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
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Slavery is the fastest growing organized crime in the world.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Easter Sunday has passed. The majority of our nation gathered together that day at a local church or with friends and family either to celebrate the risen Savior or a bunny that brings baskets of eggs. Here in North Alabama it was an absolutely perfect Spring season day. Our own family spent the majority of the day sitting in lawn chairs outside soaking up the vitamin D until after the sun had set.
It was a lovely afternoon that began with a beautiful morning and musical Sunday service. A Sunday service likely similar to most all evangelical churches. A Sunday service where everyone was to be on their best behavior, making room for all the visitors with extra greeters and welcome signs and special gifts and all… and then everyone (visitors and members) would leave as quickly as they came in.
I am still studying through the books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In 1 Kings 11-14 we read of the split of the nation of Israel. God gives Jeroboam the ten northern tribes to rule over and promises him that He will bless him as He blessed David if he will simply honor Him and keep His commands. However, Jeroboam doesn’t believe God and fears that He will loose the loyalty of the people if they continue to go to Jerusalem to worship the LORD. Jeroboam decides to set up his own places of worship in Dan and Bethel with his own priests and own feasts and lets the people know that it is for their convenience. They don’t have to travel all the way to Jerusalem and observe the feasts down there, they can do so from the convenience of these places that Jeroboam made available. Jeroboam was not at all concerned with the heart of the people or their devotion to the One True God, he simply wanted them to stay in his part of the land. I read of this moment in history and I can’t help but think that the heart of the American church looks a lot like Jeroboam’s heart.
How many business meetings and staff meetings are set around making everything at the church as convenient as possible? How much time at a staff or leadership meeting is focused on what needs to change in order to keep people from leaving? How many discipleship meetings are focused on what gimmicks need to be offered in order to draw people in instead of equipping the willing to go out? Meeting after meeting, working and tweaking and planning and manipulating, trying to figure out how to get people in the doors and keep them once you get them. Hours spent talking in circles about the same old situations all the while silent hearts are sitting out in the congregation wondering why they have been attending the same church every Sunday for years and yet no one there knows what their life is like Monday through Saturday.
We’ve got coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack machines for in between. We’ve got soft seats, temperature control, and blankets for when your still cold. We’ve got Bible studies offered with no books, no homework, no teacher prep needed, just show up, sit down, and press play. Then we sit back and shake our heads because this still isn’t convenient enough. So we keep meeting and talking amongst ourselves about what else can be offered to make people come. When all the while the words of Jesus keep circling above our heads… “GO and make disciples.”
The sin of convenience. The sin of let me try and figure out what I can do to make you choose to worship our way in our place and stay. This sin of let me pick and choose leaders who will agree only with our way. The sin of let our preaching be about how everyone else is wrong instead of simply teaching the Word of God.
Is there not something amiss when a person can walk in and out of a church Sunday after Sunday and Wednesday after Wednesday for years and do so without one single person ever becoming a friend? Have we made it so easy and so convenient that a person can come in the door, find a seat, smile and listen, and get up and leave week after week, with nothing more than surface conversation on the way out to the parking lot? Should it not concern us when someone can walk out the doors of a church and weeks, months, and years pass and not one person that they once used to see every Sunday, every Wednesday, ever asks where are you and why did you leave?
However, to engage, to get to know, to find out… would require someone to inconvenience themselves wouldn’t it? The sin of convenience… and it’s root is found in pride and selfishness.
Perhaps all our programs have become our downfall. Programs planning out our conversations and controlling who we meet. Programs training us by man’s ideas on how to speak and how to think instead of how to read and hear for ourselves. Programs designed to keep us busy and keep us on schedule and crossing finish lines and receiving token trophies when our prize should be eternal lives now redeemed and alive in Christ.
Remember Christ in the breaking of bread and taking of the cup.
Teach His commands and observe them.
Sing His praises and worship Him and care for and encourage one another and then go out and keep His commands in every area and aspect of your life.
It was always meant to be that simple. Yet, perhaps in our man made attempts to make it simple, we have instead made it rote.
So today, who do you need to inconvenience yourself for in order to get to know? Today, how do you need to inconvenience yourself in order to discover why someone is no longer involved? Today, don’t start with someone at your church. Today start with someone in your home. Put down the phone, turn off the tv, set the multi-tasking aside. Don’t make excuses for them. Don’t make assumptions because they are teenagers. Don’t listen to the lies being whispered in your ears giving you a hundred reasons why you don’t have time and they wouldn’t be interested. Today simply start by stopping long enough to talk without worrying about a clock.
Jeroboam’s heart did not trust in the Lord to keep His Word to him. Jeroboam allowed his fear that he would lose the people to cause him to take control of the people by orchestrating his own way of making the people stay. In doing so he lost everything. God wanted to bless him. God wanted to keep His promise to him… but Jeroboam didn’t believe Him and now God would have to clean up his mess by removing him from power and making a clean sweep of his house. The ten tribes that had been infected by the idolatry introduced by Jeroboam would be shaken. They would no longer have the protection of the God they rejected, but would now see how well their idols could help them.
God wants to bless His people. God wants to bless His church. God wants to bless our homes… but we have to be willing to trust Him. We have to be willing to obey Him at all cost. We have to be willing to be inconvenienced.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
I’m going to start doing some short videos that will hopefully be some encouragement in the Word for all my ladies! This video series is called Weak Woman vs Strong Woman
WEAK: For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6-7)
STRONG: She girds herself with strength and she makes her arms strong. (Proverbs 31:17)
She girds: chagar – she puts on, she is able
She makes: amets – courageous, to be bold, to be alert, to be steadfast minded
Her arms: zeroa – she is a symbol of strength, strong shoulders, sows seed, yields
What does a Strong Woman look like?
This week we start with the S in our acronym.
S in STRONG stands for sensible… “The naive believes everything, but the sensible (wo)man considers his(her) steps.” Proverbs 14:15
T trustworthy: He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (Proverbs 11:13) A trustworthy witness will not lie, But a false witness utters lies. (Proverbs 14:5) Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. (1 Timothy 3:11)
R real: And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
O obedient: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed (Romans 6:17) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
N noble: A woman is strong because she is sensible, trustworthy, real, obedient to God, and noble. In Psalm 45:9 we read, “Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies”. The word noble in this verse is “yaqar” and it means precious, rare, splendid, costly… Oh ladies, be noble. Know your worth!
G is for Gentle. Finishing up our STRONG Woman series with our G.
A strong woman is gentle.
“And Your gentleness makes me great.” (Psalm 18:35)
A wise man will hear and increase learning and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.
This week I am studying in 1 Kings 11-13 and 2 Chronicles 10-11. These five chapters in Scripture teach us the importance of hearing and listening and seeking wisdom and walking in it. Solomon, even though he had been gifted by God with wisdom that others came from all over the world to hear, chose to forsake that wisdom and walk according to his own way. In 1 Kings 11:14-40 we see God give him at least three opportunities to repent. The third being the raising up of Jeroboam the son of Nebat to rule over part of the kingdom. Instead of repenting as his father David had done when he would fall into sin, Solomon instead chose to become like the former King Saul and sought to answer his sin with more sin. Solomon chose to go after Jeroboam to put him to death… thus rebelling against the Word of the Lord.
Solomon knew truth. Solomon had wisdom. Yet, he chose to ignore it.
Jeroboam is handed ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel as a gift of God. All the Lord asks is that he obey His commands and walk in His ways. The Lord promises him that if he would do this then He would make his house like the house of David. Jeroboam receives this promise from God, yet he chooses to ignore Him. Instead of trusting God and walking by faith in the word that was given him, he chose to walk by fear.
Jeroboam sets up idols in Bethel and in Dan to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship the Lord because he is afraid that going there for the commanded feasts would cause the hearts of the people to turn back their loyalty to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. We read a repeated phrase in 1 Kings 12:25-33, “he made”. Jeroboam removes the Lord’s priests and made priests of his own. He made his own idols, his own feasts, his own altars. He devised all this from his own heart and he set the northern ten tribes of Israel on a path of destruction.
Jeroboam knew truth. Jeroboam had wisdom. Yet, he chose to ignore it.
Rehoboam the son of Solomon is handed the kingdom at Solomon’s death. The people ask Rehoboam for mercy and for the heavy burden that Solomon had placed on them to be lightened. The elders advised Rehoboam to respond with mercy and lighten the burden of the people, but Rehoboam also turned to listen to the young men who served with him. These men advised Rehoboam to flex his muscles before the people.
Rehoboam is given wise counsel from the elders that served his father, but he chose to forsake their counsel. He turned his ear to the young men that served with him. These men, most likely hungry for their own power and authority, advise Rehoboam to respond harshly to the people of Israel. Rehoboam chooses to listen to them and the people who would have loved him and gladly served him now rebel against him.
Rehoboam knew truth. Rehoboam had wisdom. Yet, he chose to ignore it.
Solomon, Jeroboam, Rehoboam three men in leadership. Three men all gifted by God with promises, truth, and wisdom. Three men all blessed with godly men around them to remind them of God’s promises, truth, and wisdom. Three men who chose to forsake wisdom, ignore truth, and forget the promises. Three men who could have had it all and led many to freedom and life instead led many to slavery and death.
Now how about us?
The wisdom that God gave Solomon He gives to us. His truth and promises are all there recorded for us in black and white in the pages of Scripture for any who chooses to read or hear. He goes even further to those who choose to surrender their lives to Him today and for all eternity in and through His Son Jesus Christ.
For all who believe, Jesus becomes to us the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:27-29).
For all who receive Christ, the Spirit of wisdom comes to live within us (Ephesians 1:3-17).
For all who will simply ask, He promises that He will grant us wisdom and give it to us generously (James 1:5).
So what about us? Will we choose wisdom?
So what about you?
So what about me?
When I stand at the cross roads of life… who will I allow to direct me?
In 2 Chronicles 7:12 we read, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.” The Lord appeared to Solomon at night after he had completed the building of the temple and the building of his own house and spoke this truth to him. Solomon had prayed to the Lord at the dedication of the temple and had asked the Lord to bless the house he had built and to be with him and the people. We have Solomon’s prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 6:12-42. The Lord answered his prayer that day with fire from heaven and the cloud of His glory filling the temple. I read 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 and in my mind I picture that day when fire came from heaven as a response to the prayers of Solomon. I see in my mind the cloud of the glory of the Lord filling the temple and His glory being so present and real that the priest could not even enter the temple. I imagine that day and that moment and I think, God, would you do that today? If Your people who are called by Your name really humbled themselves and came together without division and lifted up our sanctified hearts with one voice to praise and glorify You, would You send fire from heaven and the cloud of Your glory?
It would be thirteen years later before the Lord would specifically respond to Solomon’s requests in prayer with the words recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:12-22. As I studied this week in 2 Chronicles and have turned over the prayer of Solomon and the Lord’s answer to him over and over in my heart, the words of the Lord in chapter seven verse twelve resonated within me. God responded to Solomon and said I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. God heard and God chose. God then called the place a house of sacrifice. He didn’t call it a house of joy, a house of praise, a house of celebration, or a house of meditation. He called it a house of sacrifice.
This house was to represent a people who had turned away from the ways of the other nations and their gods. It was to be for a people who had turned from their own will and their own desires and chosen to walk in obedience to the Lord no matter the cost. It would be here in this place that the One True Living God would humble Himself to be in the presence of sinful man and forgive their sin and be there God. He would call them His own and make them a priesthood to the nations so that all the world might know His name. He would dwell among them in the cloud of His glory… that is, IF they remained faithful to Him.
This is what made the Lord different from all the other gods of the nations. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was more interested in the obedience of His people than the sacrifices they brought to Him.
Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22)
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:11-17)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:10-17)
The house of the Lord was to be a house of sacrifice for a heart of obedience. Samuel knew this. Isaiah preached the reminder of this to a stubborn and rebellious people who had forgotten this. King Saul and King David learned this the hard way. Saul lost his kingdom and his mind, but David repented and turned his heart back to His God and was forgiven, healed, and restored.
The house that Solomon built for the Lord was later destroyed by Babylonians. Then another house was built, Herod’s temple, but it too was destroyed by Rome. Yet, God had not forgotten His people. A house built by man for God could be destroyed by man, but a house built by God for God… no man could ever destroy.
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. (Hebrews 3:4-6)
As God taught those who called on His name that He required a heart of obedience over multiplying sacrifices and as He allowed houses of man to be destroyed and His people scattered among the nations He illustrated that He was not bound by a house or a land but that He was present in the obedience of the hearts of His people. He clearly showed us this as He worked in the life of Daniel, in the life of Ezekiel, in the life of Esther and countless more.
Then one day many years later a man named Jesus would meet a woman at a well and she would ask,“Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” (John 4: 19-20) Jesus would then answer her with, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24) Beloved of God, the Lord’s place of worship is a house of sacrifice for a heart of obedience and you are to be that place for His house.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Here is the thing about the God we serve. We do not serve a God who makes requests of us that He Himself is not willing to make. God’s One and Only Son would teach us what it looked like to be a house of sacrifice for a heart of obedience…
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Our bodies are to be a house of sacrifice. Our lives laid down on the altar as an offering that is pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our God. The church is to be a house of sacrifice. A house where the sacrifice of praise is lifted up to a God who is worthy of nothing less than our complete surrender to His will, no matter the cost. Our body is to become a house of sacrifice for a heart of obedience.
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, (Romans 6:16-17)
“IfyouloveMe, you will keep My commandments…” (John 14-15)
Here is the promise that the willing sacrifice of Christ made available to those who will believe. When we surrender our bodies, our lives, our hearts, our will to the One who surrendered His for us… He promises that He will never leave us and never forsake us and that cloud of glory that filled Solomon’s temple as the initial answer to His prayer fills our house as we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). Though our outer man might decay or be destroyed our lives remain… because we are more than flesh and bone. We are alive in Christ. Our worship is in spirit and truth and a new body, immortal and indestructible, awaits us.
From the best I can tell from a quick web search, the term “like-minded” originated in the 1500’s. The term is meant to describe a group of people that have similar opinions, ideas, or interests. The world has made a business out of helping us seek out like minded individuals. For many it is the determining factor in choosing our friendships, business partners, schools, churches, etc. A search of the term “like minded” pulls up 129,00,000 results in .5 seconds.
The desire for us to be surrounded with like minded people is so great that we are now able to build our own like minded mini worlds through the technology of social media. We do not even have to purposely intend to do so, those controlling our sites attach cookies to our searches and through them begin to build a profile on us and set us up to direct us to other articles and items that are like those we intentionally searched out. We are directed to other individuals and organizations that are like us so that we can grow our like minded world even larger. This of course sounds like perfectly good system… but is it really?
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.”
There is a danger in building our like minded mini worlds. The danger is that in our like minded mini worlds we become close minded to those outside of it. The more crowded our like minded worlds become the more convinced we are that our opinions, our ideas, our dispositions are the only ones that are valid and of value and everyone else’s are flat out wrong. Then we begin to exalt ourselves and look down on others… and even begin to work to discredit and destroy them.
We see this over and over again through out history. We see this all over the world. We see this in nations with caste systems and tribal divisions. We see this in the church with denominations. We see this in our schools (and churches) with cliques. God commanded us to scatter and fill for a reason.
I am currently teaching through the book of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In our study this past week we were in 1 Kings 5 and in this chapter we were able to see how David formed a friendship with Hiram King of Tyre. This friendship was one of mutual respect and because of it when Solomon became King, Hiram immediately sent word to him to acknowledge him as the new King of Israel. Solomon then extended a request of Hiram asking him to provide timber and skilled workman to help him build the house where the name of the Lord would dwell.
The nation of Tyre had been blessed with great skill and knowledge in cutting timber and engraving stone and because of the relationship that David had formed with this nation, with this King, despite their cultural differences, the nation of Israel would now be blessed to not only utilize these skills, but to learn them. Through this friendship David had the opportunity to teach Hiram about the God of Israel. David choosing to build a relationship with this King and this nation opened a door for this nation to be able to know the One True God and now to even become a part of the construction of the house where His name would dwell.
As I studied in these chapters this week I was also learning from a Pastor friend of mine, Daryl Little, as he spoke on the Black Christian and White Christian Dilemma in the United States. As I listened to him share he spoke of how God has graced different people groups and different cultures with different gifts and talents and we lose when choose to discredit and disassociate with others simply because they are different from us. Too often we form our own like minded groups and our learning stops. We have decided this is the box we like and we refuse to step out of it… and even worse we refuse to allow our knowledge of God to grow outside of it.
The beauty and glory of the house of God would have suffered had Solomon been unwilling to reach out to the Sidonians. God had gifted these workers… for every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). In Genesis 1:27 the Word clearly tells us that, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Therefore every single individual that has ever lived and will ever live was and will be created in the image of God.
Let this sink in a bit…
Look at the people around you. Look at the people around the world. Look at their many gifts, their many talents, their many features, and realize that not one of them has ever had the same DNA yet each and every one of them is an image bearer of our Creator God. Try and wrap your mind around this concept and in doing so realize that from the beginning of creation until this day including every present child that is being and will be being formed in their mother’s womb, each and every one of them bears the image of God. This my friend is how vast the depth of the reality of the person of our God is…
In 2 Chronicles 2:5-6 Solomon writes, “The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods. But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? So who am I, that I should build a house for Him, except to burn incense before Him?“
Solomon wrote to the King of Tyre and said I’m building this house, but I cannot contain this God. All I can do is maybe use it as a place that we can come and sit before Him and offer up our prayers and praise. Is this not what God calls us to still do today?
Yet instead we form our groups based on our own opinions and ideas and traditions and we call ourselves inclusive because we invite others in, until that is they refuse to conform or they begin to disrupt with differing opinions and ideas and, well, then we force them out. We may do it in a discrete way by beginning to exclude them in small ways or we may do it in outright you can’t sit here ways… but make no bones about it, we find a way to remove them.
We want them out because they now challenge our mini world and make our box uncomfortable. In doing so we remove an image bearer of God. We lose an opportunity to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. We lose an invitation to see life through another set of eyes. We even lose an opportunity to shine the light of Christ into the depths of a heart that perhaps has believed a lie and we lose an opportunity to allow the Spirit of God to teach us how to fight and defeat that lie in their heart and the hearts of others. If we are so insecure in our own convictions that we can’t even listen to another’s then perhaps we need to question the foundation on which we are trying to stand.
God has called us to go into all the world and make disciples. This requires that we step outside of our own like minded worlds and willingly and purposely enter into other worlds that the Lord Himself will show us.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you,'”
We are to step outside our own like minded worlds and step into Him. We are to be united in Him. We are to have the mind of Christ. We do not need to settle down in our like minded worlds, we need to first be noble minded.
Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
There is so much to learn. Our God is so great and the expanse of His presence is beyond our comprehension. I love reading the experiences of other believers around the globe from other nations. I love reading and hearing all the mighty and amazing things that the Lord does in and through and for them so that He can use them for His glory to reach hearts for Christ.
I heard a Christian man in our area make a statement one time. He was at a location where someone had just died and their was a group of Christians that this now dead man knew who came and asked for just five minutes to pray over the man before they pronounced him dead and took him away. The Christian man then shared how had that man risen from the dead he would have fled from that place. I thought to myself, this is the box we live in. We have placed our God in a box that no longer believes He can raise the dead.
Our like minded worlds make our God so very small because they become more about us, our opinions, our ideas, our dispositions, our will, and our ways… and less and less about Him. They become less about Him, because to know Him is to grow in Him, and to grow means we have to get a bigger box because He just wont fit in the current one we have constructed for Him. The danger begins as we start to move Him out so we can make room for more like minded people who will fit in our box and we soon discover that in our like minded worlds we no longer talk about Him, but we talk about everyone who doesn’t fit in our box… and any praise we claim to give Him is actually not praise at all but is really just self-exaltation.
The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Is being with like minded individuals just wrong? Absolutely not! God commands us to be of the same mind. He commands us to come out from the world and to be separate and united in Him. He demands that we be made complete and of the same mind and the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). However, He commands all of this with a purpose. When God calls us to be like minded it is so that with one accord and with one voice we might glorify God.
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
The purpose of becoming like minded God’s way is to destroy all other divisions so that we can see past our differing opinions, ideas, and dispositions. Becoming of the same mind with one another according to Christ is to teach and enable us to easily move past any cultural differences and be united in our praise to the One who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son for every whosoever that will believe.
And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
Precious one, let us step out of our own little worlds and break out of whatever box we have constructed for ourselves because our God is bigger. I don’t know about you, but I want to know Him. I want to grow in Him. I want to serve the God that can’t be put in a box and be a part of the church that the gates of Hell can’t stand against. I want to believe in the God that still raises the dead.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn