#P5: When good things become god-like and must be destroyed

Pastor's Five, P5 logoI was impressed in reading this text this morning, that it is a racial problem (the one human race) that we {As Andy Stanley said when I heard it first,} allow good things to become “god things” which is a bad thing.

In the reforms of Hezekiah in the land of Judah, I saw a nugget that I think is instructive for us. Hezekiah was a good king and did things that good kings do, including the destruction of the idols that had been erected in the land of the people of God. Notice:

“He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Neshushtan. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses.”  2 Kings 18:3-6, NASB. 

Destroying the idolatrous expressions of the nations that the people had adopted as customs makes sense…but did you see where he also destroyed the serpent that was the focus of the people whom God delivered when Moses lifted it up?

God gave Moses the serpent and used it intentionally for a good thing…but the people turned it into a “god thing” which is a bad thing. They burned incense (Picture a physical manifestation of prayer and adoration. It was a statement of worship) to the serpent image that Moses had given them to focus on and be delivered.

We do this still today. We focus on the gift rather than the giver. Our provision is not in the great job that we have but in the One who gave us the great job. Our security is not in strong defenses or alarm systems or fat retirement accounts but in the One who provided those things for our security. God exceeds all of these things. He uses them as vehicles of His provision but our confidence MUST NECESSARILY be on Him as our Deliverer.

Same is true in the church. We get “saved” through a VBS or Bus Ministry or the preaching of a particular pastor. Our tendency is to elevate that “vehicle” of God’s grace to a place it was never intended. We honor it, defend it, champion it…and soon worship IT more than the God who used it. It was a good thing that we made a “god thing” which is a bad thing.

Idols are made by the hands of man. They are worthless as objects of worship since how can we logically argue the reason to worship as superior something that we created ourselves?

Appreciate and give thanks for creation, but worship the Creator. And, if you find that you have come to worship a good thing…cut it up. Destroy it. Dismember it. Do great violence against it. Do not harbor it or give it quarter in your life. Do not tolerate it or seek to redeem it for a good purpose. Repent of it and destroy it as Hezekiah did the serpent of Moses. Only then will your attention be refocused as it ought toward the One, True God who delivers. Only then…

Shalom, CA

#P5: Secret Sin is not…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord their God.”
2 Kings 17:9a, NASB

It is not difficult to make the case for God’s displeasure and righteous judgment against public or prominent sin. I don’t know many people who would say that God is unjust in the destruction of Hitler or Mussolini or Mao or Bin Laden. I don’t know anyone who would petition against God in light of the demise of a child-molester or rapist or the like.

It is a far more difficult agreement to obtain if we said God hates US when we cheat on our taxes or lie to our spouse or keep back important information from an employer. Still more difficult…gaining agreement that the things we do in secret where no one else even knows they are a victim could be worthy of God’s righteous judgment!!

I share often that my sweet wife once shared in a powerful talk to middle school girls that God is in their room behind closed doors. He is in the bathroom, in the car, in the closet, in their bedroom. There is nowhere that they can go that God does not see and know. (This talk has impacted me and is still prevalent in my mind even now nearly 2 decades later.)

I think there are times when we think that if our sin is in secret, we are “off the hook” with God as if it doesn’t count. But it does. In the passage here…among the litany of reasons that led to the demise of Israel…was their secret sin. Now we should realize first that if someone knows…then it isn’t a secret…and God knows. God sees. God hears. God watches. He is omniscient and omnipresent. He knows.

The question is…even if you’re a stellar example of a Christian on the surface…and everyone who knows you knows that you are a saint…will God overlook or pass over your secret sin? Everyone else make approve of you but God looks deeper. He examines the heart. He watches what you do in the secret places. He observes everything and, ultimately, it is before Him alone you will stand and give an account. Yes…everyone else may name you CHRISTIAN OF THE YEAR but it is the judgment of God that counts!

So, what if there is sin entrenched in the secret places of your life? How can these be dealt with so as to satisfy the holiness of God? Only with Confession and repentance…but always with confession and repentance. The is ALWAYS ONLY the cure for sin, whether private or public. Agree with God, forsake the sin, acceptance His covering of your sin. Remember what sin you cover up, God uncovers; and, what sin you uncover, God covers.

Shalom, CA

#P5: God’s Sovereign Purpose

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“…Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah…For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. The Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.” 2 Kings 14:23-27, NASB.

What an amazing passage this is! We have a tendency to make neat little boxes for our theology. I must say, this accounting doesn’t fit neatly into anyone’s box!

Israel (northern kingdom) forsook authentic worship. Their kings were (by in large) idolaters and in their best days worshipped idols alongside the One, True, God. The kings led the people to engage in idolatry and to embrace unfaithfulness in their response to God. God, as always, had every right to destroy these evil people. They knew the truth and had forsaken it to embrace idol worship. Yet, God did not desire to blot them out; rather, He desired to redeem them to Himself. Notice also, He was the “God of Israel” even though they did evil in His sight (vv.25, 24). [What an amazing Grace-laden description of an idolatrous people!]

Jeroboam son of Joash rises up and continues the trend of idol worship (which would be the politically expedient decision by the way). God uses this EVIL KING to rebuild the fortifying wall on the border…in essence giving success in this endeavor to the evil king and providing protection for His “God-forsaking” people. How could God bless an evil king and a people who spurned God’s grace for generations? Why not “zap” them? While I cannot answer for this with absolute clarity, I can relish in the grace of God shown toward this evil people…as I see myself and my people in their image.

Our perfection is not the basis of God’s motivation of grace. He is gracious because He is gracious. We benefit from that even when we spurn His Name and rebel against His principle and purpose. We are, by nature, God haters…and He loves us. He is not desperate, like the nerdy kid who cannot get a date. He is the Prom King and chooses to embrace us even though we are the dirtiest, nastiest, most repulsive prospects before Him…simply because He is gracious.

Notice finally, He can and does use evil men to accomplish His purpose according to His plan. SHould we allege that God is foolish, unrighteous, or unjust? Heavens NO! Rather we should bow low before Him and acknowledge that there is hope for us, for our nation, and for our nation’s leaders…regardless of their political orientation of faith position…not because God respects them or their “party” but because He has a Sovereign purpose and it will not be thwarted.

Praise God who is far greater than we can even express or ever imagine!

#P5: Obedience includes location

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.’ “ Gen 12:1, NASB

This is where my mind was today when I woke up. I leave in a couple of hours with a team traveling to NY to work with a church planting partner. It is an exciting adventure and for several on the team…is a “first mission trip” experience. Whether it is the first of the fiftieth, this coming week is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is because WHERE you do what the Lord tells you to do is as important as WHAT you do.

Many look at the call the “missions” as a strange consideration. “Why go somewhere else when there is such great need around us?” The reason is…because obedience includes location. If you look at this command to Abram, God gave him very little info: GO…go from, go from, go from…TO a land which I WILL SHOW you. Abram knew more about where and what he was leaving behind than about where he was headed to. He was told to leave the familiar. He was told to leave his security. He was told to leave what was comfortable. Where he was going was undetermined. In fact…the only thing Abram knew about his future endeavor…was that God was mindful of him, present with him, and fully versed on what the future held.

If Abram had stayed in his land and preached powerfully, met the needs of all the people around him, started 1000 soup kitchens, cured disease, and funded 1 million charities…he would still have been disobedient to God. Why? Because OBEDIENCE includes location.

God places us in situations where our only security is Him. He alone is our hope and strength and support. If we rely on anything else…we are in some regard…engaged in a form of idolatry. But…after all…why would we place any trust in anything else since God is greater? WHy hope in less than His awesome love, grace, and purpose.

Go FROM and TO a land I (have yet to show you up to this point but I know perfectly says the Lord and) will show you.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Rehearsing the Gospel

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” Psalm 23:1.

In my reflection time this morning after reading my devotionals, I was thoughtful of King David in the writing of the 23d Psalm. Often times we read Scripture and think of it as someone sharing a new truth or enlightenment. It is that many times, but it is also a written as a response to situations or circumstances affecting the writer at the time. (All of this according to the Inspiration fo the Holy Spirit of course). My thought…”Was David preaching the gospel to himself…and if so, why?”

We often think of the gospel as the good news of God’s Salvation for the lost…but it is also a source of encouragement for the saved. Life is difficult. It is stressful. It is overwhelming. Not all the time but certainly sometimes. When those times occur, how does one become strengthened?

David notes that the Lord is His shepherd. This is not because David sought out and enlisted the Lord’s service; rather, it is because the Lord sought out David and enlisted him! I think that was a source of encouragement to David. God sought and bought me! God is not sentimental or sappy….He is not wasteful or capricious. He is purposeful, glorious, and righteous in all things! God sought me and became my Shepherd!

All encouragement in the Christian life stems from this fact.

When we find ourselves discouraged, remember Him. When we are overwhelmed, remember Him. When we see no point in persisting, or remaining righteous, or pursuing justice…remember Him.

YES…the gospel is good news for the lost but it is also good news for the saved! We are no less needy of the gospel once we are saved than before we ever heard and responded to it initially. Today…preach to yourself. Rehearse the gospel. Do not fear being given over to pride. No right perspective on the gospel can lead to pride. Rehearse it and then be swept up in the glory of God’s grace toward us that not only saves, but also sustains!

Shalom. CA

#P5: Jesus is not your consultant

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46, NASB

There is a popular idea that exists asserting that if we ask Jesus for help, He will give it to us…whether that help is encouragement, wisdom, direction, etc. There are some who believe that if we ask, Jesus will grant (supernaturally) what we ask for to come to pass.

While there is some truth to the idea that we should ask Jesus for things and seek Him for help…our corrupt nature often perverts the meaning and context of this practice. We tend to slide down the slippery slope to treating Jesus’ Name like a “good luck charm” and His instructions like “consultative suggestions.”

Jesus is not a consultant to His people. He is Lord. One either bows to Him as Lord today… or one bows to Him as Lord later…but He is Lord whether we acknowledge Him as such or not. The point is, He is not our good luck charm, our pitcher waiting in the Bullpen for the 9th Inning, our “homeboy” of “BFF” to support us on our endeavors, or our consultant that we call to get sage advise on our new ideas.

The Lordship of Christ demands that we seek Him and His hand. We seek the connection of relationship which gives us understanding of His orders. We then seek His empowerment to accomplish His orders as He instructs us to act.

As it works itself out, the bulk of our time and energy upfront is invested in knowing Him and discerning His purpose for our lives. Sometimes this is a secluded exercise of quiet solitude. Sometimes it is an active exercise of moving forward on what we already know as we wait for further instructions.

Allow me a military analogy. No Infantry division determines for itself when it will engage in a war. It stays in the rear waiting on orders and training for multiple scenarios. Until the unit is ordered to battle, it does not engage in the conflict. This is akin to the solitude example above. There are times though when HQ will order the unit to move from a holding area to a forward staging area so that they can be redeployed from there. They were never going to “fight” from the staging area, but they were ordered to go forward of their base and prepare to receive new orders en route.

In the Christian life, we do find ourselves at times being CALLED to solitude and preparation. There are seasons of that in our lives. Most often, we are en route to a mission and waiting on clarification of our objective. (For instance, no one has to pray about whether God wants them to make disciples of all people, or to bear witness of Christ, or to proclaim the Kingdom, or to heal the hurts of mankind around us. Those things are written in the Book and given as instructions to us. The are standing orders. Sometimes, in the midst of obeying those orders, Jesus will give a “frag order” and clarify our objective further or redirect us on a new mission. We will likely not be dispatched to this new task if we are lying on a bunk back at base camp. So, we should be doing what we know we are called to do while constantly monitoring communication channels (prayer) for new orders, or to call in support for the mission we are engaged in presently.

So, today, don’t treat Jesus like a consultant or your personal therapist. Treat Him like your Boss. Go into His office and ask if He needs anything from you today and if so, WHAT? They run to do it.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: And the Prophet Wept…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The king of Aram, Ben-hadad, sent his servant Hazael to Elisha the prophet. The king was sick and wanted the prophet to tell him if he would recover. Hazael brought many gifts to the prophet and asked if the King of Aram would live…to which Elisha responded:


“…’the Lord has shown me that he will certainly die.’ [Elisha] fixed his gaze steadily on [Hazael] until he was ashamed, and the man of God wept. Hazael said, ‘Why does my lord weep?’ Then he answered, ‘Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up’…’The Lord has shown me you will be king over Aram.’ “
   2 Kings 8:10-13, NASB.

In many ways, the life of the prophet (the proclaimer, the preacher) is a difficult life. We find ourselves seeing destruction in the future of others and we are not able to turn it around. [NOTE: I am not saying that I am a prophet in the same sense of Elisha or other OT prophets, but that as a student of God’s Word and as a shepherd of His people, I do see destructive patterns in the lives of people who cannot see it for themselves]. This aspect of ministry is difficult and heart-wrenching. I have had people in my office or over coffee that have heard me speak truth and have politely (or sometimes not so politely) ignored or resisted the truth and left on a course that left lives strewn along their path.

When you look at these situations as a “prophet,” you are left with two courses of actions: You can become clinical and emotionless and simply watch them destroyed according to the Word of the Lord…or you can (as Elisha here) weep as you watch their destruction according to the Word of the Lord.

Some wonder why anyone would intentionally subject themselves to such painful experiences. Well it isn’t all painful as a ‘prophet.’ Elisha raised the dead, provided for widows, made an axe head float, and opened people’s eyes to the greater reality of God’s Sovereign work (2 Kin 6:8-19). These highlights don’t diminish the pain though that leads to weeping and they don’t justify it in themselves. The reason a prophet engages in this difficulty is because the Lord has called him to such a mission.

It is God’s great plan that through the “proclamation” of His Word, men might be saved. It is foolish of course from man’s perspective, but is ordained in heaven as God’s chosen means. It is pastoral malpractice to withhold the truth from those God sends us to. It is pastoral malpractice to gloss over it or simply “spin” a gentler message. Fidelity to the calling requires us to announce even the difficult truths and to do it with weeping over the pain they will cause.

In many ways, this is the calling of all believers. It is a heavy message to speak to another and declare that apart from their repentance from wicked rebellion against God, they will be spiritually separated from God for eternity in a place of utter and intense torment as judgment for their rebellion…and that they possess the ability to reverse that course by yielding to the Sovereign plan of God for Salvation. We should do so with weeping over the future of the lost, but it is Christian malpractice to withhold truth from those wo whom we are sent (all the world), and it is Christian malpractice to gloss over their rebellion or simply to “spin” a gentler message.

Only the truth has the ability to set men free as they hear, understand, and respond to it. We are truth speakers and we must speak truth, or our silence speaks destruction.

Shalom, CA