Flip the switch

1 Peter 1:13-16  13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. 

Sometimes during power outages, I still try to turn on the lights.  It’s pointless, I know.  But there is something instinctual about going to the bathroom with the lights on.  During power outages, it’s really annoying trying to get light.  You have to light a candle or fumble through the junk drawer for fresh batteries for the flashlight.  Which is one reason I appreciate electricity and light switches so much.  Power is available at the flip of a switch.  There is really no need to be in the dark, you just have to flip the switch.

Sometimes in the morning, I wake up with what feels like a mental power outage.  My brain doesn’t work all that well.  When our minds aren’t engaged, it’s easy to get sidetracked.  It’s easy to head down a path of distraction and sin.  When our minds aren’t engaged, it can be difficult to answer the call of holiness that Peter talks about here.  Fortunately there’s a solution.  In verse 13, Peter makes this key statement: “with your minds ready for action.”  What? I have to turn my brain on?

Yes.  If we are going to live a life holy before the Lord, it is going to require that our minds are set on it.  We cannot revert to laziness or trail off into boredom.  Serving the Lord is a thinking man’s task.  Holiness happens when we flip the switch.  Have you ever noticed that when you sin, you often have the thought, “how did I end up here?”  You find yourself in the dark wondering why the lights aren’t on.  The issue so often is that you simply didn’t walk over to the wall and flip the switch.  So get your minds ready for action today.  Be engaged with the Lord and His call to holiness.  He’s got all the power you need, so turn on the lights!

You are free! Change your clothes.

2 Kings 25:27-30  27 On the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month of the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Judah’s King Jehoiachin, in the year Evil-merodach became king of Babylon, he pardoned King Jehoiachin of Judah and released him from prison. 28 He spoke kindly to him and set his throne over the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and he dined regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life. 30 As for his allowance, a regular allowance was given to him by the king, a portion for each day, for the rest of his life. 

King Jehoiachin’s life wasn’t going exactly how he had planned it.  Not too long ago, he was basking in the glory of his anointing as the king of Judah.  He was the boss, the guy in control.  He called the shots and people followed his commands.  But lately it hasn’t gone well.  He found himself in prison, captured by the king of Babylon.  He was nothing more than an ordinary prisoner, unable to live a real life.  He was trapped, neglected, hurting, and hopeless.

Then it happened.  What seemed to be completely out of the blue, the king of Babylon released him from prison.  His sentence was pardoned and he was given a throne in this foreign land.  It was a turn of events that would change his life.  He no longer was kept in a cell under lock and key.  Gone were the days of guards watching his every move.  He was free!  And he changed his prison clothes.  Of course he changed out of his prison clothes – free people shouldn’t be wearing those.

You’ve been set free, too.  Jesus paid the price and your sentence was pardoned.  You are no longer under lock and key, but are free to live your life to the fullest in Him.  Are you still wearing your prison clothes?  Because it’s really hard to live free, when every time you look in the mirror, you see a prisoner.  Change your clothes, people!   Take off the old clothes of the past.  Because people who are dressed like spiritual prisoners end up convincing themselves that they still are.  You’re not!  You are free!  Clothe yourself in Christ Jesus today.  Take on His identity and His righteousness today.  Jehoiachin stopped dressing like a prisoner and so should you.

I’ve had enough

2 Kings 24:20  Because of the LORD’s anger, it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that He finally banished them from His presence. Then, Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 

Sometimes you’ve just had enough.  You have tried to be patient, you waited in line, you held out for the best.  But it just isn’t working; it’s time to be done.  Ever have days like those?  I know that I do.  It’s frustrating, isn’t it?  I find that it doesn’t always take a whole lot to get me to the point of frustration, either.  I give my best effort and if it doesn’t work, I am irritated.  I can’t even imagine what God must have gone through with these kings in the Old Testament.

As I have read through 1 and 2 Kings, I have been amazed at God’s pursuit of His people.  King after king after king did evil in the Lord’s sight.  Then there would be some hope, as someone would follow the Lord.  But that guy’s son would mess it all up again.  Generation after generation failed to serve the Lord.  And for some reason, God kept hanging in there.  He kept pursuing them; He kept giving them more opportunities to turn it around.  That’s why today’s passage doesn’t bother me much.  Sure, the Israelites were banished from the Lord’s presence, but He had the right to do it long before He did. 

That’s what is so remarkable about God.  He is a pursuer of us.  Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  His love is so deep for humanity that He does all He can to make a way.  For the nation of Israel, it meant giving them a hundred more chances than they deserved.  For you and I, it was sending His Son to die for us.  That sacrifice speaks of his love for me.  It shows me that even though I might fail Him, He will not give up on me.  You hear that?  He will not give up on us.  Let that refuel your drive to follow Him today!

Going Public

2 Kings 23:3  Next, the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant in the presence of the LORD to follow the LORD and to keep His commands, His decrees, and His statutes with all his mind and with all his heart, and to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book; all the people agreed to the covenant.   

I bet you’ve made a quiet commitment to God before.  We’ve all done it – asked for His forgiveness and promised to live for Him.  We whisper out our prayers in the privacy of our own living rooms.  We dedicate our lives to Him in the midst of worship.  It comes from our heart and is as sincere as the day is long.  The words pour through our head and our spirit, affirming our desire for His ways.  But does it ever come out of our mouths?  Have you ever made a public declaration?

Josiah did.  He stood in the presence of the Lord and in the presence of the people.  He stood by the pillar and told the Lord that he would follow Him.  He said he would follow the laws, the commands, the decrees with everything he had.  And all the people agreed.  I don’t know exactly how it went down, but I imagine the people watching and listening to their king pour his heart out to the Lord and joining in with a loud, “amen!”   They said, “me too!”

There’s something special about a public declaration.  The Bible tells us that we are to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord.  We ought to say it out loud for others to hear.  Or how about baptism?  It is a public declaration of what Christ is doing in your life.  It is taking your faith public!  What’s the state of your faith?  Have you “gone public” with it like Josiah did?  Because it is in the going public that your world will be changed.  It is the going public that will bring hope, peace, and salvation to your neighbors, friends, family… and maybe even enemies.  I dare you today – go public!  You weren’t called to be an undercover Christian but one who lives out loud for the glory of the Lord!

The time clock conundrum

2 Kings 22:7  “But no accounting is to be required from them for the money put into their hands since they work with integrity.”

Some time ago, as I was preparing to move into full-time ministry, I had an ongoing battle with a time clock.  You see, I had been in management for a couple of years and no longer logged my time with the clock.  I was on salary, which meant that I worked more than 8 hours a day.  No need to clock in or out; just come early and stay late.  Then I decided I was done with that whole thing and returned to being an hourly employee.  It was a good season of my life as God was preparing me to be a pastor.  But I didn’t get along with the time clock very well.  Because after two years of showing up to work and heading straight to the office, I now had to stop by the break room and punch in.  And quite honestly, I forgot a lot.  So I would get these time edit slips constantly telling me I forgot to clock in.  And other times I would forget to clock out.  I worked my hours and I worked  hard, but logging them was something I had to relearn.

I like this passage in 2 Kings 22, because it says they didn’t have to use the time clock.  These guys were working hard at the temple and the king knew it.  So he told the payroll clerk to pay them and not worry about asking for their time cards.  He trusted them to do the job and do it well.  They didn’t try to show up to work late or leave early.  They didn’t take extra breaks or sit around visiting when they should have been working.  They weren’t taking excessive personal phone calls or texting all their friends.  (I guess that last one was technically impossible)

What kind of an employee are you? Are you someone who can be trusted to do the job with integrity?  As Christians we are called to set a standard.  It’s a standard like the one mentioned here in today’s scripture.  There should never be a gray area about the work that we do.  We should be honest with our time and our money.  Regardless of what everyone else around us is doing, we should be like those temple workers.  And it’s not because we might get in trouble if we don’t; it’s to honor the Lord.  Colossians 3:23 says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”   Approach your life, your responsibilities, and your job with this attitude today.  For this is the kind of integrity that should be present in our lives.

If

2 Kings 21:7-9  7 Manasseh set up the carved image of Asherah, which he made, in the temple that the LORD had spoken about to David and his son Solomon, “I will establish My name forever in this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. 8 I will never again cause the feet of the Israelites to wander from the land I gave to their ancestors if only they will be careful to do all I have commanded them — the whole law that My servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen; Manasseh caused them to stray so that they did greater evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites. 

There’s one little 2-letter word that jumped out at me today.  It’s the word on which promises hinge.  It is the word which will determine blessing or destruction, wrath or providence, legacy or death.  That little word is “IF” and it packs a punch.  It’s a word we use regularly today.  You will get to go to the movies IF you do your chores.  You will get a paycheck IF you work the hours.  You may get a speeding ticket IF you go over the speed limit.  “If” speaks to condition or conditions – and God had them.  Still does.

These kingly fellows in the Old Testament were mostly failures when it came to the if clause.  They served themselves before the Lord.  They ignored His “if” and paid the consequences.  Today, God gave us a big “if” too.  First of all, He said that IF you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved.  It’s a condition.  We have a part to play.  We must believe in the Son.  And I think we should do more than just believe; we should throw our whole lives into Him.  

He is where life is at!  If you want protection, live under His covering.  If you want peace, live by His Spirit.  We cry out to God in our times of need, saying: “help, help!”   I wonder if he feels like saying, “what about the IF?!”   We so often expect Him to hold up His part of the bargain without holding up ours.   And He is asking us to be set-apart.  He asks us to lay down our sin and walk away.  He asks us to serve Him and Him alone as God.  IF we could just do that, imagine the blessing, the protection, and the peace.  Imagine the vision, the purpose, and the hope we would have.  IF we would just look to Him in all things, we might actually find the life we are looking for.

The Original Groundhog’s Day

2 Kings 20:8-11  8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the LORD’s temple on the third day? ” 9 Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD that He will do what He has promised: Should the shadow go ahead 10 steps or go back 10 steps? ” 10 Then Hezekiah answered, “It’s easy for the shadow to lengthen 10 steps. No, let the shadow go back 10 steps.” 11 So Isaiah the prophet called out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow back the 10 steps it had descended on Ahaz’s stairway. 

It’s simple, really.  A shadow is a rough image cast by an object that is blocking rays of illumination.  In other words, when light is shining on you there will be a shadow on the other side.  Like the famous groundhog, Hezekiah saw his shadow.  But his shadow didn’t mean 6 more weeks of winter.  It was a confirmation to an answered prayer.  This whole situation came about because Hezekiah was told he was going to die.  But he prayed and asked God to heal him.  So God decided to heal him and give him 15 more years to live, and the shadow was the proof it would happen.

Now it wasn’t really the shadow that was the confirmation, it was what the shadow did.  This shadow broke the laws of physics by moving back 10 steps. (It would have been fun if God made shadow puppets on the wall; that would have really freaked Hezekiah out.)  It was impossible override of nature courtesy of the Almighty.  He asked Hezekiah what he wanted his shadow to do, so he asked for it to go back 10 steps on its own.  This miraculous act was the evidence that God would heal him – and He did.

The point of all this to me is that God has an override card.  He created creation and he can break the laws of nature.  He can heal where there is no cure.  He can bring things to life that have been left for dead.  He can make shadows do whatever He wants them to do.  He can rescue those who seem unreachable.  And He answers prayer.  Where does that leave us?  I hope it leaves us in a position of asking.  Like Hezekiah, we can boldly ask the Lord to intervene… not only because He can, but because He loves us.