Spread It Out Before The Lord: a look @ 2 Kings 18-19

There is an account in the Old Testament that I return to repeatedly as I walk with Jesus. The Lord has prompted me to use it in my prayer life time and again when life gets hard, overwhelming, or when I feel the enemy is threatening me in certain contexts. What compelled me to share this with you today is that I actually experienced it again yesterday morning – right before church I had gone into the prayer room to spread some things before the Lord and pray, and during the time I was pouring my heart out to Jesus, He sent someone with an answer to what I had just asked Him!

I want to pull out a few things from 2 Kings 18-19, because I believe we need to know about this passage and put its truth to immediate use in our lives! Let’s begin with King Hezekiah, we are introduced to him in 2 Kings 18.  The year is 701 B.C., Hezekiah is 25 years old when he takes over as King of Judah in Jerusalem, he reigned there for 29 years, he removed all the pagan shrines and rid Judah of anything the people had begun to worship other than the Living God. This is what God’s Word says about him starting in verse 5:

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.

But, in Hezekiah’s 14th year of reign, the evil King of Assyria, named Sennacherib, broke into the walled cities of Judah and overtook them, which sent Hezekiah into a tailspin of sorts. He freaked out. This King Sennacherib had conquered basically every other kingdom around, and now he had begun conquering the cities in King Hezekiah’s kingdom, even the ones that were supposed to be fortified and protected! So, Hezekiah completely bails on his strong plan not to pay this evil king any tribute (v. 7)…he buckles under the enemy’s pressure. Ever been there? It was easy for Hezekiah to refuse to pay the evil King of Assyria all the loot he demanded when there was no actual threat, but when rubber met the road, or rather when enemy chariot wheels hit the soil of Judah – King Hezekiah’s great strength of will didn’t stay so strong. He caved and started gathering all the gold and silver he could find in an attempt to ward off the attack of Assyria on Jerusalem.  (v. 14-16)

I wonder if those words have rung true in your life somehow? A commitment you made, then in the heat of the moment that commitment seemed to fly out the window. An area where you believed you heard God say something, but your circumstances are so far from it you can’t quite make sense of it? A relationship that you thought would never be threatened and now you stand in danger of losing everything you thought was yours forever? We have a very real enemy. He means to steal, kill, and destroy. Just like the evil King of Assyria, our enemy threatens and lies and uses every means possible to defame the Name of our God and cause us to retreat into serving anything or anyone but the One True God.

As we return to our narrative, King Sennacherib is sending messengers to make sure that King Hezekiah remains fearfully under his mind-control.  He spews threats and atrocious statements against God for the remainder of chapter 18. Let me give you a quick sampling of some of the Assyrian messenger’s malicious and vile statements:

  • 19b “This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? 20 Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?

  • 24 With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? 25 What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”

So, now, you have this messenger sending these statements of hate and intimidation to King Hezekiah, and they even have the nerve to say it’s The Lord Who is instructing their evil invasion! Isn’t that just like the enemy to twist reality into such a lie that he would even want us to believe it is God Himself causing all the destruction and strife.  There is no doubt that God allows trials, and we will discuss that momentarily, but the rock we must stand on is the fact that God’s heart toward us is love.  That is exactly why we MUST get to know the character and heart of God.

Our God is the God of provision, He builds up what is good, He tears down what is useless or destructive in our lives, He calms our fears and sings over us with joy, He is the lover of our souls, He sees us, and He defends us by His mighty right hand. The God we serve is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. Indeed, what an awesome and mighty and Holy God we serve. But, our enemy does not want us believing or relying on any of those truths about The Lord, does he? Let’s skip down to verse 31 now, where the threats and lies just keep coming from Sennacherib’s messengers. This time they are addressing not only King Hezekiah’s representatives, but the very people of Jerusalem:

  • 31 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. 32 Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey. Choose life instead of death!  “Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’

  • 35 What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

When is the last time Satan tempted you with a lie that sounded really, really appealing? It is the way of the devil to arrange his temptation in a way that it would seem he is offering LIFE when he is packaging death and destruction up really nice so that we never even question what is actually inside. When I read these verses immediately it reminded me of when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted for 40 days. Luke 4:5-8

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”

Satan always has a counterfeit for God’s best. Always. If he can get us to look at what we don’t have, and offer it to us on a platter laced with death and destruction, he will do anything to divert our attention away from the truth and bait us into taking the poison.  It was the original temptation he used against humanity in Genesis 3.  This is exactly the kind of temptation the Assyrians were offering to the King Hezekiah’s people. And exactly the kind of temptation the devil offers us…just for example:

If you are single, “just compromise a little on what God’s best is and I’ll give you someone with money who can take care of you for the rest of your life, he’s handsome, nevermind the fact that he doesn’t know God or care to at this point, look at all he has to offer you”…

If you are married, “you don’t deserve this, you didn’t sign up for this, you need more and you need someone better, you can have someone younger, more beautiful, more sensitive to your needs, you can just scratch this whole thing and start over, everyone does it”…

Have you ever heard those kinds of lies in your head?  If not in the area of relationships, what about other parts of your life? It is your enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.  Undoubtedly, that is all the Assyrians had in mind for Jerusalem. And without doubt, that is all Satan has in mind for you and I.  But, praise His Name, the One True God has other plans for us! He has plans that are for our good, to give us a hope and a future!

Intelligently, when he was faced with these threats and lies, Hezekiah sent for wise counsel from a man he trusts.  Now we’re in 2 Kings 19: 5-7:

After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’”

No matter how oppressed we are by the enemy’s lies or intimidation, God is our defender. What He says goes. Every. Single. Time. We have to understand that the devil is not the opposite of God, he is not the “bad guy” and The Lord is the “good guy.” Make no mistake, The Lord our God reigns. There is no comparison of power.  Every inch of ground the enemy gains is only ground that God allows him. God may allow him to sift us as wheat, but every single time it is for our good and for his great glory.  Back in Luke 4, it says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And by the Word of God, Jesus destroyed the devil’s attempt to bring Him down.  I’m also thinking of what Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

I’m thinking of Abraham in Genesis 22, where his faith is tested by God.

15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you.

Trials are rarely enjoyable at the time, but The Lord absolutely has purpose in allowing us to be tested and tried. 1 Peter 1:7

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

In our account of King Hezekiah, we are not yet done with the threats from the enemy. Sennacherib makes one last attempt to scare Hezekiah into surrendering. He sends a letter that pens example after example of all the Kingdoms whom have fallen at his hand, over and over again he gives Hezekiah examples and reasons why he should give up the fight, because after all – why in all the earth would Hezekiah stand up to an enemy who is so strong and so devastating?  (2 Kings 19:10-13) Now – the next verse is what just captures my heart. This one is what I started off the post today telling you that I have used as a pattern in my prayer life so often, even as recent as yesterday. Oh – I cannot wait for you to hear what King Hezekiah does!

2 Kings 19:14

14 After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord.

There you have it. I hope you’re not disappointed.  Perhaps you feel this is anticlimactic, but I beg to differ!  Think about what this means! I want to give you points we can take from Hezekiah’s decision. Regardless of threat. Regardless of lie. Regardless of what pawn Satan is using to discourage you in your life right now. Here is what we can do:

  1. Get to a quiet place with God.

  2. Spread it out before Him. 

I am an avid prayer journal-er (that is obviously my own word, but you get my point). I journal my prayers. I have an entire shelf full of prayer journals starting from when I was about 18 years old. If you looked through them, you could find time after time that I have made a list of all the issues I need to spread before the Lord. When you put pen to paper with your troubles and trials, do exactly what King Hezekiah did. He met with the Lord all by himself, and he essentially said to God in a demonstrative way, “Here it is, Lord!  Look at what the enemy is saying, Lord, look at where his lies are trying to trip me up. I want you to see, Jesus, this is where I need help, I am admitting my desperate need for You to intervene.”

I am telling you now that Jesus Christ is already interceding for you, and the Holy Spirit is interceding even when we have no idea what to pray for.  It is not as if He needs us to clue Him in! But, there is power in you demonstrating your need before the Lord. There is power in our lives when comparatively, we can see what the threat is vs. Who our God is. There is no match or comparison! And finally, the third thing I see here:

  1. Pray with some authority to the One and Only God, through Jesus Christ your Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hezekiah opens his mouth and takes this straight to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords:

15 And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 16 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 18 And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 19 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”

I love King Hezekiah’s prayer. He acknowledges Who God is. He acknowledges God’s power. He appeals for The Lord Himself to listen to and see the enemy’s defiance of God. He admits and understands the reality of the situation at hand. He asks God to intervene for the sake of and the great glory of His Name. Notice that Hezekiah does not come asking for God to protect Hezekiah’s name.  There is no self-driven, self-protective, self-centeredness in his prayer. He doesn’t even see Sennacherib’s threat as toward himself, he sees it for what it is – a threat against God. You see, Hezekiah realized that it was not about him.  Maybe we should read that sentence again.  You see, Hezekiah realized that it was not about him.

Oh yes, he was definitely the one the threats were hurled toward, and he totally had to be the one to take action. But in reality, his enemy was not Sennacherib – it was satan. And the object of the threat was not him – it was God. I wonder who we may “think” is our enemy?  An employer? A former friend? A family member whom you can no longer trust? A credit card company? A prodigal child? A thief? An ex-spouse? A government entity?  A terrorist group named ISIS? Ephesians 6:12 tells us:

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Be encouraged – listen to Colossians 1:15-16

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.  He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through Him and for Him.

Regardless of what our enemy wants us to believe, he has NO authority in our lives. He is no match for God.  And wherever he seems to be winning or gaining ground, you stand firm in the Power of the Cross. You spread it out before the Lord Your God and receive the victory He already won for you on Calvary! We are going to finish with the beautiful, amazing truth in Romans 8:31-39. Drink this in as total refreshment for your soul today. Just as King Hezekiah came through an overwhelming situation – you can, too!  The God we serve is the same God he served.  Your enemy is real, but his power has been broken. Your victory in Jesus is real! He is worthy, y’all, and He is so worth fighting the good fight!

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen!

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How God Used an Unexpected Trio to Teach Me About Rest

You know how occasionally God has to allow something fairly profound in your life to get your attention…well, it happened to me last week. It occurred in the form of a high fever and a stomach bug and a scripture in Isaiah.

One of the things I pray for myself continually is that I would have a hearing ear. I heard a sermon series last year about this, and the concept is from a Hebrew word, shama’, which translates “understanding/hearing ear.” 

It’s what Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 3:9 AMP.

So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad…

And I believe God is faithful to answer that prayer continually as I ask Him continually…and yet sometimes my hearing gets deafened. I have blogged about this before. In my natural self, I am a doer. This is probably why I need to continually pray to be a hearer! Then I will hear the truth and do that, instead of just doing whatever I think needs done in my flesh.

So, about the stomach virus. I mean really really, I did nothing but lay on the couch or in bed. My body hurt so bad and I was so incredibly weak. My sweet husband waited on me, my 2 year old was the best behaved he has ever been, and I rested. And I believe the Lord reminded me of something HUGE in my sickness. That I am not invincible. That I can do almost everything humanly possible to be radically healthy, and sometimes that means your body has to fight off a really bad bug, and mine did. He gently reminded me that I am not able to keep going and going and going without time to recharge. Being sick made me incredibly thankful for my health and for the fact that God allows me to stay well 99.9% of the time. And I kept feeling the Lord press on me how important it is for me to rest.

As women in general, this is not something that happens often in our lives. There is always something to be done, always someone to take care of, always a task to be accomplished. I think there are a lot more Marthas than Marys in our world today. But, I heard God reminding me that it is not okay.

I was exhausted last week, but the reality is that I was exhausted before I got sick. Are you exhausted? I know what you are thinking, “Heavens no! Don’t you see my perfectly ironed cape flowing behind me beautifully as I fly from one place to another, incessantly running to and fro serving, delivering, picking up, dropping off, grocery shopping, organic cooking, cleaning, working, typing, playing, reading books, helping my husband, organizing, teaching, planning, loving…”

And those things are good! And they are necessary!

And they are not to be done at the exclusion of stopping all the motion and commotion…and resting.

You and I need rest. Yes, that is what He taught me through a high fever, a stomach bug…and a scripture in Isaiah that He had me reading and studying for the 5 days BEFORE my affliction ensued.

Now, I fully believe as a New Testament Christian that we are free from the law because Jesus fulfilled it, so when you read this scripture in reference to my point, I am not suggesting that we go back into captivity under the Law of Moses and rigidly keep a mandate that we have been freed from under the cross of Jesus Christ. That said, there is benefit and blessing to be received when we observe Sabbath rest.

Isaiah 58:13 NLT:

Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.

Isaiah 58:13 from the Message:

If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, 
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, 
God’s holy day as a celebration,
 If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual, ’
making money, running here and there—

If you read my short post from last week “Who is your #1?“, you will remember this concept. As Jesus Followers we are to sell our entire lives out as worship to the Lord. I believe in 7 days-a-week, everything we do, 100% committed to representing Jesus in our homes, our cars, on our phones and laptops, on our Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest accounts, our church, our offices or places of vocation outside the home, in our relationships, where we shop, wherever we set our foot, in the mundane, and in the insanely important.

My point is this: Do we set aside one day out of seven where we really honor the Lord with a day of rest, where we truly do not pursue our own interests. Do we really enjoy that day, (if we ever really take a day of rest) and speak of it with DELIGHT? Do we resist following our own desires, do we resist idle words and chatter?  Do we tune-in and seek what He would be pleased for us to do that day?

In the past months, I have gotten really good at worshipping while I’m doing all my activities. For example, I honestly have been able to do mundane chores with joy because I honestly praise the Lord while I am doing them. It has been such a life-giving activity to exercise gratitude while doing dishes and overflow with thankfulness as I’m cooking dinner. But, when I was laying there on what felt like my death-bed for a couple days, and I read those verses in Isaiah over and over, I turned my face up to the Lord and I said, “God, I never do this, not ever for a whole day.” And He lovingly told me through His Word that He loves me so much and wants my obedience in this.  He wants my obedience in this because it is for my good!

And I’m going to tell you that it took a massive fever and stomach bug for me to do the rest thing, the stopping of all the doing.  And it worked. He was right. Listen to the verse that follows:

Isaiah 58:14

…THEN the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

 Listen to it in the Message bible:

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
  Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
 I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
  Yes! God says so!

Yes, I believe God said so to me!  And I’m different now. Dishes can wait 1 day (well, let’s be honest, my dishes are accustomed to waiting 3 or 4 days, so maybe your dishes can wait 1 day).  The list of errands can wait 1 day and all the running here and there. Complicated menus can take a 1 day break. And I can enjoy a day like this. I can still love and give and serve but I can rest, too.  I have the freedom on this day to treat this day as a celebration of Who God is, to remember what He has done, and it can be a day of joy.  

Sometimes with our ADD society, I think we see rest as boredom.  And I am guilty, guilty, guilty!  But, what I have to remember is that God never asks us to do something that will not completely transform our lives for the receiving of more abundant blessing!

God promises that He will be our delight because of taking a day like this.  Perhaps few things are more important than our delight and our joy being found in NO OTHER PERSON OR THING but Our God Himself!

Immediately my mind goes to Psalm 37:3-4 AMP when I think about delighting in the Lord.

Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.

We can only trust our heart’s desires when our greatest delight is Jesus Himself.  He told us that the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength.  Not part.  Not what is leftover after we have spent every waking moment thinking about and checking-off our incessant to-do lists.  It seems to me that I hear God best when my life and mind are not jam-packed with so much I can’t think straight to begin with.

When you and I take 1 day to rest our hearts and minds and bodies and use that day to focus completely on God and His abundant goodness, that is what gives us strength.

Nehemiah 8:10 says that they joy of the Lord IS our strength.

And something really fascinating is that God delights in us, too. The reason He wants our uninterrupted attention and affection is so that we can be aware of His toward us!

Zephaniah 3:17 AMP  is one of my very favorite scriptures I give to encourage people who are feeling overwhelmed. I do this because God has used this scripture to minister to me so many times!

The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

Psalm 18:19 says:

He led me to a place of safety;
                                                                    He rescued me because He delights in me.

Nothing that you or I could do or accomplish can make Him love or delight in us more than He already does.

But, I know that I desire to delight in Him more.  How about you?

His promises are right and they are true. He tells us point blank in Isaiah 58:13-14

  • IF you and I want to delight in Him
  • IF we want to experience true satisfaction
  • IF we are to receive all that He has for us
  • THEN we should take a day to rest, He did in Genesis 2:3!
  • THEN we should stop our personal pursuits, idle talk, and life as usual for 1 day
  • THEN we should really enjoy and honor and celebrate the Lord for the whole day

IF we will obey…He will come through.  And sisters, when He is our greatest delight…that changes everything.  Are you in?   I’m praying for you as you walk this thing out, we are all works-in-progress, and our God is awesome and kind and His delight is all over you.  He is worthy and He is worth it.  Love y’all…

isaiah58.13coral

PART 1 Upstream Swimming: To Conform or Not to Conform

upstreamSeveral months ago I typed in the note section of my phone about how God calls us to go against the grain, to swim upstream. You know how sometimes God just gives you a word, like He wants us to ponder certain things at times. This was one of them…I jotted down this list:


  • Why I swim upstream

Swimming Upstream: To opt for a difficult course of action when a simpler or safer alternative is available

  • Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

  • Non-conformist

Non-conformist: a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices.


 

Today my writing is birthed out of a truth that has not changed since the beginning. God is good. God is right. He is love. God is creative and powerful and merciful and holy and true and worthy and wise and every single thing that you and I need is in Him.

And yet knowing Who God Is, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good over and over and over again, this question beckons an answer:

Would we rather still conform to the pattern of this world and to the prevailing ideas?

I wish you had time to sit and ponder that question like I just did after I typed that question mark.

I remember distinctly having the thought years ago that if my life doesn’t really look all that different than most, then I’m very likely swimming downstream with all the masses. I think that’s maybe when I started this journey of doing things differently. And doing things differently doesn’t just happen…your ‘do’ follows your ‘belief’, which makes perfect sense knowing that we are only transformed by the renewing of our minds. Does God’s Word just amaze you, or what? His ways are so right and He is so brilliant!

When I look at Jesus, the way He operated, the way He thought, the way He related to others, the way He lived, He was the quintessential non-conformist, was He not? He came onto the Earth to completely rearrange and demolish the prevailing ideas and practices. And He did. Only to replace it, and reveal something excessively and exceedingly better. If you have ever read Acts, you know that the people who really followed Jesus lived totally different lives than the traditions in which they were raised. It begs the question…should we? Does our life as Christians resemble the Church that Jesus started or something man has created over the centuries?

If we are going to live a life that does not conform to the pattern of the world, we better start living and believing and choosing in ways that are different from the world around us. Not just different to be different. But different to obey the Father, to follow Jesus, to be lead by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said this in Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT):

The Narrow Gate  13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

I have so been on the broad road at times in my life. Have you? I have lived in seasons where my life looked very, very similar to what you see glorified on commercials and television shows and magazines as “the good life.” In the NIV, it calls the broad road the one that leads to destruction. We all have some scars from living that way. I certainly do.   So I’m telling you, I literally have not one single stone to throw at anyone!

As Believers, I strongly believe that God is asking us to be heartbroken over our culture today, heartbroken over families suffering great loss and poverty in the world. But, are we? Or would we rather stand with stones in hand expecting the world to lead Godly lives when our own look a whole lot like theirs.

Is the way you and I live, the way we operate, the way we think, and relate to others so contagious, so hopeful and pure and right that the lost cannot help but want what we have? That’s why the masses followed Jesus. They wanted what He had.   It was the stubborn religious and politically-minded few that crucified Him, the ones who Jesus’s message opposed. In Romans 11:11, Paul tells us Gentiles to live in a way that would make Jewish non-believers jealous, so that they might claim this amazing gift of hope through salvation in Jesus Christ as their own. And I believe we that can apply that to any lost person, not just those who have Israelite ancestors.

Oh Father, that we would not befriend the ways of the world. But Father, that You indeed would enable us to befriend the lost, just as you did.

There is a difference, you know. We really CAN befriend the lost and NOT befriend the world. Daniel did it in chapter 6.

He was taken into Babylon as a teenager and by the time he was in his 80’s, (having lived in that evil culture for 60-70 years) his fervor for God had not waned, and his heart for those who did wrong was tender. Daniel was persecuted for continuing to pray to the One True God while the edict in the kingdom forbade it. He was thrown into a den of hungry lions to surely die a brutal death. Notice how the king approaches Daniel, and how Daniel responds to this same king who had thrown him into the lion’s den:

19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”  21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in His sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

Daniel served the king faithfully as God called him to. God ordained that Daniel (along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) be the ones who would go into that culture and change the minds of the leaders. They were not conformed to the pattern of those evil kingdoms, they did not take the simpler and safer alternatives of giving in to the world. We have amazing accounts of the danger they faced and survived in the fiery furnace and the Lion’s den to prove it. We just recently watched the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” and it makes the very same point, he faced a professor who threatened to ruin his grade and his future if he did not join the masses who said they did not believe in God.

It will often provide us immediate safety to follow the masses, but eventually we will pay a great price if we go along with the world instead of trusting and obeying God.

Look at the 10 Israelites who came back from the Promised Land having seen exactly what Caleb and Joshua saw, but their negative report is what the masses believed and everyone freaked out and wanted to return to slavery rather than trust God’s promise. The result was God saying, in Numbers 14:30

You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Unbelief produces destruction, they all died in the wilderness.  Faith produces reward, Caleb and Joshua lived to see the Promised Land and partnered with God many more times in victory. I am so thankful for God’s Word, and how He uses these accounts to encourage us to believe Him and love Him, even when no one else does.

Speaking of believing and loving God, let’s go back to Daniel 6. Another powerful thing to note is that Daniel did not hate the king.  The king did not love God, and yet Daniel loved the king. And because of Daniel’s willingness to love and serve the king, because that is what God called him to do, look what happens in Daniel 6:25-27:

25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:

“Peace and prosperity to you!

26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.

For He is the living God,
 and He will endure forever.
 His kingdom will never be destroyed,
 and His rule will never end.

27 He rescues and saves his people;
 He performs miraculous signs and wonders
 in the heavens and on earth. 
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Daniel’s decision to trust God caused the Name of God to be respected and revered across the world, and it changed the trajectory of the Kingdom in which he lived.

What if Daniel had shrunk back and stopped praying because that is what the law demanded?

What if he had given up when it got hard?

Or what if Daniel had cursed the king?

What if he had tried to organize an uprising in self-defense because he was framed?

What if he harbored bitterness in his heart about the way he was wrongly treated?

Well, praise God, Daniel chose faith. He is listed as one of the prophets whose faith is commended in Hebrews 11:33. He chose not to conform to the ways of the world, he defied the prevailing idea of the day in which he lived, and God showed Himself mighty and the Name of the Lord was made famous in his land in the world because of it.

In Part 2 we’re going to continue this look into swimming upstream!

Until then, I’d love to know…In what way is God asking you to be a non-conformist?  Use the comment section below 🙂