2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39) While we are free to worship as we please, hopefully we have learned that it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in  God and in my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with the hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, school shootings and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path.  As long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19

Isaiah 7-11 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through our trust in Him, He will cause us to stand firm

A few years ago I was attempting to change a less-than-pleasant diaper on my one-year old grandson.  Doing what little ones do at this age, he was kicking up a storm and trying to turn over, and I realized that Jett was not as focused on the task at hand as I was.  I caught his eye and said, “Work with me here, baby boy, work with me,” and he stopped long enough to give me one of those smiles that lights up my world and then went back to kicking.  I knew my only recourse was to provide a distraction and handed him one of his favorite toys.  With that, the kicking and turning stopped, the diaper was changed and I was victorious.  Let’s hear it for Nonna!

In Isaiah’s day, Judah was facing the threat of attack by Assyria, and its king was struggling with it, turning this way and that, seeking help from everyone but God.  Isaiah was sent by God to make the change in Judah’s focus, but it sure wasn’t easy. 

@ Isaiah 7
As Judah’s King Ahab struggled in his decision with whom to join forces against the invading army – Israel and Syria or Assyria itself – Isaiah came with a message from God encouraging Judah to ally with God, to trust in Him. “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” (9)  In essence, God was saying something similar to, “Work with me here, Judah, work with me.”  God could not help Judah stand firm against the enemy unless Judah would place its faith and trust in Him. 

@ Isaiah 8
Isaiah shared God’s message with Judah, calling them to change their focus, “The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.  Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear.  He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe.’” (11-14)  Don’t get caught up in the struggle of it all, focused on who did what and when, but change your focus to the One who will help you and keep you safe. “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!  People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (20)

Whether we are focused on the struggles of our nation or the struggles in our own personal lives, God’s word to Judah is powerful to us as well.  Through His Word I believe God is saying to each one of us “Work with me, dear one, work with meI can’t help you stand strong in your struggle unless you put your trust and faith firmly in me.”  We have to give Him something to work with and not struggle against Him or turn from Him.

God warned not to think like everyone else does, focused on the struggle and the advice of those who do not know Him, but rather be distracted by His instructions and teachings in His Word.  Keep focused on God’s Word and His counsel, and, in fact, remind others of it, “Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me.” (16)  This is how we perpetuate faith and trust in God to those who are watching our lives, our children and those near to us, through our focus on God’s Word in the time of struggle.  At the end of the day, we will be victorious!

Moving Forward: I’m focusing on God and His word, giving Him something to work with, so that I will stand firm through any challenge I may face today.

Tomorrow @ Matthew 3-4

Nahum 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He delivers the good news through His messengers 

@ Nahum 1
I last fall had the opportunity to trek up a mountain path to the top of a hill overlooking a multicolored tree-studded valley in the Austrian Alps and the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  And yes, it’s good for all to remember that only God is credentialed to be jealous (verse 2).  During that time away, I was privileged to fellowship with missionaries and pastors who minister in the International Churches of Europe.  No one deserved this amazing retreat setting more than they did.  These messengers, with their beautiful feet, know something about delivering a message of good news, just as the messengers prophesied about in Nahum.

The prophet Nahum delivered a message of judgment to the powerful Assyrians in his prophecy.  Assyria’s torment of Israel was coming to an end and their terrible fate would soon be heralded throughout Israel.  “Look!  A messenger is coming over the mountains with good news!  He is bringing a message of peace.  Celebrate your festivals, O people of Judah, and fulfill all your vows, for your wicked enemies will never invade your land again.” (15)  God was jealous for His people, just as a husband is jealous over his wife and wants no rivals, and the Assyrians would meet their end because they sought to steal God’s people from Him.  The destruction was so complete that the ruins of Assyria’s great cities were not discovered until the 1800’s.  God doesn’t mess around.

As I stood at the top of the hill and looked out across the mountains, I imagined messengers reaching the mountain crest from the other side, shouting their message of good news and peace as they came into view.  God is jealous for His creation and has sent his messengers to the nations, over the mountains, through the valleys and across the oceans to declare the good news, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation.” (Isaiah 52:7)  They come with a message of deliverance from the enemy’s snare, the enemy who will one day be utterly destroyed.  They come with a message of peace and hope.

The path I walked that day was filled with tree roots and rocks, making climbing difficult at times, and I thought of the challenges along the path that our missionaries face as they bring the good news to the nations. I am reminded to pray for a clear path for their beautiful feet, safety along the way and for their resounding message to touch more lives than they have ever imagined. 

Moving Forward:  So thankful today for His messengers who take His message of peace and hope around the world and thankful for those who brought it to me. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 7-8

2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39)  While we want freedom for everyone to worship as they please, it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in my God and my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

 Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, explosive shoes and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path and as long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19

Isaiah 7-11 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through our trust in Him, He will cause us to stand firm

A few years ago I was attempting to change a less-than-pleasant diaper on my one-year old grandson.  Doing what little ones do at this age, he was kicking up a storm and trying to turn over, and I realized that Jett was not as focused on the task at hand as I was.  I caught his eye and said, “Work with me here, baby boy, work with me,” and he stopped long enough to give me one of those smiles that lights up my world and then went back to kicking.  I knew my only recourse was to provide a distraction and handed him one of his favorite toys.  With that, the kicking and turning stopped, the diaper was changed and I was victorious.  Let’s hear it for Nonna!

In Isaiah’s day, Judah was facing the threat of attack by Assyria, and its king was struggling with it, turning this way and that, seeking help from everyone but God.  Isaiah was sent by God to make the change in Judah’s focus, but it sure wasn’t easy. 

@ Isaiah 7
As Judah’s King Ahab struggled in his decision with whom to join forces against the invading army – Israel and Syria or Assyria itself – Isaiah came with a message from God encouraging Judah to ally with God, to trust in Him. “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” (9)  In essence, God was saying something similar to, “Work with me here, Judah, work with me.”  God could not help Judah stand firm against the enemy unless Judah would place its faith and trust in Him. 

@ Isaiah 8
Isaiah shared God’s message with Judah, calling them to change their focus, “The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.  Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear.  He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe.’” (11-14)  Don’t get caught up in the struggle of it all, focused on who did what and when, but change your focus to the One who will help you and keep you safe. “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!  People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (20)

Whether we are focused on the struggles of our nation or the struggles in our own personal lives, God’s word to Judah is powerful to us as well.  Through His Word I believe God is saying to each one of us “Work with me, dear one, work with meI can’t help you stand strong in your struggle unless you put your trust and faith firmly in me.”  We have to give Him something to work with and not struggle against Him or turn from Him.

God warned not to think like everyone else does, focused on the struggle and the advice of those who do not know Him, but rather be distracted by His instructions and teachings in His Word.  Keep focused on God’s Word and His counsel, and, in fact, remind others of it, “Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me.” (16)  This is how we perpetuate faith and trust in God to those who are watching our lives, our children and those near to us, through our focus on God’s Word in the time of struggle.  At the end of the day, we will be victorious!

Moving Forward: I’m focusing on God and His word, giving Him something to work with, so that I will stand firm through any challenge I may face today.

Tomorrow @ Matthew 3-4