Archive for October, 2020

2 Chronicles 29:18-36

Hezekiah Reopens the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Yesterday (Sunday), I preached on the first two commandments of the Ten Commandments. In these commandments, we find that we are (1) to have no other gods before the one and only true God and (2) we shall not bow down and worship graven images. It means that we are to place God as the first and only top priority in our lives. Nothing else should take His rightful sovereign place over our lives not should we be tied down to, or worship things instead of Him.

When we put God and worshiping Him as the top priority in our lives we understand that it is He who defines right and wrong. It is He who defines sin. It is He who is perfect and holy. It is not ours to decide what is right and wrong for us. It is not ours to decide whether or not we deserve to go to heaven or not. He is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe – no other gods are real. He is the only One. He is the one and only true God. Therefore, with Him being God, He is the one that decides what holiness is and who meets that standard such that we can exist with Him in heaven. He sets the standards that we must meet. We do not define it. He states that we must keep His law 100% of the time for the entirety of our lives. Any violation of His holiness code condemns us to impurity and unholiness and thus disqualifies us forever from existing in communion with God in heaven when we die. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God Himself in the flesh, acting as the Son, on the cross, the shedding of His blood, that reconciles us to God. It is only through belief that Jesus Christ was indeed God in the flesh, that He died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins, and that He arose from the dead that we can receive His perfect holiness and thus exist with God in heaven.

We may think that belief in Jesus Christ is just an option among many. But simply put, all other belief systems are false. Even if we day we do not believe in any of the historically rooted systems of belief, we do believe in something to guide our lives. Even those who profess to believe that there is nothing to believe in believe in something. Usually, all belief systems, even humanism and atheism are belief systems, tend toward trying to become the best version of ourselves. It usually involves a very self-centered approach to me becoming better and better as a person – that we think higher and more altruistic thoughts and express those in our lives. It’s all about doing more good than bad so that we can be satisfied with ourselves. That leaves us free to go do pretty much as we please including acquiring things that are the status symbols of a blessed life of being a good person. However, God tells us through His Word that we cannot be more good than bad. And it this Sovereign God that says that we cannot exist with Him if we have sinned – no matter how much good we have done. One sin disqualifies us from His perfect and holy presence, much less the lifetime of sins that we commit. It’s not about offsets, because we sin every day and the pile of evidence of sin is a skyscraper in comparison to the one story building of good things we do in a lifetime. It’s not about the good things we do. It’s about the sins we commit that make us unholy. Doing good does not remove the sins we commit. Thus, in order to exist in God’s presence in heaven there must be a sacrifice for sin the covers us. Jesus completed the sacrificial system established way back with Moses. Jesus was the once and final sacrifice for sin. All other sin offerings, blood sacrifices, were imperfect animals born in an imperfect world. These imperfect sacrifices had to be repeated annual because though cute and cuddly lambs, they were not on the measure of perfection with Jesus. Jesus, since He is not a created being from a sin-filled world, was able to live the perfect life and be the perfect once and final sacrifice for sin. It’s only in Him that we have a chance.

What are we believing in? What are we putting in the top drawer priority in our lives? Do we worship something other than God? Do we worship that which we create in our own minds so that it makes it easier to reconcile who we are with our own definition of heaven? Man has tried to do that throughout history. Get rid of the real God in favor that which stacks the deck for us so that we can qualify for heaven. It’s like the inmates running the asylum for us. We don’t want there to be a God external to us who defines right and wrong and defines the consequences of sin. We want to define for ourselves what qualifies ourselves for heaven. As such, we create our own gods with our own definitions of right and wrong and what qualifies for heaven and, so, make it easier on ourselves.

I am here to tell you that it does not work that way. Sorry! God is external to us. He is sovereign. He is the one who defines right and wrong. He is the one who sets the standards. He is the supreme being and we are His subjects. Hezekiah, here in this passage, is saying just that. He is saying that we have been worshiping the wrong things. Just because we decide for ourselves to worship other things does not take away the fact that God is still God and that He is still sovereign over us. Hezekiah says let’s wake up and return to Him.

It is that idea of God being Sovereign over us whether we want to believe that or not is what I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 29:18-36. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Then the Levites went to King Hezekiah and gave him this report: “We have cleansed the entire Temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the Bread of the Presence with all its utensils. 19 We have also recovered all the items discarded by King Ahaz when he was unfaithful and closed the Temple. They are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified and ready for use.”

20 Early the next morning King Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went to the Temple of the Lord. 21 They brought seven bulls, seven rams, and seven male lambs as a burnt offering, together with seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the Temple, and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, who were descendants of Aaron, to sacrifice the animals on the altar of the Lord.

22 So they killed the bulls, and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. Next they killed the rams and sprinkled their blood on the altar. And finally, they did the same with the male lambs. 23 The male goats for the sin offering were then brought before the king and the assembly of people, who laid their hands on them. 24 The priests then killed the goats as a sin offering and sprinkled their blood on the altar to make atonement for the sins of all Israel. The king had specifically commanded that this burnt offering and sin offering should be made for all Israel.

25 King Hezekiah then stationed the Levites at the Temple of the Lord with cymbals, lyres, and harps. He obeyed all the commands that the Lord had given to King David through Gad, the king’s seer, and the prophet Nathan. 26 The Levites then took their positions around the Temple with the instruments of David, and the priests took their positions with the trumpets.

27 Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offering be placed on the altar. As the burnt offering was presented, songs of praise to the Lord were begun, accompanied by the trumpets and other instruments of David, the former king of Israel. 28 The entire assembly worshiped the Lord as the singers sang and the trumpets blew, until all the burnt offerings were finished. 29 Then the king and everyone with him bowed down in worship. 30 King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the psalms written by David and by Asaph the seer. So they offered joyous praise and bowed down in worship.

31 Then Hezekiah declared, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord, bring your sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings to the Temple of the Lord.” So the people brought their sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings, too. 32 The people brought to the Lord 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 male lambs for burnt offerings. 33 They also brought 600 cattle and 3,000 sheep and goats as sacred offerings.

34 But there were too few priests to prepare all the burnt offerings. So their relatives the Levites helped them until the work was finished and more priests had been purified, for the Levites had been more conscientious about purifying themselves than the priests had been. 35 There was an abundance of burnt offerings, along with the usual liquid offerings, and a great deal of fat from the many peace offerings.

So the Temple of the Lord was restored to service. 36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Hezakiah reinstituted the Temple, its priests, and all of the rituals of the Temple. In that rededication of the Temple, we are reminded of that the blood sprinkled on represented the innocence of the sacrificed animal taking the place of the person making the offering. The animal died so the so the sinner could live. Even though the Law does mention some cleansing rites apart from sacrifice (for example, Num. 19:11–12), we must remember that once a year, on the Day of Atonement, blood was offered for the sins of the entire nation (Lev. 16).

As such, all of the cleansing rites of the old covenant were of interim importance under the absolute necessity of a blood sacrifice once every year. Likewise, the grain offerings that in some cases could atone for sin were ultimately effectual only because of this annual, “bloody” event. The shedding of blood was absolutely necessary for atonement under the old covenant, and, as we are to infer from these verses, death is also absolutely necessary for atonement in the new covenant. The importance of the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament sacrificial system looked forward to the day when Jesus Christ, God in the flesh acting in the Godhead function of the Son, would complete the sacrificial system. Jesus, as God’s perfect son, would sacrifice His innocent life on the cross in order that the sinful and guilty human race might be spared the just and rightful punishment we deserve before a perfect and holy God.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that there is only one true God and He is sovereign over us. His Word defines how we should relate to Him. We must learn that just because we may not believe He exists does not make Him cease existing. Do not spend your life thinking that you can just out-good all your bad stuff. Don’t spend your life worshiping the wrong things – the things that you self-define as being worthy of worship, and that you self-define that make you a good enough person to reach heaven. Don’t spend your life on that bet that an external God who created the world and defines His relationship with us does not exist. Just because you believe He does not exist does not make Him stop existing. He is real and He is the One who defines what qualifies us for heaven. It is only through Christ that we qualify for heaven and nothing else. Let us wake up and return to God just like Hezekiah was trying to do with the people of Judah in this passage.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 29:1-17

Ahaz Closes the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

We all need encouragement in ministry. Sometimes, it gets hard. Especially, it gets hard when you are trying to minister in the combination of trying to change the culture/the mindset of a church and then you throw in a global pandemic on top of that. It can thoroughly make you feel defeated and not want to try anything and just bide your time through the storm.

Although I did not think of myself as feeling blue and defeated. It was about a month ago that there was a combination of factors that apparently made it outwardly clear that I had hit a spiritually low moment in ministry. During August-September 2020, I had performed two funerals for families that I had grown to love since I have been here at Lamar United Methodist Church. Those two weeks in a row, I had to prepare two funeral messages and two sermons which was spiritually draining. To those outside the pastorate, you may thing it’s not big deal to crank out a sermon every week, but it is both a spiritually passionate but also spiritually draining experience. To pour your heart and soul into it every week is what we do as pastors. Add to that, then, having to ride that rollercoaster twice in one week is draining. I don’t just throw a standard template together for my funeral messages; they are just as unique as each of my sermons, personalized to that individual.

Then add to that, for about two weeks, we were up and down the road to the Charlotte area (about 2 ½ hours northwest of Lamar, SC). My mother-in-law who had been in declining health for several years now in a nursing home was rushed to the hospital the day after Labor Day with what turned out to be a combination of pneumonia and COVID-19 from which she was unable to survive. My dear mother-in-law as weak as she was anyway could not fight that uphill battle. She was 88 years old when she passed on to glory. Family visits, funeral planning, and other family matters kept us on the road.

We were unaware when my wife, though totally masked up and geared up, when she visited with her mom for an hour and a half in the emergency room on that Tuesday after Labor Day that her mom would later that afternoon test positive for COVID-19. As a result, with her having been exposed, therefore, I became potentially exposed. We had to inform our church leadership team that Elena had been directly exposed and I had been exposed to Elena since she is my wife. We self-quarantined immediately. In-person church the following Sunday was cancelled in favor of a fully pre-recorded service to be disseminated on social media that Sunday. Putting together an hour long video service is about 6 hours of production time in addition to the preparation of the content itself. So, that was really a lot of additional work to the regular routine of preparing for a live and in-person worship service.

While Elena had waited the recommended 6-7 days after potential exposure to take the COVID test, she was on her way to Columbia when a transfer truck decided to come over in her lane and she had nowhere to go because of traffic on the interstate beside her. Thus, the transfer truck chewed up the entire passenger side of her car. So, now we had a wrecked car and potential exposure to COVID. Luckily, the test results came back two days later and Elena did NOT have the virus. At that point, we were free to emerge from quarantine and I could resume normal activities (being at the church office and conducting live and in-person worship services).

However, as we have learned in this process, having been even potentially exposed to the virus has a social stigma related to it. Our church folk, simply out of the natural fear of the virus, did not come to church. The following two Sunday after our potential exposure were the lowest attended services that I have had since I had been here. It was there I had hit my ministry low point.

Although there are reasons for it all, the COVID-19 virus had cut our attendance at church in half over the past 6 months. Ministry initiatives pretty ground to a halt. The virus seem to defeat any efforts to do ministry. And then even though we were not Coronavirus positive, those two Sundays after the news got out that we had been exposed were, like I said, badly attended church services. It was hard not to take all that personally. Combine that with the slow go it has been to find that thing that would ignite our church into something a spiritual explosion. I guess all was weighing me down without me realizing it.

At the September administrative council (the governing body of each local UMC church), it was obvious to several people that I was spiritually drained. Having said all that, God knows when we need encouragement. It was the Monday after that Sunday night meeting that one of my trusted advisors, and key leader and person of significant influence in our church, came to me and said she realized that I was drained and needed encouragement. That conversation was what was needed right at the right moment and said the things that needed to be said. It was like a clutch hit late in the baseball game where you down by 3 runs and things looked bleak. It gave me the encouragement that I sorely needed without me even realizing that I was struggling. God knows what we need when we need it even when we don’t realize that we need it.

It is that idea of God providing us the encouragement that we need to carry on in ministry is what I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 29:1-17. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 29

1 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.

3 In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. 5 He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. 6 Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. 7 They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.

8 “That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. 9 Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. 10 But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.”

12 Then these Levites got right to work:

From the clan of Kohath: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah.

From the clan of Merari: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel.

From the clan of Gershon: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah.

13

From the family of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel.

From the family of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah.

14

From the family of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei.

From the family of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel.

15 These men called together their fellow Levites, and they all purified themselves. Then they began to cleanse the Temple of the Lord, just as the king had commanded. They were careful to follow all the Lord’s instructions in their work. 16 The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley.

17 They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year,[a] and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the Lord itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days..

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the Levites, chosen by God to serve in the Temple, had been kept from their duties by Ahaz’s wickedness (see 2 Chronicles 28:24). In contrast, Hezekiah called them back into service, reminding them that the Lord had chosen them to minister.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we may not have to face a wicked king but pressures or responsibilities can render us ineffective or worse yet, inert. When we have been given the responsibility to minister, don’t quit or become motionless. If you have become despondent in ministry (whether as a pastor or as layperson who leads a ministry at church or in the community) because of circumstances that are holding you back either internally or externally, continue to have vision, continue to minister, and God will provide you the encouragement that you need to continue. He has proven that He will give us the Hezekiahs that we need. If God has called you to a vision for your organization, don’t let defeats and disappointments cause inertia in your soul and in your ministry. Keep plugging away.

As with the 1,000s of failed combinations of materials that Thomas Edison used in an attempt to create the light bulb, it only takes 1 combination to strike upon that Eureka moment which everything clicks and a new thing is invented. It is the same in ministry, it only takes one combination of circumstances, people, timing, and resources to create that right thing that God wants us to find that causes a spiritual revolution in your ministry.

Thus, in my own situation, the thing that I remember from last month is that God does care for us. Too often, even as pastors, we think we are working at this thing alone. We fail to remember that God just wants us to be faithful to Him and depend on Him. And sure there will be times when you feel like you are at your wits end. But God is there. He will find a way for you to make it through the spiritually tough times. God is ever present for us. He will part the Red Sea for us in our own wildernesses. We simply have to trust in Him. He will provide us the way through and He will provide us encouragement just at the right time when we need it. We, thus, keep plugging away as we trust in Him. We find that it’s not about the successes or failures in ministry. It is about being faithful to the Lord and keepin’ on keepin’ on in the work. He will reward us for being faithful to Him. It may not be in earthly success in ministry but the faithfulness leads to dependence and the dependence on Him is what He is after anyway. If you are a pastor, just keep doing what you do as long as you are seeking to glorify God in everything you do. It’s not about us anyway. It’s about Him. So, as incomplete and flawed human beings, He simply asks that we keep plowing the field in front of us. He simply asks that we are faithful just like Edison working for years to find that one right combination of elements that become the light bulb, a thing that revolutionized society. Keep being faithful, God will bring together that right combination of elements in your ministry too!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 28:16-27

Ahaz Closes the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Do you have the faith to stand on your spiritual principles rather than compromise or be silent in the face of that which is unjust, unholy, and wrong? When I look back on history there have been those who were willing to face death rather than compromise their principles. And there have been just as many who quietly stood by as bad things happened.

First there are men like Martin Luther King, Jr. He and those like him in other struggles through history have had the God-given boldness to stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming opposition and pressure. He started early when he was in his 20’s in Montgomery, AL. And that leadership of the bus boycotts against discriminatory practices of the bus system there pushed him into the national spotlight in the fight against racial discrimination and oppression. He could have easily walked away from the hard fight that was his daily life for over 13 years right up until the day of his assassination in 1968. He could have shied away from the titanic struggle of the civil rights movement. He was up against generations of institutionalized racial oppression in the South and against the rest of the country that wanted to stick its head in the sand about the issue. He could have just compromised and went along with the status quo of race relations in America and nothing would have ever changed. He would have had an easier and longer life if he had done so. However, he chose the harder road that God had called him toward. Though his life was cut short, his words and his actions resonate forward through the decades since. He was one of those people that you can honestly say that changed America, for the better.

Then, there are those who stand quietly by as that which is wrong continues. There are those who compromise their ethics just to avoid struggles and troubles and persecution. Obviously, in the South, during the years of legalized and societal structures of racial oppression not everyone was a bigot. Sure, there were great relationships between blacks and whites in most places in the South. True and honest love for one another was surely present between the races in those days. However, even those with the most open minds about race relations knew the limits of those relationships in the apartheid culture of the South in those days. It was when a situation required a white person to go beyond those boundaries that their principles of what is right and wrong would stop for fear of retribution and social isolation that would result. There were those who would love their black brothers and sisters but only up to a point where it did not violate the unspoken, ever present, hanging over the society, rules of apartheid in the South. The same could be said of everyday German people and everyday folks in the lands that the Germans conquered in World War II. Everybody came to know that the Jews were being oppressed and rounded up and exterminated during the course of the Nazi regime. But what made it successful was the quiet acceptance of the whole thing by the German people and the people of their occupied lands. Nobody was willing to go up against the Nazi machine. Compromise of ethics. Compromise of spiritual principles of God that we know to be true. The appalling silence of the good people perpetuated both situations.

It is that idea of standing up against what is wrong or quietly compromising with it is what I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 28:16-27. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

6 At that time King Ahaz of Judah asked the king of Assyria for help. 17 The armies of Edom had again invaded Judah and taken captives. 18 And the Philistines had raided towns located in the foothills of Judah[c] and in the Negev of Judah. They had already captured and occupied Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages. 19 The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah,[d] for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord.

20 So when King Tiglath-pileser[e] of Assyria arrived, he attacked Ahaz instead of helping him. 21 Ahaz took valuable items from the Lord’s Temple, the royal palace, and from the homes of his officials and gave them to the king of Assyria as tribute. But this did not help him.

22 Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord. 23 He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, “Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.” But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah.

24 The king took the various articles from the Temple of God and broke them into pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s Temple so that no one could worship there, and he set up altars to pagan gods in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 He made pagan shrines in all the towns of Judah for offering sacrifices to other gods. In this way, he aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of his ancestors.

26 The rest of the events of Ahaz’s reign and everything he did, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 27 When Ahaz died, he was buried in Jerusalem but not in the royal cemetery of the kings of Judah. Then his son Hezekiah became the next king..

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that difficulties and struggles can devastate people, or they can stimulate growth and maturity. For Ahaz, deep troubles led to spiritual collapse and ethical compromise. We do not need to respond as Ahaz did. When facing problems or tragedies, we must remember that tough times give us a chance to grow. As James 1:2-4 states,

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Ahaz was trying to control his own situation and doing whatever he thought would gain him favor with the foreign king whose forces were overrunning his country. Do you make compromises to your ethics and to your faith during times of extreme distress and pressure?

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we are citizens of God’s kingdom first before we are citizens of our earthly nations and cultures. We must filter the goings on of our nation and culture through the first filter and it should affect how we respond. We should not filter our Christian beliefs first through our cultural and national filter. We must filter our culture’s activities and events through our Christian filter first before out cultural and national filter. We must respond to our culture based on God’s Word and we must be strong enough in the Lord to say, “Hey, this is wrong and it’s clearly against God’s Word!” We must be willing to accept the ridicule of our culture for what we know to be the universal and eternal truths of the Bible. We must not compromise God’s principles just to make ourselves more appealing to that overhanging culture that permeates the air. We must not be Christians up to the point that it conflicts with culture and then begin compromising with the culture on those points. We must be Christ followers all the time, even when it brings us in dangerous conflict with the culture. Sometimes, God calls us to do that which is hard so that the culture can be shocked into looking at itself and hopefully bring itself back into alignment with God’s will and His plan.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 28:1-15 (Part 2 of 2)

Ahaz Begins His Reign in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Yesterday, I saw a post from a single mom who was part of the circle of acquaintances that we had when we went to church at LifeSong Church in Lyman about how she was tired of life being like it was for her right now and for quite some time now. She was tired of the weight of raising two boys on her own and everything being a struggle. Of course, the life path that she has been on for about 6 years now was forced upon her by the drug addiction of her ex-husband. The single mom thing was not something that she had asked for. I see her posts on Facebook because we are distant acquaintances but rarely reply to any of her posts. But there seemed a tiredness and desperation to her post yesterday that I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to give some encouragement.

In my post reply, I stated that sometimes all we have is the hope given to us by the Lord. And there are periods in life where we just have to trust Him and keep plowing the field in front of us. The trusting of the Lord when everything seems to be so far off and bad things keep happening is the hard part. But that’s when our faith is made real when the only thing we have is faith and hope of a better field to plow. I don’t know if that helped her in any way, but that is the truth. I know from my own life that some days, some weeks, some months and even some years it seems that there is just darkness and dreariness of the soul and the only thing is that you see this sliver of light, this sliver of hope, in the darkness that makes you put one foot in front of the other. It keeps you going when you are emotionally wiped out to the point that you feel tired all the time. It keeps you going because there is that sliver of hope that things will get better and that God has not forsaken you.

Faith is easy when times are good. It is when we are in the depths of bad times that seemingly are never going to end that our faith is tested. I know that when my second marriage ended, I fell into this dark valley in that first year where it was difficult to just get up and go to work each day. In the years that followed after that, there was still a sense of loneliness that was difficult to deal with at times. But all along I held on blindly to that sliver of hope that comes from the Lord. When you are going through tough times, it is hard to see what’s going on in God’s grand plan for you. However, when you do get beyond the dark valley and are able to look back and process those things, you can see God at work in it. For me, the long road to recovery from the second failed marriage was that I had to go through it which was kind of like addiction withdrawal. In addiction you make a drug your god. For me, in my addiction, I was addicted to approval from the woman in my life. I found my value from what that person thought of me. Thus, in the absence of that drug, I was lost and alone and adrift.

So, after my 2nd failed marriage, God allowed about 6 years of me being on my own to make realize that my approval should come from Him and not a person. I was of value alone to God. I was of value whether I was in a relationship or not. I needed to learn to trust in Him for my value. It was only then that I learned that relationships are nice but they do not define you. It was only when I learned that a woman in your life is a complement to your life and not the reason for your life that I actually came to find the best relationship I’ve ever had. Elena and I have been together for 13 years now and have been married almost 10 of those years. And there is a peace in our relationship that gives me comfort and security that I had never known before. So, the dark valleys probably last a lot longer than we want them to, because we want to be happy all the time. The dark valleys though serve a purpose for what God has next. The valleys strip away what’s unimportant and lead us to what is important – dependence on God.

It is that idea of trusting God even when the dark valley seems to be never ending is what I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 28:1-15. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

28 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. 2 Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. 3 He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire.[a] In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree.

5 Because of all this, the Lord his God allowed the king of Aram to defeat Ahaz and to exile large numbers of his people to Damascus. The armies of the king of Israel also defeated Ahaz and inflicted many casualties on his army. 6 In a single day Pekah son of Remaliah, Israel’s king, killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops, all of them experienced warriors, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 7 Then Zicri, a warrior from Ephraim, killed Maaseiah, the king’s son; Azrikam, the king’s palace commander; and Elkanah, the king’s second-in-command. 8 The armies of Israel captured 200,000 women and children from Judah and seized tremendous amounts of plunder, which they took back to Samaria.

9 But a prophet of the Lord named Oded was there in Samaria when the army of Israel returned home. He went out to meet them and said, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and let you defeat them. But you have gone too far, killing them without mercy, and all heaven is disturbed. 10 And now you are planning to make slaves of these people from Judah and Jerusalem. What about your own sins against the Lord your God? 11 Listen to me and return these prisoners you have taken, for they are your own relatives. Watch out, because now the Lord’s fierce anger has been turned against you!”

12 Then some of the leaders of Israel[b]—Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai—agreed with this and confronted the men returning from battle. 13 “You must not bring the prisoners here!” they declared. “We cannot afford to add to our sins and guilt. Our guilt is already great, and the Lord’s fierce anger is already turned against Israel.”

14 So the warriors released the prisoners and handed over the plunder in the sight of the leaders and all the people. 15 Then the four men just mentioned by name came forward and distributed clothes from the plunder to the prisoners who were naked. They provided clothing and sandals to wear, gave them enough food and drink, and dressed their wounds with olive oil. They put those who were weak on donkeys and took all the prisoners back to their own people in Jericho, the city of palms. Then they returned to Samaria.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that God preserved Judah in His providential care. I am certain that the captives of Judah being marched off to Samaria figured well this is it. We are in for long hard lives of slavery and abuse that will never end for us. However, God in His providential care for our lives keeps all the promises he makes. Judah was the tribe from which Jesus was to arise so He always ensured safety for that human lineage of the King of Kings. God keeps His promises even when it seems as though all is lost. He made a promise to the tribe of Judah and He kept it. The same is true for us. There are times we just got trust the promises that He has made to us – even when the dark times seem to be last far beyond what we perceive as our limits of tolerance of pain and sorrow. Job kept the faith in the promises of God when all was falling down around him. Sometimes, we just have to hang on to the belief that God has providential care and just ride the lifeboat in that hope.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that it is mighty tough going through hard times. Nobody likes it. If you did, you would just be like the weirdest person ever! LOL! It is a lifeboat adrift in stormy seas that nobody wants to be on. However, trouble does come to our lives. None of us are exempt from it. We live in a fallen world full of sin so there will be trouble in our lives. We cause a lot of our own troubles by decisions we made in our past, but sometimes, we get dumped on, plain and simple, by other people’s actions. Either way, trouble comes. Jesus never said if when he talked about trouble. He said when. We will have pain and suffering. It is not peculiar to you alone (though it feels like that when you are going through it). The common thing for believers is that God has plans for us, as Jeremiah 29:11 tells us. He has plans for us to prosper us and not to harm us.

Thus, God has promised those who love Him that he will carry us through the storm. He will sometimes remove the storm but most of the time He will see us through it. So, even when things are bleakest, hold on to that sliver of hope, that small light at the end of the tunnel that are God’s promises of better times to come. Embrace the moment and instead of seeing what’s wrong, see what God is trying to teach you through the hard times. Because when you get to that high, dry place in the light on the mountaintop, you will see the point – growing our dependence on Him. You will see that it all prepare you for the moutaintop that you are on. You will also appreciate the mountaintop so much more than before – when you realize that God had a purpose and a plan all along. As we learn this, that hope in the hard times becomes a bigger sliver of light for us in each succeeding hard time in our lives.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 28:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)

Ahaz Begins His Reign in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

The evil kings of Judah and Israel had their practices held up for scrutiny in the pages of the historical books of the Old Testament. One of the most detestable practices of these evil kings were their imitation of the rituals of the pagan cultures around them. All of these cultures worshiped false gods and many of these cultures practiced rituals of human sacrifices. More often than not, these ritual human sacrifices were the sacrifices of infants and children. Many of the kings of the divided kingdoms adopted the pagan beliefs of these cultures including the ritual sacrifice of infants and children. The Bible does not include these references to say that they are OK because they are in print in the Bible. No, no, no. Quite the opposite. In the context of writing about these evil kings and the evils of the people of Israel and Judah, they are being examined and held up to God’s people as what not to do. It is clear that the purpose of the historical books was to condemn the kings and the people of Israel and Judah for straying from God. It serves as a reminder of the many reasons for the quick downfall of the once proud and mighty Israelite nation. For us in the 21st century, the Old Testament is as valuable to us as the New Testament. The Old Testament is a mirror to us. We see ourselves in the pages of the Old Testament. All of the wickedness and sins committed by the people of Israel and Judah and their kings is a vivid reflection of just who we are right now in history. History often repeats itself and we are repeating the history of Israel and Judah.

One of the things that is clear in the Old Testament is that God is staunchly against the sacrifice of any human life and particularly of children. It is clear from the Old Testament that God declares to us that life begins in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 states the following:

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them”

How could it be any more clear that God considers life in the womb of great value since it is He who gives life and it is He who knows each one of us from the instant of conception. We can talk about the science of conception and we can all agree on the science of it (as reasonable Christians). However, the one difference between the non-believer and the believer is that the scientists can tell what happens when a sperm and an egg are united and the pregnancy process begins. However, they cannot tell you why the penetration of a sperm into an egg creates human life. They cannot explain the why. They can explain the what and reasonable Christians can and should agree with them on that. However, it is God that gives us the why of conception. It is God that gives life as of that moment. Even when we are a clump of cells multiplying rapidly and we do not have the ability of even mechanical cognition yet, it is life. God gives life and it is valuable to Him even inside the mother’s womb.

When speaking to the prophet Jeremiah and giving him encouragement as to why he must be a prophet, the Lord says this in Jeremiah 1:5,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”

God hammers home here that He knows us before we take form of what we know as a baby in the womb. God knows us from the instant of conception. There is no distinction by God between a clump of cells that will grow into a baby and a fully formed baby in the womb. He knows us from the spark of conception. He gives us a soul at that moment and every soul is valuable to the Lord.

So valuable is life to the Lord that He chose to break into human history in the same manner as any human child. God through the gestation and birth of Jesus Christ into this side of eternity validates that every step of the process is important to Him and that Jesus was no less God when He was in Mary’s womb developing from a fertilized egg into a fully formed baby and who was birthed in the normal way for Mary. Was God in the flesh any less God when Jesus was a clump of fertilized cells multiplying rapidly? Was God in the flesh anything less than God when we was forming into a baby to be birthed. That Jesus went through the pregnancy and birth process validates that whole process as being worthy. Luke 2:6-7 validates the value of human gestation in the womb. The Lord Jesus Christ began his incarnation as an embryo, growing into a fetus, infant, child, teenager, and adult:

 “While they were there, the time came for the baby to born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.”

Thus if God knows us even before we are mere cells multiplying and giving off electrical charges but not having the ability to form even the most mechanical thought impulses, it means that He recognizes a soul has been created at the moment of conception. It is human life. It is life. Even God coming to earth in the flesh was done purposefully in a way that gives a validation to the sanctity of what is beginning to form in a mother’s womb at the moment of conception. Thus, if it is life. It is worthy of the protections offered by God to all human life in His Commandments.

To believe otherwise is to ignore the evidence of Scripture (and I just used three evidences here; there are many more). To believe otherwise is to turn from God. To believe otherwise is to adopt the pagan practices of ancient nations. To believe otherwise is to see an embryo as personal property in the same vein as African Americans were seen in America prior to the legalized ending of slavery. In that view, when you view a child or even an embryo as property (which you must do to rationalize abortion), it can then be aborted without a care just as slaves could be killed without retribution because they were seen as no better than any other property that can be disposed of if you no longer desire to continue possessing it. To view life in this manner is no better than Ahaz throwing his own flesh in blood into the fire.

It is that idea of life beginning at conception and thus being of great value to God – from conception –  that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 28:1-15. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

28 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. 2 Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. 3 He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire.[a] In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree.

5 Because of all this, the Lord his God allowed the king of Aram to defeat Ahaz and to exile large numbers of his people to Damascus. The armies of the king of Israel also defeated Ahaz and inflicted many casualties on his army. 6 In a single day Pekah son of Remaliah, Israel’s king, killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops, all of them experienced warriors, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 7 Then Zicri, a warrior from Ephraim, killed Maaseiah, the king’s son; Azrikam, the king’s palace commander; and Elkanah, the king’s second-in-command. 8 The armies of Israel captured 200,000 women and children from Judah and seized tremendous amounts of plunder, which they took back to Samaria.

9 But a prophet of the Lord named Oded was there in Samaria when the army of Israel returned home. He went out to meet them and said, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and let you defeat them. But you have gone too far, killing them without mercy, and all heaven is disturbed. 10 And now you are planning to make slaves of these people from Judah and Jerusalem. What about your own sins against the Lord your God? 11 Listen to me and return these prisoners you have taken, for they are your own relatives. Watch out, because now the Lord’s fierce anger has been turned against you!”

12 Then some of the leaders of Israel[b]—Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai—agreed with this and confronted the men returning from battle. 13 “You must not bring the prisoners here!” they declared. “We cannot afford to add to our sins and guilt. Our guilt is already great, and the Lord’s fierce anger is already turned against Israel.”

14 So the warriors released the prisoners and handed over the plunder in the sight of the leaders and all the people. 15 Then the four men just mentioned by name came forward and distributed clothes from the plunder to the prisoners who were naked. They provided clothing and sandals to wear, gave them enough food and drink, and dressed their wounds with olive oil. They put those who were weak on donkeys and took all the prisoners back to their own people in Jericho, the city of palms. Then they returned to Samaria.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that we must consider what scripture is saying to us here. Here, the Old Testament is pointing us to evils of the kings of Israel and Judah and telling us that these evils were responsible for the downfall of their nation. One of those evils was the pagan practice of child sacrifice. It is being held up before us as an evil and for us to reject it instead of embracing it as our ancient ancestors did. Imagine the monstrous evil of a religion that offers young children as sacrifices. God allowed Judah to be overrun by its enemies due to the evil practices of the king and the people of Judah. It is clear here from the text that God is holding up this evil and saying that this is not my way! He is saying go the opposite way to come into my way. All life is valuable to God. There is no one that is property of another. All human life has value even children, babies, and fetuses.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that life is not property to do with as we please when it no longer suits our needs. Life is not property that can be destroyed because it belongs to me. God is clear that a soul is valuable to Him. He is clear that we are knitted together by Him – meaning that He gives value even to the unborn child that is in only the formative stages of gestation before a fully formed baby starts to appear in the womb. Life begins at conception and all of it through birth is protected as human life in God’s eyes. To view it otherwise is to view a child in the womb as no better than a slave – they were seen solely as property to be dealt with in any way the owner desired. That is not God’s desire for humanity. None of us, including fetuses, are property. We are souls of great value from the moment we are conceived to the moment we die.

But what if you have had an abortion and you had this view of the unborn child being your property to dispose of as you wish? Does this exclude you from God’s grace? Of course not, but first you must repent and admit that what you did was, in fact, the taking of a life that was important to God. We must get real that we have done something wrong before we can seek forgiveness from God. We must see as He sees before we can seek forgiveness. But once we do that, we can be forgiven. Just look at the Apostle Paul. Prior to his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, he was a murderer of Christians for no other reason than they were Christians. He murdered them because they did not believe the way he believed. But if he can repent and come to the Lord and then be used mightily for the Lord as Paul was, so can you be forgiven and be of great value to God’s kingdom. You could, who knows, become a passionate advocate for women who have been through abortions and lead them to reconciliation with what they have done and reconciliation with a God that loves them. Even those who have had abortions are still of great value as a soul worth saving by God. He loves all souls and wishes to be reconciled to each one.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 27:1-9

Jotham Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

If you are not a big college football fan, you may not know the legacy of University of Miami Hurricanes football. Although they were a pretty darn good football program in the 1950’s that played in bowl games often, they kind of fell off the map in college football during the 60’s and 70’s. However, beginning in the late 70’s the program began turning around from a program mired in mediocrity to a bowl contending program under Coach Howard Schnellenberger. After he left, Jimmy Johnson was hired and forever changed the program. His legacy continued on through several coaches who came into the program after Johnson left to coach in the NFL.

From the early 80’s through 2003, the program was always in the national championship hunt, always a top 10 team. One of the things about the program during this era was that Miami had developed a reputation as the bad boys of college football. They had swag. They had bravado. They were a in-yo-face kind of football team. And it became part of the Miami Hurricane football program persona. They were such an intimidating group that they won ball games before they walked on the field. They intimidated other teams with their in-your-face style and their trash talk. The thing was…was that they could always, always back up their bravado, bad boy image, and trash talk on the field. It was just the persona of the program.

However, along the way, with every successive coaching change and with several NCAA rules violation investigations, what had once been the unbeatable bad boys of college football the wheels began to come off the program. Since 2003, Miami has not contended or even come close to winning a national championship. The program has been mired in mediocrity since that time. However, the bravado, the bad boy, bling-bling, trash talking of the program never left. It is in the culture of the program and deeply ingrained.

Never more evident was this than on this past Saturday night. Miami is trying its best to return to the conversation of the elite programs of college football but they are just nowhere near it yet. However, like I said, the bravado and the trash talk always evident in the program since the Jimmy Johnson era was on full display on Saturday night. As you may know, unless you have been living under a rock, for the last decade or more, the dominant football programs have been two teams – Clemson and Alabama. You can throw in Ohio State and Oklahoma if you like. Nowhere in those conversations is Miami. However, this past Saturday night, when Clemson and Miami tangled, the bad boy persona is still in the Miami program.

They were thoroughly manhandled by the Clemson Tigers from the opening kickoff until the last play of the game. Clemson was about to score again when time ran out. They were on the Miami 1 yard line when the final play was done. Clemson won the game 42-17 and it could have been an even worse score than that. However, even when they were down 42-17, they were still trash talking and still getting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The difference between now and the old days is that in the old days, Miami could back up that trash talk with precision football. However, now, it just wears thin when you are losing a game by 25 points (and like I said, Clemson could have beat them much worse had they not made some offensive mistakes during the game). But that’s the turnover chain, bling bling, trash talking, look at me culture that has developed in Miami and it will be tough to change it.

It is that idea of the difficulty that there is in changing a culture of an organization much less a nation that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 27:1-9. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 27

1 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok.

2 Jotham did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. He did everything his father, Uzziah, had done, except that Jotham did not sin by entering the Temple of the Lord. But the people continued in their corrupt ways.

3 Jotham rebuilt the upper gate of the Temple of the Lord. He also did extensive rebuilding on the wall at the hill of Ophel. 4 He built towns in the hill country of Judah and constructed fortresses and towers in the wooded areas. 5 Jotham went to war against the Ammonites and conquered them. Over the next three years he received from them an annual tribute of 7,500 pounds[a] of silver, 50,000 bushels of wheat, and 50,000 bushels of barley.[b]

6 King Jotham became powerful because he was careful to live in obedience to the Lord his God.

7 The rest of the events of Jotham’s reign, including all his wars and other activities, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. 8 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. 9 When Jotham died, he was buried in the City of David. And his son Ahaz became the next king.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, although Jotham was generally a good king (see 2 Chronicles 27:6), his people remained as corrupt as they had been during the reign of his father, Uzziah. It is often hard to change the culture of an organization. Just imagine how hard it would be to change the culture of a nation. The habits of idolatry had become pretty well ingrained in the culture by the time that Uzziah and Jotham ruled over the nation of Judah. Just because there are not immediate results of your attempts to influence and change the culture should not deter you from living your life for the Lord.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that cultures of organizations have habits, values, and behavior patterns that become ingrained in those organizations, including not only college football programs but also in churches. Like football programs that have been around for a very long time, there are churches that have been around here in the USA anywhere from 125 to 250 to 300 or more years. Those churches are like the football programs in that they have a cultural identity. To expect to be able to change the course of a church or a football program overnight is impossible. To change the culture, it may take generations. If you are trying to redirect a church back to being an evangelistic and outreach minded church, it can take a long time if the church has been accustomed to thinking inwardly. Does that mean, a church member or a preacher stops doing what God calls them to do, no. What a single outreach minded church member or a pastor can do is plow the hard ground and set the example regardless if there are any immediate result. To resign yourself that it is useless perpetuates the culture that is in place.

It is the same with us as individual Christians living out in the world in a culture that is increasingly hostile to biblical life principles. Do we give up on trying to change the culture and just join in with the culture? No. We do not stand quietly as the country turns from God. If we are silent, then, those that hold anti-biblical principles are the only ones doing the talking. Just as in a football program where bravado is more important that taking care of the details of a game that lead to victory, there must be a voice that screams that we are not going to do it this way anymore. We must as Christians on the ground in the world live in a way that influences the culture toward God. That includes speaking out, in loving ways that make biblical sense and are grounded in Scripture, about what needs to change in our culture. We must be that one voice that is willing. If one voice is willing, then, maybe there’s another voice and another voice and another voice until the culture is changed. But in plowing the tough ground, we must keep plowing even if there are no immediate visible results. God sees you being faithful to him. God sees that you are trying to live a life to give Him glory regardless of the earthly result Let us not give up. Let us keep plowing. Let us not worry about whether we are making a visible difference. Let us worry about whether we are giving God glory by what we are doing. If our Father in heaven says, well done good and faithful servant that is the accolades we should be looking for, not earthly accolades anyway. Thus, while we are here, let’s keep plowing the field. Let’s keep doing God’s work.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 26:1-23

Uzziah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

The headlines are littered with names of television evangelists and megachurch pastors who have been brought low by hidden sins. They will be forever remembered for their indiscretion than for any of the previous good that they may have done for the Lord. As Carey Nieuwhof once said in an internet article on the subject of the seemingly repetitive cycle of fallen megachurch pastors, “It is way too easy for your platform to outgrow your character!” It only takes one indiscretion to tear down a lifetime of good work for the Lord. Even if you are not a megachurch pastor, and just a local pastor of a small to large local church and your are not known much outside the reach of your local church, it can happen to you too. A lifetime of hard work for the Lord and a lifetime of having real impact for the kingdom can be all thrown away for one moment of indiscretion or thrown away by a continuing secretive sin that gets exposed. And, it’s not just pastors, it can be a Christian layperson who is like the finest man or woman that you can think of. It can all be destroyed by a momentary sin or the revelation of an ongoing pattern of sin that was being kept hidden. None of the good done during a lifetime of obedient following of the Lord by preachers or laypeople alike will be remembered. But our downfall and the reasons for it will be.

Uzziah did great things for God’s people. He steady the ship of Judah. He even expanded its territory. He rebuilt cities. He increased military spending and retooled the military. He refortified cities. He did good things for God’s people. However, pride took over and he began to think he could do what he wanted. That seems to happen to the pastors and other Christian men who fail and fall. Satan begins whispering in our ear that we can do anything we want. We are popular and people love us. Then, those old parameters of morality that we have set in our lives begin to crumble and then ventures into sin become vacations there. Finally, we take up residence in sin. And as always, sin gets exposed. Another soldier in the army of God taken down by sin and it always comes down to the sin of pride. We think we can handle it. A little dab of sin here. A little dab of sin there. Sin is like crack cocaine though. Once you get a taste of it, you keep going back to it. Then a little taste requires a little larger taste and a little larger and a little larger. Until you are full-on addicted and it ravages your life.

That’s why as Christian men and women, we must realize that we are just as susceptible to sin as the non-believer. We get a target on our back when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Satan is coming after us. That target gets bigger if we become a leader of other Christians or in any public leadership role – whether as a pastor or a layperson in a position of leadership. What takes a lifetime to build can be destroyed in seconds by exposed sin.

It is that idea of being remembered more for our moral failures than for any great things we have done for the Lord that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 26:1. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

26 All the people of Judah had crowned Amaziah’s sixteen-year-old son, Uzziah, as king in place of his father. 2 After his father’s death, Uzziah rebuilt the town of Elath[a] and restored it to Judah.

3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. 5 Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God.[b] And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.

6 Uzziah declared war on the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod. Then he built new towns in the Ashdod area and in other parts of Philistia. 7 God helped him in his wars against the Philistines, his battles with the Arabs of Gur,[c] and his wars with the Meunites. 8 The Meunites[d] paid annual tribute to him, and his fame spread even to Egypt, for he had become very powerful.

9 Uzziah built fortified towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate, and at the angle in the wall. 10 He also constructed forts in the wilderness and dug many water cisterns, because he kept great herds of livestock in the foothills of Judah[e] and on the plains. He was also a man who loved the soil. He had many workers who cared for his farms and vineyards, both on the hillsides and in the fertile valleys.

11 Uzziah had an army of well-trained warriors, ready to march into battle, unit by unit. This army had been mustered and organized by Jeiel, the secretary of the army, and his assistant, Maaseiah. They were under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officials. 12 These regiments of mighty warriors were commanded by 2,600 clan leaders. 13 The army consisted of 307,500 men, all elite troops. They were prepared to assist the king against any enemy.

14 Uzziah provided the entire army with shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and sling stones. 15 And he built structures on the walls of Jerusalem, designed by experts to protect those who shot arrows and hurled large stones[f] from the towers and the corners of the wall. His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.

Uzziah’s Sin and Punishment

16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. 17 Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the Lord, all brave men. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!”

19 Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. But as he was standing there raging at the priests before the incense altar in the Lord’s Temple, leprosy[g] suddenly broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the high priest and all the other priests saw the leprosy, they rushed him out. And the king himself was eager to get out because the Lord had struck him. 21 So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land.

22 The rest of the events of Uzziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 23 When Uzziah died, he was buried with his ancestors; his grave was in a nearby burial field belonging to the kings, for the people said, “He had leprosy.” And his son Jotham became the next king.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that for much of his life, Uzziah “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight” (2 Chronicles 26:4). However, Uzziah turned away from God, and he was struck with leprosy and remained leprous until he died. He was remembered more for his arrogant act and subsequent punishment by the Lord than for his great reforms throughout Israel and his great military advances. It reminds us that so often when we become a successful leader that pride can seep into our lives. If we give pride a foothold in our lives, particularly when we have become wildly successful, we can become careless, drift away from God, and fall into unrepentant sin. And as so often is the case, our continuing acts of unrepentant sin will cause problems in our lives and will ultimately be exposed and cause our downfall.

Unchecked pride and other unrepentant sins will cause us to be brought low as the Lord will allow sin to play out its consequences in our lives. It is an immutable law of spiritual physics – sin always has consequences. There has never been a sin committed in all of human history that does not have a corresponding consequence. We often forget this immutable law when we are successful and pride enters our lives. And often, no matter how much we have worked and been successful for the Lord, we will be remember much more for our downfall caused by previously hidden sins being exposed than we will be for the great things for the Lord that we may have done. It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and only moments to destroy it.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that as pastors we must remember that God gave us the platform we now occupy. Any success that comes to that platform is God’s not ours. We must remember God does not need us. He can replace us in an instant and He can accomplish greatness all on His own. We must remember that even as pastors we are still men and women who are flawed human beings. We must remember too that each one of us is susceptible to sin and each one of us has a particular sin to which we are extremely weak against more so than others. Satan knows our weakest link and that is where he will hit us hard. Satan wants to destroy us where we are weakest because that’s the easiest route to our ruin.

We must remember that it’s not about us and our ministry whatever form it may take is God’s ministry. We are representing Him. Let us not make our platform into pedestal. We must stele ourselves against people worshiping us instead of God. Help us to keep ourselves in perspective. Help us especially to remember that, as I said before, there is one immutable law of spiritual physics. Sin has its consequences and they are never good. Even if you are not a pastor but a day-to-day passionate Christ follower that other people notice as just that, you too can be brought low by Satan attacking you in your sin weaknesses. You too can sully the name of Christ in one moment even if you have been a fine upstanding Christian all your life.

I know that it sounds like we are walking this tiring and tiresome tightrope and that there is no joy because we might fall in a moment’s notice. That’s the thing. We must know that we have Satan’s target on our back and that we can be knocked off the tightrope at any moment because we are sin-filled creatures. There is no moment in life where we have beaten sin. The joy comes from admitting that we are sin-filled creatures and realize that we cannot do it alone. We need the help of God. We can take the pressure off ourselves to be this super Christian. In knowing that we can slip up, there is humility. There is dependence. There is recognition. Then, there is preparation and actions taken to keep us out of the way of sin. And, Lord, most of all give us friends and even enemies that will keep us alert to our own shortcomings and failures. Give us people in our lives that will tells when we are nearing the slippery slope of sin. Lord, help us to not have failures that turn people away from you.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 25:1-24

Amaziah Rules in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Reading this passage this morning reminds me a lot of our current President. Before I go any further, let me disclaim a few things. I am not a Democrat by party affiliation. Nor am I a registered Republican. I do however come at politics and life from a conservative point of view and mindset. As a result, the ideals of the Republican Party more closely align with my personal mindset for life than do the Democrats.

Having said that I am not like some Dems and Repubs who blindly accept whatever their party’s leader feeds them as if it is golden nuggets. I am realistic about the situation that we are in right now. The choices that we have for President in this election cycle of 2020 are pretty abysmal. The fact that the Democratic Party’s platform, in my opinion, does not align with by conservative principles and does not align with biblical principles in many areas leaves me with one realistic choice for President. Although there are multiple “third party” candidates out there, it is only the Democratic and Republican candidates that have a realistic shot at winning the election. Thus, my vote for the conservative candidate for President offered up by the Republican Party is more a vote against the Democratic platform than it is an endorsement of the current President.

The current President is an egomaniacal, bombastic bully. He is arrogant and rude. And he wins elections by making people afraid of one another and divided into us vs. them. There is no seeking unity in him. You are either against him or you are for him. To think that some people think he is this awesome President just baffles me. He is a one-trick pony with no substance and seems to believe in a torched earth approach to life. Our hitching our wagons to his train will have permanent damage to conservatism after he leaves office because he is all about him and what’s best for him and not his party.

The king here, in this passage, reminds me so much of what my opinion of our current President is. Trump is going to do whatever is best for Trump. Whatever is best for Trump is how he defines truth. Whatever works to paint himself in the best light (even if it contradicts reality) is what Trump will do. Whatever credit he can take for something positive, he will do it. Whoever he can bash to make himself look good, he will do it. The frenzy of hate and blame heaped toward him by the liberal faction of our country, much of the frenzy is caused by Trump himself. He could have accomplished much more as President if he was less about crushing his enemies and more about seeking unity and doing what is best for the country. However, with Trump, it’s all about making him look good regardless of the political cost to the conservative movement in our country in the long run.

Thus, for me, with the choice between Trump and Biden, I almost do not want to vote in protest of what we have been offered. However, that would not be the right thing to do either. We must vote. It is our civic responsibility as citizens. But I long for the days when we will have inspiring leaders that had vision for the future. I long for the days when we will have men with true Christian values running for office. I long for the day when our choices are better than Donald or Joe.

It is that idea of a leader doing whatever works to his advantage rather than following God that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 25:1-24. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

25 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Jehoaddin[a] from Jerusalem. 2 Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not wholeheartedly.

3 When Amaziah was well established as king, he executed the officials who had assassinated his father. 4 However, he did not kill the children of the assassins, for he obeyed the command of the Lord as written by Moses in the Book of the Law: “Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.”[b]

5 Then Amaziah organized the army, assigning generals and captains[c] for all Judah and Benjamin. He took a census and found that he had an army of 300,000 select troops, twenty years old and older, all trained in the use of spear and shield. 6 He also paid about 7,500 pounds[d] of silver to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men from Israel.

7 But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the Lord is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim! 8 If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.”

9 Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” 10 So Amaziah discharged the hired troops and sent them back to Ephraim. This made them very angry with Judah, and they returned home in a great rage.

11 Then Amaziah summoned his courage and led his army to the Valley of Salt, where they killed 10,000 Edomite troops from Seir. 12 They captured another 10,000 and took them to the top of a cliff and threw them off, dashing them to pieces on the rocks below.

13 Meanwhile, the hired troops that Amaziah had sent home raided several of the towns of Judah between Samaria and Beth-horon. They killed 3,000 people and carried off great quantities of plunder.

14 When King Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought with him idols taken from the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down in front of them, and offered sacrifices to them! 15 This made the Lord very angry, and he sent a prophet to ask, “Why do you turn to gods who could not even save their own people from you?”

16 But the king interrupted him and said, “Since when have I made you the king’s counselor? Be quiet now before I have you killed!”

So the prophet stopped with this warning: “I know that God has determined to destroy you because you have done this and have refused to accept my counsel.”

17 After consulting with his advisers, King Amaziah of Judah sent this challenge to Israel’s king Jehoash,[e] the son of Jehoahaz and grandson of Jehu: “Come and meet me in battle!”[f]

18 But King Jehoash of Israel replied to King Amaziah of Judah with this story: “Out in the Lebanon mountains, a thistle sent a message to a mighty cedar tree: ‘Give your daughter in marriage to my son.’ But just then a wild animal of Lebanon came by and stepped on the thistle, crushing it!

19 “You are saying, ‘I have defeated Edom,’ and you are very proud of it. But my advice is to stay at home. Why stir up trouble that will only bring disaster on you and the people of Judah?”

20 But Amaziah refused to listen, for God was determined to destroy him for turning to the gods of Edom. 21 So King Jehoash of Israel mobilized his army against King Amaziah of Judah. The two armies drew up their battle lines at Beth-shemesh in Judah. 22 Judah was routed by the army of Israel, and its army scattered and fled for home. 23 King Jehoash of Israel captured Judah’s king, Amaziah son of Joash and grandson of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh. Then he brought him to Jerusalem, where he demolished 600 feet[g] of Jerusalem’s wall, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 24 He carried off all the gold and silver and all the articles from the Temple of God that had been in the care of Obed-edom. He also seized the treasures of the royal palace, along with hostages, and then returned to Samaria.

25 King Amaziah of Judah lived for fifteen years after the death of King Jehoash of Israel. 26 The rest of the events in Amaziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

27 After Amaziah turned away from the Lord, there was a conspiracy against his life in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But his enemies sent assassins after him, and they killed him there. 28 They brought his body back on a horse, and he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Amaziah did what was right on the outside, but inside he often resented what he had to do. His obedience was, at best, half-hearted. When the promised, God’s deliverance. Amaziah first complained about the money that had been lost (2 Chronicles 25:9). And he valued military success more than God’s will. We must search our own hearts and root out any resistance to obeying God. Grudging compliance is not true obedience. Further, he seemed to follow whatever was working. Not only did he seek God’s help but he also worshiped idols after a victory. The bottom line on him is that he was very self-seeking in that he would worship whatever was going to give him an advantage. His self-seeking and self-pride led him to pick a fight with the northern kingdom whose army at the time was vastly larger than his own. Amaziah is a reminder to us that we should seek only God and seek godly counsel – even when such counsel is going to tell us things we do not want to hear.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we, as Christ followers, must demand more from our leaders and not just blindly accept them and their selfishness because they are NOT of the other party. May we demand more of our public officials. May we see that if only non-Christian men are infesting politics than maybe it’s time to do something about it ourselves. May it’s time for us to start taking chances and running for public office at the local, state and national levels. If we need to reclaim the swamp, we need to be the candidates to replace what’s there. Instead of complaining about who is in office, maybe we should run for that office. Otherwise, our choices will continue to be between Trump-like candidates and Biden-like candidates. Otherwise, self-seeking leaders will be the ones in office. Otherwise, we get what we have to vote for. Otherwise, we are like Judah who went from a great godly king like David to a succession of self-seeking kings such as Amaziah here in this passage.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:23-27

The End of Joash’s Reign in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Last night, I had forgotten that the Vice-Presidential candidates’ debate was on until about 20 minutes after it had begun. When I remembered, I switched over to the nearest channel that was carrying the debate. I am not here to push one candidate over the other, however, one thing that I did notice is that, regardless of topic, the Democratic candidate blamed whatever the problem was on Donald Trump. It was his fault that the pandemic happened. It was his fault that the economy tanked for a period of time after the pandemic spread across the USA. The pandemic and its economic effects would have been absolutely the same regardless of who the President is. Ultimately, it seems, the Democratic push this year has been whatever the problems the United States has, whether they predated Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, whatever it is, it is Trump’s fault. If they could blame the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sally recently, they would. The sad thing for America is that there is a large swath of the American people that actually believe this rhetoric.

I am not blaming the Democrats for doing this. They are playing, quite effectively, on the fact that America has turned from God and are seeking direction from anything that they can grab hold of as an idol to give their life meaning. We worship celebrities. We worship the President as if he is the answer to all our problems. Thus, we worship the government to be our god. We worship the antithesis of any incumbent President when the world is not working out toward our preferences. Then, the opposition candidate becomes the focus of our worship. We worship celebrity preachers instead of God. We worship new houses and new cars. We worship that something is wrong with America and it is something new every couple of years. We worship our phones. We worship trendy food regimes. We worship yoga outfits and being in the know on the latest exercise routines. We worship making our house decorated correctly for the current season. We worship Starbucks. We worship skinny jeans with pretorn holes in them. We worship trendy retro glasses. We worship Amazon. We worship pre-made and shipped gourmet meals that arrive at your doorstep. We worship our jobs. We worship athletes. All of these things of a material nature are what we worship. We worship being on the correct side of the cancel culture. We worship the cancel culture for those who are not politically correct. We worship the intolerance of tolerance of all things. We worship ourselves. We worship everything except God.

It is sad to say after watching last night’s debate that the large parts of our nation’s people really do think that Trump is either Satan himself or an angel sent down from heaven. There are large parts of our country’s people who think that Joe Biden is the answer to everything that is wrong with our country. I am here to tell you that nothing is going to fix America until we as a nation in whole return to worshiping God. Trump is not the panacea to all the problems that existed as of January 2017. Joe Biden is not the savior to correct the complete and utter devastation, to hear the Democrats, caused by Donald Trump. Trump is not the blame for everything that ever was, is, or will be wrong with America and Biden is not the white knight to save America from ruin.

It is that idea of getting at the root cause of the problems of a nation that I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 24:23-27. Here, Joash becomes the target of assassins because they feel he is the reason the country is out of control when he was just a symptom of a larger national problem – a nation no longer loyal to God. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

23 In the spring of the year[b] the Aramean army marched against Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem and killed all the leaders of the nation. Then they sent all the plunder back to their king in Damascus. 24 Although the Arameans attacked with only a small army, the Lord helped them conquer the much larger army of Judah. The people of Judah had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so judgment was carried out against Joash.

25 The Arameans withdrew, leaving Joash severely wounded. But his own officials plotted to kill him for murdering the son[c] of Jehoiada the priest. They assassinated him as he lay in bed. Then he was buried in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery. 26 The assassins were Jozacar,[d] the son of an Ammonite woman named Shimeath, and Jehozabad, the son of a Moabite woman named Shomer.[e]

27 The account of the sons of Joash, the prophecies about him, and the record of his restoration of the Temple of God are written in The Commentary on the Book of the Kings. His son Amaziah became the next king.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the reason for the officers’ plot against Joash was mainly for his allowing or ordering of the murder of the prophet Zechariah, and he had begun worshiping idols instead of God. Further, the country had been overrun by the Arameans. Things were just getting out of control under the reign of Joash. They did not kill him because he turned away from God, they killed him because the kingdom was coming loose at the hinges and they saw an opportunity to further their own interests under the guise of making things better for the nation, I am sure. In the end, Joash became an evil man and was killed by equally evil people. It is apparent that they saw killing the king would make things right again. They blamed Joash for all the problems of the nation. Sure, he was an evil king, according to this scripture, but he was not Satan himself and killing him would not magically right the nation. There was a greater national problem of a country that had turned its back on God.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we, as Americans, should learn from scripture that a government leader should not be the object of our worship. They will always disappoint. To think that electing another person as president will magically make things perfectly alright and like paradise again is simply idol worship. To think that our nation is going to go down the tubes because we elect someone other than current president is making the current president an idol as well. The President is not a god. Whatever the problems were four years ago did not magically appear because Trump became President. Whatever the problems are now will not magically disappear if Biden comes into office in January 2021. The President is not the answer. The President should not be the focus of our hopes and dreams.

Let us on both sides of the political spectrum quit acting like our political candidate is a god who can save us from the other side. Let us on both sides realize that all the social issues plaguing our country did not magically materialize under the current administration. Let us on both sides realize that these problems existed before and will exist after the current administration. Our nation’s significant social issues are long haul issues that will have to be addressed appropriate by several consecutive presidents regardless of party.

Our problem, just as was in biblical Israel and Judah, is that we have strayed from God and we have started worshiping other things than God. We seem to be a country that revels in that which is against God’s command in His Word. We literally are shaking our fist in God’s face, regardless of who the president is. We glory in doing it too. We think of ourselves as too evolved now for God. And then we wonder why our country seems to be spiraling out of control. We have strayed from God. We must return to Him. Glory in Him. Glory in knowing that what He prohibits is not to hold us back from self-actualization but rather from descending into the full-on consequences of sin in all our lives. His Word is to protect us from the ramifications of sin. The story of biblical Israel and Judah is simply a mirror to us and we must take notice. We are headed in the same direction. Let us repent and worship God and not Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-22 (Part 2 of 2)

Jehoiada’s Reforms Reversed

Opening Illustration/Comments

I remember before I became a Christ follower, I would often call myself a Christian but I was really just a man who grew up in a preacher’s home where I never really asked Christ to be my Savior and Lord. Oh, I understood all about who Jesus was and what He stood for. I could even understand the Savior part of Savior and Lord. However, I was never really too big on Jesus being my Lord. I did my own thing. I understood the difference between right and wrong according to Christian standards. It was not in my general base nature of who I was to intentionally hurt others or to be overtly selfish. All in all, just a good, reliable guy trying to live a good life and not hurt too many people along the way.

However, I just never really wanted this whole Christian thing after I got out of the house as a young man. I just wanted to live wild and free and unshackled. After going through many personal ups and downs, bad relationships, bad situations, and all the drama and problems that come along in life when you are not truly a child of God, it took me up until age 39 to wake up to the reality of the very real Jesus. Prior to that, like I said, I lived an existence that God existed when I wanted Him to exist. I paid Him no attention much of the time. I negotiated with Him and rationalized away my overt disobedience to God’s Word when what I wanted to do was in need of spiritual rationalization. God and I have a deal on this area of disobedience – because I am generally a nice guy, ya know. Definitely, I was like a God-user. I abused the privilege of Him being my father just like a spoiled child. However, let something bad happen or be in a situation where no good ending could be seen or figured out, I would come running to God in seeking a solution – a solution, of course, that would be to my advantage or that would minimize or eliminate any pain that I would suffer.

I was a bad weather Christian, so to speak. You have heard of fair weather fans in sports. A fair weather fan is one who loves and supports his time when they are winning but abandons his team when they have a bad season. Well, a bad weather Christian is similar to that, just in reverse. A bad weather Christian is one who ignores God when times are good (by our own definitions) but comes running to God when times are bad (by our own definitions). We pray up a storm, go to church, hang out with church folk, go to mid-week church activities when times are tough. However, when the tough times have passed, we go back to our old behaviors and old sins. You may have been there yourself? I know this was me before I gave my life to Christ in December 2001.

It is that idea of abandoning God when what we define as prosperity comes to us is what I thought of this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 24:17-22. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

17 But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. 18 They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Yet the Lord sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen.

20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned the Lord, and now he has abandoned you!”

21 Then the leaders plotted to kill Zechariah, and King Joash ordered that they stone him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s Temple. 22 That was how King Joash repaid Jehoiada for his loyalty—by killing his son. Zechariah’s last words as he died were, “May the Lord see what they are doing and avenge my death!”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that we must ask the question, “if everything went so well in Judah when the people worshiped God, why did they turn away from Him?” Prosperity can be both a blessing and a curse. While it can be a sign of God’s blessing to those who follow Him, it carries with it the potential for moral and spiritual decline. Prosperous people are tempted to become self-sufficient and proud – to take God for granted or relegate Him to an optional status. When we prosper, in whatever form that may take for you, we must not forget that God is the source of our blessings (see Deuteronomy 6:10-12 and 8:11-14).

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we must understand that God is sovereign over our lives in good times and bad. Also, we must remember that our definition of our situations is based on our own selfish self-interest. What we are going through, we may define as tough times, but God may be using the situation to teach us something if we are already a believer or to draw us unto Him if we are not a believer. God may be using a situation to prepare us for the greater thing that He has in store for us in the next season of our lives. Further, we must remember that when we do reach those calm water seasons of our lives that we should be shouting God’s praises for seeing us through the raging rapids and setting us upon the calm stretch of the river of life. We have a tendency to forget God when times are good. However, when we realize that all of life is interconnected and cyclical. All bad seasons are followed by good ones and all good seasons are followed by bad ones. That’s when God’s providential care over us must be celebrated when we are in the calm waters. It is there that we can stand up in our canoe and raise our paddle over our head and shout to the Lord His great praises. Because there will be another storm to come, more rough waters to come, where your canoe is taking on water and you are hanging on for dear life and God will be there with you to see you through it.

Take time in prosperity to shout to the Lord about His granting you the period of prosperity. Take time to praise Him for the calm water periods of your life. That’s the time we should be overjoyed by God’s blessing of peace and calm instead of ignoring Him til the next storm comes. Make the choice to praise God in good times and bad times and everything in between.

Amen and Amen.