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The Earth And Everything In It

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Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 29:1-36; Romans 14:1-23; Psalm 24:1-10; Proverbs 20:12

The good King Hezekiah takes over as ruler of Judah in 2 Chronicles 29. He seems to have been a student of history, realizing that the unfaithful acts of previous generations had caused hard times to fall on Israel and Judah, which had become objects of ridicule (2 Chronicles 29:6-9). I hope that someday soon the United States has a leader that is as good a student of history so as to lead us away from the same mistakes that Israel and Judah made.

Three years after Hezekiah became king, Assyria began a siege against Israel, Judah’s northern neighbor. Three years after that Israel was no more, having been conquered with their best and brightest people exiled. I’m sure Hezekiah saw what was happening to Israel and decided to implement some urgent reforms in order for Judah to avoid the same fate. Certainly we can and should learn from our own mistakes, but there is nothing wrong with learning from the mistakes of others as well.

It looks as though the Temple became a self-storage unit for Judah as it took 16 days simply to remove all the stuff that was in there that shouldn’t be have been (2 Chronicles 29:17). Likewise, before we can offer ourselves to God we need to remove the bad influences in our lives. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect, just available. But we can’t be available if we are filling our lives with things that will distract us from Him like television or ungodly friends. These things must be removed. Then we can present ourselves to God for His use (2 Chronicles 29:19).

Notice that Hezekiah praised God right from the Bible (2 Chronicles 29:30) by reading from the Psalms. When we need to find the words to praise Him, the words of David are a great place to look. I often find it hard to offer praise to God when I pray. It is easy to ask for things or to confess sin. But praise is tougher.

It took hard work and many people, but the goal was achieved: the Temple of the Lord was restored (2 Chronicles 29:35). If you have fallen away from God, as I did for a while, know that you too can be restored. It may take some time and a lot of hard work, but the alternative should not be an option for you. Make a relationship with God through Jesus your life’s goal.

Christians should agree on the core foundation of God’s word: we are sinners in need of a savior and that savior can only be, and, in fact, was, God. But we need to have an open mind when it comes to issues that are not core to the faith. This is exactly what Paul addresses in Romans 14.

As an example, Paul discusses people who are vegetarians and those who are not (Romans 14:2). God does not tell us that we cannot eat meat. Nor does He tell us that we must eat meat. God only tells us that we can eat meat (Genesis 9:3). Therefore we must not criticize or judge one another in matters such as these. Each one of us should do what our conscience tells us (Romans 14:5b, 14).

I heard a sermon last year from Northpoint Community Church in which the pastor talked about this. I liked the way he put it. When it comes to topics that we as believers disagree with we need to ask ourselves: “It it in THE way or is it in MY way?”. If something another believer is doing goes against God’s word, then we should confront it in love. If it is just a preference and not a commandment of God, then we should not judge or condemn. Jesus is the only judge (Romans 14:12).

Judging another brother or sister in Christ could cause them to stumble and fall away (Romans 14:13). We should use our freedom in Christ not to impose rules on others, but to build each other up (Romans 14:20).

But we should not be hypocrites to our own conscience either (Romans 14:23b). We could hold a strong conviction about doing or not doing something that is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. But if we do or don’t do it anyway, it is a sin.

The earth and everything in it and on it belongs to God, including people (Psalm 24:1). We own nothing. God has granted us use of His planet and He will judge us on how well we steward it. Being good stewards by doing things such as recycling won’t gain anyone entry into heaven. Nevertheless, we will have to give an account of how we took care of God’s possessions.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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Fatherly Influence

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Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 26-28:27; Romans 13:1-14; Psalm 23:1-6; Proverbs 20:11

King Uzziah does a lot of very good things during his lengthy reign as ruler of Judah. The fact that God gave him 52 years on the throne indicates that He was pleased with him (2 Chronicles 26:3).

One of the good things Uzziah did was to seek God (2 Chronicles 26:5). All success starts with seeking God. Yes, its possible to have success in this life without God – many atheists are quite successful. But that is success as defined by human standards, which are never as high as God’s.

More proof that God was pleased with Uzziah – He helped Uzziah fight Judah’s enemies (2 Chronicles 26:7-8). Nothing can make a person more successful than getting help from God.

But as we’ve seen so many times before in our Bible reading this year, success breeds pride and in 2 Chronicles 26:16 Uzziah becomes the latest to fall into this trap. When confronted about his sin he reacts with anger which belies his pride and immaturity (2 Chronicles 26:18-19). In response, God inflicts him with leprosy. No matter how close we walk with God for a while, God will not tolerate sin. We don’t accumulate “credit” with God for our good works so that we can offset our bad ones later on.

The next king of Judah is Uzziah’s son Jotham who was also pleasing to God for he followed in the footsteps of his father’s early days (2 Chronicles 27:2). We’ve seen a few kings who followed the godly example of their fathers. We’ve also seen a few bad kings who followed their father’s poor examples. From this we see the influence a father can have on his son. With divorce rampant in our society and many women choosing to be single moms, not to mention same-sex couples adopting children, the presence of fatherly influence in our society is fading. God calls men to be leaders of their families but we are raising a generation of boys who will become men without knowing how to lead.

Of course, a godly father is not guaranteed to sire a godly son and that brings us to King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1-2). Despite having a father and grandfather who did pretty well, Ahaz does some detestable things including sacrificing his own sons in fire (2 Chronicles 28:3). This refers to sacrifices made to Molech who was a false-god (aka “demon”). People sacrificed children by placing them on the outstretched arms of a metal statue of Molech then lighting a fire around the statue. The fire heated up the metal thereby burning the child to death. Abortion is our modern-day equivalent only instead of fire we use a vacuum.

Due to the sin of Ahaz, God lets Judah suffer defeat at the hands of the very ungodly Israel (2 Chronicles 28:6). This is a sobering thought. The spiritual health of our leaders has a direct relationship to our success as a nation. If our leadership is godly, we will enjoy successes. If our leadership is ungodly, we will have problems. I wonder how many people consider this on Election Day.

Speaking of authority, God gives us some commands regarding how we are to behave towards our leaders in Romans 13. All authority on earth comes from God (Romans 9:1) so our behavior towards authority figures reflects on our attitude towards God (Romans 9:2). This should not be interpreted to mean that God only gives us good leaders. We know He does not. He gave Israel Saul, their first king, who was terrible. He also gave both Israel and Judah some really bad kings later on.

I think God gives us poor leaders in order to get us to realize that we cannot put much stock in human beings. I don’t think we learn that lesson though. Poor leaders should cause us to turn to God but I don’t see that happening despite, in my opinion at least, some really bad government leaders (at all levels) over the past few decades. I’d really like to see a strong Christian become President or a congressional leader just to see how the fortunes of the United States might turn during his tenure.

God also requires us to pay our taxes (Romans 9:6). This has to be one of God’s least popular commands. But God says to do it, and therefore do it we must.

Finally, we are not to live like the world (Romans 9:13). We are to stand out as followers of Christ (Romans 9:14). This is tough for everyone but I think it is especially tough for young people who have so much peer pressure. We all face many crossroads every day: will we blend in with the crowd or will we stand up for Christ?

We read the very famous Psalm 23 today. There are many promises in this Psalm but they are all predicated on Jesus being a person’s shepherd. If someone is not one of Jesus’ sheep, then these wonderful promises are not for them.

Notice that Jesus leads the sheep to wonderful places: green meadows (good for grazing), peaceful streams (good for drinking). Jesus guides the sheep (Psalm 23:3). When things get a bit scary the sheep need not be afraid because it knows from prior experience that Jesus will not let anything bad happen to it. Notice too that Jesus prepares a feast for the sheep. The word “prepare” indicates that this was done beforehand – before the sheep was even ready for it. Jesus is way ahead of us – taking care of our needs before we even know we have the need.

A long time ago a read a great book about this Psalm called “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23“. I highly recommend it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

What A Great Question!

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Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 24-25:28; Romans 12:1-21; Psalm 22:19-31; Proverbs 20:8-10

Joash was only 7 years old when he became king. He did well, but only for a while (2 Chronicles 24:1-2). One good thing Joash did was repair the Temple which had been ransacked by the wicked Queen Athaliah who used the things made for God to serve the pagan god Baal (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The things in life meant for God should not be used to serve Satan. This includes you and me. We were made for God. Therefore we should not use our bodies or minds for any other purpose than to serve Him.

God could easily have miraculously restored the Temple without any effort by His people. But that is not how God works. He invites us to be a part of what He is doing. In this case some people gave money. Some supervised the construction. Some were masons and others were carpenters or metalworkers (2 Chronicles 24:10-12). Everyone has a talent that they can use to serve.

We learn that Joash was not a man of strong character in 2 Chronicles 24:17-19. He was heavily influenced by the good Jehoiada at first but after Jehoiada dies Joash is controlled by ungodly men. Joash seems to have been a people-pleaser who did not have much conviction of his own. He even resorts to killing Zechariah, the son of his mentor (2 Chronicles 24:21).

Here is a man who started out so well. Yet he finishes so poorly. There are many people like this. Many young people are raised by godly parents but when they go out on their own they hang out with the wrong people and leave God. Some return. Some do not.

One thing we all need in order to walk with God is accountability from other Christians. Its easy to let the lure of the world lead us astray. Very easy. After Jehoiada died Joash surrounded himself with less-than-godly men. And that ruined the rest of his life.

The next king of Judah, Amaziah, hires some mercenary soldiers from Israel but is warned by a prophet not to let these soldiers fight with Judah (2 Chronicles 25:6-8). Amaziah had a dilemma because he has already paid the soldiers (2 Chronicles 25:9). But Amaziah realized it would cost him much more to be disobedient to God. There is always a price to pay for obedience. Loss of money. Loss of prestige. Loss of friends or family. But as the prophet said, the Lord is able to give much more (2 Chronicles 25:9).

After Amaziah thoroughly defeats the Edomites he brings back some of the idols of Edom and offers sacrifices to them (2 Chronicles 25:14). Then God asks Amaziah: “Why do you turn to gods who could not even save their own people?” (2 Chronicles 25:15). What a great question!

After so much human history it seems strange to me that we still turn to the same things to help us cope with life that have never helped anyone cope like sex, drugs, or alcohol. The only One who can help us is Jesus. He is the cure-all for any pain we are going through and also for our biggest problem: where we will spend eternity.

Because God has been so merciful to us we should live a life that He will find acceptable (Romans 12:1). Notice that Paul “pleads” or “beseeches” us, his readers, to do this. We don’t have to. It is our choice how we are going to live. Nothing magical happens after we are saved to make us do good all the time. It requires work on our part to not copy what the world is doing and to let God transform our way of thinking (Romans 12:2). This is huge as our thoughts control our actions.

Having an impure or evil thought pop into our head is not sin. God allows Satan to tempt us. But allowing it to fester and grow is sin. Of course, acting upon it is sin as well. Our job is to let God renew our minds so that we dismiss these thoughts immediately.

Likewise we should walk in humility (Romans 12:3). None of us are any better than anyone else. We are all in the same boat – we are all in need of God’s mercy. Alone we are nothing. Rather we are all part of something larger… using the gifts that God has given us (Romans 12:3-8).

In the remainder of Romans 12 Paul lays out some rules for Christians to follow. Since Paul is writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who is God, we need to see these statements as commands. They are not optional. They are not suggestions. We are to do them. God will never command us to do something that we cannot do. But we cannot do them in our own strength because we are naturally evil. Instead we need to do them through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us just as He lived in Paul.

Yesterday in Psalm 22 we read the words of someone who thought they were abandoned by God, just as Jesus was on the cross. Today the Psalm concludes with a change of attitude. Even though the author was going through a terrible time, he shows tremendous confidence in God to rescue him (Psalm 22:20-21). He also praises God multiple times despite his dire circumstances (Psalm 22: 22, 23, 25). It is not easy to have this attitude when life is beating us up. But through the power of the Holy Spirit our minds can overcome any hardship by focusing on the tremendous love God has for us and the victory that awaits.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Foreign Policy

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Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 21-23:21; Romans 11:13-36; Psalm 22:1-18; Proverbs 20:7

There are two ways a leader can establish and retain his power. He can lead with love and serve those he leads, or he can instill fear in his followers through force. Unfortunately Jehoram, who became king of Judah after the death of his father Jehoshaphat, chose the latter (2 Chronicles 21:4).

Jehoshaphat was such a good king we have to wonder why his son was so evil. We read the answer in 2 Kings 21:8 where Jehoshaphat made the mistake of marrying Jeroham to Ahab’s daughter. When good and evil combine, evil wins. Every time.

Some wonder why God doesn’t punish evil immediately. God was well aware of Jehoram’s sin. But God had made a promise and He wasn’t going to break that promise (2 Chronicles 21:7). Similarly God has promised to come back and get us and take us to heaven with Him someday. That will happen. There is no doubt. In the meantime, we have to endure all the hardships that the world has to offer.

As we have seen many times this year, God allowed enemies to be victorious over Israel and Judah because of their sin (2 Chronicles 21:10). If Judah had followed God, God would have protected them. Its all very simple. It is the one and only foreign policy any country needs, even today.

In 2 Chronicles 22:10-12 Queen Athaliah takes control of Judah by killing off all the heirs to the throne except for her infant nephew who escapes. This is the same woman who godly King Jehoshaphat chose to be his son’s wife. She was the daughter of the evil King Ahab and Jezebel of Israel. What Jehoshaphat planned to be a political alliance that brought peace instead brought death and destruction to his sons and grandsons.

This is what happens when we try to make peace with evil and is exactly why God tells us to flee from evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). We are too weak to stand up to it. Sometimes we rationalize having ungodly friends or some ungodly behavior thinking we have it under control. That is never true. Sin always has us under control.

Athaliah had tried to kill all the heirs of David and thereby thwart God’s plan. Silly queen. Nothing is going to stop God. But she is not the only one who thinks that. So many people today think they are dealing a blow to God when they lead efforts to remove God from society. Silly people. God will have the last word. And for Athaliah and people like her, it will not be a pleasant one.

We read the events in 2 Chronicles 23 about a month ago in 1 Kings 11.

When the Jews rejected the Gospel it gave a chance for Gentiles to hear it too and be saved (Romans 11:15). But this was always God’s plan and even in the Old Testament non-Jews were saved. We can think of Ruth who was from Moab. Or the Egyptians to left Egypt with Moses. Or the peoples living in Canaan who recognized that the true God was the God of Israel.

God uses the metaphor of grafting to explain how Gentiles are brought into His family in Romans 11:17. But that is nothing for us to brag about (Romans 11:18). Jew or Gentile, we are only the branches. We are not the root which provides nourishment. We are not the trunk which provides strength. We are the most fragile part of the metaphor and need to remember that. It is only by God’s grace that we have been grafted in and can now partake of His nourishment and strength.

Romans 11:28 is such a great picture of God. Just because the Jews (most of them, anyway) are enemies of God they are still loved. Obviously this extends to anyone today who is an enemy of God: atheist, Muslim, Hindu, etc. God loves all people whether they love Him or not. God loved us before the world began and nothing we do – even denial of His existence – will change that.

When we understand something it loses its awesomeness. It becomes so familiar we take it for granted. But that is not possible with God (Romans 11:33). There is always something new to learn about God. This fact makes God even more wonderful and worthy of our praise!

Psalm 22 is reminiscent of Christ on the cross. When Jesus hung there dying He was abandoned by God. The perfect fellowship the Son and the Father enjoyed since eternity past was broken so that we could be saved. Crucifixion was a slow, exceedingly painful, and humiliating death made even worse by the mockers (Psalm 22:8). Sometimes we feel just the same – like God has abandoned us just when life is the hardest. We feel like we are being torn to pieces by lions while our life bleeds out of us (Psalm 22:13) and those around us do not care (Psalm 22:18).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

No Better Time

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Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Chronicles 19-20:37; Romans 10:14-11:12; Psalm 21:1-13; Proverbs 20:4-6

King Jehoshaphat returns home from a battle that he should never have gone on and one in which he acted so foolishly he should have been killed. Yet, by God’s mercy, he did not die. God was angry with Jehoshaphat for going to battle with the evil King Ahab (2 Chronicles 19:2). But, as is God’s way, He provides some encouragement even when He rebukes (2 Chronicles 19:3).

Can you imagine a U.S. president travelling around the country giving speeches not about economic policy but about how people need to believe in God? That is exactly what Jehoshaphat does in 2 Chronicles 19:4. I think Jehoshaphat did this in response to the encouragement God gave him in 2 Chronicles 19:3. Jehoshaphat did something he wasn’t supposed to do but God also reminded him about the good he had done. So he went out and did more.

Jehoshaphat also advises the judges throughout Judah to judge fairly, as representatives of God who will be judged by Him for their judgements (2 Chronicles 19:6,9). If only our judicial system worked this way today, rather than trying to please people and right centuries-old wrongs. In fact, every decision any of us make in life, even if we are not officially judges, should be made in light of the fact that God knows what we do and why we do it. If we keep that in mind we are all apt to make better choices.

When enemies come against Judah in 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat responds by leading the people in a fast (2 Chronicles 20:3). It has been my experience that a fast of a day or more can greatly enhance one’s relationship with God. Fasting fosters humility from the realization that we are sustained only by the grace of God. It therefore makes us more attune to Him.

Jehoshaphat also prays before the entire community of Judah (2 Chronicles 20:5). This is a great prayer. Notice that Jehoshaphat calls God the “ruler of all the kingdoms on the earth” (2 Chronicles 20:5). Back then people believed in local dieties. Each kingdom had their own “god”. But Jehoshaphat recognizes that there is one God – the God of Israel – who reigns over everyone.

The best line in the prayer is the final one in which Jehoshaphat admits that he does not know what to do and he is looking to God for help (2 Chronicles 20:12). There is no better time to pray to God than when we are helpless.

God immediately answers this prayer through Jahaziel who tells everyone to not be afraid for the battle is God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). God then gives everyone instructions on what to do even though they will not have to fight (2 Chronicles 20:17). Even though God will do the heavy lifting for us, there is still something for us to do. And our part, however small, is important because God will not do His part if we do not do ours.

Judah had great faith in God’s promise as evidenced by the fact that they placed singers in front of the soldiers (2 Chronicles 20:21). Throughout the Bible God defeats Israel’s enemies by confusing them and making them fight amongst themselves as He does here (2 Chronicles 20:22-24). He will do the same thing in the War of Gog and Magog which we will read about later this year.

No one can be saved without believing. And no one can believe without hearing the Gospel. And no one can hear the Gospel unless they are told it (Romans 10:14). That is why it is so important for those of us who know how to be saved to tell people. Whether they believe or not is their choice. But they can’t believe unless they hear. And they can’t hear if believers keep silent.

Even though Israel had rejected God, God had not rejected Israel (Romans 11:1) and Paul was proof of that, being a Jew himself. God does not need a lot of people. He can work with only a handful of people and he did so with the small number of Jews in Israel who actually did believe including Paul and Jesus’ disciples.

The Jews had been tripped up by their very relationship with God (Romans 11:9). They recognized that they were chosen by God to be His people on earth. The problem is they thought this extended into eternity and it did not. But all is not lost with God. He is the God of the second, third, and thousandth chance (Romans 11:11)

In our world today our leaders pride themselves on obtaining their position through hard work and self effort. They give zero credit to God. But in Psalm 21 King David, who ruled over Israel, recognizes that his success is 100% attributable to God. Even if we are not political or world leaders, or even a leader at our job or church, we all need to recognize that everything we are and everything we have is from God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Great Zeal

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 4-6:11; Romans 7:1-13; Psalm 17:1-15; Proverbs 19:22-23

The next king after Asa was his son, Jehoshaphat. God was with Jehoshaphat because he did not worship false gods and instead sought God and obeyed His commands (2 Chronicles 17:3). The principle is clear – and is one we’ve already read dozens of times thus far this year – if we stay with God He will stay with us. If we abandon God He will abandon us. God gives us what we want.

As we read through the Bible it sometimes sounds like God is a broken record – saying the same thing over and over. But that is because we are slow to understand. We need to be told what to do repeatedly before we do it, if we do it at all.

Can you imagine the President of the United States sending people throughout the country to teach the Bible? That is exactly what Jehoshaphat does in 2 Chronicles 17:7-9. There is no separation of church and state according to God. There are only believers and non-believers. And the believer’s job is to tell the non-believers about Him.

This includes leaders who will be held accountable for the people they lead. Recent U.S. presidents will have to answer for the spiritual well-being of the 300+ million people they lead. I wouldn’t want to come face-to-face with God having to explain that I, as president of a large nation, lead all those people away from Him.

Jehoshaphat makes a mistake in 2 Chronicles 18:1 when he marries Ahab’s daughter. Creating political alliances through marriage to keep peace was not unusual back then, but Jehoshaphat should have relied on God, not politics to protect Judah.

Before going into battle Jehoshaphat rightly inquires of God (2 Chronicles 17:4) but not before he already committed himself to go (2 Chronicles 17:3). He should have done this the other way around. As we’ve already read, breaking a promise, even a foolish one, is a sin. So no matter what the prophets said, Jehoshaphat was obligated to go to war.

King Ahab summon’s his “yes” men (400 of them!) who tell him that God is on his side (2 Chronicles 18:5) but Jehoshaphat recognizes them for what they are and requests a real prophet (2 Chronicles 18:6). One of the blessings that God gives us when we are walking closely with Him is discernment. Jehoshaphat had a good relationship with God and was therefore able to see that these 400 so-called prophets were not speaking for God.

Ahab reacts to Micaiah’s prophecy the way many people react to God’s truth: with a violent outburst (2 Chronicles 18:25). Many people think that if they can dismiss the truth from their lives they can replace it with their own truth that will miraculously become reality. But life doesn’t work that way.

Paul proves that God’s plan was always to save Gentiles as well as Jews by quoting the Old Testament prophet Hosea in Romans 9:25-26. God also never promised that all of Israel would be saved, but only a remnant (Romans 9:27 quoting Isaiah 10:22). Salvation does not come to someone because of their ancestry, as the Jews thought and, in fact, still think today.

While the Gentiles got right with God through faith (Romans 9:30) the Jews tried to get right with God by following the law (Romans 9:31-32). They tried to be good enough through their actions. And that was their big mistake.

Israel had great zeal for God, but that zeal was misdirected (Romans 10:2). Here we see that God will not reward people who earnestly and sincerely believe the wrong thing.

It is not enough to be on fire for God. We have to be on fire for the right God. It is not enough to deeply believe wonderful things. We have to deeply believe the right things. We cannot make our own way to heaven. The only way there is to follow the way that God has laid out. And that way is through Jesus the Christ (Romans 9:3-4).

Unless, of course, someone is able to follow all of God’s commands from birth to death (Romans 10:5). But no one can do that. The only way to heaven is by believing that Jesus is God and that He died and went to hell in our place and then was raised from the dead as proof that our sins had been paid for (Romans 10:9-10).

Psalm 20 reminds us that victory comes not from human ingenuity or military strength, but from God (Psalm 20:7). Israel was almost always at a military disadvantage against her enemies who had better technology. Yet God gave Israel victory after victory. We cannot place our trust in how many bombs we have or how big our army is. We need to trust God. Likewise, we need not be afraid of our enemy’s military strength. It will not be Iran’s nuclear bombs that destroy us. It will be God who will destroy us through Iran’s nuclear bombs because of our unfaithfulness to Him.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

The Better Reaction

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 14-16:14; Romans 9:1-24; Psalm 19:1-14; Proverbs 20:1

When Asa became king over Judah he removed the altars and pillars to foreign gods and directed the people of Judah to the true God (2 Chronicles 14:2-5). This lead to peace. When we follow God and forsake other gods and idols, God will protect us. But we don’t, He won’t. Thousands of years of human history and we still refuse to live by this simple and repeatedly proven truth.

After King Asa defeats the Ethiopians he is met by the prophet Azariah who reminds Asa that God will be with Judah as long as they are with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2). Its interesting that God would send this message to Asa after such a decisive triumph, not to mention one in which Asa had appealed to God for the victory. But we are most vulnerable to forget God after we have success. We are apt to think that the victory came from our own strength and we don’t need God anymore. So the timing of this message to King Asa is spot-on.

In response Asa removed the idols from the land and also restored the altar in the Temple which had apparently been neglected (2 Chronicles 15:8). Not only did he remove the wrong, but he also restored the right. Its not enough to simply remove sin from our lives. We need to replace that exiled sin with something else – something good and pure and holy: Jesus Christ.

In an amazing symbol of his dedication to God above all else King Asa even removes his own grandmother from her position because she had made an obscene image (2 Chronicles 15:16). Even his own family was not off limits to Asa. This should be an encouragement to us today. We should not tolerate any worship of idols or false gods among our spouses or children or even our extended families. If family members insist on ignoring the true God we need to have the courage to confront them and even break off our relationship with them if necessary in order to remove ungodliness from our own lives.

Unfortunately Asa makes a big mistake in 2 Chronicles 16 when he bribes a pagan king for protection from Israel – Judah’s own kinsmen (2 Chronicles 16:2). While his plan worked, Asa put his faith in a man – the King of Aram – rather than in God. Not only that but Asa bribed the King of Aram with what belonged to God – the gold from the Temple.

The depth of our spiritual maturity can be measured by how we react to being confronted by our sin – either by another person or by the Holy Spirit. Apparently Asa didn’t have a deep relationship with God because he reacts very angrily (2 Chronicles 16:9-1). The same was true for me when I was confronted about my faults and failures before being saved. When confronted about their faults, very few people readily accept such constructive criticism. Instead they get angry as Asa did. The better reaction is to humbly repent.

Paul addresses a burning question that arises from the fact that Israel rejected God: “Did God therefore fail to fulfill His promise?” The answer is “No” because God never promised that all of Israel would be saved. Since salvation is not based on heritage but on choice not every Jew is promised heaven (Romans 9:6).

In addition God chooses some people for certain purposes as He did when it came to Isaac and Esau (Romans 9:11) and also with Pharaoh (Romans 9:17). This brings up another question: “How can God blame someone for doing what they do since it is He that makes them do it?”.

Paul responds to this question in the next few verses. These verses are often used by some to back up the theory of predestination – that God chose, before the world began and before anyone was ever born, who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. I always struggled with predestination because it seems to go against the concept of an all-loving God. But I deferred to others who were more well-trained than myself in Bible interpretation. However, after pondering over these verses for years I’ve come to the conclusion that these verses are not talking about predestination at all.

First, I don’t think these verses are talking about eternal destiny but rather earthly matters. For example, God chose Jacob over Esau to be the one through whom the Jews would come. Also, God chose to work through Pharaoh to later deliver the Jews from Egypt. These are not eternal events. In both these cases God does not explain why He chose these people. Nor does He owe us an explanation. We don’t get to know – or have to know – everything.

Little children are notorious for this. They ask question after question wanting to know everything (remember when you were one of those?). But parents are under no obligation to explain all their decisions to their children. Likewise, God is not under any similar obligation.

But notice also that Paul phrases his response as suppositions (“What if…”). Paul does not say that God does this. He just says “What if” God does this.

The point is we do not have the right to question God’s choices. And that is all Paul is talking about here. He is not saying that God chose some people to go to hell.

No one can claim they didn’t know about God. Every day and every night the universe itself speaks to God’s existence (Psalm 19:1-2). No one needs to be told that God exists (Psalm 19:3-4). Likewise, God’s word – the Bible – with its perfection, clarity, and trustworthiness also speaks of God and is more valuable than all that the world has to offer (Psalm 19:7-10).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

God Is Not Against Us

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 11-13:22; Romans 8:26-39; Psalm 18:37-50; Proverbs 19:27-29

After yesterday’s split between Israel and Judah Rehoboam, king of Judah, decides to unite the kingdom by force. But God sends a man named Sehmaiah to deliver a very simple message to Rehoboam: “Do not fight. Go back home.” (2 Chronicles 11:1-4)

Shemaiah was just one man with a simple message from God. But by obeying God and delivering this message he was able to hold back 180,000 of the best troops in Judah. God’s word has power. We should not be afraid to deliver it to people who so desperately need to hear it.

Meanwhile in Israel it became illegal to worship the true God (2 Chronicles 11:14). With the decisions being made by our government recently, this is clearly the same path the United States is going down. Our government fears the name of Jesus and is doing all it can to remove Him from our society, thinking this is wise policy that fosters unity and progress. Such decisions can only end in disaster.

The Levite priests left all they had to serve God (2 Chronicles 11:14) just like the apostles will do hundreds of years later. Doing the right thing comes at a cost. Many lay people also migrated from Israel to Judah (2 Chronicles 11:16). I have thought about leaving the United States myself due to the self-destructive path we are heading down. But when I examine the countries to which I would move I find that they are no better. The entire world is rejecting Jesus at an alarming rate.

Its easy to think we don’t need God when things are going well and that is just what Rehoboam and the people do in 2 Chronicles 12:1. Because of their unfaithfulness God sent an enemy against them. God does not change. Therefore we can expect Him to react the same way towards the United States. September 11, 2001 was a warning. I expect even worse to happen soon.

Even though Rehoboam humbled himself before God, God still sends King Shishak of Egypt against Judah (2 Chronicles 12:6-9). Even though we may be humbled and repentant, God knows exactly how much humility is needed. Usually it is much more than we think we need.

When I read the decisions made by Israel and Judah in the Old Testament and the subsequent decline of these nations I can’t help but see amazing parallels with the United States. Israel allowed anyone to become a priest (2 Chronicles 13:9). In the United States (and other countries) many denominations defy God’s commands by allowing women and homosexuals to lead congregations.

Notice there is no separation of church and state in God’s view – it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that the nation followed God’s commands. But the government failed. Its simple: if we do what Israel did we are going to get what Israel got.

Victory comes from trusting God and nothing else (2 Chronicles 13:18).

The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to help us when we are weak, including when we don’t know what to pray for (Romans 8:26). I often kneel before God not knowing what to say. It is then that the Holy Spirit will summon the words for me to speak. Sometimes my prayers start off pathetic but end up inspiring me and encouraging me. Its really amazing.

Yesterday we read that believers are not immune from trouble. Yet God can use that trouble for good (Romans 8:28). Notice that God uses “all” things, not just “some” things, to work together for our good. So often when we go through difficult times we think that nothing good can come out of it. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel is.

God’s end-game for us is to become like Jesus (Romans 8:29). The process by which this happens is 1) God calls us 2) those who respond are justified and 3) glorified (Romans 8:30). While glorification doesn’t happen until we enter heaven, God uses the past tense here to indicate that it is a certainty… it will happen simply because God says so.

So we can see that God is not against us (Romans 8:31). Everything He does is because He wants nothing for us other than the absolute best He has to offer. As proof of this all we need to remember is that God didn’t spare His Son for us, so why would He hold back anything (Romans 8:32).

So even though men may accuse us we have been declared righteous by God (Romans 8:33). And even though men may condemn us we have Jesus interceding for us (Romans 8:34). The troubles we face do not mean we are separated from God (Romans 8:35-39).

Scripture is so consistent. As we move from one part of the Bible to another we see the same message. Case in point: today’s reading in Psalm 18 reinforces what we just read in Romans. God holds us safely beyond the reach of our enemies (Psalm 18:48). Life may not always be fair or easy – God never said it would be. But through it all He is holding us. He will never let go.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Adopted

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 8:11-10:19; Romans 8:9-25; Psalm 18:16-36; Proverbs 19:26

Solomon obviously knew that his Egyptian wife was not the woman he should have married (2 Chronicles 8:11). He perhaps married her for political purposes – to keep the peace between Israel and Egypt. While this seemed wise, it would turn out to cause him tremendous problems. How often does something seem like the right thing to do at the time only to turn out to be a big mistake? Before acting we should consult God through His word, through prayer, and by seeking the counsel of godly people.

When the Queen of Sheba comes to visit King Solomon she is overwhelmed by the riches in Israel. Notice, too, that she was impressed with the organization of Solomon’s officials (2 Chronicles 9:4). As we’ve seen numerous times thus far this year, God is a god of organization and order.

These riches as well as the organization of Israel made such an impression on the Queen that she offers praise to God (2 Chronicles 9:8). This was exactly how God intended to use Israel. His plan was to bless them with so much that other people would be so blown away that they would believe in Him too. But this was all dependent on Israel. If Israel obeyed God their blessing would continue. If they disobeyed God would remove His blessing (Deuteronomy 28:1, 10).

At this point Israel was obviously still obeying God. But as we know this did not last much longer. By the end of Solomon’s reign Israel is a disobedient mess.

Notice that Solomon reigned all the way from the border of Egypt to the Euphrates River (2 Chronicles 9:26). But his influence was even more than that as kings from all over sought his advice and paid him tribute annually (2 Chronicles 9:23-24). Clearly God had kept His promises to Solomon. But Solomon backslid horribly as we read in 1 Kings several weeks ago.

One of my favorite quotes is from Abraham Lincoln and goes: ““Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Today we see Solomon’s son Rehoboam character fail after he assumes power upon Solomon’s death.

Rather than heed the advice of seasoned men, Rehoboam followed the advice of his young and inexperienced peers (2 Chronicles 10:6-14) which led to the split of the nation into two separate kingdoms. Notice that Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders before consulting with the younger men. Obviously Rehoboam simply wanted to find someone who agreed with his own opinions as a means of justifying what he believed. Non-believers do the same thing today. They feel justified concluding that there is no God because some other people think the same thing. But that is the blind leading the blind, to borrow a Biblical phrase (Matthew 15:14).

There is one indelible feature that identifies a Christian: the Holy Spirit living inside of them (Romans 8:9-11). I can’t explain it, but the night I was saved in June 1992 I felt completely different. There was a new presence inside me that I didn’t understand but which was very obvious. I knew nothing about the Holy Spirit that night. But I soon learned that this is what had happened to me – God took up permanent residence in my body.

In John 1:12 we learned that not all people are children of God. In fact, no one is born a child of God. We are all born separated from God but can be adopted into His family by being born-again. Here in Romans 9:14 we see confirmation of that. Only those people who have the Holy Spirit are God’s children.

Our adoption into God’s family is complete when the Holy Spirit enters us. At that point God is our father and we can even call Him “Daddy” (Romans 9:15), which I often do. God is not a distant “father”. He is our dad. There is a big difference between the two.

Children are their parent’s heirs. Likewise, we who are born-again and are God’s children are, along with Christ, His heirs (Romans 8:17). We will share God’s glory someday. But before that we will suffer just like Christ. Unlike some who preach a prosperity gospel, God makes it clear: its a package deal. Life will be tough now. But it will all be worth it (Romans 9:18-23).

Yesterday in Psalm 18 we saw how God comes to the aid of His children who are in trouble. The Psalm continues today with more imagery of how God fights for us. When we are too weak for our enemies, (notice how they attack when we are vulnerable), God supports us (Psalm 18:17-18). He rescues us because He likes us (Psalm 18:19). What a concept! God, who created everything, likes me. He likes you. If you ever feel unwanted, unliked, or unloved just remember this verse.

Notice that God takes care of us in the most perfect way. He makes us surefooted (Psalm 18:33). He trains us and strengthens us (Psalm 18:34). He makes a wide and easy path (not a narrow, difficult one) so that we don’t stumble (Psalm 1836). God is continually looking out for us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

The Punchline Of A Humiliating Joke

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Today’s Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 6:12-8:10; Romans 7:14-8:8; Psalm 18:1-15; Proverbs 19:24-25

Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles is a great example of what a prayer should be. He starts off by thanking God for keeping His promises (2 Chronicles 6:15). He then asks God to keep His other promises (2 Chronicles 6:16). God wants us to count on the promises He has made – that is part of faith.

According to Solomon our prayers should be earnest and humble (2 Chronicles 6:21). Too often we pray as if God owes us something. Rather we should pray with a humble spirit of gratitude for all God has already done for us.

With so many negative things happening to the United States in the past decade or so, we constantly hear people wondering why such things happen. Well, this chapter tells us. It is God who sends defeat upon a country at the hands of its enemies (2 Chronicles 6:24). It is God who sends drought and weather-related events (2 Chronicles 6:26, 28).

These verses also tell us why God sends these things. He does it because of our sin. He’s not trying to get us back, He’s trying to win us back by reminding us that He exists. But we blame international policy or global warming for these problems.

But there is still hope, albeit, in my opinion, a very faint one. God made a promise to Israel in 2 Chronicles 7:14 in which He vowed to forgive their sins and restore them if they would approach Him with humility, turn from their sin, and seek Him. This was a promise made specifically to Israel (“people who are called by My name”). But the principle is still applicable today.

While God does not make any promise to forgive and restore the United States if we humbly seek Him and turn from our sin, it is clear that He won’t if we don’t. But if we do then maybe God will forgive us (and, boy, do we need to be forgiven) and restore us to the glory that we once had so many decades ago.

God makes another promise in 2 Chronicles 7:19-20, but this one is tied to Israel’s disobedience. If they disobeyed and served other gods, He would uproot them from their land and make them a mockery to the surrounding nations. This is exactly the road Israel took and, unfortunately, this is the same road I see the United States taking. We ignore the true God. We have many other gods that we spend much more time with: television, sports, sex, career, etc. I fear that our enemies will one day soon conquer us and the United States will be the punchline of a humiliating joke for centuries.

The constant struggle of a Christian is eloquently described by Paul in Romans 7 today. People who ignore God don’t know or care if what they do is wrong. But when a person is born-again he or she becomes aware of their sin. The problem is, no one can break free from it – not even the great apostle Paul (Romans 7:15-23).

Notice that Christians are given a new mind (Romans 7:23). We are in agreement with God’s law whereas previously we were not. But inside our bodies there is still a sinful power that is fighting against this new mindset.

As someone who has been a Christian for over 20 years I can tell you that this is a war that is waged daily and will never cease until the day I die. Some battles I win. Some I lose. But…

… there is hope! Despite being a child of God who struggles with sin, God will never condemn me (Romans 8:1). This justifiably famous verse is a great comfort to believers when we sin. We often condemn ourselves. Satan always condemns us. The world calls us hypocrites. But God, who already forgave, still calls us His sons and daughters.

If someone is not at least convicted by their sin then they most likely are not saved and don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them (Romans 8:5). The very fact that it bothers someone when they sin is at least some proof that they are saved.

When David was in trouble God helped him (Psalm 18). But notice that God didn’t just saunter in at His leisure. He came running with His all His power and might (Psalm 18:7-14). Christians are God’s children (John 1:12). And God will not hesitate to fight for us against any person or spirit that tries to harm us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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