Sunday, November 26, 2017

Raising the Bar by Command - Matthew 14.22-33

I know that I tend to use this parable, along with the widow’s offering, more than any other account in the Scripture, but it appeals to me. It’s versatile. There are so many applications. That parable is the one of the Servants and the Talents. You know it.
A man is going away for a spell. He calls in his ranch hands to let them know of his extended absence. While he is gone, he has a project for each of them. He gave the first ranch hand $500 and said, “son, see what you can do with this.” Then he gave to the second ranch hand $200 dollars telling him the same thing, “son, see what happens with this here 200.” To the last ranch hand he gave just $100. Again, the Rancher tells the hand, “son, here’s a $100. See where this leads you.”
Of course, there was no further instruction. The sums each came with carte blanche. After a few seasons, the Rancher returns and looks over the spread. Pleased with what he saw, he called his three ranch hands to come in and give an account to their sums of money. After they retrieved their books and money, they appeared before the Rancher.
The first hand comes up and says, “Hefe, you didn’t tell me what to do, so I got into some stuff. Here’s your original 500 back, and 500 more.”  The Rancher gave him praise for his work.
The second hand comes up and says, “Sir, I thought I might have lost it, but I worked hard. Here’s 400 and more to come.”  The Rancher also had praise to rain on his faithful hand.
The last cowpoke came up, a bit sheepish, hat in hand. “El Hefe, Sir, I know you are an exacting man. I didn’t want to risk losing what you gave me. I couldn’t afford to replace it out of my paltry pay if I even worked for next five years free. So I put it under a fence post in the back 40. Here it is. I didn’t lose a penny of it.”
Of course we know that the Rancher had no praise but proceeded to tell his hand how lazy he thought the hand was. The hand could have played the safe route and invested in a savings account during his absence. Everyone knows that when a post is disturbed, likely there is hidden cache of money that the person wanted to keep safe and away from the banks.
Why this parable is appropriate this morning is that there were no instructions given. Each hand was freely given the money. And it was that the last man had no faith in the faith that the Rancher had in him. Think about that for a moment. The Rancher had faith in the hand that he gave the hand $100. But the hand had no faith in himself or in the Rancher. He didn’t have a clear directive what to do with the money so he didn’t do anything.
Isn’t that how it is with us as Christians? Take stock for a moment. Do you have faith in the Father’s faith in you? Do I trust that the Father’s faith in me will yield fruit for the kingdom? You see he’s given each of us the Holy Spirit by whom we live. But the Holy Spirit is only our guide. He doesn’t command us. He doesn’t rule us. Those aren’t his jobs.
I think we tend to overthink things really. Been that way since back in the Garden with the original couple. They had a simple directive. Don’t eat. That’s it. Only one law in the entire judicial system. Don’t eat. But surely it couldn’t be that simple.
They added a rule to protect themselves. Don’t eat. Don’t touch. But that wasn’t the command. With only one command, there is quite a bit of freedom to do anything one might imagine. But we over thought it and added to it. Satan challenged us on the law. He called the bluff.
And that’s not a contradiction either. God did say they would die when they ate it. But until that time, man was innocence personified. They were immortal in that they ate from the Tree of Life. When they were expelled, they ceased eating from the Tree of Life, and therefore death entered. The couple started dying. Remember, the Tree of Life was blocked by a flaming sword. Man is now no longer immortal but terminal.
Now in Christ, we are overthinking once again. It’s an argument that has been taking place at least from near the beginning of the church. It became an issue with the new Gentiles coming into the faith. Some wanted all to embrace the way of Moses and the Law. Others said that how is that fair when even the Jews themselves were unable to keep the law
So the Apostles and the Elders of Jerusalem thought it over and came to a decision. There would be 3 simple rules: 1) Abstain from sexual misconduct. 2) Don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols (idol worship), and 3) Don’t eat meat strangled or its blood. In other words, they were to respect life, worship God, and stay sexually pure. Everything else is freedom.
But we don’t like such freedom. We want someone telling us what to do, and I think this is why. So that should anything fail, we can pass it back or pass the blame on to someone else. It’s where Peter was in our passage this morning. He wanted something, but instead of acting on his own, he wants Jesus to tell him directly. He didn’t want to just be told, he wanted to be commanded. Does Jesus listen? Let’s read the text:

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.
Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

Peter wanted to play it safe. He wanted Jesus to prove himself to him. But this isn’t going to happen. Instead, Jesus gives Peter a little lesson as to whom Jesus really is. That is why Jesus stayed after sending the disciples away. He needed to remind them, remind us that though he’s living totally as a man, he is still the Great I, the Creator of the Universe. But God doesn’t want mind-numb obedient robots to love him. He has the angels for that. Instead he wants us to have the freedom to love him.
Jesus did, in this interaction, give commands, but never so much to Peter about walking on water. Instead Command 1 was to have courage, that Jesus is with them. Peter and the rest were afraid because Jesus was acting in a manner that they couldn’t wrap around their minds. Jesus was doing something different and unexpectedly.
Instead, Jesus told the disciples to be courageous. Yes, the two are in the same verse, but they are different commands. They are related but not the same. Courage has been often defined as doing something despite the fear one might have. Firefighters for example are courageous running against the flow of people. But the firefighters are still afraid of the fire. Here in the sight of the Son of God, or God with us, the disciples are being told not to be afraid.
Then there is the command to not be afraid. Perhaps the disciples knowing where they were spiritually, being in the presence of someone so holy, it was fearful. Every time that the Angel of the Lord appeared, every time any angel appeared to people, any time something supernatural from God happens, the person or audience is immediately told not to be afraid, with the exception of the Angel of the Lord appearing to Balaam. At that moment, his sins gave him good reason to be afraid. In this moment, Jesus walking on water is supernatural. And Jesus tells them to not be afraid of him, not to be afraid of God. He is with them. He is with us.
Finally, what about Peter wanting Jesus to command him? If Peter were to fail, then whose fault would it be? The one who failed, or the one setting him up for failure. We tend to pass the buck. How often have we heard, “we were just doing what we were told/taught”? If someone else tells us to do something, then I can say that I was set up for failure. But if I have the freedom to do something on my own, then my failure is mine. But that’s situation ethics. You are told to do something, and if you know it’s a wrong or bad command, then obeying makes you as guilty for following through.  
“Peter, if you want to walk on the water, then you are free to walk on the water.” That is what Jesus was saying when he said, “come”. Peter, trust Jesus.
Let me bring it home to us. We want to be told what to do. The problem with being told what to do, once we start looking for such direction, our faith becomes ritual. It ceases to be faith. God has told us to love him with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. But what does that look like?
Jesus answered that it is being a servant to all. But what does that look like? It’s ambiguous, by design. God wants us to love Him with our mind, so we are free to imagine how we might show love to Him and to our neighbor. There is a preacher who has a dream of eliminating poverty. What will that look like? He’s still working on it. Will it eliminate it through out the community he lives in? He doubts it, but hopes that perhaps one day, it will bring glory to God.
That is a courageous step on his part. What are you thinking about for the kingdom on how to love God and to love your neighbor? Let your imagination soar. Dream. How might you bring glory to His name?
What keeps us from dreaming? Fear? You know how sinful you are, and can God use you with your brokenness? You bet he can and will. Do you fear God? Why? Through this passage, through the word of God, we are promised that if we are seeking Him, looking for him, we will find him and we don’t need to fear him.
He has set this up so that we might be saved, that we might come to him crying Abba Papa. That is what he wants. He wants to hear those precious words from our lips, from your lips. Papa, I love you. He’s so not looking to get us. He wants to love you. He desires to know and forgive you. And he freely does when we accept the work that Jesus did, to taste eternal death so that you and I won’t taste it. My prayer is that you do oft say, “I love you, Abba Papa.”
Then what might you do with such praise and affection? Perhaps it will be greater than walking on water. Listen to His word and come to him with courage free from fear.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Have I lied? A beginning thought...

Thought of Provocation
It has been a while since I have written on this blog. For a while I made some quick videos. It was novel. I do enjoy making the videos, along with the bloopers of my own mistakes. But all in all, I have been given a gift of words. It truly is an amazing gift that the Father has given me, especially since Mr. Roboto was my nickname in school. (After all, I could not talk at a normal pace without stutter. Instead, I talked really slow and monotone.)

Words give me the ability to create pictures, worlds, EVEN LIFE itself. No, I am not blaspheming the Holy Word. God said that I am created in HIS image. He is a creator who has bestowed me with the ability to create as well.  But I have my limitations. What I create with my words are but an inkling of what life is like sustained by our loving Heavenly Father.

 But what do I do with my words, this is what changes for me. I have seen my words be a source of hurt. I have seen my words as a source of passion. I have seen my words as a source of comfort. I have seen my words as a source of change.  I am a wordsmith who enjoys his gift.

Right now, I am in the middle of a couple of writing projects. One is a project to introduce a real person to a group of people who want to know more about him. No, they won’t be able to come and meet him. They are relying upon my ability to use my words to reveal more than what people tend to see when they see him. I am almost done. Its deadline is on the horizon.

My other word project is a repeating one. It’s due every couple of weeks. I use my words to encourage a flock of God, a church family. This is the preaching schedule. I preach 26 weeks of the year, which gives me a lot of time to reflect on the words that I will use, and what it is that I am trying to say to the congregation.

On Sunday nights, we have been travelling through the Prophets in the Old Testament. After all, Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus that the Prophets tell of Jesus. Actually, reading the prophets, I find a lot of overlay between the time of the prophets and what is happening in our time today.

First, I am not saying that in any way that America, particularly the United States, is the new Israel, or the New Chosen People. We are not.  Also, I am comparing preachers to prophets in that they are both responsible for the bringing of a message from God, through His Word. There is some comparison between the two roles.

So this is what we had covered: Jeremiah 14.14. (It’s an easy address to remember.) Actually, back up a verse to 13. “Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.”

Imagine the word, “preacher”, in that small passage. Too often I see, I hear preachers telling people how basically good they are. But how good are we? Am I doing what I need to be doing, am I preaching messages that equip and challenge my brothers and sisters to dig into the Bible because we as a nation are not ok. Our morality is going down rather quickly.

Do I have the courage to tell you that you are wrong? No, I am not being judgmental. I, too, struggle with what I should not. I know what is right, what is good. I know what is wrong. Too often, I find myself doing the wrong. How long will God put up with me? (This was also Paul’s struggle, as he shared in Romans 7.)

Let me bring this home for you. Are you struggling with doing what you know you ought not do? Thankfully, Jesus, the Messiah, rescues you from your struggle, from your dying flesh. (Romans 7.25) But let’s try something: Since there is no condemnation for us who are in Jesus Christ, let us put off the yoke of slavery to our physical wants. Let us draw upon the Spirit within us, the Holy Spirit, to strengthen us to live according to the adoption that we have received.

This post is rather short, and might even raise more questions. I encourage you to ask me. Let me encourage you. Allow me to answer those questions, not as someone who is perfect, but as your fellow saint. (Oh, you do know that is how God sees us, if we are in Christ Jesus.) I am there with you, struggling with the same sin nature. By His Spirit, we will get through this.


Thank you for allowing me to share with you from my heart. The Father’s blessings be yours. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hey! We're OLD!



So I sit here, reflecting upon a facebook war, if one might call it such. Robert started it. He said everyone but him was looking old. Robert, you don’t look as old because you shave your head, ya cheat! Anyway, this isn’t about attacking anyone, at least not in the serious form. This is about us getting older. Having a laugh.

We become painfully aware of it with tragedies. We jokingly are reminded when we see a sports star our own age have his midlife crisis in front of the cameras as he signs his “Hail, Mary” contract. (Dude, take a page from the book of Elway and buy an auto dealership and enjoy life. But one must wonder what Minnesota was thinking. Isn’t this where Steve Young retreated, as well?)

Robert’s comments were not the only reason this has been on my mind of late. Truth be told, we are not old. I can’t be. I don’t shave my head like some, and I don’t invest in “Just For Men” like others, but I have less gray today than I did at the 10-year reunion, (though seriously, I have no idea who is using. Care to confess? About using JFM?)

Last month, we had our nieces from Albq visiting us for a few weeks. IT’s always a blast having them here with us. Well maybe not this time. My Candice said, “Uncle Steve, you’re old!” Thanks, Lil Princess. Why do I call you my “favorite niece” again?!

That’s not it alone. There is more. There is a Shell Food Mart where I enjoy the best tap Dr. Pepper around. Everyone there knows me. Everyone there really doesn’t know me, I learned. One of the girls working there said, “I have been meaning to ask you: those boys that occasionally come in with you, are they your grandchildren?”

OUCH!! THAT HURT! OUCH!! Still smarting over that. I went back to talk with one of the few there that I have known going on years. “Actually, we all thought that they were your grandsons.” Did I say, “OUCH!”?

So then we go off to a store in Flagstaff. Winslow is limited on where one goes to buy clothes for my SONS. Walmart. Fantastic selection of girls’ clothing. (Yeah we lack the selection for boys.) So back to the store in Flagstaff. We had someone at the register ringing up our purchase.  He looked like he was 50-ish. “Sir, I must compliment you on your well-behaved grandsons.”  Say it with me: “OUCH!”

Being a preacher, I usually can’t keep my mouth shut. I thought I would share these events with my congregation. Since the mean age of the congregation is 60, AFTER we include my family’s ages, I thought I would be told, “Preacher, you don’t look old.” (Hey, I wanted some ego boosting.)

“Gramps! That is too funny!” Hey! Again, my favorite chorus of this note: (Say it with me.) OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! Seeing this 80 year old lady calling ME: “Gramps”. OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!

I thought I would get sympathy from my dad since he called to let me know he misses his grandchildren who do not live in Yuma. Nope! Not gonna happen. HE had a hoot. We got to talking about the whole event.

Until my friend Kevin moved to 26th Place, my dad was the oldest dad around. Seriously, he was. I didn’t want to be a senior citizen at my boys’ graduations. I got married earlier. But we could not have children until… Well, I am going to be a senior citizen at my kids’ graduations. Oh well.

The point of these funnies, you must ask? Aging. I really don’t feel old. I don’t see much differences from the pictures of the 20 year reunion from what I saw at the 10 year reunion. I even still remember Uncle Gene’s Black 40 party. HE still looks the same.

Oh yeah, back on aging. I remember when I was younger. I was in college. I wondered why people made a big deal about aging. I thought, “just embrace it, move on.” Now I am there, seeing myself, forcing myself to embrace the fact that I may not be as young as I used to be. (Though I can still walk a 15 minute mile and run it in 7. And I am now 7” taller than I was at high school graduation.)

One might say, “Steven, you are failing to make your point.” Yeah, I know. I am having fun rambling. I used to ramble too much on Sunday morning, so I have to have an outlet for it, so here we are. What was I saying?

Oh yeah, aging. I am… Well I did have a point that I was in the process of making in the long drive of it all. But I got lost. Sorry about that. Enjoy this time & thanks for reading! Gramps Steve

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

War on Law

I wonder about the news of late. I try not to follow Yahoo News​ due to their obvious disdain for our finest in blue (and brown). I saw a poster from a lady who use to teach me Bible in high school youth group. Her poster was made this past weekend, 7 officers executed in the last week of August, Then I saw another person post of more officers killed in the last 3 days.I don't know how many have been slain. One is too many to count.

Being that I am a preacher, I look at things from both sides. I see a spiritual side that often is overlooked. We are in a spiritual war. We tend to only see the physical because we cannot perceive the spiritual.

Yet Paul, the apostle, gives us an indication of what might be happening

No, I am not saying that the man of lawlessness has been revealed, but I am seeing that our time is increasingly becoming more and more lawless. It seems to have begun with the war on our peace officers, our veterans, our military, and our heroes who place their lives on the line for our safety, our security. We are in a crossroads in history.

And I want to encourage you with this. Stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ. Let us pray for those who serve us. Let us encourage them when we encounter them. (I always ask if I might take their cruiser around the block. One officer actually let me. But all of them tend to smile and have their day brightened.)

Let us continue to fix our eyes on the finish line, of living for Him who saved us.
in 2nd letter to the church of Thessalonica. In this letter, the second chapter (2 Thessalonians 2), Paul addresses the rumors of the Day of the Lord had already occurred. Yet Paul said that the Day of the Lord (the second coming, His return), will not happen until the time of lawlessness comes, and the man of lawlessness has been revealed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recapturing Pentecost - Acts 2.42-47



As I think about it, I don’t believe I can recall the last time there was a double holiday weekend. The closest I have seen in the past has been when our wedding anniversary falls on Labor Day weekend. But tomorrow, as you know, Memorial Day, a day of sober remembrance of those who gave their lives on the battlefield for us. But for the average American, tomorrow is the first holiday of Summer, even though there is still most of a month of Spring before Summer officially starts.
And if you haven’t realized it, seven weeks have passed since we celebrated Easter. It has been seven weeks and a day since the Passover. So by the Jewish calendar, today is the day that starts the Jewish festival, Feast of weeks, a celebration of the harvest of the first grains. It is a joyous celebration before the Lord, a celebration where what is given to the Lord is not mandated, other than to give with joy and thanksgiving.  So I guess today’s holiday is much like tomorrow’s.
Just as Jesus was the lamb for the Passover, so today marked the birth of the church. Consider what the people saw, what they heard. First it started with wind, not the actual movement of air, but merely the sound of it. It was loud. It was heard through the streets of Jerusalem to the point that people gathered to where the disciples were staying. Then God’s presence was revealed in the tongues of fire descending upon each them, enabling them to speak the Great News in different tongues so that all who came to see heard the news proclaimed in his or her native tongue.
They started questioning it. Some were amazed. A few scoffed, blaming alcohol. Yet from there, Peter had their attention. He proclaimed Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. He demonstrated how He fulfilled Scripture and how the people rejected him and had him killed. God’s Son murdered by their hands. And they knew it. They asked what must be done.
Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the Holy Spirit. And with these and many other words, Peter pleaded with the people to save themselves from this corrupt generation. The response was phenomenal. Approximately 3,000 were baptized and added that day.
Not only was this the start of the church, but it was something totally new. It was a newness of attitude, a newness of the heart. It was a new transformation. And look how it manifested itself beginning at Acts 2.42 and following.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
So the question that we ponder this morning is how do we recapture Pentecost? I am not so much talking about this day as much as I am referring to what started this day.  Our passage is weeks, months, even years past this day. How do we recapture Pentecost?
1.     Devotion to Study and Worship
This past week, I had an interesting discussion about faith, the Word. The quote this person left me with, “I don't need some book to tell me how to live or know god. As if anyone has the right to tell someone else that he knows god better (than me).”  Needless to say, at that point our short conversation ended.
Yet it got me to thinking about what this person said. Do I need some book? If I want to be able to do my taxes, I need a book. As I restore my truck, I definitely need a book to tell me how. If I want to practice medicine or law, I need a book. Well I would need lots of books. Even philosophers and self-help gurus are always pushing their books so that the reader can know how to live a better life.
Basically we study books, other teachers if you will, until we've mastered the subject. But even then, living for God, following Christ's example is so counterintuitive that mastery is nearly impossible given every turn we're told that Self is most important thing in life.
Yet another conversation is that if we want to win “x”-religious person to Christ, we need to read that person’s literature and fully understand where the person is coming from. This person even used Paul in Athens where he saw the idol to the unknown god, just in case they missed one in their pantheon of worships.  But Paul stated that in his ministry, he claimed to know nothing but Jesus and Jesus crucified alone.
Just as a person who handles money for a living doesn’t take time to know the counterfeits, but instead spends time studying the real. This allows him or her to spot the fake money when it appears. So we too, are to handle the Word, to know it so fully that when something comes along that is fake, we can spot it and avoid it. This is why it is so important to be devoted to the Word, to study.
As simple as I make it seem, I know that it’s not as easy to do. This is why I need your help, this is why I come to worship with you today, so that you might encourage me in my walk, just as I might encourage you in your walk. And there is something about singing together, praying together, reading the word that unites us. The more we invest in one another, invest in the Word, the more we want to be around one another.
2.     Fellowship with One Another
We become concerned for one another. We find ourselves spending time together. Yesterday, I was trying something new at the Farmer’s Market, “An invitation to sit and talk.” A few were tempted to sit with me. Mike and Cathy did. They were believers. And we encouraged one another because we were able to unite around our common faith, and the struggles we see within our community, within our culture. Before I knew it, an hour had passed.
This is something that I enjoy each Sunday, a time of fellowship with you. Now as for congregations in this country, by comparison, we fellowship more than most. Some congregations have lunch out each week. But we have a light lunch in. But what if we were to increase that to meeting more often, perhaps if not for food, then perhaps for talking about the Word. We don’t have the Temple to meet in anymore, but we do have our buildings. We have our dining rooms. We have the place to make the opportunities.
3.     Ministering to Others
Which leads to being able to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and even to others. Can you imagine a time that no one has any financial burdens, that all their needs were met? Are all your needs met?
When we have a changed attitude from being in the Word, being around one another, then what we have takes a new values. God has entrusted me with this. How can I use my blessings to bless someone else? We realize that we are merely stewards of what the Lord has entrusted to us.
Some say that the key to winning someone to the Lord is to show him or her that you care. Often that might mean we meet their worldly needs before we can meet their physical needs. And as part of the Church of Arizona, we will have that opportunity soon enough.
Also this week in the news, state lawmakers and the governor passed a new law concerning public assistance. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) will be pared down to helping individuals/families for one year and then no more, ever. With it estimated that 40% of Arizonans are on such assistance, once that assistance runs dry, where will these people turn?
Once upon a time, a person in need would turn to the Church for help. Then came the Depression and government came alongside to assist the Church in meeting needs. I am not sure when it happened that the government became a person’s first place for help and the church became last, but now history is coming back around that we will once again be in a position to help others.
And as we become the hands and feet of Jesus, sharing God’s good news, love, and grace, we might once again see God act in supernatural wonders. We will see the Church of America, perhaps at least the Church of Bisbee start to grow. As we are loyal to our calling, the God will bless us and add to us those who are being saved. Let us see the fields ready for the harvest.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Story 16 Hezekiah: When Bad News Comes 2 Kings 19

At Wednesday’s Dinner and Discussion, we continued with our journey of The Story. This week was on Hezekiah, the 13th of 20 kings of the tribe of Judah. He is a bit of a wonder, coming from a father who closed the worship of the Temple of Solomon altogether. He was raised in an idolatrous family. Yet as soon as he became king, he started reform. He returned to the Lord.
His first reform was the consecration of the Temple, opening it up, cleaning it up, making it holy so that the Lord’s anger might turn from God’s children.  Once the Temple was consecrated, sin sacrifices were made for not only himself but for the entire nation of Israel, I believe to include the northern tribes that were already in captivity. Of course to their shame, not enough priests and scribes had thought to consecrate themselves, though not a few fellow Levites were prepared and took up in aiding the offerings for this first sin offering.
Upon the completion of the offering, he sent out invitations for the celebration of the Passover. People came as far as Dan to celebrate this. But during this time, it was brought to his attention that the people hadn’t properly consecrated themselves. The priests made sure that this time, they were properly prepared for their service, but not so much for the people. So Hezekiah prayed for them. He prayed that the Lord forgive their ignorance and uncleanness before his sight. And the Lord did.
Once the Passover was completed, it is at this point that all the people, according to 2 Chronicles 30, that the people themselves went out and destroyed all the idols. The people were once again worshipping God, having put away the idols. And then it came, the bad news.
After restoring the Temple, the king of Assyria comes demanding a tribute. The gold that Hezekiah put on the Temple is stripped to pay this final tribute. It wasn’t enough for Sennacherib. He wanted more. First he sent his emissary to the gate to talk in the hearing of the soldiers and the people inside the walls while this king set camp outside.  I like the words that Hezekiah tells his men at this point:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. – 2 Chronicles 32.7-8
Of course the Lord protected him and the people of Jerusalem. The king was called away. Yet as he was called away, he left a letter that had one fact and one claim. The fact is that no nation that stood against Assyria was still standing. And the claim was that he would be back. But as Hezekiah had said, they have the Lord God to help them. 
Still, we give Peter a hard time about losing focus on Jesus because he became distracted and took his eyes off of Jesus. But was Hezekiah any different? He had seen great things that the Lord had done. Still the letter distressed him to the point that the Lord sent Isaiah to encourage him.
After the miraculous deliverance, Hezekiah receives more bad news. Whatever is ailing him, though it sounds like cellulitis, is killing him. He turned once again to the Lord who in turned blessed him with another 15 years. A sign to prove that he wasn’t hallucinating was that the sun would move back 10 steps. Some say that this is about a few hours. And it wasn’t just local to Israel.
People came from as far as Babylon, curious as to why the sun stood still. We’re not sure how they traced it to the promise of Hezekiah, but came they did. And when they arrived, he forgot himself. He opened all that he had acquired, forgetting that the Lord had blessed him. Then when confronted with the sin, because the Lord wasn’t willing to turn his word on Hezekiah, Hezekiah thought, “At least the punishment won’t happen while I am alive to see it.”
So in a nutshell, Hezekiah was a man, a king, who though he struggled with arrogance and pride, that he lost focus on the Lord. Through him, the Lord teaches us what to do when bad news comes. And bad news tends to come. Some examples of bad news is the dissolution of marital vows, a medical diagnosis that wasn’t wanted, or perhaps death of a loved one.
Our neighbors also deal with bad news. It isn’t just for the believer, or as judgment against the unbeliever. Yet knowing how to handle bad news when it comes will allow us live a life that serves as testimony of faith, that glorifies our Heavenly Father. Knowing how to handle bad news will also allow us to speak grace and hope to our neighbors, and perhaps bring them close to the Father.
Our first response to bad news is to humble ourselves before the Lord. When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the Lord’s temple. – 2 Kings 19.1
When the letter stating that nations haven’t stood before Assyria, that their gods were destroyed, even the king was in sackcloth. Who was he to stand before the Lord in his own royal finery with this concern? He knew that compared to God, he was nothing better than he lowest peasant, and that was how he appeared before the Lord.
Humbling ourselves can be in that attitude. It is also an attitude of self-inspection, a personal inventory. It means that perhaps there is something that you’ve overlooked and need to get right, maybe even a sin that needs to be repented. When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we become bare to Him. Nothing can be hidden. Even Adam learned of this when he tried hiding himself from the Lord, even covering parts of himself with leafs. God is able to see to our core.
Our second response is to trust it to God. “Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers, read it, then went up to the Lord’s temple, and spread it out before the Lord.  Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord.” – 2 Kings 19.14-15
Hezekiah. When they received the letter, the king laid it out before the Lord at the temple. He then prayed over it. That is what we are to do. When the bad news is received, it doesn’t do good to dwell upon it, rather just to turn it over to the Lord.
Now don’t misunderstand. This isn’t something that we do just once. It is something that we are to do until we receive an answer. Jesus told of a woman who was always seeking justice and finally the judge finally gave in. Of course our Father isn’t worn down by our constant prayers. But are we as steadfast to pray over that bad news?
David, when he was told that the child that came from Bathsheba and him was going to die, David kept praying and fasting until he received an answer. It wasn’t the answer he wanted, but once he had the answer, then he stopped praying. This is how our prayers should be, steadfast, faithful, and sincere.
Now the final lesson is to be Isaiah. “Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “The Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘I have heard your prayer to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria.’ This is the word the Lord has spoken against him: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or build up an assault ramp against it. He will go back on the road that he came and he will not enter this city. This is the Lord’s declaration.” – 2 Kings 19.20, 21, 32, & 33
Hezekiah was praying over the situations, the sieging of Jerusalem, the letter, and his coming death. From those prayers, Isaiah was sent to give him a word of encouragement. The Lord will not allow the Assyrians to take this city, much less enter it. And the Lord has heard your prayer and you will live an additional 15 years.
When we are praying over the situation, are we open to hearing from the Lord? Sometimes He answers us through His Word. Sometimes, He answers us through someone else. This last week on Focus on the Family, a woman who grew up in South Africa, daughter of missionaries, was raised with the ideology that women’s sole purpose was to be mothers, tending house. She was torn because she loved Jesus, but she vowed that she wouldn’t be that type of woman, a mom.  So in college, Lisa-Jo Baker started dating this young man. After church, a stranger turns to them and tells them that even though she isn’t sure about motherhood or being a lawyer to change the world, God still loves her, that it didn’t matter which she chose. For her, this stranger was her Isaiah.

Now that brings me to the close. In the face of bad news, we humble ourselves and turn it over to our Heavenly Father. But perhaps you aren’t facing bad news, but you know someone who is. Isaiah wanted to be a messenger for the Lord. My challenge to you, then, is to be open as Isaiah was. If there is someone who is facing bad news in her life, be willing to share God’s love and grace. But to be prepared for this, Isaiah saw the revelation that motivated him. So we should be in the Word now, so that we can develop that discernment, to develop the eyes that Jesus wanted us to have when he said the fields are ripe to harvest but the workers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest sends out workers.  To see such opportunity is my prayer.