Month: June 2023

“Ask God”

Recently and very unexpectedly I discovered a hidden gem in a unique, locally owned restaurant while visiting family. On the wall hung a large sign titled “Ask God” that contained astounding nuggets of wisdom and spiritual understanding expressed as brief prayers. In a short series of posts, I hope to share some of the brief prayers with you, and then explore a few of the spiritual insights to be gained from them. The first prayer listed was:

I asked God to take away my pride. God said, “No, it’s not for me to take it away, but for you to give it up.”

The Scriptures contain many references to pride; in fact, the pride of life is one of three basic types of sin:

So now we need to ask the question, “How can I effectively give up my pride?”

The Bible confirms that, yes, we are commanded to humble ourselves. By doing this, God will be our perfect Promoter.

HUMBLE: To make meek and submissive to God’s divine will; lower ourselves in our own estimation.

[STAYING UNDER] the MIGHTY HAND OF GOD: Faithfully obeying the Lord and not running away from what He is trying to accomplish in and through us.

The Holy Spirit will help us in our endeavor to be submissive to God’s will rather than our will, and to faithfully obey Him no matter how it affects us personally. John 16:13 explains that the Spirit will lead us in to all truth…we need to be able to truthfully examine ourselves regarding the often subtle ways we operate in pride. John 16:8 teaches that the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin…our pride is a major area where sin can manifest in our lives. With enabling from the Spirit, we will be able to “give up” the pride that interferes with receiving spiritual blessing and becoming more like Christ.

A King Like No Other- Conclusion

The third way King Josiah turned to the Lord was with all of his might, as recorded in 2 Kings 23:25. The magnitude of devotion displayed in Judah’s celebration of Passover which Josiah proclaimed after he had made the covenant before the Lord, demonstrated clearly that they celebrated mightily with gratitude:

Perhaps the most concrete demonstration of Josiah’s godly might was his thorough and complete cleansing of Judah and the people from idolatrous worship and the instruments of such evil worship. 2 Kings 23 describes in detail the extent to which King Josiah carried out his quest to return the people to the one true God. The factor that set his efforts apart from other kings is that he left nothing and no one that could compromise their repentance.

Are we willing to tear down thoroughly and completely the compromises in our lives that we know are not pleasing to God, nor are they in His will for us? I pray that I will—with the fervor of Josiah and with the power of the Holy Spirit—walk with the Lord with all of my heart, soul, and strength.

A King Like No Other- Part 3

The second way Kind Josiah turned to the Lord was with all of his soul. It is widely accepted that the soul is a person’s mind, will, and emotions.

In 2 Kings 23: 1-3, we learn that Josiah made a covenant before God that involved submitting his soul—his will, emotions, and mind—to the will of the Lord. He gathered all the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the house of the Lord and read to them all the book of the covenant, after which he made a renewal of the covenant:

Josiah understood that Judah needed to put God’s will before their own; and, the scriptures contained and revealed His will. Therefore, the covenant Josiah made along with the people was a solemn commitment to “perform the words of this covenant” (v. 3).

May we as believers today take the actions of Josiah to heart and determine (covenant) to follow the Lord by keeping His commandments and carrying out His will with all of our hearts and souls.

A King Like No Other- Part 2

As we have read, King Josiah loved the Lord with all of his heart, soul, and might. In the next few posts, we will highlight examples from biblical accounts that clearly demonstrated these traits in King Josiah.

First, we are told that King Josiah loved the Lord with all of his heart: We read in 2 Kings 22 that King Josiah began a massive restoration of the house of the Lord out of reverence and love for Him, because it was the sacred place the Lord had chosen for His name. Furthermore, Josiah demonstrated a profound love and respect for God’s word. In fact, after the book of the law was discovered during the restoration of the temple and read to Josiah, he rent his clothes—he realized and understood the extent to which their fathers had not obeyed God’s law.

In those times, renting clothes was a sign of extreme emotional distress. King Josiah loved the Lord with all of his heart to the point he could not bear the disrespect and disregard that had been shown toward God’s word and temple. He was also distraught because he learned that the people’s idol worship and evil practices would bring God’s severe judgement—they had been woefully disobedient to the Word of God.

A question we would do well to consider is whether we hold the Scriptures in the same high regard as King Josiah; are they precious to us because they are God’s words—His precious gift to us? Do we obey His commands with all our hearts out of love for Him?

A King Like No Other

How could this amazing statement be made about a king—Josiah—who is not well-known to us like King David, King Solomon, or even King Saul? However, there was no king before or after him that loved and served the Lord so righteously and completely; therefore, it will be of great value for us to discover what made this king worthy of our praise and imitation.

This high standard of devotion that King Josiah exercised is first referred to in Deuteronomy 6: 3 & 5 as a commandment of the Lord given by Moses to the children of Israel, “Hear O Israel and observe to do it; that all may go well with thee…And thou shall love the Lord with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” The command is repeated in the New Testament by Jesus Himself as the first of the two greatest commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12: 30…see also Matthew 22: 37-38 & Luke 10:27).

Admittedly, I was not aware that someone had been specifically cited in the Bible who had faithfully kept this commandment, much less that this person lived back in the history of the Old Testament. I found it very encouraging that Josiah—whose father and grandfather did evil in the sight of the Lord throughout their reigns as kings—did what was right in the sight of the Lord throughout his reign. In fact, the scripture says that he “turned not to the right hand or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2); in other words, Josiah followed and did not stray from God’s narrow path of righteousness.

Jesus made it clear in His response to the scribe in Mark 12 that the command to love the Lord so fully and completely is an instruction to all of his followers, which includes believers living in our day and time. In order for us to better understand how to love God with all of our being, we will examine the life and reign of King Josiah more closely in the next post.

Break the Bronze Serpent into Pieces- Part 2

The children of Israel had preserved the brazen serpent, which Moses had fashioned according to God’s instruction, and made it into an idol—an object of their worship. In the time of Moses, the Israelites were healed and delivered from their plight when they looked upon the serpent on the pole. Perhaps the children of Israel who lived in Hezekiah’s time believed they could obtain the same benefit of miraculous healing—after all, if it worked for their ancestors, then surely it would work for them. Not only did they look upon it, they burned incense and began to worship it—they did not acknowledge that the bronze serpent of Moses had no power, it was just a “bronze thing”, and that the miraculous power to heal and restore had come from the Lord and no other.

We know today that the brazen serpent Moses lifted up on a pole pointed to the cross of Jesus, the time when He would be lifted up for our benefit. And thus, it is Jesus that we need to look to first and foremost in all things.

But regardless of our knowledge of this prophetic truth, what if we—like the children of Israel—still find ourselves looking to the “bronze thing” at times in our lives. In other words, when we continue to look to something or someone as a source of benefit instead of going back to our primary and supreme source—Jesus Christ—we in effect make them idols. For example: We may have experienced great benefit through jobs that brought promotion and financial independence to us; so then do these characteristics of a “good” career become our guide as to what jobs we accept, without diligently seeking the Lord in the matter? The lesson hopefully to be gained is this: It is needful to be aware that good things and good people can become as idols in our lives when we look to them instead of the Lord for our ultimate guidance, provision, and deliverance.

Break the Bronze Serpent Into Pieces

Did you realize that the Israelites kept the bronze serpent Moses made and regarded it as object of worship long after the account in Numbers 21:6-9? Furthermore, we learn in 2 Kings 18 that King Hezekiah gave it a name—Nehushtan, meaning “piece of brass” or “the brass thing.” Most likely, Hezekiah wanted to emphasize to the people that it was simply a powerless piece of brass despite the fact that it had been associated with healing and deliverance in their past. As with every detail included in God’s word, there is something of value to be gained by examining it more closely with thorough and prayerful exploration; then, undoubtedly, wisdom can be gained and applied for our benefit today.

During the time of Moses, when the Lord ordained the brazen serpent for healing, the people greatly benefited; however, the instruction to look at the serpent on the pole for deliverance was an instruction only for that time and place.

Later in Israel’s history, Hezekiah broke the “brass thing” to pieces because the children of Israel had made it into an idol.

In the next post, we will discover how these incidents can speak to our lives today…

The Secret of Gratitude

According to scripture, there are many excellent reasons to develop gratitude; some of them are:

  • Philippians 4: 6-7- Gratitude/thanksgiving is God’s will for us
  • 1 Chronicles 16:34- Give God gratitude because He is good and loving
  • Psalm 9:1- It is an obedient and good choice that we can willfully make
  • Colossians 3:15- It is a command from the Lord to be thankful
  • Luke 22:19- Jesus Himself gave thanks
  • Nehemiah 12: 27-43- Gratitude and joy are connected: Thankfulness leads to joy and joy leads to gratitude

HOW TO DEVELOP GRATITUDE:

Remember the past: Review the ways that the Lord has been faithful in protecting, providing, leading, healing, counseling, and delivering you and others throughout your life.

Consciously regard the present: Take notice and meditate on each and every blessing throughout the day. Be thankful for resolution or deliverance from mistakes you made; and, the avoidance of mistakes that you might have made without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Give thanks for being able to evade mishaps, such as narrowly avoiding a wreck. Give thanks that the Lord has saved you and is always with you no matter what happens that day.

Give thanks for the future: Realize that God is the same…yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8); therefore, we can completely depend on and trust Him just as in the past. We can rest in the fact that our Father’s love never fails (Psalm 136:1); and, Jesus will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5)..

Chariots of Fire

Syria was warring against Israel when the king of Syria sent his horses and chariots to find and capture the prophet Elisha out of the city of Dothan. Understandably, Elisha’s servant was alarmed and fearfully asked the great prophet what could be done. Then Elisha gave him assurance that the Lord had sent His own armies, and prayed for the servant to be able to see it for himself:

There are times when fear may blind us to the Lord’s powerful provision that is constantly available to us—provision that is superior to any power of darkness. We simply fail to understand the big picture in various kinds of challenging situations; situations in which it seems that we cannot overcome old patterns of behavior—our human internal weaknesses. Additionally, we may perceive that we are overpowered by external forces—the “horses and chariots” of Satan and this world. Truthfully speaking, it is easy to get wrapped up in our own limited physical and emotional reality. As one anonymous commentator put it, ” Did he [the servant] forever understand the extent of God’s protective care? We must live by faith that the full reality is represented by those brief and beautiful glimpses of the bigger picture.”

Dear Heavenly Father, We praise your name and give you the glory for your great care and provision, even those times when we cannot comprehend it with our own senses. You are always faithful and good—thank you for the victory Jesus provided over all the powers of darkness! Help us Holy Spirit to live by faith that we are surrounded by our Father’s chariots of fire—His power and protection; and may we always live and move and have our being in our Lord’s spiritual reality. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Please play in the background as you read the post:

Lies are Deception- Part 3

When Jesus was asked by His disciples what would be the signs of His coming and of the end of the age, Jesus gave this somewhat puzzling answer, “Take heed that no man deceive you…” (Matthew 24:4). However, His answer makes sense when taken with the whole counsel of scripture: deception will be an ever increasing threat that we will need to pay attention to and guard against. Notice the warning in 2 Timothy 3:13 that as the end of the world approaches, deceivers will become worse and worse; and therefore, believers must be more and more diligent to judge the fruits of prophets and teachers.

The Apostle Paul continued in preparing believers against deception, warning them not to be beguiled by Satan, whose intention was to lead them away from the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3). Perhaps the most sobering testament to the seriousness of end time lying deception is found in Revelation 12:9, in which we find that Satan was able to deceive the whole world. Taking all these things into consideration, it seems of utmost importance to avoid participation in worldly deception by taking great care to refrain from any kind of lying and instead, choosing to speak truth in love:

Making every effort to present ourselves approved to God,”a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Lies are Deception- Part 2

DECEIT- The act of representing as true what is known to be false; lying; the misleading of a person.

DECEITFUL- Tending to mislead, deceive, or ensnare; apt to lie or cheat; fraudulent.

Have you noticed that lies pervade virtually every aspect of society today? The fact is, we have all withheld truth at one time or another in order to avoid unpleasant experiences such as needlessly offending or angering someone—we realized that remaining silent was appropriate. However if we are to be honest with ourselves, there may have been times that it was just easier to tell a “white lie” or a half-truth because we were fearful that others would otherwise reject or penalize us. In effect, we chose not to speak truth because we valued the opinion of others over the Lord’s (see Galatians 1:10), much like Ananias and Sapphira. As believers, we know that the Lord considers lying to be an abomination (Proverbs 12:22); Scripture clearly states that lies originate from an evil source—Satan, who is the father of lies and in whom there is no truth and no light (John 8:44).

Proverbs 12:22 not only states that lying lips are an abomination to God, but also that those who tell the truth are His delight. Therefore, it would be wise to consider some aspects of lying in order to avoid them and always deal truthfully:

  • Partial truth; withholding a portion of the truth- Eph. 4:25
  • Embellishment/exaggeration of the truth- Luke 22:33-34
  • False witness/slander/false gossip- Ex. 20:16; Prov. 24:28; Ps. 15: 2-3; Prov. 14:5
  • Flattery- Psalm 12:2-3; Prov. 26:8
  • Not doing what you say you will do- 1 John 2:5; Eccl. 5:4-7; Mt. 5:37
  • Misleading by what you say or fail to say- Psalm 34:13

Essentially, anything that misleads, misrepresents, or confuses the truth is a form of lying. Despite the fact that sometimes truthfulness may cost us, let us speak truth in love and so prove to be a faithful friend to others:

Lies are Deception

Reference scripture: Acts 5: 1-11

In this passage, we learn the unusual story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. The account is unusual because it takes place in the New Testament, under the New Covenant of Grace; yet, we will find that immediate judgement and pronounced discipline took place.

The early church was marked by community and remarkable generosity. For example, early believers sold land and possessions in order to share with those in need—perhaps most notable among these believers was Barnabas (see Acts 4:36). Ananias, not to be outdone by Barnabas and the others, sold a possession but kept back part of the price. Apparently, it appeared that he was giving everything by either claiming he had or simply by failing to disclose that he withheld part of the proceeds. Peter said, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land (v. 3)? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God (v.4).” As soon as he heard Peter’s words, he fell dead. Virtually the same scenario happened to Sapphira when she was asked about the price of the land—she lied and also fell dead. They both had deceived the church.

The consequence of Ananias’ and Sapphira’s lies may seem extreme…maybe a bit shocking. After all, where was grace and forgiveness that characterized the New Covenant? The story clearly demonstrates the importance of truth, especially when the very foundations of the church were being laid. As we have seen, Peter had asked why Ananias had allowed Satan to fill his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. The couple chose to listen to Satan, the father of lies, and acted in accordance with the character of the devil himself. Furthermore, by lying to impress others, they demonstrated that they regarded the opinion of people over the Lord’s. It is clear that purity and total devotion to the Lord was necessary for the church to grow and flourish as Jesus intended; we must believe it is also necessary in today’s church. “Choose you this day whom you will serve…(Joshua 24:15).”

I never want to allow Satan to fill my heart by deceiving others…

Instead, I want to choose and serve the One who is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life—Jesus!

In the next few posts, we will examine the absolute necessity for truth among believers in order for the church to be a light in our dark world.

Quote for Today

Harry Ironside, who preached during the early 1900’s, warned about the dangers/deception of mixing truth with error (lies) in the following quote*:

Error is like leaven of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). Truth mixed with error is the equivalent of all error, except that it is more innocent looking, and, therefore more dangerous.

*Credit for quote: Lighthouse Trails Research Journal

Do You Have a Good Word?

Fear, problems, sorrow, and anxiety can become such a heavy weight that a person can become weighed down and afflicted in their innermost being; they can reach the point of being “stooped” down under the burden. Thankfully, we read in Proverbs 12:25 that it is possible for this depressed state to actually be turned into gladness with a good word! Our good (pleasant, agreeable, appropriate, encouraging, kind, morally good) words can lift the hearts of others (cheer them up; bring joy)—what an amazingly simple but powerful gift we can give to others.

There may be times we are unsure exactly what to say, but we know something needs to be said. If we have filled our minds with scripture, we are more fully equipped to offer good words. Furthermore, we can claim Psalm 49:3 (“My mouth shall speak of wisdom”) when we know and understand scripture, writing it on our hearts (meditating on and memorizing), so that we can share words guided by the Holy Spirit when opportunities arise.

The Wise Woman of Abel

As I continued to read through the Bible yesterday, I came to a passage in 2 Samuel 20: 14-22 about the heroic actions of a wise woman from the city of Abel Beth-Maacah. In this account, a man named Sheba had lead a rebellion against King David and subsequently had to flee from David’s warrior-general, Joab. Sheba barricaded himself in the fortified city of Abel where Joab launched a powerful siege, battering the wall of Abel with the intent of waging war to capture Sheba. Then, seemingly from nowhere came the wise woman of Abel, who began to authoritatively negotiate an agreement with Joab to deliver the people of her city from certain destruction. During a time in which women were generally held in low regard, a lone woman boldly and courageously stepped forward:

Amazingly, the leader of David’s army—Joab—heeded her words and formulated an agreement that if Sheba would be delivered to him, the city would be spared. The wise woman immediately replied, “His head shall be thrown to thee over the wall” (2 Samuel 20:21).[!]

Sometimes we might ask ourselves whether we can make a difference—whether any one person can use their voice to intervene in a crisis. While there is power in numbers, the Bible attests to the power of the individual who dares to act in wisdom and courage: Ecclesiastes 7:19, “Wisdom strengthens a wise person more than ten rulers who are in a city.” Therefore, with this in mind, we are well equipped as followers of Christ to be that person, if the Lord so leads:

It is my prayer for you:

Two Kings: Two Different Hearts – Part 3

Presently, the world appears to be full of compromise in politics, moral and social standards, and—sadly—in some Christian circles. However, as we have seen, the Lord’s way is not the way of compromise with evil or darkness in any manner:

These scriptures do not mean to treat others with disrespect or without love and concern; in fact, the Bible teaches to love your enemies, do good to them, and pray for them:

This question might be asked, “How can we love and do good to everyone and at the same time refrain from compromising with them?” The answer lies in the above verse—love them with the love of Jesus and pray for them. This God-kind of love (agape) rests in and acts out of the word of God, which never condones sin in our lives or anyone else’s. Genuine agape (selfless) love will risk rejection for standing by Biblical truth, because truly loving others involves looking out for their eternal as well as their earthly welfare, regardless of the cost to us. Therefore, it is helpful to keep two things in mind about loving others while refusing to compromise concerning the Lord and His instructions:

Keeping these things in mind, we need to guard against developing a heart like Saul’s that compromised when it was convenient; instead, we should determine to develop a reverent heart like David’s—loving the Lord above all else, and giving preeminence to His will.

Two Kings: Two Different Hearts – Part 2

In contrast to King Saul, David was someone whom Samuel described as, “…a man after his [the Lord’s] own heart” (2 Samuel 13: 14). As with Saul, a few incidences recorded in 1 Samuel demonstrate the type of heart David had; unlike Saul, David’s words and actions attested to a deep reverential fear of the Lord:

1 Samuel 17: 23-37—The terrifying Philistine giant, Goliath, had taunted and challenged Saul’s army to send a man to fight him; the winner would obtain victory for their entire army. No one would take up the challenge (including King Saul) until a young shepherd (David) stepped forward. David said, “…who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the army of the living God?” David did not focus on himself; instead, he focused on the Lord, who was the true Commander of His army. We read in verse 37 that David believed that it was the Lord who had always delivered him from dangerous attacks by lions and bears, and thus he trusted this would be exactly what God would do concerning Goliath. The outcome: David—refusing Saul’s armor—fought in the name of the Lord using a sling and a stone, effectively delivering Israel from destruction by slaying Goliath.

Another revealing trait of David was his enormous respect for the one God had anointed—King Saul—despite the fact that Samuel had already anointed David himself and the Spirit of the Lord had come upon him (1 Samuel: 16:13). As mentioned earlier, Saul was jealous of David and relentlessly sought his life; nevertheless, David passed up at least two opportunities where he could have easily taken the life of Saul and put an end to the peril he had endured. David’s reverential treatment of the king did not rest in Saul’s character; rather, David’s worshipful fear and love of God moved him to treat his enemy in a way that would leave any judgement or vengeance to the Lord. The outcome: Saul’s life came prematurely to a tragic end, but David successfully ruled Israel for forty years; and the Lord preserved David’s name and generations forever through Jesus Christ.

We will examine how these truths apply to us in today’s world in the next post…

Two Kings: Two Different Hearts

Many are familiar with the Biblical narrative of King Saul and King David, which is contained in 1 Samuel, chapters 9-13. One king had a righteous fear of the Lord, while the other was lacking in his reverential regard for Him. Spoiler Alert: King Saul was lacking in proper fear of the Lord, and King David had a heart for God—one full of awe, respect, love, and worship.

In light of yesterday’s discussion about what the fear of the Lord actually means, let’s look at a few of the actions and attitudes of King Saul:

1 Samuel 13:8-12—King Saul disregarded the instructions of God’s prophet Samuel and did not wait for him to come to Gilgal to make the burnt offering. Instead, Saul took it upon himself to make the offering because he felt Samuel delayed too long and the people were growing too restless. In other words, Saul presumed to know better what needed to be done and took action by his own authority. The consequence: The Lord did not establish his kingdom in Israel forever and his rule would end; God would choose another king.

1 Samuel 14: 24-32—Saul made an oath against his own army that if they ate anything before nightfall (after they had battled to exhaustion), they would be cursed. The curse was made to demonstrate their loyalty to him as he took vengeance on the enemy. Instead of focusing their loyalty and faith on the Lord, Saul made an impulsive vow that satisfied his own ego and anger. The consequence: Because of their hunger and faintness, the army ravenously devoured the spoils of the enemy; and, sinned against God because—in their haste—they ate the food with the blood still in it.

1 Samuel 15: 9-28—Saul only partially obeyed the word of the Lord when he gained victory over the Amalekites. The Lord had spoken through Samuel for the Israelites to completely destroy everyone and everything pertaining to the Amalekites; instead, Saul decided that he would do something even better for the Lord by keeping the things that were good, and destroying the things that he considered vile. He assumed that by using the animals as a sacrifice to the Lord instead of killing them, God would be appeased. Furthermore, Saul told Samuel that he had obeyed God! Saul did what was right in his own eyes and even attempted to manipulate God for his own ends. The consequence: This became the day that God rejected Saul as king and tore the kingdom of Israel from him. Then the Lord sought another king, one with a right heart towards Him.

After these events, Saul continued to decline in his fear of the Lord; he was then vulnerable to and greatly troubled by an evil spirit. The decline reached such severity, that Saul defied the will of the Lord by continually attempting to kill David, who had been chosen and anointed by the Lord to be the next king of Israel, and upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested.

Part 2 tomorrow…