Friday, November 24, 2017

One Hidden Hope

I awoke thinking of the time in Israel's history when the line of David, which was also the line of Messiah, was whittled down to just one boy hidden away in a back room.

"Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king's sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not put him to death." - 2 Chronicles 22:10-11 ESV

Those months and years Israel must have felt abandoned by God. David's throne was supposed to be forever. This child was kept a secret so most people had no idea David's dynasty was being preserved.

"And they went about through Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the heads of fathers' houses of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. And all the assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And Jehoiada said to them, "Behold, the king's son! Let him reign, as the LORD spoke concerning the sons of David. This is the thing that you shall do: of you priests and Levites who come off duty on the Sabbath, one third shall be gatekeepers, and one third shall be at the king's house and one third at the Gate of the Foundation. And all the people shall be in the courts of the house of the LORD. Let no one enter the house of the LORD except the priests and ministering Levites. They may enter, for they are holy, but all the people shall keep the charge of the LORD. The Levites shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever enters the house shall be put to death. Be with the king when he comes in and when he goes out. The Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men, who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, for Jehoiada the priest did not dismiss the divisions." - 2 Chronicles 23:2-8 ESV

Then when Athaliah was defeated and Joash was crowned king he was too young to really be considered competent.

"Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest." - 2 Chronicles 24:1-2 ESV

How could He lead? He was just a naive boy!

Joash was and is a type (picture that represents some aspect) of Jesus. Every hope was placed on one seemingly hidden person. Then once He is revealed can He really do the job in a dog eat dog world.

Yes, He can. All seems lost but it isn't. It looks like mankind will poison itself to death or push the planet past it's resources and let's face it... we could left to ourselves but there is a Messiah hidden in a back room that only a few priests knew about.

If you know Jesus then you know the world has a Saviour. What hope! What a sacred trust that is!

Our faith is an open secret. We have hope a folk who don't have it must see that little boy to believe that there can be a happy ending. This innocent One does have the wisdom to lead well. We don't have to resort to the wisdom of the world. Jesus' way is right and God approves of His innocent ways.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Prayers For A Edifying Thanksgiving

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." - Ephesians 4:29-30 ESV

Wow. What a great passage. What we say and do can 'build up' but it is grace that really does the building.

I have been praying all week for the coming Thanksgiving holiday. People will be with people and it is an opportunity to build in an unusual setting.

God bless us as we are with people. It is a day to be thankful to you. Bless our interactions. We worship You God. You are the God of all grace. Orient us to your mind. These events can be interesting ones for so many people. Touch those who are grieving and those who are rejoicing and everyone inbetween. Thank You Lord.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Speak To Us

"...Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." - Psalm 95:7b-8a ESV

That little phrase was spoken this weekend and it has stuck with me. It speaks to me of availability and rest.

It is easy to talk but we must learn to listen and process what we are hearing from the people we love.

God, we have not always been available to hear what You have to say. If you have something to say to us we want to listen. Your words are life and truth.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

First Fruits

God doesn't want our best. He wants our 'first fruits.'

"You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me." - Exodus 22:29-30 NKJV

If you made 100 sales as a salesman last month and this month you sold 101 and set a new record He doesn't want that extra sale. He wants the first 10.

Something to think about isn't it?

God isn't interested in taking credit for your excellence. He is the foundation of all good things. Recognition is right and in order and it sets our minds and priorities right and in order.

What demands the first fruits of our time? The thing we give the first 10% is the thing we worship and love the most.

I want my first thoughts of the day to be, 'It is finished because of Jesus' Things that crowd in before that are idols to me and they must be put in their place. God is going to get my first 10% or I have determined that I need to repent (change my mind) because I have lost my sense of priority. Thanksgiving needs to be first, not last. If it is first it will linger until the end also.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Abuse Of Power

Like many these days, I've been thinking about the abuse of power. I've been looking at these passages and substituting the word 'brother' and 'elder' for 'powerful and experienced person who has influence.'

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17 ESV

"Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure." - 1 Timothy 5:19-22 ESV

In today's climate in 2017, social media seems to be a way that a group gets justice. Going alone to settle a score can be dangerous, can't it? Can you even get an appointment? Will your life be pulled through the mud as a result?

Looking at these passages I see a God who wants to give mercy and to cover matters if it is possible but it all sits on a foundation of justice.

I cringe at the abuse I see across a multitude of industries. I wish I could say the Church was immune but it isn't nor does the Bible say it is going to be.

Paul said this statement to a group just at the formation of the Church within a generation of the cross and the incarnation.

"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears." - Acts 20:28-31 ESV

There have always been those who abuse power. Nathan had to walk into the court of King David and confront the King about a grave transgression (see 2 Samuel 12:1f). Nathan had a divine covering but what he did was dangerous. I marvel at the courage a person needs to muster up to face a person in power. Powerful people also get accused of things that aren't true and have to deal with those situations on occasion also.

"Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! - Psalm 44:22-26 ESV

The psalmist captures the feeling there doesn't he?

I read these things and say to myself, 'I refuse to take the easy way out in these matters. I must be accountable and if need be make others accountable. Mercy is to great a cause. Love covers but that covering can't become a hiding place for abuse.'

Speaking truth to power has never been easy but we can live in the confidence that Nathan did when he came before his king.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-11 ESV

Let us live in the maturity of love. If God for us who can be against us?

In one of the recent high profile sexual abuse cases the reporters who broke, it said that they spent months interviewing victims but they avoided going to the man directly because they wanted to avoid 'off the record' conversations that might hinder them later. I found it interesting. Of course, the press isn't seeking to 'cover' or reconcile. Hopefully, we are.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Strange Mixtures

God doesn't approve of certain mixtures. The last part of this passage is often used by angry atheists or other folks who want to disprove or invalidate the scriptures one way or another but I find it to be very edifying in context. That is why I have included the verses directly before the often quoted passage.

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material." - Leviticus 19:17-19 ESV

God doesn't want us to mix love and hate. He gave Israel, not us, statutes so that they would be a visual witness. The nations and cultures who passed through Israel to get to the Orient or to Europe would say, 'These people are different. They eat differently. They dress differently. They are funny people. What makes them different?'

If you have a garment made of more than one material don't sweat it. This 'statute' isn't for you. Chuqqah (Strong's H2708), the word translated statute, means custom or way of life. It was never meant to be global. It is an illustration of God's distaste for mixtures given to a nation that was to represent His mind to the world.

The world is very fond of making hybrids these days. Foods get mixed. DNA gets tossed together like a salad in laboratories. We as believers are not called to be an example of that. We are called to purity. Wear what you want. Join in marriage to the person you want to marry no matter what their ethnicity is. A joining of a man and a woman is a blessed event. God isn't asking us to have an outward conformity. His mind is pure and He loves to see us with an undivided heart and mind. He wants love that never seeks revenge. He wants pure relationships and we can only have those if we look at how He Is and what His Son has done on the cross so transformation and renewal can take place.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Structured Freedom

Still reading Romans chapter 7 and just pondering why rules don't work for us in the long run.

"So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin." - Romans 7:12-14 ESV

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh," - Romans 8:3 ESV

Ever work in a place with tight restrictive rules? A few people thrive but in most of the places I have been the relationships with management are always strained in some way. Those rules may be good rules or bad ones it. The culture is affected no matter what.

Folks teach that God is like that but He isn't. Rules were given so 'sin would be revealed as exceedingly sinful'. God isn't a micromanager.

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' They answered him, 'We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?' Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:31-36 ESV

God has made a family for himself and creates a divine culture in this family. It is one of freedom not oriented on restrictions.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything." - 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 ESV

This isn't a legal treatise. This is just me pondering on an ordered culture of freedom that has love, mercy, grace and honour. A place where we don't marvel at or concentrate on the rules or personal failure. We don't sweep it under the rug but we also don't live focused on how someone or something should be. We marvel at the mercy and live in a vision.

Rules just are not going to 'fix' people. Love will produce the change. Structured freedom creates an atmosphere of growth where failure isn't final.

Grace is sufficient. It really really is.

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