Protect the promise

If you’ve made a commitment to someone, how far will you go to see that it happens? If someone has made a commitment to you, how far will you go to see that it happens? And what about what God has promised to you? How far will you go to hold on to the promises that you have from the Lord? Only until it gets a little uncomfortable? Only until it’s inconvenient and doesn’t really fit into your plans?

What if we could see the end at the beginning? Would it change our response to God’s promises? It certainly made a difference in Judah. God had promised that David’s line would never end. David would have an heir on the throne forever. But as we read in 2 Chronicles, that line was in serious jeopardy. Upon the death of King Ahaziah, his mother took it upon herself to destroy every possible heir. But one got away. Just a child, but an heir nonetheless.

Jehoiada said to them, “The king’s son shall reign, as the Lord promised concerning the descendants of David. Now this is what you are to do: A third of you priests and Levites who are going on duty on the Sabbath are to keep watch at the doors, a third of you at the royal palace and a third at the Foundation Gate, and all the other men are to be in the courtyards of the temple of the Lord. No on is to enter the temple of the Lord except the priests and Levites on duty; they may enter because they are consecrated, but all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them. The Levites are to station themselves around the king, each man with weapons in his hand. Anyone who enters the temple must be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.

2 Chronicles 23:3b-7 (NIV)

That is an awful lot of fuss for a kid just barely out of kindergarten. Yet Jehoiada knew that this boy was heir to far more than just the nation of Judah. He was the heir of a promise that would extend throughout eternity and they would protect that promise with their lives.

We have a book full of promises from God. How far will you go to see those promises come to pass?

The thing is, just because a promise has been made, doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to do anything. It doesn’t mean that we just get to sit around and let it happen around us. Had Jehoiada decided to leave matters be—it’ll all work out in the end, won’t it?—Joash would have been killed along with the rest of his siblings. The last of David’s line gone. And then what? It’s not as though God couldn’t have come up with another plan for salvation. But that’s not what God does. He’s not a God of plan B. He doesn’t even have a plan B. It’s plan A. Period.

So how do we know that God will keep His promises?

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV)

If God has made a promise to us, we can be assured that He will keep it. But we also have a responsibility to protect that promise. We must arm ourselves as Jehoiada armed the priests and Levites to protect Joash. God has given us His Spirit so that we can stand firm in the face of our enemy and declare the Amen—let it be so—with confidence that if God has promised it, He will perform it.

Do you have a promise from God? Protect it. With your life.

Read: 2 Chronicles 23-25, John 16:16-33

Not yours

Do you need God to move in a big way in your life? Wait. That’s a silly question. Who doesn’t need God to move in a big way in their life? If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t, then you really need God to move in a big way.

We all need God. And we all need Him to move in our lives. But most of us never really see God move in the ways we’d like him to. Jim Cymbala said in his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that he despaired at the thought that [his] life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on [his] behalf. What a sorry existence we live as Christians if we never really see God move in or through us.

So what does it take to see God move?

  • Individuals. A move of God starts when one person decides that they want more for their life than what their own plan can accomplish. It takes one person making the choice to put God’s plans ahead of their own.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands father than the practices of Israel.

2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NIV)

  • Leaders. A move of God requires leaders—those who have made the choice to put the plans and purposes of God above everything else—to stand up and encourage others to do the same.

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

2 Chronicles 20:20b

  • Families. If one person can make a decision, a family can make a difference. The entire nation of Israel was one family descended from Abraham. When they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, God went before them and blessed everything they touched.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

  • Worship. Our response to God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His good plans for us, stirs His heart. God cannot move where He is not welcome and what better way to welcome His Spirit than to stand in an attitude of adoration?

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NIV)

In the case of Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah, God went ahead of the army and defeated the enemy for them. By the time the troops arrived on the battlefield, all that remained were dead bodies and so much plunder that it took three days to gather it all.

We may not be headed into a physical battle, but we are most certainly in a spiritual one. If we want God to move on our behalf, there are certain things required of us. The greatest of these things is the sacrifice of ourselves.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 (NIV)

It’s hard to let go of our own wants and needs. Scary, even. But when we recognise God for who He is—a good God and a loving Father—it becomes easier to allow Him to set the course for us. And that is what we must do. God will move, but it will be in His direction, not ours. We must be committed and submitted to His will.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

The business of prayer

Read: Genesis 20-22, Matthew 7

Matthew Henry the business of prayer

I have noticed that prayer meetings—though some of the most important meetings a church can hold—are often some of the least attended. Everyone will turn out for the day when they get something, but no one wants to show up when they have to give something, especially of themselves.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

Ask. Seek. Knock. These terms are not meant to indicate a single action, but a repetitive one. Keep on asking. Don’t stop looking. Continue knocking. Keep doing it until you get an answer.

In a culture of instant everything, having to wait for anything seems like a waste of time. Time is money, after all. But aren’t there things in life that are worth far more? Perhaps our relationship with Jesus? The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

Take a look at Abraham. God gave him a very specific instruction.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and got to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Genesis 22:2 (NIV)

Now, if you’re Abraham, do you simply say, “OK,” and go about that which God asked you to do? The scripture doesn’t say so, but I believe that Abraham would have been praying the entire three day journey to their destination. What father wouldn’t do everything and anything possible to avoid the loss of his only child? I am sure that his words were very similar to Jesus’ before his death.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

Luke 22:42 (NIV)

How often do we pray like we really mean it? As though our very lives—or the lives of loved ones—depend on it? Is prayer a hobby or it is our business? It could be said that prayer is the family business. If we declare ourselves to be a part of the family of God, then prayer has become our business. It is our trade. It is our responsibility to hone that trade.

If you have yet to see the answer you seek, keep on seeking. Ask until you get a response. Knock, pound on the door if you have to, until it opens. Because then, and only then, will you see the rewards of your labour.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 (NIV)

Eternally entwined

Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so that we will be confident when we stand before the Lord.

1 John 3:18-19 (NLT)

While our spoken words are living things, they are cheap when compared to our actions. We all know that actions speak far louder than words.

But it should be noted that it is a record of actual deeds of self-sacrifice done out of unfeigned love which constitutes this sign of indwelling divine life, and not simply the feeling of adoration toward the infinite, which so easily passes for ‘love of God’.

International Bible Commentary

Our belief and confession thereof is what sets us on the path of righteousness, but that’s just the beginning of our walk of faith. It’s what puts us in the race. Now, a runner can stand at the starting line and tell everyone that he’s the winner, but until he gets into the proper stance and prepares himself, he’s nothing but a man standing on the starting line. He’s not a runner until he runs.

In the same way, we are not Christians until we act like Christ. Loving God is the start. It is our love for God that should lead us toward loving others. And it is in showing our love for others that we also show our love for God. The two are eternally entwined and cannot be separated. John calls us liars if we say we love God and do not love others.

It is in displaying our love for our brothers and sisters that we build the confidence to approach God because it is our actions toward others that prove our love for God and our faith in Him.

Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him.

1 John 3:21-22 (NLT)

Because of our love for each other, we can go to God expecting a response. Jesus said that, when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too (Mark 11:25). It would seem that love and answered prayer are a package deal. So let’s stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 3-4, 1 John 3

Know Go(o)d

Ask anyone what good is. Then ask them what wicked is. Just about everyone will have a response. While responses to those questions may vary, the amazing thing is that nearly everyone can agree that good and wicked both exist. Not many people could tell you where the ideas come from or how we form our own opinions of what they are, but they exist nonetheless.

Does it really matter what we believe is good and what we believe is wicked? Does it matter if we all agree or disagree? Yes, it does.

But first, let’s take a look at Webster’s 1828 definitions of good and wicked:

GOOD: Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God’s law required; virtuous, pious, religious; applied to persons, and opposed to bad, vitious, wicked, evil.

WICKED: Evil in principle or practice; deviating from the divine law; addicted to vice; sinful; immoral.

To know what wicked is, we simply have to know what it isn’t. It isn’t good. The more we know what good is, the more we are able to recognise wicked.

Who cares? Why do we need to know the difference? Didn’t God tell Adam and Eve to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? If Adam and Eve didn’t need to know, why do we?

Well, because Adam and Eve didn’t stay away from that tree. Before they ate the forbidden fruit, evil didn’t exist to them. They only knew good. They only knew God. As soon as they disobeyed God’s command and ate that fruit, evil entered their world. Now they knew the difference. We need to know the difference, too.

Oh, the joys of those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with scoffers.

Psalm 1:1 (NLT)

There are joys to be had in avoiding the wicked. What else?

But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.

Psalm 1:2 (NLT)

Why would anyone want to do everything someone else wants? Remember that God is good. He only wants good things for us. Why wouldn’t we want to do what He wants?

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither,
and in all they do, they prosper.

Psalm 1:3 (NLT)

Now we get to the good part. The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more we understand who He is and the more we understand what good is. When we understand what good is, we recognise what wicked is. Then we can stay away from the wicked. When we stay away from wicked people and things, we become fruitful and prosperous.

Does this all make sense now? Know good. Stay away from wicked. Prosper.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 1-3, Acts 16:1-15

Quickly

Let’s assume that, if you attend church regularly, that you trust your pastor and other church leaders. You trust that he or she is a man or woman of God. You trust that they spend regular time in prayer and reading their Bible. You trust that their messages are Holy Spirit-led.

Then they approach you and tell you something you didn’t expect. It may be a word in season or it may be a word of correction. Some people take it to heart and are encouraged or work to make necessary changes in their lives. Others may ruminate on it for a while before responding. And others will get mad, stay away, or even leave the church thinking, what right does this person have to say this to me?

The truth is that they have every right. If you consider yourself to be a member of a church, you’ve put yourself into a position of submission to the pastor and the leaders he or she has put in place. So long as they are speaking and acting according to the Word of God, they have a certain amount of authority over you.

So why does our response matter so much?

Israel has wandered away from God. There are yet a few righteous men and women, but not many. Jehu is leading the army. Elisha is the prophet. Elisha sends a man of God to anoint Jehu as the next king. Jehu can do several things: he can send the man away, scoffing at him, he can listen to what he has to say and think about it, or he can accept the word and act on it.

Jehu accepts the anointing.

Jehu went back to his fellow officers, and one of them asked him, “What did that crazy fellow want? Is everything all right?”

“You know the way such a man babbles on,” Jehu replied.

“You’re lying,” they said. “Tell us.” So Jehu told them what the man had said and that at the Lord’s command he had been anointed king over Israel.

They quickly spread out their cloaks on the bare steps and blew a trumpet, shouting, “Jehu is king!”

2 Kings 9:11-13 (NLT)

Israel may have gone astray, but something (I believe the Holy Spirit) was still working in them. A deep respect and honour for the Word of God still resided in these men and, instead of getting upset that Jehu had been chosen to be the next king or taking the time to think about this news and whether or not they wanted to accept it, they immediately responded to it.

When we have a relationship with God, He will lead us and guide us. His Spirit works in and through us. He brings us insight and revelation.

When we are in submission to the leaders God has placed before us, God uses them to help lead and guide us. Between God speaking to our leaders and the Spirit working in us, I believe that we are well able to discern truth and allow that truth to guide us. When a word is presented to us from a trusted source and resonates within our spirits as truth, our response, like Jehu’s men, should be immediate. If we trust God and we trust our leaders, the time to ponder should be minimal. We should respond quickly.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 9-11, John 5:1-24

Lavish

LAV’ISH, adjective. Expending or bestowing with profusion; liberal to a fault; wild; unrestrained.

Lavish is a pretty amazing word. I don’t think we use it enough. I also don’t think most of us really know what it means. Our society tends to hold things close. We clutch whatever we have to our chests in hope that we are never called upon to release whatever it is we hold.

What if we were a lavish society? I don’t mean the kind where everyone walks about in silks and satins with cigarettes at the end of impossibly long holders. I mean the kind where we’re completely selfless. Where everyone, no matter who they are, is generous to a fault.

What’s stopping us?

But I lavish my love on those who love me and obey my commands…

Deuteronomy 5:10 (NLT)

It’s a common complaint among church-attenders that they don’t feel God. They keep waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does. These are usually the fringe people. Those who never truly involve themselves in much of anything, but come to church waiting for something to happen. Something rarely happens for these people. Why?

Notice that God didn’t say that He would just lavish love on everyone. He loves everyone—never doubt that—but the lavishing is His response to our response to His love.

How likely are you to bestow great love and gifts upon someone who is continually sitting in front of you with arms crossed and a scowl on their face? The more likely response is a kick in the shins. I think God sometimes feels the same way about us. We’re made in His image, after all, and even God vented a lot of frustration with Israel on a regular basis.

But lets say someone knocks on your door and you answer in your bath robe. This person at the door is dressed to the nines (I never really did understand what that’s supposed to mean) and has with them a home-cooked gourmet meal. The works. Not only that, but they’ve left a brand new car in your driveway—full of gas and insurance paid. After dinner has been served on starched linens and fine china, a group of maids comes in a cleans your house top to bottom. This person no longer deserves a kick in the shins. You’ve probably spent every moment since the doorbell rang trying to figure out how you can show your gratitude for this lavish gift.

It’s easier to love someone who loves you back. If you’re looking for the lavish kind of love from God, why not try showing a little to Him?

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 5-7, Mark 12:1-27