May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017

1 CHRONICLES 9-11

Focus Verse: So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.
1 Chronicles 10:13-14

 

When we walk out of the presence of the Lord, we no longer carry His blessing with us. Every promise that He has made to us, every good and perfect thing His will has in store for us, it’s all null and void if we aren’t following His will. Saul found this out the hard way.

 

We have to make one clear distinction here before we move on. This DOES NOT mean that you won’t go through trials. The New Testament Church knew this well. What it does mean though, is that your trials have a purpose. God has some good planned on the other side of them. If you aren’t following God, then when life sucks, that’s all there is to it. God is the only One that gives difficult season in life a purpose and a meaning.

 

Back to the bulk of today’s topic. Saul walked out on the promises of God by being disobedient to Him. Believe it or not, that isn’t what got him the boot from God’s presence. If that were the case we’d all be toast. Saul’s problem came when he continually refused to turn away from his disobedience, acknowledge he’d messed up and come back to God for forgiveness.

 

David, who took over as King of Israel after Saul, made plenty of mistakes, but he always repented and turned back to God. It’s that humble heart that God desires. It’s that trust in Him to take us back and empower us to do what we can’t on our own.

 

So the question becomes, why? Why is God always so quick to take us back when we ask for forgiveness? If you want to get real, a perfectly holy, all-powerful God who demands justice would be better off smiting us than trying to save us. At the minimum, He should have cast us out of His presence for failing to live up to our end of the deal.

 

And He did.

 

Jesus Christ took on our punishment on the cross, but the worst part had nothing to do with the physical death that He suffered. The most excruciating part of Christ’s sacrifice, the only part in the Gospel account of His crucifixion we are told that He cried out, was when God removed Jesus from His presence because of our sins.

 

THAT is the reason God is so quick to forgive us when we turn to Him. THAT is why we can be reconciled to Him. THAT is why we never have to be afraid of God turning away from us. Any trial we go through is God growing us, not God turning away from us. Because God turned away from Jesus, even though Jesus did nothing to deserve it, He will never turn away from us. His presence is with us wherever we go, Jesus made sure of that!

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May 3, 2017

May 3, 2017

1 CHRONICLES 7-8

Focus Verse: Their father Ephraim mourned many days, and his relatives came to comfort him.
1 Chronicles 7:22

 

Ministry responds to need. That is the best definition of ministry that I have ever heard. We talk a lot about how in the church world, people trump programs, but very few churches operate this way. We are so program oriented. I know that this is an area that Jesus is constantly working on with me.

 

I tend to be a very task oriented individual. I have my to-do list and want to get as many of those things checked off as I possibly can. This means that when needs present themselves from the individuals around me, the majority of the time I am too focused on the tasks I need to get done to respond to those needs. Sure, I do hospital visits and graduation parties and birthday parties and stop to see newborn babies occasionally, but actually responding to immediate needs around me – I need Jesus to keep working on my heart.

 

This is a very simple verse that can be pretty easy to skip over in the long list of genealogies here in 1 Chronicles, but it is so vital to recognize. Ephraim’s child just died, so his relatives come to comfort him. It seems like such a common sense thing…then why isn’t the church doing more of it!

 

I don’t mean to come down on everyone. Some people are very good at this, asking God to keep their eyes and hearts open to those whom are hurting around them. Others, like myself, need to keep working on this. Fact is, we cannot see a need to minister to if we are not paying attention.

 

So if you’ve never prayed that prayer before, ask God to open your heart and eyes to those hurting around you. Ask Him to help you respond to their needs. AND KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN! If you see someone sitting alone, go sit with them! If you see someone crying during worship, go pray with them! See the need and then RESPOND!

May 2, 2017

May 2, 2017

1 CHRONICLES 6

Focus Verse: Now these are those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark rested there. They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they served in their office according to their order.
1 Chronicles 6:31-32

 

I am so curious to find out exactly what God’s plan was for music when He created everything. Granted, I am a little biased because I am a musician and Worship Pastor, but no one can question that, theologically, there is biblical evidence for the power of music in spiritual matters. David played music to calm the inner demons within King Saul, Paul and Silas were singing hymns when they were miraculously busted out of jail (even though they didn’t leave), Jehoshaphat sends the praise team into battle before his army…I could go on.

 

God definitely has a special place for music. Even when we think of how music is used in our lives, you may not be able to remember a sermon word for word, but I bet you remember the words of your favorite worship song. This is why it is so vitally important that we sing songs in church that are lyrically excellent and theologically sound. Don’t get me wrong, the music is important too, but no one in your congregation is going to go home taking about how God was exalted through the tension felt in the diminished triads of your chords (actually, you may have a few in your congregation who recognize that). Now people will feel that tension, just like people will feel the emotional high that comes from a dramatic key change in a song, but it’s not communicating God’s truth to them. This is not an excuse to ignore musical excellence, but a call to exalt biblical truth WITH musical excellence.

 

Now clearly, David recognized the importance of music here. That’s why he appoints people who do nothing but focus their time and effort on their service of song to the Lord. We need to learn a lesson from this. Music is important. I don’t know why God chose music, but I know He chose it. Music communicates beauty. Beauty cannot be described by science. Music cannot be explained by science. I think music is one of the greatest evidences of a higher power…of God. He gave us art and beauty and creativity and music.

 

But in the fall, these gifts God has given us have been twisted. For as powerful as a song can be when crafted skillfully – when the musical excellence meets theological truth – the same can happen when we allow music to influence us the other way. When we get the wrong kind of lyrics in our head. I know that I have to guard myself on what kind of music I listen to.

 

Music is a powerful, powerful tool. Honor God with it! Allow Him to use music to give you peace, to free you, to fight for you. Turn your music and dancing and painting into praise and God will change you!

May 1, 2017

May 1, 2017

1 CHRONICLES 3-5

Focus Verse: The sons of Reuben and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, consisting of valiant men, men who bore shield and sword and shot with bow and were skillful in battle, were 44,760, who went to war. They made war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. They were helped against them, and the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hand; for they cried out to God in the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him.
1 Chronicles 5:18-20

These were the heads of their fathers’ households, even Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel, mighty men of valor, famous men, heads of their fathers’ households. But they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river of Gozan, to this day.
1 Chronicles 5:24-26

 

Two sets of mighty men we see here in 1 Chronicles 5. The first set of mighty men are victorious, the second set are sent into exile. So what is the difference? What is the key to being a successful mighty man instead of an unsuccessful mighty man? HUMILITY.

 

This has come up again and again, it happens to be a recurring theme in the Bible, but we CANNOT live in God’s Kingdom man’s way. Man’s way says the mightiest survive. Even if you aren’t the strongest, if you can outsmart you opponent, out last him, out something him, you will come out on top. YOU GET YOUR OWN VICTORY!

 

But God’s Kingdom says that you can’t get your own victory. It says to serve those who throw stones at you. It says to humble yourself before God and HE will honor you. In God’s Kingdom, victory comes when, and only when, we surrender. Doesn’t sound like the most brilliant battle plan does it? “Just surrender the war and then you’ll be victorious.” The general who says that would be laughed off the battlefield!

 

But that’s exactly what God says. “Give Me the war. Not so that I can fight it for you (though He will), not so that you can win (and that’s a key distinguishing factor in God’s Kingdom), but give Me the war. Give me the fight, give me the outcome. Surrender it all to Me.”

 

And I’ll burst your bubble right now: God won’t always have you win the war. So if you are surrendering to Him so that you can see your enemies smitten by Him, you’re surrendering wrong! When we surrender, we give Him EVERYTHING! We trust God, EVEN WHEN THE BAD GUYS WIN!

 

Man’s way wins through brilliance, might, strength and power. Look at the great Kingdoms of the world: the Greeks, the Romans, the Huns.

 

God’s way wins through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 

History will tell you who the real winner is. Of all of those kingdoms, which is the only one still remaining today?

April 30, 2017

April 30, 2017

1 CHRONICLES 1-2

Focus Verse: The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech. Arpachshad became the father of Shelah and Shelah became the father of Eber. Two sons were born to Eber, the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Ebal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
1 Chronicles 1:17-23

 

What an exhilarating reading today! 1 Chronicles starts with nothing but genealogies and names. As I was reading through I started to pray in a little bit of a panic: “God, what am I going to write about today? Please give me some incredible insight on one of these names so I can tell someone’s story. Or should I just skip today since there isn’t really anything to write about?”

 

Then, in the way He typically does, God downloaded the sweetest illustration for me: “Your name matters.” As we read through these genealogies we can tend to get into the realm of, “God, why do any of these names matter?” To which God responds, “Every name matters to Me.”

 

And then He hit me with the real truth brick upside the head with this one: There will come a day when we will have the opportunity to read another book that I believe will be just as sweet to us as the Word of God. This book is called the Lamb’s Book of Life and can be found in Revelation 21:27. This entire book will be like this passage from 1 Chronicles, yet we will find it riveting. I can imagine it would be hard to put a book like that down; a book with all of the names of those who have been saved by the grace and power of Jesus Christ; our brothers and sisters, all part of our glorious family, the body and bride of Christ.

 

That will be a list of names worth reading! Especially when each of us gets to the point in the story where our name is recorded and God reminds us that our name has always mattered to Him.

April 29, 2017

April 29, 2017

2 KINGS 23-25

Focus Verse: In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. And King Josiah went to meet him, and when Pharaoh Neco saw him he killed him at Megiddo.
2 Kings 23:29

 

Well this is kind of a random, depressing verse to be using as the focus verse. There is a point for that. I want to come against the popular idea that as followers of Christ, we are immune to hard times. Now anyone who has been a Christian for awhile knows that this is true. But it still bears to be repeated.

 

King Josiah was the best the nation of Judah had seen in awhile. He found the Book of the Law while he was king and turned Judah back to God wholeheartedly. In fact, we are told right before this, in verse 25, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.” Yet Josiah’s story doesn’t have a happy ending…at least not the Disney happy ending that we are used to in Western culture.

 

Let’s be clear, Josiah’s story did have a happy ending. He is in the presence of God eternally right now (we aren’t told that he turned away from the Lord in his last few days…so that’s what I’m assuming). Yes, Josiah lost a war here on earth. He lost his life in that war. But he still wins. This is the blessed hope that we have as followers of Jesus Christ. We win no matter what!

 

But, sadly, Christians don’t act like this is true. We live so often for this world and this world only. We even give advice to others from this kind of worldly perspective (see the book of Job); if someone is facing a hard time, they must have some hidden sin in their life or they don’t have enough faith to be healed.

 

What if God’s will is just that their healing isn’t supposed to come until they are standing in His glorious presence? What if He is just tired of not having His precious child in His arms?

 

We need to start living more for the next life than we are for this life. I’m not saying we ignore this life. Jesus calls us to live this life and live it well for His glory. Paul had it right on when he said in Philippians 1:21, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

 

While we are on this earth, let’s work with all we have for God. Let’s give Him 100% because our time here is short! But when He tells us our time is up, let’s no pretend that there is anything in this world that will rival what is in store for us in the next!

April 28, 2017

April 28, 2017

2 KINGS 20-22

Focus Verse: He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.
2 Kings 18:3

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel.
2 Kings 21:1-2

Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done.
2 Kings 21:19-20

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did right in the sight of the Lord and walked in all the way of his father David, nor did he turn aside to the right or to the left.
2 Kings 22:1-2

 

A lot of verses for today, but they all come together to paint such an interesting story. The first verse is talking about King Hezekiah and is technically from yesterday’s reading, so forgive me, but look at this back and forth that Judah goes through with the Lord and their kings.

 

Everything that Hezekiah does to turn Judah back to God and away from all of their idols, Manasseh undoes. He builds all of the altars to false gods again, sacrifices to them, even sacrifices his own children in fire. He goes so far as to build places of worship to false gods INSIDE the temple of the One True God. His son Amon follows his ways and continues the evil streak. Then Josiah comes along and again turns Judah back to the Lord.

 

So I’m going to spell out the obvious, but it is something that we need to get down in our hearts as quickly as possible: you are the only one who can walk with God. “Well Duh!”

 

Here’s what I mean: your parents can’t walk with God FOR you. Your Pastor can’t walk with God FOR you. Your grandma, best friend, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend…(you get the point?) can’t walk with God FOR you. You have to walk with Him on your own. You have to CHOOSE to walk with Him on your own.

 

This doesn’t mean you are alone. It is vital to have spiritual mentors to help you walk with God. They encourage you, build you up, help you out when you’re struggling, pray for you. But no person can take the place of the Holy Spirit, and the only way to get the Holy Spirit to help you walk with God is if you choose to walk with Him.

 

Now there is good and bad to this. I’ll do the bad first, because that’s just how I roll. Just because you’ve grown up in a Christian home doesn’t mean you’re in with Jesus. Your parents’ relationship with Jesus isn’t salvation for you. That would make your parents your savior. You have to choose Jesus on your own. You have to have your own experience with Him. You have to have your own relationship with Him.

 

My wife has a lot of friends with whom she has relationships. I have a relationship with my wife. That DOES NOT mean that I have relationships with her friends. That’s not how it works in real life, why do we expect it to work that way with Jesus?

 

But on the plus side, you aren’t stuck in your parents’ poor decisions either. You can have a BETTER relationship with God than they have or had. You can break the cycle of sin and addiction and pain and poor decisions; just like Hezekiah and Josiah did. No one else’s mistakes can define you. STOP LETTING THEM!

 

The most amazing thing is that even your own past can no longer define you. Jesus Christ is calling and ready to make you a new creation today. Your past, “fake relationship” with Him can be forgiven right now. All you need is a humble heart and a willingness to give it all over to Him.