Dad and I really enjoyed our dinner discussion last night-regarding what happens when we die. I had never thought about Miriam’s point-that with God there is no time-so maybe from God’s perspective we all join Him at the same “time”. These are good things to talk about. It is a good thing to look at Scripture, think about what happens when we die and go to heaven and what it will be like. We are told to be living in that hope and looking forward to it.
As we all know, heaven itself is a hot topic today-particularly “visiting heaven”. As I was reading in Isaiah today, I was reminded of the Biblical view of heaven and being in God’s presence versus what we are most often presented with today by popular thought. Isaiah does not visit heaven, but he does have a vision. He sees the Lord on his throne-which is in heaven. Does he then see his grandfather? Does he visit with a dead relative? Does he express his unending immediate joy? Well, those are not the words I read above. Instead, he is overwhelmed by the comparison of himself to the Lord. He immediately senses his “uncleanness”. In fact, as we have discussed often this year, this is the standard response to anyone in the Bible who has seen God or heaven. It really does stand in stark contrast to all the books of those who claim to have “visited” heaven.
I find this to be a good reminder of the other point we discussed last night. While we may have many discussions about biblical topics and have opinions about what may or may not be-if there is no scriptural basis for that opinion, and it not backed up by God’s Word-then it is just an opinion and that is all. If someone else says or writes something, without biblical support-it is just their opinion, and nothing more. Do not confuse opinion and Truth.
Our world is an interesting world to live in:
*The Pope recently stated that evolution is real and that God is not a divine being or a magician.
*”Same-sex” marriages are now legal in 14 of the 50 states.
*Abortion is legal
*The Bible and prayer have been taken out of schools.
I would daresay, we could easily write the words from Isaiah 5:24b today-and they would still be just as accurate. The world rejects the instruction of the Lord of hosts (God) on a daily basis-whether it is denying the covenant set forth that marriage be between one man and one woman or when it legalizes murder, as has been done with abortion. Our world without doubt, despises the word of the Holy One of Israel-saying they are just “stories”, by clearly removing it wherever possible, to the point where coaches are removed from teams if they lead them in prayer. We could look at all these things and just get depressed, see things as getting worse day by day and give up. Or, we could look at them as they are.
This is the world. This is the description of the Israelites who rejected God. This is the description of a world that rejects God. We are not “of” this world. We are “aliens” in it-and that is why we may find it astounding. But don’t let it shock you too much. As we see the world, our country and people reject God-let it instead spur us on “all the more.”
I suggest we use these things as triggers in two ways:
1) To remind us daily we are aliens. This is not our home, we should not “feel comfortable” here.
2) To remind us of the needs of people all around us to hear and know the Truth. Let it spur us on to “show” what our “world” is like; to be kind to our enemies, gentle when responding to someone who disagrees with us, patient with those who are a minute late going at a green light, good in how we treat our siblings, peaceful at games whether we are winning or losing or the refs are good or bad, content with what we have. To stand out as the “aliens” we are and make people ask “why would anyone live like that?” Let it give us the desire to develop relationships with people don’t “know” about our world. This will speak volumes. And while it may not make the news headlines, it will make a difference.
We made some decisions last night about the upcoming retreat for both of you. Dad and I looked over things and decided that for now, the right decision is that neither of you go. Part of this decision was based on using the finances God has given us wisely. I know that this was disappointing in some ways. Things like this can often make us “wish” for more money. Then we could “do” more, right? Then everything would be “easier”. God’s Word reminds us over and over, this is not the case.
We often hear the phrase “money can’t buy you happiness”-and honestly, I am sure many people would like to at least test out that theory! Isaiah, I believe, shows us today-that not only can’t money buy us “happiness”, but it also can’t buy us peace. Look at the verse above. Isaiah begins in chapter 2, verse 5 by saying “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord”. They had walked “out” of the light, and apparently, “in” to something else. Isaiah is trying to point this out to the Israelites. His point is truth for us as well. In the verse I chose for today, we see the people turned away from God, and had sought and found riches. They had silver and gold-and lots of it. With those riches they bought horses and chariots. Those are things to fight with. Do you fight during war or peace? You fight during war times. Is your heart at rest and peace when there is war? No. You see, money did not and does NOT bring peace.
It is walking in the light of the Lord, that will bring peace. It will bring life. Not money. Not riches. Not ever.
The belief that money could ever bring us what we “want” is a bold-faced lie. Never forget this. When you find yourself thinking “if only we had more money”, “If I only made more money” or whatever version of this thought that crosses your mind, call it what it is: A total lie. It is not true. The money would NOT fulfill whatever the desire is. If you don’t believe me, look at those who have millions of dollars. Is it enough? Are they satisfied? Are they content? Have they found peace? No, they are not and have not. Do not let the father of lies ever convince you otherwise. God has and will always give us all that we need, and often, even MORE than we need. Don’t EVER allow yourself to believe Satan’s “lie from the pit”, but instead choose to live in light of the Truth!
I saw the Mockingjay Part I trailer for the first time yesterday. The whole Hunger Games series is basically about how Katniss and her friends rebel against a corrupt and evil government. Their reasoning is sound-their government is evil to its core. Rebelling against governments or people is no new idea. It started with Adam and Eve-who essentially rebelled against God. Then, man just continued to do so as life went on. Today, we are starting the book of Isaiah, and Isaiah, being the mouthpiece for God, speaks to this. He points out that God’s children, whom He brought up, rebelled against Him. Israel, as the nation of God’s chosen people-whom He had cared for, clearly did this over and over. Humans, in a more broad sense-starting with Adam and Eve, also rebelled against. God. This is still happening today.
What exactly does this rebellion look like? Well, let’s think of the verse above. It tells us God reared children. He brought them up and told them they could do certain things and couldn’t do other things. They rebelled against those boundaries. Think of parents who bring up their children and how do the children rebel against them? At the earliest ages, a parent tells a child to do something, and the child says no or throws a temper tantrum. At the young adult stage, it may be a child who does not come home at the time the parent told them to or goes somewhere the parent said they were not allowed. At the very basic level, rebelling is not doing what you are told. Going “against” the authority.
Clearly, this is the tendency for all of us. Israel was not alone in their desire to rebel against God. I don’t think we have to look very far to see ways we are all tempted to rebel against God in our own lives on a daily basis. What strikes me is-our world is the way it is BECAUSE of rebellion. Rebellion never achieves what it sets out to accomplish. It fails-every time. Things don’t get “better” because we rebelled against God. Doing it “our” way is not a viable solution: It never has been, it never will be.
Isaiah was right to point out this problem. It is a warning to us too. Beware of our tendency to rebel. Let’s be those children of God who do NOT rebel, but instead, continue in the ways He has brought us up and reared us, choosing right over wrong, and God’s way over the world’s way.
Sadly, Red Lion has had the experience of having kids expelled from school. Some reasons a student might be expelled from school would be drug usage or dealing, cheating, fighting or extreme cases of disrespect. There are certain behaviors that can not be “tolerated” or allowed-because of the effect they will have on the rest of the student body and/or the fact that it will endanger others.
I read today that God apparently ‘expels’ people too. This is a scary thought to me. Look at today’s verse. Jerusalem and Judah were expelled from God’s presence. I want us to think about this. You and I may not be sitting reading this right now with a sense of being “in God’s presence” but picture sitting down with God, and him saying to your face; “Get out of my presence-I NEVER want to see you again.” Think of your prayers never being heard again. Think about the blessings and protection of God being removed from your life. Think of the times that God did something in your life that you know was by His hand: perhaps you found something, or He graciously helped you on an exam you thought you would never pass, or he saved you from an accident where you could have been hurt. Imagine these protections being removed. It is a fearful thought to me. I would NEVER want to be expelled from God’s presence.
I suspect you wouldn’t either. The good news is, because we live under the “cover” of Jesus’ blood and forgiveness of our sins, God will not expel us. But do not be fooled, this does not mean, that our actions or choices will keep us from harm. We can “expel” ourselves by these choices. We can choose to do, say, take part in things where the ramifications take us away from God. Where our choices endanger ourselves. Where our behavior remove us from God’s presence. He will never ‘expel’ us-but we can expel ourselves from His presence and blanket of protection by our choices. The reality is-no one in their right mind should choose this. We need to be on our toes. Make wise decisions. A we are told in Ephesians 5:15-16 “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Let’s make sure we don’t expel ourselves from God’s presence!
I 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!
Aaron 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.
Have 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!
So 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”.
Remember 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!