The Remains of Magnificence 

I have been reading portions of John Wesley’s Journal (the Founder of the Methodist Church in England- 18th Century). He made the following entry on June 19, 1760: “We dined at Kilkenny (Ireland) noble in ruins: I see no such remains of magnificence in the Kingdom (England). The late Duke of Ormand’s house, on top of a rock, hanging over the river, the ancient cathedral, and what is left of many grand buildings, yield a melancholy pleasure. Thus ‘A little power, a little sway, a sunbeam in a winter’s day, is all the great and mighty have between the cradle and the grave.'”

Just a few days after I read this, we drove by a palatial mansion of a man who recently died. There it sat behind a beautiful gated wall; perfectly empty, except (perhaps) for the caretaker. I also experienced that brief “melancholy pleasure” that Wesley described.  Such magnificence, but just a remnant. 

I think my feelings of melancholy, however, stemmed more from musing about my own life and the remnants that I will leave behind. Such remains, though not as magnificent, will be equally worthless to me. When I die, my net worth will be reduced to zero and all that I possess will become the possession of others. Think about that. 

I read another section in Wesley’s Journal written many years later (ca. 1790) that moderated my melancholy. He was 85 at the time and claimed to be relatively healthy due to various reasons; one of which was rising at 4 am and preaching at 5 am everyday for 50 years. He gave a run down of his physical and mental condition (how his short- term memory was slipping). “Even now, though I find pain daily, in my eye, or temple, or arm; yet it is never violent, and seldom lasts many minutes at a time. Whether or not this is sent to give me warning that I shall shortly quit this tabernacle, I do not know; but be it one way or the other, I only have to say,

“My remnant of days, I spend to His praise, Who died the whole world to redeem;

Be they many or few, my days are His due, And they are all devoted to Him!”


A Child’s Right To A Dad…

I’m on the road but want to make sure I give you something to think about for Father’s Day. Please take the time to click on the link below and read the letter to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (who will probably be the deciding vote) on why marriage should not be redefined to include same-sex couples.

The letter was written by Katy Faust, one of six adult children of gay parents who submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court. Her basic point is that redefining marriage redefines parenthood and moves society to promote a family structure where children will have their right to be known and loved by a father and/or a mother stripped away from them. “In same-sex-headed households, the desires of adults trump the rights of the child.”

Please give it a read and continue to pray about this momentous decision… Happy Father’s Day!

Lessons from Strange Scripture…

Last week we looked at a very strange passage in 2 Kings 8:7-15. This text is loaded with lessons for contemporary readers. Let’s look at a few of them: First, we are reminded that God is sovereign and omniscient and is the “Revealer of Secrets.” (Daniel 2:47) He knows everything that will take place as well as those things that could have been. God is never caught off guard by circumstances. Whenever I find myself wishing that things had turned out differently, I must remember that God knows exactly why things turned out the way they did and what would have resulted if they didn’t. It is obvious that we had best entrust our past as well as our future to God’s hands rather than living in the twilight zone of “if onlys” and “might have beens.”

Second, the passage reminds us that God knows the heart of every single human being who has ever walked the face of this earth. He knows your heart and mine. “When I sit down, when I rise up; you perceive my thoughts from afar; you discern my going out and my coming in and are familiar with all my ways; even before a word is on my tongue you know it completely.” Ps. 139:1-4 He is the Revealer of the secrets of the human heart. He knows what you watch; he knows what you think about when no one else does; he knows your secret life- ambitions, desires, mask, camouflage, etc. There are no secrets with him. It is time to come clean even about those things that happened years ago. 

Finally, this passage reminds us of one of the most terrifying truths of the Word of God: Our sin merits God’s wrath. The anointing of Hazael as king of Syria set into motion a series of events that manifest God’s wrath on His disobedient people. In the final chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy (chapters 28-32), Moses warned the Israelites of the judgments that would come upon them if they disregarded God and disobeyed His commandments. During the days of Elijah and Elisha, God brought various forms of adversity upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel to get their attention and to turn them from their sins. He brought various droughts and famines, as well as attacks and sieges from the armies of surrounding nations. In spite of all these warnings and opportunities for repentance, Israel persisted in her sin. Though God had patiently warned His people of the consequences of their sin, they ignored His rebuke. Finally, payday arrived.

As I recall, it was Robert G. Lee, one of the great preachers of a bygone era, who delivered the famous sermon, “Payday Someday.” Certainly we must acknowledge that it was now payday for Israel. Time after time, God had sought to get Israel’s attention, but no evidence of any real and lasting repentance was ever found. Could it be that God is warning some of you of your need to repent and turn to him lest you face payday for your sin. You may be able to hide your secrets for awhile, but they will be revealed. Just look at all the famous people and politicians whose house of cards collapsed around the revelation of some dark secret long past. 

Now is the time of repentance. You may pay a great price for coming clean, but with God there will always be refuge and forgiveness for you. That refuge and place of safety is Jesus Christ, the Man of Sorrows– see him on the cross, see him writhe with pain, for you- dying for your secrets. 

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood- sealed my pardon with his blood Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we, spotless lamb of God was he – Full atonement can it be. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

A Strange Scripture…

There is a very strange passage of the Bible found in 2 Kings 8:7-15 in which are hidden some very important lessons. The king of Syria sent his messenger, Hazael, with abundant gifts—40 camel loads of gifts and instructed Hazael to ask the prophet Elisha a very important question. Hazael was the servant of Ben Hadad, the king of Syria- not an Israelite or worshiper of Yahweh, but one who respected the prophet of God. He wanted to know “Will I recover from this sickness?” It is Elisha’s strange answer to that question that perplexes some readers.

He told Hazael. “Go and tell him (King Ben Hadad), ‘You will surely recover,’ but the LORD has revealed to me that he will surely die” (verse 10). Here is the first issue: Was Elijah guilty of lying? Why, then, did he send the King of Syria the message that he would recover, while he went on to tell Hazael that the king would die? Sounds like a lie to me. But wait; the king’s question was very specific: “Will I recover from this sickness?” Elisha’s answer was specific as well: “Yes!” As you read on you will see that Ben Hadad did not die of his present malady, but was murdered by that very servant, Hazael, who suffocated him. (Sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock episode.)  Thus Elisha’s words were completely true; he did not lie to the king, but neither did he inform the king concerning all that was going to happen.

This brings up another issue. Did Elisha put the idea of murdering the king into the mind of Hazael? As we already mentioned, Elisha gave Hazael a very specific answer to convey to the king and he also informed Hazael that the king was going to die. However (and this is important), Elisha did not reveal to Hazael how that would happen. He did not say, “And Hazael, you are going to suffocate him with a wet towel.” Instead the text says that Elisha stared into the eyes of Hazael until he could no longer look at the prophet. That must have been an amazing scene- what was going on here? We are not told the specifics, but I think it is safe to say that Hazael felt that Elisha was looking deep into his soul. I think he recognized that Elisha knew that he had already decided to kill the king. The secret thoughts of Hazael’s heart were surely known to God, and I believe to Elisha as well. No wonder he could no longer look at the prophet. As a number of translations render it, he was too ashamed to do so. 

What an unusual experience this must have been for Hazael! To know that he had a secret and then to realize that in the prophet’s gaze someone else knew that secret. He must have felt like Judas in the upper room, when Jesus made it clear to him that He knew what he was about to do. And then, at the very moment when Hazael probably wanted to run from the presence of the prophet, Elisha began to cry. Hazael was mystified. “Why are you weeping?” Elisha told Hazael that he knew the terrible things he would do to the people of Israel. He would not only prevail over Israel in battle, but he would destroy places and people with savagery. He would burn down fortresses, kill men with the sword, smash children to bits, and rip open pregnant women (verse 12).

This prophet greatly agonizes over the suffering that was to come upon the people of Israel, because of their sins. There was no question in the prophet’s mind that Israel deserved what was coming after all of God’s warnings and discipline. However, the realization that the time for judgment had come caused Elisha great sorrow. Hazael responded to Elisha’s prophecy by saying, “How could your servant — a mere dog (an unimportant man), accomplish such a great feat?” And Elisha answered, “The LORD has shown me that you will become king over Syria”

Next week… some principles gleaned from this passage.