Faith and Prayer!

Scripture reading for April 15: 2nd Kings 18-21

In 1980,  my wife and I were caught in a financial crisis beyond our ability to handle or fix.  We had borrowed money to buy land and equipment and build our farming business and now the interest rates had more than doubled.  Many neighbors had lost farms to the banks and creditors because they were unable to pay and our situation looked bad.  We had rededicated our lives to the Lord just a few years earlier and as we studied the Word of God, we knew we needed to humble ourselves and repent and ask God for His mercy.  Mary and I knelt by our bed and did just that in an act of faith and desperation.

Hezekiah, one of the kings of Judah, was a man of faith.  Scripture says that he “held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.”  (2nd Kings 18:5-6)  Because he trusted the Lord, the Lord was with him and he was successful in all he did.  One of his first moves was to destroy the bronze snake that Moses had built to stop the plague of serpents in the desert.  God’s people had made an idol of it and were burning incense to it!  (2nd Kings 18:4)

Hezekiah was tested by the Assyrians.  He rebelled against the king of Assyria, the military power of that day, and would not serve him.  Assyria captured Samaria and Israel (the ten tribes) in Hezekiah’s sixth year.  In Hezekiah’s fourteenth year, Sennacherib, king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. (2nd Kings 18:13)  Hezekiah tried to buy off the king of Assyria with gold from the temple, but a large army showed up surrounding Jerusalem.  Hezekiah was told of this situation and he immediately went to the temple in a humbled posture to seek the help of God.  As he prayed for help, God sent word by the prophet Isaiah that God would intervene and deliver them!  (2nd Kings 19:6-7)

Hezekiah let his faith lead him to prayer.  His prayer was a humble appeal to the Lord of Heaven.  It was a confession of helplessness and need.  God proved true to His own Word again!  Solomon had prayed earlier at the dedication of the temple for people who were at war and would cry out to God that God would hear and answer!  (1st Kings 8:44-45)  Prayers said hundreds of years earlier are still being answered!  God has a good memory!

What are you facing today that seems like a mountain?  Go to God in prayer!  Let your faith move you to prayer action.  Go humbly if you need to confess how your own sinful actions led to the trouble.  Go expecting God to hear and answer you!  The answer is already on the way!  By the way, eight years after we prayed, my wife and I were debt-free!  Faith and prayer gives direction and patience!

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The Eyes of the Lord!

Scripture reading for April 14: 2nd Kings 13-17

Even though God the Father is Spirit, He has the ability to see and know all things.  The writers of Scripture often speak of the “eyes” of the Lord.  God’s eyes are able to see in different ways than our eyes function.  His eyes are able to penetrate into the depths of our thoughts and motives.  His eyes see what we think we are doing in secret.  His eyes can see in the darkness as if it is daylight and no detail escapes Him.  His eyes are able to weigh good and evil and make righteous judgments.

As we read through the stories of the various kings of Israel and Judah, we have one of two remarks that are repeated time and again.  If the king was good, the writer states that “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”. (2nd Kings 15:3)  If the king was wicked, the writer states that “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord”. (2nd Kings 15:9)  Those kings who obeyed the Lord and sought to walk in honor of Him were seen by the Lord and rewarded accordingly.  God’s eyes are always watching for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him so that He can show himself strong on their behalf.  (2nd Chronicles 16:9)

We would also do well to remember the “eyes of the Lord”.  God is watching us as well!  David asked God to keep him as the  “apple of His eye”.  (Psalms 17:8)  God told Solomon that His eyes and heart would always be in the Temple he had built. (1st Kings 9:3)  We are now the living stones of the new Temple built by the greater son of David and Solomon!  God’s keeping eye is upon us today.  He looks in love upon us because of His Son.  He lives and dwells with us and in us by His Holy Spirit.  He is with us always to watch over His Word and bring it to pass in our lives as well.  Take a moment to look up today and thank God for his marvelous eyes!

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;” Psalm 34:15

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According to the Word of the Lord

Scripture reading for April 13: 2nd Kings 9-12

My father is a man who is true to his word.  As I was growing up, he would buy and sell cattle worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the phone.  He would call the banker and tell him how much he needed put into his bank account as a loan.  They would do it and he would come in later and sign the note.  My father knew the value of a good reputation and it was a badge of honor to be a man of your word. In fact, this trait is honorable because it is one of God’s character traits, too!  In today’s reading, we hear the writer of 2nd Kings recounting time after time how God’s Word was spoken by men and how it came to pass.

The prophet Elisha sent a word with one of the members of the company of prophets.  He was to anoint Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat to be king over Israel.  He was also to give Jehu a mission of destroying the house of Ahab and Jezebel for their murderous and adulterous behavior.  (2nd Kings 9:6-10)  He told Jehu that dogs would devour Jezebel on the plot of ground at Jezreel that she had stolen from Naboth and that no one would bury her.  Jehu went to Jezreel, found Jezebel and had her killed.  As he rested, dogs came and ate up her body.  The Word of the Lord was fulfilled!  (2nd Kings 9:34-37)

Next, Jehu went after the remaining sons of Ahab in Samaria.  He came to Samaria and killed all who were left of Ahab’s family. (2nd Kings 10:17)  This was according to the Word of the Lord spoken to Elijah the prophet. (1st Kings 21:20-22)  This word was given several years earlier.  Time may pass, but God’s Word remains true!

We would do well to heed the Word of the Lord.  God’s Word is the only source of ultimate truth. (John 17:17)  God is faithful to watch over His Word to perform it.  (Jeremiah 1:12)  Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away.  (Matthew 24:35)  As we approach the last days of these last days, it is more important than ever to give attention to God’s Word.

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Sunday rest and reflection–Resurrection Sunday!

As we rest today and reflect on the reading of the past week, we can’t help but remember what a special day this is!  This day is a day that has forever changed history in a number of ways!  First, the calendar went from “BC” to “AD” marking a turning point for all mankind.  Secondly, Jesus Christ so loved us and all of mankind made in God’s image, that He willingly gave his life for us.  He took our sins in His own body on the cross and became a curse for us in order to remove from us the curse of sin (Galatians 3:13-14)  and it’s resulting penalty, death. (Revelation 1:17-18)  His last words, “it is finished”, (John 19:30) marked the end of all that was necessary for us to have the gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit. (John 14:25-26)  The Holy Spirit marks us with an invisible mark telling the Father that we are now His.  (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Christ was buried in a tomb and it was sealed over and guarded by tough Roman soldiers. (Matthew 27:65-66)  Early in the morning on the first day of the week, however, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty!  The women coming to embalm the body heard the glorious and puzzling angelic announcement:  “He’s not here; he has risen just as he said.  Come see the place where he lay.  Go quickly and tell his disciples:  He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee.  There you will see him.  Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:6-7)  Jesus was alive and showed himself to those who were close to him.  Eyewitnesses touched, handled, and examined his resurrected body.  Over 500 saw him at one time.  (1st Corinthians 15:3-6)

Jesus is alive today!  He is seated at God the Father’s right hand.  He is waiting for all his enemies to be made a footstool for his feet.  (Hebrews 10:12-13)  He is waiting for the command of the Father to come back again for those who are His!  All who are ready and watching for His return will be taken to be with Him forever!  (Matthew 24:42-44) Those who have died in faith will rise first and we who remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we will always be with the Lord!  Comfort one another with these words!  (1st Thessalonians 4:11-18)  Now that will be a “resurrection day” for us all to prepare for!  Jesus is alive and coming soon!

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen, Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20

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More for us than against us!

Scripture Reading for April 11: 2nd Kings 4-8

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you were outnumbered and under-equipped?  I recently spent time with my father who is 89 years old and a veteran of World War II.  He enjoys telling stories about his time in the service of our country.  He was drafted in 1941 and spent 4 years in the Army as a messenger and driver for the officers of the Third Armored Division.  He went ashore a few days after D-Day on Normandy beach and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  He recently told me how he was driving an officer out in the front lines away from the company when he suddenly came upon a German tank.  He did a u-turn before his officer passenger could say a word and beat a path for the cover of his company.  As he topped a hill, a shell landed behind his jeep but he soon passed one of his own tanks who covered him.  These memories are still vivid for my father who knew what it was like to be in enemy territory and out-manned!  However, there were more for him than against him that day!

In today’s reading, Elisha and his men are cutting trees to enlarge the building housing the company of prophets.  Church growth brought the need for expansion then, too!  As they were cutting, the borrowed axehead flew off and fell into the water.  Elisha cut a stick, threw it into the water, and the axehead floated to the top. There was more for them than against them!

Next, the Arameans were angry at Elisha, who was warning the king of Israel about their plans of attack.  They found out Elisha was staying at Dothan, and came at night and surrounded the city with soldiers, horses and chariots.  Elisha’s servant went out the next morning and saw the great army and came back to Elisha alarmed.  (2nd Kings 6:15)  Elisha prayed that the servant would be able to see the forces on their side and his eyes were opened to see more for them than against them!  (2nd Kings 6:16-17)

As this enemy approached, Elisha prayed again to the Lord to strike his enemy with blindness and God answered.  He then led this army to Samaria to the king of Israel and then prayed to open their eyes.  God again answered!  There is more for us than against us!

A great lesson to learn today is this wonderful truth that remains true for us!  Thankfully, God is no respecter of persons!  God answers prayer and responds to faith.  Elisha, under the direction of the Spirit, could see the unseen realities of God’s power and provision.  He prayed for his servant, and the servant could see as well!  Do you need fresh vision today?  Why not ask the Lord to open your eyes!

“And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the Lord opened his servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2nd Kings 6:17

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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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