The Power of our choices!

Scripture reading for April 9: 2nd Kings 1-3

“What can I do for you before I am taken from you?”  And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” (2nd Kings 2:9) 

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)  At God’s instruction, Elijah threw his mantle over him.  Scripture records that he left his oxen and ran after Elijah.  Then he sacrificed his oxen, burning his plowing equipment to offer the sacrifice.  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!  Elisha asked Elijah 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 and the mantle fell to earth!  It was an exciting exit for the prophet Elijah and an exciting transition for the prophet Elisha as he picked up the anointed mantle and began to do greater things than his mentor!

Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the final word from God. He has told HIs disciples 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, 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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Prophetic intervention

Scripture reading for April 8: 1st Kings 20-22

God places us in a family so that we might learn from parents who are older and wiser.  God may also place a mate in our life. A mate may be a great blessing or 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 would result in a victorious life; rejecting their word brought trouble and defeat. Ahab had a pagan wife, Jezebel, who led him astray. Ahab’s attitude made prophetic intervention necessary since he was not following God fully.

1 Kings 20:28 “And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but He is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.””

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 but Ben-Hadad escaped.  God sent another prophet to speak to Ahab a word of action.  (1st Kings 20:28)  Ahab spared Ben-Hadad’s life and made a treaty with him. God sent another prophet to pronounce judgment.

(1 Kings 20:42-43) “And he said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.'” And the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria.”

Ahab responded with anger and sulking!  Out of this attitude, Ahab coveted a neighbor’s vineyard to built a garden for himself.  The neighbor, Naboth, refused to sell or trade the family property.  Jezebel, his wife, promptly set in motion a plan to get the vineyard through lies and manipulation.  Naboth was killed and the vineyard is secured for Ahab.  Elijah the prophet pronounced their deaths.

Why do you think God sent all this prophetic intervention and correction?  Why was God so gracious and long-suffering with this king and his wife?  Has God ever given you prophetic instruction or warnings?

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Sunday rest and reflection–praise!

Greetings in Jesus’ Name!

Jesus is our heavenly Bridegroom! His Bride comes from every tribe, tongue and nation. From the rising of the sun to its going down, His Name will be praised! But in the New Jerusalem, a sun is not needed! As God’s glory filled the temple of Solomon’s day that he built, so God’s glory will fill His eternal city, the New Jerusalem. It will be a city of peace, joy, and everlasting blessing for those with their names written as citizens there. There will be joy unspeakable and full of glory!

As his father David was a warrior/king, Solomon was a king of peace among the nations!  He ruled Israel and through his wisdom 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”. God’s glory filled that “House”! This foreshadowed the promised Messiah who came through Solomon.

Jesus Christ is Solomon’s greater son!  He is wisdom to us!  (1st Corinthians 1:30)  He is the Prince of Peace!  As King of kings, He will rule over the world from Jerusalem and all the nations will serve and worship Him!  The glory of His later ‘House’ will be greater than the former ‘house’!  Amen!  Have a great day of praise and worship to our great King!  In Adoration of Him, Pastor John

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Provision in ‘dry’ times!

Scripture reading for April 6: 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 in the drought that year! Praise the Lord! 

1 Kings 17:1 “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before Whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Elijah announced to King Ahab that no rain or dew would fall from the sky except at his word for the next few years. He then left in obedience to the Lord, trusting God for His promised provision.  God commanded ravens to feed him by the brook in the Cherith ravine.  After a rainless few weeks, the brook dried up and God sent Elijah to a widow’s house in Zarephath.  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. “Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

The times we live in are also dry in many ways.  Our economy is very weak and many are hurting financially. God’s judgment has fallen on our country that has turned to idols.  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.  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 if we walk with God!

Are you going through dry times in your own life? Have you sought God for His instructions to meet the needs you have? Are you willing to give your little to God first to see a miracle of multiplication?

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The wisdom of life experience!

Scripture reading for April 5: 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 and it was no different in Solomon’s time.  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 to choose what to do 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 the elder’s good advice.

He next consulted his peers, young men he grew up with.  They advised him to answer the people with harshness and more taxes.  The new king refused to listen to the people or the elders but instead took the advice of his peers.  This divided the people and fulfilled the Word of the Lord to Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah that Solomon’s kingdom would be divided.  (1st Kings 12:13-16)

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.  This often leads to division and strife as in this story.

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. 

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Fame, fortune and falling away!

Scripture reading for April 4: 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)  Solomon found prosperity and fame to be a more difficult test than sexual lust. 

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) 

But Solomon 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. 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.

We all think that it would be wonderful to have what Solomon or some other famous figure has, but we must be reminded of how our hearts are tested by this.  The pride and power of prosperity can make one as drunk as wine!  God is jealous and will not tolerate idolatry.  Although Solomon had God appear to him twice and plainly bless him and warn him, Solomon made choices that took him away from the blessings and his walk with God.

Do you know someone who has fame or fortune, who is in a position of authority and influence?  What are some principles of walking with God that you would apply to stay close to the Lord?

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Glory in the Temple!

Scripture Reading for April 3: 1st Kings 5-8

Solomon had heard God’s decree that he would build the house where God’s Name would reside among His people.  He had a vision and at God’s invitation had asked Him for wisdom.  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. 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) 

When the temple was completed, the priests carried the Ark into the Holy of Holies and then withdrew.  None could stand as the Presence of God in the cloud of Glory filled the temple. (1st Kings 8:6-11)  Solomon declared a blessing and thanked God for His faithfulness! Solomon then knelt down, raised his hands toward heaven, and prayed a magnificent prayer of dedication!  In this prayer are eight petitions of God to “hear from heaven” when His people call upon Him for help.  The central focus was 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!

Solomon also prayed for the foreigner and those drawn to the temple from other lands and peoples.  Solomon asked God to hear their prayer as well so all peoples of the earth might know His Great Name and fear the Lord!  (1st Kings 8:41-43, 60)  This prayer reminds us of Jesus sending his followers into all the world to make disciples of all nations! His house would be a house of prayer for all nations!  (Mark 11:17)  Examine your heart today as the temple of God. Would your house be a house of prayer for all?

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Asking for wisdom!

Scripture Reading for April 2: 1st Kings1-4

1 Kings 3:3 “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.” . . vs. 5-6 “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before You in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you.” . .vs 9 “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this Your great people?”

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, asking 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)  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) Praise the Lord!

In considering Solomon’s walk with the Lord, how would God say that you felt toward Him? How might God describe your walk with Him? How are you at asking God for what you want or need?

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Leaving a legacy–last words!

Scripture reading for April 1: 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)  After seventy years of walking with God, he writes not so much for himself, but for those who will follow him in the walk 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.  His last words still speak to us and encourage us to press on to meet our great “High God”! 

Have you ever thought about what your ‘last words’ might be? What legacy would you like to leave for the next generations? What names might you ascribe to God in your walk of faith today?

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Sunday rest and reflection–Resurrection

Matthew 28:1-7 “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus Who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Mary and I wish each of you a blessed Resurrection day, as we celebrate the most powerful event in human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave! “He is risen” was the message of the angel to the first women visiting the tomb to anoint His body. That cry brings us to worship our King, Son of David, Son of God, Who alone defeated the “giant” of sin and death and the grave. He is alive and shows Himself to all who will humbly seek Him.

The Son of God came to dwell among us and reveal the heart of His Father–love for us through His earthly ministry and compassion for our fallen nature. This love caused the Father to give His Son, Jesus Christ, the mission of taking the sins of all people and paying the penalty for our sins through sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus, Alone, did for us what we could not do for ourselves. It is not our good works, our family, our knowledge or position, our church membership, or even our confession of faith that saves us. We are saved by His finished work of paying for our sins on the cross and by His grace extended to us through His intercession and drawing us to repentance and faith.

May God’s amazing grace fill your life today with obedience, faithfulness, and worship with His family as we all gather to declare “He is risen indeed!” Amen! Pastor John and Mary

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