He (Hezekiah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.
2 Kings 18:3-4 (NIV)
He (Josiah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
2 Kings 22:2 (NIV)
In the book of 2 Kings chapter 17, the fall of the northern kingdom (Israel) to Assyria in 722 BC is recorded. Alone and vulnerable, the southern kingdom (Judah) remains intact until its fall to the Babylonians in 586 BC. During this 136-year period, Judah experienced blessing and reform during the reigns of two of her greatest kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, recorded in 2 Kings chapters 18-25. We are reminded that obedient kings have a profound and positive impact on God’s people. These two kings attempted to re-establish righteousness and obedience to God’s commands. Sometimes God just needs to clean house and these two men most certainly did that for Judah. God sent them in the midst of their distress after witnessing the fall of their comrades in the northern kingdom who, after refusing to abandon their sinful ways and pagan worship, were taken away into captivity. This was an opportunity for the people of Judah to get things right before it happened to them as well. Out of God’s love for them He extended this opportunity to be guided on the right path, to cling to Him once more. However, Judah was disobedient in their own right once these two kings had left them and eventually fell into their captives’ hands. That doesn’t take away from the fact that God was trying to reel in their hearts and save them from their own ways. My story tells the same message, as I’m sure yours does too. We need to listen and allow God to remove things from our lives and not go back to pick them up again, only to be carried away by them. Praise God for His redemptive heart towards us. Praise God for His pursuit.
It may seem like an odd concept, but we are all marketing something. The way we dress, speak, act, and carry ourselves, are all sending messages to those around us. The question is, what are you advertising? For those bound to Christ, the answer is given to us. God’s purpose for all of us is to be image barrers. That is far more than our physical appearance. It entails a lifestyle. Our entire beings are wrapped up in this. No one did that better the Jesus of Nazareth. He is God in the flesh. The full radiance of God contained in Him. He breathed out the life of God everywhere He went. Once we take on the name of “Christian” we are devoting ourselves to display the life of Christ through our very own. What we wear, how we speak, and our actions should all announce the One our hearts are devoted to. This is just as challenging to me as it is to anyone reading this. There are days I fall flat. In those moments too, we can display humility and experience the grace won for us by Christ.
There are those in my life who have helped me along the way. They are the ones who show me Jesus day in a day out. My hope is, that you too can think of people in your own life who have pointed you towards Jesus by their devotion to Him. So many people have been introduced to Christ through the lives of others. The world is watching. Our family is watching. Our friends and coworkers are watching. We have chosen to be clothed in Christ. Lets wear it well.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
During the Cold War, many Christians in Eastern Europe would memorize entire books of the Bible and then destroy their copies. They had to do that because they would have either been arrested, sent to prison camps, or disappear. There was no room for God in the Soviet Union or their satellite states. To have any God other than those in power was akin to a crime against the state itself. Still, in places like North Korea, China, Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, and more, the persecution towards believers forces them to absorb as much of God’s word as possible because they can’t risk being caught reading openly. For those of us not living under the tyranny of a radical theocracy or a commnunist system, memorizing scripture can still serve an important role in our journey of faith.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11 ESV
Knowing God’s word…I mean really knowing it…helps us in the war against sin. Satan, our flesh, and the cultures of the world are constantly whispering, and often yelling, messages in our ears that lead us into sin. By memorizing scripture, we give ourselves a weapons cache to fire back. Jesus demonstrated this when He allowed Satan to tempt Him in the wilderness. Every temptation was met with God’s word. The only way we can do the same is to know how to distinguish messages that line up with scripture and those that do not. A huge fault I see in so many Christians is an utter lack of biblical knowledge. I’m not referring to seeking a degree in theological studies. I’m talking about a lack of knowing what is said in the Bible. When we don’t know what God says, we’ll believe what those opposed to Biblical principles say.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:8 ESV
We can’t live out scripture if we don’t know scripture. Every believer should be a student of their Master. To meditate on scripture is to meditate on the Lord Himself. The more we focus on the story of God the more we know Him. The more we know Him the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we live for Him. Just as any relationship thrives on attention and communication, so to does our relationship with the Lord. Our lives of devotion should be a pattern of prayer, reading, and praise.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV
Our mind is a battleground. Our mind is also malleable. We have the ability to make it into what we want. And since so much of what we say and do is determined by the mind, why not pour more energy into making it a core of light. From the moment we start absorbing things as a child, negative things creep in. We have to fight for hope. We battle for purity. We war for compassion and generosity. The nature of the fallen mind is to look inward, preserve self, seek comfort, elevate self importance or dwell on self pitty. Our minds need transformed. One of the best ways to do that is through meditation and memorization of scripture. That, in turn, will help us to focus on pure and truthful things. Our eyes will turn outwards towards those around us. Our self importance will diminish, yet at the same time, we will feel more loved and valued than ever before.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7 NASB
To abide in Christ is equated to having Christ’s words abiding in us. This isn’t a reference to Christ dwelling in us, it’s a call to know His words. To abide means to obey, stick to, hold to, and follow. When we are so intuned with Christ and His words, then our desires will be His desires for us. The things we ask for in prayer will align with the holy life that Christ is calling us to in the first place.
So whether we live in an area where the Christian faith is heavily restricted or even persecuted, an area where affluence and apathy attempt to shadow the call of piety, or an area where freedom allows us to live out our faith, it is equally important to pursue a rich understanding of God’s word. As followers of Christ, we are called to love Him and to make Him known. We can’t do either if we don’t know Him. No one else has ever loved you more. No one else crafted you. No one else pursues a relationship with you like Jesus does. The greatest gift in this life will be to know Him.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
1 Samuel 8:4-5 (NIV)
But now your (Saul) kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man (David) after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
1 Samuel 13:14 (NIV) [my emphasis]
As we open up to the book of Psalms and read through the prayers of David we can see what it is like to have a true heart after God. He was the man that God would use to unify and strengthen the nation of Israel. David was by no means a perfect man but his heart was often in the right place. He was humble and repentant before God. Two of the most important characteristics required of a child of God.
Hear me, Lord, and answer me, or I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
Psalm 86:1-6 (NIV)
Towards the end of the time of the Judges, the people had longed for a king and no longer wanted a judge over them. They wanted to be like the nations around them, even though God had called them to be separate. However, the Lord gave them what they wanted. He rose up and anointed Saul. But Saul had a problem with following through completely with what God asked of him. In ways, he served the people before he served God. So God raised up another in his place.
After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
Acts 13:22 (NIV)
David was chosen to be the seed of the Messiah of God’s children. The Lord brought the nation together and empowered them over their enemies. God gave them a leader, ultimately, in order to bring the nation back to Himself. God wanted them to recognize Him as their King and Judge. But the people lost sight. Even so, God used people, like the Judges, prophets, and certain kings, as part of His plan of redeeming a wayward people.
It’s incredible to see how God will redirect our lives after we make demands of Him. We, at times, will take a path that we think is best for us. Only an awesome God would allow us free will, knowing full well He can restore us and He can make us new. Just as He did for Israel, God has brought people into all of our lives to help guide us on the right path. Maybe we’ve embraced it, maybe we haven’t. But as the Good Shepherd, the Lord is constantly trying to reach us and lead us in the path of life. He doesn’t abandon us to our own despair. He doesn’t walk away from us even when we walk away from Him. Just as the father of the prodigal son God is waiting with open arms to embrace His wayward children. That is redemptive love.
Celebrate your redemption brothers and sisters. There is no greater gift.
How do we know who God is and what God is like? Are those things knowable? Major religions throughout history have tried to answer those questions. Here’s what the current largest religions say:
Hinduism: Infinite number of gods and everyone can have their own that they define.
New age: their is a higher consciousness within themselves. Each person is developing as a spiritual deity.
Buddhism: there is no god only infinite rebirths and pursuit of perfection.
Islam: Allah as almighty but not personal. He is both strict and harsh, only showing mercy based on good works and he is ultimately unknowable.
How about for Christians? Is Yahweh knowable? Is he a personable God? Does He want to be known? All of those questions can be answered in the person of Jesus.
He is the image of the invisible God… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…
Colossians 1:15a&19a ESV
I and the Father are one.
John 10:30 ESV
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…
Hebrews 1:3a ESV
In those passages, Jesus is described as being the image of God, the fullness of God, the radiance of God, that He and God are one, and the exact imprint of God. Is God knowable? Yes. He reveals Himself in many different ways: a burning bush, a pillar of smoke and fire, blinding light, and a voice on the wind. But nowhere does He reveal Himself better than in the person of Jesus. How did Jesus show us Who God is? I just want to propose four aspects of God that we can know based on the life of Jesus.
#1 He Pursued People – All of His disciples He sought out. He found them where they were, when they least expected it, and He invited them to follow Him. He traveled from town to town to share God’s love and message. He intersected with specific people at specific times in their life. The woman at the well is a prime example. Or how about the man who had been lame since childhood and spent his days at the pool of Bethesda. And then there was Paul. Whether in desperation or on the wrong path, Jesus pursued people. Then He invited them into something greater than themselves. I am witness to the unfailing pursuit of God.
#2 He Demonstrated Grace – Everyone Jesus chose to spend time with was an act of grace. The very fact that Jesus came to earth to tabernacled among us is an act of grace. But He also showed immense grace to individuals all of the time. Look at the woman caught in adultery, or Mary of Magdalene. Paul proclaimed that he was chief among sinners yet look how he used him. Peter denied Christ three times, yet Jesus took Him aside to encourage and build him up. All of the disciples abandoned Him when he was arrested yet He never abandoned them or shamed them. Forgiveness and mercy are the centerpiece of Jesus’ message. He displayed it in His treatment of those during his life, He displayed it in His death, and He displayed it in His resurrection.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
#3 He Gave Extraordinarily – Jesus devoted His life in an all-consuming manor. He taught. He gave His wisdom so that we wouldn’t wander aimlessly in the dark. He cares that we knew truth. He wanted us to see it demonstrated and to understand the heart behind the law. He wanted to breakdown hypocrisy and destroy heartless worship and loveless rule keeping. He served. He served in every capacity. He fed people, he prayed for them, and listened to people, and He washed their feet. He showed that the greatest king is one who serves his followers and that nothing is below a servant with a pure heart. He healed. He healed people physically and emotionally. Any time and in any way we are made whole, it is a gift of grace. It’s an extraordinary act of love by the author of love. He gave His life. The ultimate act of giving was at the cost of His own life.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 NIV
#4 He Showed A Desire For Connection – One thing Jesus did a lot of was praying. He prayed so much that his disciples ask Him to teach them how. On multiple occasions, Jesus sought isolation to be in that connection. He prayed for hours at a time, sometimes all night long. He prayed to give thanks, he prayed to heal, he prayed in the good moments and in the desperate. Jesus showed us what it meant to pray without ceasing. That shows us something incredible about God’s character. He wants to be connected to you and me. He wants the intimacy that any great relationship requires. God is not distant. Even though He is Holy other, He still wants to have Holy Communion with us. God wants a relationship that is constant and connected.
In Matthew 11, Jesus says come to me. In Revelation 3, He says that He stands at the door at knocks. In John 15, Jesus says to abide in Him. In John 17, Jesus prays for that same connection for us that He has with God.
In all of these things, Jesus showed us the immense love of God. A love that pursues us. A love that constantly shows grace. A love that gives extraordinarily. And and A love that wants an intimate connection with us.
The original Greek word for Christian is “Christianos” which comes from the two Greek words “Christ and tian.” The word Christ means “anointed” and tian means “little.” So the word “Christian” literally means “little anointed ones.” If Jesus was anointed to display the character of God, so are we.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God
The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…
Exodus 3:7-8 NASB
God’s people are in bondage, they cry out for His help, and God provides a way for their freedom…sounds like a pretty good redemption story to me. Not only that but He used a man who (as a baby) was a prime target for Pharaoh’s mass murder but was saved by God and found by Pharaoh’s daughter. In addition, Moses was not the best of speakers (Exodus 4:10) and had fled Egypt years before. This was not what most of us would picture as the primary candidate for a leader. But God uses what the world sees as lowly to do some of the most incredible things. God did not abandon those who loved Him nor did He turn a deaf ear to their cries. Sometimes we just need to rejoice in hope, remain patient in tribulation, and stay devoted to prayer (Romans 12:12), knowing that God will save us one day. God has shown time and time again that He is our freedom from bondage, the one who breaks our chains and places us on high ground. Just as He did not leave the children of Israel to slavery in Egypt, neither will He leave us to the slavery we battle.
Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.
Exodus 3:10 NASB
Today is the Passover. As part of this story, God would use His miraculous power to shock the conscience of the Egyptian people and strike down each of their gods one by one, plague by plague. End the end, God would bring the ultimate consequence for rejecting Him…death. However, anyone who placed their faith in Him, and was covered by the blood on the doorposts, would not experience this last plague. God provided a way of escape from death. He opened the door for faith to be the means by which people are rescued.
This man, Moses, was placed into the story to be a key player in God’s beautiful act of redemption. An act that would be mirrored, only in greater magnitude, many years later when another baby would be rescued from death, to lead a movement, to reveal God to us, to go to a cross, and to provide the blood that never runs out. The act of redemption that never needs to be repeated. This lamb died once and for all to cover, not our doorposts, but our hearts with His sacrifice and save us from wages of sin.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…
As we work our way through the Old Testament, we’re looking at acts of God’s redemption towards broken humanity. I feel it important to address those claims that some (even Christians) have made about God being different in the Old Testament then he was in the New Testament. Because we believe that Jesus is the exact imprint and expression of God, we know that the life of Jesus shows the heart of God. Because we know that Jesus demonstrated love and sacrificed Himself for humanity, we can know that God is in all of that. Jesus is God in the flesh. Because of that, everything Jesus did, God did. We have to remember that it is God who redeemed the world, and He did so in many ways before coming to Earth in Jesus. Today’s story is still early in the book of Genesis.
Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (NKJV)
At the age of 75 Abram (Abraham) departed from his home, the only place he had ever known, to follow the Lord on a journey that would change the future of mankind. The place Abraham was leaving was in the heart of the Babylonian Empire. This empire was the origin of corrupt pagan tradition first established by Nimrod and his wife, the source of the modern false religions. It is truly amazing that God would look at this place and call out a remnant from among them, especially one that will be the patriarch of God’s people. Rather than allow mankind to remain subjugated to the rebellion of this land, God chose redemption. God chose to bring goodness out of evil and light out of darkness. God has made a way for us to escape the sin of this world out of His immense love for us. He will never leave us or forsake us but rather, He will call us out of the mess we’re in, and place us in a land of freedom.
And the Lord said to Abram… “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NKJV)
What is God’s focus for our lives? Does God want us to focus on material gain, emotional satisfactions, physical pleasures, or every day comforts? Does God want us to focus on promotions, new jobs, new cars, fancy clothing, nice jewelry, a big television, iPad, or iPhone? Does God want us to pour our hearts into sports teams, movies, or tv shows? Or does God want our focus to be on godliness, faithfulness, loving others, serving, sharing the gospel, and laying our lives aside for Him and others? God is calling us to pour our time and energy into things that bring glory and honor to His name and draw us and others closer to Him. Everything else is fading away with this world but God’s will is eternal (1 John 2:17). As Job said, “naked we came into this world and naked I’ll leave so praise the Lord!” (Job 1:21).
Our focus determines our actions because our focus reflects our hearts (Matt 6:21). If we place a lot of value on the things of this world and the comforts of life then our actions will try to acquire those for ourselves. But if our hearts are for God and the mission He’s called us to, then our actions will reflect the fruits of the Spirit (love, peace, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control). God knows your focus. Others know your focus too. It’s obvious by how we live our lives, the decisions we make, and the impact we’re having. We all owe it to ourselves to take a close look at our lives. Do you need to refocus?
We all have it in us because we have Christ in us. We all have the mission written on our hearts because God did it Himself. We all have what it takes to live the life we were designed for. We were made for more than what most of us will settle for. Let that not be your story.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Have you ever pondered the question of whether or not God was for you? What does that exactly mean? Are we asking if God is in support of what we want or how we would like our lives to turn out? How about during strife with someone else? Do we wonder if God would take our side in the ordeal? Maybe He’s for our career pursuits? In times of war, is He for our nation’s cause or the other?
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV
I think its very important to understand the context of this passage in Romans. I hear or read people quote it often and quite a lot it seems to be thrown around pretty loosely to apply to almost anything. Yes, God is for us. But what does that mean? If you read the entirety of chapter 8 (in light of all of the Book of Romans) we are being told that God is for our spiritual transformation and our eternal destination. Those are the two things God wants more than anything for every person in His creation. No matter how much we run away, God wants us back. No matter how much we bring shame to His name or ridicule His holiness with our lives, He wants us back. God is for us in the best possible way. God is always faithful and God is always true. Instead of wondering if God is for us, we should focus on whether or not we are for Him.