When Stones Really Do Talk

Could a Pebble control your life?

In Luke 19:40 when the people are praising Jesus, the Pharisees deride him, and Jesus answers that if the people were silent, the stones themselves would testify of His greatness.  As we continue the series on the simple proclaiming God’s greatness, there is an Old Testament passage where a pebble overthrows the edict of an emperor.

Imagine if you were a Jew in 5th century Persia, on your way to worship you pass by the market and hear the proclamation, “On the 13th day of the 12th month Adar, anyone of Jewish descent is to be destroyed, including women and children, and whoever destroys any Jewish inhabitant, can have their goods, homes, businesses, and livestock for their own. – Signed Haman by order of his Lord Sovereign Ahasuerus the King.”

Would you feel much like worshiping? It is very easy as a believer to watch as similar declarations that attack the moral fiber of our nation are made on a continual basis. It is no surprise that this world is not a friend of righteousness and in fact many in the name of love have vehemently persecuted and sought to destroy those who stand by the truths of Scripture.

As we continue the series on the greatness of God shown through the small things, I was struck by a phrase in Esther 3:7, “They cast Pur, that is, the lot….” What is taking place in this passage?

The Empire’s second in command Haman in a revengeful act planned to eliminate the entire Jewish race, fortunebut his superstitious nature would not allow him to do it without the blessing from the pagan soothsayers. After the lot is cast, Haman is told that the best time to have the blessing of the gods is on the thirteenth of the last month of the year. Haman gets the blessing and edict of the king, and begins to wait nearly 11 months to destroy the Jews. And this is a very good thing.

How is that a good thing? At the outset, God’s chosen people would be destroyed by an irrevocable edict sealed-1240922from the king, but the Persian king’s edict is predicated by an even greater King’s edict. The Persian King Ahasuerus signed his edict with his signet ring, and commanded heralds to be sent throughout every province of his kingdom, the Heavenly king proclaimed His will with a little more subtlety, but with even more certainty.

Let’s take a quick look at the practice of the casting of the Pur. The word Pur is not Jewish, both times when the word is mentioned it is then explained as the Hebrew goral which refers to a rough object or pebble (Strong’s). Before the Jews even knew they were in trouble, Haman went to consult a bunch of rocks. The passage does not state the particulars, but it was common in ancient times especially amongst fortune tellers, to have a bag of different colored or shaped pebbles that when aligned or chosen could be interpreted by the priests.

“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Even amidst the horrendous decree, God is in control before the decree hits the Persian courtroom floor. Haman who refused to be ruled by God and set himself up as the ultimate authority in his life is still being controlled by God. Haman is living out the oft forgotten principle that, “It’s kinda hard to outrun Omnipotence.”

If we were to step back from the immediate context and work through a few details, we can see the unwavering hand of God. Why wait 11 months to kill the Jews, because the red pebble says so. Where did pebbles-1388488the red pebble come from, Shanbenezzer picked it up by the river. Why did the river deposit the rock for Shanbenezzer, because of the late spring flood. Why the late spring flood, because of the barometric pressure in the western mountains. Why the western mountains, because that is the way God sculpted the world. Why the topography of the earth….Because God knew Shanbenezzer needed to find the red pebble for Haman, because He loves His people. God was thinking about Esther and His people for a long time. And God is thinking about whatever red pebble seemingly dictates your life and mine.

In fact, God is a master at redeeming horrendous circumstances and trials in order to show Himself strong. The Jews had nearly 3 months to seek God’s face, repent, and pray before God moved to officially change the Persian king’s edict (Esther 8:9). But the fact remains that God is big enough to use a vengeful man, pagan priests, and a little pebble, to ensure that His power is known, because after all, God’s edict never changed.

Why Ravens

What Could God Want with These Scavengers?

Have you ever wondered why God puts certain details in the Bible? God doesn’t waste ink. God’s Word has incredible riches sometimes laying out in the open, and then there are times when He has us dig a little. Today I want to ask you to roll up your sleeves and dig a little with me as we answer the question, “Why Ravens?”

In I Kings 17:1-6, Elijah has his debut and is introduced as a prophet of God. God commands the new prophet to go and deliver a message to the wicked king Ahab who has chosen to reject the God of the Bible and institute Baal worship. After Elijah tells the king that there will be a drought and Jehovah God is in control of the rain, he is told to run and hide. (Good idea after telling a king that he is a wicked pagan, and that his economy is going to tank.) Then we see in verse 4 that God in his faithfulness is going to provide for all of Elijah’s needs and that God will send his servants to feed Elijah in the wilderness.

Elijah trusted God. He trusted when it made sense vs. 2-3. He trusted God when it didn’t make sense vs. 4.  raven-1312094Imagine the prophet of God, “What’s the Word?”  “Talk to the king, run hide.” “So like you got robin Hood hiding out in Jordan forest? How am I going to eat?” “I am going to have my servants bring you the food.” “Wow, room service. I can do this prophesying thing.” I will send Ravens.” “What they are unclean, I can’t eat that.” “You won’t have to, they are the chiefs.” “What?” “Go.”

After God tells Elijah His plan, he obeys and Elijah gets to see God fulfill His promises (6). The Word of the Lord came to pass (6). The moment God spoke the words into existence it happened. God never forgets His promise. As extraordinary as this plan sounds, God promised it in verse 4, and we see it coming to pass in verse 6 and 7. There was no rain, and there were always birds. They came twice a day. Gbread-1329360od ensured that for hundreds and hundreds of flights, his servant was fed. God promised, and delivered.

Because of Elijah’s trust, God provides a lesson. First of all, God provided protection. The first specific mention of Ravens is in Genesis 8:7, “And he (Noah) sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” God protected the Raven species through impossible odds. Think of it. There are only two ravens alive on the ark, one bird leaves without coming back. Assuming there was not a nest of baby crows in the rafters, somehow the raven mate finds the other raven after the most catastrophic disaster in history, build a nest, and survive long enough to have baby ravens in order to provide for God’s prophet close to 2,000 years in the future. God protected His servants in order to provide for His prophet. (We can all be thankful that God didn’t choose the Dodo bird as his messengers.)

God also protected through uncommon means. Leviticus 11:13-15 states that ravens were unclean animals and could not be eaten by the Jewish people. Sometimes God’s laws don’t seem to make sense, but He has a plan. Just work with me here. If the Raven could be eaten what do you suppose would have happened during a famine? They would have eaten God’s messengers. I am sure some of the Israelites disobeyed God and were eating ravens, but for hundreds of years the Israeli “DNR” had posted no hunting signs, in order to keep Elijah fed. Even with God’s amazing provision, Elijah learned that he had to trust God daily.

God delights in putting his people in positions that do not make sense, so that they will trust Him more.

     In this very short story, God showed that He was in control. A seemingly insignificant prophet stands up and obeys God. Who knows how many child sacrifices were stopped or souls are in heaven because of that one act of obedience. The ravens obeyed and allowed for God to be glorified and provided for the next phase of Elijah’s spectacular ministry.

If we stopped there, we would be able to gather many nuggets of truth and be comforted that a faithful God provided for faithful servants.  Even though that is true, if we dig a little deeper, the immensity of God’s power resounds through the story like a thunderbolt.

Why a drought? Why didn’t God answer quickly like He does in the next chapter with a ball of fire? Why ravens? God could certainly have used the 7,000 servants who had not bowed down to Baal for food and shelter. If we step back to I Kings 16:30-32, we would see that this story about the ravens is predicated by the official establishment of the Canaanite worship of Baal.330px-Baal_thunderbolt_Louvre_AO15775

In the pantheon of gods, Baal was the chief deity. His name actually means lord or master. Many ancient religions held to the idea that differing deities were in charge of various aspects of life. We see this idea in I Kings 20:23 when the Syrians attempt to conquer Israel in the plains because they believed Jehovah was only the god of the hills. Baal’s area of power centered on three specific areas. He was in charge of rain (he is often pictured with a thunderbolt), grain, and fertility especially the first born.(1)

So when God sends Elijah to make a proclamation of drought to the king, he is claiming ownership over Baal’s territory. This story is not simply about the faithfulness of a beginning prophet, or the fate of a nation. This is a territorial battle of the gods, because Jehovah struck directly at the center of Baal worship. If it rained, Baal was God, if it didn’t Jehovah deserved worship. Even in God’s judgment He is merciful. He gave the nation of Israel 3 ½ years to observe that He ruleth in the affairs of men.

Because the rains didn’t come, the grain failed. Once again God is “allowing” Baal to answer on enkihis home turf. Every morning as the men of Israel woke up from hunger pains and watched the dust blow across the plains, they had to admit that Jehovah had defeated Baal. To make the story even more intriguing, Canaanite worship revered ravens as the messengers of the gods.

After the brook dried up, Elijah then is commanded to go to Phoenicia the center of Baal worship. (2) While there he finds a starving widow, provides an endless amount of grain for her, and then through the power of God, raises a boy to life. All in Baal’s home court. It’s as if God stood up in the heavens stuffed Baal and proclaimed, “Not in my house!”

How have you seen God working in miraculous ways?  I would love to read about the way God has used “ravens” in your life.

_______

1). As Baal was worshiped and adopted by many pagan religions his name, and responsibilities did vary, but the three major areas were that of rain, grain, and life

2). F.C. Fensham, “A Few Observations on the Polarization between Yahweh and Baal in I Kings 17—19,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 92:2 (1980):234

3).  Also see Constable’s electronic notes on I Kings 17 soniclight.org

Spiritual Discernment

shield-492989_1280

 “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14

     Spiritual discernment is as vital to the health of a Christian as eating vegetables is to the human body. Without the use of discernment, through the proper application of God’s Word, we will never be able to know God more fully or grow in our relationship with Him. We will bandwagon with lies and live by what makes sense to our untrained minds and reckless emotions!

The spiritually undiscerning will often hide behind very powerful truths they misunderstand and misapply.

One example of this is the phrase: ‘God knows my heart.’  The implication is, ‘because God knows my heart, you can’t judge me!’ This is often used to defend one’s actions, particularly when confronted by another believer. While it is true that God does know our hearts . . . This should be cause for the individual to genuinely beg God for a revelation of their own heart instead of a complacent, apathetic, and or stubborn lack of searching and application of God’s Word.  James tells us in 3:17 that true wisdom will listen to admonition instead of denying error so change does not have to be considered. May we never forget that one of the chief reasons for a church is so that others may prod us out of our self-deceived complacency and remind us of who God is and what He requires (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The church as a whole has way too much trust in their own hearts which God says are, “deceitful above all else and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9.). We have very little trust for the Creator of our hearts. We are out of practice when it comes to a teachable spirit and a total dependence upon the Word of God to guide our lives. Conversely, we have perfected, to the point of incompetency, the misapplication of individual soul liberty and frivolous feeling driven doctrines.

Woe to anyone who would dare speak contrary to the passions and ideals of the heart. We throw verses at anyone who challenges our lifestyle. Like Satan, we twist Scripture from its original meaning and proudly proclaim, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Math 7:1) Or “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”   (I Samuel16:7)

The spiritually undiscerning Christian will take these and other verses out of context and pick and choose Scripture passages that meet their already achieved level of Christianity. However, they will neglect such verses as Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore  wrong-way-167535_1280such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” James 5:19-20, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained a brother.” Titus 1:13, “. . . Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;”

The undiscerning Christian will not allow another individual to scrutinize their actions for several reasons: God knows the heart, the confronting Christian has faults, and they’ve prayed about it. This kind of individual will not take time to consider the possibility that they have erred.  Sadly, they are often more concerned with their current position in life being confirmed as right than wanting to be stretched and shown their sin.

This is not to say that every instance where a confrontation takes place will always be accurate or even done in the right spirit. Yet, the spiritually discerning individual will welcome Biblical confrontation.  “A wise man will hear and increase learning.” (Proverbs 1:5)  We cannot embrace some portions of Scripture and neglect other portions and present ourselves as those who are exercising or training unto godliness. (I Timothy 4:7, “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godlintruth-166853_1280ess.”) The Lord wants us to test the things we see and not mindlessly accept them. “He wants us to hold them up to the standard of Scripture and discern whether they line up with God’s plumb line.”(1)

Discernment is crucial to the body of Christ, and is played out by individual believers interacting with the Word of God. When God has clearly spoken our application is a priority that requires no hesitation. In other words, we don’t need to pray about what God has already outlined for us in Scripture. Discernment is played out by individuals recognizing their own faults through Scripture. We then apply God’s grace to our own sin, so that we are qualified to gently, caringly, firmly, and even sharply point other believers to the Savior (Mat 7:3-6). Those who are willing to mutilate Scripture for their own purposes will be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14), and will defend their unstable Christianity because it endangers their pride to do otherwise.

Lack of discernment can be due to lack of maturity (an element of youth in the LORD). This immaturity  is a natural process of the Christian life, however, one of the main characteristics of immaturity is an unawareness of one’s inability. This is why throughout Scripture, God commands His people to help each other along the pathway of holiness. The babes in Christ need to be nurtured and fed milk. There ought to be a time, however, when the baby moves on to solid food. If this does not occur, it is the responsibility and obligation of the mature Christian to confront and point out their sin, I Corinthians 3:1-3a, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: . . .”

Once believers have been made aware of an immaturity and refuse to submit to Scripture, the issue then is not a lack of maturity but rebellion. This rebellion results from a lack of discernment due to one’s own neglect to consistently meditate on and apply Scripture. This mentality has nothing to do with youth and everything to do with disobedience! Belief determines behavior; what do your actions reveal about your beliefs?

Written By Christa Mielke

Christa has served the Lord faithfully alongside her husband in full time ministry since 2007.  She has a passion to introduce people to the beauty of a Christ-Centered relationship. She holds a BA in Biblical Studies and Sacred Music and has written extensively on adult and young women’s issues.  Even as a full time mother of three and wife to (one) high maintenance and slightly deranged husband, she still finds time to grow her relationship with God through concentrated Bible and book studies.

———

1) Kassion, DeMoss, True Woman 201, pg. 35.

Immortal Believers

The_Last_HOPE

What would you do if you knew you would not die? A promise of ‘immortality’ was given to a man in the Bible. Luke 2:25-26 states, “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Simeon was immortal. He had been promised by God that He would not die before the Messiah came. I cannot help but imagine as he wakes up and his ancient wife looks over at him and asks, “So honey, what are you going to do today?” “I think I’m gonna go bungee jumping, without a cord, and then maybe go down to the Dead sea salt pits and do some BMX cameling, and then if there is time, maybe play a little pin the tail on the centurion!” And that is why God hasn’t given me the promise that I would not die. Simeon cherished the privilege God had given him. He continued to live a life focused on God. It seems that every day he was at the temple, it was like he was preparing to meet the King.

The only things we know of Simeon are the things that matter to God. “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout” He was a man of right character. His faith in God applied to real life. He had an inside out relationship with men. His just actions flowed from a right heart. His faith in God affected his conduct, what he believed about God came out in his actions. His actions were a monument to all who met him, that he had complete trust in his God.  

When I continually choose sin, I have erected a monument that tells everyone around me, God is incapable of delivering me.

“Same man was just and devout.” He was a man of right standing with God. Could you imagine being called devout by God? That description only comes through a sole focus. He wanted to know God and please God. He was not distracted by the peripheral things of life. He knew how to worship God in spirit and in truth. Not only did he have right actions (just), he had the right focus. Because of Simeon’s devotion, he had just actions and right motives.

Right motives without right actions are pointless, right actions without right motives are a lie.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon…. waiting for the consolation of Israel:”  Simeon was also a man of hope. His hope came from believing God. Simeon had lived before the Roman occupation, he had seen the corruption of the priests and civil leaders.  He longed for the day when God’s true King would come. All throughout this turbulent time, he had been listening to and waiting for the consolation of God. Simeon’s mind was saturated with the promises of God from ancient text. God had promised peace (Isa 9:6), He had promised light (Isa 9:2) He had promised a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He had promised restoration. Simeon’s hope destroyed fear.

Simeon’s faith left no room for fear. He announced the King in the capital city of the tyrant king Herod who killed his own kids because he was suspicious of treason. Simeon may as well have signed his death warrant, but he couldn’t keep quiet after seeing Jesus (2:30). His hope came from listening to God. His future hope caused his present faithfulness, and at the end, he once again found God to be faithful, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:” (Luke 2:29)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” He looked forward to his reward. Simeon was ready to die, because he knew how to live. (Phil 1:21). He was not afraid of death, because he looked for the King of Life. He was at peace with His maker. Imagine Simeon with his crutch and over-sized robe clinging to his ancient body happily limping home that night, probably singing a song of David. We don’t even know if he made it home to tell his family, but I am sure that when he did pass on, there was a smile on his face. And then fast forward into the future, Simeon no longer limps, and his cataract filled eyes are all healed as he looks up at the face of his Savior and exclaims, “Hey you’ve got a beard now.”

So what would you do for God if you knew you were immortal?

A Duel of Words

conversation

How much of my conversation is about me? I am not talking about verbal “selfies” where I continually talk about my own abilities or talents, but how often do I talk because I want vindication?

According to the Oxford dictionary conversation as a noun entails, “The informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.” But how often do we smuggle more into our conversations than they are designed to carry? We weigh our conversation semis down with more cargo than a Mexican drug lord and hope that we can get across the border?

An ancient wise man when having a heated debate with his friend comments on this issue of selfish conversation in Job 20:1-3. “Then Zophar the Naamathite answered: 2 ‘Because of my feelings within me. 3 When I hear a reproof that dishonors me, then my understanding prompts me to answer.” Wow, count the personal pronouns there.

     How often do we talk because we want to vent our feelings? There is no better way to make a conversation about me than to make my feelings a basis for talking. A lot of conversations would be clarified if I simply wore a sign saying, “It’s all about me!” I share thoughts that have become personal to me (like my favorite sports team or movie), and then when someone has the nerve to disagree, WHAMO! My feelings are hurt. Our society has somehow made conversation a centerpiece for meaning and personal value, rather than a test tube where we experiment with ideas.

For example: If I were to be talking with you in a normal conversation and said, “That is a ridiculous idea, how could anyone believe the world is flat.” Unless you pulled a Rumpelstiltskin and were asleep for 500 years, you probably would not take any offense. However, if I changed the factors slightly and I said, “That is ridiculous, how could anyone believe in your (clothing brand, girlfriend, political candidate)?” I would imagine there would be a little more personal value inherent in your response. You see, the conversation has gone from an exchange of ideas to an acceptance of person. My reactions get stronger because the stakes are now higher, I am no longer battling for an idea, but for my own worth and value. Being proven right is now a matter of honor, “I challenge you to a duel!”

     How often do we talk because we have been dishonored? These verbal duels are less likely to have a true conversation than a blind man at a mime convention. Because we have been personally dishonored, we cut people off like a NASCAR driver and send them into the rails. Even if we do not verbally shut people down, we have quit listening to them, so that we can better formulate our next offensive move. We are surprised that they had the audacity to share something about themselves, or even worse…. suggest something that we should consider changing. It is in these moments that it is much simpler not to heed Proverbs 15:32, “He that hears reproof gets understanding.”

So how do we change or to get back to the exchange of ideas? Realize feelings are not the basis for truth, and realize that ideas can be dissected but people shouldn’t (unless they are dead and then they don’t really mind).

You will find that the most stubborn, obnoxious, bull-headed people are not those that are the most sure, but the most insecure.

Please leave your comments, it would make me feel good….

Is Heaven Handicapped Accessible?

Is Heaven Handicapped Accessible?

In II Samuel 4 and 9 God tells a very interesting story that is filled with application for the 21st century believer. II Samuel 4:4 tells of the night King Saul’s dynasty ended and the royal grandson Mephibosheth fell in the escape and was crippled for life. For 20 years the sole survivor of the line of King Saul remained hidden in obscurity. Until the reigning king David began to ask some questions regarding the last heir to the throne in a time where it was customary to dispose of any relatives of the previous dynasty.

Mephibosheth’s case seemed to be special as he was a cripple. He was unable to help himself and depended on mercy to survive. As a cripple in an agrarian society, he added nothing to the kingdom. He was actually a liability, it is very likely that he took more than he gave. He had no hope of recovery. He had been crippled for over 20 years. He had no hope of a better future. His days more than likely consisted of working in whatever way he could, getting his ‘paycheck’ waiting for the grave. He had slipped into survival mode.

Mankind’s position resembles Mephibosheth in the spiritual realm. We are crippled by our sin (Rodepressedm 3:11). We are unable to help ourselves (Mt 6:27). We cannot survive by ourselves. We cannot help ourselves. Spiritually we are dead (Eph 2:1-4). We have no hope, “Having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12). By ourselves there is no hope of recovery from sin. We have no hope of a better future. Like Mephibosheth we can limp along, but we know that all we are doing is simply surviving. Even if we become fabulously wealthy, all we would be doing is surviving, because some day death will knock at our door, and you and I will be too crippled to outrun him. Our story ends with an assurance that we cannot help ourselves.

But the story continues. The king summons, the cripple in II Samuel 9:1-7

“And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? 2 And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. 3 And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 4 And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar. 5 Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar. 6 Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! 7 And David said unto him, Fear not:”

“What would have happened if Mephibosheth had let his fear keep him from coming to the King?”

Put yourself in Mephibosheth’s sandals. Imagine you are at your house and suddenly there is a knock at the door. You call for your young son, or maybe your wife to open the door because you can’t get up and as the door opens; your heart stops at the sight of a company of soldiers and an ambassador wearing the king’s insignia. What would you be thinking as the sole surviving heir to the previous king?

You try to stand out of reverence and respect but as you do, you clumsily fall to the floor. As you struggle to get up, you would half expect to see your son taken away or possibly have a spear plunged into your side. Before meeting the king, Mephibosheth was unsure of his standing.

Mephibosheth was accepted. He was accepted for Jonathan’s sake (9:1,7). Mephibosheth had no worthiness, He was accepted because he was loved by Jonathon. Mephibosheth was afraid to stand before the king. He was afraid because he did not know he was already accepted.

As people, when the Great King summons there is a scary and hesitant uneasiness in our lives before we actually meet the king. We are accepted by the King. Like Mephibosheth we have nothing to give the King. When the King summons, and we stand before His perfect throne what merit or worth do we have to stand before the King of the Universe? We are liabilities to God’s kingdom, all we can do is take, but we are accepted for Christ’s sake (Eph 4:32). We are accepted, yet we must be willing to come to the King. Mephibosheth could have stood up and said, “I will not be treated like this, don’t you know who I am, I am the rightful king, I don’t want your mercy, I demand your surrender and allegiance!” Would he have found grace if he rejected David’s offer of mercy? You and I cannot receive grace until we realize we do not deserve it and cannot earn it.

Mephibosheth was given riches (II Samuel 9:7-13). He was given the land of a king. He was given an entire mansion. He was given vineyards already planted. He was given servants to take care of him

Every single one of his needs were taken care of. He wanted for nothing. He was invited to eat at the King’s table. The tablewriter didn’t want us to miss the importance of sitting with the King (II Samuel 9:7,10,11,13). He was able to eat the must succulent dishes all the time. The table was a place reserved for royalty and sons. He was able to have fellowship with the king.

What do you think the nobles and royalty thought about a cripple eating at “their” table? Could you imagine the times at court that the nobles had to wait for the cripple to get down the hallway and had to wait as he hobbled to get into his chair. Do you think they wanted to hide the cripple when a visiting dignitary from Egypt came? But the king waited.

In the same way, God waits for us. We are given the riches of a King on behalf of the King’s Son. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Php 4:19)

We are given the land of a King. We are allowed entrance into heaven (John 14:2). We are allowed entrance based on what Christ did. We have servants to take care of us (Psalm 91:11, Eph 4:11). We are invited to the kings table (Psalm 23:5). We are welcome all the time (Jas 4:8). We are fed.  We are made sons and daughters of royalty (I John 3:1). We can have sweet fellowship with the King on a daily basis (I John 1:3)

We should come to the King’s table in a spirit of thanksgiving. How often do we look down at others that come to the table as outcasts? We are all outcasts, but God chose us. If I am truly looking at the King, I will see that which He is looking at (I John 3:17) and have compassion for the outcasts.

Mephibosheth never got over his crippled condition. “He never got to the place where he could leave the King’s table and make it on his own. And neither do we.” (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace page 24) Mephibosheth didn’t somehow become worthy (it was all grace). Mephibosheth was a cripple the rest of his life, he never became worthy of grace, yet the king saw him as whole. The King made sure he survived and flourished under his protection.

You and I are crippled by sin. We never make it to the point where we become worthy of grace, yet the King sees us as whole. We survive and flourish under the King’s protection. Every day we are completely dependent on God for everything. How foolish it would have been for Mephibosheth, a cripple, to reject the offer of grace and try to live on his own?   It would be even more foolish for us to reject the offer of grace the King of Heaven gives to us. I am not simply meaning God’s offer of grace for salvation, but the rejection of God’s daily offer to sit at His table.

Are you a cripple that has to beg for everything you have and living away from the King? Mephibosheth could have had blessings a lot sooner, if he had approached the King, but he was scared. There is nothing to be afraid of, if you come to God. God will welcome you with open arms and give you a spot at His Kingly table, but you and I must be willing to come.

Maybe you have already seen God show you mercy and lavish His love on you, and yet you have not feasted at His table for a long time or talked with Him, it’s time you come back to the God Who saved you.

Maybe you are at God’s table and daily feast on His Word and are Sons and Daughters of God, but cripples scare for-us-2-517001-myou. You look at other people that are different or trapped in sin and say, “I can’t believe they would do that!” or “I am glad I’m not like that, mooching off of the King’s good graces. What a nasty little sinner!” God is a friend of sinners and cripples, are you willing to show cripples God’s love and mercy, or do you think you deserve to sit at the King’s table?

The Princess Prostitute

sad eyes

“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31

   One of the greatest stories in the Bible focuses on a harlot. The story is preserved in Joshua chapter 2. In Joshua we see the position of a sinner (2:1). She lived in a lost land. She had searched in vain for meaning. Sinners like Rahab often show that they are searching for something. Very rarely is a sin sought after without a deeper meaning. Addicts are searching for peace and find it in a substance, murderers are searching for justice or self-affirmation, and harlots are searching for love and security. She had never known true love. It is very likely that Rahab was not just a common prostitute but may have been the religious Priestess of Jericho, who sold her body to Satan and all she received in return was shame.

In Joshua 2:1-4 we see the plight of a sinner (2:1-4). She lived in a condemned city. She had nowhere to turn. She more than likely had serviced royalty, but running to them was not going to preserve her. Who are we going to go for help when our world is under siege? Who we turn first shows what our functional God truly is.  She knew she was a sinner. She must have been filled with shame and regret because of her past. She had a choice to make. She could trust in strange men (men had always let her down) or she could trust in the king. It would have been tempting to have the ear of the king but Rahab knew that an exalted position in a condemned kingdom was worthless.

In Joshua 2:9-13 she proclaims what she knows about God. She had heard of God’s great power. Rahab was in awe of a God she had never seen. She claims the works that the spies had witnessed, and whose fathers died because they did not believe. Israel just got upstaged by a spiritually blind, pagan Harlot. She somehow knew that God was merciful, and she was willing to stake her life on the fact that God’s mercy was greater than her sins. The harlot had nothing to offer God, but she realized that sin doesn’t keep us from God, unbelief does.

In Joshua 2:18 Rahab received a promise based on her sign of faith. She was required to place a scarlet thread outside of her window, so the Israelite soldiers would know who to save. She had an outward sign of an inward faith. This proclamation took courage. I would imagine that some of her friends asked her about the scarlet thread, remember she did not know when the soldiers or the siege was to come. Here sign was a sign of safety. A sign is given because a promise hasn’t been fulfilled. In the same way the peace that God gives is a sign that one day when I die, I will be delivered. This peace is from the promise of God Himself found only in His Word. She had to trust God in her decision, and her actions. Rahab’s faith was tested. She waited while the spies hid, she waited four chapters before Israel comes to Jericho, and she waited while the Israelites marched. Her faith was tested in the same way Noah’s was as he went through 120 years building an Ark with no rain. Her faith was tested like Jeremiah who preached for 40 years without a convert. Her faith was tested in the same as ours when we continually wrestle with a temptation.

In Joshua 6:16-20 we see that the trumpet that sounded defeat for all of Jericho actually freed her. While everyone else ran and fled, the trumpet of God was a comfort to her. Once you put your faith in Christ, the justice of God goes from a terrifying unquenchable fire, to a place you can go to be warmed. God broke down the walls that kept her from Him. As a side note, God doesn’t have to ask permission to knock down the barriers in our life.

God gave Rahab what she had sought as a Harlot, security and love. He showed her that there is never security in the temporal and the only confidence is in the eternal. He also gave her more than she could have hoped for. She received an heritage. She became the wife of the prince of Judah the tribe of Kings (I Ch 2:10-11). The harlot become a princess. Move over princess diaries. She becomes the great grandma of Israel’s king David (Mat 1:5-6). She also became the Greeeeeeat grandma of Israel’s greatest King, Jesus. Because Rahab in faith was willing to boldly proclaim the scarlet thread from her window, her great grandson was able to deliver her. Jesus was watching as his grandma choose to serve Him, and because she did, she was included in God’s plan for you and me. Rahab was blessed beyond measure, we don’t even know the name of the King of Jericho. We need to remember that as faithful as Rahab was, that’s not what the story of Rahab is about.

The story has much greater significance than the deliverance and faithfulness of Rahab. We get a small glimpse of the providence of the Great Prince. God saved her. There was no way Rahab would have met God in the temple of Baal, or Dagon. There was no way Rahab was going to find God in her relationships, God waited for her. Every night when she wandered the streets looking for Love, God was watching with outstretched hands saying, “Here I am.” Every time she wept in the darkness God was saying, “Here I am.” Every time her body was tormented by disease and fever from her relationships God was offering healing. Every action of the most extreme addict is the desire of the soul to find some aspect of God, they are just looking in the wrong place. While she was seeking fulfillment and security, God sought her. If you look at Joshua chapter 6 and see God’s plan of the nation marching around Jericho, why send out spies? You don’t need to know numbers or the positions of watchtowers if all you are going to do is play “Ring around the Rosie.” There was no reason for the spies to scout out the land. God already promised Joshua victory (1:3). It is interesting that according to God’s battle strategy, the spies didn’t even need to go out. In fact, the conquest of Jericho was put on hold while the spies went out. It was as if God moved in Joshua’s heart to send the spies specifically to save Rahab.

The story of Rahab is a shadow of a greater story of how God sought out all of mankind. We were all wandering in darkness groping for peace and security in a condemned city, but then God sought us. God sought us when all you and I had to offer was sin. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” God put the plan of the conquest of His heavenly army and the conquering of Jerusalem on standby while He sent His Son into the wicked world because He wanted me. Do you know why the God of Creation who holds the very armies of Heaven at bay hasn’t destroyed this wicked world? It is because He is waiting, and looking for sinners just like you and me. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)

Can you not hear the noise of the warriors of Heaven and the hooves of Christ’s stallion marching around the city. Some day this world will fall. Is your life filled with fear and dread of the unknown, have you been willing to reach out and in faith answer the call of Christ and claim His thread of salvation for your life? Or are you striving to eliminate the spies from your life because you would rather not hear God’s gentle call?

If you have claimed Christ, the story of Rahab has some serious questions as well. Are you sitting safely in your window by yourself, while the city perishes? Rahab loved much because she had been forgiven much. People are asking you every day, what’s with the cord. “Oh, it’s something my parents make me do…” “It’s kinda a personal thing…” When the battle of this life is over and God calls all unbelievers to judgment, will you stand guiltless because you went into the city and shared your house of safety, or will hundreds of unbelievers be calling out your name? Have you brought anyone into your house?

Don’t eat the Cookie!

Can you resist...?

Our desires seem like assassins who know us so well, and at the end of the day, they are waiting for us when we least expect them.  

Have you ever sought to please God and vowed to stop a particular sin? Then the next time you are tempted your spirit and mind undergo an intense battle, and you are left broken and bleeding as the enemy carries off your banner of righteousness and mocks your very existence?

   I remember an intense battle with lust as a college student. I had memorized Scripture verse after Scripture verse that told me of the wiles of the devil (I Peter 5:8) and the end of the sinner (Proverbs 7), but even though I wanted deliverance, it seemed like I was trapped in quicksand and the more I fought, the further I sank.

This battle continued to rage until one afternoon as I was preparing for my first youth sermon on the joy of knowing God from Psalm 34:8. God graciously opened my eyes to the truth that I was fighting the wrong battle. The Psalmist declares, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” I was trying to outthink and outmaneuver my desires, nothing I produced or program I could come up with would be powerful enough to overcome the flesh and the devil. The only thing that was going to deliver me from temptation was a desire for God to fill my “stomach” with Himself. This is where the fork meats the table, because my taste buds had been trained to follow after “junk food.” I had forgotten the taste of God. This principle was dramatically portrayed one night when I was making a batch of cookies.

I would like you to imagine someone in your home gets the desire to make some cookies. You hear the clinking and clanging of ccookie 2ookie sheets and bowls as the cookies are being prepared. You happen to walk into the kitchen hoping to get a bit of the dough, and before you are showed out, you notice that the chef has doubled the recipe and added twice as many chocolate chips before wrapping each ball of dough around a piece of caramel. For the next few hours the smell of cookies permeate the house, and all you can think about is the gewy tenderness of fresh baked cookies. You enter the kitchen once again, this time with a new strategy, you ask if you can help in exchange for a tender morsel. Once again you are unceremoniously showed out of the kitchen and told that under no circumstances are you to touch a cookie.

For a few minutes you might be able to block the thought of a cookie from your mind until the oven opens and a fresh batch of cookies sends its aroma seemingly straight to the core of your being. It almost feels as if the cookie is beckoning you to simply hold it in your hand and feel the warmth it exudes and begs you to pull it apart as the chocolate and the caramel drip from its cookity freshness. I would venture that right now you are having a hard time not thinking about a cookie. If I were to pause this story and ask you not to think about the aroma of a freshly baked cookie with luscious chocolate chips and caramel mixed together in a perfect blend of chewy goodness, you probably would be thinking about the dessert I just described.

Temptation works much the same way. We cannot will away our temptations and choose not to think about them. Just like thinking about how you are not going to eat the cookie draws your thoughts toward the cookie, thinking about resisting a temptation will cause us to desire it. There may be times where we will feel we are starting to forget or have victory, but then someone opens the oven door and with a squeak we smell a fresh batch of temptation, and the cycle starts all over again. Are we to just limp along in our Christian life hoping that someday we will find a strategy to win over our sinful desires? No! God has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, the secret is to change our desires.

Let’s go back to our story. As you are sitting there trying your best to not think about cookies, you are told you cannot have a cookie, because your family is planning on going to a Brazilian steakhouse. Now if you have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse let me describe in miniature what such a restaurant entails.

They are more than an all you can eat bonanza. After you proceed through the salad bar which is loaded with delicacies such as, fresh mozzarella cheese which squeaks in your mouth, Grecian salads lightly tossed with seasoned oil, shrimp mixed with an endless selection of dips and sauces, fresh vine ripened fruits and vegetables, you continue on to the hot plate section and smell the fragrance of a myriad of creamy soups prepared by award winning chiefs. Once your plate is loaded with the finest from around the globe, you go to take your seat and are offered a red and green, laminated piece of paper about the size of a coaster. As long as the paper is green side up, waiters in tuxedos walk in time with live violin music holding onto skewers with freshly cooked meat. There are fifteen different kinds of choice meats, all of which have been marinated and seasoned to perfection. Filet minong wrapped in bacon, so tender you could cut it with your soup spoon, leg of lamb soaked in mint sauce, pork roast seasoned and broiled to perfection, roast beef slathered in its own gravy, salmon and halibut complete with homemade sauces, slow roasted chicken dripping with flavor.

After sampling these fine meats and finally having thirds on your favorite, you push your lobster soup and Italian bread aside and flip the little piece of paper to red, signaling you have had your fill. All the while not once thinking about your lack of cookie.

   If my strategy for resisting temptation is simply trying to ignore it, I am doomed for failure. However, if I shift my focus off of my sin and unto my Savior, then I can go to the buffet line of God’s goodness time after time, and feast on His goodness, and mercy, and dwell on His holiness, and feel his love, and see His wondrous blessings. I will not only have fed my soul with the choicest of meats (Psalm 63:5), but I will have no room for another morsel of temptation.

In regards to some desires (wealth, fame, intimacy, happiness, etc.) God may even decide to allow me to have a cookie, but only after I feast my soul on God’s greatness. If I follow after God and seek His face, I have access to the buffet line of God’s greatness, with or without a cookie I therewith will be content (Psalm 23:5).

 

Holiness cannot be an end of itself, God is our destination, and holiness is a result of pursuing Him.”

 

Is God’s Will Knowable?

question-1389645-s

     If you could ask one question of God, and He guaranteed an answer, what would it be? If you could ask Him one thing about your future what would it be? 

Genesis 24 sets forth a great pattern for those who would seek to do the will of God.

     Follow the Words of God. In Genesis 24 the servant of Abraham, Eliezer, is commanded to seek out a wife for Isaac. God specifically stated that Isaac was not to marry an ungodly women (Gen 24:2-4).  Eliezer listened to the commands of God.  God will not give you a map of tomorrow if you are not willing to listen today. Following involves studying and applying God’s Word. It would have been much easier for Eliezer to disobey God and find a wife near home for, but it would have been partial obedience.

I should not expect that God will show what He wants for my future if I am not willing to follow what He is showing me today.

I must realize that disobedience has consequences. If I am not willing to obey, then I lose the blessing and power of God (James 4:4). I lose the help of God. If I am considering something that is ungodly, God will not help me. It would be like a terrorist asking the United States government for money. In disobedience, I lose the peace and surety of God.

Obedience and preparation walk hand in hand along the road to success and accomplishments. Abraham’s servant, expressed his concerns about the low chances of success regarding his quest of wife hunting (Gen 24:5), but then he prepares himself and obeys.

In order to achieve God’s guidance, we must be willing to prepare ourselves for God’s blessing and that is done through obedience to what I know to be true today.

The best time to prepare for the future is today. The best time to prepare to be a good husband or wife is before you are married. As I pursue my marriage to Christ, I will unlock understanding that is needed in my human relations. A lot of Christians know God in the same way that someone can swim through taking a correspondence course.

In our preparation, we must never forget to depend on God, “And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.” (Gen 24:12) If I am not depending on and seeking God, how will I know if I am in His will? Eliezer sets forth a pattern that is worth following of dependence and prayer. I can only rely on God, because my heart is going to fail me, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9 )

We must be doing. It is impossible to steer a parked car. We so often wait and treat our service to God like a menu. We sit down and look at what God has to offer and decide what we will take. “I being in the way, the LORD led me… (Gen 24:27). God will not reveal tomorrows plans, if I am not willing to follow today’s. We often step into subtle rebellion. We do not outright deny God, but we wait to see if it is safe. We sit and stare at the stop light like a 15 year old getting his permit afraid to go in case the instructor might flunk us, and forget that our hesitancy is more dangerous (1Sa 15:23).

God rewards the diligent (Mt 25:28), one of the ways God rewards us is with bigger tasks. Eliezer had been diligent and sacrificed for God. Eliezer was going to lose out on some big time temporal blessing for helping Isaac. Before Isaac, Eliezer was going to receive Abraham’s wealth (Gen 15:2). Because of his faithfulness, Eliezer is able to play a part in assisting the line of Christ, and now has his name memorialized in Scripture.

     Eliezer was successful in his journey and God revealed to Him His will as he faithfully followed the Words of God, and got busy doing what he know to be true.

These dual ideas of following God and doing His will are reflected in another character in this passage.

Genesis 24:16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. 17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 18 And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. 19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. 20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.”camel-737239-m

Rebekah was busy doing. She was from a wealthy family, yet she was doing servant’s work for her family, and she volunteered to serve others. Men, if the women you are interested in is not currently serving, run! Rebekah was using her body and her resources for others. These wells often were over 100 feet deep and all she had was a 3 gallon pitcher. A camel can consume up to 10 gallons of water apiece. If you do the math, she would have made over 30 trips and drew over 100 gallons of water for an old guy, unbathed servants, and 10 ugly camels. Rebekah was busy using the things she had for others. So to make it personal: 

What things do I have that could bless others?

What talents do I have that could bless others?

How have I been using these to bless others?

We not only see that Rebekah was busy doing, she also was faithful. She was pure, “And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin.” (Gen 24:16). God specializes in using unclean vessels such as Rahab, but God will not use a vessel that is not committed to Him. Purity does not come by accident, purity is a choice to put God above everything else.

In the end of the story, Rebekah finds a godly husband (Isaac is worshiping God on the mountain when she finds him) becomes fabulously rich, and is immortalized as a women of faith. Because of their faithfulness Eliezer and Rebekah both found the will of God, not only for themselves, but their actions still play out in the lives of every believer, because Rebekah was the great… Grandmother of our Savior.

What does God want for my future? Exactly the same thing He wants for my present. He wants me to follow Him in every command big or small, and get busy doing. I being in the way, the Lord led me…

The beginning…

Why Wait God?

worhsip

Have you ever wished God would take the guesswork out of following Him and that He would give you a map of the next 20 years? Those who have studied the Scripture know that the goal of a Christian should be to glorify God, but it is difficult to know what that looks like as a college student facing graduation, marriage, or even the possibility of singleness.

God is more concerned with who we are than what we get done.

The prophet of the Lord, Samuel, anointed David as the king over Israel (I Samuel 16: 1-3), and then for fifteen years David waited, was hunted by the Royal guard, lived in enemy territory, hid out in the rocks and desert wilderness all the while waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled.

What sort of doubt do you suppose tried to creep into David’s life as he waited? Especially since he originally started out defeating the # 1 bad guy in the land (I Sam 17), was married to the King’s daughter, and originally had the support of the people before going into exile as a condemned fugitive.

While David waited, God was doing amazing things in David. He became the man God needed Him to be in order to rule with a heart after God’s. God will not do anything great through you, until He has done it in you. Many times God will make you wait, and it will seem like Heaven is silent, but it is in those times that God is up to something great.

Have you ever felt like God is not answering or fulfilling His promises, wait on the Lord and be of good courage. God’s promises will always be fulfilled, but often, He has a different goal than we do.

Leave a comment telling us how God worked a situation to grow you.