Tag Archives: Kings

Fully Committed

Last night I climbed into bed and picked up my Bible to read before going to sleep. I checked my Bible-in-a-year schedule and saw that I was still in the middle of 2 Chronicles. I said out loud, “I don’t want to read any more 2 Chronicles.” Part of my problem with reading this book is that just before 1 and 2 Chronicles, I had read 1 and 2 Kings. If you read these books you will know that they cover the same time periods, the same kings of Judah and Israel, and the same battles, victories, and defeats. Because of the way my mind retains information that I have read I keep feeling like I just read each account.

But even though I didn’t really feel like reading 2 Chronicles, I want to get to Isaiah, which is next on my schedule. I love Isaiah! So I read six chapters of 2 Chronicles.

As I was reading this verse made me stop and think: “During his reign, however, he failed to remove all the pagan shrines, and the people never fully committed themselves to follow the God of their ancestors.” 2 Chronicles 20:33. This verse follows the account of God giving King Jehoshaphat and Judah an easy victory over the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites by causing those armies to turn on each other and essentially defeating themselves before Judah even started to fight.

I thought to myself, how could the people of Judah not have fully committed themselves to follow God after seeing what He had done for them? But then I thought, have I fully committed myself to God? I’ve seen the wonderful victories He has won for me, and yet I’m not sure I can honestly say I have fully committed myself, my whole heart and mind, to Him. I want to, but I’m not sure I can really say I have. Or if I was at one point, I’m not sure I am now.

It happened to King Asa and King Jehoshaphat. Both were recorded as being fully committed to the Lord their God early in their reigns. Both were given amazing victories and peace by God and they knew God was the source of their blessings. Then both lost focus and ceased to trust completely in God.

How about you? Have you fully committed yourself to God? I ask not to be judgmental or critical, but because I think it is an important question every Christian must ask himself or herself. It’s a question I will be asking myself. And I will keep asking until I can unequivocally say YES! Then I should probably keep asking, to make sure I haven’t lost my focus on God.

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God Is Everywhere

I spent the last two weeks in New York City, most of that time in Manhattan. (Which explains why I haven’t posted much in the past two weeks.)

Manhattan is a very busy, noisy place — much too noisy for  my taste. There are too many people pushing and talking and honking their horns. It is difficult for me to hear God with all that noise. I’m reminded of the scripture in which Elijah finds God not in the powerful wind or the earthquake or the roaring fire, but rather in the quiet whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-13.

And yet, I know that God is everywhere, even when I can’t hear Him over the cacophony of New York life. I know that He was with me all the time I was there. I did see Him and feel His strength.

I saw Him in the six different people who handed me a Christian tract or pamphlet because they wanted to share the Good News with residence of and visitors to New York. One person was even handing out the entire book of John!

I saw Him in the many people who answered our questions when we couldn’t figure out which subway train to take or didn’t know which way we needed to go to get where we wanted to be.

I saw Him in the super nice JetBlue attendant at JFK airport who helped us save $100 when two of our suitcases were overweight. She exhibited the patience and caring that only come from the grace of God.

I also felt Him with me. There were times during the trip when I literally did not think I could take one more step. We walked so much, and we climbed 354 stairs to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty, and then we walked more. My feet and legs were in so much pain I just wanted to sit down on a bench and stay there. But I knew I had to keep going, so I prayed for God to give me strength and He did. At one point, I was reminded of the pain that Jesus experienced when He was carrying His cross towards Golgotha. As bad as I felt, I knew He had felt worse and understood my struggle. This knowledge gave me comfort and strength to continue.

At first glance, it may not seem like God is in New York City, at least not to someone like me who is more accustomed to more country and less city. I still see the beauty of God more in the mountains and the trees, in the things He has created rather than the buildings and monuments that man has created. But when I look deeper, I see that God is in New York. It may take more effort to see and hear Him there, but He is there nonetheless.

I am glad to be home where it is quiet and peaceful. But it is good to know that I can find God in any circumstance because He is always there, everywhere.

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Food for the Journey

In 1 Kings 18, there is an interesting account of when the prophet Elijah challenged the 400 prophets of the false god Baal to prove that Baal was real. Elijah easily won that challenge when God brought down fire to consume the altar on which Elijah had poured several gallons of water, whereas the prophets of Baal could get their god to do nothing. But in spite of this overwhelming victory, in 1 Kings 19 we find Elijah fleeing in fear and wanting just to die. It is oddly comforting to know that even a prophet so close to God as Elijah was became discouraged at times.

In the midst of his fear and discouragement, Elijah fell asleep under a tree. But an angel of the Lord came and woke him, telling him to eat and drink. After he ate and drank, Elijah fell back asleep. Then I love this next passage:

The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”  So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 1 Kings 19:7-8.

I read this the other night, then continued on in my reading so as to not get too behind in my reading schedule. But I was drawn back to these two verses. I pondered what the angel said to Elijah, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” Although without this heavenly food the journey ahead of him would be too much for Elijah, after eating what the angel of the Lord provided Elijah had enough strength for the journey.

When tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4. Just like Elijah, Jesus found strength for His 40 day and 40 night journey through the wilderness from heavenly food.

We each have a journey before us. On our own, the journey is too much for us. The worries and fears of this world and the challenges of the journey can overwhelm us. Some choose to simply sleep through the journey, never reaching their destination, because they have no strength to go on.

But God has provided food for us to eat to strengthen us for the journey ahead. He has provided His Word to feed us and guide us. He Has given us the Bread of Life, our dear Savior Jesus, to strengthen us and be with us on our journey.

But the heavenly food that God offers will not strengthen us unless we partake of it. If Elijah had left the food the angel provided sitting on the ground, he would not have been able to make the journey to Horeb. A sandwich on the plate does not provide fuel for the body unless we eat it and it is digested in our stomach. The Word in our Bible does not provide fuel for the soul unless we read it and digest it in our heart and mind. The Bread of Life, Jesus himself, does not provide saving food for our soul unless we accept His gift of salvation into our hearts.

Are you, like Elijah, weary and beaten down by the journey you have traveled so far? Do you find the prospect of going on almost impossible to bear? Have you, in spite of some victories, been struggling and relying on your own strength to get by? If so, there is hope. The Lord has given you the food you need for your tired and weary soul. You’re going to need it, because without Christ and the Word of God, the journey ahead is too much for you.

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Is Servant Leadership an Oxymoron?

Are you in a leadership position? Do you administer a ministry in your church? Do you manage a group of employees for your job? Do you have kids that you are called to lead and train? If you think about it, most people are in a leadership position of some sort, whether it be large or small. We may not all be CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations, but most of us are in charge of directing someone else at one time or another.

The Bible provides some great insight for effective leadership. Last night I was reading the story of when King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, became king of all Israel after Solomon’s death. The people came to King Rehoboam complaining of the heavy burden King Solomon had put on them and asking that he lessen their burden, saying they would always be loyal if he did. Before he answered the people, King Rehoboam sought the advice of his father’s wise elder advisors.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” 1 Kings 12:7.

King Rehoboam also sought advice from his younger advisors.

The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’ -tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.  My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’ ” 1 Kings 12:10-11.

Ultimately, King Rehoboam took the advice of his young friends and did not heed the advise of the wise elders. The result was that the people revolted and he lost all of the kingdom of Israel except Judah. After King David had served the people of Israel so well for so long, “only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David” after King Rehoboam took the throne. 1 Kings 12:20b.

Servant leadership is a hard concept to grasp. As one in power, it is easy to be filled with the pride of leadership and seek to succeed on the backs of those one leads. This is often seen in industry and business in our society, as CEOs get rich while the pay and benefits afforded to the workers is slashed.

But servant leadership is exactly what Jesus modeled. Although He was God incarnate and clearly their superior, Jesus became the disciples’ servant when He washed their feet at the last supper before His death. See John 13:1-17. Even after His resurrection, Jesus continued to be a servant leader to the disciples. As they hauled in a miraculous catch of fish, He was on the shore building a fire and cooking them breakfast. See John 21:1-14. It seems that the disciples should have been making breakfast for their risen Lord, but Jesus was the kind of servant leader who turned such thoughts on their heads.

When He knew that the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus said something to them that has always intrigued me:

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37.

To be first, you must be the very last! Not just towards the end of the line, but the very last. You must put others, including children who you teach and lead, ahead of you. This can be a particularly difficult concept to put into practice with kids. My son has complained several times over the years that adults who are supposed to be his teachers or youth leaders at church don’t listen to him or take him seriously. These adults have failed to grasp the concept of servant leadership when it comes to the kids who cross their path on a regular basis.

In the various capacities in which I lead others, both adults and kids, I try to keep this principle of servant leadership in mind. Being a servant leader serves both to encourage others to follow and to allow them to succeed in the endeavor you are asking them to embark on. I don’t always succeed in putting this principle into practice, but because of my servant leader Jesus I am improving in my efforts to do so.

Think about those you lead, and be creative in making that list. Then think about how you have treated them. Have you acted as a servant leader to them, or have you, like Rehoboam, made their burden heavier just because you have the power to do so? If the Creator of all things can humble Himself to be a servant so that He might be a better leader, perhaps His example is worth following.

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Discerning Lies

Speaking of the devil, Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44. Today the father of lies has great influence in our society. Everywhere you look there are lies, thinly disguised. For the unwary, they are almost unnoticeable and can creep into their everyday thinking, coloring how they act.

One of the biggest lies that people believe is that they are more important than others. Along with this one is what the world considers an appropriate response to or solution for a given situation.

The advertising industry seems to employ the tools of the devil more than any other that I know of. Today I saw a commercial that depicted a school principal who discovered that someone had parked in his parking spot. He was so angry that he yelled violently over the school loudspeaker for all the teachers and students to hear that he was going to get whoever it was who had taken his spot. Then the announcer says, “Don’t have a meltdown, have a Meltdown of cheesy chips.” I was an advertisement for a microwave nacho cheese and chip product.

The first thing that struck me about this commercial was how the principal exalted himself above everyone else. He thought he was so important that he had a right to yell at the whole school over the loudspeaker because of a parking spot. The second thing was the suggestion that the solution to his anger and self-importance issues was melted cheese on chips.

How easily we can be deceived by the lies that permeate our society today. Paul wrote of his concern that the deception of Satan would permeate even the Church:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4.

We must be ever vigilant and wary of the lies of the evil one as they are sometimes quite subtle. A little exaltation of our works here, a little suggestion that Jesus isn’t necessarily the only way to God there. Soon we are worshipping a God other than the one we were first devoted to. Often that God is self.

Even Solomon, in all his wisdom, turned to the worship of other gods in his old age.

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. 
* * *

The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command. 1 Kings 11:4-6, 9-10.

Because Solomon worshipped other gods, the Kingdom of Israel was taken from his son Rehoboam and he was left with only one of the tribes of Israel to rule over. His wisdom alone was not enough to protect Solomon from being deceived by his many foreign wives.

The fact that Solomon, in all his wisdom, could be deceived teaches me that I need more than just the wisdom that I have already asked for and been granted by God. I need to remain in His Word and diligently test every thing I hear against the plumb-line of His truth. Reviewing Solomon’s worship habits I learned something else.

Three times a year Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar he had built for the LORD, burning incense before the LORD along with them, and so fulfilled the temple obligations. 1 Kings 9:25.

My worship needs to be more consistent and more often than Solomon’s. And I need to do more than “fulfill my obligations.” My faith in Christ is not an obligation, it is a privilege and a gift. I must guard that gift with the greatest diligence I can muster, and call upon God to help me at every turn. The evil one would love to deceive me and pull me away from my God, to exalt and rely on my self. But by His grace I will stand firm.

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A Prayer for Wisdom

Six or seven years ago I decided that I wanted to read through the entire Bible, so I downloaded and printed a Bible-in-a-Year schedule from www.heartlight.org. I put it in my Bible and checked off each chapter as I read it. It took me almost two years, instead of the scheduled one, but I made it. Having done so gave me a much broader view of the overarching story of the Bible than I ever had by reading bits and pieces before.

This weekend, I decided I wanted to do it again, only with a different translation. The first time I read through the New International Version (NIV). So I went back to www.heartlight.org and printed off another schedule. This time I am going to read the New Living Translation (NLT), and I am hoping to actually accomplish it in the year allotted, but time will tell.

I started last night with the entry for June 10. I know it was June 13, but I had a reason for starting at an earlier date. The assigned passages for June 10 were 1 Kings 1-2 and John 19-20. I have read John many times, and didn’t really want to start at the end. Starting today, the passages from 1 Kings are paired with chapters from Proverbs. So last night I read 1 Kings 1-4. (I can see already that this multiple chapter per day schedule is going to be a challenge!)

As I read, I came to this passage in 1 Kings 3:

5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

 6 Solomon replied, “You showed faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued your faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

 7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

I marveled at the wonder of God that this would be the passage I would start with on the first night of my new reading plan. I am familiar with this passage, and was even talking with my son about it on our way to his youth group meeting, which was before I sat down to read this. But I had forgotten that it was located in 1 Kings and so was not expecting it as I read. Especially after the blood and gore of chapters 1 and 2, where Solomon becomes King in place of his older brother Adonijah.

For the past few weeks, as I have done off and on over the years, I have prayed each morning for wisdom for my day and for certain situations that I knew I would face. In answer to that prayer, God has granted me His wisdom for how to handle what has come my way. I have not always heeded that wisdom, though most times I have. And when I have, the result has been good. When I haven’t, I’ve had to do a little backpedaling to set things right. Then just today I was reading another blog about how Solomon didn’t always heed God’s wisdom either.

What I find interesting about this passage is God’s response when Solomon humbly prays just for wisdom. God gave Solomon wisdom as he asked, but He gave the king so much more. God gave him wealth, fame, and power greater than any other king had known or will ever know. I have experienced a small bit of the same myself. As I have prayed just for wisdom, God has granted me blessings right and left. I do not have wealth, fame, and power greater than any other, but I have received unexpected blessings that I did not ask for. They are as varied as a new best friend, a wonderful group of blogging buddies, changes at work that have reduced stress and changed the focus of what I do to quality instead of quantity, and (silly as it may sound) front row tickets to my favorite Christian rock band Third Day.

But what occurs to me in thinking about all of this is that I must avoid the temptation to start relying on the blessings and overindulging in and trusting the good things God has blessed me with. Solomon fell into this trap with his 900 wives and concubines and a myriad of other sins. When he was old, he returned to the things of God and the wisdom he had received. My challenge is to stay focused on the wisdom of God and to always remember that the blessings are just that and are only mine because God has granted them to me for now.

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