Archive for the ‘11-1 Kings’ Category

1 Kings 15:9-15

Asa Rules in Judah

In a recent blog, I had written about the fact that just because you grow up in the shadow of the steeple, so to speak, it does not mean that you will automatically become a Christ follower at any early age. I grew up as a preacher’s kid and often lived in church parsonages that were right next door to the church my dad was serving – in the shadow of the steeple. Being a preacher’s kid does not automatically mean salvation. I traveled a long road to the cross – ultimately not getting there until I was 39 years and 4 months old in December 2001. Being surrounded by the church, being bathed in biblical knowledge and understanding of church, understanding who Jesus was, all of that provides no guarantee that you will accept Christ as your Savior and Lord at an early age.

That is what is amazing when I hear stories of those who have come to Christ as their Savior and Lord when they have had no background at all in the church. I think of a young couple that has become dear to my wife an me over the past year. They both grew up in households that were the product of our times. There was understanding that yeah that’s church over there but it was not part of their family culture. Sundays were just another day for their families to hang out or to go to bars to watch ball games. They were raised outside of any type of church influence. They met each other in high school and had an on again off again relationship for years after that. They ultimately had a child together and lived together. By a miracle of God they began coming to our church and each of them came to know Christ as their Savior and Lord. That began changing their lives. Ultimately, they wanted to become members of the church. However, as part of the process, they were challenged about living together but not being married.

Some people might of gotten angry and left the church over that. However, they took it to heart and realized that in order to do things God’s way, they needed to get married and make that public commitment to one another in matrimony. I had the honor of officiating at that wedding, my first as a pastor. Since they made that commitment to one another, they have grown exponentially in their walk with Jesus Christ. They both now serve at the church in the usher ministry and I just love their passion for the Lord. The influence on how their live their lives and share their faith is having a major impact on each of their families. We now see family members of theirs coming to church with them. They had no background in church, but they are speaking loudly for Christ and how He has changed their lives is a testimony to the fact that we are all ministers of the good news. They are changing generations and they are changing the direction of their entire family. What a testimony!

I thought of this young couple who is bucking the trend of their family and changing the direction of their whole family as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord when I read this passage, 1 Kings 15:9-15, about how Asa was different from generations of his family:

9 Asa began to rule over Judah in the twentieth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel. 10 He reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother[a] was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.

11 Asa did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, as his ancestor David had done. 12 He banished the male and female shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols[b] his ancestors had made. 13 He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother because she had made an obscene Asherah pole. He cut down her obscene pole and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 14 Although the pagan shrines were not removed, Asa’s heart remained completely faithful to the Lord throughout his life. 15 He brought into the Temple of the Lord the silver and gold and the various items that he and his father had dedicated.

As Asa took the throne, he had incredible family inertia and tradition to overcome. But if he was to follow in the footsteps of David, he had an up-hill road to trudge. The following is a list of his family’s legacy before him:

  • A great-grandfather who was Solomon and had introduced paganism
  • A grandfather who had divided the kingdom and allowed paganism to flourish in the southern kingdom
  • A father who followed Asa’s grandfather’s sinful ways and continued and maintained constant war with the northern kingdom.
  • A grandmother who was a powerful and persistent queen and a strong proponent of paganism.

That is the amazing thing here. Just as the young couple of which I have spoken is changing the generations of their families both behind them and ahead of them without having had a history in the church, we see Asa buck the trend of his family’s generations of operating outside the will of God. Through the miracle of the Holy Spirit, he was different. He bucked the trend of wickedness. He even stood up to his powerful grandmother. He said to the world, as for me and my house, we will worship the one true God.

No matter what your background is and no matter how bad you think it is and no matter how many generations of people in your family have lived lives far from God, there is room for you in God’s family. He does not check your pedigree to be in relationship with Him. You only have to be willing to do things God’s way. We are all sinners in need of grace. We all have fallen short and continue to fall short of the glory of God. But He has enough grace to swallow up the history of your life and the generations of ungodliness before you. His grace will swallow up your past and make you a new creature. People will be drawn to the difference in you and your simple act of trusting Christ as your Savior and Lord can echo through the generations and change the entire direction of an entire family. Don’t be afraid. God will protect you and cause you to be a change agent for the generations. Just one person accepting Christ can have huge ripple effects on families, friends and even enemies. God has grace for you. Come into His grace now. You will be accepted by Christ. He will cover you in His grace and make you a new, changed creature that will speak loudly to the generations.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 14:29-15:8 (Part 2 of 2)

Abijam Rules in Judah

The thing that has been plaguing me as I pondered this passage for the second time was why did God put up with the ungodly ways of the Israelite kings of the northern and, particularly, of the southern kingdom? There are two answers to that question that I think are appropriate.

First, let us think about our own children. Do we stop loving them just because they misbehave or break our “house rules” when they are living at home under our roof? Do we stop loving them when they are adults and decide that we have harmed them in some way, even if it’s just a perception that they have? The answer to both of those questions is a “no”. We love our children no matter what. We may not agree with what they are doing or even how they treat us as parents, but we still love them. Sometimes, we have to love them from afar as they work through whatever issues they have with us. But we love them anyway. Sometimes, we have to allow circumstances in their lives to play themselves out because of choices that they have made, but we still love them anyway. I think that is part of what is going on here is that God loves his chosen people, even when they are showing Him great disrespect even after all that He has done for them. God seems to be giving them every chance in the world to repent and change their ways and return unto Him. God is a longsuffering parent to the people of Israel. He loves them without end. He will allow their evil choices to run their course in their lives but He still allows them to exist as a people chosen by Him. He loves them like an earthly parent loves a child. An earthly parent will welcome their child home with open arms even after years of disagreement and disrespect because of the love the parent has for the child. God is like that with ancient Israel.

Second, the idea that comes to mind is the song by Casting Crowns called “Until the Whole World Hears”. God is so wanting all of us to return to Him that He continues to hold back his judgment on mankind. He so desires for us to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, He will be longsuffering. He wants us to have every opportunity to repent and return unto Him. There will be a time when His patience will run out and we will hear the trumpet sounds of the return of Jesus Christ that will herald the end of all things. However, in the meantime, God so desires that we have every opportunity to repent and worship Him that He will suffer with our disrespect toward Him. That is not to say that He accepts everything that we do. He is angered by our sin and disrespect just as any human parent would be. That is not to say that He will not let our sins have their consequences in our lives. However, it does mean that He will continue to love us even when we are yet sinners. He will give us every opportunity to repent. While we are living and breathing, it is never to late to repent and come unto God through His Son.

With those two things in mind, let us now read 1 Kings 14:29-15:8 once more:

29 The rest of the events in Rehoboam’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. 30 There was constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. 31 When Rehoboam died, he was buried among his ancestors in the City of David. His mother was Naamah, an Ammonite woman. Then his son Abijam became the next king.

Chapter 15

1 Abijam began to rule over Judah in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel. 2 He reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.

3 He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been. 4 But for David’s sake, the Lord his God allowed his descendants to continue ruling, shining like a lamp, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem. 5 For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.

6 There was war between Abijam and Jeroboam throughout Abijam’s reign. 7 The rest of the events in Abijam’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. There was constant war between Abijam and Jeroboam. 8 When Abijam died, he was buried in the City of David. Then his son Asa became the next king.

After reading the passage, it reminds us all that we are no better than Abijam. We are all sinners in God’s eyes. We live in a generation that pulls us away from God and many of us fall prey to the seduction of our culture by the individual choices that we make. The thing that defines us as Christ followers is that we recognize our sinful nature and we understand what God has saved us from through the sacrifice on the cross by His Son and through His Son’s resurrection. We become acutely aware of our sin nature through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit spends our remaining lifetime rooting out the toughest roots of our sin nature. We are not made perfect until we meet Jesus in heaven when we die. As Christ followers, we recognize our sins (though it takes longer with the sins we find toughest to give up over time) through the supervision of the Holy Spirit and we begin to repent of them and turn away from them as we continue to mature in Christ.

Does God stop loving us as Christ followers when we sin. No. He is a longsuffering parent. Just as a human parent will see their child returning home after a life of hating their parent and run to them and hug them and take them in and love them as if no time had passed. God is waiting for each of us to return unto Him. Is your life a mess? Are you ready to come home? Are you ready for God to run to greet you as you come to Him from the distance? Are you tired of being sick and tired? He is a longsuffering God. He loves you. He is giving you every opportunity to return unto Him. Turn from the mess that your sins have made of your life. Turn from your running from God. Return home to the One who loves you like no other. You have every opportunity. He will accept you with open arms. Please return unto Him while you still have breath in your body.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 14:29-15:8 (Part 1 of 2)

Abijam Rules in Judah

Yesterday, we talked about our nation and the lost art of compromise and the elevation of individual rights over and above the needs of society as a whole. When I read today’s passage, 1 Kings 14:29-15:8, it kind of made me sick to my stomach as we see history repeating itself before our very eyes in today’s America. The key thing that I keep coming back to when I read this passage is the theme of civil war between Judah and Israel during this post-Solomon period of the reigns of Jeroboam in the north and Rehoboam and his heir and son, Abijam in the south. The author of this passage makes it clear that there was constant military action between the now separate nations of Israel and Judah both between Jeroboam and Rehoboam and then Jeroboam and Abijam. All this did was to weaken each nation and make each one susceptible to invasion by foreign powers such as Egypt, Assyrian, and Babylon.

The civil war between the north and the south of Israel was about arrogance and pride. There was no art of compromise between the nations. Rehoboam was so arrogant that he did not pay heed to the fact that the entire nation was weary of the building projects and the taxation programs of Solomon in his latter years. He should have given the nation a rest from taxes. But he took the arrogant route of taking the suggestions of lowering taxes as being an affront to him personally. He felt his power being questioned and wanted to prove a point. Likewise, Jeroboam who led the split of the northern kingdom instead of letting his people worship in Jerusalem set up an alternative religion. Each one became entrenched in their positions and were unwilling to compromise for the sake of the nation. Add on top of that, the started internal wars between the two related but now separate nations. These actions used up resources that could have been used to defend the nations from outsiders. It’s like two brothers fighting each other while thieves steal them blind in the background.

That is the place that we find ourselves as a nation at the moment. We are at war within and we are weakened by it. We have lost the art of compromise and elevated individual desires above all else. When we worship the things that we want, we lose the ability to see that crushing our brother is no victory. We simply have become weaker as a nation when that happens and grows the discontent among those who see their ideals slipping away. When we demonize the opposition, it is impossible for us to compromise. When we see our way as the only way, we are at war internally. Bullets are not being fired in this war, but the nation is weakened when we must completely obliterate the opposition, even if its politically and not militarily.

After writing about the similarities between ancient Israel/Judah and the United States, let us now read about there was constant civil war between the two sides of the tribes of Israel:

29 The rest of the events in Rehoboam’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. 30 There was constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. 31 When Rehoboam died, he was buried among his ancestors in the City of David. His mother was Naamah, an Ammonite woman. Then his son Abijam became the next king.

Chapter 15

1 Abijam began to rule over Judah in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel. 2 He reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother was Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom.

3 He committed the same sins as his father before him, and he was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had been. 4 But for David’s sake, the Lord his God allowed his descendants to continue ruling, shining like a lamp, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem. 5 For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.

6 There was war between Abijam and Jeroboam throughout Abijam’s reign. 7 The rest of the events in Abijam’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. There was constant war between Abijam and Jeroboam. 8 When Abijam died, he was buried in the City of David. Then his son Asa became the next king.

After reading the passage, and thinking about our nation as it stands at this integral moment in its history, the rush that came over me is that we must change this from the ground up. The reason that our nation has come to point of impasse is that we are no longer a nation of people that respects one another’s positions as having any validity. And it begins in our homes! We must change in the most basic unit of our society – the home. We have become a nation where what I want is the most important thing and that includes how we interact in our homes. Our divorce rate in America reflects the fact that each of us place our personal desires above those of our spouse and of our children. Everyone must adapt to what we want. No longer are we willing to work through marital problems. No longer are we willing to see our spouse’s rights and needs as equally as valid as ours. If we don’t like it, we just divorce and try on a new spouse.

As a politicians, our leaders should do what is best for the nation as a whole. But our politicians are reflection of us. In our homes, we must begin to make our marriages greater than ourselves. Maybe, we should begin by placing God in charge of choosing our mate rather than our personal fleshly desires. Maybe then, we can have marriages where we recognize the God-given validity of the needs of our spouses. Maybe then, we can have marriages where we really want to honor our spouses. Maybe then, we can love our spouses so much that we want them to thrive. Maybe then, we can have marriages where we both are concerned about meeting the needs of the other spouse. Maybe then, we can have marriages that will survive disagreements because we are both working to do what is best for the marriage as a whole and not just ourselves. Maybe then, we can let our children see that and they will grow up the same way. Maybe then, we will have children who become leaders who will see across the aisle and respect the opposition. Maybe then, we can do what is best for the country rather than our political affiliation. Maybe then, we can become a united nation again!

If we are to change the course of the nation, we must begin in our homes!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 14:25-28

Egypt Invades Judah

I am not usually one to talk about politics in my blog because it often divides rather than unites. And this blog is not necessarily political but will use a political example as to the nature of the country in which we now live. The government shutdown is a clear example of the nature of our country now.

The government shutdown represents the polarization of the American social landscape and how it is far different from what our nation has been like right up until probably the 1990s. What our nation has become is not what it was prior to then. Prior to the current century, you will see a nation that was governed by compromise. The governmental set-up the founding fathers gave us was one that forced us to compromise. With three branches of government, compromise was inherently necessary. No one branch of government wields all the power. Compromise was what our founding fathers wanted. In the art of compromise, they felt that what was the best for the country as a whole was what would result. Everybody would not get what they wanted but the nation moved forward with the a middle of the road result that produced the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Prior to this century, Americans could live with that because we had a more collective mentality about our nation and our life within that framework.

Increasingly though over time, we have become a nation where individual rights have become paramount over what is good for our society as a whole. Because of our increasing wealth over the generations since World War II, each succeeding generation has become more self-centered and individual rights have become greater than the collective good of our entire society. The reason for that I assume is that as we have become more wealthy as a nation over time, we have drifted from God and see ourselves as the arbiters of our own fates. We have eschewed God and replaced Him with ourselves. When that happens, we become more individualistic and less willing to subsume our personal wills to that of the greater society. What is right for me is most important and if society is destabilized by the result, it must adapt to me. With that type of society developing in us, it is no wonder that our politics in Washington are what they are. There is no longer a willingness to compromise by either party because that is weakness to them. That is giving up what I want personally and that is weakness to us. Individual rights and opinions are greater than what is good for society would be the mantra of our day.

I know that we complain about Washington. But what Washington has become is a reflection of our society. After all, we have elected every person that’s there. We complain about Washington. But Washington is us. The government shutdown is a reflection of the fact that we as a nation place our personal rights above those of what is good for the country. We get in Washington what we are. When a nation loses sight of God, we begin to focus on ourselves and make ourselves gods. Thus, we then begin to cripple our nation in the name of getting what we want rather than compromising for the greater good of society.

As we can see in our text for today (and understanding what has been leading up to it since Solomon died), Israel let the same thing happen to them. In 1 Kings 14:25-28, we see the beginning of the end of the independence of the nations of Israel and Judah. The reason being is same as what we are seeing in our nation’s capital today. Let us read this passage now:

25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign, King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem. 26 He ransacked the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace; he stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. 27 King Rehoboam later replaced them with bronze shields as substitutes, and he entrusted them to the care of the commanders of the guard who protected the entrance to the royal palace. 28 Whenever the king went to the Temple of the Lord, the guards would also take the shields and then return them to the guardroom.

In this passage, we reflect on that when Rehoboam came to power, he inherited a mighty kingdom. Everything he could ever want was given to him. Apparently, though, he did not recognize why he had so much or how it had been obtained. God allowed Shishak of Egypt to invade Judah and Israel. Egypt was no longer the world power that it once had been, but with the weakness now apparent in what was Solomon’s mighty kingdom, the pharaoh saw an opportunity. The Egyptian armies were not strong enough to completely subdue Judah and Israel but the damage was great and the divided kingdoms were never the same again.

The telling tale here is that within just five years after Solomon died, the Temple and the palace were ransacked by foreign invaders. How quickly the glory, power, and wealth of Solomon’s unified kingdom disappeared. When the people became spiritually corrupt and immoral (see 1 Kings 14:24), it was just a short time until they lost everything. Wealth, idol worship, and immorality had become more important to them than God. When we rebel against God, ignore Him, and push Him out of our lives, everything becomes relative and society descends into doing what is right in our own eyes rather than observing the moral absolutes given to us by God. When that happens, decay begins as a nation. We see it in what was the kingdom of ancient Israel and in every empire that man has built for himself. The Israelites became so enamored with their own pleasure that they forgot to mind the store. They became collectively weak and made them ultimately susceptible to invasion. The Egyptians here proved that it could be done. Later, we will see the complete destruction of the kingdoms of Israel – first by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Greeks and the Romans, and that’s just during the biblical era.

What can we learn in 21st century America from ancient Israel history? We can learn that we must return to God. When we understand that there is a higher power than ourselves, we become less self-centered and more willing to do what is right for society. When we understand that it is God who sets the standards for our lives and not ourselves, we become more interested in our fellow man and what is good for him as well as what is good for me. Pray that we return to God as a nation so that we can survive as a nation. When we drift from God, we drift from His blessings. When we drift from God, we decide for ourselves what is right and collectively we become weak. When we drift from God, we have examples right here in the Bible what happens to a nation when they become self-involved and make idols for themselves and of themselves.

My prayer is that both sides of the shutdown debate will learn that compromise is not weakness. May they learn that what has made our country great over these 240 plus years is not one side getting its way and pounding the other into the dirt. No, it has been our ability to recognize that we won’t get anything we want if we are not willing to give up some or much of what we want.

We have an example in Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh. He did not have to give up any ground. He simply could have forced us to believe in Him or He could have destroyed us all or simply let us all go to hell as we deserve. However, He did give up His own rightful glory to come to earth to live a sinless life, show us how to strive for holiness, show us how far short of holiness we are (no matter how holy we think we are), and to die on the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, and to arise from the death to demonstrate that we have hope eternal through belief in Him as the Son of God. He did not have to do that. He could have stood His ground and torched the earth. But He gave up His glory for our long-term benefit. Our politicians should remember that they are sinners and they are not the owners of the truth. They have human plans and human plans are flawed. Let each of them learn that in order for the country to move forward that they have got to give up something. Otherwise, we are just going to burn down the house just to win a victory and crush an opponent. What have we gained if we win and the house is burned down?

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 14:21-24

Rehoboam Rules in Judah

I hear the testimonies of people that I have known through the years since becoming a Christ follower. Some of these stories are truly awe-inspiring in how God can reach a person who has no knowledge of Him at all, grew up in families that were abusive, stories of substance abuse, stories that would make a prudish woman blush. These are amazing stories of God’s redemption of people who grew up far from God and maybe several generations of family who were far from God. I love these testimonies of how God has literally altered this life and the generations after it.

What was my excuse? I grew up as a son of a preacher. I was in church every Sunday since I was a baby. I lived and breathed the church life. When the church doors were open, my brother and I were there. Church was the backdrop of everything in our lives. We were the preacher’s kids. We moved around a lot because of being the United Methodist Church system. So, the Methodist Church in South Carolina was the thing that guided and ruled our lives. It was the “family business”. You would think that because of that I would have accepted Christ as my Savior at an early age. I had great advantage over some of the testimonies of redemption that I have heard over the years. I was all up in the church. I knew God was Creator. I knew that Jesus was of one and the same essence as the Father and the Holy Spirit. I knew that Jesus Christ broke into human history to be the redemption of mankind through His action on the cross and through His resurrection. I knew all that. I had the materials for the making of simple conversion experience. It is like having gone to a high-end prep school and having great advantage over some kid from the projects when it comes time to demonstrate our academic capabilities. I had the advantage of being a preacher’s kid. I had the advantage of exposure to all that is of God. However, even if you grew up as a preacher’s kid, it does not automatically mean that you are going to accept Christ as your Savior and Lord. Just because you have these built-in advantages, it does not guarantee salvation. You can’t come to Christ just because you lived in the right conditions and environment.

That was the thing that I thought about this morning as I read these verses about Rehoboam. He had all the advantages of being at the seat of God’s visible power among men but it did not guarantee that he would lead the people of Judah in the ways of the Lord. Let’s see what happened – here in 1 Kings 14:21-24:

21 Meanwhile, Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen from among all the tribes of Israel as the place to honor his name. Rehoboam’s mother was Naamah, an Ammonite woman.

22 During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. 23 For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. 24 There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.

In this passage, we see that Rehoboam, despite being the grandson of a “man after God’s own heart” and son of “the wisest of kings” and living in eyesight of the Temple of God, he did not follow God himself. He allowed the culture’s desire for the easy religion of “what I want” to permeate the people including himself. He was not a spiritual leader to his people. He followed the prevailing trends and went along with it just to appease the crowd and win their acceptance. That is the dilemma that we face today as Christians, do we ignore God’s Word just to “get a listen” from the culture or do we stand firm on God’s Word, the timeless, eternal Word of God, and engage the culture with that which is blatantly counter-cultural. We will always be in opposition to the culture because the culture is about “me, me, me” and God’s Word is about “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”! I am not saying that we do not engage the culture where people are at but we do not trade our beliefs away just to be accepted and at some point in our engagement with unbelievers we will have gained their trust and will have to confront them with the truth of God’s Word.

For me, personally, the journey to the cross was much the same as this broad generalization about the church and culture. It was more important to me, like Rehoboam, to be accepted by the culture around me than diving into the world of believers in Jesus Christ that I knew full well from birth. I was like Rehoboam. I grew up in the shadow of the house of God. Often, the parsonage was right next door to the church my dad was serving. But living in the shadow of the house of God, like Rehoboam and me, does not guarantee salvation. It guarantees that you will know about God but does not guarantee that you will follow Him. The pull of culture is great. It is tangible and right before you. You go to class with culture. You work with culture. You play with culture. If you are an insecure person, acceptance is everything. Even after salvation, I still struggle with being what I call “an approval junkie”. I want to be accepted and approved of. That’s why I think, in part, that it took me so long to get to the cross (at age 39 in December 2001). I made getting the approval of others, particularly drawing my value from whether I was in a relationship with a woman or not, the most important thing. I would dare say that I made been liked and approved of a god. In this way, I can identify with Rehoboam. He and I both knew that worshiping something other than God was wrong, but we just wanted to be liked by the most people … so we go along with the tide. Just because you live in the shadow of the steeple does not guarantee anything!

The thing that I take away this morning is that Rehoboam we look upon with disgust when we read this passage. I have pity for him. He is me and I am him. What Rehoboam needs to learn and what I had to learn (and in some ways still learning) is that we draw our value from God himself not from the culture. We must realize that the culture is going to tempt us to do that which is away from God because it is easy and pleases the flesh. We must realize that God calls us toward holiness through Jesus Christ and that it will never be easy. We must realize that we do not have to have the approval of culture when we are firmly planted in the heart of God through Jesus Christ. When we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we can place our trust in Him to carry us through the hard times, the good times, and everything in between. Through God, we can have confidence that He has a purpose in everything that we go through. There was a pastor in my past that said, “God is preparing us for what He has prepared for us.” Everything has purpose in God’s plan. What you are going through right now, God will use later in what He has next for you. Trust in the Lord. He is stable. He is eternal. Trust in the Lord. He knows you personally and loves you. Trust in the Lord and He will guide your steps. Culture is always changing to meet its fleshly desires but God is unchanging and eternal. That very same God desires that you follow Him and obey Him for His love is so great for you that He will see you through all things all the time.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 14:19-20

The End of Jeroboam’s Reign in Israel

Who is it that we remember long-term, even after their death? Why is it that 50 years, almost 51, after his death, we still remember Martin Luther King, Jr. as vividly today as we did at the time of his death in April 1968 by an assassin’s bullet? Do we remember who killed him as vividly? I had to go to my google search to remember who did that dastardly deed. When the results returned, I said to myself, “oh yeah, now I remember!” Can you name his assassin? If you have a better memory than me, you would know that James Earl Ray was the man who shot Martin Luther King, Jr. and killed him.

What do you remember about James Earl Ray? The first thing that he is known for is for having killed another man. That’s the highlight of his life. That is the high point. Here’s the story on James Earl Ray. Ray was born to a poor family on March 10, 1928, in Alton, Illinois, the son of Lucille (née Maher) and George Ellis Ray. He had Ulster Scots and Irish ancestry and had a Catholic upbringing. In February 1935, Ray’s father, known by the nickname Speedy, passed a bad check in Alton, Illinois, then moved to Ewing, Missouri, where the family had to change their name to Raynes to avoid law enforcement. Ray left school at the age of fifteen. He later joined the U.S. Army at the close of World War II and served in Germany, although Ray struggled to adapt to military life.

Ray’s first conviction for criminal activity, a burglary in California, came in 1949. In 1952, he served two years for the armed robbery of a taxi driver in Illinois. In 1955, Ray was convicted of mail fraud after stealing money orders in Hannibal, Missouri, then forging them to take a trip to Florida. He served four years in Leavenworth. In 1959, Ray was caught stealing $120 in an armed robbery of a St. Louis Kroger store. Ray was sentenced to twenty years in prison for repeated offenses. He escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1967 by hiding in a truck transporting bread from the prison bakery.

Following his escape, Ray stayed on the move throughout the United States and Canada, going first to St. Louis and then onwards to Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and Birmingham, Alabama, where he stayed long enough to buy a 1966 Ford Mustang and get an Alabama driver’s license. He then drove to Mexico, stopping in Acapulco before settling down in Puerto Vallarta on October 19, 1967.[7]

While in Mexico, Ray, using the alias Eric Starvo Galt, attempted to establish himself as a pornographic film director. Using mail-ordered equipment, he filmed and photographed local prostitutes. Frustrated with his results and jilted by the prostitute with whom he had formed a relationship, Ray left Mexico on or around November 16, 1967. Ray returned to the United States, arriving in Los Angeles on November 19, 1967. While in Los Angeles, Ray attended a local bartending school and took dancing lessons. His chief interest, however, was the George Wallace presidential campaign. Ray harbored a strong prejudice against black people and was quickly drawn to Wallace’s segregationist platform. He spent much of his time in Los Angeles volunteering at the Wallace campaign headquarters in North Hollywood. He considered emigrating to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where a predominantly white minority regime had unilaterally assumed independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. The notion of living in Rhodesia continued to appeal to Ray for several years afterwards, and it was his intended destination after Dr. King’s assassination. The Rhodesian government expressed its disapproval.

Arriving in Atlanta on March 24, 1968, Ray checked into a rooming house.[15] He eventually bought a map of the city. FBI agents later found this map when they searched the room in which he was staying in Atlanta. On the map, the locations of the church and residence of Martin Luther King Jr. were circled. Ray was soon on the road again and drove his Mustang to Birmingham, Alabama. There, on March 30, 1968, he bought a Remington Model 760 Gamemaster .30-06-caliber rifle and a box of 20 cartridges from the Aeromarine Supply Company. He also bought a Redfield 2x-7x scope, which he had mounted to the rifle. He told the shopkeepers that he was going on a hunting trip with his brother. Ray had continued using the Galt alias after his stint in Mexico, but when he made this purchase, he gave his name as Harvey Lowmeyer.

After purchasing the rifle and accessories, Ray drove back to Atlanta. An avid newspaper reader, Ray passed his time reading the Atlanta Constitution. The paper reported King’s planned return trip to Memphis, Tennessee, which was scheduled for April 1, 1968. On April 2, 1968, Ray packed a bag and drove to Memphis. On April 4, 1968, Ray killed Martin Luther King Jr. with a single shot fired from his Remington rifle, while King was standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Shortly after the shot was fired, witnesses saw Ray fleeing from a rooming house across the street from the motel; he had been renting a room in the house at the time. A package was abandoned close to the site that included a rifle and binoculars, both found with Ray’s fingerprints.

Would you have known any of this without doing research on James Earl Ray? After googling for the name of King’s assassin, it did jog my memory of him being the man who killed King, but little else. There was nothing in my memory banks but the name and a flash of an interview he did with 60 Minutes in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s but that’s it. No idea of how he came to be the man who assassinated the leader of the American civil rights movement. Nothing burned into my burn. I had to do research to find what I found about him. Nothing rolled out of the files stored away in my brain.

Why is that? That’s the idea that came to mind this morning as I struggled with this two verse, really kind of non-descript set of verses about the remainder/the end of Jeroboam’s reign. Two lines. Two verses. The whole of the remainder of Jeroboam’s reign set down in two verses. Is it because of the fact that he stood for that which is rebellion against God? Is it that he was known more for what he was against than what he was for? Is it that he was known for desperate attempts to consolidate his power rather than developing a culture of togetherness? Is it because he was known more for hate than love? That’s the powerful larger message that came to me as I read these simple two verses. These verses pounded that idea into my head and heart more for what these two verses DO NOT say as for what they DO say. Join me now in reading 1 Kings 14:19-20:

19 The rest of the events in Jeroboam’s reign, including all his wars and how he ruled, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel. 20 Jeroboam reigned in Israel twenty-two years. When Jeroboam died, his son Nadab became the next king.

In this passage, we see that the author, under the divine inspiration and supervision of the Holy Spirit, mentions the non-biblical historical book, The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel, to allow the audience to which he was writing to go elsewhere to see what happened in the remainder of Jeroboam’s reign. For in that there is very little account of the reign of Jeroboam; but in the annals and diaries of the kings of Israel, written by persons appointed for that purpose, and out of which it is generally thought that inspired writers, by divine direction, took what was thought proper to be transmitted to future times. a book of civil records, the annals, wherein all remarkable passages were recorded by the king’s command from day to day; out of which the sacred penman, by the influence of God’s Spirit, took those passages which were most considerable and useful for God’s honor, and men’s edification. The whole of the remainder of Jeroboam’s reign is boiled down to two verses.

Getting back to the two pictures that I drew earlier – Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Earl Ray. Who is it that we remember? Whose speeches have inspired generations and not just the ones who heard them live but for two generations now afterwards. Is it not that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often and eloquently about love rather than hate? Similarly, among civil rights activists do we remember the leaders of civil rights groups that espoused a radical overthrow of the white majority by the black minority or do we remember the one who espoused loving your neighbor into accepting that all men are created equal? Love will be remembered. Love leaves a legacy. Love inspires people to do the right thing.

And that is exactly what Jesus taught us too through His life on earth and His action on the cross. If Jesus had been an anti-establishment rebel and tried to bring down the Roman Empire and its puppet religious council in Israel, would He have been remembered for 2,000 years. When people paint Him just as a man and not as the Son of God, God in the flesh, we reduce Jesus to a martyr in a lost cause. But why is it that Jesus is the centerpiece of the history of the world? We measure time by his death and resurrection. Christianity is still the world’s largest religion. Christianity transformed the world. Christianity is still transforming the world. Jesus Christ inspires people to seek to worship Him and follow His Word in countries where simply to be a Christian can get you imprisoned or killed. Every religion on the planet has to have a position on Jesus Christ. Every one of them must respond to Jesus Christ. Think about that. The story of Jesus Christ endures because it is not myth. It is real. God so loved the world that He sent His Son (who is of the same essence and is of the same being as the Father and the Holy Spirit) to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled unto God and have everlasting and eternal life with God in heaven. Christianity is the only religion that tells us that we cannot perform our way into heaven. Christianity is the reality that we cannot outweigh our daily sins with good deeds. Christianity says that, in reality, we are destined for hell and we need an intervention of cosmic proportions. That is what makes Jesus so necessary. God could have zapped us all into submission by force. But He chose love. Love is remembered. Love endures. Love wins.

Just as we celebrate this week a true national hero in Martin Luther King, Jr., that message is one that is remembered. Love wins. It was through King’s constant and persistent preaching and leading us in seeing that violence and hatred are self-destructive to us all and that love is the agent that opens our eyes to injustice on the part of both the oppressor an the oppressed. The words of hate are not remembered and do not give a legacy. Who remembers any quotes of James Earl Ray? But just think of all the beautiful, love-based speeches of Martin Luther King that endure and will endure for generations to come. One of my favorites of his speeches is the one that is about love and reflected the character of a true Christ follower:

“I’m concerned about a better World. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

And so I say to you today, my friends, that you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned and die the death of a martyr, and your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as one of history’s greatest heroes; but if you have not love, your blood was spilt in vain. What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.”

Love stands the test of time. Love is written about over and over and over. Love endures. Love wins.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 14:1-18

Ahijah’s Prophecy Against Jeroboam

It is a pattern that we often see repeated in ourselves before we come to Christ as our Savior and in our society in times of crisis. We use the one true God as a fallback God. How often do we try things our way and reject God and His Word and even make fun of those who believe in that ancient myth of some Creator who controls everything? Then, when times get hard, we fall back to that which we have made fun of in the past. We pray to God.

We see it in our society in general as well. According to an August 16, 2016 article in the online magazine Duke Today (an online magazine associated with Duke University),

after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, many expected American houses of worship to be jammed with parishioners seeking refuge, community and a place to grieve. And that spike in church attendance did in fact occur. Briefly. But the attacks did not have a lasting effect on American religiosity, says Mark Chaves, a Duke professor of sociology, religious studies, and divinity. Chaves directs the National Congregations Study, which examines American religious places of worship over time. He says the jolt to church attendance following the attacks lasted just a few weeks. “People thought this type of crisis of national significance would lead people to be more religious, and it did,” he says. “But it was very short-lived. There was a blip in church attendance and then it went back to normal.” And though church attendance spiked briefly after 9/11, America’s overall participation in religious activities was actually in decline at that time — a trend that was slow enough not to be identified until recently. The best data point to a slow, steady drop in religious involvement dating back to at least the 1970s, he says.

I remember before I came to Christ as my Savior and Lord in December 2001, I knew who God was. I grew up as a preacher’s kid. I knew about Jesus Christ as the Savior. I knew that He died for my sins, whatever that meant to me at the time. But all the knowledge of God and what He had done for us as laid out in the Bible just never took hold in my soul. It was knowledge only without the power of the Holy Spirit. So as I grew older and left home to live life on my own and especially after the philosophical challenges that college brings, I grew away from serious consideration of God. I became susceptible to anything that questioned God’s existence, that Jesus performed miracles, that Jesus was God in the flesh. I began to think of Jesus as this great philosopher and anti-establishment figure rather than the Son of God. To me, He was this great martyr figure. How his actions came to sweep the world was beyond me. I just could not wrap my head around Jesus as being God in the flesh. I had knowledge but no faith. I knew but I did not understand.

However, in times of crisis, boy, did I ever pray to the God that I questioned. I would go to Him when things were going bad. And my divorce from my first wife was worthy of a Lifetime movie. It was that bad. During that time, I sought God in prayer when the battles within that war were going on and I did not think I could take anymore. But hey as soon as the immediate crisis was over, I was back on my own and prayer was the last thing on my mind…until the next crisis. That was the character of my life. I bought into the culture’s worldview of independence and self-reliance. I was determined never to lose and never give up. It was win-win at all costs and, no matter how difficult things became. My mantra was, “When things get tough, the tough get going.” My perspective worked well until my deep valleys outnumbered my mountaintops. Does this sound like you? Can you identify with what I’m saying?

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read about Jeroboam’s reaction to the crisis in his life. Here, he had started a new religion to suit his personal needs but yet when a crisis time came, he sent his wife to see a man of God, the real God, the one true God. Aren’t we all a lot like that until we come to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord? Let’s read about the crisis in Jeroboam’s immediate family now in 1 Kings 14:1-18, now:

Chapter 14

1 At that time Jeroboam’s son Abijah became very sick. 2 So Jeroboam told his wife, “Disguise yourself so that no one will recognize you as my wife. Then go to the prophet Ahijah at Shiloh—the man who told me I would become king. 3 Take him a gift of ten loaves of bread, some cakes, and a jar of honey, and ask him what will happen to the boy.”

4 So Jeroboam’s wife went to Ahijah’s home at Shiloh. He was an old man now and could no longer see. 5 But the Lord had told Ahijah, “Jeroboam’s wife will come here, pretending to be someone else. She will ask you about her son, for he is very sick. Give her the answer I give you.”

6 So when Ahijah heard her footsteps at the door, he called out, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam! Why are you pretending to be someone else?” Then he told her, “I have bad news for you. 7 Give your husband, Jeroboam, this message from the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘I promoted you from the ranks of the common people and made you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I ripped the kingdom away from the family of David and gave it to you. But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods for yourself and have made me furious with your gold calves. And since you have turned your back on me, 10 I will bring disaster on your dynasty and will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone. 11 The members of Jeroboam’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures. I, the Lord, have spoken.’”

12 Then Ahijah said to Jeroboam’s wife, “Go on home, and when you enter the city, the child will die. 13 All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only member of your family who will have a proper burial, for this child is the only good thing that the Lord, the God of Israel, sees in the entire family of Jeroboam.

14 “In addition, the Lord will raise up a king over Israel who will destroy the family of Jeroboam. This will happen today, even now! 15 Then the Lord will shake Israel like a reed whipped about in a stream. He will uproot the people of Israel from this good land that he gave their ancestors and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River,[a] for they have angered the Lord with the Asherah poles they have set up for worship. 16 He will abandon Israel because Jeroboam sinned and made Israel sin along with him.”

17 So Jeroboam’s wife returned to Tirzah, and the child died just as she walked through the door of her home. 18 And all Israel buried him and mourned for him, as the Lord had promised through the prophet Ahijah.

In this passage we see that Jeroboam sent his wife incognito to seek out a man of God to see what was going to happen with their sick son. Although he was seeking God’s assistance and maybe assurance, he did not want his wife being discovered doing it. Jeroboam did not tell his wife to pray for their son, or to ask the prophet to pray. He wanted to use Ahijah the prophet as a fortuneteller instead of seeking him as a man of God. How often do we go to God with the wrong motives in prayer, especially when we have been rebelling against God anyway? Before we understand our relationship with God, we think of Him as our last resort method. Jeroboam was doing the same here.

God actually desires that we be utterly dependent upon Him and that we are in desperate need of His help. It is often through our circumstances that we finally realize that we cannot control our lives on our own and that we need God’s help. But we must come to Him believing that He is more than some God of last resort. We must come to Him in all humility, no matter who is watching. We must come to Him believing that we are sinners in need of redemption and that we have messed it all up and that we are willing to hand all power over our lives to Him.

Think of a human father.  What good father would not want his children to turn to him when they need help?  Naturally, a father loves it when his children come to him to seek help.  There is something special about having someone there for you.  God is this true source and He is more reliable than any human father or mother. God truly loves those that are His.  He loves you! 

Listen to what God says for those who are in desperate situations and what He promises when they call upon Him. God wants us to depend on Him and not rely on ourselves.  God is our Father and we are His children. Children cannot make it in this world without their parents.  How much more so can we not make it without the help of our Heavenly Father?  If we try to solve our problems by ourselves then we can really do nothing to ultimately solve them. God is actually more glorified in our weakness because by His strength He is able to display His might.  He stands ever ready, able, and willing to help us when we really need it but we must first acknowledge of our need for His help.  We truly find freedom from worry when we learn to depend upon God.  Our money says “In God We Trust” but it is hard to trust when everything seems to be caving in around us.  Nothing looks like it will turn out right.  At times there is no evidence that God is even with us so how can we trust in Him during calamitous times?  In reality, we can sometimes not even trust our eyes…but if there is anything in this universe you can trust, it is God Almighty.  It is the invisible hand that is placed in ours that never lets go.  Like a parent holding their child‘s hand, God is securely caring for us, never letting us slip or fall.

When everything seems to be falling in around us, when the walls seem to be closing in on us, when nothing in our world or in this world seems to hold any hope, when everything looks completely hopeless, just remember that God is not ever caught by surprise. He will save those who are His from calamity (Heb 7:25).  He isn’t ever going to abandon us, forsake us, or leave us. Is now the time that you finally give up on controlling your own life and give control over to God? Knowing that God has our back and that even our hard times have a purpose for what God has planned for us is trust. Trust in the Lord. Place your hand in His. God is preparing you for what He has prepared for you!

Amen and Amen.