Monthly Archives: September 2014

Bathsheba Didn’t Raise No Dummy

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 3, Ezekiel 34, Psalm 83-84, Ephesians 1.

“3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?'” 1 Kings 3:3-8

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Did you catch that?

Don’t pass over it too quickly.

If you go back and read it again, you will see that God came to Solomon and said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

Translation: “What do you want, Solomon? Ask Me, and I will give it to you.”

Pause.

Deep breath.

Before we consider what Solomon asks, what would you ask for?

God is no “Genie in a Bottle,” but still  . . . what would flood your mind?

If you could have God do anything for you, at your request, what would it be?

The more I think about it . . . really think about it. . . Solomon’s response is genius and makes perfect sense.

He asks for wisdom. Or, more precisely, he asks for a discerning mind. He wanted to be able to make decisions between good and evil. He wanted to lead rightly. He must have known that life would involve many difficult and “gray” areas that would need supernatural wisdom for success.

Learning from Solomon here would serve us well, don’t you think?

I doubt anyone reading this is King over a nation (if so, could you give me a Twitter ‘shout out’? Just kidding. . . sort of). But I have a really good feeling everyone reading this (hi mom!) deals with people.

Yeah. People. Whether it is a nation, or a family, or a classroom, or colleagues, or a boss, or a friend, or an “ex” friend, or a spouse, or a church, or a neighbor, or a cashier, or an in-law, or . . . you get the point. All of us, almost all the time, are required to deal with people. Ultimately, that’s exactly what Solomon acknowledged he needed help with: People. “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people.”

Bathsheba didn’t raise no dummy.

Solomon could have asked for anything. But the smartest thing for him to do was to get himself some “other wordly,” supernatural deified discernment from the only One who can give it: the Lord Himself.

I wonder if there is anyone reading this who is in some sort of “issue” with another person? And I wonder if anyone reading this needs insight into how to deal with that particular “issue” because there is no “easy fix”?

Let’s all be honest. There is no such relationship that exists where supernatural wisdom and discernment isn’t needed.

Before you and I go about our day – for one more second – why don’t we stop and ask the One who gives it, to grant us a discerning mind to go about our lives and relationships in ways that honor, please, and bless His great Name.

 

 

But They Will Not Do It . . . Yikes!

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 2, Ezekiel 33, Psalm 81-82, Galatians 6.

30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. 33 When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Ezekiel 33:30-33

I am scared to death being one of the people described in these verses.

I am haunted by the words “but they will not do it.”

It reminds me of a modern day description of something similar I read recently:Unknown

Shortly after the young Francis of Assisi embraced a faith that would help color the face of Christianity for centuries to come, he sensed God telling him, ‘Francis, all those things that you have loved in the flesh you must now despise, and from those things that you formerly loathed you will drink great sweetness and immeasurable delight.’

If a believer heard such words today, he or she would likely write them down in a journal and then forget them. Or perhaps the new Christian might compose a poem or a song, celebrating the sentiment. If the person were an author, he or she might even find a publisher and entomb the lofty notions inside a book.”

The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life by Gary Thomas

Let me translate: Christians are good at hearing a good quote and discussing its implications. But, if we are honest, can be awful at actually doing what the Lord prompts us to do.

Speaking of another experience, Thomas went on to write:

If every church had a campaign in which members read the book, discussed it, prayed about it, and confirmed its truth, nothing would change until, like Francis, we found ways to apply it. Something so simple as relinquishing a plane seat — something I’m sure you would gladly have done as well — did far more to ‘minister to twenty-first-century families’ than my reading of that book.

And yet church as we define it today is often structured around ‘discussing’ issues, praying about them, and feeling inspired at the thought of them. We need to become like Francis, finding ways to enflesh — live out and apply — the stretching truths of our faith.

When I read the words from Ezekiel 33 this morning, my mind immediately thought of these words by Gary Thomas. I feel like I often treat “good, strong, biblical truth” as a “lustful song with a beautiful voice” to my soul . . . but do absolutely nothing with it except to say, “Oh, that’s good stuff right there.”

The problem is not that I think it’s good stuff. The problem is I so often leave it at that.

God’s words to Ezekiel are a strong warning to me that the purpose of the Word of God is not just to think and meditate on. They are also to be applied. As a matter of fact, God threatens terrible things to those who love the Word but do nothing with what they hear.

Let’s not just listen to the word. . . let’s actually do what it says.

It Is Not Good for Man to Be Alone

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 23, Ezekiel 30, Psalm 78, Galatians 3.

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“Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David.” 2 Samuel 23:16

This incident that happened in Alabama this week has bothered me. . . big time.

Not because it happened in Alabama.

Not because two men were shot in a UPS factory (though very tragic).

Not because the man who shot the two men turned the gun on himself (though also very tragic).

What bothers me is that this man was an active member of a local church. . . a local Southern Baptist church.

By active I mean in a Sunday School class, involved in various ministries, and obviously known (at least, in a general sense) by the pastors.

What bothers me is that the man who was fired by UPS, went to the factory and shot two fellow former employees before shooting himself was “known” to be a good, nice, involved-in-ministries guy.

What bothered me is that everyone was shocked that “he” would do such a thing.

What bothers me is that our churches are crawling with good, nice, involved-in-ministries people.

What bothers me is that that is the litmus test for a growing follower of Jesus.

I don’t in any way want to point fingers at anyone. This is more of a reflection of my own heart and situation and my own experiences in local Southern Baptist churches. For all I know, the church this man was a part of was and is doing everything exactly as it should be, biblically.

[Editor’s Note: Factor the above in when you read the following! Also, we should all pray for their church family and the pastors who will now be ministering in ways there never intended or expected to.]

I just wonder who knew this man’s heart?

Who knew he was fired?

Who knew he was angry?

Who knew he battled bitterness and jealousy?

Who knew he wasn’t – not only not witnessing to his coworkers – but angry at them?

Who knew that, though he was an “active” member of a church, his heart needed transformation?

Who was in his life, asking the hard questions, holding him accountable, encouraging him in the Lord, and helping him actually grow as a Christ follower?

[Editor’s Note – Please hear me: this may have all been happening at this church, okay? It is not this church’s fault! This kind of thing could just as easily happen at the church God has entrusted me to lead at this time.]

But I guess what really bothers me is that I hardly see this happening anywhere. I hardly see hearts checked. I hardly see loving confrontation between brothers and sisters. I hardly ever see accountability – not just from sins, but for doing what we are called to do. I hardly see any “professed” follower of Jesus being real with other “professed” followers of Jesus. I hardly see any Christians actually doing biblical life together.

I don’t see Christian men (not many, anyway) having a group of other “mighty men” around them to help them thrive as men of God.

I see men and women getting another Bible lesson (or two if you go to Sunday School), participate in a ministry (or two if you are really spiritual), and pray for those having surgery and missionaries on their birthdays. These things aren’t wrong. No, no, no, no, no. These things are fine.

What is wrong is not what is happening, per se.

What is wrong is what is NOT happening.

What is wrong is that no one’s hearts are being transformed and challenged and encouraged and affected. No one is looking more like Jesus today than they were this time last year. The things I listed above are great and biblical and fine. But who is doing Hebrews 10:24-27? “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

How can we know – really – how to encourage each other if we don’t know what is going on?

How can we know – really – how to help each other stop sinning deliberately if we don’t know what each others’ sins are?

In other words, how can we really apply these “one another” texts unless we really know one another?

Perhaps the guy in Alabama had all of this in his life. I hope he did.

But what bothers me is that I know how often I neglect intentionally having “mighty men” in my own life. What bothers me is that we church leaders (myself included!) haven’t helped things with the structure of how we help people make disciples. What bothers me is that there are probably “active” men in our churches who walk out and, maybe not go on a shooting rampage, but do go look at porn or abuse their families or numb themselves with television or a bigger vehicle. . . and no one is there to help them stop wasting their lives!

If no one knows our hearts and we aren’t consistently growing to look more like Jesus – why should anyone be shocked when our marriages fail or there is porn on our computers or when our children are bruised or when we go in major debt?

King David had some “mighty men” who helped him to succeed as King and a man of God.

Who do you have? We can fake our church family. But that’s not helping anyone, especially you. Who knows YOU? Who knows what is going on in your heart and can put you on a biblically sound trajectory? Who can you ask today to be real with you and confront you and encourage you and help you look more like Jesus?

It’s not good for man to be alone.

 

 

Just Plain Potent

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 22, Ezekiel 29, Psalm 78, Galatians 2.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

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As any student of God’s Word can attest, though we know all Scripture is equally important and breathed out by God, there are some verses that just seem to carry more “force” or “weight” than others.

Galatians 2:20 has always been “one of those” for me. It’s just plain potent.

Divide it into phrases and let it speak to/challenge/encourage/confront your soul:

“I have been crucified with Christ.” 

Paul was put to death with Jesus. When He died, you died with Him. When He became sin and the wrath of God was being poured out on Him – you and your sinful self were nailed with Him.

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

It stands to reason that if we died with Jesus – then we no longer live. We no longer live for ourselves and our flesh. That has been crucified. Crucified with Christ. It is dead. It is over. It does not rule. A life of sin that has been put to death lives by some other means – “Christ who lives in me.” If sin has been put to death, then a new “Ruler” must reign. For the Christian, it is Jesus.

“And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. . .”

The Christian – who has died to self and is ruled by Jesus – lives by faith in this Jesus. Faith that His work was sufficient (no “good works” are to be nor can be done to make God like us); faith that He will work in us, compelling us to follow Him; faith that He will lead us as we seek Him; faith that He is at work in lives around us, drawing men and women to Himself; faith that where and what and how He calls us to follow Him is for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory.

“. . .who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Not only did He take our sin and shame, and not only was our sinful self crucified with Him on the cross. But get this: what drove it was love. Jesus loved us – individually – and gave Himself for us. Why was Paul living by faith in Son of God? Why was Paul willing to let Christ live in him?

WHY NOT? 

This Jesus loved him and gave Himself for Paul. Why in the world would Paul not want to give his life to this Jesus and let Jesus rule? If Jesus was going to die in Paul’s place and give Himself for Paul on a cross, why would Jesus now stop doing what was best for Paul? He won’t!

Christian, let’s crucify ourselves! Can you say you have been crucified with Christ?

Let’s quit letting our agendas rule the day! Does Christ live in you?

Let’s quit being driven by things and thoughts other than what Christ would want! Live by faith in the Son of God.

We are wasting our lives, thinking we know what is best, what we think is most loving for us. We don’t.

If Jesus loves us and gave Himself up for us – and He has – why would He not now want what is most loving and best for us?

Answer: He still does.

He loved us and gave Himself up for us while we were yet sinners. Do you really believe He want graciously now give us all things for our own good?

Let Christ live in you and diligently live by faith in Him.

After all, He loves you and gave Himself up for you.

 

 

The Gibeonites and the Gospel

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Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 21, Ezekiel 28, Psalm 77, Galatians 1.

“Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.'” 2 Samuel 21:1

Three years . . . no rain.

David asked God why.

God said, “Saul disobeyed and killed Gibeonites. He wasn’t supposed to do that.”

Keep reading and we find that David asked the Gibeonites what could be done to make things right for what Saul had done to them. Their reply? “Give us 7 of Saul’s family members so we can hang them in front of everybody.”

David’s response? “You got it” (see verses 5-6).

Seven of Saul’s brood were brought to the Gibeonites, hanged on trees, and left for everyone to see.

In case you need a summary:

a. No rain for 3 years.

b. No rain because God was angry at Saul for being selfish.

c. David investigated how to make things right (how to get some rain!).

d. The offended party wanted 7 of Saul’s people to kill by hanging.

e. Done.

The strange thing (as if it could get more so)? God approved of it and sent rain after the hangin’.

“And after that God responded to the plea for the land.” (v. 14)

So let’s get this straight: God did not send rain because of Saul’s sin. Then God DID send rain after people hung on a tree because Saul sinned.

In other words, God’s anger was put away when blood was shed for sin.

Aren’t you glad?

No, no – not because Saul sinned or that there was no rain or that 7 people were hanged due to Saul’s stupidity. Aren’t you glad that God’s wrath gets turned away from sinners when blood is shed for their wrongdoing?

Think about it: Much like Saul, we do some pretty selfish and idiotic and rebellious things too. We deserve a lot worse than no rain for 3 years. If you’re like me, you deserve eternal punishment under the divine wrath of your Maker.

But because God is who He is – much like He did for the nation of Israel when there was no rain – He offered a Substitute to shed blood in my place. Someone else suffered the wrath I deserved.

It’s the Gospel via the Gibeonites.

For Israel, in this incident – it was 7 of Saul’s kinfolk.

For us and the world – He offered His own Son.

How grateful I am that God responds to pleas when innocent blood has been shed for my guilty shame.

 

 

Heaven Is For Real . . . The Bible Tells Me So

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Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 19, 2 Corinthians 12, Ezekiel 26, Psalm 74.

“2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.” 2 Corinthians 12:2-6

I sure would like to know what Paul means by “the third heaven.” Don’t you?

I sure would like to know what he saw when he was “caught up into paradise.” Wouldn’t that be helpful?

It would be nice if he could have added a couple of verses, or a chapter, or a letter outlining for us what he saw. I would love that Sunday School class!

But he didn’t. Indeed, he couldn’t (see verse 4). In fact, you could argue (see verses 6-9) that the Lord Himself kept Paul from giving us more information about what he saw when he was taken up to “paradise” and “the third heaven.”

Though we could wish he would have written more, and though we don’t have all the reasons why he didn’t or was prevented in doing so, we do have all that we need.

Had the Lord wanted us to know more about “paradise” prior to our going there, He would have told us. If anyone had reason to writee so we would have more information – it was the APOSTLE Paul. If God wanted to give us more insider information about “the third heaven” (and whatever that means), he would have through someone like – oh, say – the guy who wrote half of the New Testament. But He didn’t.

God specifically told another Apostle to write about that . . . and that is sufficient.

Christian, be careful when someone talks about an experience he or she had in heaven or hell. Be very, very careful.

I don’t want to discount what happened, or what they claim happened. Perhaps it did. I hope, for their joy and God’s glory, that it did. But be careful to put more value in what they claim, forgetting that we already have all that we need to know and be assured of.

Let’s not be quick to leave the rock solid conviction that God has told us what He wants us to know about heaven and hell and it is enough . . . it is sufficient. Had He wanted us to know more – He had a really good chance by giving Paul just another verse or two in 2 Corinthians 12. But He didn’t.

Let’s be diligent to do all we can to understand and know and teach and do what He has made clear to us. And let us do it in the hopes that our reward in glory will be so incredible – we will be struck speechless . . . except to praise the One before us.

 

 

 

 

The Lord Has Told Him to Curse????

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 16, Ezekiel 23, Psalm 70-71, 2 Corinthians 9.

10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” 2 Samuel 16:10-12

Are you kidding me?images

Seriously?

What the what?

If I was king, anointed by the Lord Himself, who just happened to be on the run from my son who was wanting me dead in order to establish himself as king, and some peon came up and started cursing me – do you know what I would do?

Or, at the very least, do you know what I would be thinking?

My first thought (okay, my second thought after I thought about punching the guy cursing me in the face), “Well, that’s the devil. That’s the enemy wanting to distract me, trying to take me down.”

Wouldn’t you?

Someone comes up to you and just starts cursing you left and right while you were trying to mind your own business – what would you think? “That’s the devil.”

And, it may very well be.

But this text is a reminder for us not to give the devil too much, or at least not all, the credit.

It might be the Lord.

No, no – not the Lord cursing you. But the Lord who sent the guy who is cursing you.

You read that right.

It might just be the Lord who sent the one who is letting you have it up one side and down the other.

Read 2 Samuel 16:10-12 again. Notice how David interpreted the “cursing fit.”

David thought it might be the Lord who sent the foul mouthed dude.

David knew he had done wrong (remember the whole Bathsheba and Uriah deal?).

David also knew his son was trying to kill him.

His interpretation of the guy who needed his mouth cleaned out with soap? The Lord sent him.

But notice something VERY, VERY carefully: David also assumed that if it was the Lord who sent the cursing crusader then the Lord would turn it around for David’s good. “It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today” (v. 12).

Here’s the point: David is trusting in God’s glorious Providence. David knew that – due to his actions – he deserved to be verbally abused. Heck, he deserved a lot worse than that. He takes it on the chin. But he doesn’t leave it there. He knows that – for those who love God, regardless of their sinful past – He works all things together for their good.

The Lord isn’t happy when we delight in the downfall of our enemies (see Proverbs 24:17-18; and also notes in the ESV Study Bible).

But He likewise isn’t happy when His children are cursed.

In the one instance, the Lord turns His anger away from our enemy.

In the other, as David was hoping, He puts the wrath away from the cursed, puts it on the rude one,  and treats the mistreated with kindness.

As a matter of fact, it’s a lot like the thinking behind the guy who wrote Psalm 70:20-21.

Be careful who you blame. It may be the Lord. And it may be that the Lord is merely setting you up to be blessed with His goodness.