A Lizard Saved By Grace

My guest room doubles as a kind of makeshift office for me. This is the room where I go for my Quiet time, to pray, and often to work on Bible Study. One day not too long ago, I noticed, much to my horror, a lizard with me there.

Let me be very clear: I hate it when lizards get into my house. I don’t mind them so much outdoors, on their own turf, but not in my home! That’s my territory!

This particular lizard wasn’t really creepy, as lizards usually are, by virtue of its diminutive size. In fact, it was so little that it was kind of cute – and it was really spunky. It would zip past me and then stop to look around, turning its head sharply in all directions. I got my dustpan and a hand broom and attempted to capture and remove it. But it was far too fast for me. I couldn’t catch it. It also became evident that if I managed to get it into the dustpan, it was likely to run up my arm. That being more than I was willing to deal with, I abandoned the effort.

I left the room, and when I returned I didn’t see it again. But that did not set my mind at ease. I assumed it was either still in the room or was somewhere in my house.

Thereafter, I kept my shoes on at all times.

Two days later, with no lizard sightings, I walked into the room, and there it was – on the floor in the middle of the room. It did not move. It just sat there, stone still. I retrieved my dustpan and easily scooped it up. I held it prone with the broom, but returned it to my front yard without a hassle, and so thankful to get the intruder out of my comfort zone.

Here’s the thing.

That little lizard came into a foreign environment and it was an environment not conducive to its needs as a lizard. It was young and energetic, but it remained where it did not belong. And over time, because it was not in a healthy habitat, it got weak and it got slow.

To the lizard, I looked like a big scary enemy. But after a period of time, it didn’t care. It was too tired and hungry and thirsty to fight. Or even to flee. It practically begged me to take it, just to put it out of its misery.

I lost the initial battle with the lizard, but eventually, I won the war. In the process, I learned how wars are lost:

When cut off from what they need, people tend to give up.

Christians in America are looking more and more like lizards inside a lovely home that disguises harsh and killing environs. We are surrounded by a culture that grows increasingly less tolerant of the Biblical principles and standards upon which this nation was founded. And as we seek, like the lizard, to blend in unnoticed, we cut ourselves off from our life essentials. In that place, we grow weak.

And it’s easy to discard us.

Joshua 24:15

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Matthew 5:14-15

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Pray for the nation!
Praying Two By Two is an outreach designed to encourage and equip believers to pray for our nation, regularly and exclusively, in groups of two.

Join the matrix at http://www.prayingtwobytwo.com

Quiet Down

One of my favorite movies is The Preacher’s Wife. It’s actually a Christmas movie, starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington. Listening to Whitney Houston sing in this film, I think surely this girl knew the Lord – how can you sing about Him like that if you don’t really know Him?

But this morning, I’m thinking of another Whitney Houston movie, this one pairing her with Kevin Costner. In The Bodyguard, she also sings about Jesus. It’s a rendition of Jesus Loves Me that stays with you.

There’s another memorable scene in this movie. In it, Kevin Costner is showing her his military sword. He warns her to take care with it. The blade is sharp. To illustrate, he gives her the sword and has her hold it in both hands, extended horizontally from her body. He then takes a chiffon scarf from her neck and throws it into the air. We watch in slow motion as the scarf responds to the laws of physics: lift and gravity combine to give us an artistic show as the almost lighter-than-air fabric wafts upward and then descends – it’s like watching a breath. The scarf gently passes over the extended blade and as it does so, it is ever so gently sliced in two.

The blade indeed is sharp.

Have you noticed yourself in recent days tending to lower your voice in public places when discussing matters of cultural shift or political divisiveness? I’ve noticed that on topics dealing with race, gender persuasion, same-sex marriage, abortion – there is a marked tendency of late to lower the tone, lean forward, speak quietly. These are hotly contested issues; no need to cause offense.

Jesus, speaking in the synagogue (where you would assume issues of moral and spiritual import would be welcome topics) apparently did not lower His voice when He spoke. His disciples picked up on this:

Matthew 15:12

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

Uh oh. That’s too bad. But it didn’t stop Him from carrying on in normal conversational tones.

Mark 6:3

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

Why are we bothering listening to this woodworker? What does he know? Nevertheless – ouch! His words were sharp.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Eight years ago, my husband had six cardiac bypasses and I noticed a little something in that experience: People really don’t like having anybody mess around with their heart. There’s too much peripheral stuff to get through. Too much opening and cutting and tissue relocation. Given any other alternative, leave my heart alone, please.

The word of God, and the truth contained therein, is all about the heart. It cuts straight to it. And the thing of it is, like the bodyguard’s sword, it’s unimaginably sharp. It cuts to the quick.

A neighbor of ours in Tokyo was an avid collector of antique Japanese Samurai swords. It might interest you to know that Japanese Samurai sword collectors have one specified activity – sword sharpening. They don’t wield them, fence with them, chop firewood with them, or even necessarily study the varied histories of them. Nope. They spend hours and hours doing one thing only: keeping them razor sharp.

They understand in those swords a spiritual truth that was well-illustrated in The Bodyguard: When something is that sharp, it needs to be used with honor and with care. It doesn’t need to be hidden away or cloaked. It doesn’t need to be thrust or heaved or moved with a heavy hand. It can do its job unaided. It simply needs to be present and unsheathed. It can take care of the rest.

Ephesians 6:17

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Psalm 119:165 (KJV)

Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend them.

Pray for the nation!

Join us now at http://www.prayingtwobytwo.com

Invisible Man

A 1958 television series, adapted from a novel by H.G. Wells, portrayed the challenges and sometimes advantages of being an invisible man. In the series, later remade into another series by the same name in 1975, the protagonist is exposed to radiation which has the effect of rendering him permanently invisible. As he searches for a scientific cure, he is enlisted by the government for espionage. The character is presented simply as a voice: when we see him, we see his face and hands completely bandaged. That’s got to be a little awkward: your either completely unseen or you’re the guy in the room eliciting all the stares. Blending in is not an option.

A lot of people like to blend in, unnoticed. A whole lot of people enjoy being the center of attention. But nobody likes to feel invisible.

Invisible is unseen. It’s unheard. It’s unnoticed, and worse, it’s unknown. And the cry of the human heart is to be seen heard, recognized, known.

To hear the press tell it, a large portion of Baltimore would be running through the streets in suits, with heads and hands bandaged. They are the invisible, drawing attention to themselves with their exposed skin wrapped in strips of fabric so that the rest of the country can know they are there. In lieu of that option, they run through the streets destroying what is orderly, stable, established. The rioting mob is the modern-day version of the marauding hordes of armies, who swept through villages, setting fire and plundering all that was in their wake, all that they didn’t carry away for themselves. Except now, the hordes maraude their own villages, they ransack their own streets, they pillage their neighbors. All because, to hear the armchair media psychologists tell it, they feel invisible and they want to be seen.

Seen they are, in the light of the buildings they’re burning. In fact, its hard to miss them.

Assuming that the TV shrinks are correct, our most recent batch of disenfranchised youth are simply expressing scorn for … something … other people’s property, drugstores, order, authority.. And according to these experts on the mob mentality, they are clearly redirecting their own feeling that they’re worthless or despicable, and expressing it in outward contempt toward others.

Meanwhile, the government fiddles while Baltimore burns.

Which is fine. Because when such deep-rooted turmoil explodes so forcefully from so young a collective culprit, the government is not the answer. The answer lies in the few we do see on those torrid streets making a difference. The mother who pulls her child, twice her size physically, out of the fray. The pastors who carry the message that God, the God who made the eye and formed the ear, is the God who sees and hears. He is the God who knows – and who knew them – before He formed them in the womb.

The angry hordes in Baltimore and Ferguson don’t need to be seen and heard, because they already are – they just need to understand that truth. They need eyes to see – the Invisible – and ears to hear, themselves.

1 Timothy 1:17

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hagar was a prime example of feeling scorned. A slave, she bore the child of her master and was abused by her mistress. God saw her and spoke to her then. Later she was sent away with that child, into the wilderness, with only bread and water. There she wandered, invisible. Or so she thought. God met her again and told her that He had heard her child crying. He was the God who saw her and heard her.

Genesis 21:13

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?”

The message to Baltimore is this: You are seen. You are heard. You are known. Your help is in Him, who changes times and epochs, who establishes kings and removes kings. It’s not in your outrage or your ferocity. It’s not in you at all.

Psalm 121:2

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

——————————————————————————

Proverbs 29:8

Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men turn away anger.

Pray for the nation!

Join us now at http://www.prayingtwobytwo.com

Sound of Silence

I’m a little ticked off.

Thankfully, there’s a local election next month. National politics are enough to evoke outrage, but local politics are just a little … irritating. Take for example, water restrictions. Being raised by Depression-era parents, I tend to assume there is some kind of higher knowledge, perhaps garnered from the Army Corps of Engineers, that deems letting my lawn die a painful death, a wise idea. I can deal with water restrictions, begrudgingly, but I can do it. When, because of a power surge, my sprinkler goes off on the wrong day, the day after the restrictions tightened, we get a $200 fine – no warning – no grace for first time offenders – I get a little ticked off.

When at lighter traffic times, some higher authority sets the left turn signal at a 6-lane intersection to only go off every fourth light rotation – forcing me to sit at a red light with no traffic in any direction for three of those rotations, I get a little ticked off. And sometimes, I run the red light.

But when the city council passes an ordinance that many in the community are uncomfortable with, an ordinance – passed without a public vote – that could potentially force citizens to choose between violating their consciences or violating the law, I get a little more than ticked off.

I get a lot more interested in local politics.

I start looking closely at who is running for local office. I start listening to what they say. And I’m learning to take it one step further: I’m learning to listen to what they don’t say.

Recently, my husband and I listened to a nationally-broadcast interview with one of our national leaders (three guesses who) and the Prime Minister of Italy on the topic of nuclear disarmament. My husband began timing the length of our official’s responses to fairly straightforward, yes or no questions. The shortest answer took five minutes.

When it takes five minutes to answer a yes or no question, it’s remarkably easy to not answer the question at all. The audience is so busy trying to follow your rabbit trail, they end up forgetting the rabbit altogether and chasing a squirrel. And in all the prattle, there’s a deafening silence on the issue.

What is it they’re afraid of saying?

The doctor that treated my mother through the entirety of her terminal illness was not a man of words. He had no humor. His facial expressions were deadpan. In four years, I never saw him crack a smile. But one reassuring hand on her shoulder at the check-out desk was all we needed to know that her prognosis was not good. Without a word, he spoke volumes. Still waters indeed run deep.

Ecclesiastes 6:11

For there are many words which increase futility. What then is the advantage to a man?

I’m planning to attend a meet-the-candidate event, and I may ask a few questions. But better yet, I think for the most part, I’ll just listen. I’ll listen to what is said, I’ll listen to how much is said, and I’ll listen to what remains silent. And then I’ll make my voice heard – at the polls….while I can.

Because when the leaders of a suburb, that most people in the country haven’t even heard of, begin denying their constituents the right to vote on matters of conscience, a tiny little seed has been planted and taken root that may well grow into the largest tree in the garden. And given the prevalence of executive orders coming out of Washington, it might just be a trending from the top down.

Proverbs 10:19

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.

Pray for the nation!

Join us at http://www.prayingtwobytwo.com

Don’t Look in the Basement

A couple I knew growing up ran a private film production company. She had been an actress and he a film producer, and so they settled in the “middle Coast” and began making movies. They made a go of the business and they did it the same way Sylvester Stallone skyrocketed to fame in the 1970’s: they found a formula that worked and they stuck to it. Their particular formula was low-budget horror films. It was fun to hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how they made these movies. They were campy and creepy, entertainment by jump scenes and gross-out-the-audience suggestion that sometimes crossed the line into humor because it was so over the top. The one I remember most was entitled, “Don’t Look in the Basement.” It was about a mental institution in which the inmates take over the asylum.

Watching the news last night made me think of it.

The White House is “taking pains” to avoid calling the Taliban a terrorist group, preferring instead the label “armed insurgency.” Ok. An armed insurgency that the U.S. Department of State reports shot a mother in the street for attempting to transport her sick child, whom she carried in her arms, to a doctor – without a male escort. An armed insurgency that shot a woman in front of her seven children at a soccer match. An armed insurgency that murdered three American contractors last week as they did their jobs at the Kabul airport.

Chris Kyle, a decorated U.S. Navy Seal Team 3 member, who served on assignment as covert protection for endangered U.S. troops during four tours in Iraq, is called a racist who went on ‘killing sprees’ by a national news commentator.

A sitting U.S. President declines, for the second time, to meet with a visiting head of state from one of America’s strongest and longest-term allies.

You can look at these things, take off your glasses, clean them, put them back on, and draw the obvious conclusion: It’s not safe to look in the basement. The inmates quite apparently have taken over the asylum.

Isaiah the prophet foresaw this very thing and summed it all up in one word: WHOA!

Isaiah 5:20

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Whoa! I used to say that to my horse when he took off running without any direction. Whoa! Stop! Don’t go any further! Whoa!

Woe!

The country and the culture I grew up in seems to have upended itself. Its like the children’s game, Opposite Day, where everything you say is the opposite of what is true. Except that game only lasts for a day, and usually isn’t sustainable even that long: lying is exhausting.

Another example: the mayor of Houston, in the self-described “most personally important thing I will ever do as mayor” announced all bathrooms in Houston “gender neutral”: i.e. you can choose whether you’d rather use the women’s room or the men’s room, depending on what you find more comfortable.

Hmm. I may be more comfortable with cockatiels than coyotes, but that doesn’t make me a cockatiel. And speaking of asylums, I can walk around all day with my hair combed forward and my hand tucked in my shirt and tell you with full conviction that I’m Napoleon. But that doesn’t make me Napoleon. And I wouldn’t advise you to put me in charge of France in response.

By the way: since when do mayors make public law?

So that’s where we are. The State of our Union has devolved into Opposites Day.

What can we do? The proverbial horse has been let out of the barn. Whoa!

Woe indeed. But here is what we can do and its the same thing we did when my horse did get out of the barn. You don’t just sit there. You don’t chase the horse screaming for it to stop. You circle around and stand in front of the bolting horse, arms upraised. And you say Whoa.

And here’s how we do that – WE PRAY.

We pray, and we don’t pray casually, as an add-on to our bedtime prayers. We don’t pray one day a year at a pole and we don’t pray for forty days and move on to the next thing. We engage God regularly, fervently, pointedly and repeatedly. He invites us to reason with Him.

Isaiah 1:18

 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”

He promises to hear us as we pray continually…

Luke 18:1, 7

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart…Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?

Our prayers are to be like the incense that burned in the tabernacle. It was to burn perpetually.

Exodus 30:8

When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.

And that incense, in Exodus, in the very beginning of God’s recorded history, represented what is to still be in place at the end of the age in Revelation…our prayers…

Revelation 5:8

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

…our perpetual prayers…

 

I Thessalonians 5:17

Pray without ceasing.

Remember the little puppet, Lambchop? (Showing my age again!) He used to sing a little song called The Song That Doesn’t End. Our prayers are to be that – the song that doesn’t end.

And our prayers are effective! Again, we see it in Scripture.

When God came to Abraham in Genesis 18:16-22, He told him of Sodom’s impending destruction. Abraham’s nephew lived in Sodom with his family. And Abraham began reasoning with God.

Genesis 18:23

Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

Abraham came near and reasoned with God, and as a result, Lot and his daughters were delivered.

When the Israelites refused to trust God and to move into the Promised Land at the word of Joshua and Caleb in Numbers 14, God was prepared to remove the nation from His promise and fulfill it through Moses alone (Numbers 14:11-12). But Moses reasoned with God on their behalf, and God mercifully sustained the nation and brought the next generation into the Promised Land.

When Israel and Judah had been repeatedly unfaithful to God through fifteen full generations, God fulfilled His Word and removed them from the Promised Land, allowing them to be taken into exile to Babylon (modern day Iraq). And yet again, in fulfillment of His Word, 70 years later He returned a remnant to that land. When again in the land of their forefathers, Nehemiah and Ezra prayed and petitioned God for forgiveness and mercy on behalf of the nation (Ezra 9:6-15; Nehemiah 1:4-11), and God restored them.

Even when Solomon dedicated the Temple he had built to the Lord, he prayed and petitioned on behalf of the nation for future generations (I Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6).

These things were not recorded in Scripture arbitrarily. It’s not dry history. It’s our paradigm.

1 Corinthians 10:11

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

How often in crisis we hear, “What can I do for you besides pray?” – as if prayer isn’t really doing something. We just say it out of rote kindness.

Prayer is doing something!!!

Prayer is effecting the outcome. Prayer is heard and considered by the Creator of the Universe. If you want to be a person of influence – this is your ticket. It is influence to the uttermost. It impacts the course of the events of time.

The word influence is derived from the Latin, influencia, which includes the meaning:  ‘imperceptible or indirect action exerted to cause changes.’ That’s what prayer does in regard to the sovereign God. When we pray, we are heard by the God of Daniel 2:21:

Daniel 2:21

It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.

Pray for the nation!!!

Because the horse is out of the barn.

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

 

Pray for the nation!

Join us at http://www.prayingtwobytwo.com

Do it now!! The need is urgent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auld Lang Syne

If December 26th is Boxing Day, I’d vote December 27th as New Sweater Day. The malls were jammed today with masses of people either returning gifts or bargain shopping – don’t ask me how I know. And a whole slew of them, myself included, were wearing a new sweater that they received as a gift for Christmas.

Christmas is all about newness. Much of the emphasis is on new stuff – and that’s fun. But the newness of Christmas is based on the brand new baby named Jesus, new on that first Noel, that brought new life to any who would receive it.

We celebrate that newness on the last week of the calendar year and conclude our celebration with another new: the new year! Some of us spend time assessing the last year: what we accomplished, where we succeeded and failed, and make resolutions to improve ourselves or our lot in the coming year. We look ahead to better days.

Our pastor announced a new sermon series to bring in the new year. It’s a series on the book of Revelations. To be honest, I have avoided deep study of Revelations, as some of my deepest fears have stemmed from that book and it’s depictions detailing God’s outpoured wrath in the Great Tribulation. Gulp. Yikes.

Revelations also brings up all sorts of end-time doctrinal issues. Asked if he were a pre-millennialist or a post-millennialist, a friend of mine described himself as a Laundryalist, saying it’ll all come out in the wash.

I’d probably land in that camp too.

Last Sunday opened my eyes to something else new, and it’s a new way of understanding Revelations. My pastor referenced Revelation 21:5 as the crux of the book.

Revelations 21:5
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

Of course!! Why have I never seen that before? Revelations isn’t a book of the end times. It’s a book of new beginnings! The Re God – the God of again and again – doesn’t just repeat: He renews!

Lamentations 3:22-23                                    The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

The Bible is exploding with newness! There’s the first day and the first man in Genesis 1:5 & 27. There’s the New Covenant, and mention of the New Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth, when Jesus comes again. And there’s the new man, promised to us through the Holy Spirit. It begins with new birth.

John 3:3                                                                 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

New birth results in a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

As a new creation, I’m being renewed to my original design.

Colossians 3:10
And have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—

I see this image in Genesis 1:27.

Genesis 1:27                                                               God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

It’s so easy for me to lose focus on this fact: the newness of God does not end at my rebirth. The newness of God awaits me – further – at what is the end of this Age.

So as I approach the end of another year, my eyes look not back, but forward to the newness of God in a new year.

Philippians 1:3                                       Brethren, I do not regard myself having laid hold of it yet, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to that which lies ahead. 

After all, it’s just the beginning.

Happy New Year!!

Lamentations 3:24
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

Pray for the nation!
http://www.prayingtwobytwo.com

We Three Kings

I can’t wait ‘til Christmas!

How many times have you said that or felt that way? “I can’t wait” is a term we use to signify that we await something anxiously: I can’t wait until that movie comes out! I can’t wait until this week is over! I can’t wait to see you!

But waiting is the signature of our walk by faith.

Psalm 130:5-6

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His Word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning, indeed more than the watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 33:20

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

Just about everybody I query on this subject reports that they hate waiting. Yet the word, “wait” appears in the Bible 162 times: 27 of those are in the book of Psalms, as the Psalmist cries out to God in distress, and 14 are in the book of Job. Dear old Job. His experience of waiting we would all vote to do without.

As I’ve been studying James over the last few weeks, I’ve seen a ribbon running there of endurance in the face of trials. Endurance is lasting – through difficulty – without giving way. And according to James, the ability to last is produced through the testing of our faith.

James 1:3

…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

The testing of our faith produces endurance. Our church produces something this time of year that requires endurance – it produces a monumental Christmas pageant, over two hours of staged fun that culminates in a live nativity, complete with camels, sheep, flying angels, and three kings coming to worship the Christ Child.

Those three kings had to endure quite a journey to follow the star and find that Child. Kings figure prominently in the Bible, beginning in Genesis 10, with Nimrod setting up his kingdom in the land of Shinar, which is modern-day Iraq. Six out of the 66 books of the Bible are devoted to the subject of earthly kings: 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles. With that much space devoted to the kings of Israel, there must be much to glean from their study.

And in studying them, I find that lasting was not their long suit. So here’s a little Bible study on kings. It’s a long blog – I encourage you to endure.

The kings themselves did not last, with the kings of both Israel and Judah ultimately being led away to Assyria (wherein we find Shinar!) in chains. Their kingdoms did not last, according to Scripture, because the kings – and in turn those they ruled – did not last. Many of them started strong, but petered out. Three in particular come to mind:

Solomon

Solomon was the wisest man on earth. He wrote 1005 proverbs of wisdom. Solomon built the temple, sacrificed to God extravagantly, and his father, King David, prayed for him that his heart would be and remain pure. Solomon did not last.

1 Kings 11:4

For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

He started strong, but didn’t last.

Asa

Solomon’s great-grandson Asa started strong. Asa didn’t last either:

I Kings 15:11, 14

Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father…. 14 But the high places were not taken away, nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days.

Asa reigned 41 years in Judah. He followed the Lord and led the people in following the Lord. He cleansed the land of idolatry and removed his grandmother, the queen mother, from the throne because of her blatant idolatry. Asa defeated a million man army from Ethiopia with half that number because he called on the Lord and trusted Him for deliverance.

But in the 36th year of his reign, when neighboring Israel attacked him, he paid the king of Aram to come and protect him from Israel. And he paid him with the silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord. He then imprisoned the prophet who called him out on this, and oppressed others of his own people. In the 39th year of his reign, he became severely diseased in his feet, but he sought the help of the physicians instead of the Lord. (You can find this in 2 Chronicles 16).

Joash

Asa’s great-grandson Joash started strong too. Joash’s aunt and her husband, Jehoiada the priest, hid the infant Joash from his own grandmother when she murdered all his siblings in order to claim the throne. Jehoiada then led the people in a coup, giving 7-year-old Joash his rightful place on the throne.

2 Chronicles 24:2 

Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. 

But Joash did not last.

2 Chronicles 24:17, 18 

But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them. They abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols; so wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for their guilt.

Jehoiada’s son prophesied against them for this, and look what that got him:

2 Chronicles 24:21-22 

So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May the Lord see and avenge!”

Do you find this trend disturbing? Because I sure do! What causes someone to fall away after a lifetime of following the Lord? Why would anyone lay aside a lifetime investment in God’s kingdom, and then throw it away at the end?

The answer is found in Scripture.

1. We get tired of waiting. And then we give up hope.

Proverbs 29:18 

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.

2. The world is enticing.

And we start to let it bleed into our field of vision. And then our desires. And then our values. And then we are tempted.

i John 2:15

Love not the world nor the things that in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

I Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond that you are able, but with the temptation, will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

3. We get soft around the thought life.

2 Corinthians 10:5 

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

4. Our hearts become weak due to distress or discouragement.

King David gave us a great example of this, and models what our response needs to be in times of deep discouragement or distress.

I Samuel 30:6  

Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

James 5:8

You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

5. We grow weary.

Weariness is tiredness or fatigue – it’s defined as a reluctance to experience any more. Enough already! I’m done!

We want to see our desires and goals realized, our prayers answered soon. And when we have to wait for sometimes years, and we still don’t see any change, we grow weary. When we grow weary physically, we tend to stop. And we do the same thing in the face of spiritual weariness.

Galatians 6:9 

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

6. We leave our first love.

Revelation 2:4 

I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

I don’t leave my first love on the honeymoon. Or the first anniversary. It takes time to get there. It takes monotony or disappointment, or grass that appears greener on the other side of the fence.

7. We love our own lives.

Revelation 12:11

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

There’s a song we sing about overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony – but it leaves out perhaps the most crucial element in overcoming:

John 12:25

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

My life is not my own now anyway. I’m His.

1 Corinthians 6:20

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

We aren’t designed to grow weary, to be tired and discouraged, to let our affections wander from the One we love the most. We are made to overcome.

I John 5:4-5 

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

So what’s the secret of endurance?

Hebrews 12:2-3 

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I think its safe to say that Jesus did not enjoy the cross. But He endured it for the joy that was set before Him – it was still out there. It was the joy to come.

Job saw it.

James 5:10 -11  

As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Job waited for it. And the waiting was greatly rewarded. Just like the three kings following the star. They endured – and they found Jesus. Our endurance will find the same.

Revelation 22:20 

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come, Lord Jesus!

I can’t wait!

 

Luke 21:19 

By your endurance you will gain your lives.

 

Pray for the nation!!

www.prayingtwobytwo.com

 

 

300 high school students from Plano, Texas, are in Washington D.C., this week, doing service projects at homeless shelters and churches, and singing about their love for Jesus – and His love for us! – on the steps of our national monuments. They started the week out with a 3 hour prayer walk around D.C. These kids know that God hears our prayers! And they know first hand what it is to live in a country where they can openly pray! Let’s join them in praying for our nation!