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Monday, September 27, 2010

David - A Man After Gods' Own Heart

David - A Man After Gods' Own Heart

Scripture tells us that David was beloved of God, a man after Gods’ own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) and (1 Kings 9: 3-4) But during his lifetime his committed the sins of adultery and murder. And he was quick to lead Israel into unnecessary wars with neighboring countries when he could have opted for peace. Since he wasn’t free from serious sin, why did David’s life give God such pleasure? What did he do to earn this special place in God’s heart?

Let’s check out several scenes in David’s life to see if we can find some answers. Back when David was just a young boy tending his fathers’ sheep he had developed a deep longing to know the Lord. David was the youngest of eight brothers and by the time he was a young teenager his three oldest brothers were soldiers in King Saul’s army. The date was around 1,000 B.C. and the Israelites were at war with the Philistines. David’s father Jesse asked him to walk the distance to where the fighting was taking place (about 14 miles) and bring food to his brothers.

When David arrived where the battle was taking place he was surprised to find his brothers and the rest of the Israelite soldiers cowering in fear. One of the enemy soldiers, a giant named Goliath, from the Philistine camp, was intimidating them with taunts. “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.” (1 Samuel 17: 10) Goliath was big and tall, about 9’9” and he was covered from head to toe with heavy armor. The staff of his spear was like a weavers beam with a huge iron spearhead. And a shield bearer went before him to protect him with a heavy shield. He was a mighty man of war and he shouted out his angry jeers at the Israelites day and night.

Young David completely trusted in his God and he was amazed by the cowardice of the Israelite soldiers when Goliath came out to challenge them. Since God had promised to be with the armies of Israel, how could they be afraid of Goliath? With God nothing is impossible! David was asking the soldiers why they didn’t volunteer to fight Goliath since God would be with them. His oldest brother Eliab grew angry with David for his foolish talk and told him to go back to his sheep. When little David came before King Saul he bravely volunteered to fight the giant Goliath. He assured the king, “He (God) will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1Samuel 17:37b) “seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36b)

Young David went out to fight Goliath without protective armor or a sword or a spear. He picked up five small stones from the brook to use in his sling shot. When Goliath saw this young boy coming out to fight him he roared; “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” (1Samuel 17:43) And Goliath cursed David in the name of his gods. David shouted back: “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1Samuel 17:45) “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” (1Samuel 17:47)

David didn’t fear opposition even when it was strong and overpowering. He didn’t overvalue size and strength. He believed that God was with him and could take care of any obstacle. The giant Goliath came roaring towards the boy with his drawn sword. David put his hand into his little pouch and took out a stone and put it in his slingshot. He held the slingshot over his head, spun it around, and then let go. The little rock shot out striking Goliath right between his eyes, which was the only place on his body that hadn’t been protected by his thick armor. Goliath fell down and died on the spot. That day all of Israel was reminded again that their God was in their midst. He will save them from their enemies if they will follow David’s example and completely trust Him.

Along with his life-size faith in God, David also had a life-size love for God. He loved God with all his heart and he loved God’s Word. And we wonder why he was so special to God? David wrote many of the Psalms that are used in our worship today! David blessed God and taught all of Israel to bless God. (1 Chronicles 29:10-20) And even though during his life David committed serious sin, he repented immediately with fasting and tears. His relationship with God can be clearly seen by reading the Psalms that he wrote. He leaned on God, delighted in God, and he ran after God.

After David had been crowned king he brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. The Ark had been stolen in battle by the Philistines in 1050 B.C. and now David was thrilled to have it back. The Ark was brought up to Jerusalem with great religious celebration. David was so excited that he went before the procession of priests that were carrying the Ark “dancing before the Lord with all his might and wearing a linen ephod” (2 Samuel 6:14) All this was done with shouting and the sounds of trumpets. David’s joy for God couldn’t be missed. And God took great pleasure in his joy.

David’s wife Michel looked out of her window and watched her husband whirling and leaping with uncontrollable enthusiasm. Scripture tells us that Michel was disgusted and “she despised him in her heart.” (2 Samuel 6:16b) A king should be wearing fine royal robes but her husband was wearing a linen ephod which was what a common man would wear. What a fool he was for not behaving in a proud kingly fashion in front of his subjects! When David returned home Michel met him at the door and made fun of his undignified appearance and his unbridled enthusiasm for God.

We are still criticized today when we show excitement for the things of God and love and follow Him unconditionally. There is a price to pay when we go all out for the Lord. But that is what David did. (1Kings 14:7-8) David’s extreme devotion for God is why he has the been called “Beloved of God” and “a man after God’s own heart”! God isn’t pleased with a lukewarm faith or with a tepid love. He asks us to love Him with our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole soul. (Matthew 22:37) The first of the Ten Commandments commands us not to put anything in our lives in front of God. (Exodus 20:3) God desires to take first place.

Since David loved God extravagantly and trusted Him completely, God promised him that his kingdom would last forever. (1 Samuel 7:12-13) (Jesus Christ is in the lineage of David) Let’s follow David’s example and learn to trust God all the way and believe His Word. Let’s put God first in our lives and love Him with all our hearts and souls and minds like David did. Let’s give God pleasure the way David did. Let’s not be lukewarm. Let’s give it all we’ve got!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hope for the Depressed (Zechariah chapters 1-6)

Hope for the Depressed

The Book of Zechariah (chapters 1-6)

Zechariah was one of Gods’ prophets to Judah and a contemporary of Haggai. His ministry began in 520 B.C. just two months after Haggai had finished prophesying. A prophet does not deliver his own message, but he is faithful to give only the message that God gave him. God used these two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to bring hope to His people.

The Jewish people had recently come back to their homeland after spending seventy years in Babylonian captivity. Their city, Jerusalem, had been destroyed by the Babylonians along with the temple of the Lord. But those dark days of captivity were behind them and now they had returned to their homeland ready to rebuild.

After they got back to their homeland it didn’t take long for problems to arise and discouragement to set in. First of all the temple builders realized that the new temple they were building would never compare with the old one that had been destroyed. God had blessed their forefathers with gold and riches so that they could build a grand temple. But these returning Jewish exiles were poor and struggling. Why wasn’t God there with more provisions for them to build?

And secondly their neighbors, the Samaritans, made trouble for them by influencing the Persians to pass laws forbidding them to continue rebuilding the temple. (Ezra 4:5) The Israelites became depressed and quit building. It was hard to keep the faith and build the temple when so many forces were arrayed against them. The Israelites believed that the hindrances that came up with the building of their temple meant that God was not into their rebuilding. Obviously if God had been with them everything would have gone smoothly, wouldn’t it?

It was into this mix that God gave a prophetic word to His people through Zechariah. God comes to Zechariah by night and gives him eight visions to give to his discouraged people. The visions of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-6:7) brought hope for his fellow Israelites, but they also bring hope for us and speak of the Hope at the end of the age. Bible scholars believe that some of these prophecies have a double fulfillment. Zechariahs’ prophecies were fulfilled back then for the people of Judah. They did rebuild their temple and God prospered them. But Zechariahs’ prophecy also gives us hope for a time when wickedness is removed and Christ, the Messiah will come again and a new glorious temple will be built.

Basically the meaning in the eight visions that God gave Zechariah for his people is that God will save them and bring judgment on the nations who are trying to harm them. God promises Zechariah and his people that He has chosen them and will bless their rebuilding. He will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem. God will judge their enemies and He will send “The Servant, the Branch, to save”- Jesus Christ. (Zechariah 3:8:9) In the fifth vision of the golden lamp stand and the olive tree, the Lord promises that He will empower His people and give them His Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6) Four of the eight visions foretell ridding individuals and the whole earth of sin. The fourth vision shows Joshua, the high priest, standing before God in filthy garments. His sin is removed from him and he is given clean rich robes to wear. The sixth vision shows that dishonesty will be cursed, the seventh that wickedness will be removed and the last vision tells that the spirits of heaven will execute judgment on the whole Earth because of sin. (Zechariah 6:5,7) The importance of the fact that sin is taken away before God brings in a new day of blessing is an important part of Zechariahs’ message in these visions.

The sixth vision of the flying scroll is particularly graphic! It is a vivid picture showing how dishonesty is cursed by God. “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits” says Zechariah. Then God interpreted, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘I will send out the curse,’ says the Lord of hosts: ‘It shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house and consume it, with its timber and stones.’” Zechariah 5:2b, 3a, 4) According to Biblical scholars, a roll or scroll is employed in Scripture for a pronouncement of judgment.

After Zechariahs’ visions God shows him that Joshua is being crowned, but then the language changes and the one being crowned is the Lord, and He is building the temple. Here is that double meaning again. – a promise for the present and a fuller promise for the end of the age. Zechariah 6:15a reads: “Even those from afar (believing Gentiles) shall come and build the temple of the Lord.” You see, we have a part of this too.

These Israelites from long ago were given hope by Zechariahs’ prophecies. Now they knew that God was with them, even when their problems seemed so big. Do we sometimes make the same mistake they did? Do we wonder where God is when our problems overwhelm us? These Israelites questioned whether their efforts in building Gods’ new temple would ever be worth anything. They compared their temple to the grand temple of their forefathers and it didn’t measure up. Do we have those same problems? Do we sometimes wonder if our lives really matter? Do we fear that our efforts don’t compare with someone else’s? When we have prayers that don’t seem to be answered, do we think that God doesn’t care? The comforting words that God gave through Zechariah are for us too.

God tells us not to be discouraged if our work seems small (or unimportant). (Zechariah 4:7-10) “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Verse 10) We give importance to the size of things, but God doesn’t see things that way. His ways are not our ways. Zechariahs’ prophecy also reminds us that what God has begun in us He will complete. And our prayers will be answered even if it isn’t in our time frame. We are to depend on the Holy Spirit to accomplish the things that God has called us to do. And we are called upon to remember that our gift is important to building God’s church.

Gods’ message to Zephaniah is a double message. The promises of victory are for Christians as we live our lives today. But these promises are completely fulfilled for us at a later time also. Only at the end of time when Jesus has come again and all sin is completely removed, will we have the total victory through Christ.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Book of Haggai (When God feels left out)

The Book of Haggai (When God feels left out)

The book of Haggai is just two chapters long and was written in approximately 520 B.C. Haggai was one of Gods’ prophets to Judah and his short ministry covered a period of three or four months. As one of the Jewish exiles, Haggai had returned home with his people from Babylon.

When the book of Haggai was written the Jewish people had recently returned to their homeland after spending seventy years in Babylonian captivity. It had been a dark period in Jewish history. The Babylonians had attacked Judah in 605 B.C. and had sacked and pillaged Jerusalem. Solomon’s’ magnificent temple had been destroyed and the arch of the covenant was taken away and lost forever. The city walls had been torn down and the people of Judah were carried off to Babylon as slaves. Scripture tells us that this Jewish exile to Babylon was the result of their sin and rebellion against God over a long period of time. The citizens of Judah had lost so much because of their disobedience to God, but now they were back in their homeland and ready to rebuild.

A group of nearly 43,000 Jews had traveled back with Ezra and Zerubbabel promising to rebuild the temple of the Lord. For the first year or so they worked on the altar and the foundation of the temple. But then, realizing that the new temple they were building could never compare to the one that had been destroyed, they became discouraged and apathetic and stopped working on Gods’ house altogether. They turned their energies to building their own new designer homes with paneled walls. Sixteen years passed and their commission to build Gods’ temple had been completely forgotten. God was not pleased. The Lord spoke to Haggai and gave him a message to give to the people.

Haggai obeyed God and delivered His Word to his fellow citizens. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and built the temple that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified. You looked for much, but indeed it came to little: and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.’ Haggai 1:7-9

Clearly God feels left out of the lives of His people as they rebuild their houses and neglect His. He misses their fellowship. Without a temple they are not worshiping the Lord as they had. God longs to take “pleasure” in their worship and be glorified in their praise. Like a rejected parent or lover, He seems jealous. (Exodus 20:4-5) Phillip Yancey in his book “Reaching for the Invisible God” p. 201 writes: “Reading the Old Testament convinces me that this human tendency – indifference taken to a lethal extreme – bothers God more than any other. Gracious to doubters and a pursuer of willful unbelievers, God finds himself stymied, and even enraged, by those who simply put him out of mind. God reacts like any spurned lover who finds his phone calls unreturned and his Valentines tossed aside unopened.”

Does God feel hurt and angry when we forget to put Him first in our lives? Is He jealous when our personal agendas and ambitions come before our relationship with Him? Do we build up our own “houses” and leave His “house” unfinished like the Jews did in Haggai’s time? Perhaps we forget how important we are to God! We know that we are supposed to obey His laws. But do we remember that He takes pleasure in us when we come to Him and He is glorified in our worship and our praise? Isn’t it amazing that our modest faith means so much to God and the imperfect love we offer brings Him such joy? Isn’t it incredible that our little actions can have an affect on the God of the universe?

When Haggai came and told the returning Jews that God wanted them to finish building His house, they stopped and listened. Haggai 1:14 reads: So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, …and the spirit of all the remnant of the people: and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.” And when the people obeyed, the Lord spoke again through Haggai encouraging them: “I am with you.” Haggai 1:13 and “”But from this day I will bless you.” Haggai 2:19. And also more rallying: “be strong,…be strong…be strong…and work.” Haggai 2:4.

Some of the older people in the band of the returned Jewish exiles had seen Solomon’s temple when they were children. The workers had become discouraged when they realized that the new temple they were building would never be as large and grand as the old one that had been destroyed. Haggai 2:3 reads: “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?”

But God gave them encouragement and great expectations for the temple they would build. Because His Spirit and glory would fill this temple, it would end up being even greater than the last temple! Haggai 2: 7 and 9 reads: “”and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts. …The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts.”

God is giving Haggai’s fellow citizens such expectations for the temple they have resumed building. The Lord will take the work of their hands, this smaller temple, and make it so much more than they could have imagined. Since His Spirit is with them as they work and since He promises to fill their new temple with His glory and make it better than the last one; then what can they be discouraged about?

When God promises the “Desire of All Nations,” He is referring to Jesus Christ. And when the Lord speaks about “filling this temple with glory,” He is probably speaking about the end times when Christ will reign in victory and we will all be victorious through Him.

Do we share any of the same challenges to faith that these Jewish exiles had so long ago? Are we discouraged when the Christian ministries we invest our lives in don’t seem to compare to those of a previous generation? Do we become disillusioned when our work for the Lord goes unnoticed, or our prayers appear to go unanswered?

I believe that God has the same message for us that He did for the Jews in Haggai’s time. God would have us seek Him first and not get discouraged with our efforts. The glorification of the work of our hands happens when the presence of God is with us in our work. And God has promised to be with us always. Even if we don’t see the fruits of our labors now, God calls out to us with encouragements. Be strong…keep working…have faith.

Our prayers will be answered, even if we don’t see the answers here on earth. God will take our labors for Him and make them so much more than we could have imagined. When Jesus Christ, the Desire of All the Nations comes again, we will be changed. In Gods’ Hands our work for Him will be transformed. The last temple will be more glorious than the first. Through Christ we will be victorious. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lying for a Good Cause

Lying For a Good Cause

We Christians believe in the Ten Commandments given to us in Scripture. We demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in our public buildings. And sometimes we tell ourselves that we are better than those folks who don’t agree with us because we obey the Ten Commandments. But do we? Do we really take each command seriously?

Lately, everywhere I look, I find Christians breaking one of these special commandments. Sometimes I’ve broken it myself. The ninth commandment is: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16 It seems lately that some of us Christians are bending this command a bit. But aren’t we stretching the truth for a Godly purpose- for family and country? Maybe it’s not so bad to lie if we’re lying for a good cause.

We have received a constant barrage of scary e-mail messages these last few years from Christian acquaintances and friends. All of these e-mails seem to have the same theme; - that our Christian Nation is in jeopardy. One such message reads that President Obama has cancelled the National Day of Prayer since he doesn’t want to offend anyone. Hurry, the sender urges, if we love Jesus we will pass this rumor out to our whole address book. Scriptures are quoted followed by a plea to take our country back for God! But the well documented truth is that President Obama has issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation (that can be found on the internet) and his administration is fighting and appealing a ruling that was made last month by a federal court that cancelled the National Day of Prayer.

These e-mails filled with false information are generally designed to attack our government or smear our president. They are often interspersed with God talk and lectures about Christian values. And the senders seem bent on leaving political hatred and paranoia in the minds of their readers.— all in the name of Jesus, of course! Finally we began checking these stories out on and other neutral websites that examine and scrutinize the truthfulness of the gossip that is out there. After carefully checking many sources with each new message we received, we found that most of the stories being passed on to us were either untrue or just partially true.

One by one we have answered all of the people who have e-mailed us these false rumors. Please, we beg that you check to be sure a story is true before passing it on. We send along web sites and articles to challenge the twisted stories. But in nearly every instance we have been answered with angry replies and refusals to stop sending more of the same.

At least twenty Christians have sent us the photo out there of President Obama taking his shoes off with others. The heading under the photo states: “Obama praying with Muslims”. When one does a web search for this photo a completely different explanation of what our president was doing here in the photo comes out. The photo was taken at the doorway of the national mosque of Turkey, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in April 2009. As our president, Obama was making a chief executive’s two day state visit to Turkey. The photo was not of him inside praying but of him taking his shoes off along with others outside at the entrance of this national monument. Protocol dictates that visitors take their shoes off at the doors before entering.

Since Turkey is a major NATO ally of ours there are also photos of President Bush during his presidency, politely going along with Muslim customs when he was in Turkey on chief executive visits. Yes, there are many photos of President Bush in mosques and yes he also took his shoes off. Just do a Google search of “President Bush” and “mosque” and you can see photos of him and read about him doing the same things that President Obama did on his state visits as our president.

Why are Christians involved in passing this photo around of President Obama removing his shoes with the misleading caption under it? Even when they are shown that it is false, it remains a favorite! Do we have such a sense of entitlement as part of the powerful Christian majority that we feel that we have the right to spread lies around if the lies can influence people for our cause? Why do we often refuse to check references before passing a rumor along? Isn’t bearing false witness against another still a serious sin? Isn’t breaking the ninth commandment as wrong as breaking the seventh commandment, which forbids adultery? Can Christians fudge a bit with truth in their political fight to end welfare and healthcare for those who are “undeserving”? Is that what Jesus would want? Maybe it’s not so bad after all to lie for what is thought to be a good cause?