Thursday, March 31, 2016

The benefits of a godly leader ..."

Day #92

Scripture Reading:  II Chronicles 11 - 15 …

If God is God … if He truly is the sovereign God who rules over the nations ... then to have a leader who seeks the LORD, the Almighty and only true God, and to be a people who will follow Him - and the leader whom He has appointed - would most certainly bring God's blessing to a nation.  

David and Solomon had at times followed the LORD, their God, but the stubborn rebellion of the people continued to bring God's discipline and judgment upon the nation.  Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, sought God when he needed Him, but "after Rehoboam's position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD" (12:1).  What was the result?  "This is what the LORD says, 'You have abandoned Me; therefore, I now abandon you ..." (12:5).  Once again the leaders of Israel (Judah) humbled themselves and God came to their rescue.  "Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the LORD's anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.  Indeed, there was some good in Judah" (12:12).

"There was some good in Judah ..."  The compassion and mercy of God are seen in the fact that God spared Judah, temporarily, when they had a godly leader.  Abijah, Rehoboam’s son,  stood against Jereboam, king of the northern kingdom, and said, "As for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken Him.  ...   God is with us; HE is our leader (13:10,12).  "The men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers" (13:18).  Those are beautiful words, and they are a call to repentance for those who do NOT rely on the One true God.  How foolish are the rulers and the nations of the world today who do not take into account the sovereign power of a holy God before whom they are as nothing.  God Himself orders the events of our world!

King Asa, the son of Abijah, brought a brief reprieve to Judah.  "Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God" (14:2).  "He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey His laws and commands" (14:4).  He said, "The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God" (14:7).  He was right.  Imagine a ruler today praying, "LORD, there is no one like YOU to help the powerless against the mighty.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on You, and in Your Name we have come against this vast army.  O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!"  (14:11).  Our "fate" today is in the hands of the same God to whom Asa prayed all those centuries ago.

Asa initiated a reform that brought a brief revival to Judah.  He said to the people, "The LORD is with you when you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (15:2).  This unchangeable principle was spoken as well by the prophet Isaiah:  "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon"  (Isaiah 55:6-7).  We know today that God's forgiveness is tied to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  God has revealed the one and only way to come near to Him, and that is through faith in Jesus, acknowledging Him, confessing Him as Savior and Lord.   Through Him there is forgiveness and life for all who call upon His Name!

The people "entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul" (15:12).  "All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly.  They sought God eagerly and He was found by them.  So the LORD gave them rest on every side" (15:15).  What was said of Asa could be said of few leaders or people, before or since:  "Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life"  (15:17).  That's where it begins ... God's blessing upon a nation and its people ... in the hearts of the leaders and the people.  Whether in a nation or in the church, a godly leader brings benefits to all by seeking the LORD, our God, and encouraging others to do the same.

Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa ... the reforms Asa brought would be short-lived.  All these were fallible human beings who ultimately could not sustain their devotion to the LORD, their God.  Each at some point allowed the circumstances of their lives to dictate their actions, rather than their faith in the God who never fails those who cry out to Him.  How often do we do the same?  We desperately need godly leaders today, and people who will follow them.  A godly leader seeks the LORD and relies on His wisdom, direction and strength.  A godly leader knows that apart from the blessing of God there is no hope for "success," for God's definition of success is that which glorifies Him by proclaiming and expanding His reign.  Everything else, no matter how "godly" or "good" it looks, is only idolatry that brings praise to men rather than to God, who alone is worthy!

You and I need to seek the LORD, the One true God, today in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of His Holy Spirit.  People will follow anyone who promises them "blessings" ... they will "sow a seed into the kingdom" in order to bribe God for something they want ... healing, prosperity and the like.  Television preachers and others crave wealth, power and influence and are willing to manipulate God's Word to achieve their goals.  God watches ... God sees ... God hears!  It is time to seek the LORD, the One true God, our Creator.  It is time to humble ourselves before Him and to cry out for His mercy and His forgiveness.  Perhaps He will yet answer if His people, who are called by His Name, will seek Him in righteous prayer, approaching His throne in the Name of Jesus.  Perhaps He will yet spare us for another moment if we will commit ourselves to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our world ... perhaps ...

"O LORD, my God, I read in Your Word the benefits of a godly leader and the blessings of a people who will follow him.  Mold ME into the person You want ME to be, by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  I rely on You, I depend on You, I seek You with all my heart!  Help me, O LORD, to serve You without fear and to stand firm with all who know and love You, that together we may declare that You alone are God, today and forever!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"A glimpse of God's kingdom ..."

Day #91

Scripture Reading:  II Chronicles 6 - 10 … 

The purpose of ALL that God is doing and has done and will do is for the establishment of His kingdom, of His reign on the earth.  Some people ask, "Where is all of this heading?"  All of "this," meaning national and world events, is heading towards Isaiah 2:2-4:  "In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.  Many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. ... They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

THAT's where all of "this" is heading ... but in the reign of Solomon God gives us a glimpse of His kingdom.  The building of the temple is completed and the Ark of the Covenant has been placed in the Most Holy Place.  And the presence of God descends like a cloud into the temple so that the priests could not perform their service because "the glory of the LORD filled the temple" (5:14).  Solomon knew God's promises ... that he had promised to establish David's descendants on the throne of Judah (6:4) and to place His Name on Jerusalem and Israel.  So now he testifies, "The LORD has kept the promise He made" (6:10).  

You and I can testify to that same thing today, for through Jesus Christ, the descendant of David, God has kept every promise He has made regarding our salvation.  "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.  And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (II Corinthians 1:20).  And what is to come?  Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  So it shall happen!!

As Solomon prayed, he pointed to God's covenant of grace:  "O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth - You who keep Your covenant of love with Your servants who continue wholeheartedly in Your way ..." (6:14).  Solomon knew well that the people of Israel would be unfaithful and would not always obey God, so he prayed that God would hear and forgive when His people sinned, but then repented and cried out to Him.   Solomon did not imagine that God could be "contained" in the temple he had built.  But in his words and in his questions, he pointed to the future.

"Will God really dwell on earth with men?  The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You.  How much less this temple I have built" (6:18).  Yet here, among the nations, was a brief testimony to the wisdom and power of Israel's God, and of His anointed king.  God had established these people to reveal HIS wisdom and power through them.  For a brief time it was seen clearly in the reigns of David and his son, Solomon.  When the queen of Sheba came to see what she had only heard about, she heard Solomon's wisdom and saw his riches and proclaimed, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true ... indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard" (9:5-6).  Then she said, "How happy your men must be!  How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!" (9:7).  If that was true of Solomon, how much more so of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God?!!!

As you read the historical account of Solomon's kingdom, remember that it is only a glimpse of God's eternal kingdom.  "King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.  All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart" (9:22-23).  How much more when Jesus reigns over ALL the earth!

But Solomon's kingdom would soon be torn apart, as God had predicted.  Though God had answered Solomon's prayer and had given him wisdom and made him great, yet Solomon married many foreign women and they turned his heart away from his devotion to the LORD and he built altars for their foreign gods.  It is impossible for us to understand how Solomon, of all people, could do such a thing.  But the sinful heart is always vulnerable to temptation and only by God's grace do you and I stand firm.  Were it not for God's Spirit in us, following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, we would do the same ... and even now there are times when we turn aside to the things of the world, having a divided heart.  How desperately we need the love and forgiveness of our Father in heaven.  As the temple of His Spirit, how thankful we must be that He hears our prayers and forgives our sins, for the sake of Jesus and through His sacrifice on the cross.

Rehoboam, Solomon's son, would display the foolish judgment of youth and the nation of Israel would soon be divided ... until ... until God's promise to bring them back together again under another King ... a King who would never turn away from devotion to His Father ... One who would be the King of kings and the Lord of lords ... JESUS, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ.  

Through His Word and Spirit God is calling people into His kingdom today, but the time is short.  As you see this glimpse of His kingdom may you rejoice that HE "has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:12-13).  Praise the LORD our God, for our God reigns!!

"O LORD, my God, You are high and lifted up!  You are King above all kings and I praise Your great and glorious Name!  I rejoice in Your kingdom and give You thanks for sending Jesus to establish Your kingdom through His death, resurrection and ascension ... freeing those whom You have chosen from the guilt and power of sin and bringing us into the kingdom of Your Son.  Give me grace to stand firm in my faith and to worship my King, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Lord, and to declare to all that HE reigns at Your right hand even now.  Thank You, Father, for this glimpse of Your kingdom, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Our God is greater! And His love endures forever!!"

Day #90

Scripture Reading:  II Chronicles 1 - 5 ...

I love God!  Without God I would be helplessly enslaved to the desires of the flesh and hopelessly misled by the temptations of the world around me and of Satan himself.  Apart from God's love and grace and power at work in me, my life would be one desperate attempt after another to find meaning and purpose.  But I know that God loved me and saved me through Jesus Christ to live in this world to glorify and enjoy Him, and finally to enter His perfect presence after this life, to praise Him with the angels and the saints forever, time without end.  

"Love" is used so often in this world to describe an emotional feeling or attachment to someone or something, but the love of God for us who believe, and our love for Him goes much deeper.  II Chronicles begins with a description of the relationship Solomon had with God ... or perhaps we should say, that God had with Solomon:  "Solomon son of David established himself firmly over his kingdom, for the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great" (1:1).  

Solomon's father, David, had been told by God that Solomon would build a temple for His Name and David and the people had gathered all the materials except for some of the wood that was to come from the cedars of Lebanon.  After Solomon had met with the leaders to discuss his plans, God appeared to Solomon and said to him, "Ask for whatever you want me to give to you" (1:7).  What would YOU ask for?  God speaks through James to the early church, "You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:2-3).

That was not Solomon.  This was his request, "LORD God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for You have made me King over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth.  Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?" (1:9-10).  Not only did Solomon make an awesome request, but he made it with such humility that God not only gave him wisdom, but wealth, riches and honor, too!  How important to realize that we do not deserve anything from God, but because of His love for His people, He WANTS to give us what we need to serve Him and to make His name great.

In writing to the King of Tyre (Lebanon), David explained, "The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods" (2:5).  Even the King of Tyre declared, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth!" (2:13).  Wisdom begins by acknowledging God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  The Apostle Paul proclaimed the same thing to the men of Athens in Acts 17, as he told them about the One who was the "unknown god" to them:  "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else" (Acts 17:24).

This is OUR God!  He didn't NEED the temple then ... and He doesn't need a temple now.  So why did Solomon build it and why did God give him directions for its construction?  Because God wanted His people to know who He was and to worship Him.  The temple was for His glory, AND for their instruction.  All of the furnishings revealed the glory of the one true God.  As the Creator of the universe, God dwells in all of His glory in heaven, a place inaccessible to mortal sinful mankind.  Yet to reveal Himself in part to us, God told Solomon to build the temple and through the Ark of the Covenant and the Most Holy Place God taught the people how to come near to Him.

Chapter 5 describes the people bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the temple.  With joyous celebration the people worshiped the LORD, their God.  The musicians wore fine linen and played "cymbals, harps and lyres.  They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.  The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD.  Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:  'He is good; His love endures forever'" (5:12-13).  

I love God!  But that's not what is so amazing, considering all that I know about God and what He has done for me.  What is more amazing is that God loves ME; that HIS love endures forever!!  Psalm 106:1:  "Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever!"  Every true believer must know that our love for God is a response to God's love for us.  Only by His mercy and grace to us can we know that the Creator of the universe is OUR God, and that in Jesus Christ, our Savior, HIS love endures forever.  "God demonstrates His love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Give thanks to the LORD our God today and rejoice in His love for you.  All who confess Jesus as Savior and Lord can KNOW that our God reigns, that there are no other gods, and that His love for His children will never change or fail.  With the Apostle John we can say, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (I John 3:1).  Ask the LORD your God for wisdom to “reign” wisely over sin and the temptations you face in this world.  Pray for faith and strength to be faithful to His call to worship Him and to tell others about your God.  Live to join with God's people in building that spiritual "temple," the Church, which will greet Jesus when He comes to gather His own.  Then your life, like Solomon's will serve to bring praise to our God!!

"O LORD, my God, You are great above all the gods that people worship in the world today, for You alone ARE God!!  I confess my love for You because I know that You first loved me.  I give You thanks for choosing me to be Your child, for redeeming me and forgiving me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, and for adopting me into Your family.  Such love demands my all and I pray that You will continue the work You have begun in me so that one day soon, when I see You face-to-face, my love for You will be as perfect as Your love for me.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Devoted to building a 'house' for God!"

Day #89

Scripture Reading:  I Chronicles 25 - 29 ...

In cities all over our nation church buildings dot the landscape.  They have been an important part of our culture, as they were in Europe for centuries before.  In other parts of the world the buildings have been less magnificent to the eye, but just as significant, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached from the Bible and many have placed their faith in Him.  As we read our Scripture for today it could be said that the temple, for which David gathered the materials and made the plans and which Solomon would build, was the first permanent "church building."  It was here that the one true God would be worshiped for several hundred years.

As we read through the detailed preparations for the building of the temple and hear David's instructions to the people and to Solomon, you need to keep in mind that the temple in the Old Testament was a copy of the true sanctuary in heaven!  The writer of Hebrews explained, "The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Christ did not enter a manmade sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence" (Hebrews 9:22-24).

In some way, the tabernacle, and then the temple, specifically the Most Holy Place, was a copy of God's sanctuary in heaven.  It is impossible for us to go beyond what the Bible says and it does no good to speculate about these things.  What we do know is that God is worthy of worship, desires worship and calls those who believe in Him to worship HIM alone!!  The detailed preparations for the temple were detailed preparations for WORSHIP!  Throughout the history of God's chosen people the worship of God was at the center of their existence.  More important than all the wars they fought and all the things they accomplished was the worship of their God - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

David was not the perfect king, yet his heart was on the LORD his God and his heart's desire was to worship Him!  Though perhaps the most powerful man in the world at that time, David humbly realized that God had chosen him.  "The LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever.  He chose Judah as leader, and from the house of Judah He chose my family, and from my father's sons He was pleased to make me king over all Israel"  (28:4).  Like all true worshipers of God, David believed God had chosen him for a specific purpose and he wanted to fulfill that purpose to honor his God.

You and I should be like that ... devoted to the building of a house for God and to the worship of God ...  That's the very purpose for OUR existence, as it was the purpose of Israel's existence.  The Bible gives us guidance for every part of our lives, but the central point of the Bible is God's plan to establish His kingdom on a new earth.  All of human history is moving toward this point.  To read the Bible and miss this is to fail to understand what it means to be one of God's chosen people.  That's why so many today do not grasp these things, because they are being led to believe that WE choose God, rather than the other way around.  It all goes together!  Out of a fallen human race God chooses some to be His and calls them to worship Him ... to live their lives to proclaim His Name to the world!

Once you understand that, you see the incredible privilege of being part of God's chosen people through faith in Jesus Christ, the "Seed of Abraham," the "Son of David."  As David drew near to the end of his life there was nothing he wanted more than to build a house for God.  He devoted his treasuries to the task (29:3).  And when the people had given willingly to the work, David called them all together and prayed the prayer recorded in Chapter 29:

"Praise be to You, O LORD, God of our father Israel (Jacob), from everlasting to everlasting.  YOURS, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom ..." (29:10-11).  You cannot remove either the God of Israel, or Israel, from God's plans and still claim to believe the Bible to be the Word of God.  From beginning to end the Bible lays out the plan of a sovereign and Almighty God who controls the nations and the rulers of the nations.  That's why He can promise believers that He "works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to HIS purpose" (Romans 8:28).

David, this powerful ruler, concludes his prayer by saying, "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?  Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand" (29:14).  And he continues, "O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building You a temple for Your Holy Name, it comes from Your hand, and all of it belongs to You" (29:16).  And finally, "O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of Your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to You" (29:18).

Today all who believe in Jesus are called to be engaged in the building of a “spiritual house” for God.  “In Him you, too, are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit”  (Ephesians 2:22).  “ ... you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house ... offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). As freely and willingly as the people of Israel brought materials for the building of the temple, may we give all we have and all we are to the building of God's house ... a house that will be completed when Jesus returns and takes us home!!

"Heavenly Father, we know today that it is Your desire to gather a people for Yourself who will worship You throughout all eternity.  As we prepare for that day, continue Your work in us, that we may devote ourselves to the building of Your 'house,' the Church of the living God.  As You have chosen and called me by Your grace, so use me to proclaim the message that bears YOUR power for the salvation of those who are yet to believe.  Keep my heart loyal to You, O Lord, my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"