Monday, October 29, 2012

How to advance

On our trip to Israel, we traversed miles of desert (virtually no rainfall) and wilderness (minimal rainfall that permits scrub and some grasses to grow). Israel is dry. dry. and more dry.

Our tour guide explained, "Before the current irrigation, inhabitants were utterly dependent on God for rain. The farmer would sow precious seed from grain needed to feed his family. If the rains didn't come at the right time, he and his family would starve. Israelites plead with God and pagans performed their rituals at sowing and harvest seasons for sufficient rain."One year might be abundant. The next could be devastating. It all depended on rain.

Likewise, war-craft developed slowly and unevenly. The Philistines, relatives of the great Greek sailors, had metalworking skills long before Israel did, giving them an advantage in battle. Egypt and Babylon had well-developed armies and threatened to overrun Israel and Judah, time after time.

Asa begins well
This morning, I read the story of Asa (2 Chronicles 14-16). He started strong, depending on God for his country's survival. Even when the odds were overwhelming, he went to God for help. Except...

...when he was old and experienced.

Asa's country was besieged by Israel's army after he had ruled 36 years. For some inexplicable reason, he didn't ask God's intervention like he had in the past. With a history of miraculous provision, of overcoming annihilation by enemy troops, and a peaceful reign attributed to God's favor, Asa requested help from neighboring Damascus instead of from God.

God sent the prophet Hanani to ask what Asa was thinking. Instead of repenting, Asa got angry and punished the prophet. Thereafter, Asa also oppressed his people. He went from being a successful king who followed God to becoming an oppressor who followed himself and human wisdom and desires.

What I learned from Asa's story:
  1. Our accomplishments are rooted in God's favor. Good seasons are cause for worship and thanksgiving to God.
  2. God gives success to those who cry out to him when life seems impossible. God is strong enough when we cannot find a way forward. When the odds are against us, God knows how to direct life so we can survive and thrive.
  3. God responds to our prayers. When we encounter opportunities and crises throughout life, God gives those who ask him wisdom and supernatural resources--in good times and bad.
  4. God responds to our decisions with blessings for obedience and difficulties for idolatry. You may "have fun" sinning but you won't live an abundant life. You hurt those around you by aligning against God's love and justice: all of Judah suffered when Asa walked away from what he knew was right.
  5. Though God warns us, he allows us to listen or reject his advice. All of us have suffered because of others' bad choices. 
Typical landscape in Israel
When we seek God, he promises to make our paths straight. It might be unclear to me whether to take one job or another, whether to move or stay put in a house, or whether or not to invest in one company or another.

Yet I can choose as best I can among such "minor details" of life. The principles of scripture demand integrity, allegiance to a holy God, and alignment with biblical principles. When I live that way, God can bless me in any job, house, or company.

So how to we advance through life? 
  • We must choose to follow God with all our hearts, as best as we can understand. From START to FINISH and everywhere between.
  • We listen to wise counsel and accept rebukes or commendations that God sends.
  • And we constantly realign to do what is right rather than merely what is in our own interests.
Then--and only then--God promises we will finish as well as we started.

Read more:
*Thus far the Lord has helped us. 1 Samuel 7:12

*At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”

Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:7-10, 12

*[God says] “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

*The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed. 2 Timothy 4:17

Moravian Prayer: You are with us always—guiding, comforting and challenging us to continue our journey with and to you. May our steps today bring us closer to you. We pause before you now in gratitude and supplication. Amen.

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