Sunday, 31 July 2016

If you return

Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.” - 2 Chronicles 30:8-9

How often do we read the word of God and discover a God who is holy and righteous and just and angry at sin and all those things – but at the same time we see that He is loving and compassionate and caring and patient and gracious and merciful?

Once again His people Israel were walking in their sinful ways. They kept wandering away from God – but God still called them back to Him.

And that's the way God is. I think about the father of the prodigal son and how despite all the son had done he patiently waited to him to come home. When he finally did the father opened his arms and ran to the son.

None of us are perfect – ‘prone to wander Lord we feel it, prone to leave the One I love’ the old song says. And sometimes we foolishly do wander.

But we can rest in the blessed assurance that when we wander our Father, like the father we mentioned above, in His grace and mercy will not refuse us. So if you are wandering, it's time to come home to our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Marvellous help, but..

But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honour from the Lord God.”
Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. - 2 Chronicles 26:16-19

Uzziah was greatly helped, actually marvellously helped by God as he armed and prepared his nation – but…

Once the nation's armies were established and its defences built and the king became strong he was not able to carry through on his success. When he saw all that ‘he’ had done his ‘heart was lifted up.’

Uzziah’s problem was that he got the wild notion that his success happened because of him. He forgot about his marvellous help and when he became strong he also became proud. When he became proud he took it on himself to burn incense in the place of the priests and when they confronted him he got angry. When he got angry with the priests God struck him with leprosy.

God is not going to strike us with leprosy, but the point is that we need to be aware of dealing with our own pride. When God gives us success and helps us along we need to remember that he is the reason for our success and not us.

‘Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall’ is typical of the warnings in the word of God about thinking that we are something when we are not. ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

God has marvellous help for us – but let's be sure that we remember that He alone is the source of that help.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Marvellous help

Then Uzziah prepared for them, for the entire army, shields, spears, helmets, body armour, bows, and slings to cast stones. And he made devices in Jerusalem, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and large stones. So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvellously helped till he became strong. - 2 Chronicles 26:14-15

I like military history. I like the read books about battles and wars. I like to read about armies and weapons.

The story of Uzziah would fit right in. He armed his men ably and he had weapons developed by skilful men. These military inventors designed large weapons that show arrows and threw stones. They must have been like catapults and trebuchet.

Because of all this Uzziah’s fame spread far and wide because he was marvellously helped and because he was so helped he became strong.

God was with Uzziah and and strengthened him and helped him in marvellous ways.

Though I will probably never see a nation and its armies grow under my leadership I can depend as well on the Lord to give me marvellous help in this life. ‘The Lord is my helper, I won’t be afraid, what can people do to me’

I won’t be building catapults and trebuchet to guard the town of Naas, but I can he assured that the Lord will help me marvellously in my daily struggles. Praise the Lord for His marvellous help.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

As long as he sought the Lord

He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.  2 Chronicles 26.5

Uzziah was now king. Like most of the kings he was not perfect, but he was generally a good leader. He is an interesting character as he had his ups and downs in his walk with God.

He had a big impact on the prophet Isaiah who deeply troubled when Uzziah died.

Here we read about the prosperity of Uzziah as he listened to the prophet Zechariah. We are told that as ‘long as he sought the Lord God made him prosper.’

That only makes sense doesn’t it? He couldn’t really expect God to prosper him when he was ignoring God could he?

I think there is a picture there for us as well. As the children of God we are His. That is not going to change, but we can't really expect God to ‘prosper’ us when we are ignoring Him and going on in our own way. That's why God may chasten us to bring us back into line when we do not seek Him.

This prosperity of course doesn’t mean that we are going to have loads of money and lots of things. This prosperity is that blessed prosperity of walking in sweet fellowship with Him and seeing work in our lives and provide for and protect us.

Wouldn't it be best if we just regularly seek Him in His word?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Shooting the messenger

Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.’ ” So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord. – 2 Chronicles 24.20-21

The nation of Israel was once a great nation that followed the Lord. When they followed the Lord they prospered and God gave them great victories. When they were following the Lord they prospered.

But over and over again, even though they were God’s people, they never could fully get rid of all the draws of the old world. They never could fully obey God. The regularly forsook the Lord and disobeyed His word.

That's not the main point today. The main point today is the response of the people to the preacher.

Instead of sorting things out they decided to ‘shoot the messenger’ as they picked up stones to stone Zechariah. If that wasn’t bad enough they did this under the king’s leadership.

Hopefully we don’t pick up stones to stone the preacher after the sermon it is easy enough to just criticise the preacher than it is to make changes in our lives. If the preacher is being true to God’s word he is not the one to ‘blame.’

We can be as bad as the nation of Judah. Instead of shooting the messenger why not just let God work in our hearts and make the changes He desires?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Heart direction

Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers. - 2 Chronicles 20:33

Everything seemed sorted for Judah. In spite of their desperate situation in facing the enemy God had delivered them.

But there was still a problem. The people had not ridded themselves of the high places where the false gods are worshipped. Why would they not do that?

Because while they might have done the right thing on the outside, they had not directed their hearts to the Lord. Though God gave them a great victory, they did not sort out their hearts.

The thing is that if we don’t get our hearts right eventually our outside is not going to be right. We can only put on a show so long because how we act comes from what is in our hearts. So because their hearts had not changed they did not get rid of the false gods.

We all need to ask ourselves where our own hearts are directed. We answer that by examining what is really important to us day after day. What gets our attention? What do we do and say? What do we watch? Where do we spend our time online? How important is church? How do we respond to hard times? How do we respond to people, especially those who don’t like us or mistreat us?

The direction of our hearts directs what we do. We can do all we want but we have to ‘change our hearts before we change our shirts’ as one song puts it nothing is really going to change.

What is the direction of our hearts?

Monday, 25 July 2016

More on singing

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:
“Praise the Lord,
For His mercy endures forever.”
Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. - 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

Yesterday was a church day. Most of us were in our church services and most of our services including singing songs of praise and worship and edification. Singing has always been important to God’s people.

Here we see singing in a strange setting. God had said that He would fight the battles for the people and He told them on the next day how to array themselves for the fight. He didn’t say to send out the infantry or the archers or the swordsman to the front. He told them to send out the singers in the beauty of their holiness and to sing ‘praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.’

I can’t imagine how the Philistines must have felt when they saw the singers of Judah lead the troops out to battle. I wonder if they chuckled at their ‘good luck.’ I wonder if let down their guard thinking this was too easy.

It still must have been awesome to hear these Jewish singers chanting ‘Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.’ They had to figure that something was up.

But laying that aside, I am amazed by God’s people praising God in the midst of trouble. Surrounded by the enemy they praised God in song. It reminds me of Paul and Silas singing praises at midnight while chained to the prison guards.

For those of us who truly strive to follow Christ there ought to be a melody in our hearts to the Lord. His praise ought to be in out hearts and on our lips, even in the worst of times.

Sunday, 24 July 2016


So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” – 2 Chronicles 20.20

“Believe’ is such a simple word. It doesn't sound like it could even be a deep theological word. It just sounds, I don’t know, like a soft word or something.

But believe is a word of great depth and importance. Here the people are told to ‘believe the Lord and His prophets’ and that if they do believe that will be established and prosperous. There was not a call to action here, but a call to believe.

Believe is a principle that runs all through God’s word, especially when it we come to salvation in Christ.

For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish…

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…

Whoever confesses with His mouth the Lord Jesus and believes in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead shall be saved…

Belief is not easy though - that's why in Mark 9, when the young boy was brought to Jesus for healing Jesus said ‘all things are possible, just believe’ and the boy’s father said “I do believe, help my unbelief.’

Lord, I too believe, but I too have to say ‘help my unbelief.’

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Stand still

You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” - 2 Chronicles 20:17

When it comes to problems or situations that I think need to be sorted I am not very good at standing still. I am one of those people who always thinks that I have the solution and think that my solution surely is the best.

This is where Jehoshaphat found himself. His nation was in a hopeless dilemma. There was nothing they could do. It was beyond anyone’s ability to come up with a solution.

God told them not to be afraid or dismayed because God would fight the battle for them.

Now He expands on that by saying ‘stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’

There are times in our lives when things get to such a mess that there is nothing else we can do. The great thing is that there is something else. We can stop and stand still and say ‘Lord, there is nothing else I can do. Please sort this out.’

And we can rest that He will sort it is way because He is the only One who is able to handle any situation. Like Peter sinking in the water sometimes all we can do is say ‘Lord save me.’

Thank God that He is able to handle anything we face.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Don't be afraid

And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. – 2 Chronicles 20.15

This passage first came to my attention a long time ago. It was probably the summer of 1977 while I was at college and Mary had gone home for the summer. We wrote letters back and forth (remember them?) and Mary would regularly include encouraging scripture.

I am not sure what I was going through, but one day she sent me this particular verse and it has stuck on my mind ever since. Whenever things get a little tough this great truth comes back to mind because when troubles come, sadly, fear and dismay are my normal response.

In response to Jehoshaphat’s prayer God responds ‘don’t be afraid or dismayed by this great multitude. It is not your battle – it is God’s battle.’

And so it is with the challenges and battles that I face. I doubt there is anyone reading this that is not in or soon facing some type of emotional or physical or financial or family battle. They can be terrifying and cause great fear and dismay and confusion and can even cause our faith to weaken.

But these are not our battles to face alone. God is there to right our battles with and for us. He sees it all and He is ready to show Himself strong on behalf of His people. The fear that we feel is not from God. God has given us a spirit that does not include being afraid.

One of our songs in Kids Klub Kamp last week used the phrase – ‘Be not afraid neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.’

No matter what our news feeds read this morning we need not fear or be confused or dismayed the Lord will fight for us.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

When trouble comes

Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ - 2 Chronicles 20:5-9

King Jehoshaphat found his nation in big trouble. The were surrounded by enemies less than fifty kilometres away. They were already weakened. There didn’t seem to be any hope. It really looked bad.

Jehoshaphat was not perfect. He had made foolish alliances. Like all the rest of the kings he did not fully followed the Lord. God was sort of in the background.

But now, with trouble all around, he realised that the nation needed the Lord’s help.

So when troubles came Jehoshaphat did what he should have done – he went to the Lord.

The king acknowledged the power of God. He knew that God could do anything. He knew that controlled heaven and earth. He knew that all power and all might were in God’s hands. He knew that God was their only hope against the enemies.

So he did exactly what he needed to do. He cried out to God and He knew God would hear them and that God would deal with the situation.

So what do we do when troubles come and the enemies are closing in? What do we do when we feel surrounded?

We look to the the God of heaven who rules over the nation's. Remember that He is able to show Himself strong to those who are loyal to Him. Call out to Him, and watch Him do what He does best.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Eyes of the Lord

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” - 2 Chronicles 16:9

We might be tempted to think that God has turned a blind eye on the world today. Things are are real mess and the world-wide rejection of God and His ways. Evil seems to be spreading.

But we read here that ‘the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.’ We can have confidence therefore that He sees it all. As hard as it might be for our human eyes to see and our human hearts to understand God sees it all.

And it breaks His heart. This is not the way it should be. God gave man a choice and man has rejected Him. Because of sin this world is broken. Because God’s heart is broken He sent His Son to die for our sins and give us a chance to have hope in this broken old world.

As hard as it it to believe men still reject Him. In the darkness of this world God sent Light and the world rejected that Light. According to the verse above those who reject God have done foolishly and wars and fighting will be the result.

For those whose hearts a loyal to Him there is hope. Because as His eyes run to and fro over the earth He sees our need He is able to show Himself strong in this dark and broken world.

It's hard to see all this mess. The news over the last few weeks has been shocking. Politics and violence and shootings and all the rest scream out at us in our news feeds  and things seem to be spinning faster and faster.

We must cling to the fact that this world is not our home. It is broken and we can’t expect it to conform to our ways and notions and choices. We can’t let it defeat us because our God is able to show Himself strong to those of us who trust in Him.

If we walk in our own strength we will lose out to this old world. But with God’s strength we can not only survive, but have victory in Him.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sanctified temples

For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. - 2 Chronicles 7:16

God told David that He has chosen the Temple as His house and had sanctified it as such. It was set apart for Him. It was to be a special holy place where God presence could be done in a real way. It was God’s place. It was the House of God.

In the Old Testament God worked differently than today. Today God still has a house. There is still a place where He dwells in a way where His presence. It is not in a building. To call our church buildings the ‘house of God’ is something of a misnomer. Today God’s presence dwells in the hearts and minds of His people.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6.19-20)

Did you catch that? God had a Temple built by the people of Israel. He dwelt among them there. But today we are that temple!

As the temples of the living God has sanctified and set us apart just like He did Solomon’s Temple. We too are holy vessels dedicated to Him and His purposes. We were made holy when the Holy Spirit came to live in us at salvation. For the Jews the greatest abomination was to defile God’s Holy Temple.

But we don’t seem to have that same attitude of holiness. We are sanctified – that will not change. But we still defile our positional sanctification when we choose to live holy lives.

God’s name is with us. His eyes are with us and His heart is with us. Oughtn’t we then live as the sanctified temples we are?

Monday, 18 July 2016

The common man

And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him? Therefore send me at once a man skillful to work in gold and silver, in bronze and iron, in purple and crimson and blue, who has skill to engrave with the skillful men who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided. Also send me cedar and cypress and algum logs from Lebanon, for I know that your servants have skill to cut timber in Lebanon; and indeed my servants will be with your servants, to prepare timber for me in abundance, for the temple which I am about to build shall be great and wonderful. - 2 Chronicles 2:5-9

I don’t even really like to use the phrase ‘common man’ because it can almost sound a little condescending, but I can’t think of another term to describe those vital people who serve God and minister for Him without being in what we normally call ‘the ministry.’

Here preparations were being made to build the great temple of God. It was a spiritual work. There were speeches and prayers and dedications, and those are good things.

But the reality is that someone had to cut the stones and chop down trees and plane the timber and hammer the nails and make the holy vessels and level the ground and all those other things that needed done.

The truth is that all God’s work is important and all work done by God’s people should be done God’s work. We can serve the Lord as pastors or missionaries or Christian school teachers or staff at a Christian organisation or any number of things like that.

But just like these temple workers we can also serve the Lord by cleaning toilets or sweeping floors or cutting wood or cutting hair working in an office or driving a truck or whatever the job. These temple workers were just as important as the prophets or priests.

The same is true in the church today. Sure, God calls some as pastors and teachers and all that, but their job is only to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. As everyone goes out to their daily tasks we go out to minister to those around us. Those who are too often called ‘laity’ are actually the ministers and those who we call the ‘clergy’ are the equippers. Let's all be about the ministry God has called us to.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Fix their 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. And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.” - 1 Chronicles 29:18-19

David knew the importance of having a right heart. He should know as he was called a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ As we looked at yesterday God talks about the heart a lot. He does that because all that we are comes from our hearts.

We are told that we have a responsibility to ‘guard our hearts’ from all the temptations in the world. We do have a role to play in this because. We need to make wise choices when it comes to where we go and what we listen to and what we read and what we look at and what we dwell on all of than. Those are things that God gives us the freedom to decide.

But we cannot do it alone because the hearts we are supposed to guard are ‘desperately wicked.’

So we must, like David, acknowledge that only God can keep the thoughts of our hearts on Him. Only He can really fix our hearts on Him. Only He can give us loyal hearts.

So as we strive to make right choices we rely on God for strength to do it. We cannot do it own our own. But we take comfort in the fact that we can have pure and loyal and dedicated hearts as we depend on the Lord. Just when temptations seem like they are too much to handle we seek God’s help.

We guard our hearts. We depend on God to fix our hearts on Him.

And the desired result is a heart after God’s own heart.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

God tests the heart

I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. - 1 Chronicles 29:17

We have all kinds of standards by which we measure people. We look at people and we test them by their skin colour or their dress or nationality or their wealth or any number of things. We are big on testing the outside of people. We look at people and by their appearance we can judge them to be good or bad. We look at some people and we judge them to be a threat or judge them to be an ally.

As part of an ice breaker a few years ago I was asked to look at a collage of photographs or people and decide which ones were drug dealers. I refused to do it – I couldn’t tell who sold drugs because of the way they looked. The test had a purpose because some of the ones who liked least likely were the dealers.

That's a bit extreme, but we as Christians can be just as quick to judge by what we see on the outside.

But that is not God. That is not what God judges. God judges the heart. That is the standard by which God tests and tries men. We all may look on the outward appearance, but God sees the hearts of people.

We never know what people are going though when we see them. We can’t know. People are hurting and damaged and broken by sin and we tend to just attack and condemn them. The truth is that many of them have hearts that are seeking after God but they don’t know where to find Him.

God tests the hearts so the heart needs to be our focus as well and only Christ can mend a broken heart.

Friday, 15 July 2016

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 29.15

‘I can’t feel at home in this world anymore…’

The snippet from a gospel song jumps out at me today.

As I read this verse I think about just how true it is. Things are happening every single day that make me feel less and less like ‘this world is not my home, I’m just passing through.’ I know that Christians have always felt this way, but it seems like the pace of change in this world is spiralling out of control. We seem to fit in less and less.

But that shouldn't be a surprise to us. David wrote about the same things thousands of years ago.

God’s people are always going to be ‘aliens and pilgrims’ in a world that is broken by the curse of sin. Our days on earth are a shadow and there is no hope here because we have an eternal hope that goes far beyond our circumstances here. Our hope is not in our temporary home, but only in Jesus’ blood and His righteousness.

In fact, if we feel at home here we ought to be concerned. When this world starts to feel too comfortable it is probably because we are being conformed to this world instead of being transformed with renewed minds.

So we need to not be surprised when the world doesn’t make any sense to us. We ought to expect it.

So while we are aliens in this world instead of being distracted by it, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Do it

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 28:20

Be strong.
Be of good courage.
Don’t fear.
Don’t be dismayed.
Finish the work.
God will be with you.

What a great reminder to the people as they set about the task of building the Temple. The work had to be done. The had to be strong. There was no room for fear. Their God would be with them.

But all that would have not meant much if they just rested on the promises of strength and comfort and God’s presence they wouldn’t get a whole lot done.

That's why James writes ‘be doers of the word, and not hearers only.’ Do the work, don’t just hear about it. Do the work, don't just study it. Do the work, don’t just talk about it. Do the work, don’t just talk about it on Facebook. Doing it is not clicking ‘like’ or sharing a post. Facebook slacktivism may make us feel good, but it does nothing.

So do it. Like the old Nike advert said ‘just do it.’

And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. – (2 Corinthians 8.10-11)

Do it.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Lord reigns

Tremble before Him, all the earth.
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” - 1 Chronicles 16:30-31

I know it is about as far from Christmas as it can be, but as I read through this passage I thought about the Christmas hymn ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.’

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

I am especially moved by the phrase ‘in despair I bowed my head: ‘there is no peace on earth.’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’

It does seem today that hate is strong. Social media gives hatred a whole new platform and people are more able than ever to express their hatred. Violence begets more violence and on and on and on. We hate over skin colour and political views and nationality and religion and that hatred seems to blame everyone else for everything.

But we need to remember that ‘God is not dead nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, and the right will prevail.’

God still reigns. Our world is broken by sin, but God has provided a solution though Jesus Christ. The day will come when Jesus will return to set things right, but even while we wait for that God is in control. His children can rest in the knowledge that evil cannot win because God is still on the throne

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The beauty of holiness

Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! – 1 Chronicles 16.29

Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. That verse even has a lovely sound to it, doesn’t it?

So what is this beauty of holiness?

Let’s look at beauty first. A lot of folks seems super obsessed with beauty. Billions of euro are spent in the pursuit of beauty. Medicines, creams, cosmetics, make-up, hairs care products, and even plastic surgery are ways to try and achieve some type of surface beauty.

The problem with all that though is, that as the old saying goes, most beauty is only skin deep. We can spend a fortune on making the outside beautiful but that can never change the inner person and that is where real beauty dwells.

That is what we read about here – the true beauty of holiness. Holiness produces a beauty that nothing else can. It is a beauty that comes from a pure heart. It is that beauty that is far more than skin deep, that is far more than fleeting, and is beautiful in the eye of every beholder.

That beauty of holiness only comes as I rest in the holiness which is mine in Christ alone. I can’t work up holiness – it is imputed to me in Christ. But I can strive to live in holiness.

What if we strove after the beauty of holiness with the same intensity that we strive after outward beauty? Of course we should not neglect personal care, but we need to ask ourselves where our priority is. We must look on others not for their physical beauty but the beauty of holiness in their lives.

What kind of beauty are we striving for today?

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Lord God made the heavens

For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. – 1 Chronicles 16:26

There are plenty of idols and false gods around. There always have been and always will be. To the outside observer, even a seeking outside observer, all those gods out there can be confusing. If I were god shopping what would I do?

There would certainly need to be something to set the true God apart from all the rest. There would need to be a distinction.

This verse is one place that sets a distinction.

All the gods of the people are idols – but the Lord God made the heavens.

This notion of our Creator God is to me one of the greatest evidences for God. The notion that everything we see around us just happened without any outside influence or design mystifies me. Even without a personal knowledge of who God is I still could not deny the fact that there must be a designer of it all. I don’t need the Bible to tell me that. Someone had to put this all together.

We were at Glendalough the other day. As we drove there and as we walked among the streams and lakes and mountains and forest it incomprehensible to think that this all just happened. When I saw the image of a channel that my heart had created to move move blood past as arterial blockage I could never accept that this just happened through an evolutionary process.

There had to be a Designer and Creator. These things don’t just happen.

And it is our God who made the heavens, and the earth. He alone is worthy of our worship and adoration. Let us give Him the praise and glory he is due.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Sing to the Lord

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 16.23-25

First and Second Chronicles are basically a retelling of First and Second Kings with a focus on a few different areas. 

Here we have a psalm written after David became king. Most of the things are things we read in other psalms, and this may be as well, but it struck out me as I read it this time – ‘Sing to the Lord all the earth!’ 

I’ll be going to church in a few hours. Part of our service involves singing songs of worship and praise and devotion and testimony to our Lord. We are a small church so often our singing is not loud or powerful or even beautiful to many ears. But part of the reason we gather is to sing. 

Song has been a part of worship since the very beginning and it carries on. We are told to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We are told to make melody in our hearts to the Lord. Oral singing should be a natural outgrowth of our songs of joy in our hearts. 

As we head out to church today lets do so prepared in our hearts to sing out to our Lord in praise and honour and devotion to Him for who is and all He has done. 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

With everything he had

Then the king commanded all the people, saying, “Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this Passover was held before the Lord in Jerusalem. Moreover Josiah put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 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 23.21-25

When all was said and done we read that the king who was king during Judah’s darkest days was unique. He was unlike any other king.

What made Josiah stand out was that he turned to the Lord with all his heart and all his soul and with all his might.

Do you remember the passage where Jesus summarised the Law?

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

Isn’t it interesting that Deuteronomy summarised the Law this way and Jesus says the same thing and here we read the same thing about Jesus?

And he did that to the extent that it was said of him ‘there was no king like him before him or after him.’

Josiah was noted because he kept the essence of the Law. He was not of course perfect, but he did turn totally to the Lord.

How is our devotion for God?

Friday, 8 July 2016

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 23.3

When Josiah finally heard the word of the Lord he acted. He made a convent with God that he would follow the Lord and keep his statutes with all his heart and soul. He promised to perform the word of the covenant that were written in the book of the Lord. When he did that the people also took a stand for the covenant.

We tend to follow all kinds of things in our lives. We follow possessions. We follow personalities. We follow politics. We follow passions. We follow popularity.  These things and more entice us to follow along to problems and peril.

There is only one following that we should pursue. Following all those other may work when things are kind of coasting along, but what good are they when things get tough and when life seems to fall apart? Those things all let  us down in the tough times.

But following Christ will never leave us disappointed. When we follow Him through the hard times we find the path that we need and He can lead us though and beyond scared.

So I choose to follow Jesus in the mountains and in the valleys.

Down in the valley with my Saviour I would go,
Where the flowers are blooming and the sweet waters flow;
Everywhere He leads me I would follow, follow on,
Walking in His footsteps till the crown be won.

Follow! follow! I would follow Jesus!
Anywhere, everywhere, I would follow on!
Follow! follow! I would follow Jesus!
Everywhere He leads me I would follow on!

Down in the valley with my Saviour I would go,
Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow;
With His hand to lead me I will never, never fear,
Dangers cannot fright me if my Lord is near.

Down in the valley, or upon the mountain steep,
Close beside my Saviour would my heart ever keep;
He will lead me safely in the path that He has trod,
Up to where they gather in the rest of God.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A tender heart

But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Concerning the words which you have heard— 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. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.” ’ ” So they brought back word to the king. – 2 Kings 22.18-20

Hilkiah told the men why Judah was where she was and what the needed to do to get back to God. But she also sent word for the king.

Hilkiah’s word to Josiah was this. Calamity was indeed to come the the nation. Though Josiah would bring about reforms and changes the people did not change and the sinful behaviour continued. Their hearts had been hardened.

But Josiah would be spared seeing all that destruction. It sound a bit strange unless we think about eternity, but God was going to allow Josiah to die and to be ‘gathered to his fathers’ in peace before the end came.

In other words we might see here that there are worse things than dying. I think what happens here is a foretelling of Christ’s victory over death. Death already have no fear for Josiah and it certainly should be no cause of fear for us.

Josiah was going to avoid the calamity because of his tender and humble heart. He was tender enough to obey God and do things His way.

I also think this might play into the notion that Jesus will return to take us out before the great calamity comes to pass.

Anyway, even so, come Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

She said to them

So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her. Then she said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read— 2 Kings 22.14-16

I find the women of the Bible another interesting study. We are used to the fact of male leaders in the church. As hard as it is to accept in today’s culture when women function is every capacity as men, and do well doing it, church leadership is Biblically the role of men.

But women play a vital role all throughout the word of God. Here we gave another special woman. Her name is Huldah and she was a prophetess. I am not sure why there went to Hulda, but she must have had a reputation as a woman of God. They must have known that she could help. Maybe there were no faithful men that they could trust.

Either way, these men sought out the woman Huldah. I think we can get so focused on the men of God that we can the great women of God who have stood out through history. When Apollos needed instruction in he word of God Priscilla teamed with her husband Aquilla to teach Apollos.

Though women may not pastor our churches we are foolish to ignore the spiritual counsel of women in the church. Some of the godliest and greatest Bible scholars I know are women. Remember that it was Timothy’s mother and grandmother who taught him the gospel truths.

So thank God today for the faithful women of God who have taught his word to theirs through the centuries.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

When he heard the words

Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” – 2 Kings 22.11-13

It is not only that the workers found the Book and brought it to Josiah, but what he did when it was found. He didn’t just say ‘oh look, here is The Book of the Law, how interesting.’

Josiah took immediate action in response to finding the word of God. He must have known something about it because he immediately tore his clothes in remorse. He knew what the nation had done. He knew they had turned away from God so he sent a committee to go and find out what they needed to do to get back on track. Despite the fact that there was a priest and a scribe there he sent them to someone who could teach them was God had to say. 

But he did already know that the Book had something to do with why Judah was in the state it was in. ‘’Go, ask God about the words of this book and how they relate to us. We are suffering under the wrath of God because our fathers have not obeyed this book. Find out what we need to do to sort this out. 

What part does the word of God play in our lives? When do we do when we dust off our Bibles and read and study them and God speaks to our hearts? Do we close it back up and hide it away again or do we seek to learn more about what God has to say?  Do we do Like Josiah, or do we try to ignore it? Do we let it deal with our sin, or do we carry on like nothing has happened? 

Josiah had the right response when he encountered God’s word. 

Do we? 

Monday, 4 July 2016

I have found the 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. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. – 2 Kings 22.8-10

Josiah started the work of repairing the Temple and its walls as they had fallen into disrepair. These workers were already special guys. They were so trustworthy that the priests did not even make them give an accounting of themselves when they were paid or buying supplies.

But that's for another time. As they were clearing the rubble the came across a scroll. It was dusty and probably musty and worn. It has not been used for ages. As the temple fell into disrepair this book had been forgotten.

What was the book?

The high priest, Hilkiah, realised what they had found. It was the law of God, the Bible as it existed then. Hilkiah took it to Shaphan the scribe and Shaphan took it to King Josiah.

We’ll look more at the response tomorrow. For now though I want to focus on what it meant that the Book was buried away in the ruins of the temple.

It indicates to me that the word of God had been neglected. And as the word of God was neglected the nation fell it to spiritual disarray. Without God’s leadership the kind of sins Manasseh brought in were no surprise. This dusty old Bible was the reason the nation turned from God.

You know, the same thing happens in our lives. When our Bibles, literally or figuratively, get covered with dust our lives fall into ruin just like the temple did. We can’t survive spiritually when God’s Book is neglected. Let's be sure that the Book is on the top shelf and not hidden away in a pile of rubbish.

Unless God’s word is part of our daily life we face ruin as sure as the temple did.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The boy king

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 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 22.1-2

It is interesting that we look at King Josiah at this time. We have been studying him in church and in fact I am preaching a message about him this morning. If anyone is looking for a great character study Josiah would be a great place to start.

Josiah became king when he was just eight years old. That is hard to imagine. Our grandson AJ has just turned eight years old. King AJ would be almost incomprehensible.

But Josiah became king at eight years old. He doesn’t begin his reforms until he is sixteen, but we read some things about his character from the very start that lay the foundation for the rest of his reign and his life.

Josiah did what was right in God’s eyes
He walked in the ways of his ancestor David
He would not be turned aside to the right or left

These traits of the boy king are a good pattern for all of us. His life is an example that we ought to emulate. The first is just simply to do right. We know right from wrong. It's not complicated. We know how to do right. The problem is doing it. There's not a whole lot to say here – just do the right thing.

Josiah had a pattern to follow. He followed the example of King David, who was a man after God’s own heart. David was not perfect, but his heart was right.

Then he could not be turned aside to the right or the left. He was determined. He stayed on track. The distractions of the world were not going to distract him.

It's that last one that interests and challenges me. There is so much to grab my attention and try to distract me. It's hard to keep my focus. How do I stay on track?

The writer of Hebrews described it well. ‘Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’

The answer is ‘looking unto Jesus.’ Keeping my eyes on Christ, something Peter forgot to do, is the only way to not get turned from all the stuff around me.

Lord, help me keep my eyes on You.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

He even...

He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the Lord had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers—only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.” But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel. – 2 Kings 21.7-9

We are getting close to the end of the kings of Judah. There are few good ones, but Manasseh is NOT one of them. He was a really wicked king. He is listed among the worst. Not only was he wicked but he got the people to follow him into wickedness. He was so evil that ‘he even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made in the house’ of the Lord. This was the very place where God had said to David and Solomon that God would set His name there forever.

This is horrible! How could a king bring the image of a false god to defile God’s holy Temple? His leadership seduced the people to ‘do more evil that the nations’ that God had destroyed for Israel.

It doesn’t make any sense does it?

I think though that we can do virtually the same thing as believers today. We know that our bodies are the ‘temple of the living God.’ We are bought with a price so we ought to glorify God in all that we do.

And yet we, like Manasseh, can drag our false gods into our lives. We drag in the gods of greed and materialism and lusts and anger and selfishness and pride, as well as any number of more obvious sins into our lives and hence into the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We defile our temple just as surely as Manasseh did. Paul wrote about this when he said ‘And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God,and they shall be My people.”

It is easy to condemn Manasseh, but what idols are you and I allowing in our lives? How are we defiling our temples?

Friday, 1 July 2016

He spread it before the Lord

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.” – 2 Kings 19.14-19

They were scary days for Judah. Sennacherib, king of the Assyrians, had them in his sights. He had already defeated and dispersed Israel and Judah was naturally next on his list.

Sennacherib sent a letter to King Hezekiah demanding the surrender of Judah. A lesser man may have panicked and fretted about what to do. Hezekiah though was a man of God so his response was the proper one.

He read the letter, he went up to the Temple, he spread the letter before the Lord, and he prayed.

Now that is the kind of attitude I long for. Bad news shakes me. Scary possibilities scare me. I hate ‘those’ phone calls or texts or emails or letters in the post that come up with bad news. I hate doctors pronouncements of cancer or heart disease or whatever. I hate news of illness or financial setbacks.

A lot of folks are in a terrible stir about world events. It feels like we are on the precipice of disaster. There seems to be a world wide anger and hatred that is ready for a spark to ignite it. It is easy to get caught up in the fear and despair.

But in all these situations there is a better solution than fear or anger or frustration. Hezekiah set the pattern. He simply took the situation, laid it all out before the Lord, and prayed, trusting God with the results.

What are you facing today, or this weekend, or next week? Is their fear or uncertainty? When you saw the news today did it stir up anxiety?

Take it to the Lord in prayer.