29 June 2011

Devising Devices

Proverbs 14:22 Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.

According to Mr. Webster, to “devise” is to invent; to contrive; to form in the mind by new combinations of ideas, new applications of principles, or new arrangement of parts; to excogitate; to strike out by thought; to plan; to scheme; to project.

Simple question.  What do you devise?  What do you plan?  What do you turn over and over and over in your mind?  What keeps you up at night?  What wakes you up at night?  What are you always thinking up? 

Another way to get the gospel out?  A better way to be a witness?  Another way to be a blessing to somebody?  Another way to minister to your brothers and sisters in Christ?  A word of encouragement?  A better plan for your devotional life?  A way to save a few extra dollars to give to missions?

Or something else?  How you’re going to keep from getting caught when you do that?  How to manipulate that situation to your advantage?  How to get one over on that guy you just can’t stand?  How to make a few more bucks so you can indulge your covetousness?  Or just how to get out of doing what you know is right?  How to justify yourself for doing what you shouldn’t or not doing what you should?  How you can meet the minimum requirement set by your parents or your preacher so they’ll keep off your back?

Just something to think about.  What do you devise?

26 June 2011

Despising God

Proverbs 14:2 He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

Reading through Proverbs 14, the last part of that verse stuck out to me.  “He that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.”

Perverse is defined:

1. Literally, turned aside; hence, distorted from the right.
2. Obstinate in the wrong; disposed to be contrary; stubborn; untractable.
3. Cross; petulant; peevish; disposed to cross and vex.

And to despise is:

1. To contemn; to scorn; to disdain; to have the lowest opinion of.
2. To abhor.

So perverse doesn’t necessarily mean sexually deviant.  It just means turned aside from that which is right.  Proverbs 14:2, if you’re not upright, you’re perverse. 

And if you’re not upright, you’re not neutral toward God, you despise Him.  You abhor Him.  You have the lowest opinion of Him.

There’s no such thing as neutrality in the Christian life.  If you love God, you keep His commandments.  If you don’t keep His commandments, it means you don’t love Him.  And you can’t be perverse (not upright, not keeping His commandments) and be “OK with God.”  The Bible says you despise Him.

We don’t naturally think this way.  But that’s why the Bible is so important.  It corrects our thinking.  It helps us be transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).    

23 June 2011

Jotham's Leadership

2 Chronicles 27:1-2 Jotham was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Jerushah, the daughter of Zadok. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did: howbeit he entered not into the temple of the LORD…

When Uzziah was smitten with leprosy, his son Jotham took over as king.  He reigned for 16 years, and he followed his father in doing what was right, but he didn’t repeat his father’s error. 

If God could say that of us at the end of our lives, who among us wouldn’t be pleased?  In light of that, I found the last statement of verse 2 somewhat surprising. 

2 Chronicles 27:2 …And the people did yet corruptly.

They say that everything rises and falls on leadership, and they’re right…but only to a certain extent. 

In this case, Jotham was a good king who did what was right.  But the people did yet corruptly.  They didn’t follow his lead.  His leadership didn’t produce the desired effect. 

Which is encouraging to know.  Because there are times when as a leader (in your home, in your church, in your class, among your friends) you’re doing everything you possibly know to do to the best of your ability, and it just doesn’t seem to be making a bit of difference.

The first thought is that there’s got to be something wrong with me.  There’s got to be something I’m not doing.  There’s got to be something I am doing that I shouldn’t.  And that’s good.  That should be the first place we look.  But sometimes there isn’t anything wrong.  Sometimes it’s just that you can’t make people be right.  Sometimes it’s not your fault. 

Take salvation, for example.  God has done everything He can to see all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  That’s His will (1 Timothy 2:4).  He gave His Son (John 3:16).  His Son gave His life (1 Timothy 2:6).  The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men (Titus 2:11).  The free gift of eternal life is available to all who believe (Romans 3:22-24).  But most people reject God’s offer.  Most people die and go to hell -- in spite of all that God has done to prevent it.  And it’s not God’s fault. 

So be all you can be as a leader.  Do all you can do to influence others for righteousness.  But don’t get too discouraged when not everybody follows you as you follow Christ.  Know and understand that there’s only so much you can do.  That every person has a free will and is accountable to God for how they exercise it.  That as a leader, you’ll give an account for how you lead (Hebrews 13:17), but you won’t give an account for how people respond. 

So then every one of us shall give an account of HIMSELF to God (Romans 14:12).

20 June 2011

Unlike Uzziah

Allow me to introduce you to King Uzziah (also known as Azariah, which is also the name of the priest in the narrative, which is probably why the name Uzziah is more commonly used).  Uzziah was the tenth king over Judah in the days of the divided kingdom (if you count great-grandma Athaliah).  And he was a good one.  He began his reign at the age of 16, and he reigned for 52 years.  The first 15 verses of 2 Chronicles 26 are devoted to his accomplishments. 

But – and there always seems to be a but – verse 16 goes on to say:

2 Chronicles 26:16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
Ooh.  Bad move.  Uzziah wasn’t the first king to intrude into the office of the priests (remember Saul)?  And it didn’t turn out well in either case.  Watch what happens to Uzziah?

In verses 17-18, Azariah the priest brings in 80 other valiant priests to rebuke the king for his wrongdoing.  And in verse 19, Uzziah is smitten with the dreaded disease of leprosy.  So in verse 20, the priests thrust him out of the house of the Lord.  And according to verse 21, he spent the rest of his days locked up in quarantine, and his son Jotham sat as co-regent over the kingdom of Judah.

What I had always missed from the story until the last time I read it through was why, specifically, Uzziah was smitten with leprosy.  I had always understood the reason to be his violation of God’s law in burning incense on the altar (a duty reserved for the priests).  But verse 19 presents it differently:

2 Chronicles 26:19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.

So God didn’t smite Uzziah with leprosy because he made a mistake.  God smote Uzziah with leprosy because he got mad at the preacher who told him he had made a mistake.  Uzziah’s sin didn’t have to lead where it led.  God graciously provided an opportunity to repent, get right, and go on.  But the pride of his heart stood in the way.  And instead of getting right, he got mad.  Instead of responding humbly, he bowed up.  Instead of receiving correction, he was smitten with leprosy.

And there’s an important principle for each of us.  None of us are (close to) perfect.  We’ve all made mistakes.  We’re all going to make some more before it’s all said and done.  So what we need and what we will need, on a continual basis, is correction from the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). 

The question is how will we respond to that correction when it comes?  Getting mad at the preacher?  Ignoring the Holy Spirit?  Dismissing the heartfelt rebuke of a Christian friend?  Going the way of Cain?  Following in the footsteps of Uzziah? 

Or by praying with Job…

Job 6:24 Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.

We’re not always going to be right, and we’re not always going to do right.  But we can always get right.  And so how we respond to correction is going to be one of the most important factors in our ability to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).  May the Lord help us respond with humility and repentance – unlike king Uzziah.

17 June 2011

Sunk Costs

2 Chronicles 25:9 And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel?...

Here’s the situation in 2 Chronicles 25.  Amaziah is the new king of Judah – the southern kingdom from David’s royal line that was a bit better and lasted a bit longer than Israel, the northern kingdom that really fell away after false gods right from the get go.

The first thing Amaziah did as king was kill the servants that had killed his father.  Good move.  (The chapter even notes that contrary to the practice of the day but in keeping with the law of Moses, he spared their children.) 

The next thing he did was hire 100,000 mercenaries from Israel to go help him fight against Edom.  Bad move.  God was not at all with Israel (that bunch of idolaters).  So the Lord sends an un-named man of God to tell King Amaziah that to go to battle with these guys would be to seal his own fate. 

Amaziah’s response is, “But I’ve already paid them 100 talents!”  Verse 9 continues,

…And the man of God answered, The LORD is able to give thee much more than this. 

This passage reminded me of a principle I learned in economics called a sunk cost.  A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be reversed and is irrelevant to present and future financial decisions.  The principle is important to understand because making decisions on the basis of sunk costs (trying to recover what cannot be recovered) will always end up costing more and hurting worse in the long run.  To treat a cost as sunk and move on is an important step toward minimizing loss.   

In Amaziah’s case, going to battle with the 100,000 mercenaries he had hired would have ended up costing him more than the 100 talents he had already paid them. 

I believe this has some parallels to the Christian life.  It’s not uncommon for people to get saved or get right with God or sell out to the Lord having invested years of their lives or thousands of dollars on something they come to realize as either wrong, or just worthless.  And the temptation is to ask what Amaziah asked.  “What shall I do for the 100 talents…”  But the answer is, “The LORD is able to give thee much more than this.”  It’s a sunk cost.  It’s in the past.  It’s gone.  Don’t let it factor in to the decision you have to make at this present moment.  Just let the Lord take care of it.   

Forget what’s behind.  Reach forth for what’s before.  And press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

15 June 2011

Eternal Vision

Ecclesiastes 7:15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

Ecclesiastes 8:14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.

Ecclesiastes is written from an entirely earthly perspective, dealing with all things “under the sun.”  Yet it reminds us why it is that we must live our lives with eternity in view.

1.  All is vanity.  That which is temporal, that which is material, that which gratifies the flesh – it’s empty, it’s hollow, it doesn’t last.  That’s the testimony of a man who tried it all.

2.  If this life is all there is, then sometimes it doesn’t seem like God settles all accounts.  Why do right if all you get for doing right is hardship and grief?  Because even if (and that’s a big if) that’s all you get down here, that’s not all you get for doing right.  Why resist the lusts of the flesh if I can indulge them – and enjoy it?  Because even if that season in which there’s pleasure in sin lasts your entire life (and that’s a big if), your life is nothing in light of eternity.  God might not settle all accounts here and now, but God does settle all accounts. 

That’s why we walk by faith and not by sight.  We have to have faith to look beyond this temporal realm and believe that obeying God and doing right and striving against sin is worth it, even though sometimes it just doesn’t look like that’s the case, as we live down here under the sun. 

Jonathan Edwards asked God to stamp eternity on his eyes.  May that be our prayer today.  

Back At It

Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 

Well, it’s been exactly 4 months since I lasted posted to the blog. 

It’s not that I haven’t been reading my Bible and getting something from it… 
And it’s not that I haven’t intended to pick it back up probably every single week for the last 4 months… 

It’s just that as a husband (about 4.5 years), father (almost 15 months), and youth pastor/assistant pastor (over 3.5 years), I’ve still got a lot to learn about so many things, one of which is time management and prioritization.   

It’s not that I haven’t been busy.  It’s not that at all.  But when I think of that as an excuse I’m reminded of people I know who have a LOT more on their plate than I do and still make the time to do whatever it is that God has given them.  (particularly reminded of this when I get the “Encouraging Words” posts from www.caryschmidt.com) 

So, I’ve got a stack of papers in my Bible with verses and thoughts and lists and studies to look into and write about.  Looking forward to getting back at it.  Hope some will follow along.  Trust we’ll all either start or continue to PRESS toward the mark (Phil 3:14) and follow HARD after God (Ps 63:8).

Brother David