… and our attraction to following aggressive leaders.
There’s a podcast blowing up among church circles called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, and if you haven’t listened yet, please come out from under that rock, my Friend.
Usually I find it wise to keep a lot of opinions about controversial issues to myself unless I think that sharing my opinion could be helpful, and that rule counts double online. So, please know my intentions and my disclaimers and my background before you read further:
I want you to know why this is an important message to hear.
I believe many of the lessons learned the hard way can be beneficial for all of us so that we don’t repeat them.
I am guilty of riding this train.
I’m ashamed and mortified that I once wished my church-planter pastor husband would lead and preach just like Mark Driscoll. Cue all the dead emojis. I’m blessed and grateful that the church I am a part of, where my husband is the co-leader and they are both humble men of integrity, is a place where there is a network of accountability and where we don’t value “growth” at all costs. We believe in serving our community and in shining Jesus’s light of hope to our city, but we are far from perfect, so please don’t assume I’m saying that.
I can admit that though Driscoll was found to be and continues to be a perpetrator of spiritual abuse without genuine repentance, he was also the founder of a movement that reached souls with the Gospel message of Jesus and saw transformed lives by what I believe has been the power of the Holy Spirit, and I don’t pretend to understand why God does things like that.
I think there is an underlying problem with WHAT WE DESIRE IN A LEADER, not just with some of these problematic leaders.
I don’t think I have all of the answers, and I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the episodes (supposed to be 6 more for a total of 12) in order to find more questions to ask and hopefully more lessons to learn.
I believe in BALANCE and NUANCE. No one in this situation or any is completely evil, and while we can look back on abuse and misuse of power, that doesn’t mean God was not at work, or that good things didn’t happen at Mars Hill. I believe the podcast does a great job of keeping this truth in tension. My opinion about the bottom line: sometimes the ends (salvations, and especially “church growth”) do NOT justify any and every means, especially when those means include corruption, abuse, and misuse of spiritual power. Especially because those salvations can sometimes end up in a soul abortion, and that church growth can subsequently end up in a complete collapse of the church and people walking away from God for good. Those are often the ends in the end, and therefore do not justify any means.
There are so many themes we could cover, and I want to do more posts about this podcast as more episodes are released, as well as on the subject matter of church leadership and toxic evangelicalism in the future, but for today I’m going to stick to two main things on my heart that I think are worth sharing with you, Reader. The first is what I believe to be self-evident, and I’ll be brief. The second is something I’m not hearing directly, but that I’ve been thinking for the past few years.
FIRST: Church leaders need to be careful that their charisma does not take them to platforms with influence so wide that the foundation of their character, experience, network of accountability, and education cannot support.
Mark Driscoll, the lead pastor of Mars Hill for almost 20 years (1996-2014) committed many atrocities of what I would define as aggression, misogyny, bullying, generalized spiritual abuse, as well as abuse of power. There were others around him who not only gave him a pass in these areas, but platformed him BECAUSE he was this way. He was not educated in any accredited seminary, as far as I know, and was a self-ordained pastor “so that he could do weddings and funerals.” He was building a movement and speaking at church leadership conferences after just one (1) single year as a church planter under his trendy, studded grunge belt. He had not developed the character traits of humility, integrity, or diplomacy required to lead the large and diverse organization he led. These are my conclusions, based on listening to him back in the mid 2000’s, reading some of his books and blogs written about him, and listening to the long-form journalism from Christianity Today in the podcast. If you have a different conclusion after similar research, I’d like to hear it. If you haven’t yet done these things, I’d encourage you to do so because there is a lot we can learn about leadership, character, and platform that will help us do better as God’s kids who do life together.
SECOND: The problem was/is not only with these charismatic, narcissistic, powerful leaders, but in WHAT WE AS FOLLOWERS DESIRE in a leader.
How was it that an entire church network of over 15,000 people and millions of online followers (including myself for a time) followed such a leader for so long, despite these obvious character flaws? I don’t think it is exclusively due to poor leadership, but misguided followership, which is not sufficiently taught, emphasized, or guided in our culture. I’ve been saying for years that our western culture places far too much emphasis on developing powerful leaders, and not enough emphasis on the importance of developing effective followers. In America, everyone is trying to be an influencer and a leader, gain followers, but no one values followership or teamwork more than just as a number on the top of their social media account. I could write a book on good followership, and maybe someday I will, but for now the warning is this: We are drawn to follow and prop up a bully because we falsely believe he can protect us from our (often imaginary) fears, and we put up with it when he turns that domineering charisma on us, which results in abuse.
Now, before you think I’m victim blaming here, look at my face. I don’t think anyone that Mark abused is to blame for the situation, but I do think we ALL need to take a hard look at the kinds of leaders we are attracted to and why. Because if we are to turn things around and avoid some of these casualties, especially in the Church, I really think it will require some introspection about what we’re attracted to, what we’re drawn to, and what we are craving. Some people think this leadership style or personality is a “virtue of strength,” but it is NOT the strength I see demonstrated by Jesus or His Father. I think it’s for this similar attraction that women choose abusers to marry and stay with them far longer than they should. I think it’s this same attraction that made millions of Christians vote for a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women on tape and who graced the cover of magazines that worship sex or money, not Jesus. And I think this attraction is causing men and women alike to flock to this brash, aggressive, narcissistic bully personality in droves, only to realize that the person they hoped would protect them from a false enemy is now turning that aggression around on them. The fact that all red flags are being ignored is in itself the red flag.
The fact that all red flags are being ignored is in itself the red flag.
Please, Friends. Choose more wisely who you follow. Hop off that bandwagon before you get caught in a web with no easy exit.
We saw the failure of willful blindness on the part of the Mars Hill staff and lay leadership. Whether in the moment or in retrospect, they realized that instead of elevating God or meeting the needs of the members or even the needs of the community at large, most everything they did revolved around promoting and benefitting Driscoll alone, and propping him up became synonymous with the mission of church growth. Which rings familiar with something I heard our former president say in that whatever was good for him was good for the nation, and to protect his reputation was equal to protecting the United States. He also claimed “I alone can fix it” after describing all that he saw wrong with America. My warning here, Friends: It is dangerous FOR YOURSELF to put any person in the place where only God should be. Not only will they fall off that pedestal that YOU have placed them on, but they will tear you down painfully in the process of their fall. If you find yourself attracted to this kind of leader, beware! It is not the leadership Jesus modeled and it is not the place any person should hold in your heart or mind.
I want to leave you with a careful warning from a rarely-read passage in the Bible. In the book of Zechariah, the minor prophet recounts the days when God’s people returned from a disciplinary season of exile in a country called Babylon, where they were enslaved, killed, and abused at the hands of people who were known to be brutal aggressors. As they set up a humble leader named Zerubbabel, who was entitled to a royal authority but took the title of governor instead of king, God spoke this important clue for their hopeful and good future:
“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”
– Zechariah 4:6
How about you? Have you listened to the podcast yet? If so, what are your reactions and thoughts? Why do you think people continue to follow people (men?) with this kind of personality? What do you think the Bible has to say about it? If not, why not? I’d love to hear more from you!
“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me!I am always overwhelmedwith a desire for your regulations.”
Psalm 119: 18-20 (NLT)
Many people find the Bible boring at first. Or occasionally. However, no one I know who has ever really given it a healthy, hearty attempt has ever stayed with that opinion over time. Some portions of Scripture are dryer than others, and that’s okay. Remember how I said before that spiritual fitness takes time? Yeah, that’s where we’re at here. There’s no easy, lazy, flabby way around or out of this one. Take time or MAKE time to read God’s miraculously preserved, living, breathing Word each and every day. And I can 100% guarantee that you will not think it’s boring for long!
Work with me, here. You’re looking good. Don’t stop now. Ten more reps to go. You’re getting stronger.
It doesn’t really matter where you start. I’m guessing you have at least a bit of the Bible under your belt if you’re reading this, so now I’m going to take that small muscle and really make you toned.
If you typically read 5 minutes or one verse a day, you need to increase that to 15 minutes or about 4 chapters. If you don’t usually read daily, it’s time to get disciplined and start. If you already do a devotional, it’s time to add a couple of chapters to that too. Want a super-intense challenge? I did this once, so I know it’s possible: If you carve out 60 minutes out of your day for your Maker, you can read 10 chapters a day with Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System. You’ll grow to really know the Bible and be able to contextualize what you’re reading among the whole of Scripture.
Whatever you’re consuming of the Bible already, (mentally) write that here: _______________________
Now, for the next week, how can you take your daily consumption up one level? ___________________________________________________________
Begin today. Why? Because this food, this Bread of life, this is your nourishment that will give you the fuel to become strong. This spiritual nourishment is even more crucial than the food you put in your stomach.
Let’s look at what Ezra, the author of Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) has to say about the critical role God’s Truth plays to your soul. What adjective is given to the person who walks in God’s Law? ____________ [v. 1-3] (blessed)
What adverb is used in verse 4 to describe how God intended His precepts to be kept? ___________ (diligently)
What do we avoid if our eyes are fixed on God’s Word/commandments? [v. 6] _____________ (shame)
Alright, I need to pause here. Don’t you just hate it when a fitness instructor says, “hold it there,” and then proceeds to explain the technique or form of an exercise while you have to keep going? Yeah, I hate that too.
Psalm 119 is all about this man’s love for God’s Law. I’m going out on a limb here to say the majority of people, not only now, but especially now, don’t love rules. They aren’t in love with reading, memorizing, or doing God’s or anyone else’s regulations. So, was this guy Ezra crazy? Drunk? A few too many days in the desert? I don’t think so.
In complete (though counterintuitive) sanity, I believe he was in love with God’s words, both spoken and written, by the prophets and historians. He needed it, depended on it for direction and instruction, and was enamored but the fact His Maker would speak and write to him. He desired to know and obey what God ordered. Why? Because he had experienced God’s love first-hand, as the One True Supernatural Being used Ezra to rebuild His Temple, and had kept His previously-stated promise to bring the remnant of the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem in order to reestablish worship in that holy place. You can read all of this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Because Ezra experienced God’s wondrous, loving promise fulfilled, He loved God’s words, even the Law.
I’ve personally experienced two different seasons of similar love for God’s Word. The first was right after a major, stressful transition in which my husband and I moved away from my childhood home of Colorado with our two small children. Everything we knew changed. It was traumatic in a way only a move can be, and though we were all in good health and excited for new opportunities to minister, everyone and everything seemed foreign.
Every comfort zone shattered, every familiar path washed away, I remember clinging to the side of my couch on my knees, pleading with God for comfort. I looked high and low for something, anything recognizable, and found it on the pages of my Bible. And I found that I really truly honestly loved it. Loved the Word became Flesh and desired more than anything the ability to obey it. Perfectly sane and completely desperate, I adored God’s Law. New and Old Testaments alike, the Bible was my tie to Him, my rope to reality, my anchor to the rock in the storm.
“They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
-1 Peter 1:12 (NLT)
The other time I recall loving God’s Law and commands was right after a painful emotional trial and sifting in which I found myself completely confused, lost, and in a dark emotional pit. My marriage was strained and my husband felt distant, I viewed myself as a failure in every aspect of my aspirations, and I mourned the loss of relationships with loved ones like I never knew I could. In the end, my desperation drew me to the one place of faithful comfort that I’d always known, and that was my Bible. I found God there, and found His love to be the salve my heart needed.
You can’t and shouldn’t try to manufacture a crisis in your life, but if you are in the midst of one right now, then you need God’s Word more than ever. If you’re not in a crisis right now, then it’s likely that one is coming sooner or later, and there’s no better time than the present to cultivate the love of the Bible like never before. Then, when a crisis arises in the future, your spirit will not be in a state of emptiness and famine.
You are not able to wield the power of revelation. You cannot make the verse leap into your heart and mean something new, though you’ve seen it dozens of times before. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But 100% of the verses you don’t read will not leap off the page in revelation. So, when it comes to God’s Word, open it. Read it. Wait for God to reveal its truth to you. Repeat.
“The Bible was precious to me in those days. … And now, methought, I began to look into the bible with new eyes, and read as I never did before; and especially the epistles of the Apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed I was then never out of the bible, either by reading or meditation; still crying out to God, that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory.”
-John Bunyan (biography)
How about you? What does the Bible mean to you and how do you consume it for your sustenance and strength?
If this post was helpful to you, please consider subscribing so you never miss a post! I’ll be posting more about Spiritual Fitness, in advance of my next book of the same title. Stay tuned, Beloved Reader.
What will be said of you? How will you be remembered by your family and your community? How would you LIKE to be remembered? What impact do you want to leave? I’ll probably be remembered as the dorky clumsy nerd, because I’m literally dropping and breaking things all the time and once tripped on nothing but air and broke my foot bone.
Today we’re going to talk about a man who I will argue was remembered as Judah’s greatest king. I’m not talking about David, Solomon, or even Hezekiah, though we often think of them first. However, when you read the accounts closely in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, you’ll see that there’s only ONE king who followed God with unmatched zealous devotion, and that is Josiah. He’s remembered as the youngest king, but listen to how the historian recalls his legacy:
2 Kings 23:25 says, “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.”
When I read this verse about 15 years ago, it leapt off the page and made me wonder, “What was it about Josiah that made God (through the historian) say that? And a second question rose up in my mind, What impact did his devotion have on the nation, God’s people, and even on me?”
And then I did what any normal person with deep questions would do, I wrote a novel! (haha)
I hope these words and the words in that novel will do one thing: point you to the hope in God’s Word.
Let’s begin with a quick review of what was going on at that time, so we can give some context to our understanding. So, after God’s people had escaped Egypt under the leadership of Moses God gave them a gift. He didn’t have to do this, but he spelled it out in black and white what it took to worship Him and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him, like He always intended.
God gave this to Moses in the form of the 10 commandments and the Law, as we read in the book of Deuteronomy. It was an extensive list of what God wanted from His people when it came to holiness, a beautiful display of what it took to reciprocate His generous and miraculous love. Think of it this way: when you fell in love with your husband or your boyfriend or if you’re single when you eventually fall in love, it is a GRACIOUS GIFT that you give him to lay out in plain detail HOW he can and should love you back. It’s not demanding or even bratty, if you say it kindly and have loving intentions. It would actually be unloving to be unclear about what you want, yet expect him to love you in those ways. “This is how I want to be touched. These are the kinds of gifts I like. These are the kinds of words that make me feel loved. These are the kinds of things that will feel unloving and harsh. Please do them very rarely. These are the things that will actually demonstrate that you don’t love me. Never do them at all.” AmIright? (haha)
And so, when we see this beautiful God who moves mountains to save us and who gives us hope for eternity, we long to know what we can do to reciprocate that love, don’t we? We ache to know the ways He wants to be worshiped and adored. He doesn’t HAVE to tell us, you know. It is by Grace that He clues us in and gives us detailed instructions in His Word about WHAT we do and HOW we do it that will make Him feel loved and appreciated, like when your life is a living sacrifice with such a pleasing aroma that it puts a satisfied smile on His face.
And so, after this gift of the Law was given, Moses leads them in the wilderness for 40 years so they can learn to trust God and take Him at his word, and then his successor Joshua leads God’s kids into the Promised Land, where they take over, dispelling the other pagan people with explicit instructions that under no circumstances were they to even THINK about worshipping their gods in the process.
And once the battles are fought and the land is seized, God’s people are ruled by a series of Judges, or moral leaders (not priests for they had the Levites, and not politicians, for they hadn’t needed them yet). It’s during this time that we see the beginning of a slippery slope of sin creep in and the people began to do the exact opposite of what God had instructed in the Law. So, in an attempt to get things back on track, God’s kids asked for a politician to lead them so they would feel safe at their borders, and God granted their wish and set them up with a King, then a series of Kings, who would struggle to do what the people wanted and occasionally one would try to do what God wanted.
Most of them would fail at both, as all politicians always do (haha). I’m just teasing. I’d be a horrible politician, and I know most of them are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. Eventually, the kingdom split into two – Israel in the North and Judah in the south, and it wasn’t long until Israel was overtaken by the world power of that time, Assyria. Only Judah remained: a small kingdom of God’s people who were torn between their heritage of serving Jehovah and the outside influence of paganism and evil.
One king, Manassah, was particularly evil. He invited the influence of foreign idolatry into the nation of Judah, setting up numerous shrines, high places of idolatry on hills and mountains, and building temples to every god imaginable. He ruled in Judah for 55 years, a very long reign for that period, and it was only at the end that he repented, and while God forgave him personally, the poison of sin and evil had permeated the entire nation. Remember that list that God had provided that told them all of the ways to love Him? They had betrayed every single one. The temple was in ruins, idolatry was practiced far more than Yahwism, or the worship of Yahweh, even in the Temple Solomon had built for Him. Cult prostitutes had begun to practice and even LIVE in the place once meant for the presence of God alone, and people were burning their children alive as sacrifice to the god Molech. Shameful heathen orgies happened under asherah poles on every hillside, and every command God had given had been disregarded and forgotten. And all of the copies of the book of the Law itself had been destroyed or lost.
Manasseh’s heir was a man named Amon who reigned for only two years before he was assassinated, and then his son was appointed to take over when he was only 8 years old. This is our King Josiah. The one who was arguably the greatest King, and he started young. Don’t let anyone say that young people can’t be influential or great. Young people make some of the greatest contributions to the church and our society and we ought to stand up for them instead of holding them back for the sake of their youth.
I know second-graders can be difficult, but they just might change the world.
It was in his youth, when he was just 16 that Josiah discovered God. We aren’t told HOW he found Jehovah or what made Him seek out the one true God, but one clue we have is that in that same or following year, his first son by his second wife, Hamutal, was born. This means he probably met her around the same time that he was discovering God, and I can’t help but think that she may have had something to do with that discovery and his subsequent passionate devotion to God.
Why do I make this jump, you ask? Well, it’s my theory that beside every good man is a great woman. And the same goes the other way with the genders, of course. Just as the opposite is often true and a godless spouse can lead you even further into evil. Think of Ahab’s evil matched with his wife Jezebel. And I find it hard to conclude that the profound impact Josiah made happened with a wayward or contemptuous wife at his side. Many of you have a similar experience that I do in that your spouse either introduced you to God, or has shown you a deeper understanding of Him over the years. When Kris and I met, I was 17 and he was 19. I was not yet following Christ, though I had some knowledge of God. It was Kris and still is who showed me God’s extravagant grace and power, and I do believe that my faith that has grown over the years has influenced his devotion to God in a positive way as well. I could be wrong about Hamutal, but I just might also be right. Think about the great influencers in your life– do they have a faith-filled, supportive spouse by their side? Chances are, they do. Not because that’s necessary, but because it’s helpful, and even if you look back to Adam and Eve, it was a model God used from the beginning.
So, with all of that as our backdrop, let’s get back to what made King Josiah great, and what that has to do with us today…
Here are five actions Josiah took that led to a legacy of zealous devotion:
1.His devotion to God. King Joe purified the entire nation of Judah of idols by burning them, destroying the shrines, demolishing the temples, and deposing the leaders of all of these false religions. And he personally led and supervised all of this. Himself. He didn’t just send his generals or his lords or his governors on an errand. Granted, he could have sent others to perform this purification, but he went with them and ensured that it was completed, just as God directed. If we want to follow in his example of greatness, we must take inventory of the idols that press in to influence us and we have to be determined to knock down every one, not bow down to any. Sometimes we look around and think the world has never been more evil than this, and in many ways it is true. But when was the last time you saw a child sacrificed in a fire where you live? The truth is, today’s idols are just as evil, but possibly more easily disguised. An idol is anything at the center of your heart, whatever robs Jesus of your full adoration, worship, and attention. A few examples (and these aren’t always idols, but they CAN become idols if we are not careful): television shows/movies or actors, the pursuit and love of money or stuff, ourselves (self care can turn into self worship when staying alive or staying fit is all we find ourselves thinking about), politicians or politics, home decorating, drugs or alcohol, and any worship of a created thing like the sun or stars or animals. Every so often, we must take inventory of our lives, asking God to reveal any idols we may be holding in our hearts. And like Josiah, we must be diligent to knock down every one, and refuse to bow down to any. I’m not pretending to be perfect at this. Just when I think I’ve got my idols demolished, another one pops up! Not only did Josiah destroy the idols, he defiled the altars by burning human bones on them so they could never be used again.
“Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire as an offering to Molech.”
-2 Kings 23:10
And maybe you need to not only knock down that idol, but defile it so you’re never tempted to worship it again. Maybe you give away all of your raunchy romance books, delete a phone number or an app, cancel your cable, or pour out your wine. A pastor-friend of mine had to do this last one. Not because she thought it was a sin to have a glass of wine, but because it had become too important—an idol. She found herself thinking about her nightly nightcap throughout the day, craving it when she was stressed, turning to the bottle for relief instead of to God, and He graciously reminded her that it wasn’t in His plan for her to live like that. What idols might God be asking you to knock over and defile in the same way?
2. He went out of his way to honor the Passover Celebration—the most important of all Hebrew festivals to honor the Lord. Strangely, in my research of the kings, I found no other king who did this as directed by God. Solomon had a major consecration of the Temple, but it wasn’t for Passover, and Hezekiah came close, but he had to honor it in the wrong month because they were not prepared.
There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, nor throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah.
2 Kings 22:22
There are things in your life that you will do better than anyone before or after you and that will honor the Lord. Maybe you paint, maybe you sing, maybe you host the poor in your home, maybe you give extravagantly, maybe you study the Bible and discover hidden truths in the pages there. The Lord called me to write a book 10 years ago, and I’d never done such a thing. “Write a book, they say. It will be fun, they say” (haha). I didn’t know the first thing about writing a novel, but I wrote it as if He was going to be my only reader. It took me about 5 years, and then for about 5 more years it sat on my computer collecting virtual dust. One day about a year and half ago the Lord whispered to my heart, “what have you done with that gift I gave you? Have you been a good steward of it?” The answer was a contrite but resounding No. And I had to work to learn how to self-publish and promote it so that readers could find it. So that He could bless who He wanted to bless with the story He gave me. Josiah’s passover required thousands of animal sacrifices and diligence to follow the ceremonial liturgy of it. It seems strange and boring to us today, but it would have been the most important day in his entire life—that Passover day that compared to no other. It was costly, and yet, it seems the only thing on his mind was how to best honor the Lord. With the thing or things that you do exceptionally well, how can you serve the Lord with some extravagant love?
3.His restoration of the Temple, which had fallen into disrepair over the years, and even housed a number of idols and pagan prostitutes. Think of that atrocity: the disgrace God’s people had allowed to come to His Temple—the very place His presence was supposed to dwell and meet with the priests under the most consecrated of circumstances. Nope. Josiah realized the shame God’s temple had fallen into and this too moved Him to action, even before the book of the Law was found in it. It was DURING the temple repairs that it was found, before he knew what it was supposed to look like in its original plans for glory. He restored the gold, tapestries, curtains, pillars, altar, and removed all of the filth and idols that had been brought in from foreigner gods and even Johovah’s own kids. If we extrapolate this to today and take Josiah’s zealous devotion as our example, our modern-day temple is our body. Granted, many people have made a religion of fitness, but that’s not exactly the same thing as caring for your body as one would care for the dwelling place of the Spirit of God.
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
– 1 Corinthians 6: 18-20.
We’re not doing this for the sake of vanity, attention, or a business scheme. We must honor our bodies as God’s temple by sanctifying it for holiness. What do you allow into your mind and body that is not holy? Is it something you watch or read or listen to? Is it food you know is destroying you? Do you regularly cleanse and consecrate your body and mind with the Word of God? Do you allow worldly influences to defile your temple? What would it look like if you honored and restored your body like Josiah honored and restored the Temple? Again, I’m not pretending to be great at this either. Josiah is an inspiration to me because just when I think I’ve got this whole sanctification thing down pat, God brings more conviction into my life about a new thing, or an old temptation comes back onto my scene. My temple needs constant upkeep, cleansing, and repairs, and I’m thankful for God’s patience in this process.
4. His love of and obedience to the Law, when it was found. You remember this part, don’t you, when the book of Deuteronomy was found as they were doing Temple renovations? He tore his robes and wept as the book was read aloud and Josiah realized the nation’s deep-seated disobedience. Despite the purification he had already done by eradicating the idols, he knew two things: their hearts weren’t in it and they had previously strayed so far. They had broken God’s covenant for generations, and he understood the doom they faced because of it, now that he heard it read line by line. He knew they had broken God’s heart when they broke His Law, and he feared for his life and the lives of his subjects.
“When the king heard what was written in the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. hen he gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: “Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for all the remnant of Israel and Judah. Inquire about the words written in the scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger has been poured out on us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the Lord. We have not been doing everything this scroll says we must do.”
– 2 Chronicles 34:19-21
And even now in this time of Grace, I wonder if a bit of this deep repentance is sometimes necessary when God convicts us. Because like us, Josiah was on the right track. And yet the awareness of grieving the Spirit deeply grieved him as well. And some of you might experience this one day too—a conviction that wrecks you, and ultimately moves you toward practicing godliness like you never knew possible. Holiness like you can’t imagine. Becoming profoundly more like Christ. Repentance, like the Law described in the Bible as a GIFT. Repentance is a gift. Are you thankful for this kind of gift too?
5. His love for his subjects. He cared for the broken and needy, and included everyone in the reading of the Law and the Dedication of the nation to obeying the Lord. He left none of his subjects out of this blessing, not even the poorest peasants.
“But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him.He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him.Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the Lord.“But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.”
– Jeremiah 22:15-17
It was not his own consecration and reform that Josiah cared about. He wanted revival for everyone in Judah and even Israel. He saw to it that ALL of the cities and towns were cleansed of idolatry and sorcery. He invited the ENTIRE NATION to Jerusalem to hear the book of the Law after it was found. He invited EVERYONE to repent and obey in a last-ditch effort to stave off the punishment he knew was coming, and would come to his own sons – exile, slavery, and being conquered. So what would it look like to follow that zealous example today? How might you fight for justice on behalf of the poor and needy? “Isn’t that what it means to know God?” How can we be sure our hearts and actions are turned away from greed and dishonesty in every aspect of our being? How can we take action to fight against those who murder the innocent, oppress the poor and govern with ruthlessness? How can we make sure that we are remembered for a generous response to those we influence and those around our world, and not an influence that takes advantage of these people?
Two things I enjoy doing are jail ministry and outreach to victims of human trafficking. Your passions or cause might be different. God will lead you to make a difference in the lives of those who need Him, and He will also make a path for you to do just that.
If you haven’t yet read Consuming Fire, can I invite you to check it out? It’s even available on Kindle, so you can get started reading about King Josiah and His queen Hamutal today for only $4.99! One of my readers said:
“Couldn’t put it down … I love historical biblical fiction and this one is probably the best I’ve read so far”
If you HAVE read it, could you do me a quick favor right now and share this post or your recommendation to at least one friend via text or message right now (before you forget, like I tend to do)? I’d also appreciate your subscription to my newsletter, since that will help me when it comes to publishing more books in the future!
Sometimes you have to give your own soul a good ol’ pep talk. And sometimes you have to give yourself grace. Every once in awhile, you give your soul a stern lecture.
The Psalms are full of all of these. For every joyful, painful, frightening, or discouraging situation you can almost always find a song from God’s Word. Many of the prophets speak to their souls too, after delivering God’s messages to people, some listening and some not. I’ll bet you 5 bucks your pastor gives his soul a talking-to every Sunday afternoon. Just like every mom speaks to her own soul in stillness of the morning or the chaos of 4:30pm. Everyone talks to herself or himself. Especially the healthy people.
This morning I cried myself through the traffic and spoke to my soul with firm words that need to sink in. You see, it’s been a tough time for a while here in the Nest.
I call it the Nest because it’s here in this closed-in, opened-up safe place where my wings flutter down and my songs call out. It’s here in this nest of broken twigs discarded by others that I’ve woven life together and covered experience with down to call it my own. This Nest is held in the Father’s Hand. It’s where I am filled with His love and presence, and where I write words that I hope will bless the world like the calls of other robins have blessed me. The Nest is my place, and I hope that by offering it, you’ll find a safe place for your fluttering heart and your honest song, too.
And, well … if life ebbs and flows, then this ebb is a web and I’m hanging by a thread of hope. Lately hope has been hard work. When darkness comes and the maybe’s turn into no’s, that’s what happens. When doors of possibility slam in your face and lights go out on your dreams, that’s what happens. When you pray the same prayer every day and the opposite of what you pray is what comes to pass, I’m sorry, but that’s just what happens. Hope no longer rises under you like a path, it dangles you like a rope. It’s hard work to hold on.
You have to hold onto it, though. Lose your grip on hope and lose your grip on sanity. Even I know that much. Your jaded soul knows it too. Because no matter how cynical we get, hope is all that keeps us from falling into the darkness.
Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. – Psalm 10:17
Hope is what you tell your heart to do in the face of disappointment.
When you move across the country to follow God’s voice and that umbrella over you collapses … you tell your heart to hope for another umbrella.
When you sacrifice your time to invest in the lives of others and they spill your time on the ground like yesterday’s dishwater … you tell your heart to hope for different people who will value your time.
When your husband applies for the 25th job opportunity and loses the position because he’s been too busy pastoring people for the past 15 years to have any experience jumping through hoops … you tell your heart to hope for another chance.
When your kids stop trying to make new friends at the third school in three years because “what’s the use?” … you tell your heart to hope for their smiles again.
When ________ … you tell your heart to hope for ___________.
Why? Because you know God’s character. You remember His faithfulness. You can’t forget the miracles He’s done for you time and time again because they’re branded into your mind. You tell your heart to hope because hoping for good is hoping for God. Because hope is faith, and even if you lose everything, you’ll never lose your faith.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you. – Psalm 25:5
So, the tears come again as I’m waiting at the light behind 5 cars. I’m almost to work and these red streaks on my cheeks must be replaced with a brave face. I take deep breaths and I give my soul a stern lecture. Because she is thinking again of letting go of hope’s thread this morning. She’s contemplating giving in to the doubts and the pain and the jaded skepticism. Her mind races to thoughts of “What if” and “never” and “why try?” Her fingers are slipping and she thinks it might be easier to let go. Hope is hard work sometimes.
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God! – Psalm 42:11
And maybe that’s the key – Praise. I’ve been reading through the Bible again with a fresh set of spectacles. One lens is God’s Part. The other is My Part. When both lenses work together, the picture of redemption is clear. My part is praise. It gives me strength to hold onto hope, even when it’s only a thread. His part is to come through for me – in His time, with His will. Not mine. Not mine. Not. Mine.
Is He any less worthy of praise because my life is uncomfortable today?
Is He any less worthy because I’m hurt?
Is His Blood any less precious?
Is His hand any less sovereign? Any less powerful?
If He is still worthy, I will still praise Him. I will tell my soul to put my hope in Him. He has only always ever been Faithful. Even if He never gave me another answer, another thing, another blessing, His mercy is enough. I WILL hope. I WILL. He’ll do His part, and I’ll do mine …
and hope will hold.
Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him. – Psalm 62:5
Perhaps you’d like to add a quiet prayer in the comments here – a prayer for someone you know whose hope is a thread? Or maybe a prayer for your own soul? We’ll lift each other up to the Author of hope today.