Tag Archives: Israel

No God I won’t, but will You…

It was a dark period in the history of God’s people. The once strong nation divided after King Solomon’s death. The 10 tribes to the north became known as Israel and the 2 tribes to the south were Judah.

This sad state of affairs lasted slightly more than 200 years. In all, there were 38 kings but only 5 – all of them in Judah – were God-fearing, good leaders. God sent prophets repeatedly to call the people to repent and come back into their covenant relationship with Him but they stubbornly refused.

Israel experienced judgment at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. They were conquered and led away into exile. Judah rallied for a time because of placing their trust in God, but another bad king once again led to moral decay and chaos.

When Judah finally experienced judgment at the hands of the Assyrians, it was a two-year ordeal. When the final assault was at hand, King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah to make one more appeal to God. Jeremiah was straightforward in his message from God – it’s too late!

King Zedekiah, along with all of Judah, persistently ignored God’s prophets who warned about the consequences of unfaithfulness to God. They refused to honor their covenant relationship with God and yet when the chips were down, King Zedekiah wanted God’s help.

Stop and think about that for a moment!

They refused to do life according to God’s directives, but still wanted – perhaps even expected – God to come to their rescue. Does that sound at all familiar to you? It does to me.

I think it describes much of what is called Christianity today.

We participate in church life and even other token activities identified as what it means to be a Christian; but then we do life pretty much how we want. Yet when our back is up against the wall we want and even expect God to come through for us and bless our agenda.

And I’m just as guilty as the next person.

Bob Yawberg, one of my mentors, kept a journal throughout his nearly 40 years of ministry. The simple title was “Saying Yes to God.”

Lord, forgive us for abusing the covenant relationship with You that cost Jesus His very life.

May we recognize that You are the center of life and may we say “Yes” to doing life with You.

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, God, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Surrender

Seeds of hope in the midst of darkness

The people of God were enduring one of the darkest hours of their existence as Judah was being conquered by the Babylonians. Jerusalem itself was under siege and would soon fall. All of this as a result of their rebellious spirit and unwillingness to honor God.

And yet, even as God brought devastation upon them, He planted seeds of hope. His plan to redeem mankind by bringing the Messiah into the world through the tribe of Judah would still come to pass.

The once strong nation of God had become a scattered people living in exile. It was during these dark moments that Jeremiah was inspired to write:

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. ~ Lamentations 3:25-26

What are you facing that only God is big enough to handle? Are you waiting on Him?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Encouragement, God, Hope, Peace, Trusting God

What would we ask of God?

We’ve all heard jokes about being granted a wish by a genie, but what if God showed up to grant us a request? This actually happened to a guy I know who was very serious about following God.

You can read about it yourself in 1 Kings 3:1-15. That guy was none other than Solomon, son of King David. After David’s death, Solomon became the next King of Israel. After completing the Temple God showed up in a dream to grant Solomon whatever he wanted.

Solomon could have requested anything of God but asked for wisdom to lead the people of Israel. It was a very selfless request and God was very pleased with Solomon.

In fact, God was so pleased that He gave Solomon not only what he asked for but more.

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. ~ 1 Kings 3:10-13

People came from far and wide to learn from Solomon. And he penned thousands of proverbs because he wanted everyone to benefit from what God was teaching him.

But it didn’t last…

As wise as Solomon was, he broke God’s boundaries and married women from other nations. God had not placed this restriction on Israel because He was a racist but because He knew that if they let themselves be influenced by people of other nations they would eventually be led into worshipping false, pagan gods.

As selfless and respectable as Solomon’s request was, I believe his father David made an even better request.

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. ~ Psalm 27:4

Solomon wanted wisdom to serve God well.

David wanted more of God’s presence.

We don’t have to wait for a dream or special visit from God. We are made in His image and exercise a free will. We choose what matters most to us every day by what we give our time, attention and energy to pursuing.

Will we choose the presence of God above everything else today?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Desire, Divine presence, God, intimacy with the Lord, Loving God, Priorities, Relationship with God, The Story, Wisdom

Even good men fall hard

Kelsey is a cute, energetic 10-years-old girl who is part of my wife’s Sunday School class. As they were discussing King David’s sin and repentance they penciled the word God inside a big circle along with a variety of different sins.

They erased the sins to represent God’s forgiveness when we repent and some of the pencil marks remained. That’s when Kelsey made her observation.

The left over marks are the scars of our mistakes. Even though God forgives us there are still consequences that we have to live with and relationships that have to be rebuilt. (My paraphrase)

It was a simple observation wise beyond her years.

David went from shepherd boy to king because he was a man after God’s own heart. The core of his being was in rhythm with the heart of God and all that mattered to God.

Under David’s leadership Israel accomplished many victories on the battlefield and experienced a time of great peace and prosperity. But even good men fall hard. And David was no exception.

David committed adultery, treachery in trying to cover it up and eventually outright murder. How is it that a man who did all these things is still known as a man after God’s own heart?

While David wasn’t perfect, his repentance was genuine.

When King Saul was confronted about his disobedience towards God he made excuses. But David took full ownership of his sins and was sincerely sorry for what he had done.

Sin is almost a taboo subject today even among Christians and churches. We generally dismiss it or down play it or reshape it… in short, we justify.

God hates sin because it not only hurts people but it interferes with our relationships - both with Him and with others. When we walk according to His boundaries we open ourselves to experience life and relationships in a fresh, new way. (See 1 John 1:5-10)

God’s grace is always bigger than our biggest sins. That’s no excuse to knowingly sin, but it means that no matter how many times we stumble we can get back up and once again walk with God. We can be refreshed.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” ~ Acts 3:19-20

When we genuinely repent and return to putting God first, as David did, we can be people after God’s own heart.

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If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 13 for this week. If you’re unfamiliar with The Story you can check it out on the page tab above.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Forgiveness, Grace, Guilt, intimacy with the Lord, Repentance, Sin, The Story

Trying to use God is always a bad idea!

It has to be one of the most blatant and offensive acts of selfishness ever! It occurred toward the end of the period of the Judges but prior to Israel’s first king. It was a time described like this:

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” ~ Judges 21:25

The army of God went out to battle the Philistines… and lost! As they regrouped and tried to figure out why God hadn’t given them victory they struck upon what they thought was a great idea.

Every have a “great” idea flop badly only to be followed by an even worse idea? Multiply it by 1000 and you get the idea. Here’s how it reads:

When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” ~ 1 Samuel 4:3

First time out the Israelites lost about 4000 men. On their second time out they lost 30,000 men!

Was this a black eye on God’s reputation? Hardly! It was a terribly self-centered move on the part of the Israelites.

God certainly did His share of punishing the surrounding people groups because of their wickedness but there is no indication here that God sent them out to battle the Philistines. And no indication that God led them to take the ark of the covenant.

Not only did the Israelites get badly defeated, but they lost the ark to the Philistines!

The root issue: Rather than wanting intimacy with God, they merely wanted His power to carry out their own agenda.

As a representation of God’s presence the ark was there when some amazing things happened. But it was God Himself that provided the power to accomplish those things; and God is not inclined to be used like some sort of magical talisman.

But before we get too self-righteous, let’s be honest; we tend to do the same thing. We may not use something physical like the ark but we do our fair share of approaching God to secure His favor on our plans.

Life is His story, not ours. When we presume to invite God into our plans we not only mock Him but make fools of ourselves. And then when God doesn’t come through for us we get angry.

We need to enter every day and every situation with the same attitude and response that we see in young Samuel when God called out to him in the middle of the night.

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

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Read chapter(s) 11 in The Story this week or click on the page tab above to learn more.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, God, intimacy with the Lord, Serving, Surrender, The Story

Being the hands and heart of God

Ever watch a movie or theatre production where someone in a supporting role actually outshines the main character? It doesn’t happen very often but when it does, its noticeable. That’s sort of how I feel about the book of Ruth. In case you are not familiar with the story of Ruth here’s a quick overview.

During the period of the Judges Elimelek and his wife Naomi, along with their two sons, leave Israel to escape a famine and relocate in the land of Moab. Elimelek dies, their two sons marry Moabite women and then 10 years later they die. Naomi is left with two daughter-in-laws in a foreign land. She returns to Israel with Ruth who refuses to leave her side.

Life for widows at that time was very, very bleak! Out of love for Naomi, Ruth gleans (collects leftover grain) from a local field belonging to Boaz. Knowing of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi, Boaz acts favorably towards Ruth not only protecting her but providing extra grain for her to collect. Upon learning of this, Naomi instructs Ruth to make herself available to Boaz for marriage. They eventually marry and everyone lives happily ever after. Honest!

But there’s more!

The loyalty Ruth demonstrates for her mother-in-law Naomi is admirable; especially considering that Israel and Moab had a history of being bitter enemies. But what Boaz does is even more amazing.

As God’s holy people, Israelites were to reflect the heart of God by trusting Him enough to act as His hands and heart toward the less fortunate within their community.  Much of the Law was designed to provide opportunities for Israel to trust God, to be generous like God, to demonstrate the love and the justice of God.  God’s means of taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan was through His people.

The levirate marriage was one such custom.  The term levirate means “husband’s brother.”  It was employed when a man died without a son to inherit his land and carry on a family line.  When those circumstances arose, the husband’s brother was responsible to take the widow as his wife and produce a first-born son who would bear the dead brother’s name.  This son would be the rightful heir to his dead “father’s” estate and would carry on the deceased’s family name.  The following children born to the union of the widow and her new husband would belong to the new husband and bear his name.  (Deut. 25:5-10).

Any man who took on this responsibility was known as a Kinsman-Redeemer. Taking on this role was optional and when another relative declined to accept it, likely because Ruth was a Moabite, Boaz willingly stepped in. He had to give his resources to buy the land owned by Naomi/Ruth but would not keep it as his own. Their first-born son would receive it to carry on the lineage of his grandfather/father.

Boaz had nothing to gain from this arrangement other than the company of Ruth as his bride. His selfless act of compassion is remarkable; and it is a foretelling of Jesus’ role with all of humanity.

Jesus gave up His very life to pay our debt of sin, something we could not do, and purchase for us new life and an eternal future with God. Just as Boaz reflected the love and justice of God, we who follow Jesus are called to reflect it as well among those we encounter daily.

How will we be the hands and heart of God to those we encounter today?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 10 this week. To learn more about The Story click on the page tab above.

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Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Generosity, influence with the world, Justice, Loving others, Loyalty, The Story

Can we journey with God and wrestle with doubts?

The account of God using Gideon and just 300 Israelites to defeat over 200,000 Midianites is a great story, but it’s the irony within the story that has captured my attention. (Judges 6-8)

An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and gives him God’s directive. But Gideon isn’t sure it’s really the Lord so he asks for some confirmation. God is agreeable and sends fire to consume a meat offering laid on a rock.

Gideon is awe-struck and agrees to go with the Lord on this special ops mission. But along the way he has some doubts. So he asks the Lord for another sign and places some fleece on a bowl before heading to bed.

God again privides the miracle and Gideon is convinced… almost! He wants another sign using the same fleece and bowl but in a different way. God does it again.

Then after whittling Gideon’s troops down from 32,000 to just 300 men God grants Gideon yet another confirmation. He allows Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and overhear them talking about some strange dreams. In these dreams the Israelites roll down the hill like a large boulder and crush them.

Gideon’s weak faith is again bolstered and the battle is won in short order.

God’s rescue is amazing but even more amazing is how Gideon was used in spite of his doubts. God didn’t get angry with him or give up on him.

Does anyone else find that the least bit encouraging?

We can follow God… we can be used to carry out His kingdom purposes… we can do His work… and we can wrestle with doubts at the same time!

Faith is obviously a critical part of our journey with God and it is impossible to please Him without it (Hebrews 11:6). But that doesn’t mean we won’t still wrestle with some occasional doubts.

Every time I’ve struggled through a season of doubt I’ve come out the other side of it with a stronger, deeper faith. The important thing is to be honest with our questions and seek out some good people/resources to help sort it out.

The critical element in our journey with God is not our unwavering faith but God’s unwavering presence!

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Check out my Resources tab above for some good books on this subject. One of the best is Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Divine presence, Doubt, Faith, Trusting God

God’s trump card… His presence!

God has big plans for His new nation, Israel, but there’s a problem; they’re enslaved in Egypt! So before God can lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey (i.e. – prime real estate), He has to first rescue them.

Maybe God will bring down lightning or send in the S.W.A.T. team or better yet… send a past-his-prime shepherd. Sure, I’ll take curtain #3… NOT!

God speaks to Moses from a burning bush that doesn’t burn up and recruits him to go confront Pharaoh. Moses is flattered, but not interested. Can’t really blame him. He did have three strikes against him.

  1. He was already 80 years old. (No disrespect intended)
  2. He was a poor communicator. (Notice that God doesn’t disagree)
  3. He had skeletons in his closet. (Wanted for murder of an Egyptian)

So what does God offer as a confidence boost? His very presence. I’m sure that Moses appreciated the offer, but since he didn’t know God very well it didn’t much help. God eventually conceded to a couple of traveling companions for Moses. (Exodus 3)

Now, fast forward to the part of the story where Moses and the people are at Mt. Sinai. While Moses is up on the mountain with God the people down below give in to all kinds of nasty idol worship – a real slap in the face to God.

God tells Moses that they can still go to the promised land but without His presence. God isn’t going to go with them because He’s concerned about getting angry enough to wipe them all out. (Exodus 33)

But Moses states very clearly that if the Lord’s presence is not going to be with them then he doesn’t want to go. Moses’ experience with God in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and on the mountain was enough to convince him that all he really needed was God’s presence.

How about you? What is it you’re facing? What is it you need in order to deal with it? Is God’s presence enough?
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If you’re on our journey through The Story then read chapter(s) 4 this week. If you’re not familiar with The Story you can check it out at the tab above or click here.

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Filed under Divine presence, Faith, intimacy with the Lord, The Story, Trusting God

Our Abba is very fond of us!

During His human journey Jesus experienced God in ways that no one dared dream or imagine. As Brennan Manning puts it:

“Jesus was indwelt by the Spirit of the Father and given a name for God that would scandalize both the theology and public opinion of Israel, the name that escaped the mouth of the Nazarene carpenter: Abba.”

Abba literally means “Daddy” and was used by Jewish children as an intimate way of addressing their fathers. As a term to be used in referring to divinity, however, it was unheard of not only in Judaism but in any of the world religions. Joachim Jeremias wrote,

Abba, as a way of addressing God, is ipsissima vox, an authentic original utterance of Jesus. We are confronted with something new and astounding. Herein lies the great novelty of the gospel.

Years ago Brennan Manning told of a priest from Detroit named Edward Farrell who visited his uncle in Ireland in honor of his eightieth birthday. On his uncles’ big day, they got up before dawn and walked quietly along the shores of Lake Killarney then paused to take in the sunrise. They stood there together basking in the beauty of the rising sun when suddenly the uncle turned and went skipping down the road; beaming and smiling from ear to ear.

The nephew said, “Uncle Seamus, you really look happy.”

“I am, lad.”

“Want to tell me why?”

His eighty-year-old uncle replied, “Yes, you see, my Abba is very fond of me.”

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” ~ Romans 8:14-15

Most of us understand, at least to some degree, that God loves us; that was demonstrated by His willingness to send Jesus to die in our place. But do we realize that God also likes us and longs for an intimate relationship with us? Do we know how much He delights in us as His children?

Our Abba is very fond of us!

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Filed under Children of God, Christianity, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Love of God

“Wait” is a four-letter word!

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it but technically “wait” is a four-letter word! Maybe that’s why waiting is one of our least favorite things to do! Whether it’s a red light, a check-out line, our turn in the bathroom or sitting in a doctor’s office – we detest and complain about waiting.

Given the amount of time that we spend waiting it could be considered the biggest time waster of life… or it could be a key element in God’s kingdom agenda. Consider the following:

  • Abraham waited twenty-five years for his wife Sarah gave birth to their first child.
  • Joseph trudged through thirteen years of abandonment, betrayal, and false imprisonment before assuming the leadership of Egypt.
  • Moses spent forty years learning in Egypt and then forty more years tending sheep before God called him as a deliverer of His people.
  • David spent fourteen years running for his life before the throne of Israel became his.
  • And in Jesus’s own ministry, He often told those around Him, “My hour has not yet come.”

“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” ~Habakkuk 1:5 (NLT)

Just because we can’t see what God is doing behind the circumstances of life doesn’t mean He isn’t busy. Waiting can be one of the most grueling aspects of life, but with the proper perspective, it can become one of the most formative parts of our journey with God.

Waiting stretches our faith, teaches us to trust God and reminds us that life revolves around God’s agenda, not ours!

How will you handle waiting?

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Filed under Encouragement, Kingdom of God, Life in General, Trusting God