Encouragement

Read
2 Chronicles 30:21-27
Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites, who showed good understanding of the service of the Lord. For the seven days they ate their assigned portion and offered fellowship offerings and praised the Lord, the God of their ancestors.                Verse 22 (NIV)

Reflect
There was a period of time that I worked six days a week and five evenings during the week. There were bills to pay, the cost of resettling into a new house and the well in the backyard was dry while a deep well rig was drilling deeper and deeper to find water. Each foot was close to another 100 dollars. Life was not fun, and the pressure was constant. With strong encouragement from my wife it was a doable task and I did not lose heart.

Living for God is often a sweaty, difficult process, so we need to encourage one another. Hezekiah was a great encourager. When the Levites had to retrain themselves to do the work of the Lord, “Hezekiah spoke encouragingly” to them – even though they made a few mistakes along the way.

It is God’s great gift to each of us as parents, as church members, as spouses, to build each other up and be cheerful encouragers.

When tax time approached that year, I learned that I had worked too much and now I had a debt to pay to the government. With quiet resolve and more encouragement from Naomi, I put my work belt back on and did a few more nights and Saturdays of work to pay off my tax debt.

Serving Jesus is worthwhile. Someday we will all be rewarded with his gift of full life, and we’ll celebrate together and with God. In the meantime, be a Hezekiah Christian – one who has an encouraging word to say and a joyful spirit to lift others up.

Pray
Lord, give me the eyes to see the good in your people, and give me genuine words of encouragement so that I can help strengthen others. In your name I pray. Amen.

Renewed Worship

Read
2 Chronicles 29:1-10; 25-28
He stationed the Levites in the temple of the Lord with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the Lord through his prophets.                                                                 Verse 25 (NIV)

Reflect
I am anticipating with some excitement the day that we will be able to ALL join together in a time of worship and fellowship. One thing this pandemic has done for me is make me aware of how much I miss gathering together as God’s people.

Imagine how Hezekiah and Judah felt as they reopened the doors of the temple.  You can almost hear those doors creak. It had been a long, long time. Imagine the layers of dust and the cobwebs. God’s temple had been abused and neglected. It took more than two weeks (verse 17) to clear out all the sinful, dusty junk and clean up the place so that it could function as God’s temple again.

It had been so long that the people of Judah had forgotten how to worship. So, Hezekiah had to help the people relearn what to do. Hezekiah was a unique king – he actually read the directions to something! He got out the books of David and the prophets and functioned like a stage director at a play: “O.K. – you guys with the trumpets, stand there. Then, when the Levites enter, you start to play. And after that, you singer – sing!”

Does it matter how we worship? Perhaps the absence of being able to worship together will help us all to put worship first.

When we are once again allowed to worship freely how will you worship?  The one thing we all need to do is this: make sure your worship is for the glory of God, not for your own interests. It may feel a little awkward when we go back, but don’t sleep in and skip worship. If you make worship your priority, you’ll find God’s strength and blessing in everything else you do.

Pray
Lord, I want to worship you. Help me to learn and grow. Thank you for the challenge to make you first in worship. Help me to follow you faithfully. You are our God! Amen.

The Praying King

Read
2 Kings 18:1-12; 19:9-19
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.                                                      Verse 18:5 (NIV)

Reflect
It is so nice to get away from the history of Ahab and Jezebel and even nicer to read the story of Hezekiah. Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, he held strong to the LORD, and the LORD was with him. The reason this was true: Hezekiah prayed. Most kings tried to look great on their thrones; Hezekiah did his best work on his knees – and not just when he was in trouble. For Hezekiah, prayer was a habit.

In our reading for today, Hezekiah and his people are in deep trouble. Assyria is like a lion. It has already gobbled up the ten tribes of Israel, and it is circling back to devour Judah. The Assyrians mock and make light of Hezekiah and his God. Sennacherib even sends a letter to Hezekiah full of trash talk against the Lord.

Hezekiah reads the letter, walks straight into the temple with it, and shows it to God. He “spreads it out,” as if to have God read it. I have done the same on numerous occasions in my short history, when it seemed everyone was against us.

Is prayer difficult for you? Join the club. There are likely some Christians for whom prayer is easy, but for most of us, it is a discipline and it takes some work.

It does help, though, to get physical about it. Kneel. Or stand. Like Hezekiah, take your calendar, your bank balance sheet, your kids’ report cards – and spread them out before God. Show him your life. Show God your trouble.

This is the most powerful commitment you can make: Be like Hezekiah, be a praying believer.

Pray
Father, give me the courage to lay open my life before you. You see me and know me. Teach me how to pray, Lord, and give me the discipline to make it a habit. In Jesus, Amen.

Painful Truth

Read
1 Kings 22:1-23
The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”                                                                       Verse 8 (NIV)

Reflect
Have you ever had to tell someone you care about, a very hard truth? How often do you try to put a positive tone or a positive spin on what you had to say? We often do so to try and keep a person’s spirit up and not to totally demoralize the person.

Micaiah would not try the positive spin with Ahab, and Ahab hates him for it. Ahab would rather hear cheap flattery from false prophets than to have someone tell him how sinfully damaged he is. Though Ahab repented earlier, he’s up to no good again.

Ahab’s true personality is evident and yet he is hoping for an optimistic report. But he has turned away from God again, and his heart is too cold, too dead, to hear any truth in what Micaiah is saying.

Is your Christian walk defective? Is your heart dead and cold in sin? Don’t look for those people who will say what you want to hear. You can find many people – even popular prophets – that will gloss over your problem and flatter you. Hard truth is the remedy for a sin sick heart. The Bible’s message can be difficult: The message Ahab was given was truth, truth that he had an unacceptable defect. He was dead in sin.

It’s a hard but life-giving message. You need forgiveness through Jesus. Hear the Bible’s truth, find hope, forgiveness, and be set free, come alive again.

Pray
Father, forgive me when I sin. Save me; restore me; change me. Fill me with your Spirit of truth and help me live faithfully for you each day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Repentance

Read

1 Kings 21:17-29
“Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”                                                                                                                      Verse 29 (NIV)

Reflect
Ahab is not only the worst king in Israel’s history; it seems he is also fairly moody. He pouts like a spoiled brat, and he hates God’s prophets. But suddenly, at least briefly, he listens to the hard truth of God’s verdict on his life, and he repents. He is a changed man, at least for a while.

I was taught early in my Christian life that true repentance always meant forgiveness and a clean slate from God. However, I was also taught that forgiveness did not necessitate freedom and healing from my past sins. For instance, if I was an alcoholic prior to my repentance I may still have to pay the physical consequence for my behaviour, such as sickness or withdrawal symptoms.

I sure wish I were less like Ahab. Some days I feel really righteous – my faith in Jesus is working … I am progressing. Other days, like Ahab, I am moody, I stumble and sin, and pretty much act like a spoiled little brat. I am continually amazed by his mercy.

Does it surprise you? God talks to Elijah as if Ahab’s brief moment of repentance means something. God seems truly excited about it, and he gives Ahab mercy because of it. Truthfully, from my small-minded, human viewpoint, I think God is much too generous with Ahab.

Yes! God is much too generous! And he still is today – to all of us prodigal, moody sons and daughters. Our Father is much, much too generous to us in Christ. Here’s your moment. Take it. Repent and believe – and trust God’s mercy.

Pray
Father, I am too often like Ahab. I am often sinful, but I am also sorry for my sins. In your mercy, please forgive me, Lord, and help me to be more like Jesus. In his name I pray. Amen.

What Difference Can One Make?

Read
1 Kings 16:29-34; 18:1-6
Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord.)                                                                                                      Verse 18:3 (NIV)

Reflect
Any student of the Old Testament knows that Ahab & Jezebel were wicked people. Here is how 1 Kings 16:30 puts it: “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” He replayed Jeroboam’s sins, and worse yet, he married Jezebel, whose father was a priest-king of Baal. She reintroduced Baal worship in Israel, and Ahab worshipped this fertility god with its shrine.

In the midst of all this, there was Obadiah, a “devout believer,” in charge of Ahab’s palace. While Jezebel was killing prophets, Obadiah was hiding them in caves. While Ahab, king of a nation of people, worried about how to feed his animals, Obadiah was busy finding food for a hundred of the Lord’s prophets.

Many world leaders are acting as if they are enemies of God and are trying to muscle and bludgeon their way to more power. In our culture too, various business leaders are busy with their empires, buying things and selling people. Profit and power seem to have superseded respect, kindness, and any consideration of serving God and mankind.

At the same time though, a devout believer in the Lord will keep on doing his work. I have seen in the past week a number of people volunteer with kindness, hard work and a godly attitude to help the less fortunate and make their lives more tolerable. I have heard young people discuss how they would assist some seniors to learn how to connect with loved ones on-line. In these troubled days, let’s all be like Obadiah. If just one person can be a positive influence imagine if we all did the same.

Pray
Father, thank you for all the Obadiahs at work in your world. As you hold all things in your hands, help us to use our hands to serve you well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving Day

Read
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Reflect
This year, while in the midst of the COVID pandemic, one may ask, am I really supposed to rejoice and give thanks? We know that we don’t have to be thankful “for” COVID, but yes in the “midst” of the pandemic we are called to give thanks.

As I thought about our situation in these days, I thought back to stories from my mom and dad about living under German occupation in WWII. The German army walked through the Netherlands and took whatever they wanted from the people. My parents both lived with their families in the countryside of southern Holland. My dad, as a young man was forced to drive a truck with sandbags to help keep the dams of southern Holland shored up. My mom was forced to peel potatoes and onions for the German army.

The families of both my parents lived on a few raw vegetables they had hidden in the field. My mom’s family lived on raw turnips for several weeks. Both families were believing families and my parents spoke of thankfulness for safety, for enough food to stay alive and for life itself. Maybe COVID-19, although a bit scary, isn’t so bad after all?

The Bible calls us to be thankful for and content with everything we have. Our family, health, meals we can share with loved ones, and of course life itself – all are precious gifts from the Lord. But discontent, greed, or fear doesn’t allow us to fully appreciate and treasure the precious gifts of life. Turn fully to the Lord and know his provision and protection. And oh YES give thanks!

We don’t know what the future holds. We might have to go through difficult times of having only turnips or raw veggies – or worse. But as the children of God we are assured of his continuous love and care. The Lord himself is our helper in this uncertain, sometimes scary life.

Pray
Father in heaven, thank you for being our consistent helper and protector. Give us a heart of contentment and thanksgiving! Through Jesus, your Son, Amen.

The Habit of Peace

Read
1 Kings 14:30-31
There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. And Rehoboam rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. And Abijah his son succeeded him as king.  (NIV)

Reflect
After Solomon died, Rehoboam was able to hold on to only two of the twelve tribes of Israel. The other ten tribes went with Jeroboam. So, Jeroboam and Rehoboam did the natural thing that brothers do, they fought.

Unfortunately fighting has become the natural thing to do in humanity. We know this sad truth from the history of all nations and from our families, our workplaces, and tragically, even our churches.

That’s why the words of Jesus are such a relief to so many people. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and he taught, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:9, 44) Jesus possessed all power, but he never used it to harm anyone or make people submit to him. Jesus used his power for positive results in peoples’ lives. The habit of peace was one of those positive positions he held to.

You may have heard or read this antidote before: A couple at their 60th wedding anniversary celebration was asked the secret to their long marriage. The husband said, “Well, when we married, we made a deal: I would make all the major decisions, and she would make all the minor decisions.” Then the wife added, “And in 60 years, we’ve never had to make a major decision!” I guess the truth is that throughout all those years both husband and wife were committed to peaceful decision making in a major way.

Are you in a lifelong, habitual disagreement with someone? Lay down your arms and pray. With God’s help, you can be a peacemaker and your Thanksgiving can have special meaning.

Pray
Father as a gentle shepherd, with your rod and your staff, guide me in your strength, comfort me, and lead me into the ways of your peace always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Influence

Read
1 Kings 12:25-33
And he will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit.                                                                                              1 Kings 14:16 (NIV)

Reflect
Have you ever wondered if you have left a bad influence on the lives of others. I know that there were a couple of years back in high school that anyone who was watching would not have had a good example to follow. As a matter of fact, I would be embarrassed if someone recalled my behaviour.

Jeroboam was the first of the worst. He became the poster child for all that went wrong in Israel. He became the icon who started the slide of a new kingdom into punishment and exile. The little phrase “caused Israel to commit (sin)” could have been on his gravestone; many phrases like this in the books of the kings refer to the influence of Jeroboam.

What makes this so much worse is that Jeroboam was appointed by God to be king. God had made promises to him and had invested in him after Solomon had disobeyed God.  But in fear for his throne and to prop up his own fragile self-esteem, Jeroboam served up the popular poison soup of pagan religions that had re-entered the land.

If you need a reason to give up the traditional bad habits, of abusing, or swearing, or laziness, or marital strife, just look around you. Look at your kids. Look at your grandkids. Look at your unchurched neighbours. Don’t be the one to cause them to sin; don’t be a domino that tips others into sinful disarray and a disregard for Jesus.

God has promises for you. God has invested in you. He bought you with a price – the life of his own Son, Jesus. Follow him and use the influence of your faith to serve him and others.

Pray
Lord, make me strong. With your help, make me a blessing to others, and lead me so that I can lead others to you. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen

A Little Bit Of Kindness

Read
1 Kings 11:41 – 12:20
Then he (Solomon) rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.                               Verse 11:43 (NIV)

Reflect
Solomon’s 40-year reign was called The Golden Age. Unfortunately, he allowed false religions to creep into the land of God’s people, and when he died, his son Rehoboam became king. Things would not stay golden for long.

From the very beginning of Rehoboam’s reign, the kingdom split in two like a lightning strike on a tree. If Rehoboam had just been a bit kinder and reduced his power-taxes; if, he had just listened a little bit to the people, they might have stayed with him.

Rehoboam asked two groups of people for advice. One group encouraged him to serve his people with kindness. The other encouraged him to force the people into serving him. He took the advice of the second group, and in just a few days his kingdom crumbled.

As you look forward to Thanksgiving Day, reflect on how you have treated those around you. If you are dreaming of an enjoyable time around a thanksgiving dinner, then consider your level of kindness to those who gather with you.  Kindness and inviting words will foster peace. Harsh words and self-centred attitudes will likely result in hard feelings and tension.

Jesus, the ruler of all kings, humbled and emptied himself (Philippians 2:5-8). The way to truly succeed – in all your relationships with others – is to be different from Rehoboam. Humble yourself. Be kind. Make sacrifices. Give – and not just a little, give a lot.

Pray
Father, make me more like Jesus. Help me to give as Jesus gives. Fill me with the strength to care about others and serve them for your sake. Amen.