29 April 2009

Leadership – 4.29.09

John 21:3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

This third appearance of Jesus Christ to His disciples following His resurrection (v. 14) took place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (v. 1). After a long and unsuccessful night of fishing, Jesus had them cast their nets on the right side of the ship (v. 6). When this last effort yielded a great catch, they realized it was Jesus (v. 7). Peter put his shirt and jumped into the water, and the others dragged 153 fish to the shore (v. 11) where Jesus has supper waiting (vv. 9, 12). He instructed Peter to feed His sheep (vv. 15-17) and follow Him (v. 19) regardless of what anyone else does (v. 22).

Now focusing on verse 3, we note that Peter was a leader among Christ's apostles. In fact, whenever the names are listed, Peter's is always first. Peter always seemed to be first to open his mouth (often inserting his foot) or to take action in a situation. That was just Peter.

But one day Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and saw Peter and Andrew casting their nets. He called out to the two brothers, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). And Peter's life was never the same. Yeah, he made some mistakes. Yeah, he said some really stupid things. Yes, he denied the Lord. But as you read the history of the foundation of God's church in Acts 1-12 there's one of Christ's apostles who stands out as a leader. It's Peter.

He preaches on the Day of Pentecost, and 3,000 believe (Acts 2). He heals a lame man and preaches Jesus before the Beautiful gate of the temple, and 5,000 more believe (Acts 3-4). The Jewish leaders didn't like it, so Peter was arrested and brought before the council, where he boldly proclaims Jesus Christ as the only saving name (4:12) and refuses to bow to their threats (4:19). He's put in prison again but follows an angel out the prison doors and into the temple to teach the assembled crowds, deeming it better to obey God than men (5). He gives his blessing on the revival in Samaria (8) then goes down to Joppa to raise Lydda from the dead (9). He takes the gospel to the house of Cornelius – a Gentile! – and explains to the leaders in Jerusalem that God had granted the Gentiles repentance unto life (10-11). He's put in prison again, this time awaiting execution as soon as HEROD got finished celebrating Easter, but an angel wakes him up and leads him to the house where the church is interceding for him (12).

Here's the point. Peter answered Jesus' call to go fishing for men, to cast out the net of the gospel message and bring men and women to Christ. And God blessed. And when he stepped out in boldness and obedience, many said, We also go with thee.

Young person, God is looking for some LEADERS who will step out and boldly proclaim Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, regardless of what everyone else is doing, and regardless of the consequences. Will you be a leader that others can follow? Will you purpose in your heart to follow the Lord and fish for men? Chances are if you step out, eventually someone is going to follow.

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

24 April 2009

Matters of Prayer

1. Big day at the church house tomorrow. We're expecting a good 75 teens from churches across central FL for a one-day youth rally. Several things to wrap up today and a full slate of activities for tomorrow. Pray for Bro. Ray Pettit, who will be preaching twice during the meeting. And please pray that the Holy Spirit will be pleased to move in a mighty way, that young people will respond to the preaching, and that God will do a great work in the lives of many.

2. I've received (and rejected) a few comments recently from an anonymous contributor. It is apparent that a root of bitterness has sprung up in his heart and is troubling him. Please pray that he allows the Lord to remove it before many are defiled.

And a reply to Mr. Anonymous (since I've no other way to contact you). Man up and stop being a coward. Read Matthew 18:15 and confront me personally about whatever problem you have with me. Thanks.

Another Ungodly Alliance – 4.24.09

The story of Jehoshapaht reads much like that of his father Asa. The Lord was with him and greatly prospered him because he walked in the first ways of his father David, seeking the Lord and not Baalim (2 Chronicles 17:3-5).

Because his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord, he took away Judah's groves and high places and sent itinerant priests throughout all the cities of Judah to teach the people God's law (2 Chronicles 17:6-9).

When invaded by Moab, he prayed to the Lord, proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, and depended on God to grant a miraculous victory (2 Chronicles 20:1-25).

But...In chapter 18, he joins affinity with Ahab, agreed to go to battle with him at Ramoth-gilead despite the warnings of God's prophet Micaiah, and even allowed Ahab to convince him to put on his clothes so the Syrians would think he was the king of Israel. Not real sure what he was thinking.

He was rebuked for this by Jehu (not the king of Israel, the prophet, the son of Hanani, who rebuked Jehoshaphat's father Asa) in chapter 19, but in chapter 20 he joined himself with Ahab's son Ahaziah – who did very wickedly the Bible says – in a shipping venture that God (literally) broke up.

Now, when you simply view the lives of Asa and Jehoshaphat you can recognize their error and you can see how certain things would've turned out better had they separated themselves from the kings and peoples of the surrounding nations. But to tell the truth, it doesn't seem like their ungodly alliances cost them all that much.

But such thoughts quickly fade when you continue your reading in 2 Chronicles 21-22. Jehoshaphat, the one who joined affinity with Ahab, had a son named Jehoram (the same name as one of Ahab's sons) who killed all his brethren, married one of Ahab's sisters, Athaliah, and led the nation into the pagan worship practiced by the wicked kings of Israel. All but one of his sons were carried away by the Philistines and Arabians, and he died a slow and painful death of sore diseases (after 2 years, his bowels fell out). The Bible says he departed without being desired.

Not only that, but when his youngest and only remaining son Ahaziah died, his wife Athaliah massacred all of her grandchildren (or so she thought – Joash's aunt hid him in a bedchamber) and took the throne over Judah.

So in hindsight, Asa's and Jehoshaphat's ungodly alliances cost much more than they could have ever imagined. And that's always the case with sin. Our problem is that we're so short sighted. We think that we're OK because what we're involved in isn't hurting us right now. But that's just not the case. You always reap what you sow. You always reap much more than you sow. And sometimes you reap much later than you sow.

Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

21 April 2009

An Ungodly Alliance – 4.21.09

2 Chronicles 14:2 And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:

Asa was one of the best of the 8 good kings in Judah's history. Here's a list the Chronicles record gives to back up the statement in this verse:

  • After hearing the preaching of Obed the prophet, he took courage and took away the altars of the strange gods and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves, put away abominable idols, and renewed the altar of the Lord (14:3, 5; 15:1-8).
  • He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. All the nation entered into a covenant to seek God with all their heart and soul (14:4; 15:9-14).
  • He removed his mother from her queenly throne because she made an idol in a grove and burnt the idol at the brook Kidron (15:16).
  • Because he sought the Lord, the Lord prospered Judah and gave the nation rest (14:6-8; 15:15).
  • He trusted God to grant the victory over a mighty Ethiopian host (14:9-15).
  • And dedicated the spoils of war to the service of God (15:18).

What a guy! But unfortunately, there's a chapter 16 in the book of 2 Chronicles, and it tells a different tale regarding this man. Asa started strong (praise the Lord), but he did not finish well.

  • He became enraged when Hanani the prophet rebuked him so he put him in prison and oppressed some of the people (16:7-10).
  • He had an exceeding great disease in his feet (haven't you always wondered what that was?) but sought to physicians instead of the Lord and died (16:11-12).

What a sad ending to an otherwise happy and blessed life. It's instructive to note where the change begins in chapter 16. Verses 1-6 describe how Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord to make a league with the pagan king of Syria, Benhadad, against Israel.

What business did a godly king of a godly nation have seeking out help from the heathen? Couldn't they have just sought the Lord? Hadn't he been faithful to meet the need in times past (that's the subject of the sermon that got Hanani jailed in 16:7-9).

As I read this story, I come to the sad realization that it's been repeated many times since. How often has a strong Christian race been slowed, been stunted, been brought to a screeching halt, because of an ungodly alliance?

Paul asked the believers in Galatians 5:7 Ye did run well; WHO did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? May we consider the example of Asa and take heed to the Spirit's instruction of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God...

18 April 2009

Wisdom from George Muller – 4.18.09

The less we read the word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.

-George Muller

Mr. Muller knew what he was talking about. He was a man who read his Bible from end to end almost 200 times (most of that reading being done while on his knees in prayer) and prayed in millions of dollars for the operation of the orphanages he founded in Bristol, England without ever asking anyone for money. He never took a salary the last 68 years of his ministry but trusted God to put in people's hearts to send him what he needed. He ran orphanages, a mission agency, and a church without ever taking out a loan or going into debt. And neither he nor the orphans ever went hungry.

(Read a short bio on George Muller at http://www.desiringgod.org/)

So he was a man who knew how to get in touch with God. He devoted himself to this task, for the work he set out to accomplish – and did accomplish – depended entirely on this ability.

But pay careful attention to what he said. Basically, he said that a desire to faithfully read God's word and consistently spend time before the Lord in prayer is something that must be acquired. It might not be fun all the time. It might not be naturally enjoyable.

But if you become convinced that it's worth the commitment of your time and effort – and it is – then eventually the blessing and the sweetness of spending time in fellowship with God will cause it to become much more than a duty or an obligation; it will become the longing and desire of your heart.

14 April 2009

Jehu (Part 2) – 4.14.09

Reading through the books of the kings (1 Samuel – 2 Chronicles) can get confusing from time to time, trying to keep up with the different names and which king is ruling over which kingdom and so on (at one point a guy named Jehoram was reigning over Judah while another guy named Jehoram was reigning over Israel – see 2 Kings 1:17; 2 Kings 8:16), but if you can do your best to keep all that straight, it really is some enjoyable reading.

Let me briefly summarize what we find in 2 Kings 9-10 regarding the life and reign of Jehu as king over Israel, then make a couple quick observations.

In 2 Kings 9:1-13 Elisha sends one of the children of the prophets to Ramoth-gilead to anoint Jehu as king over Israel. The young man does so and prophecies that Jehu would smite the house of Ahab, thus avenging the blood of the prophets and servants of God that Jezebel had slain.

2 Kings 9:14-37 records how Jehu carried out God's death sentence on Joram, king of Israel, and his cousin (1 Kings 16:28; 2 Kings 8:16; 2 Kings 8:26) Ahaziah, king of Judah, as well as Ahab's infamous wife Jezebel, in Jezreel.

In 2 Kings 10:1-14, Jehu continues his campaign, killing the 70 sons of Ahab and 42 brethren of Ahaziah. 2 Kings 10:28 wraps up and summarizes the next section (described in Jehu Part 1), Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.

If only the account ended there. But it doesn't. The rest of Jehu's life is wrapped up in these 3 sad verses.

2 Kings 10:29-31 Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.

Jehu demonstrated zeal (2 Kings 10:16) and obedience in completing a task that God had given him to do, and God blessed him for it. Three of his sons sat on the throne as king of Israel.

But he sold himself short on God's blessings by only partially devoting himself to the word of God. Jehoahaz, Jehoash, and Jereboam all followed in the false worship of their father, and the entire nation suffered for it. How things could've turned out differently for Jehu and for the nation had he gone after God's will with all his heart.

Recently, I picked up a little book I've read a couple times through in the past entitled Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray. Every Christian ought to read that book. God deserves nothing less from each of us. And if God tells the truth, then our lives and the lives of those around us will only be better for it.

12 April 2009

Jehu (Part 1) – 4.11.09

If you're familiar with your Bible and know anything about a king in Israel's history by the name of Jehu, you probably recognize him as the man who was used by God to bring down His judgment on the house of Ahab (that, or the fact that "he driveth furiously" – a characteristic it seems many preachers seek to emulate). If you're not familiar with the story, 2 Kings 9-10 make for some interesting reading.

But our thought for today comes from 2 Kings 10. What you might not remember about Jehu was what he did to exterminate Baal worship in Israel. Under the threat of death, he called all the worshippers of Baal to a special service. Then went the sacrifices and offerings got underway and Jehu was sure there were no true servants of the Lord in the house of worship, he sent in 80 guards to kill all who were participating in the festivities. Then they brought out, broke down, and burnt up the images and idols and the house of Baal itself.

But here's what caught my eye as I read this passage. 2 Kings 10:22 And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments.

I looked up that word "vestments." Here's a summary from Wikipedia (which was consistent with other sites I glanced at): Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religions, especially the Latin Rite and other Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutheran Churches. Many other groups also make use of vestments, but this was a point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation and sometimes since - notably during the Ritualist controversies in England in the 19th century.

In the Bible, vestments are associated with the worship of Baal (it's the only time the word shows up). And in today's culture, vestments are associated with the Roman Catholic religion. Imagine that!

Now, in case that's shocking to you, let me explain something about the Roman Catholic Church and its missionary philosophy. It was set up by an emperor by the name of Constantine based on anything but the Bible and its method of "converting" the heathen throughout history has been to adopt the gods and religious practices of those heathen into its worship by giving them "Christian" names.

Just remember that as you hunt for your eggs and sort through your baskets and eat your chocolate bunnies tomorrow. None of that has anything to do with the resurrection of our precious Savior. It has to do with the worship of Ishtar (aka Ashtoreth), the pagan goddess of fertility. And the fact that the Roman Catholic church or any other church calls it "Christian" certainly doesn't make it so.

Happy holy-days!

07 April 2009

Like Passions – 4.7.09

The book of 2 Kings opens with the story of a man named Ahaziah. He was the son of Ahab, the most wicked king in all of Israel's history. One day Ahaziah took a fall from his upper chamber and was laid up in his bed. So he sent messengers to enquire of Beelzebub the god of Ekron and find out if he had any chance of recovery.

While the messengers are on the way, God sends His prophet Elijah to meet them and send them back to tell the king he was a dead man. So Elijah carries out the task God gives him.

When the king received the message and found out who it came from, he sent a captain and 50 of his soldiers to bring Elijah before him. Elijah is sitting on the top of a hill and instead of complying with the captain's request, he replies, "If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty." And that's exactly what happened – 51 crispy critters at the foot of the hill.

So what does the king do? He sends another captain with another 50 soldiers to go and fetch the prophet. And the scene repeats itself – now 102 crispy critters at the foot of that hill.

So the third captain sent with 50 soldiers by the king to Elijah takes a more humble approach. Instead of simply relaying the king's demand, this guy falls on his knees and pleas for his life at the bottom of the hill.

Then the Bible says in 2 Kings 1:15 And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, Go down with him: BE NOT AFRAID OF HIM. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.

Now that's encouraging to me, and here's why. I get the implication that the whole calling down fire from heaven thing was motivated more by Elijah's fear than it was by his great courage. Think about it. The message that God had Elijah deliver didn't make him a popular guy with the king of Israel, who was by no means a God-fearing man, and it's pretty obvious that the soldiers weren't sent to pick up Elijah so he could have dinner with the king and chat.

So when this third company comes, God tells Elijah not to be afraid but to go with him. Elijah goes before the king and delivers the same message in his presence (v. 16) that he had given to his messengers earlier (vv. 3-4). And it came to pass.

James 5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are…

You would think that the great prophet of God who could call down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 1) and who took a fiery chariot ride into heaven (2 Kings 2) wouldn't have had to deal with things like fear and discouragement. But he did.

So don't be surprised and DON'T QUIT when those type things come your way. Just gird up your loins like a man (Job 40:7)…encourage yourself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6)…play the man for your God (2 Samuel 10:12)…quit you like men (1 Corinthians 16:13) and go on in faithful obedience to the God who has called us to declare His message to the world. Amen!