When You Wonder “What Happened?”

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Ruth’s story in the Bible is a romance for the ages. Widowed and devoted to her grieving mother-in-law, Ruth, a Moabitess accompanied Naomi back to Judah. She left home to go to an unknown place and an unknown people (who traditionally hated the Moabites) and faced an unknown future. She encountered many challenges in Judah, and it is in Judah that she found love. Oh, yeah, she met this Boaz guy, but that’s not the love I mean. The love she discovered in a land far from home was the love of the God of the heavens and the earth.  The God who moved heaven and earth for her and the nation of Israel.

As Naomi and Ruth settled in Bethlehem, the barley harvest was beginning. The law commanded that the poor in a community should be allowed to glean from the fields for their survival, going behind the harvesters and gathering what remained. We pick up Ruth’s story in chapter two as she takes to the fields to gather food for herself and Naomi.  Verse 3 says: “She went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters.  As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” As it turned out. Do you think for a moment that she was working in Boaz’s field by happenstance? No, my friend. God was directing Ruth’s path. He guided her to the very one who could redeem her and give her a home and a family and love. And a place in the lineage of King David (her great-grandson) and Jesus (her true and eternal Redeemer). God gave Ruth a future and a hope beyond her wildest imagination.

As it happened.  Beloved, where do you “happen” to be right now? Somewhere you never expected? Somewhere that feels far from home? Somewhere that is strange, maybe a little scary, and possibly even painful? You’re not there by happenstance. God’s people don’t wander aimlessly. In His providence and sovereignty, He guides us where He wants us to be. Whether it’s a physical place or a season in life, you are where you are by His good and gracious hand. So put your hand to the work before you and keep watch for what God will do.  What “happens” next will be amazing

The Real Cowardly Lion

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I write notes and comments in my Bible. Sometimes dates when a Scripture spoke powerfully to a need in my life. Sometimes a verse that connects to what I’m reading, and often notes about what the Spirit impresses on my heart. And there are a few snarky comments scattered about. I saw one when I was skimming through 2 Kings. In chapter 18, Hezekiah is the king of Judah. He is a godly king and trusted in the Lord. The scripture says that “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord . . .” (v. 5). I sure hope that can be said of me when my life is done.

In Hezekiah’s 4th year an enemy army began a march through the middle east, capturing cities with ease. The chief office was Sennacherib and he began a push into Judah, coming dangerously close to Jerusalem. He called a conference with King Hezekiah just outside of the city. The armies of Judah and the people were all gathered atop the wall, watching and listening as Sennacherib made threats and even claimed that the Lord had sent him to destroy them. He said the king was a fool to claim that the Lord God would protect them. He said that if they would surrender to him, they would have more than Hezekiah could provide. He said that no other nation’s gods had been able to deliver them out of his mighty hand. Then he said, “How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hands?” (v. 35). And here I have jotted down this note: “Oh, you don’t know Who you’re messing with!”

Friend, if Christ Jesus has claimed you as His own then you have an enemy – satan. He stands only as close as God will permit him and He bellows threats. But he is all talk. He doesn’t have the authority to pull off his threats. Not when God has you. Peter said, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion – but all he can do to you is roar. Jesus took away all of satan’s power at the cross and the empty tomb. Sennacherib didn’t know who He was dealing with, but satan does. You need to know it too, Beloved. You have a mighty, mighty God on your side.

With All Your Heart

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This is the story of the spiritual downfall of a king. It’s also the story of how any one of us can fall out of love with God. 2 Chronicles 25 is the account of Judah’s King Amaziah. Amaziah obeyed the Law of God in some circumstances – where it suited him, but not in others. That sounds familiar. When the king led his troops to war against the Edomites, it suited him to disobey God. “When Amaziah returned . . . he brought back the gods of the people of Seir.  He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them” (v. 14).  Because of his unfaithfulness, God brought the army of Israel to destroy the city’s protective wall, loot the temple and the palace, and take hostages back to Israel. This isn’t meant to be a political statement, but the king’s failure cost his nation greatly.

There is so much here that we can unpack and it all stems from verse 2, the defining statement of Amaziah’s life: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.” Amaziah’s heart was divided, which meant that his devotion to God was divided and it showed. The lure of other “gods” pulled him away from the Lord God.

 A half-hearted devotion to God is a wholehearted rejection of God. Here’s the bottom line: you are either all in or you’re not in at all. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6: 24). His immediate context was about wealth, but the principle is the same. As the great missionary, Hudson Taylor said, “Christ is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.”

You and I cannot love God and the world.  We cannot love God and money. We cannot love God and status.  We cannot love God and lust.  We cannot love God and alcohol or drugs. We cannot love God and . . . any other thing. (Now, I am certainly not saying we cannot love our families or our church or people – we love them because God loves us.) If we’re wholeheartedly devoted to God, there’s just no room for other loves in our hearts; God takes up the whole thing.

Beloved, does God have your whole heart? Is it time to reevaluate your loves?

Trading Gold for Bronze

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. . .” (Romans1:25).

I love to watch the Olympics.  I love to see people with great skill and talent at their best.   I admire the determination and dedication they show to hone and strengthen their skills; I am encouraged by their single-minded focus and discipline. Thousands of athletes come with the hopes of winning a medal for their country, with the gold as their ultimate goal. Silver medals are awarded to second place and bronze for third, but gold medals are the pinnacle of success in the competitive world of athletics. Gold is far more valuable than silver or bronze, thus it is awarded to the most worthy athlete.

Gold is also a show of one’s wealth. In fact, that can be taken to ridiculous extremes with gold cosmetics, gold clothing, a gold coffin, gold teeth caps or a gold slinky. And if you really want to show off, you can put a roll of gold toilet tissue next to your gold toilet. Silver and bronze just won’t cut it if you want to really make a statement.

Solomon was the wealthiest of all the Old Testament kings, so much so that the Bible says all the articles for his personal dwelling places were made of gold because “silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day”(2 Chronicles 9:20).  Solomon had wealth that today’s richest billionaires can only dream about. I found a particularly interesting note in 2 Chronicles 9:15-16 which says: “King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold . . . he also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold.” Gold shields – that’s pretty wealthy, don’t you think?

Solomon eventually died and his son, Rehoboam ascended to the throne in his place. The young man did not inherit his father’s wisdom, nor his grandfather David’s love for God. 2 Chronicles 12 tells the story of Rehoboam’s turning away from the Lord – “he and all Israel with him abandoned the Lord” (v. 1). They soon came under attack from the king of Egypt, and God spoke through a prophet declaring, “You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you” (v. 5). At this the King and people recognized their sin and turned back to God for His protection. God relented and rescued, but they still were made subject to the Egyptian king for a season as the Lord said, “so that they may learn the difference between serving Me and serving the kings of other lands.” (v. 8).

While the Egyptian king did not destroy the people, he did strip them of much of the wealth that Solomon had amassed. Verse 9 says, “Shishak king of Egypt . . . carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord . . . and of the royal palace. He even took the gold shields Solomon had made.” Wait, did you catch that. The gold shields – Solomon’s gold shields – were claimed as booty by the king of Egypt. Look at the next verse: “So King Rehoboam made bronze shield to replace them” (v. 10). Because of the sin of the king and his people with him, the royal gold shields were traded out for bronze – an inferior metal for an inferior king.

There are two points to consider here: first, God allowed the people some time with the enemy king so that they could see how much better they had it under His authority. Where they had once been the most feared and respected nation under David and Solomon, they were made a subservient nation under Egypt. Their freedom was taken from them and they were made to pay tribute to the Egyptian king. Their harvests were divided so that Shishak received his portion, whether or not they had any left themselves. The second point is this: they had been the wealthiest and most prosperous nation, but they had been forced to trade their gold for bronze because they turned away from their God. King Rehoboam’s entry ends with these sad words: “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (V. 14). They squandered all the blessings God had given them for the false pleasures of the world. And in the end they lost more than all those worldly treasures were worth.

So I ask you – Are your trading gold for bronze – or even less? Are you trading the blessed life God longs to give you for the fool’s gold of the world?   The world we live in is ruled by an evil enemy – Satan, and he is constantly at work taking men and women captive under his cruel banner. God has offered us the safety and security of His Son, but we must set our heart on seeking Him, and receive His loving offer. We must turn to the Lord and commit ourselves completely to Him. I promise you will find that serving God, living under His authority and His golden shield is far superior to anything the world could offer you. Don’t throw away a golden life for worthless trinkets and momentary pleasures. Grab hold of the blessings God has for you and you will never lose the greatest treasure of all.

Holy Father, the world dangles worthless stones before our eyes, and so often we grab for them and forget about the real treasure that You give. Please help us to recognize the difference between fool’s gold and the pure and perfect gold that is only found in You. Amen.