Archive for June, 2019

2 Kings 8:25-29

Ahaziah Rules in Judah

We have just completed 95% or more of our unpacking here in our new home here in Lamar, SC. The parsonage is now pretty much our home. We still have a good many wall hangings and other artwork to place on the walls to get to the 100% done phase of moving. I have also got my office pretty much situated. I did that yesterday evening. It’s been two days of non-stop being on your feet – opening boxes, lifting, toting, and putting away. Assembling furniture. Allen wrenches. Washers. Tightening screws. More lifting, toting, and putting away. If I have to pop open another taped box anytime soon, I think I will scream. Over the last two days, I have not had time to think much about what we are entering into – other than people calling me Pastor, Pastor Mark, or Rev. Bowling. We have been in “git-r-dun” mode on getting the parsonage set up as our home.

But yesterday as I was headed back to the parsonage from unloading my 10 boxes of books in my office, it began to hit me. I am the pastor of this church. It is not a concept. It is no longer a longing. It is real. It is now. Sure, I have the education and licensing. I am legitimately, by human standards, qualified to be here doing what I will be doing. Sure, I have spent the last 8 ½ years performing administrative functions and teaching and counseling at two different churches, first as volunteer, then as part-time staffer and then finally at Calvary as a full-time vocational staff pastor. But I have never been THE pastor. Sure, I have been counselor to some, teacher to some, small group leader to some, but never the lead pastor. Now, here, at Lamar United Methodist Church, I am not only the lead pastor, I am the only pastor. So, on the way home which is a short two-minute ride to the parsonage, it began to hit me, I am the pastor of this church.

Today, after the cable guy leaves (the necessary visit!), I will begin easy into the job beginning with a meeting with the church’s administrative assistant. I wanted to meet with her to find out the status of things such as who is in the hospital, who are the elderly folks in nursing homes, who are the ministry leaders and committee chairpersons, and so on – the lay of the land stuff. And then Sunday, I begin the regular process of preaching most likely 50 Sundays a year and then next week I really begin the day to day work of being pastor. Wow, all the talk is done. All the dreaming is done. All the preparation is done. It is here. It is real. Not a concept. Talk about feeling a bit overwhelmed at a thought.

I thought about my dad doing this small-town Methodist church pastoring thing for 55 years. My dad was a Methodist pastor until he could not physically do it anymore. My brother is also a Methodist pastor and still doing this – now beginning is 38th year of full-time pastoral ministry. One of my uncles was a Methodist pastor for 50 years. Even my brother’s father-in-law was a Methodist pastor. This being a Methodist pastor in South Carolina is kind of the family business. Now I am joining into the family legacy. I guess I am a bit overwhelmed right now at the family legacy, the job itself, and whether I am really ready for this. It has been a dream for the past 8 ½ years. Now it’s here. Now, too, I join the legacy.

That was what I thought of this morning as I read through this seemingly insignificant passage, 2 Kings 8:25-29. It is about a king who reigned only one year. It just seems like historical filler and seems not to have any theological meat to it at all. Sometimes, in the Old Testament historical books, some passages just don’t seem to have any theological meat to them and just seem historical only. On those passages, at first blush, you wonder exactly what it is you are supposed to learn about God from it. It just seems as if there is nothing to draw from when you look at that passage solely in isolation. However, the Holy Spirit aids us to get something out of every passage in the Bible. The Holy Spirit put the word “legacy” on my heart. When you view this passage in the overall context of the decline of Israel and Judah, then it does come alive when you think of “legacy”. Let’s read 2 Kings 8:25-29 together, now:

25 Ahaziah son of Jehoram began to rule over Judah in the twelfth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel.

26 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother was Athaliah, a granddaughter of King Omri of Israel. 27 Ahaziah followed the evil example of King Ahab’s family. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Ahab’s family had done, for he was related by marriage to the family of Ahab.

28 Ahaziah joined Joram son of Ahab in his war against King Hazael of Aram at Ramoth-gilead. When the Arameans wounded King Joram in the battle, 29 he returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds he had received at Ramoth.[a] Because Joram was wounded, King Ahaziah of Judah went to Jezreel to visit him.

Here, in this passage you see that Ahaziah began to rule in Judah. His family tree goes back to Ahab and Jezebel. That is where the legacy comes in. Ahab and, especially, Jezebel are synonymous with evil among us as Christians and as well among the Jewish people. Even those outside our Judeo-Christian heritage and among non-religious people, the term, Jezebel, is a derisive comment about a person that is simply evil and mean. It is sometimes used to throw at someone when you want to get them back into line – “don’t be a Jezebel” or “you have a Jezebel spirit today!”. That’s quite a legacy that lives on thousands of years later and has permeated all of human culture and not just the Judeo-Christian tradition. Here, you see that the progeny of Ahab and Jezebel were all evil kings and queens and princes and princesses. Ahaziah was no different. He lived what he knew. That’s the legacy.

My dad’s legacy is that he had a brother that he inspired to go into the Methodist ministry in South Carolina like him. My dad’s legacy is that he inspired his oldest son to follow in his footsteps like him. My dad’s legacy is now that after his death that his youngest son is now also a Methodist minister in South Carolina. This is the family legacy. Not that my brother or I are any great saints or anything. Not that my dad is was a perfect man on this side of heaven. But he did his best to serve the Lord in all his imperfections. He knew how to be a minister and he led each flock pretty well. Sure, there were problems along the way where he made mistakes as we all do and will. But he kept at it. He was a pastor for 55 years. He led churches for 55 years. This is the example that he lived. This is the inspiration for two sons being in the ministry in the United Methodist Church in South Carolina. This is the legacy. My brother has been in this journey for 37 full years and begins his 38th year now. I begin my journey in this church in this state now. Surely, dad who now knows all his imperfections in clear detail as he sits in grace in heaven must be smiling that he did something right. This is the legacy.

What will be your legacy? What will you leave behind? What example are you setting for your kids (and even your grandchildren)? What will be your legacy? Will you leave behind children and grandchildren that love the Lord and serve him daily – maybe not as ministers but as faithful Christ followers? What will be that which you leave behind? What example are you setting to be followed? Will your children and grandchildren know the Lord? Will they know right from wrong? Will they know what it means to be a Christ follower? What will be your legacy?

Amen and Amen.

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2 Kings 8:16-24 (Part 2 of 2)

Jehoram Reigns in Judah

This week, Elena and I have been staying with my daughter, my son-in-law, and my granddaughter. This week, I have gotten to see all of my granddaughter’s behavior, not just the best of it. We have seen some of her two year old (a month a way from three now) nuclear meltdowns when it comes to behavior. Most of the time, Ralyn is the sweetest, most well-behaved little child you will ever meet. For a child that is less than three years old, she has such good speech and diction, you would think she is a child twice her age. Most of the time, she has wonderful manners. Yes and Yes ma’am and Yes sir. Thank you. Please. All the appropriate social graces for a child. And to listen to her tell stories, it is just so entertaining. She is so expressive. She doesn’t struggle with words because she has such a good vocabulary. Without the struggle for words, she concentrates on voice inflection and hand gestures. It’s just so amazing to have a conversation with her because it is so uncommon to be able to have a real conversation with a child of this age. And, she is so funny sometimes without even realizing it. It’s just a joy to watch her growing up.

However, when you are with a child 24/7, you get to see it all. You get to see the behavior meltdowns too. You get to see what their parents get to see. Friday evening was a particular troublesome evening when it comes to behavior. She was just sassy to everyone. This was the evening of the Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Pack Incident of 2019.

Because Ralyn had not had a nap on Friday, her behavior began deteriorating in the afternoon. Everything was a problem. Everything was a struggle. Sassy-ness was the order of the day. Since we came to visit after our trip to the beach, we brought all our food that we had not eaten up while at the beach. Part of that stash of food was a box of Welch’s fruit snacks. Elena and I love them. Just a quick snack not requiring a large investment of time and preparation. Ralyn loves them too. So, from Wednesday through Friday, Ralyn and her Papa would grab a pack each and sit and eat them together. So, by Friday evening we were down to the last snack pack in the box. Ralyn got it and everything was cool until I offered to open it for her (since she struggles with getting them open). But oh my that’s when the trouble began. She sass-mouthed her Papa saying it’s not yours, it’s mine in the most “terrible two” way possible. Not once but multiple times. That was it for her mom. The snack pack was taken away. Apology was required and when it was not given, a spanking ensued. The crying and pouting ensued. She was made to go to bed right then. And man it all could have been avoided had she just listened to what Papa was going to say – the offer for help, rather than being selfish and disrespectful.

The Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Pack Incident of 2019 with Ralyn was what I thought of this morning as I re-read this passage, 2 Kings 8:16-24, for the second of two times.  Let’s read it together now with an eye toward how selfish desires affect us in our relationship with God:

16 Jehoram son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah began to rule over Judah in the fifth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel. 17 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. 18 But Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. 19 But the Lord did not want to destroy Judah, for he had promised his servant David that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.

20 During Jehoram’s reign, the Edomites revolted against Judah and crowned their own king. 21 So Jehoram[a] went with all his chariots to attack the town of Zair.[b] The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he went out at night and attacked them[c] under cover of darkness. But Jehoram’s army deserted him and fled to their homes. 22 So Edom has been independent from Judah to this day. The town of Libnah also revolted about that same time.

23 The rest of the events in Jehoram’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. 24 When Jehoram died, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. Then his son Ahaziah became the next king.

In this passage, we see that, during Jehoram’s reign in Judah, a revolt began by the Edomites. The Edomites had been under the control of what was the united kingdom of Israel since the time of David. Under David, the kingdom of Israel expanded to it widest realm of influence that the Jewish kingdom had ever known. It was then maintained and great building projects occurred under David’s son, Solomon. However, because of all the in-fighting among David’s children and grandchildren, the kingdom split in two and each gradually became weaker as the kingdoms descended into disobedience toward the Lord. Here, in this passage, we see that Edom won its independence from Judah. Now, Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel would begin their slow decline into becoming non-influential nations that would ultimately be occupied by a successive larger and more powerful nation/kingdoms – beginning with the Assyrians for the northern kingdom, followed by the Babylonians and Persians for the southern kingdom. That was then followed by the Greeks who occupied both the north and the south under Alexander the Great. That was followed by the kingdoms that developed by the four generals of Alexander after his death. Then, came the long, long occupation under the Romans all the way up to the point that the Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were finally dispersed and Israel and Judah were no more after 70AD.

What we see in the beginnings of the decline here was both Israel and Judah became less and less concerned with obeying God and more and more concerned with getting their own way and doing what they wanted. Instead of observing God’s laws (that were intended to preserve the nation and allow them to flourish in the freedom of God’s protection), they began to see these laws as restrictive and they began to go their own way and do their own thing. As a result of selfish desires and behaviors, the kingdom split in two and became weaker. As a result of selfish desires and behaviors, the two nations made deals with other nations that made them weaker and made them susceptible to foreign practices and beliefs that were ungodly. Steadily, steadily, their disobedience and ungodly behavior led to loss of lands and influence and ultimately to occupation and destruction. We see the beginning of this loss of influence here with the revolt and independence of Edom.

Similarly, sudden selfishness led Ralyn down a path of losing her fruit snack pack and instead of repenting of that bad behavior she continued in it. She continued in her bad behavior to the point that she lost her right to stay up with the grown-ups and was forced to go to be early. Without repentance, the rebellion continued and she lost the freedom she enjoyed just a few minutes earlier. Without repentance, she lost all her freedom and had to go to bed as punishment. Her behavior and the behavior of Israel and Judah should be a reminder to us all.

God’s expectations of us are not to hold us back and restrict us. God wants us to obey Him so that we can experience the freedoms that come with obeying Him. His so called rules for our behavior are really intended to prevent us from destroying ourselves. They are there because He loves us and wants to protect us from that which is evil for us and that will destroy us. As children, we see our parents’ rules as restrictive but when we disobey our parents’ rules, we find out that our parents really do have our best interest at heart. We find out that we have more freedom when we obey our parents’ commands. We find our that life is more peaceful and we actually have more freedom. It is the same way with God. When we obey Him, we have more freedom, we have more influence, we seem to be able to handle what life throws at us with less stress and trouble.

Ralyn learned, I hope, from the Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Pack Incident of 2019 that disobedience, though self-satisfying, will lead to loss of freedom. Maybe, she learned that repentance when we have disobeyed can help us reclaim the blessings in which we were operating. Maybe, she learned that the lack of repentance, rebellion, will led us to lose all of our freedom and influence that we once enjoyed under the blessing of God. Maybe, you and I need to learn these things too in our grown-up lives, not just Ralyn in her “terrible two” meltdown during the Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Incident of 2019.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 8:16-24 (Part 1 of 2)

Jehoram Reigns in Judah

Yesterday, we talked about raising sons and using my dad’s relationship with my brother and me as the example. Today, let’s talk about raising daughters. In Christian circles, we talk about our men as being God-ordained as being the leader of the household and that is what God’s Word in so many ways teaches us. God’s Word does not tell us that women are to be treated like second class citizens. It’s just that man and woman have different but equally important roles in the home. It is God’s design that we, as men, provide the principal provision for our homes. It is also our job to create a safe environment of a home so that our wife and our children can flourish and become what God has intended them to be. Man is charged with protecting his family’s security even to the point of giving his life for his wife or his children.

None of these qualities essential to the proper function of a home that are given to men by God diminishes in any way the responsibilities of a wife in a home. In fact, inside the home, it is where a wife has the most influence, even more so than a husband and father. The father/husband sets the stage for his family to flourish but it is the wife that makes things happen within that environment. Equally important roles. None more or less valuable than the other. That is not to say that in some marriages that the design comes out different due to the talents that God gave an individual husband and an individual wife or the balance of duties ebbs and flows over time due to the needs of the family and of the spouses. However, the general design for family is as I have stated previously.

And it is within the home that a wife and mother generally exerts great influence over the children and over the husband. Whether you are a Christ follower or not, this fact seems to be generally true for us all here in America. There is an old saying in our culture that floats around and it gets laughs each time it is said, “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobobdy happy!”  and the other one, “Happy wife; happy life!” There are family power structure implications in this comment. There are sexual connotations in this comment. We laugh at these old sayings with a nervous chuckle a lot of times. We laugh at comedy because the best comedy always has truth at its core. Nothing could be more true than in marital relationships between men and women. These sayings recognize a truth. There is simply the recognition that women/wives/mothers exert great influence in our families – over their children and over their husbands – and without really trying hard at it.

Thus, raising daughters, we must teach them that they are valuable not only in their careers but in their marriages as well. They have important roles to play in marriages that are critical to the success of a good marriage and we should never let them marry into a marriage where they are not going to be valued, allowed to flourish, and to exert the influence over their family that God intended for them to have, in the way that He intended them to have it. We should examine the potential son-in-law to determine if he will provide the proper balance for our daughters as wives and mothers. He must provide for her, protect her and allow her to flourish. Secondly, we must raise our daughters (1) to look for a godly man, but just as importantly (2) to use their powerful influence within the family unit in a wise and godly way and not for sport or power or greed.

The same is true when we examine the potential daughter-in-law that we will be handing our sons over to as husbands. As in any marriage, this potential daughter-in-law will exert great influence over your son. She will mold his home, where he lives, how he raises his kids, how he spends his money, what he spends it on and even the relationship he has with you. This potential daughter-in-law will also exert great influence over your son when it comes to his Christian walk. To deny these facts is simply to deny the dynamics of the influence of a woman/wife has over her man/husband. Thus, as parents it is important that we raise our sons to recognize when there is the God given right balance in a relationship with the woman that they may have fallen in love with.

There is no more important role in a family than that of a mother and wife. Who gets that role in your son’s life should be the biggest influence that you want to have over your son. It is important. We have seen throughout our lives and you know it’s true! We have seen in history and we know it’s true. Just look at our bible passage for today. The influence over an entire nation’s relationship with God, the real, one and only true God, was shaped and influenced by a wife’s influence in the home over her husband, the king. Let’s read that passage, 2 Kings 8:16-24, now for the first of two times with an eye toward the powerful influence that a wife and mother has on her family (and in this case a nation):

16 Jehoram son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah began to rule over Judah in the fifth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel. 17 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. 18 But Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. 19 But the Lord did not want to destroy Judah, for he had promised his servant David that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.

20 During Jehoram’s reign, the Edomites revolted against Judah and crowned their own king. 21 So Jehoram[a] went with all his chariots to attack the town of Zair.[b] The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he went out at night and attacked them[c] under cover of darkness. But Jehoram’s army deserted him and fled to their homes. 22 So Edom has been independent from Judah to this day. The town of Libnah also revolted about that same time.

23 The rest of the events in Jehoram’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. 24 When Jehoram died, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. Then his son Ahaziah became the next king.

In this passage, we see that King Jehoshaphat arranged the marriage between Jehoram, his son, and Athaliah, the daughter of wicked Ahab and Jezebel. Athaliah followed the idolatrous ways of her parents in the northern kingdom, bring Baal worship into Judah and starting the southern kingdom’s decline. Where Jeroham died, his son, Ahaziah, became king. Then, when Ahaziah was killed in battle, Athaliah murdered all her grandsons except Joash and made herself queen (see 2 Kings 11:1-3). Jeroham’s marriage may have been politically advantageous, but spiritually it was deadly.

As you see here, the wife, Athaliah, had great influence over her husband. It was not necessarily that he was a weak and docile man. It is simply that if you do not recognize the influence that a wife and mother has in a marriage, you are simply kidding yourself. That’s why as parents of sons that it is highly important that we raise our sons not only to treat women well but also to discern the nature of the woman that they are going to marry. When he marries her, he is handing his home over to her. When he marries her, he is giving direct influence over 2/3 or more of his life to her. When he marries her, she will shape his views on the other third of his life as well, his job – what it is, where it is, how he views it, etc. I am not saying these things to bash women but rather to recognize their powerful influence in a man’s life.

We may be charged by God to protect our families but our wives are charged by God to make that family a family. Let us influence our children to choose wisely and let us influence them to be the kind of spouse that uses their role in a godly way and as God intended it. It can change the course of our children’s lives but who they marry. Just look at this situation in Judah’s history. This is a turning point in Judah’s history. Why? Because of a marriage.

We may not have a son or daughter entering in our a royal marriage such as this but it is just as important to your family’s history as this marriage was to Judah’s history. Let’s us raise daughters who will use their influence in marriage in a godly way that promotes the well being of her family and their family relationships and their relationships with Jesus Christ. Let us raise son who play their role in marriage appropriately by providing, protecting and creating environments for their wives and children to flourish in ways that are sacrificial in nature. Let us raise these children to recognize their roles in marriage and use them wisely. Let us raise them to choose their spouse wisely.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 8:7-15 (Part 2 of 2)

Hazael Murders Ben-Hadad

Here we are on Father’s Day 2019. It is the first one without my father of 56 years, one month, and 27 days. He passed away almost 8 months ago now on October 22, 2018. For all the things about dad that drove me crazy and there were plenty, I miss him terribly, especially on a day like today. The thing that I learned after becoming a father myself was that my dad did the best he could within the limitations of the gifts that God gave him. I realized that he was the best dad he could be given his fleshly limitations. I used to get angry at him for not being the perfect dad but when I became a dad myself, you realize that while you are raising a child you are totally unprepared for each coming year of their lives. Each child is different and each year of their lives is different. Just when you think you’ve got this parenting thing down, that darn kid gets older and has new issues. So, I just learned to love my dad for what he was able to provide for me and what he was able to teach me given that I came with no instructions.

One of the many things that I appreciate that my dad taught me was that it is a cruel world out there and that there are consequences for your actions. His disciplines for breaking his “house rules” were firm but fair but they were always there. He never redrew the lines for anything. So many parents today do not enforce their rules for behavior for their kids and as a result, there are no rules. But with my dad, the rules were not lines in the sand to be obliterated, they were lines in completely cured cement. We knew when we crossed them that there would be consequences. We knew that the consequences would come and without fail, and without negotiation, and without compromise. We knew the rules. We broke them. We paid for it. That’s just the way it was with my dad. I hated his unyielding disciplinary nature when I was growing up in his house. But now, I am thankful for it. I know that the there are consequences for behavior.

Another thing that he taught me was endurance. I even know that sometimes in life you have to endure things that are distasteful to you personally and that you cannot whine you way out of it. I know that sometimes we just have to get through things and get to the other side. You then emerge as a better man for having gone through the tough thing. My dad expected me to finish things. My dad expected me to never give up and keep on plugging away. Sometimes, too, he taught, that we must endure things that are because of mistakes we have made but other times that the world is unfair. In an unfair world, you sometimes just have to endure and this storm too shall pass. This lesson in endurance and getting through to the other side (even if you are dragging yourself on to the shore) was useful in sports growing up but it has been useful in difficult times as an adult.

Another thing that he taught me was the difference between right and wrong. He taught us to do our best to be honorable young men. And this circles back to consequences and endurance. The rules of the house had as much to do with doing the right thing and honoring our parents by being truthful with them. We got in more trouble for lying about what we had done wrong than for what we had done wrong in the first place. Being fleshly human beings, we would try to preserve our rear ends (literally and figuratively) by stretching the truth, white lies, or just bold-faced lies. We were always found out. See consequences and endurance paragraphs.

All of these character building aspects of becoming a man seems to be disappearing among dads these days. Many dads are not truly part of their sons’ lives because of divorce and want to be Disneyland dads when they are around. Many dads who are a part of their kids lives on a daily basis want to be their friend and pal and not their dad. My dad told us many times, “I was not put on this earth to be your friend. I was put on this earth to be your dad.” It is from dads that we are supposed to learn right from wrong, consequences, and endurance. That is what they were put on the earth for.

It was that heartless, soulless approach to the vision of Elisha from Hazael that made me think of what kind of sons are we growing in today’s society. So often, you hear stories today of kids without fathers who commit crimes that seem to be committed by boys without souls. And often in each case, these heartless, soulless boys had no father, no real authority figure in their lives. So with that in mind, let’s read this passage, 2 Kings 8:7-15, once more today before we move on to the next passage:

7 Elisha went to Damascus, the capital of Aram, where King Ben-hadad lay sick. When someone told the king that the man of God had come, 8 the king said to Hazael, “Take a gift to the man of God. Then tell him to ask the Lord, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

9 So Hazael loaded down forty camels with the finest products of Damascus as a gift for Elisha. He went to him and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad, the king of Aram, has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

10 And Elisha replied, “Go and tell him, ‘You will surely recover.’ But actually the Lord has shown me that he will surely die!” 11 Elisha stared at Hazael[a] with a fixed gaze until Hazael became uneasy.[b] Then the man of God started weeping.

12 “What’s the matter, my lord?” Hazael asked him.

Elisha replied, “I know the terrible things you will do to the people of Israel. You will burn their fortified cities, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women!”

13 Hazael responded, “How could a nobody like me[c] ever accomplish such great things?”

Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you are going to be the king of Aram.”

14 When Hazael left Elisha and went back, the king asked him, “What did Elisha tell you?”

And Hazael replied, “He told me that you will surely recover.”

15 But the next day Hazael took a blanket, soaked it in water, and held it over the king’s face until he died. Then Hazael became the next king of Aram.

In this passage, we see Hazael think of this vision of murder and slaughter as “such great things” (v. 13). When I read that verse over and over again, I was struck by the heartlessness of it. And then you go on to see that Hazael murdered his way into the throne of Aram. He had regard to right vs. wrong. He only had regard for what he wanted. He was an evil man in his heart. No sense of right or wrong. No sense of the consequences of his actions. No sense of simply enduring the things that he like about his current situation. He was selfish and childlike grabbing for the toys that he wanted and not caring who got hurt in the process.

Sound like a spoiled child? That is the challenge to us as dads. Are we raising spoiled children that will end as adults who act like Hazael? That is the challenge to us as dads. We must teach our children right from wrong (those things that God has wired all of us to know). We must teach our children that there are consequences for our actions. We must teach them that life is not fair and sometimes there is nothing that you can do about it. We must teach them that there are things that we can change in life but we are bound by the difference between right and wrong in doing so. We must teach our children about the ultimate Father. We must teach them about God. We must teach them about God and His Word. We must teach them about the consequences of bad behavior and sin as laid out in the pages of the Bible. We must teach them about their sin nature and how we need Jesus as a result. We must first and foremost live all of these things out (given our own sin nature) in front of our children. We must be present in their lives and be able to be more than their pal. We must be present and enforce consequences. We must be present to teach them endurance. We must be present to teach them about right and wrong. We must be present to teach them about Jesus Christ. We must be present to live these things out in front of them.

On this first Father’s Day without my dad, thanks dad! Thanks for being tough on me. Thanks for all the things you taught me. Thanks for being my advice giver as I began parenting myself. Thanks for being my friend as we both grew older and had raised our kids. Thanks for … being my dad!

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 8:7-15 (Part 1 of 2)

Hazael Murders Ben-Hadad

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you see something bad about to happen either to yourself or, especially, to someone else and you try to scream but nothing comes out of your mouth? You attempt with all of your might to scream but it’s just these low guttural sounds that only you can hear! I have had those dreams like many of us have had. You see the monster about to attack one of your friends but you can’t get the words out and you lose your friend. Or you are about to have something bad happen to you in a dream that you try to scream for help and nothing comes out and you are about to get hurt physically or extremely traumatized emotionally and then you wake out all out of sorts and you feel weird the rest of the day.

That’s kind of the feeling I get in today’s world where the world seems to purposefully be straying from God. The world seems to be glorifying behaviors that are clearly against the Word of God in the name of personal freedom. If you oppose the expressions of personal freedom then you are backwards and out of step with the culture. In the culture, there is a general belief in God still, I believe, but it is a God that is different from the true God revealed in the pages of the Bible. It is a god that is simply happy for you to be self-actualized. It is a god about you realizing your full self. It is a god about you being happy. It is a god that cuts deals with you about what the Bible says. It is a god that just wants you to be the best you that you can be. It is a god that serves your needs. When you simply point out that this type of god is not the God of the Bible, then you are labeled as being against personal freedom and backwards. God is a god of love and a god of love only.

That was the thing that I thought this morning as I read 2 Kings 8:7-15. The thing that I thought of was the fact that there seems to be a trend toward changing and fashioning God into who WE want Him to be to suit our needs. I think that God weeps over this. Just because we want to change God into who we want Him to be does not change Him. That’s the thing that makes God weep. He sees us going off the rails and he weeps over our free will choices knowing that something bad is going to happen – like in those dreams that I talked about. With that idea in mind, let’s read this passage now for the first of two times. This time let’s look at it, asking the question why does Elisha weep in this passage:

7 Elisha went to Damascus, the capital of Aram, where King Ben-hadad lay sick. When someone told the king that the man of God had come, 8 the king said to Hazael, “Take a gift to the man of God. Then tell him to ask the Lord, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

9 So Hazael loaded down forty camels with the finest products of Damascus as a gift for Elisha. He went to him and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad, the king of Aram, has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

10 And Elisha replied, “Go and tell him, ‘You will surely recover.’ But actually the Lord has shown me that he will surely die!” 11 Elisha stared at Hazael[a] with a fixed gaze until Hazael became uneasy.[b] Then the man of God started weeping.

12 “What’s the matter, my lord?” Hazael asked him.

Elisha replied, “I know the terrible things you will do to the people of Israel. You will burn their fortified cities, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women!”

13 Hazael responded, “How could a nobody like me[c] ever accomplish such great things?”

Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you are going to be the king of Aram.”

14 When Hazael left Elisha and went back, the king asked him, “What did Elisha tell you?”

And Hazael replied, “He told me that you will surely recover.”

15 But the next day Hazael took a blanket, soaked it in water, and held it over the king’s face until he died. Then Hazael became the next king of Aram.

In this passage, we see Elisha, the man of God, began to weep when he was about to tell Hazael of his vision of upcoming events. The choices that men were going to make both among Israel enemies and among Israel’s leaders that will lead to this vision coming true. God weeps over our choices. It grieves His heart. He does not condemn us to hell as hellfire and brimstone preachers might think. We condemn ourselves by our own choices, our own sins. In that, God weeps.

What makes God weep? He weeps when we decide for ourselves that we know better than He. He weeps when we say that what is eternally true by His definition is no longer true. We decide for ourselves that it is now OK and that what God said was for a different time and a different people. When we do that, we start defining for ourselves what is true and right and holy. God weeps.

When we wrest control of the truth and make it our own. God weeps. When the truth is no longer external to us. God weeps. When we say sin is no longer sin. God weeps. When we think God has only love but no justice. God weeps. When we think God and me have a deal concerning our pet sin(s), God weeps. When we no longer trust His Word as the final authority in our lives, God weeps. When we pick and choose what parts of His Word we believe, God weeps. When we make God into our own personal god like a personal vending machine, God weeps.

God is external. God defines what it true and real and He defines what is holy and what is sin. Not us. Let us be a people that gives the truth back to God. Let us be a people that allows Him to define truth for us and that we recognize that it is external to us. Otherwise, God weeps. God weeps because He sees the coming disaster. God weeps for our own condemnation.

Thank God that He has provided us the truth. Thank God that He has provided us with the Holy Spirit to draw us to the truth that we innately need and often don’t even know it. Thank God we have Jesus Christ to free us from our own blindness. Thank God we have Jesus Christ to free us from our own condemnation.

Amen and Amen.