Tag: 2 Chronicles

Are You Unredeemable?

No. That’s it. No. I think this is hilariously accurately summed up by the Backstreet Boys who said, “I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you’ve done… as long as you love me.”

This idea struck me as I was reading today’s passage about the great (if underrated) king Hezekiah. His first order of business after taking the throne was to restore Israel in relationship with God. He cleaned the land of the idols, shrines, pillars, and foreign gods. He re-opened, restored, and rededicated the Temple of the Lord built by Solomon. And he called every person from both Judah & Israel (those who were left after the Assyrian raiders came through) to come and worship the Lord. And they didn’t get everything right. They had to move Passover back a month because the people and facilities weren’t ready. They had commoners offering sacrifices because the priests weren’t ready. The even had unclean people partaking in the meal, after king Hezekiah prayed for grace from God. And the Lord blessed all of it! It was never about the rituals. The rituals were there to show US how UNHOLY we are and how much we needed God. God just wanted our hearts. Our genuine love for Him fuelled by understanding of what He was doing to bring us into good standing.

The point is this: even if you are so far gone that God has sent multiple prophets to tell you of the impending judgement, you can still turn it around and come back to Him! You are never too far from God. You are never too broken to be restored. You are never too lost to be found. Neither is anyone else.

Indicting God

Isaiah 13:13-16 reads:

Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger. Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, they will all return to their own people, they will flee to their native land. Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives violated.

The accusation is often made against God that He is a monster! Enacting the worst crimes against humanity. How could any conscionable person support such a deity!? Here in Isaiah 13 we have a prime example of just that. God will bring wrath, which includes babies being killed before their parents eyes, and the rape of women! In the face of such horrifying acts, the only people who could worship this entity are either evil or ignorant! … right?

Obviously as a pastor and apologist I don’t think I am either evil nor ignorant, so how do I square this circle? Truth be told, I really don’t struggle with this one. I see it as something of a non-issue as far as morality goes. There are several truths we can point to in order to stand our ground that God is not some sort of moral monster.

Point #1: What value do we have? On the non-theist side we are merely the product of random chance! Luck! We have no purpose or reason for existing and our lives are only worth what we decide they are worth. On this view, I think our SHOES are more valuable than we are. At least they exist for some reason! Imagine Hitler had won World War II. Who is to say he was wrong to exterminate people because of their immutable characteristics or genetic heritage? It sounds awful to say, but if he had won, it would be the dominant view. And what charge would the Godless bring against a ruling Nazi party except that they “don’t like it”? Only through the value imparted to us by virtue of our creation in the image of God almighty can we even bring a charge against Him that carries any weight. The atheist sits in God’s lap and slaps His face.

Point #2: God can do what He chooses with His creation. If the destruction of one, or ten, or a hundred, or a million leads to the salvation of those who would otherwise be doomed to hell (which I contend is God’s primary goal on this earth), then it is well within His rights to do so. Do we look at the story of Moses & Pharaoh and cluck our tongues at God? Gee, Lord, weren’t you a little hard on the Egyptian rulers there? Why give Pharaoh over to the hardness of his heart just to make an example of Him? Well because that displayed God’s power, and glory, and became the cornerstone of the Jewish faith that was the foreshadow of what Jesus would do. And Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. God doesn’t do anything randomly, but with great care and foresight. So we can trust that no matter what has happened, it has happened because God has a greater plan. Even if we cannot see it, we know that He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him.

Point #3: WE DID IT TO OURSELVES!! This might be the biggest, most important one in my mind. Here we have Babylon, an evil kingdom that murders, kills, destroys, sacrifices their young on the altar of Molech, and treats women like trash. Yet, when God allows his wrath to be exacted by human warfare (and all the atrocity that comes with it) we clutch our pearls and scream “How dare God do this thing?!” We really need to get a grip here. God has not CAUSED these invaders to act so despicably1, He simply allows them to proceed unfettered in their military conquest in order to achieve His goal of destruction of one side. We know this is how God works because that what He did to Israel — allowing evil Babylon to come in a capture them!

Questions? Comments? Ask away. Happy to get into this with anyone who is interested to do so.

  1. Unless you are a Calvinist, like we talked about before. If so… godspeed to you but you’re on your own, Al Capone. ↩︎

Getting it Twisted

One of the more surprising things in the Gospel of John is when Jesus says that He must be lifted up by God in the same way that Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. If we go back to that snake in the desert, we see that God used the instrument of destruction to bring about healing. We call that “redemption”. But here we see that King Hezekiah (the most righteous king of Judah) had to DESTROY the bronze serpent because people began to worship it. Seems like we will worship just about ANYTHING, if it doesn’t get the in way of us doing exactly what we want to do. And so the people took a thing originally designed for good and twisted it for evil. To the point where it had to be destroyed for the salvation of those very people.

Just because something was designed for good or accomplished good, doesn’t mean it will always be good for all time. We still need to evaluate those things. I know as a pastor I have done events that were a huge success the first time, but didn’t yield the same results the following year. I think it’s important that we bring everything back to God. And if that event, or job, or thing, or dream that God gave you has become twisted… it might be time to destroy it and start fresh.

Strong, Humble Leadership

Let me paint a picture: the King of Judah (not a good man) has just been attacked and ransacked by Kings Rezin & Pekah (of Aram/Syria & Israel, respectively) with many valuables and captives taken — though the people would be returned shortly afterward. And Isaiah comes to Ahaz, the aforementioned King of Judah, and tells him that the coup by Syria & Israel will be unsuccessful in their attempt to overthrow Judah and replace Ahaz with their own king. Given the sizeable losses that Judah just took, I wonder how the follow words of Isaiah were received…

[F]or Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus, and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin. As for Israel, within sixty-five years it will be crushed and completely destroyed. Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria, and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah.

Isaiah 7:8-9a

Why is this? Because they stand against the purposes of God. He has said that He will preserve the line of David (from which Jesus will eventually come), and so anyone who tries to stand against the purposes of God will fail.

This is why I didn’t title this devotional “Strong Leadership”, but rather “Strong, Humble Leadership”. Strong to lead people in directions they sometimes do not want to go, but humble enough to be submitted to God as you lead. This is the kind of leadership exemplified by Jesus. This is the kind of leadership we should aspire to ourselves.

Consistency is King

I’m not sure where it came from — and don’t care to look it up — but over the years I’ve heard some variation of the phrase, “60% of the time, it works every time!” Of course the whole joke is that whatever the product or service is, it only works 60% of the time. No one wants something that only works 60% of the time! Let’s pop that thought in our pocket for a second and look at this verse in Amos

You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over and the religious festivals to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless.

Amos 8:5a, NLT

If you found that verse convicting, congratulations! The Holy Spirit is at work in your life! And that’s where we come back to that item in our pockets. No one wants something that only works 60% of the time. That includes God. Why would he want someone who comes to church on Sunday, but as soon as they leave those hallowed halls, they lie, they cheat, they steal?

Is your life segmented? This part for Jesus, but another for “real” life? I recently compared our lives to a hotel. When we say that we are “sold out” for Jesus, it means that every room is occupied by him. You love baseball? Is Jesus taking up residence in your “baseball” room? You love movies? Is Jesus living in your “movie” room? If there’s any room that He is not welcome in, then your life is segmented. You are just waiting for the Sabbath and religious festivals to end so you can get back to the Godless part of your life.

But the story doesn’t need to end there! renovate the room! Clear out the crap! And please, PLEASE, don’t suffer alone! Talk to a a brother, a sister, a friend, spouse, or pastor! Let us help you! Let us help you move the renovation from a “one day” project to an “in process” project! Let us help EACH OTHER be more consistent. Because consistency is king!

The Lord’s Glory in Our Failures

When we think of Jonah, we often think about the man and the “great fish” (most likely a sperm whale, if you’re interested) and Nineveh and Jonah’s temper tantrum at the end. But I’ve never heard anyone spend time talking about the sailors who threw him overboard.

They knew he had angered his God and caused the troubled sea they were dealing with, but they didn’t want to throw him overboard because they felt that meant certain death. Despite their best attempts there was no option but to throw the disobedient prophet overboard, hoping that his God would show them mercy. When they did throw him into the sea the storm stopped immediately.

Then what happened?

The sailors sacrificed to Yahweh and vowed to serve and worship only Him for the rest of their lives.

Here’s the thing: God has a plan. And you can’t do ANYTHING to frustrate the plans of God. Why not? Because he knew what you were going to do before you existed, and he planned for your behaviour. And He worked it out so that He would get the glory even if we decide to be disobedient and heard-headed.

Since God’s purposes are going to be achieved either way, you might as well get on board!

Satan is a Bad Counsellor

When King Joash’s mentor (the priest Jehoiada) died, and new set of advisors quickly stepped in to fill the vacuum. And they led him away from the Lord. They led him so far from the Lord that when Jehoiada’s son Zechariah came to Joash to challenge him, Joash had him killed! Well, some time later a couple of this trusted advisors decided to assassinate the king for that very action! Jozacar and Jehozabad killed their own king, while he was weak, wounded from battle.

So it is with sin.

We often have this picture in our mind of Satan with hooves for feet, a spaded tail, head horns, a pitchfork, and a generally red hue. LOL. No. Satan is never — NEVER — going to come to you and say, “Hey! I’m evil and have your destruction as my goal! I want to lead you astray and bring you to a place that will ultimately be your destruction.” Who would do that? Satan is evil… not a MORON. No, what he will actually do is promise you something fun and shiny and new.

Maybe your struggle is lust and he brings someone into your path to disrupt your marriage, or brings some pornography to your attention. Surely nothing bad came come from abusing the gift of sexuality or allowing it to control you… right?

Maybe your struggle is “the almighty dollar” and he brings you a deal that will make you some quick money if you’re willing to cut a corner here and there or take advantage of someone. Hey, it’s a jungle out there! Dog eat dog… right?

Maybe your struggle is glory/power and so Satan brings you the offer of career advancement if you just throw a coworker under the bus, or compromise your commitment to the church, or sacrifice more time with your family. But once you have that power, you’ll start using it for good… right?

Satan is a loser who knows he’s a loser. And he’s just trying to do as much damage as possible on the way down.

Choosing Our Friends

Young Joash is made king of Judah when he is just 7 years old. Jehoiada the priest oversees his reign and provides guidance and protection for the first 23+ years of his reign. But right after Jehoiada the priest died a new band of hangers-on came to Joash with super awesome new ideas… rather than worship the God of Abraham… how about we worship these wooden poles instead!? This angered God, but rather than visit His judgement and wrath upon Joash, he sent Zechariah — the SON of Jehoiada the priest — as a prophet to warn the king about his behaviour’s consequences. Joash’s response? He had Zechariah killed.

Your friends have a massive impact on your life. This is because gravity pulls toward the largest mass. If your friends are upright, God-fearing, and trying to live good lives. Chances are high that you will do the same. If your friends are alcohol abusers and partiers into casual drug use, chances are high you will do the same. This is why it is so critical that we choose our friends carefully. We must have people around us who are rowing in the same direction we are.

Does that mean we can never have friends who aren’t Christians? Friends who are still deep in their struggles? Of course not! Have those friends. But they should not be in your inner circle. They should not be the ones that you seek out for advice and council. The influence these type of friends needs to be minimized. And if you ever find yourself in a position where these more worldly friends “get you” better than your Christian friends BEWARE! Seriously. It means that YOU have changed your position and are now in danger of rejecting God just like Joash did.

Don’t be Joash. It’s not worth your life.

Should We Desire To Be Used By God?

While I think we can all agree that being used by God is a good thing, I would like to highlight that it is necessary, but not sufficient. I have made this argument many times throughout my writings. We have seen many people who were indifferent towards God, far from God, and even those who hated God being used to accomplish His purposes throughout history.

Today’s reading featured another one. Jehu. He was told by a disciple of Elisha that he would become the king of Israel. He then went on a bloody campaign to kill the kings of BOTH Israel and Judah and any heirs or descendants they had. This campaign was utterly successful. But despite God telling him this would happen and then giving him success in every step of the campaign. No sooner was the crown on his head than he turned his back on God.

But there is no denying that Jehu was “used by God” to visit His judgement on wayward kings and their descendants. And yet, despite being used powerfully by the Lord, he remained far and unfaithful during his reign.

So should we desire to be used by God? Yes. But MORE than that we should desire to love God. That should be the focus of our prayers.

Power is a Corrupting Influence

Judah had some suspect kings, but then Asa rode in to the rescue and brought them back to God. His son, Jehoshaphat also did a good job as a king. But His son, Jehoram quickly turned his back on God and murdered his brothers to consolidate power.

The thing is this: power is dangerous. The people who want it most are likely also the least qualified to actually have it. However, *someone* needs to hold it. So when that person is you, remember to hold a BIBLICAL type of “power”. Bottom-up servant-style power. It’s tough to be a tyrant and run roughshod over the people under your authority if you think of them as your responsibility and always try to serve them.

Power is a corrupting influence. You make a mistake to treat it lightly. It’s like the One True Ring from the Lord of the Rings. And we need to try to be Frodo rather than Sméagol.