1 Kings 17

“Yahweh Is God!”

“But Ahab did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to live like Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to worship Baal.” ­– 1 Kings 16:30-31 NLT

Things were bad in Israel and getting worse. A sad succession of kings had led the people of Israel deeper and deeper into apostasy, turning their backs on God and turning to other gods for their hope and help. And just when you think they’ve reached rock bottom, along comes yet another king who leads them even further down the road of spiritual rebellion. Ahab would prove to be one of the worst kings yet. He and his wife Jezebel made up a tag team that wreaked havoc on the spiritual condition of Israel. They officially replaced the worship of Yahweh with the worship of Baal – the Canaanite fertility god. This was especially distasteful to God because the Canaanites and their god were to have been wiped out when the people took over the Promised Land. Now Ahab was making Baal worship the government-sanctioned religion of his kingdom. This would go on for 14 years before God raised up a spokesman to stand up against King Ahab. Out of nowhere come Elijah the Tishbite. He boldly confronts the king and issues a decree against him that there will be no rain in the kingdom of Israel until he says so. Obviously, Elijah is speaking on behalf of God. God had warned the people repeatedly that if they turn against Him and worship other gods, He would bring drought on the land. “And if, in spite of this, you still disobey me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your arrogant spirit by making the skies above as unyielding as iron and the earth beneath as hard as bronze” (Leviticus 26:18-19 NLT). Now Elijah was reminding Ahab of the consequences of his sin.

What is fascinating in this story is that God chooses to speak through a man whose name just so happens to mean, “Yahweh is God.” As soon as Ahab heard the name of this man who had stormed into his palace issuing threats, he would have gotten the irony in it all. Here he was setting up Baal as god and in the door walks a man whose very name reminds him that Yahweh is God. Not only that, the punishment Elijah threatens Ahab with is drought – due to no rain. It just so happens that Baal is the god in charge of RAIN. He was the storm god, the god responsible for fertility and crops.  Now Ahab was going to see just how great his god really was. And Elijah, this obscure and unlikely spokesman for Yahweh was going to find out just how powerful his God was.

After giving Ahab the bad news, Elijah was sent into hiding by God. During this time, God would begin to reveal Himself to Elijah, preparing him for an even greater confrontation with Ahab to come. By the side of the brook Cherith, God shows Elijah his provisional power. He miraculously feeds Elijah using a common raven as his servant. When the brook dries up, God sends Elijah to the home of a Gentile widow who just happens to be a worshiper of Yahweh. This woman, a widow, is already poor but is now suffering even more due to the drought. Yet God show Elijah His inexhaustible power by miraculously multiplying the widow’s resources so that she could live through the drought. When the widow’s son suddenly dies, Elijah gets to see God’s restorative power and the significance of prayer in the life God’s children. In death, this boy represents the spiritual condition of Israel. They needed reviving at the hand of God. Only He could restore them to life and rescue them from their spiritual death. Elijah was learning to trust the one who had called him and sent him as His spokesman to Ahab. He would need to trust in the power of God in the days to come. He was going to be facing some difficult situations in the days to come and God was preparing him for battle.

Father, You want to prove Your power in my life each and every day. You want me to know that You can provide, that Your provision is inexhaustible, and that You are in the restoration business. Nothing is too difficult for You. The more I recognize Your power in my life, the more I will learn to trust and lean on You instead of myself. You are greater than all the little god-replacements we set up in our lives. Never let me forget that. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 17

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

“They took copies of the Book of the Law of the LORD and traveled around through all the towns of Judah, teaching the people.” ­– 2 Chronicles 17:9 NLT

Don’t ask me where the phrase, “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat” comes from or what it means. No one really seems to know. But I couldn’t help but think about it as I read today’s chapter. Nowhere in the story of the life of Jehoshaphat do we see him jump, but we do see him take a leap of faith and decide to follow after God, something most of the kings of Judah and Israel seemed to have a hard time doing. When he became king of Judah, Jehoshaphat did what just about any king would do: he fortified the cities, strengthened his defenses, and prepared an army to protect his nation. But more importantly, he sought the God of David and served Him rather than the false gods of the nations around him. This guy instituted some pretty serious spiritual renewal efforts on behalf of the people of Judah. One of the most intriguing ones was his commissioning of  officials from his administration to travel around the countryside with a copy of the law and a couple of Levites, teaching the people God’s commands as revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Here was a king who took the law of God seriously and wanted his people to know it. Obviously, they must have needed a remedial lesson in the law or Jehoshaphat wouldn’t have bothered sending out his own officials to make it happen. In teaching them the law, he was enabling the people to know the will of God. If they knew the will of God, they would be less likely to disobey it out of ignorance. So Jehoshaphat not only fortified his kingdom physically, he strengthened it spiritually.

God blessed his efforts. Not only did Jehoshaphat’s kingdom grow strong, he grew rich. Even the pagan kings brought gifts to the king of Judah because the people of Judah were faithful to God. What an incredible reminder to us all of the need to make spiritual formation a foundational part of our lives. We will never know the will of God without the written Word of God. We will never know how to live in obedience to God if we never hear from Him. Jehoshaphat knew that a kingdom with military might was useless without the power of God made available through faithful obedience to His Word. We could learn a lot from the life of Jehoshaphat.

Father, without Your Word I am directionless and powerless. Never let me attempt to build my life on anything other than Your Word and Your will revealed in it. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 15-16

From Bad To Worse.

“He followed the example of Jeroboam, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. Thus, he aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel.” ­– 1 Kings 16:26 NLT

Rebellion always looks so appealing in the beginning. It tempts us with images of freedom, self-sufficiency, and a life void of all those confining rules. Most people refuse God’s offer of salvation because of all that they think they are going to have to give up if they accept it. They don’t want to give up their “freedom” and autonomy, so they reject God’s offer of grace for a life of independence and self-reliance. But rebellion against God has its price. And nowhere do you see this more clearly than in the history of the people of Israel. Their unfaithfulness to God and refusal to submit to Him as the only true God has led to a civil war and two divided kingdoms. In the north, Israel has continued its downward spiral of idolatry. Each successive king continues in the ways of Jeroboam, leading the people deeper and deeper into their rejection of God. But rather than learn from the mistakes of their predecessor, each king gets progressively worse. Chapter 16 of 1 Kings is full of murder, intrigue, plots, assassinations, suicide, military takeovers, and civil and political unrest. Their rebellion against God has led to anything but freedom. Basha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab. Not exactly household names, but their actions would make a lasting impact on the people of Israel. Their reigns were short, but their legacies were long-lasting.

Over and over again we read that they “aroused the anger of the Lord.” Why? Because they had rejected God and were making their own gods to worship. They had forsaken all that God had done for them and turned their backs on Him. A big part of their problem was ingratitude. They were ungrateful for God’s deliverance, protection, and provision of the very land in which they lived. Their very existence as a nation was completely the result of God’s call of Abraham hundreds and hundreds of years earlier. God had chosen to make them His people. He had redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt, guided them across the wilderness and delivered them into the Promised Land. And now they had turned their backs on Him – after all He had done for them. Their self-sufficiency and pride was intolerable. Their ingratitude was unacceptable. God would not allow His people to mock His name. Their rejection of Him would have consequences. Their desire for freedom would prove costly. But lest we look down our noses at the Israelites and judge them harshly for their actions, we need to remember that their story is our story. In many ways, our lives mirror theirs. We too can turn our backs on the very God who chose us, redeemed us, and delivered us into a new life of promise. We can make other gods to replace Him. We can turn our desire for freedom and autonomy into rebellion. It reminds me of the words of Peter:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you were not a people; now you are the people of God. Once you received none of God’s mercy; now you have received his mercy.” Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls. Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world. – 1 Peter 2:9-12 NLT

We were once not a people, but now we are the people of God. And we are to live like it. We belong to Him. Our lives are to honor and respect Him. We are to live in obedience to Him, so that all those around us can see the difference in our lives and honor the One who makes it all possible. Israel was to be a light to the nations. So are we. Their light had dimmed because of rebellion. What about us?

Father, I am more like the Israelites than I want to admit at times. I can rebel with the worst of them. I can desire my freedom so strongly that I end up turning my back on You. And sometimes I don’t even know I’ve done it. I erect replacements for You in my life and fail to recognize them for what they are – idols. Lord, never let me forget that I am what I am because of You. I was once dead in my sins, then You gave me new life through Your Son. I was a sinner, condemned and unclean, but You restored me, forgave me and cleansed me. Why would I ever turn my back on You? Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 13-16

The Power of Weakness.

“So Judah defeated Israel because they trusted in the LORD, the God of their ancestors.” ­– 2 Chronicles 13:18 NLT

These are bleak times in the history of the nation of Israel. The nation has split in two. The tribe of Judah represents the southern kingdom, while the remaining tribes have broken off and formed their own nation with their own gods and places of worship. It is the beginning of a cycle of rebellion and unfaithfulness in both kingdoms. But occasionally we are given glimpses of light in the midst of the darkness. Chapter 13 of 2 Chronicles is just such a time. War has broken out between Judah and Israel. Judah has an army of 400,000 warriors, but is still outnumbered two to one by the northern kingdom. The odds are against them. They are facing an army of superior strength. Yet Abijah, king of Judah confronts King Jeroboam of Israel and warns him to think twice about sending his army against the army of Yahweh.”Do you really think you can stand against the kingdom of the LORD that is led by the descendants of David? Your army is vast indeed, but with you are those gold calves that Jeroboam made as your gods!” (2 Chronicles 13:9 NLT). Abijah expresses his confidence in God even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable odds. “We are following the instructions of the LORD our God, but you have abandoned him. So you see, God is with us. He is our leader. His priests blow their trumpets and lead us into battle against you. O people of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed!” (2 Chronicles 13:11-12 NLT).

While the people of Judah had been far from perfect in their faithfulness to God, they had not yet rejected Him fully or replaced Him with gods of their own making. They still worshiped at the temple erected by Solomon. They still called on Yahweh for help in time of need. Jeroboam and the people of Israel had replaced God with golden calves. As always, this was going to boil down to a difference in theology, not numerical advantage or military might. As is so often the case in the Bible, the story would not turn out the way most people would have expected. Like the people of Israel facing the Egyptians at the Red Sea or David facing Goliath on the field of battle, the victory would not go to the strongest or mightiest. Judah was going to rely on what God had done, but Israel would end up trusting in what she could do. Judah would trust in the power of God. Israel would trust in their own strength. In making their own gods and establishing their own places of worship, Israel had rejected God and His power and provision. Rather than trust in the grace of God, they decided to lean on their own understanding and rely on their own strength. But their superior numbers would prove no match for God.

This story reminds me of the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthian believers: “Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). When I am weak, then I am strong. What a clear summation of the Christian faith. Strength in weakness. With God, all things are possible. But to avail ourselves of His power, we must first reject any idea that we have what it takes to do what He has called us to do. Judah knew they were outnumbered. But they also knew they had God. This battle would not be won on the basis of their own strength, but on God’s. “When Judah realized that they were being attacked from the front and the rear, they cried out to the LORD for help. Then the priests blew the trumpets, and the men of Judah began to shout. At the sound of their battle cry, God defeated Jeroboam and the Israelite army and routed them before Abijah and the army of Judah. The Israelite army fled from Judah, and God handed them over to Judah in defeat” (2 Chronicles 13:14-16 NLT). In a time of need, they cried out to God, and He answered. He fought on their behalf. He heard their cry and He answered their call. God is in the delivering business. He is the Lord of Hosts, the commander of armies. He wants to show Himself strong on behalf of His people. But we must first admit our weakness and cry out for His deliverance. We must rely on His infinite mercy and grace. Judah defeated Israel because they trusted in the Lord. What are the insurmountable odds you face in your life today? What battles do you find yourself in? Are you willing to admit your weakness and cry out to God for His deliverance? There is power in weakness.

Father, You are still in the delivering business. But I first need to admit my need for Your help and confess my own weakness. You want to show Your strength to me, not the other way around. Thank You for continually revealing my own weakness through the circumstances of life. May I increasingly turn to You for strength and victory in the battles I face. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 15

A Rare Breed.

“Asa did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, as his ancestor David had done.” ­– 1 Kings 15:11 NLT

One of the saddest, yet most repeated phrases found in the Scriptures is “But he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his father” (1 Kings 15:26 NLT). You see it over and over again in the history of the kings of Israel and Judah. It seems that virtually every king these two nations ever had were unfaithful and worse than the one before them. And only occasionally was the long line of losers broken by someone like King Asa of Israel. And the writer of 1 Kings makes it clear that this was God’s doing. “But for David’s sake, the LORD his God allowed his dynasty to continue, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem. For David had done what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and had obeyed the LORD’s commands throughout his life” (1 Kings 15:4-5 NLT). It was because of the faithfulness of David that God would allow an occasional king to rise up who would call the people back to a right relationship with Yahweh. Asa was that kind of a king. He breaks the pattern of apostasy and begins to do what was right in the eyes of God. Asa institutes a series of reforms, including the removal of the male cult prostitutes who “assisted” the men of Judah in their worship of false gods. He also removed the idols set up by his predecessors and took the bold step of removing his own grandmother as queen because she had assisted in the moral decline of Judah by erecting what was probably a highly obscene image or statue for the worship of Asherah.

Asa was swimming against the tide. He was battling a pattern of unfaithfulness and moral apathy that made his reforms especially hard to enact. The people would not have easily or eagerly embraced his reforms. Removing their idols and the myriad replacements for God they had grown used to turning to would have been met with skepticism and resistance. He probably was not popular in a lot of places within Judah. I doubt he had the best of relationships with his grandmother Maacah either. And while his reforms did not result in the complete iradication of idolatry from Judah, “Asa remained faithful to the LORD throughout his life” (1 Kings 15:14 NLT). He provided a 40-year respite from the pattern of moral and spiritual decay that plagued both Israel and Judah. During Asa’s reign in Judah, Nadab would come to power in Israel and he “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his father, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (1 Kings 15:26 NLT). Nadab would be assassinated by Basha, who would take over the throne of Israel. “But he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of Jeroboam, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (1 Kings 15:34 NLT). The pattern continues. Good and evil, faithful and unfaithful, righteous and unrighteous. But because God is in control and He has a plan for the people of Israel, He occasionally raises up a man after his own heart – a man who is willing to stand up for God and against the tide of moral and spiritual decay taking place all around him. God is still raising up individuals like that today – even with the church. Men and women who are willing to swim upstream and do the difficult job of calling the people of God back to faithfulness to God. The reality is, we can be just as prone to the erection of God-replacements in our lives as the people of Judah and Israel were. We can end up “worshiping” all kinds of things, turning to them instead of God for our comfort, encouragement, happiness, provision, protection, etc. Instead of trusting God, we can end up trusting a long list of other things that we expect to deliver what only God can. Like Asa, we need to do the hard task of removing the idols from our own lives and encouraging those around us to do the same thing. It won’t be popular or pleasant. But the life of faithfulness seldom is. We are called to be salt and light – agents of influence and change in a dark and dying world. Will it be said of us, they did what was pleasing in the sight of God? I hope so.

Father, You are still raising up a faithful few who will stand in the gap and do what is right in Your eyes instead of their own. You are calling out a remnant of faithful followers who will do the right thing, even though it is the hard thing. May I be one of them. May I live my life in such a way that I challenge the status quo and model a life of faithfulness in the midst of the rampant unfaithfulness around me. May I be an Asa in my generation. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 12

You’ve Got To Serve Somebody

“But they will become his subjects, so that they can learn how much better it is to serve me than to serve earthly rulers.” ­– 2 Chronicles 12:8 NLT

The first verse of this chapter could be the description of the lives of many of us as God’s children. “But when Rehoboam was firmly established and strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel followed him in this sin.” Just when things began to stabilize in his kingdom after the nasty split with the northern tribes, Rehoboam finds himself getting fat and happy. Things had settles down. His kingdom began to stabilize and his confidence began to grow. He had lost a big part of his kingdom, but he still had the tribe of Judah and the city of Jerusalem with the temple of the Lord. So just as things were looking up, Rehoboam stopped looking up – at the Lord. He took His eyes off the very one who gave his life stability. It says he abandoned the law of the Lord. In other words, he decided to abandon God and His ways. The Hebrew word used for “abandoned” is azab and it means “to leave, abandon, forsake.” It is the picture of a servant walking out on his master, abandoning his responsibilities, and deserting his post. Rehoboam had decided he did not want to serve God anymore. He wanted to serve himself. Isn’t that what sin is all about? Self-serving. It is making everything about us. We become the focus of our world. We make ourselves the gods of our own lives. Our wills become more important than God’s. But Rehoboam was going to find out the hard way that every man ends up serving somebody or something – and it is NEVER ourselves. For Rehoboam it would be King Shishak of Egypt. When he came against Jerusalem with his 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen, capturing with ease all the cities that Rehoboam had spent money and time fortifying, it got the peoples’ attention. And they humbled themselves before the Lord. But God knew they had a lot to learn, so He was going to allow them to become slaves to King Shishak, all so that they could “learn the difference between serving me and serving human kings” (2 Chronicles 12:8 NLT).

Ultimately, God wants His people to serve Him. We exist for Him, not Him for us. We have been created by Him and for Him. Yet we so often buy into the lie that God exists for our benefit and to bring us glory. And when He doesn’t serve us in the way we would like, we turn our backs on Him and decide to serve ourselves. We resort to “self-help” or better yet “self-service.” We become the focus of our world. We become the star of our play. We become central and God becomes secondary. But Rehoboam was going to learn that when all is said and done, we all have to serve somebody. We are going to serve God or we are going to serve somebody or something else. We never really do get to serve ourselves. It reminds me of a song written by Bob Dylan during the period of his life when he supposedly “got saved.” The lyrics are simple, yet profound.

Gotta Serve Somebody

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You’re gonna have to serve somebody. The reality of life in this world is that even the things you think are there to serve you end up becoming your master. Your money ends up controlling you. Your possessions end up possessing you. We become slaves of the very things we thought would serve us. We end up not being able to live without them. It’s all like taking a drug for pleasure only to have it become an addiction, controlling your life and destroying your future. We all have to serve somebody. Who are you going to serve? That was the question Joshua asked the people of Israel right before he died. And it’s still the question that each of us needs to consider each day of our lives. “But if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15 NLT).

Father, I have believed the lie so many times that I can be the center of my world. I convince myself so often that everything and everyone is here to serve me. But You have called me to serve You. You have called me to be a servant of others. Never let me lose sight of my role as Your servant. I exist for you and not vice versa. I don’t want to spend my life serving anything or anyone else but You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 10-11

Just How Sovereign Is God?

“Go home, for what has happened is my doing.” ­– 2 Chronicles 11:4 NLT

Chapters 10 and 11 of 2 Chronicles contains virtually the same information contained in 1 Kings 12 and 13, with a few exceptions. They literally chronicle the sad demise of Solomon’s grand kingdom as it splits into two separate entities. No longer unified under the banner of Yahweh, the northern and southern kingdoms go their separate ways, yet both unified in their pursuit of false gods over the one true God. God had “warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command” (1 Kings 11:16 NLT). God had told Solomon “I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants” (1 Kings 11:11 NLT), and that is exactly what He did. God orchestrated the entire thing. He raised up Jeroboam, a virtually unknown young man who was the son of a single mother. As he grew up, he became one of the workers helping to repair the walls of the city of Jerusalem, one of the many construction projects funded by Solomon. He was a hard worker and was later recognized by Solomon for his diligence and leadership. As a result, Solomon would make him a foreman over a team of workers. Little did Solomon know that this young man was going to be used by God to bring about the destruction of his own kingdom. When he did catch wind of Jeroboam’s anointing by the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11:29), Solomon tried to have him killed. But Jeroboam would flee to Egypt, only to return at a later date, when Solomon’s son Rehoboam was on the throne.

God was in charge. He always had been and always would be. He is in charge today. Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing is out from under His sovereign control and power. He rules and reigns over everyone and everything, whether we realize it or not – whether it looks like it or not. Rehoboam would go through all kinds of efforts to fortify against attack the cities remaining in his diminished kingdom. But little did he know that God was the one preserving the tribe of Judah. “But I will leave him (Solomon) one tribe for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel” (1 Kings 11:32 NLT). God didn’t need Rehoboam’s help in protecting Jerusalem or preserving the tribe of Judah. God had it covered.

At the end of the day, God’s will was going to be done. The same thing is true in our world today. Tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear disasters, wars, rebellions, egomaniacal despots, and well-armed military powers are no match for the sovereign will of God Almighty. He has been working His divine plan since before the creation of the world. He is never caught off guard, left empty handed, surprised or out of control. His will is always done and always done perfectly. The best schemes of men can not in any way alter the prefect plans of God. Rehoboam would declare war of Jeroboam. He could try and eliminate him as a threat. He could try and restore the kingdom to its former glory. But it would all be useless in light of God’s much greater plan. This was about much more than Solomon’s kingdom, Rehoboam’s reign, or Israel’s diminished influence in the Middle East. This was about God’s much larger story of the redemption of man. God had chosen Israel as His people from all the nations of the earth. He had chosen the tribe of Judah out of all the tribes of Israel. He had chosen David out of all the sons of Jesse. He had chosen Bethlehem out of all the cities of Israel. He had chosen the time of Augustus Caesar, when Rome was at its zenith in terms of influence, to send His Son to be born to a young virgin girl who was a descendant of David herself. God’s plan involved Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Mary, Joseph, Herod, Pilate, Judas and so many others. But it was about so much more than them. It was about God. It always has been. This is His story of redemption, and the star has always been and will always be His Son Jesus Christ. “What has happened is my doing!” Everything that has ever happened is ultimately God’s doing. Does God commit evil? Does God cause sin? Does God produce rebellion in the lives of those He creates? No. But He allows it. He tolerates it. He uses it. Man has always been free to choose his own way, to fulfill the desires of his heart, to make his own destiny. But at the end of the day, God is always in control. His will cannot be deterred or diminished. His way will always be accomplished. So when we face difficulties or trials, we can rest assured that God is in control. He is not asleep, away from His post, or unaware of what is going on. He is sovereign and He is at work. Rest easy. Relax. Rejoice.

Father, Your Word is a reminder of Your sovereign will. All the machinations of men cannot alter one inch the plan You have put into place for the world and all those who live in it. Earthquakes are no problem for You. Military powers are no match for You. Disobedient, rebellious individuals are no setback for You. What shocks and surprises us is nothing to You. You never worry, ring Your hands in anxiety, or cry Yourself to sleep at night in fear. Your plan is perfect and You are fulfilling it to perfection. Thank You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 13-14

Divided Kingdom. Divided Allegiance.

“There was constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” ­– 1 Kings 14:30 NLT

What a sad time in the history of the people of Israel. Gone are the glory days of Solomon. During his days, gold and silver were in abundance. Israel was wealthy, powerful, and influential. They enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. But now the kingdom was divided into north and south. The once powerful tribe of Judah was alone. The other tribes had split off and formed the northern kingdom of Israel. Their leader was Jeroboam, a former servant of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir to his throne. But in spite of their differences, the two kingdom shared one thing in common: They were both unfaithful to God. Rehoboam and Jeroboam had followed in Solomon’s footsteps, erecting idols to other gods. Jeroboam had gone so far as to establish a completely separate worship system for the people in the northern kingdom. He chose and ordained his own priests and set up his own holy cities. There he erected altars to the gods he had made – two golden calves.

God was not happy. But He wasn’t surprised either. He knew this was going to happen – after all, He’s God. And because He is God, He had to deal with the divided allegiance of both Judah and Israel. To Jeroboam He said, “I promoted you from the ranks of the common people and made you ruler over my people Israel. I ripped the kingdom away from the family of David and gave it to you. But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted him to do. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods and have made me furious with your gold calves. And since you have turned your back on me, I will bring disaster on your dynasty” (1 Kings 14:7-10 NLT). God had chosen Jeroboam and given him all he had. In return, Jeroboam had turned his back on God. He had disobeyed Him and chosen to serve gods of his own choosing. But Rehoboam was no better. “During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, arousing his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. They built pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites” (1 Kings 14:22-24 NLT).

So God was forced to deal with their disobedience and apostasy. In fact, you see throughout these two chapters, that God is serious about the obedience of His chosen people. Even the young prophet, “the man of God” whom God sent with a word of warning for Jeroboam, suffered death because he refused to obey God completely. It would be easy to look at these two chapters and paint God as a vengeful, angry god who wipes out all those who disagree with Him. But what you have is a picture of the holiness of God in the face of the sinfulness of men. God graciously chooses these men and gives them places of prominence and importance in His kingdom. He makes them a part of His divine plan. In return, He asks for obedience. He reveals His power to them. He makes clear His expectations. The writer of the book of 1st Kings works hard to point out that disobedience brings a curse while obedience brings blessing. The reign of Solomon is described in great detail, pointing out the tremendous blessings of God on the people of God as long as they obeyed Him. But beginning with Solomon we see a pattern of willful rejection of the commands of God. And God is forced to deal with the divided allegiance of His people. He has chosen them, set them apart for His glory, and established them as His own. Their response? They reject Him. They disobey Him. They turn from Him.

And the pattern continues to this day. We love to enjoy the blessings of God. As the people of God, we expect them – even demand them. We pray for, and fully expect to enjoy peace, prosperity, abundance, joy, health, happiness, and a relatively care-free life. And for the most part, we do. But what is our response to the blessings of God? More often than not, it is disobedience. It is divided allegiance. We end up making other gods, replacements for the one true God. We turn to other things for our happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, encouragement, peace of mind, and protection. We end up worshiping the gods of entertainment, money, materialism, pleasure, politics, career, sex, and even self. And then we are shocked and appalled when God is forced to deal with our unfaithfulness. We don’t understand how a loving God can deal so unlovingly just because we have turned our back on Him. But God so often disciplines us because He loves us. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” God wants us to obey Him because He wants to bless us. He wants us to enjoy His best for us. But He cannot tolerate our willful rebellion and rejection of Him. There are consequences for turning our backs on God. He continues to show grace and mercy, but He doesn’t turn a blind eye to our rebellion. To do so would make Him less than God. So, “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever ? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:7-11 NLT).

Father, help me to realize that my allegiance to You can become so easily divided. I can walk away from You so quickly and pursue gods of my own making. And yet, when I do, I am shocked when I suffer the consequences. I almost demand that You bless me. I want the blessing without the obedience. But that is not the way You work. You demand obedience. You have already blessed me is so many ways. You have chosen me, saved me. redeemed me, and promised me eternal life. In return, you ask that I trust You, obey You, follow You, and remain faithful to You. But I don’t want to obey You out of fear or some sense of obligation, but willingly and gratefully, because of all that You have done for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 12

A Turn For The Worse.

“After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” ­– 1 Kings 12:28 NLT

Solomon is gone. But he has left behind a legacy far more significant than his wisdom, magnificent royal palace and powerful kingdom. His son, Rehoboam, would inherit his throne, but also his love of women and his habit of worshiping the gods of his foreign-born wives. We are told in 1 Kings 11 that while he was still alive, Solomon “followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done” (1 Kings 11:5-6 NLT). As a result, God warned Solomon of he consequences of his rebellion. “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates” (1 Kings 11:11 NLT). God would choose Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s servants, and give him ten of the tribes of Israel. Later the tribe of Simeon would later migrate north and join the northern tribes, leaving Rehoboam with only the tribe of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Solomon’s once powerful kingdom would be no more. And God makes it clear why all this was going to happen: “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did” (1 Kings 11:33 NLT).

In chapter 12 we see all that God had predicted taking place. It is almost painful to watch as Rehoboam, the son of the wisest man who ever lived, effectively destroys all that his father had spent years building. Rehoboam is the consummate expression of the fool lived out in real life. He refuses counsel, is wiser than his elders, and rash in his decision making. His foolish leadership causes the people to rebel, splitting the kingdom in two. Even in the northern kingdom, now led by Jeroboam, they end up walking away from God, worshiping gods of their own making. “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there” (1 Kings 12:28-30 NLT). A split kingdom with two rulers, both with divided hearts. Somehow they both forgotten all that God had done for them. They had failed to remember that God had made them a people. He had given them this land. He had made them His own. He had set them apart for His use and for His glory. But they had made this story all about them. It was their will in place of His. It was their way rather than His. In their eyes, God was replaceable. They didn’t stop worshiping. They just stopped worshiping Him alone. They turned to other gods, rather than to the one true God. They created gods they could control – gods of their own making. And that tendency is alive and well among men today. We are still finding ways to make replacements for God in our lives. We look elsewhere for someone or something to bring us comfort, peace, joy, fulfillment, pleasure, power, confidence, and acceptance. We end up making idols out of just about everything. We worship and adore all kinds of things besides God. And the easiest way to discover what it is we worship is to look at where we spend our time, money, and attention. What do you worry about the most? That is your god. What do you think about the most? That is your god. What do you look to to bring you pleasure? That is your god. Where do you turn when you are in trouble? That is your god. Rehoboam and Jeroboam were both guilty of turning from the one true God to seek after false gods. But their spirit of rebellion didn’t die with them. We have inherited their tendencies. We are tempted to do the same thing. But do we recognize it? Will we turn from it? In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines an idol this way, “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Simple, straightforward and convicting. We could each stand to examine our lives and see what we have placed on the altar of our hearts in place of God.

Father, You alone are God. Forgive me for erecting my own gods in an attempt to meet my own needs and live my own life according to my own terms. Help me to learn from the lessons of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Open our eyes so that we might see the replacements for You we have allowed to come into our lives. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 31

The Godly Woman.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” ­– Proverbs 31:30 NLT

We are a surface-only society. We are intrigued by externals and have no desire to look too deep. Having grown up on a steady diet of TV and movies, we are prone to judge others by their looks, the clothes they wear, or the kind of car they drive. The usual thing we ask one another when we meet for the first time is, “What do you do?” At the grocery store checkout line we are surrounded by images of beautiful people on the cover of magazines that offer us solutions to all of life’s problems – from how to have better sex to how to make millions with little investment or energy. We live in a society where image is everything. Andy Warhol’s famous “15-minutes of fame” has stretched into the length of a 30-minute reality TV show, with everyone from lobstermen to ice-truck drivers turning into household names. Other than the tabloid rumors we hear about various celebrities, what do we know about these TV and movie stars we watch each day? How well do we really know the beautiful actresses and recording artists who grace the magazine covers or walk the red carpet at star-studded events? But it doesn’t stop there. Think about the people you attend church with. Which ones tend to catch your eye? Probably the beautiful ones – those handsome, successful-looking individuals who wear the latest fashions, drive the nicest cars, and carry themselves with a sense of confidence. But what do we really know about them? What are they really like on the inside?

In this final Proverb, we read those famous lines about the “Proverbs 31 woman.” This unnamed, unknown woman has become an icon of virtue for women around the world. She has been held up as the poster-woman of what it means to be a godly woman. For some she is a model to follow, providing them with motivation to pursue excellence as a woman. For others, this woman represents an unachievable and unrealistic picture of the godly woman that always leaves them lacking. For them, the Proverbs 31 woman sets too high a bar. But the real story behind this woman begins on the inside. Her accomplishments are impressive, but they are nothing compared to what really makes her tick – her fear of the Lord. She was first and foremost a godly woman not because of all that she DID, but because of who she KNEW. She knew God and feared Him. She loved God and worshiped Him. Her actions and activities flowed from a heart that loved and feared God. In our society, looks are everything. Beauty and attractiveness are what matters most. How we appear on the outside means far more than what we are like on the inside. But as the writer of Proverbs 31 states, “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting.” Looks can be deceiving. You can’t judge a book by its cover – but we do – every day of our lives. Beauty doesn’t last, but that doesn’t stop us from making it the primary criteria upon which to build our relationships. We love beautiful, successful-looking people. But the woman of Proverbs 31 was successful on the inside. She was charming, but it was a charm that flowed from a truly loving heart. It was not fake or manufactured charm. She was probably beautiful, obviously hard-working, and highly successful. But without the fear of God, none of this would have had any value. She was a wife of noble character. Isn’t that what our world really needs? Isn’t that what the marriages in our churches really need? Isn’t that what we should want for our daughters? But in our celebrity-saturated society, noble character is hard to come by and seldom even looked for. We live in a world where it’s more important that you BE a character than have it. Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus – the list goes on and on. They’re in the news. They are the news. They are the picture of what it means to be “successful” in our society. But King Lemuel reminds us what real success looks like. And it begins with integrity, character, and a fear of the Lord.

Father, we celebrate the wrong things in this world. We elevate the wrong behavior. We accentuate the temporal and downplay the eternal. Show us how to model godliness and promote it in the lives of our young people. Help us to understand the value of character that is based on a fear of You. We need depth in our lives. We need to know what really counts and what will really last. Charm can deceive and beauty fades away with time. But godly character lasts forever. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men