Ooh La La

Song of Songs 1 to 8

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Song of Songs…it’s in the Bible, and since we are going through the whole Bible, someone needs to write about it.  I know Marcia was probably a bit apprehensive when she saw that I was the one that signed up for this book, but I am very experienced with this topic, so I think it is a good fit.  When I was much younger, I wrote a poem about my girlfriend and gave it to her, and she is now my wife.

You may know this book of the Bible as Song of Solomon, but in the original Hebrew it was called Song of Songs.  It is saying that this is not just a song, it is the song of all songs, like King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  I must admit, it is a very unforgettable song and I was a bit surprised to learn such a book was in the Bible when I first read it long ago.  For some reason my Sunday School teacher did not cover this part of the Bible with us when I was a child.

The visuals painted in these chapters about a bride and groom are very sexual in nature, but is that what this book is about?  Some say it is an allegory of Jesus and his bride, the church.  I doubt this is true because Jesus wasn’t even around in the Old Testament when this was written.  I don’t think the concept of the church being the bride of Jesus was known back then so why would someone write an allegory about that?  It is also believed by some that it could be an allegory about God and the people of Israel.  There are no doubt similarities between the relationship of a bride and groom and the relationship between God and His people, but why would someone use such erotic sexual material to describe how God thinks about Israel and vice versa?

I believe it is love poetry and I am thrilled that the Bible has affirmed that the sexual desire I have for my wife is a good thing.  I know that will make some of you squirm a bit because we don’t usually talk about this stuff, especially in church.  However, I think one of the main points of this book is to show that the physical attraction between a bride and groom is a beautiful thing that God has created for them to enjoy.

I could be very wrong about this, but how much does that matter in this case?  What if it turns out it is about Jesus and the church?  It is perfectly ok for people to have different opinions about topics such as this because it will not affect your salvation if you are wrong.  I really look forward to the day when we will be able to sit and talk with the authors of the Bible and ask them to explain what they were writing about.  I can’t wait to be in the same room as God and Jesus and listen to them talk about so many things we weren’t totally sure about.  That does not mean we should twist meanings and be wrong about things that are plain to see, but you must admit that you don’t completely understand everything.  It is sometimes ok to say “I think” something is true without being 100% positive it is true.

But back to the song of all songs.  I am not going to go in great detail here about this book because you should read it for yourself.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how much in love these two seemed to be.  It reminded me of when you see two young people in love, and their love is just oozing all over each other so much so that they don’t even notice anyone else is around.  They can’t stop smiling at each other and they are on cloud nine.  We usually roll our eyes at them and think they are being ridiculous, but this is exactly the kind of love that was on display in these eight chapters.  Solomon gushed about her eyes, hair, neck, lips, and body parts that reminded him of fawns, but it didn’t stop there.  I knew this was a story about real, intense, true love when he mentioned her teeth.  He didn’t just say she had beautiful teeth, he said her teeth were like a flock of newly shorn ewes.  Don’t picture dirty ewes that have been rolling around in the dirt, Solomon said the ewes had just come up from their washing.  Moreover, all these ewes bore twins, and not one of them had lost their young.  He said all of that about her teeth!?!?  That dude was crazy in love!  And she was just as ridiculous as him, which can be seen when she says her beloved is like a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of Engedi.

We might shake our head if we saw a bride and groom going on and on about each other like that, especially since they focused so much on the physical aspects of love, but this is not a trashy book from the local bookstore, this is a poem about love in the Bible.  The Bible teaches us that true love is on the inside, but this book teaches us that true love can be on the outside as well.  Our world has made a complete mess of love on the outside; not all love between any two people on the outside is good.  However, when a bride and groom love each other on the inside, God created another way for them to show that love.  Song of Songs is not a ridiculous poem to shake your head at; it is a beautiful expression of how much two people can love each other.

Rick McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Song+of+Solomon+1-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin the book of Proverbs – chapters 1-3 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Too Many Rules

Psalm 119:89-172

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Being a Christian isn’t for me.  There are way too many rules.  My life would be so boring if I followed all those rules.  Have you heard anyone say that before?  Or maybe you are a Christian and you try to follow all the rules, but you feel like you are missing out on the fun.  Or worse yet, maybe you are a Christian, and during your weak moments you don’t miss out on the fun.  The Bible is a huge book with a lot of Do this’s and Don’t do that’s.  Why did God make it so difficult to be a Christian?

If you have ever felt a bit strangled by all the instructions to follow in the Bible, Psalm 119 will open your eyes to a whole new way of thinking.  God’s laws are not some kind of test to see if we can show self-control and prove we want to be Christians.  Psalm 119 says God’s commandments will make you wiser than your enemies, have more insight than your teachers, and understand more than the aged.  Let that sink in for a second.  These rules were given to us to make us smarter – even more intelligent than our teachers and those older than us who have more experience than us.

God did not make all the rules to make our lives MORE difficult; He gave us all the rules to make our lives LESS difficult.  He is watching out for us and has our best interest at heart.  God knows a lot of stuff and He is just trying to share with us some of what He knows to make our lives better.  Don’t be rebellious because you don’t like someone telling you what to do; instead, be thankful for the pages and pages of advice that God has shared with you that will help you out in life.  You might have an urge to lie, steal, have sex outside of marriage, look at porn, get drunk, or do any other sin of your choice.  All these things may seem like a worthwhile option in the heat of the moment, but God’s word lets you know that doing these things will make your life worse.  Trust Him; He knows what is best for you.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.”  Life can be difficult, and many obstacles will get in the way on your path.  You can ignore God’s word and try to go it alone, but you will assuredly stumble around in the darkness.  Or you can read God’s word and follow the instructions so your path will be lit up.  Those same obstacles will be on your path whether you read your Bible or not, but if your path of life is lit up with God’s word, you will more easily see how to maneuver through the obstacles you will face.

How valuable are the words of God?  The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 says in verse 127 that he loves the commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold.  The words of God are more treasured than gold!  Do you believe that also?  Your actions speak louder than your thoughts and words.  If you truly find the scriptures to be that valuable, you will search diligently by reading the Bible, and then you will mold your life to fit the words you have learned about.

One last part of this psalm that really drove home the value of God’s words to me was in verses 163-165.  He said he loves Thy law and praises Him seven times a day because of Thy righteous ordinances.  I feel like this is not an exaggeration to make a point (like forgiving someone 7 times 70 times), but probably a true practice that this individual followed for the most part.  If you are awake for about two-thirds of your day, you would need to praise God for his rules about every two hours to keep up with that psalmist.  You would be in a constant state of thankfulness for God’s laws every day, which seems like a bit much, but verse 165 tells us about the huge reward we receive for following His words.  He said that those who love Thy law have great peace and nothing causes them to stumble.  If you want to add stress to your life, just go ahead and break a rule.  However, if you want true peace in your life, search through the scripture looking for God’s advice and follow that advice.  Thank you to the psalmist for giving us this great perspective on rules.

Rick McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+119%3A89-172&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Song of Solomon 1-8 on our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

More Valuable than Wealth or Honor

1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; and Psalm 72

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In 1 Kings 3, we’re told that the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream when he was in Gibeon. During this dream, Solomon says “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties” (1 Kings 3:7b). Have you ever felt like this before? I know I have. I often think of myself as not a ‘child’ anymore, but some things just seem too big to do by myself, no matter how old I get. There’s some dispute on how old Solomon was during this time, but I think that this statement Solomon made shows that he realized he couldn’t do this alone. Solomon realized that he needed wisdom from God, so that’s what he asked for. God was pleased and gave Solomon wisdom. And, he was also given things he hadn’t asked for – wealth and honor (bonus!).

 

Verse 15 of 1 Kings 3 says, “Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream”. I think about how if this quote was in a movie, most of us would think that what had happened in the dream didn’t actually occur, that it was just a dream. Maybe the movie had something really bad happen and you think to yourself, ‘maybe it was all just a dream’ or something wonderful happened, almost seeming too good to be true, and you think, ‘I hope that wasn’t all just a dream!’. Here though, God used a dream to speak with Solomon, and by reading on (1 Kings 3:16-27), we learn that Solomon settles the dispute between the two women and one baby. And we could think to ourselves, ‘Yes! It wasn’t “just” a dream! It carried into life even after waking up!’ God used a dream to have a conversation with Solomon and then Solomon awoke and had the wisdom God had given him. 1 Kings 4:29-34 also conveys to us how great this wisdom Solomon has, his fame, and how many came to listen to his wisdom.

 

In this day and age, I think we sometimes go about our days and we don’t always ask God for wisdom. Or, we’re like the other kings during those times and want wealth, fame, or honor. Maybe you don’t fit into that category, in which case you’re more like Solomon than I. But, I know that I should be asking God for wisdom, listening for His response (maybe even in a dream ;)), and using the resources (mainly the Bible, but also godly mentors) to seek out wisdom myself.

 

Moriah Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+3-4%2C+2+Chronicles+1%2C+Psalm+72&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 119:89-172 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Thought Checker

Psalm 119:1-88

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(We will read the second half of the longest chapter of the Bible on Sunday – but feel free to actually read the whole thing both days – it is full of good stuff!)

What comes to mind when you hear the word purity? Because we currently live in a fallen world where sin is part of our human nature, we are all impure. Think about it… what about your thoughts? What do you think about? Are there any sins that don’t start with a thought? I’m sure we could learn a whole lot about someone if we could read their thoughts, because the thing about our thoughts is that they are essentially hidden from the rest of the world. And this is why it can be so dangerous. What starts to be a single almost innocent thought can then eventually or suddenly develop from good to bad to ugly. So when would be a better time than now to examine our thoughts and heart. God knows our thoughts, we can’t hide anything from Him, remember? Our thoughts do matter. They reveal what is in our heart. 

 

Thankfully, we can find in Psalm 119 how to stay pure. 

 

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.

 

Psalm 119: 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

 

Because God’s word should be our treasure in life we should hide it in our heart and meditate on it so that we can obey it and therefore stay pure. So let’s see what Philippians 4:8 says. “ And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” This makes staying pure a little harder, not only should they be pure, they should be honorable as well.

 

 I am so glad this verse made it into our Bibles because it has certainly helped me. When I was little I used to have trouble falling asleep from worrying, until my mom wrote out Philippians 4:6-8 and hung it up next to my bed. Suddenly I had a way to check my thoughts. A thought checker. If it doesn’t align with Philippians 4:8 throw it out of your mind. And even more than that, I was able to memorize it and because of that I’ve been able to use it throughout the years. 

 

Starting some habits can be really helpful in controlling your thoughts. But the first step is to really know the scriptures so you know what is right and wrong. Because how else can we know what the Bible says if we don’t take the time to study, meditate, memorize, and know what it says? Also you will need to commit to memorizing scripture so that when the time comes that they are needed you will be able to pull them out of our pocket and meditate on them. 

Here are some great verses to memorize and hide in our hearts.

 

1 Timothy 4:12 “ Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way  you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 

 

Romans 8:1-2 “And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for your. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Or 2 Corinthians 6:6, Romans 8:6, or 2 Corinthians 10:5, and many many others. 

 

So the next time you feel like your thoughts are controlling you, make it a habit to test your thoughts and make sure they align with Philippians 4:8.  When they don’t, affirm that it is a thought that doesn’t align with God’s word and toss it out. Just like Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan,” when Peter was a stumbling block for him, you might choose to say something in response to it to help combat it. Then, ask God to renew your mind and help you strive to live a life pleasing to Him. Lastly and one of the most important steps, meditate on scripture. Choose a specific verse that is personal and recite it over and over again. 

 

So how can a young person stay pure? By living according to God’s word. By meditating on Scripture and hiding it in your heart so that you don’t sin. 

 

Makayla Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+119%3A1-88&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 3-4, 2 Chronicles 1 and Psalm 72 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Still Time to Parent

1 Kings 1-2 and Psalm 37, 71 & 94

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Today we begin the book of 1st Kings.  We are just about to the end of the kings anointed by Samuel.  Yes, David died at the end of 2nd Samuel…but the author of Kings begins with some more details from the end of David’s life before he spends the first half of the book on the reign of Solomon.  Unfortunately, I am not altogether impressed with this final picture of the man after God’s own heart.

And, it starts with his parenting.  Now, I have never been a ruler of a country, much less, the ruler of a country 3,000 years ago.  So, it is easy for me to pass judgment on a life I have never lived and one that seems so far removed from mine.  But perhaps we can learn a little something from David’s troubles to help us be better parents – as well as improved spiritual parents.

So, at this point David is old (about 70 years old) and the kingdom will be handed down to his son to reign.  Only trouble is – which son?  Earlier Absalom had tried to take over the throne – but that didn’t end too well for him.  David has said that Solomon will be the son to rule.  But, his son Adonijah wants to mix things up and come out on top instead.  So, Adonijah puts together his cheering squad and cabinet – including his dad’s formerly faithful army general and priest – and announces his kingship.

The author of Kings is not nearly so removed from David as I am and does not exactly point the finger at David, but merely hints (with a note in parenthesis) as to a potential weakness found in David’s parenting style.  The writer explains, in parenthesis, “(His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’)”  How many times do we as parents THINK that of our children?  And, perhaps we outright asked that a lot when they were younger, “What are you doing?”  But as they grow up and we lose control, or hand control over bit by bit as they get closer and closer to independence, do we too often not “interfere” and ask the sometimes difficult question.  Obviously the author here believes that if David had started an open and honest dialogue with his son about his behavior earlier on, this sad story of rebellion may have been avoided.

Perhaps you are not a parent, at least not yet.  If you are a young adult what can you learn from David and Adonijah?  Is there a time you desired communication with your parents but didn’t get the direction or reprimand you later thought could be helpful?  You can be the one to start the dialogue if they haven’t. What could have happened in our story had Adonijah come to David to seek his advice?   Or, are you frustrated with “too much” interfering and questioning?  Remember it comes from a deep love for you and desire to see the best for you – and the whole kingdom.

And, then how can this lesson be applied to us as spiritual children and parents today?  Who can you mentor in their Christian walk?  How can you better prepare yourself for a conversation that might one day have to start with, “Why do you behave as you do?”  Sometimes, love interferes.  And, when you are on the receiving end, remember some of those great Proverbs from Solomon that we get to read next week!

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. – Proverbs 12:1

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.  Proverbs 15:32

 

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+1-2%2C+Psalm+37%2C+71%2C+94&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 119:1-88 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

What Never Changes

Psalm 111-118

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In our Bible reading there were too many great psalms to choose what to write about today.  I decided to narrow it down to Psalm 118.  But even within Psalm 118 there are too many great verses to choose what to write about today. I will share a few thoughts…but spend some time in the psalm and see what strikes you most.

We do not know who wrote Psalm 118, nor for what occasion.  Perhaps part of the power of this psalm (and many others)  is that it feels like it could be written for each one of us in any number of situations we find ourselves.  It makes sense.  The psalms are a picture of God and His relationship with man.  God is God – from before history began to an eternal future.  And mankind hasn’t changed that much over time either.  He is still good.  And His love still endures forever.  And, it is still our duty and joy to give thanks to Him.  Some things never change even in a world where everything else is changing faster than we can keep track.

Psalm 118 both begins and ends with this lasting declaration:  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1 & 29).  If it sounds familiar, it may be because that verse is also repeated in 4 other psalms.  Sounds like God thinks it would be a good thing to remember!

It can be easier to give thanks for God’s goodness when we are in a happy, contented, easy place.  But the psalmist writes of many struggles, anguish, trials, battles and oppression that have surrounded him.  Verse 6 says, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  Verse 13 says, “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.”  If you are ever feeling stuck, it is a great time to pray to see more clearly God’s goodness and love.  Then, give thanks.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+111-118&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 1-2 and Psalm 37, 71 & 94 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Loyal to God

1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalm 127

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Today we finish off the book of 1st Chronicles as King David is finishing his 40 year reign and is passing over the kingship of the nation of Israel and the plans for building God’s temple to his son Solomon.

I love the example we see of accepting God’s will and passing on the torch.  Even though David had wanted to build the temple himself, he accepted that this was not God’s plan for him, and he fully immersed himself in doing all he could (with God’s spirit to guide him) to see the project succeed for the next generation.  How well do we accept changes from what we had planned and desired “in our heart” (1 Chronicles 28:2)?  Do we devote ourselves to God’s will even when it wasn’t our personal “first-choice”?  Do we do all we can to see others succeed with what we wanted for ourselves?

I also love the picture we have of giving and sacrifice. In a Spirit-led manner, David gave of himself, his time, his talents and his possessions to prepare the work for the tabernacle.  He passed along to Solomon very detailed plans, “of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:12) including specifics such as the division of labor for the priests and the weights of each of the lamp stands and bowls and other items to be used in the temple.

David knew the plans were no good; unless, there was also the means to follow those plans.  It was going to take material goods to do the work of the Lord.  He opened Israel’s storehouses to provide the gold, silver, marble, bronze, fine stones and other materials that would be used to build this “palatial structure,” “not for man but for the LORD God” (1 Chronicles 29:1).  And then he dug deep and gave from his own treasuries and bank account.  And then he asked the people, “Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?”  How do you really set yourself apart and show your devotion to God – you give, just as David gave.  And Israel responded just as their king had set the example for them – and they gave willingly.

And they gave with humble, thankful hearts – knowing that everything they had belonged to God.  I really love that part!

David rejoiced and praised God when he saw the people respond with generous, giving hearts.  He prayed to God, “keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.  And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” (1 Chronicles 29:18).

This, too, can be our prayer for our own generation and the ones to follow.  We are now God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19) and we have been given so much.  May we not wish for what isn’t in God’s perfect plan for us, but work wholeheartedly where he wants us to be.  May we be leaders who inspire others to give back to God.  May we and our children and their children be consecrated to Him and show that in our generous giving with humble hearts.  God, please keep our hearts loyal to you.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+26-29%2C+Psalm+127&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 111-118 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan