Month: June 2015

ISIS and Jehu – Can you kill your way to righteousness?

There is an idea alive in the world today. It’s a very old idea that has once again come full circle. The idea goes like this.

  1. God wants me to be righteous
  2. I want to be righteous
  3. You don’t agree with my path of righteousness
  4. That makes God mad at us
  5. I should kill you so that God will be happy with me.
ISIS is using God as an excuse to bring a reign of terror to people unless they agree to live under their strict interpretation of Islam. As I said, this idea is not new. Throughout history misguided people of every religion have used their faith as an excuse to kill those who disagree and the threat of death to cause people to behave. My question is, can this method ever truly make one righteous?
In ancient Israel, there was a constant battle between the followers or Yaweh and the followers of Baal. Often, when a new king  came along, they would kill the other side’s followers.  When King Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel, he allowed her to go after the followers of Yahweh killing many of the prophets. If that wasn’t enough, Jezebel had Naboth killed just because he wouldn’t sell a plot of land to Ahab (1 Kings 21). This was the final straw, God had enough and sent Elijah with a message of His judgment.

But the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. Give him this message: ‘This is what the LORD says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!'” “So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah. “Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the LORD’s sight. So now the LORD says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made Me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’ “And regarding Jezebel, the LORD says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel. ‘ “The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.” (No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done–the people whom the LORD had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.) (1 Kings 21:17-26 NLT)

God had pronounced a sentence on Ahab but remarkably, even Ahab found mercy.

But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning. Then another message from the LORD came to Elijah: “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.” (1 Kings 21:27-29 NLT)

Soon enough, the day would come. Not in Ahab’s life, but during the reign of his son Joram. Later, the prophet Elisha would dispatch a young prophet to bring a message to Jehu.

…Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu’s head and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the LORD’s people, Israel. You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of My prophets and all the LORD’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out. I will destroy every one of his male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will destroy the family of Ahab as I destroyed the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. Dogs will eat Ahab’s wife Jezebel at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her…” (2 Kings 9:6-10 NLT)

Later, Jehu would pursue the seventy sons of Ahab in Samaria. When Jehu threatened to attack the city, the leaders of Samaria decided they would rather not fight.

When the letter arrived, the leaders killed all seventy of the king’s sons. They placed their heads in baskets and presented them to Jehu at Jezreel. (2 Kings 10:7 NLT)

Even then, the killing was not done.

As soon as Jehu had finished sacrificing the burnt offering, he commanded his guards and officers, “Go in and kill all of them. Don’t let a single one escape!” So they killed them all with their swords, and the guards and officers dragged their bodies outside. Then Jehu’s men went into the innermost fortress of the temple of Baal. They dragged out the sacred pillar used in the worship of Baal and burned it. They smashed the sacred pillar and wrecked the temple of Baal, converting it into a public toilet, as it remains to this day. In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. (2 Kings 10:25-28 NLT)

Finally – Baal worship was cleansed from the land. Surely, now people will be righteous under the good king Jehu right?

But Jehu did not obey the Law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. (2 Kings 10:31 NLT)

Huh? After all that killing, after the prophecy came true, even in spite of all of this, Jehu had a heart problem that no amount of killing could fix.

He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin. (2 Kings 10:29 NLT)

Those golden calves… Just like the calf that Aaron made at Mt. Sinai, the people wanted a god they could see. Jehu and the leaders of the northern kingdom of Israel wanted to keep the people worshiping in Israel rather than going to the temple in Jerusalem so they kept these idols in place at the same time as they were smashing the worship of Baal.

What do I take away from this?

No amount of killing can ever cleanse the land and make people righteous. At the same time, no politician, judge or king can make the people righteous because no law, no rule has the power of life. Every time in history where people tried to enforce righteousness on people, the experiment has often ended with much bloodshed and terror. ISIS is proving this day after day.

There is only one death that can make men righteous. It was the death of Jesus, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Not only his death, but his resurrection proves that life comes only by His name. It’s no wonder that when He was arrested in the garden that Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:11). Killing wasn’t going to save anyone then and it won’t make anyone righteous now either.

Prayer in the Hard Places


When you are in the hard places of life, you can’t help but wonder if you are getting exactly what you deserve. You begin to wonder if God is judging you for the things you have done. David felt like this, I know because he wrote about in Psalm 143.

“Don’t put Your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before You.” (Psalms 143:2 NLT)

The young man David, the one who defeated Goliath and was anointed king was on the run for his life. He was living in caves and hiding from king Saul who wanted to kill him. You can feel his agony as he wrote elsewhere in Psalm 88

“You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave You have engulfed me.” (Psalms 88:6-7 NLT)

Yes, Saul was the one chasing him, but David believed that ultimately the things that were happening to him were from God.

I’ve been there. My life blew up with a tremendous explosion of disease and divorce that left my faith shaken. I certainly felt the same things that David felt. Some people have said that my life is sort of like Job’s but I say, perhaps, except for one thing. Job was so certain that he hadn’t done anything wrong. I don’t have that certainty; I’d have to agree with what David wrote. Please God, don’t put me on trial.

Perhaps you too feel this way. If so, I have good news for those who belong to Jesus Christ.

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18 NLT)

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that there isn’t a trial waiting for me. There is no judgment against me. The things that have happened in my life are sometimes just random stuff that happens, like when people get sick. There are other things that are most certainly the consequences of bad choices I made along the way. Like David, I need to pray.

“I lift my hands to You in prayer. I thirst for You as parched land thirsts for rain.” (Psalms 143:6 NLT)

David felt a deep desire for God, like an incredible thirst that pushes you on searching for water. He wasn’t going to give up until he found it.

Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. (Psalms 143:7 NLT)

There is a desperation to his cry before the Lord. He recognized that depression was overtaking him. Other translations say that his spirit would fail. I’ve been there and maybe you have too. He worried that if God turned away he would die. How different this was from his words in Psalm 139

I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night–but even in darkness I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You. (Psalms 139:7-12 NLT)

Wait a minute David, don’t you know that God is never going to turn his face from you? Of course you do, but your fear is talking. In those moments, how we need God’s help to turn from fear to faith.

Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting You. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to You. (Psalms 143:8 NLT)

In my depression, I didn’t want to hear about God or his unfailing love. The longer I went without going to church or connecting to a small group, the deeper the darkness became around me, but even in darkness I cannot hide from Him. The best thing for me was to hear of His unfailing love each morning. I do this by listening to the Daily Audio Bible each morning as I walk my dog.

There is something wonderful about the morning. As I walk in the cool air and watch the sun rise over the mountains I feel hope rising in my heart once again.  The prophet Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and wrote the book of Lamentations about his despair, but even in this book there is a glimmer of hope.

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. (Lamentations 3:20-26 NLT)

In the hard places, the dark moments when we are tempted to give in to despair, we need to pray as David did:

  • Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting You
  • Show me where to walk, for I give myself to You.

We need to remember as Jeremiah did:

  • The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
  • His mercies never cease.
  • Great is His faithfulness;
  • His mercies begin afresh each morning.

No wonder this morning I found myself singing that old hymn

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father.
There is no shadow of turning with thee!
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not
As thou hast been, thou forever will be

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand has provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Winning Through Intimidation


This morning as I listened to the Daily Audio Bible I heard the story of how King Ahab (one of the worst kings of Israel) fought with Ben-Hadad II, the king of the Aramean people  (from modern day Syria).  In warfare, the best way to win is to so intimidate your enemy that they give up without a fight.

Ben-Hadad assembled a large army with 32 other kings and besieged Samaria. Imagine for a moment what that must have looked like as a huge force of troops, horses and chariots surrounded the city. Imagine the terror as you contemplate a long siege with nothing but starvation awaiting you.

Then comes the message from the enemy king

He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘Your silver and your gold are mine! And your best wives and children are mine as well!'” (1 Kings 20:2-3 HCSB)

I realized how this is like the battles that I face with temptations. Those battles that seem unwinnable, where my record of defeat seems to show that there is no hope. Sin comes along and says to me

  • Your money is mine.
  • Your family is mine.
  • Your life is mine.
At first glance it seems that he is right. And all too often like Ahab I reply

Then the king of Israel answered, “Just as you say, my lord the king: I am yours, along with all that I have.” (1 Kings 20:4 HCSB)

In other words, I give up without a fight.

The messengers then returned and said, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘I have sent messengers to you, saying: You are to give me your silver, your gold, your wives, and your children. But at this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you, and they will search your palace and your servants’ houses. They will lay their hands on and take away whatever is precious to you.‘” (1 Kings 20:5-6 HCSB)

Isn’t that the way sin works? It comes to take away whatever is precious to me. What will I do? Ahab, for once in his life, did a good thing. He called for help.

Then the king of Israel called for all the elders of the land and said, “Think it over and you will see that this one is only looking for trouble, for he demanded my wives, my children, my silver, and my gold, and I didn’t turn him down.” All the elders and all the people said to him, “Don’t listen or agree.” (1 Kings 20:7-8 HCSB)

Ahab called for the elders of the land. He didn’t try to go it alone, he asked for help and got some very good advice “Don’t listen”.  When I’m discouraged and tempted, I need to do the same thing. I need people in my life that I can turn to… people who can tell me things like.

  • Don’t listen to sin when it says you are already defeated
  • Don’t agree to what it wants you to do (Romans 6:12)
  • Remember that God says you are dead to sin (Romans 6:6-7)
  • Jesus came to set you free (John 8:32)
  • God will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13)

When Ahab decided to fight, the Lord went into action.

A prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Do you see this entire great army? Watch, I am handing it over to you today so that you may know that I am Yahweh.'” (1 Kings 20:13 HCSB)

Just when it felt like they were on the verge of defeat, God moved and gave them the victory.

Then the king of Israel marched out and attacked the cavalry and the chariots. He inflicted a great slaughter on Aram. (1 Kings 20:21 HCSB)

Unfortunately, Ahab would later end up quite badly. This just goes to show that one battle does not win (or lose) the war. I am confident that with God’s help things will end much better for me because of what Christ has done for me.


But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will.
(Acts 4:28 NLT)

This morning as I walked my dog I listened to the Daily Audio Bible podcast (highly recommended) and in today’s reading we covered Acts 4. As I put myself into the story and tried to imagine what it must have been like to be there I was amazed by the prayer of the believers. To set the scene, Peter and John are walking into the temple one afternoon when they encountered a lame man.

Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:4-6 NLT)

Until this point, the Jewish leaders had seemingly taken little notice of this band of Jesus followers. The first mention of conflict came in Acts 4.

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. (Acts 4:1-3 NLT)

The next day came commands not to teach in Jesus name followed by threats about what might happen if they continued. Now pause for just a moment and think about what was happening.

Do you suppose that some of the Jesus followers might have said things like

  • “Maybe we should stop with the preaching in the temple”
  • “We must be doing something wrong if the leaders don’t agree with us”
  • “Peter, John… why did you have to attract such attention, we need to be more careful”

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 NLT)

What a change from Acts 2 when seemingly everyone approved of what was going on. Now they are faced with a choice, obey the command of the Jewish leaders to stop or face their threats and continue. What will they do…


Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. (Acts 4:10 NLT)

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NLT)

Standing before the council, some people might have been intimidated. When asked  “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7b NLT) they might have said things like

  • “By the power of Yahweh our God we did this.”
  • “We are just followers of the law and prophets like you”

But Peter and John had no doubt about what they were doing. They didn’t try to craft and answer that would get them out of trouble. They simply said it straight out, it was by the power of Jesus that this man was healed. And not only that, they had the boldness to declare “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NLT)

Talk about putting it all on the line. These are words that will surely land them in prison, seem them beaten and eventually killed. What gave them this kind of courage?

Determined Beforehand

As the disciples gathered together to pray, after this encounter with the Jewish leaders we can get a glimpse of their thinking.

But everything they did was determined beforehand according to Your will. (Acts 4:28 NLT)

Really? Everything? Yes, everything. “They” in this verse refers to the Jewish leaders and the Romans. The everything they are referring to includes the events of the previous weeks.

  • The rejection of Jesus as messiah by the Jewish leadership
  • The arrest in the garden
  • The scourging of Jesus
  • The crown of thorns
  • The crucifixion
  • The empty tomb
Some people have said that these are events that occurred by accident. That Jesus simply got carried away with his popularity and pushed it too far, But Peter and John didn’t see it that way. Instead they saw God’s determined plan written about long ago by the prophets.

proorizō – to limit in advance

They were confident that these remarkable events were not random acts but the fulfillment of exactly what God said would happen. Knowing this, they prayed for even more boldness.

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, Your servants, great boldness in preaching Your word. Stretch out Your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30 NLT)

I have so many questions about exactly how God’s foreknowledge and will have predestined events and actions. The tension between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man is so clearly evident here.

  • Did the Jewish leaders act freely when they conspired to hand Jesus over to Pilate?
  • Did the disciples act freely when they fled from the garden?
  • Did Peter act freely when he denied Jesus 3 times?
  • Did Pilate act freely when he ordered Jesus crucified?
Or were all these events predestined and the participants played their part in this drama as directed?
The disciples clearly believed that all of these events unfolded exactly as God intended them to. They were planned in advance, long before the foundation of the world.  Yes, they were all acts of men, freely chosen but woven into a greater plan by the God who knows everything.

Pure Joy

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  (James 1:2-3 NLT)

As I was walking my dog this morning I was listening to James MacDonald preach about this verse. Of course, I’ve heard this verse before, but it’s been a long time since I had thought deeply about it.


James didn’t say “If troubles come your way” he said when. The fact is that God will allow seasons of trouble, trial or testing into our lives and he has a purpose for this.

peirasmos – a putting to proof by experiment or experience


When is a word with no choice attached. There simply isn’t anything you can do about when, but consider is a word of opportunity. It’s a word that invites me to change the way I think.

Perception is reality

The way I look at the world, the way I feel about the things that are happening to me and around me are shaped by the way I think. Sometimes it feels as though I have no choice about my thoughts, that they simply arrive into my consciousness, good and bad, welcome and unwelcome. But the Bible tells me different. It says that I have an opportunity to consider.

hēgeomai – to lead, that is, command

I need to lead my thoughts, command them in a certain direction. I have to lead them away from things like

  • “God is punishing me for my mistakes by making me sick”
  • “My usefulness as a person is over”
  • “I will never get better, only worse”

I have to lead my thoughts to the truths of God’s word like

  • “God has already forgiven me for my failures”
  • “God has a purpose and is working all things for my good”
  • “The testing of my faith produces endurance”
  • “Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness”

Many years ago, I came to the realization that if Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, then I should strive to become as weak as possible. Of course, I didn’t mean that I should get sick with a terrible disease, yet that is what has happened. And now, there is an opportunity for me to lead my thoughts to the truth that this testing is a chance to let the Holy Spirit produce endurance in me.  Ultimately, God’s concern is not my comfort in this body that will one day fall away but rather how my soul is transformed into His likeness.