Obvious Consequences

I think these correlations are pretty visible in the life of King Jehoshaphat. See if you can spot them too. 

Jehoshaphat “followed [God’s] commands” and “the Lord established the kingdom under his control.” 

Jehoshaphat sent Levites out to teach the people God’s law and “the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the land surrounding Judah.” 

Jehoshaphat cried out to God while being pursued by enemies, “and the Lord helped him.” 

Jehoshaphat allied himself with Israel—marrying Ahab’s daughter and going to war with Israel—and he was told, “the wrath of the Lord is on you.” 

“Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord” when the enemy was poised to attack and God gave him assurance of victory. 

Jehoshaphat appointed worshipers to lead the army and “the Lord set ambushes” to defeat the enemy, causing His fear to once again fall on the surrounding nations. 

Jehoshaphat allied himself with Israel again and their joint sailing venture ended in shipwreck. 

[check out the biblical texts for all of the above examples by clicking here] 

It seems to me that the blessings of following God and doing things His way, and the consequences of ignoring His commands, are so plainly visible. There really is no excuse for my ignorance on this.

The question is: Will I do things God’s way and enjoy His blessings, or will I continue to try to do things my way and risk God’s wrath?

True Prosperity

…and so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). 

When I look up “prosper” in the dictionary, the first entry says, “to be successful or fortunate, especially in financial respects.” This isn’t even close to the Old Testament Hebrew word for prosper! 

God makes prosper a dependence on Him. Mammon makes prosper a dependence on self. 

The Hebrew word tsalach means: 

  • to overcome obstacles (like crossing a river) 
  • to be empowered by the Spirit of God to overcome an enemy (like Samson did) 
  • to flourish like a plant growing to full harvest 
  • to have favor with man so that good can be done for others (Nehemiah 1:11) 
  • to finish well (2 Chronicles 7:11) 
  • to be poured out; to be a conduit of God’s blessings to others 

Prosperity God’s way is being blessed to be a blessing to others.

Prosperity is never for me, only from God through me. 

Prosperity from God helps me overcome obstacles for others, defeat enemies for others, bring in a good harvest for others, have earthly favor that will benefit others, finish well for the sake of others. 

I’ll say it again: True prosperity ISN’T for me, it’s only from God through me! 

Hezekiah showed how God’s prosperity came through him to benefit others: 

  • he did “what was good and right and faithful before the Lord” 
  • he lived “in obedience to the law and the commands” 
  • “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly” 

In light of this definition, I have no problem praying, “God, make me prosperous. As I seek You and work wholeheartedly, flow through me to bless others!

Humility Is A Daily Choice

…As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, God gave him success. … But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall… (2 Chronicles 26:5, 16). 

Success makes me more vulnerable to pride. Success can distract from the very One who gave me success. I am in danger of losing God’s blessings in the very moment I am enjoying God’s blessings. 

Humility has to be an ongoing choice. That choice becomes harder as the successes become bigger or more frequent. But choosing pride in “my accomplishments” will undo all the previous successes. 

The only way to keep these blessings is two words: IF ONLY. If only I will continue to remain humble before God and obedient to Him. 

Uzziah, sadly, didn’t make that choice. His pride in God’s success led to his downfall. 

His son Jotham learned this lesson. Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God (27:6). 

I like the KJV of this verse that says, “Jotham grew powerful because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” 

Jotham was keenly aware that everything he did was seen by God. He was determined that everything he did would be pleasing in God’s sight. The word “before” in verse 6 means “in front” of or even “before the face.” Jotham didn’t live as though he might face God at the end of his life, but as though he was facing God at every moment of his life. 

Notice two phrases in this sentence—grew powerful and walked steadfastly. They are directly tied to each other: Jotham became powerful only because he was determined to live righteously and humbly in God’s sight. The more powerful he became, the more he increased his commitment to live humbly before God’s face. 

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, BUT unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord (v. 2). 

Jotham humbly prepared his ways before the Lord, and when God made him powerful Jotham re-committed to stay humble. Great choice! 

I’ll say it again: The only way to keep God’s blessings on my initial humble choice is to continue to choose humility at every moment of success. 

8 Quotes From “Words To Winners Of Souls”

I don’t say this very often, but Words To Winners Of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a must-read for those in pastoral ministry. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’” 

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.” 

“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.” 

“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?” 

“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.” 

“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’” 

“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.” 

“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.” 

The Attitude That Thwarts God’s Blessings

Two of Israel’s king Jehoahaz and his son Jehoash perpetually hung on to an attitude that limited what God wanted to do for Israel. That attitude can be summed up in a single word: but. 

Jehoahaz “sought the Lord’s favor” during a time Israel was under the oppression of their enemies, and “the Lord listen to him”! God raised up a deliverer who brought them freedom. Israel, under Jehoahaz’s leadership, could have used this newly won freedom to live closer to God and remain in a place of renewed worship. “But” they used their freedom as a license to sin and God reduced Jehoahaz’s army to a mere skeleton of what it had been (2 Kings 13:4-7). 

Jehoash went to visit Elisha. It doesn’t appear he went with a prayer request but merely to pay his respects to this dying prophet. God in His graciousness gave Jehoash something he didn’t even ask for: a promise of victory over Aram! Jehoash was invited to boldly ask for God’s help “but” he thought God had a limited supply and he asked for just a small portion. As a result, his victory over Aram was small—much smaller than God wanted for Israel (13:14-19). 

Once again, enemies surround Israel and we read a statement pregnant with possibility: “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His covenant” (13:22-23). Despite their sin, God still wanted to bless them! 

God wants so much more for us than we even want ourselves! But our sinfulness, stubbornness, and unbelief will limit the fullness of what God wants to do. 

Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant. If God did not spare His own Son, how can I ever continue to remain skeptical that He wants to bless me?! He is glorified when I am abundantly blessed in Him. What do I do with God’s gracious concern? Will I squander it and live hemmed in by oppressors? Or will I embrace everything God has for me in Jesus and live in a way that He delights to bless? 

My attitude will determine the blessing I receive. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Be A Reflector

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Be A Reflector 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) 

     It is by the heart that we know God and Christ, and as our affections are purified, we become sensible of God’s presence in Christ. … Our beholding Him has purified the eyes that have gazed upon His purity. His brightness has helped our eyesight so that we see much already and will yet see more. …  

     Why did not everybody see the glory of God in Jesus Christ when He was here? It was conspicuous enough. Answer: It matters not how brightly the sun shines among blind men. … What, then, has happened to us? To eternal grace be endless praise! God Himself has shined into our hearts. That same God who said, ‘Light be,’ and light was, has shined into our hearts! … If you can delight in God in Christ Jesus, then remember, no man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Spirit, and you have said it [Matthew 16:13-17]! …  

     You must not hoard up the light within yourself—it will not be light to you if you do. Only think of a person when his room is full of sunlight saying to his servant, ‘Quick, now! Close the shutters and let us keep this precious light to ourselves.’ Your room will be in the dark, my friend! … 

     A man of God, when he receives the light of Christ, can become so perfect a reflector that to common eyes, at any rate, he is brightness itself! … Scatter your light in all unselfishness. Wish to shine, not that others may say, ‘How great he is,’ but that they, getting the light, may rejoice in the Source from which it came to you and to them.

From The Glory Of God In The Face Of Jesus Christ

As the old hymn reminds us, “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” It is by God’s grace alone that we have been given light to see Jesus and to place our faith in Him! 

That light continues to grow within us the longer we gaze at the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Immerse yourself in the Gospels. Don’t read your Bible just to know the Word of God, but read to get to know the God of the Word better. Let the Holy Spirit purify your vision. 

Then you will become a reflector of God’s glory. The love and light of God are too wonderful to hoard to yourself! Ask God to bless you with a greater capacity to reflect the light of His Son to a dark, groping world.

 

The EGO That God Blesses

Have you ever noticed that it seems a lot easier to say, “God bless you” than it does to say, “God bless me”? Why is that? 

Do I feel unworthy of His blessing? If I am a Christian, I need to remind myself that I am in Christ, and He is in me, and He has brought me into the Father. This means that I am as blessed as the Father blesses the Son (John 14:20; Ephesians 1:3-6). God is blessed by our being blessed! 

Or perhaps I feel that “God bless me” is an arrogant prayer, while saying “God bless you” is a humble prayer. There is an EGO that God always blesses, and He delights to show us what that is!   

In Hebrew literature, the key point is found in the middle of a poem or story. In Psalm 67, that would make the middle verse: May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah. (v. 4)

The nations rejoice because God judges fairly and God guides the nations. Selah—pause and take that in. The natural attitude is actually a God-negative attitude—“I prefer to be in charge … I don’t like anyone telling me what to do!” But the unnatural attitude is a God-positive attitude—“I trust God more than I trust me, so I’m glad He is in charge … I trust God to judge justly more than I trust world institutions, so I’m glad He is the final Judge!” 

This is very good news: Only God can rule and judge correctly! Men have biases and agendas; men are selfish and self-seeking; men seek their own glory and their own advancement. So the psalmist wants us to Selah/pause to remember that only God can lead and judge in a way that brings Him glory and brings us blessing. God is blessed by our being blessed! 

Working outward from verse 4, we see verses 3 and 5 are identical, teaching us that our God-honoring desire should be for all peoples in all nations to experience the blessing of an intimate relationship with God. 

A similar theme is sounded in the “bookend” verses of 1-2 and 6-7: We are asking God to bless us so that “all the ends of the earth will fear Him.” Once again we Selah/pause to consider this: Do I have the right EGO to request this blessing? Remember: There is an EGO that God always blesses.  

In his book Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard identifies two types of E.G.O.s in our relationship with God:

  • Negative E.G.O.—Edging God Out 
  • Positive E.G.O.—Exalting God Only

The negative EGO says things like, “Bless me” and “Shine on me.” The positive EGO says, “Bless me so that I can be a blessing to others” and “Shine Your light on me so that others will see You.” 

Jesus told us to not let the light of our life be hidden. We are blessed by God so that we can be a blessing to all of the peoples in all of the nations. We desire that all may know the joy of serving a Righteous King. We want everyone to know the praise that comes from Exalting God Only. 

Oh God, be merciful to me. Cause Your face to shine on me. Bless me indeed so that I may teach others to fear You, so that they may come to know You as their All-Righteous, Good, and Loving King! 

If you have missed any of the messages in this series exploring the Selahs in the Psalms, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

How Big?

…your servant has nothing there at all…except a small jar of olive oil (2 Kings 4:2). 

This widow made the right move in going to Elisha for help. The situation seemed impossible, so she had nowhere else to go but to God.

Instead of giving her immediate relief, God asks this widow to extend her faith. The steps she takes next will determine how big of a blessing she will receive. God frequently does this:

  • how many ditches am I willing to dig (3:16)? 
  • how many doors am I willing to knock on to ask for empty jars (4:3)?
  • how many times am I willing to strike the ground with my arrows (13:18-19)?

The ditches were filled with water until they could hold no more.

The jars were filled with oil until they could hold no more.

Joash only struck the ground three times, so he only received three victories.

Jesus told us…

…ask, and keep on asking 

…seek, and keep on looking 

…knock, and keep on knocking 

God IS going to answer. The question is: HOW BIG do I want Him to answer? 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) 

Poetry Saturday—Out Of Touch With Your Lord

Only a smile, yes, only a smile,
That a woman o’er burdened with grief
Expected from you; ‘twould have given relief
For her heart ache sore the while;
But weary and cheerless she went away,
Because as it happened, that very day
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a word, yes, only a word,
That the Spirit’s small voice whispered, “Speak”;
But the worker passed onward, unblessed and weak,
Whom you were meant to have stirred
To courage, devotion and love anew,
Because when the message came to you,
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a note, yes, only a note,
From a friend in a distant land;
The Spirit said, “Write,” but then you had planned
Some different work, and you thought
It mattered little, you did not know
‘Twould have saved a soul from sin and woe;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a song, yes, only a song,
That the Spirit said, “Sing tonight—
Thy voice is thy Master’s by purchased right“;
But you thought, “Mid this motley throng
I care not to sing of the City of Gold,”
And the heart that your words might have reached grew cold;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a day, yes, only a day!
But, oh, can you guess, my friend,
Where the influence reaches, and where it will end
Of the hours that you frittered away?
The Master’s command is, “Abide in Me,”
And fruitless and vain will your service be,
If “out of touch“ with your Lord. —Jean H. Watson

Poetry Saturday—New Every Morning

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Every morn is a world made new.
You who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you—
A hope for me and a hope for you.

All of the past things are past and over;
The tasks are done and the tears are shed.
Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover,
Yesterday’s wounds which smarted and bled,
Are healed with the healing which night has shed.

Yesterday is now a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight,
With glad days, and sad days, and bad days, which never
Shall visit us more with their bloom and their blight,
Their fullness of sunshine or sorrowful night.

Let them go, since we cannot re-live them,
Cannot undo and cannot atone;
God in His mercy receive, forgive them!
Only the new days are our own;
Today is ours, and today alone.

Here are the skies all burnished brightly,
Here is the spent earth all re-born,
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
To face the sun and to share with the morn
In the chrism of dew and the cool of dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain,
Take heart with the day, and begin again. —Susan Coolidge

%d bloggers like this: