Lessons from Bathsheba (March 2024)

I tried three times to write the story of Bathsheba.  It’s a terrible story of lust, adultery, murder, loss of a child, and punishment by God.  Each time I tried to put my own spin on it, I couldn’t help but feel that the story was more about David than Bathsheba.  God reprimands David, not her.  She did lose her child, but her feelings are not recorded like David’s.

So what do we know about this beautiful young woman, the mother of a king?

We get an insight into her thoughts and feelings from Proverbs 31.  There is some controversy about whether she wrote it herself or Solomon wrote it about her.  In either case, it is the most personal expression we have of her.

It would take us a month to do a deep dive into Proverbs 31, but I have one verse in mind that I want to focus on because God used it to teach me a lesson several years ago and it remains in my mind and heart to this day.

Over the years, our family has transitioned to a whole foods diet which means I don’t buy many processed foods.  This also means that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing said food because my boys are hearty eaters.

I hate to cook.  I mean really dislike it.

This often brought on a bad attitude.  I complained about cooking.  I complained about the amount of kitchen prep I had to do.  I complained about the mess it created that I had to clean up.  You get the point.  My grumbling attitude was not good.

So, I went to God one day, and told Him my woes.  I opened my Bible to the words of our beautiful Bathsheba and laughed out loud:

It was in the Bible that I should cook for my family!  What was I going to do about that?  There was no way to argue out of this one.

While it was funny, God had a serious point He needed to make with me. My heart was wrong.  Grumbling and complaining was a sin.  

It brought me down a path of what it meant to have a servant’s heart and to show my love to my family by serving them.

Titus chapter 2 tells the older women in the church to teach the younger women

Why would he word it like that?  Of course, they love their husbands and children, but are they showing their love by serving them with a good attitude and humble heart?  

When we serve our families, we serve God.

The Bible tells us we are to serve others. James and John, two of Jesus’s closest disciples asked to sit in the highest places of authority. This angered the other disciples.

Jesus tells us this parable and every time I read it, I can feel my brain searching for people who might have fallen off my radar and shouldn’t have.

The attitude of service leads us to open our eyes and give of ourselves.  John makes it very clear that love is connected to service and it is not enough to simply say that we love one another, our actions must also reflect this.

Who does God want you to serve today?

Lessons from Ruth (February 2024)

The story of Ruth is one of loyalty, dedication, obedience, and redemption.  Very little is told us about Ruth at the beginning of her story, but her beautiful heart and character are revealed through her actions and words.

It is a happily ever after story.  A real life Hallmark movie in which heartache is turned into hope and finally joy.  

However, real life isn’t a Hallmark movie and our happily ever after doesn’t always happen here on earth, which is why I want to take a specific, less traveled path in our study of Ruth today.

Let’s begin with Naomi and her husband.  A happy young couple and their two sons, leave the land of Israel, full of hope and ambitions, and settle in Moab.  Life is great, prosperous even, and the once innocent sweet boys grow to men and marry beautiful young women.  

Naomi’s heart is overflowing with happiness and then tragedy strikes.  Her husband passes away followed by both of her sons.  She is left heart broken, bitter, angry, and alone.  

She decides to return to her hometown, back to her extended family and friends of her youth. 

Her daughters-in-law decide to go with her, but Naomi discourages them.  Orpah returns to her parents, but Ruth doesn’t give up so easily.

In her efforts to persuade Naomi to allow her to come along, we get the most beautiful passage of scripture in the Book of Ruth.

In her loyalty, Ruth left everything behind: her family, her culture, her religion, and her home.

While the rest of the story of Ruth is lovely, her gleaning the fields and catching the eye of Boaz who shows her kindness, his desire to help her and Naomi, and foreshadows Christ as redeemer and savior, what I want to focus on is Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi.

She gave up everything to follow Naomi.  It reminds me of Jesus’ words.

Obviously, Jesus doesn’t want us to hate anyone, but we are to be like Ruth, and willing to give up our family and friends and associations in order to pursue Christ and his will for our lives.

We see this in the story of Abraham as well.  He is asked to leave his homeland, his gods, his way of life and follow this unknown God to a new land.  He is then later asked to sacrifice his son to prove his faithfulness to God.

Do not be surprised, my friend, when God urges you to separate yourself from certain people in your life.  Obey at once.

There is the story of the rich young man who runs up to Jesus, kneels on the ground before him and asks what he must do be inherit eternal life.  Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, knowing that the man’s heart had a deeper attachment than his faith.  The man proclaims, probably with joy, that he does keep those commandments.  

Scripture says “and Jesus looking at him, loved him,”.  I just love that part.  Jesus knew what he was about to say would be difficult for the man, but it was necessary that he say it.

He tells the man to sell all that he has and give it to the poor, and then take up his cross and follow him.

The man turned away sad because he had many possessions.

I like to think that the man thought about it and did what Jesus requested becoming one of his followers, but scripture doesn’t tell us that.  It does give us that same sobering statement.  

Here again, don’t be surprised, my friend, when God impresses on your heart to let go of the materialism that is a trap to many of us.

Growing up, I had absolutely no idea what it meant for a grain of wheat to fall to the ground and die and then produce grain..  I carefully planted seeds one by one and covered them with dirt.  What happened in the dark, cold ground was not something I even considered.  

Patience was the lesson most needed at the time.  Work hard, wait, pray, hope, and suddenly tiny leaves appear.  However, my lesson isn’t learned yet.  Water, weed, fertilize, water, weed, fertilize.  Only after months of this do you start to see results.  

Flowers attract dozens of bees and butterflies, leaves become larger, stems stronger.  The flowers die leaving behind the tiniest of fruit.  Work hard, wait, pray, hope, and then is patience learned.  A bean the length of your hand, a red tomato the size of your fist, a golden sunflower bigger than your head opened on a stem 6 feet tall.

No one escapes the pains of this sinful world as they grow up.  Bullying, rejection from friends, alcoholic mothers, absent fathers.  Even us parents who do everything inside of our earthly limits to protect our children must accept that we cannot keep them from heartache.

No one survives adulthood free from painful events either.  Unemployment, broken relationships, health issues, consequences from our mistakes, misfortune that seems to follow us at times (like my dead car battery), disappointments, loss.

Estranged relationships didn’t break me.  The long period of unemployment didn’t either.  Health issues scared me, but we came out ok.

Then my daughter died and I broke.

I was finally that wheat seed.  I had died.

Broken is a concept that is not new to me in that I have thought about it, but is new to me in that it pulled me into itself and I am powerless to escape it.  I fought it in the beginning, becoming angry at God and myself.  I refused to embrace, accept, or allow it to teach me.  I denied it, despised it, and determined to stand against it.

Then I read “except a corn of wheat fall to the ground and die it abides alone: but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.” and I understood.

It was necessary for me to embrace brokenness in order for me to follow God with my whole heart.

In truth, it was necessary for me to be broken.  

Throughout scripture, we are given example after example of obedience and faithfulness and they go hand in hand with forsaking the world, turning from sin, and purifying our hearts.

Looking back over your life, do you see the times that God urged you to forsake or called you to obedience?

Are you in a season now in which God is calling you to a greater dedication to Him?  Are you willing to forsake all to follow Him?

Lessons from Rahab (February 2024)

The story of Rahab is found in Joshua chapter 2 and she is an unlikely candidate for the lineage of Jesus.  Why?  

She was a harlot.

There.  I said it.  And right off the bat, we can get our first lesson in our study of Rahab.

God doesn’t choose the perfect and the righteous.  He chooses those who believe.

Jesus demonstrates this fact.

We are not loved by God because of our own goodness.

Before we get deeper into this, I want to set the stage.

The children of Israel have wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Their mighty leader, Moses, has died now and the huge task of going in and possessing the land has been handed down to Joshua.  He is wise and patient and above all he’s obedient to the word of the Lord.

The first obstacle they face is a major one.  Jericho.

It was a fortified city with walls thirteen feet high.  It had watch towers that were 28 feet tall.  It was strong, foreboding, and not something they could simply go in and destroy on a whim.

Like any good military commander, Joshua needs intel and he sends in spies.

The spies were not as discrete as they needed to be and while they were lodging at the home of Rahab, were found out.  

Rahab hides them and manages to send the soldiers of Jericho in the opposite direction.  When she returns to where she hid the spies her confession of faith is perfect.

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 

For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 

There was no doubt in her mind that Jericho would be destroyed by the one true God.  This belief did not make her rebellious or angry.  Rather it encouraged her to act on her faith.

Lesson number 2 from Rahab: It isn’t enough to simply believe, we have to act on our faith.

Many feel uncomfortable about a harlot being mentioned in the lineage of Christ but Jewish tradition tells us that Rahab was indeed a prostitute and that she repented of her sin when she converted to Judaism.  We know from Matthew chapter 1 that she married a Hebrew named Salmon.

She helped God’s children, turned from her sinful lifestyle, and followed the one true God.  She didn’t sit in her walled city hoping the soldiers of Jericho could save her.  She didn’t go to the temples of her idols and pray more diligently, she stepped out on faith and the God of Heaven rewarded her openly.

This reminds me of the disciples, toiling the entire night fishing only to catch nothing. They were tired and discouraged and Jesus tells them to go out again. They are faced with a choice. Do they obey and trust that he wouldn’t send them out for no good reason or do they take the side of logic? If the fish were not there last night, there is no reason to assume they would be there now.

Imagine all that they would’ve missed if they had relied on their wisdom and strength.

It is the same for us. We miss so much when we allow fear and pride to keep us from following God whole heartedly.

Rahab saved herself and her family because she acted on her faith.

What is God calling you to do?  What sin is He convicting your heart of?  

Lessons from Tamar (January 2024)

Sometimes the Bible has stories that you read and are like, “Wait!  What??”. The Old Testament story of Tamar is one of those examples. It’s a story in which right and wrong are blurred and the traditions of ancient times are rightfully judged.

However, in this Bible study of Tamar, I began to see a courageous young woman who was dealt an unfair deal and she was forced to first patiently wait and then secondly take matters into her own hands.

Come back to the pages of the patriarchs with me and meet Tamar, daughter-in-law of Judah; you will be as blessed as I am.

In Genesis chapter 38, sandwiched in the middle of the story of Joseph, we find the obscure and rather unsettling story of Tamar. Given the nature of the story, one might be willing to skip it entirely in an effort to read about Joseph’s brothers and the amazing story of God’s providence, except for this verse in Matthew.

The genealogy of Jesus Christ mentions four women plus Mary. Only four from Adam to Joseph; one of which is Tamar. This alone should tell us that Tamar’s story needs to be told!

Judah is the fourth-born son of Jacob and played an important role in the Joseph narrative as it was his idea to sell him into slavery rather than kill him.

After Joseph is sold into slavery and the brothers’ lie is presented to Jacob, Judah visits a friend and meets a Canaanite woman.  He marries her and has three sons.

The first son, Er, is given in marriage to Tamar. Now, outside of this story of Tamar, we know little about her. We also know little about Er, except that he was so wicked that God killed him.

See, it is unsettling already.

As is tradition, Tamar is given to Judah’s second son, Onan, who is also wicked and meets with an early death.

Judah, thinking there is something wrong with Tamar that his sons keep dying, promises her that she can marry his youngest son Shelah, but not until he’s a little older.

Tamar goes back to live with her father as a widow and an unknown period of time passes. Tamar sees that Shelah has grown and Judah has not given him to her to marry. She is promised to him and cannot marry anyone else. Judah has treated her unfairly and she knows it.

Now, remember, this is not modern day America.  Tamar has no rights.  She has been promised to a man and therefore cannot pursue marriage to another.  She cannot begin a career and find fulfillment there.  Her life is on hold right now and her biological clock is ticking.

Tamar hears that Judah’s wife has passed and he is going to another town to sheer sheep. Tamar has a desperate situation here and we glimpse an admirable trait of assertiveness. Her life has been put on hold and she is determined to do something about it.

Lesson number one from Tamar: “God helps those who help themselves” is NOT in the BIble, but assertiveness is rewarded in scripture.

If she had never mustered the courage to reach out and touch Jesus, she may have died of her disease.

Tamar desires to have children and continue on with her life so she disguises herself as a temple prostitute and sets herself right in Judah’s path.

Judah sees this prostitute, not knowing that it is Tamar, and asks for her services. He promises to give her a young goat as payment. She requires he leave her his staff and signet as collateral, only she disappears before the promised goat is brought back and keeps the necessary evidence. 

Smart girl.

Tamar’s plan works perfectly. She conceives twins.

Once it is found out that she is with child, Judah is furious, thinking that she had played the harlot and shamed his family. He commands she be put to death. (I’m not even going to touch on the unfairness here).

Lesson number two from Tamar: Life is unfair, but God isn’t.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther lost a son. His wife, Katie, shouted at him, “Where was God when our son died?”

Martin replied, “The same place He was when His Son died. He was there watching and weeping.”

It is easy to blame God when life hands us pain and suffering, but when we come to understand the heart of God, we know that it is the fallen, sinful world that brings us torment.  God is still good in the midst of all the evil.  

Judah realizes how wrong he is and allows her to remain in his house. Tamar gives birth to boys, Perez and Zerah. Perez being the son of Jesus’ genealogy.

This is pretty much the end of the story of Judah and Tamar. 1 Chronicles 4:21 mentions that Shelah has a son named Er, which leads one to think that perhaps Tamar was given to Shelah in marriage and he did provide a son to carry on the line of Er.

Now, I don’t like to give my opinion in these devotions, but I see a personal, loving God in this story.  I see a young woman who is forced to marry a wicked man.  In those days, marriages were arranged so most likely the result of two fathers sitting down to make an agreement.  Her husband is so wicked that God strikes him dead.  Now this same young woman is then forced to marry another wicked man and again God intervenes and strikes him dead.

If they were wicked enough for God to strike them dead, we can assume they did not treat Tamar well.  God’s intervention was needed.

Then we see a woman, again forced into a bad situation due to unfair circumstances and again God intervenes.  Now, a woman prostituting herself is not the righteous path I imagine God would have wanted, but He blesses her womb regardless.  

He showed her mercy.

He does something similar to Leah.  Jacob loved Rachel, Leah was a pawn used by her father in a deceitful and greedy act.  God knew that Leah was unloved and took pity on her.

What about you?  Are you in an unfair situation?  Has life forced you to walk a path you did not choose?  Stand strong, you are in good company.  Cling to God and His love for you.  He has not left you to deal with this alone.

Lessons from King Josiah (January 2024)

Last week we talked about Hezekiah and the amazing religious reforms he initiated as well as his determination to honor God with his whole heart.

At Hezekiah’s death, his son Manasseh came to the throne and immediately undid everything that Hezekiah had accomplished.  He brought idolatry back, restoring the places of worship Hezekiah had torn down, he brought the worship of false gods into the temple, desecrating it.  

Because of this outrageous rebellion and sin, God proclaimed judgment on Judah and prophesied that it would be destroyed.

After Manasseh’s reign, came his son Amon who was also wicked.  His reign was short as he was killed by his servants.

Ok, I just wanted to give you some context.  Let’s focus on the last righteous king in Judah.

Josiah, the sixteenth king of Judah, ascended to the throne at the tender age of eight following the assassination of his father, Amon (2 Kings 22:1). Despite his youth, Josiah quickly distinguished himself as a righteous and devout leader. His reign, which spanned from approximately 640 to 609 BCE, is marked by a fervent commitment to God and a zealous campaign to eradicate idolatry from the land.

From the outset, Josiah sought to restore the worship of the Lord in Judah. In the eighteenth year of his reign, at the age of twenty-six, he initiated a sweeping religious reform. Josiah ordered the repair and purification of the temple in Jerusalem, which had fallen into disrepair and neglect. During this restoration, a remarkable discovery was made: the Book of the Law (likely the book of Deuteronomy) was found in the temple (2 Kings 22:8-13). This momentous event prompted Josiah to seek the guidance of the prophetess Huldah, who confirmed that the nation would indeed face divine judgment for its disobedience but praised Josiah for his repentant heart (2 Kings 22:14-20).

Motivated by this discovery, Josiah implemented more changes. He dismantled pagan altars, destroyed idols, and abolished the worship of foreign gods throughout Judah and even in the northern territories that had previously been part of the kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 23:4-20). His reforms extended beyond religious practices to social justice, as he sought to eradicate oppression and uphold the covenant of God.

Our one and only lesson from King Josiah: You alone are responsible for how you live your life.

Did you notice that King Hezekiah walked in the ways of the Lord, but his son was the complete opposite?  Amon was wicked and yet his son grew to be a righteous man.

I have often wondered about how good seed produces wicked and wicked seed produces good.  You see this with King David.  He was a man after God’s own heart and yet he had a son that rose up and revolted against him.

I believe we are all given the same opportunity as Adam and Eve.  We have a choice to follow God and keep his commandments or to choose sin.

We often give excuses for not fully following the word of the Lord.  You don’t have time to begin the ministry God has put on your heart, you don’t want to be “that” mom who doesn’t allow their kids to have “fun” like everyone else because it goes against your beliefs.  Perhaps you are afraid your lifestyle will offend your friends.  Your spouse is not on board with you. You didn’t have a parent to teach you. We come up with so many excuses, but the truth is, we have a choice.

If you take anything away from this devotional, I want it to be a determination to stop making excuses and follow God with your whole heart.  This looks different for each of us.  What does this look like for you?

Ok, let’s discuss the end of Josiah’s life.

Despite his commendable efforts, Josiah’s reign was not without challenges. In 609 BCE, he confronted Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt, who was marching northward to assist the Assyrians against the Babylonians. Josiah, mistakenly viewing Necho as a threat, engaged him in battle at Megiddo and was fatally wounded (2 Kings 23:29). His untimely death marked the end of a period of relative stability for Judah.

Josiah’s legacy, however, endured. His commitment to the worship of Yahweh and his efforts to cleanse the nation from idolatry left an indelible mark on the spiritual history of Judah. The rediscovery and restoration of the Book of the Law played a pivotal role in shaping the religious reforms of his reign.

Lessons from King Hezekiah (January 2024)

King Hezekiah of Judah reigned from around 715 to 686 BCE. His life is extensively documented in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, and Isaiah chapters 36-39. Hezekiah ascended to the throne at the age of 25 and is remembered for his righteous leadership, religious reforms, and his response to the Assyrian threat.

Six kings reigned in Judah between Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah.  Some were completely wicked like the kings of Israel while others were double-minded, sometimes serving the true God and others disregarding His law.

This led to a country of mixed religious beliefs.  Some held to the God of Abraham, while others embraced the false gods of the neighboring countries.  

Hezekiah removes all idolatry from the land and restores temple worship.  He brings the Levites back into the temple to fulfill the duties given to them in the Law.  He arranges for tithes from the people to support them as well as housing.

This was the first time since King David that the temple was back in full operation.  He is also determined that all of Judah AND Israel come to the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover.  A “great assembly” gathered together from all over and the atmosphere was one of thanksgiving and praise.  Many who had previously been caught up in idolatry, especially those from the regions of Israel, also sacrificed.  The Passover was like rain falling on parched ground, to the point that no one wanted it to end.  Hezekiah extends the Passover celebration for another week and the people rejoiced to be in the presence of the Lord.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The other kings we read about were also obedient to God, but not to this degree.  Interesting isn’t it?  The level of obedience, the passion to worship God, we embrace it in different degrees.

Such honorable words said about King Hezekiah.

Lesson number 1 from King Hezekiah: The Lord blesses those who keep His commandments.

In the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign, the Assyrians attacked Israel which had been prophesied because of their disobedience.  Hezekiah kept them at arm’s length, appeasing them with money, until the fourteenth year of his reign.  Then things got serious.

Assyria brought a large army and began terrorizing the inhabitants of Judah.  It was time for them to conquer.

Judah was a very small country in comparison to the extensive Assyrian empire whose cruelty was known throughout the world.  Their army was strong, fierce, and much more powerful than Judah’s.

Lesson number 2 from King Hezekiah: Humility touches God.

God replies to Isaiah’s inquiry and tells Hezekiah not to be afraid, that He will deliver them.  Hezekiah takes the letter from Isaiah and goes to the house of the Lord and spreads the letter out before God and proceeds with the most beautiful prayer.

Lesson number 3 from King Hezekiah: There is power in prayer.  Keep it up continually.

God does as He promised and one night 185,000 soldiers were killed in their sleep.  Sennecharib, captain of the Assyrian army, returned home in disgrace and was killed by his own sons.

While this is probably enough miracle to last a lifetime, Hezekiah’s prayers once again bring on the impossible.

He is sick and nearing death.  Isaiah, the prophet, tells him to get his house in order as he is going to die.  Hezekiah prays and cries to the Lord.

God hears him and promises to heal him on the third day.  Hezekiah pushes things a bit and asks for a sign.

Isaiah tells him that God will move the sun ten degrees forward, but Hezekiah is persistent.  He requests that God move it back ten degrees which God agrees to and does.

Hezekiah prayed with confidence and determination.

Lesson number 4 from Hezekiah: It isn’t enough to simply pray, one must pray with confidence.

Are you ready to be a Hezekiah?

Lessons from King Jehoshaphat (January 2024)

We read about Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17-20 and the ancient scribes had nothing but good things to say about him at the beginning.

King Jehoshaphat was obedient to God, did not fall into idolatry, and loved the Lord. God blessed him because of it.

We read that the fear of the Lord fell upon the surrounding nations in that they wanted peace with Judah, even bringing him gifts such as silver and thousands of rams and goats.

Lesson number 1 from King Jehoshaphat: You will have peace when you are obedient to the Lord.

This does not mean that everyone will like you and shower you with gifts, but you will be filled with a sense of peace and security.

Jehoshaphat makes an alliance with Israel and marries Ahab’s daughter.  Ahab is a wicked king and Jehoshaphat would have been wise to distance himself from him.  Jehoshaphat visits Ahab in chapter 18 and a great dialogue exists between the two of them showing the reality of those who follow God and those who don’t. I’m going to paraphrase it here, but it is worth reading on your own.

Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to join him in a battle against Ramoth Gilead.  Jehoshaphat agrees to help, but first inquires if a prophet is available that they may seek God’s guidance.

Ahab asks 400 prophets and they unanimously proclaim that the victory will be Israel’s. 

Jehoshaphat remains firm.  “Is there a prophet of the Lord here?”.

Ahab ponders this and replies that he thinks there is one still around, but he doesn’t like him because he always prophesies evil against him.

Jehoshaphat is wise and would rather hear from God so he seeks out this prophet who did indeed prophecy against Ahab declaring that he would die in battle.

Ahab becomes angry and sentences him to prison until he returns safely.

The king of Syria was determined to kill King Ahab so a plan was devised between the two kings.  Ahab would dress in regular warrior attire while Jehoshaphat would dress in his royal robes.  

The armies attacked Jehoshaphat first believing him to be Ahab.  Jehoshaphat cried out and the Lord rescued him.  Once the armies realized they did not have the correct king, they left him alone.  

During the battle an arrow strikes Ahab, killing him.  The prophecy of the Lord came true.

Lesson number 2 from King Jehoshaphat: Separate yourself from the wicked.  

This does not mean that you treat them unkindly or cruelly.  It also does not mean that you become prideful against them but don’t join yourself with them in close relationships.

The righteous should choose his friends carefully,

Jehoshaphat continues to make religious reforms throughout Judah providing the necessary education and rulers that the law of God might be learned and obeyed throughout the country.

Lesson number 3 from King Jehoshaphat: Simply believing in God is not enough.  We must act on it.

Suddenly, Jehoshaphat reaches the most critical situation in his reign as king and his faith is tested as never before.  

The surrounding countries declare war on Judah.  Jehoshaphat goes straight to God.  He declares a fast and assembles all the people at the temple in Jerusalem to ask God for His help.  

God replies:

Lesson number 4 from King Jehoshaphat: If we are in obedience to God, the battle is not our own.

So the next morning, Jehoshaphat and the people went out to meet the evil armies coming against them.  They were not dressed for battle, they were not anticipating an attack, they were spectators ready to watch their mighty God in action.  

Jehoshaphat commands the people to sing.

Are you understanding this?

The people did not fight.  They sang.  They were not filled with fear because they knew God would deliver them.  

Lesson number 5 from King Jehoshaphat: You have to give it to God and leave it there.  Your faith must be strong enough that when you leave your problem with God you act as if He has already freed you from it.

In the end, the opposing forces turned on one another and destroyed each other rather than Judah.

Judah reigned 25 years in Jerusalem and was righteous and obedient (except for the alliance with Israel) all his days and God blessed him because of it.

Lessons from King Asa (January 2024)

The story of Asa is found in 2 Chronicles chapters 14-16 and 1 Kings 15:9-24.

Asa came to the throne during a period of political unrest.  Several small nations ruled by kings fighting each other repeatedly for hundreds of years until the large conquering nations of Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome, came on the scene.

Asa ruled after his father who was wicked and had allowed idolatry and sin to grow in Judah, but Asa “did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord” beginning with spiritual reform.  He removed all of the false religion from Judah and reinstituted the practice of observing the law of the Lord.  

There was peace in his kingdom at this time so he beefed up his defenses building walls, towers, and gates which he didn’t need as we see in a moment because the Lord was his defense.

Peace never lasts long in the fallen world in which we live and Zerah the Ethiopian with an army of one million marches toward Judah.  

What does Asa do?  Rely on his defended cities and strong army?

No.

He went straight to God who rewarded him for his faith.

Lesson number 1 from Asa: We must turn to God in our time of need rather than trying to battle through it on our own.  

Whether it is a broken relationship, financial trouble, health problems, fear, anxiety, depression, or addiction, know that God never intended for you to fight on your own.  He is waiting for you to give up your control and place the situation in His hands.  

Encouraged by God’s response to his faith, Asa continues the religious reforms he had begun when he first took the throne.  He takes 700 bulls and 7,000 sheep (that’s a lot of sheep!) from their spoils and sacrifices them in Jerusalem swearing an oath to God to seek Him with all his heart and soul and the people joyfully did the same.

Lesson number 2 from Asa: Seek the Lord with all of your heart and soul. 

It’s not enough to go to church on Sunday and call it good.  You can’t half serve God.  Well, I guess you can, but you will continue to stumble and fall rather than grow and mature.

He removes his mother, Maachah, from being queen mother because she had made an image of Asherah.  

Lesson number 3 from Asa: We have to remove toxic people and substances from our lives.

This is a difficult one.  

If you struggle with addiction, remove the temptation.  If social media makes you envious and depressed, take that app off your phone, if a person in your life is causing you to sin, distance yourself.

I could go on and on, but you know what is toxic in your life.  Whatever it looks like for you, it is preventing a close relationship with God and must be removed.

For help on removing toxic people, check out Susan Davis’ post: “Prayer to Remove a Toxic Person from Your Life with Grace”

Asa’s reign is quiet for many years.  He remains faithful to His oath and so does God (of course!).  

Then life gets tricky again and we see Asa stumble.

Israel gets antsy and prepares to attack Judah.  Asa, rather than going directly to the Lord as he did with the Ethiopians, approaches the king of Syria and makes an alliance.  God didn’t approve of this.

Lesson number 4 from Asa: Lack of peace is often a result of disobedience.  

You know where your disobedience lies and if you don’t it’s time for some fasting and prayer.

Asa becomes angry with the prophet and throws him in jail.  

The final chapter of Asa’s life finds him with a fatal disease.  Scripture tells us that he sought the help of physicians rather than God’s and he died.

Lesson number 5 from Asa:  Don’t let your guard down. 

When Judah was full of peace and prosperity, Asa did not rely on God and it came back to haunt him.  Satan will attack you when you least expect it. 

God is Light Devotionals (December 2023)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.  (Ephesians 5:8)

This verse is deep.  One worth studying so let’s dig into it by breaking it into three parts.  

First, an acknowledgment that we are or once were in darkness.  We are all born with a sinful nature and need to turn away from that sin through repentance.

Repentance is not simply an apology.  It is both an acknowledging of sin AND a turning away from it.  If you’ve told God you are sorry for your sin and yet continue in it, then you continue to walk in the darkness.

The second part of the verse says that we are no longer in darkness because we’ve been saved through the blood of Jesus and now are light in the Lord.  

We are light.

How could we possibly be light?  We have been washed by the blood of Jesus, reconciled to our Creator, and resurrected by the grace of our Lord.

The light of the Lord is the newness of life.  This leads us to the third part of the verse.

We are commanded to “Walk as children of light”

This goes along with Jesus’ teachings about lighting a candle and not hiding it under a basket, but putting it on a candle stick for all to see.

So, what does it mean to let your light shine?  In the above verse, it leads us to believe it has something to do with good works.

The light that we shine is not our own.  It belongs to God.  We are meant to be like the moon, reflecting the light of the sun.  

I think the fruits of the spirit sum up best what light should be radiating from us.  

It is important to note the less familiar verses that proceed the fruit of the spirit where Paul mentions what behaviors those who walk in the flesh have.

Some of these are pretty obvious: adultery, idolatry, murders, drunkenness, but others are deep sins within our own hearts that I’m going to be honest, I struggle with such as: envy and selfish ambitions.

I challenge you today to remove the darkness from your heart and walk in the light.

For additional study, check out these posts!

Do Not be Conformed to this World: 5 Strongholds We Need to Let Go Of

Be a Light to the World: Answering Jesus’ Challenge

I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.  (Isaiah 42:16)

The first half of this chapter is a prophecy of the coming Messiah.  The one who would set us free from darkness, breathe life into our dead bodies, and renew our relationship with our creator.  

This verse is most likely talking to the Israel of the day, but let’s explore it as it relates to Christ.

To be spiritually blind is the greatest handicap we can experience.  We wonder how it was possible that Israel was blind, after all, God had met with their ancestors on Mount Sinai, giving them the laws.  He led them through the desert, fought their enemies, and imparted the wisdom needed to live a righteous life.  It was all handed right to them.

And yet they could not see.

Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens and addressed the altar to the unknown God. They worshipped at the altar ignorantly, afraid they had forgotten a deity.  Indeed they had.  They were spiritually blind.

This leads me to believe that sometimes we choose to walk in darkness.  We are comfortable being spiritually blind.

Why?  Why would we choose this?

Because our faith isn’t strong enough to give our all, to submit our hearts, will and lives to our Lord and Creator.  

BUT this verse is full of hope!  God doesn’t leave us in the dark, blind, sinful condition we find ourselves dwelling in.  

He promises to make the crooked places straight!

Sometimes this looks like spiritual healing.  Sometimes it looks like physical healing.  Many times the crooked places become straight as God works out our mistakes and leads us in the right direction.

There is a second promise in our verse.  God promises not to forsake us.

During my darkest grief, I held tightly to the promise that God would not forsake me.  I felt forsaken.  I felt angry and betrayed, but I knew God better than that.  I clung to this verse:

Check out these posts for further study:

5 Inspiring Bible Stories About Healing Body, Mind, and Heart

Building on the Rock: 10 Lessons Jesus is Teaching Us

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.  (Isaiah 2:5)

What is the light of the Lord?  

Before we answer this question, let’s discuss what follows.  Isaiah explains that God has forsaken His people because they are filled with Eastern ways, are soothsayers like the Philistines, their land is full of idols, and they worship the work of their own hands.

Not a good scene.  

This verse is an invitation.  One to forsake their wicked ways and follow the light of the Lord.

The light of the Lord in this verse is righteousness and goodness.  It is holy and beautiful and magnificent.  The light of the Lord is the unconditional love that flows from Him, the power that exalts Him. and the mercy that saves us.

I am reminded of the story of the lame man who sat by the pool of Bethesda waiting for the healing waters to be stirred.  Jesus asks the man if he wants to be made well.  The man explains his desperate situation.  When the waters are stirred, he can never get into them quickly enough and misses his opportunity.

A simple command, but the healing had been done.

The light of the world said this to the broken man.  He knew he was not only broken physically, but spiritually.  He needed God’s light moving in his heart.

Sin no more.

Let us look into our hearts today and check that we are not following idols or worshipping the work of our own hands.  May we pray the words of David

Let the light of truth shine on our darkness that we may come clean and follow Him with our whole hearts.

For further study, check out these two posts.

5 Inspiring Bible Stories about Healing Body, Mind, and Heart

5 Steps to Repentance: David as Our Example

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.  (Psalm 112:4)

There are different kinds of darkness.  Some of us are plunged into emotional darkness, held in the fist of depression or anxiety.  Some of us experience darkness in our health as our bodies lie susceptible to the fallen world in which we live.  

We experience darkness in our relationships, the beauty of love that once existed has been extinguished or perhaps has never existed for you.  

There is the deep darkness of grief, a lonely ache that consumes you and brings about more emotions than I can explain here.

Spiritual darkness is scarier than the rest because there is nothing so terrible as being separated from your creator.

I have experienced some very dark times in my life and my one hope was God.  I didn’t always see Him with me and many times I didn’t feel His presence either, but there was a light burning inside of me reminding me that I was not alone.

Those who have that light will never be in darkness because our God is gracious and full of compassion and righteousness.  He will not leave us to be swallowed up by darkness.

If you are in darkness now, the darkness of your mind or body, please know that Jesus is your answer.  Through him we have healing and peace.

This post was written during my period of deep grief after losing my beautiful 8 year old daughter, Rebekah. It is my testimony and a moment I look back on whenever my faith is tried.

Grief- my dark hole

I could go on and on and remind you that God is always with you, but we need to focus on one other word in this verse- “upright”.

If you are not following God, if you have a sin in your life of which you need to repent, if you have rebelled or ignored God’s voice, then you will not be led by the light.  If you are living in darkness and can see the light in the distance but cannot draw close to it, I beseech you, pray about what is keeping you from it.  

“Psalms for Forgiveness and Repentance: A Testament to God’s Mercy”

We are meant to walk in the light. God never intended for us to dwell in darkness.

One of my favorite expressions is “thrive, not just survive” and I think that is appropriate here. So many of us are of the mindset “I just have to get through…” or “things will slow down when…” or “life will get easier….”

Let’s thrive in the light by following God with all of our hearts and putting aside the darkness the world presses into them.

Hi, I am Heather! I am a mom of five, homeschooler, homesteader, and lover of all things chocolate. I am excited to share your faith and parenting journeys with you. Whether you are here looking to grow your faith, heal from loss, find homeschool resources, or hope to find inspiration in raising godly children, you are in the right place. So, grab your favorite hot beverage, curl up in your comfy chair, and stay awhile.

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