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- From one of our missionary families: Snow is in the forecast and spring is in the air! The Lord granted me (Sarah) safety as I traveled through Maryland and Pennsylvania last week. Some of the driving days were in nasty road conditions, but I spotted a dead skunk by the side of the road. Sunday morning I woke up to spring birdsong. Two sure signs that despite cold temperatures and some snow and ice, spring is certain! We have one more trip this weekend. Please pray for us as we travel and speak about the work the Lord has called us to in Central Europe. Will you pray with us that the Lord will grant the remainder of our funds? It has been a great adventure of watching the Lord provide. Decisions, decisions, decisions! Or Details, details, details! We need wisdom to make a final decision about which company to use to move; wisdom about what to move, what to store and what to give or sell. Mark is working on travel arrangements, moving arrangements and preparing the documents necessary for applying for visas, etc. Luke 12:31-34 "But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Pray that we would believe the promise, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom"! We want to treasure Jesus and His Kingdom more than our possessions; please pray that we would not be anxious about food, clothing and stuff, but confident in our Father being for us! Thanks for praying for us! We are really grateful that you are part of this journey with us! Mark and Sarah Cary
2 Kings 23: “Josiah‘s Reforms”
Here, we see the story of Josiah continue. As we saw yesterday, he took the Word of the Lord seriously enough to respond with repentance and the rebuilding of the temple. What we see here is that he made a covenant with the Lord that not only he, but the people would walk with the Lord in obedience. Josiah also burned all of the fixtures, vessels, and idols of Baal out from the temple. He got rid of all of the “male cult prostitutes” and anything else that facilitated worship to the moons, stars, and other gods. He “defiled Topheth”, which was where the people made offerings of their children to Molech. Possibly, most importantly, Josiah restores the Passover meal (and the other Jewish meals and festivals). This was important because it points us to Jesus, as Paul explicitly states in 1 Corinthians 5:7. According to Hebrews 11, Jesus was the hope that the Old Testament “faith heroes” held to that justified them by faith.
Unfortunately, the reign of Josiah ends with his death at the hands of Pharaoh Neco of Egypt. His son (Jehoahaz) was placed as king over Judah, but only ruled for 3 months before he was imprisoned Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim (another son of Josiah) the king, changing his name to Jehoiakim. Both of Josiah’s sons did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
Josiah wanted change and for the people to return to the Lord. Unfortunately, he had some resistance that eventually led to his death. However, he didn’t allow that to stop him from making a stand for the Lord and encouraging others to as well. That’s really all we can do, stand firm and encourage others to do so as well. Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee says that revival begins personally first, before it can be spread. Josiah’s heart changed when he heard the Word, so let’s start there.
Did Paul disobey God?
Today's reading is Acts 21 and the question I asked about that passage comes from verse 4:
And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
Since, Paul does go to Jerusalem immediately thereafter, here's my question:
Did Paul disobey God?
After doing some research, it appears that there are people some commentators who would answer that question "yes" and others who would answer it "no". It's impossible to be dogmatic here, but when considering the surrounding text, I tend to favor those who conclude he did not.
Consider Paul's words in the previous chapter:
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. (Acts 20:22-23)
And we must also consider the words of Jesus a few chapters later:
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (Acts 23:11)
Paul certainly believed that the Holy Spirit had directed him to go to Jerusalem. And after he does that, we never find Jesus rebuking him for that decision. To the contrary, He actually tells Paul to take courage because this is all part of His plan to get Paul to Rome.
So what is going on here in verse 4, then? It's hard to know for sure, but the best explanation I've seen is that the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul's companions what He had already revealed to Paul - that if he went to Jerusalem, trouble awaited him. So in their humanity, they encouraged him not to go there.
What we do know for sure, is that regardless of the answer to my question, God uses Paul's imprisonment for His glory. Obviously, it's always better to be obedient to God, but God can work even through our disobedience if we will allow Him to do that.
- I agree! Once Paul dedicated his life to Christ he was totally in and ready to follow whole heartedly! His many afflictions is a testimony to that. Ie., beatings, stonings, shipwreck, etc.
2 Kings 22: “Josiah”
Josiah reigned in his father’s place. The people of Judah had evil kings for 57 years with Josiah’s father and grandfather. He was only eight years old when he was made king. After 18 years as king, Josiah called for the high priest Hilkiah to gather all of the money from the temple and to give it to the workers who he had repairing it. This was used as their wages and for them to make purchases of what they needed. When Hilkiah was cleaning and gathering, he found the book of the Law and hurriedly brought it to Shaphan, the secretary. Shaphan told the king what was found and read the book of the Law to Josiah. What was Josiah’s response to the Word? Verse 11 tells us, “when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.” Josiah realized his personal sin and the sins of the nation upon hearing the Law. Also in response, Josiah sent Hilkiah, Shaphan and Achbor out to inquire within the town. Josiah was fearful and curious about the Word that he read. He knew that there would be great judgement because they were not following after the Lord’s commandments. They came to Hulduh, the prophetess, and she revealed that there would be great judgement among the people of Judah, but because of Josiah’s repentance, he would be spared in his death.
Oh, if we only responded that way to the Word of God. He mourned over his sin (see James 4:7-10), and knew that the people were subject to God’s wrath. We’ll see in the next chapter how Josiah took immediate action in response to God’s Word. You see, He has provided this account so that we may learn from history’s mistakes. Unfortunately, just like the generations before Josiah, we have failed to be obedient and subject to the Lord, which results in the world that we see today. A wicked generation needs a leader as broken and bold as Josiah. Would you pray for that today?
2 Kings 21: “Manasseh and Amon Rule in Judah”
Manasseh, the son of the greatest king over Judah since David, was one of the worst kings Judah saw. He rebuilt the high places that his father destroyed. He built altars for Baal. He made idols (in the form of an Asherah) just as Ahab did in Israel. He made altars in the House of the Lord. He made altars and worshiped the moon and the stars. He used fortune tellers and mediums and necromancers. Verse 16 reveals that he also shed innocent blood. This provoked the Lord to anger. Despite the warning given to David, we read here that Manaessah “led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel (21:9).”
His son, Amon, reigned in his father’s place after his death. Unfortunately, Amon was no better than his father. Sadly, verse 22 tells us how bad it was, as it reveals that he completely abandoned the Lord. Even his servants rebelled against him, and rose up to kill him. Josiah, his son reigned after his death at 8 years old.
We’ve talked about this before, but this just shows the importance of teaching our children about the Lord. David wasn’t known to be a great spiritual father, evidenced by Solomon. Hezekiah was said to be as good a king since David, but his son Manasseh was as evil as Ahab. Our children, our future, need to hear the Word of God. They need to know Him, and we need to live out our faith in the home. Otherwise we will continue to see this same story play out in our country. That’s not what we want, is it? Pray with your children. Teach your children. Love your children with Christ like love.
The "whole counsel of God"
This week we are asking and answering questions as we continue reading in the book of Acts. Here is the question I want to pursue in Acts 20 today:
What is "the whole counsel of God"?
For some context, here are the verses where Paul uses that term while speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
(Acts 20:26-27 ESV)
This question is particularly relevant to me because I want to follow Paul's example in my own preaching.
The context certainly helps us to understand what Paul meant. In this section, he is warning the elders that after he leaves fierce wolves are going to infiltrate the church and attempt to draw people away from the gospel. So whatever it is, the "full counsel of God" involves teaching that will protect the church against those false teachers.
In his two and a half years in Ephesus, Paul had obviously not been able to teach every single verse of Scripture. But what he had done was to cover everything of primary importance, not ducking the parts that were difficult.
I really like how Pastor John Piper explains the idea of the whole counsel of God. He points out that it is not merely the gospel itself, which is actually quite simple (Paul summarized it in 2 verses in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He considers it to be the body of teaching that protects, explains and applies the gospel core. Interestingly, that is exactly what Paul does in almost all his letters. He begins with the gospel at the core and then expands upon that in a way that "protects, explains and applies" the gospel to our lives.
That's my goal in my preaching and it should be a goal for all of us in our Bible reading. That is why I'm constantly encouraging people to read the entire Bible in a systematic manner. Are you reading the whole counsel of God or are you just "cherry picking" some of your favorites and ignoring the parts that are difficult to understand or which are hard to hear because they reveal sin in your life that you need to repent of?
2 Kings 20: “One More Chance”
Hezekiah had a unique opportunity presented to him. He was very ill, to the point of death, but he prayed to the Lord that he may live longer. The Lord heard his prayer and gave him 15 more years to live. So, what did Hezekiah do with this extra time? One, we know that he had a child, Manasseh, because he reigned in his place when he died, at 12 years old. Two, we know the Judah was delivered from Assyria. Third, and unfortunately, he showed off all his possessions to the son of the king of Babylon. Babylon was an emerging super power, and when they heard Hezekiah was sick, they went to check on him. When they arrived, Hezekiah let his pride get the better of him, and Isaiah followed with a rebuke. With that rebuke came the vision that one day Judah would be subject to Babylon. Hezekiah acts very naive in response to this, stating that it was a good thing because it meant they were in a time of peace. The chapter closes with the end of Hezekiah‘s life.
I couldn’t help but think of the shortness of life on earth. While we have eternity to look forward to, what are we doing with our life right now? How are we living for the Lord in this moment? If we were given 15 more years, what would we do with them? Would we reach more people for the Kingdom? Hezekiah had that chance, but didn’t take advantage of it. Let’s not make the same mistake.
- Pat Damiani published a newsletterReadThornydale Family ChurchFebruary 18, 2019
As I attended our Monday morning Bible study with a great group of men this morning, I was reminded of the benefit of digging into the Bible in community with others. Although I spend a lot of time each week studying the sermon passage on my own, the time that I spend with those men each week is invaluable, not only in my sermon preparation, but just in my personal walk with Jesus, too. I get to hear perspectives and ponder questions that I wouldn't otherwise think of or be exposed to.
I hope that you're part of a group, too, whether that is the Bible Roundtable on Sundays after the Worship Gathering or one of our other Bible studies during the week. If not, you're missing out on a great opportunity to grow in your faith in a way that is just not possible on your own.
Walking with you toward Jesus,