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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Good Kings and True Accusations

2 Kings 10-12

"Do you make crown jewels in youth sizes please?"

Jehu and Joash are two of Israel’s best kings in terms of their faithfulness and example to the people. Interestingly, they both reigned at about the same time and they both came to power through violence.

Jehu recognized that Baal worship had become a wild cancer to Israel and that it had to be eradicated. It could not simply be discouraged or outlawed or punished. It had to be completely destroyed, so he kills all of the Baal worshipers in the kingdom.

Joash becomes king at the mighty age of seven. In reality, Joash is a puppet regime for the priest, Jehoiada, at least for the first portion of his reign. As an adult, Joash continues to pursue God by rebuilding the broken down parts of the Temple. Clearly, Jehoiada was a great mentor and leader for both the young boy-king and for the nation of Israel.

The phrase “as for the other events and achievements of king so-and-so’s reign, are they not recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel/Judah” occurs after the life of every king. Some people believe this is referring to the biblical books of Kings or Chronicles. I am not sure that makes sense though. Kings and Chronicles both tell

King Jehu was Good at Killing Baal Worshipers

the stories of the kings of Israel AND Judah. However, Kings seems to indicated that there is a book for Israel and a book for Judah. My personal opinion is that the books we have in the Bible focus on the relationship between each king and God and the nation of Israel and God during that king’s reign. I believe there are other history books that we don’t have that give other detailed accounts of how each king ruled. It would be very fun to read them someday, so if you are interested in forming an archaeological dig team to excavate Samaria, let me know.

Acts 18

Temple in Corinth where Paul would have preached

Paul spends 18 months in Corinth. He knows the people there very well. It’s one of the longest stops he has on his mission journeys, so it’s no wonder they get two long letters written to them later. The good news about staying that long is that you have a great amount of success with many different groups of people. The bad news is that once you leave there is a baby church with many different groups of people. More to come on Corinth and their epistles later.

My favorite part of this chapter is the charge brought against Paul. Remember that most accusations brought against Jesus or other Christians is that they (1) claim that Jesus is king and Caesar therefore isn’t, (2) have blasphemed against God, or (3) are being disruptive and upsetting everybody. This time, they take Paul into a Gentile court and accuse him of “persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.” THAT’S IT! That’s the best they can do. I don’t know if Paul is doing a better job of communicating to not get accused of those things or if the Gospel is just so popular in Corinth that they can’t really bring a real charge against him. It’s probably a combination of both, but either way, the governor could not care less. So who gets beat up? Of course, you blame the person who brought the bad charge and the poor prosecution. Paul simply keeps proclaiming the Gospel all the way back to Antioch.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Sins of Jeroboam – Adapting the Gospel

2 Kings 9:14-10:31

Jehu is crowned king over Israel and then sets out to clean house…

The story of Jehu would at least be rated R for excessive violence…but he takes care of Baal worship in Israel. He is one of the first kings who seems to be doing something good…but he was still not careful to keep the law of the LORD with all his heart. The sins of Jeroboam are still very much active in Israel.

 

Acts 17:1-34

I love the story of Paul being in Athens. I’ve walked through the Agora and I’ve stood on Mars Hill. It has served as a good reminder for me as to how we are to share the Gospel with others. Paul does start with the steps of salvation, he takes what the people already knew and told them about who the true God is. In verse 28 he quotes two of their Philosophers, Epimenides and Aratus, and uses their words to talk about God. This is a great example for how we should spread the Gospel today.

Standing on Mars Hill where Paul Preached in Athens

Throughout Church history, missionaries going into the pagan world have taken the pagan celebrations, adapted them to Christianity, and then used it to share the Gospel. Without this approach to spreading the Gospel we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas when we do and we wouldn’t have Easter eggs. Eggs were a symbol of fertility in the celebration of the coming life that Spring would bring. When Christians came in they told the pagans about Christ and the resurrection and the new life that He brings. The egg was used to tell the pagans about the tomb and that when it is opened, life comes out. Most of Christianity has lost touch of this teaching tool.

How do we follow Paul’s example in Athens and use the things around us to tell the world about Jesus?

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Why the Hurt and Beaten Prisoners are Tough Winners

2 Kings 8-9

These stories about the woman from Shunam and Jehu and Ahab all share a similar theme. When you are faithful to God and demonstrate the characteristics of God to others in your life, God will make sure that you are abundantly blessed. When you are unfaithful to God and do the things God hates, God will make sure that you pay the price.

However, that doesn’t mean we can assess somebody’s spiritual health by the amount of blessings in their lives and we cannot expect blessing in our lives because of our own obedience. By that same token, difficulties in life do not mean we have done something to deserve that.

How can we justify these two principles? The best I can do is to relate it to my relationship with my son. There are times when Carter does something he shouldn’t and there are immediate and natural consequences (he plays with something sharp and cuts himself). There are times when he does something and gets punished by me (I tell him to quit kicking the dog and he doesn’t so he goes to time out). And then there are other times he does nothing wrong and gets hurt (we are playing catch and the ball hits him in the face). It’s difficult for him to figure out in each situation whether something bad happened because of his action, my reaction, or simply because sometimes things hurt. However, as he and I continue to grow together as individuals and also in our relationship with one another he will better understand which of those descriptions fits each situation.

I believe that is true for us and God as well. Sometimes it’s us. Sometimes its him. Sometimes things just hurt. But the more we understand God and our relationship with him, the better we can deal with pain in our lives.

Acts 16

We often talk about how miracles gave validity to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. What’s interesting is that often they performed miracles and people responded negatively. There are also times that Jesus or the Apostles tried to hide their miracles or simply regretted the attention they brought. In this case, Paul and Silas are not only annoyed by this demon-possessed girl, but their ministry is being hampered by what she is doing. Interestingly, they seem to attempt ignoring her for a long time before finally healing her. This then leads to their arrest and punishment.

Important detail about beating Romans: it was illegal. In fact, if you beat a Roman 40 lashes minus 1 then you are in fact guilty of abusing a Roman citizen and can be punished yourself. Paul knew this. Everybody knew it. So all Paul had to do when they were preparing to whip him was say, “I’m a Roman.” So why didn’t he? I think part of it is that Paul sees physical suffering for Christ as an essential aspect of his ministry. He also seems to recognize the power advantage of receiving the beating. The next morning he asked why they received the beating, Roman citizens. He insists that those who abused and imprisoned them come release them. In doing so, the shame is shifted from Paul to his accusers. The fear of retribution is shifted from Paul to his accusers. And his accusers have to give validity to Paul and his ministry by publicly releasing him. While the Gospel proclaimers looked like losers initially, they came out looking like world-beaters and converted the jailer and his family in the process. Was it worth 39 lashes? Paul seems to have thought so.

Riddle: How do you get beat up, thrown in jail and come out looking like a tough winner? Answer: Wait until they ask you to leave the prison and tell them your Roman.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Good News – What Hinders the Gospel?

2 Kings 6:1-7:20

There are so many things to say about todays reading! What was your favorite story from the reading? What challenged you the most? I’ll just make a few observations…

In a number of our stories we see contrasts or parallels. Yesterday we saw Naaman relieved of his leprosy and Elisha’s servant receive it, each based on their view of God and their actions. Today we see the servant of the man of God have his eyes opened to the presence of God around him and in turn the opposing army’s eyes closed. When you are with God your eyes are opened to what He is doing around you. When you are against God, your eyes are closed to what He is doing around you. What are you seeing right now?

 

While under siege, people were giving to eating babies in order to stay alive. The king then blames God for the bad things that have happened. Because of this accusation against God, the day of redemption is revealed to the lepers. The least of the city who have seen the glory of the Lord revel in their new found joy but they realize that, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.”

They realize that this kind of joy, when not shared with others, is damnable. Sharing the good news was the only option of them. In the end, the king is trampled in the gateway and died because he pointed his finger at God. If you had good new worth sharing…would you share it? If people were to die without this news…would that give you more incentive to share it?

Acts 15:36-16:15

I’ve always been curious about the phrase “Forgive and Forget”. Is Paul not being Christlike right here? They disagreed so sharply that they just had to agree to disagree and go their separate ways. We will see later that there is not a division between them as far as Christ goes. Is this a healthier way? Is Paul’s relationship with Barnabas and with John Mark a good example of how relationships of disagreement are to go?

Is Timothy being circumcised hypocritical since they just made the decision that the Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised? Isn’t this a little contradictory? The focus here doesn’t seem to be on following the Law but on what hinders the Gospel. The question of circumcision falls under the question of whether or not the Jews would be able to hear the Gospel from someone who is uncircumcised. The question for us is, does anything we do hinder others hearing the Gospel clearly?

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Which Character Are You? – Who’s The Decision Maker?

2 Kings 4:18-5:27

The characters in the story of Naaman reveals a lot about who we are at different points in our lives. Naaman, a man who has great standing and is a powerful leader, is in need of healing. When Elisha comes out to heal him he basically responds that he is above the way the LORD desires to heal him. We often desire God work in the ways that we want Him to work and are often in need of being humbled. How often do we arrogantly approach God and expect Him to work in the ways we want Him to? Naaman then walks away upset that he did not get to experience a great display of the LORD’s power. It isn’t till his servants talk to him that he changes his mind and humbles himself to go and wash in the Jordan.

He is so grateful of his healing that he wants to bless Elisha with riches but is refused. I wish I could say that I am a lot like Elisha in this…but the reality is, I struggle to find the humility at times to give glory to God when rewarded with praise for different things. Elisha is a great reminder of what humility looks like. Naaman then asks for dirt to take back with him that he can bow to the LORD on because He is the One True God!

Gehazi, seeing that Elisha has rejected this gift, realizes that he can slip away and line his pockets a bit with Naaman’s money…after all…if someone wants to be a giver, why refuse them that right?! What he failed to realize is that Elisha has super prophet powers, which are kinda like momma powers (I hear they have eyes in the back of their heads), and he knew everything that he did. Because of what he did, Elisha gives him the leprosy that was removed from Naaman. How often do we want to ride on the coattails of God’s glory and line our pockets?

Lord, help us to give glory and honor to you in everything we do and be grateful for what you have given us in every way that you have given it. Your ways are not our ways.

Acts 15:1-35

The church, as they continue to grow, continue to run into identity problems as the face of the church changes. Gentiles are receiving the Holy Spirit. Barnabas and Paul tell their stories of what God is doing amongst the Gentiles. A decision needs to be made. The thing that is sticking out to me in the reading today is who is actually standing up, speaking, and making the judgment as to what needs to take place with the Gentiles. Peter gives his testimony but it is James who makes the decree to stop making it difficult for the Gentiles.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Who I Serve and We Aren’t Gods

2 Kings 3-4

As Israel, Judah and Edom prepare to go to battle they need water and start looking for a prophet. First, I love that Elisha is there with the army. You never think about prophets travelling with the army, but there Elisha was. And then when the king calls on him, he has plenty to say. And now the top give things Elisha says to the king of Israel:

  1. Why did you come to me? (some translations say, ‘what is there in common between you and me?’)
  2. Why don’t you go to your mom and dad’s idols and false prophets?
  3. As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve…(implication is “I serve God, not you.”)
  4. I am only going to do this because I like Jehoshaphat.
  5. Now bring me somebody who can play the harp.
Elisha wants everybody to understand that he is in no way serving or endorsing the reign of a king who doesn’t honor and worship God. Elisha serves God only and helps those who also serve him.

Acts 14

Baucis and Philemon

Barnabas and Paul being taken for gods lies in a Lycaonian legend that once Zeus and Hermes had come to earth in disguise. No one would give them hospitality until at two old peasants, Philemon and his wife Baucis, took them in. As a result the gods wiped out the whole population, except Philemon and Baucis, who were made guardians of a splendid temple and were turned into two great trees when they died. So when Paul healed the crippled man, the people of Lystra were determined not to make the same mistake again. You can read the entire myth here http://thanasis.com/store/baucis.htm.

Barnabas must have been a man of noble presence so they took him for Zeus the king of the gods. Hermes was the messenger of the gods and, since Paul was the speaker, they called him Hermes.

This came as a horrifying and unexpected shock to Paul and Barnabas. Some have suggested that this was likely the first city that Paul preached in that didn’t have a strong Jewish community or possibly even a synagogue. In the past, they had been able to transition from the Jewish community into the Gentile community. In Lystra, the religious culture is so foreign that Paul and Barnabas initially fail to communicate with the people. After Jews arrive and cause problems, Paul is eventually stoned outside of the city but lives.

Of course, Paul goes back into the city and spends time with the believers. It’s amazing that in the midst of all of this chaos, people are actually converted to the Gospel. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Timothy became a believer during this trip to Lystra.

The next time Paul finds himself in a city that is as polytheistic as Lystra, he is speaking before the Areopagus in Athens. It’s no surprise that he takes an entirely different approach. He listens more and communicates God using their religious language and culture. Paul is definitely still figuring out this missionary to the Gentiles thing. You have to believe the experience in Lystra helps Paul deliver the powerful sermon we read in Acts 17. It’s amazing how God can work through our failures.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Double Portion of Spirit and Stirred Up Women

2 Kings 1-2

Elijah has had time to train his successor, Elisha and now it is time for Elijah to get the rest he has earned. His job as prophet to faithless and idolatrous Kings of an idolatrous people has taken its toll on him. It’s now time for his reward. Elisha, however, is preparing to take over as God’s prophet and ambassador to Israel. He knows that God has worked mightily through Elijah and he also desires to have God’s spirit rest heavily upon him.

I can’t help but think there is some connection between this story and Peter’s denial of Jesus. Even if it’s just the same format used to show Peter’s denial and Elisha’s loyalty, their stories echo one another. The difference is that Elisha refuses to abandon his teacher. Peter, who spent more time with Jesus and saw far greater things did not demonstrate the same faithfulness later.

I also think there are echoes of this story in Acts 1 when Jesus ascends. The Apostles stand there looking up after Jesus leaves, waiting for something. After all, Jesus has been promising them something greater than they have experienced, his spirit would come upon them. Did they think that like Elisha, that they might receive his cloak and a double portion of his spirit. Of course, that’s not how it happened and some angels finally showed up and told them to quit waiting, but I can’t help but think this story influenced their expectation on that day.

The sign that Elisha would receive Elijah’s spirit was that he would see him be carried off to heaven. The alternative seems to be then, would be that he would not see him go, but that Elijah would simply vanish. It’s also interesting that the nearby prophets who witness this don’t have the same understanding that Elijah has gone up to heaven. They think the spirit has just whisked him elsewhere. It’s almost as if they saw something very differently than Elisha. Later, Elisha will pray that his servant opens his eyes and can see the spiritual forces at battle all around them and sees the sky full of horses and chariots of fire. I think a very similar thing is going on here in 1 Kings 2. Elijah, in ways I don’t understand, is crossing from this world into the spiritual world. Elisha’s ability to see this shows us that his eyes have, at least in that moment (and again in several other situations) been opened to the spiritual forces that do exist in this world. This also takes place with the Apostles at Pentacost and should take place in every one of our lives as well. Our eyes should see God’s work in the world and our life should then shift to joining him to bring that world into our reality. I have now read this paragraph three times and am not even sure if completely makes sense to me. Hopefully it does to you. Either way, I am glad to have a God bigger than my understanding.

Acts 13

Two things on this passage from Acts. First, there are times when I am trying to get Carter to eat something and he won’t. Several times I have offered to give it to the dog if he doesn’t want it and that usually get’s him to eat it. Once or twice he still didn’t want it and I gave it to the dog. He got really upset. Paul and Barnabas actually do the same thing with the Jewish leaders. “Fine, if you don’t want to hear about this Jesus then we will take it to the ‘dogs.'” They reacted about as well as Carter.

Second, when these Jews got upset they “stirred up the religious women and leaders of the city.” I actually laugh every time I read that passage. Sometimes I forget how real these people in the Bible actually are. But when I come across a passage that says the Jews went and got the influential women upset and the riot was

Preacher Beware

right around the corner, I am reminded that the stuff they dealt with was as real as the stuff people today deal with. I mean, I can actually hear Paul and Barnabas sitting around a fire the next night shaking their heads. “You know, for a minute I thought we were actually going to convert the entire city. I mean those guys were upset but everybody ignored them.” “Yeah…I know what you mean. Things were going great until those women got stirred up. As soon as they came marching up and everybody got quiet I knew we were in trouble.” “Oh well. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow that God has planned for us at Iconium.”

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

God’s Word – Paul is in Front

1 Kings 22:1-53

The dialogue in this section of reading is almost comical. At this point, Israel and Judah seem to be somewhat getting along. Jehoshaphat is making trips to see Ahab, the king of Israel. While Ahab is trying to figure out if he should go to war or not, Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet that can speak on God’s behalf. Ahab doesn’t like the prophet because he doesn’t have anything good to say.

Bill made a comment at the beginning of his sermon Sunday that is so fitting here. Sometimes, people don’t want to hear what the prophets have to say. All throughout the Old Testament we will see prophets making people upset. No one really gets excited about the prophets coming around. I’m curious as to how preaching has changed over the years because people don’t really want to hear a Word from the LORD because those Words sometimes make us uncomfortable. When Christ bids us “Come!” he bids us, “Come and die!”

As we continue to read through the Bible this year, and we’re over half way through, are we going to hear what we want to hear from God’s Word or are we going to be convicted by the hard and challenging Word of God?

Acts 13:16-41

In yesterday’s reading, Saul is called Paul for the first time (v9) and we see a shift from Saul being a secondary character in Acts to Paul being the primary character for the rest of the book. Paul begins to take on the major speaking roles of the narrative. Today we have our first of his major speeches (correct me if I’m wrong on that).

We heard the history of God’s people proclaimed to the Jews by Stephen in order to condemn them. Now Paul proclaims the history of God’s people in order to give them life, but not only the Jews but also the Gentiles who worship God. The hope that Paul presents is victory over death.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Ahab and John Breaks Up the Band

1 Kings 20-21

The Old Testament seems to go through phases where God relates to humanity in different ways. They all

This picture is the wrong Ahab, but I couldn't resist.

seem to work well for awhile and then go bad until God tries something else. We had creation then the flood, the period of Judges, and now the time of Kings. All of them started well and then things go wrong. With Ahab, the king situation is getting so bad it reminds us of Israel right before it got a king. Elijah is worried there aren’t any followers of Yahweh left in Israel.

Ahab is a horrible king who is controlled by an even more horrible wife. The promote idol worship, steal, murder, and exalt themselves every chance they get. One of the worst things he and Jezebel did was to arrange for Naboth’s death just to obtain his vineyard. Naboth didn’t want to sell because this was his families land, allotted to them by God through Joshua as their inheritance forever. To sell that land would be an injustice to his God and his family. That commitment cost him his life.

Elijah then pronounces God’s judgment on Ahab and Jezebel. The curse is a significant contrast from the blessing given to David. David is a man after God’s own heart and is promised that his descendant will sit on the throne of Israel forever. The evil kings, Ahab included, are promised that all of their children and descendants will die and their family will be removed from the earth forever. Jezebel gets promised dogs will eat her. Even after all of this, when Ahab repents and grieves, God is still willing to show him a measure of grace.

Acts 13

There’s several good missionary stories about Paul here. My favorite though is two little verses here about John

John Mark: Missionary Third Wheel

Mark. Paul and Barnabas took him with them to help out and part way through the journey he left to return to Jerusalem. That’s all we know from this chapter. Later Paul and Barnabas will break up the world’s greatest missionary team because they can’t agree on what to do about John Mark. Barnabas wants to take him and Paul is furious because he fears John Mark will abandon them again. So they agree to disagree and part ways.

Now, this is a pretty serious conflict. Paul is very angry and upset with John Mark. He isn’t interested in second chances here. What I like is that they don’t attack each other. In fact, they part ways hoping the other will have a safe and fruitful mission trip. They both recognized that the other could still do God’s work and spread the Gospel even though they were doing it separately and doing so because of a difference of opinion. So often we think Christians have to get along all the time. Paul and John Mark didn’t get along at this point. Paul was okay with John Mark doing mission work, just not in the same city he was in. They had some problems, but they still did God’s work. I think sometimes we need to be able to swallow our pride, put our differences aside and just do our work for the Lord.

The cool thing is that later Paul writes from prison and requests that John Mark visit him because of their closeness. Paul eventually let go of his differences with John Mark and they became close friends again. While forgiveness and reconciliation are vital in Christian community, I think there is sometimes need for space and patience to rebuild broken relationships.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

You’re Not The Author – Earnest Prayer

1 Kings 19:1-21

I’ve always enjoyed being a story teller. It isn’t too rare for me to be sitting around with a group of people telling stories. In many ways, we like to write stories ourselves. We like to have that kind of control over what is going on in life. Elijah has this same problem. Yesterday’s reading is one of my favorite stories in the OT. Most of my life I have stopped reading at the end of the chapter and then whenever I would read today’s reading I would read it by itself and pull some wonderful sentiment out of it, that God is found in the whisper. While I believe that is true, I believe when these two chapters together (as they should be read) we see that Elijah has trouble with not being the one who gets to tell the story the way he would like it told.

The story as told by Elijah: I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. I have defeated the prophets of Baal. In response to this, all of Israel has returned to the LORD, and recognized me as His prophet.

Instead, Elijah is

running for his life from Jezebel, because Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. This amazes me. The man who had enough faith to mock Baal in front of all of his worshipers and prophets now does not have enough faith to stand up Jezebel.

The LORD comes to him and asks what he is doing hiding in the cave and Elijah replies, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

God’s reply – Go stand on the mountain so you can experience the presence of the LORD.

What do you expect the presence of the LORD to be like? A great wind that breaks the mountain apart? An earthquake? A great fire? No! God reveals His presence through an unexpected whisper.

When Elijah gives the same answer to the same question as to why he is in the cave, the LORD then gives him instructions for what he is to go and do. The LORD has reserved for Himself seven thousand in Israel who have not turned away. Elijah wanted control of the situation and God reminded him that He is the one who is always the one who writes the story.

All too often we try and write our stories for ourselves. We get upset when things do not quite go our way. The quicker we give this responsibility back to God the better off we will be.

Acts 12:1-23

I want to be able to pray like the people of the early church did. I see this kind of earnest prayer in the elders at Northwest, but I want to know it better myself. I love that the church was meeting together and praying throughout the night for Peter to be freed from prison…but when he knocked on the door they didn’t expect it to be him.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Bible in One Year