Sunday, March 31, 2013

How soon we can Forget

Read 2 Chronicles 24.

Judah's new 7 year old king had been protected and then mentored by Jehoiada, the Temple chief priest.  Under the previous wicked leadership, the Temple had been neglected and now was in disrepair.  As an adult, King Joash took on the project of restoring Solomon's Temple.

Evidently, tithing and the additional financial gatherings for the support of the Temple ministry had gone by the wayside.  It was the teaching priest's responsibility to educate the people regarding God's word and His expectations about giving.  To not do so resulted in disobedience on the part of the teachers and the people.  The king's orders were specific.  They were to reestablish the gathering of finances and pay to get the work done quickly.

They did not respond.  So, the king took matters into his own hands.  He had them make a chest and set it outside the Temple gate.  The people were to give as they entered for prayer, worship, and/or to offer sacrifices.  Indeed, this was a tax, established in the law, and not their tithe money.  Finally, the restoration of the house of the LORD was done.

Unfortunately, once Jehoiada died, Joash listened to ungodly counsel.  The nation plunged headlong into worshiping false gods.  When the LORD sent His prophets to confront the sin, the people refused to listen, even stoning to death Jehoiada's son.  "Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah's father had shown him..." (v.22).

Jehoiada had poured his life and ministry into this young man.  But when Joash was on his own, he seemingly tossed it all away.

How soon we can forget the spiritual training we have received!  How soon we can forget the life lessons learned!  How soon we can forget the goodness and grace of God to us!

"But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments."  (Psalm 103:17-18)

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Prepared Leader Makes a Difference

Read 2 Chronicles 23.

The southern kingdom of Judah was being ruled by the wicked and violent Athaliah.  She even slaughtered her own grandchildren to secure her throne.  Only by the grace of God was one very young grandson spared.  The priest's wife at the Temple hid little Joash and began to raise him.

How this must have grieved the heart of God to see His people subjected to such sinful leadership and encouraged to worship Baal.  The priest, Jehoiada, understood clearly the everlasting covenants God made with the people of Israel and David.  Joash was now the sole survivor of David's lineage and the hope of the nation's future.  But Jehoiada needed to be shrewd in taking steps to overthrow the self-appointed Queen.

It is obvious that God prepared the hearts of the people for this transition.  They had had enough.  In addition, step by step, this spiritual leader prepared.

1. He chose the place.  The Temple was a sacred spot and where he had authority.
2. He organized the protection.  From the inside out, he appointed and delegated responsibilities.
3. He distributed the weapons with delegated authority to use them.  These resources were essential to get the job done.
4. Only then did he reveal the solution to the nation's crying need.  He presented 7 year old Joash, gave him his crown, and more importantly "the testimony."  This was a copy of God's word.  It was required of all kings to have their own copy to know and to put into practice according to Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
5. He led the people in getting rid of Athaliah and the altars of Baal.
6. He "made a covenant between himself, all the people, and the king that they should be the LORD's people."

May we be the LORD's people today, responding to God's leaders in this generation.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Same Family. Different Spiritually. Why?

Read 2 Chronicles 22.

With all his brothers killed, the youngest son of Jehoram took the throne over Judah.  King Ahaziah followed in his father's wicked footsteps.  Interestingly, verse 3 places the blame on his mother's training, as she was the daughter of Ahab, the king of Israel.  Ahaziah's reign only lasted one year.

The LORD will only allow individuals to go so far in their rebellion against Him.  The young king listened to godless counsel, made foolish decisions, and the result was death.

Then, his mother, Athaliah, slaughtered her own family so she could seize the national power of Judah.  Her heart was so given over to satanic control that she killed her own grandchildren.  But, thanks to the quick work of Ahaziah's sister, the king's baby son, Joash, was protected.  This godly woman, wife of the priest Jehoiada, put her own life at risk in hiding the baby in the Temple.  If Joash had been killed, conceivably that would have ended the royal lineage of David and ultimately, of course, the family of the Messiah.

God will deal with Athaliah and unfold His plans for Joash in time.

Two women, a mother and a daughter, one as wicked as anyone in the Bible; the other acted mercifully toward her nephew.  Here is a brother and a sister, raised in the same household.  One became a wicked king, while the other served God in the Temple.  How can people in the same family be so different spiritually?  Though the parental training is an important influence, and parents will be held accountable for teaching their children to love and obey God, there is more.

Many faithful believers were not raised in Christian homes.  Many who were raised in Christian families do not follow Jesus today.  Good or bad, one cannot rely on the faith of their parents.  Nor will it be acceptable to blame bad experiences or bad examples for turning away from the LORD.  The words of the Apostle Paul explain how personal this life-changing decision is: "If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Parent's Greatest Joy

Read 2 Chronicles 21.

King Jehoram was raised by a one of the finest, God-fearing kings of Judah.  Being the first born, he inherited the throne.  Yet, his true character became apparent almost immediately.  He married an ungodly woman who had been raised by the wicked King Ahab and Jezebel of Israel.  Next, he slaughtered all his own younger brothers so he alone would possess the wealth his father amassed.  Then, he led the nation into worshiping false gods.

In response, the LORD sent a message from the Prophet Elijah.  Peace was taken from Judah.  Judah lost some of the surrounding territory previously conquered.  Jehoram lost all his wealth, and family, and health.  The only reason God did not destroy Judah altogether due this king's heinous sins was due to the eternal covenant promise made to King David.

Godly parents do not guarantee godly children.  Proverbs 22:6 is a principle and the hope of Christian parents but not a guarantee.  Children are a heritage and gift from the LORD, not biological accidents (Psalm 127:3).  Many scriptures charge parents to train their children in the word and ways of the God (Deuteronomy 6:7).  But as the saying goes, "God has no grandchildren."

Each one must personally come to understand and commit themselves to the LORD.  No one can do it for them.  Each one will give an account of themselves to God (Romans 14:10-12).  All the more reason why parents should do everything they can to know the Bible, teach their own children how to put it into real life, and model godly behavior 24 hours a day.  Quite a responsibility.  Perhaps the greatest practice of all is praying for one's children and not giving up on them.

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Power of Praise

Read 2 Chronicles 20.

A person's true character is revealed when they are threatened.

King Jehoshaphat received  the news of allied armies coming toward Judah.  A leader who relies on human strength would have mustered his own soldiers and called upon neighboring nations to join the fight.  Those who rely on themselves would have thought positive thoughts, made an inspiration talk, and hoped for the best.  A weak person would have caved in, feeling overwhelmed, realizing they did not have the resources to face the challenge.

Not so with this king.  Yes, he was afraid when he got the bad news.  But his first response was to pray and fast, seeking God's help.  Because his people were being threatened, he called them together for prayer.  In his prayer, we learn of a lot about Jehoshaphat's view of God.
-He is the God of heaven.
-He is sovereign and rules over the nations.
-He is omnipotent.
-He has proven His power in the past.
-He hears and answers prayer.

The king acknowledged his helplessness and that he did "not know what to do.  But our eyes are on you."  In those times of desperation, it is just like God to send a friend with message of hope and encouragement.  Jahaziel delivered such a good word.
-Do not be afraid.
-The battle is not yours but God's.
-Stand firm and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf.
-The LORD will be with you.
With those assurances, one could face any challenge in life.

What did the king do to face the enemy?  He organized the singers to lead and worship the LORD as they marched.  A strange military strategy, if they were relying on themselves.  But their faith was in God and in one of the most fascinating battles of record, God protected them, destroyed the enemy, and provided more resources than they could carry away in three days of work.

What threatening challenge are you facing today?  "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Judging Others Biblically

Read 2 Chronicles 19.

King Jehoshaphat made a bad decision.  He joined with the northern kingdom of Israel in a war when God said, "No."  Only by God's grace did he escape death.  When he arrived back home in Jerusalem, the LORD sent a prophet to rebuke him for what he had done.  However, Jehoshaphat was a good man and loved God.  Much remained for him to do in continuing the reforms he started.

He personally pursued some people who had been scattered or alienated to bring them "back to the LORD."  Then, he reestablished the nation's judicial system from top to bottom.  Judges were appointed, nationally and locally.  In the past, judgments had been corrupted.  But such injustices would no longer be tolerated in Judah.

Note the charge to these judges:
1. "You judge not for man but for the LORD."  v.6a
They were to represent the LORD in making their decisions.  That required that they know the word of God and seek to do what is right in God's eyes.  Right judgment is not to be determined by popular opinion, nor by respect of persons.

2. The LORD "is with you in giving judgment."  v.6b
Judges must make the hard call.  They are human, too.  They have feelings and even, at times, can second guess themselves.  But people look to them to make a decision.  This is true in the church also.  In Matthew 18:20, when a decision must be made concerning an unrepentant offender in the congregation, and the two or three witnesses have been heard, Jesus said, "there am I among you."

3. "Let the fear of the LORD be upon you."  v.7a
No judgment is to be handed down lightly, thoughtlessly, or selfishly.  Judicial decisions are accountable to the Source of all authority.  Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).  More specifically, Jesus announced that the Father "has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22).

4. "Deal courageously." v.11
In light of all the support God has provided to judges (His word, His presence, His authority), they are to serve with bold confidence.

God, give us these kinds of judges for our nation today.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wise People seek Wise Counsel

Read 2 Chronicles 18.

Often during these times, especially with kings, international alliances were secured through arranged marriages.  Such was the case with the godly King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the wicked King Ahab of Israel.

Ahab asked his son-in-law to join forces and go to war with him.  Jehoshaphat would not agree until first they sought counsel from God.  Ahab turned to his 400 prophets of the false god Baal.  These phony seers even claimed to speak for the God of heaven (v.10-11).  But the LORD allowed "a lying spirit" (v.21) to be the counsel of Ahab's spiritual advisers.  Jesus called Satan "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

Wisely, the King of Judah asked for a word from a prophet of the LORD.  Ahab knew of one, but he hated Micaiah because the word of the LORD was always against him.  He knew his life and kingdom were in opposition to the God of heaven, but he sought to go on in that direction anyway.  That is a definition of insanity.

Ahab did not listen and it cost him his life.  Jehoshaphat went along and narrowly escaped by the grace of God.

Micaiah's commitment to the word of God is one that every one who would speak on God's behalf-pastor, preacher, Bible teacher, believer- must have:
"As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak."

Sometimes what God has to say is a hard message.  Sometimes those who hear what God has to say will reject it.  But to those who have open hearts to respond to the LORD, His messages are wonderful words of life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

5 Keys to a Blessed Life

Read 2 Chronicles 17.

Everyone wants to enjoy the blessings of God in life.  Few employ the principles.

Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, followed his father to the throne of Judah.  We are provided with a list of reasons why he was a good king for the people and blessed by God.

1. "He walked in the earlier ways of his father David."
King Jehoshaphat understood his heritage.  He did not get to where he was by himself, nor by some accident.  He was born into a family whose individuals possessed personal faith in God.  It was his ancestor David whom God had chosen to be the royal family for Israel forever.  David had a whole heart for God and this new king had the same desire.

2. "He sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments."
He inquired of the LORD and His word so he would know how to live and fulfill his responsibilities.

3. He did not behave like others who did not follow God. 
He lived life and ruled in great contrast to the surrounding cultures.

4. "His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD."
Faith was not merely a belief system for Jehoshaphat.  He took bold steps of action to put God's word into practice.  When he saw something that displeased God, he took action to rid his nation of the sin.

5. He ensured peace through preparation.
For the king, he maintained peace in the region through amassing military strength.  He maintained personal peace through spiritual discipline.

The results?
-He became financially blessed.
-He was honored by his people.
-His neighbors experienced the fear of the LORD and respected him.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Danger of Success

Read 2 Chronicles 16.

All stories do not have happy endings.  One may be incredibly successful at some point in their lives and then destroy their legacy with later, foolish decisions.  History, and even personal friendships, are replete with examples.  Unfortunately, King Asa was one of those.  He started so well but he did not finish well.

In his early years, he relied on the LORD to guide and establish him.  But in the latter years, when the northern kingdom of Israel began building a blockade against him, he faltered.  The alliance with a neighbor did not seem to be a violation in itself.  The text is clear, however, that Asa looked to human resources for continued success in the place of relying on God first.  Note that this is the same challenge Asa faced in chapter 14 when he prayed and God gave him victory.

It is usually not the new challenge that trips us up.  Most often, it is the same one that has been nagging at us for some time.

There is a difference then in one using resources (personal gifts, abilities, skills, finances, other people) in life versus relying solely on them.  Or, as my friend Dr. John Maxwell has written, "talent is not enough."

At this point, what Asa missed most in his understanding of life and his relationship with God was this:
"For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him."

God is looking-searching-for individuals who need His strong support.  The price is purity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Power of Influence

Read 2 Chronicles 15.

Never underestimate the power of your personal influence.  For better or for worse, we influence those around us.  For many, eternity is at stake.  How crucial it is then to be careful that God is in control of our lives!  

Asa was a good king in Judah.  His loyalty and dependence upon God had already been proven.  Yet, there was so much more to accomplish with his life and leadership.  After the battle was over, this leader could have claimed that he was tired and need to back off for awhile.  The LORD sent Azariah to speak to the king.  Here, the prophet's message included some basic principles of understanding God and how He works with individuals and nations.  His conclusion: "But you, take courage!  Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded."

That was all the Asa needed to energize him and lead the nation to completing the spiritual tasks he started in chapter 14.  He vigorously got rid of those things that displease the LORD.  He repaired those things used to worship God.  When he stepped up, the people followed his lead.  Leadership is influence.

One person influencing another resulted in the spiritual revival of an entire kingdom.  Whose life can you influence today for God and for good?

Be encouraged.
Be strong.
Finish the spiritual work.
Seek the LORD with all our heart and soul.
There is a reward for being faithful.

Monday, March 11, 2013

3 Life-Values needed Today

Read 2 Chronicles 14.

What more information do we need about King Asa than verse 2?  "And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God."

There were at least three solid guiding life-values evident in this chapter.

1. Purity.
His life and leadership were in direct alignment with what God wanted done.
He vigorously dealt with the present spiritual needs in getting rid of false worship and demanding obedience to God's word.

2. Preparation.
Good times do not last forever.  He used this time of peace and prosperity to equip for future needs.

3. Prayer.
When the test came, he was spiritually ready and the resources were in place.  Though prepared, the odds against him were still overwhelming.  His trust was not in the intelligence of his planning or the size of his defenses.  His reliance was on God alone.

"O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you..." (v.11a)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

4 Timeless Principles for a Victorious Life

Read 2 Chronicles 13.

Abijah became the new king in Judah.  He was a reformer and led the southern kingdom back to full obedience to the LORD.  He could no longer stand by and watch most to God's chosen people live in open sin.

Previously, God had stopped Rehoboam from civil war.  This time He would fight for Abijah.  Judah was out-numbered 2 to 1 but that did not matter.  As David's best friend, Jonathan, once declared, "nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few." (1 Samuel 14:6)

In his speech to the rebels of the north, Abijah raised the following issues:
1. God chose the lineage of David to reign over all of these people.
2. The nation divided due to Rehoboam surrounding himself with scoundrels, his youth and that he was weak as a leader.
3. Jeroboam led the split-off northern kingdom away from God and into idol worship.
4. Jeroboam rid the north of any spiritual leadership that followed the LORD.

Abijah's affirmations are timeless principles for a victorious life.
1. There was a personal commitment to God.
"But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him." (v.10)

2. There was complete obedience to God's word.
"We keep the charge of the LORD." (v.11)

3. There was submission to God's leadership in their decisions.
"God is with us at our head." (v.12)

4. There was a conscience dependency upon God.
"They relied on the LORD." (v.18)

Friday, March 8, 2013

What does it take to get your Attention?

Read 2 Chronicles 12.

The reason for the failure of Rehoboam in life and as a leader is in the first verse.  He "abandoned the law of the LORD..."  And, as with any person of influence, others followed his example.

But these were God's people, living on the land that God had given to them, enjoying the blessings of God.  The LORD does not stand by idly while people misuse, abuse or are unfaithful with His stuff.  In the case of nations, God uses opposing nations to pressure or conquer those who refuse to listen to Him.

The Egyptians threatened to destroy the southern kingdom of Judah.  In God's faithfulness, He sent the Prophet Shemaiah a second time to Rehoboam.  The message from God was short and clear: "You abandoned Me, so I have abandoned you to the Egyptians."  It took this type of pressure and this sharp word from God to finally gain Rehoboam's attention.  He, along with his top leaders, humbled themselves before the LORD in an act of repentance.

God responded by sparing the people from total destruction.  However, the Egyptians did take "everything" of value that Solomon had amassed and the people lived in servitude.

1. No one gets away with ignoring or abandoning God's word and His claim on their lives.  
It may seem that way to us as we observe those who live and/or lead in disobedience to God.  But sooner or later the Divine intervention will come.  The Owner of all things will hold each individual accountable, either here or at the Judgment.

2. The question for all of us is: What does God have to do in order to get our attention so we will listen and respond to Him?
-For many who have hardened their hearts, the loss of home, health, wealth, relationships, etc. appear to have no effect.  God is speaking loudly, but they refuse to listen.
-For many others whose hearts are open, when the pressure or loss comes, they realize that God is their only  source of true hope and help.  Their response to Him begins a lifelong personal relationship that can weather any storm.
-For some who have tender hearts toward God, they live expectantly and dependently on the LORD.  So, God does not have to shout to gain their attention.  He has it all the time.  The Prophet Elijah heard the voice of LORD in "the sound of a low whisper." (1 Kings 19:12b)

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Enemy of Building Relationships

Read 2 Chronicles 11.

The nation had split in two.  In the north, Jeroboam led ten of the twelve tribes and, therefore, retained the name Israel for their kingdom name.  In the south, Rehoboam was king over the tribes of Judah (the largest of the twelve) and Benjamin (the smallest of the twelve).  They used the name Judah as their kingdom name.

Rehoboam announced that he would rule harshly.  The people, not only did not comply, most of them left his kingdom.  This prompted the king to make his second foolish decision.  He mustered his army to launch civil war.  God sent Shemaiah with a message to stop.  Thankfully, this time Rehoboam listened to God's word.

The LORD handed King Rehoboam an unparalleled opportunity.  He turned it into a disaster.  His enemy was not his fellow Israelites.  His greatest enemy was himself.

Two warnings for today:
1. Beware of self-importance.  It can lead a person to abuse their position and power, whether as a spouse, a parent, an employee, or a leader.   The sin of pride easily prompts mistreatment of others.  It causes one to consider relationships as dispensable. 

2. Be aware of personal insecurities.  The sin of fear can cause a person to be just as abusive as an ego-maniac.  To defend themselves against any and all threats, insecure people often react to others abruptly, sarcastically, or harshly in order to protect themselves.

Often, it is hard to initially tell the difference.  The outcomes of broken relationships and lost opportunities can be the same.

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned."  (Romans 12:3)   

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Second look at a bad Decision

Read 1 Chronicles 10.

With a change in leadership, the nation looked for relief from the burdens of King Solomon; namely, the style of leadership, amount of work, and taxes.

The new king, Rehoboam, had been given an opportunity to be more popular than his famous father.  He inherited this expanded kingdom and all its wealth.  There could not have been anything lacking.  But this inaugural decision required wisdom and character.  Rehoboam had neither one.

Solomon wrote, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)

There is no indication that Rehoboam tried to understand what God wanted him to do.  Given that, there was no way his leadership would ever last.  Solomon also left the new king an advisory council to provide guidance in making important decisions.  He met with them but ignored their wisdom.  His young, foolish friends possessed greedy agendas and swayed the king away from what was right.

Meanwhile, Jeroboam and ten of the twelve tribes of Israel waited for an answer.  The disastrous decision split the nation in two, leaving only Judah and Benjamin to remain under Rehoboam's leadership.

Two insights for us today from verse 15:
1. "So the king did not listen to the people..."
A good leader listens.  That does not mean that every decision will be popular with the majority, but it does mean that those under that leadership feel heard.  It requires wisdom and skill to navigate what was said to make a right decision.  As a local talk show says, "It is not what is right or left.  It is what is right or wrong."

2. " was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the LORD might fulfill his word..."
When an authority makes a bad decision, a wrong decision, or even a sinful one there is One in heaven who is the Ultimate Authority.  It requires a spiritual perspective for followers to look beyond the human leader and trust God for the outcome.  None of this caught God by surprise.  He predicted it.  And, the story has not concluded.  One day every wrong will be made right.  Every sin will be judged.  Every faithful person will be rewarded.