Archive for May, 2020

Unprecedented Times (Joel 1-3)

May 29, 2020

Hear this, you elders;
    give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
    or in the days of your fathers?
Tell your children of it, Joel 1:2

In every generation there are disasters, tragedies, and turn of events that lead people to identify such times as unprecedented times.  In the days of the prophet Joel there were such times.  This prophet called the people of his day to wake up to the reality of what was happening, (1:5).

The devastation was real, however the people seemed to be filled with drink which clouded their minds. Their nation was in both spiritual and economic ruin.  The prophet cried out to his nation, “be ashamed,” (1:10).

This prophet called His people to enter into repentance (1:13-18).  Joel calls the nation to mourning (Vs: 13) and he called the nation to assembly to consider what God was saying (1:14).  The prophet believed judgment was near (1:15).  Times would get worse (1:16-2).  It was time for the people to once again fear the Lord (2:1-11).

Brothers and sisters, Joel’s words are needed in our day.  What if our unprecedented time is truly the beginning of the end (The Great Tribulation)?  The prophet asks, Who can endure such a time? (2:11)

If this is indeed the last days or if it is not, you and I are being called by God to national repentance (2:12) and we as the church are being called to a return to righteous living (2:13).

The prophet asks an amazing question:  “Who knows if the Lord will relent and turn to leave a blessing?”  If He does praise the Lord.  But if He does not we praise the Lord in that we (the church) will be ready for His return.  If this is the last days, I know the Lord is going to have a great harvest of souls as the pouring out of the Holy Spirit will be greater than it has ever been (2:30-32).

Please join me in praying:  “Father, in this unprecedented time give us an unprecedented harvest!!!”

How Did This Happen? (Amos 1-9)

May 28, 2020

“For three transgressions of Judah,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because they have rejected the law of the Lord,
    and have not kept his statutes,
but their lies have led them astray,
    those after which their fathers walked. Amos 2:4

The prophet Amos was called by God, as a simple Shepherd living about five miles outside of Bethlehem, to be a prophet to the nations.  This simple Shepherd would speak powerfully between the years of 792-753 B.C.  His main prophecy was concerning judgment for God’s people because of two main sins:  Their idolatry and their social injustice.

If this Old Testament prophet were alive today, I am sure his message would be the same to America and the world.  Each time I am called to read the book of Amos I always ask myself this question:  How could a people in whom God was blessing turn away from Him?

My answer always comes from Amos 2:4.  The people of Israel rejected the Law of God and they rejected His Lordship.  I must ask, how did this happen?  Amos says they believed the lies of their forefathers who walked in darkness.

Brothers and sisters, the same problem exists in our world today (Rom. 1:25). The prophet Jeremiah offers us deeper insight:

19 Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
    my refuge in the day of trouble,
to you shall the nations come
    from the ends of the earth and say:
“Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies,
    worthless things in which there is no profit.
20 Can man make for himself gods?
    Such are not gods!” 16:19-20

Did you see what Jeremiah wrote.  Generation after generation inherited nothing but worthless beliefs and practices.  Such lies led the nation to forget God (2:9-11) and to forsake God (3:3).  The end result was the judgment of God (3:11-15).

As the judgment of God was coming on Israel and Judah, so do I believe the judgment of God is coming toward our nation and the nations of the world.  The only thing that is withholding the judgment is God’s mercy.   Day by day the Lord is rescuing people as the church ministers in the midst of the fires of persecution.  Amos writes, “it as if God is plucking you from the fire,” 4:11.  

Amos cries out to the people, “prepare to meet your God.” Was there hope for the people?  Amos offered the answer, “seek the Lord and live,” 5:6.  If these people would have repented, God would have extended mercy (5:14-15), but they would not and judgment did come.

Brothers and sisters, will you and I sit idly by and watch our nation continue down the slippery slope into total godless living or will we stand up and proclaim the ways of the Lord.  It is time for the church to awaken and it is time for the Christian to awaken.  Our awakening will come when repentance is proclaimed and when the church returns to a Biblical World View.  I believe if we awaken an awakening can still come to our land.

Here was Isaiah’s word for His day and I believe it is a Word from God for our day:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:6-9

Never let it be said on our watch, that we led our nation into disaster.  We must repent and we must proclaim a Biblical World View.

Praise the Lord who changes things (Hosea 1-3)

May 27, 2020

And there I will give her her vineyards
    and make the Valley of Achor[j] a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
    as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. Hosea 2:15

Are you in need of a change in your life?  This morning I read the post of a desperate mother who cried out to God for a change in her son’s physical condition.  Her cries led me to join her in praying to the God who changes things.   This morning the Lord also led me to pray for whoever needs God to change things.

In the days of the prophet Hosea, God was going to change things.  You ask, why did the people of God need a change?

  • Israel was committing spiritual adultery with the gods of the world, 1:2.
  • Israel was about to be taken into captivity, 1:4.

The prophet of God was called to illustrate Israel’s sin by taking to himself a wife who was a prostitute.  Hosea marries Gomer whose heart was still bent on prostitution.  She gave birth to three children who were given names to illustrate how Israel had walked away from God and how she was headed to judgment because God’s mercy had ended.  It was now time for judgment.

I cannot imagine Hosea’s world. Day after day living with a practicing prostitute.  His love for Gomer was real and her wondering heart did not change.  If you read the book of Hosea you know she leaves him and God says, go and get her.  In love he goes and gets her as an illustration of God’s love for Israel.

Brothers and sisters this twisted story illustrates two things:

  • The awfulness of sin.
  • The mercy of God.

I want you to know that God can turn awful moments into amazing miracles.  We see a reference to this in chapter 2:15 when God says:    

and make the Valley of Achor[j] a door of hope.

The Valley of Achor was known as the valley of trouble.  It was given this name in Joshua’s day.  This was the place where Achan (Joshua 7:24-26) was stoned along with his family for Achan’s sin.  R.C. Sproul comments:

“In the very place associated with sin and death, God says He will transform it into a door of hope,” Cited from Pg. 1240, Reformation Study Bible, 2005.

Brothers and sisters, sometime God has to take us through a tough place to turn our attention toward him.  At times God has to take those we love into deep valley’s before they will look to Him.

Today, you have two choices:

  1. You can allow this troubled waters to lead you to a valley of Hell called-bitterness, doubt, fear, discouragement, and hurt.
  2. You can take control of troubled waters by faith in seeing your valley become a place of hope.

I know my God changes things!!!

 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Know, I am praying for you!!!

The Second Chance (Jonah 3-4)

May 26, 2020

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, Jonah 3:1

No matter how many times I times I read Jonah 3:1, I always have the same emotional response.  My response is, thank you Jesus for second chances!!!

Yesterday we read about Jonah’s ups and downs of ministry.  I wrote, Jonah changes his mind but he does not change his heart.  Today we see this so clearly as Jonah goes to Nineveh to preach the message God tells him to preach.

Jonah knows he has been given a second change to fulfill God’s mission.  Notice how God works in Jonah’s second change:

  • God puts Jonah ashore in the very place where he needed to be, 2:10.
  • God placed the message Jonah was to preach on Jonah’s mind, 3:2-3.
  • God’s Word did the work it set out to do:
    • The people repented and began to mourn
    • The king repented and called for national repentance.
  • God extended mercy and grace to an undeserving people, 3:8-10.

In this moment some might focus on the preaching of Jonah and wrongly conclude, what a great prophet he was.  What we should see is this:  There is only one God who gives second chances.

In chapter 4 Jonah reveals the condition of his heart has not changed.  Now I do not want to be totally down on Jonah here.  Jonah does speak the truth about the character of God:

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  4:2

Dear friend, did you see it?  Our God is alone The God of Second Chances!!!  He is a mighty God (3:8) who judges all who reject Him and He is the merciful God (4:2) who receives all who repent.

Now, I want you to consider how costly second-chances really are.  In life, if you give a person a second change you are giving them the opportunity to hurt you again.  When God gives a person a second change, He has already hurt because Jesus had to die (John 3:16) so that person could have a second-change.

The one difference in this:  When God extends His mercy and grace, He transforms the person into a new creation (II Cor. 5:17).  Oh what a God we serve!!!

Out of the Belly of Hell (Jonah 1-2)

May 25, 2020

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice. Jonah 2:2

I trust you had a wonderful weekend and I trust you are enjoying Memorial Day (the day we in the USA pause and remember those who gave their lives for our freedom).

This day we begin a two day study of the book of Jonah.  On the first day we see his journey downward and on the second we will see the ups and downs of his journey.

Unlike the men and women who give their lives for others (we remember this memorial day) Jonah was a guy who did not want to give himself for others, outside of his Jewish family.  Jonah was a prophet of God who became a reluctant preacher.  God said to this prophet; Jonah, unless you go to the people of Nineveh they are going to go to Hell.  Jonah’s response was; let them go to Hell.

The prejudice in his heart led to his personal downward turn.  Over and over in chapter 1, Jonah is seen as going down.

  • He fled from God-the presence of His conviction.
  • He hide on board a ship heading away from God’s will for his life.
  • He slept while others were putting their lives on the line.
  • He was cast in the sea.  He would rather die than share the message of God with his nations enemies.
  • He was swallowed up by a fish.  Inside this fish he would get a taste of what it would be like to go down into the belly of Hell.

This tragic scene leads Jonah to change his mind:

But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

Yes, he does change his mind and he does preach, but he does not have a heart change!  Jonah is not a good model to follow.  However, there was another who would come and would spend time in the belly of Hell for others.  His name is Jesus

Matthew 12:40
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the
Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
On this Memorial Day, I pray the following for you:
1.  God would show you all that Jesus did for you.
2. God would lead you, if you have not, to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
3. God would lead you to praise, honor, and obey Him by serving others in His name.

Looking in the wrong places (II Kings 4-6)

May 22, 2020

13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” II Kings 5:13

Recently I went into a local grocery store looking for one item.  The item I needed was recommended to me by a person who said, this works for me.  I went into the store and looked all over the store and could not find the item.  Eventually I left the store frustrated and without the item.  Soon after this frustrating encounter, I meet the person who recommended I go into the store and buy the one item.  This person asked, did you buy the product I recommended to you?  I responded, I could not find it anywhere in the store.

What the person said next sent chills down my back.  The person said, I know it was in the store!  You should have asked someone to help you find it.  In that moment the Lord taught me a valuable lesson concerning my life.  Here is the lesson:  Sometimes I allow pride to keep me from being blessed.

In II Kings 5 we read the story of Naaman who according to Scripture was a well-respected commander of the armies of Israel.  He was so well-respected that he was even loved by his servants.

But despite all of this, the Bible said, he was a leper.

I hope you will go back and read II Kings 5 to get the entire story.  The Bible says, Naaman heard about someone in Israel who could heal him of his leprosy.  Naaman secured permission from the King of Syria to go to find the person who could heal him.

Two things from the story of his healing jump out at me.

  1. Naaman looked in the wrong place for his healing.  He wrongly thought that the king had the power to heal him.  The king of Israel said, “Am I God.”  The king of Israel knew that healing only resided with God.
  2. Naaman almost missed his miracle because of his pride.  The Bible says, the man of God told him to go and dip in the Jordon River 7 times and he would be healed.

Brothers and sisters, this would demand a humbling for Naaman. The waters of the Jordon were filthy.  The waters of the Jordon were in Israel.  Syria was superior in Naaman’s mind.  He would not humble himself in this way.

But thank God for a servant who said: You are a leper and healing is before you (my translation).

In this miracle moment Naaman humbled himself and was healed.  Brothers and sisters, there is much truth here.  Let’s be honest, pride almost cost Naaman the miracle God offered him.

On this Friday, I ask you:  Do you need a miracle?  I know you do.  Follow this truth road-map to the healing we all need:

  • All people are born as spiritual lepers in need of spiritual healing, Eph. 2:1-3.
  • Not everyone looks in the correct place for healing, Luke 4:24-27.
  • Only those who come to Jesus are healed, Rom. 6:23.

May all who read this realize, their healing is in Jesus alone!!!  May all who read this humble themselves and receive His healing today.

A faithful and full life (II Kings 1-2)

May 21, 2020

14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. II Kings 2:14

I can honestly confess that I have come to the place in my life where I praise God for those moments when He reminds me of the bigger picture of life.  The fact is, I so need these moments because my life can get so loaded up with activity that weeks and months go by without me considering the bigger picture of life.

John Maxwell said, “please leave margins in your weekly schedule so you can enjoy the journey.”  I took his wisdom and applied it in terms of the bigger picture.  Please leave margins in your life so you can see the bigger picture.

This is one of the multitude of reasons we are called to be in God’s Word every day.  Some days God gives us imperatives as we systematically read His Word.  At other times He convicts us of sin.  Still there are times when we read of other’s lives and we pause as we see ourselves in the lives of those we are reading about.

Consider the story of Elijah and Elisha as examples.  Certainly I do not consider myself in the same category of faith as these men, but I do see principles similar in my life.  Let’s consider Elijah.  He certainly had a faithful and full life.  Here is his life in simple bullet points:

  • Elijah lived a life that was faithful.  He stood up to the king (I Kings 17) and he obeyed the true King (II Kings 1).
  • Elijah had some fearful moments in his life.  He ran from Ahab’s wife (I Kings 19).
  • Elijah lived a favored life.  Over and over God worked in and through his life.
  • Elijah lived a life for God all the way to the finish line.  We read about Elijah being taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire (II Kings 2).

So faithful and full was his life that on 29 occasions his ministry is referred to in the New Testament.

Question:  do you see any similarities in your life?  I am humbled to know that God is working in you and He is working in me.  However, you and I must remember we have not  yet reached the finish line.  There is still more work to be done.

Here is the key for us.  We must daily be in God’s Word allowing God to mold us, shape up, cleanse us, and direct us.  This way we will cross the finish line as one who was faithful to the end.

Notice what the Apostle Paul writes about the importance of God’s Word:

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b] in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ[c] to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:1-13

The Arrow found its mark (I Kings 20-22)

May 20, 2020

34 But a certain man drew his bow at random[d] and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”  I Kings 20:34

At the end of his life King Ahab meet with his death on the field of battle as a certain man shout his arrow toward the enemy.  He did not know the arrow would find its mark with King Ahab.  The Bible teaches us the following truth:  “it is once appointed unto man to die, and after the death comes the judgment.”  Heb. 9:27

The arrow of death will find its mark in my life and in your life at God’s chosen time.  It is of no use to worry about when or to worry about how.  Ours is the task of being ready to meet the Lord.

In this blog I want to focus on the arrow of God’s Word finding it’s mark in your heart!  I want to use King Ahab as our example.

The Bible teaches us that King Ahab was the most wicked king that had ever lived (21:25) up and until the time of the writing of I Kings.  In I Kings 21 God sent a familiar prophet (Elijah) with the arrow of judgment (21:21-23)

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

Brothers and sisters, this was the arrow of God’s Word.  If you continue to read you will see a miracle that takes place (21:29).  Yes, it happened, Ahab repented!!!  Mark it down in your mind and heart, God’s Word found it’s mark in Ahab’s heart, mind, and soul.

Because of his repentance, God extended mercy to this king (21:29).  Take a moment and let this sink in.  I can honestly admit, the first time I every read this story, I openly questioned God. I asked, God how could you give mercy to such a man?  God’s response to me was humbling:  Keith, others ask why I have given mercy to you!!!

Brothers and sisters, this is the power of God’s Word.  God’s Word will find it’s mark in people’s hearts if we get the word to them and in them.  Two truths come to mind:

  1. God’s Word leads us to repentance, Rom. 2:4-5; I Tim. 2:2-6.
  2. God’s Word will lead others to repentance, I Tim. 1:15-16.

I believe some of you who read this today have loved ones who you have been praying.  You are discouraged today because it seems they are no closer to the Lord.  Take heart, God’s Word will eventually find its mark!  James 1:21 “The implanted Word will save a soul.”  

Why can’t you make up your mind? (I Kings 18-19)

May 19, 2020

21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. I Kings 18:21

Yesterday we looked together at Elijah’s ministry to a widow who was down to her last meal.  This widow was going to prepare the food for her and he son.  They would eat the meal and then they would sit down and wait to die.

However, God showed up through the prophet Elijah who said, trust me with what you have.  The Bible said she did and the miracle of God’s provision happened.  Today we move to the end of the three years of drought in Israel.  The suffering of the people must have been very difficult in those years.  The following must have happened:

  • The people were miserable in their day-to-day lives.
  • Joyful singing had ceased.
  • Children were no longer playing in the streets.
  • Worship of God had all but stopped.  Baal worship had come to be the norm.
  • The ruling authority (King Ahab) was placing all the blame on Elijah.

I wonder do you see any of these characteristics on our world today?  3 years had passed with no rain. The people of Israel lived their lives without any real commitment to any God.  But things were about to change.  Rain was coming from heaven.  The Bible says,  Elijah came out of hiding and tells Obadiah, I want to meet with the king.  The meeting was arranged.  As the meeting began, Ahab labeled Elijah as the one who was causing trouble in Israel (18: 17).  Elijah responded by placing the blame where it belonged.  Ahab had troubled his nation (18:18) by turning their hearts away from God.

At this point in the narrative, Elijah challenged Ahab to a duel between the Living God and the dead god called Baal.  The people of Israel gathered for the duel.  As they stood before Elijah he asked a question that needs to be asked in our day?

“How long will you halt between two opinions,” KJV. 

The people of Israel would not fully commit to either God.  Elijah was saying, be all in with Jehovah God or be all in with Baal.

I hope you read the story of what happened when the prophets of Baal attempted to awaken their dead God.  The Bible said, there was no response.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. The Bible records the prayer Elijah offered to God:

36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.

Elijah asked God to move on his behalf so that the people would make up their mind, that He (Jehovah) was the true and living God.  The Bible said, God moved.  The Bible said, The people made up their minds.

Today, I ask, what will it take to get our world and our families to make up their mind to come to Jesus?  I truly believe our answer begins with prayer and it finds its completion in the power of God.  So let’s get to work fighting the fires of the enemy with the firewall of prayer.

The Lord’s provision in our mess (I Kings 15-17; Proverbs 22)

May 18, 2020

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.  I Kings 17:13

Brothers and sisters, there is no possible way to put a positive spin on the condition of our world.  We are in a mess.  For most Americans, the TV and other types of media are being turned off because we are tired of hearing all the politicians argue about who is wrong and we are tired of media spinning the news to put forth their own personal agenda’s.

This very day, many of us wonder, what is really happening?

I suspect if I had been living in the days of the Kings of Israel I might have had the same question. In the chapters before us, it is a sad commentary on the leadership of God’s people.  Only one king, Asa (15:9-24) followed the Lord.  The others lead their nation from one mess to the next.  The most wicked of them all was King Ahab (16:3).

The Bible says, in the midst of the mess God send a prophet by the name of Elijah (I Kings 17).  We will see his story tomorrow.

I would like for us to consider for a moment Elijah’s encounter with a woman in whom we are never told her name.  She is simply identified as the Widow in Zarephath.  When Elijah meets her she is gathering the wood to start a fire so that she can take the last of her food and prepare one last meal for her son.  She knew this was her last meal.

The story is simply this, Elijah calls this woman to place her faith in God in the midst of her mess.  The question comes, Would she have faith to give away her last meal?

Oh I hope you pause here and read her store in I Kings 17.

By giving away what little she had, she ended up with more than she could have ever had on her own!!!

Read what Jesus said:  Luke 6:38

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

The mess is real and we have to own it.  But at the same time, the mess can be our platform for miracles in our day.  I want to challenge you to have faith in sharing with others what God has given to you.  The early church did and look what happened:

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:32-37