What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Division of Israel

1 Kings 11 could be entitled, “The Four Reasons for Division of Israel” (Tom Bradford). I will briefly discuss those reasons and then relate it the church (and myself) in this era.
First, Solomon displayed outrageous behavior toward the people. He was taxing them heavily and forcing them into labor for his projects. Second, the Lord God raised up adversaries against Israel after a somewhat long period of time of protection from the surrounding nations. Also, some of the opposition would come from within Israel itself. One such Israelite God used (and the third reason for the division of Israel) was Jeroboam. Jeroboam’s ambition for power was used by God to split the nation. Fourth, Solomon’s idolatry against God was in direct conflict with the principles God had given Solomon to retain the kingdom.
There are a list of commands for the leaders of Israel laid out in Deuteronomy 17:16-17:
However, he is not to acquire many horses for himself or have the people return to Egypt to obtain more horses, inasmuch as Adonai told you never to go back that way again. Likewise, he is not to acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart will not turn away; and he is not to acquire excessive quantities of silver and gold (CJB).
In reading through 1 Kings 11, it is easy to see just how directly Solomon violated these commands. Solomon had many horses, which he got from Egypt (1 Kings 10:26-29). He had a political alliance with Egypt (having married a daughter of Pharaoh) (verse 1). 1 Kings tells us that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (verse 3). Also in violation, Solomon had acquired storehouses of every kind of valuable metal and gems. Finally, Solomon worshiped the gods of his wives and pulled away from the God of Israel (verses 4-8).
It’s all right there. The commands God had given. Written out for all eternity. Yet, Solomon failed to follow them. He deserved God’s punishment.
Whoa! Before we get too judgmental, consider our own actions. How many things are clearly stated in the Bible as commands that we are not following? For instance, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV). Can we say we keep this command all the time? Are we even consciously aware of it in the moment of disagreements? Do our words only build others up and meet their needs?
Another example: “Don’t owe anything to anyone, except your outstanding debt to continually love one another, for the one who learns to love has fulfilled every requirement of the law” (Romans 13:8, TPT). I know that try as we do, we have debt to others – and not just the debt of love. We even borrow from our own various bank accounts and have to repay to bring the balances back to where they should be. Rarely, if ever, do these debts show love.
My summary, for me, is that I also fail to keep God’s commands. I’m no better than Solomon. What can make us different are Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that have paid the penalty for our disobedience. Solomon did not have that and the penalty for his actions ended up in the division of the nation of Israel and many years of struggle since then.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Break from 1 Kings

The semester was almost over. The halls were decked out in green, red, silver, and gold. Every doorway was shimmering from the decorations. Snowflakes and angels swung from the ceiling. There was laughter and merriment everywhere. It seemed something marvelous was filling the air.
I was not feeling it. Yeah, yeah, another Christmas. I rarely got what I asked for. It meant going to church extra times whether the snow was creating a white-out or not. Others seemed happy and excited. I just couldn’t get into it. Once upon a time, in the deepest recesses of my memory, I anticipated Christmas (and the break from school), like everyone else. Not anymore.
I prepared little gifts and hid them in the mailbox or dorm room of the person to whom I had been assigned the role of Secret Santa. And, it was nice to get little gifts or notes everyday from my Secret Santa, but I wasn’t expecting much.
I will never forget that time in my life.
My Secret Santa included little rectangular white cards in each day’s surprise. There were words on them. I remember eventually figuring out that the words were from the Bible (so many women on my floor believed that stuff). Yet, I read them. Day after day for a week, the cards built the story of Christmas. One of the last cards I got said,
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.”  Luke 2:10
I remember thinking I could use some “great joy.”
The next day, the card read,
for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
Something struck me! TODAY. For today, that day, whichever day I wanted, a Savior – Christ the Lord – could be born for me. I pondered that a few days. Another, different woman on my floor, who had been willing to hang around with me all semester cornered me a few days later. She talked about why I felt so inept at pleasing God. She talked about how Christmas is all about the way to be pleasing to God, Jesus. I didn’t make any instant decisions, but I had a lot to ponder.
When I tell my faith journey story, I usually focus on the love, patience, kindness, and words of the second woman. Someone recently pointed out to a small group I had just shared my story with, that God used a seemingly benign college dorm activity to prepare my heart for Him. The activity was something rooted in the traditional celebration of Christmas – Santa! God intertwined the traditions and the truth of Christmas to call me to Him and into right relationship with the real meaning of Christmas. That’s a miracle. That shows that God is in control of everything.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Inner Changes or Outward Appearances

“She arrived in Jerusalem accompanied by a very great retinue, including camels bearing spices and gold in great abundance, and precious stones” (1 Kings 10:2). This is, of course, talking about the Queen of Sheba (some theologians believe she should be identified as the Queen of Saba). She came to quiz Solomon with difficult questions. Her purpose was to verify that everything she was hearing about Solomon and Israel was true.
But there was more to it than mere curiosity. She was checking out whether Solomon was worthy of a trading alliance of some type. She was also trying to get an accurate idea of Israel’s God. What impressed her was Solomon’s wisdom AND his wealth (the palace he had built, the food at his table, the way he managed his officials, their clothing). She was indeed impressed. In verses 6-8, this is recorded:
She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!
Following this, the Queen appears to recognize Israel’s God as the Lord God (Adonai). Verse 9 tells us she said, “Blessed be Adonai your God, who took pleasure in you to put you on the throne of Israel. Because of Adonai’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to administer judgment and justice fairly.” The question is whether or not she truly believed in God. Remember what true belief is as explained in my November 21st blog article. It involves action, changes in behavior. It’s not enough to recognize God as the supreme God. Believing means our whole lives change because of our understanding of God and His character.
What impressed the Queen? Wisdom, intellect, and wealth. She was basing her whole opinion of God on how wealthy and wise Solomon was. That was basing her belief in God on outward appearances. In her mind, Solomon and Israel were as affluent as they were because of their God. She evaluated the spiritual condition of Solomon and Israel on outward intellectualism and material wealth, not the deep down inner faith of true followers of God.
I see a warning for us. There are many who proclaim they are in tune with God and are, obviously, doing His will because of the material wealth and reputation they have. Are we mesmerized by a leader’s wealth or charisma? Do we believe everything they say because it looks like God has blessed them? That’s exactly what the Queen of Saba was doing. The caution goes further. Are we convincing ourselves that because we have knowledge of an all-powerful God, we are granted eternal life? The Queen of Saba returned to her land not having changed anything in her life. She was returning to worship the moon god. She was returning without applying any of the Law to her or her countrymen’s lives. There was no change in her life from the encounter, the experience.
I am concerned about many who have had an experience at a church service or some other moment of great emotion, but there are no changes in their life. They return to the same behaviors, the same ways of thinking, and the ways of the rest of the world. True salvation comes from believing and acting on the truths of Scripture, yet so many, after their “mountaintop” experience, never look deep into the Scriptures to learn what needs to be changed in their lives. My heart aches for those people, many of whom I notice may be attending my church and churches all around the world. Consider whether you have significantly changed your behaviors, your values, and your thoughts and pursue the God of the Scriptures that changes lives.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Jesus is Our Leader

We have hope that Israel did not have. They were restricted and disciplined based on how they and their leaders maintained a relationship with God. We also are to maintain a relationship with God, but the responsibilities of our leaders are more restricted. Let me explain.
In David and Solomon’s era, the leader (i.e. King) reflected the spiritual condition of a nation. They could demonstrate their allegiance to God by maintaining obedience to God. God gave them four conditions, which must be met by any and all leaders of Israel in order for Israel to be safely under God’s wings. These conditions were given to David, but in 1 Kings 9, they are told to Solomon for a second time. The first time was at the consecration of the Temple, and in chapter 9 it’s 13 years later and Solomon desperately needs a reminder of the conditions required for God’s blessing on Israel.
The first condition Solomon is reminded of is that Solomon was to live in God’s presence – that Solomon was submissive to God.  Second, Solomon was to display pureness of heart – integrity and pertaining to morality. Third, Solomon was to do what God commands – not passive assent but in actual behavior. And, fourth, Solomon was to keep the laws and regulations of the Torah (the Old Testament Law). Solomon’s commitment to these conditions currently (13 years after the Temple dedication) were in doubt, so God mercifully reminds him and gives him a warning.
The spiritual condition of the leadership reflected the spiritual condition of the nation. And the people’s standing with God was determined by their spiritual fitness. This is true for us today. Our spiritual fitness and the promises of blessings from God are dependent on what our leaders are doing in the spiritual realm. It doesn’t matter what side of situations you find yourself on, there is corruption, greed, sin, lies, and dishonesty. Is our fate going to be determined by these leaders? Remember, these leaders reflect the spiritual conditions in with which each individual person is living.
I, for one, do not want my spiritual condition determined by the spiritual condition of our leaders. We are not going to have blessings because our leaders are corrupt. Don’t lose heart. For those who believe in Christ, our leader is not those in governmental authority! Our leader is Christ, and as we line up our spiritual lives with Him, we are guaranteed blessings. So, let us all place Jesus in authority over our lives, and truly have blessings coming our way in which we can be thankful this holiday season.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Opposite to Emotion Action

Last week I talked about how we need to continually be doing God’s commands in order to be walking with Him. I defined what it means to believe, that it involves action. In discussing 1 Kings 8 further with my Bible study partner this week, I saw some further insights into that. This past weekend my Bible study partner’s pastor talked about the difference between believing and faith. He used an illustration of a chair. Believing the chair will hold us is only the start. We have to actually, by faith, sit in the chair.
The pastor went onto explain that in the gospel of John, every time the word “faith” is used it is a verb, an action. It is not passive and just a thing (noun). Some kind of action is always required. In Hebrews 11 there is a long list of people who had faith, but every time the word faith is used, it is followed by the action the people took. For instance, verse 4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain.” And in verse 8, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” The whole chapter is filled with faith being attributed to people who acted. It’s not enough to “believe;” we need to act in faith according to God’s commands.
Switching gears, let’s return to 1 Kings 8 and look at Solomon’s prayer to God at the dedication of the Temple. Starting in verse 27, Solomon prays many truths on behalf of the people of Israel; however, Solomon did not pretend to have God figured out. While man can choose to do opposites, God has no opposites. He is all knowing, and He cannot be unknowing. Basically, God is not within the scope of human understanding. The more we try to describe Him using characteristics we understand, the more we diminish Him. He is not bound by the characteristics of mere humans. In addition, we have no rights to ask the “Why?” question of God. We wouldn’t understand the answers even if He deemed us worthy to know them.
As I contemplated this, I realized just how human I am. I am a mixed up, muddled, bundle of opposites. I can be angry and at peace. I can want to live and want to die. I can be happy and sad. For everything in my character, there is a corresponding opposite. This is so unlike God, but realizing this is true, I have options for how I feel and think and behave.
As part of my recovery from mental illness, I’ve learned some skills for coping with emotions. These skills come from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a therapy model that addresses many of the thinking issues I have as a bipolar person. One of these skills is called Opposite to Emotion Action. This reinforces that I have choices to behave or think in an opposite way to my negative, frightening, grief-stricken ways. Of course, my feelings are still valid and give me good information about myself, but I can stay with those emotions for a little while, and then choose to act opposite to how I’m feeling. It’s not a permanent solution – because I am a person of opposites, but there’s relief for a time. Doing this allows me to feel productive and ultimately gives me hope that things will be better.
While God has no opposites, He understands my opposites. Believing in and acting in faith to follow His commands, is the best opposite I can do. That is one reason I praise God – recognizing that I don’t really understand all there is about God, but it points me in the right direction. What opposite action do we need to do today? And, how can I humbly, knowing I don’t really understand God, praise Him today?

Thursday, November 14, 2019


So what do you think believing looks like? The Israelites generally had no clue. Many people in western culture say they believe in Jesus, but is that enough to be true believers?
In 1 Kings 8:1-30 we are reminded of what made David and Solomon true believers in the God of heaven. Solomon is praying as part of the newly completed Temple dedication in Jerusalem. Solomon prayed many important and applicable, even to modern men, truths about God. He was humble and asked God for help. He asked that God would confirm the words He spoke to David’s father. Near the end of this passage, God answers that prayer in a mighty way. Maybe I will talk about that next week.
Today I will look at verse 23:
and [Solomon] said, “Adonai, God of Isra’el, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep covenant with your servants and show them grace, provided they live in your presence with all their heart (CJB).
Did Israel carry out their end of the bargain? The chosen people of Israel became Jews in name or culture only. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, we see Israel turning away from God’s presence and we see them changing their minds and souls about serving God. (In ancient times people believed the center of thought and consciousness came from the heart. It was not the center of love and emotions.) God’s mercy and grace are conditional. I’m not convinced, but one of the commentaries I looked at compared this message to the Jews with Paul’s message to the Roman believers in Romans 11:17-22:
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off  (NASB).  
The symbolism, in case you didn’t get it (I didn’t at first), is that some of the original, natural branches (Jews) were broken off due to their unbelief, even though they were cultural and ethnically Jews. Paul identifies New Testament believers as grafted wild olive branches who, as long as they stay connected to the root, will be able to stand in their faith. Verse 20 and 21 is a warning to those who say they are believers in Christ: If the original people of God can be cut off, so the grafted people identifying with Christ may be severely cut off, too. Don’t miss the condition, just like in the Old Testament: if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
Just to be clear, the requirement is to believe in Christ, but this is not a casual belief. The word for believing is a word that means to act. My Bible study partner’s pastor is fond of saying, “Believing is acting like it’s true.” What does our Christianity look like? God will discipline those who are not obeying His commands as declared in the Holy Bible.
Some examples of not truly believing are listed below:
·    Obvious example from my Bible study partner’s time in Indonesia as a missionary: Saying God is all-powerful, but then going to the local witch doctor for help.
·    Saying only God knows the future, but then going to a fortune-teller or other medium.
·    More subtle: Saying God can and will help us, but then taking things into our own hands forcing situations.
·    For students: Praying God will help on a test, but then cheating on the test.
Some may say things like, “I’m not going to the medical doctor because God will heal me.” Or, “I’m not studying because God will help me.” Doing that is contrary to God’s command to do everything as for the Lord, like praying, seeking appropriate help, and doing the footwork (Colossians 3:23). Just being lazy saying God will take care of everything, is just that: lazy. And that’s the kind of cultural Christian we can become if we are not deeply grafted into the root of God.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


1 Kings chapters 5-8 are all about the Temple being built in Jerusalem. While it’s an interesting read, and the commentator we use (Tom Bradford) highlights some important points we need to understand for our future study of the history of Israel, there are not a lot of practical commands or doctrines for people today. The measurements (in cubits) and the materials used (Lebanese cedar wood, lots of gold, bronze, intricate carvings and statues) are hard for me to understand or really imagine. The Temple, and later, Solomon’s palace were structures to behold. They were easily the grandest things in Israel.
In verse 51 of chapter 7, there are items mentioned that were not included in the construction and furnishing of the Temple or Palace:
Thus all the work that King Shlomo [Solomon] did in the house of Adonai was finished. After this, Shlomo brought in the gifts which David his father had dedicated — the silver, the gold and the utensils — and put them in the treasuries of the house of Adonai. (Complete Jewish Bible)
The second half of this verse says that Solomon did not include David’s gifts in the Temple itself, but put those gifts in the treasury. If we look back at 2 Samuel 7, the prophet Nathan relayed to David what God said about David building the Temple. The bottom line was that David was not to do it. David wasn’t completely satisfied with that answer. David quickly began looking for loopholes. He wouldn’t “build” the Temple but he would supply all the materials needed for it. He wouldn’t build the Temple but he would have fine craftsmen make beautiful and expensive vessels to be used in the Temple.
David was looking for ways to get away with something he was told not to do. He was looking for ways to get away with not doing the commands God had given him. Before we get too harsh with David, we need to evaluate our own lives. Aren’t there things we are directed not to do, but immediately we begin searching for loopholes (think taxes if you can’t think of something else)? Aren’t there places we say, “I’m technically following a rule or command, but not following the spirit of the rule?”
I am confronted by my own loophole hunting. Maybe not violating God’s commands openly and willfully, but how many times do I say, “Just this once,” or “It’s not hurting anyone.” It may not even be a Scriptural principle I’m trying to find loopholes for. Sometimes it’s just trying to get out of doing something I said I would do. “It doesn’t matter that much.” However, each time I lose my integrity, at the very least, I feel bad about me. God gives us rules and commands to keep us safe and focused on Him (not on how many sweets I can eat before gaining weight).
This week I’m going to keep my word (even if it’s only between God and myself), and stop looking for loopholes.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Prestige or Obedience

Oh the grandeur of the Temple Solomon was having built! Cedar timbers from Lebanon. Stones hewn in a quarry away from the actual site so iron tools would not defile the Temple site. Gold plated everything. Cherubim seventeen feet high and wide (all plated in gold).
Who was Solomon trying to impress? God was not interested in the show. He was not impressed. In the middle of the account of the features of the Temple, God interrupts Solomon’s seeking after the best and grandest possible construction materials and the most expert craftsmen. He tries to remind Solomon of his responsibilities as the king of Israel.
11 Then this word of Adonai came to Shlomo (Solomon): 12 “Concerning this house which you are building: if you will live according to my regulations, follow my rulings and observe all my mitzvot [commands] and live by them, then I will establish with you my promise that I made to David your father — 13 I will live in it among the people of Isra’el, and I will not abandon my people Isra’el” (1 Kings 6:11-13, CJB).
Unfortunately Solomon did not get the message God intended and continued to focus all his attention, energy, and power on building something grand. For what purpose? God was content to have the tent tabernacle as He had from the time of Moses on Mt. Sinai. As a matter of fact, God told David exactly this in 2 Samuel 7:1-7. See what God told David in verses 6 and 7 say,
Since the day I brought the people of Isra’el out of Egypt until today, I never lived in a house; rather, I traveled in a tent and a tabernacle. Everywhere I traveled with all the people of Isra’el, did I ever speak a word to any of the tribes of Isra’el, whom I ordered to shepherd my people Isra’el, asking, “Why haven’t you built me a cedar-wood house?”’
God had not asked for a majestic place to reside. In reality, just as now, God didn’t actually dwell in the Temple anyway. His place is in heaven and He is anywhere He wants to be (and that’s everywhere, all the time).
God’s interruption in Solomon’s building project was God’s attempt to get Solomon back on track with what God does require: to live according to His commands and regulations.
God is asking the same from us. He’s not looking to see who has the biggest or best decked out church (or synagogue). He’s not looking to see who gets the most followers on their social media pages. He’s not impressed by our fame or wealth. He’s not interested in how many people go to a specific church. He’s not joyful over big giving checks. He doesn’t care how many mission trips we volunteered for. He’s not even counting the number of times we appear in church each week or each month. He’s not concerned with any of the things we think are proofs of how holy we are. All those things are folly.
God desires us to be obeying His Word. He desires (and has modeled and commanded) humility. He’s not going to reward us for our deeds as a bargaining chip for heaven. He only cares about the conditions of our hearts based on salvation in Christ and how we love our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:14).
It’s time for me to examine my motives and my humility. Am I relying on God or on my own works to be acceptable to God? What about you?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Don't Give Up

Mental health issues are a big part of my life. Lately I’ve been feeling the effects of my cycling patterns with my bipolar disorder, the changing of the seasons, having less daylight, and various life events. I’m depressed.

I’ve searched and prayed for permanent answers so I don’t have to deal with these aspects of myself. I’ve tried to believe that God expects us to be happy all the time. (Notice, I said “happy.” That is distinctly different from the joy I have in knowing Christ and looking forward to the fruition of His eternal promises.) I am coming to a point of acceptance that happiness is just an emotion like any other, and it will come and go from time to time. Just like I should not expect anger, loneliness, or despair to totally disappear from my life as a human being, I cannot expect that happiness will be a constant. God did not create us as robots. He gave us emotions for a reason – I’d say, for information – that we are better able to know Him and serve Him. I can’t say I have it all figured out yet, and probably will not as long as I walk on the earth. I can learn to deal with them in appropriate ways, and I get tremendous help from the Scriptures.

That said, I read Luke 18:1-8 for my Quiet Time one morning this week. This passage is the parable of the judge that was worn down by the repeated appearance and requests of a widow woman. Luke’s narration in the first verse, which introduces the parable, challenged me. I had just written down on my “emotions chart” for my therapist that the primary emotion for the last week has been “discouraged.” Then I read the passage and verse one summarized one of my problems right now. In the Amplified Bible it says,

"Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart,” 

Other versions say “never quit” (MSG) and “faint” (KJV). So I looked up “faint” in Abingdon’s Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (this resource is keyed to the King James Version of the Bible and gives the exact Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) word with a brief definition).  The Greek word is “ékkakéo.” Strong’s indicates this means “to be bad or weak, to fail (in heart):-faint, be weary.” Looking for more synonyms, I used W.E. Vine’s An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: “To lack courage, lose heart, be fainthearted.” I think those words imply that we can do something about the situation to avoid staying discouraged. Note in verse one it says we need to pray at all times, frequently, consistently, and always, depending on the translation. Further, I think it means we are to expect God to answer because He wants to answer. The parable tells of a widow who wore down a civil judge (who did not fear God), and although he didn’t really want to give in to the woman’s request, he did. We don’t even have to try and wear God down. He wants us to ask Him and He wants to answer us, but He wants us to ask Him. He’s just waiting for us to ask (see John 16:24).

So, next on my agenda is to try and figure out what the discouragement is about and pray, and pray again as I encounter discouragement during my days. Figuring out what the discouragement is about will be difficult so my prayer might just be “Help me in my discouragement.” By laying my troubles at Jesus’ feet through prayer, His peace will come over me, even if five minutes later I have to pray again (Philippians 4:6-7).

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Wisdom Comes With Responsibilities

Who was the wisest man in the known world between 970 and 931 B.C.? The Bible has something to say about that. In 1 Kings 4:29-34 God explains exactly who that person was:
29 Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. 34 Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.
Solomon sounds like a well rounded, highly educated, Renaissance man. The Hebrew word used for wisdom in this passage means, in one sense, “practical knowledge and understanding.” Solomon didn’t only know a lot about a lot; he knew how and when to apply it. Sounds like the kind of person I want to be.
Don’t be fooled. Having such wisdom does not mean always getting it right. In fact, while Solomon used the wisdom God gave him to develop Israel into a center of wealth, economic development, and leisure activity, he didn’t necessarily apply the wisdom as God would have had him. People in high places from all around the known world came to get advice and counsel from Solomon, but he didn’t always give them what God would consider most important. Solomon’s wisdom was leading Israel, and presumably other nations, into a decline – a falling away from the one true God.
In New Testament terms, Solomon, with all his wisdom, was a stumbling block causing people to do things in a manner not according to God’s instructions. Luke 17:1-2 indicates there will be people who cause other people to stumble, and there is a warning to such people. Such people usually have a role that makes them an authority of some type: a teacher, a pastor, a business leader, a small group leader, a counselor, etc. Woe to anyone who leads others astray. Look at what Jesus says in Luke 17:1-2.
He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.
I’m sure no one sets out to cause another to stumble or lose their way in following the commands of God; however, look at the passage. Stumbling blocks are inevitable, and they will come through people. I do not want to be such a person. So I consistently study and apply God’s Word to my own life, and prayerfully do not give wrong information to others.
The penalty for being the cause of stumbling blocks is high. Do everything you can to avoid being the bearer of wrong information or teachings.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

How Would You Answer?

I’m getting right to the point. God said to Solomon: “Tell me what I should give you” (1 Kings 3:5b CJB). God is saying to us, “Tell me what I should give you.” How would you answer?
Solomon answered, demonstrating three aspects we should use.  First, Solomon was thankful (vs. 6). He thanked God for all He had done for David including giving David a son to sit on his throne. Second, in verse 7, Solomon confessed his weaknesses: “So now, Adonai my God, you have made your servant king in the place of David my father; but I am a mere child — I don’t know how to lead!” (CJB)
Finally, Solomon made his petition in verses 8 and 9:
Moreover your servant is among your people, whom you chose, a great people so numerous that they cannot be counted. Therefore, give your servant an understanding heart able to administer justice to your people, so that I can discern between good and bad — for who is equal to judging this great people of yours?”
Solomon asked for an understanding heart. A heart that would be able to hand out justice, according to God’s wisdom, for the people God chose. Solomon wanted to discern what was good versus bad in God’s eyes. Solomon recognized he was not “equal” to do such judging on his own. He was concerned about carrying out the role God had given him and in taking care of God’s people as best as he could.
How would you answer? What would be at the top of your list? Would help for personal situations and needs or wants be on top? Picture yourself sitting in front of God. What would be most important to Him? Are those our day-to-day concerns?
God answered Solomon in verses 10-14, and the answer went far beyond the humble request of Solomon:
10 What Shlomo [Solomon] had said in making this request pleased Adonai. 11 God said to him, “Because you have made this request instead of asking long life or riches for yourself, or your enemies’ death, but rather asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; 12 I am doing what you requested. I am giving you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you, nor will there ever again be anyone like you. 13 I am also giving you what you didn’t ask for, riches and honor greater than that of any other king throughout your life. 14 More than that, if you will live according to my ways, obeying my laws and mitzvot [commands] like your father David, I will give you a long life.”
Solomon had focused his request on the things God would want. He focused on what would further the Kingdom of God. And God granted him his request – and so much more. This reminds me of Matthew 6:33 and Jesus’s instructions to His disciples:
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. (NASB).
God knows our needs and one of His promises in the New Testament says, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB). Both Solomon and Paul (the writer of Philippians) understood that by serving God and His purposes, their needs (and our needs) would be taken care of (added to us).
Do we understand this? Are we asking of God according to His purposes and to further His Kingdom?
How would you answer God’s question?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Decline Begins

After David’s reign on the throne, Israel was doing pretty good. Solomon, who replaced David when Solomon was in young adulthood (age estimates range from 12 by rabbis to 20 by other theologians), furthered the influence of Israel on the region of the Middle East. Solomon strengthened Israel’s position in the world by forming strong alliances with the surrounding nations. He did this by marrying the daughters of the leaders of the other nations.
1 Kings 3 starts by telling us Solomon married the Pharaoh of Egypt’s daughter. While the marriage didn’t violate the commandments (the Israelites were prohibited only from marrying Canaanites), the new wife was supposed to give up her foreign gods and submit to the God of Israel. That rarely happened and so Israel became polluted by many false idols. Throughout the history of Israel going forth, this became a problem for the nation that was supposed to worship the One and Only True God.
We have an account of Solomon’s spiritual condition in 1 Kings 3:3:
Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places (NASB).
The CJB says,
Shlomo [Solomon] loved ADONAI, living according to the regulations set forth by David his father; nevertheless, he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.
Sounds righteous at first glance. The key words, however, are “except” (NASB) and “nevertheless” (CJB). On one side the verse sets out Solomon’s love for the Lord (and following David’s practices, although we know David had some pretty funny ideas of what it meant to follow God’s instructions). After the key words, it seems as if Solomon was doing something wrong – sacrificing and making offerings on the high places. I added the emphasis for a reason.
The Hebrew word for “high places” is bamah. This word is used to describe many religious sites. The people of the Middle East fully believed that gods (including God) lived on mountaintops and so altars and places to perform said sacrifices to whatever god was being honored existed on many places of high ground throughout Israel. In addition, many of these sites had hired private priests carrying out the sacrifices. They carried out rituals and ceremonies, which made the people think they were getting right with God.
Do you see anything wrong with this? God had laid out some very specific regulations regarding worshiping Him. First, the only temple that meant anything was the one where the Ark of the Covenant was located (which at this time was in Jerusalem). And second, God gave clear instructions that only Levites (people descended from the tribe of Levi) could be legitimate priests.
I fear our world is becoming like Israel. Solomon and Israel’s decline began at this point – man-made showy actions that supposedly made the observers right with God. Today there is a decline in the spiritual condition throughout the world, as people practice and observe religious activities that fit their own ideas of God, not adhering to either the Old Testament commands or the instructions and examples of the New Testament church. Going through certain motions does not make a person right with God. There are people today who call themselves Christians but if asked, “Why are you a Christian?” have no idea what salvation and redemption means. They are being indoctrinated into practices and habits and nice sounding words that are giving them a false sense of being right with God.

My question? Where do you fall? Do you know what salvation and redemption are all about? Or are you a cultural Christian going to church, espousing the things others have told you, and acting like you think a Christian should act? There is condemnation for those types of people recorded in the Scriptures. There are several places where Jesus says there are people who will have eaten with Him and followed Him around, but when the times comes they will ask for admittance into heaven, and the Master will say, “I do not know where you are from” (Luke 13:23-27 is one example).

Where are you from?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Good Life

Did David live a good life? As I studied 1 and 2 Samuel, I saw how rocky David’s life was. He was hot or cold for God. He obeyed and disobeyed God’s Laws. He did what God instructed or he took matters into his own hands. Saul chased him all over the countryside as he sought to kill David. Other enemies, including his own son, Absalom, attacked David. He suffered the loss of children. He suffered separations from wives. He was moody and often depressed. He was indecisive leading to continuing troubles. Eventually, like all of us, he grew old and feeble. This sounds like a rocky life to me.
1 Kings 1:1 says, “King David grew old, the years took their toll, and he couldn’t get warm even when they covered him with bedclothes.” Commentator, Tom Bradford, indicated that David might have been “prematurely old” due to a lifetime of stress, living in the wilderness, and consequences of his lifestyle. “Grew old” can also be translated, “lost his vitality.” However, Bradford also says that “toll” has a positive connotation that indicates that David lived a “meaningful life.”
It’s not a matter of living a long life that really matters. A person can live a long time but have only a few noteworthy days. David’s life had many noteworthy days, although not all for positive reasons. He lived a full life in the time he had. He may have become prematurely old because of his struggles in his soul. He may have had a “soul sickness” due to living in frequent disobedience to God. He was still recognized by God as a man after God’s own heart, but David’s choices led to many stresses that ruined his vitality.
This is true for many people today. Even though they profess to be Christians, their hard lives due to their choices leads to a soul sickness that ages them beyond their years. I’ve known many people who are alcoholic and profess to know God, but who continue to make the choice to drink. I understand it’s a disease and quite possibly genetic, but there’s still a choice about whether or not to pick up that first drink. Those who continually make the harmful choice suffer many losses and live with much stress. Many of them look much older than their chronological age.
It is not for me to judge how their hearts are with God. Looking at David’s life, it is hard to see how he was committed to following after God. Why and how could a person who professes to love and serve God live such a miserable life? I don’t know the answer to that; what I know is that it is possible. All we have to do is look at David.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Feeling Blue

We all have days like this. Disappointments. Frustrations. Everything is running late. Hopelessness. And more frustrations. That’s the kind of week I’ve had, so I’m having trouble determining something to say for my blog article.
To remind myself, and maybe giving you ideas, I’m going to compile a list of the ways I think and the activities I do to keep my balance during such days.
·      Praise God and recognize that His will shall be done.
·      Pray according to Philippians 4:6-7. Lay down my anxiety, present my requests to God, and enjoy His incomprehensible peace.
·      Contact a friend for a spiritual conversation that will remind me that God is in charge.
·      Dive into God’s Word. I do that in several ways. Daily devotion and Bible reading. Thorough Bible study of a book of the Bible. Memorize verses.
·      Choose to do activities with gusto that are the opposite of the way I feel.
·      Take care of myself with a nice cup of tea, listening to soothing music, or petting the cats.
·      Write, in my journal using a pen on paper. Write about the emotions, write about a recent event that brought joy, write an encouraging note to someone. Write.
·      Go for a walk.
·      Watch an entertaining movie or television show, preferably uplifting. Or watch silly cat videos online.
·      Practice relaxation techniques and/or deep breathing exercises.
·      Color pictures in a coloring book, or create pictures of my own.
·      Focus on one thing in the moment – maybe a task that needs to be done that I don’t feel like doing.
·      Read a book for fun.
·      Play a game; with someone else is the best, but on my phone is good too.

Wow! I had forgotten there are so many ways to live through disappointments. Many of them have lifted my mood at one time or another. And this evening, until bedtime, I’m going to watch some television with my family. I feel better just making that list and recognizing that there’s so many ways to handle anxiety. I just have to choose to do so.