April 19, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 21

The Point of No Return

The most significant event in the Old Testament, second only to the Exodus, is the Babylonian Exile. The Exile is the fulfillment of God’s blessings and curses (Dt. 28), that a disobedient people would be exiled from the Land. However, there was a promise that if Israel humbles themselves and repents, no matter where they are, God will bring them back to the Land (Dt. 30). This event is significant for many reasons, but it clearly helps us understand God’s Covenant Love, what he says He’ll do, He’ll do.

King Manasseh, in a way, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He reigned for 55 years. Although there were kings to follow, there was no turning back after Manasseh. He built and followed idols, leading the nation into sin. He went so far that he burned his own son alive as a sacrifice (6), not to mention the shedding of other innocent blood (16).

God called Israel to be the light of the world—that the whole world would be blessed through them (Genesis 12 &15). Yet, here Israel stands, looking exactly like the nations. The sin-line had been crossed and God made the promise in fulfillment of Dt. 28 that He would bring destruction (7–15).

Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, was a great king who brought a lot of reform to Israel. Even still, “the Lord was very angry with Judah because of all the wicked things Manasseh had done to provoke him” (23:26).

So, what do we make of this? First, we see clearly that God is serious about sin. As a Good Father, God will not let His people live in rebellion and disobedience. Second, God’s Name is great, and it must be considered great in how we live. Because Manasseh did not consider the name of God as great, he worshiped the wrong things. Misplaced worship always leads to an increasingly wicked way of life. So much so that Manasseh killed his own son.

Although we wouldn’t consider burning our children on an altar, that doesn’t mean we don’t sacrifice our kids to idols. If God’s Name is great in how you live, you will follow the commands to train your kids in righteousness (and you’ll have a community of believers to help you). However, idolatry leads to neglect, hurt, broken relationships, or possibly worse. This is just one example, but how many kids grow up without a dad who loved himself more than his kids, loved his job more than his kids, loved his whatever, more than his kids. Although few fathers would verbalize this, it is functionally how they live. “I was doing it for you,” is the plea of a father with misplaced worship.

As you consider the greatness of the Name of God in your life, is God Great in every area? What areas have you struggled with idolatry? If your answer is “I don’t know,” or “I don’t struggle with idolatry,” you need to listen to this sermon (https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/sermons/source-and-surface-idols) by our Texas friend, Matt Chandler and re-evaluate. It’s the best single sermon I’ve heard on the issue and it will sting.

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

April 18, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 20

Today we are landing in about 713-712 B.C. which is about 15 years before the death of Hezekiah. Hezekiah is at the point of death when Isaiah comes in to tell him that God wants him to get his house in order because he is about to die. How good would that news be… Hezekiah’s response was that he wanted to be left alone (v.2 …turned his face to the wall..). After this broken prayer, God tells Isaiah to return to Hezekiah and tell him that he would now be healed.

Not only does God heal Hezekiah, He also promises fifteen more years, deliverance from Assyria, and protection for the city. This is a pretty awesome moment. But what is crazy in this passage is how everything concludes. You would think that there would be a crazy amount of gratitude for all that God had done and all the promises He made, but that wasn’t the case. Hezekiah becomes very prideful of his wealth and success. Then later Isaiah comes back to Hezekiah and tells the prophesy of how things are going to turn out after he dies.

What Isaiah tells him is not what someone would call good. But Hezekiah shows a complete lack of empathy for what was told to him. He feels that it is good because while he is alive things would be fine. This is a heart of selfishness and ungratefulness. God gave him so much and answered his prayers and this is how he ends up being. We do the same thing… We have been given life and salvation through Jesus and yet we are selfish, prideful and disobedient. We are not using the life that we have been given to bring glory to God as we should. This passage should cause us to check our pride and our motives, and bring us to a place of deep gratitude to God.

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

April 17, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 19

On Sunday, we focused intently on the prayer of Nehemiah from Nehemiah 1:4-11. In our passage today, we see a prayer that we can learn a lot from to reinforce what we looked at on Sunday.

15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 2 Kings 19:15-19 (ESV)

This prayer doesn’t explicitly fit into the ACTS format (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), but the prayer does begin and end with God. Prayer is all about God! So often we come to God and treat him as a magic genie, simply asking him to provide for your needs. But prayer in the Bible is explicitly God-centered.

He says in verse 15, “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.” This preceded the request made in verse 16, and his plea in verses 18 & 19, and he closes with acknowledging God again in verse 19. 

If nothing else, we can remember that when we bring our requests to God, we should be much more focused on the God who answers than the problem that needs answering. This reflects a heart of trust and love for God, and that your focus is more on God than yourself and your current situation.

What does your prayer life say about how you are relating to God?

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

April 16, 2018

Today you should read: 2 Kings 18

David was a man after God’s own heart. Very few of Israel’s kings could be compared to him. The one that most clearly reminds us of him, though, is the one whom we read about today: Hezekiah. I found it refreshing to learn about a king who had character, was trying to do things right, and honored God.

“He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight”

“He removed the pagan shrines”

“He broke up the bronze serpent”

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.”

“He remained faithful to the Lord in everything”

“He carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses”

“Hezekiah was successful in everything he did”

“He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute”

“He also conquered the Philistines”

That’s some seriously high praise. This man loved God and led with God’s favor. When I read verse 7 (So the Lord was with him), I remembered something our lead pastor has often said: “I want to be a man that God sees, and says, “He’s the kind of man I want to bless!” What kind of man is that? Well, today’s reading seems to show that it’s Hekekiah. But the reality is that his success was found in a singular goal — he wanted to honor God.

Do you want to honor God? I know that you want His blessings, but do you want to really honor Him? And not just for the blessings (that would be borderline idolatry, and prosperity gospel-ish), but simply because you love Him and you’re overwhelmed by His love for you?

I’ve made a simple choice today. I want to learn from the example of Hezekiah. May what was said of him be said of us.

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor