As Solomon’s reign continues, he begins to build the temple: the job promised to him by God through David. Solomon knows that this is his calling – and he wants to do it well. After David was told that he could not build the temple because of the blood shed on his hands, David amassed a treasure trove of building supplies for years. Even though temple building was not David’s calling, he still worked hard to make sure that he made Solomon’s task easier through his actions.
One of the first actions that Solomon takes is to get the best lumber he could find. He goes to the king of Lebanon and asks for the cedars of Lebanon. Then, he began to build the temple – a process that lasted 7 years!
Solomon knew that when God has called you to do something you make sure to do two things: (1) you give him the best of you first and (2) you complete the task assigned to you no matter how long it takes. Solomon didn’t let the difficulty of getting the cedars of Lebanon stop him from being sure to get the finest lumber. He also didn’t give up in the process of finishing the temple. He was committed to finishing the task he was assigned to well.
In our lives, are you as committed as Solomon to completing the calling God has assigned to you well? We are God’s hands and feet in the world. Part of our testimony to the world is how well we complete our callings. “Let’s not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9). “Let’s finish the race we are running with endurance” (Heb. 12:1-2).
After Adonijah’s revolt, Solomon ascended to power, and in 1 Kings 3, Solomon began making decisions of what he should do as a king. 1 Kings 3:3 describes him when it says, “Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statues of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” Deuteronomy 12:1-6 specifically gave directions to destroy all the high places, but Solomon and the rest of the people went to worship there. In 1 Kings 3:1, one of Solomon’s first decisions is to make a treaty with Pharaoh’s daughter, going against Deuteronomy 17:16-17. Solomon seemed like he wanted to make good, godly decisions, but he didn’t know and apply God’s word enough to keep him from committing these oversights, these sins.
Even so, in verse 5, after a large display of burnt offerings, God comes to Solomon and asks, “What should I give you?” This was a moment where he could have received so much from God – whether in power, wealth, status. But, instead, Solomon chooses to receive wisdom and discernment so that he could govern his people well. He recognized that he was a “youth with no experience in leadership” (v. 7) Solomon knew that he may have blundered in the past as he began to rule his kingdom. And so, he asked for the one thing that could truly help him to do better – discernment and wisdom from God.
In our lives, we may feel that we are in situations that we have been thrown into. We may be overwhelmed. We may be trying to make the best decisions that we can. The thing that makes the difference in those situations is not how hard we work at them or the people that we impact or make happy. What we should pursue in those situations is the wisdom of God. That is the only thing that will help us to know what is right to do. It is the only thing that will help us to know how to keep ourselves on the righteous path and away from sin.
What are you asking for from God? May we be a people who prays for the wisdom and discernment only God can give.
In today’s Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel 21-22, we see David, a victorious king and man broken by sin, dealing with the legacies of previous leaders of Israel and the political unrest they left behind. In addition to this, we see fall out with the Canaanite peoples, who had remained in the promised land for a thousand years after Joshua and the Israelites were told to conquer it. The last few chapters of 2 Samuel function as an appendix; they list stories that occurred during David’s reign, in non-chronological order.
In 2 Samuel 21, we find a brutal story that involves betrayal, sacrifice, and tragedy. Earlier in David’s reign, there was a famine that lasted 3 years. David responds to this famine, recognizing it as discipline from God, by going to God in prayer. The reason God gave for the famine is because of Saul’s, the previous king, slaying of the Gibeonites – a people the Israelites had made a treaty with (Josh. 9:15-20). David goes to rectify the situation, and so the Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul’s male descendents to punish for Saul’s decisions.
The seven descendents were handed over and killed. Heartbreakingly, Rizpah, the mother of two of the sons, goes to the place where her sons were killed and protected their bodies from the elements and birds from April to October. four months of a day-in-day-out vigil, through heat, cold, rain, and sun. Finally, David heard about what Rizpah had done, her love and dedication to her sons, and because of her actions, he decided to honor the memories of Saul and Jonathan – and Rizpah’s sons – by burying them in their family’s tomb. After all of this, the famine stops in the land.
This story is hard to read, but it shows an important truth: Our legacy is determined by the small, everyday actions of our lives. Those small everyday actions build up into something that can make a profound impact on the lives of those that come after us.
Because of Saul’s actions and his failure to consistently follow the law, he devastated the lives of both the Gibeonites and his own family. His legacy left a ripple effect of destruction that led to a famine in the entire land of Israel. That legacy of destruction was only stopped when another woman consistently showed love instead of violence, for both her sons and for God. Because of her actions, God answered the prayer for the land.
What type of legacy are you building? How are you daily and consistently building up a legacy that honors God and provides hope and help to those around you?
“All you need is love.” That song, written by John Lennon and sung by the Beatles in June 1967 (during the so-called “summer of love”) was broadcast live and seen by over 400 million viewers in 25 countries at the time. It was a kind of sappy, feel good, hippie anthem/anti-war protest song (this was during the height of the war in Viet Nam).
The late 60’s was a time of radical change in America. Young men were coming back from Viet Nam in body bags and people were burning their draft cards. Desegregation was making strides through Dr. King’s call to non-violent protest and some progress was being made, until Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and peaceful protest turned to violent mobs. As the 60’s gave way to the 70’s and 80’s many of the hippies grew up and became yuppies trading their free love, pot and “make love, not war” peace signs for cocaine and dollar signs on Wall Street.
Now we’re in 2021 and the BLM movement tells us that racism is still alive and well. All that love that John Lennon said was all we needed seems to be in short supply these days.
Ruth is an interesting kind of love story that we need to study today. It shows that true love makes sacrifices and takes risks for the benefit of others. After Ruth’s husband dies and her father-in-law dies Ruth is encouraged to go back to her people and find another husband, but she loves her mother-in-law enough to sacrifice doing what is most convenient for her. She goes to a foreign land where she lives a very marginal existence of grabbing the scraps of life. She is a foreign woman without a husband living far from her family. It was a perilous existence full of danger and risk, yet she does it out of love for Naomi.
There are lots of interesting details to the story that no doubt get lost in 3000 years of cultural distance. Kinsmen redeemer is a foreign concept in our society. In ancient Israel there were two things that mattered most- having an heir and having land that belongs to the family and stays in the family for generations. When a man died without leaving behind a male child to continue the family name and inherit the land and care for the women in their old age it was up to the next available unmarried male relative to marry the widow and their child would actually be the heir of the son who died. Many men didn’t like this set up and refused to participate in it. It was a sacrificial act for a man to take on that responsibility for his dead relatives family and legacy.
Boaz was a man of great character. In many ways he could have taken advantage of Ruth’s helplessness and dependency and used her to his advantage. He did not, instead, he looked out for her and her mother-in-law by making sure they received more than enough food. He didn’t take advantage of her sexually, instead, he did what was right and at personal cost he took over the role of the kinsmen redeemer and made Ruth his wife and took care of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. He acted in a very loving way toward Ruth and Naomi. Ruth acted in a very loving way toward Naomi. Naomi was protected and cared for. Ruth was protected and cared for. She and Boaz were blessed with a son. That son, Obed was the grandfather to David who later became the King of Israel, and they were ancestors of Jesus.
“All you need is Love.” There’s a lot of love in the story of Ruth. Love really is important, it’s foundational to everything. But love must be rightly understood. It’s more than what we typically think of as love – warm feelings, romantic notions and sappy songs are not what love is about. Love is about commitment and sacrifice, it’s about doing what is hard in order to benefit the person you love. Love is a willingness to take the less easy route. Love is doing the right thing even when it would be easier and less complicated to do the wrong thing.
Jesus takes up this theme of love in John 15. He was about to go to the cross and suffer and die. He is giving a message to his friends and disciples to sustain them through the difficult hours and days ahead. The foundational message he gives them is love: “12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “
Jesus teaches about love and exhorts them to love and then he shows them what love looks like by sacrificing himself as an offering for the sins of the world, his friends the disciples, and for us as well. This love that Jesus demonstrates is a reflection of God’s love for us that is shown in giving his son, Jesus that we might have eternal life (see John 3:16).
“All you need is love?” Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Ruth and Boaz which ultimately led to Jesus. “All you need is love?” Yes, if we mean the kind of love modeled by Jesus who gave his life for our sins and by God who gave His only begotten son for our salvation. Love is not just peace signs and romantic songs- it’s commitment and sacrifice and placing the needs of others ahead of our wants and desires. Who and how can you and I love today?
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Ruth 3-4 and John 15
So after the amazing events of Exodus 14 and the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground and the waters swallowing up the armies of Pharaoh the Israelites spend some time praising God and we have the text of their praises in the beginning of Chapter 15, and then they set out on the road.
“22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.”
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.
Right after God showed them that he is capable of providing everything for them he gives them a test and they instantly fail the test. God is showing them that they have bitter hearts and no faith, but they will have to have faith in God in order to survive. After this they continue on.
“1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.
2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
They do not look forward to the glory to come. They have been promised a land of their own and that they will become a great nation, but all they can see is the pain of the moment. They also do not see the past and the many ways that God has come through for them. Again all they can see is their momentary pain. We know from Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him, and that is what we need to do as well.
One thing I notice is that a lot of the locations they went to got their names changed after something big happened there, I wonder how this desert got the name “the desert of sin”.
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
God’s responses are not just a handout, they are a test. God does not provide for us just to fill a little need, it is to help us to grow, and to see our response. After an encounter with God we are not supposed to go back to how things were, but continue growing.
You have to wonder, if they would just handle one of these situations well, would the rest of the trip have gone easily? They are very impatient, kind of like how Moses was when he was younger, and killed the Egyptian and tried to get things started. The Israelites just want to be there, but the journey and the growing is very important. God wants his people to inhabit the lands of Canaan, not just some group of people that doesn’t know him.
This is the first of 5 straight days going through the book of Romans. That’s not much time for a book loaded with so many great refrigerator verses. This is also my favorite book to read through, and something different stands out to me almost every time I read from it. So my intent is to share one or two things that stood out to me THIS TIME from each section.
Romans 1:16 says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
I hope you are not ashamed of the Gospel. I do understand the temptation to be somewhat embarrassed or secretive of it. Many of the ideas and truths in scripture are no longer “acceptable” in today’s progressive world. That’s not really new, but it seems to be more true than ever before. I think we also are often afraid of appearing foolish for believing many of the miraculous aspects of scripture, up to and including the existence of a Creator God.
1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.“
We as believers must live by faith. We have never seen God. We did not witness the mighty miracles recorded in the Bible. But thankfully, we do not have a blind faith that is not backed up by evidence. We have had life changing experiences due to our decision to accept Christ. We have had direct answers to prayers. We have an abundance of historical documents and artifacts that confirm scripture. We also have evidence of our faith all around us and even inside of us.
1:18-20 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Simply put, we can know there is a Creator because we reside in His creation. You can know there is a Creator because you are reading this right now, and YOU were created! Well, at least that’s what scripture tells us. But the secular world has different ideas, doesn’t it? The secular world is only interested in what can be proven. Or at least that is what they claim. This is where the foolishness comes in. We Christians are viewed as foolish for believing “a big guy in the sky” made everything in nature, when science has clearly shown that all living things have evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years. Those who deny Darwinian evolution are mocked by its adherents.
Either the world was created or it wasn’t, and those who fall on the wrong side of belief in this area probably are foolish. So which side does the actual evidence back? As a side note, I have presented this very topic at churches and camps in the course of hours and sometimes days, so this is going to be a VERY abbreviated version of that.
As a Creationist, my confidence in the world being created is because everything actually appears to be created. Staunch evolutionist Richard Dawkins even admits that (though he proposes that possibly aliens created our world). Again, if everything appears to be created, then there is likely a Creator.
Perhaps the best evidence that living things specifically are created is the DNA found within every living cell of every living thing, including you. This DNA is essentially a programming code, much like your computer uses, but DNA is much more complex. Bill Gates has said that DNA is a more complex code or programming language than any of his best programmers could have created. Languages and codes do not arise by chance, and to suggest otherwise is actual foolishness. Beyond that, living cells themselves, as well as the systems that they combine to create, are so unbelievably complex, that they are beyond the law of probability to have evolved by chance.
So to believe in a Creator does still require faith, because we have not seen our Creator. But it is not a blind faith, because we have ample evidence that we reside in His creation.
On the other hand, if you do not believe in a Creator, then you also must have a large amount of faith. You must have faith that something can come from nothing (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how big bang theorists imagine the universe started. You must have faith that living things can come from non-living things (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is how most secular thinkers imagine life began. And you must have faith that less complex organisms can become more complex over time, completely by chance (even though this has never been demonstrated to be possible) because this is the essence of a belief in Darwinian evolution.
Do not be ashamed of the faith that we hold dear. It is indeed a faith-based belief system, but not a blind faith. And keep in mind that those that do not share our faith have also been created by our Great God, and are also loved by Him. If we have opportunities to share our faith and the reasons we believe with non-believers, I sure hope you will take them. In the end, they will be without excuse if they have not accepted Christ, but what a shame it would be if they had an opportunity to hear truth from someone like you, and you passed on that opportunity.
At the time this devotion is being written, the release of the new iPhone 12 will be announced tomorrow. Many people, as usual, will drool over this fresh piece of technology and feel compelled to get it even though they probably don’t need it. And my oh my how this is true with so many other material items in our life. We don’t really need them but feel as though we do. This is the world we live in as 21st century Americans. However, though having material possessions IS NOT BAD, as disciples of Jesus we MUST be aware of the ever lurking sin of greed and ungodly consumption.
In today’s text we read about two rich men who respond to Jesus in complete opposite ways. The two rich men are the Young Rich Ruler and Zacchaeus. The reality is both of these men represent two groups of people. One group who says they want to follow Jesus but do not want to give up their supreme desire for possessions/wealth and the other group are those who equally love money and wealth but repent of it and replace the greatest desire of their life (wealth) with Jesus.
In the account of the rich young ruler, Jesus plainly tells us it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Worldly riches and treasures and possessions mean absolutely nothing to the sovereign creator of the universe. It is ok to have money, it is absolutely not ok to love money (and what you get with it) more than God. The former is God’s gift to us, the latter is idolatry. Love the giver not the gift.
In the account of Zacchaeus we learn that it is never too late to repent of our sin (in this case greed) and come to Jesus and receive salvation. Zacchaeus was likely a career tax collector who made a living stealing from his own Jewish people. He shows us the way to repent from greed. He gives away many of his possessions and repays four times what he stole from people. Zacchaeus’ heart changed therefore his actions and lifestyle changed. True repentance is always evidenced in life change.
Who are you? Do you say you love Jesus but really wealth and consumerism has your heart? Or do you recognize greed has no place in the life of a believer. Our greatest treasure is Christ not the Iphone 12.
Other passages on greed and wealth:
P.S. The next 2 weeks of devotions will be authored by me. All my scriptural citations will come from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 18.15-19.48
Election day is only a few days away. Every election cycle seems more divisive as the sides pick and choose what truths they want to adhere to from news media and officials. When we see each side yelling at each other and calling the other names, it can seem like it’s hopeless. How can we piece back together mutual respect and trust – despite the fact that we believe differently?
In our reading today, we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry, in addition to some parables. In Matthew 21, we get the story:
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a sign of suffering, humility, industry, and peace rather than a horse, a sign of war and wealth, to show how his kingdom would be different. The people are sure to welcome him into the city and even drape their coats on the ground so that the donkey’s feet would not touch the ground. Even though the people warmly welcomed Jesus and gave him the honor he deserved, the Pharisees saw this and were jealous. After the triumphal entry, they began plotting against Jesus to kill him.
In the swirl of the election cycle, our focus can get hazy. As we’ve read this week, there is so much that can cloud our vision and cause us to stumble and fall in our pursuit of God. But, as we inch closer and closer to the day when our votes are counted for this country, we need to rest in the truth that this is not our home. We are a holy priesthood – a set-apart nation. We are the kingdom of God on earth, ambassadors of Christ. We are not waiting with bated breath for the winner of this election season to save us.
Our King rode in on a donkey 2,000 years ago. He is who we are waiting on, who we are trusting in. He is the one who saved us.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 20-21.
In Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods, he describes the ways that we put other areas of our life in the role of ‘god of our lives.’ Though the handmade idols that the Israelites worshipped – like the Baals and Golden Calves – may not exist anymore, idolatry is still very present in our modern day life. Keller describes how we, as humans, have a tendency to make good things god things, and consequently, we allow those things to turn our focus away from God. Sex, marriage, money, wealth, (self-)righteousness, and status can all be good things, but these things cannot be the ultimate thing.
In today’s passage, we meet the Pharisees who were trying to trip Jesus up with a question about divorce. They wanted to know if Jesus was going to contradict the law of Moses by saying that divorce was not legal. After Jesus responded that divorce should not happen outside of sexual immorality, the disciples were amazed and said, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10). Jesus agrees with them in v. 12 when he talks about the eunuchs who chose to live that way for the sake of the Kingdom.
Then, later on in Matthew 19, a rich young ruler comes and asks Jesus what rule he needs to follow to get eternal life. Jesus tells him the thing that he needs to do is give his possessions to the poor. He “went away sad, because he had great wealth” (v. 22). When Jesus tells his disciples that it is incredibly difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, they are amazed and asked “Who can be saved?” (v. 25). Jesus responds in v. 26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
In Matthew 19, Jesus focuses on 3 areas of life, and in each case, he shows the disciples that they need to obediently follow what God says, despite how contrary it looks to the world. These 3 areas of life can be areas where we all easily fall into idolatry. They are good things – but they cannot be the ultimate thing. These things cannot be our god, but we try to put them in that place.
The pharisees (and the rich young ruler) struggle with self-righteousness. They wanted to be good enough to be their own god – so that in effect, they wouldn’t actually need God. Though no one in the story seemed to struggle with marriage and sex, the question the Pharisees asked brings up this next idol that so many people make an ultimate thing. Both of these marriage and sex are created by God, but so often, we do not act with obedience to God’s word in these areas, and we step out of God’s design for us. By doing so, we are making these things an idol. The last area is money and wealth. The rich young ruler had so much wealth that he went away grieving. We don’t know if he made the choice to act with obedience to what Jesus commanded him to do, or if he decided that his wealth was too important to him to follow Jesus and ‘enter life.’ What we do know is that he mourned for his wealth. The disciples were amazed that Jesus spoke so harshly of wealthy people. In a culture that values money and possessions (like our own), the pursuit of wealth always seems like a good thing. However, like we’ve read this past week in the book of Luke, money can become an idol in our life, and the Bible says plainly that we cannot serve two masters: God and money (Matt. 6:24).
When it’s so easy to fall into idolatry, who then can be saved? Jesus reassures us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” If you find yourself in a place of idolatry – putting good things in the place of the ultimate thing, turn back to God. He is the one with whom all things are possible.
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 19 & Mark 10.
In today’s passage, we read a familiar story of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus has been preaching in the countryside, and he receives news that Lazarus is gravely ill and may not make it. Being close friends with the family, Jesus makes plans to go visit them, even though the people in Jerusalem were making threats against Jesus’ life. However, he doesn’t leave right away, and Lazarus passes away before he gets there.
When Jesus arrives, everyone asks him the same question: ‘Why didn’t you get here earlier? Why did you try to hustle so that you could save Lazarus’ life?’ Jesus is deeply moved by the suffering, but the answer to these questions is that Lazaraus’ death was used to glorify God. Even more, Lazarus’ death shows still teaches us a profound truth that we can have comfort in today, 2,000 years later.
While Jesus was walking into the town, Martha, the sister of Lazarus, comes out to meet him. She asks him the questions that I mentioned before, to which Jesus replied one of his 7 I AM statements found in the book of John.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Jesus then goes and raises Lazarus from the dead, doing so so that the people would believe that he truly is the son of God (John 11:41-42).
This story should give us comfort and hope as we face down our great enemy, death. By believing in Christ, we will take part in the resurrection. Not only this, we can live a ‘resurrected life’ now, being “dead to sin and alive in Christ” (Rom. 6:11). Jesus is the only resurrection and life. If we want to truly live life, we have to believe in the doctrinal truths that Martha tells Jesus:
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
What do you believe? Do you believe in the resurrection and the life that comes from Christ?
~ Cayce Fletcher
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 11.