Married to a New Master

I hate movies where a romantic commitment is violated.

For example, The Wedding Planner. It stars Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez in your typical romcom. It’s a perfectly fine romcom except McConaughey’s character starts pursuing Lopez’s character while he’s engaged to someone else. It takes McConaughey’s character to get to his wedding day before he confesses to his fiancée.

I know there are tons of movies like this. The man/woman who leaves someone else is excused because the existing relationship is bad and it’s “true love” they’re seeking after. It’s just not right.

Not that I’m perfect in this area. I can think of a couple times in my life where I accidentally (maybe?) led a girl on and wasn’t forthcoming with her. Perhaps it’s my experience in the pain of that which makes me abhor movies that glorify that.

It’s painful to someone when you’re committed to them and then you abandon them for someone else. However, in the grand scheme of our walks with Christ, there’s a situation where not only is that OK, but it’s desirable, joyful and freeing.

Romans 7:4-6 says —

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

There’s a switch in spouses here that’s beautiful. The prior few verses talk about how a woman is adulterous if she is with another man while her husband is still alive, but if her husband dies, she is not adulterous if she marries another man.

It’s the same way when we come to Christ. Prior to our salvation, we were married to the law, committed to following its ways. Because of that, we would always fall short because we can’t meet the strict requirements of the law.

But when we were saved, we were released from that commitment and to a new commitment to Jesus, to God, to grace. It’s a marriage to a new master, and it’s a healthy, vibrant and live-saving one.

So in this case, ditching a relationship as quick as you can for a new one is perfectly OK. In fact, if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to do it as soon as possible.

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4 Reasons Christians Suffer (With a Hat Tip to J. Vernon McGee)

My wife’s been reading through Hebrews and using a commentary by J. Vernon McGee. I bought the commentary when I was reading through the book myself.

Yesterday, she brought to me the words discussing Hebrews 12:6-8, which read:

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”

She then explained to me that McGee listed seven reasons why Christians suffer. I thought they were quite accurate, so I decided to share them in a blog post, along with some personal thoughts. I also adapted the list because some points seemed to repeat themselves.

So here are four reasons Christians suffer (with a hat tip to J. Vernon McGee):

ONE: Practical Consequences of Our Own Stupidity and Sin

“The first reason that we suffer as God’s children (and even as his mature sons) is because of our own stupidity and our own sin…The fourth reason we suffer is for our past sins.” – JVM

This affects Christians at every level of maturity. We are always going to be sinful people and will always struggle.

My favorite song right now is called “In the Blood” by John Mayer. Mayer asks about all these things in his life — the influence of his parents, his insecurities, his weaknesses — and wonders if they’ll be “washed out in the water” or “always in the blood.”

The answer to that is yes. When we become Christians, our sins are forgiven, and they’re no longer on our permanent record. But we will still feel the effects of those sins because we’re human.

And that’s not just sins we’ve committed in the immediate past. McGee tells the story of a famous evangelist who used to be a drunkard. While visiting a restaurant for milkshakes and sodas after a service, the evangelist simply got a glass of soda water.

“The others began to kid him about it,” McGee writes, “and he made this statement, ‘When the Lord gave me a new heart, He didn’t give me a new stomach.’ Liquor had ruined his stomach, and he was still suffering because of that.”

TWO: Standing for Christ in a Secular World

“I can guarantee that if you take a stand for truth and righteousness, you are going to suffer. How many men and women could testify to that?…Many people deliberately take a stand for God, and they have suffered for it.” – JVM

Jesus straight up told us that we would suffer for defending His name. Many around the world suffer as the disciples did, facing criminal prosecution, imprisonment and even execution. I hope I never cease from being amazed by those who willingly go through such lengths in the name of Christ.

In America, our suffering is more emotional and social. We might get made fun of or ignored for being Christians and not being afraid to speak the name of Jesus at our school or workplace. That’s OK, that’s part of being a believer.

An interesting note that McGee makes is that sometimes we can go overboard in our “standing for Christ” and feel like we’re suffering, but it’s unnecessary.

“One man came to me and told me that where he worked everybody was his enemy because he had stood up for God,” McGee wrote. “Well, another Christian man who was an official in that same concern told me that this man was trying to lecture everybody — even during work hours! He was making an absolute nuisance of himself by attempting to witness to people while they were busy on their jobs.”

THREE: Some Purpose of God We Don’t Know

“Job suffered because he was demonstrating to Satan and the demon world and to the angels of heaven that he was not a timeserver, that every man does not have his price and that he loved God for Himself alone. I hope I never have to suffer as Job did.” – JVM

This is one where there isn’t a whole lot of explanation. There’s some part of the will of God where suffering is meant for some kind of purpose that we don’t understand and probably won’t fully get until the other side of heaven. This kind of suffering could include an unexpected and seemingly-unwarranted loss of a job, the sudden death of a close friend or family member or a huge house repair or car expense that puts you in financial trouble.

In my experience, it usually leads to spiritual growth and increasing faith in Christ, but there might be something else it’s designed for that we won’t know until later.

FOUR: The Lord’s Discipline

“A judge punishes, but a father chastens and he does it in love. God uses chastening to demonstrate His love for us. And the writer makes it very clear that you are an illegitimate child if you are not chastened by the Lord, my friend.” – JVM

God makes sure we’re in line. When we start wandering away, He might do things or allow things to happen to discipline us. This ties back into the words from Hebrews 12:6-8.

I think sometimes this is another example where God allows us to suffer and we’re not entirely sure why. We feel the chastening of God but may not know that’s what it is. We may know we’ve been disobedient. But that discipline still comes because God loves us and wants what’s best for us.

The commentary my wife’s been reading is from the “Thru the Bible Commentary Series” by J. Vernon McGee, which you can find on Amazon or Christian bookstores.

It’s Better to Be Together Than to Win the Argument

So many things divide us.

Oh, I know, what a hot take. We’re divided? No way.

How often do we think this is OK, though? How often do we think, “Well, we disagree on something, and it makes us dislike each other,” and we just move on?

I admit that I’ve felt that way recently. There are brothers and sisters in Christ of mine with whom I have differences of opinion, and I really don’t feel like talking to them. I really don’t want to, have no desire to.

When I look at what Jesus says about unity and togetherness, my attitude is completely against His intention.

In our Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17, we see that Jesus’ intention for us is to be united, no matter what, because that’s how we show others He’s real. Verses 20-23:

I do not ask for these [his disciples] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

In college, I heard several stories of some older friends of mine and how they came to Christ because they saw the way Christians loved one another and interacted with one another. They saw a community they wanted to be a part of, a family they wanted to join. So they investigated Jesus and saw He was what made those Christians different, what made them the way they were. It led to their salvation.

That’s a practical application of those underlined words in what Jesus said in the “high priestly prayer” in the Garden of Gethsemane. People believed in Jesus because of the community of believers.

Can we recapture that now? Is the church of America too far beyond that? It’s better to be together than win an argument. It always is. We can disagree on things and still love one another.

I hope that’s not too far gone.

 

 

God Paid for Me. What Am I Doing With That?

I like to buy music. Probably too much. But I like it. I like finding new music to listen to while I drive to work, while I write articles at work, if I’m just lounging around my apartment.

The newest music I bought was the album If I Never Speak Again by Hearts Like Lions. Before I bought the album, I listened through it on Spotify, considered music from their past (like their excellent EP These Hands) and weighed up how much I would listen to it. Considering those considerations, I bought it.

Worth it so far.

The question this leads me to is this: God paid for me. He put a lot of thought into it. Am I responding to that well?

Heavy.

It’s not a question in my mind that God paid the highest price for me. His Son died.

“But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.” – Psalm 49:15

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

But what am I doing with that payment? God paid His Son to set me free from the eternal bondage of sin. There’s two ways I need to learn how to respond, two ways I need to deal with this better.

First, I need to know that I am loved and forgiven. 

I can’t let myself continue to be burdened with my guilt and sinfulness. I need to recognize it, but not at the expense of remembering God loves me and cares for me. My sin sucks the joy out of me, yes, but it doesn’t take away the fact that He’s saved me from its eternal consequences. That is the most joyful and wonderful part of being paid for.

But that’s not it.

Second, I need to act like I’ve been paid for.

Just like Hearts Like Lions’ album is serving the purpose it’s been bought for right now, I need to serve the purpose I’ve been bought for.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What am I doing with the body and the life God bought for me, what He bought from the depths of sin and Sheol? Am I making wise decisions? Am I fighting sin with all that I’ve got?

Far too often, the answer to those questions is no.

So asking the question “What does it mean to be that God paid for me?” can be both an encouragement and a challengeIt can remind us of our blessed position before God, but also our call to be more for Him.

Redefining Peace: True Peace Isn’t a Feeling

 

“Peace I leave with youmy peace I give to youNot as the world gives do I give to youLet not your hearts betroubledneither let them be afraid.” — Jesus, in John 14:27

I think we’ve mistaken what peace really is.

We read verses like the one above, which is awesome, and we interpret it as, “OK, having peace means I won’t feel worried and I won’t have fear. So if I feel worry and fear, I’m not at peace.”

That’s how the world defines peace. We have an upsetting feeling in our hearts and so we say, “I’m just not at peace.”

But Jesus says, “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” Jesus gives us a peace that 1) the world can’t give us and 2) is different from the world’s definition of peace. Google defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.”

The reality is that, for a Christian, true peace begets the earthly sense of peace, if we really lean into it.

Jesus told His disciples in John 14 that he’s giving them peace. The peace He gives them, and what we receive as well through the giving of the Holy Spirit, is ultimately a spiritual peace.

Through Christ, we are at peace with God. We are no longer at war with or at enmity with or against God. We are taken into the fold and held and loved. That is true peace! That is the reality for every believer. We no longer need to fear that God will abandon us or leave us, the ultimate lack of peace.

It’s not a feeling. It’s a reality. But that reality can lead to a feeling of earthly peace.

I was reading in Proverbs 3 this morning and there were a couple mentions of peace. They go like this:

  • Verses 1-2: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”
  • Verses 17-18, speaking of Wisdom: “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.”

This peace comes from a reliance on wisdom and teaching, namely, teaching from God’s Word and a reliance on God. In this same chapter, Solomon tells his son, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (v. 5-6).

Because we’ve trusted God with our lives and received true peace, we are able to find earthly peace. We’re able to find, as Proverbs 3:8 says, “healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

This was an important discovery for me because I often struggled with a lack of earthly peace. My anxiety and depression would drive me crazy. I had a peace with God based on my salvation, but I couldn’t apply it right.

I couldn’t say, “I’m good with God. Because of that, God has ordered my steps and said, ‘Fear not, for I am with you.’ He’s said that ‘for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ He’s said that I should not let my heart be troubled, nor afraid.”

Now, I can say that. Sometimes. It’s tough sometimes to cling to that peace, but it’s there for the taking. I just had to redefine it.

 

Returning to Vomit: We Like to Go Back to That Which is Gross

One of the more graphic proverbs in the Bible is found in Proverbs 22:6. It reads: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”

The image is, well, kinda gross. Nobody really enjoys looking at vomit. I thought about putting a picture of vomit at the top of this post, but decided against it because it’s vomit. It’s puke. It’s food and green stuff and grossness.

I remember when I was in school and people would throw up in class. It was gross, but everybody would watch. Everybody would look at it. And then everybody would talk about it afterwards. There was a fascination with it.

It reminds me of the episode of The Office when an unknown person leaves a gross “package” in Michael Scott’s office. It’s nasty, it’s smelly. The carpet has to come be removed because of the smell and the stain left over. But even though it’s gross and unsettling, the people in the office can’t stop talking about it.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase from that Proverbs verse earlier — “like a dog that returns to his vomit” — and applying that to my own life.

Here’s the thing: vomit is a reminder of something bad. It’s something that we ingested or something happening in our body that is so repulsive the body has to forcefully spit it out. Most of us find this action horrendous and unsettling, so we quickly dispose of it.

Dogs don’t do that — they eat their vomit. Some quick research I did shows that dogs do that because their increased smelling capacities lead them to find and eat the food that’s in the vomit.

That might have some nutritional value for dogs, but it doesn’t for us. But we often do the same thing with our sin.

We often return to the same sins over and over again, even after we’ve felt the negative effects of them. We choose to ignore those negative effects and maybe even terrible guilt we felt after sinning, and just come right back. We’re just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, the classic example of this, who sinned, returned to God, then returned back to the same sins they committed before.

I find this to be a common thread in my own life. For whatever reason, I’ll return to the things that are not helpful, not beneficial, not life-giving, and do them.

What’s the solution to this? How do I, and how do we, overcome the sickness of returning to our vomit, returning to the mistakes we’ve made many times over?

Like this: We recognize the vomit for what it is. We don’t see it as having some small value, but as being totally abhorrent and unhelpful for us.

I think one of the gravest mistakes a Christian can make it not accepting how appetizing sin is. We sin because we like it. Sin isn’t something we do in spite of ourselves, at least most of the time. Sin is something we’re attracted to. It’s something that has some sort of benefit to us.

But we have to recognize the short-lived, non-permanent nature of that benefit. That’s the beginning of getting away from that vomit and eating what’s good for us — obedience, doing what’s right, trusting the Lord.

What Role Does God’s Word Play in Our Lives?

I haven’t written in a while, at least on this blog, and I’d like to get back into it.

To be honest with you, ideas have been a little dry. I haven’t really had much to write about lately, at least spiritual things. I’ve been writing about local elections in Sanford — which is plenty enough — but as far as things to do with Jesus and God, it’s been little.

As I evaluate why that is, one thing comes to mind — I haven’t been reading the Bible very much recently. I’ve written about this before in a post. Many times in my life, the motivation to read just hasn’t been there. And that’s OK. God doesn’t condemn us to hell or shun us for not looking at His Word.

But as I sat down a little bit ago to look at Scripture, I realized the point of it, and the role that Scripture should play in our lives.

I’m slowly reading through Deuteronomy. I say slowly because it hasn’t been anywhere near consistent. That’s a whole other conversation in itself. But as I read today’s passage, chapter 6, I learned something about the importance of God’s Word in the life of a Christian. I’ve probably written about this before, but I got a fresh look at it.

In the early part of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are on the brink of entering the Promised Land, and Moses, who will not be entering into that land with them, is giving them final instructions. Much of it has been given before in the Pentateuch — commandments, instructions on sacrifices, etc. As chapter 6 rolls around, we see perhaps one of the most important commandments Moses gives to the Israelites (v. 6-9):

…these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I did a bit of digging and found that many Jews have applied, and some continue to apply, these verses literally. Some context:

Phylacteries, sometimes called tefillin, are small, square leather boxes containing portions of Scripture worn by Conservative and Orthodox Jews during prayer services. Phylacteries are worn in pairs—one phylactery is strapped on the left arm, and one is strapped to the forehead of Jewish men during weekday morning prayers. The word phylactery comes from a Greek word meaning “safeguard, protection, or amulet.”

The Scripture is literally bound to their arms and foreheads. Whether or not you want to interpret this Scripture literally is up to you — I’m not quite sure what the proper response is here — but the concept is enlightening.

If something is on our heart, it is something we’re passionate about. It’s something we’re driven by. One of my passions, something that’s “on my heart,” is to help educate Christians and the church about mental illnesses like depression and anxiety and help remove the stigma. That’s part of my driving force. That’s what helps guide me in my life. It helps guide what I think, what I say, what I do.

If Scripture is on our heart, as Moses commands the Israelites here, it will be our driving force. It will guide what we think, what we say, what we do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t places for other passions. But Scripture, God’s Word, guides the pursuit of those passions as well.

Moses instructs the Israelites to construct physical reminders of Scripture, and to have conversation wherever we go about it. There’s instruction to pass God’s Word along to children raised in a faithful household.

Scripture, God’s Word, the commandments, the instructions — they’re designed to be everywhere in our lives, whether visible or not, audible or not. They’re designed to be immensely practical and immensely applicable in any and every situation. To say that the Bible isn’t relevant is to miss the point, to miss the purpose of the crafting of God’s Word.

There is no arena — our homes, our bedrooms, our breakfast tables, the places we go everyday — where Scripture is not to have an influence. That means on Facebook, at the coffee house, at the small group meeting, at the football game. Wherever we walk, wherever we go, Scripture is to be our guide. There is no place where Scripture is not influential and relevant.

And we must strive to not let it ever become that way.

We will mess up in this, we’ll forget. We’re humans. We’re flawed. It’s wonderful that there’s a truth in that Scripture that reminds us we’re loved and cared for and forgiven when we don’t do things the way they’re laid out in that Scripture.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

If We’re Honest, Sinful Solutions Are Still Solutions. They Just Don’t Really Solve Anything.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me about addictions is that what people who are addicted search for is called a “fix.”

Seeing as how the word “fix” usually means a solution to a problem that should, in the long run, require no further serious fixing, you’d think a “fix” for an addiction should satisfy that addiction, no longer needing another one.

But that’s how addictions work. Addictions require fix after fix after fix after fix to be satisfied. Biologically, addictions train our body to need satisfaction after satisfaction. Someone who is addicted to pornography doesn’t just need to look once and then they’re set for a long time. They need another one as soon as the high from the first one wears off. Same goes with alcohol, food, hardcore drugs, even approval from others. Addictions work this way.

Here’s the problem with that: it’s a “fix” that doesn’t satisfy. It doesn’t really fix anything except the symptoms of the addiction. It doesn’t fix the addiction.

Sin works similarly. If we’re feeling lost or depressed or mischievous or whatever condition might lead to sinful behavior, acting out on that sinful behavior will fix the problem. But it’s really a surface-level thing. Just ask Asa.

Yeah, I’m going to approach the story in 2 Chronicles 14-16 once more, this time focusing in chapter 16.

Other than his battle with the Ethiopians we looked at in chapter 14, Asa had reigned in Judah for 35 years without war. If you read the Old Testament, you’ll know that 35 years without war is ridiculous, pretty much unprecedented. That streak gets challenged by Baasha king of Israel in chapter 16.

In the 36th year of Asa’s reign, “Baasha…went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah” (v. 1). Baasha built a city to block trade and travel into and out of where Asa was living. Verses 2-6 show the rest:

[2] Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, [3] “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” [4] And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. [5] And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah and let his work cease. [6] Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

In summation, Asa paid his sworn enemy, Ben-hadad the king of Syria, to stop Baasha and Israel from building Ramah. You can get into the idea that he took from the treasures of the house of the LORD and what that means about Asa’s priorities, but I want to focus on something else.

Instead of relying on the LORD as he had before when faced with an opponent far greater in the Ethiopians, Asa took a different route. He trusted his enemy. But here’s the thing, and the difference in this narrative from most stories like this. Asa didn’t get double-crossed, and it didn’t backfire on him.

It worked. It fixed the problem.

Asa found a solution to his problem. It wasn’t a good one, it wasn’t a God-honoring one. His chosen solution didn’t involve God at all.

And he paid for this. Not in continuing to face Baasha’s blockade against his city, but in confrontation from God. Hanani, a seer, came to speak to Asa and basically told him off, saying that because he didn’t trust God, the army of Syria got away from him. God is someone who wanted to support him (v. 9a), who had supported him before (v. 8), but Asa had rejected him. “You have done foolishly in this,” Hanani said, “for from now on you will have wars” (v. 9b).

Asa got mad and threw Hanani in prison and even “inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time” (v. 10). The rest of his reign didn’t reveal trust in God either. Three years after the Baasha debacle, Asa got a severe foot disease. “Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians,” v. 12b says.

His trust in Ben-hadad fixed his Baasha problem, but it didn’t fix his trust problem. It was a trust Asa had displayed on many occasions prior, but for whatever reason, he didn’t trust God this time.

This post isn’t to criticize physicians or smart military strategy. Both of those things are important in their respective areas. This is simply to make the point that we often find solutions to our problems in things besides God. We trust things that aren’t of God and still find that “fix” to what’s bugging us.

But is that really the solution we need when it comes to lust? To anger? To laziness? To not having a job? To a strained relationship with a spouse, family member or friend? To a money problem?

Here’s the thing: solutions to our issues are everywhere. We can take sinful solutions all day long. But the only solution that will truly fix, the only solution that will really bring satisfaction, is trusting in Jesus, trusting in God’s plan, trusting in His Word. And where that means the most is in our eternal state.

We as humans long for little fixes along the way in life. We try to find purpose and meaning in our work, in our families, in our kids, in our hobbies. And for a time, they might bring about that “fix.” But we’re still bugged by a lack of meaning. We’re still bugged by all the stupid stuff we did when we were younger. We know there’s something else out there.

Trusting Jesus for your salvation, your purpose, your meaning, that’s the eternal fix. That’s the fix that only needs to happen once. That’s the satisfactory ending. That’s, as NEEDTOBREATHE says in their new song “Testify”:

Give me your heart give me your song
Sing it with all your might
Come to the fountain and
You can be satisfied
There is a peace, there is a love
You can get lost inside
Come to the fountain and
Let me hear you testify

Liquid Courage: Finding Confidence in the Right Kind of Drinking

How many times in movies or TV have you seen a guy polish off a beer or drain a shot glass before approaching a girl? I can’t count the times, but it’s been a lot.

Perhaps the funniest example (except for the drunkenness) is from The Big Bang Theory. There’s a character named Raj who can only talk to women when he’s had a few drinks. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve only seen the first three seasons, so I can’t speak for the whole show. But it’s shocking when he does say something, as evidenced in this clip (whoever uploaded the video uploaded it flipped, so ignore that):

A common phrase for alcohol used to boost self-confidence is “liquid courage.” This kind of courage is one that often leads to shrugging off reason and sometimes moral character, but for whatever reason, it helps one get over fears and insecurities and pursue something wholeheartedly.

Courage is something that is often praised and hard to come by. It’s the latter that often initiates the former there. Shedding fears and insecurities is usually going against our very nature as humans. We’re often defined by what we can’t do or what we’re scared of — people are arachnophobic or afraid of heights, or guys won’t talk to girls without a little help in some way, or we’re scared of getting rejected by a company who has our dream job. In those circumstances, it takes courage to stand up and do something that freaks us out.

We need a well to draw from to find that courage, to get the guts to go through with something that scares us. Some turn to alcohol, which can be incredibly dangerous and, if consumed to the point of drunkenness, sinful. But others have turned to the right liquid courage. Let’s reconnect with our buddy Asa.

After leading his army to a great victory against the Ethiopians in 2 Chronicles 14, the next chapter finds Asa meeting with a prophet named Azariah. Here is what he says to Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:1-7 —

The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

Azariah talks about how the nation of Israel was without God, but when they sought Him, they found Him. God then turned His protection upon Israel. If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll remember that Asa was the king of Judah. If you’re not aware of biblical geography – which is totally OK, by the way, it can be a little complicated – Judah was the neighboring nation to Israel. The two nations were birthed out of the 12 tribes of Jacob. Ten of them made up Israel, and the two others made up Judah.

So Azariah tells Asa about how faithful God was to Israel, but also shares how faithful God will be to Judah if they seek Him as well. The response from Asa is immediate. Verse 8 —

As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the LORD that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the LORD.

Azariah challenged Asa to be courageous, and Asa was courageous, he took courage. But what was it that spawned this confidence in Asa?

It was the the Word of God.

See, Asa had reason to trust God based on God’s faithfulness to the people of Judah. But it was God’s Word continuing to reach him that motivated Asa to continue to be faithful to God and seek Him. By “put(tting) away detestable idols” and “repair(ing) the altar of the LORD,” Asa was sending a signal that God would be made to be preeminent in his land. God would be the one worshipped. There would be no other gods before God in his kingdom. And he took the courage to take that step, to do that, from the Word of God being spoken to him.

Azariah’s prophecy was the starter’s gun. Verse 8 – “As soon as Asa heard these words…he took courage.”

Just like Asa, we can take courage from the Word of God. We don’t have to drum it up out of nowhere. All that is necessary is that we believe that God’s Word is true and apply it to our lives.

We can take courage when we don’t know what’s going to happen next in our lives, because God’s Word says, “And we know that for those who love God all things worth together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can take courage when we’re afraid that we don’t have enough or we fear rejection by man, because God’s Word says that He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and we can say back, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b,6)

We can take courage when we’re stressed and worried about any situation, because God’s Word says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

And we can take courage when we’re afraid that God doesn’t love us and that we’re not enough, because God’s Word says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:16a, 18a).

The next time you’re afraid, drink from the well of God’s Word. This post is not a critique of alcohol or a condemnation of alcohol. This is simply promoting a different kind of confidence, a confidence that doesn’t fade away when the buzz wears off. This is a well you can go to time and time again that benefits your soul.

Drink it in.

Three Reasons a King Prayed to God

To be honest with you, prayer is something I often gloss over, something I rush through.

I don’t know when it really started, but I think it comes from feeling like I have better things to do sometimes. I’ve got to go to sleep, I’ve got to eat, I’ve got to do this, that, so on and so forth.

As I spent some time reading the Bible this morning, I remembered just who it was we were praying to, and because God is who He is, prayer is something I should take a lot more seriously.


My favorite Bible story, and something I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, is 2 Chronicles 14-16. I try to read through it two or three times a year.

I haven’t read it yet this year, so I picked it up this morning and decided to read it one chapter at a time. Chapter 14 is about introducing Asa, king of Judah, son of Abijah. Asa is one of my favorite biblical characters because I find so much of myself in him. I think a lot of Christians would if you read the whole passage.

Anyways, after 10 years of peace and rest in his reign, war has come upon him. The Ethiopians, under the direction of Zerah, have come upon him and his nation and have brought an army of a million men and 300 chariots (2 Chr. 14:9). In comparison, Asa’s army has a total of 580,000 men, some with shields and spears and some with shields and bows (v. 8). It’s a complete mismatch by any measurement. Zerah’s army has more men and better positioning for the war.

Faced with these obstacles, Asa prays to God (v.11), the God he’s completely trusted so far in his reign:

O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.

In this prayer, Asa recognizes three huge characteristics of the God he serves – and the God you and I serve, believers – that compel him, and should compel us, to pray like he did.

There is none like God to help. “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.”

There is no other god like God, there is nothing else in all of creation, both in heaven and on earth, anywhere. As David Crowder Band used to sing, “There is no one like You, there has never ever been anyone like You.”

God, being God, has a unique power and ability to be able to help those who cry out to Him. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, and He has the great ability to do great things for us. Why wouldn’t we pray? Why wouldn’t we seek Him?

God is a God worth relying on“Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.”

God is one in whom we can place our trust. When faced with difficult circumstances like unemployment or sickness or any other hardship, we can’t fully trust humanity to solve problems. God might use them to offer solutions, but it is really God who is doing the work.

That’s why Asa fights this battle in the name of God. He doesn’t fight in the name of Asa or the name of Judah because he knows that’s not who’s going to give the victory. It’s God who’s going to give the victory. It is God who is worth trusting, always and forever, always more than man.

He is our God. “O LORD, you are our God, let not man prevail against you.”

If you are a Christian, God is a God who has chosen you. He has picked you to be His. Just like He has a claim on our soul, we have a claim on His ear, His attentiveness when we pray. We have a claim on the grace He offers us freely. He is our God, our Creator, our Father in heaven, the one who loves us so much He sent Jesus to die for us.

So we can come to God knowing that He hears us and answers our prayers. In John 16:23, Jesus says, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” All we need is ask, and ask humbly, honestly, in Jesus’ name, for His purposes and glory, and those things will be accomplished. Why? Because He is our God.


Asa’s prayers were heard, and a great victory was won. 2 Chronicles 14:12-15 says:

So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil. And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. And they struck down the tents of those who had livestock and carried away sheep in abundance and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.

The LORD defeated the Ethiopians. God gave them the victory. God heard the prayer of Asa, king of Judah, and went before the king and his army and defeated their foe. This is the God we pray to. This is the God who has called us His own. This is a unique God, there is no one like Him. This is a God we can rely on. And this is a God who is ours.

Pray. Trust. There’s no one better to pray to, to rely on. And we know that Asa prayed this from a position of strength spiritually, but we don’t have to be in that place to pray this prayer, to trust God this way. We could be having a crisis of faith and pray this prayer. God is still the same God, and hears us just the same.

And I must remember that very, very, very rarely do I have better things to do than slow down, take a breath, and pray.