Jonah

Jonah 1-4

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The story of Jonah is a strange one, isn’t it? Never mind the whole getting swallowed by a whale thing, Jonah himself is not a particularly estimable character, yet we have a whole book in the Bible named after him. I love the VeggieTales song “Jonah Was a Prophet” from their first theatrical movie Jonah. The chorus sums up the story quite nicely:

Jonah was a prophet

oo-ooh!

but he really never got it

sad but true!

and if you watch it you can spot it

a-doodley-doo!

he did not get the point!

 

Jonah just might be the world’s most famous hypocrite. He was shown mercy from God and rescued. He later rebukes God for being too merciful towards the people of Nineveh. I usually read this story with a sort of warning, “Don’t be like a Jonah,” someone who misses the point. But what made Jonah do these things? I don’t believe Jonah was just simply unintelligent. We are told he was a prophet. He must have been somewhat learned or at least skilled in communication for God to have chosen him to be His mouthpiece. So, while Jonah acts stupid throughout most of this story, he surely must not have been stupid.

What is it that changed for Jonah? What made him become so blind to God’s truth. Looking over the story, I think there are two things: pride and disappointment. In the final chapter of the book, when it becomes evident God is not going to destroy the city of Nineveh, Jonah becomes angry with God. He basically tells God he knew God wasn’t actually going to destroy the people and accuses God of wasting his time by sending him there (verse 2).  It seems Jonah forgot his place as God’s servant. In the following verse, Jonah expresses disappointment. Jonah had hoped the Ninevites would be destroyed and becomes so wrought with this lost hope he fades into depression. Jonah’s pride and disappointment blinded him from seeing the truth about God’s compassionate mercy.

Are you a Jonah in your own life, right now? Has your pride or disappointment prevented you from seeing God at work? Our lives have undergone many changes over the last several months. With so much cancelled and shut down, disappointment almost seems like the new normal. Pride can also take hold during these pandemic times as we can become jealous of those whose lives seem to go on relatively unscathed. I have felt both these things, especially the disappointment. It can be blindsiding and out right devastating when something we have hoped and planned does not happen. While I have not the magic words to make the pain disappear, I do know I must not let it blind me from God’s truth. Remember where our hope and treasure truly lie, in the coming Kingdom of God. Fix your gaze upon those everlasting promises and don’t be a Jonah.

 

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jonah+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

A King with a Divided Heart

2 Kings 14 & 2 Chronicles 25

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Today’s reading looks at King Amaziah.  2 Kings 14:3 explains, “Amaziah did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, but not like his ancestor David” (NLT). In 2 Chronicle 25:2, we are again told of Amaziah’s faith as he “did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, but not wholeheartedly” (NLT).  The literal Hebrew translation for the phrase wholeheartedly means with a loyal heart. So, King Amaziah served the LORD, but not with a loyal heart. Sometimes he obeyed God, as explained in 2 Chronicles 25:5-10, by heeding the prophet’s warning to not use the troops from Israel. Other times, he forgot God and chose to worship idols. His heart was not loyal. He was a king divided.

The idea of serving with a divided heart reminds me of a sermon I preached last summer on Philippians 4:2-9. This passage begins with the ever popular “Do not be anxious about anything” verse. I conducted a closer word study over this passage and discovered what Paul is really saying is not “don’t worry” but not to be divided. The Greek translation for the word anxious is merimnate. The root word merimnaó actually means to be divided, not to be whole. Paul is asking believers not to let their hearts and minds become divided, but to invite God into all aspects of our lives doing this through “prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.”

While worry is one thing that can divide a heart, it is not the only thing. Right now, living in pandemic times, it is easy to be distracted by many feelings. Despair, anger, depression, grief, uncertainty, doubt, and loneliness are all feelings that can be developed during this time. All very reasonable feelings, considering all that is happening. The key is to not let these feelings divide our hearts or keep us from serving God. I believe the best thing we can do to ensure we serve God with a loyal heart, despite our circumstances, is to invite God into our feelings.

Share with Him the things troubling you. Do not keep your worry to yourself, tell God about it. Tell Him when you are lonely. Tell Him when you are angry and doubting His sovereignty. Tell Him when you are sad. Invite God into your struggles so your heart will not be divided. It may not change your circumstances but unlike King Amaziah it will help keep our hearts loyal.

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+14%2C+2+Chronicles+25&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the (short) book of Jonah as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .  What can we learn about God or about ourselves from this prophet in the belly of the big fish?

Renovating the Temple

2 Kings 12-13 and 2 Chronicles 24

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A century after Solomon, both the people of Israel and the Temple had become a metaphor for one another. Both had grown to be a shadow of their former glory. The borders of Israel were shrinking along with the people inside.  Many had moved from serving the One True God to idol worship, and the holy relics inside the temple had been refashioned for use in Baal worship. No one seemingly cared, and it showed.  Enter Joash.  Made king at only the age of seven, yet he showed wisdom beyond his years.  Even if you’re a king, you haven’t truly found your ego at such a young age, which was much suffered by his predecessors.  In fact, psychologically speaking, your sense of right and wrong is never more attune and concrete than at this time in your life.  Just the king Israel needed at this moment. Joash is considered a “good” king because he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, including temporarily restoring the Temple and the precious things inside – not the holy relics -the people of Israel.

 

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis discusses a similar metaphor in our transition to become more like Christ. He compares our old-self to a shack, and the new man/woman to a castle.  I would dare say, with Lewis most likely agreeing, that God’s first move is not to take a bulldozer and knock our shanty to the ground.  When we hear Paul assert  “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” he is not implying such a thing either. Isn’t there some salvageable part that God made if he stitched me in my mother’s womb with a purpose? I believe the context of Paul’s words are more directed at building with a Christ-centered motivation, instead of using the law as we see fit (yesterday’s devotion – read Galatians 2 for context). Everything we do, from tying shoes to tithing, must go through a process of being purposed for God.

 

This means every wall must be inspected for integrity.  Every space designed with the intentions of the Father using it.  Yes, the sin, the junk, the addiction, the clutter, must go; however, when we do this, there are pieces – traits, relationships, gifts – that might be salvageable.  The “bones” might be good in a spot or too, but God simply isn’t looking to paint the walls and hang a few pictures.  He is using the most select pieces, making elaborate extensions, and has a detailed blueprint for more than we could possibly ever imagine. It is an extreme home makeover that begins with bringing Christ on the job-site. The home becomes more unrecognizable, yet with each phase, it is moving towards how it was intended to be.  There is a shadow, a glimpse, of what stood there before, but there is much that has been changed, added, removed, all having the mark of their Maker.

 

Construction – quality, enduring, sizable construction – takes time.  Joash did not restore Solomon’s temple overnight.  Your renovation from a shack to a castle will take God and you a lifetime to complete, and it will require a day-in-day-out dedication to get there. Most beautifully, alongside our metaphor is a literal Kingdom with Christ at the center.   This hard work is not without a promise.  We truly are looking ahead for a city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).  I desperately hope we see each other there.

 

Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your week.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+12-13%2C+2+Chronicles+24&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 25 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Use Caution, Christian

2 Kings 9-11

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Be forewarned, today’s reading gets a little gory. Jehu is charged with wiping out the festering family of Ahab across Israel, and he does his job handily, even going above the call of duty.  He not only kills the children of Ahab, but also anyone who serves them.  One of Ahab’s most notorious endeavors was introducing Baal-worship to Israel, most famously remembered in the battle at Mount Carmel. Jehu doesn’t simply knock down the altars built to Baal, he goes as far as setting a trap to ambush every last Baal worshipper in Israel.  God is pleased with Jehu for fulfilling the prophecies of Elijah, yet the line of Jehu, according to Hosea, is cursed for the massacre (Hosea 1:4).  How could God be upset with someone for doing his bidding?  Or for even doing more than what was required of him/her? We should always be careful when we are in a position of authority, entering social circles, or making a public declaration of God’s will that we are people above reproach and we are closely sticking to God’s script. Too often, Christians live out the most convenient version of their faith, editing or elaborating to their own tastes.  If we are not seeking God fully, especially during the most critical times, we could make curseable, long-term missteps similar to the failings of Jehu.

 

A Proud Heart

 

“Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.” – 2 Kings 10:31

 

Jehu was crowned King.  That was kind of a big deal. This gave him the right to do pretty much anything he wanted to do politically, although not the permission to do so in the eyes of the Lord.  It was most likely arrogance that caused him to stumble, to think he could carry out the specific sovereign will of God, yet not keep the moral will of God for his life.  No matter what position we assume, we are never above God’s calling for our life, and we are to remain humble, obedient, and as a servant.  Everything we have or will ever be belongs to God.  Do not get caught up in the title, or the big thing that God has called you to do.  Pride does indeed come before the fall, and just as what was intended for evil, God can use for good, what was intended for His glory, can becomes the shoplifted source of our own.

 

A Sly Mind

 

“But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the servants of Baal.” – 2 Kings 10:19b

 

Jehu acts if he is ready to hand Israel over to Baal worship only to bait and destroy those who came out. While God certainly has no problem with Jehu ending Baal worship, God does take issues with the lie, and most concerningly, these deaths were not justified in the eyes of the Lord as they were called a “massacre” in later scriptures.  Jehu used God as an excuse to rid himself of any political opposition that remained.  When we think the end justifies the means, we live in a very dangerous territory.  We lack principle or order; chaos and anarchy reign.  Anything goes. We are essentially saying we know more than God, that the fruition of a thing cannot happen by following His law for our life (there’s a reason!).  A simple measurement we can use – if we have to lie to get there, it’s not a God thing.  Additionally, if our primary motive is for personal gain, we need to stop and deliberate with God because our mind has become infected with the intentions of our heart.

 

A Blind Eye

 

“So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.” – 2 Kings 10:28,29

 

Jehu extinguished one specific area of sin while allowing another area, either by omission or encouragement, to continue. Idol worship was still happening in Israel, just the kind that was okay with Jehu. Christians are often guilty of making the same mistakes.  We condemn homosexuality, yet remain silent as we watch couple friends divorce in the church.  We are quick to call for the end of abortion, but don’t lift a finger to help a needy mother or harbor hate in our hearts, also known as murder according to Jesus. Christians will turn their back on someone who has been imprisoned for a crime, but allow all kinds of things on their screens because it is “entertainment”. Now, I am stereotyping, lumping every Christian into a single pot, but this, too often, is the criticism of those on the outside of our faith.  We are hypocrites, specifically the type that are turning a blind eye out of convenience or to afford our own brand of vices, not the more generic kind we all are as sinners.  Either remain silent or call it all out. Don’t turn a blind eye to any sin, especially if it lives inside you.

 

Examine your heart.  Inspect your mind and motive.  Watch with both eyes open.  Be vigilant in these self-inspections to remain faithful to God.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+9-11&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 12-13 and 2 Chronicles 24 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

One Hand Washes the Other

2 Kings 5-8

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Over the course of the past few months, it would not be presumptuous to say that many of us have amended our handwashing technique; however, we have most likely been using one hand to wash the other for quite some time (hopefully with warm water and soap, too).  It is a mutually beneficial relationship, which makes both hands equally clean, each part repaying the debt to the other. This has become a beautiful analogy for many who do favors in expectation of a return. No matter how you say it, “one hand washes the other” or “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” (which you will definitely need to wash your hands if you scratch someone’s back), going out of our way and doing the right thing can be advantageous to a relationship, a caching of IOUs, or marking our debt paid. Handwashing itself is definitely a biblical, Levitical principle, but is this tit-for-tat the way God works?  Should we expect a return when we have lived out the moral will of God? Should we be cleanly rewarded because we have taken a risk on someone else’s mess?

 

Today’s reading challenges us to think differently about the expectations of doing a good deed.  Naaman is healed of leprosy by the instructions ordained through Elisha.  Naaman was indeed searching for a cure, but as the many who came up to Jesus looking for healing, he had a curiosity about the God of Israel.  Overwhelmed by the healing, he asked Elisha if there is anything He can do in return? For a moment, think of your hospital bill if you were healed of a flesh-eating disease that could ultimately take your life, much less the deep appreciation you might have for your new quality of life.  Both would be truly astronomical.  Elisha could have asked for enormous amounts of wealth, power or favor in Syria, or even asked for a vow of protection from an enemy captain.  He wanted part of no such thing.  His whole purpose in helping is so that men, specifically Naaman, would know and confess “…Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel…” – 2 King 5:15.  If we needed any further confirmation of this truth, Elisha’s servant is struck with leprosy after turning back to essentially say Elisha had changed his mind and would be happy to take a few things in return (2 Kings 5:26,27).

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a message of hand washing hand.  It is a message of hands washing feet. We are to be servants of God, and in turn, servants of those He loves, people.  We do not do these things because we can earn our spot in the Kingdom of God, or buy our way into his favor (Rom 6:23).  Our debt is so enormous, we could never repay it.  We become the beneficiaries of this gift when we humbly accept the healing instructions God offers us; that we would be made clean by the waters of baptism and know and live that there is no other god in our life, except the living, one true God of Israel.  When we act as God, meaning, when we act as an agent of His attributes (love, kindness, patience, truth, faithfulness, forgiveness, grace) we are not offering something that is from us.  We are offering God.  God’s terms have already been agreed upon; we do not have any additional conditions to bring to the table.  We are not owed, nor should we expect a return on such an investment we make with our life or provisions. God is the rewarder. Every good and perfect thing flows down from the Father (James 1:17).  Ultimately, we should not ever extend our hands out to expect a reward from God or anyone else. As we serve the Lord in whatever capacity he has called us to, we should extend our hands upward to give Him the praise because He is rewarding us in a literally astronomical way that will reshape the structures of heaven and earth.  We may lose all we have or be thought of as fools as we try to serve like Jesus, but we can truly never settle the score, or wash the hand of God, and that is an awesome, powerful, wonderful thing.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 9-11 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Portion Sizes

2 Kings 1-4

Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit

On our occasional visits to Disney World, I often think about the cruel irony of Walt never laying eyes on his biggest dream.  He died just five years before the Magic Kingdom opened, just as they were breaking ground. While Disney was charismatic, passionate, creative, and a visionary, he surrounded himself with an entourage of like-minded people, so consequently, his dream did not die with him. By mentoring and empowering those who worked for him, he allowed their passion, creativity, and vision to fuse with his own, to accomplish even greater things than even he could imagine.  In some manner of speaking, each one of the people around him each received the spirit of Disney, yet retained their own spirit, allowing them to benefit from both. This legacy has been passed down over and over again, and Disney has become one of the most innovative companies in film, television, and travel.  Using a conversion that translates 1966 dollars to 2020, The Walt Disney Company is worth a hundredfold more today than it was 54 years ago, maybe even more than Walt, the greatest of the imagineers, could have ever dreamed.

 

While the opening today sounds like one of the final chapters of a leadership book, it is akin, albeit less significantly and definitely imperfectly, to the promises of Elijah and Jesus.  Both not only spent a great deal of their time speaking with God, prophesying, and doing miracles, but both these men made specific investments in the people around them for God’s message to increase.  Jesus surrounded himself with the disciples, and Elijah’s legacy is specific to Elisha.  There is no doubt that these men’s examples made a profound impact on those who spent the most time with them (and yes, the example of Jesus is reverberating, impacting us today, but that’s the direction we’re heading).  The momentum of Elijah or Jesus did not stop when they were taken to heaven.  In fact, Elisha, and Peter, often thought of as the disciple Jesus was closest to, were recipients of faith-induced natural phenomena (2 Kings 3:17 ; Acts16:26).  Additionally, both Peter and Elisha raised people from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35; Acts 9::32-43). Years of watching, listening, and serving led to specific callings for each of these men to do bigger, bolder things than demonstrated by their predecessors (with exception to the propitiation of Christ).  In fact, both Elijah and Jesus prophesied this to be so (2 Kings 2:10; John 14:12-14)

 

This begs the question: who are we bringing along on our faith journey?  If we are effectively sharing the Gospel message, is there not someone who is receiving an exponential portion of whatever our faith has to offer?  How can we extend our finite time on earth to impact the infinite time we will inherit in the kingdom of God? It may be as simple as sharing our faith with our family.  As my children grow, I am alarmingly realizing the majority of their modeling and information is from my wife and me.  Our ultimate goal is that their faith far exceeds our own, yet if we do not show the devotion, love, and belief we have, they will never receive even a single portion of it, much less build upon the faith we have.  It could be we have served in ministry or occupation where we are now becoming the experienced one (this is also known as “old”).  It is time to take someone under our wing, share our testimony and calling.  By allowing someone to watch, listen, and serve, they can learn from our successes and failures without having to bear the consequences or responsibilities, ultimately placing them in a more successful position when they are on their own, long after our influence has left for one reason or another. Their trajectory is steeper, and at some point will outpace us.

 

Ultimately, we should be intentional about sharing our faith, vision (God-given), and resources (also, God-given) with our families or small circle of influence. Our greatest calling may be to prepare the way (Eli, Mordecai, and John the Baptist) for someone who will do more than we could possibly imagine because God will use them to exponentially grow his kingdom.  Let’s make some significant investments. Let’s sow and tend the seeds. Let’s watch as God makes the return thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold because the world is starving for His message. Let us pray and work to serve up bigger portions than ever.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 5-8 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Opposite of God

Obadiah and Psalm 82 & 83

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In yesterday’s devotion, one of four bullet points focused on making God the judge. In today’s reading, there are calls from Obadiah and the Psalmist(s) for justice to come from on high.  To be clear, we are not appointing God to a position He doesn’t already command, and we aren’t necessarily persuading Him to intervene.  When we implore God to judge, we are inviting Him to rule in our favor by having a life-contrast or dichotomy that would allow Him to easily see we are for Him.  We are the wheat. We are the sheep. Whether he intervenes today or not, ultimately, “Come” will be the words of invitation we will hear from our King inviting us to dwell with God in love and in eternity.  Conversely, we are all declared guilty for the first death, but we can be condemned to a second and permanent death if we are not found covered by the innocent blood of Jesus Christ.  Those who remain are against Him. The chaff. The goats. “Depart” will be the words of condemnation to those who made themselves a stranger.  There is no invitation.  There is no love.  There is no eternity. God’s ruling is truly sovereign. There is no room for shades of gray.

 

Although the following isn’t a joy-filling thought to charge the beginning of your day, we need to be reminded there is a place opposite of God.  Sometimes those who dwell there actively and openly oppose Him (Obadiah 1:3). In fact, there are people in this world who would love nothing more than to imprison Christians, outlaw prayer, burn down churches, and try to expunge the name of Jesus Christ from existence.  Sadly, this happens quite a bit across the world today, and I dare say, at an ever-increasing pace in the United States. However, we must also remember, open defiance and apathetic faith are equally punishable in the eyes of God: women and men who prioritize their lives by accumulating wealth, try to make a name for themselves, acquire dizzying intellects, repeatedly give into vices, forget to take care of those who are hungry, thirsty, or imprisoned, or many other acts not listed here that do not center solely around God (Psalm 82:3,34, Matt 25:44,45). Apathy, complaisance, half-heartedness, and postponement can place us in imminent condemnation of God as plainly as open defiance.

 

To not share the name of Jesus Christ is to annul his message. To not lift up the church is to tear it down.  To not empower the weak is to place them in the hands of those who would do them harm.  Where is the contrast in your life?  Are you living for the finite or existing for the eternal? Are you with Him or against Him?  Yes, there is a place opposite of God, but let us pray that God uses these words we read today to convict us, bringing us closer to His calling as good and faithful servants.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Obadiah+1%2C+Psalm+82%2C83&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 1-4 as we continue our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

2 Chronicles 19-23

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If you have been to any youth ballfield, the mantra of even the most uninformed coach or parent to his/her child in most all situations is “keep your eye on the ball.”  Whether it is baseball, soccer, football, tennis, or basketball, knowing where the ball is at any given point in a game is the greatest predictor of success and will result in the highest probability of a favorable outcome.  In order to strike, kick, tackle, return, or rebound, you have to know where the ball is.  It seems simple enough; yet, anyone who plays any number of the ball-including sports at any level suffers from the occasional mishap that begins with losing sight of the most important object to the game.  Why?  We get scared.  We’re thinking about our next move.  We get caught up in the emotion.  Or it might simply get lost in the lights.

 

“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” –   1 Chronicles 20:9,11b

 

In today’s reading, Jehoshaphat gives us an example of what it looks like to keep our eyes in the most important place.  Not all of us play sports, and if we do, we most certainly may not play them well (present company included), but we all have a part to play in the will of God.  Without your eyes on the Father, you might still have a bit of fun, but there is no purpose in the participation of it all.  You are simply existing, a benchwarmer staring off into the distance, oblivious to the wonderful plan that God has for your life.  Yet, keeping our gaze affixed to Him isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.  Even the most professional ballplayers have blunders. Here are a few reminders of how to readjust our focus, to make sure it is in the right place, no matter what “level” we are playing at:

 

To keep your eyes on God, let Him take away the worry.

 

There is a ton of uncertainty in the air right now.  Disease, political unrest, economies, natural disaster, not to mention all of the “typical” fears we have about things like acceptance and loss.  Jehoshaphat had a vast army approaching, yet he remembered that God had promised Israel and Judah the land they possessed. Remind yourself of the simple yet immense promises of God – He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), We know all things work together for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), Do not fear, for I am with you always (Isaiah 40:1; Matt 28:20). The promises purge us of the pressure to take the entire crushing yoke upon ourselves and hand it over to God.  In exchange He will give us peace in the restless situations (John 14:27).

 

To keep your eyes on God, remember He has planned the present.

 

One of the greatest defensive failings in baseball is thinking about throwing the ball before you have ever fielded it.  Time and time again, the baseball zips “through the wickets” or is fumbled as it is being removed from the glove and falls flatly to the ground.  Jehoshaphat could have spent his time sending messengers to form alliances.  He could have armed the remaining men, women, and children to increase the size of his army. He could have sent out terms of surrender to try to salvage the lives of his people.  He didn’t do any of this.  He kept the most important thing as the most important thing; his gaze never faltered. He didn’t “throw the ball” before He fielded God’s response (as we saw yesterday).  Don’t forget to serve God now because there is a bigger, better plan you have made to serve Him down the road.  He is the God of tomorrow, but before then, the God of today.  Seek first the Kingdom of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:33,34). He may call us to things that inconvenience, disrupt, or even abort the plans we have made down the road, but when those days come, or if they don’t, He has planned those days too.

 

To keep your eyes on God, make him the judge.

 

One of the most frustrating things is a competitor who doesn’t play fairly or feeling we are the victim of unjust treatment.  What’s even more frustrating is an umpire or referee who fails to see it or worse, lets it persist.  Our God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us; He sees the struggle.  He isn’t deaf; He hears the petition.  When we want to take matters into our own hands, be reminded that you too are a trespasser but also an unfair recipient of favored treatment. This more than anything, should make us compassionate and ready to forgive others.  We will be called to be God’s facilitator of forgiveness many times more than we will be judicator of justice.  Jehoshaphat made the appeal, but was also seemingly ready for whatever answer came his way. We must trust God, let Him be the judge, and maybe the hardest thing, be ready, like Jesus, to be dealt injustice, yet still forgive for the sake of the Gospel and our message.

 

To keep your eyes on God, eliminate the distractions.

 

The lights can be blinding.  The hecklers can be loud.  The teams’ morale can be affecting you. Even seemingly good things like family and church can provide an incorrect context of focus if not filtered through the lens of their role in God.  When we work, provide, heal, love, carry on, feed, protest, or serve, constantly remind yourself you are doing it all for the Lord.  Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat’s army; worship God while you are in the battle (1 Chronicles 20:22).  It would be challenging to give into your pride when you sing “Oh Spirit come make us humble…” It would be tough to look at inappropriate material when you sing “We turn our eyes from evil things…” It would be difficult to spend Sunday morning after Sunday morning with your family at the ballfield while singing “Oh Lord, we cast down our idols.” Filling our mouth with praise, worship, and prayer prevents anything else from slipping out.  The same could be said of our eyes, ears, hands, and most importantly, minds.  Engage God with everything you have, and you will be ready and attuned to His movement no matter where on the field He takes you.

 

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+19-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the short book of the “minor” prophet Obadiah and Psalm 82-83 as we continue keeping our eye on the Father through our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Beware of the Buttkissers

1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18

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Yes, I know, a bit of a sensational title. In fact, I can hear my mom reaching for the Irish Spring to place in my mouth because “butt” is not a church word. Please give me grace just a few sentences longer as I am someone who spends a great deal of time at school with 11 and 12-year olds. I often use a bit of high-brow potty humor for the connection and to make sure that I have your attention.  From here on out, I promise <crossing heart> I will use yes-men, suck-ups, sycophants, or something similar, but we’ll both know that I truly mean <in a whisper> “the ones who kiss b-u-t-t.”

Scattered throughout the last couple of weeks, we have read about the life of King Ahab. Today we will finish off Ahab [spoilers ahead] in more ways than one.  Ahab has grown unhappy that a previously Israeli owned-city, Ramoth Gilead, is now occupied by the Syrian (Aram) people, the very nation that was given over to him by God (1 Kings 20).  No doubt that Ahab’s misintentioned mercy to the Syrian nation (Again 1 Kings 20) has become less than advantageous, contemptuous, or is now, simply biting him in the…rear.  Ahab forms an alliance with Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat, who says he will fight with Ahab to take back Ramoth Gilead if he consults the LORD first.  Ahab thinks, “No problem; I have plenty of prophets.”. Enter the yes-men.

‘So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”  “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” – 1 Kings 22:6

Jehoshaphat isn’t convinced by the mass of soothsaying suck-ups for a simple reason: they do not mention God, YHWH, which prompts his head-scratching statement “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?” “But didn’t the prophets say ‘the Lord will give <Ramoth Gilead> into the king’s hand?’” You may have heard it before, but it is worth reminding, that not all “lords” are equal in most English translations of the Old Testament.  L-o-r-d means master, which is often used for God, but L-O-R-D is the indisputable proper name of God, the Father, YHWH.  The sycophantic seers have not consulted with the Almighty, but have most likely consulted one another, telling the king whatever they think he wanted to hear.    Ahab confesses there is still ONE prophet of the LORD, Micaiah, but he doesn’t like to use him because he doesn’t like to kiss-up like the others. In fact, Ahab’s reluctance shows that he most likely already knew the truth. Micaiah lives up to his reputation, delivering a Word from the LORD that was unfavorable to what Ahab had already set upon his heart to do.

Is Ahab’s folly not our own? As I read about his fatal flaw, I can feel my own groan, lurch, and tumult described by Paul in Romans 7:15-20, between what I have intentioned in my heart and what the LORD wants of me.  What makes it worse is the body of booty smoochers ready to tell me that fulfilling my desires are what will ultimately make me happy.  In 2020, it doesn’t take much searching to find 400 people that agree with you.  Just because a crowd has formed in agreement with you, it doesn’t mean they (or you) know what’s best.  There are well-established organizations, conferences, websites, movements, forums, etc. that have opposing views to God’s desire for your life.  No matter how convincing the mob, there is only one way to get the truth: The Word of the LORD.  Yet the fact of the matter is as I wrestle with my desire, my pride, and my sin, I’d rather hear comforting, confirming, justifying lies from hundreds than hear a truth from a single person that would convict me and cause me to change. This would mean that the problem doesn’t externally exist in the world I live in, but within me, which is the hardest thing to hear (and the reason why we don’t invite challenging scriptures or a truth-telling Christian friend to the party, i.e. Micaiah)

“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrew 4:12

There is great advice in the word of Jehoshaphat, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”  Before taking any course of action, no matter how great or small, let me stop consulting my social circle of “yes people” and search the Word of the LORD for discernment.  Almost always, our only reluctance is because we already know the answer that is buried not-so-deep within our heart. Let’s pray that God will bring his convicting truth to our aspirations and challenge us to listen to His voice only as He guides us to His way.

 

Aaron Winner

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+22%2C+2+Chronicles+18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Chronicles 19-23 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Still Not Alone

1 Kings 20-21

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I neglected to mention at the end of yesterday’s “You are Not Alone” devotion that one excellent way to battle the weary, lonely depression that sometimes falls upon those who speak for God is to find a partner in ministry – work together with one you can mentor.  At the end of chapter 19 Elijah found Elisha.  Some Bible scholars suggest they worked together about 6 years, but I found another that thought it could have been closer to 23 years.  Regardless of the length of time, I believe it is safe to say the apprenticeship was a mutual blessing to both Elijah and Elisha – and likely multiplied the work that either one could have done on their own.  Elisha will have a very long and powerful ministry for the LORD, but what would it have looked like if he had not had the opportunity to serve under Elijah?  Who are you serving under?  Who are you mentoring?

It is interesting that in the next chapter neither Elijah nor Elisha are mentioned, but at least twice a prophet or son of a prophet speaks to evil King Ahab – once to tell him how to be victorious over the attacking Ben-Hadad of Aram, and once to reprimand him for being too leniant on Ben-Hadad when God delivered him into Ahab’s hand.  This is further proof that Elijah was indeed not the only one left to stand for and speak for God.  And proof, that while Elijah had very faithfully performed many deeds and sermons for God – God did not need Elijah.  The Almighty can call any man or woman – or rock – to work for Him.  I do believe when the city walls fall down on 27,000 fleeing enemy soldiers God’s rocks were at work – perhaps others would have merely called it a coincidence or an earthquake (1 Kings 20:30).

It can truly be amazing who and what God uses – even the evilest king who had ever lived.  Sure, enough, when God wanted to show HIS strength against the advancing foreign army – He tells Ahab the winning battle plans through a prophet and Ahab somewhat surprisingly listens and follows along – to a point.  And, in the last chapter of today’s reading we will even see Ahab repentant – for a time.  There is no heart God can’t soften and change or use for His glory.

But, you are just asking for trouble if you choose to hang out with the bad girls (or in Ahab’s case, his wicked wife).   They have done a lot of evil things but how many commandments do they manage to break when Ahab decides he would love to have a vegetable garden for his second palace?  Once, again, sin snowballs.  One leads to another and it grows larger and larger. With serious consequences.

Following the violent murder of innocent Naboth and the stealing of his property, Elijah is sent to condemn Ahab and Jezebel and foretell their own violent deaths – only partially put on hold by Ahab’s repentant spirit.  Isn’t it good to know that God still sees the  cruelty and injustice of the world today and His timeline is put in place to make all things right.  There will be a time when all humanity meets their judge and will be held accountable for all their deeds and the condition of their hearts.  Until that day may we faithfully carry His word – knowing that we are not alone!

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+20-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18 as we continue the seekgrowlove.com 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan