Thursday, February 28, 2013

Driving Distracted...

Today's blog is less of a reflection on scripture and more a confession of sin.

Yesterday morning, I received my first traffic citation ever. I ran a stop sign in our neighborhood. It was early morning and I was rushing to get somewhere. No excuse, but I had awaken to some issues that I was needing to deal with and my mind was elsewhere. I was driving distracted. I don't remember not stopping at that stop sign and the next thing I knew was that I saw blue lights in my rearview mirror. I was pulled over (in my own subdivision) and I was sitting there while many of my neighbors passed by looking to see who the criminal was sitting in my truck (it was me!).

The nice young officer of the Mt. Juliet Police Department, after looking at my license and registration, kindly asked, "Mr. Palmer, do you know why I stopped you?" And, looking dumber than usual, I replied, "No, not really." I truly was so distracted that I had no idea what I had done.

I wonder how often I am distracted in my spiritual life? How many times do I get so caught up in the physical world that I don't stop to see, hear and experience where God is working and what He is doing around me?

That mother with the screaming child at the checkout counter in the grocery store...
That group of young teenagers hanging out and looking like a skateboard gang...
That person in the hallway at work...

The list goes on and on and on. Every day and every moment, the spiritual opportunities that God places before me to minister to or to share a word of truth are like that stop sign in my neighborhood that I blew by without even heeding.

To make the story (of the traffic violation) even worse, the officer asked me, "So, where were you going in such a hurry?" To which I honestly replied, "Well...a prayer breakfast." The officer chuckled and handed me the citation.

Lord, may I be alert today to the stop signs you place in my life. May I stop, look and discern what You are doing in my life and Your world. May I not "drive" through this life distracted too much to see the most important things...


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Israel Fell...

In 2 Kings, chapter 17, we have the story of the last king of the northern kingdom of Israel. His name is Hosea and he rules for about nine years. But his kingdom is doomed from the start because God has already decided to punish Israel with destruction while still preserving a people for Himself in the southern kingdom of Judah.

God raises up the nation of Assiyria. They come with a great army and capture Samaria. They deport the Israelites to Assyria and eventually resettle the land with differing people groups, a very mixed sort.

However, there is an interesting passage in 2 Kings 17:7-23. It talks about the simple topic of "why" Israel fell. It mentions several reasons such as...

1. They sinned against the Lord their God (v. 7)
2. They worshipped other gods (v. 7)
3. They lived according to the customs of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed (v. 8)
4. They secretly did what was not right against the Lord (v. 9)
5. They built high places in all their towns (v. 9)
6. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill (v. 10)
7. They burned incense on all the high places (v. 11)
8. They served idols, although the Lord had told them not to do so (v. 12)
9. They would not listen when God sent correction but became obstinate like their ancestors who didn't even believe in God (v. 14)
10. The rejected God's statutes and covenant (v. 15)
11. And...they pursued worthless idols and became worthless themselves...

Actually, while this seems as an indictment overkill, the list goes on for a few more verses. Clearly, they have sinned against God and gone after other gods.

Here are the quick lessons that I glean from this passage...

1. God is serious about our sole devotion to Him. He is a jealous lover and will not share His glory with any other.

2. God is ever patient, slow to anger, and desirable of our repentance and turning to Him. This exhaustive list wears me out to even record it here. But God had patience, love and mercy, desiring Israel's turning from their ways.

3. God is holy and just. He will punish sin. He will execute judgement in His "kairos" timing. We should never take His mercy lightly or for granted. But we must never forget that He is holy and will execute His justice.

4. What are the warnings in my life, my culture and my world that are similar to fallen Israel? It is easy to analyze others' sin from afar but is there a warning/parallel for my life. Aren't we all sinners who fall short of the glory of God? Aren't we all capable of worshipping worthless things, idols if you will, and becoming worthless ourselves. I imagine Judah, the kingdom to the south, looked at Israel's fall and perhaps said, "They got what they deserved!", only to experience the same thing a few hundred years later.

Why Israel fell should be a stark warning and reminder that, but for the grace of God, go I...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Faith: Seeing the Unseen

The writer of Hebrews says about faith that...

"Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof off what is not seen..."

In the book of 2 Kings, there is a great story of seeing the unseen and having faith. In chapter 6, the king of Aram is waging war against Israel. His plans are constantly frustrated by the prophet Elisha because Elisha was telling the king of Israel Aram's moves even before they made them. So the king of Aram sent a massive army to the city of Dothan where Elisha was reported to have been to take him prisoner or even kill him.

The army arrives by night and surrounds the city. The people of the city wake up to the alarming fact that they are surrounded. Elisha's servant is greatly disturbed and asks of Elisha, "Oh, my master, what are we to do?" To which Elisha calmly replies...

"Don't be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them."

Evidently the servant is confused. All he sees is a vast Aramean army. However, Elisha prays for his servant's eyes to be opened. At once, the servant looks and he sees the mountains covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha! The story goes on and tells of how the whole army of Aram is captured but shown mercy. It's a great story and I encourage you to read it today when you get time.

What I like about the story is that it shows in many cases, we too often look with our human eyes at situations and forget that we serve a might God who sits on His throne. A mighty King who will not be shaken or moved. A mighty and all powerful Creator and Sustainer of everything with a definite plan and purpose for our lives as well as those of others.

I am often tempted to look at the problems in life and say, "the army of Aram is too great!" I need desperately to look with the eyes of faith and see that the armies of God are always greater.

Lord, give me faith today to see You and Your armies.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trading Gold for Bronze...

I think I may have written about this story before but I am always drawn to it every time I read it. It is the story of Judah's King Rehoboam and how during his fifth year of reign, the king of Egypt comes to war against Jerusalem, defeats them and takes everything including the treasuries of the Lord's temple. One particular set of items that Shishak takes are the golden shields which Solomon, Rehoboam's father, had made.

King Rehoboam, in an effort to save face, has bronze shields made to replace the gold ones which were lost. He committed them to the care of the royal escorts who guarded the temple. And whenever the King entered the Lord's temple, the royal escorts would bring the shields out, stand at attention and on guard, and then take them back to the armory after the King's visit.

If people didn't know better, they could have sworn that the gold shields of Solomon were still in Judah's possession. For bronze shields at a distance could easily be mistaken for golden ones. If the sun was just right and the guards far enough away, anyone in Jerusalem would have exclaimed upon seeing the royal escorts, "Look! The golden shields of Solomon!"

But the truth is plain to see: bronze shields are not gold shields. They are in no way even close to comparable worth. They may be stronger for battle, but they are not as valuable.

Why would Rehoboam see the need to replace the shields? And why was it so necessary to keep up the appearance of having shields of gold (even though all he could muster was bronze)?

I guess if we were truthful, all of us have some bronze shields in our lives. All of us have things that we have made to appear to be something but in reality are of less worth. For many of us, it might be our reputations. Isn't it human nature to deep down think more highly of ourselves than we really are? We of course may never show that on the outside to others, but deep inside, in the recesses of our souls, there is some pretty prideful stuff.

For those of us who know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord, we have the greatest, most precious shield of gold. We have His presence with us and within us. We don't need to manufacture bronze shields of personas, false acclamations, or anything else that would tend to elevate us in the eyes of others. We simply need only to let the golden light of His presence in our hearts shine out before men.

In a life of a panting, ever-tiring rush of trying to keep all the plates spinning, it is comforting to note that we do not need to worry with manufacturing bronze shields. We have the golden ones that are deep within our hearts already.