Monday, June 6, 2011

A Tale of Two Passovers

There were two major revivals in the OT, with Hezekiah and Josiah, that were both marked by a reinstitution of the Passover Festival. The one by Hezekiah was considered to be the greatest one since the the time of Solomon. However, the one by Josiah, about 100 years later was considered to be the greatest one since the time of the judges. I have an opinion on why Josiah's was considered deeper and more meaningful and I think it relates directly to today's generation:

I. Hezekiah's Revival / Passover

II Chronicles 30: 2 "The king and his officials and the whole assembly in Jerusalem decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month."

II Chronicles 30: 18 - 20 "Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people."

Hezekiah had a passion for God that was driving him and the people to celebrate, whether they got every aspect of it right or not. They celebrated it in the second month, a month later than prescribed, because they couldn't get it ready in time. They allowed "unclean" people to participate for the same reason. They just wanted to have the celebration and the rules were somewhat cast aside because of their passion.

Hezekiah understood this and prayed to God that it would be okay, that in this particular moment they could bend the rules a bit - and God allowed it. God, in a sense, sidestepped His own stipulations of the Passover to allow the people to celebrate because He knew the intention of their heart, and He healed them.

II. Josiah's Revival / Passover

II Kings 23: 21 - 23 "The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem."

Josiah had found the Law buried in the rubble and idolatrous pornography that that had filled the Temple, and had thus proceeded to "clean house." Everything that was not of God was smashed and burned and scattered over the dump site outside the city. They were going to get it right, because they had the Word. When they celebrated the Passover, they did it according to the Word of God. They got it right.

Josiah's revival and Passover celebration leapfrogged the acclaim of Hezekiah's because it combined the passion with the truth of God's Word. There is a reason God prescribes things a certain way - because it is under this prescription that we are able to fully find the joy and power that He is offering to His people.


So why is this so important in today's generation? I believe that we have young people who are on fire, who are returning to the Lord, who want to be in Him, who have a passion for celebration and revival, and who want to get into the lives of others with the message of Christ. However, in their passion the Word of the Lord is in some ways being set aside, or not embraced to the level of fullness that it demands. If this is left unchecked, this passion will either burn in the wrong direction or it will burn out. It will be a useless fire.

I fully believe that as God allowed the people of Hezekiah's day some wiggle room to celebrate apart from every "jot and tittle," we must embrace this generation and give them the same slack as they enter into their own celebrations. But we also must continually direct them and disciple them into the truths of His Word so that they will experience the fullness and the power that God desires for them.

II Kings 23:25 "Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses."

Josiah had an intense passion for God that burned to the depth of his soul. What made it so effective and cleansing was that it was fully aligned with the Word of God.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Right Behind

With all this "rapture" talk, I started thinking. . . . .

What if there were a "rapture" but with one caveat: You had a choice to go or not. What if God gave you the choice to opt-out and say, "I'll be Right Behind you guys," and stay amidst a world that would now be almost totally devoid of everything you valued and found security in, just lost people with ever-increasing evil and ever-decreasing communities of faith? Not like some demented game of "survival" - but with the intention of bringing God's redemption into the most hostile world imaginable.

Would you stay or would you go? Are we so focused on not being "left behind" that we forget that this is exactly what Jesus did to His disciples? He said, "I'm going - and you are NOT coming with Me." Then He left them with the tools to bring redemption to the world they were still living in, to bring salvation to them.

With Jesus, salvation was never merely about getting out of this world and into heaven. It's a big part of our hope, of course, but it's not the be-all, end-all of salvation. Salvation is about being a disciple of Christ here and now and even "then" whenever and whatever "then" is.

John 17: 15 - 19

"I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oh, the Humanity

I was driving back to work from visiting some people at the hospital, and I passed a young woman pushing an older woman in a wheelchair down a pothole-filled sidewalk in the pouring rain. I looked at the old woman and started groaning inside . . . . humanity stinks. It's all about relentless decay and pain. Rain, muddy puddles, wheelchairs, an aging process that has one destination. In my discouragement I had an urge to write a book and call it "Humanity Stinks." Or whatever stronger word you want use. It was a picture of continual pain heading to a greater pain.

Then my thoughts turned to the younger woman, pushing this older lady through the muddy puddles in the driving rain, and my thoughts changed completely. It suddenly became a picture of continual love heading to a greater love.

I had one quick glimpse of two women, a rainstorm, broken sidewalks, muddy puddles and a wheelchair. I guess there are two ways you can look at humanity. God says in Deuteronomy 30, you can choose life or choose death as your viewpoint, then pleads with us to "choose life."

Choose life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Be Careful . . . She's Somebody's Wife

If you want to make a lot of money in Christian circles today all you have to do is write a book that slams the American church. It's an easy target with a large target audience. I have read a number of them, finding myself nodding in agreement at the critiques and criticisms.

However, this morning in my devotions I was reading through Leviticus and I started getting a nagging feeling that maybe I shouldn't spend so much time slamming the bride. You see, I read Leviticus as a marriage covenant between God and His people. He brings them out of the bondage of Egypt, walks them up to His holy mountain, and . . . . marries them. They become His bride. The rest of Leviticus is basically the vows of the marriage, the conditions of their covenant relationship.

The bride, regrettably, was prone to adultery. She broke the terms of the marriage in the most vile ways possible. But God was relentless in His love and ultimately brought His bride back to Himself, cleansed through the blood of Christ, and renamed her The Church. He filled her with His presence and put His heart into her heart. His desire is that they would become one - with Him, through Christ.

Though still prone to wander, this broken body is Someone's wife. Instead of cynicism and a critical spirit, I need to extend my hand in love, to treat her as I would want someone to treat my own beautiful wife if she were hurting. Not kicking her when she's down, but lifting her up to restore her to where she belongs.

I know there are issues - but rise above them and look upon this broken woman as one who is loved with a deep passion by the God of Love. Don't get me wrong, the issues can run deep and have hurt many people and have stifled true discipleship, and they should be addressed. I'm just saying be careful - she is still Someone's wife, and she is very much loved.

Ephesians 5:25 -32

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."

Monday, January 31, 2011


John 8: 31, 32 "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Where does true freedom come from, the point of entry (salvation) or following Christ (discipleship)? I think this question is more important than it may appear.

Of course there is a freedom that enters into your life at the moment you become a child of God, by repenting and believing that Jesus is the Messiah, that He did die for you and rise again. Your past, at least the guilt and condemnation of it, is washed away. The freedom and release associated with this moment is indescribable - and very real.

However, there is still the slavery of your former mindset that holds you and keeps you from truly experiencing the full freedom that Christ promises. The freedom from chasing the things of the world, from living and reacting the way the world does, from thinking the way the world does. Free from the fight - in every way.

According to John 8:31, 32, this freedom only comes after you commit to His teachings and become His disciple. It is beyond the salvation experience. It is salvation at a much deeper level, the salvation of everything you are, the release of the grip the world has on you and the grip you have on the world.

We talk about knowing the truth and the truth setting us free, but mostly this is done in the context of the "salvation experience" - at the point of entry, so to speak. But Jesus says that this freedom comes AFTER you become His disciple, which comes AFTER you hold to His teachings, which comes AFTER you believe.

This makes perfect sense if you think about it. While the condemnation is removed at salvation, it is in following Him, truly understanding His way and living in it (the real Way, not your idea of what His way should be) - - - then and only then that the strongholds and strangleholds of the world start to fall away and true freedom is found.

There are far too many Christians who claim freedom because they "accepted Jesus as their savior" but actually don't experience any freedom because they have never subsequently followed Him as a disciple. They are caught up in the ways of vengeance, money, anger, lust, hatred, lack of forgiveness, worry, depression - all the things the world struggles with.

The progression of Jesus' teaching in this passage is fairly straightforward:

  • Believe Him
  • Hold to His teachings
  • Become His disciple
  • Know the truth
  • Be set free

There are no shortcuts.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sharing with our Oppressors

There's a great story in II Kings 6, 7 in which some lepers are outside the city during a famine and come across the spoils of the enemy army. God has just caused the army to leave their camp in fear and the food is abundant and the riches are laying all around. The lepers first thought, of course, is to hoard it and keep it to themselves. Why not?

But then they make this amazing claim: “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves." (II Kings 7:9)

In other words, they will share these riches that have been poured into their laps with those who have oppressed them and kept them outside the city gates.

This thought brought me to Hebrews 13:11 - 16

"The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased"

Jesus was beaten, stripped, and dragged outside the city in total humiliation. Yet He still offered peace and forgiveness to those who did the beating, stripping and dragging. Not only that, but He offered the very riches of heaven to them. You see it's one thing to offer an oppressor forgiveness. It's quite another to turn around and offer them something from your own storehouse.

There is a suffering outside the camp that we will endure if we truly follow the words of Christ , but there is also the indescribable riches that are beyond anything the world has to offer. However, too many of us go outside the camp to be with Christ but never return to our oppressors and share with them the riches of the good news. We would rather see our enemies suffer and die than to bring them love and peace and forgiveness and a chance for a redeemed life.

We could learn a lesson from these lepers. The way of Christ is to return to those who spitefully use and abuse us and offer them the riches of God. Unconditionally.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Last Drop

I have too much, and to whom much is given much is required. But where do I start? What do I release? As I walked around my house one day, under the intense conviction of the Holy Spirit, I could hear Him saying over and over that this world was not my home and that there was too much "stuff" in my life.

I didn't know where to start. But in my scripture readings for that week I came across a great passage in Deuteronomy 24 beginning at verse 19:

When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this."

Don't try to squeeze the last drop out of everything that you have - give the excess to the poor and the hurting. It is already assumed that the Israelites give their firstfruits, and my wife and I have covenanted to do that. But then what? God tells them not to be intent on draining the last drop out of the remainder of what they have harvested.

It's the mentality that has to change. If we tithe (as we should), then what . . . . we're okay? As I stated, it's already assumed that the Israelites are giving their firstfruits, but God also requires that they don't have mindset of grinding out every last sheaf, olive or grape.

I've been challenged in 2011 to start stripping away the excess - not just literally, but to have my mindset changed so that I don't feel the need to squeeze every last cent or every last second for my own gain. To use these "excesses" for the alien, the widow and the orphan.

So if you're challenged on what you should do with the blessings in your life, a good first step is to simply bringing the excesses into the lives of the poor. I think if you do that, you'll also begin the process of emptying the entire storehouse.