Jerusalem’s Adultery

In the time leading up to my own wedding last summer, my soon-to-be wife Paige and I spent a lot of time discussing different aspects of marriage, how to prepare our hearts for them, and how God would be working through us to use our marriage as a demonstration of His love. Naturally, in this day and age, one topic that arose was divorce. Being a part of the Blumhorst family, divorce has never been very realistic or present. One relevant moment that sticks out in my mind was on a family vacation around five years ago, when my grandparents, my mother and father, my father’s three siblings and their significant others were gathered together with all our families. Someone noted that in that room were about 150 years of marriages altogether, and that our family was built around never giving up on each other. That’s a small moment that’s been deeply ingrained in my beliefs as a man, and now as a husband.

Considering this, reading through today’s passage, Jeremiah 2, breaks my heart. Jeremiah has been called at the start of this book to prophesy to a broken Jerusalem, one that has entirely abandoned God. In his own words, The Lord says through him (Jeremiah 2:2-3):

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the first fruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; Disaster came upon them, declares the LORD.”

Knowing this, and how I feel about my own wife, the degree to which God describes how Jerusalem has turned away from Him is heartbreaking. Yes, it’s not appropriate to compare earthly love like ours to God’s, and imagining how much more pain God feels from such deeper offense is not within our capabilities, but one can only imagine. In this chapter, we hear all sorts of horrible treatment from what was God’s people: worshipping false idols, taking part in pagan ceremonies, flirting with the ways of the people of Egypt, crying out to their own imagined gods in times of need, and worst of all, claiming themselves to be pure and free of guilt. Further embodying the marriage relationship, Jeremiah says (Jeremiah 2:32):

“Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”

Yet, despite the depth of their inequities towards the Lord, and His obvious displeasure, we see most of all that He still loves and will never forsake His people. As God further commands Jeremiah to tell the Israelites in the next chapter (Jeremiah 3:12):

“Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD. I will not be angry forever.”

This is something we see time and time again, no matter how little His people deserve it in our eyes: God forgives every time. God does not abandon us. And as we are called to mirror Him in our marriages, God will never walk away from us or hold forgiveness from us when we come to Him in need. In Hosea 2:19-20, as the LORD commands the prophet Hosea to command to sinful Israel:

“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”

Again, as Ezekiel repeats what the LORD has said to him about faithless and transgressing Israel in Ezekiel 16:60:

“…yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.”

No matter how often God’s people turn away from worshipping Him, or try to carve out their own futile wells of spiritual water only to end up thirsty, or forget the Lord’s past blessings and promises, God does not give up on those who repent and seek forgiveness. As a perfect example for us, God forgives and continues to love His bride, His people, at all times. And in this, He sets a perfect example for us of how to accept each other with open arms and love in our hearts, in and out of our marriages. I pray today that those of you with husbands or wives would pray for & with them, that you would always be able to look to God as an example of forgiveness and love and celebrate the perfect example He sets for you both. And for those without husbands and wives, I pray that you remember today that God is always ready with open and loving arms to accept you when you need, that you would be full of praise for our loving Lord, and that you would joyfully share the peace and love He brings you with those you encounter.

Ross B.

One Family, One Nation Under God

Our reading is 2 Kings 22.

Today, we read of King Josiah who we are told here began his reign when he was only 8 years old! He ruled for 31 years in Jerusalem. This chapter tells of Josiah rebuilding the temple, finding and reestablishing the Book of the Law, and if we read on in 2 Kings 23, we can see he restores Israel from many of their sinful ways and begins the Passover tradition which had not been kept in many years.

2 Kings 22:3 reads…

“And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he not turn aside to the right or to the left.”

King Josiah stood up for what was right and turned the nation to the Lord despite their many years and generations of sinful ways and what one would assume to likely be a lot of push back from the masses. We live in a world today where the masses, or a few who claim to represent the masses, want our nation to turn from what is right in the eyes of the Lord and from the Bible. Today, I just read where a cross honoring veterans who gave their life in World War I is to be torn down because a judge ruled it is unconstitutional and violates separation of church and state after an atheist group said it dishonors veterans killed who were not Christians. Seriously…you can’t even make this stuff up. Just over 17.5 years ago the entire nation cried when 2,606 people were killed when 2 planes struck the World Trade Center with most everyone calling it a senseless and horrific murderous act. Now, less than 2 months ago, the Freedom Tower or the “New World Trade Center” built in the same spot was lit up pink to celebrate an abortion bill passed in New York that will continue to allow hundreds of thousands, if not millions of babies being killed. How sad is this? It brings me to tears as I write this. The 10 Commandments tell us that we should not kill. How is one of these acts viewed as killing and not right, when the other act is celebrated by the same city and some of the same people who mourned the loss of their loved ones and friends back in 2001?

Well, what are we to do as Christians in this nation where many want us to turn away from God and His will? I wish I fully had the answer. I’m not one to protest and go on marches, etc., but I don’t know if that’s what we need to do. It does seem like we need to do something and is not only is very concerning if we don’t based on what the future trajectory of our wonderful country could be, but is also concerning if we don’t do something when you hear Jesus’ words in Luke 9:26..

“For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes to his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Again, I don’t know the answer or what all exactly I plan to do…except for I know the answer is not just spouting off in social media posts. I know what my wife and I do plan to do is our best to establish within our family that the Word of God is the one source of truth despite what the world tells us, and establish that we are called to live out the Word and the sacrificial love God showed us on the cross to others each day.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

The book The Resolution for Men gives an example that if a family has 2 children who are believers, and they all have 2 children who are believers the number is 1,024 believers in 10 generations, and if the number was 4 children who had 4 children the number is 260,000 believers following God’s Word! This shows the impact of just one family’s decision to follow Christ. If you are in small group with 9 other couples who all happen to have 4 children in 10 generations that’s 2.6 million Christ-followers! THIS can change our country. THIS can change the world….just one family of Christ-followers living out God’s Word at a time. Who knows..there may very well even be a future “Josiah of the United States” in your bloodline.

This Love

Zeph 3

Zephaniah was a prophet that God used to speak to Judah. At this time, the people of Judah worshiped God and all the other gods of the land. They kind of added the best parts of other gods to the worship of God so they could have what they thought was the best of both worlds. While it is tempting to mentally check out here because these people are not like me, (I would never add idols to my worship of God! …unless I am honest about my struggle of relying on myself instead of on God, or my desire to get what I want with money instead of allowing God to work or my pride in looking a certain way to others when my heart should be consumed with God) the truth is that I am a whole lot like them.  So the first three and a half chapters of this book tell of God’s warning to these people through Zephaniah of the destruction that is coming if they don’t change their ways and make Him their One true God.

Then in vs 9 of chapter 3, God changes his message to tell about the few people who do follow Him and what their lives look like. In reading through the prophets, I can’t remember very many times when God changes from trying to warn the wicked, to talking to the people who do follow him, so I feel like we need to pay attention to His message to these few people in Zeph 3.  In vs 12-13 he says, “ Those who are left will be the lowly and humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will never tell lies or deceive one another. They will eat and sleep in safety, and no one will make them afraid.” Verse 17 is where I want to draw our attention this morning. It says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

This is God’s promise to those who obey Him. “The Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” This morning I am trying to absorb that the Creator of the universe knows me personally and loves me deeply. The One who stops the waves on the shore, the One who commands the morning to appear each day, the One who holds the storehouses of snow and hail, the One who lays out the path for the lightning, the One who directs the movement of the stars, the One who directs the sequence of the seasons, the One who’s wisdom makes the hawk soar, the One who placed the world on its foundation so it could never be moved, the One who rides on the wings of the clouds and uses the wind as His messengers…this is the One who is with me, the One who saved me, the One who takes delight in me with gladness and calms all my fears with His love. He rejoices over me with joyful songs. I don’t have words. I don’t deserve even a portion of this kind of fierce lavish love, personal care, or mighty pursuit, but the truth is, this is God. It is hard for me to grasp that One who holds the world in place knows me. I can’t fully comprehend the fact that the same God described in Job and Psalms (powerful, mighty, capable, creator, wise, worldwide scale) is the same God who’s words are written in Zeph, (delights in me, calms me, saves me, rejoices over me). But it is real and true, this kind of love does exist. It is completely humbling this morning to think  that we are the recipients of this love.

Because He is Good

Nahum 1

Jonah describes a Nineveh that repents of their sin, but Nahum describes an unrepentant Nineveh that is under God’s wrath. Nahum goes into great detail about the power and strength of God, especially in his role as an avenger.

But before we get the impression that God is only about wrath, Nahum reminds us that God is good. In fact, God’s wrath toward Nineveh is not based on hate toward Assyria but rather love toward Israel. God stands up for his people because he is good.

Sometimes we need a reminder of God’s goodness. With all of things that happen in our world and in our lives, we sometimes forget about this. We can think of God as Creator and Judge, but not necessarily God as good. God loves us no matter how difficult life seems. God loves us no matter how silent he seems.

Take some time to reflect on God’s goodness and how he has revealed that to you over the years.

Never Let Them See You Sweat

Never let them see you sweat.  That line was made popular by the Gillette company.  They promoted a line of antiperspirants that would ensure you wouldn’t get caught sweating.  If you are a leader, you’ve probably thought about this too.  It’s important to project strength and confidence.  After-all, nobody wants to follow a weak or timid leader. Even worse, we definitely don’t want a a leader that fakes confidence.  Today in 2 Chronicles 32, we get a good look at courageous leadership.

There is nothing in this chapter that reveals leadership weakness in Hezekiah.  He consults trusted advisors, they set up a plan, organize a huge work crew and take action.  Hezekiah reminds the that God is on their side encouraging them to be strong and courageous. It’s amazing to me.  How can Hezekiah be so unflappable?  Was he just faking it?  Did he have sleepless nights worried that he was doing the right thing?  The answer is no.  He did not.  His confidence was real.

The secret to Hezekiah’s courage is probably obvious to you.  It’s God.  In fact, Hezekiah was quick to remind the people that their strength comes from God and God alone (v8).  The result?  Hezekiah gained the trust and confidence of the people.  They remained steadfast even throughout the verbal onslaught and lies spewing from King Sennacherib.  They remained faithful. Hezekiah, was not done.  He had one last act of courageous leadership.  He prayed.  I don’t think that this prayer was birthed from desperation or worry.  No, it was from disgust and insult.  Sennacherib had gone too far, making a mockery of God.  Hezekiah’s prayer, therefore was a call to action.  He was seeking God’s wisdom and guidance to fight; an act of courage, not fear.

As I read through this account of Hezekiah, he exemplifies the kind of leader I want to be.  He lets God lead every step of the way.  He puts his faith and confidence first in God.  In return, God provides him a platform of peace and wisdom from which to lead.  That is why Hezekiah doesn’t sweat.  And, God is why Hezekiah prevails.

 

Heaven: The Best Part

Seven weeks ago, my best friend’s baby Briar went to be with Jesus, at 22 weeks old, before she ever took her first breath, cooed with her first smile, or wobbled to her first step. The sole comfort in this tragedy has been having absolute peace and comfort of where she now is.

In the days and weeks following, my kids (ages 8 and 5) have asked some hard, thought provoking, and inspiring questions.

Why did Briar die? Did she believe in Jesus? How come she gets to go to heaven right away?

That last question brought all the tears back. What a sweet perspective – Briar GETS TO go to heaven first! She skips right past all of the things of this world and is right in the arms of Jesus, made perfectly whole in Him.

Our passage today, Isaiah 25, is a glimpse of Heaven. I love how the Lord is described:

        • God is faithful.
        • God is our protector.
        • God is our refuge and strength.
        • God will celebrate with us and bless us.
        • God will end death and sorrow.
        • God will perfectly judge.

What I notice most of all is His presence. Take another read through this chapter – can you feel how close He is to His people? Hosting a feast… wiping our tears. The people are celebrating and singing  “THIS is our God, that we have waited for.. let’s rejoice!”  What a beautiful picture of God with His people. This isn’t a distant God, but a God that is near, hands on.. comforting us, rescuing us, eating with us.

The best part of Heaven, really  will be God’s presence! Yes, Heaven will be the end of suffering, sin, health problems, anxiety, wars, famine, bills, jobs, death, fear, violence, discord, pride… ALL of it! But what’s even greater than our lives being made whole, is WHO we will be dwelling with.

Sometimes my view of heaven becomes the absence of all the struggles of this earth along with big family and friends reunion of people that have gone on before. This passage really repositions my heart to focus on the BEST part of Heaven. Being in the presence of our perfect Father.

When my kids talk about heaven, they get so excited and first talk doing stuff with Jesus… it’s a humbling reminder for me to keep my child-like faith and my eyes on Jesus.

What comes to your mind when you think about Heaven?

God’s Rightful Place

Recently a good friend asked me to inform him of any mistakes he is making and for me to share ideas on how he could improve. As a response started coming to mind, my thoughts went to admiration for his courage and humility in opening this door to real conversation.

Do I know where I can improve, and the mistakes I’m making?

Considering this question I quickly wrote eight areas for me to improve; four professionally and four personally. Only one of the eight was technical or tangible (objective) and that was to continue to improve in my Italian language skills.

There was no science behind the number of areas, it was just that these were the first to come to mind and they seemed right. Certainly there are closer to 80 or maybe even 800 areas for me to improve but let’s not crush my spirit just yet.

The remaining seven…

  1. Communicating better. Sharing ideas and setting expectations; not assuming people know what I’m thinking or what is going on.
  2. Asking better questions. Becoming more vulnerable.
  3. Becoming less judgmental.
  4. Becoming more humble.
  5. Loving others more.
  6. Allowing more joy in my life (by removing distractions).
  7. Listening better. Stopping and listening and referring back to the goals around humility and becoming less judgmental.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 6

All of the aforementioned improvement areas (and related weaknesses) are good reminders that I am a sinner in need of a savior. Failure in these areas can usually equate to some sort of sin (typically selfishness, pride, greed, and even hate). I constantly need to remember to focus on the appropriate priorities, and most important, I need to be cognizant of God’s rightful place in my life. 

God’s rightful place is to be high and lifted up. To be Lord of my life. To be my first thought in the morning, with me throughout the day and in the night.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1a)

We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (as in Philippians 2:12), in awe of our loving and perfect God who knows us and calls us by name. To be like Isaiah, knowing our sin is unacceptable to God.

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Isaiah needed an intermediary (the burning coal) to pay for his sins.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

We too are in need of an intermediary that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

Consider praying today for God to reveal opportunities for putting him in his rightful place in your life. May He richly bless you today, for His glory alone.

Hezekiah’s Festival

Today’s reading:  2 Chronicles 29 and 30

Our text today picks up with Hezekiah sitting on the throne in Judah.  Unlike his father, King Ahaz, Hezekiah was committed to following God’s law.  During the first year of his reign, he cleansed/repaired the temple, restored the priesthood and re-instituted temple worship (see 2 Chronicles 29).  2 Chronicles 30 is the story of how Hezekiah resumed the tradition of inviting the scattered tribes of Israel to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover festival together.

A few key lessons we can learn from Hezekiah in this passage:

Do the right thing for the right reason, even in the face of challenges.

      • Cleansing and restoring the temple after many years of neglect was no small task.  Hezekiah persisted.
      • To reinstitute temple worship, it took more sacrifices than the priests could handle (70 bulls, 100 rams, 200 lambs, 600 bulls, 3,000 sheep in the first week; then 1,000 bulls, 7,000 sheep, 1,000 bulls, 10,000 sheep in the second week).  Hezekiah persisted.
      • Men of Ephraim, Manasseh and Zebulun mocked the King’s messengers who urged them to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Hezekiah persisted.

God’s grace will cover our imperfections if our hearts are right.

      • Many of the people who did come to Jerusalem hadn’t consecrated themselves, as required by the law.  The Levites sacrificed the Passover lamb for everyone who was unclean.
      • The majority of people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not cleansed themselves, but ate the Passover meal anyway.  Hezekiah prayed that the Lord would pardon those who set their hearts on seeking God, even though they had not kept the Law.  The Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (2 Chronicles 20).

Serving the Lord will lead to joy.

      • After restoring the temple, Hezekiah commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord.  They sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped (2 Chronicles 29:30).
      • After the sacrifices were made and the service of the house of the Lord restored, Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided (2 Chronicles 29:36).
      • After celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days, the whole assembly agreed to keep it going for another seven days with gladness (2 Chronicles 30:23).
      • There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:26).

This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.  In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).

As the great (to the 16th power) grandfather of Jesus, Hezekiah is an example worth following.

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah (Matthew 1:10,16).

 

Justice, Mercy, Humility

Today’s reading is Micah 6.

In the beginning of Micah 6, the prophet is urging the people to remember all that God has done for them. The miracles, the deliverance, and the people he sent to lead them. He tells them to “remember their journey” (6:5). After sitting down to realize and remember all that He has done…..then what? How do we respond to all the ways He has cared for us? The Israelites had in mind to offer their most prized possessions, even to the extreme of their first born. But Micah goes on to tell them what is required of them. It is not the sacrifice of things they own but rather something much more eternal – their hearts.

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

Act Justly  – Living with a sense of right and wrong – as defined by the Bible.

Love Mercy – Contains the Hebrew word “Hesed” which means “loyal love” or “loving kindness”. Mercy – compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender. (Dictionary.com)

Walk Humbly – The heart’s attitude toward God. Do you really know and understand WHO the God is that you worship? Do you live in fear of the Lord and his mighty power? Are you truly humbled by his justice and mercy shown to you on a daily basis?

God is most concerned about what is in our hearts.  When the Spirit is alive in us we display the fruit that only comes from God.  Galations 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  He alone gives us the ability to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

“The response of a Godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly). Gotquestions.org

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. NIV

 

Shelly

 

 

 

Meanwhile in Jerusalem – 1 Chronicles 20

 

It happened in the spring of the year, at the time kings go out that Joab led out the armed forces and ravaged the country of the people of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. And Joab defeated Rabbah and overthrew it. 1 Chronicles 20

Notice anything different about this verse? Yes… one thing could be spring time is when battles were fought.  Who would want to go to battle in the cold.    Currently, I’m very eager for spring to be here.  We have had our kids in for many days over these last few months. They are ready to be out.  Yes, I’m sure  there was frost bite whether in battle or just playing outside for an extended amount of time.

In addition to my warmer weather prayer you read, But David stayed in Jerusalem.  What? David didn’t go? This is the very short version of 2 Samuel 11. Go back and read that chapter for the details.  What was David doing? As the king he should have been doing his duty and leading his army to war.  Instead he sent Joab because he was too focused on his own desires.  How often can we do the same? Not following what God has planned for us and following our own temptations even when they know they are wrong.  Based on the idea of a Rooster Crowing app mentioned by Mike Baker in our most recent sermon from the series Imperfect. The idea is that each time we denied Jesus the rooster would crow. In this case, the crowing would be going off big time the minute David thought, No I think I ‘ll stick around here, Joab you go.

A couple reminders to me were;

  • During this time when God’s planned on David leading his army out to battle,  David stayed back back and was tempted giving into his desires. Take the initiative to do God’s will, and not your own. Don’t give temptation a foothold by resting in inactivity. If we cannot fill our days with our own matters, there is always plenty to be done for others… God has big plans for you.
  • Beware of moments and times of ease.  It is in these moments that we most easily fall into the power of Satan. Watch and pray in days of relaxing and ease, even more than at other times. There is nothing more full of subtle danger in the life of any servant of God than that he should remain inactive.   God wants us to be out in the fields.

It seems like spring is here this week. Let’s keep our focus on God and take initiative for His will not our own.  Have a blessed Tuesday.