The Redeeming Value Of Punishment!

-Free Speech!

I read recently about an interesting ruling, by a judge in Missouri, regarding the practice of flashing your headlights to warn oncoming traffic that there was a speed trap ahead; something, that’s considered illegal in many states! But, a federal court, in Missouri, has ruled that penalizing drivers for the headlight flash violates their 1st Amendment right to Free Speech! In his ruling, the Missouri Judge said that the flashing of headlights was essentially a good thing, “…sending a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law—whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.” I share that with you, for it’s illustrative value, as I considered a Bible text, from 2 Chronicles, that I read last week!

-A Bleak Time In History!

To say that it was a bleak time, in Israel’s history, would be an understatement! Following the time of King David’s reign & the early part of King Solomon’s reign, the nation had endured a civil war that split Israel into 2 separate kingdoms— the Northern half, known as “Israel”; and the Southern half, known as “Judah.” We’ve already discussed, in some recent posts, how the lengthy list of kings moving forward had been mostly one bad king after another! So, by the time we get to the end of 2 Chronicles, the Northern half, of Israel, had already faced the judgment of God, having been taken captive, into exile, by Assyria! And, the Southern kingdom of Judah, despite a temporary revival under good King Josiah, had returned to their idol worship & their evil kings! They, too, find themselves on the verge of being captured & exiled to Babylon.

-Misunderstanding God’s Judgment!

I find, in my conversations with many people, that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the judgment of God! Often, they accuse Him of being harsh & insensitive; which, interestingly, kind of makes them God’s judge, doesn’t it? And, if they haven’t read the Word of God from cover to cover, they’re actually judging God falsely, without all the evidence. I know that in many conversations with people, who’ve read through the Bible for the first time, they have a new perspective on the way that God works with people! When you begin reading in Genesis you see that God gave Adam & Eve every opportunity to do the right thing & He warned them what would happen if they disobeyed! The soul that sins would die! But, even AFTER they disobeyed & brought God’s curse upon the earth, God still showed love, mercy & grace; and, provided covering for their sin!

-He Is A Good God!

Read a little further, in the Scriptures; and, you see that God heard the cries of the Jewish people as they were beaten, enslaved & terribly mistreated by the Egyptians. He sent them Moses to lead them out of Egypt & He gave them a new land… because He is a GOOD GOD! But, again He warned them that He would judge them by uprooting them & sending them into exile in the same way that He dispossessed the wicked nations, of the land, that lived there before them, if they disobeyed Him.  The continuing message, of Scripture, is that God uses everything in life— even the times when He spanks us— to accomplish His ultimate purpose in our lives! And, His ultimate purpose for everyone is redemption! He purposes to redeem the world He created from sin; and, to transform everyone, who repents, into the likeness of Jesus! It’s because God loves us that He punishes our sin to bring us to brokenness; so, that He can redeem us!

A Heart Devoted To God!

-Qualities Of A Good King!

In my last post I talked about the Old Testament descriptions of kings who were said to be either “good” or “evil.” Either they did that which was “good” in the sight of God; or, they did that which was “evil.” We talked, at length, about King Jehoshaphat; and, some of the reasons he was said to be a “good” king! In today’s post, I want to continue pointing out some of the qualities that made him a “good” king! The Scriptures also claim that he was good; because, his heart was devoted to the Lord— ”His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord…” 2 Chronicles 17:6.  That literally means that his heart was “devoted” to the LORD! Above every other thing, in his life, he was COURAGEOUS in his devotion to the ways of the LORD!

-Jesus: 1st Place In Everything!

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Corinth about where Jesus needs to fit in our live:  “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” Col 1:17-18. We need to be devoted to Jesus in the same way that King Jehoshaphat was devoted to the LORD! 1st PLACE in everything! We need to be honest about this, Church! We give a lot of lip service to Jesus having 1st PLACE in our life; but, does He have 1st PLACE in our lives when it comes to reading the Scriptures every day? Or, does that only happen if you can find time to squeeze it in? If He has 1st PLACE you’ll make reading Scripture to be PRIME TIME in your day! Does He have 1st PLACE in your Sunday morning when it comes to gathering for worship with the rest of your faith community? Are you ready to worship at the start of that service? What about the Sunday School hour? Does He have 1st PLACE during that time slot in your week? Are your kids getting the Bible training during the Sunday School hour that they so desperately need?

-Have You Been Lying To Yourself?

Does He really have 1st PLACE? Or, have you just been lying to yourself? We need to get real with ourselves, Church! We need to get real with God! We need to get real with each other! We need to identify the idols that are pushing Jesus out of that 1st PLACE position in every part of our lives! King Jehoshaphat’s devotion to God was so deep and true that he longed to know God through His Word! In 2 Chronicles, chapter 18, there’s an incident where he had interaction with King Ahab.

-He Sought His Father’s God!

Now, King Ahab was classified by God, in Scripture, as an “evil” king in Israel! And, when he showed interest only in what the false prophets of Baal had to say about a situation, Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing the Word of God from Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh. And, that was the pattern of King Jehoshaphat’s life! Though he failed to always keep God’s Word, he had an affinity for it! He loved it! So, again, he provides us with another great example to follow. If you don’t long to know God’s Word; if, you’re not hungry for it, you’re not in a good place spiritually! You need to pray for God’s Spirit to help you! What made King Jehoshaphat a good king? Well, his story clearly reveals that he wasn’t a perfect man! He sinned! He was guilty of indiscretions. Not all of his decisions were wise ones! But, God called him a good king because he humbly repented when he was faced with his sin! The world needs men like King Jehoshaphat!

Good King Jehoshaphat!

-In The Eyes Of The Lord!

Over and over, in the Old Testament books of the Chronicles & the Kings, the authors identify each new king as “good” or “evil”— this king “…did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord” and that king “…did what was good in the eyes of the Lord.” As I read it I find myself asking, “what makes a good king good?” In what way does the text describe him that would cause God to declare him “good”? In fact, the Scriptures often do tell us what good kings do; and, in turn, we find for ourselves a godly example to follow! In His Word, God does tell us, often, to follow the godly examples of those individuals who are being led well, by the Spirit, to follow Jesus!

-Imitate Me As I Imitate Christ!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, “Be followers of me, even as I follow Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  Some of your translations say, “IMITATE me as I IMITATE Christ.” And, that’s NOT prideful as some unbelievers have claimed! That’s actually humility! That’s a disciple, of Christ, helping other disciples follow Jesus well! There’s another godly example, to follow, in Israel’s “good” King Jehoshaphat! His story is mostly told in 2 Chronicles, chapters 17-20. In summarizing his reign, as king of Judah, it says, “…he did what was right in the LORD’S sight” (ch 20, v. 32).  So, what did he do that that statement would be his legacy? What does it look like to live your life in such a way that God would declare, “…he did what was right in My sight”? I hope to answer that question over my next couple posts!

-Dependence On God For Everything!

What we find is this general principle:  “God calls the life ‘good’ that depends on what God can do & not what you can do.” It was the pattern of King Jehoshaphat’s life to live in utter dependence on God for everything! That was his manner of life. And, while he didn’t live that out perfectly, no one does! We’re all broken and depraved! But, he modeled a dependence on God both in his victories; and, in his failures! Here’s what Scripture says about him:  “Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the former ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals but sought the God of his father and walked by His commands, not according to the practices of Israel. So the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. Then all Judah brought him tribute, and he had riches and honor in abundance. His mind rejoiced in the Lord’s ways, and he again removed the high places and Asherah poles from Judah” 2 Chronicles 17:3ff. What encouraging words!

-He Sought His Father’s God!

After reading all the horrible stories of so many of Israel & Judah’s kings, before him, Jehoshaphat is like a breath of fresh air entering your lungs, isn’t he? So, what made him a good king? The writer is inspired, by God’s Spirt, to write that, “…he followed in the ways of his good father…” And, the reference is 1st to King David, isn’t it? Interestingly, it says, “…he walked in the FORMER WAYS of his father David…”  What does that mean? Literally, it means, “…the FIRST WAYS of his father David…” BEFORE his sexual sin with Bathsheba! And, then it refers to his father, Asa:  “…he sought the God of his father…”  David was his great grandfather 5 generations back; and, Asa was his biological father! I think it’s worth noting that following in the ways of your father is not common among sons! But, to Jehoshaphat’s credit, he obeyed the Word of God—he HONORED his father! And, he recognized & appreciated his godly heritage!  A great quality!

A Book Worth Reading!

-The Bible Not Worth Reading?

Perhaps you remember when GQ magazine came under fire for saying that the Holy Bible wasn’t worth reading! It was back in their April 2018 issue, which ironically was dubbed the “Style Bible” on the cover. The Bible actually came in #12 on their list in the article titled, “20 Books That Aren’t Worth Reading.” Jesse Ball, who authored the article, wrote:  “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it”—Unfortunately, there’s some truth to that, isn’t there? He goes on,  “Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.” Well, #1 he’s mistaken in giving “man” credit for writing it! The authors don’t claim to have written their material by their own inspiration!

-Inspired By God!

Rather, God miraculously inspired some 40 different authors to write the 66 books, of the Bible, over 1500 years. What Mr. Ball writes is pretty subjective! It’s opinion! It’s conjecture, on his part! He added:  “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned…” I would address that comment by quoting the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14. He absolutely nails the reason Mr. Ball sees the Bible the way he does:  “But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” To the unbeliever, the words of Scripture seem foolish because they can not understand them.

-The Unbeliever Can’t Understand!

It’s impossible for anyone to grasp the meaning of Scripture unless God’s Holy Spirit is their Teacher! Unless the Holy Spirit indwells them as a believer! “…he is NOT ABLE to understand it…” Paul says; and, because of his lostness, he “…does NOT WELCOME it…” But, I could get testimonials from believers in our church; and, from other Jesus followers, in every corner of the world, that the moment they placed their faith in God to save them from their sin, their eyes were opened to the Scriptures! Their ears were unplugged! They could hear the truth & it resonated with them! It became their life line! They know that God communicates with them through His Word! So, we do not read it like we read any other book; because, it is unlike any other book. I would always encourage you to pray before reading it! To ask God to transform you supernaturally, by the power of His Holy Spirit, as you read it! To open your eyes to all the eternal truths it contains!

-Ask Questions!

As you read the Scriptures, learn to ask questions:  “God, what does that mean? Please teach me!” That’s how I work through every Bible message or lesson as I prepare it! I don’t assume that I am able to plumb the depths of Scripture with just my human reasoning! For example, why did the Spirit of God inspire the Bible writers to include much of the same material the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles contains in 1 & 2 Kings? A section of Scripture that Mr. Ball, the author of the GQ article, perceives as repetitive; and, therefore boring! But, that’s the way an unbeliever would view it. If you’re a believer you should wonder what motivated God to include similar material twice! Perhaps, it is so important that God wanted it included again! So, what is there here that we don’t want to miss? That we should meditate on it! Revel in the mysteries of God!

More Lessons From Israel’s Ark!

-A Symbol Of God’s Presence!

In my last post, I talked about Israel’s Ark of the Covenant that God instructed Moses to build as a reminder of the Covenant which God had made with Israel. It symbolized God’s presence with His people; and, that’s why it was so devastating to Israel when King Saul & the army was defeated by the Philistines & the Ark was part of the plunder they stole away from Israel. After succeeding Saul as king, David’s first priority, after securing the nation militarily,, was to retrieve the Ark & bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13). 

-The Disturbing Story Of Uzzah!

That’s where we find the disturbing story of Uzzah. As all Israel joined King David, in celebration, as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen, who pulled the Ark, stumbled! And, it says that God “…struck him dead…” because he touched it (v.9).  Doesn’t that seem harsh to you? Well, it did to King David. It says, “David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is still named today. David feared God that day and said, ‘How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?’” (13:11) But,  to David’s credit, his fear of God was that Holy kind of fear that drove him back to God in confession & repentance!

-Back To God’s Word!

And, ultimately back to the Word of God; where, we all need to go when we’re confused by the events that Sovereign God choreographs into our lives! Two chapters later, we read, “David built houses for himself in the city of David, and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, ‘No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister before Him forever.’” (1 Chronicles 15) There’s only one place where David would have learned that— the Word of God! David returned to God’s word.  If you flip back, in your Bibles, to 1 Chronicles 13, you’ll see David’s fatal mistake, in v.1, when it says that David consulted “men” rather than God’s Word. And, Uzzah paid for David’s mistake with his own life!

-The Wrong Kind Of Worship!

There’s an incredibly important lesson here, when it comes to worshipping God! God is never pleased by our worship when we’re disobedient to His revealed will. In other words, there is a right way to worship God & there is a wrong way to worship Him. And, the only way we can know that we’re worshipping God rightly is to compare our worship with the Scriptures!  Jesus said: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit & truth.” John 4:24

-Worship In Spirit And Truth!

The correct posture, for Worship, includes our spirit AND TRUTH! David had the right spirit about bringing the Ark of God to Jerusalem; but, he wasn’t operating in the truth of God’s revealed will! And, let’s remember that David wasn’t in defiance of God’s Word! He was ignorant of it! God has revealed His Word to us & He makes us responsible for knowing it! Again, I can’t emphasize enough how desperate we need to be to carve time, out of our schedule, every day to read a portion of God’s Word! We’re responsible for knowing what He’s said! You and I need to learn the same lessons that David learned; and, in the truest sense it really wasn’t about the Ark at all! It’s about our attitude toward God when He speaks! It’s about elevating the message of His Word and obeying it! We need to apply, to our own lives,  the lesson David learned: “God is never pleased by our worship when we’re disobedient to His revealed will

Lessons From The Ark Of God!

-Indiana Jones!

So, have you ever seen the move, “Indiana Jones & The Raiders Of The Lost Ark”? Were you aware that the movie was actually based on the Old Testament story of Israel’s Ark of the Covenant? It was a 1981 Steven Spielberg film that starred Harrison Ford as an archaeologist who battled a group of Nazis searching for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. If you’ve never watched it, you need to! It’s iconic! Not that the movie is Biblically accurate; although, it is correct in a couple of ways— First, there really was such an item as the Ark; and, second, it really is lost!

-The Ark Of God

Back in Exodus, chapters 36 & 37, we read how God gave the dimensions for the Ark or “chest” to Moses! And, Bezalel was the skilled craftsman who actually built it from Acacia wood; and, overlaid it with gold! It’s ultimate significance was the “mercy seat” or cover of the Ark; where, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial lamb to atone for Israel’s sins. Obviously, the act foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make for sin on the cross.  It’s in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings that we read how King Solomon built the first temple, in Jerusalem, to actually house the Ark.

-Where Is It Now?

But, somewhere during the years following Solomon’s reign— in all  chaos of a split nation & a whole lot of evil, wicked kings— the Ark vanished; and, no one knows where. Much of Jewish tradition believes that it disappeared some time before or while the Babylonians sacked the temple in 586 BC and took many of the Jewish leaders into exile in Babylon. An interesting twist, however, is the claim of Ethiopian Christians that the Ark rests in a chapel in the small Ethiopian town of Aksum. They say it arrived nearly 3000 years ago; and, has been guarded by a succession of Monks who are forbidden to step outside the chapel until they die! These Ethiopian Christians believe that once the temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem, according to Bible prophecy, that they’ll return the Ark as a gift to Israel (NOTE: They make a compelling case from Isaiah 18).

-Don’t You Love A Good Mystery?

Now, while I love a good mystery like that, I suppose God only knows for sure where the Ark is. So, just by observation, we’d conclude that the Ark was kind of a big deal to Israel! Perhaps you recall, from a reading in Exodus, that, after God had made a Covenant, with Israel; and, written the 10 Commandments on stone tablets, that He instructed Moses to have the Ark built and to place the stone tablets inside.

-God Struck Him Dead!

The Ark symbolized God’s presence with His people; and, that’s why it was so devastating to Israel when Saul & the army was defeated by the Philistines & they took the Ark away with them as they plundered Israel. But, after humiliating Dagon, the Philistines false idol; and, causing numerous plagues to strike several Philistine towns, they finally returned the Ark to the Israelite town of Kiriath-Jearim where it was when David is installed as King in 1 Chronicles, chapter 11. After securing the nation militarily, David’s 1st priority was to retrieve the Ark & to bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem (ch. 13).  That’s where we find the incredibly interesting story of Uzzah. As all Israel joined King David, in celebration, as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen, who pulled the Ark, stumbled! And, it says that God “…struck him dead…” because he touched it (v.9).  Harsh? Let’s come back to that next week!

Death By Neglect!

-Don’t Neglect Your Spiritual Life!

In my last post I referred to a great revival that God brought about, in Israel, under the leadership of an 8-year old king named Josiah (2 Kings 22).  Only God can spread revival, through an entire nation, by using an 8-year old boy! And, in the reforms, which King Josiah incorporated, it’s clear that neglect had been the cause of Israel’s spiritual death.  Genuine revival is evidenced when God’s people no longer neglect meeting together! Josiah was concerned with repairing Israel’s temple (v.3).  The temple was the place where God’s people gathered together to worship Him & offer sacrifices to Him!

-Signs Of Revival!

But, the temple reflected the moral condition of the nation! It had been neglected; and, rundown! It had fallen into a state of disrepair as the people had quit coming together for worship. So, one of the 1st signs of revival, in the faith community, is a renewed zeal for coming together! It is recognizing that it’s impossible to live out the Christian life in isolation from other believers! That’s something we struggle with here in the west, don’t we? We’ve been taught that the Christian life is an individual thing! It’s NOT! God’s people have always been a “community”; from, Israel, as a nation, to the local church today! In fact, it’s absolutely impossible to even live out & obey the more than 60 “one another” or “each other” commands, in Scripture, apart from a Christian community! So, when Josiah “…began to seek God…” the place of worship became a necessity once again (2 Chronicles 34:3). 

-Don’t Neglect The Word Of God!

For those of us who are part of the Morningside Bible Church community, that’s “big church” on Sunday mornings; and, “small group” gatherings throughout the week! We need each other to effectively live out the Christian life! To speak truth into one another! To hold each other accountable! Meeting together matters! There was a 2nd sign of revival under King Josiah— the nation no longer neglected the Word of God! The text reads, “Hilkiah the high priest told Shaphan the court secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law in the Lord’s temple,’ and he gave the book to Shaphan, who read it… Then Shaphan the court secretary told the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book,’ and Shaphan read it in the presence of the king” (vs.8,10).  In the repairing of the temple, they uncovered a copy of the book of the Law. That’s a reference to Moses’ writings; or, the 1st five books of the Old Testament. 

-Proper Response To God’s Word!

And, notice the king’s response: “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then he commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah: ‘Go and inquire of the Lord for me, the people, and all Judah about the instruction in this book that has been found. For great is the Lord’s wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book in order to do everything written about us’” (vs.11-13). As the book, of God’s law, was read to him, Josiah realized how far the nation had drifted from the Lord. His shock points to the fact that the people had been unfamiliar with it for a long time! Again, I’m afraid that this is so relevant to our own nation & the church here in the West. So many sermons have become little more than the reading of a “token” Scripture verse misused to support our human efforts through self-help strategies! Josiah said, “Go inquire of the Lord.” And, so must we!

Renewing Our Commitment!

-Our Entire City Needs Revival!

In preparation for a meeting, in a large city, Evangelist Billy Sunday wrote a letter to the mayor, of that city, and asked him for the names of various individuals that he could pray for that needed spiritual revival. The mayor surprised Mr. Sunday by sending him a city phone book!  “Our entire city needs revival,” he told him.  And, so does ours! And, so does yours! Every day I need God to revive my heart; because, left to my natural tendencies, in my flesh, I will choose the path of least resistance spiritually! I will remain apathetic! And, be honest with me— so will you, right? We all need a fresh outpouring, of God’s Holy Spirit, every day!

-Remove The Spiritual Indifference!

That’s revival! We need God to revive us daily, by removing our spiritual indifference & renewing our commitment to live for Him! Only as God revives us will we willingly rebuke ourselves— and, beat our chests in repentance— over our indifference toward God & His Word! Only then will we renew our commitment to crucify self daily & offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. In 2 Kings, chapters 22-23, we find that nation of Israel in a really bad place spiritually. They’ve drifted far away from the Lord God. They’ve given themselves over to idolatry & the worship of vile, heathen gods! They’re stuck in a deep sinful hole & they’ve been warned multiple times, by various prophets of God, that they were in danger of the imminent judgment of God!

-An 8-Year Old King!

And, it’s with that background that we’re introduced to an 8-year old boy, named Josiah, who becomes king of Judah. Scripture says he “…was eight years old when he became king and reigned 31 years in Jerusalem… He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left” 2 Kings 22:1,2.  And, there’s a great verse of Scripture, in 2 Chronicles 34:3 that parallels the story of King Josiah, here in 2 Kings. It says, “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a youth, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherah poles, the carved images, and the cast images.” I hope you can get a picture, in your mind, of what’s going on there; because, this was a GOD thing! In the 8th year, of his reign, while he was still a youth, he “…began to SEEK God…” He was 16 years old! And, in his 12th year, at age 20, he began to “clean house.” Please take that to heart if you’re a high school student or young adult! You can make a difference, in this world, for the Lord!

-Difference Makers!

We desperately need young leaders— both in the church & in the world— who will take their faith very seriously! Who will be intentional about reading & studying the Scriptures! Who will be intentional about prayer! And, about making disciples! And, for those of us, who belong to an older generation, let’s not be too harsh or quick to judge the younger generations! Let’s humble ourselves & admit that much of the Church, that we’ve led, is a mess! It’s a far cry from what Jesus intended for us to be! Let’s listen to those who are younger! Let’s dialogue with them so that together we can seek God’s help in correcting the mess we’ve made of Jesus’ Church! That was King Josiah’s dilemma! He was 8 years old & he inherited a nation the older generations had messed up! So, he sought the Lord God for help to lead a nation to revival!

Signs Of Revival!

-A Shipwrecked Man!

The story is told of a shipwrecked man who somehow managed to reach a small, uninhabited island. To protect himself from the elements & to safeguard the few possessions he had managed to salvage, from the wreckage of his boat, he builds a small hut from which he constantly scanned the horizon, looking for a ship that might pass by and rescue him. One day, after searching for food on the other side of the island, he returned to find his little hut completely engulfed in flames! Nearly everything he had left had perished inside of it! Devastated, his sorrow was turned to joy the next day when he awoke to find a small ship anchored off the island! When the captain came ashore, he told the man, “We saw your smoke signal & came to help!”

-Loss Leads To Rescue!

Ironically, it was the destruction of everything that the marooned man had left that led to his rescue! And, after the fact, he gladly gave up all his stuff in order to be saved from his plight! That story, in many ways, illustrates what it feels like when you’ve experienced a spiritual revival in your life. Like that man, you think you’ll lose some things, that have become precious to you if you agree to give up control & give it all to God.  But, in reality, holding onto all those things, that keep you from giving your life in total to God, has left you shipwrecked, marooned & impoverished. Spiritual revival is different from salvation! Salvation is to make someone alive who was dead, spiritually! That’s what God does, for us, when He saves us! We were “…dead in our trespasses & sins…” Ephesians 2:1-3.  But, God makes us alive when we admit our sinful brokenness & trust Jesus’ work on the cross to save us. If you made that decision, you probably still remember how alive you felt at that moment.

-Have You Lost Your 1st Love?

Over time, however, you may have lost that “1st Love”— to use the phrase, from Revelation, that described a backslidden church (Rev. 2:1-7).  Perhaps you were once on fire for Jesus! He was you “1st Love.” But, other things— perhaps college & careers & marriage & kids & houses & stuff—began to crowd Jesus out of that 1st place position, in your life, that He once held! So, you live with a divided heart & divided loyalties! The vibrant life you first experienced has been replaced with a sort of “dullness” toward spiritual things that you were once “alive” over! If that describes you then you are in need of REVIVAL! You need to be “restored” to the spiritual fervor you previously enjoyed! You need to be REVIVED spiritually!

-Revivals Are Nothing New!

Revivals are not a new thing! Because God’s people have always been prone to backslide in their faith— dating back to the Israelites under Moses; to, the times of the judges and the kings; and, to the Church today— God has found it necessary to bring revival to His people! We are sinfully depraved & broken & incapable of doing God’s work without the help of His indwelling Holy Spirit! We regularly need His reviving work in our hearts! All of us! We all need a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit! Daily! We need God to revive us by removing our spiritual indifference & renewing our commitment to live only for Him! Only as God revives us will we willingly rebuke ourselves; and, beat our chests in repentance over our indifference toward God & His Word! Only then will we renew our commitment to crucify ourselves daily & offer ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice” Romans 12:1-2. We’ll say more about this next week!

When Someone Curses You!

-Discerning God’s Work In Our Lives!

Over the last few posts, I’ve commented on the difficulty we have of identifying; or, discerning when & where God is at work in our lives! We struggle to see Him behind the difficult & painful experiences of life! But, God does, in fact, use those experiences to grow us and sanctify us! In fact, God may use someone’s cruel words to humble us! That’s the main point of this post! Perhaps you recall that when King David’s son, Absalom, betrayed him, David was forced to run for his life. As David; and, all of those who remained loyal to him, were fleeing the city, they came to this place where there was a hill above them! And, up on that hill, a man named Shimei began to curse David!

-David’s Response To Being Cursed!

Shimei was from the family of Saul & he must have believed some conspiracy theory that David was responsible for King Saul’s death; because, he throws stones at him! I love the loyalty of Abishai, one of King David’s men, when he asked David permission:  “My lord, the king, let me go cut off his head” (1 Samuel 16:9). And, clearly, David would have been within his rights, as king, to have Shimei executed because it was a capital offense to curse the king! But, David shows restraint! He shows great humility:  “The king said, ‘If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?” (v.10). 

-Does God Use The Cursing Of Others?

It seems that David is thinking more about the wrong he had done to others (his sexual sin with Bathsheba & his murder of her husband) than the wrong that Shimei was doing to him.  “Don’t touch him,” David says to Abishai, “Don’t cut off his head! It may be that God has sent him to remind me of my sin.” So, how do you respond when someone curses you or speaks cruel words to you? Do you return evil for evil? Or, do you recognize it as God’s work in your life? Will you humble yourself & ask God to show you if there’s any truth to your opponents words?

-The Mysterious Way God Works!

If there is anything to be learned from this whole story— of Absalom’s & of David’s running for his life— it’s that God often works in mysterious ways! Not just in our lives; but, through the “events” that become part of the story of our lives! There’s another gem, to uncover, in this miniseries! What we see is that God sometimes uses someone’s wise counsel against them! But, how can that happen? It can happen only by the providential hand of God! Ahithophel had been one of David’s trusted counselors!

-Confidence In God’s Sovereignty!

But, he had swung his allegiance to Absalom against David. In an interesting side story, his betrayal came most likely because he was Bathsheba’s grandfather; so, he had observed David’s sin. He had reason to be bitter! He had observed David’s abuse of power & when he had the occasion to turn against him, that’s exactly what he did! And, when Ahithophel spoke, it was as though God was speaking (v.23). In ch.17, he gave Absalom a sound military strategy to defeat David. But, in God’s Sovereignty, Absalom rejected it & accepted the counsel of another! “Since the Lord had decreed that Ahithophel’s good advice be undermined in order to bring about Absalom’s ruin, Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than Ahithophel’s advice.’” (v.14) God is Sovereign! He is in control of the affairs of your life; so, if you find yourself on the run, like David, trust God’s plan even if it seems unorthodox.