Woe to… a Life of Ease?

Amos 6:1Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria…

Amos 6:3-6 Ye that put far away the evil day… That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David… and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

This morning, it was in the 55° when I came to the office, so I turned the heater up to 74°. This afternoon, it was warm, so I turned my air conditioner down to 74°.  I like my memory foam mattress topper. I have a memory foam pillow. I like having a second vehicle (my second vehicle has been out due to theft/vandalism. I’m struggling- pray for me!). I like the convenience of Costco membership, Walmart up the road, and Amazon Prime. I like comfort. I like convenience. Naturally, I like to be at ease. If you’re honest, you do too.

In the passage above, God sent the preacher Amos to pronounce a “Woe!” on God’s people. A woe was a stark warning about something. If they did not heed this, they would be taken captive, and destroyed (verse 7). But what was their big sin? Was it immorality? Was it idol worship? Was it intermarrying the heathen? None of these are mentioned. The warning was given to God’s people who found themselves living very successful lives in Zion (the homeland). What was the issue? These people had allowed their lives of comfort and ease to detour them from God’s will for their life.

Notice how successful they were! Amos says that they laid on beds of ivory. I’m not sure how that would feel since poaching for ivory has since been banned, but we know that their bedrooms were luxurious. He said that they stretched themselves on their couches. Without a care in the world, they laid on the sofa, and their living rooms were centers for relaxation. They liked to eat the best food! They could grab a lamb from the flock and have some good Chinese hot pot (now we’re speaking my language) or lamb chops (for the more Americanized among us). They could grab a calf from the stall and eat the best of the beef at their pleasure. Even before iPhones and music subscriptions, they liked to sit around listening to music, singing, and inventing new instruments for music. We see that they drank “pleasure drinks” in abundance (in bowls), and used the best cologne and perfume. They lived lives of ease, and fully enjoyed them. It was this ease, however, and its results in their life, that brought God’s warning.

I was convicted recently between the similarities in my own life at times, and warning here. For those of us who live in the prosperous United States of America- if we’re not careful, we can fall into a life of ease, and find ourselves in danger of the same pitfalls God’s people fell into during this time. What did their lives of ease and comfort do to them?

  1. They found their security in what they possessed (vs 1). One danger of becoming successful, comfortable, and at ease, is that we can begin to find our security in what we have, instead of the Lord. The Lord reminded us that a man’s life doesn’t consist in what we possess. If we find our security here, it becomes an end, instead of a means. 
  • They forgot that a judgment day is coming (vs 2). One danger of comfortable living is that we forget that this life of ease is not all there is. There is a judgment seat of Christ. Instead of living for ease, we should live for that day.
  • Pleasure became a pursuit of their life (vs 3). God gives us good things to enjoy. But they can easily become our life’s passion, identity, and pursuit. We should not live for the house, car, phone, outing, high-end meal, luxury, or vacation.
  • They lived in a bubble, unconcerned with those God was concerned about (vs 6). There was affliction going on not too far away that bothered God, but they didn’t care. They too were busy eating, relaxing, enjoying their lives of comfort to do anything about it. 

I’m thankful for God’s blessings. But let’s heed the warning here. Let’s not allow a life of ease to detour us from God’s will for our lives, and the lives of those we influence.

Why did Uzziah Prosper?

2 Chronicles 26:3-5 Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign… And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.

2 Chronicles 26:15 And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.

When the Bible tells us that God made someone to prosper, I want to know why He did. The simple reason? I want to get in on it! I want a prosperous home. I want a prosperous life. We want a prosperous church. If God gives examples of successful people, and also the ingredients that helped them, I want to know what they were.

In these verses, I see two reasons that King Uzziah became successful. We see why he was helped, and had the wisdom he did to do amazing feats. I believe that that if we follow these same principles, we, too, can be prosperous in our lives.

1. Uzziah had a wise preacher to influence him

The Bible shows us that Uzziah had a preacher named Zechariah, “who had understanding in the visions of God,” as an influencer. We see often in Scripture that the success of the kings were closely aligned with their willingness to hearken, or have access, to a good, wise preacher. Uzziah sought God in the days of this preacher, and the Lord tells us why- because the preacher was in tune with the Lord.

If we want to prosper, we must put ourselves under a preacher who is in tune with the Lord, has wisdom from Him, and shares that with the people. Just because we go to church doesn’t mean we allow the preacher and preaching to influence us toward spiritual prosperity. What he says can go in one ear and out the other. We will find a main ingredient in the road to prosperity is to put ourselves under the preacher, and allow what He gets from God to influence us.

2. Uzziah sough the Lord himself

Uzziah didn’t just piggyback on the preacher’s coattail. He sought the Lord himself as well. Because of this, the Lord helped him to prosper greatly! I’m thankful for our church. I’m thankful for our pastor! But just the preaching and influence isn’t enough. It must translate into a personal, daily walk that we have on our own. Because King Uzziah walked with God, God caused him to prosper.

There came a day in Uzziah’s life, toward the end, where he stopped seeking God himself. He because proud. He stopped allowing the preacher to influence him, whether by choice or by the preacher’s leaving the scene. And because of it, the blessing stopped. The prosperity stopped.

Conclusion: I want to see prosperity in my life, and in the lives of those God has called me to serve. What two lessons must we apply from the life of King Uzziah? First, let’s put ourselves under the wisdom and godly influence the preacher. Secondly, let’s pursue the Lord ourselves, each and every day. If we do these things, we’re on the road to prosperity in God’s economy.

Encouragement in Troubled Times

1 Kings 19:1-3 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

Elijah had just stood up and called out the king. He had challenged 400 prophets and their false god to a dual. He destroyed the men with a sword after he emerged victorious (by calling down fire from heaven). And he experienced a mini revival among the multitude of the people. Yet in this passage, we find a discouraged, despondent, and almost suicidal prophet.

None of us is immune to discouragement. In fact, some of the greatest men in the Bible found themselves in times of discouragement, despair, and even doubt. What then, can we do, to keep going when discouragement rears its ugly head? First, let us see reasons Elijah was discouraged, as many times we can relate:

Why was Elijah Discouraged?

1. Unfulfilled Expectations – For three years, Elijah lived as a homeless prophet by the riverbed. But events had changed. He preached again. He called down fire. He was victorious. The people responded. Elijah called down rain (after a 3-year famine). And finally, Elijah could go back into the city. His adrenaline was pumping, and the Spirit of God Himself carried him so fast that he outran the king and his horse in a footrace! But his expectations were let down immediately. Instead of a welcoming committee, he was met with a death threat – by tomorrow at this time, we’re going to kill you. He found himself in the same rut he had been in for the past three years.

When I think of “unfulfilled expectations”, I think of the year 2020. Think of the churches, businesses, and individuals whose motto for the year was “2020 vision”, or whose plans and expectations for the year have been thrown for a spin. If this was the NCAA bracket challenge, none of us made it past the second round with our projections for the year. Life is full of unfulfilled expectations: a Rebellious child. Sickness. A relationship gone wrong. Financial difficulty. Failure in a business, family, or personal venture. It’s a part of life, and can cause discouragement.

2. Exhaustion and Fatigue – Elijah was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. He ran up a mountain. He outran a horse down a mountain. He slew 400 prophets. He preached. He ran for his life. It was “one of those seasons”. Many times, great men’s greatest discouragement or depressions come after big victories, because at that point they are totally spent. Once Elijah fled and was alone, he fell dead asleep under a tree.

There are times of life where we experience exhaustion and fatigue due to life itself happening. We look at the hardness of past months, and then at our current condition, and wonder if this will ever end. We wonder if the illness, the relationship, the difficulty, the lack of sleep, the uncertainty, will ever end. If not careful, a natural byproduct is discouragement.

3. Disillusionment with his country – Elijah told the Lord one reason he wanted to die was because of the state of the country and people around him. They had forsaken the Lord. But they went a step further. They were now antagonistic toward the things of God.

Does this not seem like the culture in which we find ourselves? We are a country that has forsaken the Lord. And further, mainstream culture is antagonistic toward those who love the Lord and believe the Bible. If we watch the news, listen to the pundits, and even follow mainstream Christianity, it can be discouraging!

4. “The Elijah Syndrome” – Elijah got to believing that he was the only one left the loved and served the Lord in the whole country. He thought he was the only one who had not compromised. He thought he was the only one left, and there was no hope for the future.

I’m sure we’ve had times where we feel like we’re the only ones. We’re alone in this. There’s no one like me. There’s no one that understands. There’s no one that has the same values, standards, hardships. This can cause discouragement.

Where did Elijah find encouragement to go forward?

1. He heard the still small voice of God

1 Kings 19:13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

The greatest way to be encouraged, to get instruction for life, to get back to what we ought to be doing, is to hear from God. In the midst of uncertain times, we must get into God’s Book, and listen for His voice!

2. He got some rest

1 Kings 19:5-7 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

This doesn’t sound spiritual, but Sculpture tells us that we are three-part beings: body, soul, and spirit. 1/3 of our being is physical and has physical needs. Pastor Goddard says, “We are organic beings.” Even recently, I’ve seen the spiritual effects that physical exhaustion has on an individual. Many times my dad would tell a couple, “go get a good night’s rest, and we’ll talk in the morning.” I’m not talking about binge-sleeping off your discouragement. But sometimes a good night’s rest, or short time away will do us well.

3. He allowed God to fix his perspective

1 Kings 19:18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

God showed Elijah that he was not alone. There were 7,000 men left who loved Him, and who faced the same pressures and culture that Elijah faced, and who could relate with him. Likewise, we’re not alone in this life. I’m thankful for our church, and churches like us, where we can find encouragement and fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters. This is why church and fellowship are so important!

4. He looked to the future

1 Kings 19:15-16 And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.

When discouragement reveals bleakness in the present, a great exercise is to look to the brightness of the future. The Lord got Elijah looking away from the present circumstances, and to the work of the future. There was a king to be anointed. There was a next generation to train. There was a work to do, and Elijah needed to get back at it. Remember- with the Lord, the future is bright!

We all go through times of discouragement. When we do, let’s prioritize our relationship with God. We may need to get some rest, or as Jesus said, “come apart”. We may need to allow God to fix our perspective. And finally, let us look to the future as it is bright with the Lord. I pray these truths help. God bless.

1 Kings 19:1-3 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

Just one chapter prior, Elijah had stood up and called out the king. He challenged 400 prophets and their false god to a dual. He destroyed the men with a sword after he emerged victorious (by calling down fire from heaven). And he experienced a mini revival among the multitude of the people. Yet in this passage, we find a discouraged, despondent, and almost suicidal prophet.

None of us is immune to discouragement. In fact, that some of the greatest men in the Bible found themselves in times of discouragement, despair, and even doubt. What then, can we do, to keep going when discouragement rears its ugly head? First, let us see reasons Elijah was discouraged, as many times we can relate:

1. Unfulfilled Expectations – Elijah had his expectations crushed. For three years, he was driven from his city, living as a homeless prophet by the riverbed, receiving food that the birds would bring by. Finally, God sent him back. He preached. He called down fire. He was victorious. The people who were on the fence between Elijah and Ahab’s prophets there took Elijah’s side, claiming “the Lord, He is God.” Elijah called down rain (after a 3-year famine). And finally, Elijah could go back into the city. His adrenaline was pumping, and the Spirit of God Himself carried him, so fast in fact, that he outran the king and his horse in a footrace! But his expectations were let down immediately. Instead of a welcoming committee, he was met with a death threat – by tomorrow at this time, we’re going to kill you. He found himself in the same rut he had been in for the past three years.

When I think of “unfulfilled expectations”, I think of the year 2020. Think of the churches, businesses, and individuals whose motto for the year was “2020 vision”, or whose plans and expectations for the year have been thrown for a spin. If this was the NCAA bracket challenge, none of us made it past the second round with our projections for the year. Life is full of unfulfilled expectations: a Rebellious child. Sickness. A relationship gone wrong. Financial difficulty. Failure in a business, family, or personal venture. It’s a part of life, and can cause discouragement.

2. Exhaustion and Fatigue – Elijah was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. He ran up a mountain. He outran a horse down a mountain. He slew 400 prophets. He preached. He ran for his life. It was “one of those seasons”. Many times, great men’s greatest discouragement or depressions come after big victories, because at that point they are totally spent. Once Elijah fled and was alone, he fell dead asleep under a tree.

There are times of life where we experience exhaustion and fatigue due to life itself happening. We look at the hardness of past months, and then at our current condition, and wonder if this will ever end. We wonder if the illness, the relationship, the difficulty, the lack of sleep, the uncertainty, will ever end. If not careful, a natural byproduct is discouragement.

3. Disillusionment with his country – Elijah told the Lord one reason he wanted to die was because of the state of the country and people around him. They had forsaken the Lord. But they went a step further. They were now antagonistic toward the things of God.

Does this not seem like the culture in which we find ourselves? We are a country that has forsaken the Lord. And further, mainstream culture is antagonistic toward those who love the Lord and believe the Bible. If we watch the news, listen to the pundits, and even follow mainstream Christianity, it can be discouraging!

4. “The Elijah Syndrome” – Elijah got to believing that he was the only one left the loved and served the Lord in the whole country. He thought he was the only one who had not compromised. He thought he was the only one left, and there was no hope for the future.

I’m sure we’ve had times where we feel like we’re the only ones. We’re alone in this. There’s no one like me. There’s no one that understands. There’s no one that has the same values, standards, hardships. This can cause discouragement.

For brevity, let’s look at the Lord’s recipe for Elijah to get up, get over his discouragement, and go forward for the Lord.

1. He heard the still small voice of God

1 Kings 19:13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

The greatest way to be encouraged, to get instruction for life, to get back to what we ought to be doing, is to hear from God. In the midst of uncertain times, we must get into God’s Book, and listen for His voice!

2. He got some rest

1 Kings 19:5-7 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

This doesn’t sound spiritual, but Sculpture tells us that we are three-part beings: body, soul, and spirit. 1/3 of our being is physical and has physical needs. Pastor Goddard says, “We are organic beings.” Even recently, I’ve seen the spiritual effects that physical exhaustion has on an individual. Many times my dad would tell a couple, “go get a good night’s rest, and we’ll talk in the morning.” I’m not talking about binge-sleeping off your discouragement. But sometimes a good night’s rest, or short time away will do us well.

3. He allowed God to fix his perspective

1 Kings 19:18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

God showed Elijah that he was not alone. There were 7,000 men left who loved Him, and who faced the same pressures and culture that Elijah faced, and who could relate with him. Likewise, we’re not alone in this life. I’m thankful for our church, and churches like us, where we can find encouragement and fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters. This is why church and fellowship are so important!

4. He looked to the future

1 Kings 19:15-16 And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.

When discouragement reveals bleakness in the present, a great exercise is to look to the brightness of the future. The Lord got Elijah looking away from the present circumstances, and to the work of the future. There was a king to be anointed. There was a next generation to train. There was a work to do, and Elijah needed to get back at it. Remember- with the Lord, the future is bright!

We all go through times of discouragement. When we do, let’s prioritize our relationship with God. We may need to get some rest, or as Jesus said, “come apart”. We may need to allow God to fix our perspective. And finally, let us look to the future as it is bright with the Lord. I pray these truths help. God bless.

Compartmentalizing Christianity

2 Chronicles 8:11 And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the LORD hath come.

Pastor Meyers recently preached a series on Solomon’s life. It was called “An Autobiography of a confused Christian”. That title defines this passage so well!

In the passage above, Solomon’s heart was still tender. He still had a love for the Lord. He had just completed the temple, and brought the ark of God back to its place. There was a time of revival, rejoicing, and worship, and the Lord was working in an amazing way. However, as the dust settled, Solomon realized that there was a major conflict in his life. He had married the daughter of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and had her living in his home- the same vicinity as the ark of the covenant. She was most likely actively serving other gods (1 Kings 11:1-4). And she, unholy, certainly couldn’t be in the same place as the holy ark of God. What should Solomon do?

Understanding this conflict- that having a pagan wife and a holy ark in the same place were mutually exclusive, and incompatible, Solomon came up with a plan. He’d keep the ark at “home”, and move Pharaoh’s daughter into a house that he had made for her nearby. What did Solomon do here? He believed he could compartmentalize the holy and the unholy in his life. This worked out- until it didn’t. 1 Kings 11:1 tells us the result of Solomon compartmentalizing his Christianity: his heart was turned away from that which was truly holy, and it had grave consequences for his relationship with the Lord, his kingdom, and generations to come (1 Kings 11-12).

1 Kings 11:1-4 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love… and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.

We live in such a compartmentalized society. We are taught to compartmentalize our work life, our home life, our politics, our religion, and our hobbies. Even our homes are as compartmentalized as ever. We have rooms for every function, like the kitchen (and within it, the utensil drawer, the dish cabinet, the fridge, the knife holder, etc.), the bathroom (with the medicine cabinet, the towel rack, and shampoo shelf), and even our vehicles (our trunk for junk or necessary car items, our glove box for documents, our middle console for electronics or miscellaneous items) are separated into different compartments.

Because we’re so in the habit of compartmentalizing, many times, our Christianity falls in line as well. We have our work life, our church life, our hobbies, our entertainment, our affections and desires, and our life’s pursuits. We can easily fool ourselves into believing that we can keep these in different compartments, even when they may be incompatible with the Bible we say we believe. This may work for a while, but like with Solomon, it we allow that which is unholy or unbiblical to stick around in a compartment of our lives, eventually, it will turn our heart from the Lord. Rather than the holy affecting the unholy, the unholy will creep in to affect the rest of our lives.

Scripture makes it clear that Christ and His holiness aren’t to be compartmentalized, but to reach into and have preeminence in every area of our lives (Colossians 1:18). If an area of our life is incompatible with Scriptural living, it isn’t to be moved to another area, but removed completely.

Have we compartmentalized our Christianity? Are there unholy compartments that need to be removed? Let’s start today! Let’s not be like Solomon, whose belief that he could separate the holy from the unholy led to tragedy in his life, and in the lives of generations after him.

Colossians 1:18 And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church… that in all things he might have the preeminence.

The Voice of My Beloved!

Song of Solomon 2:8 “The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.”

Song of Solomon 5:2 “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me…”

A few years back, I did a twenty-five page study on the book of Song of Solomon. Before that point, I had simply seen it as a Christian love novel of sorts- a mushy exchange of ancient love-jargon between a man and woman in their pursuit of each other. However, the more I read, reread, and studied each passage, I realized that there is a lot more to the book.

Though Song of Solomon might be found in the romance section in a Hebrew library, it means much more to us as New Testament Christians. Ephesians 5 shows us that Christ is a picture of the Bridegroom, and we are His bride. Song of Solomon is a wonderful parallel/picture of Christ pursuing a love relationship with His bride (us, as believers) and us pursuing Him in return. As a couple pursues each other on the road to marriage, and ought to continue to pursue each other on a deeper and more meaningful level after marriage, so our pursuit of Christ ought to be lifelong, and more intimate and meaningful as the years go on.

In the verses above, we see the simple, yet foundational desire of any lady that is being pursued by the man of her dreams: a desire to hear his voice. Young people of today don’t understand this as much as those of us who had to live through the first 6,000 or so years of human history. We didn’t know unlimited calling. There was no such thing as FaceTime! There was no Marco Polo, Google Video, or the like. Bro. Ros revealed his age recently when he reminisced on his long-distance relationship with his wife (then girlfriend or fiance). He spoke of their weekly (not daily, or hourly) phone calls on the college payphone! We remember those dating (courting) days, when the voice of the one we loved was precious, and we longed to hear from them.

In any healthy relationship, one is happy and desirous to hear the voice or the one they love. If it’s been a while, we long for, and miss, hearing that voice. We can sense the great excitement when the lady in the verse above hears the voice of her beloved. In fact, the first exclamation point in the entire book comes when she says, “The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh…” She was thrilled to hear his voice as he came near to spend time with her.

Likewise, as Christ’s bride to be, a foundational part of a healthy relationship in the pursuit of Christ is a desire to hear His voice. Do you desire to hear His voice today? I sure hope so. Christ desires to speak to you and to me, and wants to hear our voice in return.

This is done most practically through reading our Bible and allowing the Lord to speak. It’s a wonderful thing to sit down, open the living Word, and know that Christ spoke to ME, personally. He knows us, and loves us, and speaks to us accordingly. Did you hear His voice today? Reciprocally, the Lord desires to hear our voice to Him in prayer. Did you set aside time to speak to Him? Has He hear your voice today?

As a healthy relationship with our spouse requires meaningful, loving communication, so does a healthy relationship with our bridegroom. This lady was thrilled to hear the voice of the one she loved. Let’s continue to desire to hear His voice, heed His voice, and obey His voice.

A Friend Not to Have (or be)

2 Samuel 13:1-5 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister. And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.

One of the most important decisions we will make in life is that of who our friends are. Someone said, “you will be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the friends you have.” Further, the friends we allow our children to have will shape who they become- for good or for bad. Here we see a young man, Amnon, who had a bright future. He was the king’s eldest son. He was well-known in the kingdom. He had much potential.

Amnon had a certain affection that was causing inner turmoil. Instead of channeling it properly or seeking counsel, he shared his affection with a friend, who happened to be a cousin. Side note- but just because someone is family, doesn’t mean they are good for us or our children as close friends. Amnon’s friend influenced him to make a decision that caused ripple affects in his family, and in the entire kingdom. I see three negative attributes of this friend.

1. His friend was subtle. According to Webster’s dictionary, subtle means “smooth, and deceptive.” A sure mark of a friend we ought not to have is one who is subtle and deceitful. If our friend is subtle with us and for us, they will be to us. Further, I will become what I am around.

2. His friend was entitled. Jonadab’s basis for his plan was, “You’re the king’s son. You deserve to be happy. You deserve not to be lean from day to day. You deserve what you want.” One reason our society is a mess is because of an entitled mentality. Truth is, we don’t “deserve” anything. What we have and what we are are by God’s grace. If we begin to hang around with “entitled” people, we will begin to feel entitled. Entitled people lack humility. Entitled people lack gratitude. Entitled people live in the past. Entitled people don’t reach their potential.

3. His friend was not under authority. What was Jonadab’s plan? “We know the king will come around. Let’s do this under his nose and behind his back.” And that’s what Amnon did. We know from Tamar’s comments that Amnon could have gotten the king’s blessing, and had much different results. We’re in dangerous territory when our friends are people who are not under authority. It will rub off on us.

Amnon’s friend was deceitful. Amnon’s friend had an entitled mentality. Amnon’s friend was not a man under authority. And each point rubbed off on him. When choosing our friends, let’s evaluate their “true stripes”. Let’s stay away from the influence of friends with these characteristics.

Losing Jesus

A few years back we arrived in a city in China of approximately 7 million people. It was late at night, we had traveled long, and we were tired. We were picked up by a shuttle bus at the airport, and taken to our high rise condo in a certain downtown area. I helped organize the trip, so I had all the information, documents, and money for our hotels, tour, and travel as well as my laptop, in my backpack. My wife was with us on that trip, and she, too, carried an identical backpack. As we unloaded from the shuttle, I saw one of the young men with the backpack, and supposed it was mine, so we proceeded to head up toward our room, and the shuttle drove away. It was only when we got up to the room that we realized that we had only one backpack. And it wasn’t mine. It was late at night, and there was nothing we could do about it.  

Have you ever had that helpless, lump in the throat, knot in the stomach, sinking feeling when you realize you lost something valuable? In Luke 2:44-46, Jesus’ parents had this same feeling. They had travelled for an entire day with throngs of people after a feast in Jerusalem when they realized that they were missing something very valuable. They had left their son, Jesus, back in Jerusalem. It took them three days of sorrow and diligent searching to find Him.

Luke 2:43-46 “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple…”

As I think of this story, I think of how it can relate to us. How often have we supposed the Lord was in our company, when in reality, we lost, or left His presence along the way? As I read this passage, I see a few reasons we might leave the Lord behind and not even know it.

First, we can simply suppose he’s in our company. Our closeness to the Lord isn’t something we can take for granted. It’s not a passive thing. It’s something we must proactively seek each day.

Secondly, we can lose the Lord’s presence when we’re busy. Busyness may be one of the biggest enemies of our having the Lord’s presence, because we get so preoccupied with it that we don’t realize that His presence has gone missing.

Thirdly, we can lose His presence even as we’re doing good things. We were told often that the easiest place to backslide is on staff or in Bible college. Good things can replace God’s presence in our lives if we’re not careful, and it’s easy to think that one is the other, when it’s not.

Another reason we leave the Lord behind is when we’re out of routine. Even if we have more time, when we’re out of routine, like we are now with all going on, we can get away from the Lord’s presence.

So then, how do we get back to closeness with the Lord? First, Jesus parents realized that He was not there. We must do a regular assessment and ask, “how is my closeness to the Lord today”. Where is He? How is He working in my life today? Secondly, they made diligent search. They were not going to stop until they found Him. Thirdly, they retraced their steps. Generally speaking, if we trace our steps backward, we’ll realize where and when we lost the Lord’s presence and His intimate working in our lives. And finally, they found Him.

After calling around, contacting dispatch, tracing that shuttle bus, and by God’s grace, getting in contact with the driver himself, what a relief it was to find my backpack, with all the contents still inside, and have it back in our hands! Likewise, it’s even more refreshing to know that I’ve once again found God’s presence, and that closeness I once knew, and see Him again working personally in my life.

When Anxiety Attacks

Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Psalm 42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

About nine years ago, I suddenly had strong bouts of anxiety. Prior to this time, I was the “suck it up”, “it’s in your head”, “you’re overthinking it,” type. I thought anxiety, depression, and the like were for either weak-minded or selfish people. Until it hit me. It’s amazing how our perspective on things changes when it’s now us.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was fearful. There was uncertainty. I would even leave church in the middle of service “not feeling well” when it would set in. I wondered if I would ever get out of the cycle. I tried breathing techniques. I called a Christian counselor. I did research and read up on remedies for this condition. (PS I’m being more honest than I planned to when I picked up the Scriptures this AM or began writing this post).

Psalm 42:11 helped me greatly. In the verse above, David had been driven from the house of the Lord. He lived in uncertainty. There was much to fear. There was reason for sorrow. And there was no end in sight. David had a conversation with himself that was very helpful. These principles from David’s conversation with his soul that can help when our soul needs calming.

Before we do, I think looking at David’s inner turmoil will help us to relate with what he was going through. I see three areas of inner turmoil, or at least, the temptation to fall into them. I see depression, sorrow, and anxiety.

Cast down (שָׁחַח shâchach, shaw-khakh’) = to sink or depress; bend, bow (down), bring (cast) down, couch, be (bring) low, stoop. David felt depressed. His soul was sunk down. He felt hunched over. As in a pit, in the dust, struggling to get back “on top side”.

Mourning (קָדַר qâdar, kaw-dar’) and Tears (דִּמְעָה dimʻâh, dim-aw’) = weeping, sorrow. One chapter prior, he had been betrayed. He was driven from his family, and from the church. He missed the singing, the fellowship, and the life he had known before.

Disquieted (הָמָה hâmâh, haw-maw’) = made uneasy or restless; disturbed; harassed, to be in great commotion or tumult, be disquieted, troubled, mourn, be moved (like bowels move), make a noise (within, a noise that I cannot hold my peace, – same word in Jer 4:19), rage, roar (like waves Jer 5:22, 6:22, 31:35, 50:42, 51:55), sound, be troubled (like troubled bowels), make in tumult (Acts 31:34), tumultuous. His soul was anxious, almost uncontrollable. His mind, and emotions, were like a tumult of people that cannot be controlled, or uneasy bowels that we can do nothing about, or waves that roll and roar at sailors on a boat, and they are at the mercy of the sea. Those of us who have experienced anxiety know what it’s like to be in that boat, dwarfed by the growing wave, ready to be tossed about, seemingly at its mercy.

So then what did David do? What was his remedy? How can we apply it in our situation?

1. Hope. No matter the situation, let us always remember that with God, there. is. hope. There’s hope in the sorrow. There’s hope in the depression. There’s hope in the midst of the anxiousness. God is a God of hope. When these within us arise, HOPE IN GOD! We can go through the most dire of situations if we hold on to the fact that with God, there is hope, and there are much better days ahead with Him.

2. Praise. In the midst of the worst situations, David made it a habit to praise. This helped me much. I realized that in a crowd of people, or alone in the car, I can turn my mind toward the Lord, and focus on praising Him for Who He is, and what He does. I’ve experienced this firsthand- when I get into praising the Lord, so much of the inner turmoil ceases. The more I focus on praise, the less any inner situation is in view.

3. Claim. David gives us a great promise here. It helped him. And more than any other promise, this one helped me. David tells us that the Lord is the health of our countenance. What is there to claim? What does that mean? Notice what God is to us when these things come.

The health (יְשׁוּעָה yᵉshûwʻâh, yesh-oo’-aw) something saved, i.e. (abstractly) deliverance; hence, aid, victory, prosperity:—deliverance, health, help(-ing), salvation, save, saving (health), welfare. Simply put, health here means salvation, help, and/or deliverance from whatever it is that would cause our countenance to fall, or change, or lose it’s joy, or peace, or steadfastness.

Thus, when sorrow comes as it will, when depression tries to rear its ugly head, or anxiety like those waves attempt to arise, remember, GOD IS the health (salvation) of our countenance. Not, He may be. Not, He will be. HE IS! Right here. Right now. He is here to help me, to save me. This is a fact and a promise from the word of God. Meditate on it. Quote it. Claim it.

When these things attempt to overtake our soul, let’s do the things David did. Realize there’s hope in God. Begin to praise. And claim the promise of the Lord as the health of my countenance right now.

Examine Me

Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

According to the CDC, 20-40% of the 900,000 premature deaths in the United States could have been prevented. One Dr. wrote: “As a doctor, it is heartbreaking to lose just one patient to a preventable disease or injury – and it is that much more poignant as the director of the nation’s public health agency to know that far more than a hundred thousand deaths each year are preventable,”

In the medical field, more than ever, we are reminded of the benefits of preventative care and screening. And yet yearly, up to 360,000 people die unnecessarily by causes that could have (and should have) been prevented. Why is this the case? Many times, we aren’t willing to take the time for a simple screening, a simple doctor’s visit, or a simple examination that can prevent tragedy.

Every year, there are scores of spiritual casualties for the same reason. I wonder the number of spiritual fatalities that are a result of conditions that could have been rooted out early. But because they went undetected or unaddressed, they led to tragedy.

David wasn’t going to chance it. David was a man after God’s heart for a reason. Time and time again, David prayed what he prayed in the Scripture above: “Examine me.” Many times he prayed, “Search me.” “Try me.” “Know my heart.” “Prove me.” David wanted the Great Physician to do a heart check. He wanted the Lord to check his spiritual head (Ps 139:23). If there was something wrong, he wanted to know, so he could fix it!

Nobody I know likes to visit the doctor’s examination room. But it’s necessary for physical longevity. If we want to experience spiritual longevity, then often, we need to go to the Great Doctor and ask what David asked, “examine me.” As a doctor will be up front and say, “your cholesterol is high”, or “you need to shed a few pounds”, so is the Great Physician.

Let’s open the examination tool of His Word, and meet with Him in the examination room of prayer. Ask, and sure enough, He’ll bring our condition to the light. He may say, “your heart condition isn’t good”, or, “your thought life needs some work”, or, “you need more spiritual exercise.” And when He does, let’s work on it!

Let’s not be casualties of preventable spiritual conditions. Let’s get into His Word. Let’s go to Him in prayer. Let’s live lives of spiritual longevity for our good, the good of our families, and for God’s glory.

Motive for Mercy

Psalm 6:2-5 “Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed… oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?”

I recently read these words: “let’s answer the question of why Esau failed to find repentance for simply selling his birthright even though he sought it desperately with tears. Esau’s repentance was faulty because he did not understand true repentance. He was a profane fornicator (see Hebrews 12:16-17), and he simply wanted to regain the blessings that he had lost (see Genesis 25:33-34). However, when David was confronted with his sin, he repented for the right reason. He wanted to restore fellowship with God. If we repent for any other reason than this we are not experiencing true repentance (See Psalm 51).”

On multiple occasions, men in the Bible prayed words like those in the passage above in their plea for mercy. They reveal an important principle in going to the Lord to seek His mercy: our motives. The Lord is gracious, full of mercy, and ready to forgive. But why are we going to Him? Is it because we were caught? Or afraid we may be? Is it to regain lost blessings, or stop the spiritual bleeding?

We see David’s motives in his prayer here when he said, “have mercy… for (because, this is why I’m asking) in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks.” What was David saying? In essence, “Lord please extend to me your mercy that I might live to thank you, and fellowship with you once again.”

We have all sinned. We will sin. We will be at God’s mercy again. When we come before Him, let us come with the right motives. What were our past motives in pleading for mercy? What will our motives be when we seek it again? Might our motives be to regain lost fellowship with Him, to once again be led by His Spirit, and to know to do His will. That is where we find mercy, grace and blessing once again.