What can I do for you?

Scripture reading for April 10th: 2nd Kings 1-3

As the prophet Elijah was about to depart from this earth, he asked Elisha: “What can I do for you before I am taken from you?”  (2nd Kings 2:9)  The understudy wisely answered that he desired a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  This is essentially the same question God asked Solomon when he appeared to him a few years earlier. (1st Kings 3:5)  Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people.  God gives us choices.  One of the tensions in Scripture is between our free will and God’s sovereign will.  God is sovereign but he has chosen to work with man who is made in His image.  Part of that image is the ability to make choices.

Elijah had been instructed by God to tap Elisha to take his place some ten years earlier.  Elisha was the son of a farmer.  He was plowing with 12 yokes of oxen–a big rig of that day!  (1st Kings 19:19)  He was called when Elijah threw his cloak over him.  Scripture records that he left his oxen and ran after Elijah.  Then he sacrificed his oxen, burning his plowing equipment to cook the meat.  He set out to follow Elijah.  Choices have consequences and rewards and often lead to more choices.

As the time for Elijah’s departure drew near, Elisha had to continually choose to stay near his mentor.  Elijah kept asking him to stay away, but he kept insisting on staying.  If we are going to get all that the Lord has for us, it means we must persevere!  Those who persevere to the end will reap a reward!  Elisha asked for the double portion of his mentor’s spirit.  Elijah could not give that himself.  It must come from the Lord.  Elijah gave him a word of knowledge–that if he could see him when he departed he would have what he asked for.  (2nd Kings 2:10-12)  As they walked on together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind right before Elisha’s eyes!  It was an exciting exit for the prophet Elijah and an exciting transition for the prophet Elisha as he picked up the cloak and began to do greater things than his mentor!

Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the final word from God.  He had the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34)  He has told us to ask Him for whatever we need and He will do it.  (John 14:14)  He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and bring forth the gifts of the Spirit as they are needed to glorify the Lord.  He has told us, his disciples, that we will do even greater works because He has gone to the Father.  (John 14:11-14)  Ask the Lord today for what you need!  How much more will God the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask! (Luke 11:13)

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Ahab and Jezebel–slow to learn!

Scripture reading for April 9: 1st Kings 20-22

Learning lessons in the school of life can be fun and rewarding.  God places us in a family so that we might learn from those parents who are older and wiser.  Learning from those with wisdom is an easy way to gain understanding.  God may also place a mate in our life. A mate may be a great blessing or may lead us astray.  God also sends people to us who will speak the Word of God into our lives.  The Old Testament called them prophets.  They were sent to give warning, direction, and advice for living God’s way.  Heeding their word resulted in a victorious life; rejecting their word brought trouble and defeat.

As we think back on the lessons God has already given Ahab and Jezebel, we remember the drought of three years that began at the word of the Lord through Elijah.  (1st Kings 17:1)   We remember the cause of the drought was Jezebel killing the Lord’s prophets and feeding 950 prophets of Baal and Asteroth at the king’s table.  Elijah confronted them with this truth and demonstrated God’s power in the contest on Mt. Carmel. (1st Kings 18:18-19)  He then killed the false prophets and prayed for rain again on the land and God sent a storm!   God demonstrated his power and correction to this couple through the prophetic ministry in a way that was sure to make an impression!

In the course of time, God sent another prophet to Ahab with instructions on how to defeat his enemy, Ben-Hadad, king of Aram.  (1st Kings 20:13)  God worked a miracle and the enemy was defeated soundly but Ben-Hadad appealed to Ahab, and Ahab made a treaty with him.  He didn’t even consult the Lord!  God sent another prophet to speak to Ahab a word of judgment.  (1st Kings 20:41-43)  Ahab responded with anger and sulking!  Out of this response, Ahab turns to coveting a neighbor’s vineyard to build a garden for himself.  The neighbor, Naboth, refuses to sell or trade the family property.  Ahab sulks to his wife, who promptly sets in motion a plan to get the vineyard through lies and manipulation.  Naboth is killed and the vineyard is secured for Ahab. God is not pleased, and sends Elijah the prophet to speak another word of judgment.  This time Ahab is humbled and goes about mourning.

What’s the point of all this prophetic intervention and correction?  Why was God so gracious and long-suffering with this king and his wife?  God always gives each person time to repent and to grow in grace.  He is working out purposes that are bigger than one person, but He cares for each person, too.  He understands our weaknesses and tries to work with us.  But, there is a point where patience runs out.  We can harden our hearts and miss the grace of God.  Jezebel was worldly, manipulative, and lived for the present.  She refused correction when God made it plain!  Ahab knew what to do, but allowed his wife to direct him instead of taking charge himself.  When corrected, he was often not teachable but grew angry and sullen.  Would that we would be quicker to learn!

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Provision in dry times!

Scripture reading for April 8: 1st Kings 17-19

In 1975, our family went through a drought on the farm.  It rained early in the year, but then quit after the crops were in.  June and July had almost no rain and the corn grew and tasseled, but did not produce silks.  Ears formed but no kernels were on the cobs.  It looked very bleak for feeding our animals and paying the bills.  The soybeans were shorter than usual, but it rained in August when they were blooming and they produced a good crop.  God provided for us even in the dry year.  Today we have a story from the days of the kings, when a drought was decreed by God through the prophet Elijah.

Elijah announced to King Ahab that no rain or dew would fall from the sky except at his word for the next few years. (1st Kings 17: 1) He then left in obedience to the instructions of the Lord.  God promised provision to Elijah.  He commanded ravens to feed him by the brook in the Kerith Ravine.  After a rainless few weeks, the brook dried up and God sent Elijah to a widow’s house in Zarephath.  Someone has said, if a widow was to care for them, they hoped she would be rich!  However, this widow was so poor that she was gathering sticks to cook her son a last meal from a nearly empty jar of flour and oil.  Elijah asked her to bring him a little water and a piece of bread.  He encouraged her not to fear, that God would provide for her until the rains came again.  She obeyed and God provided meals for nearly three years from that empty flour bin and oil jar.

The times we live in are also dry in many ways.  Our economy is very weak, many are laid off from jobs, and it seems as if there is a judgment on the land.  In times like this, we must listen to the Word of the Lord!  It is imperative that each person hears the instructions God has for them.  Another lesson from this passage is that we must always give to God first and God will provide for us.  The widow was taken care of during the drought because she took care of the prophet.  Dry times need not be a problem for those who honor the Lord first and listen to His instructions!

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Advice of the elders or school of “hard knocks”?

Scripture reading for April 7th: 1st Kings 12-16

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.  I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

Old people are often marginalized in today’s world.  This is not something new, for apparently Solomon’s son Rehoboam also discounted the advice of the elders of his day.  When we disregard or disrespect those who have life experience and wisdom, we do so to our own peril!

Rehoboam became king.  His mother was an Ammonite, one of Solomon’s many wives.  Solomon had accumulated great wealth through forced labor and excessive taxation.  The people appealed to Rehoboam to lighten the burden and harsh yoke of his father and they would serve him.  He had decisions to make and wisely consulted the elders.  (1st Kings 12:4-7)  They advised him to serve the people and lighten the yoke on them.  But Rehoboam rejected this good advice.

He next consulted his peers, young men he grew up with and who served him.  These peers advised him to answer the people with harshness and more taxes.  The new king refused to listen to the people or the elders and instead took the advice of his peers, which happened to tickle his own ears.  This divided the people and fulfilled the Word of the Lord to Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah.  (1st Kings 12:13-16)

In the mean time, Jeroboam returns from Egypt and is made king over Israel.   Only the tribe of Judah and Benjamin remain loyal to David’s house.  Rehoboam musters an army, but is warned  by a prophetic word from Shemaiah to not fight against his brothers.  Rehoboam wisely obeys this time and Israel becomes a divided kingdom.

This passage of Scripture reminds us of the importance of having ears to hear the voice of the Lord.  God is always ready to speak to us, if we are willing to listen.  Our hearts can easily be led astray by sin and selfish ways.  In the abundance of counsel there is safety,  but we must be discerning with whom we listen to.  We often find that those most easy to receive from are those we agree with.  The younger generation often does not value the advice of the older.  Because of this, they must take a course in the school of “hard knocks”.

Ask the Lord to help you with discerning His voice today.  Identify an “elder”  God has placed in your life who has been a source of wisdom for you.  Thank the Lord for that person today.  Call that person and thank them for their wisdom.  Ask God to speak to you and guide your path through those with His wisdom, not through the school of “hard knocks”.

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Fame, Fortune, Falling Away!

Scripture reading for April 6th: 1st Kings 9-11

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” Proverbs 27:21

Fame and fortune bring lots of praise from the lips of men.  Everyone wants to be around a famous person and the rich have many friends.  These blessings can easily lead our hearts away from faith in the Lord and a vital relationship with Him.  God warned the Israelites that when they entered the promised land and settled down and became prosperous, they would be tempted to forget God.  (Deuteronomy 8:10-13)  In a sense, prosperity and fame can be a more difficult test than sexual lust.  Solomon found that this was true.

After Solomon finished dedicating the temple and achieving all he had desired to do, God appeared to him a second time.  God promised that He would hear the prayers said at the temple and watch over it.  God then warned Solomon against turning away from Him and going after other gods.  (1st Kings 9:6-9)  God understood the test that Solomon would face as his fame and fortune grew.

Solomon was soon headed down a wrong path.  His heart was not obedient to the Lord.  He left many of the Caanites in the land and put them in forced labor.  Solomon married many foreign women and took 700 wives and 300 concubines from among the nations that the Lord forbid the Israelites to marry from.   God had warned that their hearts would be led astray to idolatry and His Word is always to be trusted.  (1st Kings 11:1-6)   Solomon’s heart was not fully committed to the Lord and he did evil in God’s sight!  He built high places for these gods of his foreign wives and they offered sacrifices, further angering God.

The result of God’s anger and Solomon’s drifting away was that God raised up adversaries against Israel.  Hadad the Edomite and Rezon from Aram (Syria) were both hostile towards Israel.   One of Solomon’s own officials, Jeroboam, son of Nebat, also rebelled against the king.  Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he fled to Egypt.

What can we learn from all of this?  We can easily see how our hearts can be distracted from the Lord by fame and fortune.  We all think that it would be wonderful to have what Solomon or some other famous figure had, but we must be reminded of how are hearts are tested by this.  The pride and power of prosperity can make one as drunk as wine!  God is jealous (Exodus 34:14) and will not tolerate idolatry.  This test brings out the worst in us from our sin nature.  The Apostle Peter reminds us that when we suffer for Christ’s sake, we cease from sin and live for the will of God.  Suffering is a test but it purifies us much easier.  (1st Peter 4:1-2)

Pray today for someone who has fame or fortune, who is in a position of authority and influence.  Pray for God’s grace to protect and keep that person–that he’ll not fall away and lead others astray.

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Sunday rest and reflection–praise!

Greetings on this day of rest and reflection!  This happens to be Palm Sunday, a day to celebrate and praise the Lord for Jesus Christ, our King!  On this day we celebrate his triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the temple.  He came riding on a donkey colt surrounded by people waving palm branches and shouting “hosanna”!  He came to the temple to be examined by the religious officials because He was the final “lamb” sacrifice for the sins of all people!

This is an interesting tie to Solomon, the great and wise King of Israel.  Solomon was a King of peace!  He was exceedingly wise!  He ruled Israel, but made ties of peace with many other nations.  He took wives and concubines, 1000 in all, from many lands!  His splendor and wisdom were told of throughout the known world!  The wealth of nations were brought to him.  God’s favor rested on him to build a “house for God’s Name”.

Jesus Christ is Solomon’s greater son!  He is wisdom to us!  (1st Corinthians 1:30)  He is the Prince of Peace!  He will rule over the world from Jerusalem and the nations will serve and worship Him as King of Kings!  To God be the Glory forever and ever!  Amen!  Have a great day of praise and worship to our great King!  In Adorationof Him, Pastor John

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The Glory of the Lord filled the temple!

Scripture Reading for April 4th: 1st Kings 5-8

Solomon, David’s son, had heard God’s decree that he, Solomon, would build the house where God’s Name would reside among His people.  He had a vision and purpose as a focus of his life.  He knew of the desire of his father David and willingly offered himself to the Lord to build this “House”.  (1st Kings 5:5)

In building the temple, Solomon employed many people.  Some came from lands outside Israel.  Solomon made covenants with many nations and the nations were drawn to Israel during this time of peace.  God granted favor and peace during the reign of Solomon for this purpose.

The temple was made of stone, cedar and pine wood, and precious metals.  Craftsmen worked off site on the stones so that the temple could be assembled without saws, chisels or hammers used on the site.  (1st Kings 6:7)  The temple took seven years to construct with thousands of workers meticulously adding every piece and detail in precise order and design. (1st Kings 6:38)  God is truly a God of order and a master craftsman!  His temple would be magnificent!

The crowning moment at the dedication of the temple tells how God, Himself, filled the House with His Glory!  I’d have loved to have been there to see it!  The priests had carried the Ark into the Holy of Holies and then withdrew.  The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud of God’s glory!  (1st Kings 8:6-11)  Solomon declared a blessing to the people gathered there and thanked God for His faithfulness!

Solomon then knelt down, raised his hands toward heaven, and prayed a magnificent prayer of petition and dedication!  In this prayer are eight petitions of God to “hear from heaven” when His people call upon Him for help.  The central focus is forgiveness!  All of man’s troubles are caused by sin, either against God or man made in God’s image.  The consequences of sin bring famine, disease, plague, war, and death.  As God’s people cry out, God’s glory is that He will hear and forgive and act to bring healing and restoration!

Another focus of Solomon’s prayer was for the foreigner and those drawn to the temple from other lands and peoples.  Solomon asks God to hear their prayer as well so that all peoples of the earth may know His Great Name and fear the Lord!  (1st Kings 8:41-43, 60)  This prayer reminds us of Jesus instructing his followers to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations! His house shall be a house of prayer for all nations!  (Mark 11:17)   God has always had a world-wide vision!

Take time today to pray!  Ask the Lord to fill your temple with His glory!  This happened again on the Day of Pentecost when the new “Temple” built by a greater son of Solomon, Jesus Christ, was dedicated and filled with God’s Glory!  Tongues of fire and other tongues marked the new “Temple” as filled with the Holy Spirit, and they went out to witness God’s Glory to the nations!  The “living stones” are still being assembled without the sound of hammer or chisel!  To God be all Glory forever and ever!

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What do you want from God?

Scripture Reading for April 3: 1st Kings1-4

I often ask people who come to me for advice on direction for their lives a simple question.  If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do with your life?  This question opens us up to many possibilities and helps us discern the true desires of our heart.  If we have truly committed our way to the Lord and delight ourselves in Him, He tells us that He will give us the desires of our heart!  (Psalm 37:4)  We will want what He wants!

Newly crowned King Solomon had an encounter with the Lord.  He had gone to Gibeon to sacrifice to the Lord and that day offered a thousand burnt offerings!  Extravagant worship marked the life of this newly anointed king!  That night as Solomon lay asleep, the Lord appeared to him  in a dream and said: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1st Kings 3:4-5)  Solomon first thanked the Lord for his kindness to his father David in placing him on the throne.  Then he confessed his need for God’s help in ruling His people.  He asked for a discerning heart and wisdom to rule wisely.  (1st Kings 3:7-9)

This pleased the Lord!  Solomon was granted what he asked for and also given by grace what he did not ask for!  God gave him riches and honor so that there would be no equal among kings of that time. (1st Kings 3:10-14)  God’s Word has proved true in history in the life of this son of David!

As we think about the question God asked Solomon, what would you ask the Lord for today?   First, are you passionately worshiping the Lord each day–offering Him extravagant worship and thanksgiving for who He is and His great faithfulness?   If you are not in love with the Lord, your heart will not be focused on doing His will.  Would you ask for riches and honor or something physical?  These things are fleeting and of no eternal value if you are not delighting yourself in the Lord and willing to offer Him what you currently have!

Jesus Christ has been made to us wisdom from God! (1st Corinthians 1:30)  We are told that if we lack wisdom, we can ask God for it and He will give us liberally! (James 1:5-7)  God is no respecter of persons!  He offers us the same choice given to King Solomon of old.  Ask today for what you want God to give you!  Wisdom is found in Jesus Christ and a true walk with the wisest King of Kings who has ever been or ever will be!

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Famous Last Words!

Scripture reading for April 2nd: 2nd Samuel 21-24

These are the last words of David: ” The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel’s singer of songs:  “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.  The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me:  ‘When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.’ (2nd Samuel 23:1-4)

David, the shepherd boy, anointed King by the Lord, speaks prophetically under the Spirit of the Lord.  His last words are inspired by the “Most High”, “God of Jacob”, “God of Israel” and “Rock of Israel”.  The Bible states that no prophet speaks on his own but is moved on by the Holy Spirit.  ( 2nd Peter 1:20-21)  He writes not so much for himself, but for those who will follow him in the walk of faith.  David writes out of nearly 70 years of walking with the Lord and living a life of faith.

David left a mighty legacy for us.  His Psalms are prophetic of the coming Messiah, his life, suffering and death!  As a young boy, he knew God as his own shepherd.  Jesus Christ is the good shepherd who so cares for His sheep that he lays his own life down for them.  David knew God as the “Rock of Israel”!  That Rock was a firm place to stand in the trials that continually came to this man.  That Rock was a source of water and refreshment in a dry and weary land as David was being pursued by his enemies.  His Psalms flow with an anointing of truth and grace that make them easy reading for people from every age and generation.  Even though David lived over 3000 years ago, his last words still speak faith to us and encourage us to press on to meet our great “High God”!  May we ponder these “last words” for more understanding and grace!

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Pastor’s Walk Podcast: Leviticus Summary Part 2

In this podcast Pastor John continues his summary of the book of Leviticus.

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