Monthly Archives: June, 2014

1 Kings 20-21: Resentful and angry

I find chapter 20 of 1 Kings kind of confusing, at least on the surface. Ahab, the new standard of evil in God’s sight, is attacked by the king of Aram, an attack that he has no hope of repelling on his own. So God sends a prophet to Ahab and tells him to go a head and engage in battle because God will give him victory.

Why help Ahab? First off, let’s be clear that God is not helping Ahab because Ahab asked for help. The prophet makes it clear that God is giving Ahab a chance to repent of his ways and acknowledge God as the sovereign I AM. 1 Kings 20:13 “I am handing it [Aram’s horde] over to you today so that you wil know that I am the Lord.” Ahab has a chance here to change his path and the path of Israel moving forward. The king of Aram adds fuel to the fire by declaring that God is only God in the mountains, that if they fight in the valley God will have no power. Not only does God have a chance to display his power to Ahab, he has the opportunity to declare his power to the king of Aram.

We have to understand that the mindset of people in that time was pretty different than ours. Each nation had different gods because no one god was seen as having power in all areas of life. To cover their bases, the nations adopted many gods who had power over many different areas of life. But there were gods who were seen as regionally based, so their power was limited to a geographic area. The king of Aram is applying this thinking to Israel’s God, not understanding that God was not limited to the regulations they had placed on their own deities and idols. The interesting thing to consider is that Ahab’s religious understanding was the same as the king of Aram’s. Remember Ahab was an idol worshipper, and an adopter of many gods. In his mind, the king of Aram was probably correct in his thinking.

God takes this opportunity to declare the foolishness of this way of thinking and give evidence that he alone is the Sovereign God.

All he asks of Ahab is obedience in destroying Aram and their king. Unfortunately, Ahab ignores this command and ends up letting the king of Aram go after making a treaty with him.

Of course God is not pleased with this behaviour and punishes Ahab accordingly (using another prophet telling another parable by the way, a pattern that shows up more than I realized).

But look carefully at Ahab’s response to this whole situation. God shows up to give him a victory he does not deserve or earn, a victory God is using to try and show Ahab who he should be worshipping. Then when the king of Aram taunts God futher, God gives Ahab a second victory, with clear instructions to kill the king of Aram for his impudence. Ahab refuses to obey and God proclaims punishment for Ahab’s disobedience. Ahab’s response to all of this? He goes back to Samaria resentful and angry: short form, he goes and pouts.

Here is a chance for him to recognize once and for all that God is sovereign and worth obeying, and instead, Ahab walks his own way and pouts when he gets called on it. His lack of obedience displays his disbelief that God is in fact the great I AM, and his response to God’s discipline shows just how insensitive he is to God’s direction.

There are a ton of applicable things for us to consider in connection to our own lives from this chapter. Take time asking the Holy Spirit which ones apply to you and what he would like to you to do in response to his leading.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

1 Kings 17-19: Provision

There is a phrase that I heard a speaker use one time…can’t remember the speaker, can’t remember the setting, can’t even remember the context of the statement, but I very much do remember the statement. It is this: “God plan, done God’s way, with God’s provision.” I have carried that in my head for quite some time now. I may have even mentioned it before in this blog, I’m not sure.

But as I was reading today’s reading through again, that phrase came to mind once again. God has pronounced a famine through Elijah, and then he instructs Elijah to go to Cherith, a Wadi (a place in the wilderness, usually a valley, that has water in it at least part of the year) a to wait out the drought. During Elijah’s time there, God sends ravens to bring him food.

Eventually the wadi drys up, and God sends Elijah to Zarephath live with a woman and her son. But the woman has no provisions left to provide Elijah with hospitality; in fact, when she enters the scene she is readying the very last of their provisions for a final meal before the die of starvation. But God, working through Elijah, provides unlimited flour and oil to feed all three of them through the famine.

Next the unnamed widow’s son dies and she grows angry with Elijah, wondering about the point of it all. Elijah, praying over the boys body for a miracles, wonders aloud the same thing. “God, why did you kill this boy?” God hear’s Elijah’s prayer and returns life to the boy.

We all find ourselves in the place in life when we wonder what the point is, why tragedy happens, why goodness gets swallowed by evil and why God allows things to transpire in the way he does. But if we would just have faith in God’s plans and abilities, those questions become academic. God’s plan, done God’s way, with God’s provision.

We can be so worked up when God calls us to something that seems impossible (like living at a wadi and being fed by ravens during a famine) or when something God calls us to seems to be going awry (like a widow’s son dying). Yet if we actually have faith that God can and does understand what he is doing, then those things become more easily dealt with.

There is a lesson of faith in this reading today. Spend some time unpacking it.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 20-21

1 Kings 15:25-16:34; 2 Chronicles 17: Influence

This is where the time-like gets interesting. As I mentioned yesterday, things begin to move really quickly from this point forward.  We enter into a very key period of history for the divided Kingdoms here, because Ahab comes on the scene as King of Israel after Omri.  Remember, there is no good King in Israel from now until 722 B.C. when the whole nation is defeated by the Assyrians and taken into exile. But some really key Biblical figures begin to emerge during this time, and it all begins with Ahab’s reign.

The Bible makes it pretty clear that Ahab set a new standard when it came to disobedience to God. 1 Kings 16 says: “Ahab did what was evil in the Lord’s sight more than all who were before him.” Ahab becomes the new evil standard from this point forward, at least for a while. Ahab had a heart completely devoid of any loyalty to God, or even any loyalty to Israel. The nation suffered greatly under his rule, and yet he does not change his ways or turn back to God through it all.

God raises up a new class of leader to speak to the divided Kingdoms, because the Kings were not following after God. We know these people as prophets. From now until we travel out of the Old Testament, we will encounter a vast number of Bible personalities who are the voices of God, crying out to Israel and Judah. Sometimes their voice is harsh, judgmental and pronouncing punishment, other times their voices are softer in tone, pleading the people to turn back to God and abandon the idols and other gods that they were worshiping.

Elijah, who we will be introduced to tomorrow, begins this trend, and he takes on the worst of the Kings in Ahab.

Ahab is not alone in his depravity, he has a partner in Jezebel, who is the daughter of a foreign King. Notice that the downfall of Israel’s kings are linked to their connections to foreign nations. Marriage to foreign wives, treaties with foreign armies, economic dealings, ect. But none of that stuff comes with out a spiritual price, a price that eventually entices Israel away from God and into the worship of foreign gods.

We can take a lesson from this. We too must be careful about the influences that we allow into our lives, influences that may seem minor or even non-existent at the time. But we need to be careful about who we marry, who we do business with and what we use our money to buy. Sometimes we are inviting influence into our lives without even knowing it or meaning to. The New Testament tells us very clearly to be careful who we do business with and have relationships with because of the potential to be lead astray. These Old Testament accounts paint vivid pictures for us of the truth of those statements.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 17-19

1 Kings 15:1-24; 2 Chronicles 13-16: Potential for change

Ok, so we’re going to start moving pretty quickly through history at this point. The Kingdom of Israel is no longer a unified Kingdom, it has shattered into two pieces because of the foolishness of Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  1 Kings 12 makes it very clear that Solomon’s abilities in leadership and wisdom were either not passed onto his son, or not harnessed by his son.

Actually, let’s stop there for a quick second. Rehoboam had every chance to be successful as King. He had the pedigree, he had the education and he certainly had the example of his father. But he chooses to make foolish decisions anyway. We can sometimes have the best opportunity to make good use of our lives and resources, but then choose not to harness that opportunity.  It is quite sad really.

So the Kingdom is divided, Rehoboam leads Judah, Jeroboam leads Israel. Thus begins a very long list of kings from the two Kingdoms. One thing to keep track of: Judah has a mixture of Kings who follow after God and Kings who follow after idols. Israel has only bad, idolatrous Kings who do not follow after God one little bit.

The reading from 1 Kings 15 gives us the account of one of those high-points in Judah’s history. King Asa is responsible for making huge religious and social reforms after the poor reign of his predecessor Abijam.

One of the encouraging things I find in reading these up and down accounts through Kings and Chronicles is that it shows us the ability God has to use just one person who is willing to be obedient to make a difference. Even though men like Asa were kings, it was their obedience to God that made them powerful influences for positive change. We can follow their example, but we have to be willing to stand up for what we know God commands us is right. Asa removed his own grandmother from being queen mother because she had an image of a false god. His own grandmother!

You and I can be agents for positive social and religious change today, but it requires boldness and courage to do so. Elements that we see in the Kings of Judah.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 15:25-16:34; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9: All men die

I like that the people who put this reading schedule together had us read Ecclesiastes before these chapters in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. I think it helps us understand that somewhere between the Queen of Sheba’s visit and the end of his life, Solomon comes to his senses. If you were to read 1 Kings 10-11 on their own, without the benefit of what Ecclesiastes has to say, you may very well assume that this is just another instance of an Old Testament personality messing things up after a very good beginning.

While it is true that Solomon’s life takes a massive nose-dive, Ecclesiastes give us a hint that in the end he recognizes the folly of his decisions and sees that all of his many pursuits were ultimately empty. It is especially important for us to recognize the importance of what Solomon’s story teaches us. No matter what we accumulate in life, it is not really ours in the long run. We will pass away, none of it will be coming with us, and there are so many better things for us to spend our time on.

For all of the wisdom that Solomon showed the Queen of Sheba, he failed to exercise a healthy portion of it in his own life. Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Proverbs 30-31

Ecclesiastes 7-12: Pursuit

You know when Solomon writes, on multiple occasions, “it is chasing after the wind”, I think it shows that Solomon understood the nature of frustration. That phrase is illustrative and talks about the futility of some of our earthly pursuits. You work at it, and work at it, and work at it, but not matter how hard or long you keep at it, you will never succeed. You can’t catch the wind.

So much of what we do in life is exactly like that though. Take, for instance, the statement from the Declaration of Independence that proclaims that all men have the right to the pursuit of happiness. I have no problem with the idea or the attaining of happiness (and neither does God, just to be clear). The problem is with the pursuit part. When does the pursuing end and the happiness begin?

Solomon writes: “Better what the eyes see than wandering desire.” Granted, he writes that in chapter 6, but it is the perfect lead in for the rest of the book, which talks about finding contentment in life. Better to have what you see, what is around you, already yours, than to have a desire that is constantly looking for the next thing. So much of what we have we are not happy with. That is why the divorce rate is around 50% and technology is outdated before you get it out of the box at home. We demand better than what we have. Unfortunately, it means that we have no understanding of just how good we have it now.

Waylon Prendergast, 37, of Tampa, Florida, committed a spur-of-the-moment robbery while on his way home from a late-night drinking session. A very inebriated Mr. Prendergast forced his way into the house through an open upstairs window, filling a suitcase with cash and valuables before setting the living room on fire to cover his tracks. He then escaped through the back door and made his way home, chuckling all the way. Only as he turned the corner into his own street, however, and discovered three fire engines outside his house, did he realize that in his drunkenness he had, in fact, burgled and ignited his own property. His comment: “I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions.”

We really should listen to what Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastes.  This is the wisest of the wise; the man who had more wealth at his disposal than any other nation; the man who had 1000 women at his beck and call (that to me proves his foolishness if you ask me), the man who pursued everything that there was to pursue.  This is what he concludes: “fear God, and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgement, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.”

So forget the pursuit part of what the Declaration of Independence has to say. Just be happy. Fear God, love your family, be content with what you have been blessed with and stop striving for more. Solomon, more than anyone else in history, shows us just how useless “more” is.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

Welcome to Palmerston EMC!

Palmerston EMC is made up of people from various walks of life.  A somewhat traditional church, we reflect a small town personality with strong family ties.  Agriculture and agricultural related business employ a large portion of our congregation, while some of our people are self-employed or work in industry, service or government.  We are a practical, service oriented congregation with a heart to see God’s work in Palmerston move ahead. We have a strong desire to worship and serve God, to reach out to our community, to grow spiritually and to see new people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

You are welcome to join us!

Ecclesiastes 1-6: Fountain of wisdom

Ecclesiastes has been heralded by many, Christian and not Christian, as one of the greatest literary works of all time. Many a man and woman have found inspiration, life advice and consolation in its verses.

But Ecclesiastes is also a very difficult book. It has many different layers of meaning and some very deep conversation takes place in its pages. Conversation about life and work, about love and relationships, about God and his purpose for humanity.

Many believe that the book was written by Solomon, near the end of his life; after his wives, many possessions and multitude of successes had lead him away from following after God with his whole heart. With the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, Solomon spends some of his last days reflecting on all that he has chased after with such fervency. In that reflection, we find a man deeply repentant for wasting his time chasing after things that, like all things, will either pass away with him, or outlive him to be enjoyed by another. Solomon’s list of accomplishments is impressive even by today’s standards, and yet in this book we find him deeply convinced that all of those accomplishments are empty.

Some might read Ecclesiastes and protest that it is depressing, like the book of Job. But I would argue that Ecclesiastes is sobering. It reminds us that the things of this life are only ours for a season. Money, possessions, accomplishments, they may all seem like a good thing to chase after, but in the end they pass away as surely as we will.

In that light, Solomon’s conclusions are completely accurate: enjoy life. Enjoy what you have while you have it. What is the point of killing yourself toiling for what someone else will get to enjoy? It actually ties in quite nicely to what Jesus teaches about storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasure on earth; and it ties into what Paul teaches us about being conscious that our citizenship is in heaven. We are strangers here, aliens in a foreign land.

In a society that tells us repeatedly that more is better, to have that bigger car, nicer house and higher salary, the message of Ecclesiastes is very pertinent and one that we should read carefully.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 7-12

Proverbs 27-29: Tomorrow

The Christian Reformed Church here in Palmerston has a saying on their sign this week that reads:
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

As you begin reading the Proverbs today, you will find this verse straight away: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

This particular bit of wisdom is double edged. The truth of it is constant: tomorrow is a day away and we really have no idea what will or can come. We have two choices in light of that truth: either we fret about it and join the lines of people receiving ulcer treatments; or we simple focus our minds and our activities on today.

Stephen Curtis Chapman has a song, it’s rather old now, that is called “The next 5 minutes”.  In it, he talks about how we may only have the next five minutes to live, and we should, therefore, live for the next five minutes. It is a refreshing mindset in a culture and time that is so focused on tomorrow. Commercials and banking experts talk about retirement all the time and planning for the future and saving for our children’s education (which none of us will be able to afford at the current growth rates).

I’m all for planning, it’s in my blood actually. But it is one thing to plan, it is another thing to fret over those plans. That’s really the truth scripture teaches us. We are to have faith, not in our plans, but in God. Our trust is to rest firmly in him and his sovereignty over tomorrow.

So don’t worry about tomorrow my friends. Live for the next five minutes and let God worry about the tomorrows that are ahead of you.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 1-6

Proverbs 25-26: Affect

Good morning my friends.

So this weeks’ set of readings contain the last of Solomon’s writings; the rest of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. As we start the tail end of Proverbs, you will probably notice a little bit of repetition going on. This is because these sets of Proverbs were compiled for people and contained proverbs previously recorded earlier in the book. You will also notice the continuation of many of the same themes.

As I was reading these two chapters, the thought that struck me was how much they describe the affect we can and do have on other people. Our lives, our habits, our words and our actions all have the potential to affect those around us to varying degrees of severity, for either the good or the bad. Of course, the tone of the Proverbs is one of warning, so the messages are couched in that language; “be careful not to… or else…” An example is 25:17 which says: “seldom set foot in your neighbours house, too much of you and they will hate you.” Does this mean Solomon is against visiting your neighbour? Of course not. He is just warning us to make sure that our presence in our neighbours lives does not become a burden to them. Perhaps you have had one of those bothersome neighbours who don’t seem to know where their property ends and yours begins.

Our actions have an affect on those around us, as do our words. There are multiple examples in these two chapters alone that tell us the value of a patient, gentle tongue and the dangers of a slanderous, judgemental tongue. I particularly like Provers 26:8-9 in this regard.
                 Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”

How many times have you (and I) hurt someone’s feelings and then said, often with confusion in our voice, “I was only kidding!”

Our words and actions have affects on other people. My friends, let us make sure that our words and actions are fitting, godly, loving and well thought out.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Proverbs 27-29