Lessons from Josiah: Reaching One

josiah5Following the faithful life and leadership of Josiah,

The people of Judah chose Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him king in Jerusalem in his father’s place. Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he was king in Jerusalem for three months. Then King Neco of Egypt removed Jehoahaz from being king in Jerusalem. Neco made the people of Judah pay about seventy-five hundred pounds of silver and about seventy-five pounds of gold. The king of Egypt made Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim the king of Judah and Jerusalem and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But Neco took his brother Jehoahaz to Egypt. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he was king in Jerusalem for eleven years. He did what the Lord his God said was wrong. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Judah, captured Jehoiakim, put bronze chains on him, and took him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar removed some of the things from the Temple of the Lord, took them to Babylon, and put them in his own palace. (2 Chronicles 36:1-7)

Josiah was the last king who did what was right according to God’s will before God’s people, the Israelites, were taken into captivity. Throughout the Scriptures chronicling the kings of God’s people, it seems the Israelites were fickle to the leadership of each season. If the king followed God’s ways, so did the people, but when a king did not follow God’s ways, neither did the people.

We think we’re much different today. We will easily rebel against leaders we don’t believe are leading us well, but are we guided by what is right or are we guided by what we believe are our own rights and preferences? We’re certainly following someone…but “who?” is the question. Who do you listen to and respond to with the most assertive support? How active are you when listening to people you respect and those you don’t? Do you seek God’s truth despite who is speaking?

It is tempting to look for that which affirms what we most want to hear so that we can easily set aside someone’s opinion when we have little respect for the person or easily accept someone’s opinion when we have respect for the person. We need to listen to God, and that means respecting people enough to listen, trust God to filter what is being taught, and proceeding with caution against untruth and boldness into truth.

We need to not be like the Israelites in the way they responded with “group think” and responded with spiritual blindness. Despite the way we’ve been raised, the people who surround us, or the situations we find ourselves in, we can be impacted and guided by God and we can impact others for God.

Jeremiah, a great prophet, came out of Josiah’s leadership. After Josiah’s death, “Jeremiah wrote some sad songs about Josiah. Even to this day all the men and women singers remember and honor Josiah with these songs. It became a custom in Israel to sing these songs that are written in the collection of sad songs.” (2 Chronicles 35:25) The Lord spoke his word to Jeremiah during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon was king of Judah. The Lord also spoke to Jeremiah while Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king of Judah and during the eleven years that Zedekiah son of Josiah was king of Judah. In the fifth month of his last year, the people of Jerusalem were taken away as captives. (Jeremiah 1:2-3)

God can speak to and reach us no matter what the situation by which we are surrounded. There can be no more “if only” excuses of our life circumstances. God is more intimate with our life circumstances than we are. He is able to do all things…even when we cannot see the way.

Jesus answered, “The things impossible for people are possible for God.” (Luke 18:27)

What are you “excusing” in your life? What do you see as impossible?

Are you ready to accept the possibility of your impossibilities? It’s time!

Guy Chat

I’m a girl, and I understand girl chat a lot better than guy chat.

I had a short layover in Kansas City and was sitting in a quiet corner enjoying a Starbucks drink. At the small round table not far away from me were two men. They were definitely in their stride of conversation when I slipped into the booth near them. They seemed to be a bit familiar with each other but as they shared about their kids, it was apparent they hadn’t known each other for too long. They were talking sports. Because I’m a college football fan, I quickly recognized some of the teams and terms they mentioned. They started talking about different divisions, especially referring to the schools where one of the men’s sons was playing and all the schools that scouted him. It sounds like he’s quite an athlete.

As one man commented on the apparent athleticism of the other dad’s son, the dad’s voice changed a bit as he said, “Yeah, he’s a good athlete. I’m proud of him. But it was really my younger son who was the great athlete. He was going to be something. There wasn’t much he couldn’t do.”

There was an awkward moment before the other man asked the dad, “How old is he?”

“Well, he was fifteen when we lost him. He would have really been something.”

There was a catch in his voice and a long pause before the other man quietly stated, “Sounds like you have reason to be a proud dad.” Then the conversation quickly returned to football and got animated again.

What just happened? If two women would have been sitting at the booth, that awkward moment would have been immediately filled with questions and consolation. There would have been an invitation to share as much as possible about the tragedy and healing process. There likely would have been tears from both women. And the conversation would probably have not returned to the former topic. They probably wouldn’t even remember what the previous topic had been! They’d part ways with a big hug as new friends, promising to keep in touch and check in with each other.

The way the guys handled it wasn’t wrong. I would have been shocked for them to respond in a girl-chat manner. Yet I felt a bit sad for them. I wondered if the dad needed to be able to process aloud for a moment. Maybe not. Perhaps he just needed a moment to be flooded with memories and to share that he has those memories even if he didn’t share the specifics.

It’s not really fair for me to draw a line between girl chat and guy chat. I know many guys that can talk a lot—in person and on the phone. I know some women who sit back and take in a situation before getting involved and sharing. Sharing isn’t always safe. Women benefit from pouring into others and being poured into, but they also get hurt more frequently. Some have learned that lesson and decided not to invest quickly or deeply.

Don’t rely on your default setting. You need to be investing in others’ lives (and them in yours). Consider there are better ways to share, whether that’s withholding or releasing. Either way makes you vulnerable. Vulnerability isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re discerning through the process.

Invite God to guide, revealing to you when and what you need to share and when and to whom you need to listen. When you’re vulnerable in God’s will, you will always heal, learn, and grow.

The Impact on Faith

Every decision impacts my faith. Every situation and relationship impacts my faith.

It might sound overly dramatic, but it’s true. Everything either draws me closer to or distances me from God. At the very least, I stay put, which means I’m not growing. I want to grow. I want my faith to strengthen.

Even when my faith is strengthening, I can be in vulnerable situations. Doing pull-ups strengthens my arms but leaves me vulnerable to the playground ball being kicked by nearby kids. Rock-climbing strengthens my arms and legs but leaves me vulnerable to falls. Resistance bands build my muscles but can harm me if they snap. Strength and vulnerability go hand-in-hand because the process of building strength exposes me to injury.

Being vulnerable isn’t sufficient reason to avoid building strength.

God wants to strengthen my faith. He wants me to be vulnerable through the process, because the vulnerability allows him to work within me. Becoming vulnerable is a process of trust.

However, we must recognize that our faith is often vulnerable as we’re building strength. We can become so focused on the strength-building that we neglect safety precautions.

We must always be discerning. Just because we’re in a Bible study, worship service, or Christian conference doesn’t assume everything we’re reading, hearing, and learning is biblically-based. We’re strengthening our faith by our involvement in such groups and events, but let’s not ignore warning signs the Holy Spirit is giving us to caution us to discern between what is God’s truth and what is not.

Just because our friends or family members profess to be faithful Christ-followers doesn’t mean they will always provide us with godly advice. They’re human and will make mistakes just as we will. It’s not their responsibility to make our choices for us. They certainly can help us by pointing us toward God’s truth, but we are still personally responsible for the decisions we make and paths we take.

Consider David’s cries and praises in Psalm 22. Look for vulnerabilities and strength. He experiences both and knows the source of both. Do you?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? You seem far from saving me, far away from my groans. My God, I call to you during the day, but you do not answer. I call at night; I am not silent. You sit as the Holy One. The praises of Israel are your throne. Our ancestors trusted you; they trusted, and you saved them. They called to you for help and were rescued. They trusted you and were not disappointed. But I am like a worm instead of a man. People make fun of me and hate me. Those who look at me laugh.  They stick out their tongues and shake their heads. They say, “Turn to the Lord for help. Maybe he will save you. If he likes you, maybe he will rescue you.” You had my mother give birth to me. You made me trust you while I was just a baby. I have leaned on you since the day I was born; you have been my God since my mother gave me birth. So don’t be far away from me. Now trouble is near, and there is no one to help. People have surrounded me like angry bulls. Like the strong bulls of Bashan, they are on every side. Like hungry, roaring lions they open their mouths at me. My strength is gone, like water poured out onto the ground, and my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax; it has melted inside me. My strength has dried up like a clay pot, and my tongue sticks to the top of my mouth. You laid me in the dust of death. Evil people have surrounded me; like dogs they have trapped me. They have bitten my arms and legs. I can count all my bones; people look and stare at me. They divided my clothes among them, and they threw lots for my clothing. But, Lord, don’t be far away. You are my strength; hurry to help me. Save me from the sword; save my life from the dogs. Rescue me from the lion’s mouth; save me from the horns of the bulls. Then I will tell my brothers and sisters about you; I will praise you in the public meeting. Praise the Lord, all you who respect him.  All you descendants of Jacob, honor him; fear him, all you Israelites. He does not ignore those in trouble. He doesn’t hide from them but listens when they call out to him. Lord, I praise you in the great meeting of your people; these worshipers will see me do what I promised. Poor people will eat until they are full; those who look to the Lord will praise him. May your hearts live forever! People everywhere will remember and will turn to the Lord. All the families of the nations will worship him because the Lord is King, and he rules the nations. All the powerful people on earth will eat and worship. Everyone will bow down to him, all who will one day die. The people in the future will serve him; they will always be told about the Lord. They will tell that he does what is right. People who are not yet born  will hear what God has done.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind. Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-8

Everyone lies to his neighbors; they say one thing and mean another. Psalm 12:2

You can’t have it both ways. In the first verses, James refers to double-mindedness. Psalm 12:2 refers to double-heartedness. Neither is appealing. Yet we’ve likely all struggled with both.

We believe one thing, but our behavior doesn’t match our belief.

We give advice to someone but don’t apply it into our own life.

We hand it over to God and then play tug-of-war.

We trust God yet try to take control.

We live by standards, excusing the fuzzy lines when we prefer.

We rationalize not only our own behavior but also support our friends by rationalizing those things we know will help momentarily even if they aren’t best in the long run.

We look for shortcuts of faith, certain God would prefer we not meander through what seems to be an arduous journey.

We define beauty, peace, love and so much more by our own experiences instead of seeking the truth of God’s definitions and examples.

One of my favorite musicals is Fiddler on the Roof. The main character, Tevye, struggles through the transition of his daughters getting married when they, one at a time, don’t follow traditions. He reasons with himself:

On the other hand, he is an honest, hard worker.

But on the other hand, he has absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, things could never get worse for him, only better.

He continues the soliloquy throughout the story as he encounters one challenging situation after another with his daughters. Finally, when his youngest daughter announces she will marry outside of the faith, Tevye weighs his desire to see her happy with his unwillingness to deny his convictions.

“How can I turn my back on my faith, my people?” he asks himself. “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!” Tevye pauses and begins a response: “On the other hand…” He pauses again, and then he shouts: “No! There is no other hand!”

There really is no other hand. Look at both of your hands. They aren’t identical. Find the differences. Your hands invite comparison; hence, the expression commonly used to compare: on the other hand.

The right hand can do what the left hand cannot. The left hand can do what the right hand cannot. I’m not just referring to whether you can write or throw a ball with either hand. It’s about the positioning to your body. If you pick up a cup with your right hand, you cannot pick up the cup with your left hand using the exact same hand positioning. You have to adjust. When you use both hands to pick up a box, each hand serves a purpose in the position it’s made. You cannot replace the right hand with the left hand and achieve the exact same results. The right hand does what the right hand is intended to do. The left hand does what the left hand is intended to do. There is no other hand.

When you’re double-minded or double-hearted, you’re trying to accomplish two things that cannot be accomplished at once. You’re trying to occupy a space – in your heart or your mind – with more than one thing. One or the other will be sacrificed. There’s only so much space, and duplicity doesn’t fit.

My favorite verse about whole-heartedness and single-mindedness (because it’s convicting to me) is 1 Kings 18:21: Elijah approached the people and said, “How long will you not decide between two choices? If the Lord is the true God, follow him, but if Baal is the true God, follow him!”

Choose and follow. That’s it. (1) Decide. (2) Respond.

Belief and doubt. Action and inaction. God and self.

You can’t have it both ways. There is no other hand.

Boomerang Advice

A friend was faced with a challenging situation and texted me for encouragement. Not knowing the specifics of the situation, I didn’t want to unequivocably say, “You’re right. Stand your ground no matter what.” I wanted to be supportive and encouraging…but not encourage her to go down a path she wasn’t intended to travel!

Here are a few phrases I texted.

  • Be yourself, but don’t expect anyone else to change. Patterns rarely change in a crisis. The impact of how everyone responds usually has ripple effects later.
  • God doesn’t expect you to change anyone. That’s his job. He calls you to be obedient. Stand and rest in him. He’ll use you in the process even when you don’t see it. He’ll give you peace even in the chaos.
  • Your hope can’t be someone else’s hope. They have to seek and accept hope on their own. It’s one of the hardest things to accept with those we love. Just think of how God feels when we don’t fully accept everything he provides us.

Several days later I searched my phone to reread the texts. God was prompting me to recall them, because I needed to hear them while in my own situation. I believed each and every sentence I texted, so you might think I could also easily live by the advice contained in the texts, but sometimes living by what we believe isn’t as easy as it sounds. Perhaps you’re better at it than I am. (I hope you can handle my honesty.)

What advice have you given lately that you need to give to yourself?

I call it boomerang advice. I must be willing to speak any advice I give into a mirror. I need to cc myself on every text and email I send and subscribe to my own blog and social networking accounts. I’m still not perfect in the process, but I’m growing. I used to listen to myself a lot less, which meant speaking without processing and advising without listening at times. I had to learn the hard way, and I want to spare you some headaches by letting you know if you’re not attentive to what you’re throwing out there for others to catch, it will often boomerang back to you and surprise you with a loud whack. You’ll avoid a lot of bruising if you only throw what you can catch.

Keep an eye on your own advice. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and built some trustworthy relationships along the way.

Listen to advice and accept correction, and in the end you will be wise.Proverbs 19:20

This Week’s 7 – Challenge for Today

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list includes a challenge for your day. Will you accept? I’m making assumptions about some of the things you’ll do today, so I’m not challenging you to add something to your day. Choose one or accept all the challenges. Let me know how it goes!

  1. Walk. As you take physical steps today, think of the impact your steps have on your spiritual journey. Are you blazing a trail on your own? Are you asking God to bless your steps – after you’ve already taken them? Are you second-guessing yourself to such an extent you’re frozen and don’t move? Be intentional as you walk today. I will walk with the Lord  in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:9)
  2. Talk. Be mindful of the words you say today. Encourage others. Build others up. Are you making excuses for what you say? Are you taking others into consideration? Are you being bold in what God wants you to say but remaining silent when he guides you to silence? Be intentional in your talk today. When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
  3. Rest. Life is busy. How well do you rest? Quiet yourself – even in the middle of a busy time or place. Look around. Take a deep breath. Soak in all God provides. Sink into his blessings. Trust him to refresh you throughout the day. Be intentional in your rest today. Anyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did. (Hebrews 4:10)
  4. Pay. How are you spending your time, money, and energy? Do you hoard time, money, or energy? Do you overspend time, money, or energy, resulting in emotional, financial, or spiritual debt? God provides. Respond with good stewardship. Be intentional in how you spend your life today. When people work, their pay is not given as a gift, but as something earned. (Romans 4:4)
  5. Read. How are you filling your mind? What sources do you trust? Be discerning in what is worthwhile to read, hear and see. Step beyond the basic choice between what’s good and bad. You’ll more often need to choose between good and good. Choose the best. Consistently soak in God’s Word. Be intentional in what you read today. Until I come, continue to read the Scriptures to the people, strengthen them, and teach them. (1 Timothy 4:13)
  6. Eat. Does your day revolve around food? Do you ignore what your body is telling you? Does the ease of eating override the health of eating, or does the short-term pleasure override the long-term effects when you’re making a decision? What do your habits reflect about your priorities? Make healthy choices – one at a time. Be intentional in how and what you eat today. The answer is, if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  7. Tech. You will likely use a variety of technology tools today. How are you using them? Are they helping you connect in healthy ways, or are they pulling you away from relationships? Reflect on your priorities. Choose each click well. Honor and glorify God in all you do. Be intentional in how you use technology today. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. (John 15:19)

Which Search Engine is Best?

Some of the top Google searches this week include basketball wives, Arlington National Cemetery, mojito recipes, above ground pools, pawn stars, portable air conditioners, potato salad, and jet ski. Perhaps you prefer Bing or another search engine. What questions have you asked recently? Have you trusted the answers?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, we didn’t have access to vast information the way we do today. We used encyclopedias (the ones printed in bound books) for research. We watched the skies for signs of changing weather (okay,the tv weatherman helped, too). We learned a lot from people around us. We built relationships, and as we determined who we could trust, we asked others to teach us.

We had less access to information but discerned truth from falsehoods more actively. In this age of technology, giving us easy access to extensive information, I wonder how frequently we search for information instead of truth.

There’s a difference. Information can be truthful, but information isn’t inherently truthful. When you ask a search engine a question, are you looking for information or truth?

The problem arises when we argue that truth is relative, depending on who is seeking and why.

When truth is assumed relative, nothing is reliable. There’s no difference between fact and opinion, good and evil, real and imaginary. Questions of purpose, personhood, and faith appear to be unessential. Purpose, faith, and life itself seems to float in air – with no firm foundation. Do they even exist?

When we become information – driven instead of truth-driven, we don’t change reality as much as we might think we do. We kid ourselves into thinking we’re much more powerful than we are. We don’t define ourselves, our world, or the reality of either. We don’t – and can’t – change truth. There is foundational truth in life, and there’s a search engine you can use to seek it.

God.

I’m not saying you can’t access some accurate information using search engines such as Google and Bing, but when you search God, you’ll always find truth. It’s a different sort of search. It’s not instantaneous. It’s often a journey of one question leading to another and another. You’ll often reveal pieces of truth and continue to fit new pieces as you search more.

Searching God isn’t as easy as using a search engine, because it’s based in a relationship. Relationships are ongoing, challenging, developing.

I’d rather have a relationship filled with effort but also filled with truth than an impersonal, brief, uncertain interaction. I want to invest as I search. What about you? Do you want to search passively or actively?

God, you are my God. I search for you. I thirst for you like someone in a dry, empty land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1