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, 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.