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, 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?