Thursday, May 31, 2012

1 Chronicles 2

In our Bible study on Matthew last Wednesday, we once again discussed how the last shall be first and the first last.  As we've gone through the old testament online, we've seen how it is not always the first that is first.  As we read chapter 2, today, we see that Judah is not the first-born of Israel; yet, when it comes to the listing of the Israel's sons' descendents, Judah is first.  It is, in fact, Judah's line that leads to David and to Jesus.  Not everyone in Judah's lineage is an Israelite.  Some are outsiders.   Some are gentiles.

The last shall be first.  Those gentiles and sinners who are seen as last in this world, will end up being among the first in the kingdom of God.

God sent his only begotten Son to deliver all (Jew and Gentile) who would believe  in Him; that they might receive eternal life in His Kingdom.

See you tomorrow with another long list of names!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1 Chronicles 1 - Sons (and daughters)

We begin Chronicles and the review of genealogies.  From Adam to Israel, there are lots of sons' names to remember.  As difficult as it may seem, it is important to attempt to remember some of them.  Many of those names reappear, some with different spellings, so having a general remembrance of who is who in the Bible will help save time later on when you're going to stumble across someone's name and will want to take the time to look them up.  I hate when I have to do that.  I end up surfing the Bible...  for hours... sometimes...

This genealogy is extensive, but not complete, as there are sons missing from the list.  Neither Cain nor Abel are listed as the sons of Adam.  The genealogy of the people whom God calls and establishes as His people begins with Adam and his son, Seth.  This list is a list of the direct lineage of the people who are directly involved with God's plan for the world.  These descendents are the vessels by whom God will ultimately bring His promises to the world.  

Hope that's not too confusing.  Lot's more could be said about why this genealogy is important, but that'll be enough to get you thinking, besides.. just look at all those names you have to memorize!  LOL!  Have a blessed day and know that you too are a descendant - an adopted son or daughter of our Father who is in heaven!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2 Kings 25 - Exiled

The king eats at the king's table...  Only a remnant left in Judah to till the land.  How sad.  The LORD has led His chosen people so far, but they turned their backs on Him and they find themselves exiled from the land He had given them.

I have always found it interesting, that King Jehoiachin, after 37 years in captivity,  is freed by and eats at King Evil-merodoch's table.  After 37 years, it seems, that the people have adjusted (maybe too well?) to being exiled from the land that God had given them.   Being exiled by God, just doesn't sound like something I could ever be comfortable with.  Of course, they weren't totally exiled.  We know that God was with them.  He never left his people, even though, as a people, they had left Him, time and time again.

This final chapter in the book of 2 Kings also reminds me of the desolation that comes with being exiled from the presence of God.  The temple has been torn down.  There is no place left to worship God...  No place to gather to hear His Word.  Zion's fellowship congregation is in Kemi of Russian Karelia.  For years our brothers and sisters in Russia had no place to worship.  The churches of every denomination were torn down or remodeled for other purposes.  Faithful Pastors were exiled to prisons in Siberia.  Although, Christianity suffered a terrible blow, God remained present with the people.  He did not leave them.  With the help of God, they met in private homes and in cemeteries so that they could share God's promises with one another.  Faith remained and has survived.  Congregations are growing and going in this place.  Thanks be to God!

There are times when I wonder if professed Christians understand that apathy toward God and the worship of God leaves Christianity wide open for another exile.  Of course there are multitudes of faithful, but there are also multitudes who say "Lord, Lord," and do not know Him.  I wonder if/when it will happen in this country (USA) that we are no longer free to worship publically, but in order to safeguard our families lives we will have to worship behind closed doors.  May God grant that we don't have to hit this bottom, before the people will turn and receive His Kingdom, His power, His love, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Monday, May 28, 2012

2 Kings 24

Well, they are on their way into exile and captivity.  Jerusalem is captured.  The LORD is accomplishing what He promised to do because of the evil that was done in the sight of the LORD.

God had given them so much, but they had forgotten how He had delivered them from Egypt.  They had forgotten how they had to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years because of their lack of trust in Him.  Even after receiving the promised land, they did not trust the LORD, their God and followed after and gave offerings to other gods of their own making and imaginations.  And... now they are heading, once again, toward exile and bondage.

What is it exactly about the human race that we just cannot give credit to where credit is due?  Why is it that we insist on NOT giving thanks and glorifying God?

May our hearts be softened and our whole beings turned to Worship the only One who can deliver us...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2 Kings 23 - Extreme Commitment - Extreme Makeover.

Josiah reads the words of the Book of the Covenant to all the people and he and they make a covenant with God.

Today is Pentecost Sunday.  I am up early.  It is an exciting day.  Four of our teens will affirm the covenant of their Baptisms today.  In essense, they will promise that it is their intent to serve God before all other gods and to serve his people.  To put the will of God, before their own.  This makes me very, very nervous!  From reading the book that we have been provided, I know that this is not possible.  False gods are going to creep into their lives.  They, as we all do, will stray from time to time.  But, God is with them; His Word is with them: His Spirit is with them to guide them in His way.  Today, they will make their intent to follow in His way known publically as they each say, "I do, and I ask God to help and guide me."

My granddaughter, is among the four.  She was up way past midnight last night.  She is very excited about today and could not sleep.  She and the other three have been instructed as to God's word found in the Holy Scriptures.  They have been introduced to God's Living Word, Jesus the Christ.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, may they each (and all baptized) come to know God's Word more fully and to know the extreme joy, peace, and love that is found in His Kingdom. 

What an extreme makeover it is when we come to know Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Blessed Pentecost to you all!

Friday, May 25, 2012

2 Kings 22 - God Grant You Peace

Yeah!  Josiah does what is right in the sight of the LORD.  Josiah has the whole collection in the temple turned to workmen to repair the house of the LORD.  The Book of the Law is also found and Josiah rips his clothes in despair as he hears the words and realizes that so many of his fore-fathers have not done what is right in the sight of the LORD.  It is a relief this morning, to hear of a faithful king!

It is a relief to hear of a king who has humbled himself and wept before the LORD.  The LORD heard and blessed Josiah, "Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grace in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place." (22:20)  And... Josiah, lived and reigned, in peace for about another 13 years.

What can I say about all this, this morning?  I wish that I could say, "Yeah! We all do what is right in the sight of the LORD."  Unfortunately, I cannot.  So many run after false gods.  Like many of the kings before Josiah, we worship God and make our offerings to other gods.   Humble yourself and serve the LORD!  There is only one God who can grant you peace!

2 Kings 21 - Children Follow In The Way

Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of God.  Hezekian's son, Manasseh did not did not do what was right.   Manasseh's son, Amon did not.

Sometimes, when children stray away from doing what is right in the sight of God, people will point fingers at the parents.  It's their fault.  The parents must have taught them - this or that.  I have even heard:  "it's in their genes!" 

So what happened to Hezekiah's son?  Hezekiah was a faithful man.  He worshipped only the one God.  Manasseh did not follow what his father taught.  But, Manasseh's son did.  Amon did what his father taught.  Who can tell for sure who will follow in "the way" and who will not? 

There are just too many variables to know why.  All we can do is teach our children what we would have them know and pray.  Lot's of prayers!!!  This Sunday four of our young people at Zion will be affirming their Baptisms through the Rite of Confirmation.  They are excited and I am nervous.  I am not nervous about the service.  I am anxious for their futures?  Do they actually know enough, do they know Jesus well enough, so that once they are confirmed they will actually trust him, so that they will follow in "His Way?"

All we can do is pray for them today, tomorrow, always.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

2 Kings 20 - Peace and Security

Would you want to know in which year you will die?  Hezekiah is at his deathbed.  He is told by Isaiah that he will die.  Yet, God hears Hezekiah's pleas and chooses that Hezekiah should be healed and live for some time yet.  Through Isaiah God lets him know that he will live for 15 more years.  I may feel differently tomorrow, but for today, I am not sure if I would want to know when I will die, whether it is tomorrow or 5 or 10 or 15 years from now.  I think I'd like that day to be a surprise.

Hezekiah disappoints me in the a latter part of this chapter.  He is told that his descendents will be captured and taken to Babylon.  His response?  "...he thought, "Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?"  Sounds just a little selfish to me...  But, then again, I am one who prays often for peace and security for my children and grandchildren.  I have a hard time with a parent who is satisfied that their lives are going to be all right, without regards to what might happen to their children.  Then, again, maybe Hezekiah thinks that God just might change His mind about Babylon just as He did about whether Hezekiah would live or not live. 

May God bless our children, not only of today, but of future generations with peace and security.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2 Kings 19 - God Is Not Mocked!

"Whom have you mocked and reviled?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights?  Against the Holy One of Israel!"  (2 Kings19:22)

This would be a very bad idea!

I can understand Hezekiah tearing his clothes and covering himself with sackcloth.  I understand that sense of frustration, of mourning, of grief at hearing the LORD mocked.  I can understand and know what it feels like to hear the name of the LORD slandered; when God is mocked over and over again.  It's harder to explain that feeling though.  It's kind of a sinking feeling for the one who mocks; for the one who thinks they are a god that Almighty God has no power over.

Mocking God, defying the LORD, God Almighty just doesn't seem like a wise thing to me.  In fact, it sounds like a pretty huge waste of one's life.  God is God.  Think you can beat him up?  Think you can bully Him?  You will lose... In the long run.. you will lose!  The very sad thing it is not those who claim not to believe who mock Him.  Most often, the ones who mock God, who deny and/or defy His power and authority are one who say they are Christians.  People who believe that everyone who does good works is saved, but don't believe that you have to believe in the saving power of Christ alone.  Christians who don't believe?  That's not a Christian.  And, if you believed, then you wouldn't be mocking.  One would know better. 

Hezekiah was faithful.  It is good to hear of a man, a king, who trusts God and turns to Him for help.  God helps...

On the other hand, the angel of the LORD struck down 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. 

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."  (Gal 6:7-8 NASB)


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2 Kings 18 Faithful Hezekiah

Finally, a faithful king and faithful people.  Finally, a king who was unafraid to destroy the high places and the Asherah.  Hezekiah even broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made.  I didn't even know that the bronze serpent was still around.  But, it does not surprise me.  Whenever I've heard the story of Moses making that bronze serpent, I've thought, "Danger! False god!"  Of course they would have kept it around.  They had a real difficult time worshipping a God whom they could not see and preferred a chunk of bronze that they could.  Thanks be to God for the faithfulness of Hezekiah who finally broke it into pieces.

And thanks be to God for faithful Hezekiah, who leads Judah to trust in the LORD; to not fear danger; to not fear the Assyrians. 

May God grant that all who lead His church on earth to trust in Him and to do what is right in his eyes.

P.S.  As I was sitting on the deck after I finished this blog, I thought about the faithfulness of the men at Zion Lutheran in Skanee.  In many congregations that I know there is this lament regarding the lack of young people and the lack of men who worship the LORD.  This is not so at Zion.  We are a small congregation, but I was reminded of how faithful our men are, this last Sunday at our early service, as the last table was filled.  It was almost all men.  They sit near the back of the sanctuary (there are also others dispersed throughout the congregation) together.  The single women sit nearer the front on the opposite side.  It always makes me smile (it gives me joy) to see the Lord's table surrounded by faithful men, interspersed with children who come for a blessing, sometimes there is a wife or two, kneeling side by side as they receive our Savior into their lives, into their very beings.

Monday, May 21, 2012

2 Kings 17

More false gods and into exile this time.  Will we ever learn?  I'm not thinking so.  Always something to put before God... Always something to worship before Him...  The fact that Israel and Judah were so faithless in spite of all that God had done for them, is just a little amazing.  But, in reality, how different are we really.  I'm thinking maybe we are already in exile and don't even know it!  We follow our false gods so closely that we don't even know that we are in exile? 

I heard the other day that you don't have to go to church every time the bell rings to be a Christian... all you have to do is be good and kind and nice to people.  LOL...  Sorry, I cannot help but laugh at that.  Somebody has not been listening!  Someone is slightly deluded!  It's not about being nice.  It's about following Jesus, about worshipping God before all other gods.  It's about Him being the LORD of your life.  No! One is not a Christian because of their good works and are nice.  We are not saved by our good works.  We are saved by God, Himself.  It is a gift.  Good works are a consequence of being saved, of being a member of the Body of Christ.  It is not the other way around. 

Time to quit fooling ourselves and get rid of every false god!  The people of Israel and Judah worshipped other gods, yet they still feard the LORD.  Did it get them anywhere?  Did that work for them?  They ended up in exile - that's how following other gods  worked for His chosen people.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2 Kings 16 - Ahaz

After some pretty decent kings, Judah is now led by one who does not do what is right in the sight of God.  King Ahaz of Judah even sacrifices his son as a burned offering in accordance with pagan practices.  It is interesting, though to note, that it is Ahaz, whom God sends Isaiah to (Isaiah 7) with the promise of the Savior who would deliver God's people.  This was fulfilled in the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.

Sorry to be so brief, I am rushing again.... Shut the alarm off and slept for 2 more hours!  Have a blessed day!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

2 Kings 15 - Azariah/Uzziah

Well, this is confusing...  Azariah or Uzziah...?  The translation (NIV) that I am using uses Azariah and Uzziah interchangeably in this chapter.  I believe they are the same person.  I'm also trying to research on a little eee-pad.  It's not working real well.  Anyway, 2 Chronicles 26 has more on this king.  Seems Azariah did what was right in the sight of the LORD.  He was a good king and prospered.  But, then he got big-headed and went and offered incense on the altar of incense.  Offerings are good, but, offering them is the place of the priest not the king.  And.. to add to my confusion.  According to 2 Chron 26:17, the priest's name, who corrects him, is Azariah.  While still in the temple Azariah, the king, is afflicted with leprosy.  He lives the rest of his life separated from his family in a separate house.  Even in death, he is not buried with his fathers, but near them.

In spite of his affliction, Azariah, the king of Judah, outlives many kings of Israel who continue in the way of their fathers doing doing what is evil in the site of the LORD. Of course, 2 Kings really doesn't say that Shallum  did evil.  He only lived as king for 1 month so it was pretty hard to judge that reign.

Jotham, who has pretty much run the kingdom since his father, Azariah, was afflicted with leprosy succeeds his father as king of Judah.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had.  But, again.... he also failed to remove the high places.

I think I like this King Azariah.  He does what is right in God's eyes and when he really messes up, he accepts his consequences.  Neither in 2 Kings or 2 Chronicles do I see him complaining that God is unfair.  According to 2 Chronicles, when he is afflicted he leaves the temple in a hurry, without any arguing with the priest.  He knows and accepts that the LORD has afflicted him.  May we all have the knowlede and strength to recognize our sin.

Friday, May 18, 2012

2 Kings 14 - Teach Your Children The Way That They Should Go!

More fighting - more death - Amaziah struck killed all his servants who had struck down his father and ten thousand Edomites dead...  oh my! 

Amaziah, king of Judah, did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father.  Jeroboam, king of Israel, did what ws evil in the sight of the LORD. 

Makes one wonder what is good and evil in the sight of God.  Not long ago, I heard about a judge who wanted to get rid of the first table of the law regarding honoring God.  The thinking (as I heard it) was that if we keep the second table regarding the way we treat others there would be peace.  LOL!  How delusional!  Without God there is no peace.  Without the help of God, you may as well throw out the second table, as well.  I think that ignoring God would probably be a good first step in doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD.  On the other hand, I was on facebook this morning, and the disrespect and just plain old lack of humanity dignity that is revealed by some of the posts reveals more than a bit about the human condition.  Wow!  Can't believe what some adults will post even as they have befriended young people who view this garbage on their sites.  Amazing!  This too, I have to believe is evil in the sight of the LORD.  The Word of God has something to say about bringing up children in the way they should go.  (Prov 22:6 & Luke 17:2) Some of these posts definitely encourage them on a different path! 

May God protect our children and lead in the way that they should go.

"All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace."  (Isaiah 54:13 NIV)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2 Kings 13 - Lord of Life

Well... to be honest, I am losing track of all the various kings of Israel and Judah.  I have to keep looking back to see who is who and who did or didn't do evil in the sight of the LORD.  It's beginning to seem like not all that many did what was good in his sight. 

We hear of another resurrection in this story.  Elisha, the prophet, dies. A dead man was thrown into the same grave as Elisha.  As soon as the dead man's body touches Elisha's, the dead man is revived!  A strange, strange story!  The notes in "The Lutheran Study Bible," published by Concordia Publishing House, say, "The Lord works one last miracle through Elisha, a shocking illustration that the Lord is the master of  life and the future."  

I have been singing the "Lord of the Dance" over and over and over again since yesterday.  One of the verses says:

     I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black.
     It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
     They buried my body, they thought I was gone
      But I am the life, and the dance goes on.

He is the master of life.  Death has absolutely no power over God.  Let us rejoice that He is our LORD.  We don't and won't bow down to false gods, but worship the LORD of life.  Let us follow where he will directs and leads us - eternal life in His presence.  As the refrain continues:
     Dance, dance, wherever you may be
     I am the lord of the dance, said he
     And I lead you all, wherever you may be
     And I lead you all, in the dance, said he.

Oh, how disappointing - was going to sing this song to our youth on Pentecost Sunday.  I just found out that this is our opening song!  So I will have to find another!  After all the lecturing I have done to our confirmands, I am hoping to be able to explain the joy of worshipping the one true God to our young people as they affirm their baptisms this Sunday.  Being a follower of Jesus is anything but boring! :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2 Kings 12 - Repairing God's House

Finally, a king who does right in the sight of the LORD, who cares about the temple, who cares about taking care of the LORD's house!  The offerings that would normally go to take care of the holy things in the house of the LORD are diverted to pay for laborers to repair the house of the LORD. 

It strikes me that there are many congregations today who follow this pattern to the extreme.  The most important thing is always the upkeep of the house of God and the holy things are extremely neglected.  Word and Sacrament relegated to incidentals compared to the new carpeting and pews that are desired by the members.  I am not sure if this works for God, even if it works for the members.  Of course, the building should not be neglected.  However, the building is not the church.  It is not the temple of God.  " also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5 NIV)  We need a place to gather, to Worship as members of one Body.  We need a place to gather to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament; however, let us always make sure that the building has not become our god. 

Just as Joash cared for the temple, it is a good thing for us to care for the gathering places of God's people.  But, we cannot put the building before the temple of God.  We cannot put the building before the Body of Christ.  Our priority (it seems to me) should be in building up the spiritual house and not neglect the other.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2 Kings 11- Athaliah, What A Grandmother!

Having just celebrated mother's day, the silent tears during worship of those who were remembering abuse and neglect at the hands of their mothers is still on my mind.  Today we get to read about one such mother. "When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family."  Yup!  That's a loving mother and grandmother - an example of the caring matriarch!  Fortunately, Jehosheba (Joash's aunt) stepped in and hid Ahaziah's son, Joash (who by my figuring was only years old). Joash was anointed and became king at seven years of age!  Imagine that!  A seven year old in charge of a country!  

I have grandchildren (many of you probably do, too) who sometimes think that they are running the show, as well.  I think the next time one of them tell me that they don't have to make their beds or pick up their dirty clothes and accuse me of being "mean" for even thinking they should, maybe I will tell them the story of Joash's grandmother, Athaliah.

As for this morning, I am out camping (if that's what you call staying in a camper trailer) with my oldest granddaughter at the Marina.  Yes!  They finally have wi-fi so you will probably find me out here a lot more this summer.  No cell phone reception, but wi-fi.  Email will work better than phones this summer!

Monday, May 14, 2012

2 Kings 10 - Zeal for the LORD or Me?

With zeal for the LORD, Jehu destroyed all the worshippers of Baal.  With zeal for the LORD, he had all seventy sons of Ahab beheaded.  With zeal for the LORD, he destroyed many! 

What kind of zeal was it, really!?  After all, he let those golden calves stand...  I'm thinking maybe his zeal for destroying these enemies just may have had a bit to do with the fact that they were his enemies as well as enemies of the LORD.  Were Jehu's motives really because of faithfulness to God or were they tainted just a bit (maybe a lot) with faithfulness toward himself and his ambitions?  Just asking...  The LORD commended him for the retribution he brought on Ahab's house.  But, verse 31 tells us:  "But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel with all his hart.  He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin." 

Then again, I also have to ask myself if maybe I have made compromises with the will of God?  That is... to be rid of false of gods and to express the need to be rid of them?  Do I stand firmer in some areas than in others because of my own bias'?  My own desires?  Is anything done under the sun, by anyone, that is not tainted with a little self-ambition?

For some reason getting rid of Ahab's family; getting rid of all the followers of Baal; but, not getting rid of golden calves just doesn't compute for me. 

May God help us to do His will in all things, not just those things that are comfortable or profitable for us.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

2 Kings 9 - New King - Jezebel and Joram Dead

Israel has a new king.  I just love how these kings are anointed and then have to go and take the position by force.  Seem just a little strange to me.  But, Jehu does take it easily and the prophecy concerning Jezebel is fulfilled.  She is eaten by the dogs.  Her son, Joram, is killed and thrown on Nahab's ground, fulfilling the prophecy concerning Joram's father, Ahab.

And, why must this king be replaced?  As Jehu told Joram, "What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?" 

Lots of mess - lots of death - resulting from kings who cannot - could not - would not - worship the LORD.  Instead they worshipped according to the ways of their mothers and fathers on hills. The King of Israel - can you imagine - not doing what is pleasing in the sight of the LORD?!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

2 Kings 8 - Power and Authority

Elisha continues to ensure that the Shunammite woman is provided for.  After seven years of living in the land of Philistines during the famine, she returns.  Because of her connection to Elisha; because it is her son that the infamous Elisha has raised from the dead, the king intercedes for her and makes sure she receives her land back.  Not sure why this woman was picked as a favored one by God.  But, she was.  Elisha has seen to it that she has been blessed. 

The rest of the chapter seems to be about deceit and war and way too many kings.  I try to imagine this land that we're reading about.  It doesn't appear to be all that large; yet, there are a whole lot of kings (and their people) who spend a whole lot of time over the generations killing each other to get this land and to lord it over others. 

I'd much rather be reading about the exploits of Elisha who hears the word of the Lord and speaks it, than to read about all these kings killing each other and the people over property and power.  It is sad that they do not know that all power and authority belong to God.  It is sad that so many today do not comprehend this reality and spend their lives trying to make a name for themselves instead of supporting one another.

May our eyes be opened to see the futility of our strivings against one another.

Friday, May 11, 2012

2 Kings 7- Hear The Word Of The Lord

"Hear the word of the Lord.." (2 Kings 7:1)

The people are starving.  There is no food.  Our last chapter tells us the story of two women who made a pact together to eat their son. 

But, God provides for the people.  Elisha announces the word of God:  "Hear the word of the Lord..."  Tomorrow there will be food and the people will live.  But, not all the people, the one captain will be trampled to death as the community runs out to feed themselves.

Lately, one of my primary focuses has been on the upcoming affirmation of our confirmands (my granddaughter included).  The service is not yet ready.  I have not even heard what hymns/songs our musicians have selected.  But, I do know what the choir will be singing to encourage our confirmands and congregation to have life and have it abundantly.  They will be singing "Dem Dry Bones" and encouraging us all to:  "Hear the word of the Lord."  (Ezekiel 37:4)
     The LORD provides.  He provides.  He gives life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Just a little off track this morning... But, a good reminder to read and "Hear the word of the Lord."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2 Kings 6 - Open Our Eyes

Some real interesting goings on in this chapter:  an axe head that floats; eyes opened to see the army of the LORD surrounding Elisha; and two women who are so hungry that they strike up a bargain to eat their children, for which the king of Israel blames Elisha.

In all of these things, it appears that the LORD provides (or will provide) through Elisha.  He works all things for the good of His people.  It just sometimes takes a little time - the eyes have to be opened.  When things get tough, we often blame others, even God, for our rough times.  But, we should probably recognize that often times may seem worse than they are because our eyes and our hearts and our minds are closed to the reality of what God is really doing in our lives and in the world around us.

We cannot see the army of the LORD surrounding us, as they saw it surrounding Elisha, and so we doubt.  We lack faith that the LORD will deliver us.  We trust in ourselves and end up devouring even our loved ones. 

May God deliver us from our unbelief.  May He open our eyes that we might see, our ears that we might hear, and our hearts that we might received Him more fully, by faith, into our lives.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2 Kings 5 - Give Thanks For Your Cleansing!

This story of Naaman is one of the first stories my granddaughter remembered and learned.  During bath-time when she was about two-years or so old, she would reinact the story of Naaman's cleansing by immersing herself seven times so that she too might be made clean. 

Now we might think that the LORD has cursed Naaman because he has leprosy.  But, the story doesn't actually say that.  Actually, the story infers that he has been blessed by God because through him the LORD had given victory to Syria.  But, he does happen to worship false gods and his victories have given him a big head.  His victories, the kings favor, something seems to have given him a pretty good sized ego.  He thinks that he can buy his health.  He thinks that washing in the Jordan as Elisha directs him, is beneath him.  Finally, his servants convince him. He listens, dips himself seven times, and is made clean.  He turns and acknowledges that there are no gods except the God of Israel.  He vows to never again offer sacrifices to any other gods.

There are so many things to learn from this story.  First there's the trust that the king of Syria has that his commander will be healed if he goes to Israeel to see this prophet.  And, then there is the fear of Israel's king that Syria's king is setting him up.  But, Elisha hears and saves the day.  It is interesting that kings got involved in the whole process in the first place.

And, then there is Elisha's servant, Gehazi's greed and deceit. Elisha would not take payment for healing Naaman, so Gehazi goes after Naaman and gets it for himself, by telling lies about his master.  The consequences:  Gehazi has just inherited Naaman's leprosy.  Naaman has been cleansed, but his uncleanness will cling to Gehazi and his descendents forever.

The bottom line:  The LORD has healed Naaman (through Elisha).  Naaman is grateful for this gift of cleansing and he vows to sacrifice to no other gods but the LORD.  We too have been cleansed, by the blood of Jesus the Christ.  May we turn and give thanks for this gift of healing to the LORD our God. 

LORD, help us to see, help us to understand the immense proportions of this gift, of your love for us.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2 Kings 4 - Elisha is Busy

Sorry... I'm running late again today!  Spent the night out at Witz' Marina and BTC has not yet set up their wi-fi.  Hopefully, it will be soon so I can stay out there more often, wake up and go straight to work :)

Today we read about a few miracles.  Through Elisha, God provides for the widow of one of the sons of the prophets; the Shunammite woman who has been barren gives birth to a son; that same son dies and is brought back to life; and the poisonous stew that the sons of the prophets are about to eat, is made clean.  All of this in one chapter! 

God uses Elisha to bless those in need.  He uses us to bless and provide for those in need, as well.  There are no prophets today, there are no miracles today, I believe, because we don't expect them; won't receive them; and when do they appear in spite of our hard-heartedness, we don't recognize them.

May God open our ears, our eyes, and our hearts to a greater understanding of his gifts to those who love and trust in Him.

Monday, May 7, 2012

2 Kings 3

I'm thinking these 3 kings would have been better off if they had planned a little better before they went out to attack Moab.  If it were not for the LORD's intervention they may well have all died from dehydration before they even encountered the enemy.

It is a good thing to trust the LORD.  But, the LORD does expect us to do a little planning.  He gifts us gifts; time, talents, etc..  He gives us brains to think and reason.  We are to use them in planning or futures; in planning our day to day activities.  Those three kings had to go to Elisha to hear the word of God for them; his plan for them.  We do not have to.  We can hear His Word whenever we are gathered for Worship.  We can inquire of the LORD at all times and in all places.  We can spend time with Him in prayer.  I think finding out the will of God in advance would be a bit wiser than waiting until one is dying of thirst or starving or losing the battle to hear the Word of God.

Trust in the LORD for all things.  Let us not trust in the work of our own hands, but use our hands to do the work that God would have us do for His purpose.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

2 Kings 2 - Bullying

Elijah work on earth is done and he ascends into heaven by a whirlwind.  Elisha has inherited a double portion of Elijah's spirit and has taken up the task of healing water so that it is fit to drink.

Now, I don't know what Elisha looked like.  But, apparently he had no hair.  And... of course, there were bullies around even then.  On his way to Bethel, some small boys jeered at him calling him a baldhead.  And what did Elisha do?  He turned around and cursed them in the name of the LORD and two bears came out of the woods and tore 42 of them apart.

Ok, so the story (at least the ESV) says some small boys.  I'm not sure if I'd say 42 boys is a some.  It sounds more like a gang than a few stray bullies.  I'd say it is a lot of boys to be harrassing one person.  How did he defend himself.  Did he turn the other cheek?  Did he invite them home for dinner?  Did he do nothing and allow the verbal assault to potentially become something more?  What Elisha did was:  call on the name of the LORD and the LORD defended him.  The LORD protected him. 

Baldhead!  So many names used to harrass others - both then and now.  Our school systems are full of it.  It has become a game played by way too many of our young people.

May God help all of our children to see how damaging it is to everyone to be involved in senseless name-calling and to learn to live in peace.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

2 Kings 1 - Inquiring Of Baal-zebub

Ahaziah, son of Ahab and Jezebel, king of Israel wants to inquire of Baal-zebub if he's going to die.  Not a real smart move, especcially if you're the king of Israel!  Elijah intervenes and 2 captains and their 100 total men die because they are off to inquire of a god other than the God of Israel.  In the end, Ahaziah learns that he will indeed die, not because he fell through the lattice, but because he is inquiring of false gods.  Ahaziah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  He trusts in other gods before the God who delivered Israel and suffesr the consequences.  He reigns only 2 years, not even enough time to bear a son to take over the throne.

Tragedy comes along with seeking help from false gods.  On the other hand, blessings seem to flow over those who seek the LORD's guidance and follow in His Way.  Now, if someone with Elijah's reputation for being a man of God showed up and warned you, would you have enough sense to listen?

May God give us the wisdom and strength to do what is right in his sight.

Friday, May 4, 2012

1 Kings 22

Listening to false prophets who will appease the itching ears really is a worthless effort.  What good does it do us if we listen to and hear only what we want to hear and do not hear the truth? 

Ahab wanted to win the battle against Syria and would not listen to the warning that God gave him through the prophet Micaiah.  Ahab died during the battle as Micaiah had predicted.  His people ended up scattered, like sheep without a shepherd, upon the battle field as they scurried back to their homes.

Tomorrow we begin a new book, 2 Kings, and we will see how Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, fares with the prophet Elijah.  In the meantime, steer clear of those false gods and false prophets who would soothe your itching ears.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

1 Kings 21

So that's how Jezebel got her reputation!  She is totally ruthless.  It doesn't seem to be so much about greed for her as it is for Ahab.  Jezebel is powerful - sneaky powerful.  She gets for her husband, the king, what it is that he wants - the neighbor's vineyard. 

God condemns them both, as well as anyone belonging to them.  At hearing the condemnation, Ahab (but not Jezebel) repents and the LORD changes his verdict.  God will postpone the penalty of his sin for the next generation.

Greed and corrupt power are very dangerous to our well being.  One may think they're getting over, that they are winning, but they are not.  In the end these vices will destroy us and our children and our children's children.  There are consequences for taking what does not belong to us.  There are definitely consequences to taking the life of another unjustly.  We will see the consequences as we read further.

May God help us to support our neighbors in their times of need and to protect them and all that they own.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

1 Kings 20- Faithless Brothers - Ahab & Ben-hadad

And exactly why is Ahab winning the war against Ben-hadad?  Because he is so faithful?  Not!  Ahab is still the most faithless king of Israel.  Victory is simply what God decides for Ahab or more probably for Israel. 

I wonder what Ahab really means when he says in regard to Ben-hadad, "Doe's he still live?  He is my brother."   It is just strange that Ahab would consider him a comrade, a friend after all they have just gone through.  My first reaction is that somehow they have a closer relatinship than scripture relates.  But, since scripture does not support (to my limited knowledge) that Ahab and Ben-hadad were brothers by birth in any way, I assume that he meant they were brothers of kindred hearts. Still it's a strange word to use.  After all doesn't being a brothers means way more than just being a comrade or friend.  To call one a brother and they are not implies a relationship beyond mere acquantaine.  What does it mean to call someone who has been your enemy, who has attacked you and your people, your brother?   What does it mean to befriend and support one whom the LORD has reached His hand out against? 

Come to think of it...  Maybe that is why Ahab considers themselves brothers?  They are both faithless, warring men.  It does not matter how matter how many of their subjects have died in their battles, as long as they live.  Just maybe, they are brothers who will protect each other because they both have the same status - kings.  And... no one else matters, not even God.  I think "kindred spirits" is what some would call Ahab and Ben-hadad - warring, faithless men.

Don't know, just surmising.  Jesus did say we are to love our enemy.  I am not denying that.  But, I wonder, should we not love and care for and protect those people who are in our charge, as well?  Should we not protect them from their enemy?  Who exactly is our brother?  The one's we have been called to care for, to shepherd or the wolf who would destroy our charges?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1 Kings 19

The sound of the still small voice in the sheer silence...

First off, Elijah running from Jezebel is a little surprising.  He faced off with all those false prophets.  What is there about this woman, even though a queen, that he would run from her?

And then we hear the still small voice, the low whisper of God in the sheer silence...  I have not always been happy with where God has called me to go and what He has called me to do.  In fact, I have often refused to go for many years.  By the age of 12, I had heard that whisper calling me into pastoral ministry, but it took many decades to answer that call.  Maybe, that was God's plan all along.  As Elijah ran from Jezebel did he not get fed by the angel of the LORD, enough to sustain him 40 days and 40 nights on the journey to Mt. Horeb?  Maybe, God intends for it to take a while to prepare for what He would have us to - maybe just to prepare us to hear his low whisper.  After all, some of us are afraid to hear, are we not?  So afraid that if we hear it, we might have to list and follow, that we fill our days with "stuff" and our lives with "noise."  The silence can be scary because in it we just might hear God's call and then what do we do -  follow or ignore God?

But, maybe it was also that I was too busy with what I thought I wanted and what my family wanted and so I ignored Him.  Many, many people today hear His call.  They hear that low whisper in the darkness of the night and in the darkness of their hearts refuse to listen to it.  They go off in other directions, most often to their own detriment.

The message to Elijah is that he is to replace the present kings and to annoint his own replacement, Elisha.  Note, that when the cloak is placed upon him, Elisha's first response is let me go to my familes - let me kiss them good-by - and then I will follow you - then you can train me to be God's prophet.

There's a similar story in the New Testament (Luke 9:57-62 NIV).

     As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
     Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
     He said to another man, “Follow me.”
     But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
     Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 
     Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 
     Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”