Friendship on Fire

Friendship on Fire

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:8,13 NIV

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13

Paul’s intent in his great discourse on love to the Corinthian church wasn’t to devalue any of the gifts mentioned but rather to bring them into proper perspective. He simply states that none of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are of any value apart from love. God has given us his gifts to be used to build up others. The life that is so touched by the never ending love of God is enabled by the Spirit to love others as God loves them.

The kind of love Paul is talking about can’t be taught because language isn’t adequate to even describe the love God has for us and that we can have for each other. This kind of love comes directly from the heart of God.

“… God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom 5:5).

Many people have been so beaten up by life that they can’t even imagine loving this way. But it is precisely those who have been devastated by circumstances that God can use to bless others. No matter how scarred or hurting you may be today, ask Him to graft a new layer of his love over the top of the scars and the hurt. This new larger heart will have many times the capacity to love.

If any group of two or more will love each other with the love of Jesus, allowing his love to flow through each of them, then that group of people meets the definition of a church; the body of the living Christ.

Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

  • Love means we are committed to one another.
  • Love means we work side by side.
  • Love means we will lift each other up.
  • Love means we will sacrifice for each other.
  • Love means we will care for each other.
  • Love means we will always be there for each other.

In his new covenant with his people Jesus gave us only two commands. There aren’t a lot of rules in this life we live by the Spirit, just two —

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

The New Testament church was called “The people of the way.” Their new “way” was the way of love. Love isn’t real complicated. Love is just friendship set on fire. Let’s learn how to be committed to each other in the bond of love, to let the love of Jesus flow through us.

Prayer: Jesus, I confess to you my complete inability to love others with a complete and unconditional love. I recognize that only you are capable of loving this way. Jesus, I want relinquish all my gifts and want to seek only you and draw so close to you that your love begins to flow through me.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1463762143″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514xmVrmJcL._SL160_.jpg” width=”104″] [easyazon-link asin=”1463762143″ locale=”us”]Talk to God with Affirmations of Faith[/easyazon-link] by Bob Saffrin, the author of this article.
“… not a weak, pleading, begging stance on prayer like so many books have been. It leads by the example of knowing the promises of God and BELIEVING and speaking them. It comes from the place of knowing that God loves you, and believing that the promises are real, and that God will keep them.”

Meeting Jesus on the Beach

Meeting Jesus on the Beach

“Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”

John 21:16 NIV

Bible Reading: John 21:1-17

As our story opens, Jesus has been crucified and resurrected. Now, in his resurrected body, Jesus appears less and less and only in public; his men are no longer constantly at his feet. Peter wonders why? The cock has crowed three times; Peter has let his master down. Is Jesus angry? Peter wonders what the future holds. It was three wonderful years, but are those days over? Where to go from here? The glow is off his life.

This is a story of a man who, after following Jesus, after receiving his commission to fish for men, got discouraged and went back to his old way of life. In our story pay close attention to Jesus’ reaction to Peter, because this is the way Jesus reacts to us when we slip back and need to be rebuked and corrected.  If you have slipped backward a bit in your walk with the Master and wonder if He is angry with you, then this story is for you.

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing” (John 21:1-3 NIV). Peter was a fisherman. Jesus had changed his life and given him a new calling. He was now to be a fisher of men. Peter was a rough hulk of a man, and like many strong men, he had a bent toward self-sufficiency. He was accustomed to taking care of himself. Even after spending over three years with Jesus, he still had an independent streak. “You yourselves know that these hands of mine [Peter] have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions” (Acts 20:34). This verse is out of context and Peter was a changed man by this time, but you can see that it was difficult for him to rely on the Lord. He was the kind of man who was used to meeting his own needs, taking care of himself and others.

Now, after Jesus’ resurrection, those three years seemed like a dream to Peter and he reverted to his old ways. He went fishing. Instead of following Jesus, who had given him direction for three years, he retreated to his safety zone where he was most comfortable. Not only did Peter revert to old ways, but he brought his friends with him, causing them to stumble in their walk with Jesus. How will Jesus respond, knowing that his number one man had abandoned the cause?

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered” (John 21:4-5 NIV). Jesus called out to them as friends but the disciples didn’t realize it was him. “Do you have any fish?” he asked. Did Jesus rebuke them for going backward in their walk with him? Was he angry? Did he say, “What’s the matter with you blockheads? Didn’t you learn anything in those three years I spent with you? I’m disgusted with all of you, and especially you, Peter. You’re supposed to be a leader and you are leading my sheep astray!” No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. He simply helped them see that their efforts at finding satisfaction apart from him were fruitless. He simply said, “How’s the fishing?” They just looked at each other with that blank look common to all fishermen when they’ve been skunked.

Then Jesus gave them a suggestion. He said, “‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish’” John 21:6 NIV). So we have Jesus the carpenter telling Peter the fisherman how to catch fish. Amazingly, Peter responds — “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5 NIV).

When they let down the nets, they caught a huge catch of fish. When they recognized that it was Jesus standing on the shore, Peter jumped into the water and swam to greet Jesus. Jesus had a fire going and was fixing breakfast for Peter and the other men. It was a glad reunion, but I can’t help but wonder what was going on in Peter’s mind. He knew that Jesus’ plan for him was to proclaim the gospel. His new calling was fishing for men. I can imagine Peter waiting for those words of rebuke from Jesus. He was expecting Jesus to say, “Why are you fishing Peter?” What Jesus did say on the beach that morning tells us so much about how Jesus deals with his children who have slipped away.

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love [agape] me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love [phileo] you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15 NIV). Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with God’s unconditional (agape) love. And he compared Peter’s love for him to the old way of life with the words “more than these.” Peter was cut by those words as they played back in his head. Do I have complete unconditional love for Jesus, he thought? Peter didn’t know how to answer. He stammered as he said, “You know that I have affection (phileo) for you.” Jesus’ response to that was, “Feed my sheep.”

“Again Jesus said, ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love [agape] me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love [phileo] you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep’” (John 21:16 NIV). Jesus asked the question again, but this time he dropped the comparison “more than these”, moving closer to Peter. Peter still didn’t know what to do with that word “agape” which means unconditional love. It must have sounded pitiful, even to Peter, as he forced out, “Yes, Jesus, you know that I like you a lot.” Jesus responded: “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love [phileo] me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love [phileo] me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love [phileo] you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17 NIV). In their conversation, Jesus has moved all the way to Peter. He is no longer asking if Peter has unconditional love for him; he is now saying, “Peter, do you truly have affection for me?” Jesus has rephrased his question three times, each time moving toward the place where Peter could respond to him. Jesus was reaching for Peter, changing his question each time so they could find a place of connection. Jesus does the same with you and me. He is willing to gently meet us where we are, to reach down with a gentle hand. He is ready to lift us up and restore us.

Jesus is seeking fellowship with you today and he is willing to come down to where you are and meet you there. He will meet you at the place where you are able to connect and he will gently lift you. You don’t need to reach for Jesus. He’s right there. Just place your hand in his and he will lift you. Jesus’ intent was not to rebuke Peter but to gently restore him. With the words, “feed my sheep,” Peter was re-commissioned with God’s plan for his life. When Jesus and Peter said goodbye that day, Jesus leaned toward Peter and whispered in his ear, “Follow me.” Peter was re-fitted, re-commissioned and ready for Pentecost. After that time on the beach, Peter preached a sermon and three thousand came to know the Lord.

Have you walked away from Jesus or has your relationship with him cooled a bit over the years? He is waiting for you on the beach today.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I often think about my life and how I have let you down. I sometimes am afraid to draw close to you because my sin is always before me. I thank you for the story of Jesus and Peter on the beach. It helps me realize that I no longer need to be afraid or feel guilty, that you are reaching for me today, and that your arms are open wide. I do love you Jesus.

*~*

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B007WU6JW4″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zDgx3qjhL._SL160_.jpg” width=”95″] [easyazon-link asin=”B007WU6JW4″ locale=”us”]Elijah, Steps to a Life of Power[/easyazon-link]  From Bob Saffrin, the author of this article… Find the Power God has in store for you!

Tales of the Kings IV — Josiah

Tales of the Kings IV — Josiah

The leadership of revival

__________

As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers.

2 Chronicles 34:33 NIV

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 34:1-33

We are looking at four kings of the ancient kingdom of Judah to discover what we can learn from the past that will ignite our movement into its final chapter until Jesus comes. Our king today is not only the last good king, but Josiah is the best of all the kings of Judah. During the reign of King Josiah, God was able to bring great revival on the lands of both Judah and Israel. As we take a peek at the life of Josiah, I want us to be particularly attentive to what God is saying to us today.

“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years” (2 Chronicles 34:1 NIV). Little eight-year old Josiah — his daddy is dead and the kingship is thrust upon him. An eight-year-old can’t lead a nation. God please give him grace.

An eight-year-old can’t lead a nation…but let me tell you what an eight year old can do: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:2 NIV).

I picked Josiah because during his reign, Judah and Israel enjoyed one of the most significant moves of God in their history. Was there something about Josiah that we can learn that brings revival to our day? What kind of a leader will it take to bring Jesus back to our fallen culture? What kind of a people do we need to be to be trusted with a great work of God?

Last week we learned what I’ve started calling the Uzziah factor. When Uzziah became powerful, he became prideful. When he was a young king and he sought the Lord and was dependent on him, God gave him success. But after God had filled his cup to the full, Uzziah became proud and no longer humble. I believe the church in the United States has been bit by the Uzziah factor. I believe that there is a danger, and to some degree we have already fallen for the trap. Some in our movement today are seeking after the excitement that comes when your cup is full instead of seeking the Lord.

Friends, we want the Lord to fill our cup to the very brim, but the minute we begin to look down on that person who God hasn’t yet brought into that full experience, that will be our downfall. Don’t ever forget God’s motive. He has lost children out there, he wants them back, and if we will stay humble and not get too full of ourselves, he will use us to get them back.

So what does the story of Josiah teach us? Let’s watch Josiah grow older right before our eyes. He starts out at 8 years old: “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 34:3). When he was 16 he began to seek the Lord and when he was twenty he: “…began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images” (2 Chronicles 34:3 NIV).

“In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign [now he is 26], to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 34:8 NIV). Josiah sends some of his leaders into the temple to supervise its repair. The temple has fallen into disuse. They lived in a day when the people were worshipping the idols of their culture. No one went into the temple anymore. I suppose the young people just looked at the temple as a place where their grandparents used to go and they thought that the temple had no relevance for their modern generation.

Josiah knows that if they are going to be God’s remnant people, they will need to get back to basics but he isn’t even sure what the basics are.

Sort of making up life as he goes along —just following Jehovah with the little he knows — he sends in the boys to clean up and repair the temple. In the temple they make an amazing find and in that find we discover our answer to revival.

What did they find? In that little back storage room in the temple they found an old dusty jar. In that jar they found a scroll, caked with dust, unread for many years. Do you know what they found? It was the book of the law. Today it is the fifth book of our bible — the book of Deuteronomy.

They brought the book and read parts of it to the king. “Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes” (2 Chronicles 34:18-19 NIV). Why was the king distraught? Why did he tear his clothes?

The book of Deuteronomy is laced with the blessings of those who will follow God and the curses that will be on those who reject or forget the Lord God. Twenty-six year old King Josiah hears the reading of this book and he knows his people are doomed. He is beside himself. What should he do?

He does what true leaders do — He sends his men to go inquire of the Lord. They go to the prophetess Huldah. She tells them that disaster is going to fall on the people who have rejected him but because Josiah has humbled himself, God will spare him. But Josiah is a leader. Josiah will not accept that the Lord would bring disaster on the people the Lord had given him to love and to lead. Josiah encourages the people to a renewed period of worship and obedience. He restores the temple and the Passover. He leads them to renew their covenant with God. The renewed covenant brought great revival to all of Judah and spilled over into the northern tribes of Israel. It was a great returning to the Lord and a great outpouring of the Spirit.

Ok, how does any of this apply to us? Do we want revival to come to us and what does revival look like? First of all we don’t bring revival, God does. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NIV).

If the Holy Spirit brings revival, then how can we seek a great outpouring of God? Is there something we can do? The lesson for us reminds me of Elijah at Mount Carmel as he opposed the prophets of the false god Baal. You know the story. Elijah proposed a contest, a test, to see who in fact was God. The prophets of Baal were to bring a bull and build an altar to sacrifice it to Baal and then pray for Baal to light the fire. Elijah was to prepare an altar and a bull and then pray to have the Lord God light the fire. The contest: The God that answered with fire was the true god.

So the prophets of Baal began. They prepared their altar. They cut up the bull and put it on the altar. Then they danced around the altar. They yelled and screamed; They cut themselves. They desperately tried to make something happen.

We can also try too hard to make something happen with God. It is futile. God wants to bless us. He wants to manifest his presence with us. We don’t have to whip up his presence. He wants to do mighty things among us.

So what did Elijah do? He built his altar out of twelve stones to represent a united Israel. He arranged the wood on the altar, cut up the bull, and put it on the altar. Then he poured water over the bull and over the wood. He did this three times. He poured so much water that he waterlogged the bull, the wood, and even filled the trench around the altar. Why all the water? Elijah wanted everyone to know that he wasn’t making something happen. He wasn’t somehow summoning the Holy Spirit or conjuring up a manifestation of God.

God isn’t reluctant to move among us. He is ready now. He is waiting for us to be ready. But there are things that we must do.

We need to be in the place of unity with our brothers and sisters as represented by the altar of twelve stones. To be in unity means that those of us who are further down the path will wait for and give a helping hand to those who are still making their way. The wood was on the altar to help the sacrifice burn. To me, the wood represents our ministry to each other. Our love and ministry to each other is the thing that helps us burn bright as Christians. We must give our ministry to Jesus. He must be the conductor.

Then there is the sacrifice. The bull represents us. We must place ourselves on the altar of sacrifice. Next there is the water. The water represents baptism, where we die to self. This is where we lay all our self effort at the foot of the cross….no more trying; only trusting.

Finally there is the fire. The fire represents passion from heaven. When the fire comes, then we are flamed with God’s passion and purified with His desires. We don’t light the fire. We place ourselves on the altar of sacrifice. We give God all that we do and all that we are and then we cry out to him:  “’O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again’” (1 Kings 18:36-37 NIV).

Then fire falls from heaven. Your life is set on fire for the kingdom of God. Then the world will know that the Lord, He is God! Then the church will burn with the passion of God and God’s lost children will know that He is God!

Prayer: Lord, help us be a people who you can trust to receive revival in our land. Help us to be your remnant children, living in love and unity with each other. Give us courage Lord, to place ourselves on the altar of sacrifice where we die to self. Lord, we ask that your fire fall from heaven. Fill us with your passion and your love so that the world will look at us and know that you are God.

*~*

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B006BKP6RA” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CUmzYaVpL._SL160_.jpg” width=”100″] Also by Bob Saffrin… [easyazon-link asin=”B006BKP6RA” locale=”us”]Moses – Steps to a Life of Faith[/easyazon-link]

This book is about how God built faith into a man.
Did you know that God is a dreamer? He is, and one day he had a dream, and he thought to himself…“Who will I get to fulfill this dream?” Then he made you. He created you to fulfill a dream. You are made for a purpose.

Know God’s dream for you and believe Him to accomplish it in your life.

 

Tales of the Kings III — Uzziah

Tales of the Kings III — Uzziah

Beware the cup that is full

__________

As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.

2 Chronicles 26:5 NIV

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 26:1-23

His name means “The Lord is my strength.” If only Uzziah would have remembered and lived up to his name, his life would have ended differently. But let’s not get ahead of the story. King Uzziah was only sixteen years old when he became king and he reigned in Jerusalem for fifty-two years. Think about it — sixteen years old and leading a nation. We sell our teen-agers short when we simply tell them that they are too young to lead. There is no minimum age limit for the wisdom of God to flow through you.

Let’s look in at Uzziah as he takes the reins of the tiny nation of Judah: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5 NIV). One of the things I find very interesting is that if you look at the “good” kings, it seems that one of the things they all have in common is that they all are close to a prophet of God.

“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” Is that true for you? Maybe it seems that every time you get serious about God your whole life falls apart. Often, when I seek the Lord, it seems that failure follows, not success. Maybe the way we define failure and the way God defines it is two completely different things? What turns out to be an utter tragic disaster for us sometimes turns out to be a win in God’s eyes. Think about Joseph in the Bible. Wouldn’t you think being sold into slavery by your brothers would turn out to be an experience that belongs in the failure column? Yet it turned out that for Joseph it was just part of God’s very crooked pathway to becoming the Prime Minister of the most powerful nation on earth and becoming the savior of his people. How about being abandoned by your friends and even by God himself and then being crucified as a common criminal? Wouldn’t that go down as a colossal failure? It appears to be a disaster and yet it turns out that it was the biggest victory in the history of the human race.

Evidently our definition of failure differs from God’s. Let me suggest something to you. As long as you seek the Lord, then the failures you experience along the way are in fact victories, victories in disguise. Some of you are right now going through some immense disappointments, some seemingly never-ending struggles.  Some of the problems we face are financial, some relational, and numerous other things. If I were to ask you to define your life, some would say, “I’m a mess. I’m not making it.” But if you will let God be the author of your biography, those failures will turn out to be secret win-win victories in your life. If you are seeking the Lord but things aren’t going well, just hang on. The author of the universe is writing your story — hold out for the surprise ending.

Now I’m not talking about a surprise ending like Uzziah’s life. You don’t want that kind of surprise ending. Let’s get back to our king. He was a brilliant military genius. His reputation as a military leader was known worldwide. Even in the annals of the Assyrian Kings, Uzziah was mentioned – “Uzziah of Judah – don’t mess with him. He is a brilliant and powerful king.”

“In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful” (2 Chronicles 26:15 NIV). No wonder he was such a great and well known leader. He made machines to hurl large stones and machines to shoot arrows. How cool is that for 2700 years ago. But Uzziah didn’t do these things on his own. The above verse says he was greatly helped. That means that God was with him, helping him, giving him wisdom and success. Uzziah didn’t come up with all this success himself… he was blessed… helped by God himself. God is always looking for a people he can use, a people who will be his men and his women, a remnant that he can build on, that the whole world will know that he is God. Don’t forget that God has one plan, that the world might be saved, that he would get his lost children back. He is always searching for who he can use to accomplish his purposes.

The verse says that God helped him until he became powerful. “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall” (2 Chronicles 26:16 NIV). All that wisdom, all that military genius, all that success given him because he sought the Lord and it went to his head.

“He was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16 NIV).

One day, filled with pride, Uzziah enters the temple to burn incense at the very altar of God. He goes stomping into that temple and takes charge with an authority that was never given him. He is in the holy place. He is moving right toward that curtain and just on the other side is the Shekinah glory. He is a big shot now. He should be able to go right into God’s presence. He doesn’t need the priests. He forgot that all of his success was the result of him being dependent upon God. He forgot about God and attributed all of his success to his own genius. He succumbed to the same temptation that Satan has been using successfully ever since he tempted Eve in the garden. You can be as God.

“Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in” (2 Chronicles 26:17 NIV). You bet they were courageous. Uzziah is the king and with one command their heads are off. But there comes a time when you have to speak truth to power. There is a time to make a stand. “They confronted him and said, ‘It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God’” (2 Chronicles 26:18 NIV).

Things escalate now: “Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him” (2 Chronicles 26:19-20 NIV).

There’s a sad ending to Uzziah’s story. “King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died” (2 Chronicles 26:21NIV). What a tragic ending to a 52 year career.

Why are we looking at this sad story and is there a lesson for us to learn from such a tragic life? It’s one thing to start humble but to have a successful life you have to stay the course and continue dependent on God all of your life. Affliction and adversity bring disappointment and sorrow but it is prosperity that brings the greatest danger to spiritual life. As Americans most of us are far more prosperous than most people of this earth. I heard a Chinese proverb that says it well: “The cup that is difficult to carry is not the cup that is empty but the cup that is full to the brim.”

Prayer: Lord, help us to be thankful for all of the blessings that you have given us and to never forget that all of those blessings come from you. Help us to follow you closely and not become dependent on our own resources or abilities. Help us to remember that you are our source and that every success is from your hand.

*~*

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518QFzxScCL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″] Amazon #1 bestselling author Bob Saffrin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Barb and their beagle Rocky. He and Barb have two children and four grandchildren. Bob loves the outdoors and has been on many backpacking trips in the rugged Boundary Waters area of Minnesota including winter camping.
Check out Bob’s book, [easyazon-link asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us”]Psalms, The Sunrise of Hope[/easyazon-link]

Tales of the Kings — Jehoshaphat

Tales of the Kings — Jehoshaphat

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

(Psalm 20:6-8 NIV)

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 17:1 – 20:37

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is when you repeat the same behaviors over and over again, each time expecting different results. Many of us do that. We continue the way we always have and hope that someday we will hit the mother load of fulfillment and happiness and joy. Maybe it’s time we stop repeating ourselves but instead learn from our past and change our behavior.

George Santayana was right when he said, “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” To repeat the past is insanity when we desperately need different results. For that reason we have plunged into this mini-series — “The Tales of the Kings.”

God had a mission for the tiny nation of Judah, that they should be a beacon of light in the darkness, that they should point the way to a savior to all the peoples around them. God has given us the same mission, that we might learn from their successes and failures?

Today Life lessons are from King Jehoshaphat. “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed” (2 Chronicles 17:3 NIV).

Lesson Number One – Start strong

This is especially a lesson for young people. Get a solid start. Dive into life with a plan and go for that plan with your whole heart. Remember that direction trumps intention. It doesn’t matter how big your dream is if you don’t spend every day moving toward it. Without vision, the people perish. When you are young ask God for his dream for your life and then begin to take steps every day that will move you toward that dream.

Remember that there is a difference between having a dream and being a dreamer. The difference is “action.” Don’t forget – Direction trumps intention.

Lesson Number Two – Even if you follow the Lord you may screw up.

I’m so happy there is a lesson number two. How many times have we messed up only to have an enemy whisper in our ear that we are no longer worthy or loved.

It turns out that this king is no different. “Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage” (2 Chronicles 18:1-2 NIV). Can you believe it? King Jehoshaphat, who started out so well, marries the daughter of Ahab who committed more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. Jehoshaphat didn’t just screw-up, he screwed-up really bad.

The Bible says that bad company corrupts good character and that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t long before Jehoshaphat’s father-in-law asked him join him and attack Ramoth Gilead. When you read the story it’s almost comical how King Jehoshaphat gets conned into forming an alliance with Ahab and going to battle. It ends in tragedy. Ahab is killed and Jehoshaphat limps home to Judah, utterly defeated.

Evil Ahab was killed but Jehoshaphat’s life was spared. Apparently, even when you screw up, God doesn’t reject you. Sometimes the godly fail and follow evil. The good news is that God doesn’t judge your character by the isolated good deed or screw-up, but by the condition of your heart.

So here is a question for you and for me. Who has your heart? Aren’t you glad that losing your temper, or losing your patience, or even losing your way for awhile doesn’t mean that God will give up on you?

Lesson Number Three – If you fail the test you’ll have to take it again.

Sometime later some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom.” Oh, Oh! Here comes another test. Listen, friends. Life is a series of tests. God’s plan is to continually bring us tests, and as we pass each test, we move on to the next. Each test brings us closer to being someone Jesus can spend eternity with in constant fellowship. Often we don’t see life from God’s perspective. Circumstances come into our lives and we wonder… where is God and if he loves me why would he let this financial problem or this relationship problem into my life?

I picture Jehoshaphat in heaven with Jesus. They are talking about Jehoshaphat’s life. Jesus tells Jehoshaphat how he saved him from being killed in that ill-advised battle when he was allied with Ahab because he saw his heart and he knew that he loved God even though he had made some terrible decisions. I envision Jesus saying, “Jehoshaphat, I was so proud of you the way you handled that situation when the Moabites and Ammonites came to make war with you.” “I was afraid,” Jehoshaphat says, “and for a moment I was even tempted to think that I was being punished for my earlier sins.” Jesus laughs. “You know I don’t work that way. You were merely retaking a failed test, and I love how you passed it the second time. I’m so proud of you.”

Let’s look at how Jehoshaphat handled this second test:

“After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).  Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him” (2 Chron 20:1-4 NIV).

The Apostle Peter had to take some tests over and over before he passed. He jumped out of that boat faster than you can say ‘Simon says.’ He walked on the water but then took his eyes off Jesus.  Jesus picked him out of the drink and plopped him soaking wet back in the boat. Test number one for Peter — fail. Jesus didn’t write him off when he failed; Peter just had to take the test again.

Test number two for Peter came in that garden courtyard as Peter turned the air blue with obscenities, yelling three times that he didn’t know Jesus. Test number two — fail.

Peter was pretty thick-headed. He had to take some tests over and over, just like you and I. For test number three, Peter found himself before the religious leaders who are warning him and threatening him because he had healed a man. Peter’s response to the religious leaders:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:8-12 NIV). Test Passed! What happened that he failed the first two tests but passed the third test? After failed test number two, Peter went to Calvary; he met the savior, a redeemer whose relentless love would not give up on Peter and won’t give up on you or me either.

Some of us go through life taking the same spiritual test over and over again. But there is good news. When you pass the test, there is a brand new chapter with God just on the other side. When you pass the test, you are one step closer to glory. Christian, you are going to keep getting the same test until you pass it because he loves you too much to give up on you.

Jehoshaphat failed his first test. His second test A+:

“Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: ‘O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. O our God did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.”’” (2 Chronicles 20:5-9).

The prayer meeting turns into a worship meeting. They go out to battle, leaving their swords at home and just wear their choir robes. They go out singing “give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.” They face an impossible enemy and they find the crisis has been eliminated by a God who loves to come through at the last minute for his people. To pass the test is not to conquer our problems, but to stand and face them, confident that the greater the crisis the greater the miracle for them who believe.

Prayer: Lord, help us to learn the lesson from King Jehoshaphat. Help us to know that when we fail, you will never leave us or reject us, that even when we mess up and try to handle life without you, you will keep working with us until we pass the test. Lord help us to become a people that you can enjoy forever.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518QFzxScCL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″] Amazon #1 bestselling author Bob Saffrin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Barb and their beagle Rocky. He and Barb have two children and four grandchildren. Bob loves the outdoors and has been on many backpacking trips in the rugged Boundary Waters area of Minnesota including winter camping.
Check out Bob’s book, [easyazon-link asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us”]Psalms, The Sunrise of Hope[/easyazon-link]