Enjoy Your Glory and Stay At Home

Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became the King of Judah after the people of Judah had conspired to put his father, Joash, to death because he had turned his back on the Lord after the death of Jehoiada, his mentor and uncle. King Joash was a man who did right as long as the right person was leading him. He had no convictions or courage of his own, which I find sad. For me there is nothing much sadder than a grown man with no guts and no honor. Joash appeared to have both, until it was revealed that he did not when his guts and his honor died with Jehoiada.

King Joash is a reminder to us all of how important it is to not borrow our belief system from others, but to know what we believe and why we believe it. King Joash, even though he had been raised behaving rightly, was not a tree firmly planted in his own convictions and own relationship with the Lord. He was a tumbleweed, or at the very least a shallowly planted bush that could be easily uprooted and stuck in the ground somewhere else. Joash had never pursued the Lord with his own heart. He had never made the law of the Lord his own personal delight. When his outward circumstances changed, so did Joash.

Amaziah, the son of Joash, now is King and the Scriptures teach us in 2 Chronicles 25:2 that, “He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with his whole heart.” His Daddy had no heart for the Lord, and Amaziah had some. Amaziah started out well, but the longer he reigned as King, instead of growing wiser and more dependent upon the Lord and His commands, he did the opposite. As the Lord blessed him, he turned his blessings to pride instead of humility. This proud heart became his downfall.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18)

Amaziah begins to build an army to go out to defeat the enemies of Judah and he goes so far as to hire mercenaries from the northern kingdom of Israel. The Lord sends a prophet to him to try and talk some sense into him and remind Amaziah who he was and who the LORD is, “But a man of God came to him saying, ‘O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel nor with any of the sons of Ephraim. But if you do go, do it, be strong for the battle; yet God will bring you down before the enemy, for God has power to help and to bring down.'” (2 Chronicles 25:7-8). Amaziah answers back about all the money he has already paid all these mercenaries, and the prophet replies with, “The LORD has much more to give you than this.” (2 Chronicles 25:9). So Amaziah, at this point, listens and sends the mercenaries home and goes to battle against Edom without them.

It is here during this time of Amaziah’s life that he begins to reveal the true nature of his heart. First of all, his father David would have never gone to battle without seeking the Lord first. Therefore the mercenaries should have not been in the picture at all. Nevertheless, our God in His mercy and grace sends Amaziah a warning, which he does heed. However, in 2 Chronicles 25:11-13 we see that there are consequences to Amaziah not coming to the Lord on his own before he hired these men. Grace and mercy does not always alleviate the consequences of the choices that required them to be extended to us.

Now after the victory over Edom comes the depth of the evidence of Amaziah’s divided heart. Amaziah knows that his victory has come by the hand of the Lord. He KNOWS this, but he brings home the gods of Edom and bows down before them and burns incense to them (2 Chronicle 25:14). How crazy is that? Why would he do this? He knows the God that cannot be picked up and carried anywhere. He knows the God that has power to help and bring down and he still chooses to bow down and worship at the feet of gods that could be captured by mere men.

This, precious one, is what pride will do to us. Amaziah’s heart had grown proud and when we get proud we refuse to listen. Amaziah has gone down in history as the King who refused to listen. He refused to listen to others and he refused to listen to the Lord. Amaziah decided that he wanted gods that listened to him, so he brought some home. Oh, but it remains true to this day, pride always goes before destruction.

Amaziah’s proud heart, and I’m sure his new gods, have him swelling up and sending a message asking for a match up with Joash, King of Israel. Amaziah sends his big boy talk out and Joash responds with one of my favorite replies in the Scriptures, “You have indeed defeated Edom, and your heart has become proud. Enjoy your glory and stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall, and Judah with you?” (2 Kings 14:10)

Enjoy your glory and stay at home. Amaziah receives some wise counsel from Joash, but the following verse says, “But Amaziah would not listen.” Amaziah and his proud heart and boastful mouth gathers his army and he marches himself right into one of the biggest whoopin’s of his reign. Then his refusal to acknowledge the Lord as God and his leading the people of Israel away from His commands have him fleeing for his life until finally he is put to death. He should have enjoyed his glory and stayed at home, but even more so he needed to have had a heart that was wholly the Lord’s.

What about you beloved? Do you have guts and honor and a heart that is wholly the Lord’s? Do your belief’s change according to who you are hanging around at the time? Have you chosen to allow the successes and victories in life to make you proud and boastful instead of humble and grateful?

Take time today, tonight, this week… and sit before the Lord your God and ask Him to reveal your heart to you in the still quiet private so that you might know it and see yourself as He sees. Look for any warnings that the Lord has sent you through His Word, the words of others, or even situations that you have found yourself in. Examine yourself to see if your speech and actions change according to who you are around. Look for pride in your heart now before the path of destruction clearly reveals it later.

But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

(1 Corinthians 11:31-32)

What Do You Have In Your Hands

As I am studying through the book of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and digging into the life of Elisha and all that God called him to do there was a huge thing that caught my attention. So out in the margin of my Bible at the top of the left hand page right beside 2 Kings 6:3-6 I wrote, “God always uses a tool that is ready and available to do His works.” He does so, because it is never the person, nor the tool that has any power, it is always only the Lord and our obedience to His Word. As I stopped at this revelation in 2 Kings 6 and went back and read through 2 Kings 2 – 6 again I saw that it was never about Elisha, or Elijah before him, but it was always about their faith.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)

Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)

In 2 Kings 2:14 God used a mantle.

In 2 Kings 2:21 God used a jar and some salt.

In 2 Kings 2:24 God used some bears.

In 2 Kings 3:15 God used a minstrel.

In 2 Kings 4:3 God used some borrowed vessels.

In 2 Kings 4:8 God used the hospitality of a woman.

In 2 Kings 4:16 God used the husband of that hospitable woman ;-).

In 2 Kings 4:33 God used the prayer of Elisha.

In 2 Kings 4:41 God used some meal.

In 2 Kings 4:42 God used some bread.

In 2 Kings 5:3 God used the voice of a young girl.

In 2 Kings 5:10 God used the Jordan River.

In 2 Kings 6:6 God used a stick.

In 2 Kings 6:17 God used His angel armies.

When I went back through and wrote down all these accounts, there was one verse that the Holy Spirit kept repeating in my heart: The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). Too many times we watch what God is doing in and through someone else and think that since we are not able to be that or do that we have nothing to offer the Lord and no means by which to serve Him. Beloved of God, let me assure you that is a flat out blatant lie from the pits of hell. There is no such thing as being “unable” to serve the Lord… there is only being unwilling.

In 2 Kings 5:9-19, a man named Naaman almost missed the blessing of the Lord simply because he was unwilling to do the simple thing that he was instructed to do. This small seemingly insignificant thing was not a big enough thing for him to think it meant anything. One of his men came to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” (2 Kings 5:13). Humbled by the words of his servant, Naaman went and did this very small thing and because if it he not only was healed physically, but he came to know the One True God.

Is there an act of service that has been requested of us and we are unwilling because we think that what has been requested is too small and beneath us… then we will miss our God.

Is there a request that has been brought to us yet we are unwilling to give because the amount we have to offer seems too small and insignificant and we are embarrassed that this is all we have to give… then we will miss our God.

Is there an opportunity placed before us and we are unwilling to step into it because in our eyes we stand unqualified and incompetent to carry out the task at hand… then we will miss our God.

The Lord looks at us and asks, “What is that in your hand?” It is never about us… our God is able to use whatever it is that is in our hands. Stop looking at what others have in their hands and start looking to your own and offer it up to our God to be used for His glory. It’s not about being able… God is always able… it is always about us simply being willing.

 

 

How Big Is Your God?

 Elijah the Tishbite was getting ready to leave this world and be taken up to glory. The Lord knew he had fulfilled his purpose at this time on this earth, but he would not leave without discipling another to take up his position as prophet. The Lord would lead Elijah to anoint Elisha as the next prophet to Israel and he would spend possibly around seven years being taught by Elijah. The Scripture says that Elisha was known as the one “who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah” (1 Kings 3:11).

When it came time for Elijah to be taken up in the chariot of the Lord, Elisha still did not feel competent or confident in this new role as prophet. He asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit because he knew he could not fulfill this mission before him without the help of the Lord. The Lord would honor Elisha’s request and the mantle of Elijah would be left for Elisha as a symbol of the answer to His yes (2 Kings 2). Elisha takes the mantle and steps on the banks of the Jordan and he strikes the waters with the mantle and asks, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” At that moment the waters of the Jordan divide and Elisha crossed over to the other side where the sons of the prophets stood watching the entire thing take place. Here begins the ministry of Elisha.

Some may have looked at Elijah as he called down fire from heaven atop of Mount Carmel, or as he prayed for rain, and thought; well that’s Elijah, God listens to him. However, James tells us that, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Elisha understood this because Elisha was there with him, spending time with him and learning from him. Elisha saw that Elijah was just a man. He knew that it was never really about Elijah, but the LORD, the God of Elijah. The very same LORD that we serve today.

Here in America we have many pastors and denominations that will tell us that the Lord is not in the signs, wonders, and miracles business anymore. The canon of Scripture is here and complete and God has left us His manuscript to follow and that’s it. We are simply to believe who He was in the past and have faith in who He will be in the future, but here in the present we are  just to try to be good and not sin and show up for church on Sundays, give our tithes, and tell others they are sinners and Jesus is the only way to keep them from Hell, where all the sinners go when they die. Now I ask you, how big is your God?

In 2 Kings 3 the King of Israel and the King of Judah come together to seek the Lord through Elisha because they need water for their army and cattle. Elisha tells them,Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley full of trenches.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord; He will also give the Moabites into your hand. (3:17-18). Elisha says, this is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord. Not only is the Lord going to provide water out of nowhere, but He is going to fight with and for them to give them victory over their enemy. I ask you again, how big is your God?

Then in 2 Kings 4 we begin to see a string of miracles performed through Elisha. We see a widow woman who needs money to provide for her home be supplied as she steps out in obedience to the Word of the Lord. We see a barren prominent woman who loves the Lord and shows hospitality and kindness to Elisha be blessed with a son, and then we see her and Elisha’s faith in the Lord raise that same son from the dead. We see hungry men who almost kill themselves with poisonous ingredients in a stew be able to eat that very same stew, and we see an offering of firstfruits be used to feed a multitude with some left over, all “according to the word of the LORD” (4:44).

Let us fast forward several hundred years to the day that a man named Jesus would walk the streets of the land of Israel. When we read the gospels we see Jesus perform similar signs, wonders, and miracles as those of Elijah and Elisha. We see Him raise the dead and feed the multitude. We see prominent women step up and provide for Him and show Him hospitality. Then when it comes time for Him to leave this world we see Him say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12).

Looking back we see the mantle passing of Elijah to Elisha as a beautiful picture of Jesus commissioning us for the work of the continuation of His ministry; “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49). In the book of Acts we see the disciples wait just as they were commanded by Jesus to do.  Then we see them filled with the Holy Spirit and go out and perform the works that Jesus said they would perform. I ask again, how big is your God?

The Word of God tells us that, “For I, the Lord, do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). The book of Hebrews tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (13:8). In 2 Chronicles we read that, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (16:9). Our God is searching for and seeking those that He can strongly support. Now the question is are we someone that His eyes can rest on, and be found as one He can strongly support? Perhaps the reason we do not see the strength and power of God in our lives, in our churches, is because our hearts are not completely His.

We are told in the book of Hebrews that we are to, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14). Perhaps the reason why our God has become so small is because our egos have become so big. If we are to see God, then we must pursue peace with ALL men and sanctification, because without peace with men and personal holiness we cannot see the Lord. The word pursue in this verse means to aggressively chase like a hunter going after a catch. It means to eagerly and earnestly go after. Do we, here in the American church, really aggressively chase and earnestly go after peace with all men and personal holiness?

Perhaps the reason we don’t see God move the way He did through Elijah, Elisha, and the early disciples is simply because we aggressively chase after the things of this world and not personal holiness. Perhaps it’s because we allow the things of this world to cause us to pursue dissension with others instead of peace. Instead of setting our own personal importance aside we demand our way or the highway. Instead of laying our opinions down at the cross and to the weak becoming weak that we might win the weak (1 Corinthians 9), our message dies on the hill of pride. I ask again, how big is your God?

Is He big enough to humble yourself under enough to pursue peace with all men? Is He greater than your opinions and your view of life?

Is He big enough to humble yourself in obedience to enough to pursue personal holiness. I don’t mean outward appearance of holiness, but inner true holiness in the secret places of your heart and mind.

Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah? He is right here. His eyes are still searching to and fro for those whose hearts are completely His.

 

God, Where Are You?

 Sometimes… well who am I kidding, most of the time life is just plain hard. We get up in the morning already overwhelmed with the day that lies ahead not usually because of some huge event, but all the small ones that we must navigate through simply to make it to bedtime. We wake up and check our phones or turn on the news and the scroll and the stories before us are of people hurting, fighting, and doomsday proclaiming. The economy is awaiting a global crash, the President is tweeting like a twelve year old boy instead of a grown man holding the highest office in the nation, the young girl that used to ride her bike in front of our house has just taken her own life, and a friend of a friend is watching their son fight cancer with all the strength he can muster. We can see this and think, “God where are You?

I think most of us stand out on the ledge of life and we are trying to find God in the strong winds, in the earthquakes, in the fires of life. We are searching for the Lord in the storms. Our eyes frantically scanning out into the midst of the fearful situations before us and we can’t find Him. Our hearts and minds completely fixed on the problems that are so much bigger than we are and completely out of our ability and power to do anything to change what we see before us, and we cry out, “God where are You?

While we stand out on the ledge and look up and outward to find the Lord, He is whispering inwardly to our hearts the entire time, “I AM.” I Am right here. Take your eyes off the storms, stop scanning the horizons and searching the distance, because I Am near.

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7).

“You are near, O Lord, And all Your commandments are truth.” (Psalm 119:151)

“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching” (Romans 10:8)

When Elijah the Tishbite stood out on his life’s ledge he was tired, frustrated, scared, lonely, and  wanting to die. He was done with life, but the Life-Giver was not done with Him. Elijah came out on the ledge and the earth shook and the winds blew and the fires raged and he could not find God anywhere. Then he felt a gentle wind blow across his face… (1 Kings 19:3-21).

“Cease striving (be still), and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

“And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.” (Mark 4:39)

When our girls were little and we would walk into a crowded room or down a crowded street, or we were trying to make it to the car or to a storm pit in he midst of strong winds and pounding rain… we didn’t hold them out at a distance from us. We didn’t even leave them in the carrier. No, instead we pulled them in close to us. We wrapped our arms tightly around them and put their little heads in the crick of our neck so that we could whisper words of calmness directly into their ears. Shhhhhhhh… it’s going to be okay, don’t be afraid, I have got you. 

Elijah stood out on the ledge and when the gentle breeze blew across his face he wrapped his cloak around his head and blocked out the strong winds, earthquakes, and fires and tucked his head into the crick of the neck of his Father God and let Him whisper in his hearts ear and Elijah knew that His God was indeed still near. Beloved, our God is still near. The God of Elijah is still our God and he desires to be even closer than near us; He desires to be one with us.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22-23)

Our God is near. His word is near. He is not far off. He is not on the other side of the storms and fires of life separated from us. No, He is right there with us. We have to stop looking up and out and searching the horizons and trying to see past or through the storms to find Him, and instead just stop and choose to be still, and listen. Wait for the gentle blowing, the sweet whisper of His Spirit is there calling us to Him. Wrap your cloak around your face, block out all the noise, and open your heart, He is right here with you.

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

 

 

 

“Anne with an E” Parental Heads Up

I grew up watching Anne of Green Gables. I remembered it being filled with laughter and truth and the rises and falls of growing up. I remember identifying with Anne because I too was red-headed and freckle faced and spirited on the inside, although a little to introverted to express it as a child on the outside. I remember the excitement I felt when Gilbert and Anne finally admitted their love for one another. I will never forget the scene when Anne asks if Marilla has ever been in the “depths of despair” and Marilla responds, “No, to despair is to turn your back on God.” This is the Anne of Green Gables I grew up watching.

When Netflix announced it’s version of the 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables, by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, I was excited to watch it with my girls. The first season did not disappoint. My girls and I binge watched the entire season in less than a week and loved it. So when we saw the next season was available we couldn’t wait for the opportunity to binge watch it together. Yesterday we did just that.

Season 2 began right where Season 1 left off. I won’t spoil it for you with details in case you plan to watch. However, I do want to let you know that when you get to Season 2 Episode 7 the Anne of Green Gables you grew up watching disappears and Anne with an E becomes something entirely different. Here in Episode 7 at a party at Aunt Josephine’s house in Charlottetown, Anne with an E, becomes an agenda. Some of the lines of Anne’s character in one scene in Episode 8 after her experience at Aunt Josephines party are,

Remember when I wanted to be a bride but not a wife. I think I need to reimagine the whole marriage wedding thing. Well it isn’t just about one brief shining moment in white or saying I do. And I’m not going to give myself over to someone and be a pretty-ish piece of property without a voice or ambition. We will be equals and partners, not just husband and wife. And neither one should have to abandon their hearts desire. I’ve come up with a new name for both parties together because I believe that they should be named the same. Life-mate. Instead of a marriage I shall call it a love bond and any two people can have one.

Episodes 7 through 10 are so intricately woven together with this agenda focus in the threads of racial bigotry, gender inequality, and the self-sacrifice of brother and sister Marilla and Matthew who remained unmarried together in their childhood home in order to keep the farm alive, that even I found myself almost wanting to cheer on Aunt Josephine and applaud Anne’s reasoning.

“the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Do your children know the truth of Scripture? Are you feeding your children true food and true drink on a daily basis? Please do not think that an hour or two or three on Sunday and another on Wednesday and even a week of summer church camp added to that will be enough truth to sustain your child for the days ahead. Do not be deceived.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)

Please Christian parents, if you have not started the conversation with your children about homosexuality and how to deal with it in both truth and love, then start now. The world has most definitely started the conversation with them and will be glad to let them know how they think they should feel about it… and will use other children to do so. What I found the saddest in Episodes 7-10 is how this series used a young boy with great artistic ability and sincere genuineness to set him up to be the “gay kid.” As though to say that if these qualities and traits are yours as a boy (or girl as seen at Aunt Josephine’s party) then that difference means you are inclined to be gay. Very sad. Very, very, sad to place that label on the sensitive eye and creative artistic ability.

Might I recommend, Gay Girl Good God by Jackie Hill Perry.

I believe reading this book could possibility help us with the conversation on how to deal with this topic with both truth and love. I have not read it yet, but I do know Jackie’s story and I believe from what I know of her, this would be a good book to gain some insight into the world of homosexuality. We can’t ignore it and just say, “Hey, it’s wrong. Homosexuals go to hell.” Because, well, so do, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), and the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers and all liars (Revelation 21:8). 

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11). We all need Jesus to be saved from hell. It doesn’t matter what your temptation or sin inclination might be… apart from Christ we will die and perish.

We also cannot make any one believe. If Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, standing right in front of people could not convince  some, then let us not be shocked over disbelief. Yet, also let us not be guilty of condemning someone to hell over a moment of time that we have had with them either. We do not know where they are on their journey or where they have been or what they have been through. We never know the work that the Spirit of God is doing in someone’s heart. As long as they have breath there is hope, SO BE KIND.

All this to say, Parents here is your heads up. The Netflix series, Anne with an E, is not the Anne of Green Gables that you grew up watching. So be prepared, but not shocked. This is the world that our kids and grandkids are growing up in and are being called by God to be an ambassador to (Acts 17:26, 2 Corinthians 5:20, Ephesians 6:20). Therefore, let us get them ready to stand firm and serve Jesus, their Lord and Savior, and the world’s.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Missing Persons: A21 10-Year Film

It is one thing to be awakened to injustice and quite another to be willing to be inconvenienced and interrupted to do something about it.”
― Christine Caine

I joined the Launch Team for A21. A21 is a nonprofit organization fueled by radical hope that human beings everywhere will be rescued from bondage and completely restored. They are the abolitionists of the 21st century. They work with you to free slaves and disrupt the demand.

Human trafficking is destroying lives, but freedom will have the final word.

 

 

 

A21 works to:

REACH, RESCUE, & RESTORE   

Slavery is the fastest growing organized crime in the world.

It’s real, hidden in plain sight, and tearing at the social fabric of every nation and economic structure. But that’s why we exist— 21st century abolitionists determined to bring change.

Our operational strategy, and the heart cry of our organization, is to ReachRescue, and Restore lives.

REACH THE VULNERABLE AND DISRUPT THE DEMAND.

We prevent slavery from ever happening by engaging people through events, student presentations, and education programs.

RESCUE VICTIMS THROUGH IDENTIFICATION AND SEEK JUSTICE AGAINST THEIR CAPTORS.

We work closely with law enforcement on the ground to support raids, identify victims through our resource lines, assist in the prosecution of traffickers, represent survivors in court proceedings, and collaborate with Governments and other NGOs to eradicate slavery at every level.

RESTORE SURVIVORS AND EQUIP THEM TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY.

We work face-to-face with every person in our care, providing them with access to housing, medical treatment, counseling, education, employment, and repatriation based on their individual needs.

Know The Facts

Watch the film: Missing Persons: A21 10-Year Film

The Prophet of Prophets

I am studying in 1 Kings 17 -19 presently, and I am just flat out giddy about it. This is one of my absolute favorite sections of Scripture. I love teaching the Word of God because I truly believe every single word of it as written and I want everyone else to as well. This past week as I studied in 1 Kings 17 the Holy Spirit brought to my recognition something in the first two verses that I don’t believe I had ever noticed before. 1 Kings 17:1-2 says,

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’ Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah:”

Now what is so significant in these two verses? What is buried in these words that I had missed the other 500 plus times that I have dug into these verses and sifted through these chapters? What can we discover about Elijah that made him different? So different that he is a prophet that is prophesied about by other prophets in the Bible. “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” (Malachi 4:5) So different that he is the prophet that stood with Moses and Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration to represent all the prophets of God (Matthew 17:3-4). Read 1 Kings 17:1-2 again and pay close attention to that small word “then“. Do you see it?

This, my friend, is what I saw this morning in these verses that I had completely missed before. Usually when a prophet is recorded speaking in the Scriptures we see that the Word of the LORD came to the prophet and then the prophet goes out in obedience to share what the LORD told him. However, right here in 1 Kings 17:1-2 what we see is Elijah the Tishbite step up before a King and speak BEFORE the Word of the LORD comes to him.

Elijah was just a man who loved the Lord and feared Him. He was a man who knew the word of the Lord that was given to ALL His people Israel through Moses before they set foot in this promised land. He knew what God declared in Deuteronomy 11:11-19,

“But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Elijah’s father and his father before him had been faithful to teach these words to their children just as the Lord had commanded. When Ahab brought the Baal and Asherah worship into the kingdom and married Jezebel a priestess for Baal, Elijah simply had enough. Elijah knew what the word of the Lord said and he stepped out in faith before a King and declared it to be done. Even to the point of declaring that it would not rain until he himself said it would.

Elijah set himself up to represent the Lord without having to be asked to or commanded to by the Lord. There was no extra promise or assurance of protection by God that gave him the encouraging push to obey. Elijah stepped into what had already been written, what had already been commanded, what had already been promised and believed God would have his back.

Why is this so significant for us? Why would he be the prophet that is set up as the representative of all the prophets? Look at where we are today beloved. The cannon of Scripture has been closed. All that need be written has been written. There is no new word to come.

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (Revelation 22:18-21)

Will we choose to be Elijah’s in our day? Will we choose to live by what was written and declare the truth of God and live in obedience to God even if we have not heard a word from Him? After all, it has already been written…

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Do you have the faith to walk by what is written? Even if it means calling out a King? I hope you do beloved. I pray that I do. I strive to be an Elijah, because it’s the Elijah’s that come in spirit and power, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17). Elijah was just a man (James 5:17), just a regular human being like you and me, and God held off the rain for three years simply because he stepped out in faith. Then God sent the rain because he prayed and asked Him to open the heavens.

Elijah walked the talk so God was able to look down from heaven when he bowed up on King Ahab and say “Hey, well would you look at that! Atta boy, Elijah! Don’t worry son, I’ve got you. My eyes range over all the earth searching to and for looking to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Me (2 Chronicles 16:9). I’ve been waiting and searching for someone like you! Now let’s get to work.”

How do we become Elijahs in our day? We start by knowing the Word of God. Then the next step is to walk in obedience to what you know. The third is to start opening our mouths and moving our feet sharing the word of the Lord with others. We need more people who are willing to gird up their loins and live righteously (not self-righteously) and truly get serious about speaking out against the evil in our present day and point the world to the One who came to save while the day is still the day of salvation.

 

 

If I Had Of Had More Than Thirty Seconds…

Last night our middle daughter graduated from high school. Our school allowed the parents to share one minute after presenting our children with their diplomas. Her Dad and I split that one minute. I had to write all this to pull out the one minute, but had I had more than thirty seconds… here is what I would have shared.

 Shelby,

You entered this world with a voice that demanded that you be heard. You have continued to become a woman with a voice that still demands to be heard. You have always been a girl who was not afraid to speak truth. You have never been hesitant to challenge an injustice no matter who it was that you might have to call out in order to do so and we have always had your back. We always will.

In our home you have been taught to use your head. You have been raised to be a person of action, a self-starter, and a finisher. You have been taught to never half-way do anything. We have taught you to do all things with a spirit of excellence. We have watched you choose to challenge yourself time and time again and have seen you trust the Lord to help you meet those challenges. We have watched you work hard and refuse to cut corners even if it meant you would not finish first because maintaining your integrity was more important than the momentary win. I will never forget watching your ten year old self waddle like a duck in karate and getting the prize, even though you were last, simply because you did it right the entire time even though others were not and were way ahead of you.

We chose to be parents that treated our children like the adults we hoped they would become. You have done your own laundry since you could reach the knobs on the washing machine. You have been responsible for keeping up with your own appointments and keeping us informed of all that was required of you and of us to see that you had everything you needed. You have even made all your own phone calls and emails in setting up everything you needed for college. We have raised the bar high your entire life, thus far you have risen to reach it, and we don’t expect you to lower it now.

You have been taught in our home that you are free to make any choice you like as long as you are willing to accept the consequences of that choice. As you step into adulthood those consequences become greater, further reaching, and more permanent. You must remember that first and foremost you are Christian and you are a Christian living in the United States of America. Therefore, you never have an excuse to not walk free and live brave. Never allow the fear of man’s consequences to keep you from obedience to God. Never forget that God is your provider, not a job. Never forget that if all others forsake you because you won’t go their way, God’s way is always the only way, and Jesus IS enough.

As you step into adulthood and into the world remember that God has given you life and He has given you a voice. Use it. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9). However, don’t just open your mouth, but move your feet. “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 31:3). Never forget that this life is not about you, but you have been bought at a price. It is no longer you that lives, but Christ in you. You leave a mark for His name where ever you go and in whatever you do.Therefore, “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

As a mother it has been absolute joy to parent you. Though I know there have been many times that we did not see eye to eye, you have chosen to always be respectful. Even when hormones and crazy schedules and lack of sleep could have been a seedbed for mother daughter battles, there have been no wars. Many parents couldn’t imagine spending 24-7 with their kids, but I can say I did it and I loved it. Every lesson plan I put together, every book I had to order, every errand I had to run, every morning wake-up song, and every bedtime devo has been special for me. I know that the “bedtime” devos have been fewer and farther between this past year, but they remain special. It hurts my heart to think of the fact that in less than three months you will be sleeping under another roof in another state. My prayer is that you will continue in what you have been taught and spend time with the Lord in His Word every morning and every night.

Now as for college, you have chosen a field of study that will have you asking the whys for all the worst of human behavior. In doing so never forget that the answer to all the whys won’t be found in any textbook by man, but in between the pages of Genesis and Revelation. In all of your study and in all of your research, if you will keep the Word of God as your plumb line you will be well ahead and will be able to stay focused on truth and maintain hope. No one knows the heart and mind of man as the One who created him. The Spirit of God that dwells within you is there to help you in forensic psychology, just as He is in systematic theology. He will be there to remind you that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness. The mind of man is the depths of that battlefield so you will always need to be diligent in being suited up in the full armor of God.

Never forget that you do have an enemy and it’s not other people. It’s that serpent of old who simply knows how to use other people to attack you. One of your biggest temptations in life will be to withdraw from people or begin to even hate them, which will cause you to lose your fire to reach them for the gospel of Christ. This can happen in the church as quickly as it can in college. It can even happen within your family. When you are tempted to withdraw, choose to engage. When you are tempted to hate, choose to love. It’s okay to keep an arm’s length distance, but it’s never okay to ignore and treat others as if they do not exist and have no value. Jesus died for the world, not just for the people that are nice to you. You might not understand in the moment why God has allowed certain people to enter your life and others to leave, but know that He is sovereign and they crossed your path for a purpose.

Keep challenging the status quo yet always be willing to be challenged yourself. The day you stop being challenged is the day you stop growing. Keep speaking truth yet always be willing to hear truth being spoken to you. Most of the time we do not know the whole story and taking the time to gather more information always changes our perspective. Keep demanding to be heard yet always be ready to be quiet and listen, and it’s best to choose to listen first. Treat all people with respect, even if they completely disagree with everything you know to be absolute truth. You never know when someone has simply been looking to finally meet someone who believes in their convictions enough that they do not have to be validated in them by winning an argument. When in doubt, always choose grace. When in doubt, always choose love. When in doubt, always choose peace. Mercy always triumphs over judgment.

Shelby, I am so proud to be your mother. I love you more than words can say, and I have a lot of words! I am so very grateful that I find myself on this side of parenting that has me now transferring from authoritative disciplinary to trusted advisory and friend. I hope that you will always be able to look at me and not just see a mother, but see your biggest fan and best friend. I will always be in your corner cheering you on and coaching you up and sending you back out to fight another round, because I believe with all my heart that you will have the victory. Life can be hard, and sometimes the hits keep coming, but you are never down for the count. You are a Halbrooks and a Vaughn and even more so, you are a Holy Spirit filled daughter of the One True King. You follow the One who overcame the world and through Christ you are more than a conqueror. Always live like it.  

PS: Shelby, this is just the starter post. I’ll be writing on this to give to you when you leave for college. I love you so very much.

Finish Strong

I am continuing my study through Kings and Chronicles, and as I had the opportunity to share this past week with a group of Athens middle schoolers, there is treasure in these pages. There are many books in the Bible that many of us can miss the preciousness in because we are not willing to wade and sift through what we find to be mundane and monotonous or simply just plain difficult to read. However, if we will just choose to slow down and take in the entirety of Scripture and fumble through the hard to pronounce names and lists of genealogies and strange measurements and so on, our God has much to teach us.

This past week I was in 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 14 – 16. In these chapters I read of the reign of Asa King of Judah. Asa followed his father Abijam after a short three year reign. The nation of Israel had been split into two nations (Israel and Judah) for around twenty years when Asa became King of Judah. Idolatry was full throttle in both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. However, when Asa became king he sought to see that changed.

When Asa became King the Scriptures tell us that, “Asa did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God.” (2 Chronicles 14:2). He entered his reign calling the people of Judah back to the law and commands of God. He called the people to enter back into the covenant of God to seek Him with all their heart and all their soul. The people followed him back to God and the people rejoiced with this return to the LORD. Asa even dethroned the Queen Mother because of her idolatry.  Asa began well.

His obedience to the LORD brought peace back to the land. However ten years in to his reign, Ethiopia attempted to attack. As the attack loomed before him, Asa completely outnumbered, turned to the Lord.

Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” (2 Chronicles 14:11)

The Lord was faithful to defend his people and defeat their enemy (2 Chronicles 14:12-15) and the land lived in peace for twenty-five more years. After living in the blessing of peace for twenty-five years the northern kingdom of Israel rises up and attempts to attack the southern kingdom of Judah once again. Now Asa has another opportunity to see the faithful deliverance of his God, but here enters the problem.

So far Asa has done well. So far Asa has put his trust in the Lord. He began well, but as he spent twenty-five years in the ease of God’s peace… Asa forgot God. Asa forgot all that God had done and could do and he went to the King of Aram for help. He even pulled treasuries out of the LORD’s house in order to pay him for his aid.

God allowed the aid to work this time, but then He sent a prophet to Asa.

“Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9)

Here. Right. Here. Here is Asa’s opportunity to recognize his sin. Here is Asa’s opportunity to recognize his mistake. Here is his opportunity to fall on his face before his faithful God and cry out to Him in repentance and seek forgiveness and restoration. Here is the opportunity, but sadly Asa fails to take it.

Asa grows angry and throws the prophet who delivered the message into prison. Asa isn’t recorded ever turning to false gods, but he is recorded as choosing to turn to man to help him in times of need instead of God and finally dying in his forty-first year to reign (2 Chronicles 16:12). He only lives five more years after choosing to stop seeking the Lord.

Asa didn’t finish strong.

He could have, but he didn’t. God had promised him that he would be with him. God had showed him that he would be with him. He even knew that God could forgive him and continue to use him. He knew God’s track record, yet for some reason he stopped seeking the Lord. What about you?

What enemy are you facing? What trial have you entered into? What circumstances have entered your life that are making you feel that God has already abandoned you? Who are you trusting in?

Precious one, if you have put your hope in man you will find yourself disappointed. Choose to trust God. Go back to His promises. Review His track record through the Word. Look back on all His faithful provisions in the lives of those recorded in the Scriptures and look back on all the ways He has faithfully provided for you. Then, most importantly, look forward to the promise and be reminded of the sacrifice that was made that you might take hold of that promise. “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chronicles 15:7).

When life gets hard and people and situations and circumstances blind-side you and the enemy whispers in your ear that it’s okay to quit, that it’s okay to stop caring, it’s okay to stop trying; don’t listen. When the enemy tries to get you to follow your flesh and define everyone by the choices of a few, don’t listen. When it’s hard to keep standing, to keep smiling, to keep hoping, allow the Holy Spirit within to call truth to your mind.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

As our daughter’s youth minister shared with her graduating class this past Sunday morning, don’t allow the ups and downs of the journey to distract you from the destination. Jesus Christ is the destination. Standing before Him, holy and blameless without spot or blemish is our goal. Gaining the winning crown of life that we can present to Him in thankfulness for His endurance is our prize.

Everything that enters our life is an opportunity to prepare us for what lies ahead. So when life seems to sucker punch you in the gut and you find yourself either face down in the dirt or throwing up your walls of protection, don’t turn away from God. Turn to Him. Ask Him how what just entered your life can make you more like Jesus and further the gospel. Then allow Him to take it and in His faithful and capable hands produce that perfect result. In due time, precious one, the harvest will come. No matter what, finish strong.

 

 

For The Sake Of David

Sometimes as parents we have to watch our children spiral out of control. It is a hard thing to see. One of the most frustrating things in life for me is when I know that someone knows the right thing to do and the right way to behave, but they simply refuse to do so. I don’t know if there is many things much worse than having to witness someone we love, someone we have poured life into, turn away from God and live in disobedience to everything that His Word commands, while claiming that they and God are “just fine.” This is so hard because we know it is not just a temporary earthly issue we are facing, but their eternity is at stake.

I can’t sit back in judgment, I have both been the child that spiraled out of control and the parent that has watched a child spiral out of control. I write this today not to judge or condemn or to even offer advice, but simply to share some truth from the Word of God that might be a light shining in someone’s darkness. The light that shines in the darkness is His life because His life is the light of all men (John 1). So beloved parent what we must always be sure to do is to faithfully shine bright.

When we look in the Scriptures it was the faithfulness of Abraham that caused God to bless Jacob even though he was a man of deceit. It was the faithfulness of Abraham that had our Lord God on Jacob as the Hound of Heaven. It was the faithfulness of Abraham that led God to wrestle with Jacob until daybreak and take his hip out of joint. It was the faithfulness of Abraham that allowed God to move on his behalf and change Jacob’s name to Israel and bless him with the blessing of the promise. Jacob was blessed in spite of himself because of the faithfulness of his Grandfather, but it would take him until almost his death bed before he would realize that truth.

In the Scriptures as we read through the lives of the kings of Israel we see time and time again how God did not completely wipe out the lineage of David, no matter how horrible his sons to his great great great grandsons became, simply for the sake of David…

However, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a lamp to him through his sons always. 

2 Kings 8:19

Just do a phrase search on “for the sake of David” and you will see how time and time again God spared what He had every right to destroy simply because of the faithfulness of the one who He used to begin it all. God remained faithful to His promise to David. He remained faithful no matter what the unfaithfulness of man. Our God remains faithful to all His promises.

We also see in the Scriptures that God remained faithful to His promise despite David’s failures. When David repented and returned to the Lord, the Lord simply picked up and carried on His promises right on through the consequences of David’s sin. The consequences of David’s choices remained, but they were not able to defer or detour the purposed work of a sovereign omnipotent holy God.

Abijam became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. He walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David. But for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to raise up his son after him and to establish Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. 

1 Kings 15:1-5

God never acted like David didn’t mess up. He never pretended that what David did never happened. He even acknowledges it in the lineage of Jesus as He refers to Bathsheba as the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:6). Yet, David’s sin did not cancel out His previous obedience or the unconditional covenant that God had made with him. David had fallen, but God would only allow him to fall so far for so long. God never loses.

What can we learn this?

As I read through these Scriptures and as I study through the pages in Kings and Chronicles and read of the choices of the kings and queens and prophets and people, I want to learn. I want to learn to remain faithful. I want to learn to not panic when I see others spinning out of control, especially if it’s my own children. I want to know that I know that if I remain faithful to obey my God, if I choose to keep my heart wholly devoted to the Lord… my God will honor that faithfulness. Through choosing to believe what I read in His Word I also have the hope that if and when I stumble and fall, no matter the depth of the season of sin I might step knee deep into, the moment the Holy Spirit of God breaks my stubborn rebellious heart and brings me to my senses, when I repent and return, God remembers His promises to me. He always remembers… not for my sake, but for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ.

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake. (Psalm 79:9)

Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known. (Psalm 106:8)

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death. (John 8:51)

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

The bottom line, beloved of God, is that He never lets go.

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn