listening

God works with small groups.

God works with small groups.

Ezra 1

The book of Ezra begins with the decree, made by Cyrus king of Persia in 538 B.C., that gave the Jewish exiles the right to finally return home to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the Lord. (Here’s an interesting side note to that story. Many scholars believe that Daniel was instrumental in stirring the heart of the king by sharing with him the prophecies in Jeremiah 25 and 29 regarding the return of the exiles from Babylon. Incidentally, these prophecies mention King Cyrus of Persia by name—even though they were written 150 years before his birth.)

God reasons with us.

God reasons with us.

2 Chronicles 36

I probably should have titled this blog God reasons with us (or at least He tries to). That was the story with this last chapter of 2 Chronicles. We finally got to the end of the history of Israelite kings, and it reminded me of a tailspin... right down into Babylonian captivity.

God is speaking.

God is speaking.

2 Chronicles 34

Once again, a king in Judah (Josiah, this time) was trying to reform the spiritual state of the nation. After years of idol worship and evil-doing kings (with little respite in between), here was a king who was determined to seek God and do things His way. And in the process of restoring the temple, the chief priest found the Book of the Law. Apparently, it had been lost—either accidentally or intentionally. Either way, when Josiah heard what was in the Book of the Law, he was quite distraught. He tore his robes and wept.

God humbles us.

God humbles us.

2 Chronicles 33

It’s kind of hard to believe that—after seeing such a wonderful example of a king in his father, Hezekiah—Manasseh could be so wicked. He virtually reversed every good thing his father had done during his reign. However, maybe that’s what happens when a twelve-year-old becomes a king! Can you imagine putting a teenager in charge of a country? Mercy!

God cares more about attitudes than rules.

God cares more about attitudes than rules.

2 Chronicles 30

After Hezekiah repaired the temple, he called the Israelites together to celebrate the Passover—something that hadn’t been done for a long, long time. It was a grand celebration—with music and feasting and thousands of sacrifices. The people were having such a great time that, at the end of the prescribed seven days, they decided to extend the celebration for another seven days. There was one slight problem, however: "Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, 'May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.' And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people." (vs 18-20)

God can give us more.

God can give us more.

2 Chronicles 25

Amaziah—like his father—started out well as king. Later, he too strayed from the ways of the Lord, but as kings of Judah went, he was a pretty good one. (Which is, I think, a sad commentary on the kings of Judah!) Before he went astray, however, he had a habit of listening whenever the Lord talked to him. One such occasion was recorded in this chapter:

God knows what to do.

God knows what to do.

2 Chronicles 20

This chapter contains what has to be one of the most moving expressions of trust in God to be found in the Bible, contained in the middle of Jehoshaphat’s prayer: "But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you [God] would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." (vs 10-12)

God makes deception impossible.

God makes deception impossible.

2 Chronicles 18

Ahhhh, back to one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. Micaiah, the prophet with the hot mouth. But as I read the story once again, something new jumped out at me. The dialogue between the two kings was very interesting, particularly the things said by Ahab king of Israel.

God helps those who seek Him.

God helps those who seek Him.

2 Chronicles 16

I’m sure you’ve heard this famous saying: God helps those who help themselves. A popular idea, but is it true? King Asa’s experience in 2 Chronicles 16 would seem to contradict the idea. For what was Asa doing, but helping himself? "In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah. Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 'Let there be a treaty between me and you,' he said, 'as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.'" (vs 1-3)

God sees and hears us.

God sees and hears us.

2 Chronicles 7

God sees you. God hears you. Have you ever found those things hard to believe? Has it ever felt like you were alone and abandoned instead? Like no matter how much you were hurting or how hard you were crying out, there was just nobody "up there" to listen to you? 2 Chronicles 7 would like you to know that those feelings aren’t reality.

Wonder-full Thunder {ex19:19}

Photo © Unsplash/Brandon Morgan

Photo © Unsplash/Brandon Morgan

Thunderstorms are my favorite.

I love watching the thick, black clouds
roll in from the west,
the wind whipping up leaves and dirt,
compressing the musty air like a balloon
until it bursts,
giving way to slick, saturating torrents.

I love the paparazzi pops of lightning,
the long, jagged, hair-trigger flashes of noon
radiating through the bruised sky,
connecting heaven and earth
in less than a second
for less than a second.

And I love the thunder,
the low, distant lion's growls
and the ear-splitting cracks
that break over your head
like an egg spilling a clangorous yoke.

As the storm rolls in,
I count the seconds between every flash
and every bellow,
anticipating the moment
when the delay is gone
and the light arrives with a boom.

In all this time,
I have never wondered
if, at that moment,
You were speaking to me.

 

God wants us to trust Him.

God wants us to trust Him.

1 Chronicles 22

Just before Solomon ascended to the throne, his father made all the necessary preparations for the building of the temple. David had wanted to build the temple himself, but God had decided that Solomon would build it instead. This was because Solomon would not be a warring king, as his father had been. In fact, Solomon’s very name was related to the Hebrew word for peace. It seems that God wanted the idea of peace to be an integral part of His dwelling place on Earth.

Delegation Abdication? {ex18}

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Exodus 18 has been
the jumping-off point
for many a sermon on delegating.
But I wonder if delegating
was what Moses was supposed to do.

He listened to his father-in-law,
but it doesn't say
whether he consulted God
on the newly-proposed
hierarchy.

On one hand,
Jethro's idea took a heavy burden
from Moses' shoulders
and broke it up into smaller
more easily-managed pieces.

On the other hand,
maybe God had intended
Moses to carry
the Israelite Cross.

On one hand,
the people could
get their disputes resolved
without having to practice
so much patience.

On the other hand,
the
plan
added
yet
another
layer
of
bureaucracy
between
the
people
and
the
God
who
had
longed
to
speak
with
them
face
to
face
as
a
man
speaks
to
his
friend.

Perhaps Moses did
the right thing.

But if he had been on
the sure path to
burnout,
why didn't the God
who was in the habit
of speaking with him every day
tell him so
Himself?

 

God cares about the process, not just the results.

God cares about the process, not just the results.

1 Chronicles 15

After a few months, David went back to (once again) retrieve the Ark of the Covenant and bring it back to Jerusalem. This time, however, he had a different method in mind: "Then David summoned... the priests... and the Levites. He said to them, 'You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to consecrate yourselves and bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.' So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord." (vs 11-15)

God answers questions before we ask them.

God answers questions before we ask them.

1 Chronicles 13

King David wanted to do a very good thing. He wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant back from its exile. He realized that, during the reign of Saul, the Lord had basically been ignored, and he wanted to change that. Unfortunately, after accusing Saul of not "inquiring" of the Ark, David did the same exact thing.

The Confrontational Creator {ex14:16-17}

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

The problem with sin is that we
want to have our cake
and eat it too,
just like Pharaoh,
who wanted to have his slaves
and free them too.

But not to decide
is to decide,
and not to give in
is to remain stubborn

and that has an effect.

We all think
/or want to believe/
that no matter
what we choose
we automatically
revert back to
this neutral default place
after each decision,
that our choices
don't have any lasting
consequences.

But that's ridiculous.

If you've lived in darkness
your entire life
and someone suddenly
turns on a light
you are no longer a person
who has only known darkness.

You cannot return
to saying that you do not know
what light looks like.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you know it's not true

and that has an effect.

God is the Light of the World,
that Great Confronter who
scouts out
runs down
and passionately pursues
His darkness-dwelling
children.

He would not dream
of letting you remain
forever in your darkness.
He knows nothing of
live and let live,
has no hands-off policy,
and is generally unaccommodating.

He does not prefer to avoid confrontation.

As surely as He lives,
you live,
and as surely as He lives,
you will experience Him.

And when you do,
you cannot return
to saying that you have never
experienced Him.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you will know it's not true

and that will have an effect.

And if you persist
in ignoring or avoiding reality
for long enough
you may just find yourself
in a chariot
at the edge of the sea,
unable to bat an eyelash
at the rising walls of water,
unable to wonder how or why the briny deep
is drawing back to reveal dry ground,
unable to think twice
before rushing headlong
into the foregone destruction
of a hardened heart.

 

God isn't always in favor of agreement.

God isn't always in favor of agreement.

1 Kings 22

This has to be another one of my all-time favorite chapters in the Bible. Who has ever heard of the prophet Micaiah? But why isn’t he upheld more often as an Old Testament Bible hero? Micaiah: the prophet with a hot mouth. I love him. And one of the things I love most about him is that he wasn’t just willing to go with the crowd. He was determined to do what he believed was right—even if it went against the grain.

God is looking for willingness.

God is looking for willingness.

1 Kings 15

There is a lot of controversy in Christian circles over the issue of obedience to the law, sanctification, perfection, etc. Some people say that perfect obedience to God’s law is required for salvation. Others say that the law was nailed to the cross with Jesus, so there is no law to keep. Still others say that Jesus kept the law perfectly so we wouldn’t have to. He keeps it for us. To be blunt, I think they’re all wrong.