...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
ISAIAH 40:31

A Blog for Kids and Everyone.

This is a journey through God's word. The Bible is so amazing! There are a lot of great stories. Some that we know well and some will surprise us. We will have a lot of fun as we color, watch short cartoons and tell funny stories.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Introduction to Job and (Job 1)

 The book of Job is believed to be one of the, if not, the oldest book in the Bible. It was probably written in Abraham's lifetime during the Genesis time period. It is also believed to be written by Job himself as he recorded his own experiences.
  The story of Job is a hard one. He suffers many losses and experiences deep pain, but the story is not really about Job's suffering, but more about how we tend to put God in a box. We expect God to think like we do and to act like we do. But His ways are way above our ways and His thoughts are way beyond our intellectual capacity. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

  In the land of Uz there was a very rich man named Job. (pronounced jobe) He was not only the wealthiest man in the region, he was also blameless, upright, feared God and shunned evil. Blameless doesn't mean that Job never sinned, it means that he would confess his sins, offer sacrifices and repent. Job had ten adult children, thousands of sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys, and many hired hands to help with the farm and many servants. Job would pray for his family and ask God for forgiveness on a regular basis.....just in case they had sinned.

 One day the angels were presenting themselves before God and Satan was there. God looked at Satan and asked him was he had been doing. "Oh, just going back and forth over the earth." Satan Replied. "I have been watching everything that has been going on."
 "Well then, I am sure that you noticed my servant Job." God said and then continued. "He is the finest man on the face of the earth. He is full of integrity and will have nothing to do with evil at all."
  "Of course not!" Satan retorted. "You shield him and his family from any adversity. You protect them all and you have given Job amazing wealth! That is why he loves you! Take away his stuff and we will see what Job is really made of. I'm sure he will curse you to your face!"
  God answered, "Alright! You may test him. Now you have access to all he has. Do what you will, however, do not touch a single hair on his head."

  One day a messenger arrived at Job's house. "Job, the Sabeans raided your land! They stole all the oxen and donkeys and killed all your farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."
  While he was still speaking, another messenger showed up. "Fire has consumed the sheep pen. All the sheep and the shepherds have been killed. I am the only one left to tell you what happened."
  And while he was still speaking, a third messenger came in. "Three bands of Chaldean raiders have come onto your property. They have stolen your camels and killed all your servants except me."
  I'm sure by this time, Job was thinking what else could happen. Sure enough, before the third messenger was finished speaking, another came in with the worst news of all. "Your sons and daughters were having a party at the oldest brother's house when a fierce wind stirred up from the desert. It swept across the farm and leveled the house. All inside were killed. I am the lone survivor to tell you of this devastating news."
 Job stood up, obviously in deep heartbreaking grief. He tore his clothes and let out a loud cry! He shaved his head and fell on the floor before God. "I came into this world completely naked, and I will be stripped of everything when I die." Job cried out and then continued "The Lord has given me everything I have, and now He has taken it all away..... Praise the name of the Lord!"
 Even though Job was in deep sorrow, he never sinned by cursing or blaming God.

  It is really hard for us to understand why bad things happen. People get hurt. Things are destroyed. Hopes and dreams are crushed. And people die. God knows we are sad when these things happen, and He is right there with us as we grieve through it. God wants us to love Him, obey Him, worship Him and trust Him. Sometimes trusting Him is the hardest when bad things happen. But God delights in our praises, and if we can still trust him and praise Him in the midst of suffering, I'm sure He cherishes that kind of praise even more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Festival of Purim (Esther 8-10)

  So Haman was hanged that day. The Jews didn't have to worry about his evil schemes any more, but even though Haman was gone, his law was still in effect. The king gave all of Haman's property to queen Esther, and she in turn put her cousin Mordecai the Jew in charge of it. Then Esther brought Mordecai to the palace and introduced him as her cousin, and she once again addressed the king. "If my lord is pleased with me, please reverse the decree that Haman instated, that all Jews would be killed on March 7th."
"I wish I could my dear Esther," the king responded. "But you see, I gave Haman my signet ring and he stamped the decree with it. No one.... not even I can reverse the law." He looked at queen Esther and Mordecai for a while, then he said. "Haman is dead because he wanted to annihilate the Jews. Now go ahead and send a message to the Jews in the king's name, telling them whatever you want, and seal it with the king's ring.  Remember, whatever is written in the king's name and sealed with this signet ring, cannot be revoked."

  On June 25th, Mordecai summoned the king's secretaries and had them write down the new decree that was to be instated. He had the decree translated into the language of the different territories. He then sealed the decree with the king's signet ring and sent if off swiftly on horseback tall all 127 provinces of the kingdom.
  Mordecai was smart. He wasn't able to stop Haman's law into going into affect. But he was able to instate an new law that said.... On March 7th of next year, all Jews can band together and fight or kill in order to protect their families. Mordecai knew that a lot of people in the kingdom would not risk their lives against a group of Jews.And he was right. On March 7th of the next year, the Jews banded together in large numbers to protect themselves and their families. Well not very people dared to attack the Jews. Even the governors, princes and royal officials sided with the Jews, because they all feared how powerful Mordecai the Jew had become.
  There were a few violent outbreaks for the next two day.s The Jews ended up killing a couple hundred people, including Haman's sons. Finally when the decree time had passed, the Jews rested and celebrated., with a festival and gift giving.

  Mordecai knew that this was an important 2 day event for the Jews. He sent out a decree that these two days should be celebrated every year with large festival and gift giving to each other and to the poor. This would commemorate a time in Jewish history when they gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned to gladness and their mourning into joy.
  They needed a name for this new holiday. Mordecai thought for a while, then he remembered how Haman had decided on which day to have the Jews killed. Haman cast lots. The lots were called purim. (It was sort of like rolling the dice in biblical times) So, in agreement with Queen Esther, the two day feast was called the Festival of Purim (named after the lots).

 The Jews agreed to celebrate the Festival of Purim every year. They would tell their children to continue the festival, and to tell their children to continue and so on. And now, the Festival of Purim is still celebrated till this day.
  King Xerxes promoted Mordecai to prime minister. He was second in authority to only the king himself. Mordecai was revered throughout the kingdom as a man who not only looked out for his people, the Jews, but also as a friend to all the people in the kingdom.

  The book of Ester is an amazing true story. Even though God was never mentioned in the entire story, He was at work all along. Sometimes we feel like God is not present.... but He definitely is. He has a plan and sometimes things get worse before they get better. But even when it is worse, He is right beside you.

Next time we will begin the fascinating Book of Job.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Tables Are Turned on Haman (Esther 6 and 7)

  The king had just asked Haman what should be done for the man that the king wishes to honor. Haman, thinking that the king was talking about him, gave the king a very impressive list of things he could do. The king loved all Haman's ideas. Haman could not wait to tell his friends and family about this!
  King Xerxes said to Haman. "All these things will be done!" The king continued as Haman grinned from ear to ear, "Hurry and get the robe and my horse and do all the tings just as you have said for Mordecai the Jew who is sitting at the gate of the palace."
  Haman was speechless. "Mordecai the Jew?"He thought to himself. "I had gallows built to hang him and I was going to ask the king's permission, and now he wants to honor him?.... and I am the one that is going to carry it out?! This is terrible!" Haman grumbled to himself as he made it way out of the palace and to the palace gate to get Mordecai.

  Haman took the robe and put it on Mordecai, placed him on the king's own horse and led him through the city square. As Haman led Mordecai around the square, he shouted, "This is what  happens to those the king wishes to honor!" Haman did as the king asked, but on the inside, he was feeling humiliated, dejected, unappreciated and like a fool.
   When it was over, Mordecai returned to the city gate and Haman hurried home. When he got home, Haman told his wife, Zeresh, and all his friends what had happened. Haman went on for hours, telling everyone how humiliated he felt and that Mordecai the Jew did not deserve any of it. If anyone did, it was he himself. While Haman and his friends were still talking, one of the king's servants arrived to take Haman to Queen Esther's banquet. "I don't even feel like going now." He thought to himself.

  So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared for them. After a while the king asked Esther, "So what is it you want my dear Queen Esther? Please tell me."
Esther answered him, Please my lord, if you are pleased with me, please spare me and my people. If we would only be taken as slaves, we could live with that, but a decree has been sent out to kill me and my people. I hate to bother the king, but it really is a matter of life and death."
  "Who would do such a thing?!" the king demanded. "Who would dare touch you?"
  Esther relied, "It is the evil Haman, my lord. He is our enemy." Haman grew pale with fright right before the king and queen. Then the king jumped to his feet in a rage and went into the palace garden to think. Haman and the queen stayed behind.
  Haman began to plead with Queen Esther, "Please my dear queen, this is all a big misunderstanding. We can work this out. Please tell the king to have mercy on me!" Esther didn't say a word, but Haman could tell that his his words were not reaching her heart. He fell on the couch where Esther was reclining, then he grabbed her arm. She pulled back and he was leaning into her. Just then the king returned and saw Haman nearly on top of the queen. "Will this evil man even assault the queen right here in the palace before my very eyes?" The king shouted in anger.
  The kings attendants moved in quickly and grabbed Haman. The servants knew that the king was wondering what should be done to Haman. Then Harbona, one of the servants spoke up. "Haman has set up a Gallows seventy-five feet tall in hi own courtyard. He was determined to use it to hang Mordecai the Jew, the same man who saved your life."
  "Then hang Haman on his own gallows!" the king ordered. So they did as king commanded.
  The story is not over however, the decree that Haman issued was sealed with the signet ring of the king. No one can over rule the law. Not even the king himself. So the date was still set for the annihilation of all the Jews. We will see what happened next time.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Pride and Prejudice of Haman ( Esther 5 and 6)

   King Xerxes turned to Haman after queen Esther had invited them to another banquet and told Haman to be back again tomorrow. Haman left the palace on cloud nine. The king and queen have included him in their inner circle! He couldn't wait to get home and brag to his family and friends about how important he was. The only thing that interrupted his joy and excitement momentarily was Mordecai who was sitting along the wall of the palace in his sackcloth. He didn't stand or bow for Haman. This infuriated Haman.

  But by the time Haman made it home, he was bubbling over with pride and joy. He gathered his friends and family and told them all about how he was not only rich and that he had been promoted to be prime minister, but now the king and queen have invited him to, not one, but two dinner parties! He told them that the only thing that would make this day complete would be to get rid of Mordecai the Jew.
 One of Haman's friends spoke up. "Why don't you hire some carpenters to build and set up a gallows that stands seventy-five feet tall tonight, and in the morning, ask the king to hang Mordecai. Then you can enjoy your banquet without any aggravation."
  "I love that idea!" Haman exclaimed." With gallows that tall, everyone will be able to witness the hanging of Mordecai the Jew!" So Haman went right away and got his evil plan started.  The carpenters worked well into the night as Haman supervised the operation.
  Meanwhile, King Xerxes was tossing and turning all night. For some reason,(God), he just couldn't sleep. Finally, in the early morning hours, he asked a couple of servants to come and read the historical records of the kingdom. "If that doesn't bore me to sleep, nothing will." He thought to himself. So the servants began to read. The king was beginning to get a bit sleepy, when something from the records caught his attention. It was the account of how Mordecai exposed the plot of two palace guards to kill the king.
  "Yes, I remember that! Mordecai saved my life that day!' The king shouted as he sat up in bed. "Has anything ever been done to honor Mordecai?" He asked.
  "Nothing at all has been done for him. No reward or recognition has been given him" Answered one of the king's servants. Now the king was more awake than ever.

  Just then the king heard footsteps in the outer court and asked his servant to go see who was there. Now as it just so happened, Haman had arrived at the palace to ask the king to hang Mordecai that morning. "It is Haman." One of the servants replied.
"Oh good, send him in." The king ordered his servant. "I need some advice."
 So the servant escorted Haman into the presence of the king.
 "You are just the man I wanted to see." Said the king as Haman cracked a smile. "What should be done for a man that pleases me?" Now Haman's slight smile became a full-face grin. "Whom should the king want to honor more than me?" He thought to himself as ideas of how he would want to be honored by the king danced around in his head.
  "First of all," Haman stated, " He should bring out one of the kings royal robes as well as the king's  own horse with the royal emblem on it's head. Instruct one of the king's most noble men to place the robe on the honored person and then lead him through the city square." Haman was really dialing it up now. "Then have that noble man shout out as he leads the horse, 'This is what happens to the man the king wishes to honor!'"

 Sometimes our emotions (whether positive or negative) skew our perception of things. Haman's anger and pride blinded him to what was really going on. Ask God yo help you put you emotions aside and focus on the truth. He is the truth the way and the life. (John 14:6)
 Next time we will see how the tables were turned on Haman, and how God had everything in control all along.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mordecai Implores Esther to Petition the King (Esther 4&5)

  When Mordecai found out about the new law, he was dismayed. He and all his fellow Jews were going to face annihilation at the hands of all the people in 11 months because of it. Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes. (sackcloth and ashes were symbols of mourning and despair) He stood outside the gate of the palace wailing and crying bitterly. News of the king's decree swept through the kingdom and soon there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept and put on sackcloth and ashes.

   Some of queen Esther's maids saw Mordecai outside the city gates. They returned to Esther and told her how he was dressed and that he was weeping bitterly. Queen Esther sent some clothes with one of her servants for Mordecai to wear, because no one was allowed inside the palace walls in sackcloth, but he refused to wear them. So Esther ordered her servant, named Hathach, to go find out what what distressing Mordecai.
  Hathach went back and forth bringing messages to Queen Esther and Mordecai. Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree that called for the death of all Jews to give to Esther. Esther didn't even know about the law and she was shocked and upset. Mordecai urged Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for her people.
  "The whole world knows that anyone who approaches the king without being invited is doomed to certain death, unless the king holds out his gold scepter." Esther explained.
  Mordecai returned a message to the queen. "If you do not stand up for your people to the king, someone else will. But it could be certainly possible that you have been raised to royalty for such a time as this."

  Have you ever thought that maybe God put you in a certain uncomfortable situation for His purpose? Sometimes we try our hardest to get out of a situation, when God has worked it out to get us there! Don't ask God why.... ask Him what He wants you to do or to learn.

  Esther realized that Mordecai was right! "Go throughout the kingdom and ask all the Jews to fast and pray." She told him. "My maids and I will do the same. Then. even though it is against the law, I will approach the king. ...... and if I die..... I die."

  Three days later, Esther put on her royal gown and entered the inner court, which was just across from the king's hall. The king was sitting on his throne and looked in Esther's direction. She felt a lump in her throat and her legs felt weak as she wondered what fate awaited her.......Then..... the king held out his gold scepter to her. She let out a silent sigh of relief and glided toward the king.
  Then the king asked her, "What is your request my queen? Anything up to half my kingdom!"
  Esther responded, "If it please the king, let Your Majesty and Haman come to a special banquet I have prepared."
  The king turned to his attendants, "Tell Haman to come quickly. The queen has prepared a special banquet." So they went and brought back Haman for the banquet. They were all enjoying the banquet when the king turned to Esther and said, This banquet is nice, but please tell me what you really want. I will give you anything up to half my kingdom!"
  Esther replied. "This is my request and my deepest wish. If you are pleased with me and you want to grant my request, please come with Haman to another banquet that I will have prepared for you tomorrow. At that time I will explain everything."
  Esther wasn't afraid to ask the king. God was working behind the scenes and he put it in Esther's heart to delay her request another day. Next time we will see what God was up to.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Haman's Plot Against the Jews (Esther3)

  So, several years went by and Esther remained queen of Persia. She continued to keep her silence about her Jewish heritage. Her cousin, Mordecai, kept his position patrolling the palace grounds. Meanwhile, the king promoted a man named Haman to Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was the second most powerful position next to the king. Haman was an evil man. He was a descendant of Agag, who was the king of the Amalekites, the people who were Israel’s sworn enemy for generations (Exodus 17:14-16).

 Everyone was expected to bow down before Haman as he passed by, but Mordecai refused to bow. This made Haman very angry, and when he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, it made him even madder! Right then and there, Haman decided that it was time to get rid of not only Mordecai, but eliminate all the Jews.

  Haman approached King Xerxes, "It seems that there is a race of people scattered throughout your kingdom. They are disrespectful to the king and even their laws are different from ours. Sooner or later, they will cause big problems for you and the entire kingdom."

  "What do you suppose we do, Haman?" The king asked.
  "We must eliminate them completely!" Haman quickly replied with a slight evil smile across his face. "I have 375 tons of silver I'd like to donate to the royal treasury if this can be done."
  "Let it be done as you wish." The king replied. "But keep your money. Also here is my royal signet ring. You will need it to issue any decrees pertaining to the elimination of these people." 
  The king did not ask Haman for any details about the people that he was referring to. If he had, the king would have realized that he had many Jews as royal subjects and that the Jewish laws in no way interfered with the people obeying the laws of the kingdom. King Xerxes probably had no idea what he agreed to. He probably thought that he merely agreed to the execution of a handful of dangerous revolutionaries in his kingdom.

  Lots were cast to determine the best day of the year to execute all the Jews. It was determined that it would happen on March 7, almost a year later. Haman wasted no time in using the king's signet ring. So on April 17 the king’s secretaries were summoned, and a decree was written exactly as Haman dictated. It was sent to the king’s highest officers, the governors of all the provinces, and the leaders of each province in their own language. The decree was written in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with the king’s signet ring. Dispatches were sent by swift messengers into all the provinces of the empire, giving the order that all Jews—young and old, including women and children—must be annihilated on a single day. This was scheduled to happen on March 7 of the next year. The property of the Jews would be given to those who killed them. 

 The people of the kingdom were very confused. The Jews were their neighbors. Their children played together. Now they were supposed to kill them? It didn't seem right.

  God is always in control and every aspect of this time in history is no exception. He had a glorious plan. Right now it doesn't seem like it, but this is an amazing story. God allowed Haman to become prime minister. God already had Esther in place as queen and Mordecai in the king's circle. God allowed almost a whole year for the plan to be carried out through the casting of lots. (sort of rolling of the dice). 
  God had a plan then, and He has a plan today. He has a plan for your life and mine. He is in control of circumstances and He will give us opportunities to follow His will. Getting in on God's plan is not only being obedient, but it is also an exciting adventure! Pray for God to reveal complete knowledge of His will to you and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Col 1:9)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Esther Becomes Queen (chapter 2)

 When we left off last time, the king's men were getting ready to comb the countryside for the most beautiful virgins for the Miss Persia competition.
  Now there was a man named Mordecai that lived very close to the palace. He had a cousin named Esther, who was very beautiful. Esther's parents died when she was young, and her cousin, Mordecai took on the responsibility of raising the young girl as his own daughter. As a result of the "Miss Persia" contest, Esther had no choice but to be brought to the king's harem with many other young women. Mordecai warned her not to tell anyone that she was a Jew.
   Esther was placed in the care of a man named Hegai. Hegai was one of the king's top advisers and he was very impressed with Esther from the start. He treated her kindly and immediately ordered beauty treatments and assigned her the seven best maids to care for her..He also moved her and the maids to the best chambers in the palace.

  Why was Hegai so impressed with Esther right off the bat? Yes, she was beautiful, but I'm sure there were many beautiful girls that were brought to the palace. Beauty is not only an outward thing, it is also what is on the inside. Mordecai raised Esther to be a God-serving humble girl and Hagai noticed that right away. What do others notice about us right away? Does the beauty of God's presence in our hearts shine, or do we hide behind a proud attitude?

  Esther had not told anyone of her Jewish heritage, just as Mordecai suggested. Every day he would visit the palace and ask about Esther and how she was doing. The beauty treatments were very intense, and the continued for one full year! Finally it was time for the "Miss Persia" contest to begin. The women were given their choice of clothing and jewelry, but Esther accepted the advice of Hegai and wore what he picked out. The women were presented to the king one by one,  and when Esther's turn finally came, she was admired by everyone. The king was so taken with her, that he placed the crown on her head right then and there! All the rest of the women were taken to the king's harem and were cared for there for the rest of their lives, never to marry. It was very sad for them, so it was really a big deal to be selected by the  king.
   So Esther became queen and Mordecai became a palace official. All the while they kept Esther's nationality and family background a secret. As a palace official, Mordecai would basically patrol the palace grounds, making sure everything was in order. One day while he was on duty, he overheard two of the guards that were outside the king's private quarters talking. They were very angry with King Xerxes and planned to have him killed. Mordecai quickly passed this information on to his cousin, Esther, the queen. She then told the king about it and gave Mordecai credit for unearthing the plot. The king launched a thorough investigation into the allegations, and it was found to be true. The two men were then hanged in the gallows.

  The book of Esther is very unusual in the fact that it never mentions God once! As we read the story, we can see God at work. He is using situations and circumstances to allow people to be in the right place at the right time. As the story continues, observe how much God is involved in the whole book. Aren't our lives like that. We don't see God, but He is there, touching hearts, touching lives and using circumstances to further His plan of redemption. It is God's will that everyone come to a saving knowledge of him. (1Timothy 2:4)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Book of Esther (1-2) Vashti Banished

  Wasn't Nehemiah a great story? And it is all true....it really happened all those years ago. Now we are going to go back in time a little bit to  about 40 years before Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. The Bible is not in chronological order. Which means it isn't in order of how things happened. The book of Ester is set in Persia after Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon were overthrown by the Persian Empire. The story of Esther is set about 30 years after the temple in Jerusalem was built and Ezra was the prophet of the time. At this time most of the Jews are still scattered throughout Persia.

   Now there was a king of Persia named Xerxes. Here ruled over all 127 provinces, from India down to Ethiopia. He had been king for 3 years when he decided to throw a huge party for all the princes and military officials. The party lasted 6 months! Then just when you think the party was over, the king throws a 7 day party for his palace servants and immediate officials. In the meantime, Queen Vashti was throwing her own party for the women of the kingdom.
  On the seventh day of the party, after the king had a little too much to drink, he started bragging about what a beautiful wife he had. Then he sent some of his servants to go bring the queen to him so he could show off her beauty in front of all the other men. When the message was conveyed to Queen Vashti that the king wanted her to parade around in front of a bunch of men who had been drinking for seven days, she refused. Disobeying the king was unheard of at the time. A queen would never refuse the request of the king!
  As soon as King Xerxes heard about Queen Vashti's response, he became infuriated and called his consultants together and asked their advice, because they were experts in Persian laws and customs.
 "What must be done with Queen Vashti?" The king asked. "What does the law say about a penalty for a queen who disobeys her king?"
  One of the king's consultants whose name was Memucan answered. "Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but she has also wronged all the princes and the male subjects in the kingdom." He continued. "The queen's behavior will become known to all the women in the kingdom, and before you know it, they will begin disrespecting their husbands which will lead to disorder and chaos in your kingdom."
  One of the other consultants spoke up. "If it please the king, let Queen Vashti be banished from the kingdom and never come before the king again! ... And let her position be given to another who is more worthy! Also send out a decree that all wives must honor their husbands because he is the master of the household."
  King Xerxes agreed and the queen was banished from the kingdom, never to be heard from again. Soon the king began to regret what he had done. If he had not acted so prideful, he would have not requested that the queen come before him and all the men then she would not have had to refuse. He was sad because he missed her.

 The Bible says that pride leads to destruction. (Prov 16:18) and patience is better than pride. (Eccles 7:8) God does not like pride. Pride hurts us and God doesn't want that. If we humble ourselves, God will lift us up. (James 4:10) The next time you feel like showing off or bragging about yourself... remember that it may make you feel like a big shot at the time, but eventually regret will set in, just like it did for King Xerxes.

  Some of his advisors saw that the king was down in the dumps over the whole situation and one spoke up. "May your servants travel to each of the 127 provinces of Persia and bring back to most beautiful virgins. We will hold a Miss Persia contest and whom ever you choose, will be the next queen of Persia!" The king liked the idea and the servants were dispatched to find the most beautiful virgins in all the land.

  Next time we will get an inside look at the Miss Persia contest.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Against All Opposition, The Wall Is Completed (Nehemiah 4-13)

As soon as I, Nehemiah, had assigned each person or family a section of the wall, they immediately began construction.  And as soon as Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem saw that the people were beginning to build, they became furious. "We have already tried to discourage them." Geshem said.
"Yes, Nehemiah prayed and talked to the people and they were not discouraged." Tobiah added.
"We need to get others on our side." Sanballat said as he pounded his fist on the table.
  So the three men went to a section of the wall that we were building. I could see they were up to no good as they stood among a crowd of onlookers and began to make fun of us, hoping the others would join them. Tobiah pointed and shouted, "That wall is so weak that if a fox tried to walk along the top of it, the wall would crumble to the ground!" I prayed that my people would ignore the comments and that the crowd would not go along with Tobiah. And so we continued to build the wall.
 After a few weeks, the wall was about half complete. Saballat, Tobiah and Geshem were fuming! They sent messengers to the wall and handed me a letter. Here is what it said. "We have the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites on our side. If you do not cease in your attempt to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, we will attack." I prayed to the God of heaven that the threats were only just threats and that God would give me wisdom. So I stationed half the men as guards with shields and swords along the wall and armed the men that were working  on the wall with swords as well.

 The three evil men saw that we were not deterred. Progress on the wall continued and the they devised another plan. Again they sent messengers and handed me a letter. Here is what that letter said. "It has come to our attention that you are building the wall in order to rebel against your king in Persia and then name yourself as king over Jerusalem. If you do not stop construction of the wall immediately, we will inform the king of Persia of your plan and he will have you arrested and the people charged with treason." I sent a message back saying it was all lies and then I prayed for strength. Then we continued to build.
 We finally had the wall up, but still had not put up the gates and doors, which were important to secure the city. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem knew they had one last chance. They managed to bribe a man I knew named Shemaiah to try to trick me into meeting him inside the temple. I prayed, and God revealed to me that Shemaiah was working for Tobiah and Sanballat in order to discredit me. We continued to work on the wall. We hung the gates and doors. The wall was complete. And in only 52 days! The neighboring countries became fearful because they knew it was impossible to complete a project that would normally take a few years in only 52 days, and that God must be on our side. They were right!
  I called the prophet Ezra to read the law of God in front of the wall. Then the Levites reminded the people about how God was with us. Not only in the building of the wall, but throughout our history. From Abraham to Moses to the promised land until now, God has been with us the whole way. The people began to weep and confessed their sins. Then they made a vow to love God with their whole body, soul strength and mind, and to obey Him. Then we dedicated the wall to the God of heaven and rejoiced with songs, music, dancing, praying, worshiping and praising our God.
  I became governor of Jerusalem for 12 years the finally returned to king Antaxerxes. He was very happy to see me. I shared stories with him about how God has inspired, protected and been with us. I don't know if he realized that I would be gone for 12 years when I first left, but he received me back with open arms and he let me return to Jerusalem for a visit whenever I wanted. On one return visit, I found out that Eliashib the priest had emptied out one of the temple rooms and rented it to Tobiah for some of his personal belongings. As soon as I found out. I threw all of Tobiah's things out of the temple and replaced Eliashib with a Levite, a scribe and a priest, I knew all three men and trusted them. I also found out that some of the people and merchants were not honoring the Sabbath day. Before I returned to Persia, I prayed and then implemented some new rules.
  During the building of the wall, something that God inspired Nehemiah to do, there was so much opposition. There was an attempt to discourage the workers and they were made fun of, threatened, lied to and tricked. Notice what Nehemiah did each time. He prayed, then he planned and then he pushed forward. We should remember these three Ps when we are doing things for God and opposition arises (and it will). Pray, Plan, Push forward. God is on our side when we are called according to His purpose. He will guide you, protect you and give you wisdom.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Nehemiah Goes Back to Rebuild the Wall (Nehemiah 2-3)

  Last time Nehemiah was before the king of Persia, asking for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city. It was a request that could have landed him in the dungeon or put to death. Let's return to the story and let Nehemiah continue to tell you in his own words.

  As I stood nervously before Antaxerxes, the king of Persia, he turned to his wife the queen, then back to me and said, "Yes, Nehemiah, you can go back to the land where your ancestors are buried and rebuild the wall."
  I had found favor in the eyes of God, and thus in the king's eyes as well. So I continued my request. "If it pleases the king, I will be traveling through many territories on my way to Jerusalem, can you write letters to the governors of those territories giving me safe travel through their lands? And also can I have permission to bring along the lumber I will need from the royal forest?" The king granted me these things, for God had touched his heart. The king also sent along some of his army and horsemen to protect me along the way! Isn't that just like God to urge the king to give me far more than I had asked or even hoped for? (Ephesians 3:20)
  So I set out on the 800 mile journey from Persia to Jerusalem. No one knew my purpose, for I had not mentioned it to anyone except the king. However, three men, Sanballat from Horon, Tobiah from Ammon, and Geshem the Arab heard that I was on my way to help the Jews with something and they were not very happy.
 Three days after arriving in Jerusalem, (I still had not mentioned to anyone, not even the city council why I was there) I  took a couple men with me and slipped out one night after dark to survey the area around the city where the wall once stood.  The rubble was so treacherous in some places that even the donkey that I was riding was unable to navigate it and I had to go around those areas.
  As I lay in bed that night, praying for wisdom (James 1:5) and contemplating the task before me, I worked out a wall reconstruction plan in my head. So by the time morning had arrived, I called all the city councilmen to a meeting. I told them about how God had put it in my heart to build the wall, how God had touched the heart of the king, and the plan God had given me to build the wall.

  When God has something for you to do, He won't leave you hanging. He will be with you every step of the way. Continue to pray, ask for guidance and wisdom. God promises to  be your guiding light (Psalm 119:105) and to give you the wisdom to carry out His will.

  The councilmen replied all at once. "Good! Let's rebuild this wall!"  They were excited to begin and so was I, so we started to rebuild immediately. It wasn't long before Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem heard what we were doing. The scoffed and hurled insults and tried to discourage us, but I told them that God was with us and the wall would be rebuilt. Of course they didn't like my response, but it was the truth.
  Being in charge of the rebuild, I designated the men to work on different sections of the wall, and I had each family rebuild the part of the wall that was behind their own home. I knew this would save time and the men would make sure that the wall was built well near their homes. Everyone pitched in to help. Even the priest help build a part of the wall. The work was running smoothly.... but then...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Nehemiah (1and2) Nehemiah Decides to Rebuild the Wall

  It had been 100 years since God touched the hearts of the Persian kings and allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Judah/Jerusalem and 40 years since God's temple had been rebuilt. The book of Nehemiah is unique. It was written by Nehemiah in the first person style. Which means he wrote of everything that happened to him and around him from his vantage point. So we are going to let Nehemiah tell the story in his own words. So whenever you read the words Me or myself or I, it is Nehemiah talking about himself.
  Hi, my name, as you already know is Nehemiah. For the past one hundred years, my countrymen, the Jews, have been making the 800 mile trek from Persian back to Jerusalem. Many of my friends and family have made the journey. But I have remained here in Persian. Mostly because I have a comfortable life here. I work for the king and live in his palace. I am the king's cup bearer, which means I taste the king's drink and food to make sure no one is trying to poison him. Yes, it is a dangerous job, but it is also a respected job because the king trusts me. Sometimes he even asks for my advice on some issues that arise in his kingdom. But I do miss my friends and family.
  So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that my brother and some of his friends were returning to Persia for a visit. When I heard that my brother was inside the kingdom walls, I ran out to meet him and his friends. My heart was beating as I asked how he and all the returning exiles were doing back in Jerusalem. But my heart sank when my brother answered, "Not good."
  "Why? what is going on?." I asked.
  "Without a wall around the city, the people are afraid to leave their homes, especially the women and children." My brother answered and then continued."The men are fearful that some neighboring countries will send troops through the city and snatch up all the women and children and the temple has yet to be decorated with the ornate silver and gold pieces that originally graced the walls and sanctuary."
  The walls had been torn down and burned by the Babylonians more than a hundred years ago. I knew it was not good for the people to live in fear. How can people live a God honoring life if they are afraid to come out of their own homes? I became very sad for the people there. I even began to cry. For many days after I hears the news, I fasted and prayed to the God of Heaven. I confessed my sin and the sin of all my people. I reminded God of His promise to restore His people and His city if we returned to Him through repentance, worship and obedience. I prayed for about four months that God would do something to help the people. Then something changed. I felt God telling me that I was the one that He was calling to go and help the people and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.

  God is amazing that way. Prayer is not only asking God, but listening to Him. As we present our requests to Him, He slowly changes our hearts and guides us into His will. As you continue to pray for someone or some situation, listen. God may changing your heart and prompting you to be His tool for His purpose in that very situation!

  Ok, so I heard the clear voice of God. I was supposed to go back to Jerusalem, get the people together, and lead the reconstruction of the wall around Jerusalem. But there was one problem. Approaching the king with this idea was causing me much angst. The king did not even like if anyone was sad around him, let alone make such a life changing request. He could have me thrown in a dungeon, or even worse, put to death! I prayed that God would calm my soul and put just the right words in my mouth.
  I remember it was a beautiful spring morning. I had never appeared sad before the king before, but this particular morning I was feeling so much compassion for my fellow countrymen back in Jerusalem, that my face reflected my sadness. The king noticed and asked me what was wrong. I was
badly frightened, but replied. "Long live the king! I am sad because the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins. The wall has been torn down and the gates burned."
  Then the king asked, "What can I do for you?"
  "Ok.... this was my chance..... don't blow it." I thought to myself so under my breath I said a very quick prayer to the God of Heaven, and answered. "If it please the king and you are pleased with me as your servant, I humbly request that you let me go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city."

 Next time we will see if the king throws Nehemiah in the dungeon for asking such a thing, or if he grants his request. One thing we found out about Nehemiah so far.... he is definitely a man of prayer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Fall of Judah (2Kings 24 &25) and Ezra

 After Josiah, The next 4 kings were bad. (They didn't do right in the eyes of the Lord)  The kings led the people of Judah away from the Lord. They broke the covenant that God had made with them, which meant that their land would become desolate and the people would be scattered, just as it had happened to Israel 136 years earlier when they were taken over by the Assyrians. The four "bad" kings were Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah. During the third king's reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, surrounded Jerusalem. He went into the temple and carried out most of the gold and silver that was in there. He also took many of the officials and the king as captives. The people of Judah had one last chance to turn back to God, but the next king, Zedekiah, continued to turn his back on God. 

 God is the God of 2nd 3rd 4th and so on chances. Don't ever feel like you've crossed the line of forgiveness and that you can't come back to God. Just confess it to God (which means that you agree with Him that is was wrong) and repent. (Which means turning away from the wrong doing and turning back to God)

King Nebuchadnezzar and his troops continued to surround Jerusalem for the next eleven years. The food ran out and all the people fled. As they were fleeing, King Zedekiah was captured. Then Some of the Babylonians went into Jerusalem and destroyed walls of the city and burnt the temple of God to the ground. They took what few Jews that remained back to Babylon and made them servants and slaves. With all the people gone, the wall torn down and the temple destroyed, the message that the Lord had given through the prophet Jeremiah came to pass. 'The land laid desolate for 70 years.' During the seventy years, the Babylonian empire was taken over by Persia.  .... That concludes the book of 2Kings.
 The next two books of the Bible are 1Chronicles and 2 Chronicles. These two books are recounts of the two Kings books. They begin with the first King of Israel, King Saul, then David's life is recalled with a few more details and finally King Solomon.  After King Solomon died,  2Chronicles  tells of how Israel split into the north kingdom, (Israel) and the south kingdom, (Judah). Finally the fall of Israel and the fall of Judah were covered. So we will pick up our story seventy years after the fall of Judah in the book of Ezra.

 The book of Ezra picks up where 2 Kings left off. Babylon had fallen to the Persians and in the first year of Persian King Cyrus' rule, God touched his heart. The king made a proclamation that all the Jews that were in the land could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. The king also personally brought out valuable items that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple. Then he ordered that every single item that was taken from the temple be given to the Jews so that they could return them once the temple was rebuilt. Ezra chapter 2 covers a list of all the Jewish exiles that were returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Chapter 3 describes the first phase of the rebuilding, which was the altar, and then the beginning of the temple rebuild. In Chapter 4, the Jews face opposition when a new king is in charge. The Jews had to put the rebuilding of the temple on hold until the next king, Darius, became ruler of the Persian empire. He reviewed the decree of King Cyrus, and allowed the Jews to resume the rebuilding of the temple. With all the opposition to the rebuilding, it took over 40 years to complete, then Ezra the prophet returned to Jerusalem with many of the Jewish exiles. Chapter 8 of the book of Ezra gives family names of the returning exiles. Ezra made sacrifices in the temple and the people confessed their sins.

Sometimes God touches peoples hearts to fulfill His purposes. Sometimes He touches our hearts too. When God puts something on your heart it is called a burden. He wants you to act. But He won't force you to do anything. If we follow Jesus, we will have burdens placed on our hearts. God may want to bless someone through your actions. And guess what? Then we get blessed too! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Good and Bad Kings in Israel and Judah...... and King Josiah (2 Kings 8-23)

  Since Israel split in two after King Solomon died (1 Kings 11 and 12), the two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, there were many kings. Every single king in Israel was bad, and most of the kings in Judah were bad, with a couple of good ones sprinkled in. What do I mean by good and bad. The Bible answers this question. Bad king: He did what was evil in the Lord's sight. example..... 2 Kings15:9  Good King: He did what what pleasing in the Lord's sight. example .....2 Kings 15:3  The king had a lot of responsibility, including leading the people according to God's law. When the king went away from the Lord..... the whole country did the same. When the king followed the Lord.... the whole country did the same.
  Many years before this, God told Moses. "If you sin, I will scatter you among the nations." Well since Israel was led by one bad king after another, God finally did what He said He would do. In 2 Kings chapter 17, God swept the Israelites from the land. Assyria attacked Israel, set up their own kings, and sent many of the Israelites out of the land. God had warned them over and over, but the Israelites refused to turn back to Him. Since Judah was led by a good king every few years, God held off scattering them.... for now.
  At the end of 2 Kings 21, we meet the new king of Judah, Amon. He was a bad king, however, he only reigned for 2 years because a few of his servants killed him. So the people made Amon's son king. His name was Josiah and he was a good king. But the amazing thing was his age. How old do you think Josiah was when he became king? He was 8 years old! Some of you reading this are probably older than that right now! The Bible says that Josiah did not turn to the left or the right when it came to following God's law (2 Kings 22:2). Then when he was 26 years old, Josiah had a plan to restore the Temple of the Lord. The temple had been neglected for many years because the people just didn't care about the things of the Lord.
  A high priest named Hilkaih supervised the work. One day he noticed a scroll that was rolled up and stuck in the wall. Hilkaih knew what it was right away. It was The Word Of The Lord! He sent one of the men to go read the scroll to the king.
   When the king heard what was written on the scroll, he became very, distressed. The scroll said, "If you sin, I will destroy the city and I will scatter you among the nations." Right away King Josiah called the High priest. "Go to the temple and pray to God for me and for all the people of Judah."
  In those days, the high priest had direct access to God, Now through Jesus, we can go directly to God in Jesus' name. Josiah not only prayed for himself and guidance, he also prayed for all the people of Judah. What a great example for us! 
 When Hilkaih the high priest returned after praying in the temple, he had this message from God for Josiah. "When you heard what I said in the scroll about destroying the city and scattering the people , you were very distressed and filled with repentance. I have heard your prayers and I will not bring judgement on Judah while you are still alive.
  Josiah called all the leaders, all the priests and all the people of Judah together. He read the whole scroll to everyone. Josiah pledged to follow the entire scroll with his whole heart soul and mind. When the people heard what was written and Josiah's pledge, they pledged as well.
  Right away Josiah ordered that anything to do with idols and false gods be destroyed. He traveled to entire land looking for anything that went against God and destroyed it. Then the land of Judah celebrated the Passover, just as the scrolls had stated.
        We are so blessed to have the Bible. All of God's Word in one book!  The more we read His Word, the more our hearts and minds are transformed. Then we will have a desire to remove all ungodly things from our lives, just as Josiah cleared Judah of the ungodly things. Being good, as we saw earlier, is doing things that are pleasing in God's sight. The Bible speaks to our hearts in such a way, that we know what is pleasing to the Lord.  (Heb 11:6) (Rom 12:1) (1 Thes 2:4) (Phil 4:18)

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Four Lepers and The Enemy Camp (2 Kings 6- 7)

  Last time we saw that the Aramean army was led into Syria by Elisha after God had confused them. The king of Israel wanted to destroy them, But Elisha told him to feed them and send them back home.
  Well some time later, the king of Aram decided to surround Syria in an attempt to take it over. As a result, there was a terrible famine in the land. The king of Syria walked down the streets, becoming more and more distraught seeing the suffering of the hungry people. As he continued to witness the effects of the famine, the king became more and more angry at Elisha.... and God. "I should have destroyed the Aramean army when I had the chance!" He said. "I want Elisha arrested and put to death this very day!"
  Elisha was at  his home with some of leaders of Israel. God revealed the king's plan to Elisha and he told the men, "One of the king's men is on his way to arrest me, but don't open the door. I want the king to show up here personally so I can speak to him."
  Sure enough, a short time later, the king showed up at Elisha's house and angrily shouted, "It is the Lord who has brought this terrible situation on our land and people! Why should we wait on Him any longer? The people are without hope and starving!"
  Elisha calmly said. "The Lord has said that by this time tomorrow, the people will have more than enough food. They will have horses and livestock, and plenty of silver and gold!" One of the kings men replied. "Even God himself could not make that happen, even if He opened the floodgates of heaven." Elisha looked at him and said. "You will not be able to share in any of it."
  That evening, four men with leprosy were outside the city gates talking among themselves. Lepers were not allowed to live inside the city because of their contagious condition. "Why should we sit here waiting to die? We will starve if we stay here, and will starve if we go into the city." One of them continued. "We may as well surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway."
  Little did they know, but God had caused the whole Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses, so that it sounded like a huge army was approaching! The Army fled for their lives, leaving behind everything, including their gold, silver, horses and livestock. So when the four lepers entered the Aramean camp that evening, no one was there! They entered one tent after another, eating, drinking  and carrying out all the silver and gold. Then one of the lepers said. "Wait a minute.....this is not right. This is good news! We should go back and tell all the people about this. We should not keep this to ourselves when there are people on the other side of that wall who are starving to death."
  So they went back and told the gatekeeper the good news. He relayed the message to the king who thought it may be a trap. He sent a couple men to check it out. When they returned, they informed the king that it was true. Then all the people made a mad dash to the Aramean camp and ate and drank till they were satisfied. They carried out all the silver and gold. They also took the horses and all the livestock. So it was just as Elisha the prophet had foretold. The Syrian economy was booming and the people were overjoyed. But remember the guy that said that this was impossible, even if God opened the gates of heaven, and Elisha told him that he would not eat any of it?...... well he was trampled to death as he stood near the city gate!
  The four lepers had good news. They knew it was not right to not tell anyone about it. Did you know that the word "Gospel" means good news? The four Gospels are the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. So the story of Jesus is good news! If we know the good news of Jesus, it is not right for us to keep it to ourselves. Just as there were people starving in Syria because they didn't know the good news of the food that was just outside the walls of the city, there are people all around us "starving to death" and without hope because they don't know The Bread of Life, Jesus. The life-giving promise of Jesus is a free gift for all who believe and take the step of trusting Him. Jesus wants us to tell the whole world about Him. (The good news)  Matthew 28:16-20

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Elisha, the Floating Ax Head and God's invisible Army (2 Kings 6 & 7)

 The place that Elisha and the prophets would meet, was getting too small. So they decided to go down to the Jordan River, chop some logs and build an addition onto their meeting place. One of the men was chopping down a tree, when the ax head flew off his ax and landed in the water. The man was very upset. "That was a borrowed ax!" He cried. Elisha could see how upset the man was. He walked over to him, put his hand on his shoulder and told him not to worry. Elisha picked up a stick and asked the man to point to where the ax head went into the water. Then he tossed the stick into the river. The heavy ax head floated to the top! "Now reach in and grab it." Elisha told the man. So he did. God cares about us and He cares about the little things. Don't ever decide not to pray about something because you think it is too small for God.
   Meanwhile the king of Aram was up to his old tricks. He planned to attack Israel. He sent his troops in, but Israel was waiting for them and the Aramean army retreated. The king of Aram waited a couple weeks and tried again, but the Israelites were waiting again! This happened again and again. Finally the king of called all his officials together and demanded that the traitor step forward. But one of his men said to him. "It is not one of us, my lord. It is that prophet in Israel, Elisha! Apparently he is hearing from his God and relaying the message to the king!"
 "Alright! We know what we have to do. Get rid of the problem! I want one of our spies to find out where that niusace is staying, and tomorrow all our troops will decend upon him and destroy him!"
The next day, all the Aramean troops headed to where Elisha and his servant were staying. Early in the morning Elisha's servant heard a thundering off in the distance and went to the rooftop to see what is was. He screamed in fear for Elisha to come to the roof! "Look master! There are more horses, chariots and men than we can count and they are advancing toward us!"
 "Don't worry." Elisha said with a slight smile. "There are far more on our side than on theirs."
 The servant looked confused. He looked again, but all he saw were the Aramean troops.... and they were closing in! Then Elisha prayed. "Oh Lord! Please open my sevant''s eyes so he can see." When the servant looked up, the hillside was filled with heavenly horses and chariots of fire!
  We are in the middle of spiritual warfare.  We cannot even imaginine the angels and demons that are around us each day. But just as Elisha told his servant. " There are more on our side than against us.  Greater is He who lives in us than he who is in the world (1John 4:4)  Remember, when you are feeling fearful, God is on your side!
 Then Elisha prayed that God would blind the Aramean army. The Aramean army became confused and Elisha led them to Samaria. The king of Israel saw the army being led into Samaria by Elisha ansd he was so surprised. "What should we do with them?" The king asked Elisha. "Should we kill them?"
"Of course not!" Elisha answered back. "Feed them and give them something to eat and send them home." So the king fed them well and sent them back to Aram.
 In the first part of today's post, we see that God cares about the little things. In the second part we see that He cares about the big picture as well. In any situation we are in throughout the day....God cares. (1 Peter 5:7)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Naaman is Healed and Gehazi get greedy (2 Kings :5)

  The Armenean army was constantly attacking parts of Israel and taking captives. During one such battle, a young girl was taken and given to Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army, as a maid for his wife. The king of Aram thought very highly of Naaman and he was showing his appreciation  to him for being such a loyal subject.
  There was one problem however. Naaman had leprosy. Leprosy is a skin eating disease that eventually leads to death. The young Israelite girl watched Naaman as she did her maidly duties. She knew that God may have allowed her to be taken captive for this very moment. She approached Naaman's wife. "Our God is amazing." She began. "He can certainly heal your husband of his disease." Naaman's wife listened intently. "There is a prophet in Israel named Elisha." She continued. "I'm sure if you find him and ask him, God will work through him and heal your husband." The girl's words gave Naaman some hope. He left right away to seek a face to face meeting with the king of Aram.
  "I think you should go find this prophet right away!" The king said after Naaman had told him what the young girl had said. " I will write you a letter of introduction that you can give to the king of Israel. Also take 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of new clothes with you." The king added as he sent Naaman on his way.

  Naaman reached Israel and gave to letter of introduction to one of the palace guards who in turn gave it to the king. The letter said, " With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of leprosy." When the king of Israel read the letter, he became very upset. "This man sends me a leper to heal! Who does he think I am? God? I think this is all a trick or an excuse to invade us again!" The king shouted.
  News of the king's reaction reached Elisha. So Elisha sent a message to the king. "Don't get all upset. Send the leper to me. When he is healed, that man will know that the God of Israel is the one true God."
 So Naaman took his horses, chariots, gold and silver to Elisha's house and knocked on his door. Elisha's servant answered. "I'd like to speak with your master." Naaman requested.
  "Elisha the prophet said to to go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River." The servant replied. "But I have come all this way. Can't he even come out to meet me?" Naaman replied angrily. The servant answered back. "Didn't you come here to get healed? Then do as Elisha has said." Then he closed the door. 
  Naaman turned and stalked away. "I thought he's at least come out to greet me and maybe wave his hand over me, say a prayer and call on the name of the Lord and I would be healed. Go wash seven times in the Jordan river he says! Why seven times? And aren't there cleaner and larger rivers in Damascus that I can wash in?" Naaman shouted as he stomped off in a rage.

 Sometimes we tell God what we want and how we want Him to do it. I'm sure God is very amused by us sometimes. :) The Bible says that God's thoughts are above our thoughts and God's ways are way above our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) God wants us to trust Him, even if it seems unusual. In all God does there is a purpose. Perhaps in Naaman's case, God wanted to help Naaman with his control and pride issues. Trusting God means acting in faith. If we are not doing what God asks, we do not trust Him with the outcome.

  "Maybe you should give it a shot.." One of Naaman's officers said. "Yes! What do you have to lose?" Another added. "If the prophet asked you to do some amazing thing, wouldn't you have done it?  So why not do this simple thing and be cured."
Naaman swallowed his pride and took his officer's advice. He went down to the Jordan river and dipped himself seven times. On the sixth dip there was no change.... but on the seventh dip, Naaman rose out of the water and he was completely cured! Naaman went back to Elisha's house and this time Elisha came out to greet him. "Now I know that there is no other God than the God of Israel" Naaman said."Here take this silver and gold as a token of my appreciation." He added.
  "No," Said Elisha. "I will not accept any gifts." No matter how much Naaman urged him, Elisha refused to accept any of the gifts. So Naamn went on his way filled with joy at what the Lord had done.
 But Gehazi, Elisha's servant, said to himself. "My master should not have refused such precious gifts. I will chase after Naaman and and get something from him." When Gehazi finally caught up with Naaman he said to him. "Guess, what? My master has changed his mind because two young prophets have shown up to his home unexpectedly. He would like 75 pounds of silver to help pay for their needs."
  "Why certainly!" Exclaimed Naaman. "Take 150 pounds of silver!" Naaman said as he asked his officers to bag up the silver in two sacks. The men offered to carry it all the way back to the house but Gehazi said. "That's ok. I got it." He hid the money inside the house when he got home so that Elisha would not find it or know what he had done.
  Elisha confronted Gehazi right away. "I know what you did and God knows it too!. Now you and your family will suffer from the same leprosy that Naaman had. When Gehazzi left the room, his skin was already as white as snow from leprosy! God knows all and sees all.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Elisha, the Woman From Shunem and two other miracles (2 Kings 4)

  As Elisha was passing through the town of Shunem, a wealthy woman offered him a meal at her home. From then on, the woman would prepare a place at the table for him everythime he passed through Shunem.
  Finally one day the woman said to her husband. "Elisha is truly a man of God, we should give him a place to stay whenever he passes through Shunem. We can turn that spare room upstairs into a bedroom for him." Her husband agreed.
  One day Elisha was passing through Shunem and went up to his room to rest. He told his servant, Gehazi, to tell the woman how grateful he was to have a room. Then he told his servant to ask her what he could do for her to show his appreciation.
 "I'm good." The woman replied. "I have everything I need..... but thank you."
  Elisha and Gehazi put there heads together and thought. "There must be something we can do for this woman." Then Gehazi spoke up. "She has this large house and no children and her husband is old."
 "Yes! That's it!" exclaimed Elisha.
 Elisha went to speak to the woman. "By this time next year, you will be holding a son."
"Please don't tease me like that, oh man of God." the woman responded.
 Sure enough, the woman became pregnant and was holding a beautiful baby boy in her arms at that time the next year.

  One day, when the boy was a little older, he went out to meet his father who was working in the fields. He started to feel sick and told his father that his head hurt really bad. His dad told one of the workers to take him back to his mother. The woman held her son on her lap, but he died. Sadly, she carried him upstairs and laid him on Elisha's bed. Then she saddled up a donkey and took one of her servants to travel to meet Elisha. While she was a long way off Elisha noticed her. "Go see what is wrong Gehazi, for the Lord has not told me." Elisha told his servant. The woman didn't want to tell Gehazi what was wrong. Finally when she reached Elisha she fell at his feet and said. " You told me that you would not tease me with a son. You got my hopes up and now......" Before she could finish, Elisha told Gehazi to grab his staff, hurry to the woman's home and place the staff on the boy's face.
  The woman looked at Elisha, "Please come. I won't go home without you." So he went with her.
Gehazi arrived first and placed Elisha's staff on the boy's face, but nothing happened. Soon afterward Elisha and the boy's mother arrived. Elisha went up to his room and closed the door. He lay across the boy's lifeless body, matching his hands, mouth and eyes with his own. Soon the boy's body began to warm up. Elisha got up, walked around his room and did it again. Then the boy coughed seven times and sat up!
  Elisha called the woman up to his room.When the woman saw her son sitting on the bed, she fell at Elisha's feet crying tears of joy! Then she picked up her son and carried him downstairs. Elisha and Gehazi said goodbye and left for Gilgal where there was a famine in the land.
  In Gilgal, Elisha was sitting with a bunch of prophets. He told one of the young men to pick some vegetables and make a stew. After eating some of the stew, on of the prophets said. "There are poisonous gourds in this stew!" Elisha calmly said. "Bring me some flour." He put a dash of flour into the stew and it was ok. All the men ate and it did not harm them.

 One day Elisha was speaking to a group of 100 prophets. A man brought him a sack of grain and some loaves of bread. Elisha told him to begin distributing the grain and bread so that all the prophets could eat. "But there is not nearly enough for all the men!" the man said. "Don't worry," replied Elisha. "There will even be leftovers!" ....and there was. Hundreds of years later, Jesus would feed 5000 men with a few fish and bread.

 There is a definite theme throughout these stories. and it
is to listen to the needs of others, even when they don't say them out loud. That is called being sensitive to their needs. The woman from Shunem knew Elijah needed food  and shelter as he passed though the town. Elisha knew the woman wanted a son... and when she came to him after her son had died.... he heard her heart. Elisha also knew that the prophets would be hungry and he fed them. God calls us to be sensitive to the needs of others. As you go through your day and encounter people along the way, pray that God would help you hear what they are not saying with their mouth.