's, restored temple worship, led the people in Godly practices.  Manasseh does not follow in his father's footsteps.....he is much more like one of the evil kings of Israel.....he leads the people in evil, he does evil in the sight of God.  A short list of his reprehensible behavior includes: rebuilding the high places and altars to false gods, putting up Asherah poles (Asherah poles honor the false fertility goddess),  Baal worship is reinstated, worship of Molech returns (Manasseh sacrifices his own son to this horrendous idol), he builds altars to false idols in the temple, he even puts and Asherah pole in the temple.  This guy sounds a lot like Hoshea, the last king of Israel.  The prophet Isaiah prophesies the end of Judah because of the sins of the nation and the evil done by Manasseh.

A Godly king, Josiah, will forestall the end of Judah, but exile comes and God's hand is removed from this blessed land, but he promises to protect a remnant and so he does.  That remnant will include those who will parent and protect the one who will save us all from our sins.

It is a great day out there.  Hope you get to catch a few rays, pick a few dandelions, go fishing, find some mushrooms or something that helps you to revel in God's goodness.

Monday, April 11, 2011

2 Kings 16-18

Ahaz becomes the king of Judah and follows in the ways of the kings of Israel.   That is bad, bad, bad!  Israel is a nation that is doomed and will soon be carried into exile.  We have read of a steady stream of bad kings who led Israel away from the God of their salvation and now we have a King in Judah who imitates Israel.  This cannot go well and it doesn't.  Ahaz worships at the temple of Molech.  Molech is a god that requires human sacrifice.  The altar of Molech is a figure with outstretched arms.  It is heated to red hot and then a baby is layed in those evil arms to burn to death.  This is an atrocity commit ed against the God who has sought to bless Israel. Then Ahaz enters into an alliance with Assyria.  This is tantamount to saying that Judah can no longer trust God for their deliverance.  I guess that might be right when you refuse to worship God!  Judah pays tribute (think bribe) to Assyria.  Then Ahab erects altars to Molech and other false gods within the walls of the temple.  Some of these new altars are bigger than God's altar and displace it as the center of Judean worship.  Ahaz even begins to deconstruct the temple.  Many of the items carefully crafted by Solomon and other kings who loved and worshipped Jehovah were removed from the temple.  Can anything good come of this?  I doubt it.

There are many references throughout our readings that refer to the Annals of the kings of Judah (or Israel).  Wouldn't it be interesting to read some of those chapters and know if anything good came during the reign of some of these jokers?  These books did not make it into the Hebrew Bible and are considered to be lost books of the Old Testament.

Hoshea is the last of the kings of the state of Israel.  God has endured all of the evil that he can.  He allows Assyria to overrun Israel and carry its inhabitants into exile.  Israel had been a vassal state to Assyria but was seeking to enter into a treaty with Egypt and drive Assyria from their territory.  When Assyria learns of Israels' treachery they attack with a vengeance.  Isn't it interesting that Israel has become so disloyal to the God of their creation that they carry this behavior over into their political life and that disloyalty becomes their end.  Is there a lesson in there for us about how God feels about loyalty?  Israel had set up false idols, worshipped stone gods, erected idols of Golden Calves, put up Asherah poles in the high places......they had failed miserably to keep God's commandments and to honor him with their the chickens come home to roost.....God has been patient but in the end, failing to bow before God will result in something none of us be estranged from the very author of life, the creator of love and all that is good.  Assyria repopulates Israel with foreigners, Babylonians and others; the very people that Joshua and the 12 tribes had been called on by God to eradicate.  Now God uses these evil people to punish those who had refused his love and protection.  These were indeed a stiff necked (bull headed) people.

I know we think that we are better than Israel, but we should be careful to observe our own behaviors and motives.  Are we elevating improper things into places that belong to God?  Are we failing to be a light to the world and a city on a hill?  While we may not be sacrificing our children to Molech, we may be sacrificing them to the standards of this world rather than the eternal one that God desires of us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2 kings 11-15

What a great Sabbath Day!  I hope you were able to be in church today to hear Sara Howard's testimony of the miracle in her family's life in the form of Baby Grace.  It was fantastic!  Next week should be more of the same as we celebrate Palm Sunday with an Easter Cantata.  The choir has been working overtime to provide you with a musical blessing for Easter.  I hope you will be in attendance.

Today's reading seems to be more of the same.....the rulers of Israel continue Jeroboam sin.  The nation becomes weaker and weaker until it becomes a vassal state of Syria, but look at the story of Athaliah, Jehosheba and Joash.  Athaliah assumes power after Jehu assassinates Ahaziah.  She is the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and the mother of Ahaziah.  She seizes the throne of Judah as the Queen mother and attempts to secure her authority by murdering all remaining heirs to the throne.  She thinks that she has succeeded but God has promised that the seed of David will be the source of great blessing to all of the world.  The evil that Athaliah has planned cannot succeed since it is predicated on the failure of God's promise.  Jehosheba is thought to be a wife of a priest.  She takes the infant Joash and his nurse into hiding in the temple and hides them for 6 years until Joash is old enough to be king.  The actions of this relatively unknown women secures the promise of David's throne.

Don't you think it is interesting that the plans of Satan can never succeed in the face of God's promises?  All that he can hope to do is to pick off a few folks as God's will moves steadfastly toward the end times when the dead in Christ shall rise and a new heaven and a new earth will come into being.  Can we be faithful to be obedient to God's plan and refuse the advances of the deceiver?

Joash rules Judah for 52 years, repairs the temple and does many good things.  But he does not tear down the high places where the people continue to make sacrifices.  One of the difficult things for us to do is to create a new model.  it is much easier for us to continue a practice that is already in place even if that practice violates God's purposes.  It is vital that we get it right.  We are passing a legacy on to our children, be it right or wrong, and they will follow in our footsteps.  Their righteousness largely depends upon our faithfulness.  Let us pray that we are obedient to God's will and way.

When Elisha dies, the king of Israel comes to mourn his passing.  Don't you find this interesting since the Kings of Israel have only given half-hearted lip service to Jehovah?  Our prayer should be that we would live so righteously that even ungodly men and women would miss us when we are gone.

We will read more about many of these kings in 1 & 2 Chronicles and the prophets.  It will seem repetitious some times, but listen for the voice of God and for the pieces that speak to us abut our need to be obedient and avoid the mistakes of those people of Israel and Judah that led them to the isolation of exile. 

I hope your new week is filled with opportunity to be a blessing to others. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

2 king 8-10

Sorry to be late with my posting.  We celebrated my birthday today.  It was a great birthday.  All of my kids and their kids were here.  My children and their spouses helped me put in a new retaining wall that will be a great new flower garden for Patty and give me more room to swing my grandchildren.  We had a cook out.  It was fantabulous!  that is my excuse now here is my meandering.

These are some of the readings that give the Old Testament a bad name, but consider this: in the opening passage of the 8th chapter and evil king (perhaps Jehu, we can't tell for certain) shows mercy on the Shunammite woman.  God can tenderize the heart of even an evil person.  Pray, pray, pray; perhaps God will show mercy and turn the hearts of even unbelievers.

The story of Elisha prophecying to Hazael illustrates one of the great difficulties that may face one who walks so closely to God that they might be allowed a foreknowledge of future events.  Elisha had such a foreknowledge and that foreknowledge broke his heart.  He could see that Hazael (king of Syria) was going to be very hard on Israel.  There would be much death and destruction in the land that Elisha loved.

Note, too, that Israel has a steady stream of evil kings.   Jehu is probably the best of them, but even he continues in the sin of Jeroboam.  Remember Jeroboam is the 1st of Israel's kings after the break up of Israel into the North (Israel) and the south (Judah).  The sin of Jeroboam was the sitting up of the 2 golden calves and directing the people to worship them as Gods.  Jehu did destroy much of the Baal worship and the priests of Baal, but he did not walk in the ways of God and he allowed many perversions in Israel.

Judah has some bad kings but they also have some God fearing kings.  Israel's demise is a continual downward spiral and in the 10th chapter we see it beginning .  Judah will remain a soveriegn state for a couple of extra centuries after Israel is carried off into exile. 

The bloody prophecies regarding Ahab's family and Jezebel's demise are fulfilled.  Evil will be rewarded in kind one day, but we should not rejoice in it.  Death of an evil person is an illustration of lost innocence and lost opportunity for the Kingdom of God in the life of that person.  Let us pray that we will be faithful in our witness that all whom we might influence will come into the saving knowledge and Grace of our Easter King, Jesus Christ.

Hope you have a most blessed Sabbath!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

2 Kings 5-7

we continue to read the evidence of the double portion of Elijah that fell on Elisha and continues in his ministry to Israel.

In Chapter 5 we have the story of the miraculous healing of Namaan, one of the great generals of Syria.  This healing should be evidence to us that God's love and mercy was not for Israel alone, but Israel was intended to be a blessing to the world.  Namaan was not an Israelite.  He learns that God has a man in Samaria (northern kingdom of Israel).  He asks permission of the king and goes to Samaria to ask the Holy man of God to heal him.  Elisha declares that God will heal him if he goes and washes in the Jordan 7 times.  Naaman feels that this task is beneath him.  He leaves in anger, but one of his servants implores the great general to be obedient.  Namaan is and is healed.  The task of bathing in the Jordan was not an elixir of was meant to show that it was the God of Israel who healed.  Namaan learns his lesson and tries to reward Elisha for this miracle.  Elisha refuses, he wants Namaan to know that God blesses who he blesses and no amount of money can buy God's blessing.  Namaan is convinced that Jehovah is God and God alone.  He takes earth from Samaria back with him to build an altar on so he may worship the one true God.

Elisha's servant sees and opportunity to make a little extra money.  He runs after Namaan and seeks part of the reward that he brought with him from Syria.  Namaan gives it too him without hesitation.  By asking for this reward, the servant of Elisha earns God's curse.  He has placed a price tag on his service to God and, in a way, on God's goodness.  The former should only be done out of love for our Creator.  The later cannot be purchased at any is given by God as evidence of his love for his creation.

In Chapter 6 we begin with a strange miracle; the miracle of the floating ax head.  I do not know its purpose except perhaps that instruments of iron (axehead) are very expensive in these days.  These prophets have no wealth and to have to replace the ax head (mosaic law, restorative justice) might well have meant that the one who lost it would have to indenture himself to the rightful owner until he was able to earn enough to pay his debt.  The miracle may have been God providing for these prophets who served him so faithfully.

The next miracle is one of protection.  The Syrian King has grown angry that he cannot set an ambush for Israel's army because Elisha continues to warn them.  He sends his army to destroy this prophet of God.  Elisha's servant fears this army that approaches but Elisha reveals to him the great army of God that surrounds them and protects them.  This may be the right time to remind you that we are not alone in this world.  As surely as we exist, there are also forces of good and evil that are doing battle for our souls.  Elisha has revealed to his servant that God has sent a mighty force to protect his servant Elisha.  He has no fear of this puny human force.....what did the Apostle Paul say, "if God is for us, who can stand against us!"  God blinds the Syrian force in a supernatural way.  Elisha leads them into the stronghold of Israel and gives them back their sight.  The must have feared for their lives, but Elisha ordered the Israelis to feed the enemy and send them home to Syria with this story of their capture and release.  That should have caused a little fear in their hearts of this God of Israel.  I wonder if Namaan had an opportunity to visit with any of these soldiers about his experience with Jehovah.

Finally comes the story of Syria's army lays siege to Samaria.  In a siege, the city is surrounded and held hostage until their surrender.  The siege has been long enough that hunger has become the constant companion of the Samarians.  In fact, food is so scarce that folks are will to pay high prices for anything to eat, even those things that are forbidden to them.  There is also the story that some of the most desperate are considering cannibalism. 

We believe the King of Israel at this time is Joram.  He becomes angry at God's man Elisha, but Elisha tells him to wait.  Tomorrow he will see God at work in a miraculous miraculous that food will be extraordinarily cheap and plentiful.  The miracle is that sometime during the night, the Syrian army believes that they are being set upon by a vastly superior force and they flee into the night, leaving everything that they possess behind.  Do you remember that army of chariots that protected Elisha in the previous miracle?  Do you suppose they showed themselves again causing the enemy to high tail it out of there?

God is able to do these things and more.  He protects and he provides and he does it without payment from those he blesses, but our response should always be worshipful praise.  Even when we are in a dry and difficult time we must live expectantly.  God may show up and his timing is always perfect.

I surely hope that you will be in church on Sunday to learn a little about a modern day miracle as Sara Howard comes to tell us the wonderful story of God's intervention in their family's life and in the life of one amazing little girl named Grace!  Have a great evening and enjoy the promised good weather on Saturday.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

2 Kings 2-4

Elijah has finished his ministry and is honored by God who sends a fiery chariot and a whirlwind to bring him home to his eternal reward.  Are their stories in you family about the miracle of passing from life through death to eternity?  My grandmother often told the story of the angel who came to take her mother home.  I have been present when the palpable presence of God was in the room with us as we prayed a loved one through to their new eternal home?  What have you been witness to?  There is great comfort for me in the knowledge that God does not abandon us at any place in our journey but sends his minions to escort us home.

Elisha will not leave his mentor even as death approaches.  What a wonderful picture of friendship and companionship.   Would that we would be so loyal and so faithful.

Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit.  Remember in the Mosaic law that the 1st born son receives a double portion of their father's inheritance.  This is what Elisha is asking for......that he would be regarded as Elijah's 1st born son and be allowed to continue his ministry.  The confirmation that God had granted his wish was quick in coming when Elisha struck the waters of the Jordan and the waters parted.   Elisha joins a growing list of those faithful men of God whom he chose to part the water for: Moses, Joshua, Elijah and now Elisha.

Just a thought on chapter 3 and the invasion of Moab.  Note that God would not have blessed this venture except for the presence of Jehosaphat.  Joram, son of Ahab was not as evil as his father, but the scripture says that he clung to the sin of Jeroboam......that is he continued to allow the worship of idols.  That God would bless the venture should be an encouragement to all those who have relationships with unsaved persons (we should all be engaged in a ministry that calls us into the world of the unsaved, how else can they hear the good news of Jesus Christ), God blessed this action because of the presence of a righteous man, Jehosaphat.  Also see the miracle of the desert.  Elisha tells them to dig ditches in the desert and God will provide water for their animals.  We cannot know for sure what happened but consider this, the desert is surrounded by mountains, God calls rain down in the mountains, it flows into the desert where it would normally be gobbled up by the desert, but by faith these mean have dug ditches in anticipation of God's blessing.  Are you preparing for blessings that you have not yet received?  How else is faith demonstrated except we walk on and prepare for that which God has promised?

Two miracles to comment on in Chapter 4:  the miracle of the olive oil.  Creditor's were about to take the widows two sons to sell them to settle the family debt.  An awful practice, but the practice of that culture.  Elisha tells the widow to borrow jars from her neighbors and God will provide.  She sends her sons, the acquire the jars, she begins to pour and the olive oil continues until all the jars were filled and then the flow ceases.  There was enough oil to sell and satisfy the debtors.  Would the flow of oil continued had the widow obtained more jars?  Are our blessings limited by our faith?  Worthy of your consideration and prayerful thought.  God did provide but was he prepared to do abundantly more had their been more faith?

The story of the barren Shunammite women has some overtones of the story of Abraham and Sarah who were unable to conceive.  She shows great kindness to the holy man by giving permanent hospitality in a room and food.  He returns her kindness by prophesying a child and indeed a son is born but the son later dies tragically.  Elisha comforts the mother and then prostrates himself of the dead boy.  God hears his prayer and raises the son from death to life.  The 2nd such miracle that we have read about.

I can't leave this passage without pointing out the passage in the 2nd chapter that illustrates how much God loves us bald headed men!  You saw what he did to those boys who were teasing Elijah about his lack of hair?  Just remember that when you look upon my "God Blessed" head.  ( I know that you know that I am kidding)

Hope you are having a God-blessed day.  Don't miss this Sunday's sermon.  Sara Howard is speaking to us about their miracle that she witnessed in the birth of her 3 year old Grace.  You will be blessed!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

1 Kings 21-22, 2 Kings 1

Ahab was among the most evil of all of the kings of Israel.  His evil influence will taint Israel's leadership for generations and will affect Judah as well.  The story of Naboth and his vineyard is an illustration of his evil and of the evil in his wife Jezebel.  Naboth refuses to sell his vineyard to Ahab because to do so would be to sell the land that was his family inheritance.  It could well have been his family's allotment from the time when Joshua assigned land to the tribes in the days when Israel first entered into the land of milk and honey.  The year of the Jubilee was designed for such occasions which would have meant that the land would have reverted back to Naboth's heirs sometime in the next 50 years but there is no indication that Israel ever practice the Jubilee as God intended. 

When Naboth refused Ahab, the king went home pouting and sulking.  Jezebel learned the reason for his pouting and put together a plan that would bring the land to the king.  Her plan required a layering of evil.  The king initiated the evil with his desire for something that was not his.  Jezebel was evil for putting the plan together that would cause the death of Naboth.  The witnesses that falsely accused Naboth were evil with their lies and deceit (remember that under Mosaic law it took two witnesses to accuse someone of wrongdoing).  The elders of Jezreel were spinelessly evil to go along with Jezebel's evil plan and to encourage and allow the stoning of an innocent man.

God calls Ahab's hand in the shedding of this innocent blood and sends Elijah to tell him that one day dogs would lick his blood in the very same place that they had lapped up the innocent blood of Naboth.  He also prophesied the awful death of the evil queen Jezebel.  Both of these prophecies come true, but because Ahab repented of his sin (wearing sack cloth and ashes) God withheld a part of his sentence on Ahab and his heirs until after his death.

When Ahab is killed in battle while fighting against the Syrians with Jehosaphat and the Judeans we see the fulfillment of the 1st part of the prophecy as dogs lick up the blood of Ahab that has spilled into the floor of the chariot he was in.

Jehosaphat is the son of Asa and was a good king following in the footsteps of his father.  This reminds us of the importance of a Godly model for our children to learn from and to imitate.  Pray that we would be good mentors for our children and our children's children that they would walk faithfully in service to our Lord that their days might be blessed by Almighty God.

In the New Testament Paul speaks of the importance to be equally yoked in marriage.  This is a difficult thing for us to understand.  We think that we can positively influence our spouse and we can, but it is possible for the reverse to occur as well.  Look at the example in Judah's case.  Asa was a righteous king who tried to serve God.  His son, Jehosaphat followed in his father's footsteps and example.  Jehosaphat's son was Jehoram.  Jehosaphat seeks to strengthen the alliance between Israel and Judah and allows a marriage between the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and Jahoram.  Great political strategy but very bad spiritual strategy.  He reintroduces Idol worship in Judah and that is bad, bad, BAD!!!  2 kings that follow will follow in the foot steps of Jahoram.  They will all do evil in the eyes of the Lord and all of this finds its roots in Ahab!  They learned from a very evil example.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1 Kings 18-20

Elijah has been hiding from the evil King Ahab for more than 3 years while a drought has ravaged Israel.  Now God instructs Elijah to confront Ahab at Mt. Carmel.  Elijah challenges Ahab and his god, Baal, to a bit of a duel.  He invites Ahab to bring 850 priests of Baal and Asherah and they will see who truly is God.  All of Israel gathers to see what happens.  The false priests prepare their sacrifice and then they dance and sing and shoot pleading with Baal to send fire to consume their sacrifice.  Nothing happens!  Imagine that!  Then Elijah steps forward and asks Israel, "how long will you jump back and forth between Yahweh and these false gods?  When will you decide who you will serve?"  Remember back to the days when Joshua asked Israel the same question on the banks of the Jordan.  The had emphatically declared, "We will serve the Lord!"  Time has past and they have forgotten what it means to be devoted to God. 

Elijah prepares the altar and the offering and then he prays to God "to send down fire!"  God answers and the offering and the altar and the ground around are consumed by the fire of God.  Then Elijah calls on Israel to destroy those who have led them in worshipping false gods and all of the 850 false priests are killed.

Would that God's fire would descend on us and consume all that is not holy in us.  Could we withstand such a fire?  Would we welcome such a holy cleansing or have we become so accustomed and enamored of the world and the flesh that we would be unwilling to give those things to God?

God ends the drought and the rain comes.  this is often true after we have battled evil and overcome, there will be a season of refreshing accompanied by fruitful growth.

False prophets have a number of characteristics that should warn us about them.  They seek the favor of those who are powerful.  They seek to say things that will be pleasing to others.  They seek personal benefit from their ministry.  True profits seek only to honor God.  Their speech will often alienate and accuse those in power or position.  They often live in poverty or very frugally.

Despite the great victory over evil, Elijah suffers a season of depression.   He goes into the wilderness and asks God to deliver him from this lonely quest for righteousness.  He cries out that there is no other who bears this burden with him.  God nourishes Elijah and sends him on a journey to Mt. Horeb (Sinai, the same Mt. of the 10 commandments).  There he hides him in a cave.  Could this be the cleft in the rock where Moses stood while the glory of God passed?  God tells Elijah to prepare himself, he is coming.....not in the storm, not in the earthquake, but in a whisper (give us ears to hear, O Lord!).  God tells him that he is not alone, there are 7000 more who have bent a knee to Ahab & Jezebel and the evil that they represent.  We must know that God promises to always preserve a remnant.  The world may be in a downward spiral but God preserves sufficient yeast to cause the loaf to rise!  May we always remember that we are the yeast and we are not alone.

God also commissions Elijah to do three anointings, perhaps the most important to Elijah is the anointing of Elisha who will become his companion and eventually his successor.  While we journey and do our work for the Lord, we, too, should be mentoring and preparing future leadership for the church and for the work that is yet to be done.  We are intended to multiply this ministry that like a budding young vine we might spread and yield fruit 40 or 60 or 80 or even 100 fold.

Enjoy the sunlight and the promise of God's refreshing spring.  Hope you have a most blessed day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

1 Kings 15-17

tough part of the Old Testament.  Not where you would direct a seeker or a new believer.  This is the story of a succession of bad kings and folks who seem to refuse to be obedient to God.  It is an amazing thing to read, but in defense of humanity remember that we are reading a few short chapters that cover several hundred years and several generations of people.  Having said that doing what we have always done when what was done was evil will have the same result.....God cannot bless evil.  Notice how often the phrase, "did evil in the sight of the Lord" appears with this list of kings of both Israel and Judah.  There is a difference.  In the history of Judah there appears from time to time leaders like Asa, the great grandson of Solomon whose hearts are more in line with what God saw in the heart of David.  Reforms are initiated idols and altars are destroyed and the temple becomes the focus of the nation.  But even in the reforms they are never able to fully restore the nation to what God had intended.  the sins of the king are almost always around what Paul called the sins of the flesh.  The gods that are introduced represent fertility and sensuality and reprehensible practices like temple prostitution are instituted. 

God raises up prophets during these years, men like Jehu who speak to these kings on behalf of God and who warn them of the great danger they and their followers are in, but for the most part, the lure of sin is too strong and wine, women and song win out over righteousness and fidelity to God.  The end result will be the disenfranchisement of Israel and later Judah.  One of the lessons for us is that God will not be mocked and while it may take several generations for the price of evil to be paid in full, a fall will come and a nation will implode and the mantle will be passed to someone else who will have an opportunity to live a life that God can bless and use to restore humanity.

When we see the phrase, "walked in the ways of Jeroboam" we can conclude that the person did evil in the sight of God.  Jeroboam becomes synonymous with evil in the history of Israel.

Evil can become so entrenched in a culture that it is normalized.  this is a great danger for America.  Think how difficult it is to keep the sabbath.  Think about how we have worked so hard at being inclusive that we have minimized Christianity.  Think about how practices that would be anathema to God are allowable because of our desire to protect the rights of self.  I love freedom, but human freedom and can lead us to places that endanger our immortal souls.  That is what happens to Israel and to Judah.

We are introduced to Ahab, often thought of as the most vile king to rule in Israel.  He builds Jericho and Samaria.  Remember when Jericho was destroyed by Joshua God commanded that it would never be rebuilt.  Sin upon sin is committed by those who lead.  Ahab marries Jezebel (please don't name your daughter Jezebel).  Jezebel is evil and introduces awful things to Israel.  It is believed that sexual images were built as idols and worshiped in the groves and high places.  Sodom and Gomorrah have returned!  In this context God raises up one of the most famous of prophets, a man named Ezekiel.  Chapter 17 takes pains to let us know how powerful God's influence is in this mans life.  Much of what we read in the next few days will be about God's use in bringing down Ahab and Jezebel.  See the mighty hand of God at work as God provides for Ezekiel by catering to him with the ravens and a poor widow woman.  the miracle of the flour and oil and the 1st biblical instance of a dead person being restored to life our proofs of God's spirit in Ezekiel.

I think you will enjoy these next chapters as God demonstrates his power and reminds Ezekiel that we are not alone in this battle against Satan and his minions.  We fight the battle against evil accompanied by a host of heavenly beings and with all the resources of God and his mighty power.

Looking forward to the return of Spring in a couple of days and to hearing Sara Howard on Sunday morning.  God bless you in your work this week!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

1 kings 10-14

Solomon, the wisest man in the world.  Made supernaturally wise by the gift of God and yet in all his wisdom and all his wealth he could not withstand the temptation of the world.  God's promise to Israel before they crossed the Jordan to possess this land of Milk and Honey can be found in Deuteronomy 28: "If you obey my edicts, observe my commandments, walk in my way; the Lord will bless you and set you high above the nations of the earth.  All the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord and they will fear you."  That is exactly where Israel and Solomon are.  Enormous wealth, enormous power and the wisdom of the ages.  Great kings and queens like Sheba come to learn from Solomon and to honor them with the wealth of their lands.  In gold alone, Solomon receives the equivalent of mare than $250,000,000 per year.  Silver is so plentiful that is as common as stones.  There has never been a nation like this before or a King that is so respected and revered.

We look at wealth as a blessing from God, but too much money can cause you to think that you can ignore God and that is what Solomon did.  700 wives and 300 concubines.  Israel was commanded not to marry foreign women.  You know the reason by now!  God knew that those foreign women would bring their foreign gods with them and Israel would be converted to Idolatry and here it is again.  The wises king in the world introduces the worship of Molech and Chemosh and the return of the Astoreths to Israel.  Altars are raised on the high places and God condemns the great sin of Solomon and determines that Israel will be taken from his hands following his death.  Jeoboam, one of his building foremen will be the instrument of the nations division.  God has looked into the heart of Solomon and determined that he is no longer as his father, David, was....a man after God's on heart.....Israel has fallen from grace.

Rehoboam, son of Solomon, quickly proves that he is not as wise as his father was as he threatens the people with harsh taxes and forced labor.  10 of the 12 tribes rebel against Rehoboam and under the leadership of Jeroboam split from Judah and form their own nation.  The10 tribes are known as Israel and the 2 that remain loyal to Rehoboam are called Judah.

Jeroboam proves to be an ungodly man by instituting a new religion that includes worshipping at a new temple built at Shechem.  the worship includes two images of golden calves......just like the ones that Aaron made while Moses was on mount Sinai......must we continue to make the mistakes of our fathers?  Will we ever learn that God means what he says and does what he says?  There sin is so great that God promises that Israel will be no more.  It took awhile but 300 years later, Israel is carried off into exile and is never and independent state again until more than 2500 years later when the United Nations create the independent nation of Israel in 1948.

Judah does not fare much better under the leadership of Rehoboam.  He allows temple prostitutes and foreign gods as well.  Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord.  that statement will become a mantra among future kings who seem unwilling or unable to honor God and keep his commandments.  Egypt defeats Judah and carries off all of the great treasures of the temple that David and Solomon had acquired.  In such a short time the wealth and prestige of Israel is no more.

For much of the rest of our Old Testament reading we will be learning of the downward spiral of what God had hoped would be a light to the world.  It is a sad story of lost opportunity and blessing.  Let us pray that we can learn the lessons that the Old Testament would teach us and that we would be wiser in how we lead our lives and honor God.

Hope you had a blessed Sabbath and that the week ahead will be one of blessing and opportunity.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

1 Kings 7-9

Interesting stuff.....Solomon took 7 years to build the temple and then 13 years to build his palace.  Kind of makes you wonder about priorities doesn't it?  God always expects the best of us and from us....that is one of the reasons for the Mosaic law.  It detailed what an acceptable sacrifice blemish!  First fruits meant what we had in the beginning, not what is left over.  It is always interesting to think about how a piece of furniture that is no longer needed in someone's home becomes perfectly acceptable in the church.  Is that our best for our God?

I did think that the detail about the two columns that were built at the entrance to the temple were interesting.  The are so big that they are given names.  One is Jachin and the other Boaz.  Consider the meanings of the names.  Jachin means "he shall establish".  Boaz means "In his strength".  Now consider that ever time that the offerings are made in the court before the people, the priest is standing between these columns.  Here is the visual reminder that God has established this place in his strength.  Cool....isn't it.

The sea that is spoken of is a great vat for water that is used to perform ceremonial cleansing of the priests.  It is estimated that it held 2500 gallons of water.  That was a sea!

The temple is filled with all of the instruments that are crafted not just by Solomon, but those artifacts that David collected for that purpose as well.  Even though David was not permitted to build the temple it was on his heart.  He collected art and treasures that would later be moved into the temple.

Solomon has the ark of the covenant brought the temple in Jerusalem and when all is in place the Shekinah Glory, the presence of God fills the temple so that the priests are unable to perform their duties.  Why?  Because in the presence of the most high God, the priests are keenly aware of their sin and cannot stand before God.  It is the same cloud of Glory that God spoke from when he gave the 10 commandments.  The same Cloud of Glory that stood at the door of the tabernacle in the wilderness.  The same cloud of glory that the New Testament speaks of when Jesus ascends into a cloud of glory.  And perhaps it is the same cloud of glory that, one day, Jesus will return from when he comes to claim his bride, the church, in the end days.

Solomon prays his great prayer and when it is concluded God speaks to Solomon as he did in the beginning of his reign when Solomon prayed for wisdom.  God reminds Solomon that as long as he and Israel walk before him and keep his commandments, he will preserve them and bless them.  But if they fail in their responsibilities as God's chosen, then God will not preserve them and bless them.  As we read on in our Bible study we will see how that plays out in just another generation or two.

Perhaps one of the failures of Israel was not being able to keep God and the temple separate in their minds.  The temple becomes so important that they forget to keep God's ways.  When that happens the temple becomes an Idol.  We must be careful of this behavior as well.  The church is a building and it is sacred only so long as those who are a part of it are worshiping and serving God.  When caring for the building is more important than caring for God....God is no longer in the house.  Let us pray and work that God would not only be in the house but that his Glory would be visible to all those who call on his name.   Hope to see you on the Sabbath.  God bless you!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

1 Kings 4-6

Peace and Prosperity fill the land of Israel during the reign of Solomon.  He builds a government much like what we would expect today.  He has governors and administrators and other officials all with work to do.  Not too much so as to feel oppressed.  In fact, the 12 governors had responsibility to provide supplies for the King and his court only 1 month of the year.  But what a huge supply of food was required.  Some commentators estimate that the food mentioned in 1 Kings 4 is enough to feed 20,000 or more people daily.  Now that is a big fellowship dinner!

This is the "golden" age of Israel.  The are at peace and enjoy great political prestige in all of the world because of the wisdom of their King.  He is a poet, a song writer, a great politician, a student of the natural sciences; in short he is equipped with wisdom from on high, which was, as you know, exactly what he had prayed for.

Interesting statement that each of the kings officers accomplished his work "according to his charge."  Isn't that exactly how the church is to work with each member called by God to perform work according to his gift?  Paul speaks of this in the New Testament and when all work with a singular purpose in mind (proclaiming the good news of Jesus?), each providing according to his gifts, the body of Christ grows in stature and influence and the Kingdom of God comes near at hand.

The building of the temple must have been an awesome thing to see.  Seven years in the making with the finest lumber imported from Lebanon.  30,000 men working in Lebanon with the timber, 80,000 men in the quarries laboring with the stone, 70,000 laborers used to carry materials, 3300 men managing all of the phases of the construction.  What a monumental project!! 

When they were completed the Temple was 110 feet long by 50 feet wide by 45 feet high.  Built with the finest cedar and olive wood and gold inlay throughout.  Remember that the people did not enter the temple.  they gathered in the courtyard.  The temple was for the work of the priests and only the High Priest entered the most holy place.  It would certainly have been something to see.  And you can imagine that when Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians and the Babylonians; the great wealth in the temple was choice pickings for looters.

Perhaps God was right in directing the Israelites to build him a tent for his tabernacle.  It had served Israel for 400 years before the erection of the temple.