I love Wednesday nights at church. It seems that almost every week when the time rolls around, I feel too tired to go – but I go anyway. And every week I leave with more energy than when I came.
Last night was no different.
We had several missionaries present, and they really inspired me. One of the speakers was a young man who has been called to evangelize Spain. It would be easy to pooh-pooh such an assignment, since such western nations are tons of fun to visit. Yet visiting the nation and evangelizing the nation are two different things, and the latter is hard!
Across Spain, there are many who know abut Jesus, but relatively few who truly know Him as their Savior. They are often religious, but seldom born again – and that makes it harder then usual to reveal the truth of the Gospel. Yet, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, this young man and his family are impacting the entire nation for Jesus – especially among the youth. (more…)
II Kings 7-9
These times in history seem far removed from what we think about today. The societies were much less sophisticated, and most people seem to be just be seeking survival. Very dark times, indeed.
In fact, it seems that the only people who are truly committed to the Lord are the prophets and a few kings.
These times are similar to the dark ages of the Christian church. Roughly from the 6th century to the 15th century, the Christian church went into great darkness. There was a lot of corruption in the church, and lots of heretical teachings which took away the true power of God. In fact, the lay people were not allowed to read the scriptural texts for themselves; they had to have the priests tell them what they said.
People were taught that they had to go through the priest to reach God, and much advantage was taken of the people – large sums of money to “pay” for their sins.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther, a German monk was reading the scriptures when he realized that people are saved by faith and not by works. He wrote 95 Theses stating arguments against the Catholic Church and nailed them to the door of the monastery at Wittenburg. Of course, he came under great persecution, but Luther set a fire in the hearts of men which led to the Protestant Reformation.
Throughout the Dark Ages, God still had people who truly believed him and kept the fire in their hearts, even though it wasn’t reflected in society as a whole. It was the same during these days of Jewish history in II Kings. It seemed that only the prophets were believers, but God spoke to Elijah and said, “There are 7,000 who have not bowed their knee to Baal.”
We are to learn lessons from these scriptures. First we are to see how easy it is for each succeeding king to go with the flow of culture and leave God out of the story. (That’s a warning to us). Then next it is easy to see that God is a rewarder of those who truly seek Him – even in the darkest of times. Right in the middle of the darkness, we see miracles and His hand working on behalf of those who honor Him and believe Him.
We also see that, even though they seemed far removed from Him, God still had His hand on his covenant people. Our God never forsakes a covenant He has made.
He does the same with us.
John’s gospel is my favorite. The three gospels we have read so far are called the “synoptic” gospels. They are similar in that they all cover the natural accounts of what Jesus did and said as He ministered on the earth. They recount His miracles and His teachings. Yet they make very little mention of what these things might mean.
John’s gospel is different. He shares an understanding of the deeper revelation of just who Jesus is.
John starts by saying that Jesus was the Word – and all things which came into being came through Him. This may be hard to understand, but if you and I will ask our teacher, the Holy Spirit, He will help clarify the concepts we are going to learn.
This concept reflects back to the beginning of the Bible when we see that God said this and that to create (or recreate) the world. He literally spoke the world into existence. Jesus was the One who spoke the Word. The Word of God is the most powerful thing on the earth. It has the power to create!
Then, too, when Gabriel came to Mary and spoke the Word to her, saying that she would give birth to the Son of God, she said “Be it done to me according to your Word.”(Luke 1:38). The Word spoken to Mary became flesh within her womb and Jesus was born into the earth.
I can hear the Star Wars music going off in your ears right now, but hang in there. This is good – and this is true!
Then Jesus is called the “light.” He came to shine in darkness. As the light, Jesus came to set off the light bulb within each of us. That ah-ha moment, when we realize that He really is the Son of God …that God really does love us …and that God really did send Jesus to die for our sins.
So all the healings and all the teachings Jesus did were to turn on the light in the hearts of people to let them know that God is on their side – if they will get on His.
Yet The gospel says that “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to be called the children of God.”(v.11-12) “Those who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”(v.13).
This second birth – the born again experience – is truly the greatest occasion of anyone’s life.
We’ll be reading more about this as we continue with the book of John. In the meantime, meditate on these things as you go about your day. When you truly grasp what is being said here, your life will be changed forever.
I Kings 14-15
There seems like there is no hope for Israel and Judah.
It’s been about 450 years since Joshua led these people into the Promised Land. They have been taught to remember the covenant and all of the miracles which God had performed on their behalf. He had delivered them from Pharoah with many signs and wonders, and had led them into this land. They had an unprecedented history with their Creator.
Of course, they didn’t have the Bible as we know it, but they did have the Law of Moses and all of the traditions handed down by the priests. The kings had been taught about the God of Israel and the importance of remaining faithful.
Yet what a mess! The kings are going after every heathen god imaginable, and observing their practices. All of this is an abomination.
In 14: 25-27 there seems to be a prophetic statement when the king of Egypt comes and steals all of the treasures out of the house of the Lord. These treasures were all of the gold implements put there by Solomon. There were shields, cups, vases, and many more works of pure gold. Rehoboam replaces the shields with bronze.
It seems that this is symbolic for the true worship of God being replaced with artificial. No longer real, but phony – a substitute for the real.
Unfortunately, there will never be another good king in Israel, which consists of the majority of the great covenant-people of God.
However, God keeps his covenant with the one remaining tribe. He still will lead Judah, because He had promised David that He would watch over his throne.
Then, too, the Lord needs to have a people who will be faithful so that they can eventually bring the Savior on the scene for us.
It’s hit or miss on Judah’s kings, but there is a hit on Asa. He removes the cult prostitutes, and he even removes his mother from being the queen mother, because she is worshipping Asherah.
As we are moving through this history of Israel, it’s a good idea to relate the incidents to modern times. A secular culture is always trying to penetrate the church and its teachings, and hearts are always being swayed.
We can learn some lessons, if we pay attention.
The hardest moment of Jesus’ life is about to come. For the first time in all of eternity, He is to be separated for His Father.
As He prays in the garden, sweat drops of blood fall to the ground. The stress is tremendous.
Several years ago, the Lord awoke me in the middle of the night and had me go into my den. He began to teach me from these passages, as He took me to every account of this Gethsemane experience, and He showed me what was happening.
While in the garden, Jesus knew that He was going to pull off the most extreme measure in the history of the world. He was going to be separated from His Father, as He died and paid the price for our sins. He was going into hell for three days, and then, after paying the full price to the devil, the Holy Spirit would come into Him and lift Him up from the dead for the greatest feat known to man.
The only assurance that this feat would work was Jesus’ faith in God’s plan.
You and I might be striving to enter the rest of faith as we undertake our challenges, but we’ve never faced anything like this. Think about what Jesus was going through.
He is a forerunner for us. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not by any means saying that what we do is as significant as what He did. I am just saying that there is a pattern here.
There are times when we know that God’s best is not being performed yet in our lives. As we pray and meditate on the Word, there are times when we know that our faith needs to improve. We just aren’t really believing what we have read yet. We are saying, “Lord, help my unbelief.”
As we follow the leading of Jesus and continue to pray, we will come through to a bright moment when we will know deep down within ourselves that we have what we are believing for. We won’t see it with our eyes, but we will know that we will be seeing it.
Our faith has become a reality.
Woo hoo! We come to one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible.
People always seem to be striving to find God’s will. Does He want me healed? Does He want my needs to be met? Does He want my children blessed?
In chapter 28 we find God’s will in a nutshell. The “blessings of Abraham” are enumerated for all to see: God’s will to bless His people. In Galatians 3:13, we see that the blessings of Abraham are ours through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is our Promised Land.
Now let me make myself clear. I am not saying that God wants to “enhance” a life that is lived totally apart from Him. He is not here to “enhance” a sinful life. He is here to bless a life that belongs to Him.
In fact, if you read the whole chapter, it’s obvious that an evil person shouldn’t be expecting much at all from God – until they repent. There are some pretty tough curses out there. (The curses come from the devil and his cohorts, when you allow him to rule your life).
Being close to God and in His will allows you to stay under His umbrella of protection from the evil one. Those who are out from under His umbrella, can’t expect a whole lot. There is a devil out there. It isn’t that God doesn’t love everyone, but this covenant is for those who are His covenant people. (And now we can all be His covenant people through Jesus).
But if your life does belong to God and you are living in the light that you know, being obedient to Him, you can even look at the curses listed and know that those are not God’s will for you. In my Bible, I have “no” written in the margin of several of the curses. Just to remind myself when things don’t look so good.
What about where it says “your children will be taken into another territory?”(28:32;41). No. Or the one that says, “The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron.”(23). No. Or “You shall bring out much seed to the field but you shall gather little, for the locust shall consume it.”(38) No.
None of these verses are for God’s covenant people.
But hang on. I am not saying that these things won’t even try to come on you. I am saying that these things are not God’s will for you, if you are His.
There should never be confusion about His will. His will is always good for those who are His, walking in closeness to Him.
Often times, we have to fight for God’s will to be done in our lives. Just as the children of Israel had to fight for their land, we have to fight for our Promised Land. But we don’t fight people; we fight the demonic forces which try to stop God’s plan.
In this new day of a covenant with Jesus we have the power within us to overcome the evil one. By faith we fight for our territory by standing up for what God’s Word says. Through “faith and patience” we inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12).
If this concept is new to you, I hope you meditate on what I’ve said. In the days ahead, we will see more clearly God’s plan for our taking the Land.
How can these men be so cruel to God’s perfect man?
These are supposed to be God’s representatives – the chief priest and the council. Yet they falsely accuse Jesus, trying to put Him to death. Isn’t it shocking?
These men want prestige and power as their place of leadership. Jesus is rocking their boat. He is being merciful to the sinners, healing on the sabbath, raising the dead, and ministering to huge crowds. They just can’t have such competition.
Furthermore, these leaders have a good reputation with Rome, and they are afraid they are losing it.
So God’s supposed men fight against His plan and bring charges against His Son.
Yet God’s big plan goes on – with or without individuals. We can personally exempt ourselves from His covenant or His plan, but God will find someone else to cooperate with his will.
Just as these leaders chose not to go with God, we can too. We can choose for His will not to be performed in our lives, and He will get someone else to fulfill what He had planned for us. But God’s overall plan will succeed. He will search until he finds those who are willing and obedient.
I say, “Yes, Lord. I want to be in on what You are doing. I want to fulfill what You have for me.”
Leviticus 23, 24
The 23rd chapter has the best description of the Feasts that we have encountered. It lists the times and the procedures which should be implemented. There are three major feasts and four minor ones which accompany them. As we are looking at these, it’s important to constantly think, “Jesus.”
We’ve already seen that the Passover is a type for the crucifixion of Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb. The seven days of Unleavened Bread following that feast are the consecration of the believers to be holy to the Lord.
Then the Feast of First Fruits is offering the first and best to the Lord in order to bring blessing to the rest of the harvest. By faith, the Israelites are instructed to appropriate God’s best through this offering. The second major feast is the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Pentecost. At this time, fifty days after the harvest first produced some fruit, a larger offering is brought and waved before the Lord. (more…)