In II Kings 19:19, King Hezekiah finished his prayer with these words, “Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only.” Hezekiah was in a difficult situation. The Assyrians were breathing down their necks and threatening to destroy them. His only hope was to beg God for deliverence, which he did. However, there is another aspect to his prayer that we must consider. Hezekiah asked God to save them and then he said, “…that all the kingdoms of the eath may know that thou art the LORD God…” I believe this is the reason why God answered Hezekiah’s prayer. This is the reason why God sent his angel and slew 185, 000 Assyrians in one night. It was because Hezekiah has the right motive for his prayers. Sure he needed deliverence, but that we secondary to God receiving glory and people seeing the power of God. Too often we pray selfish prayers and as a result we do not have our prayers answered. When we pray with the desire to make God’s power known to those around us, our prayers are pleasing to our God. We praise the Lord for all the many, many answers to prayer that we have seen recently. My wife and I have tried during our prayers and after the prayers were answered to give God all the glory. The Lord is looking for those who will be vessels through which He can display His mighty power.
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We have been gone from our home in Ohio for 13 days. Before we left on this 21 day trip, I decided it would be a good idea to get our car tuned up. Every time I take our vehicle to the mechanic, I always hope that he won’t find any big problems because that usually means a big bill. I dropped the car off and later that afternoon he gave me a call. He said he had checked it over and discovered that the water pump was going bad. He said it probably would be okay if we weren’t going on any long trips soon. I knew we were in trouble because we were going from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Connecticut to North Carolina to Tennessee back to North Carolina to Virginia and then home. My initial reaction was to be upset because I knew it would be several hundred dollars to fix the pump. I dreaded calling my wife and breaking the news to her. However, as I thought more about the situation, I realized something. My perspective was wrong. I was focusing on the wrong thing. God had preserved us from what could have been a very bad problem. We could have been hundreds of miles from home when the water pump went out. We would have had to pay for a tow truck. We most likely would have missed our meeting. We may have had to pay more to get it fixed. You see God was in control. Instead of complaining, I began to thank God. He continues to teach me that perspective is everything in life.
Sometimes God asks us to do some pretty difficult things in life. In 2 Samuel 4:10, David said of the servant that brought the news to him of Saul’s death, “…who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings.” What the servant thought is exactly what the human mind naturally thinks. Our flesh wants to rejoice when our enemies are damaged or even destroyed. However, David on two occasions died to self and reacted in a way that was pleasing to the Lord. Instead of rejoicing in the death of Saul and later his son Ishbosheth, he mourned. Instead of elevating these “heroes” who murdered David’s enemies, he had them executed. David had every right to celebrate and say, “They got what they deserved.” How was he able to deny himself and die to self? II Samuel 5:12 says, “And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake.” You see, David understood that the Lord was in control. This was not about him or his glory. This was about God and his great love for the Israelite people. God help us to die to self and allow God to work his plan. Can you do what David did? One of the great tests of your spiritual life is how you react to the failure of your enemies.
Today marks exactly one year until we start Lifeway Baptist Church in Cranberry Township, PA. I met with Pastor Kurt Skelly of our reproducing church, Harvest Baptist Church, and Jeremy Rowland of Baptist Church Planting Ministry today for lunch. We discussed the details of the new church and brainstormed about how to best attack the area. After lunch, I took Brother Rowland up to Cranberry to show him the area and look for a potential building to use for our church services. We have known all along that this would be one of the greatest obstacles that we would have to overcome. The second building we looked at shows great possibility. The man who owns it is a Christian and has been praying about how he can use some of his building for the Lord’s work! The facilities are new, well, lit, highly visible, have their own sound system and host a nice nursery, bathrooms, and a separate room for a Sunday school classroom. I am trying not to get overexcited, but I thinks its alright to get excited when you see God putting specific details together. God is good and continues to answer prayers. Praise Him.
Deuteronomy 22:1 says, “Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother.” Why is is that we don’t see God doing more through our lives? Is it because we are hiding when we should be seeking? Too often we hide our eyes, ears, and even ourselves from God-given opportunities to minister and be a blessing to those around us. Sadly, I admit that there have been times when I have purposely avoided individuals because I felt like they would be wasting my time. As a Christian, my time is not my own. It belongs to God and He puts divine appointments in my path each day. It is my responsibility to stop and listen. Love is spelled t-i-m-e. When you give someone your time you give them one of the most precious things you have. I am all for having a “to do” list and organizing your day, but it is a shame when we ignore those in need just because they are not on the list or in our daily schedule. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. To be like Christ is to seek the welfare of others. The context of the passage in Deuteronomy speaks of helping a brother find a lost ox or a lost sheep. Too be honest, that does not sound like much fun. It sounds tiring and even boring. But what we must remember is that to the owner of those animals they are very important. True compassion is allowing the problems of others to become personal to you. May I remind you that hiding is a childish action? Adolesants run and hide from people and circumstances that they don’t like. So let’s get over our selfishness and look for opportunities to aid and assist those around us. By the way, the first step to helping others is to stop hiding from them. A wise person once said, “A need seen is an assignment given.” What need does God want you to meet today?
There is a phrase that is repeated in the twenty-fourth chapter of Numbers. Verse three and verse fifteen record the same statement, “…the man whose eyes are open hath said…” No doubt you have heard the phrase, “Don’t walk with your eyes closed.” Those are good words of wisdom that will keep a person from needless injuries. There is another statement that is equally important, but far less known. It is the statement, “Don’t talk with your eyes closed.” Let me use the example of the prophet Balaam to illustrate this truth. He was a prophet of God, but he didn’t always act the way a prophet should act. Numbers chapter twenty-two gives the well-known account of Balaam attempting to reach King Balak after God had forbidden him to do so. He was clearly outside of the will of God and because of it he could not see the angel of the Lord restricting his way. He had what we would call spiritual blindness and as a result he became dumber than his own donkey. In verse thirty-one of Numbers 22, the Bible says, “Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he say the angel of the Lord standing in the way…” The problem that Balaam had is the same problem that many Christians have today. The problem is not a physical blindness, it is a spiritual blindness. Only God can removes that scales that obstruct our spiritual vision. We, like Balaam, get ourselves into trouble when we speak before we have our eyes opened. Sometimes we think we have the answers and we know the right words to say, but we have not taken time to ask God what He thinks. It would be absurd for a blind person to give you advice on how to drive your car. It is just as absurd for us to give advice to others on how to live their lives, if we have not had God open our eyes to His answer. Here is a little tip to help your remember this principle. Sight comes before speech in the dictionary; it should be the same way in our lives as well.
Numbers 2:2 says, “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch.” Our God is a God of detail. His instructions extended to the order of the Israelite camp. They were to follow very specific procedures when they would set up camp. Certain tribes were to be on the north, certain tribes were to be on the south, certain tribes were to be on the east, and certain tribes were to be on the west. There is no randomness with God. Every person knew exactly where they were to unroll their sleeping bag. Why would God demand such order? What was the purpose of these instructions? The answer is simple yet very important. God wanted them to be situated about the tabernacle. You see, it was to be the focal point of not just their camp, of their lives. The tabernacle was more than alters, curtains, and gold; it was symbolic of the presence of Almighty God. He was not to be one of the things in their lives, he was to be the one and only. In all things He was to have the preeminence. To put it frankly, God wanted His people to be all about the tabernacle and all about Him. God has not changed. The question is, what are you all about? Is it your career? Is it your team? Is it your family? Is it your hobby? None of these things are intrinsically evil, but when they are out of place it is wrong. Every moment of every day is not about me, it is about my wonderful Saviour. May we be all about Him today!
In Leviticus 19:23-25, God gave specific instructions to the Israelites about these fruit trees. If we look close there are three lessons that we can learn. 1. The lesson about providence. Verse 23 says, “…ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised; three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.” I am sure that on that day there were some confused Israelites. Are we really supposed to let the fruit rot on the ground? Isn’t that wasteful? Was this really necessary? Sometimes God’s will doesn’t make sense to us. However, we are not called to understand, we are called to obey. God is not interested in our logic, He is interested in our faith. 2. The lesson about patience. Verse 24 says, “But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal.” They had already waited for three years. Now God was asking them to go another year without eating the fruit of the trees. I am sure that was difficult to handle. After all, they had planted these trees, they had watered these trees, and they had cultivated these trees. By every human standard, they deserved to enjoy the profit of their efforts. Yet God said to wait. Four years is a long time and no one likes to wait. We live in the age of instant gratification. We want fast cars, fast computers, and fast cash. However, the saying that, “Good things come to those that wait,” is still true. 3. The lesson about provision. Verse 25 says “And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lord your God.” That phrase, “I am the Lord your God, ” appears numerous times in this one chapter. This statement settles everything in my life. We need to let God be God. He is the Lord and He is in control. The Israelites that had the patience to wait four years to partake of the fruit, found that God was true to His Word. They had much more than those that were impatient and disobeyed God’s command. God rewards those who obey Him and His blessings always exceed our expectations. Let’s learn the lessons from the fruit trees.
Genesis 14:19, “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.” This phrase is repeated again in verse 22 of the same chapter. Someone once said that life is about influence–who you know and who knows you. We would all love to have a someone that we call any time and know that he would supply our every need. May I remind you today, that if you are a Christian you do have such a friend! In this book of beginnings, God reveals himself to us through his names. On that particular day, he gave to Abram a precious name, “The Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” I am so grateful that no matter how great my need, God is greater. He owns everything. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Recently my wife and I were praying for the money to purchase a display board for deputation. Shortly afterward, we received a $250 pledge to take care of this cost. Last week I was compiling a list of needs for Lifeway Baptist Church, the church we will be starting in Cranberry Township. One of the needs I wrote down was sound equipment. I called a church planter to see how much to budget for this and he graciously donated a system to us. Praise the Lord for people that are willing to be used. Above all, I am thankful that I can rest on my God, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth.