Lessons From The Kings – 2 of 2

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#2 – God is patient and merciful toward sinners. In Kings we witness the story of King Ahab from the northern kingdom Israel, 1 Kings 16:29-22:39. What we read of Ahab is really disgusting. Not only did he marry a very wicked woman, Jezebel. But, between him and her they constantly were committing monstrosities against God and His elect. Not only did him and his wife worship Baal, but they built a temple to honor Baal in Samaria. And he built altars and idols to another pagan god named Asherah. And not only did they try to force Israel into idolatry, but they went to war against God’s prophets and people, killing priests, prophets and anyone who got in their way.

What is amazing about this is no matter how evil Ahab seems to be to us, God still gave him multiple opportunities to repent. The purpose of the famine in 1 Kings 17 was to produce repentance. The purpose of the contest at Carmel in 1 Kings 18 was to prove beyond doubt the identity of the true God. Then he heard the preachings of Elijah, Micaiah and Obadiah, but yet, nothing would bring him to repentance.

Today, God is just as kind and merciful to sinners upon earth. “But is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9. God has given us many more chances than we deserve today, to be what He wants us to be. And at times, some people have more chances than they deserve to come to Christ. Just as God is merciful to sinners giving some multiple chances and merciful to His children providing us more than one opportunity. We need to consider how merciful we are to others. I pity people who live by a one, two or three strike rule and you are out. Clearly they don’t understand how merciful God is and how merciful we are to be. We can see in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-25) that God expects us to be a forgiving merciful people as He is. And if we are not, well, we should remember, we will have a God that will judge us the way we judge others. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment,” James 2:13. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” Matthew 5:7. So, as recipients of the mercy of God (Hebrews 4:16) let us, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” Luke 6:36.

Lessons From The Kings… 1 of 2

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Many scholars believe that 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles are probably the most ignored books of the Bible. However, if God included these books then clearly there are purposes and reasons from above for the inclusion of these books in the Bible.

1st Kings begins with the new rule of King Solomon, whose humility and obedience opened the doors for God to bless the nation of Israel beyond compare. However, it didn’t take long until he started misbehaving unwisely and started marrying women from foreign nations, who worshiped foreign gods and within a short time frame his divided house divided his heart, which divided his kingdom. And starting in 1 Kings 12 all the way through 2 Kings we see a single story of two kingdoms diving straight into captivity.

Here are a few short lessons we can glean from these books:

#1 – It doesn’t matter how history may remember you, but how God will remember you. Time after time we see in these books a “theological verdict” from the Holy Spirit about the kings. In 2 Kings 21:2, the Holy Spirit records this about King Manasseh, “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen.” In 1 Kings 16:30, we have God’s verdict about King Ahab, “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him.” Now, I am sure there were people who loved the reigns of Kings Ahab and Manasseh. Like any reign, certain people prospered and sat in seats of authority and were glad. But, what we learn from these two men is it doesn’t matter what others have to say about us. It doesn’t matter how this earth will remember us. What matters is how does God view us.

For example, today is the 15th of December, 2016. And the United States has an outgoing president and a new one coming in. Recently I have constantly been hearing on the news about how will history record, receive and view the presidency of Barak H. Obama. And last night I was listening to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak of our President Elect Donald Trump and Mr. Kennedy was already talking about the legacy the President Elect will leave behind. 1 & 2 Kings teaches us as far as eternity is concerned, it doesn’t matter how our history books eventually will define the presidencies of these two men. All that matters is what will God say about them when they stand before His throne.
Now, what about you? While you are sojourning upon this great planet, where do your concerns lie? With your eventual obituary? Perhaps the eulogy? How your grandchildren will remember you? Or, maybe what they carve on your gravestone? I would suggest based off 1 & 2 Kings, though it is important that our friends and family remember us for good, there is someone greater than them. And the real question is, if you died today, what would He say about you?

Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals

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“If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, Let Us Eat Drink, For Tomorrow We Die. Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals. Become sober-minded as you ought and stop sinning,’” 1 Corinthians 15:33-34.

When the apostle Paul started writing 1 Corinthians, he was writing a letter to a congregation in chaos. There were personal problems, divisions and doctrinal issues that had to be solved. And Paul, chosen to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, wrote this letter trying to correct some of the problems the Corinthians were facing. One of those problems was doctrinal, and the question at hand is the resurrection real (15:12)? So, Paul wrote this chapter trying to persuade the Corinthians to keep the faith, because they would one day stand before God to give an account for all they have done in their bodies. In arguing for the resurrection, Paul mentions in verse 32 that if there is no resurrection, he should not have been fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus, but instead he should have been living life to please self. However, he knows the resurrection to be true, so the conclusion is it was worth fighting those beasts and worth living life in a way pleasing to God.

Now Paul mentioned in verse 33 that “Bad company corrupts good morals.” For Paul to be the influential man he was supposed to be, he knew he should surround himself with a certain type of influence. So, his friends were godly men, like Silas, Timothy, Dr. Luke, and Barnabas. And men like Phygellus, Hermogenes, and Demas (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10), who had fallen from the faith, they left Paul, because they knew Paul would no longer associate with them while they lived in sin.

All of us have potential to do great things for the kingdom of God. However, we need to be aware that the friends we make and keep can help us fulfill our potential to glorify God, or they can be detriments to our talents and faith. I quickly think of Samson, who was prohibited as an Israelite to have anything to do with people of other beliefs. However, he regularly found companionship in the arms of unbelievers. And because of that he never fulfilled his potential for God. He will always stand as a “what if” lesson. What if Samson only surrounded himself by faithful Israelites? But, the bigger questions for us are these: are we fulfilling our potential to do great things for God today? Or are we allowing corrupting influences and unbelieving friends to hinder our potential as well?

Christmas Fallacies

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Gift giving, family gatherings, school breaks, days off from work and the college bowl season starts. Americans have fallen in love with the season. But, with the good always comes the bad. During this season suicides and crime increase. Then don’t forget about the commercialization, greed, and envy that rules this season as well. Fights in stores over towels and toys. Stabbings and shootings in store parking lots have become all too common. One could write a series of books of all that is wrong with this season. Then don’t forget about all the false doctrine or untruths in which the season is even built on. Here is a list of four falsehoods about this season.

First, Jesus was not born on the 25th of December: The one whom we know as Jesus was not born on the 25th of December at year 1 AD. This date was adopted as the official birth date of Jesus by some in 336 A.D., and it was a 6th-century monk named Dionysius Exiguus who came up with the idea of splitting history into B.C. and A.D. at what he thought was the year of the birth of Christ. About the date, there is simply no historical evidence that suggests Jesus was born then. Matter of fact when the church in Rome in 354 held their first “Christmas” feast, it was not the birth of Jesus they celebrated but the baptism of Jesus. Anyhow, there is no evidence when Jesus was born, and the little evidence we do have typically pretty much rules out the month of December altogether. About the year, the Bible teaches us that Herod the Great was king when Jesus was born, and historical records prove that Herod died in 4 B.C. The Bible also teaches that a census was taken when Jesus was born, Luke 2:2. Historical documents prove that the census took place during the governorship of Quirinius in 6/7 B.C.

Secondly, There were not three wise men: Matthew is the only gospel account that records the visit of the Magi. And in Matthew’s account in chapter 2, no number of wise men is mentioned at all. The assumption is this tradition started based on the number of gifts given to our Lord’s family.

Thirdly, The spelling “Xmas” for Christmas is not taking Christ’s name out of Christmas: Christmas has been spelled Xmas by religious scholars for way over 1,000 years. X is indicating the Greek letter “Chi” which is the first letter in the Greek name of Christ, Χριστού. Scholars have spelled Christmas and Christians as Xmas and Xians for centuries as a form of shorthand. Nothing malicious about the use at all. Maybe in recent history, some, in their minds, have perverted the usage of “Xmas” to “X” out Christ from Christmas. But, just because someone misrepresents something good doesn’t mean we should drop what is good.

Fourth, Christmas is not a religious holy day: The New Testament does not command, nor does it give an example of the early church celebrating the birth of Jesus. It was not until almost 300-400 years later that geographical pockets of the church recognized and celebrated His birth in some form. In the New Testament, we read it is His death, burial, and resurrection we are to commemorate. And the Bible teaches us that is what the early church did, and they did upon the first day of the week, Acts. 20:7; 1 Cor. 11.

Appointing Elders

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I have been blessed over the years to serve underneath some great elderships. Men who loved the Lord and His church to the point where they made great sacrifices to see that His name was glorified. However, elderships are like preachers, they come and go, and they change quite often. Due to health, relocation, a loss of desire and death congregations are always losing an elder here and there and are looking for the next elder. And sometimes in our desire to find new elders we have the preacher deliver lessons on leadership, or we begin to offer classes on leadership. Sometimes elders will stand before the men of a congregation and beg for the men to consider stepping up. And there is clearly nothing wrong with encouraging men to develop the qualifications stated in 1 Timothy 1 and Titus 1 to their lives. However, when searching for new elders we have to be very careful not to cross certain lines, for example:

1) Some congregations in their quest for elders have watered down the qualifications the Holy Spirit has given to Timothy and Titus; out of fear that no one is qualified and they are about to lose their eldership. So, congregations have deemed Paul’s writings as cultural and have determined that the only thing required of an elder is a man with a good heart who has developed the Fruit of the Spirit in his life. Friends, the church, belongs to Christ, Acts 20:28. He is the head of the church, Colossians 1:18. And He is the one who has the authority to determine the qualifications of elders. Nowhere in scripture does God give each congregation the right to determine what qualifies a man or not for this office. Please, read Jotham’s Parable in Judges 9:7-21, about the Bramble who clearly was not qualified to be king.

2) Often in our desire to find men to become elders we encourage to the point of becoming pushy. Meaning, we have been guilty of pushing men into office who have no desire or want. Friends, this again is Christ’s church. We not only want men in her offices that fulfill the qualifications given to us by God, but also, men who desire and want the position. To push or guilt someone into office who doesn’t have the proper desire, is to put a man in who doesn’t have the want or will. And, it is to install someone God doesn’t want to be installed.

So, as we search for new leaders in our congregation, let’s never forget about the qualifications God has placed forth for these offices. But, also, let’s understand there is a clear line we don’t want to cross where we have pushed someone to put their name forth who may not yet be qualified or who may not desire said role at that time.

Those Poor Millennials…

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I found this interesting quote, and I will tell you who spoke these words in a moment. “Our youth love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, and disrespect for other people. Children nowadays are tyrants. They no longer rise when their elders enter a room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.”

In Malachi 2:15, God teaches He desires for His children to raise their children in such a way that they may produce “Godly offspring.” Paul noted in Ephesians 6:4 that “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Which means it is our job as parents to nurture our children in such a way where they grow in the “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,” Luke 2:52.

When I consider this initial quote, I can picture myself reading this before a room full of adults today and watching many heads nod up and down in agreement. Perhaps thinking that whoever wrote the quote is a genius, and the author perfectly defines our children today. Just so you know, these words came from Socrates, over 400 years before Jesus was born.

Today we spend a lot of time griping and looking down upon the Millennials. And, ever so often, when we consider them we think of a spoiled, narcissistic generation that is doomed to failure. When in reality has not every generation said the same or something similar about the next generation.

There is not much that we as parents can do for the entire millennial generation. But, we can do our part by realizing young people have not changed much over the years and neither have the prior generation’s attitudes about them. Let’s remember Jesus and what He thought about the next generation. And let’s do our part, and stop being so hard on them, and use our influences to “hinder them not to come to me,” as Jesus said in Matthew 19:14. The reality is we have more influence over our children than we think. The wise words of Psalms 127:4, teaches us that we parents can direct the behavior and lives of our children for they are “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior.” So, let’s do what we can to point “the arrows” we have to God, and not be a hindrance to “other arrows” whom we can influence for good. Then maybe our children can break the cycle of looking down on the next generation, which seems to have been status quo since Socrates.

The Joyful Kingdom

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Do you find joy in the church? If not, why not? What is it that keeps you from being a happy Christian? There are many people who see Christ’s church as a burden, an entity that robs them of pleasure. But, that is not what God has intended and if you find church to be a burden, then you must ask, what is robbing you of your pleasure?

The church is intended to be a joyful place. When Jesus was born, the angels rejoicing said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Jesus humbled himself and took the form of a man to bring the best possible life man can have on planet earth. Notice what Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundately.” Jesus came as the Prince of Peace to share joy with the entire world, and especially with those in His church.

In Matthew 13:44 we read the Parable of the Hidden Treasure. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field: the which when a man hath found he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” I want us to note two truths about the Lord’s church:

First, God intends for us to find joy in the church. Meaning when one studies the Bible and learns about the descriptions, work, worship and goals of the church. Then that one can only be impressed and filled with joy because of the opportunity to be part of this eternal kingdom. The apostle of love wrote in 1 John 1:4, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” The Psalmist said, “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

Secondly, we learn from Matthew 13:44 that the kingdom is a prized treasure. The way we view Christ and His church will make all the difference in our lives. And here once the man saw the treasure he went and sold all that he had to buy the field. And, today, the person who clearly sees this treasure will give up all they have to become a child of God, and to live as a sacrifice to Him, Romans 12:1-2, because of the joys found in the church.

I have something for you to do this week. When you find time to study and contemplate upon the church, try making a list of all the things in the church that brings joy to your life!

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