Re–forming ourselves

Looking at the world today, with its spiritual health in chronic condition it is not bad to take in consideration what happened in the old times and to look at the readings of today Sunday November the 2nd.

It was a difficult time for Hezekiah with the land suffering greatly as a result of his father’s failures as a spiritual leader. But Hezekiah was single-minded in what he purposed to do in Judah. His declaration “it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel,” was said with the realization of just how far the nation had fallen. He could see that it was not a holy nation before their God. There was a need for deep, far reaching change with the people. Initially there would be opposition, complacency and even mockers (30:10) but Hezekiah had faith that God would bless what he set out to do.

The Kings record (2 Kings 18:5-7) has this to say about this man:

– “he trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who went before him. For he held fast to the LORD, he did not depart from following Him”

and it continues

“The LORD was with him; he prospered wherever he went”. God, through Hezekiah brought about a great reformation in Judah, a time of refreshment for those who sought their God.

“20 And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah; and he wrought that which was good and right and {1} faithful before Jehovah his God. {1) Heb [faithfulness]} 21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ASV)

Hezekiah is a tremendous example for us to look to. With “a purpose of heart” he continued to walk with his God throughout his reign. He continually scrutinised every aspect of his life as one ‘who trembled before God’s Word’. Like all of us, Hezekiah wasn’t without fault, he stumbled, made mistakes and wavered before certain trials, but in his mind, there was always only one path before him.

The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us (Hebrews 12:12)

“therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet.”

We should strengthen ourselves but also help others to be strong enough to go on the right path, up to the Kingdom of God.

Reform

2 November — Mark Vincent – Stirling

English: Roman custom of proclamation of emper...

Roman custom of proclamation of emperor on the shield. King Hezekiah. From Chludov Psalter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an exhortation about reform, inspired by today’s reading from II Chronicles 31.  It had been desperately needed; Israel’s spiritual health was in chronic condition.  But thanks to the remarkable enthusiasm and leadership of King Hezekiah, the people had been galvanised into change.  In chapter 30 they had kept the Passover, and now, at the beginning of chapter 31 they bring their idols to destroy them:

“Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all.  Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.”  (v.1).

It was an act which showed initiative and determination.  It would also have involved a considerable amount of effort.  The verbs that are used are quite graphic: ‘break … in pieces’, ‘cut down’, ‘threw down’, ‘utterly destroyed’.  The action they took was drastic and decisive.

How do we bring this home to ourselves?  What would we have brought to cast upon the great pile of smashed images?  What bad habits and slovenliness have crept into our own lives that must be cut down?  What altars have been erected that must be thrown to the ground?

The physical activity of bringing idols and destroying them, of chopping down groves and throwing down altars must have had considerable power for those who were involved.  We rarely if ever have the opportunity to join in with something so graphic.  But perhaps this is our loss.  Reform may be no less necessary in my life or in yours.  To think about what (metaphorically) I might have brought to that pile of destruction is a very worthwhile exercise.

The trigger for this great change in Israel’s behaviour was, in large measure, the example and leadership of Hezekiah.  This is an instructive point.  The people were quite capable of making the sacrifices they made as they threw away their old lifestyle, but they needed a trigger or a catalyst to inspire them to do so.  They were not self-starters.  This highlights one of the reasons why we need instruction and exhortation on a regular basis.  It also highlights the way in which our own actions can serve to ignite discipleship and self-sacrifice in others.

Reform is about re – forming, forming or constructing something again.  We have to be careful, of course, that what we form is the right thing.  It is all very well bringing our idols to the trash, but if all we do is go back to our workshops and start building them again, then we may as well have spared ourselves the effort.  “For if I build again the things which I destroyed,” says Paul, “I make myself a transgressor.”  (Galatians 2 : 18).  He is referring to this very danger.

Instead, clearing out those things in life that ought not to be there is an opportunity for forming again those things which should – an opportunity to build again into our lives structures and habits, patterns of behaviour, which will help us on our journey to the kingdom.

Each of us has tremendous potential to do this, and to contribute to the brotherhood’s wider work and responsibility of manifesting Christ to the world in which we live.  Far more so, in fact, than we some times imagine.  This is exactly the point that comes out of II Chronicles 31.  The people surprised themselves and surprised their leaders, by the extent of the commitment and sacrifice that they were capable of when they put their minds to it.

This can be seen in the collection of the tithe later in the chapter:

“And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field: and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly … and laid them by heaps (margin: ‘heaps, heaps’) … And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel.” (v.5,6,8).

The people responded with such generosity that it took four whole months to collect the mass of substance that they brought!  There was heaps of it, quite literally.  Charity, generosity, and spirituality overflowed; the people responded with all their might.

The heaps of provisions the people brought for the Lord’s service contrast with the heaps of destruction now strewn about the cities of Judah – the heaps of destroyed altars, idols, and groves.  On the one hand, we can bring things of the old way to be destroyed, and it is very important that we take this call seriously – but the Truth is not primarily an exercise in removing the negative. We each have good and positive things to bring, and this is a crucial element of discipleship.  We may surprise even ourselves by how much we can offer when we really put our minds to it.

As we reflect now on the sacrifice of Christ and the abundant provision he has made, it is up to us to bring our offering, obedience full and free, to respond with a full and open heart from the abundance, which God has given us.

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  • Assyrian Kings Insidious Spirit of Compromise (k2globalcommunicationsllc.wordpress.com)
    There is in The Lords Church, throughout all Christendom, a spirit so insidious, relentless, as to seem to even the well seasoned-christian [in so much that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:24 KJV] as reasonable.  The Spirit of Compromise.  This spirit works its evil by lies, incremental-ism, very rarely with large movement that would expose it for what it is, who is behind it and its goal.  When I drive past a Methodist church flying the perverts rainbow flag, not God’s Rainbow of Promise, Catholic Church goes full on sodomite, etc. The Lords Church steeped in Ecumenical-ism with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Satanism, Judaism,  has serious issues brought about by the spirit of compromise and society suffers the consequences.
  • Zephaniah: The Day of the Lord Part 1 (joshuaasipper.wordpress.com)
    God’s Judgment on Judah (Southern Kingdom) In Nahum (which David did such a great job teaching) Go proclaims the fall of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), so by the time the Babylonian occupation and destruction come to Judah, Israel has already been basically obliterated by Assyria. So, when Zephaniah begins in Chapter 1, he gives a terrifying image of how God will destroy His people: vss 1-6 “The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
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    Zephaniah highlights the obvious hypocrisy going on in Judah’s service toward God. Molech was an Ammonite god represented usually as a man with a bull’s head, to whom the people of Israel sacrificed their children. Molech was the antithesis of the one true God. So, when His people turned from Him to such an abomination, He simply couldn’t stand it!
  • Open Heavens Devotional Monday – 13/10/2014 Judah by Pastor E.a. Adeboye (princeadetokunboolaoye.wordpress.com)
    The name ‘Judah’ means praise. Judah was chosen to be the chief and ruling tribe of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:8-12). The sceptre of a king and the office of a lawgiver were all allotted to Judah. Genesis 4:10 says:“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”Judah is a similitude of the church. In Judah, we can see a shadow of the things to come with respect to the church. Just like Judah, believers are the royal priesthood, expected to show forth the praises of God (1 Peter 2:9-10).
  • 31 Days with the Savior: Family (mlsgregg.com)
  • Listen: Pray Always, Part 4 (The Prayer Motivator Devotional #591 with Daniel Whyte III) (blackchristiannews.com)
    Those who speak from God to us we should in a particular manner desire to speak to God for us. He is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee. The great prophet is the great intercessor.
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    When the interests of God’s church are brought very low, so that there is but a remnant left, few friends, and those weak and at a loss, then it is time to lift up our prayer for that remnant.Our prayer motivator quote today is from J. Oswald Sanders. He said: “It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.”
  • The ancestors of Jesus (georgehach.wordpress.com)
    Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amos.
    +The Gospel of Matthew links the Old and New Testaments and contains many references that show how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.Jesus entered human history when the land of Palestine was controlled by Rome and considered an insignificant outpost of the vast and mighty Roman Empire. The presence of Roman soldiers in Israel gave the Jews military peace, but at the price of oppression, slavery, injustice, and immorality. Into this kind of world came the promised Messiah.

    +
    God’s work in history is not limited by human failures or sins, and he works through ordinary people. Just as God used all kinds of people to bring his Son into the world, he uses all kinds today to accomplish his will. And God wants to use you.

  • The Privilege of Our Approach (hisimagenme.wordpress.com)
    Go straight to God, don’t ‘pass go’, don’t ‘collect $200′, don’t call a friend, don’t check the Internet for further information, don’t do or say or act in any way shape or form except to with reverence and absolute trust go to God…and approach Him with the issues we have, our hurts and confusions, our fears and frustrations, and joys and celebrations. Lay them out before Him and expect and wait for His counsel.

    The first thing Hezekiah did was go before Adonai. He could have went to Isaiah. After all he was the anointed prophet of God there. His counsel could hardly have been in error. He likely would have told Hezekiah to do what he did anyway. It certainly would not have been a ‘sin’. But what King Hezekiah was learning was that God, Himself’s first and greatest desire is that each would seek Him for themselves.

  • Guest Post: Doubt (pastorericdykstra.com)
    What’s so awesome about this story is how humble Hezekiah is. Not once does he start counting up his men, or calculating the rations he has in the city, or discussing terms of peace with his advisors, or whatever else kings do when they’re under siege. He immediately goes into mourning, essentially, and searches for God’s wisdom. He knows that there is no way that he, Hezekiah, could defeat Sennacherib – he’s heard the stories, and he sees the massive army.

    But while he’s so humble, he’s also incredibly confident in the power of his God. God said that he will deliver them. So when he gets that intimidating letter, he takes it and spreads it out in the temple, and asks for deliverance so that everyone will know that God is the boss.

    In that moment, his faith is being tested; he has a whole city to care for, and if God were to fail them, they’d all be screwed. But instead of re-evaluating everything he believes, he takes the problem and lays it out before God. Pointing to it, he says, “I know what you promised. This seems to contradict what you had said before – but, I really can’t make this happen on my own, so I’m going to keep trusting you to take care of it. Deliver me so that everyone knows who’s in charge here.”

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I Can’t Believe That … (2) God would allow children to suffer

How could a loving God allow an innocent child to suffer? Surely he cares enough to prevent the suffering (if he didn’t care, he wouldn’t be very loving). And surely is able to prevent to suffering (if he couldn’t, he wouldn’t be very powerful). And yet we know that in this imperfect world children suffer. So does that mean there is no God? Or could God have good reasons to allow such suffering?

The Suffering (video game)

The Suffering (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we talk about the reasons for suffering there is a real danger that anything we say will sound glib or even insensitive to those who have been bereaved. The mother who has lost a beloved child doesn’t want reasons, she wants her child back. Trying to intellectualise the problem will be cold comfort for such grief. Trying to explain away the suffering would be heartless. Because what possible reason could you give that would make the death of a child acceptable? What explanation would justify so great a loss? And that is the first thing to recognise. When we seek to understand the existence of suffering we are not seeking to give a reason for individual acts of suffering. Some acts of suffering, when considered in isolation, have no reason. They are not caused by God, they are not for some eventual gain, they are, essentially, meaningless. We do not live in a world where everything has a purpose, where everything happens for a reason. The Bible says God has subjected the world to “futility” (Rom 8:20), that is, God has purposefully made this world imperfect and subject to imperfection. God does not cause suffering, but has made the world where suffering occurs. The question is, why would he do that?

Step back and consider: what is the cause of so much of the evil in the world? Answer: human beings. Whether it is cold-blooded murder or just casual neglect, so much suffering and pain is caused by humans making bad choices. Sometimes people will choose to do something truly wicked, more often people just choose to do what is easy, but it is those choices that produces the suffering. God could have created a world without such suffering because he could have created a world without people or only with people whose minds he controls. That would have prevented a lot of suffering. There would be no murders, if God didn’t allow people the freedom to choose. But God has allowed people the freedom to choose. Because a world in which people have free will is better than a world without it. Imagine a world without free will. Sure, there would be no evil but there would also be no good. Without free will there could be no love and there could be no relationships. There could be no acts of kindness, no moments of generosity, and no real charity. The world would just be filled with choice-less robots, neither good nor bad, just behaving as instructed. A world with free will is better, and world where people freely choose to do good is best, but if people are truly free then that means they have the option to cause evil.

But this isn’t the whole answer. Murderers may choose to murder, but waves don’t choose to drown people, rocks don’t choose to crush people and viruses don’t choose to infect people. A lot of the suffering in the world is caused by natural processes, by the laws of nature operating as they always do, the victims just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why does God allow such suffering? Well, imagine the alternative. Imagine that rocks would always fall down to the ground EXCEPT when a child was underneath. That might seem like a wonderful idea, but think of all the exceptions and kinks in the laws of nature that would be needed to make children invulnerable. Bullets would turn to jelly when fired at children, fire would become cool when a child was close by, man-eating tigers would become lovable kittens. Suddenly the ordered and regular world that we’re used to has become chaotic and difficult to predict. No longer could humans depend on things behaving like they always have and so could no longer make even reasonable guesses about the outcome of their actions. Without the laws of nature, without the regularity of nature, human free will cannot operate because without that regularity you cannot make informed choices.

Okay, you say, I understand that free will is a good thing and I understand that the laws of nature are necessary, but even so couldn’t have God made the world better? Couldn’t there be less dangers? Or couldn’t we be less vulnerable? Why not make humans impervious to harm so that we can carry on whatever the world throws at us? Of

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Preceding article: I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell

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Additional reading:

  1. About suffering
  2. Foreword to suffering
  3. Choices to make in suffering
  4. Crucifixion for suffering
  5. God’s instruction about joy and suffering
  6. God’s promises to us in our suffering
  7. Importuning for suffering hearts
  8. Seems no future in suffering
  9. Suffering through the apparent silence of God
  10. Suffering continues
  11. Suffering leading to joy
  12. Surprised by joy
  13. Surprised by time in joys & sufferings
  14. Miracles in our time of suffering
  15. Offer in our suffering
  16. Temptation and its conquest
  17. Words from God about suffering
  18. Mission son of God perceived as failure
  19. Patient waiting
  20. Moving mountains
  21. Why Think There Is a God? (3): Why Is It Wrong?
  22. Attributes to God
  23. Disappointed with God
  24. God’s measure not our measure
  25. Full authority belongs to God
  26. God Helper and Deliverer
  27. God is Positive
  28. God’s design in the creation of the world
  29. God’s hope and our hope
  30. God His reward
  31. God’s promises
  32. God’s salvation
  33. Incomplete without the mind of God
  34. Is God hiding His Face when He is seemingly silent
  35. Jesus his answers about God’s silence
  36. Based confidence
  37. Chrystalised harmonious thinking
  38. Our way of life
  39. Life with God
  40. Nuturing a close relationship with God
  41. Concerning gospelfaith
  42. Epitome of the one faith
  43. My faith
  44. Hope
  45. Working of the hope
  46. Looking for blessed hope
  47. Hope for the future
  48. Expiatory sacrifice
  49. Content with the no answer
  50. Free will and predestination
  51. Meaning of life
  52. Death and after
  53. God’s Comfort
  54. A world in denial
  55. Fear and protection
  56. Because men choose to go their own way
  57. It is a free will choice
  58. Free will and predestination
  59. Let you not be defined by the effect of your wrong choice
  60. The Existence of Evil

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  • Why does God allow evil? (pastormikesays.wordpress.com)
    The Bible describes God as holy (Isaiah 6:3), righteous (Psalm 7:11), just (Deuteronomy 32:4), and sovereign (Daniel 4:17-25). These attributes tell us the following about God: (1) God is capable of preventing evil, and (2) God desires to rid the universe of evil. So, if both of these are true, why does God allow evil? If God has the power to prevent evil and desires to prevent evil, why does He still allow evil? Perhaps a practical way to look at this question would be to consider some alternative ways people might have God run the world:
  • God’s Gift & Our Response: Mercy & Worship (jamespaulgaard.wordpress.com)
    God gives us many good and wonderful gifts that we need. But a gift does not give its intended benefit if the one receiving the gift does not open the gift and use it. You could be given the greatest gift in the world, but if the gift sits in the corner unopened, that gift will have no benefit in your life. So through this series, we want to encourage you to reflect on the many gifts God has given you, and how you respond to those gifts. In today’s sermon we are thinking about God’s gift of mercy and our response of worship and the three points of the sermon
  • Why You Shouldn’t Teach Your Children That Hell is Real (patheos.com)
    If teaching heaven is bad, teaching hell is downright mental child abuse. There is no way around this one. You are telling a child that for bad deeds done, or not worshipping the right (or any god), you are going to burn in a lake of fire for eternity. Pure torture, unimaginable pain and it is forever.The myth of Hell needs to be destroyed faster than the myth of heaven by far. Children and countless adults fear any of their actions will result in them spending eternity in Hell. Why? It is such a childish and illogical idea. For starters, their almighty God created an evil angel, and instead of destroying him, gave him his own kingdom? And let’s not get started on the fact that if Satan is the one punishing the bad guys for their evil, doesn’t that make Satan the good guy? If Hell is for the most evil people in the world who listened to and or worshipped Satan, wouldn’t Satan be glad to have them? It simply doesn’t make sense and even Christians and other religious followers are deciding they don’t believe in Hell anymore. It seems that all the rest of their religion is true, but Hell sounds too mean, so that part is obviously just an allegory. So, just like the endless rape, murder, genocide and other atrocities of the Bible, let’s go ahead and cherry-pick Hell right out of it.
  • The Man or The Devil In The Mirror? [Part 1] (corbenstreet.wordpress.com)
    People must understand and know how to differentiate between the reason and the purpose of doing things. But because humans are always so good at taking things for granted, it is not surprising that whatever the reason and the purpose of using mirrors, it no longer means anything to everyone – anymore!
  • David Haines killing is ‘an act of absolute evil’, says Archbishop of Canterbury (christiantoday.com)
    The Archbishop of Canterbury is among the Christians expressing their sorrow over the killing of hostage David Haines at the hands of Islamic State militants.The 44-year-old aid worker’s beheading was shown in a video released on Saturday night.It has been strongly condemned by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has vowed that Britain will take “whatever steps are necessary” to keep the country safe and bring the killers to justice.Archbishop Justin Welby used his Twitter account to ask every church in the country to pray for Haines’s family, saying he had been “evilly killed in the place he was serving in love for its suffering people”.

    In comments to the BBC later on Sunday, the Archbishop described the aid worker’s murder as “an act of absolute evil, unqualified, without any light in it at all”.

    He said there was a sense that in places where militants have taken hold “the darkness is deepening”.

    “It’s being done in the name of faith, but we’ve heard already today faith leaders from Islam across the world condemning this,” he continued.

  • William Lane Craig vs Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: evil, suffering and God’s existence (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    This is one the top 4 best debates that William Lane Craig has done in my opinion. (The other two are Craig-Millican debate and the first and second Craig-Dacey debates) This one doesn’t seem to get a lot of play on the Internet: there’s no video, transcript or anything. But it is a great debate, and on a problem we are all concerned about: the problem of evil and suffering. One other thing – Sinnott-Armstrong is also a very courteous, respectful and intelligent scholar and he is very good at defending his side. This is a very cordial and engaging debate, and because it was held in front of a church audience, it was targeted to laymen and not academics.