The cost of joining the team…

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Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.33.28 AMI received an email this week about tryouts for FCA Lax teams. I assume Aaron would probably like to do this-or the other summer league that Matt was in last year. If he does, and wants to join the teams, it means he agrees to practice and play with the team as scheduled. I doubt Aaron would say he wants to join the team but not play? That would be ridiculous.

Joining something is usually by choice and then requires our involvement, an action or many actions. Today in II Kings, the people joined the King. Do you see what “team” of the king’s they joined? When King Josiah made a covenant to follow the Lord-they “joined” in the covenant. They volitionally decided they wanted to AND would commit themselves to following God and all His instruction with their whole heart and soul. No one forced them.

We have all joined that same team, at least we all claim to have joined the team. We claim to be “saved”-which means we claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If we claim to be part of that team, then it means we have also agreed-just like with lacrosse-to do what it takes to be part of that team. It is not always easy, as running and practicing is not always easy in a sport. It is tiring, as Lax can be tiring. We may get beat up or hurt in the process-by being left out by friends, being thought of as “uncool” or other hurts-but that is part of this “sport” we have chosen. But remember, just like with a team, there is a goal. The goal of the sports team is to be the best they can be, win as many games as possible, and to improve that skill as much as possible. Being part of “Team Christ” means being transformed day by day into His image, loving Him by obeying what our “coach” says, and winning the ultimate prize of salvation and eternal life with Christ. It is not easy. There will be costs, but the training will strengthen us, and trust me, your Coach knows EXACTLY what  He is doing!

Book Recommendations

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Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 11.00.03 AMAaron was talking yesterday about reading the second book in “The Giver” series called Gathering Blue. Once he reads it, I will ask him if he recommends I read it.
One way to find a good book is to have a friend recommend it. Miriam knows the types of books I like, and that if the ending is not a happy one that I won’t like it. She recommends I don’t read it. Today, in II Kings, there is a book recommendation. Shaphan,  secretary to the King, recommends a book he found to King Josiah. Would you like to guess which “book” it was?

A little background: The high priest at the time was instructed by the king to go to the house of the Lord to look for and distribute money. Upon completing his task, he found the book of the law of God. He gave it to Shaphan, who read it-and knew something was drastically wrong in their land. The king needed to know. He had two options-he could tell the king what was wrong, or let him find out for himself. He chose option two. This was wise.

The king had Shaphan read it to him, and saw change was needed. It was better for King Josiah to hear directly from God’s Word, than for Shaphan to give his “opinion”. This is always the case-and we can and should use the same logic. Hebrews 4:12 clearly tells us the Word of God is alive and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is what we need to read ourselves for helping to transform our thoughts and attitudes, and it is what she should recommend to friends, when we see an applicable Scripture for them. It is the way parents are instructed to correct their children-with the Word of God, not our “opinion” or “likes and dislikes”.

As you get older and develop close relationships with friends and future spouses, keep the Word of God close to your heart. If God prompts you to point something out to a friend, use His Word-and leave the rest up to Him. Between texting, twitter, other social media and face to face contact-we have countless ways we can encourage one another with the Word as well as correct. I pray you will do this with friends, that Dad and I would do this with one another, and that you would have close friends who would bring God’s word to you, just as Shaphan did to Josiah.


Abandoned “houses” are scary….

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Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.33.27 AMHave you ever seen an abandoned house? We are coming into the season (Halloween) where there are pictures of abandoned houses, stories of “haunted” houses, and so on. An abandoned house usually looks dilapidated and run down. Original owners stop taking care of it and without anyone keeping up with it, it falls apart. The wind, rain, sun and often vandalism slowly destroy it.

We are told in II Kings today that King Amon abandoned the Lord. It was not a house that he abandoned, but God. The ramifications, though, were very similar. He and the nation fell apart. Without God, the world took its toll and destroyed him. Amon’s servants conspired against him and killed him. The people in the land were killing each other. It was a disaster. This is what abandonment from God results in.

When a person or a people abandon God, things fall apart from every angle. The Word of God and his statutes are protection. When someone throws them away, they throw away the protection-and the world has its way with them. At the most obvious level-take the example of sex before marriage. Can you think of any ways that abandoning God’s guidelines in this area could lead to “destruction” of some area of a person’s life? What about something more close to home for us- like anger? What happens if someone abandons God’s counsel of “in your anger, do not sin?” Perhaps someone gets angry, resulting in a harsh, unkind word spoken to another family member or friend. The damage will be done, and part of that relationship will be destroyed-or at the very least, difficult to rebuild.

Abandoning God, just like abandoning a house, will always be costly. It costs much more to fix up an abandoned house, then one that has been maintained daily through the years. The same goes for our relationship with God-if we maintain it every day and commit to never abandoning Him, we will never come to ruin!

“Hezekiah mode”

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Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.29.44 AMSo when was the last time you tore your clothes and put on sackcloth? On purpose that is, not by accident! We have all read of this in the Bible, but I do think it is a little hard for us to grasp. We read of it in Esther and Jonah. King David did it as well as many others. Today is King Hezekiah’s “turn”. The tearing of clothes and putting on of sackcloth (and ashes) was an outward sign of mourning, repentance or grief. While we don’t do this today, think of the phrase “that tears me up”-it connotates some of the idea behind it.

King Hezekiah took this action because some high officials were threatening to destroy him and what he was doing. It was a desperate time for this man who was trying to do what was right before the Lord. He tore his clothes in despair and desperation.

What was the last “desperate” situation you found yourself in? Maybe you are in one now. Maybe it was a test that seemed insurmountable…no matter how much you studied, you felt you wouldn’t do well. I am certain that when Ms. Bunny found out she had cancer, she and her husband felt “desperate” as any of us would receiving that news.

I suggest today, that we imitate Hezekiah, as we see his actions above. I am not saying you need to tear your clothes, but instead, express yours and my deep grief (and repentance if needed) to God. Then, as Hezekiah did, go to the house of the Lord. Go to God. Directly. Do not do anything else before you bring it before God. Later in this chapter in verse 14, you would read that Hezekiah also received a threatening letter from these people, and he physically took the letter, laid it before God and prayed. We can do this too. If you have something physical to bring with you in prayer, on your knees in your room-do this. I believe it helps us see truly what we are laying at God’s feet-for His intervention and guidance.

Hezekiah shows us how to be fully open to God about what is grieving us then to bring it to Him in prayer. This is where help will always be found, as well as peace and wisdom to get through any situation or trial set before us. Go into “Hezekiah mode” and enter the “house of the Lord”.

Do you trust me?

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Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 9.25.26 AM 1Remember the part in Aladdin where he says to Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” She says yes then she has to step onto the magic carpet, “trusting” it will hold her weight. Her trust was proven by her action.

Hezekiah showed that kind of trust as the king of Israel. We see in today’s Scripture that “there was no one like him”. Why? Because he trusted the Lord, the God of Israel AND he held fast to the Lord-by obeying him. He stood out.

Many people who call themselves Christians say they know they are a Christian because they “trusted” Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Really? How do you know?

The Bible is VERY clear how you know. John 14:15 tells us “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That’s the “stepping out” part-that’s the “trusting” by proof of action. You and I prove we really have trusted in Jesus BY OUR ACTIONS, by trusting his commands are truly what is best and obeying them. We prove our trust in God as Lord and Savior by standing out, by obeying the authority even if we don’t agree with their reasoning. We prove our trust in God by committing ourselves to representing Him well, by loving others and being kind. We prove our trust by taking the time to read and  memorize Scripture because we know that it is the sword of the Spirit and the only weapon that will truly help us battle the war and trials in this world. We prove our trust by doing, just as Hezekiah did.

Jasmine proved her trust by physically stepping onto the magic carpet-and we too, will prove our trust by our actions. If we don’t follow through with the action of obedience – then the reality is-we don’t trust, no matter what we have said!

Two sides to the coin….

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Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 8.25.04 AMThere are two sides to every coin.“ Ever heard that saying? Today, I see the “two sides” in Scripture.

II Kings tells us the King of Assyria invaded all the land. He eventually captured Samaria and carried the Israelites away to Assyria. (II Kings 17:5-6). In other words, the King caused them to be displaced. Then, as you can see above, the very next verse says, “This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God.” So, which was it? Did the Israelites end up out of their Promised Land because of the King of Assyria or because God was punishing them for their sins from years ago? What do you think?

This will always be the question: Was it God? or man? It will be a question of how you view things, through which “lens” you view Scripture and life. When you don’t get the job you wanted-is it because you made a mistake on your resume’ or because it was God’s hand? When you ace a test because you really prepared and studied well, did you get an A because you studied or because of God’s hand? Which “side” will you take?

I suggest you take both sides of the coin. Either God is sovereign or He is not-so either it was His hand or not, but also, if you didn’t study or had more carefully edited a resume’-perhaps things would be different. Just because we don’t understand something, does not mean it can not be true. Go deeper-what about the fact the Bible teaches that “those who are predestined” (predestination) and yet, also tells us that “whosoever believes… shall not perish” (free will) -shall be saved? Can both be true? Yes, they can.

Two things to take away from God’s Word today: First, be sure when you observe your life and things that are happening around you-you begin by looking through the lens of God: His purpose, His ultimate will, His hand in all of it. Secondly, don’t always assume that one truth excludes another. God used the King of Assyria to carry out the punishment He had told them would happen if they worshiped other gods. A coin may have two sides-but it is still the same coin. God uses many ways to carry out His sovereign will-it may look different depending on which side you are looking at it from, but it is still the same “coin” in His hand!

The “snowball” effect

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Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 12.05.42 PMYesterday Dad, Miriam and I were listening to talk radio. The subject was the legalization of marijuana. During the discussion it was pointed out that most heroin addicts started with marijuana-in other words, it is what is called a “gateway” drug. It is the beginning to what can become a much bigger problem. A person who thinks, “I will just try pot once,” is denying the addictive nature of it and the fact it will only lead to the desire for a “bigger” and “better” high, which will require even more dangerous drugs. Not only that, another caller mentioned how while he was using marijuana for 8 years, his life was headed no where. It was clear as day to him how much things improved once he got off the drug. Pot has the “snowball” effect. It just keeps “rolling” and getting to be a bigger and bigger problem.

I can only assume the snowball effect is what happened to Ahaz as we read about him today in Scripture. There is no other possible explanation to me as to why a man would choose to sacrifice his own son in fire, or as Scripture puts it, to “pass his son through fire”. How did he EVER get to this point?

He got there by overlooking details. It is still the details-the ones we talked about last week. It is the sins that were continued generation after generation. It is the decision to NOT get rid of sin, and instead continue in it. This leads to numbing of your conscious to the point where you make incredibly horrible decisions with eternal consequences.

I believe Ahaz is given to us today as a warning. This is what sin does. It can and will bring you to the point where you will do horrific things that you would never “think” you would do- the same as any pot user who may say to themselves, “I would never do heroin.” Ask them 10 years later-if they are still alive.

Do not EVER doubt the power of unchecked sin in your life. It does not remain stagnant-it only grows, like a snowball. James 1:15 tells us “…and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” It gave birth to the death of Ahaz’s son, and it gives birth to all other kinds of death as well. What sin in yours and my life is going unchecked? What is gaining momentum? Whatever it is, confess it to God, pray that He would give you and I eyes to see it, the strength and determination to repent,  and turn away from it and then to walk in His ways-which will always lead to life instead of death!

Third time is NOT a charm!

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Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 8.18.52 AMThird time’s a charm”-or so they say. In today’s case, though, I would say that does not ring true. As I read today’s Scripture, the verse above sounded all too familiar. I knew I had read the same exact words at least a few pages ago. The part that starts with “nevertheless…” It was that little “detail” that Jehu, Azariah’s grandfather, also neglected to do. Jehu did not take the high places away. His son, Joash, also did not take them away, and now, his son, Azariah, doesn’t either. That’s three generations making the same mistake over and over. The third time was NOT a charm!

Azariah was copying his dad and grandfather, he was imitating their sin. Dad and I hope we are modeling what it means to walk with Jesus as Lord and Savior. We hope and pray to be obedient to God, but we are by no means perfect. You could probably name right off the top of your heads some areas where you see us fail, where we are hypocritical or allow sin to continue in our lives that we may not so easily see. DO NOT imitate us in these areas. I repeat, do NOT imitate us!

We are all sinful human beings. We are all on different places in our walk with the Lord. There is much to be learned from Dad and I, but as I often say- in the end you and I are fully responsible for our own lives, decisions and actions-regardless of what our parents did or did not do. “I did it because Mom did it” is not a valid reason for sin.

One thing Dad and I have taught you is that the Bible IS perfect. It is always right. In those areas of our life where we are following it, Dad and I pray you will imitate us. But please, as you see our faults and weaknesses, learn from those as well by NOT repeating our mistakes. If our actions or words do not match up with what God’s Word says, pray for us, and do not imitate us. Learn and always remember: Christ is the Lord, and He is the one you will never go wrong imitating!

The “protoevangelium” and you!

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Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 9.18.59 AMRemember yesterday’s “pay attention to detail” devotion? Today is another case in point… only not just for details, but also for fulfilling promises that span thousands of years.

Today we read about a baby named Joash. Sound familiar? Probably not. He isn’t really that “famous” in terms of biblical characters like Moses, David, Noah and the likes. But he is important. As a matter of fact, he is so important, the “protoevangelium” could not be fulfilled without him.

Protoevangelium is a fancy theological term I learned from dad that means “first gospel” or, more specifically, it refers to the first time in the Bible we hear of the promise of redemption. It is in Genesis 3:15 which says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.” See the capitalized “Seed”? That refers to Christ. Then, as we continue to read the Old Testament, God zeros in more and more on exactly who this seed will be…it will be from David’s line. Joash is part of that line. He was the ONLY one left in that line at that time in II Kings. If he had not survived, then the promise of God would not have been fulfilled. But of course, it was. It was because God is a God of details AND fulfilled promises-down to one obscure baby, named Joash.

God fulfills every single one of His promises. Tonight at school there is going to be an event called “Fields of Faith”. Some of Red Lion’s athletes will give their testimonies of how they came to a saving faith in Jesus. They will tell their story of redemption through Christ. Aaron would have been telling his story (if he hadn’t broken his collarbone!). All of us have a salvation story, or “testimony” to tell. Your own story of salvation is in part, due to Joash. This is God’s plan.  It is His promise, and you are included in that promise-from the beginning of time, from the protoevangelium to your life today, each detail and promise has come together exactly as God planned it. Rest in this. When things seem chaotic-think of Joash, who I am sure felt life was chaotic times. Rest knowing God is in complete control of every detail and is fulfilling His ultimate promise even when things look “obscure” or irrelevant. They are not irrelevant, and neither are you in God’s grand plan!

Pay attention to the details!

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Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 7.16.13 AM“Be careful!” Have you ever heard me say that before? Of course. I am pretty sure every time Miriam drives anywhere, that automatically comes out of my mouth. I want her to be sure to be alert, not drive distracted, to obey all the driving laws, and be safe so she and anyone with her does not get hurt.

So does God. He wants us to be careful. There is danger if we do not. There can be injury. There are guidelines to follow. It takes concentration and being aware when and how we might be distracted in life. All these things can cause us to go “off course” and have an “accident”.

Today, we see King Jehu of Israel, not being careful. He had just finished destroying all the prophets of Baal in the land-and this was the right thing to do. But then comes this verse-saying he was not careful. How was he not careful? He didn’t pay attention to the details. He did not eradicate ALL idol worship. The people were still worshiping golden calves, and he was allowing it.

As always, the lives God has written down for us are there to teach us about Him and about us. God still wants us to be careful. We still tend to miss the “details”. When there is an area of sin in our life-getting rid of “part” of it or even “most” of it won’t cut it. We need cut it out 100%-every fine detail. For example, what if you were struggling in the area of lying. You decided to repent from that and were not going to lie anymore EXCEPT to your brother. Would that be true repentance, or “turning away”? No, it most certainly wouldn’t.
Jehu can teach us today to pay attention to detail. When God convicts us and shows us an area of sin to turn from, pay attention to the detail. We should ask God to show us areas we are overlooking or blind to -so we are sure to take care of it down to the minutest detail. Only then will we be free and experience the joy of that freedom like never before, walking in pure joy with our Savior!