Monday, August 1, 2016

“There’s Death in the Pot!”

“There’s Death in the Pot!” II Kings 4:38-41
38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. 40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.
41 So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
After reading this passage, I can’t help but ask, why is it in the Bible?  This is not just an exegetical exercise or routine question I ask for every passage, although that’s not a bad idea.  No this question just sort of leaps off the page when I read this story.  The next story mimics the feeding of the five thousand so you can see some quick parallels, but this one…it just doesn’t make sense.  What is it's significance? Why take the time to include such a seemingly insignificant soundbite? The answer lies, as it often does, in the context.
So without going too far, here’s the skinny on the context.  The ministry of the mighty prophet of God, Elijah, has ended and his disciple, Elisha is now the Man of God and bearer or three times the spirit of Elijah.  Elijah’s ministry is marked by declarations of God’s judgement on the idolatrous wickedness of Israel, and time after time he faces off with the authority of his day, Ahab and Jezebel.  Elisha comes after this and while he too rebukes the false leaders of his day, we see a slightly different theme in his ministry as he sets about to heal, provide for, and teach the faithful remnant of Israel and even a few Gentiles.  The parallels between Elijah and John the Baptist are more than clear in the Gospels, but I want to point out that as Elijah foreshadows John, so Elisha through his ministry gave a hint of the majesty of the Messiah who was to come.
When we turn to the story we are discussing tonight we find Elisha in Gilgal.  Gilgal was most likely located in southern Israel just north of Judah somewhere not too far from Bethel.  We don’t know too much about Gilgal, but its proximity or closeness to Bethel worth noting.  Bethel is a place of great significance throughout Israel’s history, particularly as a place of worship. Abraham called on God’s name twice at Bethel and Jacob set up an altar at Bethel after God came to him in a dream.  Jereboam, the first king of the Northern tribe of Israel, made Bethel noteworthy for another reason.  He set up one of his golden calves here and so led the people of Israel astray through idolatrous worship.  Jereboam well knew the danger of the Israelites traveling back to Jerusalem in Judah to worship God and so in order to preserve the health and unity of his new nation he decided, in his wisdom, to alter their worship of God.
All of that said, Elisha is not in Bethel with the false worshippers of Israel, he is nearby meeting the needs of the sons of the prophets.  Famine has come and God is judging his people for their idolatry and the wickedness that it has produced.  In this life God’s judgement on a people will fall on the faithful as well, but he has sent his prophet to care for their needs.  These prophets have had no easy time of it.  Their persecution has been severe now they must also suffer the same famine and pestilence and hardships of all sorts that their wicked culture has brought upon them.  But God has not forgotten them. 
Clearly they have very little left to provide for their own needs.  When Elisha tells his servant to set a pot to boil in order to make stew, they do not run out and fetch an animal like Esau or gather food from the farmer’s fields, no they have men who are desparate enough that they go searching in the wild for food.  Imagine for a moment, their condition.  Put yourself in their shoes.  You are starving.  Your belly aches with hunger and it has been far too long since you have had a square meal.  You’ve gathered all that you have and even scrounged from the brush any plant you can find and now you have a pot of stew, that the Man of God has called for to nourish your weary bodies and empty bellies.  Then you take a bite.
“Man of God, there’s death in the pot!” they cried.  This source of nourishment turns instantly into a source of poison! Life turns into death!  Why are they so anxious, what is the big deal?  Remember, you are them, you are starving.  The Man of God has given you food and it is going to kill you.  You can’t just dump it out and make another pot.  Most likely this is it for that time, you just gathered up everything you could find for the moment, it’s all in the pot and now the pot isn’t food, it is poison, it isn’t life it is death!
What a picture of their nation!  Here they have sought nourishment in all the wrong places and turned their worship of God to idolatry and their food has turned to poison!  That which they thought would bring life, has brought death to them and their people because they did not seek the Lord.  Jereboam sought to bring unity and preserve his nation, but instead he has brought their ruin.
But the story does not end in despair.  The Sons of the Prophets know what they should do.  They cry out to Elisha saying, “Man of God”!  Here is the source of their life, their food, their support, the Man of God.  They have no other pot of food and they cry out to Elisha in their hunger for nourishment.  Elisha gives simple direction…”Add Flour.”  This is not a recipe for good stew.  These men were not idiots who forgot the poison gourd flour antidote.  The flour is just a vehicle for the Grace of God.  Did God through Elisha need the flour to cleanse the stew?  No, but our God knows our weakness and need to see him work.  So he gives them a visual representation of His cleansing work.  Add the flour and the stew is made whole, or wholesome.  There is now nothing harmful in the pot.
Think of who this story was originally written for.  II Kings is written for the Exiles of Israel in order to teach them why they are in Exile.  Why they are experiencing the judgement of God.  Each of these stories is full of potent application.  Your land is poisoned; your people are poisoned; that which you relied on for life is now full of death; but it can be cleansed; it can be restored; and that life comes from God Himself; He is the One from whom you must seek nourishment;  He is the one who will feed you; He is the one who can cleanse the pot.
Can you see how these lessons still apply today, and to us?  Here are some of the big ways I think it applies:
  1.  God will feed His people:  In many ways we live in a time of spiritual famine.  God’s judgement has started with His church and He has given us over to idolatry, worldly desires and lusts of the flesh.  We have poisoned ourselves and polluted that with which He intended to feed us. What do we do?  Cry out, “Oh God there is death in the pot!”  He will feed us.  And indeed we have seen His ministry to us in so many ways.  You can testify of the cleansing flour that he has poured on you through that sermon when you least expected it, or that devotional reading, or conversation with a friend or internet article.  This is how God feeds His Church.  In spite of the poison that we see throughout his Church He is using it to feed we who are the Sons of the Prophets of our day.
  2. Stepping back further, if this is a picture of the people of Israel and their unholy state in need of cleansing, then we can draw hope from this event even as the sons of prophets could have drawn if they could have seen it, that the same God who can cleanse the pot of stew can cleanse His people from their sin and return them to nourishing wholesomeness.  Isn’t the church of 21st century America desperate for this message?  Don’t we long to know that God can cleanse us and can make us whole again?  God can do it, and yes, God is doing it!  He is working in His church even now and though it can be painful to watch at times, it is a wonderful thing to see how he works.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel still had much to suffer at the hands of the nations around them, but through this process God was faithful to purify His people and not let them continue in their rebelliousness and sin. With trembling minds and hearts we must pray that he will do the same for us and not leave us in our polluted and poisonous state, but make us whole and wholesome yet again, for His glory.  Just remember what you are praying for as you pray for repentance and revival and be ready to serve him through the cleansing, no matter what type of flour He uses.
  3.  Lastly and on a more personal note…doesn't this passage give us some hope for our own feeble attempts to feed those around us?  If you are like me you may often wonder how the Lord could use you to spiritually nourish and feed those around you when you are so full of sin and evil desires.  How can I be useful to the Lord you may ask?  Remember, from this passage, that our usefulness, our ability to nourish, doesn’t come from us, it comes from God.  Apart from His grace we are poison to all around us, but by his cleansing work, His sanctifying grace, we become food to those famine starved brothers and sisters around us who need our work in their lives.  As we are cleansed, as He washes us over and over, we become that food upon which others are fed and nourished.  In our sin we bring nothing but death, but by His Spirit we bring life and that everlasting.

Amen Lord, let it be so. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Dear Son: Death (Updated)


For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them
Ecclesiastes 9:12

My Dear Son,

I write this to you on the eve of your Grandpa’s death.  I feel compelled to explain some of what you are feeling or will feel whenever someone close to you dies as I experience it myself now.  Let me be clear on two points at least.  Number One, Death is a horrible and unnatural thing that should cause every part of you to recoil in grief and horror.  Number Two, through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, we have victory over death and need not fear its terrors but rather look on it as a doorway into our promised rest with our God.
               First then let us consider death itself.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes makes clear, we do not know our time, only that a time has been appointed when we will die.  This fact alone is no comfort to us, but you will find many will seek to cope with the reality of death by resting in its inevitability.  “We’re all dying from the day we’re born,” say some, and “Man knows not his time,” say others.  Certainly these statements and more like them are accurate, but they offer no comfort for those facing their own death or the death of a loved one.  Solomon himself is very matter of fact in his assessment of death’s timing: 
               “To everything there is a season,
               A time for every purpose under heaven:
                              A time to be born,
                                             And a time to die…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1,2
There is no comfort in this reality and he provides no comfort in the fact that death comes to all.  Indeed, he calls it a vanity and evil that good men and evil men alike will face death in the most unexpected time and place. 
               I can hear you ask, “Why am I so sad and angry and frustrated at grandpa dying?”  Part of the reason is because this is all very sudden and it is hard to realize that soon we will not have Grandpa around anymore and it is hard to imagine life without him.  Another part is that it hurts you to see grandpa in pain and suffering while he is dying.  However, I believe the biggest reason for this mix of emotions is that deep down all of us hate death and all that it represents.  Do you remember when death came into this world?  It was a punishment for Adam’s sin in the garden.  Before Adam sinned there was no death, there was only ongoing, never ending life in perfect communion with God.  God told Adam that if he rebelled against Him and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would surely die.  You see then that Death is rooted in our rebellion against God.  Death is only part of this world because of Adam’s sin and our rebellion against God.  It ought never to have been a part of our lives at all.
               So when you say to yourself when you think of Grandpa, “This isn’t right, something is wrong here,” it is just fine to feel that way.  Something about this isn’t right, something is terribly wrong.  Death is the wages of sin.  It part of God’s punishment for sin.  So every part of us should recoil from the horrible pain and separation that comes at times like this.  There is a reason we should grieve and mourn and cry until our eyes are red and our noses run.  Ever since the Garden of Eden when we thought we knew better than God how we should live we have been paying the price of sin as each and every one of us passes through the veil of death into the presence of God and it is a horrible journey to carry out.
               Many people in the World do not understand death and they also seek to minimize its significance.  They think of us like watches that all have different size batteries and none of us know how long our battery will last, but when it wears out we will simply recycle the watch and make another one.  That is how they look at us as humans, we are just part of the natural cycle of life and death and just as we came from nature we are not going back to nature.  In this way they try to escape what death really means as a punishment for sin.  They say there is no God, or if there is He is so weak that he doesn’t really control us or how we should live.  For people like this, death is just a natural process that is okay and it is necessary for us to return to nature in order to keep the cycle going.  I tell you again, death is only natural in a world twisted by sin.  Death is not just a chemical reaction, death is a moral statement that God makes for all of us to see, and we cannot escape that no matter how hard we try. 
               So why do I go on so much about how terrible death is?  I want you to know that all the emotions of grief and pain are okay to feel.  Don’t think you shouldn’t feel this way.  If you feel angry, talk about it—to me, to Mommy, to God; for we are all ready to hear and share with you what we are feeling too.  Did you know that God hates death as well?  Remember that Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35), and God himself speaks through Ezekiel and says, “I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies.” (Ezekiel 18:32)  In the Ezekiel passage God is speaking of spiritual and physical death, which is a double grief to him, but I will come back to that later. 
Now you might say, “If God hates death so much, why doesn’t he take it away?”  That is a very good question and a hard one to answer because we aren’t God Himself and cannot see all the reasons He has, but He has shown us some of them.  First, as we have already seen, death is a necessary part of a world of sin.  Death is a punishment for sin, just like briars and thorns and pain and suffering of all types.  This punishment is not God’s fault, it is our fault as rebellious sinners.  God is just giving us what we deserve.  Second, God is perfectly righteous and holy and so while He can do anything that He chooses to do, He can only choose to do things that are righteous and holy.  Righteousness requires the curse that has covered the world since Adam sinned, and so God must execute His righteousness on the world.  God could execute his perfect holiness and righteousness even more thoroughly by simply killing all of us with no mercy, and that would be perfectly okay.  So the real question isn’t, “Why doesn’t God take away death?”  The real question is, “Why doesn’t God kill us all?”
Now I hope you can see exactly how terrible a thing death is, for only once you have grasped how bad death is can you really appreciate how glorious our hope in Jesus Christ must be.  By the time you are my age you will have heard Paul’s paraphrase of Hosea in I Corinthians so many times that it may not mean very much, but I want you to hear it again as you think of Grandpa:
               “ ‘O Death, where is your sting?
               O Hades, where is your victory?”
                              And Paul himself continues,
“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:55-57

You see my Son, sin is the sting of death and apart from Christ Jesus death is victorious over us.    Paul says the strength of sin is the Law because God’s Law shows that we all deserve to die because of our sin.  So when we see death it should remind us that we all deserve to die, not just physically but spiritually.  Only when we have this reality before our face can we see the truly marvelous escape that God has provided for us in Christ Jesus. In fact, God has not just provided a way of escape, He has provided us a way of victory over sin and all its evil effects including death.  Earlier in the chapter Paul describes death as the “Last Enemy.”  When Adam sinned he brought condemnation on all of us and we deserve that condemnation as we add our own sins to Adam’s, but even as Adam, a man, brought this judgment on all of us, so Jesus, also a man, brought deliverance from this judgment through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, from the dead.  And so as He has gone before us in His resurrection and destroyed the punishment of death, so we may follow him and rejoice in our deliverance from death.
               As we face death we may have confidence in the Lord’s care for us and His provision in Christ for our deliverance.  Our calling in death is no different than any other time in our life, we must obey the Lord and trust in Him.  Death can be the greatest challenge to our faith and we ought not presume to know what it feels like to face it.  As humans we love to be in control and death is the greatest loss of control we will ever experience.  When we face death we see better than ever the truth that has dominated our whole lives…God is in control and we must trust Him to care for us…for in death we find the greatest loss of control ever.  Our minds and our bodies will slowly fall apart until we are left bare before the Lord and the world.  If we are not trusting wholly and completely in His care for us, this process will be more painful than you can imagine.  But in Christ we have all the hope that we need for He makes it clear that this stripping away of our control is just the process of entering into His glorious presence for all of time.  We need not be in control when we are in the arms of such a gracious and loving Savior.
               Some of the most encouraging words we can hear on this subject come from the Apostle Paul in Roman’s.  In the process of explaining the gospel Paul shows us the freedom we have from the Law when we believe in Jesus.  When we are under the Law we are under God’s wrath and as I have said, that is when we have much to fear in death as the final step of God’s judgment on us in this life and only the beginning of eternal judgment.  Listen as Paul encourages us through the gosepel:
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:10-11)
What a hope we have in our God in Heaven, or as Paul says, “Him who raised Jesus from the dead.”  Our body is dead because of sin, but because of the Spirit dwelling within us we have life and that life is everlasting.  The Spirit indwelling us is our guarantee of eternal life and He will give new life to these broken and fading bodies.  What peace, what comfort is this!  Christ, the first fruit of the New Covenant, has paved the way for our restoration and glorification through the work of His Spirit giving life to our death.  Think of that for just a moment.  Do you remember what a dead body looks like?  It is cold and hollow, and if you leave it for any time at all it will stink and rot.  Do you have that picture in your mind?  Now imagine that same body so cold and empty suddenly sitting up and leaping to its feet!  Those white cheeks and gray eyes are now a bright pink and blue!  This is the hope we have to look forward to.  Grandpa’s body is fading and weak now, but in Christ it will not stay that way.  Someday when Jesus returns it will burst out of the grave and be united with his spirit in the new earth!
               And what a glories hope we have in that new earth.  Paul goes on for the rest of the chapter to open up that hope we have.  For one thing the Creation will be delivered from its bondage when the sons of God are revealed.  Right now the Creation is groaning and laboring waiting for its redemption.  Look around you as you see the terrible storms and disease and fighting throughout the natural world.  Can you see this pain that is so great?  In the same way we are groaning as our bodies get older and feel pain and our work is harder every day and we see more and more misery and evil in the world.  We cannot wait for the redemption of our bodies (vs. 22,23).  Paul says that all this will be washed away.  After Jesus comes back we will have a new earth free of storms and disease and fighting on which to live We will also have new and glorious bodies free of pain and decay.
While we are on this earth we will still struggle and we often won’t know how we should feel in the face of these hard times.  Even Grandpa and Grandma probably don’t know exactly how they should feel and even how they should pray. Here is Paul’s comfort to us as we face these trials:
”Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (vs 26). 
Oh what a comfort it is to us in our weakness to know that the Spirit intercedes for us!  This is just a foretaste of the age to come, for when we are with him then we will be perfected and will stand with the people of God with one voice and one heart and one mind and praise His name without weakness without groaning without uncertainty.  Here Paul speaks to one of our greatest frustrations…we-don’t-know.  We don’t know!  God sees us in our ignorance and stoops low and by the power of His indwelling Spirit He, as it were, cups his ear with his hand in order to hear our stumbling, fumbling words so confused and conflicted.  Like a Father stooping low to hear his toddler son, so our God has made provision to not only hear our requests but to make them understood!  And so I say this is a foretaste of Eternity because then this picture will be complete and He will raise and lift us up, glorified and we will sit with Him and worship without ignorance and without confusion!  God will walk us through any trial, even death itself and then bring us into full and total fellowship with Him on the other side.
               So we come to the greatest of joys and delights we have to anticipate, our Lord Himself!  Paul continues by explaining that if we love God all things work for our good because our God is not a powerless God.  Our God is the one true God who has predestined all that will come to pass and He will bring about all His purposes for us and for the entire world.  We will be “…Conformed to the image of His Son…” by our God who has the power to do it!  As He has called His children to follow in the steps of His Son, so he also has the power to accomplish the same (vs. 28, 29).  He not only promises to bring us into the new Heavens and the New Earth when we trust in Him, but He has the power to bring us there!  There is nothing more powerful than God and when He determines to accomplish something, He will not fail.  Nothing, not even death can wrest us from His loving hands.  Even our sin and rebellion could not keep us from Him for He was willing to send even His own Son to die for us—and why?  Because He loves us!  Notice the emphasis: He loves US!  Greatest of joys and pleasures forevermore--our God loves us beyond any love we could ever imagine and has called us to meet with Him and gather in His house and fellowship around His table.  He has accomplished it, He has cleared the path to His door and guided us to it.  Now we have but to cross the threshold and enter into His glorious rest filled with joys and pleasures forever and ever and evermore.  Keep this before your face and Grandpa’s and anyone who is facing the reality of death.  Do not be afraid!  Christ is calling to you.  Come home!  Come home!  Your Father in Heaven calls you to step through the veil of time into eternity and sit and sup and rejoice at His royal feast forever.

Here are some practical guidelines for things you can do to minister to Grandpa and Grandma in their time of grief:
      1.     Pray.  During this time of extreme pain the Holy Spirit is the greatest comfort for Grandma and  Grandpa.  Pray first and foremost that God’s will would be done and that he would receive glory no matter what happens.  Pray second for healing and strength for Grandpa as we know that the Lord can heal if He chooses.  Pray third for comfort and contentment for Grandpa and Grandma.  Our model in this type of prayer is our own Lord Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  You remember that as He prayed He asked God the Father to spare him from the cross, but He submitted Himself to God’s will that He would be content with whatever the Lord would bring about (Matt. 26:39).  So it is not wrong to ask for God to take away our trials and spare us from them (the psalmist does this on many different occasions), but even as we ask we must be content with where God has placed us and Grandma and Grandpa.

      2.      Listen and weep.  Don’t be too quick to offer your advice or even your words of encouragement.  Someone who is grieving needs space to talk through their issues without hearing your attempts to make them feel better.  It is best to help them work through their thoughts by asking them what they are feeling or thinking and letting them share.  Enter into what they are feeling and open yourself up to crying with them.  Don’t feel the need to keep it all under control, feel free to open yourself up to their pain and share in it yourself.  This is how we show our love for one another.  We are all part of the same body and just like when part of your body hurts your whole body feels it, so it is when someone who is part of our Church body hurts we should feel it too.  And so we should “Weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15b)
      3.      Point them to God.  When you do have opportunity to speak be careful what you say and start first by pointing them to the promises of God.  Think of Psalm 30, and especially vs. 5b, “Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.”  This psalm offers encouragement for someone who is wrestling with God, as in vs. 9, “What profit is there in my blood, When I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your truth?”  See how the Psalmist is challenging God in a humble way?  He asks questions like:  “How can the dirt praise you God?”  In other words, preserve my life so I can still praise you!  Now of course throughout this Psalm his emphasis is on God’s goodness and His provision.  Look also at Psalm 147 and especially vs. 1-4:
“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. 
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. 
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.  
He counts the number of the stars;
He calls them all by name.”

You see that even in the midst of his pain the Psalmist is praising God, because the same Lord who calls the stars by name will also bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted.  The Creator of the universe cares about the smallest hurt and the deepest pain of each of His children.  Point them to this truth and continue to point them to Him and His purposes.  We don’t always know why God does things as He does them, but we always know that His purposes are perfect and He loves and cares for us.  Job didn’t ever get an explanation for why God allowed Satan to persecute Him, and yet Job was faithful to trust and depend on God no matter what.  So we should always be ready to encourage those who suffer to look to God and remember His loving care and never, never, never lose heart, but always trust in Him and His promised love for us.

My son, I hope that these words will offer you encouragement during this time and the many times in the future when someone you love will pass away.  I hope you will even remind me of these words when it is my time to die, and that you will read them back to me and encourage me with them.

With much love,


Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Harvest

The field is ready. The crop is ripe. Where are the laborer's?

There are some, I can see them now, but oh so few!

Why? Why are there not more, Lord why have you not sent more?

The world is perishing the crops are wasting away for lack of laborers! Where are they Lord?

Where is your compassion? Where is your desire for glory? How will they hear?

Look in the fields again, Lord! Your servants are failing, they are weary beyond measure.

Won't you give them relief, won't you give them help? What are you waiting for?!

Ah!!!! I see some coming to help now! No, wait! They are not helping! Look Lord!

These are not your servants! They are trying to take the harvest away! Stop them Lord!

Over there, Oh God, over there, do you see them? Your laborer's don't, they are too busy.

Wait! One of your laborers sees them now, but what is this, he has dropped his work!

No, no, no, he has dropped his harvesting to chase away this thief. Lord where are You?

If only you had sent more servants some could harvest and some could protect the harvest.

Don't you care about protecting the harvest, Lord? Where are Your laborers?

I think I see...Yes it is...Lord, I see an old man laboring out there. There's another one!

Lord I see many, many old men laboring. Their bodies won't take this work much longer.

Where are the young men Lord? They should be here now, learning from these aged servants.

If you don't send them soon, your fields will be empty, save but a few, faithful ones.

What is your plan? Don't you see that you must have new laborers ready to contine the work?

There! There! I see one leaving the field even now. Even so he looks back with pain.

What a gap he has left! He sees it, he grieves...Lord where is the man to take His place?

Lord!! Hear my cry, and send out laborers for this great harvest. Raise them up.

Raise them up from every corner of the earth. Bring them out of every place, every people.

I know that you can do it, Lord. I have faith in You, I have confidence, but Lord it is hard.

Oh, if only I was more gifted? I could help! If only I had more time, or more of a calling.

If I had more knowledge I'd help and some more confidence and more authority.

If I had those things I'd jump right in! You understand, don't you, Lord? I'd love to help...

But harvesting looks too tough for me, so please just raise up somebody else, okay?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

Judah had a new king. His name was Hezekiah. He loved God and wanted to obey him even though he was only 25 years old!

Long ago the Israelites has split into two kingdoms; Judah in the north and Israel in the south. Both of them worshipped idols and disobeyed God’s commands. So God punished them, and sent the Assyrians to trouble them.

Does God still punish us when we sin? Yes, He does. He uses Daddies and Mommies and Policemen and Soldiers and Elders at church to punish us and teach us to do what is right. God does this so we can learn to obey Him and stop sinning.

Then God sent Hezekiah. Hezekiah broke up Judah’s idols and tore down the places where they worshipped them. Hezekiah obeyed God and taught his people to do that too. He fought the Assyrians and Judah’s other enemies the Philistines.

Israel did not obey God and they did not have a king like Hezekiah. So God sent the Assyrians to conquer them and they did. They tore down their cities and took their people far away from home to a strange place to live. Do you think this would have made everybody in Judah afraid? Yes, it probably did.

A few years later the king of Assyria—he had a really long name, Sennacherib—sent an army to Judah and captured many of their cities as well. Then he told king Hezekiah to give him money to go away! King Hezekiah was very afraid and gave a lot of money to the king of Assyria. He even took the gold off the doors of God’s temple!

Do you think this was a smart thing for Hezekiah to do? Was he trusting in God?
No, he was hoping this money would make the Assyrians go away.

But the money did not stop the Assyrians, and Sennacherib sent an even bigger army to Jerusalem the main city of Judah where Hezekiah and all the army was staying. The army surrounded the city and trapped everyone inside.

Then messengers came and shouted for everyone to hear, “Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord.” They said, “Hezekiah is lying when he says that the Lord will deliver you.” They told the people that the Assyrians would give them good food and land. They said that the God of Judah was just like other gods they had defeated before.

When the messengers stopped speaking no one spoke. Their words made everyone very sad and Hezekiah was very upset. What do you think he did? He did what all of us should do when we are upset. Hezekiah prayed! He also told the priests to pray that God would hear the bad things that the messengers had said and would deliver them.

The King of Assyria was very impatient with Hezekiah. Why did he and his people trust in God? Why didn’t they just give up and let him win? Didn’t they see that they were going to lose anyway? So the king sent Hezekiah a very very nasty letter. He said that God was a liar and would not be able to save him even though that’s what God promised to do.

Now Hezekiah trusted God. He took the letter to God and prayed. He said, “Oh Lord God of Israel, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth. Hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to scold you. The kings of Assyria are powerful and have destroyed many nations, so save us from Sennacherib so all the kingdoms of earth may know that you are the Lord God.”

Soon after Hezekiah prayed to God, Isaiah the prophet came to him with a message from God. He said, “Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib King of Assyria, I have heard.” Wow!! Hezekiah must have been glad! He had chosen to trust in God and God had not failed him.

Does God do what he promises? Yes He does!! And he did for Hezekiah too, for on a certain night after Hezekiah had prayed, the Lord sent an angel into the Assyrians camp. The next morning when some of the soldiers began to wake up they realized that God’s angel had killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand of them!! Their army was mostly dead!!

God had heard the prayers of Hezekiah and answered them by destroying his enemies. We too should pray to God when we have troubles. He does not always answer in the way that we think He should, but when we pray with obedient and faithful hearts we can know that He will hear us and do what is best for us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Musings #1

Particular convicting thoughts that spontaneously arise from my Scriptural study which may or may not be true and accurate interpretations of the Scripture. Should I wish to present something more defensible you will find some other title such as "Dogmatics" or "Theological Treatises." That being said, please feel free to chime in with any objections or observations as you feel so inclined, but please to not expect this set of thoughts to hold a hard line on any point.

Do you groan?:

Do you groan? I know I do not. Or are you not afflicted by the Christ likeness that you have been called to? I know I am not. Why not? I am not sure, except that I am out of touch with the effects of the curse. In our mechanized western world we have distanced ourselves from the effects of the fall, or at least we act like we have.
You see when Adam sinned God did not only curse the Serpent, Eve, and of course Adam, he cursed the earth as well. "Cursed is the ground for your sake..." Gen. 3:17. Reading that passage before I always thought of the affect this had on Adam (and consequently us). Now, because Adam sinned, I have a car that breaks down, a flower bed to weed, a roof to patch, and any number of other problematic areas of life that evidence the earths rebellion against the dominion of man. But now will always read that passage with Romans 8:18ff in my mind. The earth did not ask for Adam's rebellion, it did not ask to be cursed and yet it has been, and now is suffering from the affects of the fall as well. And so the earth groans, in fact, all creation groans under the strain of sin's poisonous influence.
Do you groan? Inanimate objects, senseless animals, geological forces, planetary systems all groan, do you? They know the troubled age that we live in...that age between sin and redemption. They long for the final revelation of the Sons of God so that all may be put to right and they may return to their deathless, submissive state of perfect harmony. No more pain, no more destruction, no more suffering. Do you long to see God's perfect work of glorification in your life? In Creation? Or do you not even feel the effects of sin? Has this life's cares and temptations numbed you to the pain and so removed your sense of urgency. Like the mortally wounded soldier filled with morphine we lie on the battlefield unaware of our danger and the pain that should warn us.
Wake up and look around you! Chaos, pain, wickedness--these are all around and inside of you. Do not dull your senses to them, but turn them over to great physician who has sent His Spirit to translate your delirious mumblings into just the words He needs to hear. Do not worry for this battle will only make you stronger and prepare you for the victory that is coming. Do not seek after the quick, cheap morphine of this life to dull your pain, rather groan. Groan to the God who has made you and is working in you even through the challenge and heartache of this life. Only He can enable you to see the hope that is before you, and by His purpose call you to be one of many of His Children.
Are we not more sensible than the earth? Are we less intelligent than the wild beasts of the field? Are we more dull than the mountains round about us? Even they know the pain of the fall. Even they long for the end of this futility. Even they groan. Do you groan? I know I do not, and so I am numb to that which should drive me to Christ and make me to long for His return.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Dear Son #1: Death

My Dear Son,

Few things in life are certain. One thing that is certain in this life is that it will end. Perhaps it will shock you to have me address this topic first to you, but I believe it is one of the most important that I could ever discuss. Do you think I am morbid? Well you might with this depressing start to our correspondence. But I beg you not to, for death is not morbid or at least it shouldn’t be for us.

“How can speaking of death not be morbid?” I hear you say to yourself. For the man who has been embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ death can have no sting, death is only the passage into eternal joy and peace. We do not look at death as the end of our lives, we look at it as the beginning of eternity! When we die we shed the constraints of time and rise above the rising and setting of the sun to dwell in the light of the eternal son who will complete all that we have be wanting and cleanse us of all that we have not wanted.

I have so much I want to write to you about, but I believe it is best to begin at the end as it shapes so much of how we live at the beginning. You see when you are young it is easy to believe that death is far off. Eternal decisions, eternal choices are not as urgent. Certainly you may believe in Jesus as your Savior, and you may be trusting in Him for salvation, but your life will not have the urgency that it needs if you do not consider how short your time here on earth is. Time will not wait for you to decide how you are going to impact the world for Christ. Life is not a marathon, life is a sprint. Many think, “I should pace myself and prepare for the long run ahead.” And before they know it the finish line is before them and they have lost because of their delay. They are those who look back on their life asking, “What have I accomplished?”

Do not fear death, for Christ gives you victory over it, rather fear the brevity of life and live knowing you have only so much time to accomplish all that the Lord has called you to do. Run the race as Paul instructed you. Run it so that when you finish you may fall before the Lord and hear His commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Run as one who has already died in Christ and now may live in newness of life, a grace filled life full of joy and zeal for the glory of God.

But what does this mean practically? Begin early in your life to commit your ways to the Lord. As soon as you are able form habits of memorizing His Word and meditating on it daily. Learn the art of private and public prayer by practicing it. Study the Lord’s prayer and Paul’s prayers, and the Psalms until when you pray you find yourself praying the Lord’s words back to Him. Practice making a business of studying spiritual things, and ministering to and serving those around you. Speak to others about the Lord as they see His work in your life and recognize it. I will speak to you more on this later.

As you plan your career consider what you are good at, but also what will best enable you to expand the kingdom. One career may offer high pay which you may use to build the kingdom, but it may require waiting to have a family. Another career may force you to move around so much you cannot set down roots long enough to have any spiritual influence on those around you. Yet another career may provide you with the path of least resistance…beware of not challenging yourself, you will become disillusioned and frustrated before you know it.
Pick a wife who lives with the same desire to accomplish all that her short years will allow her. You want the woman you marry to be hard to keep up with. If you don’t ask yourself, “How can I expect such a godly woman to accept me as her spiritual head?” at least once you should re-evaluate why you want to marry this woman. You see, if you marry a woman who has no concept of the brevity of life, she will fill her time with frivolity that will do nothing but distract the purpose of your home. Pick a woman with urgency and with spiritual zeal and she will push as you pull your family through life and nothing will stop you from (by God’s grace) pushing the Gates of Hell into full retreat. In short, pick a wife like your mother.

There is much more I would like to say, and hopefully much more I will in coming days, but let me leave you with this final thought. Living as one who sees his death keeps you from delay. As that great man of God J.C. Ryle put it, “Tomorrow is the devil’s day, but today is God’s. Satan cares not how spiritual you intentions may be, and how holy your resolutions, so long as they are fixed for tomorrow.” (Thoughts for Young Men, Pg 7) Listen to him, listen to me!! Don’t wait to plan your future, don’t wait to map out your strategy of life, don’t wait to pursue the life of a godly man, don’t wait! This is the day that the Lord has made, don’t wait to form good habits, don’t wait to grow in godliness, take hold of your life today and resolve to daily put to death your sin and pursue Christ-likeness with all your heart. Live as one already dead and death will hold no disappointment for you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Hobby

Hello to everyone who may someday read this. I must say I didn't expect to find you reading this as it is not the type of thing most people read. But then you aren't most people are you. You are you, and don't you deny it! You are one of the few people in the world who has carved out the time to reach out and touch your mouse button in a quest for deeper learning and now you have found me. You have found me, but whether you have found deeper learning, that is for you to decide. All I can offer you is my simple hobby-to write. I love to write and have concluded that this will be my outlet. "Write about what?' you may ask, and rightly so. "Why write at all?" you may also ask, and with the same degree of rightness.

The answer to the former goes without saying, but then what am I typing for if it isn't to say something. I want to write about everything, as long as it is not my own personal daily doings that will bore you to death and yet somehow draw you into an obsession with those same doings that will subdue your consciousness with their inanity. Not to say there isn't a place for blogs of a personal nature, there simply isn't a place for one about me. No, I hope to present articles of interest, entertainment, and edification on a variety of topics. Some of the topics you may see here (or may not) would fall into the following categories: Father to Son--A series of Paternal letters advising sons on the various areas of life that will confront them; Odds and Ends--A series of odd observations on life in general; Love and Marriage--A series and marriage; The ministry of the Church--I think you get the idea.

The answer to the latter is a bit more worrisome to me. In all
truthfulness (not just some of it, mind you) my writing is really more for me than anyone else. As I make that confession I realize that I am in danger of arrogance and perhaps a bit of that narcissism that I previously claimed to be avoiding. Please permit me to explain myself. I have long enjoyed writing, but simply didn't do it. I have long had thoughts, but simply didn't think them out. In this blog I hope to do both. Whether you are able to profit by the result is only for you to decide, but remember as you read, this is a hobby.

Yes, dear Reader, consider the path you are starting down. As with any hobby, before there can be the gleaming, vintage roadster--there must be the rusting hulk in the garage; before there can be the finely crafted dining set, there must be the wobbly, scarred chair. But if you are the adventurous type or are simply like the neighbor who comes to watch the rusted hulk sanded and painted to gloss or the rough chunks of wood carved into beauty, I invite you to read on. Read with patience, but read nonetheless.