2 Chronicles 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He searches for the cry of the righteous heart and will answer

As parents, it’s difficult to watch our teenagers struggle through situations because they have refused our help.  We’re standing close by them, ready to help at a moment’s notice, but it’s as if they forget that we are the ones who brought them to this point in life through our guidance and direction.  Instead, we see them turn to peers or others who really don’t know them at all for the help that we are so willing to give.  We watch and wait for any indication that would tell us they are seeking our guidance.  I wonder if this was somewhat how the Lord felt when King Asa, who had sought His help for many years, decided to turn to others for help. 

@ 2 Chronicles 16
King Asa started his reign in a positive manner.  God was his help, his source and the one he ran to for help. Last week we read the covenant Asa and the Israelites made with the Lord, “Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman.”  Because of Asa’s reliance and trust in the Lord, the country was protected from war.

Unfortunately, as time when on, Asa decided he no longer needed his Father’s help, and he made alliances with Aram to secure protection for Israel instead of praying to God.  A prophet came and pronounced judgment on Israel because of this, “What a fool you have been!  From now on you will be at war.” (9)  Then, to add insult to injury, “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians.” (12)  There’s nothing wrong with using physicians, but why not seek the Lord’s help first?

God, the Father of all Israel, was standing by waiting for Asa to pray for help, but Asa failed to do so.  What happened to cause this change in his heart anyway?  And why do we fail to pray when we should and instead turn to others for help?   I once heard an evangelist say that pride keeps us from praying.  When we fail to pray for a need and in turn make alliances with others for help, we are saying to God that we feel we can handle it all by ourselves.  We really don’t need His help.  Or perhaps we don’t trust that God is able to manage our problem, and in a sense, that is pride too.

Just like a loving parent, God is standing by waiting for us to ask for help.  After all, He knows our need before we even pray because of how intimately He knows us.  In fact, the prophet told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (9)  God is actually searching to help those who trust in Him.  David declared it in Psalm 34:15 and Peter did as well in I Peter 3:12, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.”  Do we really want to let a thing like pride or unbelief keep the Creator of the Universe, the One who knows us best, from helping us in our time of need?  I pray not! 

Moving Forward:  Oh yes, I need His help today. I can’t do it myself. Hear my cry, Lord. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 119

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  My lists, however, keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in a sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I apparently have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  I love lists. Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Psalms 12-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He answers our prayers based on His eternal clock

It’s disheartening to me to be around someone who is upset about something, possibly with me, but not willing to express what it is – commonly known as the silent treatment.  Yes, those who easily express their feelings can be annoying at times, but at least we know what problem exists and we can offer a response. Communication is good, especially when it comes from a heart that does not want to hurt and is seeking a resolve.

I don’t imagine that God ever found it necessary to say to David, “Well, David, why don’t you tell me how you really feel.”  Psalms offers many of David’s laments to God that were expressions of sadness, sorrow or disappointment when he faced betrayal and hatred from his enemies.  What I like about David’s laments is that, just like a good movie, they always seem to end well. 

@ Psalm 13
“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (1-2)  How long? I think we have a theme going here, and I’ve certainly sung this song.  At times I am convinced that heaven’s clock needs a new battery.  David asks, “Forever?” and forever is the key to the answer.  God’s timing is not based on the World Clock, it’s based on eternity.

God answers our cry to Him based on the timeless click of His eternal clock because He is more interested in our eternal destination than our temporary lament.  I love Him for that.  Sometimes in the delay, God is orchestrating our answer through others and at other times He is changing our own hearts.  Regardless of how long, He is answering according to our eternal good.

David snapped out of his despair and hope was renewed as he offered a prayer request to God.  Prayer is our indication to God that we have hope that He will respond to our need.  “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’  Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”(3-4)  Restore the sparkle in my eyes – how could our loving God, the One who put the sparkle in our eyes, resist that request!  When we pray without the disguise of contrived words or pretense and speak from our hearts, we touch God’s heart.

David talked himself right into trusting the Lord through his trial, “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (5-6)   With hope renewed, David remembered that he could trust God’s unfailing love.  In fact, God had been so faithful to David in the past that he could rejoice ahead of time for the victory in this trial. Trusting God does not always give immediate answers, but it does give us the encouragement we need.   And finally, David burst into song – a song of praise about the goodness of God.  A great ending!

God understands our laments, but He doesn’t want us to wallow in them.  We can express our feelings, but we should give Him a prayer request as well. In doing so, we are expressing our confidence in Him to meet our needs. Then, filled with hope and trust like David, we will sing songs of praise in sync with the timeless click of His clock.  Tick-tock! 

Moving Forward:  No lamenting for me today. With a heart filled with hope and trust, I’m singing songs of praise, keeping with the beat of His tick-tock. 

Tomorrow @ Job 9-10

2 Chronicles 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He searches for the cry of the righteous heart and will answer

As parents, it’s difficult to watch our teenagers struggle through situations because they have refused our help.  We’re standing close by them, ready to help at a moment’s notice, but it’s as if they forget that we are the ones who brought them to this point in life through our guidance and direction.  Instead, we see them turn to peers or others who really don’t know them at all for the help that we are so willing to give.  We watch and wait for any indication that would tell us they are seeking our guidance.  I wonder if this was somewhat how the Lord felt when King Asa, who had sought His help for many yearas, decided to turn to others for help. 

@ 2 Chronicles 16
King Asa started his reign in a positive manner.  God was his help, his source and the one he ran to for help. Last week we read the covenant Asa and the Israelites made with the Lord, “Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman.”  Because of Asa’s reliance and trust in the Lord, the country was protected from war.

Unfortunately, as time when on Asa decided he no longer needed his Father’s help and he made alliances with Aram to secure protection for Israel instead of praying to God.  A prophet came and pronounced judgment on Israel because of this, “What a fool you have been!  From now on you will be at war.” (9)  Then, to add insult to injury, “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians.” (12)  There’s nothing wrong with using physicians, but why not seek the Lord’s help first?

God, the Father of all Israel was standing by waiting for Asa to pray for help, but Asa failed to do so.  What happened to cause this change in his heart anyway?  And why do we fail to pray when we should and instead turn to others for help?   I once heard an evangelist say that pride keeps us from praying.  When we fail to pray for a need and in turn make alliances with others for help, we are saying to God that we feel we can handle it all by ourselves.  We really don’t need His help.  Or perhaps we don’t trust that God is able to handle our problem, and in a sense, that is pride too.

Just like a loving parent, God is standing by waiting for us to ask for help.  After all, He knows our need before we even pray because of how intimately He knows us.  In fact, the prophet told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (9)  God is actually searching to help those who trust in Him.  David declared it in Psalm 34:15 and Peter did as well in I Peter 3:12, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.”  Do we really want to let a thing like pride or unbelief keep the Creator of the Universe, the One who knows us best, from helping us in our time of need?  I pray not! 

Moving Forward:  Oh yes, I need His help today. I can’t do it myself. Hear my cry, Lord. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 119

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  But my lists keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of a prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I obviously have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Psalms 12-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He answers our prayers based on His eternal clock

It’s disheartening to me to be around someone who is upset about something, possibly with me, but not willing to express what it is – commonly known as the silent treatment.  Yes, those who easily express their feelings can be annoying at times, but at least we know what problem exists and we can offer a response. Communication is good, especially when it comes from a heart that does not want to hurt and is seeking a resolve.

I don’t imagine that God ever found it necessary to say to David, “Well, David, why don’t you tell me how you really feel.”  Psalms offers many of David’s laments to God that were expressions of sadness, sorrow or disappointment when he faced betrayal and hatred from his enemies.  What I like about David’s laments is that, just like a good movie, they always seem to end well. 

@ Psalm 13
“O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (1-2)  How long? I think we have a theme going here, and I’ve certainly sung this song.  At times I am convinced that heaven’s clock needs a new battery.  David asks, “Forever?” and forever is the key to the answer.  God’s timing is not based on the World Clock, it’s based on eternity.

God answers our cry to Him based on the timeless click of His eternal clock because He is more interested in our eternal destination than our temporary lament.  I love Him for that.  Sometimes in the delay God is orchestrating our answer through others and at other times He is changing our own hearts.  Regardless of how long, He is answering according to our eternal good.

David snapped out of his despair and hope was renewed as he offered a prayer request to God.  Prayer is our indication to God that we have hope that He will respond to our need.  “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’  Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”(3-4)  Restore the sparkle in my eyes – how could our loving God, the One who put the sparkle in our eyes, resist that request!  When we pray without the disguise of contrived words or pretense and speak from our hearts, we touch God’s heart.

David talked himself right into trusting the Lord through his trial, “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (5-6)   With hope renewed, David remembered that he could trust God’s unfailing love.  In fact, God had been so faithful to David in the past that he could rejoice ahead of time for the victory in this trial. Trusting God does not always give immediate answers, but it does give us the encouragement we need.   And finally, David burst into song – a song of praise about the goodness of God.  A great ending!

God understands our laments, but He doesn’t want us to wallow in them.  We can express our feelings, but we should give Him a prayer request as well. In doing so, we are expressing our confidence in Him to meet our needs. Then, filled with hope and trust like David, we will sing songs of praise in sync with the timeless click of His clock.  Tick-tock! 

Moving Forward:  No lamenting for me today. With a heart filled with hope and trust, I’m singing songs of praise, keeping with the beat of His tick-tock. 

Tomorrow @ Job 9-10