God is Sovereign

grand-turk-first-reef-stop-sea-weedGenesis 1:3 And God said,”Let there be light and there was light…”

Read Job chapters 38 and 39  and Read Genesis 1 thru Genesis 2:4. 

When we look at these chapters they are a beautiful reminder of the sovereign power of God.  Simply put…God is awesome! In Genesis we read about how God spoke the world into existence…and in Job we read about how detailed these plans were….how he “laid the earth’s foundation”..anyone who knows anything about building something knows that a foundation is not laid without a plan.  Most people even when they go to build something as simple as a chicken house or a garden shed will go and make a basic plan of the size and materials needed, then take and put some sticks in the ground and lay it all out with string before starting to even dig holes for the foundation to be poured, or to put posts in the ground.  I know that when my husband and I built a fence to contain some animals we spent hours studying all the different types of fencing available and what we needed to have to best keep the animals that we had inside the fence.  After all, who wants to chase animals around because they get out.

Now, as human beings we have a saying, “the best laid plans go awry,”  this is often true for us as we have to contend with outside influences that we have no control over.  Truthfully, God is the only one who has control over everything.  God can control everything with just a word.

So many times we hear ourselves asking…then why doesn’t God do this?  Why doesn’t God just “fix” everything that is wrong?  The answer is that God wants us to learn who he is and that he is a God of love.  He wants us to learn to actually live the two great commandments that Jesus laid out for us.  Now, to live those commandments we have to learn how to love people no matter what they do…that is how God loves us.  We have to learn to love others the way God loves them, and that is how we are to show God that we love him.  If we all did this then it would glorify God…and glorifying God is what our lives are actually about.

We are told in Isaiah 43:7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (KJV)

pexels-photo-29095The Lord Speaks

Job Chapter 38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains[b] of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
    or lead out the Bear[d] with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s[e] dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom[f]
    or gives the rooster understanding?[g]
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
    and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry out to God
    and wander about for lack of food?

Footnotes:

  1. Job 38:7 Hebrew the sons of God
  2. Job 38:31 Septuagint; Hebrew beauty
  3. Job 38:32 Or the morning star in its season
  4. Job 38:32 Or out Leo
  5. Job 38:33 Or their
  6. Job 38:36 That is, wisdom about the flooding of the Nile
  7. Job 38:36 That is, understanding of when to crow; the meaning of the Hebrew for this verse is uncertain.

162105287141082Job Chapter 39 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.

“Who let the wild donkey go free?
    Who untied its ropes?
I gave it the wasteland as its home,
    the salt flats as its habitat.
It laughs at the commotion in the town;
    it does not hear a driver’s shout.
It ranges the hills for its pasture
    and searches for any green thing.

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
    Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
    Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
    Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
    and bring it to your threshing floor?

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.

19 “Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
    It catches the scent of battle from afar,
    the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
    and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
    and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
    a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
    its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
    and where the slain are, there it is.”

IMG_0089

Genesis Chapter 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good,and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis Chapter 2:1-4 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Adam and Eve

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LordGod made the earth and the heavens.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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God is Always with You

Angel picPsalm 88:2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.

Read Psalm 88 This is a prayer from a depressed and lonely person, who feels that they are so all alone in the world, that even God has deserted them, that they might as well be dead, and are in fact a living dead.

Read Job Chapter 36

Consider Job 36 in relation to Psalm 88.   Do you think the person in Psalm 88 would gain comfort from reading Job 36. Are there other bible verses or Psalms that you feel would be comforting if you were feeling depressed and alone?  (Hint:  The Lords prayer, Psalm 23, Psalm 91, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5, The Beatitudes)

My favorite Psalm is 91.  The imagery especially in the KJV is just beautiful.  The idea of hiding under God’s “wings” like a chick under a mother hen is pretty irresistible when you are going through a hard time in life.  We all have hard times and struggle with feeling alone during those times.  After all there is no one on earth who understands what each of us is going through (and we all are going through something called life, which at times can be difficult to bear).  That is because as much as we can love another person we cannot live their life, or get inside their head and have their emotions or their perspective on what is going on at all times.  God is the only one who can truly hear our cries when we are sad and really understand all that we are going through in life, and all that we have already been through.  God both celebrates our joys with us, and also bears our sadness with us.

He hears us even when we are crying from within our hearts and souls and we don’t even know the words to say to tell him or anyone else how we feel or what we need.  God always knows.  The thing is we just need to lean on him through prayer.  Sometimes, you can just bow your head, and cry to God about your anguish.  He already knows what is in your heart.  God is faithful to offer comfort our times of distress.

Sometimes that comfort may come in the form of another person saying a timely word, or sharing a painful time of their own and reassuring you that they got through it.  Once when my family and I were going through a hard time God provided some words from one of my friends who had gone through a similar experience when she was young:  “Eventually you will get through this, and things will settle down, and there will be a new normal…it won’t be like the old normal…but things will settle down and there will be a new normal.”  Those were some of the most reassuring words at that time that I had heard.  I clung to them.  God had given me such a wonderful friend who having suffered themselves was able to lift me up by giving me these words of encouragement.

The thing about God’s comfort is that you have to be willing to be comforted.  You have to be looking for that comfort.  It is like having a pillow and bed and home available to you, but choosing to sleep outside in the cold on the hard ground instead.  Even out on the cold hard ground, God is there with you offering you comfort.  To me that is such a comforting thought….it is an empowering thought…because God loves us and knows us so well.

Job 36: Elihu continued:“Bear with me a little longer and I will show you

    that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
I get my knowledge from afar;
    I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
Be assured that my words are not false;
    one who has perfect knowledge is with you.

“God is mighty, but despises no one;

he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.

He does not keep the wicked alive
    but gives the afflicted their rights.
He does not take his eyes off the righteous;
    he enthrones them with kings
    and exalts them forever.
But if people are bound in chains,
    held fast by cords of affliction,
he tells them what they have done—
    that they have sinned arrogantly.
10 He makes them listen to correction
    and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him,
    they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
    and their years in contentment.
12 But if they do not listen,
    they will perish by the sword[a]
    and die without knowledge.

13 “The godless in heart harbor resentment;
    even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth,
    among male prostitutes of the shrines.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
    he speaks to them in their affliction.

16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
    to a spacious place free from restriction,
    to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
    judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
    do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
    sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night,
    to drag people away from their homes.[b]
21 Beware of turning to evil,
    which you seem to prefer to affliction.

22 “God is exalted in his power.
    Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
    or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 Remember to extol his work,
    which people have praised in song.
25 All humanity has seen it;
    mortals gaze on it from afar.
26 How great is God—beyond our understanding!
    The number of his years is past finding out.

27 “He draws up the drops of water,
    which distill as rain to the streams[c];
28 the clouds pour down their moisture
    and abundant showers fall on mankind.
29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
    how he thunders from his pavilion?
30 See how he scatters his lightning about him,
    bathing the depths of the sea.
31 This is the way he governs[d] the nations
    and provides food in abundance.
32 He fills his hands with lightning
    and commands it to strike its mark.
33 His thunder announces the coming storm;
    even the cattle make known its approach.[e]

Footnotes:

  1. Job 36:12 Or will cross the river
  2. Job 36:20 The meaning of the Hebrew for verses 18-20 is uncertain.
  3. Job 36:27 Or distill from the mist as rain
  4. Job 36:31 Or nourishes
  5. Job 36:33 Or announces his coming— / the One zealous against evil
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Psalm 88[a]

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth.[b]A maskil[c] of Heman the Ezrahite.

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 88:1 In Hebrew texts 88:1-18 is numbered 88:2-19.
  2. Psalm 88:1 Title: Possibly a tune, “The Suffering of Affliction”
  3. Psalm 88:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
  4. Psalm 88:7 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 10.
  5. Psalm 88:11 Hebrew Abaddon

**Both these Bible quotes are NIV and have come from Bible gateway.com

 

Follow God through Prayer

161979757153635
This is a picture of a burnt log and some flowers growing next to it in Yellowstone National Park.  All through the park there was evidence of recovery.  Even in the events of our lives that cause some dreams and aspirations to die, God is with us and can bring beauty from ashes.  If only we talk to Him and follow His leading.

Psalm 37:5-7 Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this, He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.

Read 1Samuel 23:1-14 David asked the Lord if he was to go to Keilah and stand against the Philistines, God told him to go and that he would deliver the Philistines into his hands.  David did so, and God did as he said he would. God protected David and used him (even though Saul was trying to take his life) to save the people of Keilah.

Read Psalm 37:5-7 Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this, He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn. The justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, do not fret, when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

This is an excellent verse to take to heart when you are praying for something, you must trust in God for the answer, even if you don’t see immediate results, be committed to knowing that God is committed to you and that He hears your prayers, and will take action on your behalf.  

God’s justice is always much more accurate and precise than anything that you and I can come up with.  Sometimes the person whom we want justice from has suffered an even greater injustice than we have, but we don’t know it.  That doesn’t excuse the injustice we suffered by them, but it may help us to understand where they were coming from and find a way to love that person despite what they have done.  

David, makes it clear through out his relationship with King Saul that he does not despise Saul and has no wish to take his throne from him before the appointed time that God will give it to him.  David continues to attempt to serve Saul to the best of his ability despite Saul’s hatred of him, and his constant attempts to take David’s life.

I mean, Saul throws spears at David while David is entertaining Saul with his music.  Saul chases him down and tries to kill him.  When you look at some of the Psalms that David wrote, the headings on some of them tell us that they were written in caves while he was hiding for fear of his life.  That fear is because King Saul is after him.

King Saul actually admired David and promoted him to the position he was in, but after God turned from Saul and David was anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel (the United Kingdom of Israel) Saul then started to fear David when he saw how mighty he was.  After Saul heard chanting in the street that “Saul had slain his thousands and David his ten thousands…”  (1Samuel 18:6-8) then King Saul could see that David could take his throne as he was held in higher esteem by the people of Israel than was King Saul.

As far as I can find in the Bible there isn’t any direct statement to Saul that David is the one anointed to take his place.  King Saul is just told that another will take his place as King.  King Saul went off of the deep end without a life jacket once he figured out that David was considered “mightier than he!”

However, David despite being given an opportunity of temptation to kill King Saul as he was urinating in a cave where David and his men were hiding….refuses to succumb to the temptation to go ahead and get his kingdom through assassination!  Even with his men egging him on!

1Samuel 24:1-22 After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day theLord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed,or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

14 “Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? 15 May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lorddelivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold. (NIV via Biblegateway.com)

This kind of thinking and acting is why the Lord stated that David was a man after his own heart.  David loved Saul and loved Saul’s son, Jonathon who was his best friend, like a brother.  I am sure that it pained David to know that he was going to be taking the throne which would have gone to Jonathon, if Saul had remained King.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to have affected the close bond between the two men.  They looked out for each other. Jonathon tried his best to protect David from his father, King Saul.

If we try to understand King Saul’s actions they were largely out of fear…he drove himself crazy from his fear of losing his kingdom.  This tells us how deep Saul’s belief in the words of Samuel the prophet…even though he continually acted against what Samuel had told him to do.  Saul feared people more than he feared the Lord, and fear was his chief motivator.  So in essence, Saul was a person who looked good on the surface, but his actions did not bear scrutiny once you got to know him.  He wasn’t a bad person, but he was a leader and he was in charge of leading his people in the way that the Lord wished them to go.  He was catastrophically unable to do this because of his fears. He was not a Psalm 37:5-7 king.  (Though that Psalm written by David when he was King was written well after  Saul’s demise…perhaps David may have thought of and remembered Saul when he wrote it.)

David suffered a lot of injustice at the hands of Saul, we are never told why Saul acted with so much fear.  Hazarding a guess and going into Saul’s background he was simply not built for the demands of Kingship…it was a great big stress to him, but once he was there, he wanted to keep the job.  He didn’t want to be a failure.  However, he was a failure.  He was self centered instead of God centered.

Simply put, Saul failed to follow God, so God replaced him.  David, despite his faults, never forgot or let his own thoughts replace his love and respect for God.

If you are a leader that God has put in place, you are held very responsible by God for how you lead…more so than the average person who has no one they are leading.  Be a good leader if you are called to lead, pray and follow God’s leading…Wait upon the Lord in all circumstances.  Prayer is the way to “wait upon the Lord.”  If you don’t talk to him, then you won’t know what God wants from you.

 

Note: As an exercise I find it helpful to look up the different places spoken about in the Bible and see where they are on a map.  It kind of gives me a scope of how far things are from each other, and what the terrain is like.   Keilah is 8.5 miles NW of Hebron, the Desert of Ziph is 4 miles SE of Hebron.  Keilah is now satisfactorily by archaeologists as identified with Khirbet Kila.

http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-old-testament.html

God’s still small voice…rest for your souls

IMG_1339Matthew Chapter 11 (NIV)

 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciplesto ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Woe on Unrepentant Towns

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[e] For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (NIV)

15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods,is to be put to death.”

21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

When I was in church this morning Matthew 11 was the text and what caught my attention at the time was verse 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

There are many ways to look at this verse, but another translation of it is to say, “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully moving forward”.  It is rather hard to wrap my mind around the Kingdom of heaven being “subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it”  after all, the Kingdom of heaven is in heaven, right?!!

However, if you look at it from the standpoint of it “forcefully moving forward” that gives a different idea, at least in the mind of the Pastor who was preaching this morning’s message, and also I can see and understand that what he is saying may be a way to look at it.  It gives the idea of God’s will be done by passionately intense people who have subjected themselves to God and the spreading of his word.  The following of his plan.  The Pastor this morning spoke about the idea that God does not want people to stand still in their faith.  He wants people to passionately reach out to others in love and compassion to show them the character of God.

What happens if all you need to do is accept Jesus and be baptized?  Then why bother with going to church, or praying or anything else? After all, “you” have been saved, so why bother with anything else?  You are not going to be any “more” saved by going to church are you?  You are not going to be any “more” saved by doing good works!  Jesus did it all and all you have to do is accept it and do nothing the rest of your life, right?!!

While it is true you are “saved” simply by accepting Jesus, you cannot just accept part of Jesus and be saved.  Jesus was/is looking for people who accept all of Him, and all of what he says.  People who are willing to give “all” of themselves to God’s service.

 Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

People who give all of themselves to God are people who are also concerned for obeying God here on earth while they are living, not just concerned for their afterlife.  They are also not just concerned for their own salvation, but are concerned for the salvation of others.

Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

This doesn’t mean that God is asking everyone to become ministers or pastors or give up their families and communities and run off across the world to be a missionary!  There are some people whom he asks that of, but for most people your missionary field is in your own backyard, neighborhood, place of work, people you meet!

This also doesn’t mean that you have to jump on everyone you meet and beat them over the head with God and God’s word as you know it!  God speaks in a still small voice, so that is the example he gives us in dealing with others. Gentleness, not being wishy washy, but being non-condemning and gentile in your explanation of who God is and what he is looking to bring into their lives!

1Kings 19:11-13  And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but theLord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

 

I remember when I was in high school and my band was doing a car wash fund raiser.  There was a woman there who got right up in my little 9th grade face and said, “Have you been born again!!!”  The way she said it actually made me feel like I had done something wrong..it felt threatening, especially because at that point I had never heard of the idea of being born again.  I looked at her really scared like and nervous, and said that I didn’t know what she meant.  She again pounced on me and said that you had to be born again to go to heaven and that if I wasn’t born again then I wasn’t going to heaven!  Now, I was not a big church goer as a child because we moved a lot, and my family didn’t go to church.  I usually went with one of my Great Aunts when I was around her and really loved going with her.  I was especially enamored with the felt board and how those little figures would stick to it was mesmerizing!  I loved Bible stories and read them a lot in the children’s Bible.  I had prayed that Jesus was going to live in my heart when I was about 4 years old, and I knew who Jesus was and trusted him.  However, the Jesus I knew was not a person who would yell in someone’s face that the needed to get born again to go to heaven.

The Jesus that I knew called to people out of trees and told them that he was going to have lunch with them.  He called to people who were fishing and told them to come along that he would make them a different kind of fisherman.  Sometimes, Jesus spoke in riddles that I didn’t understand as well as I thought I should, but he was gentle and loving with people who were trying to understand the kingdom of God, and trying to follow him.

Now Jesus was very tough on those who weren’t going to follow him, or who misused God’s word to make other people’s lives harder.  He was really tough and very direct if people who were supposed to be representing God to his people were misrepresenting God to them.

I am sure that this woman, who never got around to explaining anything about being born again to me…because I saw a car that desperately needed my attention to wash right then…had the best of intentions and was very passionate about her faith, and really wanted to share it with me.  The problem was that she was literally ferocious in her approach!  When she was talking to me, it felt violent!

There is a fine line between being passionate and sharing what you know with all the joy in your heart, and literally pouncing on an unsuspecting person and beating them over the head with the Word of God!  With most people it is much more productive to share things with a sentence here or there, in relation to a comment they have made about something than it is to just pounce out there out of the blue with the word of God.

Ex.  Someone says to you something like, “hi! How have you been today?” and it happens to be Sunday, and you have gone to church.  You can respond, “Oh, I am having a great day so far, I went to church this morning and we talked about… and this is how I feel about it or what I got out of it…” then wait for their response, you will either hear, “Oh, that’s nice! and they will change the subject…at which point that means that you give it up and move on to another conversation…or as Jesus tells us, “shake off your sandals and move on out of town.”

You may also hear another response, such as, “Oh, that’s interesting….I went to church also and we talked about thus and so today…” or “Oh, really, so I have been looking for a church around here, what is your church like…”  or “Oh, I really don’t know much about God, but I always thought that….”

There are so many responses, or so many openings and you just have to calmly carry on a conversation with the person…get them to asking questions about God and talking about what they believe, then gently tell them what your beliefs are and why you believe what you do.  Sometimes they are under the impression that “churches are filled with hypocrites” or “I am trying to fix myself up to be better before I go to church…I need to get right with God”.

The truth is that churches are filled with people who have been “saved” they have been “born again” meaning they have taken on a new life through their belief in Jesus Christ.  Churches are also filled with sinners who have yet to be saved..people who are there for different reasons than to worship God.  Churches are filled with all types of people, but there is one type of person who you will never find in a church….not til Jesus comes back, and then there will be no need for churches as he will be here…that person whom you will never find in a church is…wait for it…here it comes…”the perfect person!”  There are no perfect people in churches anywhere…there are no perfect people out of churches either.  Churches are full of all kinds of people, but there are no perfect ones…the perfect person doesn’t exist except in the body of Jesus Christ.

Face it, all of us would like to be “perfect” and if all it took to make people perfect was for them to attend church, then there would be lines of people around the block outside of churches all over the world waiting to get in so that they could be perfect too!  The fact that there are not tells us that the people in the church are only different in the fact of their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior, right?!!  So what does this mean?

Jesus tells us to be Romans 12:2 people who live in the world, but are not part of the world.  This means that we should be noticeably different from the non-Christian in our character and our way of life.  We cannot help but be living in the world…and God doesn’t want us to sequester ourselves away from the world.  After all, how can we reach out if we don’t interact with it?

We are told that Romans 5:7-9 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If God loved us while we were yet sinners, doesn’t that mean he loves others who are still sinners and who have not yet accepted salvation through Christ?!! Of course it does!  Our participation in God’s kingdom is to passionately proclaim his word to others…being passionate does not mean yelling at people or getting in their face.  What it means to be passionate is that we love God, and we love his Word, and we cannot get enough of talking about God to others and sharing our joy!  If you look at Jesus’ disciples that is what we see over and over with them.  They loved God and it showed in every fiber of their being…they gave all of themselves over to God to use in bringing others to know who God is and what he did for them by way of his Son, Jesus Christ!

The line in Matthew 11 that most caught my attention is this:  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”  I asked myself how does one stumble on account of Jesus?  The answer seems rather obvious….if you hear about him and you refuse to accept him, then you have stumbled!  Or if someone misleads you about who Jesus is, then you can stumble.  The nice thing about stumbling is that it isn’t a fall…that means that sometimes you can catch yourself, or someone else can catch you before you fall.Operation Unified Response

That leads to my favorite verses in Matthew 11:28-30  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

 

 

If there are 10 Righteous Men…

jesuspraying3

Genesis 18:32 Then he said May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only 10 can be found there?

Read Genesis 18:20-33 God tells Abraham that he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah that their sin is too great.  Abraham prays to God that he not destroy the city of Sodom if 10 righteous men could be found in either one of them.  God agreed, but could only find 1 righteous man, Lot, and so saved Lot and his family and still destroyed  the city.  So although  the city was destroyed, God listened to Abraham, and looked for righteous people first thereby saving Lot.  Without Abraham’s intercessory prayer, God may have destroyed the entire city.  Prayer affected the outcome for Lot.

There is a bunch of history between Abraham and Lot.   Lot is Abraham’s nephew by one of his deceased brothers.  When God told Abraham to pick up and move to a new country with his wife and family, Abraham took Lot along.  He and Lot ended up having to go their separate ways after a while because their family groups were too large and their flocks were too large.  This caused a bunch of fighting between their herdsmen.  Abraham was kind enough to let Lot choose which of the new land he wanted for himself.  Lot demonstrates a bit of his character to us by choosing the best and greenest land, and leaving the desert area for Abraham. Later his area is raided and he and his family members are kidnapped…Abraham goes to the rescue with a few hundred men and gets them back.

John 3:16-21  

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (NKJV -Biblegateway)

Now in this story we find that the town that Lot is living in (Sodom) is about to be destroyed by God.  God has found the town to be so filled with sin that he considers it irredeemable.  In our society there is a belief that everyone is going to be redeemed.  That is simply not true.  It is purely wishful thinking…however, it is good that we have that desire to see everyone redeemed.  God has the same desire, and wants us to have that desire also.  He wants us to love others to that point where we wish the best for them, and would like to help them achieve it.

2Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The promise that is spoken about in 2Peter 3:9  is the return of the Lord…he is not slow in returning because he wants us to suffer more, but because more can have time to make the decision to follow Jesus, and gain their salvation and restored relationship with God.  God leaves people here on earth who have already gained their salvation so that they can be instrumental through their knowledge of God, and through the way they live out their faith….in bringing others to the knowledge of salvation also.

Abraham always loved Lot and wanted him to be saved, but he also did not want the people of Sodom to be destroyed either…he was hoping that there would be enough people in the town of Sodom that Lot could continue to live his life there, and that God would not destroy the town.  That there were enough people still in Sodom that they could witness to those who were living in sin and thus help them to repent and return to God.  However, as we know from the Bible, Lot was the only person left in that town whom God considered to be righteous.  If you read more about Lot in the Old Testament you will find that he wasn’t really all that righteous…he had a knowledge of God, but not necessarily a very strong character.  He tried to be obedient to God, but he didn’t seem to cling to him the way he should.  It is a good thing that Abraham was around to look out for his nephew, and to pray to God for him.  God wants us to look out for others, especially for other Christians who may be new to the faith, or weaker spiritually.  We are to lift them up in prayer and bolster their faith as much as we can.

Notice that God never got mad at Abraham for how he questioned him repeatedly about his actions.  God does not get mad at us either for wondering about what his plan is and what he is doing.  God wants relationship with us, if we have a question about what God is wanting us to do, or what is happening or why…we should feel free to pray and ask God to help us to resolve these questions, and to have a closer understanding of him and his plan.  God is gracious and loving and understands us more than we understand ourselves.  Use prayer to relate to him and he will give you answers and contentment about how he is doing things.  When there isn’t prayer/communication..there isn’t understanding either.  So pray and ask God what is going on and how to proceed whenever you are in doubt…it will definitely build your faith up…beyond your dreams!

praying-hands-public-domain

Hezekiah’s Distress and Comfort

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This is a tunnel to the pool of Siloam that Hezekiah had built so that the city of Jerusalem could withstand a siege.  Amazingly, people can still go and walk through this tunnel today!

2Kings 19:34 I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and the sake of David my servant.

Read 2Kings 18:17, 33, 19:1, 14-19 King Sennacherib of Assyria threatens Jerusalem and says that he has an army and that it isn’t good to trust in God because no other city’s god helped them resist his onslaught, that they should surrender, Hezekiah, King of Judah, receives message and tears his clothes and put on sackcloth, and prayed and God told him not worry.  Then Hezekiah received the threat in writing, and took it to the Temple where God was residing and laid it out before God and prayed humbly for protection.

Read 2Kings 19:32-37 God tells Hezekiah that he hears him, and that he is not to worry about the King of Assyria, that no arrow would be shot, no shields will come against the city, that there would be no entrance into the city, and no siege either, that the King of Assyria would go back the way he came, and be killed in his own land.

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A bit of background on Hezekiah and what was going on around him during this time.  Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became King, and he was the son of King Ahaz who did a lot of idol worship.  King Ahaz was not someone after God’s own heart at all.  He is not to be confused with King Ahab who was the one mixed up with Jezebel.  King Ahab was a King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the split of the Kingdom of Israel into the two Kingdoms: Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom which included Judah and Benjamin.  King Ahab was even worse than King Ahaz, but I will get into that another time.  Anyway, apparently, Hezekiah whose mother was Abijah (daughter of Zechariah the prophet) must have been taught very well about the Lord from his mother and his Grandfather, as he was considered to be “good King Hezekiah”.

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I once did a study with some teenagers on the books of 1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles, by way of making a list of the Kings of Israel and Judah and writing beside the names either the word “good king” or “bad king”  it was really interesting.  There were definitely in both cases far more bad than good.  Those that were “good” had one common trait…they all followed the Lord.  Now being Christians we would expect to define a good leader that way, but this is the Bible telling us that they were either “good or bad” not us deciding it for ourselves.

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Well that was just a short aside for you…now back to Hezekiah.

Hezekiah is talked about at length in both 2Kings starting in chapter 18, and 2Chronicles starting in chapter 29 in the case that you really want to know more about him on your own. The Book of Isaiah chapters 36-39 also speak of Hezekiah.

I really like Hezekiah, and knowing how he really full relied on God when he had an insurmountable problem really helped me to realize just how “big” the God of Hezekiah (who is also my own God) really is.  The Kingdom of Judah was already a vassal of the Assyrian Empire when Hezekiah took the throne.  Well, Hezekiah decided that he was not going to have his Kingdom pay tithes to Assyria anymore, he tore down the asherah poles and removed all the idols from the high places.  He also broke Moses bronze staff of a snake into pieces because people had been worshipping it.  He did all of this pretty much right away when he became King.

In the fourteenth year of the reign of Hezekiah the Assyrians attacked some of the fortified cities of Judah.   Hezekiah attempted to make peace and get them to back off by paying the Assyrian’s off (or in essence paying the fees that they were expecting from Judah whom they still considered their vassal).  Sennecherib of Assyria took the gold, but then didn’t back off.  He was on the war path, literally.  King Sennecherib sent some messengers to Judah to tell not only Hezekiah, but all the common people also that he was coming to take their city by siege and that they shouldn’t bother to trust their God because after all, the gods of all the other kingdoms and cities around them hadn’t been able to stop Sennecherib.  Sennecherib said that if Hezekiah said that God could help them that he was a liar.

Now in all fairness, Sennecherib really had a reason to think this was true.  He had his own god, but it was a man-made god of wood and stone.   Hezekiah believed in the one true God, and believed in his power to save.  All of Hezekiah’s people did not answer Sennecherib’s messengers because they trusted their leader when he told them not to answer.  They trusted that Hezekiah had God on his side, and that everything would be all right.  Hezekiah led his people with God constantly in his mind.

This is really evident from Hezekiah’s reaction to Sennecherib.  He took the message that was given to him by his men and took it to the temple.  I can just see him in great distress, wearing sackcloth and ashes on his head, and literally laying out the papers in front of God in the temple and saying to God, “What are you going to do about this, Lord?  I have paid Sennecherib, but he isn’t backing off.  This guy says that you are not great enough to hold him off.  That’s insulting.  But Lord, I trust you.  You are the most powerful God.  Tell me what you want me to do about this situation…I am absolutely helpless.  I have done what I can do, but we really need your help now.”

The prophet Isaiah sends word to Hezekiah that God says, “Don’t worry about a thing.  You won’t even have to fire an arrow off, but Sennecherib will go on back home and he will be killed in his own temple by his family members.” (This is paraphrased, of course!)

So the next morning we are told that when Hezekiah got up the Angel of the Lord had hit Sennecherib’s army very hard, it had killed off 185,000 men in one night, and Sennecherib had broken camp and run home.  Later we read that Sennecherib was killed by his sons while worshipping in the temple of his god.

Now, I call Hezekiah’s God a God of power.  He is a big God!  A God who can handle a problem of that magnitude can certainly handle any problems I encounter in my life, right?!!  That is really something to lean upon for all of us as we walk our Christian walk in relationship with God.

Hezekiah’s faith and his method of praying to God…he literally laid his problem down on paper (scrolls I’m sure) and then spoke to God about it.  Now he could have just gone in there without the problem in writing, but he took the problem in the form that it arrived and took it straight to God.  He didn’t wait or hesitate.  The scrolls gave him something to focus his prayer on, but it wasn’t necessary.  Hezekiah treated God like someone he was close to, didn’t he?!!  He humbled himself so we know that Hezekiah recognize God’s sovereignty over him, but he still felt comfortable going right to God and figuratively, sitting down on the steps next to God’s throne as a child would next to their parent when asking for help. 

James 1:2-8 says  2Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (ESV)

King Hezekiah did ask in complete faith and expectation that God would take care of his problem.  We can approach God humbly with our problems.  This is what God wants us to do, take our problems directly to him as soon as we know that we have a problem.  That is the best time and it is the best way to grow our faith through answered prayer.  We have to ask for help, or we often won’t recognize who is giving us our help and may give the credit to someone other than God.  God loves us and loves to help us with our problems.  So approach his throne with confidence!

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

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Hezekiah spread it out before the Lord. 

Faithfulness and Integrity of Heart-God’s response to Solomon

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Read 1Kings 9:3-9: The Lord said to him:“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” (NIV)

This is God’s answer to Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication. The guidelines that God gave to Solomon are pretty simple aren’t they?  God tells Solomon in these verses to have “integrity of the heart and uprightness” like his father David did.  What do you think God means by integrity of the heart?  I mean we know that David was someone who sinned….he was an adulterer, and a murderer he had Bathsheba’s husband killed by ordering him placed at the front of the battle and having the troupes than back away from him…in order to hide his adultery because Bathsheba came up pregnant and he couldn’t get Uriah to sleep with his wife after he ordered him home from the battle.  When I think of David, I certainly it certainly doesn’t seem like he had integrity of the heart and uprightness.  He was a sinner plain and simple…but in God’s eyes after David had passed away and the throne of David was given to his son, Solomon, God still saw David as someone who had integrity of the heart and uprightness.  How can this be?

In Acts 13:22 we are told that God had found David, a man after God’s own heart to replace Saul as King.  So how can a person who is a sinner be someone who is after God’s own heart.  Someone who is an adulterer and a murderer be someone who has “integrity of the heart and uprightness?”

David did not recognize his own sinfulness.  He fell into the trap of thinking that because he was King he was above everyone who recognized him as their King.

After all, it isn’t like Bathsheba had a choice in the matter…she was taking a bath, and David saw her, and wanted her.  So, as her King, he sent for her, and probably pretty much took what he wanted from her, or coerced her in some way.  It is highly unlikely that she was allowed to say no to him.  Women in David’s time did not have a lot of rights, and a woman who was called for by the King would have even less rights than usual.

Yet, she could have been stoned for being an adulterer and so could King David.  How desperate might she have become when she found she was pregnant and her husband had not been around in time to get her that way.  I am not saying that Bathsheba was innocent, just that her choice to say no might have been a hard one to make.  She might have considered that if she had said no, then her outcome would have been bad that way also.  I don’t believe that fairy tale that we are told as kids in the sanitized children’s version of the story of this great love….after all, David did have other wives besides Bathsheba…around 8 of them at least that are named, and he had children with most of them.  (2Samuel 3:1-5, 1Chronicles 3:1-3, 2Samuel 5:13, 1Samuel 18-19:24, 1Samuel 25)  

At any rate, the fact that David sinned is well documented in the story of him and Bathsheba.  In fact, we are made aware of how far David had fallen from grace in that instead of allowing Bathsheba’s pregnancy to wake him up to his sin, he just committed more sins to try and hide it.

He had so far forgotten that his role as a King was to serve his people and he reversed it that they were there to serve him…that God had to send him a reprimand in the form of Nathan the prophet.  2Samuel 12:1-13 tells us that Nathan delivered a parable to David which made David wake up to his own sins.   God dictated the penalty of David’s actions, which were dire indeed.

Finally, David repented. Then God forgave.  God is faithful to forgive.  I think that what it means to have “integrity of the heart” is that even while he was in sin, and separated from God by that sin, David was still very aware of who God was, and it was not his desire to ever be separated from God.    David still had faith in God, and understood that God was the supreme King of his own life.  So the minute that he was confronted with the reality that God knew what his sin was and that he might be able to hide it from people, but never from God…he repented…because his faith and his relationship with God was the most important thing in his life.

This is also the reason that God calls David a man after his own heart.  David loved God with all his being and he was truly committed to following God and doing what God wanted him to do.  There were still repercussions for David’s act of sin, that is the thing about sin, it hurts us and it hurts those around us, so there is always fall out from it.  God forgives us but we still have consequences with the people and society we live in.

We know that God’s forgiveness was complete because when he responded to Solomon’s prayer of dedication, God told Solomon to be like his father, and describes David in verse 4 as “walking faithfully before Him with integrity of heart and uprightness.”  God doesn’t want us to fall into sin. If we belong to him and we do so, then he will continually try to get our attention through various means to make us to understand what our sin is and get us to choose to repent of it, and put our eyes back on him.  David fell into sin when he took his eyes off of God for just long enough to stare at a bathing Bathsheba. Yet, David had the integrity and humbleness to apologize to God and ask for forgiveness for straying so far from what God deemed was upright.  God is looking for people who love him with all their hearts, minds and souls and will keep their eyes on Him for eternity.  God isn’t looking for perfect people, but willing, loving and faithful people who are humble enough to recognize that God is sovereign over them and that God knows what is right and best for us.

That is what we can learn from God’s response to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple and from the story of David and Bathsheba.

Grace to the Humble

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This is the inside the Harem at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.  Esther would have resided in a harem also.  From the tour guide we learned that until a woman had a child she was housed in a general group with no private quarters, but after a child was born she was given her own quarters within the harem.  The harem was considered a social step up for most women over the regular life of marrying and having children to a poor person.  Women didn’t have to work or slave and they had plenty of food and clothing so life was generally much easier.  There was no negative stigma in those times as we think of that type of life from our moral point of view today. Mainly because women were for the most part powerless as we see in the story of Esther.  Her power came from God.

Peter 5:5-7 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all anxiety on him because he cares for you.

2Thes.2:16-17 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

In other words, God’s grace offers comfort, encouragement, hope and strength.

Read the Story of Esther Part II  Esther Chapters 5 thru 7  As you can see in this portion of the story, Esther has been strengthened and shown great faith in approaching her husband the King, as she is actually risking her life doing so without being called, and having to admit to being a Jew herself, and Haman gets taken down by his own self centered pride. 

This situation with Esther and her fellow Jews was very upsetting because it all actually came about because of an act of disobedience back in the days of King Saul. (1Samuel 15:1-35) The Amalekites, whose King Agag was originally spared is the one whom Haman was descended from.  I am not sure exactly how Haman was descended from him, but perhaps Agag was not the only member of the royal family that King Saul spared, or King Saul treated Agag as a typical captive of royal peerage gave him suitable quarters including women which would allow for him to father a child during that time period. We are not told how this descendent came about, only that Haman was Agag’s descendant.  Either case is possible because we are told when Samuel called for Agag that Agag when to him in an unworried manner.  It does tell us in the above verses that Samuel slew Agag after Saul spared him.

The Amalekites/Agagites were a group of people whom God had condemned to death because they were so horrible as to not be tolerated any longer.  In reading  Deuteronomy 25:17-19 we find that they were a group who were vicious and sneaky, they followed after the Israelites as they were crossing the Wilderness and went behind them picking off the women, children and the elderly.  They didn’t come at them face to face and fight the strong, they picked off the weak of God’s chosen people. The most defenseless.  God hated this so much that he told the people of Israel that when they got into the promised land and got settled down they were to wipe them off the face of the earth…so that they were not able to influence any of his people the Israelites with their evil ways.

King Saul took it upon himself to keep the finest of the spoils and to spare Agag the King of the Amalekites.  The thing is that this was King Saul’s second great disobedience to God and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak.  On both occasions Saul was more worried about people and maintaining their good opinion than he was about God and what God wanted him to do.  He suffered from the idea that he knew more than God about the situation and he needed to take care of things.  King Saul was suffering from pride.  Whenever we start to think that we know more than God, or we know better than God then we are suffering from Pride.  We are actually putting ourselves and our desires and our opinions into the place of God…or another way to put it is that we are becoming our own god!  After all, if we know better than God about something, then that would mean that God is not God.  By definition God is all knowing, all powerful, and eternal.  How can we who are not all knowing, nor all powerful, and are limited by our lifespans even begin to consider what is the best course of action and even begin to think that God is wrong about something?  I mean, who are we to tell God that he is wrong?  Yet, we do this all the time.  One needs only to look at the world to see that kind of thinking in action and to see what that has brought to us.

We get very upset when we read in the Old Testament that God told the Israelites and Saul to wipe out an entire group of people, but the Bible also tells us that the penalty of sin is death.  These people as a whole were the worst kinds of people, they were vicious and completely unrepentant….There is the difference between them and the average group of people.  They were completely and totally as a whole group unrepentant, not sorry at all.  There wasn’t a single individual among them who had a conscious or felt bad about what they did.  How do we know this?  That is a simple answer, if they did, they would have left the group.  No one who has a conscience and is in a group like that survives long, either they would flee for their life, or they would be killed by the rest as a weakling. So rest assured, God being a God of justice and a God of wrath decided that they were like Sodom and Gomorrah and judged the Amalekites/Ammonites as unredeemable.

We don’t like the idea at all that someone can be unredeemable, but the world is full of people who are too hard hearted toward God to ever allow themselves to be humble and submit to God.  We all have to admit that this is also true, even if we don’t like the thought.  However, the thing we have to remember is that as Christians we are required to love those people to the best of our ability, and to share our knowledge of God with them to the best of our ability, and when our ability falls short, as it frequently does, we need to pray that God’s love for them will flow through us to them so that they may know the love of Christ.  What we are not to do is to stand in the place of God and condemn them.  We do not ever know what God has in store for that person.  We cannot tell the redeemable from the unredeemable, only God knows that.  So as Christians we must treat everyone as redeemable.  We do not need to put ourselves in harms way or blithely hand the keys to our house to a known thief.  That is not at all what I am saying.  God gives us a spirit of discernment as to what to do in these cases so as to have a measure of protection for ourselves, and also so as not to offer temptation to someone who is struggling.

Anyway, back to King Saul, his inability to humble himself before God cost him the Kingdom that God had entrusted him with.  In contrast, we look at Queen Esther, who stepped humbly forward in faith at great personal risk to do as God wished her to do and was able to save her people because of that single step of faith.

Proverbs 29:23 “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” 

Grace is Never Wasted

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This is an 1800’s copy of Rev. John Brown’s Self interpretation Bible.  It has a lot of information in it, and was still being printed into the 20th century.  My Mother bought it at a used book store, and she recently passed it on to me.  It is an awesome thing to hold something that has been around that long and has been treasured as the word of God.  There are very neat calligraphy entries in the family section which give a glimpse of life in the 1800’s and how fragile it was.  There is an entry of a birth, then in the same day an entry of the baby’s death.  You can imagine how hard of a day that must have been for the writer of those dates.

1Cor.15:10  But by the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace to me is not without effect.  No I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Note: God doesn’t bestow his grace on anyone and it is wasted.  If his grace is bestowed on you, you will be productive for him.  You are what you are by the grace of God.

Read the story of Esther part 1:  Esther Chapters 1 thru 4.  In this first part of the story of Esther, we find out how it comes about that Esther becomes queen, and we learn of Mordecai overhearing a plot on the king’s life and saving his life, and Haman enters in as the enemy of the Jews who plots for their destruction. Mordecai tells Esther that she may have been put in the position of queen just for the purpose of saving their people from extinction.  Note that Esther lived in Persia which is Modern day Iran/Iraq her time was 473 BC or Before the Birth of Christ, or BCE which is Before Common Era in new terms.

Most of us spend at least some of our time on this earth contemplating why we are here…or what is our purpose.  For each person that is different.  We are all unique creatures created by God.  We all have an intended purpose.  For some of us it can be as important as Queen Esther’s purpose where we can save a whole nation of people.  For others it may be something as simple as being there to help another person across the street at the right time to save their life.  Maybe the person who is crossing the street is important in a different way in God’s plan.  Perhaps that person is involved in the teaching of someone who may grow up to be a leader who does something on behalf of God.  Maybe they will grow up to be a well known minister or world leader, maybe they are just another person who is going to grow up and pass on what they have learned from the person crossing the street to others…maybe they are the next Madame Curry, or Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham.   The point is that no matter what task God gives us in life we should all treat ourselves as an important part of God’s plan.  In God’s eyes each and every one of us are valuable and equally important.

One thing I have learned this week is that sometimes we may hold ourselves in a place because we don’t want to let someone down, or we feel needed there.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of the story of Esther.  She was told that God would save his people even if she did not step forward to speak with the King on their behalf, but that she would suffer a great penalty for not stepping forward in faith.  God would use someone else to accomplish his purpose.   That is true.  God has a back up plan for his ultimate plan.  That is part of our free choice.  We are free to choose at all times whether to follow God’s plan in our lives…or not.

Each of us have our very own individual journey of faith.  How we grow depends largely on how much we pursue God. If we just sit back and do nothing, then we simply won’t grow or our growth will be very slow…it may have starts and stops in it.  If, on the other hand, we avidly pursue God…he will draw closer to us in amazing ways.  The Holy Bible is like the ultimate Vitamin for your spirit.  The more you dive into it the more you can learn about who God is and what he wants you to do in your life.

Yet, sometimes even the most devoted Christian can have moments when they are unsure of God’s plan….the thought comes…”What do I do now? I want to stay in your will for my life, but I don’t know what you want me to do?”  At times like that the best thing to do is to pray and to open God’s word and start reading and listen to the quiet, still voice which instructs on on the way we should proceed.

 I had an experience recently.  I spent several hours really praying about whether to stay where I am serving God, or to go look for another place to serve.  At that time (which was several months ago) I went out of the place where I had been praying and sat down in the car turned on the radio just in time to hear a random minister talk about “what do you do when you don’t know what God is wanting you to do?”  I thought, (goosebumps) “Wow!  Timely answer God!”  I was told through that minister to just keep doing what I was doing because it wasn’t anything unGodly, until it was evident that God wanted me to do something else.

Sometimes God uses others to give you information about what he has in mind for you to do.  Sometimes, he will tell you himself.  Yesterday, I heard the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit telling of a pride problem I had that was unrecognized by, yours truly…aka me! Sometimes pride can hold a person back from doing God’s will also.  I mean, sometimes we talk ourselves into believing that we are the only one who can do something and that we are indispensable in certain situations.  When reminded of the story of Esther she was told that she was the person chosen for the task, and that may be why she was there, but if she refused, then God would use someone else. That is why it is important to truly immerse yourself in God’s word…to the point that the content is written on your heart. This will draw God closer to you so that you may more clearly hear his purpose for your life and understand how important you are to God…what a precious person he created you to be.

Guided by Grace

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This is the Areopagus in Athens Greece.  This is where Paul stood when he addressed the Athenians about the Unknown God.

1Cor 16:23 The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

1Cor. 16:23  It is always appropriate to pray that God’s grace will be with someone and guide them in all their life’s activities. The apostles frequently said this prayer in either greeting someone, or in sending them out on a mission.  We are to pray for others regularly. Ex. 2Cor.1:2, Romans 1:7

Read Galatians 1:15-16  Sometimes knowledge is given to us through God’s grace, that we don’t get from man’s knowledge.  For example, Paul was given knowledge of Jesus Christ through God himself, and not through the preaching of any living human being.  God demonstrated his grace to Paul on the road to Damascus.  Paul was actually on his way to Damascus to imprison and kill off Christians.   This was actually after Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He was stopped in his tracks by Jesus who asked him why he was persecuting his people.  This was a great conversion experience for Saul and he was renamed Paul.  He was always working for God as much as he knew how, even when he was killing Christians, but God corrected him, and he went on to be someone who truly spent the rest of his life doing God’s work and spreading the gospel through the world to the Gentiles.  The Gentiles are anyone who is not a Jew, just to be clear on this.  

Colossians 4:6 Season your words with God’s grace, so that you will always know how to answer someone correctly.

Read Ephesians Chapter 3  Note that this is a letter from Paul to the Ephesians, in which he outlines how he prays for their well being, and guidance, and understanding of God’s love/grace for them.  Although the word grace is not used in the prayer part of verses 15-21 Paul does use the word grace in verse 7 along with the same wording about God’s power working in him.  This indicates that in the prayer portion he is talking about Grace to the Ephesians.  This letter is thought to have been written by Paul at the same time approximately as Colossians, AD 60, while Paul was imprisoned under house arrest in Rome.

When I think of Paul I think of someone who was a fire and brimstone kind of guy.  He was a “no gray area” type of person.  He believed in what he believed and he followed through on his beliefs to the best of his ability.  When he believed that Christians were heretics and were distorting the word of God he wholeheartedly went all out to eliminate as many of them as possible.  Once he met with Jesus on the road to Damascus he found (much to his surprise, I am sure!) that he was entirely wrong about his approach and his beliefs about the Christians.  I find it interesting that he was blinded physically even while he “saw the light” spiritually!  His physical blinding was temporary, but I am sure that helplessness he experienced really was convincing to him that he was dealing with God.  It was also a form of justice to those whom Paul had made to feel helpless while he was persecuting them.   After all, who else could do something like that, and who else would speak to him like that?!!  Paul was not allowed to stay in his comfort zone either….God thrust him forward to the preach to the gentiles…we know that Paul was both a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28/Philippians 3:4-5) and a Jew, his father was a Pharisee and he was also a well educated Pharisee.

Paul seems to have been a somewhat inflexible person who was unforgiving of others who were not as committed to his mission as he was.  We know this from his refusal to take Mark with him on the second missionary journey.  (Acts 15)  This was because Mark started off with he and Barnabas on the first journey and then left them and went back home. (Acts 13)  It ended up that Barnabas took Mark on a second journey of his own, and Paul teamed up with Silas and they went on Paul’s second missionary journey.  Later on, we find that Paul has come to appreciate Mark because he says in a letter that Mark has been of help to him. (2Timothy 4:11).  Paul has come to see that sometimes people can change and become committed whole heartedly.

Another thing we know about Paul is that he was bold.  He walked into Athens and informed them all that he had seen a monument to the “unknown God” and he would make that God known to them.  (Acts 17:16-34). 

 Paul also didn’t go about flaunting his background unless he needed to do so.  He didn’t announce that he was a Roman citizen unless he needed to do so, even though announcing it would have opened doors all over the cities he was being a missionary in.  I can only believe that this was so people did not listen to him out of duress or obligation, simply because of his Roman citizenship.  After all, there was a Roman law that said if a Roman soldier asked you to carry his stuff you had to carry it for up to a mile outside of the city before you were free to give it back to him and go about your business.  Can you imagine how hard it would have been for him to actually, genuinely, share the gospel with a group of people who were in fear of him as a Roman citizen?  How would he have been able to tell if they were actually being converted?  Would they have had the nerve to ask him questions at all or engage him in conversation?

We can learn a lot from this look at Paul’s development as an Apostle of God.  Ultimately, we find that Paul was humble and loving toward others, and concerned about their well-being and their walk with God. He acknowledged that people around him were praying for him and that he appreciated it, and he attempted to comfort them about his coming death. (Philippians 1:21) He wrote many many letters to the different churches he had set up so that he could continue to guide them even if he couldn’t be there in person.  Many of these letters he wrote while he was being imprisoned in Rome.  He was actually waiting to be judged and it is traditionally held that he was executed by Emperor Nero around 64 AD by beheading, though that is not written in the Bible.

Ultimately, Paul was a man of great faith who consistently looked for opportunities to serve God and to spread the gospel and uphold the faith of others, no matter what situation he found himself in.  We can really learn a lot from how Paul allowed the Spirit of God’s grace to lead him in life!