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Archive for the ‘King of All Nations series’ Category

Word:  from Isaiah 8 (abridged) (NLT)

 11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, 12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. 14     He will keep you safe.

. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

19 Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead?

20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.  (NLT)

 

During elections or times of national tension, everyone seems to be telling everyone how to think! Persuasion bleeds over into defamation; rational arguments become disingenuous distortions of the truth. All parties have their polls to tell us how everyone else is thinking.  Turning to our national sources of information becomes hopeless.

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.  Isaiah was directing his audience, not to a political alternative, but rather to God for their truth.

If you are afraid of what could happen, choose carefully where you seek comfort. Don’t create or believe every conspiracy theory. Don’t shudder at the dire consequences that talking heads predict; rather,  look to God’s instructions and teachings and ask God for guidance.  Exchange the polls for prayer; choose to fear God rather than the opposing candidate.

And how do you know which you have chosen?  Isaiah says that the people who ignore the Word of God will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair.

Don’t despair; look to God’s teachings and instructions.

 

Prayer:  O Father, we are surrounded by voices of despair and contradiction.  We struggle to know whom to believe, so we often believe things that aren’t true. Turn our hearts to you so that we can walk in the light of truth and not be afraid.  Teach us to trust your word above every other message. AMEN

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Word:  Nehemiah 9: 22-31 (abridged) (NLT)

22 “Then you helped our ancestors conquer kingdoms and nations, and you placed your people in every corner of the land…23 You made their descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and brought them into the land you had promised to their ancestors.

24 “They went in and took possession of the land. You subdued whole nations before them….Your people could deal with these nations and their kings as they pleased. 25 Our ancestors captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took over houses full of good things, with cisterns already dug and vineyards and olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate until they were full and grew fat and enjoyed themselves in all your blessings.

26 “But despite all this, they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They turned their backs on your Law, they killed your prophets who warned them to return to you, and they committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who made them suffer. But in their time of trouble they cried to you, and you heard them from heaven. In your great mercy, you sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies.

28 “But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many times!

29 “You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. 30 In your love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit, who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen! So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them.31 But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!

 

Often people and nations want to see the King of All Nations as the Judge of All Nations, eager to punish, eager to enforce, indifferent to human frailty, intolerant of human error.  This is not the picture that the prophet Nehemiah painted—and he could have easily. His task was to rebuild walls that the enemies of his nation had destroyed and demolished in the time of his grandparents.  He could have chosen to focus on all the suffering of the nation because of their rebellion at the hand of God, but instead he focused on the grace and mercy of the King of All Nations.

Yes, there was judgment as a consequence of rebellion, but over and over again, when the people of the nation realized that they themselves were the cause of their own suffering and when they turned back to God, over and over again he rescued them!  Over and over, the King warned them what would happen if they became proud and obstinate. Over and over again, he sent his Spirit who warned them through prophets—over and over again.  Over and over, he sent them liberators.

The King of All Nations desires to bless and to reward. Even the suffering, the consequence of rebellion, is not revenge; it is not justice. Even the punishment is not meant to destroy, but to draw the nation back so that God can give people the joy of his salvation.

 

Prayer:  Show us the sins of our nation, Father, so that we may repent and return to your blessing. Free us from those who would ignore your Word, who would attempt to set up their own throne over your nation, O Lord. You are gracious and merciful. Without your mercy, we are lost.  Amen.

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Day 3

WORD:  Ezekiel 31:1-14 (NLT)

31 On June 21, during the eleventh year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, give this message to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and all his hordes:

“To whom would you compare your greatness?
You are like mighty Assyria,
    which was once like a cedar of Lebanon,
with beautiful branches that cast deep forest shade
    and with its top high among the clouds.
Deep springs watered it
    and helped it to grow tall and luxuriant.
The water flowed around it like a river,
    streaming to all the trees nearby.
This great tree towered high,
    higher than all the other trees around it.
It prospered and grew long thick branches
    because of all the water at its roots.
The birds nested in its branches,
    and in its shade all the wild animals gave birth.
All the great nations of the world
    lived in its shadow.
It was strong and beautiful,
    with wide-spreading branches,
for its roots went deep
    into abundant water.
No other cedar in the garden of God
    could rival it.
No cypress had branches to equal it;
    no plane tree had boughs to compare.
No tree in the garden of God
    came close to it in beauty.
Because I made this tree so beautiful,
    and gave it such magnificent foliage,
it was the envy of all the other trees of Eden,
    the garden of God.

10 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because Egypt became proud and arrogant, and because it set itself so high above the others, with its top reaching to the clouds, 11 I will hand it over to a mighty nation that will destroy it as its wickedness deserves. I have already discarded it. 12 A foreign army—the terror of the nations—has cut it down and left it fallen on the ground. Its branches are scattered across the mountains and valleys and ravines of the land. All those who lived in its shadow have gone away and left it lying there.

13 “The birds roost on its fallen trunk,
    and the wild animals lie among its branches.
14 Let the tree of no other nation
    proudly exult in its own prosperity,
though it be higher than the clouds
    and it be watered from the depths.
For all are doomed to die,
    to go down to the depths of the earth.
They will land in the pit
    along with everyone else on earth

Some who read the prophets like Ezekiel forget that many words were spoken about nations other than ancient Israel.  As we learn about God and the nations, we should begin to realize that God has always been concerned about the whole world—about all the nations.  And His sovereignty has extended to those who acknowledged Him as well as those who consistently turned to other gods.

Ancient Egypt had a special place in God’s plan.  From the earliest Hebrew (Abram) forward, Egypt was a nation that people in God’s story often turned to for shelter and protection. Just think of Abram going to Egypt, then the sons of Jacob finding food in Egypt during seven years of world famine. In Egypt, the children of Jacob grew into the nation of Israel, but then were enslaved by the Egyptians.  That’s the other side of the Egyptian coin.  Egypt was often a major threat to surrounding nations.

Almost a millennium had passed since Abram first went to Egypt when Ezekiel was instructed to speak God’s words to Egypt, a millennium of blessing and punishing, a millennium of God’s intervening in their history, not just at the time of Moses.  And now, God’s patience with Egypt was coming to an end.

This story is about a nation that rose to greatness but was doomed to die in  its arrogance and pride because it set itself above all others. 

Prayer:  Forgive, O God, the foolish pride and arrogance of my nation. We thrive in your blessing; but too often when we prosper, we think we have created our own prosperity.  You, O Lord, are the source of every good thing our nation enjoys. We are just one of your nations; forgive our haughtiness to think that because you bless us, that you are confined to our national boundaries. Amen

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WORD Exodus 3:3-15 (NLT)

“This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt….Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.

Moses was 80 years old when God appeared to him and told him that he was chosen to become the leader of an emerging nation.  Surely God could have found a more charismatic leader, younger at least, and more eager for the opportunity.

But the backstory is that God had been preparing Moses since birth for this assignment.  Moses was born to Hebrew slaves in Egypt during a dangerous time! His mother hid him from government soldiers for three months, but then could no longer protect him. She did all she knew to do, putting him in a floating basket in the Nile and posting her older daughter there to see what might happen. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and adopted him as her own son, hiring his own mother to be his wet nurse.  Now what would Moses have learned as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter? Exodus 2:1-10

After he had grown up, Moses kills an Egyptian in an attempt to deliver justice to his people. He must have felt strong, empowered, righteously indignant. He was attractive, but not yet ready to be God’s chosen leader.  After fleeing Egypt in fear of his life, he becomes a shepherd for his new father-in-law in the much-less-important land of Midian.  Forty years, he herded sheep, learning perhaps humility, learning how solitary and lackluster leadership can be. Exodus 2:11-24

These forty years were shockingly different from the first forty, but apparently necessary because only afterwards did God determine that it was time to act.  Exodus 2:25

It does seem that God had a plan both for the nation He was creating and for the Leader that He had chosen for it.

As we look around for national leadership, perhaps one of our questions could be who has God been preparing for this role?  What in his/her life’s story would suggest that God’s plan for the person and God’s plan for this nation intersect?

Even the Hebrew slaves often doubted Moses’ leadership, so it is not always easy to see God’s plan, but the more submissive we are, the less independent we desire to be, the more likely we are to find His person, His way.

Prayer Open our eyes and our hearts, Lord, to see those who want to lead our nation with your eyes. Give us wisdom and insight to discern how you may have prepared some person for national leadership, but protect us from mistaking our own wisdom for yours. Amen

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 ourgodreigns-picThe history of the world is full of critical moments, moments when the fates of nations seem to dangle by the thread of a single decision, a sole ballot, a solitary soldier, most often by some seemingly random act. Lawyers and insurance companies call these “acts of God,” trying to describe events that we humans have little or no control over.  But what if these unique moments really are acts of God!

As I was reading Israel’s history along with the prophets that spoke into those times, the undeniable involvement of God in history was no surprise, but it did strike me differently this time how much God was also involved in the affairs of many other nations, raising them up, bringing them down, punishing them for their sins, and rewarding them for righteousness.

Has God withdrawn from human affairs? Is he no longer concerned about good and evil, about justice and mercy? Does he no longer use nations to accomplish his will?  I’m convinced that the King of All Nations is as present in world affairs as ever.

The current U.S. national election, especially the presidential election, has presented many Christians with challenges that don’t seem to have good answers.  I have no intention of advising you for one candidate over another; rather, what I would like to do is share with you the Word of God, especially those passages that speak about choosing leaders and about the nature of God’s interaction with nations, in order to help you discover perhaps a divine framework within which you can act and find peace about this national election as well as the international events of our times that affect all of us.

Each day, I will share with you a text, some short and others longer, from the Word. My hope is that the Word will not only instruct and inspire you, but also challenge you to apply what you hear to our own election. Unless otherwise stated, all of the texts are taken from the New Living Translation.  Some of the longer passages are abridged, which I have noted so that if you want to read the entire passage you have the citation and can do so.

The Word is followed by a few thoughts of mine on the passage which I present to you, not as exegesis, not as a homily, but rather as initial stimulation to your own listening and thinking about what God is saying to you.

Lastly, we end in a brief prayer, acknowledging that we can neither know nor obey without divine help.

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On September 24, I hope many of you will join me in 40 days of prayer and meditating on God’s Word as we move toward the national election on November 3.  I am including a preview today so that you can know what to expect.  If you would like to join us, just subscribe to this blog and it will automatically come to you each day.  My prayer is that we gain clarity and respond to the current political situation in a way that pleases God.

PREVIEW

THE WORD OF GOD:  from Isaiah 8

 11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, 12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. 14     He will keep you safe.

. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

19 Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead?

20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.  (NLT)

During elections or times of national tension, everyone seems to be telling everyone how to think! Persuasion bleeds over into defamation; rational arguments become disingenuous distortions of the truth. All parties have their polls to tell us how everyone else is thinking.  Turning to our national sources of information becomes hopeless.

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.  Isaiah was directing his audience, not to a political alternative, but rather to God for their truth.

If you are going to be afraid of what could happen, then don’t create or believe every conspiracy theory, don’t shudder at the dire consequences that talking heads predict, rather look to God’s instructions and teachings and ask God for guidance.  Exchange the polls for prayer; choose to fear God rather than the opposing candidate.

And how do you know which you have chosen?  Isaiah says that the people who ignore the Word of God will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair.

Don’t despair; look to God’s teachings and instructions.

 

Prayer:  O Father, we are surrounded by voices of despair and contradiction.  Turn our hearts to you so that we can walk in the light of truth and not be afraid.  Teach us to trust your word above every other message. AMEN

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Both the intensity and the ubiquity of the political conversations in this election year may be unparalleled, at least in recent history.  What is most troubling is the bitter rancor of almost every conversation. Political conversations are not civil; they sound more like civil war.  Where do Christians turn for guidance?

I feel a bit like Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate, when they had no silver or gold to give to the lame man. I have no silver bullets or golden answers,  but as they did, so I would like to also offer you what I do have.

I am writing and preparing 40 days of meditations for all who need a word of guidance in this election, not my words (much) but words from God.  I am not going to tell you whose name to mark on your ballot in November, but I do plan to share with you insights from Scripture into God’s activity and will for the nations of the world.

Beginning September 24, I will publish each day for the next forty days, a series of short meditations and prayers under the title King Of All Nations. Each meditation will contain a chosen word from God, sometimes a story, sometimes a psalm, sometimes a prophetic word, but always His Words. After hearing from God, I will try to stimulate your thinking about that text with a few thoughts and questions, then I will offer you a prayer to pray as you seek clarity.

If you are interested in this 40-days of seeking God’s will and plan for our nation, you might want to subscribe/follow to this site, or you can just visit each day.

I promise that you will be challenged by the Word regardless of your current political position!

Watch for further information.  And share this with your friends. They are as concerned as you are.

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Last week I announced that on September 29, I would begin publishing a daily meditation and prayer for forty days in preparation for our national election on November 8.  I want to encourage you to plan on joining in asking God to speak to us through His Word about how He chooses national leaders, whom He chooses, and why countries are both raised up and brought down.

To better understand why I have felt compelled to write these meditations and prayers, I’d like to share with you a note that I received today from a European friend who shares his concerns about US Christians during this election season:

Hi Mark,

 I really think your blog-article to read from God’s wisdom during the coming 40 days, concerning the American elections is a great idea. Several christians in Europe do not understand all the comments that are being made especially on facebook mainly about _______. They understand that ______ is probably not the best candidate (ethics etc.). What does bother several christians here though are the often downright attacks on ________, also the way they try to ridicule him/her on facebook. A lot of these comments and pictures are placed by christians, even by some that we know. It seems to us that politics in the US at the moment is overtaking God’s Word of loving others, even your enemies, not wish them harm, treat another with respect, not tear them down nor ridicule them, etc.

I think that some people could even be questioning their relationships by all this outpour of negativity, made by other christians without them even realizing this. I think they do not realize how this can come across. Most Europeans seem to avoid talking about this [with Americans] because they sometimes find out it can be a touchy subject to discuss (at least with some people).

 That’s why I really welcome your plan to let yourselves above all be guided by God’s Word/Wisdom and His principles.

 

Mark your calendars for September 29 as Day 1 of Forty Days of the Word and Prayer–and share this with your friends.

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