Archive for August, 2020

2 Chronicles 18:1-8 (Part 2 of 3)

Jehoshaphat and Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

There is an old saying that says, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result each time.” I remember back in the day when Danny Ford was the coach of the Clemson University football team, he was a firm believer in having a punishing running game on offense and having a stifling and attacking defense. It was a great formula most of the time. He recruited big boys for the offensive line and have a bevy of running backs at his disposal. His teams would average over 250 yard rushing per game. They would just wear down and wear out an opposing defense with the relentless blocking of the huge offensive line. On defense, he recruited boys that just like to hit people and they were big and fast. He won more than 75% of his games as coach of the Tigers with this basic approach – methodical offense that chewed up bigger and bigger chunks of yards as the game progressed, and a hard-hitting, fast, and turnover seeking defense.

However, there were those 25% of his games that he lost. Often it was caused by the old turnover thing (the team with the fewest turnovers in a football has been statistically proven to win the game 78% of the time). But there were times, when Clemson ran up against a team here and there that was as big and as fast as they were. In some of these losses, when it was blatantly obvious to everyone that Clemson could not run the ball, Coach Ford would keep at it no matter what. In those days, Clemson quarterbacks probably threw the ball no more than 15 times a game. Ford was in love with running the ball and when Clemson could not do that during his tenure, they lost. But he never adjusted his strategy regardless of the obvious facts. Therein lies the definition of insanity. There were times when it was obvious while watching them on TV that you would yell, “Throw the dang ball a couple of times, would ya?” It would drive you crazy as a fan. But you put up with his crazy dedication to the running game because it worked over 75% of the time.

It is that idea of not listening to advise that is realistic and continuing with a track that will lead to ruin that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:1-8, again. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter. 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, often, the evil kings of the Bible did not like God’s prophets who brought messages of condemnation and doom for the sinful way in which they ran their kingdoms. Many of them, then, hired so-called prophets who would tell them what they wanted to ear. The Bible is littered with such false prophets (e.g., Isaiah 30:10-11, Jeremiah 14:13-16, 23:16, and 21:30-36 just to name a few). These men would give the kings a sense of security that what he was doing was fine and that there was no need to change course. The true prophets such Isaiah, Jeremiah and others was to challenge the kings of Judah and Israel to repent of their sinful courses of action and steer the nation back toward God. However, the kings rarely wanted to hear the truth about their actions or lack of action.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is there is something here in this passage for both Christ followers, individually, and for churches, as the collective version of Christ followers. For individual Christians, we need to be able to hear things that “step on our toes” and examine what they are saying rather than get mad at a someone within the fellowship of your local church. Too often in churches, when there is conflict between people in the local church or conflict between people in the church and their pastor, people will just disappear and never deal with the issue. In our workplaces, we are able to have hard conversations, why are we so unable to do that in churches? Now, certainly, there are situations where what the person may be saying to you is not worthy of consideration. However, we must examine those tough conversations to see if the person was being hateful or was sincerely trying, in love, to help you grow and mature in Christ. There’s an old saying too about conversations, “take what you need, and throw away the rest!” That’s a quick way of saying that (1) we examine if the hard conversation was simply hatefulness or whether it was said in love and (2) take what we may need to consider more deeply in prayer from that conversation and then leave the rest floating in the air like leaves to the wind.

As churches, we must also be able to adjust our game plan when the running game is not working and be willing to hear that what we are currently doing is not working. As churches, as we move into the 2nd 1/5 of the 21st century, we stick to our guns on the timeless truth of God’s Word but how we package that and how we deliver this timeless message has to be examined to see what we may do differently. We live in a different age that we did 50 years ago in Christianity. Back in those days, it was just part of the culture of America, particularly in the South, to go to church on Sunday and to be there for weekly events during the week or on the weekend. Church was just ingrained into the culture. We did not really have to try that hard. The running game was popping holes wide open for the running backs. We invited people. They came. Sometimes, they just came on their own. It was all very easy compared to the current day.

Now, you are talking about 2nd and 3rd generations of families that have never darkened the door of any church for any reason. People today know of and create their own idea of what and who Jesus is and was because he is a well-known historical figure. Not because they know anything about Him at all in His true identity as the Son of God. He is just a philosopher to many. A radical rabbi and anti-establishment hero to others. Now, people see church as a option at best and as irrelevant to their lives at worst. They do not see any need for a Savior because they see themselves as good people and that’s enough for them. Many see Christianity and other religions as being responsible for much of the oppression of the past millennia and half.

In this environment, then, it is obvious that we have to quit trying to run the ball up the middle endlessly when its not doing anything to draw people into our midst so that they can encounter Christ, the real Christ. We need to examine how we are interacting with the world around as a corporate body and as individual Christians. Are we doing the same old thing and expecting different results? Are we expecting the world to passionately respond to us when we are not passionate to reach them? We live in an age where people are not going to come to us organically like they did in the 1970’s and prior to that. They are not going to come running when the doors open. Let us examine ourselves, have those hard conversations on the sidelines of the game, and then adjust the game plan. Maybe, Danny Ford would have won over 85% of his games if he had been able to listen to those hard conversations and change the Tiger game plan when they could not run the ball effectively. We have to be able to have those hard conversations as churches to see where we need to adjust our game plan to match this new era in which we live. The message of Jesus Christ is timeless and never changes but the way in which we build our game plan to achieve victory may need to be adjusted to match the new kind of defenses against which we are running our offense!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:1-8 (Part 1 of 3)

Jehoshaphat and Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

This short passage of only 8 verses has got so much good stuff to blog about in it, that this will be a 3-blog visit to his passage before we move on to the next passage. Here is today’s first of these three blogs…

As many of you know, I am a Star Trek nerd. The three main franchises of the genre are Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), and Star Trek: Franchise Reboot (movies only). TOS and TNG all had movies that started coming out after the weekly television serieses ended. And it was one of these post-series movies that I think of this morning. It was the second movie for the TNG group of actors. It was Star Trek: First Contact and it was released in 1996.

There is a famous line from that movie uttered by Jean Luc Picard, the captain of the TNG series’ USS Enterprise. In that movie, Picard is lamenting the losses of the Federation to the relentless Borg (a cyborg race that attacks and assimilates planets of people into their robotic, emotionless, collective society). As the Borg now have their sights set on Planet Earth, Picard is fed up with retreating and cowering away from the Borg when he says this:

NO! NOOOOOOOOO!!! [smashes a display case in anger; Both pause, shocked] I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!

The line must be drawn here! This far! No further! Classic line. I still repeat it when I get the opportunity in the right situations. It was passionate statement of no compromise. A line about being of the mind that you would rather die defending my honor and freedom than to cower and submit to that which we know will enslave us.

Why do I mention this scene this morning? It’s because life is about choices. Here in this passage, we have a king that has a choice. The choice is thinking that if we dive into a pool that we won’t get wet. The choice is thinking that if we drop ink into a clear glass of water that the water will not be permanently changed in color and content. The choice is thinking that if we have long term relationships with unrepentant sinners that we won’t get burned by it. Sure we are supposed to witness to unbelievers but there comes a point at which we must say, the line must be drawn here! This far, no further!

It is that idea of Christ followers compromising our beliefs just to have relationship with unrepentant non-believers that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:1-8. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter. 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that although Jehoshaphat was deeply committed to God, he arranged for his son to marry Athaliah, the daughter of wicked King Ahab of Israel, and then made a military alliance with him. Jehoshaphat’s popularity and power made him attractive to the cunning and opportunistic Ahab. This alliance had three devastating consequences:

  1. Jehoshaphat incurred God’s anger (see 2 Chronicles 19:2).
  2. When Jehoshaphat’s grandson died, Athaliah seized the throne who almost destroyed all of David’s descendants (see 2 Chronicles 22:10-12).
  3. Athaliah introduced the pagan religious practices of Israel into Judah, which once introduced could not be fully eradicated and it was a growing cancer within Judah and led to the nation’s downfall.

Although Jehoshaphat was a godly man, this decision to align himself with another king he knew to be evil was not a wise decision. It was a politically expedient decision to meet the needs of the moment. He did not think of the long-term implications of the decision. The Bible warns us not to yoke (align) ourselves with non-believers, but yet at the same time, we are called to be witnesses to non-believers. The issue comes down to one of compromise. We are to be witnesses to and have relationships with non-believers but we are never to be so interested in those relationships that we compromise our beliefs simply to have relationships with them.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we have choices to make in our lives, who we marry, who we work for, who we hang out with and so on. We should be wise as to who we have serious relationships with as Christians, particularly those relationships in which we spend significant amounts of time. When we marry an unbeliever, we cannot down the road act all shocked and distraught about what to do. When we are dating and considering if this person is a person that I can live with day in and day out, the first concern should not be how good looking they are, how sexy they are, how much money they make, what they do for a living, it should be whether they are a Christ follower or not. We should find out if they are a real Christ follower or just claiming to be a Christian. This one should be the first line deal breaker. If they are not Christ followers and appear to have no intention of accepting Christ as their Savior and Lord, that’s a deal breaker for whether to marry them or not.

My mother-in-law has a saying that has stuck with me over the years, “Don’t put up with, for one day, that which you are not willing to put up with the rest of your life!” I understand that we are to witness to non-believers and we are certainly called to do that, but marriage is a whole ‘nuther ballgame. This is who you sleep with, this is who you spend all your non-committed hours with, this is your home base relationship. Here, an unwilling and unrepentant non-believer is simply not marriage material for a believer. Plain and simple. It is a relationship for which you have an upfront choice.

It is the same in our other most significant relationship, our jobs. We have an upfront choice as to whether we are going to work for this company or that. We must do our homework when looking for jobs. Is this a place that does its business in an ethical and Christ-like manner. Does it expect its employees to operate in the same manner. Does the company encourage and enforce Christ-like behaviors? We can’t act all shocked a few years down the road when we are asked to do unethical things or there is this spirit of unethical behavior in the business. As well, if the business has a reputation of harboring and promoting non-marital relationships between co-workers, don’t act all shocked a few years down the road when you see affairs happening all over the building or that you succumb to the behavior yourself. We have a choice up front in who we work for. We must do our homework on potential employers.

Between work and our spouse, these are the two things that claim the most of our time in life. We should be discerning about who we marry and where we work. Outside of that, are we not called to witness to an unbelieving world. Yes, we are, but we are not to compromise our beliefs just to win someone to Christ. We are love people to life in Christ but we are not to go against God’s Word to achieve some cheap conversion. Let us be wise with whom we spend the most time and let us be wise in how we represent the gospel message.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 17:1-19

Jehoshaphat Begins His Reign in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Last night, in our weekly Bible study at the church I serve, my heart was warmed. We have been walking through the book of Acts since early April with a four week break in July. And as we have moved through the book, the discussions have become more lively as time has passed. One of the things that I talked about last night, to encourage discussion, was that questions about Scripture are good. I don’t want people to be afraid to ask questions about Scripture. That’s the way we learn the deeper and richer value of Scripture is when we get answers to those questions. Without questions, we just skim over things that we don’t understand and move on. Somewhere along the line, Christ followers were taught not to question Scripture I guess or that if you questioned Scripture that it meant that you didn’t know as much about Scripture as you were supposed to. So nobody asked questions. But it is my encouragement to my Wednesday night folks is that questioning everything that we read is good. It means that you are thinking about what you read rather than just reading to finish a checklist item on your daily to-do list.

I want our people to pick Scripture apart. Think deep about it. Come up with questions. See the deep meat that is in every book in the Bible. And to see how the passage plays its role in the larger book and how the book plays its role in the overarching themes of the Bible. We are taking our time going through Acts. We just finished Chapter 17 last night and we began this journey back in April. I want the questions. I want our people to see how the people of the Bible are the same as we are. I want people to see how the Bible is practical to their daily lives by relating the action of Acts to us in everyday language and in ways that connect in the 21st century. It lights my fire when we have real, honest discussions on Wednesday and how you see the same fire coming bright in others as we bandy about these questions and answers. I love it. That’s the difference between studying and just reading.

I just wish more of our church members would join in our Wednesday night Bible study discussions. I always walk away on Wednesday night uplifted. I wish they could experience that too. I just wish they could taste what we experience on Wednesday nights. I wish that they could see the vitality of the Bible to their daily lives. I wish they could see how we discuss the action in ways that are relatable to 21st century folk. I wish they could see how we have those a-ha moments when Scripture comes alive for us.

For example, last night, part of the discussion was about Paul and his testimony. Part of the conversation was talking about his personality. Based on some evidence provided by Scripture itself in Acts and in Paul’s letters, he had to be such an intense guy, such an intelligent guy, such a charismatic guy and so he must have been one of those guys that operated at 100% of capacity all the time. He was intense. His mind working faster than he could speak or write (as evidenced by his letters being full of extended and sometimes run-on sentences). He was probably one of those guys who could not understand why other people did not operate at 100% of capacity at all times like him. He probably had little use for people who wanted to take breaks or take time off. He was always on! And we all have known people like that in our lifetimes. People that are super intense and expect everybody around them to be super intense. They can’t understand those who are not just like them. We all have had bosses like that. A coworker like that. A friend like that. Maybe, even have a spouse like that. These things are the things you miss when you are not there.

It is that idea of making the Bible come alive through study rather than just reading that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 17:1-19. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

17 His son Jehoshaphat succeeded him and strengthened himself against Israel. 2 He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that his father Asa had taken. 3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father;[a] he did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the ways of Israel. 5 Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. All Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. 6 His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord; and, furthermore, he removed the high places and the sacred poles[b] from Judah.

7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. 8 With them were the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9 They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them; they went around through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.

10 The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands around Judah, and they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and silver for tribute; and the Arabs also brought him seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. 12 Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. He built fortresses and storage cities in Judah. 13 He carried out great works in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty warriors, in Jerusalem. 14 This was the muster of them by ancestral houses: Of Judah, the commanders of the thousands: Adnah the commander, with three hundred thousand mighty warriors, 15 and next to him Jehohanan the commander, with two hundred eighty thousand, 16 and next to him Amasiah son of Zichri, a volunteer for the service of the Lord, with two hundred thousand mighty warriors. 17 Of Benjamin: Eliada, a mighty warrior, with two hundred thousand armed with bow and shield, 18 and next to him Jehozabad with one hundred eighty thousand armed for war. 19 These were in the service of the king, besides those whom the king had placed in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the people of Judah had become biblically illiterate. They had never taken time to understand, listen to, and discuss God’s law. They did not know how it could change them if they obeyed what God had commanded in His Word. Jehoshaphat realized that knowing God’s commands was the first step to getting people to live as God desires, so he initiated a nationwide biblical education program. he reversed the religious decline that had occurred toward the end of his father’s reign. He did so by putting God first in the people’s minds and instilling in them a sense of commitment and mission. Because of this action, the nation began to follow God. There is no substitute for disciplined study of God’s Word.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that many Christ followers suffer from biblical illiteracy or at least subpar understanding of God’s Word. Many of us, who claim that they are Christians, do not even read the Bible. That’s scary! Such people will always be spiritual babies because of not opening up the Bible and studying it. Babies can be duped easily into believing that the Bible says something that it doesn’t. The non-reader Christian misses the boat and only catches glimpses of what God has for us when they sit in church on Sunday. Often, they see this as enough for their lives, but yet they are missing so much. It makes me sad to think of it.

Then, there are those who read through the Bible but don’t understand what they are reading. They just read the Bible because that’s what Christians do. They have their Bible in a year reading plans. They speed through passages and see it sometimes as drudgery, but…that’s what Christians do. They don’t ask questions of more mature believers because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves. They are afraid to admit they don’t understand what they are reading. First, get a Bible that has scholarly footnotes at the bottom of most every page. Read the footnotes. Discuss it with someone more mature in the faith. Grab hold of the faith. Ask questions. Get answers. Join a Bible study group.

It is my prayer that the church I serve becomes a church full of ravenous passionate Bible STUDIERS. Give me a church full of people that eagerly STUDY the Bible and I will show you a church that will flower into a passionate church. It just happens when we truly STUDY the Bible and see it as so wonderfully rich. To see the Bible and see ourselves, our friends, our nation in the mirror of its pages. To see the Bible in practical 21st century terms by relating the characters of the Bible to today’s world expands the value of the Bible. It makes you look forward to reading it every day. I pray for our people, not just a few, but all of them, who claim this church as their home, to be ravenous about the Bible. To be excited by the Bible. To be students of the Bible!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 16:11-14

Summary of Asa’s Reign in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Back in October 2018, my father passed away after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma. This really aggressive tumor of a cancerous nature had grown at the back of my dad’s brain in between the two halves or spheres of the brain. It was tentacle like in nature in the way that it had attached itself to my dad’s brain. Therefore, there was no operation considered. Any attempt to remove the tumor would have meant paralysis of multiple functions of my dad’s body and certainly death was a great possibility as well. Surgery was out of the question for us and the doctors. What they recommended was that dad go through some pretty intense chemotherapy to therapeutically kill the tumor.

Having seen one of our friends with breast cancer go through chemotherapy in a much healthier and younger body I knew that chemo was no joke. This female friend of ours who was in her forties and in great health otherwise went through it for like 6 months. It kicked her butt and she was 30 years my dad’s younger. So the issue that we had to grapple with as family (my dad himself, my stepmom, me, my brother, and my oldest daughter) as to what was this going to gain my dad. The doctor told us with chemo my dad would probably live another 18-24 months. Without it, he would most likely die in 2 months. With the chemo, his quality of life would be horrible at 79 years old. Without it, he would have a short time with us, very short, but he would have his dignity and a decent quality of life to almost the end.

We chose not to pursue the medical intervention of chemo, because dad did not want to do it. He said he was tired and ready for the end. He was tired of fighting the fog of an ailing body. He was just ready to go to heaven. He did not want to fight this fight to eek out maybe 22 months of living. We had to respect that. Through prayer, we came to be at peace with that. And my father lived 7 weeks to the day after his terminal diagnosis. He slipped into Jesus’ arms in October 2018. I don’t regret supporting dad’s decision. If he had been 30 years younger, it would have been a tougher decision for sure. This is a big issue for Christians!

It is that idea of when to call off the dogs when it comes to medical science that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 16:11-14 Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

11 The rest of the events of Asa’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians. 13 So he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 He was buried in the tomb he had carved out for himself in the City of David. He was laid on a bed perfumed with sweet spices and fragrant ointments, and the people built a huge funeral fire in his honor.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the criticism of Asa’s visit to the physician was not a general indictment of medicine. Rather, it was to point out that Asa completely ignored God in seeking a solution to his problem. Now, it is certainly worth noting that the physicians of the ancient Middle East were a mixture of superstitious and/or folk remedies. There was not necessarily a great deal of scientific methodology applied to the field of medicine at this time. Given that though, we should seek prayer (see James 5:14) for our sickness as we seek responsible medical help. Prayer is the first response and prayer will lead us to our proper direction with regard to seeking medical care.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that, according to John Piper, “God has ordained for us to pray about our needs, because we don’t know at the outset whether our circumstances are intended to last or be temporary.” God bids us to pray and says, in James 4:2, we have not because we ask not, often. He doesn’t treat prayer as an intrusion upon his sovereignty. He invites it as part of his sovereignty. It is part of his sovereign plan for ruling the world. It is the starting point for us as Christ followers. That’s where we must have a regular routine of daily seeking God in prayer. When we pray regularly to God, we increasingly learn how to clear out the white noise of the world around us and focus more clearly on God. When we get that routine of shutting out the world around us as we pray, we can hear his voice. In hearing His voice, we will be able to discern our path forward with regard to medicine.

It is no fluke that one of the earliest second generation disciples (i.e., first generation disciples were the apostles who were Jesus’ original 12) is a physician, Luke. Luke the writer of one of the gospels and of the Book of Acts and he was a physician of the first century AD kind. That Luke became a Christ follower means that medicine and faith are not incompatible. I think that God wants us to avail ourselves of available technology and medical advances when it is reasonable to do so. Just as God expects us to wear seatbelts when we ride in cars, I think he gave man the intellect to develop life-saving and extending techniques and medicine that we should avail ourselves of when it is reasonable to do so. I think the Lord will conform this in our prayer life in most instances. However, there may be times through our prayers that God shows us that we should refuse available medical treatment. In his sovereignty, he may show us that in particular instances that we gain nothing from using currently available medical technology and medicine.

Therefore, it’s prayer first and medicine use or non-use second. We should not make any medical decisions without consulting with our Abba Father, period. To be able to hear Him clearly, it points us toward an active and regular prayer life. Let us make God our first stop before deciding on medical issues.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 16:1-10

Asa Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

One of the grand theological and philosophical questions that minds like mine struggle with is the one about whether we are to really “let go and let God” as the old saying from the late 90’s early 00’s that was popular among Christians. Let go and let God. Does that mean that we do nothing and sit back and let God handle it? We don’t have to anything then, right? I understand the point of not trying to solve everything ourselves. We must make God a priority in every area of our life including our problems. We must be in prayer to Him constantly – whether we are dealing with a problem or not. He must be the central focus of our lives. But the theological/philosophical question comes in as to how much or how far should we go before we let go and let God? However, many Christians may subscribe to the popular idea of “letting go” is to adopt a sort of spiritual inertia wherein we do nothing, say nothing, feel nothing, and simply live, allowing circumstances to roll over us however they may and then claim that whatever the outcome turns out to be that it was God’s will.

The Christian life, however, is a spiritual battle which the Bible exhorts us to prepare for and wage diligently. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12); “Endure hardship . . . like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3); “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). Letting go, in the sense of sitting back and watching events unfold however they may, is not biblical.

Let me be clear in making that statement, I am not suggesting that we do this alone. From the start, God should be the first part of our problem solving equation. To begin with, Jesus was clear that, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). The truth being imparted here is that we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We can do lots of “stuff” and assume we’re doing it for God, but if we are doing it on our own power, we get the credit, and there is little or no eternal value to it. The picture of the vine and the branches in John 15 is very appropriate. Christ is the vine; we are the branches. Everything branches need to bring forth fruit comes from the vine—water, nutrients, the genetic material of life itself—while nothing is provided by the branches. The branches are simply something to hang the fruit on. The same is true of the Christian life. We are a conduit through which Christ displays His (not our) fruit.

However, in our struggles, in our problems of life, God expects us to be active participants in solving the problem. We can’t just go take a seat on the bench and watch the action unfold. God expects us to be on the field and into the game. Through our struggles, many of which we bring on ourselves but there are some caused by the sinfulness of others than are not our fault, we grow and mature in Christ. Through our active participation in solving our problems, God matures us to be an even better disciple and witness for Him. In our struggles, we learn our limitations and the power of prayer. In our struggles where we are in there fighting the fact, we can see God at work. When we are not active in the process of solving our problems, we may mistake Satan’s outcome as if it were the choosing of God.

For example, if a couple is having marital problems and we take a hands off attitude and then say whatever happens is God’s will is just wrong. What if the marriage falls apart? Is that God’s will? Is that consistent with the general tenor of the Bible? I think not. God sees the bond between husband and wife as an eternal one so if we are suffering through a tough patch in our marriage, we must be willing to work on it. We must be willing to change. We must be willing to seek unity with our spouse which may require growth in us by setting aside our childish pride of wanting everything to be about us. That’s spiritual growth toward God when we see our own sinfulness and desire to change it through God’s help. If we just sit back and do nothing, change nothing about ourselves, we will not have grown. In that process of saving the marriage, we will learn that humbling ourselves before God in prayer (and realizing that it’s not all about us) will allow us to be less dependent on ourselves and more dependent on Him.

So, letting go and letting God is not where we sit on the sidelines and do nothing. Letting go and letting God means that we depend on God to help us solve our problems where we are an active participant. Letting go and letting God means that we do not sit back and say what happens is God’s will either way.

It is that idea of the mix of us solving problems and depending on God at the same time that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 16:1-10. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 16

1 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from entering or leaving King Asa’s territory in Judah.

2 Asa responded by removing the silver and gold from the treasuries of the Temple of the Lord and the royal palace. He sent it to King Ben-hadad of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus, along with this message:

3 “Let there be a treaty[a] between you and me like the one between your father and my father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel so that he will leave me alone.”

4 Ben-hadad agreed to King Asa’s request and sent the commanders of his army to attack the towns of Israel. They conquered the towns of Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah,[b] and all the store cities in Naphtali. 5 As soon as Baasha of Israel heard what was happening, he abandoned his project of fortifying Ramah and stopped all work on it. 6 Then King Asa called out all the men of Judah to carry away the building stones and timbers that Baasha had been using to fortify Ramah. Asa used these materials to fortify the towns of Geba and Mizpah.

7 At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, “Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the Lord your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. 8 Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians[c] and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers?[d] At that time you relied on the Lord, and he handed them over to you. 9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.”

10 Asa became so angry with Hanani for saying this that he threw him into prison and put him in stocks. At that time Asa also began to oppress some of his people.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that both Judah and Israel suffered from faithful forgetfulness. Although God had delivered them time and again, even when they were outnumbered, they repeatedly sought help by making alliances with the kings of pagan nations nearby, rather than seeking God’s direction first. That Asa, in this passage which occurs late in his reign as king of Judah, was evidence of a spiritual decline not only in the nation but also in Asa himself. With help from God alone, if we remember from two chapters earlier in 2 Chronicles, Asa had defeated a much larger Ethiopian force in open battle. Now, he only sought a human solution to his problem without even consulting God through prayer. Then, when confronted with the prophet, Hanani, Asa threw him in prison in a fit of prideful rage. It is not sin to use our human knowledge and efforts to solve our problems, but it is a sin when we trust our own power more than that of God, to think we know better than God, and/or to leave God completely out of our problem solving processes.  

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that God must be part of our daily lives whether we are in problem mode or in a safe harbor. Prayer and daily conversation with God is essential to making wise decisions. Often, through earnest and daily prayer and conversation with God, He will help us to make the right decisions that help us avoid problem mode. However, there are just times in life where we are going to be in a crisis (either by our own purposeful or even inadvertent acts or by the acts of others where the results get dumped on us). In these times, we must seek God’s guidance. He will tell us WHAT TO DO. He expects us TO DO. We are the execution of God’s plan for our lives not a spectator. We should not use God as a last resort though – only praying when we have come to the end of our personally devised options. God and you and I should be in daily communication throughout each day. We must humbly seek Him. We must obey what He makes known to us as the proper course of action. He does expect us to let go and let God in the sense that He is the ruler of our lives each and every minute of every day. We must seek His wisdom in our world of troubles. We must then follow what He tells us to do. In that way, we know truly what God’s will for our lives is. In that way, we participate. It is through being in the game and on the field that we understand the game plan best.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 15:1-19

Asa Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Today is my last day of being 57. Tomorrow, I will officially turn 58 at 7:10am. Man, where did all that time go? Seems like yesterday I was 50. Seems like yesterday I was in my early 30’s. That time, almost 30 years now, sure did go by way faster than the first 30. I am going down toward 60 now with a rapid pace. And people call me “sir” now. When did THAT happen? Inside, the little boy’s heart that I have living alive and well in there is screaming, I am not that old. I am still young. I am still goofy and silly. I am still one that take a dare of physical ability. I still love to have my music blaring on the stereo in my car (of course, that is, when I am alone in my car). Anytime, my wife is away and I am home alone, I am like a kid of the old days playing his albums on dad’s fancy stereo system when they are out of town. I crank up my tunes on the stereo in my study/man cave here at the parsonage. I mean I crrrrraannnk it up! I still love to play pick up games of football. But people call me sir. Young people think I am old. I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. LOL! My teenager Mark inside can’t believe it all is now all the way up to 58 years, cuz I still have a kid’s heart.

However, the 58 years have taught me much. The biggest one, since I am just a big kid inside, is that wherever I am living, I just ask the Holy Spirit to find me someone to observe and watch that are wise people of God. These are men and women who have discerning hearts that are grown ups in their heart (not just chronologically), are just innately intelligent and wise, are discerning about things, and display the fruit of the sprit in their lives. Since I began this journey to full-time ministry over the past decade there have been several men and women who I admire with their even-keeled wisdom, their discernment, their spiritual maturity, and the just that ability to say the right things at the right time that I need to hear. There have been Jeff Hickman, Brian McKnight, Junior Taylor, Humbert Perez, Mark Patterson, Beva Bailey, Bonnie Moody, just to name a few of the many wise counselors I had at LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC. At Calvary Church in Moline, IL, my wise counselors included Fred Parks, Glenn Gustafson, Frank Leihsing, Bob Herath, Kit Vargas, Frank & Chonya Davis, Karen Ahrens, just to name a few of the many there who influenced me with their wisdom and discernment. Here, at Lamar, it’s a little different when you are the head/solo pastor so it’s a little more difficult to develop those trusted relationships than when you are a part-time church employee, or an associate pastor. It’s just different and more difficult to have those deep down type relationships. However, there are a few that I have already learned that are my trusted advisors and those that I would seek out regardless of their position at our church. These trusted advisors that I have developed so far include Rocky Scarborough, Mike Lloyd, and Fran Knotts. All these folks at all three stops in my ministerial lineage have had a profound impact on my growth in spiritual maturity by just watching these folks and by having meaningful conversations with them. To all these named ones and the ones that I have not named that I could not think of quickly as I was writing this, I thank you. I would not be where I am in ministry at this point in my ministry career as of August 24, 2020.

Then, there’s my wife, Elena! Wow, what a person to watch live out the Christ life. Just her advice, her counsel, her wisdom, her spiritual maturity, her sometimes dogged determination to make me speak about those things that are bothering me. I am a very private person about my feelings. Most guys are, but I think I take it to extremes at times. Maybe it’s because growing up as a preacher’s kid and a Methodist one at that (where you move every few years), you had to be self-contained and have the ability to be OK on your own. However, there are things that we have to just get out of our mind into the air in conversation. Elena gets me to get those things out there and you know sometimes the dangerous cliffs that we create in our mind are simply speedbumps when you actually take them out in the light. So, thank you for your wisdom and discernment and your spiritual maturity and all that you have meant to me in my ministry journey over this past decade, dear Elena!

It is that idea of having those trusted spiritual mentors in your life so that you mature in your walk with Christ (just by watching, talking to, and listening to these people) that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 15:1-19. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

15 The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. 2 He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. 6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

8 When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of[a] Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.

9 Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.

10 They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. 11 At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. 12 They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. 13 All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. 14 They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

16 King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 17 Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 18 He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.

19 There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Asa wisely welcomed people who had a close relationship with God. He listened to their messages. Azariah gave the armies an important warning and encouraged them to stay close to God. This passage is a reminder to us to keep in contact with people who you know have a close relationship with the Lord, display the fruit of the Spirit, and seemed to be filled with faith, hope and wisdom of the Lord. Through these wise counselors in our lives, they can help us discern what is true and faithful to the Lord in our words, actions and deeds.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we, as that famous philosopher from Lyman, SC, Junior Taylor, often says, “we’re all in this together!” That’s the point of the fellowship of believers. It’s so we can develop those relationships that help us mature in Christ. We cannot do this Christ follower thing alone or in a vacuum. We must have people to watch. We must have people to discuss things with. We must have people that will be honest with us. We must have people that will tell us when we have “gone off the rails!” We must have those people that we just admire for the fruit of the Spirit that is obviously evident in their lives. Those are the people that don’t flit around with every wind or breeze. They are steady. They are discerning. They say things that are biblically based without even trying. They know the Word but it is so much a part of their lives that the things they say are biblical in nature because they have ingested God’s Word and not just read it. These are the people that will give you the advise you need. These are the people too that are the ones that will encourage you to push on, to be what you have been called to be. And most of all, they just seem to enjoy living! That’s a real person of God when you can see these things in them. Keep them close. Get to know them. They are more valuable than gold.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 14:9-15

Asa Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

It is ironic that I both enjoy immensely what I am doing now as my career, my calling, but, yet, at the same time, it being the hardest thing I have ever done. Being a pastor is not the easiest job in the world. There was an old Peace Corps recruiting advertisement from back in the early 70’s that I remember whose slogan was, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love!” That’s the deep irony that I feel right now. I love what I am doing more than ever in my life but yet at the same time, the successes in ministry sure don’t come as easily or as frequent as they did in my previous career. I love what I am doing but feel totally inadequate for the task. Ever felt that way in your life?

I remember when I had my first job when I started my career in accounting back in January 1984. Fresh out of college a scant six months before, my first accounting job was as an internal auditor with the School District of Greenville County (one of the largest school districts in the country in size and student count). I was responsible for auditing all the schools in the southwest region of the district. As a result, though I reported to my audit director at the overall district office in downtown Greenville, SC, I worked out of the southwest region office with the other district level employees who had instructional, support services and/or supervisory responsibilities for that sector of the district.  One of the jokes that we had around the office was that “the school district is a great place to work … if it weren’t for all the kids!” It was a tongue in cheek joke because, as you could surmise, the whole reason for us being employed was ultimately … the kids. A similar joke can be made about pastoral ministry. It’s a great job if it weren’t for all the church members. LOL! Again, that is tongue in cheek humor, because the church members are the whole reason that pastors have jobs.

There is also a joke that those who are not pastors make about us too. You know. You’ve heard it before. That must be a great job. You only have to work one, maybe two, hours a week. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I knew that was not the case, but you don’t really understand the difficulties of being a solo pastor at a smaller church or a senior pastor of a staff of pastors and support staff at a larger church. When you are the solo or senior pastor you finally see the difficulties of the calling and the job. As a solo pastor as I am, the load can be tremendous even in the best of times where everything is working. When you are the solo pastor there is no subordinate pastor or support staff that you can hand things off to. You have to make sure all the functions of the church work well all on your own and write sermons and preach and visit with members and go to the hospitals and so on and so on and so on.

However, throw on top of that, operating in today’s Coronavirus environment and trying to ensure the church continues on as normal as possible. It can be overwhelming. Trying to disciple our people into deeper relationships with Christ remotely is difficult. Trying to develop leaders within the church so that the church will survive regardless of who the preacher is difficult. Add on top of that, many church members are fearful of returning to church while this pandemic seems NOT to be settling down. Add on top of that, many people in our church who work in direct contact with the public are stressed out and burnt out on all the precautions they have to take in their jobs. Thus, there is that heavy burden of how this virus may in the end when it’s over have permanently crippled the church I serve (and all churches for that matter). The fear that the relevancy of church that was in doubt before the virus may have been exacerbated during it and after it. That will keep you awake at night.

Then, add to that, the non-virus related politics of being a pastor of a church, where there is the eternal and age-old issue of you as a flawed individual leading members who are all flawed individuals. Things you say and do (and not just in a sermon, but in the everyday life of church) can make one set of members happy and another set of members angry all from the same action. There are people who freely criticize you to others but make you think that there’s nothing wrong when they are in your presence. People who quit coming to church because of something you said. People who decide to quit leading a ministry and won’t tell you the real reason why. People who decide to quit leading a ministry and WILL tell you why and the reasons are about something other than eternal or theological matters. People who just disappear from church and won’t take your phone calls. All that will keep you awake at night.

Then, there’s your own fears, even in a non-Coronavirus environment, as to whether you are killing your church or not, whether you are doing what is best for the church or not, was that sermon the best that I could do this week, are my sermons even landing with my people, and all the doubts about your leadership abilities, much less the actual failures that you have had in this church as a leader. Then, there’s the fears of not knowing everything you need to know to effectively pastor any church much less this one you serve right now. Then, there’s the doubts about your own theological knowledge and whether it’s adequate to effectively minister to church members needs. You worry that you don’t have the ability to enhance or even correct what people believe as the doctrinal truths of the Bible. You worry that you don’t have the charisma to inspire the people of your church with your sermons. You worry that you don’t have the charisma to inspire the people of your church to be fully involved in hands and feet of Christ ministries as individuals and as a corporate body of the church. That will keep you awake at night.

The stuff that will keep you awake at night is what drives you to your knees before the Lord. I have come to one unmistakable conclusion in these 14 months of being a solo pastor, the only pastor, the pastor of the church I serve. That conclusion is that being a pastor of any church is far too big for any man. I must bow before the Lord and cry out to Him for His help. After all, if you are a pastor like me, it’s not your church. It’s not even your church members’ church. It is His church. I must humble myself daily before Him at this calling He has given me. It’s way too big for even the best pastor much less a rookie one like me. That’s where it comes down to being like Asa when he saw the vast army of men from the Ethiopian kingdom before him and his army of Judea. He was overwhelmed by it all and probably scared to death.

He then cried out to God for help. That’s what I must do every year, every month, every day that I am a pastor and I am glad that God is teaching me in this earliest season of my ministry. I cry out as Asa did, “O Lord! no one but You can help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You alone!” That was Asa’s cry. This is my cry.

It is that idea of being overwhelmed by your task ahead and it being a good lesson that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 14:9-15. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

9 Once an Ethiopian[a] named Zerah attacked Judah with an army of 1,000,000 men[b] and 300 chariots. They advanced to the town of Mareshah, 10 so Asa deployed his armies for battle in the valley north of Mareshah.[c] 11 Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!”

12 So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians[d] in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled. 13 Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar, and so many Ethiopians fell that they were unable to rally. They were destroyed by the Lord and his army, and the army of Judah carried off a vast amount of plunder.

14 While they were at Gerar, they attacked all the towns in that area, and terror from the Lord came upon the people there. As a result, a vast amount of plunder was taken from these towns, too. 15 They also attacked the camps of herdsmen and captured many sheep, goats, and camels before finally returning to Jerusalem.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Asa cried out to God for help, recognizing his powerlessness against such a vast horde of enemy soldiers. The secret to victory here was that Asa recognized right away that he saw the futility of any attempt on his own, under his own human effort, to defeat the enemy. Not only was defeat a certainty but also complete annihilation of his men was a distinct probability. He, then, look to God and trusted Him to save them. God wants us to depend on Him in all situations. His power works best in us when we recognize our human limitations and frailties and flaws (see also 2 Corinthians 12:9). It is those who think they can do it all on their own who are in the greatest danger of defeat in whatever endeavors we try without depending on God.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that my ministry as a pastor is not about how charismatic I am as a person, as a leader, as a pastor. It’s not about how many people like me. It’s not about whether the numbers are increasing or decreasing. It’s about learning to be humbled before the Lord at the enormity of being a pastor of people in a church. It’s about depending solely on Him. He’s the Go-To God. He is where we should look first before any decision. He is where we should go when things don’t look good. He is where we should go when there is turmoil. He is where we should go when there is peace. He is just where we should go – to kneel humbly before Him and say, “O Lord, I am inadequate for what you have called me to do, please help me. Humbly, I ask you to be for me everything that I am not for the good of my ministry and for the people you have entrusted to my care.”

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 14:1-8

Asa Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Sometimes, a leader of a nation or a leader/pastor of a church comes along that shakes things up and gets things back on course or at least gets them refocused on what they should be focused on. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he has certainly awakened the nation from its politically correct slumber. He certainly has awakened the conservative right to be more active. The reason that we have such great conflict at this age and time is because the vast majority of Americans of the conservative bent have largely been quiet since the 80s. During the interim, the liberal left has been able to have its voice heard and have its way to the point that music groups are being shamed into changing their names for fear of being remotely near the neighborhood of offending someone. Trump has created attentiveness in all of us whether you are liberal or conservative. Now, the conservatives who make up 2,600 of the counties of our country are speaking their voice instead of there only being the voice of the 500 liberal counties (which by the way are the 500 most populous counties in the country). Say what you will, but the outspoken, outrageous, sometimes ill-advised, egomaniacal, arrogant, and abrasive man that Trump is, has everybody talking now.

There is an ongoing debate now about the direction of and for the heart and soul of our country. I would dare venture to say that voter turnout for the November 2020 elections will be the highest probably since the Kennedy-Nixon election back in 1960. Sometimes, God brings along even a non-believer (as I do not think that Trump is a Christ follower as he claims) to shake things up, to create debate, to allow make to seriously look and make the choice of returning to God or not. That may be the reason that God allowed Trump to be elected. He allowed this man who is the epitome of egomania to be elected so that his presence in the office would create a debate about the direction of our country. That’s the shaking up that’s needed.

We see this in Asa in Judah. He the leader that came along to shake things up. He came along and shook things up in Judah. He caused a stir. He probably was a lightening rod for debate within Judah when he stopped the drift into idolatry with drastic and visual actions. He shook things up for the better. He forced Judah to examine itself and the direction that the country of Judah was heading and returned it to the Lord (however briefly that might have been). Sometimes, we as pastors are brought into churches to do the same thing. It may not be the sole purpose or reason that a pastor is hired or transferred to a church, but sometimes circumstances and the personalities involved cause the preacher to shake things up. Sometimes, a young buck preacher will come along into a stagnant church and shake the church out of its patterns, routines, and comfort zones. He may be disliked for doing it. He may even move to another church after a time of shaking things up. However, it may have been the moment at which God wanted things shaken up. It may have been the whole purpose of that pastor being at that church at that time period with those people at that time in that place. It may have been God’s intersective moment where He wants the debate to begin for the heart and soul and future of that church.

It is that idea of God’s intersective moments between moments in time, leaders at that moment, and people at that moment that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 14:1-8. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

14 [a] So Abijah slept with his ancestors, and they buried him in the city of David. His son Asa succeeded him. In his days the land had rest for ten years. 2 [b] Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God. 3 He took away the foreign altars and the high places, broke down the pillars, hewed down the sacred poles,[c] 4 and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to keep the law and the commandment. 5 He also removed from all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. 6 He built fortified cities in Judah while the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace. 7 He said to Judah, “Let us build these cities, and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars; the land is still ours because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered. 8 Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah, armed with large shields and spears, and two hundred eighty thousand troops from Benjamin who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty warriors.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Asa’s reign was marked by peace he “did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord, his God.” This refrain is often repeated in Chronicles – obedience to God leads to peace with God and others. In the case of Judah’s kings, obedience led to national peace, just as God promised centuries earlier. In our case, obedience may not always bring peace in our relationships in life, but it will bring peace with God and complete peace in his future Kingdom. Asa probably did not have peace in his relationships internally within the nation. But God used him to achieve something that needed to happen. His bold moves may have been seen as arrogant, unilateral, mean, and overstepping his bounds but they were needed. His bold moves caused a debate to being about where Judah was headed – back to God or further into idolatry. The necessary debate was had and God’s peace was granted when the nation returned to the Lord.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that sometimes God allows a leader to be in our midst to cause a stir, to shake things up, to cause debate as to what kind of organization we are going to be. Maybe, that’s what God wants at times. Things shaken up. In our nation, there are those leaders who God allows to come along that are the great shaker-uppers, the great debate starters. Some leaders of our nation that were either loved or hated with no in between. We have seen this before with Lincoln, Kennedy and now Trump at key points in our country’s history as to its direction. In our churches, it can be the same, there may be moments in which God allows the intersection of a pastor and a church at time where a critical juncture in time is occurring where the future direction of a church is at stake. Sometimes, God brings people, leaders and moments in time all together where it’s time to shake things up, time to get a debate started, about where we are going and how we are going to get there.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 12:15-13:22

Abijah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Not this week but next week, I will be preaching from Revelation chapters 2 and 3 about the Jesus’ letters to the churches in Asia Minor. The one that has always struck me was the letter to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. In that letter, Jesus rebukes the church for being lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, but tepid. The kind of water that is neither cleansing as hot water is or refreshing as cold water is. It makes for a disgusting drink. This church would not take a stand for anything. Their indifference led to idleness. By neglecting their purpose as a collective of believers, the church had become self-satisfied.

The members of this group of believers at the church at Laodicea, as many do today, believed that numerous material blessings are a sign that they must have favor with the Lord in the way that they are living their lives. Laodicea was a wealthy city and this church was wealthy as well. It made them complacent and comfortable. As a result, they were really just going through the motions of being a church. They most likely were concerned with entertaining themselves than they were with the two fold purpose of the church – discipleship and evangelism. Based on what Jesus says here and from the commentaries that I have read, this church because of the economic status of many of its members really saw the church more as a social club than a living breathing arm of Christ himself. When a church becomes a social club more than it is a disciple making and evangelizing engine, then, the lukewarmness to the commands of Christ will lead to eventual decline and death of a church.

In a declining church, you will find often that positions of leadership are filled with anyone who can be convinced to hold the position. They do not have any passion for the position they hold. They do not even have to have any understanding of the purpose of the ministry they are supposed to be leading. They become placeholders. And then they become institutions in the placeholder. When you have a person that has no passion for the ministry that they lead and yet have held the position for ages, the ministry ceases to exist except for rare moments of annual traditions. This leads to lukewarm ministries within a local church. For a church to arise from lukewarm leadership to vibrantly led ministries and thus a vibrant church, we must pray for passion for these churches – passion for the Lord, passion to share the gospel, passion to impact the world around us with the selfless love of Jesus Christ. Let us pray for a re-igniting of the passions that created these churches. Let us pray they get their passion back and particularly for those in leadership positions. My mentor pastor, Jeff Hickman, once said, though he leads a large church, that he would rather have a 100 people that are sold out for Jesus Christ than church of 1,000 that is infected with ambivalence toward the mission of the church.

It is that idea of lukewarm leadership that leads to lukewarm churches that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 12:15-13:22. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

15 The rest of the events of Rehoboam’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Record of Shemaiah the Prophet and The Record of Iddo the Seer, which are part of the genealogical record. Rehoboam and Jeroboam were continually at war with each other. 16 When Rehoboam died, he was buried in the City of David. Then his son Abijah became the next king.

Abijah’s War with Jeroboam

Chapter 13

1 Abijah began to rule over Judah in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel. 2 He reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother was Maacah,[a] the daughter of Uriel from Gibeah.

Then war broke out between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3 Judah, led by King Abijah, fielded 400,000 select warriors, while Jeroboam mustered 800,000 select troops from Israel.

4 When the army of Judah arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim and shouted to Jeroboam and all Israel: “Listen to me! 5 Don’t you realize that the Lord, the God of Israel, made a lasting covenant[b] with David, giving him and his descendants the throne of Israel forever? 6 Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, a mere servant of David’s son Solomon, rebelled against his master. 7 Then a whole gang of scoundrels joined him, defying Solomon’s son Rehoboam when he was young and inexperienced and could not stand up to them.

8 “Do you really think you can stand against the kingdom of the Lord that is led by the descendants of David? You may have a vast army, and you have those gold calves that Jeroboam made as your gods. 9 But you have chased away the priests of the Lord (the descendants of Aaron) and the Levites, and you have appointed your own priests, just like the pagan nations. You let anyone become a priest these days! Whoever comes to be dedicated with a young bull and seven rams can become a priest of these so-called gods of yours!

10 “But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned him. Only the descendants of Aaron serve the Lord as priests, and the Levites alone may help them in their work. 11 They present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord every morning and evening. They place the Bread of the Presence on the holy table, and they light the gold lampstand every evening. We are following the instructions of the Lord our God, but you have abandoned him. 12 So you see, God is with us. He is our leader. His priests blow their trumpets and lead us into battle against you. O people of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed!”

13 Meanwhile, Jeroboam had secretly sent part of his army around behind the men of Judah to ambush them. 14 When Judah realized that they were being attacked from the front and the rear, they cried out to the Lord for help. Then the priests blew the trumpets, 15 and the men of Judah began to shout. At the sound of their battle cry, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel and routed them before Abijah and the army of Judah.

16 The Israelite army fled from Judah, and God handed them over to Judah in defeat. 17 Abijah and his army inflicted heavy losses on them; 500,000 of Israel’s select troops were killed that day. 18 So Judah defeated Israel on that occasion because they trusted in the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 19 Abijah and his army pursued Jeroboam’s troops and captured some of his towns, including Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron, along with their surrounding villages.

20 So Jeroboam of Israel never regained his power during Abijah’s lifetime, and finally the Lord struck him down and he died. 21 Meanwhile, Abijah of Judah grew more and more powerful. He married fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.

22 The rest of the events of Abijah’s reign, including his words and deeds, are recorded in The Commentary of Iddo the Prophet.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Abijah criticized Jeroboam’s low standards in appointing priests. Any warm body with a heartbeat may you qualified to represent a worthless man-made god. However, to represent the Lord God Almighty, a person must live according to God’s standards. Abijah related how faithful and dedicated that the priests and the Levites were to their tasks and how they understood the significance of what they were doing. This contrast between the way in which priests were chosen in the northern and the southern kingdoms serves as a reminder to us in the modern day church. Those appointed to positions of leadership within our local churches should not be selected merely because they are a willing, warm body, or because they are influential members of the church, or because they are highly educated. Instead they should demonstrate sound leadership qualities, understanding of how the ministry they lead fits in with the vision of the local church and in the Christian faith in general, and should be dedicated to the role that they play in leading the ministry for which they have been selected.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that the vast majority of churches in America are in decline. Leaders fill positions for which they have no passion for. Leaders are just in positions because somebody told the church that they had to have volunteer leaders in x, y, and z ministry. They often know nothing of the ministry for which their name is on a dotted line on a report as the leader. Lord, help us to find those within our church that have passion for the ministries of the church that we should have as a church. Lord, help us not to throw warm bodies at a ministry just to say we have filled blanks on a page. Help us as churches to have passion for our purpose. Our purpose is to strengthen the relationship of our existing members with Jesus Christ and to send them out into the world to draw others into our midst such that non-believers are drawn into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Help us to have a passion for that. Help us not be like Laodicea. Help us not be like the northern kingdom. In each case it was about just having warm bodies and going the through motions. Help us Lord to reignite our passion for you! Help us to love you so much that we seek out ways to serve in our churches. Help us to love you so much that our passion shows. Help us to love you so much that we lead our ministries with heart and with conviction and with understanding of the role it plays in discipleship and evangelism. Help us not to become passionless placeholders going through the motions. Help us Lord to save our churches around the nation and cause a revival of passion for you throughout the church world!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 12:1-14 (Part 2 of 2)

Egypt Invades Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

The idea that struck me this morning as I read through this passage for the second time before we move on to the next passage is that idea of one of the immutable laws of physics and its similarity to how sin affects our lives. In physics, once force is applied the motion cannot be stopped until the full energy of the force has been released and dissipated. In the vacuum of space, once an object is set into motion it remain in motion because there are no external environment forces to lessen that release of energy. On earth, gravity and other factors allow the energy of force to dissipate and die out, sometimes suddenly or sometimes it takes time.

It is the same way with sin in our lives. Sin is like dropping a pebble and sometimes a rock into a pond. There are ripples that concentrically expand out from the place in the pond where you dropped the pebble or the rock. Once the concentric circles reach the shore they bounce back toward the point of origin. All of these rebounding circles causes a bit of chaos on the surface of the pond compared to the placid surface before the dropping of the object into the water. Sin causes ripple effects in our lives that create rebounds and crossing waves of concentric reactions in our lives. Have you ever tried to stop the ripples on the surface of the water after you have dropped a pebble or a rock in the water? It can’t be done. The only thing that you can do is wait for all the energy to be have been released and the concentric ripples lose their momentum/energy and dissipate and then die out.

Sin is again similar to these laws of motion in physics. These immutable laws of physics were set forth by our Creator God. He is the father of physics. There many men who could through their scientific discoveries in physics that could be considered the father of physics but ultimately they did not invent these laws, they only discovered what was already there. God is the father of physics. And, thus, even when comes to sin, there is the law of cause and effect, of motion and energy. Just as in physics, the laws man has discovered and that were put in motion by God work the same way every time and cannot be stopped. In sin, in my opinion, the laws of physics are at work also, even when we repent of our sins.

Once the laws of sin are set into motion, there is no stopping the concentric circles of reactive energy that ripple out from our sin pebble dropped in the water of our lives. Even when we realize that we have sinned and fall before Jesus’s feet in all humility and ask for forgiveness of our sin failure(s) and turn away from the confessed sin(s), the ripples are already in the water. The ripples, because of the laws of motion, cannot be stopped. They must play themselves out. Thus, in the after effects of our sins, God does not suspend his natural laws of the ripple effects of sin. Why? Therein lies the life lesson for each sinner. Sin has consequences even after we repent that God will not stop and He will allow them to play themselves out. In the fallout of our sins, even after repentance, comes the life lessons. The pain and heartache, the ripples of reactions of others in reaction to our sin(s), all are the life lessons. God defines what is not sin and what is. Why? Because He is God and knows that the things that He defines as sins are the things that have the ripple effects in the ponds of our lives. Those are the things that have actions and reactions. Those are the things that destroy the peace of our placid pond of life. Those are the things that have consequences that we cannot even visualize when we commit to sinning. Sin is chaos. Sin is motion. Motion creates chaos. Chaos disturbs the peace. These are the laws of the physics of sin.

It is that idea of the unstoppable motion of sin once it is set into motion that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 12:1-`4. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 12

1 But when Rehoboam was firmly established and strong, he abandoned the Law of the Lord, and all Israel followed him in this sin. 2 Because they were unfaithful to the Lord, King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign. 3 He came with 1,200 chariots, 60,000 horses,[a] and a countless army of foot soldiers, including Libyans, Sukkites, and Ethiopians.[b] 4 Shishak conquered Judah’s fortified towns and then advanced to attack Jerusalem.

5 The prophet Shemaiah then met with Rehoboam and Judah’s leaders, who had all fled to Jerusalem because of Shishak. Shemaiah told them, “This is what the Lord says: You have abandoned me, so I am abandoning you to Shishak.”

6 Then the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is right in doing this to us!”

7 When the Lord saw their change of heart, he gave this message to Shemaiah: “Since the people have humbled themselves, I will not completely destroy them and will soon give them some relief. I will not use Shishak to pour out my anger on Jerusalem. 8 But they will become his subjects, so they will know the difference between serving me and serving earthly rulers.”

9 So King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem. He ransacked the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace; he stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. 10 King Rehoboam later replaced them with bronze shields as substitutes, and he entrusted them to the care of the commanders of the guard who protected the entrance to the royal palace. 11 Whenever the king went to the Temple of the Lord, the guards would also take the shields and then return them to the guardroom. 12 Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger was turned away, and he did not destroy him completely. There were still some good things in the land of Judah.

Summary of Rehoboam’s Reign

13 King Rehoboam firmly established himself in Jerusalem and continued to rule. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen from among all the tribes of Israel as the place to honor his name. Rehoboam’s mother was Naamah, a woman from Ammon. 14 But he was an evil king, for he did not seek the Lord with all his heart.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that God may have lessened his judgment when Israel’s leaders confessed their sins, humbled themselves, and recognized God’s justice in punishing them. It’s never too late to repent, even in the midst of the results of our sins (God’s judgment is just that – allowing the consequences of our sins to play out). Regardless of what we have done, God is willing to receive us back into fellowship. Confession and an humble turning away from the sin(s) involved will open the door to receiving God’s mercy. However, when we rebel against God, it sets into motion actions and reactions that will play themselves out. In our repentance, we must realize that, like ripples in a pond after dropping a pebble or rock in the water cannot be stopped until the motion created has dissipated, sin is just like that. The motion in the pond of our life caused by our sin pebbles or rocks cannot be stopped until the energy of the ripples has dissipated and dies out.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that there is no good that ever comes from sin. Those things that God has defined as sins are the things that destroy our lives and draw us away from Him. He does not want us to go there. He’s not holding us back from what we want and desire. He is trying to keep us from experiencing pain and sorrow for ourselves and for others. Sin has consequences for us and especially it always to hurt others in our wake of our sin. Sin has consequences even if we have repented. So, we must think twice before we let ourselves be lured by the siren’s call to sin. It has consequences and the consequences can be long lasting. Even if we repent, the laws of the physics of sin will not be stopped. The negative, reactive energy released by our sins has to play itself out. So many times, people think if they repent that everything is going to magically get better. There is no life lesson in that. God teaches us the most in the fallout of our sins. In that fallout, we have those eye opening moments where we understand why God defined that sin as a sin.

Let us understand that God is quick to forgive us when we humbly repent of our sins and turn away from them. He has so much love for us that He will do that for us. However, He will not suspend the law of the physics of sin. We will have to pay the price for the effects of our sins on ourselves and others. We see this displayed in today’s passage and we will see it displayed in our own lives. Sin simply has consequences. Like a pebble dropped in a pond.

Amen and Amen.