Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.” (2 Samuel 24:17 NLT)
David and Gad

Many of us, when confronted by our sin, will justify or blame shift.  David was a man that understood justice, and therefore, God could give him mercy.

David numbered Israel, and for some unexplained reason, it displeased the Lord.  In (v. 3), Joab tries to admonish David.  Some say that before any significant sin, God tries to warn us.  In (v. 10), we see that what human words could not do, the conviction of God accomplished.  In this verse, we see no justification or shifting of blame for his action. He simply said that he was foolish, which is the best explanation of any sin we might commit.

God sent Gad, the Prophet, to give David his consequence for his sin.  He had three options (v. 13); seven years of famine, three months fleeing before his enemies, or three days of pestilence. David chose the shortest but the most severe punishment.  He had learned that God is far more merciful than man.

 In (v.16), God suddenly instructs the destroying angel to put away his sword, and the pestilence stops before the appointed time.  Mercy always triumphs over judgment (James 2:13 NASB). David sees this unfolding and renews his repentance (v.17).  He tells the Lord that it is his sin and asks God to punish him and not his people. The goodness of God always leads us to repentance.

Those who accept God’s justice, most freely receive mercy.  I don’t pray much for justice anymore; I am afraid I might get it.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of  “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Thy Will Be Done

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
 (Matthew 6:10 KJV)
This verse instructs us how to pray.  God desires that his will be done on earth as is in heaven.  How does this happen?  It happens when God’s will takes precedence over ours.

The commentator Matthew Henry once spoke about our life on this earth as being a “probationary trial.  Every person’s life is their opportunity to do what will prepare them for heaven.”   Such an interesting concept.  Everything we do in this world is actually on the job training for our ultimate role, to “reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).

So, what is this training program that will prepare us for heaven? It’s called discipleship.  The root word discipline suggests guidelines for our conduct and consequences for living outside of those reasonable requirements.   Jesus always applies discipline lovingly and compassionately, but he was the one who said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take us his cross and follow me (v. 4).  It is more about self-denial than self-fulfillment.

When you pray, “Thy will be done,” it often means that your will may not be done. Even Jesus told his Father that he did not want to die, but added it was not about what he wanted, but what his Father desired.  This is not a popular message in some parts of the church today, but popularity has never been a litmus test for Biblical truth. 

Is your prayer life conforming your will to God’s, or trying to do the opposite?  If the former is true, you are bringing a measure of heaven to earth and preparing yourself to rule and reign with Christ.  Not my will, Lord, but thine.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of  “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Thursday, July 4, 2019

So Help Me God

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!(Psalms 121:1-2 NLT)

Washington Praying at Valley forge
As we celebrate the birth of our nation again, it might behoove us to dwell on the man most responsible for its formation, George Washington.  Tradition has it that he was responsible for including this phrase in the title of this blog to the oath of office of the President. Whether he did or didn’t, the meaning behind this expression was prominent in his life.

Washington was a Godly man.  It is well documented that after taking the oath of office on the Bible, he would kiss it.  He set a righteous example as he discouraged cursing among his military officers.  God raised this man up and preserved him.  In the French and Indian War, a Native American Chief fighting against Washington was in awe of his invincibility.  After one battle, Washington had four bullets lodged in his coat, and two horses shot out from under him, with hardly a wound.  Though he led from the front rather than the rear as most generals did, they could not kill him.  This Chief convinced that the “Great Spirit” had preserved Washington, prophesized that “he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn, will hail him as a father of a mighty empire!” 

Sadly, the House of Representatives, recently, removed “So help me God” from their oath of office to avoid what they call a religious test.  Our founders believed in freedom of religion, we devolved into freedom from religion.  Also, Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, where Washington attended while he was President, removed a commemorative plaque because of his ties to slavery.  Washington was not a perfect man just like you and me, but it should not negate all he did for this nation.  Slavery was a blight on the history of this country, yet redemption is available for the sins of our past.  Some would hold us in bondage for the misdeeds of our ancestors.  I can be sorry for that in which my descendants were involved, but I cannot repent for that of which I have not done.

This country can only be explained by the providence of God.  It is not about our wealth or might, though God has given us both of these things.  It is due to men and women who came to our shores seeking the freedom to worship their Creator as their consciences dictated, and God did not disappoint them.  If we remove from our minds the collective consciousness that this nation was formed by the intervention of a divine hand; using good but imperfect people who are inadequate in themselves and therefore need wisdom from Heaven to continue this experiment in democracy, God help us!

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Friday, June 28, 2019

Dying Daily

 For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. (1 Corinthians 15:31 NLT)

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria
Athanasius, one of our early church Fathers, said, “If we live as though dying daily, we won’t sin.”  His take on Paul's words was that if we understand the uncertainty of life, it will determine how we live.

If our immortality is always before us, it will cause us to make decisions based on an eternal and not temporal perspective.  When we sin by gratifying the flesh in forbidden ways, are we not choosing short-term gratification over submission to God’s laws?  Athanasius continues in his thinking by saying, “but daily expecting death, we will abandon wealth, forgive everyone for everything, and won’t harbor lust for women or any other foul pleasure.” 

As I set about to write this piece, I hesitated.  I thought an overemphasis on death may be a little morbid or severe.  Yet, when I pondered this, I wondered if the influence of the world on the modern-day church had blinded us to the mentality of our church fathers. Has easy-believism and hyper-grace distorted the theology held by the first-century church?  In this devotional, more than instruction, I have been thinking out loud.  Ponder the questions that I have posed and make up your own mind.

Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria and defender of the faith, finished by saying, “For the dread and danger of torment always destroys the ease of pleasure. It lifts up the soul that is likely to fall.”  I must admit that my conclusions about his thoughts are still in flux, but I am sure that anything that will help the modern church deal with sin, we desperately need.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Absalom Spirit

 Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. (2 Samuel 14:25 NLT)
Absalom was a handsome man, and humanly speaking appeared to be without a flaw.  Yet, people can portray on the outside what they are not on the inside.  The Absalom spirit promotes a false narrative.

The False Narrative (2 Samuel 15:1-6 NLT)
Absalom hired fifty footmen to appear impressive.  When people came to the city gate for judgment from the King, he told them that they had a strong case, and if he were the judge, they would get justice. He did not let them bow to him but embraced them.  Absalom led them to believe that he was just like them, and he was on their side.  Though he never outwardly stated it, but plainly implied that the King did not care for them as Absalom did.  The problem was that his intent was not to help the people but usurp the kingdom from his father, David. He did all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

If you create a false narrative you can manipulate any group of people, and that is just what Absalom was able to do.  If you tell people a lie long enough, they will start to believe it and begin to act accordingly. The only solution for the Absalom spirit is for the untruth to be eliminated.  This is why Absalom had to die.  If he had lived, the false narrative would have been perpetuated.  Joab, who killed Absalom, disobeyed an order of an overly indulgent father (2 Samuel 18:5), but in doing so did great service to the King and all Israel.

We can fight the Absalom spirit by countering a lie with the truth.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Servant and Friend

I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15 NIV)
When we become a friend of Christ, are we no longer a servant?  Or, does friendship with Christ make us a more perfect servant?

Jesus calls his disciples friends, but they were still servants.  A quick reading of this could lead us to conclude that a servant and a friend are two separate categories.  Scripture must always be compared with other scripture before we can interpret it correctly.  If there was ever anyone who was a friend of Christ, it was the Apostle Paul.  Yet, at the beginning of the Epistle to the Romans, Paul says, “Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ,” not a friend of Christ.  Adding friendship to service is determined by our motivation for serving.  Service to Christ should never be just legal or compulsory in nature.  We serve Christ because we want to, not because we have to, based on genuine affection.  It is possible to serve Christ and not be his friend, but it is not possible to be his friend without a desire to serve him.

Context is essential for understanding the meaning of any verse of scripture. The previous verse (14), Jesus tells them that his friends do what he tells them to do, and what is that?  To lay down their lives for their friends (13). Discipleship only happens through obedience, and without it, you will never be friends with God.  Friends confide with each other, and  God reserves his secret thoughts for his servant friends. It is not servant or friend, but servant and friend.

Are you and I friends with God?  Only the Lord knows that.  Friendship with God is like possessing humility, if you have it, you don’t recognize that you do.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Uriah, A Man of Integrity

Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents,[a] and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”
 (2 Samuel 11:11 NLT)
David and Bathsheba

Uriah was a man of integrity, yet I have never heard a sermon preached about him.  Our righteous acts on occasions seem to go unnoticed, but the best rewards are those of an eternal nature.

King David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.  David then had arranged to have Uriah killed in battle to cover up his sin (vs.14-16).  Before this, David devised a plot to bring Uriah back to his wife from the battlefield to mask the identity of the child that David had spawned (vs. 6-10).  Because the Ark and army of God were camped in the field, he refused to go home and sleep with his wife.  Uriah’s reward for his selfless act was that he lost his life.  We live in a fallen world, and often the innocent reaps the consequences of other peoples’ wrong choices.  If we read this story just from a human perspective, it can appear to be a tragic event.  But remember, God never misses one of our righteous acts, and he never, ever forgets. 

We must interpret the events of our lives from an eternal and not just a temporal viewpoint.  Doing righteous acts and receiving a blessing is a good thing.  Continuing to do good when you are only receiving bad is a great thing.  Someone once said, “do right because it is right to do right.”  Uriah was a man that did well, and I can just imagine the reception he received when he arrived in heaven.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing