Thursday, 30 September 2010

Fix our hearts

O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You. – 1 Chronicles 29v18

We are called to keep our heart with all diligence. But sometimes I need help with the keeping. Sometimes I have friends who need help with the keeping. There are times when we are told to keep our hearts; sometimes our own keeping abilities are not enough.

‘Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.’ Good, solid, clear instructions. But what do you do when your keeping does some seem to be enough?

Fortunately, heart keeping is not a job leaves for us to do by ourselves. David prayed for the people that God would keep the intents and thoughts of the people toward Him and that He would fix their hearts on Him.

I preach a message on this concept of heart keeping and how we should keep the various gates of the castle of our hearts. I am glad to know that we can call out for help in guarding that castle.

In this day we all certainly need heart keep. We must be ever on guard to protect our own hearts from all that is around us – that is our responsibility. But praise God that He, as the King of the Castle, will hear our prayers to keep, guard, direct, and fix our hearts on Him!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Aliens and Pilgrims

For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope. – 1 Chronicles 29v15

‘This world is not my home…’ So begins a great old gospel song. It continues ‘…I’m justa passing through. My treasures are laid out, some where beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heavens open doors and I can’t feel at home in this world any more.’

All of our days here are indeed a shadow. There is no hope here. But this world is not our home. We are aliens and pilgrims. We are strangers in a strange land. Why then are we so encumbered with this world?

The problem is, as we have said so often before, this world is just so visible – it is just so ‘here.’ Despite the fact that our days on earth are ‘as a shadow’ and ‘without hope’ we still cling to them as though they held eternal importance.

Politics, economics, sports, news, business, and sometimes just the day to day drama consume our lives. We forget that this really isn’t our place.

I am not even sure of the name of the song, but there is a gospel song that says ‘I don’t want to get adjusted to this world.’

Which home is most important to us? Is it the one we are ‘just a passing through’ or is it our eternal home in glory?

Let’s get used to the fact that as God’s children we are just aliens and pilgrims in a land that will never really be our home. Let’s keep our eyes on our eternal home!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Who are we that we can offer?

But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You. – 1 Chronicles 29v14

I am convinced that giving is all about attitude. The amount is meaningless – it is all about how we give. Yesterday we saw that giving must be done with a willing and cheerful heart. They rejoiced because they had loyal hearts that prompted the giving. Today there is another attitude. They gave willingly. They gave loyally. And they gave humbly.

'Who are we,' they asked, 'that we should be able to give?'

What a different approach and attitude toward giving. Giving is not burdensome. It is not a chore. It is not something we ‘have’ to do. It is a humbling privilege that God allows us to have a part in doing His work.

It almost sounds silly to say it, but the next time we give we should be thanking God that he lets us, despite our sin and weakness, to share in His work.

Who are we that we should be able to give? We are His children, part of His family, allowed to share in His work!

Monday, 27 September 2010

The offered willingly

Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the LORD; and King David also rejoiced greatly. – 1 Chronicles 29v9

Building the Temple was going to be expensive – tremendously expensive. There was gold and silver and copper and bronze and marble and cedar and all kinds of costly materials. Labourers and craftsmen had to be paid. The cost was going to be phenomenal.

So what did the leaders do? Did they have a big find raising push? Did they take pledges? Did they have everyone fill out commitment cards? Did they have a ‘faith promise’ drive?

While these things may be practical and I don’t think they are necessarily wrong the Temple Fund did not need any of these things. They told the people there was a need and they gave. They gave willingly, they gave with joy, and they gave with loyal hearts.

This reminds of the New Testament teaching on giving where we read that ‘God loves a cheerful giver. We read the examples of the church who gave even out of their poverty. It looks like God’s people are givers just because they are God’s people.

Giving ought to be the most natural thing for believers. We should not have to be begged, cajoled, pestered, battered, excited, or even tricked into giving.

If we have a loyal heart, seems that giving willingly is going to be the most natural result.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Who is willing?

the gold for things of gold and the silver for things of silver, and for all kinds of work to be done by the hands of craftsmen. Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the LORD?" – 1 Chronicles 29v5

David continued his charge to the people concerning the work of God in building the Temple. Yesterday we saw God’s promise that if they did this work and stayed at it He would be with them all the way through, until the job was done.

Here we find David asking the probing question – ‘Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?’

We think of consecration as a setting apart to a sacred purpose, and that is true here. But I think the word means a lot more. I looked at the Hebrew word briefly and it seems that it has the idea of being totally sold out to a cause till the very end.

Either way, even or a combination of both, the question here is a solemn one. ‘Who will dedicate and set himself apart to the work of the Lord?’

I have most often heard this in a call for a congregation to ‘surrender to full time service’ referring to someone being in a full time vocational ministry. When we think about it this has the implication that anyone who is not in that kind of ministry is not really dedicated themself to the Lord’s work. Those who hold a ‘secular’ job are only kind of dedicated to the Lord’s work.

Not everyone it the Temple were priests and their helpers. We read in the verse that there was all manner of work to be done by the craftsmen. There were metallurgists, carpenters, common labourers, seamstresses (I had to look that up, apparently men and women who sew are both called a seamstress), foundation diggers, and all other kinds of workers. Every single worker was called on to consecrate himself to the Lord and His work.

The application is clear. Who then, no matter what your job, is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord in their work?

Maybe we should reconsider imploring people to ‘surrender to full time Christian service’ and instead encourage people to consecrate themselves to the Lord whatever they do.

I suspect that God will take care of getting those who He wants in a fill time vocational ministry. I also suspect they will be the ones who have already consecrated themselves to the work of the Lord.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Until the work is finished

And David said to his son Solomon,"Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God- my God- will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. – 1 Chronicles 28v20

David had set the people to the task of building the Temple. Though he would not have a part in it he still encouraged the people to do the work. It was going to be a lot of work. It was not going to be easy, but it had to be done.

Here he encouraged them with the assurance that the Lord, the Lord that David knew so well, would stay with them and not forsake them until the work was done. Because of that great truth could be strong and courageous and not be afraid. They could do it because they were not doing it alone.

God still has work for us to do. It is not going to be easy. It is scary. It is intimidating. We get discouraged. We want to quit. We sometimes just want to give up.

Surely these are some of the things the people faced when working on the Temple. That's why David assured them of God's presence.

The great thing for us is the truth that we don't have to so our work alone either. When Jesus gave His Great Commission He said that He would be with us till the job was done, even till the 'end of the age.'

We need not he afraid. We need not be dismayed. Instead we need to take courage and stay at the task all the way to the end with the comfort that our God is with us.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Their duty was to help

because their duty was to help the sons of Aaron in the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts and in the chambers, in the purifying of all holy things and the work of the service of the house of God, - 1 Chronicles 23v28

I am not a handyman. I make a mess of DIY. I am however, a good helper. I can hand someone the tools or hold the end of a plank or run to the truck for a piece of equipment or make a cuppa tea.

Our society tends to view the role of helper as not quite as important as the one doing the work. When I did sheet metal work we had a ‘lead man’ and a ‘helper’ on each crew. The lead man, because of his experience, was of course paid more, but both part of the crew were vital. Most work was shared and required two men. A lead man without a helper was not really worth much.

Here in the work of the Temple everyone had a job to do. Those mentioned in this passage, some of the Levites, were called to ‘help the sons of Aaron in the service of the house of the Lord.’

Can you imagine the work of the Temple if there were no helpers? Nothing would ever be accomplished it everyone had to be the lead man.

Can you imagine our work for the Lord if no one is willing to be a helper? Being a helper surely implies service.

At the end of the day we are all helpers. That is our task to help out in the service of the Lord. In reality there is only one Lead Man.

But on a human scale not everyone is called to be a leader. Many of us are called to be helpers in the work.

Being a helper is nothing to be ashamed of. Without helpers nothing would ever get done. If our job is to hold the other end of the plank let’s do that to the very best of our ability. Let’s be the best plank holder we can be!

Thursday, 23 September 2010


And David said to Solomon:"My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the LORD my God; but the word of the LORD came to me, saying, You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, a for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever. – 1 Chronicles 22v7-10

I doubt that I would have ever noticed this passage if not for a particular time in our lives and a biography of William Carey.

The background is simple and the passage may not seem especially dynamic or exciting. That very fact reminds us of the truth that God’s word, all of it, powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword. It also reminds us of the importance of sharing how God is using His word in our lives.

David had a great desire to build the Temple of God. However God did not let him do that. Instead, his job was to gather the materials and set his son Solomon to the task.

David must have been disappointed, but he set about doing what God wanted him to do.

In an especially slow and tedious time of Carey’s ministry in India he found himself discouraged. Nothing seemed to be happening. It looked for all the world like he was going to be a failure in his own eyes and in the eyes of the world. Years had passed and ‘nothing’ had happened.

One morning he read the passage above. God spoke to his heart and he wrote in his journal that if all he was going to be permitted to do was gather the materials for a future work like David did he would be content with his ministry.

About 200 years later we were in a similar situation. A few years had passed and it seemed like we were only going backwards. During that time I ‘just happened’ to be reading Carey’s biography. His response to the passage above really spoke to my heart. I realised that we do not always get to do what we think we should do. I realised that I may have to be content to do all I could do in preparation for someone else to reap the results.

Over the last few years things have still been a little slow. Over and over though I can look back to David’s example and how it spoke to Carey to encourage others.

Who knows how our sharing how God is working in our own hearts might work in the hearts of others?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Let the Lord do what is good

Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight." – 1 Chronicles 19v13

Joab and Abishai were facing the mighty Syrian and Ammonite armies. They met together, set out their battle plans, agreed to help each other, and then moved forward.

Before they did so however they had an important point of agreement. Before they set out they agreed that they would trust the Lord to do what was ‘right in His eyes.’

I really am blessed by this whole picture here. They had a job to do. They had an enemy to face. They did not just charge off into battle. Instead they made battle plans, came up with a contingency, and then they left the results with God.

I think we have a picture here of the balance between trusting God and being responsible. Both are necessary. We do what we can do and leave the rest with Him trusting Him to do what He knows best.

What a blessing we could learn to experience if we could learn to trust God in this way. We don’t ‘just pray and go.’ We do all we know what is right to do, then we leave the rest to God and allow Him to what is good in His sight. The scary part is that what is good in His sight is not always what is good in our sight.

That’s where we learn how much faith we really have.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Let Your word be established

"And now, O LORD, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, let it be established forever, and do as You have said. So let it be established, that Your name may be magnified forever, saying, 'The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel's God.' And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. – 1 Chronicles 17v23-24

There is only one proper response to the word of the Lord – let it be established and may be glad to watch God do what He says.

God had made it clear that His house would be built. David was not going to be the one to do the work. He was disappointed, but he was able to say to God ‘let the word you have spoken be established.

There are times in all of our lives when we face disappointment and when things do not go the way we want them to go. God’s words and His ways do not always fit into our plans.

We can respond in a couple of ways. We can get ‘cheesed off’ at God and get into a funk and become totally useless in our service. Or we can suck it up and respond like David did – ‘let the word of the Lord be established.’

Who, after all, knows best? God or us?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Proclaim the good news

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods. – 1 Chronicles 16v23-25

Things were finally coming together for Israel. The Ark of the Covenant had finally been restored to the Tabernacle. David, as the political and religious leader of the nation wanted to make sure that the people did not miss the significance.

Not only was David their king and spiritual leader, he was also a great songwriter. Music has a powerful impact. Songs have a tendency to get stuck in your head for either good or bad.

So David wrote a psalm to be sung at special occasions. It is typical of his psalms, but one thing really stuck out today.

‘Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders to all peoples.’

David’s challenge to those folks speaks to my heart today. I look at that and wonder if I am doing today what he challenged those people to do all those years ago. Am I proclaiming the good news of His salvation? Do I declare His glory to the nations? Do I tell the people of His wonders in my life?

How do we measure up to David’s challenge?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Do your job

Now some of them were in charge of the serving vessels, for they brought them in and took them out by count… - 1 Chronicles 9v28

Our church uses a hired hall for our meeting place. We share our facilities with a Montessori school upstairs in the local GAA. It is not our own place, but we are grateful for it and it suits us pretty well.

Anyone who uses a hired hall knows the Sunday morning routine. Chairs need to be dragged from storage and set up. The pulpit needs to be carried out. The piano, keyboard, or whatever needs to be set up. Bibles and songbooks need brought out. All kinds of odds and ends need to be brought from storage and set up. There really is quite a bit to do, so everyone has a job.

Morgann’s job it to bring out the extra Bibles and the box where people put their offerings. Sometimes she does not see her job as very important and want to do the big stuff, like carry out the chairs. I am explaining to her that every single job is important. If she didn’t do hers, where would people put their offering?

This is not a new situation. In the tabernacle everyone had a job. Some were in charge of bringing the vessels for service in and out. Some took care of the furniture. Some were in charge of the wine and flour. Everyone had a job to do and every job was vital.

We need to remember that in a church every single job is vital. Whether one is preaching in the pulpit or changing nappies in the crèche their job is vital. If one part is missing the whole thing breaks down.

Your job is vital – even if you think it is the most mundane boring job there is. There is nothing mundane about our practical service for the Lord.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

They ministered with music

They were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they served in their office according to their order. – 1 Chronicles 6v32

I don't have a lot to say this morning. This little section just caught my eye. In the middle of begats it is easy for things to stick out.

While the Temple was being built Jewish worship still took place in the tabernacle of meeting. This is kind of like a local church today meeting in temporary facilities while their permanent building is being built.

While they were waiting ‘church’ still had to carry on. (No – I am not going to debate the church, Old Testament, local, or universal – just making a point.) Some of the folks there were in charge of ministering with music.

I like this picture. It reminds us of the importance of ministering in music. Music is not just something to get through to get to the message. It is not the focal point of the service. It is not a tool to stir up the emotions. It is a ministry. It was then and it still is today.

I wish I knew more about music. I do know that there are many times in our church when I am ministered to greatly through the music. Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn at the Last Supper. The church is encouraged to support each other in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.

Lets be sure that we pray for those who minister in song in our churches and rejoice in such a ministry.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Jabez was more honourable

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, a saying,"Because I bore him in pain." And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying,"Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!"So God granted him what he requested. – 1 Chronicles 4v9-10

I have to admit that whenever I get to 1 Chronicles in my Bible reading I am less than excited. I understand that it is the word of God, and that every word is important, but I have a hard time getting thrilled about reading nine chapters and begats.

But, there are still things to learn. Here, out of nowhere seemingly, we read about a man named Jabez.

A few years ago Jabez was all the rage. Someone came across him and his prayer. A book was written that suggested that anyone who prayed Jabez’s prayer for thirty days would see amazing results. The Prayer of Jabez became the Prayer of Jabez for Teen and the Prayer of Jabez for Mothers and the Prayer of Jabez for Teachers, and so on and so on. There were Prayer of Jabez journals and Prayer of Jabez study guides. It was quite a phenomenon.

I don’t like Christian fads and phenomenon. I think they are a distraction at best and destructive at worst. But I don’t think that should allow us to learn something for Jabez.

I am not going to focus on his beautiful prayer. That has been rehearsed and rehashed enough. It is a lovely prayer and one that we might consider adapting into our prayer lives.

I want to just take a quick look at the description of Jabez – he was more honourable than his brothers. In this massive list of names we come across a guy who prayers a beautiful prayer and of whom it is said that he was more honourable.

I like the picture of honour. The picture is that Jabez had a good reputation, better than all his brethren. Our reputation as believers should always be above reproach. We should strive to live the kind of lives that men may say of us that we are honourable people.

When we do not live honourable lives we bring reproach to our Saviour. May our lives ultimately bring honour to Him.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him. – 2 Kings 23v25

Josiah’s reign is a brief break from a litany of wickedness, bad news, and judgement in the nation of Judah.

There is a lot to learn from Josiah’s life. He showed that it is possible for one man to stand against the flow. No other king had stood where he did. He showed great courage in bringing about the changes he did. He could easily had said something like, ‘oh, what’s the use’ and just let things continue to slide.

But he didn’t do that. He turned to the Lord with all his heart, all his soul, and all his might. This description of following God runs all the way from the Law of Moses to the Law of Christ. It is something that has always been expected from God’s people. Unfortunately, though expected, it is rarely manifested.

How many of us can claim that we have this ‘heart-soul-mindedness?’ It is not just the Law; Jesus told us the same thing.

May God give each of us the heart-soul-mindedness that Josiah had.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Getting rid of the junk

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, the priests of the second order, and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the articles that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. – 2 Kings 23v4

One of the big problems for Christians is something that Josiah knew how to deal with.

Once he had become king and looked in to what the word of God said he acted on it. There are several verses here that list all of the things that he purged from the Temple. It is tragic to see what the people had allowed in there, but the point is that Josiah got rid of everything that was against God.

In retrospect that makes perfect sense. Of course if a king wanted to get the nation right with God he is going to get rid of all the junk that is in the Temple. It would not make any sense to try and move forward with God while His Temple still had pagan gods and images.

But wait a minute. Most Christians would say that they really want to follow God. Anyone who has any kind of serious perspective on their faith says that they want to do what is right. If that is not there then there needs to be some serious self examination.

Yet, how many of those same Christians have all kinds on junk in their lives? How often do we cling on to all kinds of sins and activities that are just as much of an abomination to God as those pagan idols?

Anyone who is serious about serving God needs to follow Josiah’s example and do some serious house cleaning. It is time to get rid of the junk.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

To follow the Lord

Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant. – 2 Kings 23v3

Josiah had the kind of dedication that is far too often missing in the lives of God’s people. His response to the word of God was clear. There was no doubt that he had an experience with the word of God.

When he received the teaching he made a covenant with God. He promised to follow God and keep His word with all of his heart and soul and to do what God sad.

That is all pretty simple when we read about some Old Testament king doing it. It is a little harder when we determine to apply the same principles to our own. We often want God, but only in small doses. We want Him as long as He does not get in the way of our every day lives. We want Him as long as He fits into our little god box.

I long to have the totally sold out attitude that Josiah had. If God says it I want the kind of life that will just simply obey it with all my heart.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A tender heart

because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,"says the LORD. – 2 Kings 22v19

Things had gone too far for Judah. God knew that despite all Josiah’s best efforts for the nation they would not really turn back to God. However, that did not stop God from blessing Josiah.

Josiah was different from other kings. He had a tender heart. It’s great that a king would have a tender heart and would humble himself. But it didn’t stop there – Josiah humbled himself and acted on it.

In a historical perspective Josiah’s reform, while genuine, could not stop Judah’s fall. The people’s hearts were hardened. They had given themselves over to the worship of false gods and they did not really turn as a whole.

God did however bless Josiah for his own heart turn, his own humility, and his efforts to bring godly reforms to the nation. God did not allow Josiah to see the destruction that would come.

What is amazing is that Josiah knew from this prophecy that his reforms were not going to change the nation, but he still went ahead and did what was right.

It’s not always about ‘results.’ Its about doing right.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

I found a book!

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe,"I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD."And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it… Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, "Hilkiah the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes.. – 2 Kings 22v8-11

Early in Josiah’s reign he ordered repairs and renovation on the Temple. It had been ignored and neglected for years and he knew that it was time to do something about it.

While the work was going on a priest named Hilkiah found a book in the ruins and gave it to a scribe named Shaphan who took it and read it to the king. Apparently this is the first time anyone had read from what they had of the Bible in a long, long time.

It certainly caught the king’s attention. ‘When he heard the words of the Book of the Law he tore his clothes.’

How often does God’s word have that kind of impact on us? More often than not, if we are not careful, God’s word just rolls off our backs. We have heard it all before. Yeah, sure, it’s in the in the Bible, but does it really mean that much?

Why did God’s word have such an impact on Josiah and so little on our every day lives?

Perhaps the blessing of always having God’s word available makes it to ‘everyday.’ I think it is great that I never have to be away from my Bible. I have it in my pocket all the time now. I can look up any verse and any word anytime I want. As I sit here I have the Bible on my phone to my left, on the laptop in front of me, and the slide shelf under the top of my desk, and two copies on the desk to my right. I have more than a dozen translations on the bottom shelf of the bookcase within reach. I have many more translations at a moment’s access online.

That really is great, isn’t it? I love having all those tools.

But I have to ask myself how often God’s word impacts me like it did Josiah. When I read God’s word and He speaks to my heart does it cause me to have a ‘clothes rending’ attitude in response?

We don’t have to look for the Book. We have it. Are we willing to let it speak to our hearts as Josiah did?

Friday, 10 September 2010

He did not turn aside

And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. – 2 Kings 22v2

Ever since I discovered Josiah a few years ago he has been one on my heroes. There is so much to like about him and his reign. Things had been going downhill for a while. Israel was already gone and Judah was growing weaker and weaker. Josiah was just a boy when he became king, but we get to learn about him early on in his reign.

‘He did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He walked in the ways of David,’ God said, ‘and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.’

This is the kind of testimony that I like. Josiah just did not waver. He stayed on track. He kept his eyes on the goal. He is kind of like the runner in Hebrews 12 who patiently runs the race while keeping his eyes on Jesus.

I can’t help but think of Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. He had a path to stay on. When he stayed on the path he had things to deal with, but the passage was bearable. He got himself in serious trouble when he wandered off the path.

A lot of our lives is just plodding away, keeping our eyes on the goal, and staying on track.

I like to keep Josiah in mind when I think about this goal.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

For My sake, and David’s

For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David's sake." – 2 Kings 19v34

Okay, one more note about prayer and how it works.

I think this passage gives us just a little hint about how the mystery of prayer plays out. God was going to defeat Sennacharib because Hezekiah prayed, but He also did so for His sake and His servant David’s.

I am intrigued by the ‘my servant David’s’ phrase, but am going to leave that for now.

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer because He prayed, but also because it was in accord with His will. While God does answer prayer, our prayers do not change God. The New Testament makes it clear that when we pray ‘in His will’ He will hear and answer our prayers.

This allows us to be a part of a wonderful relationship with God. We pray, and as God hears and answers we can be assured that we are praying in His will. If He does not answer the way we think we want we can still be assured that His will is being accomplished and we are able to know the will of God.

God is not a genie for us to rub a lamp and get three wishes. He is a perfect, holy, and sovereign God who allows us to walk in accord with and pray in His will.

Prayer does ‘work.’ It draws us closer to God.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Because you prayed

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying,"Thus says the LORD God of Israel: Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard. – 2 Kings 19v20

I have said here before that I really don’t understand prayer. Here is another instance that helps in that study.

Sennacharib was a powerful, violent, and vicious king of Assyria. His ruthless empire set marks for cruelty which are rarely matched in history. He had recently defeated the nation of Israel and dispersed them so thoroughly that the Diaspora’s effects last till this very day.

He mocked God with the words ‘who is this Yahweh?’ He felt he was stronger than any god and that no simply god could get in his way of conquest. He prepared to move on Jerusalem and capture the city and conquer Israel.

King Hezekiah knew that they were no match for this mighty army, so he did what we all know to do – he prayed.

The prophet Isaiah came with the answer to prayer – ‘Because you prayed to me against Sennacharib, I have heard you…’

I don’t know how to fit this all in. Maybe I should stop trying to figure it out and believe that God wants us to pray and that the ‘effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’ and leave it at that.’

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

They feared the Lord, but…

However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places … So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods- according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. – 2 Kings 17v29-33

The priest who was sent back to Samaria to teach about the Lord had some success. He taught them to ‘fear the Lord’ and some of them did, at least to some extent.

There was, however, a big problem. In addition to fearing the Lord every nation continued to make gods of their own and to build shrines and worship them. They did not wholly fear the Lord. They tried to mix the fear of the Lord with their old life and their old idols. Their hearts never changed – they just put another god on their god shelf.

This never works. One of the reasons Paul praised churches like the church in Thessalonica was because they had turned from their idols to serve the living and true God. Real fear of the Lord involves doing away with all the rest.

I have often met people through the years who have been encouraged to just ‘pray this prayer’ and everything will be okay. They do so, and their name is ticked off as another one bound for glory. Yet, in their minds, all they do is add one more god to their god shelf; one more insurance policy. They never forsake their old ways or their old gods, they just add another one.

We can’t really fear the Lord and hold on to our other gods. It is time to let whatever god we are holding on to go. Whether it Self or Sex or Stuff or any other god it is time to stop trying to fear the Lord and also serve them.

Lets turn from them to the living and true God.

Monday, 6 September 2010

And taught them

Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, "Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land." Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. – 2 Kings 17v27-28

I had to stop here because I found this little event interesting. All of the Jews had been forced out of the land. All kinds of new nationalities had moved in. Jehovah was considered to by just another one of the gods and these people wanted to try out the ‘god of Canaan’ to see what he was like, but there was no one there to teach them.

So, as strange as it sound the king of Assyria had a priest sent back to Samaria to teach the people the ways of God and how to fear Him.

More on his mission tomorrow, but I want to just reflect on this early missionary for just a moment.

Put yourself in his sandals. All of your people have been moved out of their homes. There is no one left there who claims to know the Lord. The you are sent back to tell them about Him.

All alone. All by yourself.

An intimidating though, but a possibly encouraging one.

How many Christians are like this Jewish missionary? How many, as far as they know, are the only believers in their family or workplace or neighbourhood?

And yet this unnamed priest went to these pagan people who had only a cursory interest in what they considered to be a local god and he taught them to fear Him.

We are going to find out that his mission was not a success in man’s eyes, but that is not really the point. He went, and he served the Lord in a very lonely place.

Do we do the same?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

They would not hear

Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God. – 2 Kings 17v14

It is hard to read about the Jews in Israel and Samaria. Time after time God gives them a chance to repent of their sins. Generations pass, kings come and go, prophets proclaim God’s word, but still they will not turn.

Finally it is clear that they are not going to change. The know it, the nations around them know it, and God has already known it for a while.

So God allowed the wicked Assyrian Empire to come in and conquer all of Israel. Ten of Israel’s tribes are carried off into captivity, slavery, and dispersion. When the Assyrians conquered lands they transported people around so that no one felt at home. People from all over the region were moved into the lands vacated by the people of Israel.

You might think that Judah would have learned. But no, she continued on her way and eventually suffered a similar fate when she was conquered by Babylon.

The Jews would not hear God’s word. The stiffened their necks in their stubbornness. The just would not listen to God.

That’s a sad story.

But there is even a sadder story.

There are Christians, believe it or not, who refuse to deal with sin in their lives. Amazing as it may seem there are people, bought with the precious blood Christ, redeemed at the foot of the cross – who still persist in their sin!

Are you surprised? I doubt it, because most of us can identify with that. Sometimes we get so attached to our sin that we just ‘can’t’ let it go.

It is bad enough when these Jews who only had the Law to guide them hold on to our sin. How much worse is it when we have Christ, who paid the penalty for those sins, to hold on to them?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

They dealt faithfully

Moreover they did not require an account from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to be paid to workmen, for they dealt faithfully. – 2 Kings 12v15

I have always liked this little mention. Workers were hired to work on the Temple. Collections had been brought in to pay for the work. These were voluntary, free will offerings placed in to a box at the back of the Temple.

Certain men were appointed to pay the workers. It all seems pretty simple and mundane doesn’t it?

But look at the character of these men – ‘they did not require an account of the men…for they dealt faithfully.’

While I know that we have to keep careful records and that proper bookkeeping is important and all that I am challenged by this statement. These men who paid the workers did not have to turn in any receipts or timecards or bills or anything else; they just took the money and paid the workers. They had such a good reputation that no one questioned that they would do the right thing with the money.

I don’t have a lot to say about this. I just wonder how many of us have the kind of reputation that we could be trusted to handle funds like these guys did.

May we strive for the kind of faithful dealings that these men did that no one would ever think of questioning our character.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Finishing the job

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin. – 2 Kings 10v31

I find these kings of Israel an enigma. On one hand many of them are praised for the good they do, but there seems to always be something lacking.

Here we have the example of Jehu. We read in one verse that Jehu ended Baal worship in Israel. For that God promises that four generations of his descendents will continue to reign as king is Israel.

Pretty good, huh? Wiping out Baal worship is a great accomplishment for the Lord. It seems like Jehu was going to go down as a great hero of Israel.

But we come to verse 31. ‘Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord with all his heart.’ He fell short when he did not deal with the golden calf worship of Jeroboam. He started the job, but did not do everything that needed done.

As we read through the Bible, especially the Old Testament and the history of Israel, we find out that major problems arise because God’s people have a tendency not to completely finish the job. We tend to have a victory, then sit back and rest on our laurels. Leaving that bit undone always caused problems for Israel.

If we are honest with ourselves we will have to acknowledge that when we leave that bit undone we are asking for trouble as well.

Stay at the job. Finish the work. Don’t leave those little bits unfinished.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The tragedy of sin

Therefore they came back and told him. And he said, "This is the word of the LORD, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as refuse on the surface of the field, in the plot at Jezreel, so that they shall not say, "Here lies Jezebel." ' " – 2 Kings 9v36-37

This story makes me sad. One day Ethbaal, king of rhe Sidonians, had a daughter. He named her Jezebel. He was, as apparent from his name, a Baal worshipper. Her name meant ‘chaste.’ I wonder what went through his mind when he named her that. Anyway, she grew up to marry the wicked king Ahab. The two of them were incredibly wicked. Her name is one of those that you just can’t imagine naming a daughter.

Jezebel had plenty of contact with the men of God, especially Elijah. She was violently opposed to him. She went about killing the prophets of God. She put a death sentence on Elijah’s head. There is just nothing good to say about her.

In this situation she saw Jehu coming to Jezreel to meet her. She fixed her hair and put on her makeup and asked him if he came in peace. It is obvious that she was going to use her ‘womanly wiles’ to try and get her way.

He called to the tower and asked who was there. Two of her eunuchs responded. Jehu told them to throw her out of the tower, and they did. Her defenestration was a violent and bloody death. Her blood splattered on the walls. The horse trampled her body. Jehu felt no remorse and went in to the tower and ate a meal.

Eventually he sent men out to bury her. All they could find was her skull and parts of her hands and feet. There was no place to be able to say, ‘Here lies Jezebel.’ Elijah’s prophecy of her end came true.

We might well say, ‘Good, she deserved it!’ And, in truth, she did. She was a true enemy of God and His work. She was a murderess. Nothing good can be said.

But isn’t tragic to think that one day she was just a little girl? I think of our Beth and Morgann and Maddie. I think of the little girl in our Kids’ Klub. Jezebel was like them one day.

It is tragic that sin took hold. It is even more tragic that she had chances to interact with the men of God and turn to Him.

Sin is really sad, isn’t it?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

What am I gonna do???

So he answered,"Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." - 2 Kings 6v16

The opposition seemed overwhelming. Elisha and his servant were in the city of Dothan when the king of Syria sent a might army to attack the city. The whole army was sent out just to deal with Elisha.

It seemed like there was no way out. Fear and despair were the natural reactions. The servant said the same thing we say so many times – ‘What are we going to do?’

I hate that ‘What are we going to do?’ feeling. After all the years that I have been a Christian one would think that I would be able to just say – ‘Trust God’ but I still, on far to many occasion find myself saying, ‘What am I going to do?’ Sometimes it just feels like there is so much going on negative that we can’t see any positive. What are we going to do?

Elisha knew. Full stop. He knew the answer. He knew that greater was the One who was with them than the one who was with the Syrians. He prayed that God would open his servants eyes to the truth.

Suddenly the servant saw a mighty heavenly army between them and the Syrian army. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’

We can too often forget that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal and physical, but spiritual. We are in a spiritual warfare – let’s never forget that. God delivered Elisha and his servant. In a hopeless situation God provided hope and victory.

I need this lesson as much as anyone. Too often, far too often, I see the opposition and difficulties and challenges and discouragements and setbacks and disappointments more than I see the One I serve.

May God forgive me, and anyone else, who has the same problem.