A Father; A Grandfather

As I was reading scripture this morning, I noticed something about Josiah, king of Judah. His dad, Amon, did evil in the sight of the LORD; his grandfather, Manasseh, was one of, if not the most wicked king Judah ever had. Yet, at a very early age, Josiah sought the LORD.

“For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father… (2 Chronicles 34:3, ESV)

Why would this boy-king seek the Lord at the tender age of sixteen? Although his grandfather’s wickedness is legendary, so was his repentance. Manasseh was captured by the enemy and imprisoned. While there, he sought the LORD with all his heart, humbling himself, committing himself to do those things that were right in the sight of the LORD. 

As I read about this king or that king in their early stages of reign in the book of 2 Chronicles, I see that some kings did that which was good and others that which is evil, often in succession. A good king fathers an evil one and vise-versa. Manasseh fathered Amon; Amon fathered Josiah. In one instance, a young king’s mother influenced him for evil. (2 Chronicles 22:3) Perhaps this was the case for all the kings? Did they have nanny’s that had an influence on them? Teachers, as in the case of Jehoiada? (2 Chronicles 24:2) Whatever it was, the change could be stark; one king wanting to destroy everything evil, the next raising those things back.

In the case of Josiah, I’ll bet his grandfather’s transformation, and the unmitigated deviation shown by his wicked father, had an impact on him. I would like to believe that the contrast of Grandpa Manasseh’s contrast showed Josiah that the LORD will receive all who come to him and will in no way cast them away for good.

Manasseh had a great influence on his son as well. Amon wanted to be like his dad, doing everything just as dad did. He relished in it and knew that not only would he be like father, but would even outdo him. When Manasseh returned from captivity, he was a changed man. I am sure Amon could not, or would not, understand. I could hear there conversations now. 

“You must serve the LORD now, Amon. I was wrong in all the evil that I did. I led the nation in wickedness and evil, but now I see the desolation I caused, and it is beyond what I can bare.” Said the older and wiser king.

“But dad, you were great at what you did! You were feared. You were a great king. You still are a great king! I loved everything you did and all that you accomplished.” Said the young prince.

“No, my son,” said Manasseh, “You must not say such things. Remember the LORD. Learn of him, seek him, he will be found by those who seek him.”

“I just don’t get it dad.” Said Amon.

But, in the room was a four-year-old little boy named Josiah. His ears were as open as his heart and such a tender age. Josiah loved his grandfather. He never knew him as the evil, harsh man he was before, but only a tender, loving, and godly grandfather. Josiah knew that one day, he would want to be like his grandfather.

When he began to reign as king, just four years later, he would only remember grand-dad and his admonition to follow the LORD. Even at that age, although not really ruling, but under tutors and teachers to learn how to reign, he knew he wanted to be a godly king. The reason? Because of a godly man that once was a wicked man. As he progressed in school, he began to be assured in his desire to seek the LORD and, at sixteen, he made his choice as king. 

Where are you at, dad? Do you feel as though your B.C. (Before Christ) days are haunting you? Do you see that your children are not walking in the ways of the LORD? Each son or daughter will have to make a choice for themselves. They will have to decide whether they will do that which is right in the sight of the LORD or whether to do evil. But that does not mean that you do not have a chance to make a difference, even when you feel as though your words are hitting a brick wall. Remember, God is faithful. Continue in prayer. Continue to be a light and a witness. Don’t give up because God will not give up on you.

Calling All Sinners

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” (Mark 2:17, ESV)

Jesus broke the mold. According to Leviticus 22:1–6 if a person touched or even was around someone unclean, they became unclean. So eating and drinking with ‘sinners’ was tantamount to committing Rabbinical-Holy-Man suicide. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors (the worse category of sinners of the day) because they needed the most help.

This reminds me of my High School days. A lot of the time I got to know my teachers and sat in the front row of desks. Why? Because I was such a good kid? No. I was actually kind of a pain in the neck. I was constantly getting into trouble, oh, not bad stuff, just ‘horsing’ around and constantly joking and talking. The teacher would put me up front because she wanted to keep her eye on me. I truly believe they wanted to help me. 

Later, when I became a believer at 16, I still wasn’t fully under control yet. I remember ditching one of my classes and sitting on one of the stairways, the principal walked up and asked me what I was doing. Actually, I was reading my Bible and showed him. He was not mad. He didn’t even tell me to get to class. He asked if I believed what the Bible said. I said I did. He asked for the Bible and he opened it up to Proverbs 12:1 and showed me where it read:

“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1, NKJV)

I’ll never forget that day. A man of such a high standing in the school and he spent time with me. He knew I didn’t want to be stupid. Then he said I could have the day off from that class, but I needed to be there the next day.

Jesus did something similar when he met with those who were the social outcasts of the day. Instead of making him unclean, he made them clean. He preached the gospel to them. He allowed them to get to know him and offered them forgiveness. 

Jesus was a religious leader. And he wasn’t. He wasn’t anything like those who paraded around in flowing robes demanding respect from the masses. No, he was a leader with integrity. The other religious leaders could not understand why Jesus would meet with sinners. But there were no others that needed the kind of doctoring he would bring them. They needed compassion. The religious leaders wanted them to be isolated.

When Jesus said that he didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners, he didn’t mean that there were certain righteous people that could not be saved, but in reality, there were none that could be saved. Only a confessed sinner sees their need for a Savior. A self-righteous person does not, and therefore, they never are saved.

The Great Physician is with you. If you humbly go to him, he will give you the greatest of all healings-the forgiveness of sins and being accepted in his family. 

What Would You Give Up?

…what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26b, NKJV)

What are we willing to give for our soul? What does a soul cost? What did it cost God? The price of something, contrary to popular belief, is not equal to its value, but is equal to the value placed upon it by the purchaser. My house is only worth what someone will pay for it, not how much I want to sell it for.

God places our soul at high value. He purchased our soul, not from us, but from, as it were, in slavery. We were wholly owned by another. We sold our soul to the selfish way, to the pride and foolishness for the purchase price of that for which gains us nothing. Have you ever desired something so greatly, then when you finally received it, the shine dimmed? You were no longer enamored by it. In fact, many have garages that are littered with things that we HAD to have. We payed high prices for each because they had value to us, but in end the thing was not as valuable to life as we supposed.

Have you ever made the foolish deal and traded something that had great value for something that had little or even became worthless with time? When I was a much younger man, I did. I had a very vice 12 string acoustic guitar and an electric, with an amp and traded it at a pawn shop for a drum set that was worth half the price, which I later had to sell to pay some bills. I wondered at the time why the owner of the shop was so eager to make the deal. The pawn shop is both the greatest ally and fiercest enemy of the musician. When we need money, they provide it, but, like the devil, when we want it back there is a much higher cost.

Reminds me of the proverb…

It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts.

Proverbs 20:14, NKJV

In Jeremiah 2:11-13, the accusation by the Holy One is that Israel has made a deal with the pawn shop—in my vernacular. They traded that which is priceless for that which is worthless. How? Because it looked shiny. We always want the shiny and reject the consistent. We have everything and we become bored with it. Oh, that we would see the value of our relationship with God and never underestimate our worth to Him.

May we repent of that which causes the behavior to flourish. Foolishness and pride are the roots that must be removed. Although they be difficult to do so, ultimately, if we are to be fruitful, even if an exhausting and punishing task, the result will be worth every bead of sweat.

D.V.

May the LORD richly bless you. Have you sinned a sin of which you believe God will never forgive? Rest assured that you will find the blood of Jesus a great cleanser indeed. There may be consequences to your actions, but His grace will change you from the inside out. Ask him for his forgiveness and for Him to shine his light in your darkness to find the recesses and corneres that might be cleansed. Follow Him all the days of your life and you will see, over time, a transformation of mercy and a walk of grace. For prayer, please email me or leave a comment.

Blessings!

OUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED

Steve Marquez
July 1, 2015

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Wisdom is knowing our limitations. I remember a few years ago that I played basketball with some young men at Calvary Chapel Bartlett. After a few minutes I was completely exhausted. I had to step out of the game and let a younger man take my place. When I sat down next to another man my age, I told him, breathing heavy, sweat pouring down my face, and every muscle in my body aching, that I was exhausted. Staring straight forward and shaking his head, he said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

How true that was and is. There is wisdom in knowing limitations. We can thrive when we know them; we can kill ourselves when we don’t.

There is a limited amount of time to accomplish what God wants to accomplish in and through us. It is as if the clock is ticking and we are on Jeopardy. If we wait long enough, the buzzer goes off and we lose the opportunity. For some, the buzzer of life will sound sooner than they thought. I have read countless obituaries where a young man or a young woman had been driving too fast, flipped their car, and died on the spot. I am sure when they left the house that day, they said goodbye to their parents, and didn’t realize it would be their last goodbye.

The wisdom in numbering our days is realizing that no matter how long we have, it is a short time. Even if we live seventy or eighty years it’s a short time. When I was first diagnosed with cancer and went through surgery after surgery, I realized how fragile life was. A doctor could tell someone that they only have a month to live, but they could step off a curb the next day, get hit by a car, and die. The doctor was wrong, they only had one day to live.

Wisdom is learned by understanding the fragility of life. We have a short time. What are we going to do with what we have?

Paul said, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

What should we do with time that we have? We should focus on what is important. Being diagnosed with a life threatening illness puts things into perspective. When the doctor says, “Cancer” things change. At that point, life is not so much about stuff as about people. The spiritual world becomes more important; the physical goes away. Family and friends become much more important.

We’ve all been given the same diagnosis. We each have a disease that will eventually kill us. It’s called sin. There is a treatment for it, but eventually it will get us. On that day when we take our final breath we will not be concerned about how much money we made or about the accumulation of stuff.

For me, my thoughts went to what kind of husband I had been. What kind of dad? Did I impart enough wisdom to my boys? Did I show them enough discipline to develop their character? Did I point them to Jesus? What did I do to influence them for the kingdom of God?

As an exercise, today I will diagnose you with a deadly disease. I don’t know how many days you have left, but they are numbered. Write down what you’d like your legacy to be… and, with wisdom gained, live it while you still have the chance to do so.

A Man’s Hand

There must have been some disappointment in the servant of Elijah. If not, perhaps some doubt. The prophet he served said there would be rain. This was exciting news because the country was suffering under a terrible drought. It would be nice to be able to grow crops and take a bath or drink a tall glass of cold water. 


41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.”

44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ ”

45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:41–45 (NKJV)


I am sure cattle were suffering and therefore a meat shortage meant no backyard grilling. But the prophet had heard from God that this would all be over soon. 

When we hear such news, we could either be encouraged and excited or live in disbelief. They had been disappointed. After all, they were living in a drought. Would God finally open up the windows of heaven and give them rain? 

It does take faith. Faith is not self-confidence, although it may appear that way to others. It is not positive thinking, which it can be mistaken for. Faith is a belief that God exists and that He desires to help those who call upon His name. As a person of “faith” I do not assert my own will and tell myself that it is God speaking, but I listen for God’s “still, small voice”. How can I discern the difference between the “Voice” and presumption? Because my voice is mostly concerned about me. I must learn to hear myself, truly so that I know when the authentic voice of God speaks to my heart. That voice is completely consistent with what He says in Holy Scripture. There is a sweet spot that when I know, I know. 

It takes a while to get to know someone. Even if they want the relationship as bad as you do. We must give and take. We must try not to dominate the conversation, nor be the silent one. But we must interact or, as my wife would say, hit the tennis ball back. When we do, it is surprising how well we get to know someone and how easily the conversation goes. It is the same way with God. When we do this, we are able to hear his voice, know it is Him, and believe that what He has said will come to pass. 

Well, that is the conversation Elijah had with God. They talked back and forth often. I am sure Elijah could discern that God was ready to lift the drought, so he asked. He believes that God would do it. 

It took seven times to see a cloud as small as a man’s hand. Elijah got so excited that he did what no weatherman would do—he gave the forecast from a small cloud—“rain’s a comin’” There would be a huge storm that would end the drought for good. 

It happened all because of relationship. Some people want God to be a genie of sort to grant all their wishes when they say the right words of “faith”. Others are so stand-off-ish that they dare not ask God for a thing because, in their estimation, God doesn’t answer with miracles anymore. The truth is, both need a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. In fact, we all do. 

I am not Elijah. I am Steve. I am still getting to know God, even though He knows me. When I seek Him, I’ll find Him, that’s what He said. I am still seeking and He is still revealing more and more of Himself in this relationship we have. Jesus made this possible for all. We can all be in that sort of relationship with God. In intimacy comes more intimacy. When we get to know God so well, when we ask, we receive. Not because of some wish fulfillment, but because we are able to discern his voice and will and when we want what God wants, we get what we want. 

Blessings to you! If you do not know Jesus, you cane have this kind of relationship. All you have to do is to start the conversation. We call that prayer. You tell him you are ready to stop running and you are ready to stop your life of sin with His help and you believe that He exists. But even more so you want that relationship where there is a conversation between you and Him, knowing He is your master and teacher, being willing to do what He wants as He reveals it. That’s it! In the name of Jesus, you are in the family of God. Keep listening for His voice through the Bible. Get into a Bible teaching church and begin to get to know your brothers and sisters in this family. Remember, you are loved! 

PROVIDENCE

“…they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen on them.” 1 Samuel 26:12 (NKJV)

No one prayed. Nobody sought wisdom. They just did. They acted. How did they know they were going to succeed? How did they know that God was with them?

David was being pursued by the king of Israel. Saul wanted David dead and was doing everything he could to make it happen. But David kept slipping out of his hands. At last, Saul and his armies had found David hiding in the Wilderness of Ziph and were ready to pounce the next day. 

That night David has a plan. He wants to go into the camp, steal king Saul’s spear and a water jug sitting next to his head. Why? To show that at any point, if he wanted, he could kill the king. How was this accomplished? The Lord put every warrior in the camp in a deep sleep. It could not have been accomplished without God’s help. But he didn’t and wouldn’t because, although Saul was David’s enemy, David was not the King’s.

How could David be sure that he could pull off this dangerous covert operation without injury or death? Because of God’s promise. David would be king one day, that was sure. He took that promise to the bank and cashed it in. 

How can we know we are making good, godly, decisions? When we rest upon the promises that God has given. We don’t have to worry. There is no anxiety with the people of God because we know that He who promised is faithful. 

In chapter 27, David is weary and forgets his promise and heads to the Philistines for over a year. This puts him in a precarious position but does not make the promise of non-effect. After lying and cheating and even almost losing everything—David once again encourages himself in the Lord and is set back on the promises of God. He eventually realizes that promise and becomes the king of Israel. 

Are you wrestling with a choice you must make? Look for God’s promises to you and act accordingly. You may already possess the answer you’ve been looking for. 

D. V. 

Eleven Days Equals Forty Years

“…It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea.” Deuteronomy 1:2 (NKJV)

Every time I read this it makes me laugh, but then, I realize that many times in my life this has been me. God has a plan. He has a streamlined, fast way to get there, then I do something stupid to ruin the plan and then I have to take the long road. 

An 11 day trip took them 40 YEARS! They didn’t enter because they didn’t trust the Lord.

Praise God that today we don’t have to be worried about being kept out of the promised land. Our sin has been forgiven on the cross. But I must tell you that I am tired of having to take another lap around the mountain. Yes. It gets tiring. 

My prayer is to get so in-tune with God’s plan that no matter what crazy thing He tells me to do, I immediately obey. I want to arrive in under two weeks not in 40 years. God has been so gracious. 

Where are you in this journey? Have you missed God’s plan? Are you walking on the dark side of the mountain ready to see the same sights and eat the same food and wear the same clothes for the next 40 years, or are you ready to repent and look for God’s Grace in your life. Are you ready to come to Him as a child that you would be counted as one who gets to enter heaven? He loves you and He died for you. Receive Him as you Savior and trust Him with your life. Let the short journey begin into the family of God and all the blessings that come with it. 

Amen!

The Lord Has Kept Me Alive

“And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.“ Joshua 14:10–11 (NKJV)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” 2 Corinthians 4:16–17 (NKJV)

We fight the spiritual battle like Caleb. We take ground and refuse to give it up. If we need help, we ask for it, but we keep our eye on the prize.

The goal is to be the means by which the Spirit uses to free as many hearts as possible before we hear the trumpet sound or are called home a little early. Looking forward to that day; looking forward to that rest.

But not yet.

Break Their Teeth!

“Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!” (Psalm 58:6, NKJV)

Be honest. Have you ever wanted to pray this prayer? Have you ever asked God to punch your enemies in the mouth and destroy them? Sure. We all have. But I think there is a general misunderstanding of this verse. What the psalmist is actually saying is that he wants God to de-fang the lions. He wants them to be unable to rip him to shreds anymore. He wants God to take away their hurtful power and turn them into kittens.

This is Bakari, the Little Rock Zoo lion and one of the most beautiful lions I have photographed in a zoo. But here, he is playing the part of an enemy with sharp fangs.

It is important for us to understand this. One way God does this is by taking the fangs out of the lion and making peace. In Proverbs it says:

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7, NKJV)

Another way to defang an enemy was when Daniel was in the lion’s den overnight with hungry lions. The Lord closed the mouths of the lions. God took away their power to be hurtful. And still another way, still from the book of Daniel, is when the king got so angry at Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, he threw them into the fiery furnace, expecting them to die a horrible death. But when he looked in, he saw them unbound and walking around with another person that looked like a son of one of the gods. I believe this was Jesus, “defanging” the fire and Nebuchadnezzar. When they came out, the three Hebrew leaders didn’t even smell like fire. They were untouched by it.

There are many ways God can do this in our lives. We want vengeance, but Paul wrote:

This is a somewhat sleepy Bakari playing the part of the “defanged” lion. This may have been what the lions looked like when Daniel met them.

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NKJV)

We need to give God a chance. He can repay people however He wants. If you are struggling with this, remember that God is just. Ask Him to defang your enemy so they can no longer hurt you. Then, allow God to do whatever He wants after that. You may be surprised because He just might bring them to repentance and make them a brother or sister in Christ because of your example!

Overwhelmed or Exhilaration?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)


While making the surfing movie, “Mavericks”, actor Gerard Butler almost died in what was described as a “two wave hold down.” It is when the first wave takes you down, then, before you have a chance to get back up, the second wave keeps you under.
Butler said, “‘I was down for that wave and I was down for a long time just turning turning and then the next wave came over and I began to think ‘Wow, I’m going to die making a movie.’” He continued, “It was like a Tsunami coming in and I was down and I just didn’t come back up really,” The actor described it by saying that it wasn’t a place he wanted to be.


In Streams in the Desert, a beloved devotional, there is a haunting poem. Here is a somewhat related excerpt:


“Who would dare the choice, neither or both to know, the finest quiver of joy or the agony thrill of woe! Never the exquisite pain, then never the exquisite bliss, for the heart that is dull to that can never be strung to this.” (Streams in the Desert, January 28th, selected poem)


Waves can also come in life. One after the other. An example of this is the story of Job. Who could read that book and ever forget the “As he was still speaking…” moments when servants came to tell Job of the great losses he had incurred. It was wave after wave of woe. What do we do when life brings this “tsunami” on us? If a surfer is to ride the waves, he must first journey through those that are breaking in front of them. They do this in various ways. Sometimes they are able to float over them before they break. Other times, they dive under the wave and come out the other side. Then there are those time that they misjudge and are caught in what we used to call, in my younger surfing days, as “the washing machine.” You just turn and turn and turn and are at the mercy of the wave and whitewash until you can come up for air. Those are scary times, as Butler can attest.


Have you ever felt this way? You feel as though life is hitting you again and again and all you can do is come up for air and go immediately down again? You need strength to overcome. You need help. Gerard Buttler was helped by two surfers with years of experience at Mavericks. We need help as well. Later Butler said he wanted to go back out and surf again. As believers in Jesus, we need His help to overcome. Once we figure out how to dodge the breaking waves in front of us, soon we’ll be out in the perfect point break, where, instead of being destroyed by the waves, we’ll ride them to victory in this life, and into eternity with Jesus.