Monthly Archives: September 2017

I Kings 17; Empty

I’ve heard the story of Elijah and the widow for as long as I can remember. In my mind’s eye, I can picture the figures on the flannel board in our Sunday School room. (When was the last time you even saw a flannel board? ūüôā ) The lesson we learned from this Scripture was: GOD SUPPLIES ALL OUR NEEDS.

I read what J. Vernon McGee had to say about this passage today, and he reminded me Elijah had just returned from the desert where God used ravens to feed him, a stream to meet his need for water. McGee pointed me to others who had similar experiences: Moses, Abraham, John the Baptist, Paul. Even Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. GOD STRENGTHENS US IN TIMES OF TROUBLE.

Dr. McGee then talked about the miracle of the healing of the widow’s son. The boy had died. But when Elijah went to him, made contact with him three times, the boy lived again. GOD IS THE DIVINE HEALER.

Do you remember Jesus’ first miracle? The wedding in Cana of Galilee, right? He turned water into wine. GOD GIVES HIS VERY BEST.

Then J. Vernon challenged every lesson I thought I’d learned from these stories. While it is true that God provides what we need, that He is our strength, our healer, and that He does all things well, we miss something important if that’s all we see in these passages.

What does the never-ending flour pot, the desert, the dead boy, and the wine have in common?

NOTHING.

Well, not nothing. But an emptiness, a void, nothingness. The lessons are not just that God prepared people for ministry in the desert. It’s the desert.

It’s not only that God didn’t let the flour run out. It’s the empty pot.

It’s not raising a boy from the dead. It’s the dead boy.

And it was never about the wedding, or even just the wine. It was the empty jars.

All which were filled by God Himself. To make his point, Dr. McGee shared a story about Hudson Taylor. It’s lengthy, but I want to quote it from page 107 in Thru the Bible Commentary Series on 1st and 2nd Kings by J. Vernon McGee. (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1991):

It is said of Hudson Taylor that when he prepared young missionaries for service in his mission, he insisted, “Remember that when you come out here you are nothing. It is only what God can and will do through you that will be worth anything.” One young missionary replied, “It is hard for me to believe that I am just nothing.” And Hudson Taylor said to him, “Take it by faith because it is true. You are nothing.” You and I are just dried up brooks unless the Word of God is flowing through us.

You, my friend are nothing. I am nothing. Neither of us has anything of value to offer God who owns everything, and who created everything anyway. And until we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us with Himself, we are worth nothing to Him, we cannot be used by Him.

Sorry if that offends your sensitive sense of self.

Paul said he died daily, that he was crucified with Christ, that he was dead to self. If you think you can effectively serve God any other way, you are wrong.

Empty yourself. Let Him fill you to overflowing.

Then stand back and be amazed at what God can and will do through you, for His sake, and for His glory!

Dear Filler of our souls, I pray that all of us reading this chapter in I Kings today will be challenged to BE that desert, that empty pot, that dead boy. Help us to empty ourselves of our hopes and dreams, our talents and our gifts, our egos and our rights. Then, Lord, fill us with YOU. May we be instruments in Your hands, clay in the hands of the Potter, and may You create in each of us pure hearts. Use us today as we yield to Your will. And may Jesus be glorified.

I Kings 13-16; Ping Pong

Reading these chapters is a bit like playing ping pong. We read about a northern king, then a southern king, back to the north, then the south. Bad king. Bad king. Bad king. Good king. Bad king…

After a while my head spins.

Now you probably know I have a firm conviction God doesn’t include details like these for the sake of the details. It might be interesting to line up the kings of the two nations of Jews. You might even get a sense of accomplishment if you can name them all. But if that’s the only reason God inspired men to include this history, I say skip it and get on to the meat.

But don’t skip over these chapters in God’s Word. I challenge you to read them slowly, and ask God to help you get past the obvious and reveal the Truth within. You’ll find Jesus in these verses. You’ll see that God is serious about sin, that He punishes sin, and that He blesses obedience. You might even hear His heart’s cry that His people repent, turn to Him, and accept His grace. And you might realize He’s wanting the same for you.

As I read these chapters this morning, I thought of my Ohio church family who are conducting Revival Services this week. Will you pray with me for them, that the Holy Spirit will move in a mighty way, that Jesus will be glorified. They are a small congregation with a heart to reach their community. Will you pray that God will draw many into that building this week as the Word is preached and God is worshiped?

Reading I Kings reminds me how faithful God is when we obey. May it be true in Bellville, Ohio. May it be true in me.

Heavenly Father, I do pray for 1st Baptist, Bellville this week as they conduct revival services. First I pray for the faithful few. May they attend with hearts eager to hear from you, to be strengthened in their resolve to follow you. I pray that those in that community who have received an invitation will be drawn to the services this week. May souls be won, hearts changed, and your children strengthened to carry on Your work in Bellville. Bless them, Lord, and continue to make them a blessing.

And I want to thank You for Your Word, even the parts that seem a little dry as we read them. Father, help us to consider why You have included all these verses in Scripture. And may we learn, be challenged and strengthened, and as always, Lord, may You find us faithful.

I Kings 9-12; Golden Calves in 2017

Jeroboam could have been a great king, on the order of King David. (11:38-39) God was giving this son of a slave the kingdom, and would have blessed him… IF.

Jeroboam did become king over ten Jewish tribes. And even though God had handed him the throne and promised to bless him, Jeroboam seems to have doubted God could or would pull through.

Jerusalem was located in a part of the nation still ruled by Solomon’s son, the rightful heir. Now it was time for the people to go to Jerusalem for the feasts God had commanded them to celebrate. Jeroboam was afraid if his people went back to Jerusalem to worship, they would switch their allegiance to King Rehoboam.

So the first thing Jeroboam did as king was to make two gold calves, place them in convenient spots for the people, and declare that the statues were their gods to be worshiped. “Why go all the way to Jerusalem when you can worship in your own back yards? Does it really matter who you worship so long as your worship is sincere?”

Well, for one, God commanded the people to worship in Jerusalem. Two, gold calves never have and never will hear your prayers. And thirdly, the worship of anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a sin.

Now here’s what makes me sad about this story: the people went along with Jeroboam’s plan. They worshiped the idols on the same day, in the same manner God had instituted for His people. Their’s looked like the worship services going on in Jerusalem. But their worship was meaningless. And Jeroboam’s shortcut, and the people’s acceptance made God really mad.

Is this a picture of the church in 2017? The name “Christian” is worn by many who go to a service every Sunday morning. They sing songs and hymns, hear a lecture based on a Bible verse, get a pat on the back, and forget it all until the next Sunday. ¬†Folks, there is no shortcut to God.

Here’s the Truth: Sin is keeping you from God. Sin: anything you think, do, or say that doesn’t please Him, stands between you and a Holy God who demands holiness of us.

Sin and God cannot exist together. It’s like trying to unite two magnets by their north poles. Ain’t gonna happen.

I can say with confidence if you attend a fellowship that doesn’t talk about sin, that doesn’t call sin sin, and doesn’t preach forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, you are looking at a gold calf. Get. Out. Now.

True worship of God was never designed for your convenience, or for your delicate sense of self. Worship is about God, and there are no shortcuts to worship that He recognizes, no shortcuts that He will bless.

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I am back home after Hurricane Irma, and the extent of the damage to my property is a smashed mailbox. I don’t know why God spared me again. I am humbled and grateful, as I realize how many people lost everything, including loved ones. Please continue to pray for those effected by Harvey and Irma, and pray for our country that we might come together, and that Jesus will be glorified.

I Kings 5-8; Christ In Me

This morning I read about the temple Solomon built for the Lord, every intricate detail. It must have been fabulous. Was there anything too good for the place God would dwell on earth? Solomon didn’t seem to think so.

At the dedication ceremony, after the temple was completed, Solomon appears to be overcome with awe, as he raised his hands and prayed. He had just built the most elaborate building most had ever seen. Yet standing in front of this magnificent structure he said:

But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built. (8:27)

Paul tells us our very bodies are God’s temples these days. (I Corinthians 6:19) He’s not limited to one building, even a beautiful building like Solomon’s temple. He lives in me. Can it be, when even heaven can’t contain him?

The answer is yes!

Christ in me, the hope of glory. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the redeemed is as real as this chair I’m sitting in. The God of creation lives IN ME. I, like Solomon, am in awe.

Once again I am reminded to care for this temple where the Creator lives. I want to guard my heart, choose purity and commitment. Everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, knew that God dwelt in the temple Solomon built. I want Christians and non-Christians to know God lives in me today, by the way I talk, the things I do, the stand I take.

Let them see Jesus in me. Because Jesus really is in me!

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Still waiting to get back on the island after the hurricane. Power and sewer companies hard at work to get things up and running, Chain saws are busy clearing the roads. And I sit here, ready to go home, waiting for the “all clear.” Thank you for your continued prayers for all of us effected by Irma. We all still have a lot to do, but am so thankful for God’s mercy.

People are asking why God did this. Is it a judgment on our nation? Honestly, God hasn’t let me in on that secret. But I do know, if it was judgment on a disobedient people, we are very blessed that all of us weren’t thrown into the ocean. God is merciful. And I continue to praise Him!

I Kings 3-4; Church Finance According To Solomon

A thought came to mind as I read about the wisdom of Solomon this morning. He divided his country into twelve districts. Each district was assigned a month of the year to provide the supplies Solomon would need to run his empire for that month. This was no small responsibility. Look at what Solomon required:

thirty cors of fine flour, sixty cors of meal, ten stall-fed cows, twenty pasture fed cows, one hundred sheep and goats, plus deer, gazelle, roebuck, and birds… A DAY!

Multiply that by thirty and you’ll come up with what each district paid during their month every year.

Now here’s my thought: What if our churches quit passing the offering plate every Sunday. What if we divided our membership into twelve families, and each group was responsible to pay the church’s bills one month out of the year. This would take care of the deficit most churches operate under.

There could be a provision for those not responsible for a given month, or for those who want to give more. The money they give could go to a rainy day fund, a mission trip, or a building fund.

Do you know what it costs to operate your church each month? Utilities, salary, insurance, mortgage…? I bet it’s not a fraction of what the Israelites under Solomon paid.

Like I said, it’s just a thought. I know Solomon was running a country, and not a church with this plan. But the wisest man who ever lived established this manner of giving, and the Holy Spirit inspired men to include it in His Word.

Makes me wonder.

1 Kings 1-2; You Can Fool Some Of The People…

I’m always impressed when I read how David handled the bully Shimei as recorded in 2 Samuel 16. He ignored the mean things Shimei did and said. Then, in chapter 19 we see Shimei coming back to the king, asking him not to hold that whole bullying thing against him. David promised he wouldn’t kill him. And the bullying seems to have stopped.

But now David is at the end of his life. Solomon is king. And we read in 1 Kings 2 the advice David gives his son. I have to say I was a bit surprised that David included Shimei in his list of people for Solomon to beware of. He even told Solomon not to consider Shimei innocent, and suggested Solomon “bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” That’s harsh.

What is it about Shimei that I’m not seeing? He said he was sorry, didn’t he? I went back to read 2 Samuel 19:16-20. What I notice is an admission of guilt, and a request that David let bygones be bygones. “Just forget it,” Shimei seems to say.

I think I’m seeing a “Sorry” on the level of a child being forced to apologize for hitting his sister, followed by an unspoken, “Not.” The words are there. But was Shimei’s heart in it? Evidently David didn’t think so.

God does let us into Shimei’s real character as we read in 1 Kings 2:36ff. Shimei agreed to terms set forth by King Solomon. But as soon as it suited him, Shimei reneged. Rules just don’t apply to you, do they, Shimei? Solomon ended up teaching Shimei the ultimate lesson.

As I sit here and think about old Shimei, I asked God what He would say to us through him today. I thought about the number of times I’ve gone to God and asked forgiveness for a sin I knew I’d commit again. I thought about apologies I’ve made to get myself out of trouble, not necessarily because I was truly sorry for what I’d done. The words were there. But my heart wasn’t in it.

David wasn’t fooled by Shimei’s confession. And God is never fooled by mine.

When I was a child there was a kids’ show on TV. The host ended every program with the words: You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time. But you can’t fool Mom.

Well, moms, you know that probably isn’t always true. But, dear one, rest assured we might fool each other with right words, but God sees our heart.

And He is never fooled.

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We are still waiting for Hurricane Irma to do its worse on the coast of Georgia. Do you want to hear the good news first, or the bad? Good news is that the eye of the storm looks like it will stay far enough to the west that our part of the world will be spared the brunt of the storm. Still expecting heavy rain and wind, with some flooding. Some trees are already down according to reports. Thats the good news. The bad news? I decided to evacuate to a small town just east of Atlanta, directly in the projected path of Irma. I think she’s following me.

In reality, this storm is nothing to joke about. There are millions of people who are being impacted by this deadly force. Please continue to pray. May God have mercy.

2 Samuel 22-24; Blessed

I wrestled a bit with 22:21-25 this morning, because David is indicating God has rewarded him for good behavior. Clean hands, David? I seem to remember something about a girl named Bathsheba. Check under your fingernails, my friend. I’m not so sure they’re as clean as you’d like to think.

But there are other places in Scripture that equate righteous living with blessing: I Samuel 26:23, I Kings 8:32, Psalm 24, Proverbs 11 are just a few.

Then you have Psalm 14:3, Romans 3:10, 23 that tell us none of us can claim righteousness. Besides, life itself tells us good things don’t always happen just to good people.

I just watched a YouTube video from Nabeel Qureshi, a young man dying of cancer. If you don’t know him, I encourage you to check him out. A former Muslim, he gave his heart to the Lord and has had a fruitful ministry sharing Jesus. It would seem he should have many more years to talk about his Savior, yet unless God performs a miracle, Nabeel’s life on this earth is at an end.

The recent hurricanes that have and are causing destruction in this part of the world are not just picking out criminals and atheists to hit. And I’m sure you could come up with examples in your own life when good Christian people are hit with hardships. So where does David get off talking about how God has blessed him for following the rules?

He was forgiven.

David was not delusional. How did God reward him for obedience? I found the answer when I read on.

God had shown Himself as faithful, blameless, pure, shrewd, saving. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

Those are the real blessings of a right relationship with God. God may choose to miraculously heal Nabeel at the eleventh hour. He may choose to spare my home from Hurricane Irma. But the reality is Nabeel will die some day. My house will crumble and fall some day. Neither are going to last forever.

I have the same assurance David had in that I know God blesses His people with Himself. We can stand before him righteous, blameless, pure, holy when we allow Jesus to clothe us with His own. So, with David, I can say:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior, from violent men (and storms) you save me. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. (even Irma regardless of the outcome)

Yes, I am blessed.