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Jonah & Matthew 11

This morning we look at two very different books of the Bible in one way, but similar in others.

John the Baptist is in jail. He is doubting whether Jesus really is the Messiah. He has done everything right and yet he is sitting in a Roman prision. So he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the One. Jesus doesn’t scold or belittle him, He points him to what He has been doing… the marks of the Messiah. And then as John’s disciples leave Jesus says this:

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:11-12 [ESV])

The old King James reads, Since the days of John the Baptist till now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men (women) take hold of it. I like that rendering better. Kingdom work is not for whimps. When I stop to think of it I can think of at least nine people who have given their lives for the sake of the kingdom. One theologian has said, “The church advances on the blood of its martyrs.” Now that gets your attention doesn’t it.

Jonah was thinking of himself and John was thinking of the kingdom. When you think of your place in God’s kingdom are you thinking of yourself or the kingdom? Do you think of what’s in if for you or how your work will further the kingdom? John died in that prison through events that seem totally repulsive to us. Jonah was spared his life and yet in the end pouted about it. He would rather have died than seen God’s kingdom prevail.

Paul Carlson (Congo), John & Betty Stamm (China), Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot (Equador) all gave their lives so that the kingdom could advance. We stand on their shoulders today and the shoulders of countless others. What’s your approach to God’s kingdom? Will you stand firm and partner with Him in moving it forward? Let’s pray for one another as we serve our Lord each day.

Father God, Thank you for including us in your kingdom work. Help us to serve you with all we have and to be the people of your kingdom that joyfully moves it forward instead of running from it. In Jesus strong name I pray, Amen.

PS: If you’d like to hear the story of John & Betty Stam, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdFslNA-jQE

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2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 22-23; Psalm 131; Matthew 8

Today’s readings are a study in contrasts.  Pride vs humility.  Disbelief vs faith.  Athaliah, the wicked queen who was prideful enough to take matters into her own hands and commit murder in order to place herself on the throne of Judah.  Jehosheba who, along with her husband, the priest Jehoiada, was faithful and trusting enough to essentially kidnap her nephew, Joash, from his grandmother, Athaliah, in order to save him and preserve the line of David.  David in Psalm 131, displaying maturity even as he wrote of his childlike trust, his choice to be content and rest in God. 

Then, in Matthew 8, the leper, a diseased outcast who audaciously approached Jesus asking for healing.  He wasn’t prideful or arrogant; he simply believed that Jesus could heal him and was brave enough to say so.  The Centurion, a high-ranking Roman officer who most Jews would have considered an enemy recognized Jesus’ authority and had faith that Jesus could heal his servant.  The citizens of Capernaum, many of whom were healed and relieved of demonic influence simply because they came to Jesus believing He could do miracles for them.  The scribe and the disciple described in Matthew 8 SEEMED genuine.  They asked great questions and probably assumed Jesus would respond with “Great!  Let’s go!”  But their pride and unbelief were evident when they didn’t like Jesus’ response.  And then there are Jesus’ own disciples.  The very same guys who gave up everything to follow Jesus.  Surely their faith and humility would be apparent!  Yet even they questioned Jesus as they feared for their lives.  These same men, (including several experienced fishermen who were no doubt used to storms on the sea!) who had just seen Jesus perform numerous miracles still doubted!  And, finally, the citizens of Gadarenes.  Jesus had performed yet another miracle, casting fierce demons out of two men, yet they just wanted Him out of their town.

Do any of these describe me?

Am I like Athaliah?  Do I sinfully presume I can handle things on my own and take matters into my own hands, hurting others and missing God’s greatest blessings?

Am I like Jehosheba?  Am I willing to take a risk and do what is right even if my desired outcome is a long-time coming?  Jehosheba and Jehoiada hid Joash for SIX years!  Am I faithful even when it seems like an answer will never come?

Am I like David?  Have I matured spiritually to the point that I calmy and quietly trust that God’s plan is best?  Am I confident that He is always working even if it doesn’t seem that way?

Am I like the leper?  In my pride, do I really think I can hide my sin and faults from God, or am I humble enough to bring them to Him and trust that He will forgive me and heal my heart in the process?

Am I like the Centurion?  Do I acknowledge God’s supreme authority in my life? Do I care so much about others that I’m willing to go out of my way to help them and petition God for them even if that puts me in a difficult position?

Am I like the citizens of Capernaum?  Am I willing to simply come to Jesus and ask for help, believing He can and will answer?

Am I like the scribe and the disciple?  Do I know all the right words to say, the right questions to ask but, when the rubber meets the road, am I ready to make the sacrifices required to follow Jesus?

Am I like Jesus’ disciples? Have I made a commitment and gotten “on the boat”, but when things get difficult and Satan starts to gain a foothold, do I ask “Can you see this, Lord?  I obeyed and this is what happens?”

Am I like the citizens of Gadarenes?  I’ve heard and seen God do amazing things.  I know He has always been faithful, but am I content to try do life apart from Him? 

Father, I know that You are trustworthy, yet I choose not to trust.  I know You have great power to accomplish all things, yet I choose to do things in my own strength.  I know You are in control and working all things for my good, yet I choose to worry.   Please give me a faithful and trusting heart that is desperate for You.  

Jen

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2 Kings 9-10; Psalm 49; Matthew 7

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Who do you follow?

I don’t know about you, but who I follow depends on how I feel. This can be a dangerous reality because there are so many things that can influence how I feel. Having something that anchors my actions helps to make sure that I’m continuing in the direction that is led by God.

In our 2 Kings passage today, we see how King Jehu followed the direction of the prophet as laid out by God. He stayed the course. I have to confess that I don’t understand a lot of the direction that God gave to kill and destroy. I recognize that it is the consequence of sin. I understand the theology and struggle with the physical expression of that theology.

13This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd.”

Psalm 49:13-14

The importance of being anchored in God is expressed in our Psalm passage. As much as I want to trust myself, I also need to have an unshakable trust in and guidance from God who is outside my emotions and thoughts and yet present in the midst of them. Even in my lack of understanding of the Old Testament theology, I have learned to trust the wisdom and compassion of my God.

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

Matthew 7:28-29

My God speaks with an authority that others do not have. His words are good. His love is pure. He is trustworthy. That is why I anchor my life in Him. I follow Him because of Who He is…not because of His specific teachings or how I feel. I am not perfect in my trust. My God is perfect and I am seeking to trust Him more.

Dear God, Thank you for being trustworthy, compassionate and present. Thank you for being the strong and constant anchor for my soul. May I continue to rely on you and follow you.

Mandy

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2 Kings 7-8; 2 Chronicles 21; Matthew 6

2 Kings 7: 1-2 (MEV): Then Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord: Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” Then an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, “If the Lord were to make windows in heaven, could this thing happen?” And he said,” You will see it with your eyes, but you will not eat from it.”


I hope when I hear the word of the Lord spoken, I would not be like the officer. I want to believe God’s word spoken to me. But most of all, I do not want to make fun of it. Can you imagine being Elisha and speaking under the power of God, and someone shouts “that’s the craziest thing I ever heard”. I may not have an Elisha in my circle of friends, but I may have those who may try to give me words of wisdom, how sad it would if I quickly dismissed what they were saying, and quickly dismissed the benefit the words could have in my life. Unfortunately, the officer heard these words from Elisha; “You will see it with your eyes, but you will not eat from it”.

Then the Lord performed a miracle! The Arameans thought they were being attacked by several armies. Because of this, they fled and left behind all their treasures. (v6) Because they left behind all their treasures, the Israelites plundered their belonging and had plenty of food, animals, and other goodies which had been in short supply. So, the words of Elisha became truth.

And also, unfortunately for the officer, the people trampled him in the gate and he died. Which were also true words spoken by Elisha.

So, what if my friend is speaking truth into my life? I may not die, as the officer did, but I may miss out on plunder that could enrich my life. I need to take the words spoken to me, to God, and/or to the Bible, to see if they line up with the Word of God. Not everything spoken to me will be from a man of God, but I need to be able to discern which ones are, and pay attention to them. I believe the Lord has things to say today, just as He had words to say that day in Israel.

2 Chronicles 21:4 (MEV): The Jerhoram rose up over the kingdom of his father and he became strong. And he killed all his brothers with the sword and even some of the officials in Israel.

2 Chron. 21: 11(MEV): He even made high places in the hill country of Judah and caused those in Jerusalem to be like prostitutes, and he led Judah astray.

Elijah wrote a letter to Jehoram , and part of it said “Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and have led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom, as the house of Ahab led Israel into whoredom, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father’s house, who were better than you, the Lord will bring a great plague on your people, your possessions, and you will have great sickness with a disease of your intestines” (v12b-15)

2 Chron 21:17 (MEV): And they (Philistines and Arabians) went up against Judah and broke through, and they took every possession found in the palace of the king, even his sons and wives, so that no son was left with him except his youngest Ahaziah.

2 Chron 21: 20 (MEV): He was thirty-two when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

The more I read about these kings and how they acted just amazes and disgusts me. I grew up with seven siblings, and I cannot even imagine killing them. They may have gotten on my nerves from time to time, but not once did killing ever cross my mind. But that was only the beginning of his sins. Day after day his evil doings seemed to increase. I don’t believe in Karma, but I do believe in “do unto others as you would like done unto you”. It may be the same in this respect. I can’t even imagine someone doing, or treating others as he did. But I hope that if I had a leader over me like Jehoram, that I would be steadfast in my beliefs and not follow in his ways. I would like to be part of the town of Libnah who revolted from being under his rule because he had abandoned the Lord God of his fathers. (v.10) I am so glad I do not live in that era. But I am not surprised that he died with “no one’s regret”. That to me would be sad if I died and no one cared. But worst yet would be if the people cheered because I was dead. It reminds me of a scene in the Wizard of Oz when the wicked witch was killed and all the munchkins came out from hiding, happy that the witch was dead. But if I treat those around me with disrespect or treat them like dogs, the same could happen to me. It does matter what I do! God sees everything I do, and will intervene when, or if I get too ugly. I can’t say “I’m not as bad as that guy” because it is not about “that guy” it is about me! God only sees what I do, and how I react in situations, and I am only judged by what I do! I matters how I think, and about how I treat others. If I am not kind and loving, compassionate and forgiving to those around me I am not being as I should be. Jehoram was way off course, therefore he was not buried in the tombs of the kings. I say amen to that!

Matthew 6

Everything I do for God should be done in secret. If I go around telling everyone what I do and get man’s praise then I will not receive my heavenly reward. This applies to tithes, prayers, good deeds, and fasting. (v.1-18)

I need to store my treasures in heaven, not in my earthly home. What I value most is where my heart lies. (v. 19-21)

My eyes determine the light of my body. If I watch or see things that are dark, then it affects me negatively. (v. 22-23)

I cannot serve God and money. I don’t think it means that I can’t have money, it just means I can’t worship it. (v. 24)

If I don’t forgive others, God will not forgive me. I can’t have it one way. It must go in both directions. (v. 14)

I should not worry about what I will drink, eat, wear. God knows what I need and He will provide them for me. (v25-34)

In 2017 I was in the hospital for 2 months, I couldn’t drive for 2 more years, and not once was there ever a time that I needed anything. My neighbor mowed my grass, groceries were brought in weekly, even my cats were taken care of while I was in the hospital. I wasn’t on the phone asking people to do this, they just did it. I know firsthand what God will do for those who “seek first the kingdom of God”. I learned to take one day at a time. My time is wasted if I dwell on what may be. My day is ruined when I fear about my future. I trust God and choose to walk with Him daily. I cannot worry about tomorrow. Today has enough trouble of its own. And so far, God has been extremely faithful.

If only Jehoram had walked like this!

Father God, Holy is Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven! Teach us to walk in your ways, provide for us, and forgive us, as we forgive others. Please keep us from all evil now and forever more. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, the glory and honor Amen!

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2 Kings 2-3; Psalm 48; Matthew 4

While Elijah did some amazing things and created a certain dynamic in his relationship with God, Elisha to me was the one who was a little more meek and perceived the things of God from a different perspective. One that I use more often. I am not known to be loud or bold.

What I love about Elisha coming across the Jordan, to Jericho, is that the prophets saw the change that took place in his life. The Spirit of God anointing His servant changes the individual bringing authenticity to life and ministry.

God, within Your temple,
we contemplate Your faithful love. – Psalm 48:9 HCSB

When I do this, my thoughts turn from a focus of the strength and majesty of God to a consideration of His covenant of love. Charles Spurgeon wrote about three different people in the church and how they should each think and speak more of the faithful love of God.

“Now, my dear sister, you have talked about that rheumatism of yours to at least fifty people who have been to see you; suppose you tell your next visitor about the lovingkindness of the Lord to you.”

“Yes, my dear brother, we all know that trade is bad, for you have told us so, every day, for I do not know how many years. And you have always been losing money, though you had no capital when you started; yet, somehow or other, you have managed to have something left even now. Well, we know that old story; could you not change your note just a little, and talk about the lovingkindness of the Lord?”

“Yes, my friend, I know that many professing Christian people are not all that they profess to be; I have heard you say soever so many times. You say also, ‘There is no love in the church.’ Well, so far as we can see, you are not overstocked with it. You say, ‘There is no zeal among the members,’ but have you any to give away to those who need it? Now, henceforward, instead of always harping on the faults and failing of God’s people – which, certainly, are numerous enough, but have not become any fewer since you talked so much about them – would it not be better to think and talk of the lovingkindness of the Lord?”

Jesus started His ministry after the 40 days and nights of fasting and one of His first acts was to begin calling disciples to follow Him. I am challenged by the bigger picture of loving God and loving others. When I hear the call, I know that I have been called too. I want to respond like the early disciples, that is, to leave my love for anything else in this world and to only love Him.

Father, thank You for loving me. I want to represent Your faithful love to others. May my spirit be so changed, that like Elisha, individuals would see You in me. Amen.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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