Monthly Archives: January 2017

Lessons From Jehoshaphat – Part 5

From humbly seeking God first, to praying a God-centered prayer, followed by praying Scripture and surrender, the prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20 has practical lessons for us in our own prayer life and relationship with God.  This is the final part of this prayer series found in this chapter by this great leader of Judah, King Jehoshaphat.

Principle Number Five – Do Not Succumb To Fear Because This Is The LORD’s Battle – vs 15

While it’s not a direct part of the king’s prayer, it most definitely is a result of it, the final principles is not to fear. Why are we not to fear? Because the battle is the LORD’s, not ours!

In verse 14 a man named Jahaziel has the Spirit of the LORD come upon him.  Then in verse 15 he stands up and declares, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

The battle we are facing is not our own.  Yet too often we fail to understand our situation in this way and think we must face our enemy alone.   But we don’t have to go it alone.  If we understand the previous principle of surrender, we can take the next step and remain confident. What is that step? It’s praise.

Notice how after a night of sleep, the king makes this pronouncement in verse 20.  “Hear me O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem:  Believe in the LORD your God and you will be established; believe His prophets and you shall prosper.”  Then is verse 21, the king does something totally unheard of in battle.  He puts the singers out front.  They are in the front line of battle.

Those in the front are the first ones the enemies arrows hit!  But Jehoshaphat knew he was not to be afraid and he needed to praise the LORD in this battle – because the fight is really the LORD’s.

We don’t think of praise as being a battlefield tactic but the king, upon being encouraged by Jahaziel’s pronouncement, knew he had to put his confidence in God’s administration of the battle the nation was facing.

When facing a battle or dealing with adversity, is praise part of your battle strategy?

Notice how the most feared and respected warrior on ancient Israel was also the author of most of the Book of Psalms!  King David the warrior, was also, King David the great praiser!

Praise helps reorient our thinking.  Praise puts our minds into proper alignment.  Praise allows us to step aside and see God fight the battle for us.  Praise takes my eyes off myself and my struggle and focuses my attention on Him.  Praise keeps my mind thinking as God would have me think.

In Philippians 4, Paul tells us to concentrate on what is true, noble, pure, lovely, good report, virtuous and “praiseworthy.”  This is how we are supposed to think or as he states, meditate upon.  Praise allows me to step away from fear and puts God at the forefront of the battle.

When facing adversity, these lessons or principles of prayer from King Jehoshaphat as found in 2 Chronicles 20 are a pattern for us to follow for victory.

  1. Humbly seek God first – verse 3
  2. Pray a God-centered prayer and not a problem-centered one – verses 6-12
  3. Pray Scripture, reminding yourself of God’s promises – verses 6-12
  4. Surrender and throw yourself on His mercy – verse 12
  5. Do not be afraid. Praise Him! – verses 14-15, 20-21

God always has a better plan than we can imagine.  It is His battle, not ours and He has ways of resolving our conflict we could never imagine.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

Lessons From Jehoshaphat – Part 4

The prayer of King Jehoshaphat as recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20 is a smorgasbord of lessons, or principles for us about prayer, especially when facing adversity.  The first principle shows us how we must humbly go to prayer first.  Seek Him before we do anything else.  The second principle highlighted the fact that we must pray God-centered prayers. 18 times, the king uses the terms “You” or “Yours,” referring to God instead of his problem.  The third principle he models for us is how Scripture must be part of our prayers.  We don’t pray Scripture to remind God of His promises to us, but we need reminded of His promises and using the Word in our prayers encourages our faith.  Now, there is another principle found in this same passage.

Principle Number Four – We Must Surrender And Throw Ourselves On God’s Mercy – vs 12

As Jehoshaphat approaches the end of his prayer he make this honest assessment of his situation.  He says, “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

As the king, he is supposed to have all the answers, to lead his army into battle, to figure out how to overcome this threat.  But he knows this situation is beyond his ability.  So he throws himself, and therefore the rest of the nation, into the hands of God.  He has no idea of what to do, but he also knows they must trust God.

It’s surrender.  Surrender isn’t a term we like.  It has a negative meaning to us.  Victors in a war mark the anniversary of their opponents surrender.  We don’t want to be on the side of an army or nation that surrendered.  But surrender is actually the path to victory in God’s plan.

Years earlier, King David prays, “I will extol You my God, O King; and I will bless Your Name forever and ever” -Psalm 145:1.  It’s tempting to casually read over this verse without seeing the big lesson found in it.  The word “extol” used in this verse often is translated lift up or raise.  But it’s not lifting from a higher position, it’s raising something up from a lower position.  Here, David as the king, the most powerful man in ancient Israel, was stating God was his King, acknowledging that God was to take a higher position.  Or in other words, he was surrendering himself to God.  David as king, was claiming God is his King and he as surrendering to Him.

How often do you really surrender to God in prayer?  It is so easy to come to Him with a list of things we want Him to do and we might even tell Him how He is supposed to do it! That’s not surrendering to His will, but it’s asking – or in some situations – demanding He perform what we want.  Surrender is yielding to Him.  Taking our plans off a platter we hand Him and putting Him first.  It’s His will, His plan, His directive we are to follow.  Its surrender and once we give up our position and submit to His, then we are primed to participate in the victory He has for us.

Surrender is not what you want to do if you are an army but it is the pathway to victory in prayer.  Yield Yourself to Him , throw yourself on God’s mercy and see what He does in your life.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

Lessons From Jehoshaphat – Part 3

King Jehoshaphat is facing a serious challenge from his enemies.  The people of Moab, Ammon “and others” have all come against Judah.  The account of how he handles this is found in 2 Chronicles 20. Within this chapter, I see no less than five Principles or Lessons of Prayer, as displayed by the king.   In verse 3 he humbly sought God first and then from verses 6-12 we see how his prayer was very God–centered, as opposed to being problem-centered.  Now we see the third lesson from King Jehoshaphat.

Principle Number Three – Pray Scripture, The Promises Of God – vs 6-12

When Jehoshaphat begins his prayer, he quickly goes to the fact that they are the descendants of Abraham.  He prays through a long series of promises from Scripture.  He says “Are You not our God…” and adds how God “drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel”.  He mentions how God gave them this land and states how they are descendants of Abraham.   Further, he says Abraham was the LORD’s “friend forever.”

Next, in verse 9, he mentions the sanctuary built in the name of the LORD.  He again turns to lessons of Scripture, referring to Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8 when the temple was originally dedicated.   He indicates how when the people faced adversity like “the sword, judgement, pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this temple…and cry out to you in our affliction and YOU WILL HEAR AND SAVE! (emphasis mine)-  2 Chronicles 20:9.

Jehoshaphat is praying Scripture.

It might be one of the most effective ways to pray.   You don’t need to pray Scripture back to Him to remind His of His Word, but when you pray Scripture, you remind yourself of what He promised.

Praying Scripture reminds us of His promises, it bolsters our faith and makes us more confident to “come boldly to the throne of grace” – Hebrews 4:16.

It also encourages others.  Remember when Jehoshaphat is praying, the people are gathered together, all of them are asking “help from the LORD” – 2 Chronicles 20:4.  Here the king, has called them all together, proclaimed a fast and now, in front all these people, he is praying, reminding them of the promises of God.

It’s one thing to pray for God’s intervention in a situation or to ask for His protection, but when you pray His promises back to Him, you are giving power to your prayers.  It’s like your prayer engine has been given a boost of high-octane fuel.  It strengthens your faith and rather than meekly asking God and hoping He isn’t too busy to hear, you are confident.  You know from Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the LORD’s encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them.”  That’s just one of many verses I like to pray as it reminds me how God does surround me and He does, in fact, deliver me.

Many years ago I heard a radio preacher saying, “God is still on the throne and prayer changes things.”  I believe those concepts, but I also think prayer changes me.  Praying Scripture makes me more confident, strengthens my faith and encourages my soul.  I think this is especially true when one prays out-loud.

King Jehoshaphat knew, he needed to pray Scripture.  The people were looking to him for encouragement and he knew how to inspire them and himself.  He humbly sought the LORD first, he was God-centered in his prayer and he reminded himself (and those with him) of everything God had promised to His people by praying Scripture.  It’s a great pattern for us to follow in our prayers.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

Lessons From Jehoshaphat – Part 2

In part 1 of Lessons From Jehoshaphat, I covered the first lesson of Humbly Seeking The LORD First as described in verse 3 of 2 Chronicles 20.  When facing adversity, we must go to God first instead of trying to figure out our own way through the stormy seas around us.

Principle Number Two – Be God-Centered, Not Problem-Centered – vs 6-12

Obviously, when we have a serious problem or face huge adversity, we must tell God all about it – right?  Well that isn’t King Jehoshaphat’s idea of prayer.  In just seven verses in  New King James Version, the king mentions uses the words, “You” or “Yours” no less than 18 times!  Think about that, he doesn’t even mention the conspiracy of the enemies of Israel until verse 10.  His prayer is God-centered, not problem-centered.

He starts out with praise saying He (the LORD) is the God of the universe and how He rules over all the kingdoms of the earth.  Of course, this means King Jehoshaphat knows God is sovereign over him!  He says “in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able t withstand You?”  The king knew, God was in control and further, he knew his prayer had to be surrounded by the God of Heaven.

I find this so foreign to my way of praying and quite frankly, I have very rarely heard people pray like Jehoshaphat.  I think I am correct when I say most of our prayers are a laundry list of things we are handing to God.  If there is an especially difficult or scary situation facing us, we bring that up issue first and foremost in our prayers.

Praying a God-centered prayer is different.  A God-centered prayer is one where He is the main subject.  He is acknowledged as being supreme and His might and power are all encompassing.   He is my primary focus and I must concentrate on Him and not on my problem.

When I pray a problem-centered prayer, it is not Him that is the focus, but my problem.  In fact, I would make the claim a problem-centered prayer in many ways puts me the center.  After all, often the problem or adversity I want God to address is something I’d like fixed or resolved so that my life will be better.  It easily becomes about me.

This is a serious attitude adjustment for us.  It puts God front and center instead of us. We are, of course, supposed to bring our petitions to God.  But we must do it in a God-centered way, not in a problem-centered way.

I find this exercise is much harder to do than one would initially think.  Most of us have prayed problem-centered prayers for so long and that is all we know.  But try it.  When you are praying about a problem or wrestling with an issue, turn your prayers around and see if you can begin your prayer like King Jehoshaphat, mentioning God early and often before bringing up the situation that has driven you to your knees.

Prayer is a relationship and God isn’t Santa Claus.  Pray God-centered prayers and see if He doesn’t do some amazing things in your life.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

Lessons From Jehoshaphat – Part 1

How often have these words described your life; overwhelmed, alarmed, discouraged, perplexed, confused, or afraid?  When you’ve faced adversity, how have you responded?  How have you prayed when you’re surrounded and drowning by one or more of the above emotions?

In 2 Chronicles 20, the people of Judah faced a grave threat.  No less than three different groups of people had conspired together in an attempt to battle the kingdom of Judah.  The situation was bleak.

King Jehoshaphat does go to prayer and seeks the LORD’s help.  His prayer of 2 Chronicles 20 is an excellent example of what Godly prayer really looks like.  As a leader, the King is not only looking to protect his people from defeat in battle, but he seems to understand how we need to approach prayer, particularly when we are facing great difficulty.

I see no less than 5 Principles of Prayer from his example, as listed in verses 3 through 15 of 2 Chronicles 20.

Principle Number One – Humbly Seek The LORD First – vs 3

Right after King Jehoshaphat hears of the enemies of Israel conspiring together to attack him, he turns to God.  What’s interesting to me is what he doesn’t do.  He doesn’t take a census of his army or try to find out how many sharp swords they have.  He didn’t call for horses to be prepared for battle, but he did call on God.  Notice verse 3,

And Jehoshaphat feared and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout Judah.

The king hears of this bad news and turns to God BEFORE he did anything else.  Further, he calls for a nationwide fast.  Some would say this isn’t the time for a fast, this is a time to summon soldiers, do some marching drills and prepare for war.  But not for King Jehoshaphat.  He knew, if they were to survive this very powerful alliance assembled against him, he needed a higher power than any earthly army he could command.

His call was heeded as “Judah gathered together to ask help from the LORD.”  The people saw their king, turn to God and humbled himself by fasting.  One gets the sense most of the nation saw this as a threat and yet had great confidence in their leader.  He demonstrated humility, asked them to join him in a fast and together, they all sought the LORD.

What is your first response when facing adversity?  How quickly is the LORD sought when you are overwhelmed?  I think often there may be a temptation to try to figure out a solution on our own before we bring God into the picture.  This might be especially true when we are in positions of leadership.  We may figure since we are in a position of authority and responsibility, we should come up with a plan.  We may want to seek God AFTER we have a plan and want His blessing on it, but the plan is ours.  Except I find that God almost never uses my plan.

Instead of trying to fix the situation on our own, our FIRST response needs to be like good ‘ol King Jehoshaphat and turn to God, humbling ourselves before Him.

This is not to say we must always enter into a fast, but I do think we are to be humble.  Fasting has a way of humbling you – letting you realize how vulnerable you really are as just a few hours away from food, our bodies begin to complain.

This is only the first principle of prayer as found in 2 Chronicles 20.  Humbly, seek God first.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

Snow

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  – Psalm 51:7 (NKJV)

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”   –  Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV)

I can’t say I’m a big fan of winter.  But I live in the mid-west, therefore it is a yearly battle I face.  Cold and snow…  and usually more snow.  In fact, in my part of the world, we claim we experience all four seasons, winter, still winter, almost winter and construction.

There is however a beauty about snow that is displayed when there is a significant amount of the white stuff that falls quickly.  The obvious display of how mud, dirt and other various imperfections can be erased by an accumulation of snow fall.

As the snow covers the world around us, it creates this unique beauty which the scriptures compare to snowhow God deals with our sin. It is replaced by something beautiful.  Of course, snow doesn’t really remove any of those imperfections and it eventually melts.  But when God deals with the sin in our life (or more accurately when we submit to Him and allow Him to deal with our sin) He actually removes those sins.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12 (NKJV)

I love that verse and so should you.

While a winter snow fall always reminds me of Isaiah 1:18 and I so glad that Psalm 103:12 gives us a great follow up to the Isaiah passage.  God does clean us up and remove that sin so that it is not held against us any longer, but He has so thoroughly dealt with our sin that it is removed completely from His sight, not to be held against us again.  Awesome!

Maybe like me, you periodically look back on your life and wish you hadn’t made some choices that you did – committed sins that you now regret.  You may even think that God holds those things against you.  He isn’t.  If you’ve come to Jesus, confessed your sin and understand that without Him, you aren’t good enough, God has removed your sin.  Now you look like a field with a fresh layer of snow.

Take a moment and enjoy God’s grace in your life.  Realize He has forgiven you and He loves you.   Sin no longer is held against you!

I need to remember this when I’m shoveling snow.  Blessings My Friend.

-jm

A Thought On John 17

I do not pray for these alone, but for those who will believe in Me through their word – John 17:20

The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is a quite revealing insight into the purpose and power of prayer.  I believe it is important to note how Jesus is not weeks, days, or even hours from His sham trial, scourging and crucifixion.   He’s just minutes away from the end of His earthy life and He knows this is coming.  So, this prayer carries considerable weight as one of His final instructions or models of prayer for us.

In the first five verses He does pray for Himself, but the majority of His prayer in John 17 is about others.  His disciples and close followers occupy His petitions.  He knows the world will hate them, because He was hated by the world, and He prays for God’s protection for them.

But what strikes me the most is how He prays for us!  Notice in verse 20 how He prays for “those who will believe in Me through their word.”  Since we believe in Jesus through the words of the disciples (Matthew and John come to mind), we are the people He is praying for here in verse 20.

I find this so amazing that Jesus, minutes away from death, is thinking and praying about us.  He prayed for me and He prayed for you.

In fact, Jesus seems so considered with the plight of others, that He uses the word “world” 17-19 times in John 17, depending on the version of the Bible you use. So while He is facing the beginning of the cruel overnight/early morning torture and His own crucifixion in just minutes, He is prays for others.

While we can pray for ourselves, how often do we pray for others?  Even when faced with grave difficulties or had times?  His prayer in John 17 is a great reminder of how even when faced with adversity, we need to think about and pray for others.

Blessings My Friend!

-jm