Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Asa, King of Judah, built and prospered, and Judah's army won great battles because his heart was fully committed to the Lord. But after Judah had experienced a long season of peace, they were again threatened. Instead of going to the Lord for help, he relied on the King of Aram for protection. Success made him soft and erased the memory of God's faithfulness. (2 Chron. 15-16)
Amaziah, King of Judah, enjoyed a great military victory at the hand of God, but he got cocky and tried to attack Israel. God allowed Jehoash, King of Israel to capture Amaziah, humiliate him, tear down Jerusalem's wall and carry away the wealth of the Temple. (2 Chron. 24-25)
Last one - Hezekiah, King of Judah, great guy. Even united some of the remnant of Israel with Judah for Passover. Built and restored Judah in the time of Assyria's rise to world power. But when his wealth was at its peak, he gave some foreigners a peek at ALL his treasure. His success was displayed to the very nation who plundered Judah 5 generations later - the Babylonians. (2 Chron. 29-32)
As I read these "success stories" I to prayed, "Lord, I'm beginning to think success isn't such a great thing!" I'm not sure success is as much a gift as it is a curse. I wondered what would happen if my books were published and people actually bought them. I pondered the possibilities of a full speaking schedule and heavy demands on my time. Would the record of my life look like one of these kings?
I searched my heart and asked the Lord to forestall anything that would take my focus from Him. I determined that if success in any realm would diminish my love and/or relationship with Him, I don't want it. Later that same day - that same day - I received word from both publishing houses that my devotional proposal had been turned down. I laughed out loud! Instead of feeling disappointed, I was almost relieved!
I don't believe I'm ready yet to be successful and remain completely faithful. I'm not ready to be in the queen contest and win first place. I need to go play mud volleyball for a while longer. However, I'm leaving my make-up on - because you never know...when the next contest comes, my heart my be ready to receive more of God's good gifts. I'm simply praying that He never give me too much good for my own good.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I've been convicted lately that I've become spiritually soft. By "lately" I don't mean days. I mean years. I can remember early in my salvation when I spent literally hours in the Word of God. I couldn't wait to open the Book. I can also remember a time when a problem sent me directly to my knees. Not so, now that I have all these years of wisdom to my credit. Now, I seem to believe I possess the ability to work things out for myself. Ha, isn't that a laugh?
Unfortunately, I'm not the only sprinter in this marathon God calls a spiritual life. It's a pattern often repeated in Scripture, a tragic ending to every life affected by this spiritual malaise. My daily devotions these days are in 1 & 2 Chronicles, so I'm reading a lot about the Kings of Israel and Judah. You may think it's boring, but let me tell you - it's better than any soap opera!
- David - faithful shepherd, anointed king, trusted God to save his life while he ran from King Saul and fought Philistines. But later in life, when he grew successful and soft in his spirituality, he stayed home from war, which led to his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). And at the end of his life, he counted Israel's fighting men, which got him in BIG trouble with God (2 Sam. 24).
- Solomon - started like gang-busters! When God asked him the $1,000,000 question, he answered perfectly and received wisdom beyond all men. He completed the Temple his father always wanted to build and dedicated it the LORD. Beautiful! Solomon accomplished many things, but Scripture tells us, "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been" (1 Kings 11:4).
- Rehoboam, Solomon's son, was a loser. But his son, Abijah relied on the Lord, and when Judah went into battle against Israel, "the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers" (2 Chron. 13:18). Good job!
- Asa, Abijah's son, took it up another notch. He sincerely, wholeheartedly sought the Lord, and God gave his kingdome peace for 10 years. When he did go to war, he relied fully on God, and the LORD sent a prophet to tell Asa a profound truth:
"The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you" (2 Chron. 15:2).
Unfortunately, late in Asa's life when Judah was faced with war, he'd become soft spiritually, and instead of relying on God, he relied on a treaty with another kingdom. Bummer. (2 Chron. 16)
- Jehoshaphat, Asa's son, also started out like gang-busters for the LORD, and then - you guessed it. Crashed. Married one of Ahab's daughters and later made another "unholy" alliance. Mixed and mingled with the wrong people. Argh. Later life - spiritually soft. (2 Chron. 20:31-37)
Wow, depressing, huh? No. That's part of the reason I love to read the Old Testament. It's so full of non-examples! I figure - for crying out loud! I can do better than that through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in me! Praise the Living God! It's everything BUT depressing!
Take another look at that black & white picture up there. That baby has learned a lot in her forty-something years. But life experience can't replace God's power and intervention in my life. Lord, let me alway remember - I'm never too old to need You. I choose to be WITH YOU, so that You will be WITH ME. Amen.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Being the responsible pet owner that I am, I stand at the backdoor and scream at Bouzer. Much to my surprise, he stops barking, comes to the door, and becomes this meek, submissive, precious dog again.
What's up with that? Doesn't he realize that if he wanted to, he could rip my face off? Maybe. But the point is: He doesn't want to. He loves me. And the feeling is mutual. Hmmm. Would you call him a tame dog? A good dog? Hold that thought...
David wanted to build a house for God. Think about it. A house for the God of the universe to dwell in. Come on. Get real. But David's heart was sincere because at the moment David desired to build God a house, the Lord happened to be dwelling in a tent. So it was a step up!
However, David didn't consult God on his plan, and God didn't want David to build Him a house! In fact, God was the One Who intended to do the house building. And He intended to build 2 houses - thank you very much. One for Israel, and one...for David.
1 Chron. 17:9-12 - "And I [God] will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed...I declare to you [David] that the LORD will build a house for you: 11When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever."
It's good to want to do good things for God, but it's better to do what God wants done. See the difference? And believe me, God has an opinion on what He wants done.
Furthermore, David showed us that we can't contain or control God. But God, by His own choice, on His own terms, dwells with us - and blesses us.
Remember how C.S. Lewis portrayed Aslan the Lion in his Narnia series...He is not a tame Lion, but He is good. Once in a while it's good to see my precious little Bouzer do battle with Kujo. It reminds me of the same premise.
I cannot control God. He chooses to adore, bless and deal tenderly with me. Thank You, Lord. You are so good. Your love endures forever (1 Chron. 16:34 - David's Psalm of praise).
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
That darling girl to the right is our older daughter, Trina. She's amazing. I've never known anyone who loves like she loves. She gives everything she's got. Consequently, when she's hurt, I've never seen anyone hurt like she hurts. But here's the amazing thing. She loves again – and again – and again. She keeps giving love even though she knows it’s going to hurt. Now, she's only 23, so perhaps she'll get hardened by life's hard knocks and stop giving her heart with such abandon. But I hope not. It's one of the most godly things I've ever seen anyone do. Yep, that's right. It's godly to give our hearts with abandon. Think about it...
God knows everything, right? He knows tomorrow’s events today. So when King Solomon messed up, and God decided to give 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel to a guy named Jeroboam, God knew that guy was going to end up the worst king in history. So why give him the 10 tribes?
But God said to Jeroboam, “Come on, buddy, you can do it!”
1 Kings 11:37-38 – “…I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways…I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.”
It sounded like God really had high hopes for old Jeroboam. But when he messed up, whew! God’s high hopes turned to deep vengeance!
1 Kings 14:8-10 – “I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but…9You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods…you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back. 10Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel--slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone.”
But God doesn’t hold back His love or His hope for us just because He knows we’ll disappoint Him.
- Creation – He knew Adam and Eve would eat the fruit and allow sin to mar his perfect creation, but He created anyway.
- The Law – He gave Moses the Law, knowing human beings couldn’t perfectly keep a set of rules, but He gave it in order to establish right from wrong.
- Jesus Christ – He sent His Son to earth, knowing He’d be rejected and killed, but He did it so that we could be eternally reconciled to Him.
So WHY keep setting ourselves up for disappointments?
It’s all about the journey – and the party at the end. Those friendships that hurt us so badly? Think of the joy they bring us along the way – and if they’re Christian friendships, think of the perfect eternity of joy they’ll bring later on.
(And if you’re a man, take a hint. Flowers are simply always a good idea.)
Monday, June 02, 2008
Well, I was reading about Solomon this morning, and he certainly had a lot to accomplish in building God's Temple. Now, the Temple itself wasn't all that big. 90' x 30' and 45' high. Some of our houses are larger than that. The real overwhelming work came in the detailed finishing work. As I read 1 Kings 5-7, I noticed two ways Solomon dealt with all the overwhelming tasks of preparing, building and furnishing God's Temple.
- He Asked For Help. 1 Kings 7:13-14 - "King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram...a craftsman in bronze. Huram was highly skilled and experienced...." Solomon thought outside the box - he left the borders of Israel to find the help he needed to get the job done excellently. It's sometimes hard to admit I can't do it all myself. Sometimes it's simply hard to find people willing to help me! But finding the right people to help at the proper time is essential in managing all the Lord has given me to accomplish for Him.
- He Took His Time. 1 Kings 6:38 - "[Solomon] spent seven years building it." Solomon took time and used it wisely. We each have 60 seconds in every minute and 60 minutes in every hour and 24 hours every day. That's 86,400 seconds everyday to complete the tasks before us. Subtract 28,800 seconds for sleep, and we still have 57,600 seconds to redeem for the Kingdom! That's a lot of time to take!
So, today I've been asking people to help line up my ducks, and I've been taking hold of the time rather than letting it slip through my fingers. I'm still a little overwhelmed, but perhaps that's a good thing. It keeps me close to the One who created the ducks.