Friday, September 30, 2011

Biblical Literalisms

 Romans 12:3 
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Proverbs 15:4
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

John 12:37-43  
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
   “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
“He has blinded their eyes
   and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
   nor understand with their hearts,
   nor turn—and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Proverbs 3:13-18
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
   those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
   and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
   nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
   in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
   and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those 
who take hold of her;
   those who hold her fast will be blessed. 

James 3:8
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Mark 9:47
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

Genesis 3:6-7a 
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked;


Ephesians 4:22
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

King Hezekiah

One of the stories of the Bible that has been fascinating me lately is the story of King Hezekiah. His reign is mentioned in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, Isaiah 36-39. So here's the basic gist...Hezekiah is 25-years-old when he becomes king of Judah. He came from a long line of kings that vacillated between being obedient to the Lord and following His commands and being naughty in the sight of the Lord (Being "naughty in His sight" is my personal translation for when kings did evil in the eyes of the Lord and basically worshiped pagan gods and followed the crowd of whatever any other nation was doing.) Hezekiah was different than his predecessors, though...the Bible says that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed in King David's footsteps. He smashed all the pagan gods and removed all the altars that had been made to anything other than God. Even to the point that, remember that snake on a pole Moses had made when wandering around the desert (Numbers 21: the people were complaining against God, so snakes came and bit the people. The Lord told Moses to make a snake of bronze and put it on a pole. When snake-bitten people looked at the pole, they were instantly healed of their snake bites)? During Hezekiah's time the people had become so naughty that they began worshiping the snake on a pole. So Hezekiah had it destroyed. This king meant business. He brought about spiritual and political reform.

The Bible says in 2 Kings 18 that Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. 2 Chronicles states it differently stating that everything that Hezekiah had done throughout Judah was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God.  In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.

As the story goes, several events take place that are directly shaped by Hezekiah's prayers (read 2 Kings 18-20 for the full stories). Each time Hezekiah prays, the Lord directly answers, and some times in extremely miraculous ways. The coolest example is when King Hezekiah gets sick. The prophet Isaiah (yup, the same Isaiah that has that book after the book of Psalm) comes and tells Hezekiah to get his house in order, he's gonna die. Hezekiah is so distraught at this, he cries out to the Lord in prayer and asks God to remember all the good he had done in his life. God grants Hezekiah his request and gives him 15 more years to live. As a sign that God is going to do this, he makes the SUN MOVE BACKWARDS. No kidding. How cool is that? To see the sun move backwards (Hezekiah sees the shadow on the steps of the palace moving in the opposite direction.)

But here's the problem. The king of Babylon hears that Hezekiah is sick and has this miraculous recovery and sends gifts and an envoy (ambassadors) to Hezekiah (I'm sure they had lots of questions for Hezekiah about how the sun moved backwards). Judah was a lowly kingdom in those times and Babylon was a junior superpower. I'm sure Hezekiah was flattered to have such an honor as recognition from Babylon. So flattered that, without asking God or Isaiah, Hezekiah shows the Babylonians EVERYTHING (remember how before in 2 Chronicles it said he sought God in everything he did? Well, that went out the window with this flattery). Hezekiah, in his pride for all his accumulated wealth, tries to impress Babylon by showing them all he had. The Bible says there was nothing that he didn't show them. Come on, that's like showing your enemy your battle plan. What was he thinking?

So Isaiah comes back and asks Hezekiah what he had done. Hezekiah, probably with a little pride in his voice, tells Isaiah he showed Babylon everything he had, ahhhhhh, to be so rich. Ha! He showed them who was king of Judah! Isaiah more or less tells him that while Hezekiah thought that this display of wealth would impress the Babylonians, all it did was show them what the kings of Judah had, and what they could get from them. One day the kings of Babylon would come and take it all away.

Now here is the interesting part of the story. So Hezekiah responds to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” What a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announces coming judgment, and all he can respond with is relief that it will not happen in his lifetime. In this, Hezekiah shows himself to be almost the exact opposite of a king who is concerned for his people. He is almost totally self-centered. All he cares about is his own personal comfort and success. He had no concern for the state and well-being of the future generation. In stead of crying out to the Lord again (like he had done multiple times before) and begging God to change his mind, he says "Cool. I'm rich. I'm set up for my retirement. I have 15 years to live. God said it would be peaceful years. I'm just gonna sit this one out and enjoy what I have left." The king that followed after Hezekiah was on of the worst in Judah´s history!!

Hezekiah asking for more time on earth wasn´t an issue. His issue was a prideful display of all he had in front of people who did not love the Lord. And then when he receives a harsh word against his pride, instead of humbling himself and praying for the future generation, to spare them as even he had been spared by God, he praises God that he won´t see the consequences in his lifetime.

I think this story is a great reminder for us. So many of people start off strong in their faith. Passionate for the Lord and to work for him. They include him in all they do, praying to him and staying faithful. They start to see the blessing of the Lord, in finances, in the work place, in their family life, where ever. They may even say, "Wow! Look at all I have done in life! I have been generous. Wise. And look at what has gone on in my life and how I have over come it!" They come to the end of their life and just stop investing. Stop pouring out into others. Or they see danger for people younger than them, but ignore it, letting them "make their own mistakes". Let´s not make the same mistake as Hezekiah. As we face trials and hardship in life, and see God rescue us and bring us into times of prosperity, let´s invest the years that follow in praying for the next generation. Instead of sitting back and saying ¨wassa matter with kids these days?” “Oh, it’s just a stage” or “it’s a sign of the times”, let’s use what God has blessed us with to teach and train the next generation to continue on, so they can prosper as much as we have.